thedaytheyallcamehome.gif (3764 bytes)
Linda McInnis



"Captain, ye know if we fly this thing into Federation space and we're spotted, there'll be nae mercy."

Kirk nodded. He did not want to reveal his current position, and they could fly cloaked, but they would be found out sooner or later. And he might as well begin following the rules again, for all the good it would do any of them. He hit the record button.

"Code Priority Black Omega Zero; Attention: Harry Morrow, Commander-Starfleet. Klingon scout ship Kr'anya, crewed by Federation members, carrying Klingon prisoner on urgent mission to Vulcan. Captain Spock alive, but mentally ill and near death, recovered from Genesis planet. Grissom destroyed by Klingons. Enterprise attacked, boarded, self-destruct sequence engaged and completed. Genesis found to be unstable and destroyed itself. Request with utmost urgency: do not, repeat, do not interfere with flight to Vulcan. Details to follow. Kirk, Admiral, Starfleet Training Command."


Spock was back. That thought more than any other ran through Kirk's fatigue-numbed mind as he sat in the waiting area of the arena where Spock and McCoy had so recently fought for life and sanity.

He was content to rest, to feel the heavy Vulcan heat wash over him in comforting, purging waves. His eyes were slitted against the brightening glare of morning, and more than once his head nodded toward deep sleep.

He had to stay awake. Had to find out about Spock. Would he really come back? Be all right, as he ever was? Having seen the radiation torn body in the Enterprise, Kirk could hardly let himself believe it. And yet, not three hours ago, he had heard that well-loved voice say his name once again.


Kirk struggled out of his reverie.

McCoy carefully settled himself next to Kirk. In the heavier-than-Earth gravity of Vulcan, they had to be cautious of extraneous movement, or they ran the very real risk of breaking bones.

"Jim?" McCoy repeated. He looked tired and unshaven, but otherwise seemed hardly tried by his ordeal.

"Hot, isn't it, Bones?" Inanities covered a multitude of sins.

"Mmmm. I think Spock did something to my internal temperature regulators. This actually feels pretty good to me."

Kirk smiled wanly. "Sarek said he would be out soon. Bones, do you think..."

"That Spock is back with us? I don't know, Jim. I couldn't accept his katra; I don't have that kind of skill. There may be questions as to what he's lost and what he's kept. But it felt like Spock, if that makes any sense."

Kirk sat straighter as he saw Sarek descending the steps into the waiting area.

The ambassador spoke before Kirk could open his mouth. "My son is...intact. But he is not yet whole. That will take much training and not a little time. But it can be done. Be assured, your efforts were not in vain." Although he didn't move, he seemed to bow to the two men.

The surge of relief that shot through Jim Kirk's body threatened to press him back to the bench. And with the relief came other emotions held at bay only by fear for Spock's life. Now that Spock was safe, the doubts he had surfaced, the fear for what the consequences of his mad actions of the past few days might be, hit him full force. He gave in to his body's demand that he sit. "Sarek," he began formally, "this whole thing," waving his arm to include the arena, "will probably take a great deal of explanation. I would ask your indulgence..."

The tall Vulcan held up his hand. "There is no need. T'Lar, with T'Pau's voice and approval, has sent a message on your behalf to the head of your Starfleet. I am sure..." His voice trailed off as he saw Kirk shaking his head slowly. "Will this not be sufficient?"

"Starfleet has changed quite a bit since that worthy woman interceded for me in the past, sir. And with all due respect to her and to her influence, I think she has been away from any Council sessions far too long. Her authority has waned, and T'Lar is an unknown in the political arena."

Sarek's displeasure was evident, though his face did not change. "T'Lar is a Vulcan Master, skilled beyond all others in our mind sciences. Should she be known in politics?"

Kirk did not like the heat behind the cool words, but he knew he had to tell Sarek everything. "I'm sure that her work and her knowledge surpass anything we could accomplish in that area, sir. All I meant was that there is not much clemency for hijackers. We stole one of the best ships in the Federation, even though it was to be decommissioned. I appreciate the efforts of T'Pau and T'Lar, and the support of Vulcan, but unless I am badly mistaken, there is going to be hell to pay. And we," he indicated his small band of companions, now drawn close around him, "are going to have to pay it."

Kirk took his "crew" with a quick affectionate glance, and then he turned back to Sarek. "Will you help us?"


Harry Morrow was pissed. Watching him, one would not have known, for he signed reports, acknowledged schedule changes and handled all the myriad administrative tasks that the head of any large bureaucracy must do, just as he always did, never missing an error or skipping a necessary signature. But inside he boiled.

How dare Kirk! The man had sat in front of him, looked him in the eye with that charm-the-pants-off-the-ladies grin, and then had turned right around and stabbed him in the back. Yes, he was pissed.

Morrow shuffled some more papers into the "done" box and sighed. Mad as he was at Kirk, he was angrier at himself. He had been taken in. He should have known from years of experience not to be--not if Spock was concerned. He should have thrown Kirk in the brig as soon as he had made his crazy request. That way--that way, the Klingons would have Genesis, a Starfleet officer, and a top Federation scientist. Genesis was frightening enough in the hands of those who wanted to create. But given to chronic destroyers like the Klingons...Morrow shuddered.

How did Kirk do it? No matter what kind of crazy situation he got himself into, somehow the results were worth more than the trouble it would take to punish him for his initial transgression.

But this time his own position was on the line. Senior officers were screaming for Kirk's ass in a bucket, Vulcan was practically calling him a national hero, and the Federation Council wavered somewhere in between, with a pronounced leaning toward Vulcan. And in all of this insanity, Morrow had to keep in focus that the bottom line was that Vulcan must not be insulted into leaving the Federation. That would spell disaster. Too many of the races with well-developed psionic powers, such as the Medusans, were strongly allied with the Eridanians, and the Federation and Starfleet could ill afford to lose the scientific and technological edge that Vulcan's membership gave them.

If only they were more open about their customs! Morrow had not mean to offend an entire planet when he had dismissed Kirk's request as ridiculous, but apparently, that was just what he had done. Somehow, if he was to keep his job, he had to punish Kirk without destroying relations with Vulcan, and please everyone else. To think, he actually wanted this job once.

And now, answering his secretary's buzzer, he had to deal with Sheridan. Must he? Might as well--putting it off would only make it more difficult later. "Come."

If Admiral Drew Sheridan, the head of the Base Operations division, did not wear his uniform with such an aura of absolute pride and rightness, he would not have been such an impressive, intimidating figure. Average height; average, but fit, build; average features. Sheridan would blend easily into any crowd without a trace. Except for the uniform. He wore the simple, comfortable Starfleet Admiral's standard dress as though it were a mantle of God's power. And he believed it was.

Now he faced Morrow, obviously ready to do battle.

Morrow tried to defuse him. "Drew, I think I basically know what you're going to say. Can we at least spare the histrionics?" Morrow had respect for Sheridan's ability and doggedness, but the 'fleet Admiral's style often put him on edge.

"I'll do m'best, Harry, but this--" He held out a comm tape and dropped it on Morrow's desk. "--flat irks my ass. It's just too rich! Once again, the famous Kirk gets his nuts raked out of the fire by these damned, cold-fish Vulcans! Morrow, who are these--T'Pow and Telar anyway? Are you going to stand by and be ordered around by two old women?"

Morrow knew it would do no good to try to explain the significance of "the two old women" to Vulcan, so he stuck to politics. "Drew, you know the position of the Federation Council. Keep the Vulcans happy. If we defy them in this, they could easily withdraw from active status. And that opens the door for at least four other members to leave as well. All our work..."

"All our work's for nothing, man, if we have to exist under a threat of secession all the time," spat Sheridan. "We--the two of us--have worked like dogs most of our lives for the Federation and where did it get us? Too afraid that some pointed-eared mind readers will walk out on us if we punish one of our own? Damn it, he's a renegade, a thief, and he's one of our top men. We simply cannot let him out of this. Besides, it's us--'fleet Command. We're the ones who hold the whole damn Council together. The Federation couldn't exist without Starfleet to keep peace among some of those brawlers!"

"You'd have a hard time convincing the Vulcans of that, Drew. They feel military strength, however benign, runs a poor second to reason," Morrow said mildly. He didn't want to aggravate this man, who commanded a sizable faction in the 'fleet, but it seemed whatever he said today was wrong.

Sheridan's eyes narrowed at the remark. "Morrow, you listen to me. Jim Kirk was a damned fine commander on that first mission. Sure, he broke some rules and bent some others, but let's face it...we never really expected him to make it back. Not him or any of the others. But he did make it back. Fine. And all his little indiscretions were light-years away and five years old. So we glossed them over, fine again.

"There's only one problem: it went to Kirk's head. And that damn crew of his, we should never have put them back together, even for that Voyager mess. Hell, we never should have allowed him to reassemble them on one ship after the Serenidad disaster, maybe even ought to have drummed him out of the 'fleet altogether then. But that crew of his...they'd follow him into Hell, I don't doubt. In any event, he's gotten used to breaking the rules and getting away with it. It's gone to his head.

"And now? Now he's got to be stopped. You know it's true, Morrow. Arrested, detained, busted, hell, court-martialed if it comes to that..."

"And you'd be there with bells on for it, wouldn't you?" Morrow's voice cracked out and stopped Sheridan short. He'd had it with the man's virulent attacks.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I think a lot of this speech is inspired from nothing but pure jealousy, Drew. It took you thirty years to get where Jim Kirk did in eighteen. And that's been eating at you for a long time!"

Morrow knew he had lost all chance to ease Sheridan's opinion, but now he didn't care. What Kirk had done was mad, unthinkable, yes, but damn it, the Federation and Starfleet came from the notion that people had rights and should be heard, regardless of popular opinion. Maybe Kirk would be court-martialed in the end, but, by God, it would be done right, not in a mad dog's kangaroo court. Morrow would fight hard for that even if it was his last act as Commander-Starfleet. What he hadn't expected was the intensity of Sheridan's fury at the last remarks. He gathered up his papers to issue and rose to his feet. Morrow could see his hands shaking.

"Damn you, Morrow! How dare you accuse me! I'm seeing everything I've worked for, slaved for--for those thirty years, head straight down the drain because of this fool, Kirk. Next thing you know, ensigns will be hijacking ships to go on leave! Don't accuse me of jealousy, man. I'm where I want to be, and I earned it. But you weren't given your title for life--especially not if you're going to act like a bloody fool. You may want to blow all this over, but I've got enough people on my side to get Kirk out of the way for good, and you and Cartwright with him, if it comes to that. So just remember, you've been warned. Expect a battle!"

The admiral stormed out, leaving Morrow with the distinct impression that the door had slammed loudly, even though it could not, being operated by compressed air and electronic eyes.

Harry Morrow, Commanding Admiral of Starfleet, sat in his office for a long time, contemplating the scene of which he had just been a part.


"I will do what I can, Kirk, but I warn you, I have considerably curbed my activities in the Federation of late. My influence may not be enough."

Kirk bowed his head. "I thank you, Sarek. We accept that risk. Perhaps if I could tell you everything that has happened over the past few days, you would have a better idea of how they will react at Starfleet Headquarters."

"True." Sarek looked at the people in front of him. "You cannot stay here for news. This is not a place of worldly happenings. My aircar waits to take me home. Will you share it, and the hospitality of my house?" The sincerity in his voice was unmistakable.

And the renegades were too tired to do anything but accept with relief.


For the first time in fifty years, the house of D'H'riset felt claustrophobic. The high ceilings, airy chambers, even the glass-walled solarium that Sarek had built for her Terran plants seemed to be closing in on Amanda.

She forced herself to continue her transplanting. The soothing routine of mixing soil, filling pots and tamping the earth around the tender seedlings brought her anxiety down to a bearable level. Not comfortable, not even acceptable by Vulcan standards, but bearable.

Soon Sarek would be home with news of Spock. She did not allow herself consciously to hope that the news would be good. She tried to maintain the numbness she felt when she first learned of Spock's death.

You would think, she mused, that when your child is grown and gone and has fifty years of lines on his own face, that you might become less attached. But no.

Sarek felt the blow, meditating in the study. He staggered into the hall, and she found him there, leaning heavily on the wall. She'd not seen him that shaken since the Babel trip when his heart was so weak. He did not explain, only whispered "Spock!" and she knew.

They had waited in silence, trying to comfort each other by presence alone, until the confirming message from Starfleet came. "Starfleet Command expresses its deepest sympathy and regret in telling you of the death of your son, Spock. Spock was killed while trying to repair the Enterprise's engines during a classified incident. His actions saved the ship and the rest of the crew. In recognition of his bravery and dedication above and beyond the call of duty, we award him the Full Meritorious Honor medal, posthumously. We grieve with you. (Signed) Harold W. Morrow, Commanding Admiral, Starfleet."

The screen blanked and Sarek's eyes caught hers. Something was terribly wrong.


"As I feared. No mention of the Holder, nothing said of kr'alieu."

"But Sarek! Then where is Spock?"

"I cannot know. I felt him go...there is no remaining link to me, but the distance is so great. I must go to Earth and find Kirk. If there is a Holder, it would be he. And he may not even know it."

"Yes, go. I'll get your things."

Since then, nothing but terse messages, carrying only enough information to keep her from going crazy. Waiting was the worst duty of all. Then, finally, two days ago, Sarek's beloved face had appeared on the screen instead of the Vulcan script. "My wife?"

"Oh, Sarek!"

"The news is better. McCoy was the Holder, unknown to himself and all the others. Spock's body has been recovered--"

"How?" gasped Amanda.

"Explanations must wait. Try to accept what is. I am en route to Mount Seleya. I have spoken with T'Lar and will ask for fal-tor-pan."

"But that's--"

"A proven technique, Amanda. And T'Lar can accomplish it. She is the last to have studied under Sumial."

"If you believe it will work, it will. I'll meet you there. Spock--"

"No, my wife."

Amanda was brought up short. The tone in Sarek's voice was unmistakable and allowed no questions. Amanda barely stopped the tears that threatened to burst from her eyes. "But, Sarek," she whispered, "he's my son!"

Sarek's face softened more than she had ever seen before, even in their most personal moments. "Amanda, for fal-tor-pan, there must be no distraction, no distortion of focus. T'Lar is skilled, but aged, and McCoy is no telepath and greatly weakened. We must have as few emotions as possible. For Spock's sake, you must remain there."

To hell with control, thought Amanda, her face unashamedly wet. "I see. And if he dies, I suppose I'll hear it over the news."

Sarek let a small sigh escape him. "My wife, I will be home as soon as I can."

From then till now--nothing. And she didn't know how Sarek had accomplished everything so fast. The waiting would surely drive her mad if it went on much longer.

The faint hum of an aircar shot through her like an electric current. Unmindful of spilled soil and seeds, Amanda flew to the atrium in time to see Sarek's car set down. Somehow, she kept herself from dashing out into the heat to meet her husband, and it was just as well; when the doors opened, the first person off the skimmer was James Kirk.

Stunned, Amanda walked forward. The admiral was followed by familiar faces. Scott, Chekov, and Sulu. Uhura, of course, and Saavik, that lovely creature. Amanda's thoughts jumbled in her head. Then--at last--Sarek stepped from the ship and gathered her up with his two fingers. He saw that she could not bear to ask.

"Our son lives," he said.

Glorious light laughter bubbled through Amanda as she turned to the others. "Welcome, welcome all of you! Come in and rest, please. I'm so glad to see you all! But where is the doctor..." Her voice faded as she remembered McCoy had been the Holder, Keeper of the Katra, and in danger, too.

Kirk stepped forward. "He's resting inside. It's been a very wearying time for him..."

"But I'm ready to get out of the heat--now!" The familiar voice floated out of the doorway, soon followed by its owner. McCoy took Amanda's arm, and, led by Sarek, the group proceeded into the house.

Although they were bone-tired and had no certain future, the quickly arranged meal had the air of an intense, if quiet, celebration. None of the little crew had realized how hungry they were, and even McCoy refrained from his usual acerbic comments on the Vulcan diet. Afterwards, Chekov and Scotty helped the doctor to his assigned room, and then also opted for a siesta, but Sulu, his energy renewed by nourishment, wanted to explore the botanical gardens, and with Saavik as guide, took off. Finally, Amanda took Uhura to her room, and Kirk and Sarek were alone.

"What you have done would seem to be more serious than I had thought at first."

Kirk could tell from where Spock inherited his gift for understatement. "Not the end result, but the means, certainly. When I took the Enterprise, she had been decommissioned, or was about to be. Too old, too outdated. But I didn't take just a ship; I took a starship. In effect, I took a top secret weapon of the 'fleet, and exposed it to the distinct possibility of winding up in enemy hands." He trailed off as the vision of the Enterprise flaming across the dying sky of Genesis filled his mind.

"You would have prepared for that eventuality. And did you not take that same risk each time your ship left the boundaries of your own system?" Sarek's calm voice brought Kirk back to the cool, stone-floored room where they sat.

"Yes, of course. But with a crew of over four hundred people. Not five old-timers and a ship that was already a battle-scarred wreck." How it hurt to call his lady such names, but he knew it was only the truth.

"I agree that the risk was great in taking the Enterprise. But you knew the time factor involved. Could you have hired a ship, or bought one, in the same amount of time?"

"Possibly, but it's doubtful. At least, not one with the speed capability that we needed. Besides, they'd arrested McCoy for trying to hire one out."

"So. What else will they cite you for?"

"When I took the ship, of course I had to have McCoy aboard. He'd been detained in Starfleet Security's medical facility. They thought..." Kirk was fairly sure Sarek knew what they thought of McCoy--that he was insane, space happy, senile, not experiencing one of the most sacred of the Vulcan rites of passage.

"They thought he was mentally sick and needed help," Kirk finished lamely.

"Yes, and they would have drugged him and ignored him and not believed anything he said. How can you Terrans exist so blind to the feelings of others?"

Sarek talking of feelings? "Sir, I don't understand..."

"Time for that later. Continue."

"So we took him. Assault and battery would be the mildest thing they'd throw at us for that. And even that isn't the worst." As Kirk unfolded the rest of the story, he realized just how serious his actions had been.

At the time, he had cared for nothing but Spock's retrieval and McCoy's well- being. The thought that Spock--his essence and very being locked away in McCoy's mind, fighting to get back to its (his?) home for all eternity was torture for Kirk. But now, a small success in his hands, Kirk tasted the larger defeat as though the hot sands of Vulcan gritted between his teeth.

"Admiral?" Sarek's soft, yet commanding tone broke into his thoughts.

"Oh, sorry. Of course we didn't want to be followed and the Excelsior--the new top of the line ship--was docked in Spacedock. Scotty was already aboard, having been assigned there as Captain of Engineering, and, during the night, well, he 'fixed' it."

"I see."

"And finally...Starfleet had quarantined Genesis. Even if I had gotten there in my own vessel, I was violating many laws just by crossing the border of that system! I've done so many wrong things, and yet...where would have been the goof of letting Genesis simply blow up--as it would have--and take Spock with it?"

"Wrong, Admiral? By whose standards?"

"Starfleet's, of course. And now that I think of it--rationally, and without the pain of Spock's loss--by my own. I could never condone the blatant theft of a starship, much less all the other things."

"Not even to save one man's life, another's soul and to honor the most sacred ritual of another culture? Are Starfleet's standards so rigid and uncompromising that they can make no exceptions for things that are not of Terran standards?" There was no mistaking the sarcasm.


"Kirk, did you not try to accomplish your task through proper channels?"

Kirk almost said no, rather than admit to the embarrassment of telling Sarek about Starfleet's flip attitude toward his son's predicament. "Yes, I did. I went to the top. Commander-Starfleet, himself."

"And what did you tell him?"

"That Spock was not necessarily dead, and that McCoy was in danger of his life because of it, and as valuable as they had both been to the 'fleet, we should at least try to get Spock back and see if it would help McCoy."

"The Commanding Admiral's response?"

Kirk was reluctant to tell Sarek about Morrow's blatant dismissal but he had come too far in his narrative to stop now. "He said that he didn't understand Vulcan mysticism. And that was that."


Sarek took a breath to continue, but at that moment there was a soft chime from the desk corner. He strode over and answered the summons, speaking rapidly in Vulcan.

After a while, he signed off and touched the bottom on the BellComm unit; a printer softly slid out a small sheet of paper covered with Vulcan script. He turned to Kirk.

"Do you read our language?"

"I'm afraid not, sir. What is it?"

"A message on a diplomatic channel. It has not been released to the general news services, nor will it for some time, I think. In essence, it is what you would call a 'wanted poster.'"

Kirk turned his back to Sarek, so the older Vulcan would not see the pain that he knew was in his expression. Wanted. A fugitive to be hunted down and brought in for a price.

And not just him. Had he been able to, he would have risked his own life and career many times over to save Spock and McCoy. But he had not been content to ruin the rest of his own life. Thoughts of the six other crew--friends, companions that were scattered throughout Sarek's estate--scalded his heart with guilt. Sulu, Uhura, Chekov, each had been bound for the center seat. And Saavik--so young.

Sarek's dry voice brought him up sharp. "Kirk, there is no time to waste on regrets. We must prepare to answer these charges. I have been turning a number of my assignments over to my assistants lately so they might gain experience. I see now that I must resume my full status.

"I will contact the Starfleet office here and inform them. Then we wait for your Starfleet Command on Earth to make the next move. You and your people will be in no danger of being removed from here until we have agreed on the proper course of action. Gather your companions, and inform them of this. I will begin the arrangements."

Before Kirk could reply, Sarek had swept out of the room, calling for Amanda. The admiral followed slowly, framing in his mind what he wanted to say to his crew.

They came quickly to his summons, Sulu and Saavik, hot and dusty, but looking refreshed, the last ones to arrive. All of them looked to their leader, as always, awaiting their next orders. Kirk's heart beat a little faster; for an unnoticed instant, he thanked whatever Power there might be for letting him know these people. Then he minced no words.

"Word has come through on the diplomatic channels. People, we're wanted. It's what you'd expect...piracy, sabotage, entering a quarantine zone, fight and flight. The only good thing is they haven't put it on the general channels... yet. Which is not to say some bounty hunter hasn't tapped in on it. But we'll hope for the best.

"Friends," Kirk paused, "I believe they will do their damnedest to get us. But if I had it all to do over again, I'd do it. For Spock, for you, Bones. And for myself. We are going to be together for a while--close together and maybe for a long time. If any of you have grievances, now's the time to air them." He looked at each person in turn.

Sulu spoke up quietly. "Sir, you tried the channels and saw how far it got you. Besides, even if they had said yes, we'd still be trying to cut through the red tape of regs! You did it the only way."

"Da," muttered Chekov. "Vwhen you get dat high up, no one has the guts to take the responsibility and just say 'Go!'. So vwe did it ourselves."

McCoy summed it up neatly. "I don't know about Spock, but I'm damned glad to be alive and sane. Thanks, Jim."

Kirk nodded, too moved to reply.

Sarek's entrance saved him the effort. He addressed the group in general. "I am resuming my full ambassadorial position. To be better able to maintain contact with Federation and Starfleet officials, I am re-opening my office and quarters in the city. I will need to speak with each of you at least once before we are completely prepared. To that end, my home is yours, for as long as necessary."

"We all thank you, sir," Kirk answered. "What do you think should be the next step?"

"I hesitate to postulate with such insufficient data as we currently have, but T'Pau has endowed me with the Voice of Vulcan. I speak now as the total, united mind of our world. Know all of you," he swept everyone in the room with his desert- bred eyes, "what you did had to be done. The katra must survive if we, as Vulcans, are to survive. You have returned to us a precious mind that has bound two worlds and cultures for many years. Let us hope your actions will make that bridge stronger."

His ringing words echoed throughout the room, making it seem to expand, taking in all of the province around the estate, growing and growing until the whole of Vulcan was resounding in his words. The vibrations shook the room and the hearts of hearts of its occupants. If anyone still doubted the validity of their actions, they did no longer. With difficulty, they realized that Sarek was still speaking.

"...necessary to travel to Earth. I will go in my own vessel, when the time comes, to prepare, but you should be ready to travel at short notice. Our engineers have been studying the ship you brought back and they have informed me that they believe it would not be difficult to attach a modified cloaking device to a Vulcan scout. That ship will be ready within two weeks; you can practice using the device before the actual journey. My wife will answer further questions. I take my leave."

The group seemed to snap out of the trance woven by Sarek's voice, and there was a sudden clamor.



"Jim, this is..."

"Sir, I--"

Amanda moved quickly into the room and motioned for quiet. "Please, please everyone. You won't find solutions by badgering the admiral. Take your seats--there are more drinks and food...Sulu, you and Saavik look as though you could use a good bath. What were you thinking of, going out in the heat of the day?"

Her calm voice, speaking of everyday mundane things, brought them back to normalcy as nothing else could have. The companions attacked the assembled buffet with relish, no one saying anything for a short time.

McCoy broke the silence. "Jim, I know we all should be present at the trial or whatever they end up planning for us, but I'd just plain feel better staying with Spock. After all, I've been doctorin' on him for well over fifteen years."

Before Kirk could reply, Amanda spoke up. "Doctor, Spock's healing must be with the mind and memory, not the body. With all your skill, you cannot go where the Vulcan Healers must." She paused and put a light hand on his shoulder. "Soon Spock will need all of his friends very much. Now, you must help each other."

McCoy squeezed her hand briefly and nodded. "Still, I wish I could look in on him. I felt, well, that is--we..." McCoy did not have the words to describe his wish to Amanda, he only knew its strength bordered on compulsion.

Amanda gave him a look of almost painful empathy. "I understand. I'll see what can be arranged."

McCoy smiled his thanks.

Scotty had been talking quietly with Sulu, and now rejoined the rest. "Admiral, I don't see how the Vulcan engineers could have modified that device so quickly! We only brought it in yesterday!"

"Scotty, I don't pretend to know, but if Sarek says they can, then they've probably already done it, and if we're lucky, it'll work a lot better now than it did! I'll see if we can arrange for you to observe a session or two."

The engineer's grin was all the thanks Kirk needed.

Everyone had finished eating and was gathering toward the middle of the room where the chairs were grouped. The atmosphere was that of an informal staff meeting which intensified as Amanda left to answer a comm-chime that sounded from the hallway. No one spoke for a moment, they simply savored each other's presence and enjoyed the peace the radiated around the room.

"There's something about this house..." mused Kirk. His thought was interrupted by Saavik.


"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"To have saved Spock's life and katra cannot truly be seen as a crime by Starfleet?"

Again, Kirk thought how young she was. "Unfortunately, Lieutenant, Starfleet may feel that this particular end did not justify the means used. There are not many Vulcans or other telepathic races that high up in 'fleet Command. They really have no concept of a katra or even a mind-meld. Also, they haven't been offworld in years, many of them. They've not been exposed to many new ideas and cultures. It will be difficult to make the powers that be understand the Vulcan--and our--point of view."

Saavik stiffened. "If they are not willing to accept other cultures and beliefs, why are they in High Command at all?" She moved quickly to the table across the room where the drinks were. It was as if she feared to say more without betraying utter outrage.

Yes, thought Kirk, yes, she's exactly right. Isn't it interesting that you don't really notice prejudice until you happen to be its victim? But how do you explain the existence of something they can't see or feel or smell to a bunch of closed-minded paper-pushers? Describe red to a blind man.

As Kirk pondered the size of their task, Amanda returned. "Spock is resting quietly at Dh'Reth--the place of healing souls. Leonard, it's been arranged that you may see Spock for a short time once you yourself are completely recovered. This is vital, because you must be completely calm within yourself, or Spock would sense your unease."

She held up her hand at the hope easily visible on six other faces. "Only Leonard, because of the unusual...circumstances. For the rest--preparations are being made, and the time of conflict will arrive soon enough. As my husband said--this is your home. Find strength and peace here."

Suddenly, Kirk felt the exhaustion wash over him. He thought if he had to take one more step he would sink into oblivion and never surface. While the others helped Amanda clean the room, the admiral made no complaint as McCoy guided him to the sleeping quarters they would share. He was out before his feet left the floor.


Andrew Sheridan, still seething from his meeting with Admiral Morrow, strode down the hall toward his office. He hadn't meant to threaten the man--God knew he didn't want Morrow's job--but his placating attitude toward the Vulcans simply grated on Sheridan's nerves. And Admiral Sheridan was not a man to suffer nerve grating lightly.

The 'fleet Admiral was not an introspective man, but he was always honest--sometimes brutally so--with himself. He had to admit it; Morrow's words had stung him. Was he jealous of Jim Kirk?

His honest answer was...maybe. His own progress in the 'fleet had been respectable--by the book-steady, nothing flashy. He was a satisfied man now, as 'fleet Admiral, but every now and then, he heard someone talking about Kirk or the Enterprise, or something related to them, and hearing the adulation that inevitably crept into the speaker's voice, he wished, just once, that someone would talk in that tone about him. He knew he was a Somebody, but no one else did. Everybody knew James T. Kirk.

So he was jealous...maybe. And was an emotion occasionally felt, an infrequent discomfort at most, enough to justify not his desire, but his need to see Kirk brought back for justice?

"C'mon, Drew, boy. Dig deep for the answer to this one!" So he did, and the answer was no...Hell, no! The twinges of jealousy he had felt watching Kirk's fast rise through the ranks of Starfleet had been quelled forever when the Command had appointed him Rear Admiral. What angered him most now was that Kirk seemed to expect to be let off, that he had gone into the whole thing with the idea that the Vulcans would fix anything that went wrong.

And that idea, the idea that a stronger, more responsible power would save you from your mistakes, was deadly to a Starfleet officer. A captain, or an admiral, made command decisions--and once made, took responsibility for any consequences, good or bad. Kirk was running away from his actions, hiding from his choices and their results behind Vulcan skirts. He had overstepped his authority by far this time and he must be reprimanded. Reprimanded. Disciplined. Even Sheridan's mind skirted the real word. Did he really want to see Kirk court-martialed for this?

Hell, no! A general court reflected badly on all the 'fleet. Made them look like they couldn't pick the right man for the job! But Kirk was a renegade--always had been. Sheridan remembered with a stab of guilt the glee he felt when he heard of Kirk's answer to the Kobayashi Maru test. "Good for you, kid," he had chuckled. But the time for pranks like that was long over and if it took getting rid of Kirk and busting rank on the rest of those involved, then that's what he'd see done. And with a clear conscience. Above all, he wanted the good of the 'fleet.

And the Vulcans?

Sheridan had long been of the opinion that Vulcan had altogether too much say-so in Federation business--especially for a world whose leader refused a seat on the Council. He didn't like the way they stirred up the other aliens, and he didn't like their (professed) mind powers. Telepaths had no place in the 'fleet. They couldn't command very well--too much sensory input, it was far too easy to distract them. But most of all, he didn't trust them. Their protestations of honor and honesty aside, they simply reminded him too damn much of the Romulan slime who had wiped out his wife and two young sons on Rim VI. That was long ago, before the Neutral Zone had been so closely patrolled, and they had known almost nothing about the Romulans, but the memory would always burn bitterly.

Sheridan's office doors hissed open and he marched through, tossing his sheaf of papers on an otherwise uncluttered desk. He sat hard, endangering the life of the chair, and touched a stud on his desk. "Michaels," he barked to his aide. "Notify the heads of Personnel, Security and Logistics. I want them in my office in thirty minutes. And I don't care where you have to pull them from. Move!"

"Sir!" The brisk young voice over the BellComm unit belied the long-suffering look on the ensign's face.

James Kirk might be under threat of being court-martialed, he thought wearily, but at least he's light years from here! He began pulling up schedules and punching buttons.


"Gentlemen, I'm sure you know why we're here together. It's Kirk. Again. Something must be done, and I want your input."

"What does Morrow say?" That was Gervais--head of Security. Cool as a snake, that one. He never made a commitment or decision on anything, until he knew exactly where everyone else stood. Sometimes infuriating, but maybe that was why he had made so few missteps in 'fleet politics.

"Morrow, as you might imagine, wants to blow the whole thing over, let the Vulcans take Kirk's punches for him. We simply cannot let it come to that. Kirk has got to be told that there are limits to what he can do in the name of the Federation."

"But according to my reports," Gervais said softly, a vast contrast to Sheridan's grating voice, "he has brought back a Klingon Bird-of-Prey and a Kh'myr officer--very much alive, I understand. Can we ignore that?"

"The end justifies the means, eh, Yves? Yes, all that, and Captain Spock is supposedly alive as well, but can we ignore that the Excelsior was completely disabled, the Enterprise vaporized, and five Starfleet officers of high rank are in flagrant violation of a quarantine regulation? Not to mention the complete overhaul that's going to be necessary to the detention area of Starfleet Security. Or the bumps, bruises or injured dignities of various officers of Spacedock. Rule-abiding officers, I might add. And that's even ignoring any assault and battery charges that they might decide to press separately. Are you suggesting we pin a medal on Kirk for this?"

"We could do worse. You know, butter him up for the public, make him a hero for saving Spock, etcetera, then, once the public had its bread and circuses, send his ass out beyond the Cepheids. That would make everybody happy." That was Torvaal, from Logistics Support, ever the pragmatist.

Sheridan slumped in his seat.

"Except Drew." Gervais barely spoke above a whisper most of the time, but somehow, his voice always carried exactly to where he wanted it.

The head of Base Operations straightened out as though stuck. "I don't really believe I'm hearing this. Don't any of you think what Kirk did was serious? This isn't a simulator exercise, you know."

"Calm down, Drew. We all know the stakes here, and we know he won't get away with it. But it's going to be hard on Personnel if Kirk goes down publicly. After all, we're the ones who do recruiting. All I'm saying is that Kirk is a big draw for our new people...especially on planets where the Enterprise has visited. They've heard of him, know his crew. And, face it, he's a hero here on Earth. I, for one, don't want to be the one to expose his feet of clay," said Morris--Personnel.

Sheridan rolled his eyes heavenward. "I suppose you're right. We will have to keep the press out of this. So far so good, since all communications to Vulcan have been on the diplomatic channels. Reporters would have a field day. I can see it now: 'Starfleet Persecutes Admiral' and other such nonsense. But I think we all agree that he must be brought in for discipline?"

There were nods all around, even from Gervais.

"Good. Now, I know Morrow is going to hold us strictly to the regs. He has the ultimate responsibility for Kirk, so hehas to call for any disciplinary action. What we can do is petition Morrow to call the Arbitration board to investigate. And that should get the wheels rolling in the right direction."

Gervais grimaced. "Do you really think that's nece--"

"Damn it, Yves, yes! It'll show Kirk how serious we think his pranks are, but the public need never know. Do you think the average civilian knows or cares who or what the Starfleet/Federation Arbitration Board is?"

"Probably not," agreed Torvaal. "But still...ignoring Vulcan..."

"I'm sure Vulcan will speak in their defense. Anyone coming before the board is entitled to have counsel of their choice. It's a hearing, you know, an investigation, not a trial. Contrary to what Morrow seems to think, I'm not trying to railroad Kirk. I don't want a farce. But I want them brought in. Right now, as far as I'm concerned, they're criminals!"


"Yes, criminals. By all our laws."

Gervais let that pass. "You know, Drew, that the Commanding Admiral could overrule a petition to convene. Do you think Morrow would do that? He's pretty adamant about not making waves."

Sheridan narrowed his eyes at Gervais. He had known the man for almost twenty years; they shared a bond of a life saved between them. And since they had moved into the high ranks fifteen years ago, Gervais had been solidly behind Sheridan. Yet for those fifteen years, Sheridan had not felt that his trust was in a safe place.

"I talked to Morrow this morning. He's hard-assed, true, but if he knows it's four to one, he won't have a chance of cutting through the red tape. And that fence-sitter Cartwright assured me he won't take sides in this mess. What about it?"

The question included all three of the men in the room, but Sheridan's eyes never left Gervais' face. The man gave back gaze for narrow gaze. "So be it," he answered for the room. "Call the Board."

The summons that went out caused a great flurry of activity in the top echelons of Starfleet Command--sending aides and ensigns scurrying around arranging schedules and toting "eyes only" messages. On the line, where men knew that the right way to do things was the way that kept them and their crews alive, the news caused some small ripples. Eyebrows lifted, friendly captains met on shore leaves and discussed "that Kirk business," but they had seen Kirk stand up to pretty bad odds before in the field and come out shining bright, so they gave it no more thought.

And in the general public, on the back page of the first section of one major newspaper, there was a blurb describing the calling of the SFAB, "a regulatory function of Starfleet," which would meet to discuss the conduct of some unnamed officers. The stone that Sheridan had thrown out so defiantly fell, on Earth, swiftly enough not to cause a splash.

On Vulcan, Sheridan's stone caused a much different reaction. There were no surface ripples, the unflappable Vulcan efficiency never faltered. But the heart of the planet, the bedrock of the Vulcan culture--the telepathic link that joined, however tenuously, all Vulcans, was shaken as it had never been before.

Starfleet had ignored T'Pau! Had pursued their "fugitives" on Vulcan, despite the well known non-extradition laws of the planet. That they had not found Admiral Kirk and his followers made no difference--the Federation had broken its own tradition and blatantly over-stepped the well-established customs of another world.

And if that were not enough, there was the slur on T'Lar's skill and knowledge. For centuries, Vulcan had paid a high price for the mental disciplines they practiced. To have one of their most revered Healers dismissed as a charlatan was almost more than they could bear without proper restraint.

To Kirk and his crew, it seemed as though the planet shimmered with outrage, the heat coming not so much from its trinary sun, but from the barely controlled reactions of millions of angry Vulcans. The seven star travelers began to feel a sense of belonging, of home and acceptance that none of them had felt in years. In different, subtle ways, they all knew that whatever happened, Vulcan would be home whenever they chose to call it so.

While they lived at Sarek's estate, waiting for arrangements to be made and for their cue to be given, they came to realize that they were being looked on in a number of Vulcan homes as national heroes--people who had transcended the misunderstandings of two very different cultures to save a life--a soul--a katra. Certainly, there were no accolades to compare with what Earth might have given to heroes of comparable stature, but the estate began to have many visitors, people needing to speak with Amanda on various pressing, and logical, matters, but who, once business was concluded, were eager to stay and meet the Enterprise crew.

Spock had been known planet wide, and if there was no such thing as hero-worship on Vulcan, he was respected and esteemed for his brilliant mind and contribution to the furthering of Vulcan culture in the Federation. To have lost forever his knowledge, acquired through years of study on Vulcan and in the 'fleet, to have lost his unique position in the Future-of-Vulcan-as-World would have been worse than an amputation without anesthesia. Vulcan could not, would not bear it.


Uhura was up before dawn--no mean feat. Now she stood outside her terraced room, reveling in the cool breeze that even in the pre-sun hour held a hint of the mind-baking heat to come. Far to the east, she could see a thin line of orange along the horizon--the only warning she would receive before the Vulcan day sprang on her.

She had discovered the brilliance of the Vulcan dawn by accident shortly after arriving at D'H'riset. In all of the excitement and worry of the past days, insomnia had become her constant companion. After a night of useless tossing, she thought sitting in the open air might help her drift off. As she settled herself on the terrace, she noticed the thin horizon line; something that resembled a light shining out from under a door. She tried to focus on it but before she could blink twice, the world was washed in a brilliant orange light as one of the Vulcan suns shot up over the brink. Pulsing as Sol never had, 40 Eridani warned life to back away from it. It didn't warm; it scorched. After five minutes of direct exposure, Uhura was grateful for her cool quarters. But the brilliance of the spectacle had stayed with her and she had been sure to rise early from then on to watch.

This time that she had spent on Vulcan was much like a vacation for Uhura. She supposed the others would be shocked to know that, but she believed in the admiral, and realized that, whatever the outcome, she would follow him and his decisions. Had they waited and tried to go through Starfleet channels, McCoy and Spock would be dead now. That was too high a price to pay for rule-keeping. Now, she did not regret any of the things that had happened over the past few days. Days? It seemed like weeks--like lifetimes. They needed to rest if they were to go into this battle fully prepared. They might not win, but they'd fight like hell.

The sun was up. Uhura squinted against the glare and she could feel her skin-- even hers, conditioned for centuries to withstand the African sun, grow taut as its moisture vanished into the air. "Five more minutes," she thought dreamily. "Five more today, then five more tomorrow." She was amazed at the heat. It shimmered around her, turning the familiar chairs and tabled into amorphous, molten-looking blobs.

Five minutes--has it been? She felt like a candle caught in its own drippings. She could not move.

The cool Human hand on her arm brought a shuddering gasp from lungs that had forgotten breath. "Quick, Uhura! Don't stand out here any longer. Come in!"

The urgency penetrated the heat fog. She allowed herself to be pulled into the icy room. Slowly, her eyes re-acclimated themselves to the relative darkness of her quarters. She reached for a coverlet and drew it around her shoulders. She felt so stiff, she could hardly sit down.

"Uhura, can you hear me?" Amanda's concerned voice roused her out of lethargy enough to nod.

"Thank God you're black! Otherwise you'd be peeling like a boiled tomato already! What ever possessed you to stand out in the first light for so long?"

Uhura tried to speak, but her voice only drifted out. "Only five minutes..."

"No, ma'am. You were out there at least twenty. I passed your room about half an hour ago and heard you open the terrace door. If I hadn't come back to see if you wanted breakfast, you'd be unconscious by now."

Uhura felt herself returning, solidifying. Her skin felt too small for her, as though, when she closed her hands, the bones would burst through. "It's just the sun."

"One of Vulcan's suns. You can get used to it. But it takes time. Not even five minutes the first few sittings and adding two or three later. I learned the hard way, too."

"I'll be more careful," Uhura promised. She was beginning to shiver violently, yet the coverlet seemed too scratchy against her skin.

Amanda was rummaging in one of the dresser drawers. She came out with a small jar. "Here, this should help. It's call kr'yeet'la. It's a mixture of various plant essences. Should be enough...a little goes a long way."

Uhura rubbed some on her arms and shoulders, careful not to scratch. Amanda was right; almost at once, the disconcerting, dehydrated feeling disappeared and she felt warmer. "Thanks! This is great."

"Don't let the effect fool you. You are burned. It doesn't show on you, but it's there. You should stay inside for at least the next three days."

She wanted to protest, but realized Amanda was right. "Well, I did want to catch up on my reading..." She indicated a stack of tapes on the desk.

"What on Earth! You're supposed to be resting here!"

"Can't rest when I'm bored. I found these in the study. Vulcan history in English. I hope you don't mind."

"No, not at all. In fact, it's all for the better. When the visitors start coming, it would be good if at least one of you is prepared."


Amanda chuckled. "First assignment: katra--history of, ritual of passage. Visitor custom. We'll discuss it when you finish and you can tell the others. But first--breakfast and lots of juice! Come on!"

Uhura followed without protest.


Sarek's office was just as he had left it over three months before. As he walked in the door, the lights went on and his secretary/aide, Ramek, appeared behind him as though he had returned from lunch instead of an extended leave of absence.

Ramek carried a large sheaf of papers. He set them down on one corner of the desk. "Accumulated correspondence. Not urgent, but you had not authorized me to answer them. You have been out of communication."

Sarek nodded, not quite absently. "They will have to wait. Call the Terran Starfleet Adjutant here--Commodore Harris."

"Yes, Sarek."

As Ramek left, the ambassador keyed in a message to all terminals in his complex alerting his co-workers that he was resuming his full duties pending completion of a current project. The Terran proverb "if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" passed briefly through his mind as his telescreen lit up with Commodore Harris' face. The man was composed, but looked as though he had missed sleep for several days. Probably had.

"Ambassador, what can we--"

Sarek, as usual, went brutally to the point. "I have Kirk and his people."

"Yes, we know they are here on Vulcan. Searches--"

"You misunderstand, Commodore. I  have them; they are guests of myself and my wife. Any searches you have instigated will be called off at once." Sarek's accent on "guests" had been unmistakable.

"Ambassador, the furor from Starfleet over the past four days has been unbelievable. You should have notified us at once. Extradition--"

"You forget yourself, Harris. Vulcan has no extradition process."

"Kirk and his crew are officers in Starfleet. In this case that transcends--"

"Nothing, sir." Sarek's voice was dead level and tundra cold.

Harris sat back from the screen in spite of himself. "Perhaps you'd better enlighten me, Sarek."

"I received the diplomatic warrant four hours ago at my estate. These people, whom you term deserters, thieves, and saboteurs, have saved one of our planet's finest minds from eternal oblivion. To us, they deserve all honors we can bestow upon them. There will be no extradition."

"And the fact that the mind saved was that of your son doesn't enter into it, I suppose?" Only Harris' long association with Sarek allowed him to ask that question. As it was, he felt a distinct thrill of disquiet as he watched the stony face before him.

"Some things need not be answered." Control, he thought. Control...must maintain...

"Ambassador...Sarek. I ask forgiveness for a too personal remark. I haven't slept and my tongue speaks ahead of my brain."

Sarek relaxed. "No offense taken, Phillip. I call on you because I seek your help. My guests realize the disturbing nature of their actions to Starfleet, but what they have done for Vulcan cannot and must not be ignored if Vulcan is to remain visible in the Federation. Once the decision has been made on Earth as to what Starfleet will do, I will require permission to speak on their behalf. Can you arrange the details?"

"Certainly, but nothing's been done yet, since H.Q. doesn't even know where they are."

"I'm certain you have already remedied that situation. Please keep me advised of all developments in your area. I will alert Starfleet that I will defend Kirk."

"Very well, Sarek. For what it's worth, I can't say that I agree with all of what they're doing. But then I've lived here for years now. Most of those old farts in H.Q. haven't even left the planet in a decade. You'll have my full cooperation."

"Thank you, Phillip." The screen blanked.

Commodore Harris had been back at work for ten minutes before he realized that Sarek had never said "thank you" to him before. He shook his head and went back to work.


Uhura thought she was beginning to understand. During the three days she had waited for her skin to stop crawling like it was alive with insects, she had spent soaking up everything she could read about the Vulcan death ritual, the kr'alieu.

No wonder Sarek had been so upset over Spock's death. In a tradition that had been developed over millennia, the Vulcans had even gotten death down to a fine art. For a telepathic race, the dying of a mind was surely a frightening thing. Once the Vulcans had begun to reform under Surak's guidance, they had begun the Sharing at Death.

As the individual lay dying, instead of fighting, panic-stricken, against what must happen eventually, there was an easing, a helping given by relatives and friends. They gathered around the dying, with one, the Holder, or "Keeper of the Katra," given the special honor of carrying most of the memories. It was almost like someone passing on a dairy or a family Bible on their deathbed, only here the Bible was the memories and life experiences of an individual.

How beautiful, thought Uhura. No fear, no panic, no denial, only acceptance and help. I wish I could share like that up till my last breath.

Now the visiting custom became clearer. She had met more Vulcans in this one visit that she had in all her previous trips to the planet. They came to visit Amanda, to ask advice of Sarek, but none of them left the estate until they had had a chance to be introduced to the Enterprise crew. It was a case of honor by association. If Spock had died in the "normal" Vulcan way, the visitors would have stayed with the Keeper of the Katra for several hours, absorbing the essence of the departed, until these experiences were an integral part of their own lives.

In three days, Uhura had barely scratched the surface. She had been interested in Vulcan culture before, but now the passion of a newly inspired student seized her. She wanted to learn more about these rituals. She wanted to study about telepathy. She wanted to be inside a Vulcan mind. If only she were telepathic!

It was not the first time she had wished that. How much easier it would be to communicate with different races if bothersome words weren't needed.

I could stay, she thought defiantly. I'll probably be kicked out of 'fleet anyway. If I am, I could come back here. I will. Her decision made, she closed her notebook and shut off her terminal. She rose, shaking out the kinks of a long stint of sitting as Amanda came into the room.

"It looks like I caught you at a good time."

"Yes. I was just about to break for the afternoon. Can I help you with something?"

"I just talked to Sarek. He'll be beginning the interviews with all the crew, and he wanted to talk to you first. He's sent a car out from the city. It should be here in about thirty minutes."

"That's short notice. I hadn't prepared--"

"You don't need to. Sarek is very thorough. He'll take you through the entire business. Just be patient if he seems to ask things that don't always seem relevant. If I know Sarek, he's built a defense on classic Vulcan logic structure, and they often require searching for any scrap of information that could be related to the argument."

"Well, let's face it, Amanda. I've really got nothing else to do. I'll be at Sarek's disposal when he needs me."


Vulcan buildings almost always intimidated Uhura, and Sarek's office was no exception. She followed the driver of the car that had brought her here as he led her through the maze of hallways. At last they reached a waiting area with many plants and comfortable chairs. Uhura had barely settled into one when Sarek himself came out.

"Commander, if you will follow me."

She rose and went into his office.

Sarek seated himself behind his desk, motioning her to sit in the chair opposite. "Commander, I will ask you some questions regarding that time when you were helping Admiral Kirk. Please feel free to add any comments you might think helpful. How did you first find out about the situation?"

"We all knew something was wrong with Doctor McCoy when we docked in Earth orbit. He broke into Captain Spock's quarters. It was different from anything he had ever done before; some of us thought maybe it was over-reaction to Spock's death, but it just seemed too abrupt. Later that evening, we were all meeting at Admiral Kirk's condominium, and I asked about the doctor then. The admiral said the Starfleet doctors had diagnosed it as fatigue. That's when you arrived. We wondered then..."

"You wondered what?"

"Of course we knew you had come because of Spock. But a short time after we left, Admiral Kirk wanted me to bring him a copy of all the log tapes of our last mission. I dropped them off at the door; he didn't let me in."

"And then?"

"Then the admiral called the command crew together, and told us what you had said to him that night. That Spock's spirit was in McCoy's mind, and since he had no idea what to do with it, it would drive him insane and then they would both die. There was no question of not doing whatever we could to help them."

"But Spock's body was on Genesis."

"Yes, McCoy had an overwhelming compulsion to return to Genesis for some reason, and Admiral Kirk played a hunch. At that time, we knew Spock's photon tube had been discovered, but we didn't know about the regenerative effects of the Genesis Wave. We didn't even know about the re-fusion process. If nothing else, we thought we could at least set Spock's spirit free, bury him on Vulcan, and let McCoy come back to a normal life."

"What did you think of all this?" Sarek looked at her as if he wanted very badly to read her mind, but he wanted to hear her own words say it.

"I hardly knew; everything happened so fast. But if Spock gave his spirit or soul or katra or whatever you call it to McCoy in those last moments, he must have expected someone to know what to do....I never thought that Spock was afraid to die. But to wander, as a disembodied entity, never knowing rest or, he wouldn't have wanted that."

"So you believe in the concept of the soul?"

"Many Terran religions have professed that belief for centuries. Why is it so easy to believe something when there is no proof, and when there is proof, everyone denies it?"

"Indeed. So you were ready to help Admiral Kirk in every way possible."

"Yes. I volunteered to take the evening watch at the Old City Transporter Station. A friend of mine wanted to go out on leave for a month, and I volunteered to cover for her. We were kind of lucky there.

"Admiral Kirk, Doctor McCoy and Mister Sulu rushed in during the following evening, after breaking McCoy out of detention, and, as planned, I beamed them aboard the Enterprise."

"And after they beamed aboard?"

"I locked the door on the closet, trapping a particularly annoying transporter technician inside, then proceeded to the embassy. You and I went ahead to Vulcan, and I monitored all communications so that you would be informed if anything unexpected happened. Once we arrived on Vulcan, we saw the Masters, then we waited for the others."

"And did you ever think of refusing help because you would be breaking rules?"

"No. I'm not one to say that rules are made only to be can look at my service record and see that. But on a starship, you see a lot of cultures and ways of life, and the first thing you'd better learn is most people don't do things the way you do. And you've got to be flexible enough to allow for those differences. Different is not wrong; it's only different."

Sarek made a few brief notes on his terminal, then turned to Uhura. "You've been most helpful, Commander."

"That's all you need?"

"For now. I understand that you've been studying kr'alieu?"

"Yes. It's much clearer to me now, what Spock did. It's a very moving ritual. To aid the passing of another being like that."

"Indeed. I urge you to continue your studies. I may ask you to speak briefly. Explanations of that ritual coming from you would have more impact than coming from me."

"That's an interesting thought, Ambassador. I'll be prepared."

"Very good. My aide," a young Vulcan appeared silently at the doorway, "will see you out."

Uhura nodded and followed the man back to the aircar. She wondered just how Sarek would structure his argument. She almost looked forward to hearing it.


Admiral Yves Gervais, Chief of Starfleet Security, sat motionless at his bare desk, contemplating his blank BellComm screen. He often sat this way; it was how he did some of his best work. He had been security head for fifteen years and the division's best intelligence operative for five years before that. Not an easy job, but a constant challenge to his skills.

Gervais' desk was bare because he delegated nearly all tasks to his assistants, partly to give them experience, partly to let them take the fall if anything went wrong. Many had fallen in fifteen years. Those tasks that he did not delegate required no record keeping, hence the naked desk that had become his trademark.

Yves Gervais had know Drew Sheridan since their Academy days. But where Sheridan had become expansive, belligerent, and florid as his career progressed, Gervais had leaned down into a whip-thin, shutter-eyed, quiet man. He seldom raised his voice but all his subordinates knew each subtle shading of tone and had no trouble sorting a pleasant request from an angry command. Gervais was not a man to cross.

He sat, appearing calm and unaffected by any of the frenzy that seemed to have thrown all of 'fleet Headquarters into a wild dance. His mind, however, raced at a frightening speed. He weighed, sorted, kept and discarded options for himself and his office. He was not sure, yet, of what to make of this "Kirk business," and how far he could use it to his advantage. Sheridan's attitude pleased him, so far, and he let a thin smile touch his lips as he thought through possible futures that good ol' Drew might help him build for the 'fleet. With a little subtle prompting, of course.

Gervais had been subtly prompting Sheridan for as long as he had known the man. It was beginning to grow old. Perhaps it was time to move on to more decisive actions. The tides were definitely in motion; now was the time to channel them in the right direction.

Abruptly coming to a decision, Gervais stabbed a code into his BellComm terminal. When he was sure that no one in the complex could have a record of his call, he entered in a series of numbers that he had not used in twenty years, but had never forgotten. Almost immediately, the face was before him. Though he had not seen it for so long, every line was still familiar.

Gervais spoke first. "You are well?"

"Inanities, Yves? You must be getting old," the odd voice mocked him. So that was the way it was to be played.

"I may have need of you soon. Keep yourself available."

"Only 'may have'? Where is your famous decisiveness that you mask so well under your non-committal surface? Could it be that the mask is now the reality?"

"This is a cusp. The delicate balances must not be destroyed. You, of all people, should know that."

The silence stretched between them. Finally, the face on the screen spoke. "Once before, my actions gave you a pawn you've used for twenty years. What more do you want?"

Gervais' face wrinkled a bit at the eyes and corners of the mouth. Those who knew him well would have recognized a warm smile. "This time? A king and his complement. Keep yourself ready." He cut the connection.

Chak'ka stared at the screen for several minutes as the afterimage faded. A king and his complement? Who? And to what end? Or was it the same as always? Probably, but there was no second guessing Gervais. I've been remiss in my research, thought Chak'ka. He flipped a button beside the console and a second screen slid into view. He carefully entered in the code and after a few seconds of empty clicks indicating the invasion of an "unreadable" channel, the screen lit. Its cursor flashed inquiry.

"Recall all information on Starfleet diplomatic actions and communiqués for the past twelve stardates. Store in Code V."

Quickly, the screen lit with the "wanted" message that had been sent to Sarek's own house. Chak'ka straightened with a hiss. So that was the way of it. No wonder Gervais was treading softly. With luck, Starfleet would do it all for him. But if not...

"There is Chak'ka, always at the ready," he muttered. Always? Perhaps it was time for the tool to turn on the master. The Sarkasian Voice Flexor rearranged his desk to its normal, innocuous state: all hidden devices gone. He went to the door and called to his servant. "Moorlat! Ready my scout. Maximum fuel and provisions. I'll be gone for some time. At once!"


For the first time in two weeks, McCoy sat up in bed, swung his feet over the edge and stood up without feeling anything but definite hunger. How wonderful! He was well. Healed. He could sense it in his whole being--a being he had somehow become more attuned to since his--joining--with Spock.

Spock! He was to visit Spock today. Shrugging into tunic and sandals, McCoy padded softly down the steps to the kitchen. His movements were fluid and easy. After two weeks, the higher gravity felt almost normal.

"Pretty good for an old man," he chuckled to himself. He rounded the corner to the kitchen and found Amanda there before him.

"I thought I was up early," he said, accepting the cup of coffee she held out to him.

"You are. No one else is awake yet. I'm an early riser by long habit. It's not about to break now." They sat in companionable silence for a bit, then Amanda spoke again. "Your car will be here to pick you up in two hours. It's been arranged that you'll spend most of the day at Dh'Reth--as much as is possible with Spock, depending on his condition."

"Condition? But I thought if he was well enough to have visitors..."

"He's progressing well, by all reports, but intervals of rest are mandatory--so that the bruised mind can assimilate all of the knowledge. And you know how Spock is about resting!"

"I certainly do! Amanda, is there anything I should do...or not do?"

"The Healers will instruct you. Mostly common sense. Be decorous, quiet, restrained --typical 'Vulcan' behavior. And one thing else. The Healers may not mention it because it would be so evident to any telepath--you must not touch Spock. Since Vulcans are touch telepaths, that might inadvertently reactivate the link you shared."

McCoy had a brief flash of the days of disorientation and despair on the Enterprise. He never wanted to feel that bad again. "I'll remember," he breathed.

"Yes. Will you eat? Don't worry about getting ready. There are several desert suits in your closet; I'm sure one of them will fit."

McCoy scooped up some fruit and refilled his coffee cup. "I think I'll eat on the run this morning." He headed back up to the room he shared with Kirk.

The admiral was bent over the comm screen when McCoy entered, going over Sarek's reports from the day before. That had become ritual. Sarek was soon to depart for Earth, and if all went according to plan, they would stand before the Board in two more months.

McCoy stood at the threshold for a moment, remembering, re-living all his times in Starfleet, with Jim Kirk and Spock. It had been a full career. Not a few disappointments, but more than his share of joys and triumphs. As today would be, he hoped.

"Whatever happens," he thought to himself, "however badly it goes...and whatever they decide to do to us...I have a place here." The thought warmed him and he stepped briskly into the room.

Kirk clicked off the screen and looked up. "Bones, you're an early bird today. What's up?"

"Jim, don't you remember? I'm going to Dh'Reth this morning." He deliberately did not say "to visit Spock." He knew how much Kirk wanted to see his friend. But that want did not cloud the smile on Kirk's face.

"Of course. I'm sure you'll carry messages from everyone?"

"You bet. Amanda said that I could leave letters with the Guardians. Spock can't have them now, but when he can, well, they'll be there for him."

Jim Kirk looked a little lost. Young. Boyish. Then he smiled. "Never thought I'd be communicating with Spock by letter! Guess I'd better get to it." He turned to the table and fumbled with pen and paper.

McCoy wanted to do something, anything to ease Kirk's pain.

"Jim, I...I wish you were going with me. Being around all those Vulcans, alone...well, it's kind of nerve-wrackin'."

Kirk's face was calm, but his eyes held a tell-tale brightness. "Oh, Bones, you know those Vulcans won't hurt you. They can be surprisingly gentle--surprisingly..."

McCoy watched Kirk's face crumple. It was something he had never seen before and did not want to see again.

"Bones, I miss him. He's here, he's back with us, but I miss him."

McCoy, given to years of comforting hurts and wounds, did not hesitate. He put an arm around Kirk's shoulders and was simply there for him. He felt a depth he had never known before in the sense of loss in Kirk. Hope was there, always, and the strong feeling that, above all, he had done the right thing, but the fear pounded at him--fear that he had given up the only life he knew and had condemned himself to limbo from now on. McCoy could only hold and support his friend and admiral until he regained control.

Soon, Kirk got up and walked to the window. "Sorry, Bones. God knows I don't want to make this any harder on you. You've been through enough."

"Yeah, and so have you, my friend. And so have the others. I know how you miss Spock; I--I feel it. I don't know what it is or how to explain it, but I think some of Spock rubbed off on me--God help us all!"

Kirk had to laugh. "Well, let's just hope that whatever of you rubbed off on him, the Guardians won't discover. He could be at Dh'Reth from now on! Your car will be here soon. You'd better go down. Here's my letter. You can tell me about it when you come back. And Bones--thanks."

"That's just what I'm here for, Jim, what I've always been here for."

McCoy went to wait by the door for his car. He needed the time remaining to collect himself. Peace. He must have inner peace. Calm. Acceptance. There were all those things here. He was ready to meet Spock, ready to face whatever lay ahead.

"Spock," he whispered to nowhere, "whatever you did...thanks."

It was only when the car arrived and had taken him away that he noticed the crumpled letter from Kirk in his hand. He smoothed it out carefully and put it in a pocket with the others.

The ride to Dh'Reth was uneventful. McCoy was beginning to believe that everything on Vulcan was uneventful. Perhaps that was why they had so many rituals. Calm. Inner peace. Acceptance.To alleviate boredom.

McCoy did not remember the layout of the building. He had been so exhausted by his ordeal on the way to Vulcan that much of his memory had simply dimmed out. The one thing he remembered was size--and that one had not changed: Dh'Reth was big. A huge stone structure carved out of a natural rock cliff, it looked like a cross between a Pueblo Indian dwelling and a well-licked salt block. Angles and curves met and flowed upwards to grace the sky. McCoy felt the heavy weight of centuries that lay on the place as he got out of the car. Peace.

A young woman in a desert suit met him as he straightened. "Doctor McCoy." A statement.


"The Dreamer is awake and awaits your presence."

"Excuse me...miss?"

"I am called R'ran'eth."

R'ran'eth. McCoy rolled the syllables around in his mouth before letting them go in what he hoped was the correct way. "R'ran'eth, why do you call Spock 'the Dreamer'?"

"Stop, please." It was not a request. More like a snapped command. "I had hoped you would have been more thoroughly instructed. You must not refer to the Dreamer by name. He must be the first to do that. He must remember who he is. You are not to touch him. You are not to speak too quickly. He is Dreaming and only seldom comes to full reality. If there is any sign of agitation within the Dreamer, you are to leave at once. Do you understand?"

Peace. Calm. Acceptance. "I understand."


There was at least a twenty degree drop in temperature once they entered through the massive doors. The stone floors were inlaid with mosaic designs, and though there were no rugs or wall hangings, the ancient stone seemed to soak up the sound of their footsteps.

McCoy felt his heart beating faster and faster, until he was sure that R'ran'eth beside him could here it. He strove for calm and slowly found it in the long walk down the corridor. They stopped before a gate of delicate, filigreed ironwork.

R'ran'eth sized him up with a glance. "The Dreamer awaits inside. We will give you as much privacy as possible, but we must maintain contact with the Dreamer."

"Of course. I understand. I think I should give you these." He held out the small sheaf of letters he had brought.

R'ran'eth nodded. "For when the Dreamer awakes. We will keep them safe." She turned to go, then paused in mid-step. "I have never been in the presence of a Holder before. I am honored. I hope you find the friend you seek."

She was far down the hall before McCoy could reply. He tucked the remark away to study later, pushed the gate gently open, and walked into another world.

Lush green foliage covered the ground and walls, and large fronds overhung the walkways. Water trickled from somewhere, and McCoy could swear that he smelled roses and hyacinths from Earth. He walked slowly down the path, afraid that he might literally stumble over Spock.

After several minutes of wandering, he came to a clearing in what seemed to be the center of the garden. Spock was there. He sat on a stone bench, head cocked as though listening to the water. McCoy had to stop for a moment, just to savor the sight of him. His hair had grown; it brushed the collar of his tunic and covered the tips of his ears. The physician in McCoy noted the good coloring and healthy texture of skin and hair. Yes--Spock's body prospered here. He hoped the mind was doing as well.

He stepped forward quietly, but Spock turned and took him into his distant gaze. They stood that way for several seconds, each poised to make the next move. Who would?

"You are the visitor." Spock's voice was as deep as ever, but breathy, as though the winds of centuries moved through it.

"Yes." Oh, Spock! he cried silently. "I'm McCoy...Bones! Don't you remember?"

"Yes. You are McCoy. I...remember you."

"I'm very glad. And I remember you." He didn't know if he should try and lead the conversation further, and risk treading on dangerous ground.

"You were the one who held me when I would have gone. I am pleased to still be here. McCoy, I...thank you."

"You're welcome, Sp--" He caught himself in time. "You're welcome, Dreamer."

Spock sighed. "Yes. I dream. I remember you. I remember Jim. And my parents and teachers. Other knowledge is there, but it evades me. As in a dream."

McCoy didn't know how to answer the open pain in Spock's voice. And he could not touch him to offer comfort. "You will awaken soon. Everyone is here to help you and guide you. Just keep trying."

"Yes. But I do not know who I am. I am lost in memories and pain." Spock's eyes had taken on a faraway look, and McCoy yearned to tell him who he was and how much he meant to everyone who knew and cared for him. The dark eyes stayed in other realms, but still they held McCoy's gaze.

"I was...with you. You were...disturbed."

"I didn't understand. I'm not disturbed now." McCoy knew he spoke the simple truth.

"Yes, you have accepted. I can sense you. I knew you were coming here."

"I needed to see you."

"And I you."

The simple admission of need in Spock's statement, unmasked by his old quest to hide his feelings, undiluted by their usual "feuding," moved McCoy beyond words. He could only nod, as he groped for a bench behind him.

Spock rose to help him, and even as McCoy drew away to avoid the touch, he saw Spock's foot catch in the long robe he wore, and saw the surprise in his face as he started to go face down on the stone walkway. McCoy's only thought was the damage Spock might incur if he hit the ground in the higher gravity.

Warnings forgotten, he reached out and caught the Vulcan around his shoulders, and the world exploded in a blue-white flare of agony. Later, the attendants who rushed in, too late, said it looked as though the two were silver statues, welded together. They hung motionless, halfway between standing and falling.

McCoy felt as though his head were a rotten cantaloupe, the seeds (his brain), dribbling out of his ears. He hurt. Voices pounded at him. Sarek, he recognized, and Amanda, speaking in English. Dimly in the background, he heard the chanting of a Vulcan chorus and somewhere over it all, the bell banners from Spock's "wedding" kept time.

"Spock!" he shouted in his head, forgetting another warning. "Spock, you're here with me! Spock!" Faintly, so faintly that he felt, less than heard, Spock somewhere near him. Where? Where? The "voice" grew ever quieter.

"Here, Spock...I'm here!"

How can I reach him when I can't move and I'm already holding onto him? Despair threatened to block out everything and he couldn't allow that. Concentrating as he had never done before, McCoy built a picture in his mind from all directions of the two of them in the garden.

"Spock! Here! Spock!"

No response. Time strung out into centuries. The pain beat at him from all directions and then a faint flutter from...somewhere.


"Spock...hold on!" Mentally, he reached out his hand and felt a thrill of triumph when he "saw" Spock's long fingers grasp his own. "I have you."

"Yes. I am here."

"Who are you?"

"I...don't know."

"You do! What you told me...Remember!" McCoy opened the floodgates of his mind to show Spock the life he had lived before. He didn't believe it possible, but the pain intensified briefly, then in a mental picture, McCoy saw Spock stand, strong and whole, and shield the doctor with his own body.

"No! No more. I remember; I am Spock."

"Yes. Spock."

"I am!"




McCoy gasped and opened his eyes. He and Spock had completed their fall and had rolled apart...or had they? Somehow, somewhere, Spock was still "there." On a tangent line, McCoy suddenly found himself in complete understanding of the phrase "never and always touching and touched."

Before he could delve further into any implications of the thought, two Vulcan attendants were helping him to his feet. Spock was already up. McCoy looked deep into the dark eyes.

"Yes, Doctor. I am 'myself' again."

The attendants were murmuring among themselves. One, obviously in charge, came forward and faced McCoy. With a questioning glance, he held up his fingers in a position that was now familiar to the doctor. McCoy nodded, and the fingers gently touched his face. It felt as if a direct line had sprung from the Vulcan to his soul, but he was not disconcerted. This was beginning to be old hat.

After a moment, the Vulcan Healer nodded and turned to the others. "It was the Human factor. A Vulcan, conditioned against such a meld from childhood, could never have survived. It is well. Now the rest of the teaching can begin."

"But I thought..." McCoy began and then turned to Spock. "You said you were...back."

"My essential self is back, Doctor, and I have a better grasp on my memories. But there is much knowledge still locked away. Thanks to you, I can now regain it at a much faster pace."

For the first time McCoy could ever remember, Spock faced him, his expression not clouded by steely self-control. Unbidden, unasked, Spock extended his hand. "You have given me back my life, Leonard. I will remember."

McCoy reached to grasp Spock's hand warmly in both his own, but remembering the shock of their last contact, hesitated, glancing at the Healers. They nodded their assent.

As McCoy touched Spock's hand, he felt a brief flash of the link they had shared, then it faded to an almost non-existence "hum" in the back of his mind. "Spock. Spock." For a moment, he could say no more.

Spock seemed to understand; he made no move to disengage their hands.

McCoy sighed. "We're in trouble, Spock. Your father's helping us. I don't want you to worry, but you should know that much."

Spock nodded. "Thank you, Leonard. If Sarek has become involved, then you are in capable hands."

Reluctantly, McCoy let go of Spock's hand.

The attendants came to them and assisted them to sit. "You must both rest. Spock, you return to the Halls of Thought. Doctor, we have a place for you. After you are refreshed, we will take you back to D'H'riset."

Spock rose slowly and followed his attendant through the greenery.

McCoy roused himself to speak to the Healers. "Wait! The letters--" He felt himself being supported by gentle hands. Surprisingly gentle.

"Yes. He may have them now. Rest, Doctor, rest."

McCoy's eyes betrayed him and fell shut. He remembered no more until the air car dropped him off back at Sarek's front door.


The day had been long and taxing, but he had felt fully in control of his faculties for the first time, if only for a moment.

Spock hung the long cover-robe over the chair and stretched his cramped muscles in a Vulcan exercise routine much like Earth's tai-chi. As he finished, he allowed his hands to travel lightly over his body. It had not changed in many years; still slender, well-muscled, he marveled at how comfortable he felt in it.

Illogical, the word came into his mind by habit, but Spock only partly accepted it. He was changed. He had seen death, met death, had been buried and he was back. What could ever trouble him again?

He sat down at his small desk and pulled a pile of papers to him. He did not move for several minutes, then he laid the letters aside, with an almost-sigh. Briefly, he placed his hand on the stack as if by touching them he could reach the people who had written them.

The distance was so great. Things--his past, his life before--were clearer now, but still far away. And the times when he could bring them into focus were few and far between.

Time, meditation and patience.

The masters told him, and he knew, these would bring his true life back to him. But somewhere inside his mind, there was an as yet unacknowledged feeling that he didn't have the time it would take.

The letters helped.

Spock could almost sense the consciousness of each crew member as he read and re-read them. ("Vulcans do not need mnemonic aids; what we have experienced is in our minds, unfaded." A comment to McCoy from some past skirmish.) He continued to re-read the letters. Uhura's warmth, Sulu's energy, and Scotty's "Lad" salutation that sent out a protective, fatherly feeling. This from a Human who was two-thirds his age and who hardly seemed to notice Spock over his engines!

And the last letter. Slightly more wrinkled than the others, it seemed to glow with an inner radiance that was seared into the paper by the words it held. He read it again, even though his Vulcan memory had absorbed it on the first perusal.

My friend--

You are back from your long journey, and my life is full again. How well I know that your culture is not given to flowery speeches and shows of mere emotion, but I know we understand each other too well for that to bother us. You will bear with me and smile just a hint as I revel in my Human-ness.

Spock--you're back! You're alive! Can it mean to you what it does to me? I thought that I was angry and sad when you went to Gol after our first mission. That was pure joy compared to--the other. I don't mean to bring back painful memories to you, but I wish--how I wish I had been able to touch you in the rad-chamber. We might have avoided all this. But we all did what we had to. McCoy is healed--mostly thanks to your mother's care and hospitality. But you'll see for yourself when he visits. How I wish I could see you! But I know you are there--safe with the Masters, healing and growing stronger. That is what matters, what gives me strength to face what lies ahead. Keep well, Spock, and don't try to rush things. (I know I'm not a doctor, but I know you!)

I miss you as my good right hand, but I know that we will come out of this stronger than when we went in. I will see you soon on your lovely Vulcan.

Your friend,

Jim. Jim had followed him beyond time itself to see him to this end. His caring and the crew's encouragement, pride and concern poured out to wrap him in a warm blanket.

Still, somewhere the blanket had a hole in it--and a cold wind blew through. Something was--or would soon be--very wrong. He had to find out. Spock attacked his meditation, determined to find the answer.

There was not much time.


The red flame in the firepot pulsed at the right rhythm. The room was warm for a change, and dry enough so that she didn't feel like she was drowning in wet air. She was surrounded by familiar things that should have calmed her, but did not.

The mind control techniques that she had so painstakingly learned were deserting her too fast. She knelt quietly before the flame, but instead of feeling at one with the world, she saw only crimson images of herself with a Klingon execution dagger, hacking the beast that killed David into small, bloody pieces.

No good. Such thoughts would not bring David back. But she felt her responsibility heavily. She was Starfleet trained--he wasn't. She should have attacked the Klingon--not he. She should have died.

Not logical, Saavik. No one should have died.

But one did.


Then accept.


Spock! The name wailed through Saavik's mind and gave her no peace. She needed Spock to help her--his cool logic and discipline would stop her mindless rambling. But Spock was gone, too.

No. He is back. I saw him.

I also felt the emptiness and the fear.

You should not have touched him.

I bought us time.

Time for what? David is dead.

But Spock is alive--truly alive, body rejoined with spirit. He will be whole again, she thought fiercely. He will.

And what then?

Saavik rose from her stool in a fluid motion that belied the hours she had knelt there. She could help it no longer. She paced as any Human might under unbearable pressure.

She had joined with Spock when the growth surges of Genesis had pushed him into pon farr. She had reached to calm him and found--nothing.

Only pain and fear. No questions, not even the burning physical desire she had steeled herself to expect. Undaunted, she had fought to calm him as one would a wounded animal; she had succeeded. Would he remember?

There was no mind, Saavik. The mind is the memory.

Saavik's Romulan blood, stirred by the intimate touch of alien, yet kindred, fingers would not, could not accept that as an end.

The body remembers. He will know.

No. And if he does, it will not matter. No bond was formed.

No bond. He won't remember. Saavik felt as though all her hard-won training and control were mocking her. Her face felt like a mask as she fought not to burst into tears.

Driven by emotions she couldn't even name, she ran into the hallway. If she could get to the garden, perhaps she could find a moment's peace there among the growing things.

The door shut behind her and she leaned against the wall, catching her breath. Movement, action had helped. Perhaps a v'ree'lat walk this evening would be a better idea. If she could hold out that long. She turned to go to the garden and almost collided with Sulu. She jerked back just before he could touch her.

"Saavik! Uh...sorry. I just came in and my eyes haven't adjusted yet." He blinked a couple of times and got a good look at her face. "Are you all right?" The real concern showed in his voice, and, try as she might, Saavik could not keep her chin from quivering.

"Yes, I'm fine." She tried to get past him, but his light touch on her arm was like a force-field.

"I don't think so. Saavik, I don't mean to pry, but I know that you were--are close to Spock. And you were with David Marcus when...Well, anyway, the rest of us have gotten used to going through Hell every Tuesday, but--"

She whirled and cut him short. Anger gave her control. "Mister Sulu, I was raised in Hell, and it wasn't a once-a-week event. I appreciate your interest, but I can solve my problems without Human interference." She stalked away, and managed to hold her pose of outrage until she reached the gardens and their quiet recesses before she collapsed.

She did not sob; something inside her kept her from going that far, but for several minutes, she could not stop shaking. Then, as the mid-day heat coalesced around her, she began to breathe easier and her mind calmed slightly. The soft sounds of the desert came to her, and she took comfort in the living things around her.

"I must look at this as a healing time. A growing time," she told herself firmly. She resolved to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Budding claustrophobia, she feared, was one of her problems. She would soak in open space and sunlight, travel the desert by evening's cool. Rest and relaxation. R & R. Now she understood the term.

David was gone and she could not worry him back to life. She must accept that now; she would do her best, but the possibilities of David would always haunt her. And Spock? He was her mentor, her rock in the storms of emotion she was exposed to in the Human-dominated Starfleet. Could she grow into her position without his help?

"He did!" she told herself. "You are Saavik, daughter of Szarin, who could, if the tales are true, take on any Centurion in the Romulan Legion and leave him a whipped cur, or dead. That blood runs in your veins!" She would not deny or disgrace it. The vow and remembrance made her proud and, for a moment, Spock receded in importance.

Balance, her inner voice whispered. Do not focus all your hopes on one object. There are others as worthy. Perhaps.

She sat, more still than the leaves which moved slightly in the heat. Her mind worked on the conscious level, calming her thoughts and on the biological level, slowing her breathing, helping the oxygen reach her brain more effectively. Slowly, she relaxed and began to concentrate on the present.

Sulu. She had been inexcusably rude. Not only was he her much-senior officer, but he had approached her in friendship and concern. She had rebuffed him for something he could never change: his Human-ness. She must apologize. Once she was done in the garden, she would find him and make peace, but for now, the garden was too pleasant to leave.

She had forgotten the pleasures of silence, the joy of solitude. Big as it was, the Enterprise often seemed cramped. Had seemed. The ship--the only true homeplace she had ever known, was gone. Would things ever be the same again? Thoughts like that were not productive. The Human influence was greater than she would have believed. She bent her concentration on calming thoughts.


"Mister Sulu?"

The helmsman looked up from the plant specimen he had collected. "Hmmm? Oh, Saavik! Are you feeling better?" There was no resentment in his voice, only genuine concern.

"Yes, sir. I...must apologize for my behavior earlier. I--"

"No apology necessary. Remember what Admiral Kirk said? We're all living very close together here. We have to be tolerant. That means you don't have to call me 'sir'!"

His grin made her relax a bit. "Very well...Sulu. Did you find that in the gardens?" She indicated the pinned leaf.

"Yes. Amanda has quite a selection."

Saavik bent to look more closely. "There are sure to be wild specimens in the desert that would put these to shame."

"Do you know where?"

"No, but I could find them." She hesitated before going on. Did she want this Human male with her? "I planned a v'ree'lat walk this evening. If you would like to go..." She left the formal invitation unspoken.

Sulu looked intrigued. "V'ree'lat?"

"Searching--sorting. It is a time to be away, to find the right path. Sometimes it can last a night...sometimes it can become a pilgrimage of months."

"Are you sure I wouldn't intrude?"

The question made up her mind. "You will not. I would be please with the company."

"I'll take that as a compliment. When should we leave?"

"At first dark. Before that would be too hot for you. Bring some collecting equipment if you want, and a small amount of water. We'll find whatever else we need."

"Fine. I'll meet you here, then."

She nodded and went to her room to prepare.


The sun was well on its way down when Sulu and Saavik left Sarek's house for their walk. Sulu had traveled many planets and seen his share of deserts, but never got used to the almost instant darkness that fell on Vulcan. The pair walked in silence, busy with their own thoughts, but an outside observer would have remarked how attuned to each other they seemed. The intense teamwork nurtured on a starship bridge carried over even here.

The dark was palpable, Sulu thought, barely keeping sight of Saavik in front of him. The stars blazed overhead, shedding a faint illumination that made the arid landscape more alien than the hot sun ever could. He wondered why the young lieutenant had asked him on this walk. When he had bumped into her in the hallway earlier, she had made it plain that she wanted no company at all, much less his own. Perhaps, he thought, it was her way of apologizing.

As if she sensed his thought, Saavik paused to let him catch up to her. She was keeping a brisk pace, and Sulu preferred to walk more slowly, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness and enjoying the pleasant coolness. Once he came abreast of her, Saavik took off again, almost jogging. Sulu followed. She had said she was using this walk to sort her thoughts; it seemed her frantic activity was a way of doing that.

They continued on for several hours, and had yet to really speak to one another. Sulu felt relaxed and oddly happy. He was not ill at ease with Saavik's quietness, nor did he want to be the one to break it. He realized that such peace of mind might not come his way again soon, and accepted it without question.

The terrain they covered was table-flat, but for the last thirty minutes, the slope had increased and Sulu realized they were walking through a shallow ravine.

Abruptly, Saavik stopped and motioned him forward. "I told you the better specimens were wild."

Sulu followed her pointing finger to the night bloomer. It was incredible; lush petals billowed out in all directions. The flower itself was at least six inches in diameter, its petals a milky pale edged in black.

Sulu moved to find a light, but Saavik stopped him. "Why?"

"They only bloom in darkness. The faintest hint of direct light causes them to wilt."

"Will it bloom in a greenhouse?"

"I've seen them, but not this big. See, this one is the only plant for some distance. Perhaps proximity to others stunts their growth."

"Hmmm," Sulu agreed. He thought he would take a specimen back to Amanda, but then he stopped. Tonight, he only wanted to enjoy the sights and sounds of this Vulcan night. There would be, he hoped, enough time to study botany.

Again, Saavik echoed his thought. "Sulu...what do you think will happen to us?" Her voice was hushed.

Sulu knew how hard it had been to ask that question. "Honestly, Saavik, I don't know. After all, it's hardly a crime to be rescued! The rest of us? Well, I think the admiral will take the heat on most of the charges, and we'll all probably be downgraded in rank...I hope!"

"What do you mean?"

"If they pushed hard enough, I suppose they could court-martial the lot of us. But between Sarek defending us, and all the bad press they would get, I really don't think it would get that far."

"What about Spock?"

The question startled Sulu. "Spock? He's not in trouble...after all, he was dead!"

"I expressed myself poorly. Will he be allowed to return to Starfleet?"

"That's tricky. If he passes all their tests, I guess it would be up to him." Sulu paused and sighed. "But if the admiral is not there, I doubt if Spock would come back to the 'fleet."

"If the post is offered, and he is qualified, it isn't logical to refuse." Saavik sounded as if she were trying very hard to understand something. She could barely see Sulu smile.

"Mister Spock is extremely logical when necessary, but usually not when it comes to Kirk."

"Why is that?"

"They are...friends, close friends."

Saavik thought for a moment, trying to understand, finally, the relationship between her two famous, and now infamous, senior officers. "In Vulcan, there is a word: t'hy'la. It can mean friend, brother, mate, too many things. In Romulan, there is a word--rurzhle--it means 'two who share a life between them so that trust is unspoken.'"

Sulu looked at her hard in the dark. "I think that's a very...fitting...word."

Saavik nodded and they resumed walking. Sulu could sense the tension in the young woman beside him, felt that she wanted to say something more to him. As gregarious as he was, he was at a loss to help her begin.

It was full Vulcan dark now, a soft velvety blackness helped only by the myriad of stars overhead. Fortunately, they were on flat terrain and didn't have to pay much attention to their steps.

Sulu had lost all sense of time. He felt it had been dark forever and that Saavik had always been there in front of him. He was not tired; he wanted the night, the cool and the secure sense of companionship to last forever.

Saavik signaled a halt. They sat quietly, shared a bit of water. Sulu was about to stand when her voice stopped him.

"I...would like to ask a question, if I may." Her voice was very hesitant.

"I was hoping you would." It was only the truth.

"Telepathy?" Shock, and underneath, fear that she was so easily read.

"Not at all. But even Humans are not totally insensitive. You were very upset today. Then you asked me to come with you on this meditation walk. And your, as we say, 'body language,' has been very tense all evening."

"I see." A pause. "Yes, I am troubled."

He did not speak. He knew she would continue when she could.

"On Genesis, before David was killed, Spock aged very rapidly." Another pause. "You are familiar with...pon farr?"

"The clinical description and what it involves, yes."

"Because he went from youth to adult so quickly, it became...that time...for Spock. He was mad; he was so frightened. And there was the pain of such rapid physical change. I reached touch his mind, to soothe him and help him through it. There--" Her voice shuddered to a stop.

Sulu held back the natural impulse to offer a comforting touch. "Was...harm done?" He hoped the question was phrased delicately enough.

"I thought if I could reach his mind, I would calm him. But--but there was nothing! Only fear and pain. Sulu, are Humans like that, too? Mindless animals, afraid inside themselves? Is--" She cut herself off abruptly, but Sulu heard the unspoken phrase: Is there no one I can turn to?

"Saavik, you couldn't have known then, but remember, at that time Spock's 'mind' was with Doctor McCoy. So there was no mind to touch. And he probably was like an animal, crazed with fright. But whatever you've heard, Humans aren't like that, at least I'm not. I could show you..."

She searched his face. It seemed sincere, but many times had she known a pretty face to harbor an evil mind. Since she had touched Spock's fear, she had not let herself reach out at all, not to anyone. The effort was exhausting but it was worth not having the pain of intruding minds. And now Sulu had volunteered to let her in.

"Why? Have you done this before?"

"No. But I know you won't hurt me. And I think you need to see that not everyone is out to hurt you."

She could think of no verbal reply, so she simply closed the distance between them and reached out to touch the exact places on Sulu's face.

For Sulu, it was as if her fingers did not stop on the skin, but pushed, gently, inexorably through his skull and into his soul. He concentrated on keeping his breathing deep and even as he felt Saavik's light touch, and, then he was with her, looking out at himself, and feeling her mind on his at the same time.

There were no words, no sounds--the images moved too quickly. As if guiding the hand of a blind person, he showed her his memories, triumphs and sadness, and finally showed her herself as he saw her, her competence as an officer, his admiration of her quick mind, and, on a far more basic level, his appreciation of her as a very attractive female.

Her hand drew away, stopped only to cup his face for the briefest of moments. He had no idea if it had taken ten minutes or ten hours. But it was still dark, so it must not have been too long.

Saavik was gathered into herself, quiet, reposed. Sulu thought she looked far more relaxed than he had ever seen her.

Finally, she faced him. "I am like that to you?"

He smiled. "Even when you try to fight off the world by yourself."

Saavik rose to her feet and held out a strong hand to help him up. "Let's go home."

"I'm ready."

She did not object when he put an arm around her waist.


It was almost too much for Saavik to take in at once. First, the interview with Sarek, who, in spite of all her training and her basic nerve, intimidated the hell out of her--as Sulu would say--then, the message waiting for her at the Embassy complex.

She stared at it, uncomprehending at first, then letting its meaning sink in.

"Permanent Vulcan assignment--diplomatic corps." How? Why? Not that she was eager to go back to Earth and face the court, or at least be present (Sarek had told her that he doubted she'd even be called upon to give testimony), at the trial her crewmates would surely have, but she had not expected permanent assignment anywhere. She had first resigned herself, then had come to accept a life of constant travel. She was ready.

Now she was being told to unpack. And on Vulcan! She could resume her studies! And Spock! Surely he would not be leaving again so soon...


She must tell him first. He deserved to know. Since that night in the desert, she had come to know the Enterprise's best helmsman well. He had given of himself to her, respect and honesty and friendship that she had never had from a male before. Through him, she had had glimmerings of what it might be like to have a life-time bond with only one other. Now it would not be.

Enough. She had Vulcan; she would make that her bond. But she still had to tell Sulu.

Sulu put down the book he was trying to read on basic argument structure. It was slow reading at best. He liked his arguments serendipitous, impulsive, not planned down to the last breath of the last sentence, the way Vulcans preferred it. He sighed. He'd promised Saavik he'd give it a try and they would have a go at a "proper" argument.

As he reached for the book again, there was a soft knock on his door. Saved by the knock! he thought. Aloud he called, "Come!"

Saavik opened the door and peeked around it. She always did that, as if she were afraid she might catch him undressed, or something.

"Saavik! Hi! How did the interview go?"

She moved into the room and stood by the desk. "Not too difficult. As you said, Sarek did not even think I would need to appear if I preferred not to. I just told him what happened. All of it."

He nodded. He knew it was painful for her to even refer to David's death. "Oh, please sit. You know you don't have to be formal with me."

It was not the first time he had told her this, but she still needed an invitation before she would sit down in his presence, or around any of her senior officers, for that matter.

Her silence was not the relaxed quiet of a friend he had come to know. He looked at her, searching her face. She didn't meet his eyes.

"Is something wrong? Did anything happen at the interview?"

"Nothing is wrong, exactly. I thought it best to tell you now. I--I have new orders. Permanent assignment to Vulcan, diplomatic corps."

Sulu did not move from his cross-legged position on the bed, but he felt his chest expand with a sudden, intense pressure. He did his best not to let his surprise, and the disappointment that followed, show. "Was this something you requested?"

"No. Perhaps it's Starfleet's way of seeing that I stay out of trouble."

Sulu looked up in time to catch the quick gleam in her eye. He smiled. "That could be. Of course with your language skills--"

"I'd prefer a security position. I'm used to action and terrorists surely don't scare me."

"Not after Klingons," Sulu agreed emphatically.

There was a pause as they looked at each other, wondering when to begin, what to say, or even if they should begin at all.

"Saavik, I have to say that I wish you were going with us." Sulu couldn't be that quiet for that long.

"Yes, I know." She came over and sat on the foot of his bed, something she had never done before. "I have so few friends," she sighed, her voice very soft.

He reached out and lightly touched the back of one hand. "I could be more."

Again, she met his eyes. "Not now. Not...yet, if ever. I have my obligations to...Vulcan..."

"And to a certain Vulcan?" Sulu was not bitter, but he wanted to know what he was up against.

"I need to know if he will truly be...whole again. After obligation is to Vulcan. And to Starfleet. I owe them my life and Vulcans pay their debts."

"And then?"

There was actually mischief in Saavik's eyes as she answered him. "Permanent Vulcan assignment, Sulu. You'll always know where to find me."

He had to laugh. "Don't be too sure that I won't take you up on that."

She rose to go, then turned back and looked at him so intently, he felt his heart beat in his ears. She held out her first two fingers to him, a gesture that he had come to know was as intimate as a kiss, and much more significant.

Without thought, he touched his own fingers to hers. "Friends?"

"Friends." It was an oath, and then she was gone, the door closing behind her.


Jim Kirk watched as Sarek's fingers played over the keyboard of his travel computer. For the past hour, the ambassador had been packing the little machine with all the information he had gathered from the depositions of the crew, reports of the search for Kirk against diplomatic orders, all the evidence that he would take to Earth to defend them. The artificial brain must ache, thought Kirk.

Finally, Sarek rose. "I am ready. You and your crew were most helpful, if not always ruled by logic. I have the facts, but perhaps more importantly, I have their convictions, their beliefs. It is those beliefs that will help, must help, the Federation become stronger and more tolerant."

"I hope so, sir," agreed Kirk. "May I ask your plan once you reach Earth?"

"I will see Sheridan first."

"Admiral Drew Sheridan...of Base Operations?"

"Yes. It seems he is the impetus behind this Starfleet/Federation board they've called. He and several others coerced Morrow into calling it. I must talk to him about who will sit on that board, and then I will confer with the President of the Federation. Since this is a joint effort, we must keep both sides apprised."

"I see. And you'll call for us..."

"I estimate two weeks from the time I arrive. It could be sooner, but not later. We must bring this to a conclusion."

"I agree, Sarek. This thing has been telling on my people since the day we got here."

"Have them stay prepared. I will give you as much notice as I am able to, but..." He didn't quite shrug, but Kirk got the meaning.

"We'll all be ready."

"Until we meet on Earth, then. My ship is waiting."

"A safe voyage, Sarek."

After Sarek left, Kirk felt cut loose, at a loss. Everything was in Sarek's hands now. He could only wait, not something he did with ease.

He decided to go to the airfield where the Vulcan engineers were working on attaching the cloaking device to the Vulcan ship. What had started as a relatively simple task had turned into a nightmare of mental logic versus cranky circuitry. Somehow, the Vulcan adaptation of the Klingon device did not work. As tested on the ground, the outlines of the ship faded considerably, but the vessel was still quite visible. Infinite adjustments had not produced an improvement. Mister Scott had tried to explain the theories behind the problem, but Kirk had been lost by the time his engineer drew his first breath to continue, and he had told Scotty that he had total faith in the combination of Scottish and Vulcan ingenuity and asked him to keep him apprised.

The next step had been to remove the entire Klingon cloaking mechanism and connect it to a Vulcan ship. Kirk had had no word since that effort had begun, so he thought he'd see for himself.

The space-field was several miles out of the city, near Dh'Reth, where Spock still strove to return to this world. The bare plateau where ships and other air- and space-going craft took off and landed was a cracked and arid plateau several thousand feet above the city. Looking at the terrain, Kirk could easily believe that it had not rained in that place for centuries. And the heat! He hoped he could walk from where he parked his car to where the team of engineers busied themselves with the sleek Vulcan craft.

Scotty strode down the ramp to meet him. His expression was not encouraging. "I dinna ken what it is, Admiral. I'm purely stumped. All the circuits are connected right; the power is working correctly. But it just won't work. It's beyond me. I'm leavin' it to them." He indicated the team of Vulcan engineers behind him. They were gathered around the odd-shaped device, their faces showing the strain and frustration of an unsolvable problem. It was clear that they were not pleased with the way things were going.

"What can we do, Scotty? We've got two weeks at most."

Before Scotty could reply, Kirk sensed a...presence behind him. He turned and saw the long-robed figure. Spock! His throat closed and he had to stand for a moment to gather his composure.

Spock spoke first. "Two weeks will not be enough time."

"For what?"

"The problem lies essentially in the time-phasing of the computers used to run the cloaking device. I have been studying this problem for some time. The Klingon power source fires its impulses, its instructions to the mechanism, at a slightly different speed than to the rest of the ship's systems. Evidently, this was developed so that a ship stealing the device could not put it into immediate operation. If you wish to fly cloaked, Admiral, you must use the Klingon ship."

Kirk simply could not speak for several seconds. "Thank you, Mister Spock. Did you make this trip over here to tell us?"

"Actually, I was on a meditation walk in the hills above. I saw your car, and have observed the action around the ship for some days now. I thought I might aid you with this problem."

"I can't say I'm pleased to be flying home to trial in a Klingon ship, but at least we know we'll be ready when Sarek calls."

"Trial?" Spock seemed confused, and Kirk wondered if he should try and change the subject. But the Vulcan's stare was too intense to try and evade.

"We will be tried for events that led up to...the incident...on Genesis. Actually, this is a board meeting, to determine if there is enough evidence for a court-martial."

"Court-martial? Not logical. You saved my life; here is a working Klingon ship; and I seem to remember a Klingon prisoner."

"It's all true, but the top brass doesn't see it that way."

Spock nodded, then turned without speaking and walked across the field and up into the steep hills.

Kirk watched the tall figure become smaller and smaller, wondering what was going through that mind that had been to death and back. Finally, he dragged his thoughts back to the present. "Mister Scott, I want you to start a complete check-out of the Bird-of-Prey. Drag this crew away from the current problem and have them to aid you. I'll contact the rest of the crew and have them be ready to leave on a moment's notice. I hate like Hell to have to fly in that bucket again, but it looks like she's all we've got."


The presence of another being, no matter how quiet, is always intrusive on intense concentration. Sheridan glanced up, meaning to snap Michaels' head off, but when he saw the expression on the young man's face, he modified his attack. "Yes, Michaels. What is it?"

"'s Sarek. He's here--early! I thought, under the circumstances..." The awe and, yes, fear, deep down, gut fear of the unknown and unknowable, was heavy in the boy's voice.

"Yes, of course. You did the right thing. Send him in."

Michaels dashed out the door, and Sheridan straightened his desk and his thoughts. "Early my foot! He planned this to the second. Vulcans are precise, period. No early, no late. On time. Well, you may have given my aide a seizure, but that cuts no ice with me!" So thinking, Sheridan unconsciously came to attention and took a deep breath.

The first thing the admiral noticed about Sarek was his silence. He moved as though he wore a sound-absorbing cloak. He had seen Sarek before, of course, at various functions, but they had never met. The two stared at each other across the expanse of the desk.

Sheridan struggled to break the quiet. "Ambassador. A pleasure."

"I rather doubt that, sir. Shall we agree to put unnecessary courtesies aside?"

Sheridan nodded; at least that was one thing he could agree to completely. "Certainly. Ambassador, your planet is harboring criminals. Military criminals. Under all our agreements, you must surrender them for punishment."

Sarek seated himself lightly. "I believe you may have misread those documents, Admiral. Nowhere does it say Vulcan must extradite prisoners, military or otherwise, unless Vulcan recognizes their actions as crimes. In this case, we do not."

"They've broken every rule in the book--damn near!" How can this man defend them?

"Whose book?"

Sheridan just sat for a moment. "Ambassador--Sarek. The Federation was built on the agreements of many different peoples to work together to maintain peace and order. There must be unifying laws. There cannot be exceptions to every rule, or the rules are worthless."

"Unifying laws--or laws that will allow one people to subtly and over time dominate all the rest? Vulcans are longer lived than you. In my own lifetime, I have seen disturbing changes take place on my world. Changes brought by those who have sworn to abide by our customs, yet from the beginning almost totally ignored them. This case is merely the opening of a wound that has burned for years. Your--criminals," he spat the word, "have upheld their personal honor and belief in the right, when your Starfleet, who could have helped so easily, denied them any chance. On Vulcan, they are heroes, and we will not send them back to be imprisoned...or worse."

"That's a very impassioned speech, sir." Sheridan emphasized passion, but he was finding that it was one thing to talk about how Vulcan could walk out of the Federation and to hell with them, and quite another to have one of the top Vulcan brass in your office sounding off like Patrick Henry.

Sarek refused to take the sarcasm. "Admiral, the wise Vulcan does not deny having passion; he has learned to apply it only toward productive ends."

"Ambassador, I appreciate your position. But you must see mine. Starfleet is run on discipline. Surely Vulcan is no stranger to that word. If we were to let Kirk and his people go unpunished, it would open the door for all kinds of insubordination."

"I see. You discipline your Starfleet because its members cannot discipline themselves."

"That's enough, Mister! Those people have broken quarantine, they've destroyed property and lives, they've put military information at risk. I demand in the name of Starfleet Command that they be surrendered for a full military court-martial, pending arbitration." Sheridan realized he was leaning over, pounding on the desk and, with effort, pulled himself back.

Sarek's face was a mask. "And I demand full apologies to the admiral and his crew, erasure of all charges from their records and reinstatement to full duty for all personnel involved."

The two stood staring at each other with only the desk to keep their noses apart.

Somewhere, that thing in the Human brain that constantly free-associates, popped up in Sheridan's mind and he was reminded of a day fifty years before when he played "King of the Hill." A smile almost stole out before he stopped it. He broke the gaze first and walked to the liquor cabinet. "Impossible. Your demands are exorbitant." He poured a shot.

"As are yours. But I learned in your society that it is common for one to demand what the other cannot give in order to receive something that is barely equitable."

Sheridan grunted and took down another glass as he looked his question to Sarek. The Vulcan nodded and Sheridan poured a second shot. "Then you propose a deal?"

"I propose that there be a true willingness to listen and to accept other-than-Human values. Vulcan is not the only world where voices are being raised. 'Racism' and 'favoritism' are ugly words."

"Indeed. Well, the Board has not been chosen yet. The people who sit there will have the final decision, after all."

"Yes. It must be a blended group. Offworlders. Psi sensitives, if possible."

"We'll do what we can. They'll have to be the highest up and..." Sheridan trailed off as his remark hit home.

Sarek finished for him. "And there are all too few many non-Humans at that level. Do you see, Admiral?"

"I can't deny that, Sarek, but we'll do the best we can. Perhaps those who've lived off world for a time. Now, when will they be here?"

"When do you convene your Board?"

"Ambassador, you know we cannot convene a board unless the defendants are present!"

"When they need to be here, they will be here. I say this with the Voice of Vulcan. Choose your Board carefully. I will contact you regularly for progress reports." Sarek put the glass on the desk. "2198 is really a better year."

Gathering his cloak, Sarek swept out, leaving Sheridan feeling like he'd just lost a fight with the school principal.


Spock strove for concentration, for peace in his meditation, but it would not come. His brief conversation with the admiral in the afternoon had disturbed him more than he wanted to admit. The admiral. What was the admiral to him? He had the letter from Jim, and having it meant a great deal to Spock in one corner of his mind, but he could not quite connect the two: Jim and the admiral. Yet, he knew they were one.

He had felt the worry, the tension that hovered around all the people present at the ship earlier. Even the Vulcan technicians had not been able to completely hide the frustration at not being able to work the cloaking device. Spock hoped he had done the right thing by telling them of the problem.

They had to go back to Earth. Unlike him, they had no haven. No place that would shelter them until they were ready to face the world again.

Court-martial? Again, Spock sensed the word on two levels. It should mean more to him than it did. Courts-martial, trials, arbitration boards, what were they to him? And yet, Jim, the Admiral, had been so worried. If there were any way to ease that worry, he must try. He would go with the Klingon ship when it embarked to Earth.

His final testing was to take place in one month. There he would be questioned orally by the Masters, and he would spend his final session with the massive computers, fielding anything they cared to throw at him.

And they had only two weeks at most. Then his exam must take place in one week. He knew the travel time from Vulcan to Earth. Knew that Sarek could not accomplish all he wanted to in only one week. So he would force the issue. He could do it. He was ready. He would go to Earth.


Sheridan's office was dark. The admiral had turned his chair around to see out of the window behind the desk. San Francisco blazed beneath him, making the stars above shine a pallid second. But despite the beauty of the glowing Earth-bound panorama below, the stars called stronger. He had paid his dues, left life and youth and family behind him on a dozen different worlds. Yet they still called him to come back...come back.

"Second thoughts, Drew?" The quiet voice pulled him around to face the door. The thin silhouette identified Gervais.

"Come in, Yves. Come in. Have a seat." Gervais sat lightly, facing Sheridan across the desk. "Second thoughts? No. Just the old ones."


"About other times...and other people."

"Ken would have made a fine officer, Drew." There was a sadness in Gervais' tone that Sheridan would not have expected.

"Hell, yes! He'd have made a fine anything!"

"Perhaps I'd better go..."

"No, no. I didn't mean to get so sentimental. All that's long ago. We have more important things at hand."

"The board..."

"Yes. The board."

"Do you think they'll show?"

Sheridan couldn't see Gervais' shadowed face, but somehow felt the man's eyes on him. He shifted, trying to get comfortable again. "Sarek says they will. And you know what they say about Vulcans."

"They don't lie."


"But you don't believe it." It was not a question.

"Let's just say they had better be there when the board convenes, or Sarek's finished in the diplomatic corps."

"And Vulcan?"

"They won't have to worry about walking out of the Federation. They'll be kicked out. And as for Kirk and the rest--they'll have more bounty hunters on their tails than they'll know what to do with. I'll personally throw them to the dogs."

"You sound pleased."

"No, no. Just carried away, I guess. But I am tired of being pushed around by a bunch of cold-hearted, ruthless mind readers."


"Read history, Yves. Your Vulcans weren't always the peace-prattling cold-fish they are now. Look at Sarek. Back on Babel on Stardate 3843, he snapped a Tellarite's neck, clean as you please. No easy feat, that!"

"You've misread history, Drew. An Orion saboteur killed that Tellarite in the Vulcan way to frame Sarek. The ambassador was cleared."

"But he admitted he could have done it. Would have--"

"Maybe. But he didn't."

"Who are you for anyway, damn it?!"

"No one. Everyone."

"Old Yves. Always the Devil's Advocate. Well, I say the Federation would be just that much better off without Vulcan. If they want to keep to themselves so badly, let 'em."

"Would we be better off? I wonder. But perhaps we'll see soon. I must go, Drew. I leave you to your view." The man never seemed to move fast, but he was gone before Sheridan could blink.

The admiral shook his head and turned back to the window. It seemed a long time until morning. As long as he had known Yves Gervais, he had never been able to figure him out. Those Security guys--who could know what went on in those classified heads of theirs? Gervais had a damn good record and had never been in any trouble. That was what counted. Not only what you did but how you did it. That Kirk now...

He shook his head. Why was he brooding? He knew he was doing the right thing. Damn Sarek anyhow. The Vulcan had been so calm under Sheridan's ranting. He had elegantly refuted every point Sheridan made--made him look like a heartless bastard for not gleefully turning the Enterprise over to Kirk in the first place. But self-doubts were not familiar to the admiral. He rose from the chair and darkened the window.

"If he's right, he's damn well going to have to prove it. To me, and to the board. Let's see you do that, Sarek of Vulcan!" He would wait out the rest of the night at home.


While Sheridan headed to his city apartment to wait out the night, Yves Gervais wended his way through the San Francisco hills to his quiet, secluded house. The number he gave at Headquarters was a studio leased under his name in the city. If anyone called him there, the connection automatically switched to his house. Gervais preferred it that way; when not working he wanted no contact with other people--or aliens. So many of them were infiltrating Starfleet, he wondered how the others could bear it.

That was why he must succeed. If Vulcan left the Federation, then others, more aliens would follow, until the Humans would truly dominate. Then he could work to build an empire, to crush the hideous beings that were invading his world.

There were only days left. Soon, the Arbitration Board would meet. Gervais had no illusions of the outcome. Kirk and his followers would be exonerated, Vulcan would prevail, and alien rights and privileges would be enforced more strongly than before. He felt like screaming. So little time. He had worked for so long and now, if he didn't act immediately, it would all be over.

He recalled the earlier conversation with his operative, even reached for the computer code, but he stopped. No. This must be his work. Human work. Untainted by an alien touch. But how best to...

The soft door chime broke his thoughts. In a practical motion, he cut the lights and found his phaser (non-registered, non-regulation, listed as destroyed), and padded softly to the door.

Few of his co-workers even knew where he lived, and he trusted his guts enough to know that this was no friend. He checked the camera that showed the wide view of the solid front door and saw...

He flung the door open. "How dare you presume?" he hissed. "Get in here before you're seen!"

"I thought you might have need." His own voice whispered back at him.

Gervais thought it was how his soul would sound. "Stop. Speak True-Voice."

"Very well. You were too mysterious in our last conversation, and you are not the only one who can unscramble diplomatic channels. I have...done my homework."


The alien face moved in what passed for a smile among its kind. "I am yours to command."

No. It was wrong. Chak'ka had never acted on his own before. Never made a move without a direct order. And now he had dared to come to Earth, to Gervais' own house? No, it won't work.

"I have no use for you."

"If Vulcan leaves the Federation, I doubt my people will want to join."

Use him and keep another alien world at bay? Trust his greatest mission to this? He sighed. "There must be no mistake. I'll handle this myself."

Chak'ka hissed his laughter. "The time is long gone when you can do such things with your own hand. You need a tool. And when have I failed you?"

"When you didn't kill Sheridan twenty years ago," Gervais snapped.

"How better to discredit Romulans and their look-alikes, the Vulcans, than to have a man whose wife and sons were killed by 'them' in your corner? You could not have a better ally for your cause had you cloned yourself."

Gervais knew it was true. He motioned to the chairs. "You could be right. Well, this is what you'll do. I believe the board will meet within the week. So far, Kirk and his crew have not shown up and now there is little concrete knowledge of their location on Vulcan. Through connections I learned that after the Klingon ship was turned over to the Vulcans, they began transferring the cloaking device to a small scout ship. I've had no later word on the progress, but Sarek is here. My guess is they are about to leave even now, or have just left. I'm having their relatives' homes monitored in case they try to contact anyone." He glanced up at the alien, but there was no surprise in his even gaze. Chak'ka knew procedures, at least. "Your job is to find the ship, board it, blow it up--or do whatever you can to prevent them from showing up."

"How will this help you?"

Aliens! "You fool! Vulcan has sworn that they will be present. If they do not show, then Vulcan credibility will be nil. They'll be disgraced in front of the whole Federation."

"Then it would be better to have them disappear than die. Make people believe they lied about coming, then ran to save their skins. It will confirm their guilt."

Gervais paused. This one was sharp, in spite of not being Human. "There can be no witnesses. But they must not appear at the Board meeting."

Chak'ka stood. "I will attend to it. There will be no suspicion on you."

"See that there isn't."

Gervais watched as the Sarkasian Voice Flexor glided out the door. The camera showed his exit from the compound. The security chief turned back to the chair where his guest had sat and shuddered. Tomorrow, he would burn it.


Kirk flicked off the comm terminal on the desk in the main gathering room. He didn't have to say anything as he turned to look at the others in the room with him; they had all heard Sarek's order. The time was now. They were to return to Earth and stand before the Arbitration Board's investigation.


He'd been there shortly after returning to Vulcan, for only a few hours, traveling incognito. He'd told Carol about David...then returned to Vulcan. Sarek had not disapproved, had not approved. Sarek had been...Sarek. But...


The word rested uneasily in all their minds. None of them knew if home would accept them now. This time next week they all might be cut loose, wrested from the jobs that had given their lives meaning for so long.

"How are the preparations coming on the ship?" Kirk addressed no one in particular.

Scotty took the initiative. "The Vulcan engineers have been a big help. It'll be tight, but we'll be off in time."

"Saavik, you'll be able to help with the computer conversion?"

"Yes, Admiral. My new assignment doesn't begin until next week." After you're all gone, she thought.

Kirk looked around at them again, but no one seemed much inclined to say anything, even McCoy. "If there's nothing else, I think we should all turn in. We'll probably get little enough rest for the next several days."

Slowly, the crew wandered out of the room, talking softly among themselves.

McCoy lingered behind. "What about Spock?"

"I don't know, Bones. I'm not familiar with the procedure at Dh'Reth. I don't know how they decide when he's ready to be released."

"I think there's some kind of test he'll have to go through. I'd like to think he's ready now, but the Masters decide when that is."

"Then I guess we won't see Spock for a while, either."

McCoy shook his head, age and responsibility weighing heavily on him. "Jim, I--"

Kirk wouldn't let him go on. "It was worth it, Bones. For all of us. Do you think for one minute that I or any of the others would have risked what we did if we didn't believe that with all that's in us?"

McCoy brushed away tears and looked Kirk straight in the eye. "I know that. Spock knows it."

"What we did was not wrong. Rash, hasty, risky, yes. But not wrong. Somehow, we'll make them see. We'll get our jobs back, and they'll be glad to do it. You just wait."

McCoy nodded, then laughed aloud. "What's so funny?"

"Oh, just thinking about things. Spock would quote the odds to us if he were here. But my Granddaddy had a better saying."

"What's that?"

"I think we'll get our jobs back when whales fly."

Kirk chuckled in spite of himself. "I think so, too. C'mon, let's go to bed. It's gonna be a long trip home."

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