Pavel Chekov was seated at a table in the back of the lounge, looking quite haggard, when Scotty came in. In front of him was a huge stack of tapes. He exhaled heavily, ran a hand through his hair, and inserted one of them into the viewer.
After stopping to order a glass of scotch from the selector, Scotty went to join him. “Whot are ye up to here, lad?”
Pavel looked up with a frown. “I em going through the log tapes—or helf of them, if you believe thet—for Uhura. The executive reports hev to be ready tomorrow, and she’s supposed to review all the logs. She got me to do these,” he explained, his frown growing more pronounced.
Scotty swallowed a sip of his drink and laughed. “When I was second officer, Spock took care of all thot.”
Popping another tape into the viewer, Chekov said, “I suppose thet’s vhy you wanted me to hev the job?”
Before Scotty could reply, Chekov began to babble in Russian. He lapsed back into standard only after Scotty had grabbed his arm and exclaimed, “I dinna know what ye’re sayin’, lad!”
“Listen to this,” the second officer replied in standard, rewinding the tape and keying it to play back what had caused the flow of incomprehensible words in the first place.
One of the standard ship-to-ship hails came through, followed by a faintly accented male voice repeating, “USSPhoenixcalling Enterprise… Do you read? Come in, Enterprise. This is USS Phoenix.”
“So?” Scotty shrugged.
Chekov glared at him as if he were quite dense. “Ve received no such signal. This was trensmitted while ve were orbiting Genesis. There vere no other ships in the area et thet time.”
“Uhura probably just skipped over it,” he said. “It wasna’… it was nae a good day.” He was quiet for a moment as the painful memories of the funeral services struck him again—the services for his friend and his nephew.
But Chekov shook his head insistently. “The coordinates listed here place them in the immediate vicinity of Genesis itself. We vould hev seen them. Besides, Phoenixhes been in Spacedock since Sulu brought her beck three months ago. She’s undergoing overhaul. There is no way thet she could hev been in space et all.”
True, it was an oddity. Now that Pavel reminded him, he knew that Phoenixcould not have been the source of such a message. Still, he didn’t tend to get overly worried about what was probably a prank of one of the junior officers trying to make trouble. “Well,” he said, taking a long drink, “report it t’th’Admiral if ye like. I’m sure it’s nothin’.”
* * *
The collection of figures on the screen in front of him made little sense to Kirk, but he nodded along with McCoy as Chris Chapel explained them and took her word for what they meant. He wasn’t liking what he heard. This particular set of data was the outcome of the psych-exam that Chapel had run on Saavik yesterday.
McCoy, who did understand the data, was even less happy. “She’s under a terrific amount of mental strain,” he said worriedly. “No doubt the cause of her irritability.”
“And her nightmares,” Christine added. “I discovered that the last one was only one in a series. She refuses to tell me what they were about.”
“Maybe she doesn’t remember,” Kirk suggested.
“Or maybe she doesn’t wantto,” Chris said gravely. “At any rate, I can’t find any possible cause for the stress itself. As I thought, she’s recovered well from the deaths of Spock and Peter Preston. The data backs that up. None of her problems seem to be linked to Spock in any specific way, although she does seem a little uncomfortable discussing him.”
“I suppose that’s to be expected,” Kirk said quietly. He had been uncomfortable with discussing Spock during the exam, too; but McCoy assured him that his exam had come out normally.
“There were two other topics which caused interesting reactions.” She pointed at two numbers on the screen. “When I asked her about the Guardian of Forever, the computer registered quite a jump in stress ratings—far above the normal level. And when I mentioned David—”
Kirk looked up sharply, “My son?”
She nodded. “She seems quite sensitive to any talk of him.”
Kirk couldn’t help smiling. To think that his son could produce such a reaction even in a Vulcan… but they had serious matters to attend to. “Recommendations?” he asked. “We do have a month’s stopover on Earth coming up. Would shore leave help any?”
“Not enough, I’m afraid,” Christine replied. “Frankly, I’m not sure what would help.”
McCoy smiled without humor. “Perhaps a trip to the source of her anxiety.”
“The Guardian?” Christine asked doubtfully.
Kirk shook his head. “Bones, you know that’s impossible. She’s a junior officer.”
“But you could push it through, Jim.”
“Of course I could. And then what? What do you propose to do once you’ve got her there?”
McCoy looked slightly irritated. “Well, if you’ve got a better idea, tell us. I don’t know what would happen either, Jim; but it’s the only lead we’ve got, and I think we oughtta follow up on it.”
“I wouldrecommend it, sir,” Chris said.
Kirk sighed. “As if I don’t have enough paperwork to worry about.” He sighed again. “All right, Doctors, you win. I’ll call Admiral Morrow and get clearance and we’ll be underway by—”
The door buzzer interrupted him. When he answered, Pavel Chekov came in. In keeping with the mood of the room, the second officer didn’t look happy either.
“Can I do something for you, Mr. Chekov?” Kirk asked a trifle abruptly.
Pavel ignored his tone. He obviously had a problem on his mind as well. “I’d like you to hev a look at this, Edmiral,” he said, holding out a tape.
“What is it?”
“I was going through the log tapes,” Chekov explained, dashing Kirk’s illusions about Uhura’s superhuman executive abilities into space. She hadrecruited someone else to help with the paperwork. Chekov went on. “End I found an entry in this one regarding a signal the ship received while we were orbiting Genesis—from the Phoenix—”
“Phoenixwas in dry-dock,” Kirk said automatically.
“Exactly, sair. Not only didn’t we hev any other knowledge of receiving the signal, but it never could hev been sent in the first place—et least not by Phoenix. If she hed sent the signal, she would hev been in the immediate vicinity of Genesis, which is impossible. ”
“Agreed,” Kirk said, “but the signal is there.”
“Play it for yourself, Edmiral,” Chekov said, offering him the tape.
“I’ll take your word for it.” He sighed a third time. “I don’t suppose we’ll find it in Uhura’s communications log, either. Have her come to my quarters when you find her, Pavel, but… ” he shook his head fiercely. “Tell her not to hurry.”
Nodding grim understanding, Chekov left. McCoy grinned at Kirk. “Would you like a drink, Jim?”
“I would,” Kirk said. “But I won’t. The way this day has been going so far, I think I’ll need a sober mind to handle the rest of it.”
* * *
“Admiral, if we had received that signal, you would have heard—”
“We didreceive that signal, Commander,” Kirk reminded her. “It’s in the computer log.”
Uhura sighed in exasperation. “Well, it’s not in mylog; and if it had been acknowledged—”
“Then it should be in my log.” She gestured at the display on his screen. “You can see that it isn’t.”
Kirk snapped the viewer off and removed his glasses, rubbing his eyes with a finger and a thumb. “All right, Uhura. Isn’t it possible that you just overlooked it? It was a bad day.”
She shrugged. “I suppose anything’s possible, but… I’ve never missed a signal before.”
Kirk spread his hands. “Well, it wouldn’t ordinarily be important, but this signal could never have been sent. It’s a fake, and I want to know who faked it.”
“I could order an investigation. One of our new officers probably—”
He cut her off with a wave. “No, not now. We have more important things to worry about.”
“Saavik?” Uhura asked, well aware of what his answer would be.
“Saavik. McCoy and Chapel want me to take her to the Time Planet.”
Uhura’s reaction was automatic. She stated the obvious. “But it’s off limits to her.”
This Kirk, of course, knew. “And I told them that—and Saavik when she put in the request—but their advice was that it was best for her—”
“And just try to talk Len and Chris down when they think they’re standing up for their patient’s best interests,” she finished sympathetically. “Welcome back to the grind, Captain.”
Finally, he laughed. He had been trying to be severe with her about the matter of the mysterious signal, but ne was obviously feeling somewhat trod upon with the medical officers overruling his decisions. “I suppose I shouldn’t complain. It’s just that the paperwork has been getting a little heavy.”
“Tell me about it,” she laughed. “I’ve had no off-duty time for the past week.”
“And it doesn’t look like we’ll be having much in the near future, either. A trip to the Time Planet…”
Uhura merely nodded and said quietly, “Thank the gods for shore leave.” It was the only light comment she could think of. She had been on the Time Planet fifteen years ago when Kirk, Spock and McCoy had returned from their mission to correct the past.
Kirk hadn’t been quite the same since. Something had happened, something very painful. She had never found out what, but she had understood the pain for what it was and tried to be sympathetic. The only other time she had seen such pain in Kirk’s eyes was weeks ago, when Spock had died. Seeing him after the funeral and through their month’s leave afterward, she felt her suspicions were confirmed that Kirk had lost someone he loved in those two minutes he’d been gone from the Guardian, someone he loved as much as he did Spock.
Kirk broke her silence by bringing up more business. “I’ll need a channel through to Starfleet Command as soon as possible—if you can take the time out from the reports.”
“I’m not sure I can, actually, but I’ll have M’saar get right to it.” She smiled teasingly and said, “Good luck with Morrow. I’ll be in my quarters with the last of the reports.”
“Thanks,” Kirk replied. “But have M’saar call me in McCoy’s office. I’ll be there for the next few hours.” He’d decided to have that drink after all.
* * *
The Enterprisewas only hours from the Time Planet when Saavik came to McCoy’s office. She stood silently in the door until he looked up from his desk. “Hello, Lieutenant. Can I help you?”
Saavik came forward and sat opposite him, saying seriously, “Indeed you can, Doctor, you can cooperate with me.”
“Seems to me I’ve been doin’ that so far,” McCoy observed. The young woman was acting mysteriously lately, verymysteriously. He was hoping he would soon find out why.
“Agreed, but I must ask you to do so further.”
Something big was coming. Watch what you’re getting into, Bones. Sounds like some request she’s makin’.“What exactly are you talking about?”
“I take it you have heard of Commander Chekov’s discrepancy?”
He stifled a laugh. “And heard and heard. Jim talked a lot about it the other day. ‘Course he didn’t seem too worried about it. He had other concerns.”
“Uh huh. You, for instance, Lieutenant.”
Saavik’s face registered surprise; she was the picture of innocence. “Me?”
McCoy nodded and asked, “Is there some reason why you’ve been acting up lately?”
“Earth expression,” he explained. “Means behaving strangely. Well?”
“Indeed there is a reason, Doctor; and I believe you will find it a sound one. But in order for me to explain it, I must have your full cooperation.”
McCoy wondered if he would really find this reason she was bargaining off a sound one, but said anyway, “All right, shoot.”
Saavik’s eyebrow raised momentarily. “I take it that is another Earth expression. I have heard it before and surmised that it indicates for the speaker to proceed. Is my definition accurate?”
Saavik nodded and began her explanation. “The discrepancy which has been so troubling Mr. Chekov is one of the symptoms of a problem which I need your help in solving. It involves the use of this ‘Guardian of Forever’ we are approaching. If you will accompany me to the surface when I go, your questions will be answered. But only youmust come with me. We must allow no one else—”
“No one else? What about Jim?”
She repeated, “No one., Doctor.”
Why you ungrateful pointed-eared brat!“Young lady,” McCoy demanded, enraged, “do you know what Jim went through to get you permission to go to that planet? You’re not even a senior officer! Ordinarily, you wouldn’t be allowed to set one foot on that planet’s surface. If Jim hadn’t put in a special request, this little party of yours—”
“Party? I assure you, Doctor,” she said seriously, “recreation is the farthest thing from my mind.”
“That’s not what I meant, dammit! I meant Jim Kirk’s stickin’ his neck out for you, and you haven’t even got the common decency—”
“I believe I understand the source of your anger, Doctor,” Saavik interrupted.
McCoy found himself speechless. For some reason, he couldn’t decide if that was the stupidest thing he’d heard all week, or the most intelligent. “Thank God for small miracles.”
Saavik ignored the sarcasm in his voice and explained calmly, “You misinterpret
my intentions, Doctor. I am not motivated by ingratitude. On the contrary, it is for the Admiral’s own protection that I wish him to remain behind.” She looked at him with great sincerity, the Vulcan equivalent of pleading. “You must find some way of convincing him to humor us without arousing his suspicions. I suspect that, if he knew the truth, he would insist on accompanying us.”
McCoy was astounded. Maybe the girl wascrazy. “That he would, Lieutanant. And he may anyway. Would you mind telling me what kind of danger he’s in?”
“He is not in any danger in the physical sense, Doctor. This danger is of a more subtle nature. If you refuse to accompany me and keep the Admiral away, the consequences will not be immediately recognizable, but they will be most grave. Aside from this, I must tell you nothing until we have seen the Guardian. In fact, I cannot.”
McCoy shook his head. “Well, that’s not a helluva convincing story, I must say.”
Saavik met his eyes. “I must ask you to trust me, Doctor,” she paused for a painful moment and added, “Please.”
Of all the crazy stories he had ever heard in his life! And this from a Vulcan!
Had she just lost her mind? You’re a trained psychologist, Doctor, has she?
He couldn’t believe that the woman in front of him, alien or not, was either lying or insane. Something was going on in her head. “All right,” he grumbled. “What the hell?”
* * *
Loaded down in their full gear, Saavik and McCoy were preparing to beam down to the Guardian of Forever. They were clunking about with their instruments from under heavy uniform coats—it was the Time Planet’s winter. Odd, Kirk thought as he entered the room, that a planet so seemingly dead would still correspond to the normal shifts in climate expected of a living world.
He had considered bringing along an entire scientific detachment—after all, he had had to put a lot of effort into getting permission to come here, they might as well make the most of it—but their primary mission was to observe Saavik and help her if they could. So they went alone, practicality notwithstanding.
Still, not to take advantage of such an opportunity was regrettable. Kirk had spent two hours arguing with Harry Morrow in order to get permission to bring the Enterprise here. The Commander of all Starfleet found it hard to swallow that taking a disturbed junior officer to a strictly off-limits and top secret planet was in any way advisable; but Kirk had gotten his okay after a little fancy diplomatic footwork. In fact, it hadn’t been as difficult as it might have been. Kirk had at least expected Morrow to ask for a few days to think about it. And he had thought it completely within the realm of possibility that Morrow would turn him down outright.
In the end, though, after Kirk had explained the situation twice carefully, it had been a simple matter of saying “please.” The Admiral had given in and warned him unnecessarily that, should anything go wrong, Kirk would be held responsible and so on and so on. All of these things made Harry seem a trifle unsure of himself, but perhaps he just had other things on his mind.
“Well,” Kirk asked the two well-wrapped officers in front of him, “are we ready?”
Instead of the simple, expected, “Yes, sir,” he was met with uncertainty. Saavik’s face was blank, and McCoy bit his lip and stared at her as if asking for orders.
Saavik spoke. “Admiral, would it be possible for the Doctor and myself to beam down to the surface alone?”
Kirk was too shocked to say anything. Her request, of course, warranted only a “Hell, no!” but Kirk couldn’t even manage that. Finally, he asked stupidly, “What?”
Saavik coolly repeated herself. “I said—”
“I heardwhat you said, Lieutenant,” Kirk interrupted, his voice now recovered. “I want to know what the hell you’re talking about!”
“Jim,” McCoy said, obviously hoping to quiet him down. The Doctor waited until Kirk met his gaze and then beckoned him to a corner of the room. “Jim,” he whispered, “maybe it would be better if you’d humor her. It’s not really important, is it?”
“OF COURSE,” Kirk began loudly, then quieted himself at a nasty glance from McCoy. “Of course it’s important, Bones,” he said as calmly as he could, his voice still shaking a bit. “She can’t go down there without a senior officer to escort her.”
McCoy looked offended. “Well, what am I,” he whispered angrily, “a damn first-year cadet?”
Kirk said gently, “C’mon, Bones, you’re a doctor, not a—”
“I’m carin’ for a damned patient!” McCoy growled, not appreciating Kirk’s attempt at humor. “She’s asked me to go, an’ right now, I think the best thing to do is to humor her.” McCoy paused as he noticed the transporter technicians staring at himself and the Captain. He smiled and said in his best southern drawl, “C’mon, Jim. I’ll look after her. Ya ever known me to let a lady down?”
“Bones,” Kirk began.
“Now who’s the psychologist here, you or me?” McCoy grinned infectiously and Kirk felt himself giving way.
“Look, Bones,” he said in a last-ditch attempt to assert his vanishing authority, “I’m the one who has to answer to Morrow if anything goes wrong down there. How do you know Saavik won’t pull anything, in the state she’s in?”
McCoy shrugged. “I doubt she would. She’s too honest—damn Vulcan! ‘Sides, Jim, have I ever let youdown?” As Kirk’s mouth opened, he said immediately, “Don’t answer that!”
Kirk smiled and sighed. “All right, Bones. Have it your way. But… please be careful!”
McCoy, grinning triumphantly, trotted to the platform and said, “I always am!” He gave the Admiral a playful wink as the technician energized the transporter and he and Saavik faded out of existence.
Of course they’ll be all right, Kirk told himself. Bones wouldn’t let her get in trouble. But why had McCoy insisted they go alone? For Saavik’s sake? When did he and Saavik become so friendly? And why had Saavik asked for all this in the first place? Despite the casual grin which lingered on his face, Jim’s gut tightened with anger at the thought that his officers were hiding something from him.
* * *
As the crisp, cold air of the Time Planet came into being around her, Saavik hugged herself instinctively. She hated cold and had since she had lived in the ruins of Hellguard. Winters there had been as brutal as the planet’s Romulan inhabitants. Her normal climate, that of Vulcan, was almost five times as hot as this one.
The ground was hard beneath her feet. It was below freezing here. At least it wasn’t snowing at the moment. Several meters away was the image from her dream; the large, ring-like object within which she’d seen Spock’s face every time she’d gone to sleep these past few weeks.
“There it is,” McCoy said as they began walking toward the object. “The Guardian of Forever.”
“Yes,” she agreed. “I recognize it.”
“How the hell could you recognize it?” McCoy demanded with an arched eyebrow. He didn’t know anything of the dream, of course. Saavik had not discussed it with anyone except Christine, and she had told her very little.
“I… have studied it,” she said quickly. “But that is irrelevant. We came here to speak with it.”
“Just what is it you expect to learn?”
“I do not know,” she replied, knowing full well that this answer would astound him. Unfortunately, she couldn’t explain any better. She really didn’tknow what the Guardian would say to them—only what the dream had told her: they were in danger, Kirk was in danger…
In front of them, the darkish-beige ring of the Guardian began to glow in myriad colors and a gaseous mass filled its center. “Greetings, Saavik and McCoy,” its booming voice said.
McCoy looked surprised. “It’s been expecting us.”
“Yes, of course,” the machine/being replied. “For quite some time. Now, please give your attention to me. There is much you must learn before I can answer your questions.”
“Questions like ‘why was I dragged here?'” McCoy demanded.
“All will be explained,” it promised. “Be silent now, and watch.”
Surprisingly, the Doctor did so. Saavik had had her doubts as to whether or not he would. The center of the Guardian flashed to life, presenting a clear image to them. The picture was quite recognizable. It was the Enterprise, orbiting David Marcus’s magnificent new-born Genesis planet. From out of the torpedo bay at its center shot a red, glowing object which spiraled in toward the surface of the new world. Saavik recognized it, as the doctor surely did too. It was the torpedo tube which bore Spock’s lifeless body to its final resting place on Genesis.
“Why are we seeing this?” McCoy asked irritably.
“Silence,” ordered the Guardian sternly.
McCoy grumpily shut up and watched. As the picture followed the tube from its launch to a soft landing, intact, on the surface of Genesis, he gave a short intake of breath, but said nothing. They watched quietly as the ship prepared to leave orbit and go to Ceti Alpha V. They watched it pull up instead beside the huge Regula I research station and saw the scene shift to show Carol Marcus and Christine Chapel beam down to the station.
McCoy could hold his questions no longer. “What the hell is this? We didn’t leave that quickly! We stayed at Genesis for another week! And Chris didn’t stay on Regula, David and Carol did!”
Saavik, too, was puzzled; but she contented herself to watch the images the Guardian was presenting and try and learn from them. The time for questions would come later. As neither she nor the Guardian took the time to answer McCoy’s frantic inquiries, he fell silent again.
As the Guardian image showed Saavik herself accompanying David aboard the scout USS Grissom,she realized that her own eyes were growing as wide with wonder as the Doctor’s. Both were speechless as the events in the Guardian continued to unfold, showing the story of an Enterprisewhich was not theirs, an Enterprisecast aside in dishonor by Starfleet and stolen by her former crew in a desperate attempt to recover Spock’s body and carry it to Vulcan.
It was a rather absurd picture: James Kirk committing open mutiny and fleeing Fleet pursuit; but Saavik had been inside the mind of this man, and she understood that he would do anything to accomplish that which he believed to be necessary. Even his Starfleet oath could not prevent him from obeying the commands of his conscience.
Still she asked no questions. She clinically analyzed the battle between the crippled Enterpriseand a renegade band of Klingons. She looked down at her feet, trying to avoid McCoy’s gaze, as the picture of herself and Spock, entangled in the madness of pon farr, presented itself.
And as David Marcus threw himself heroically onto the Klingon who would have taken her life, she did not move. Only horror had a place in her mind as she saw the Klingon raise his weapon in the air and bring it down, ending the life of the young scientist.
This is not reality, she told herself, using every shred of Vulcan control Spock had ever taught her to keep herself from giving in to madness as the tears ran down her face. David lives.None of this really happened. But somehow, she knew that she was lying to herself. This had happened at some time. David had died… somewhere.
Only when the Enterprise spiraled in, a mass of crimson flame, to burn out in the atmosphere of Genesis, did she bring herself to meet McCoy’s eyes again. He too, was crying, making no attempt to conceal the fact. Numb, completely unaware of the way she felt as her mind seethed in an emotional inferno, Saavik couldn’t even bring herself to speak as Spock, his mind restored, stepped forward to greet his friends in the light of Vulcan’s dawn.
He was alive. And there was still more…
The Time Planet was never seen again in televised or filmed Trek after The Animated Series, which, unlike a lot of modern fans, I loved and considered ‘real’ Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry actually intended to use it as a device in his proposal for Star Trek II, in which the Klingons gained access to the Guardian of Forever.
Speaking of The Animated Series, Ensign M’saar in this story was of the same race as Lt. M’ress from the animateds. She never got to do much, but I figured she was M’ress’s kid sister or daughter or protege.
Chapel and Saavik’s friendship was the precursor to Celia and Aer’La’s in The Arbiter Chronicles. I had not noticed that until reading it for the first time in two decades. It’s amazing how ideas stay with you at a sub-conscious level.