In the Guardian’s central area, the images Saavik and McCoy had observed faded now, obscured by swirling mists. She and the Doctor stood, numbed by what they had seen. He probably did not fully understand as she did what it all meant. He had not had the dream. For the moment, he was spared the pain of knowing how things must be. Knowledge was not always a blessing.
The voice boomed, “Saavik.”
“Yes,” she responded coolly.
“Now you have seen what must be. Are you willing to do what must be done? I cannot force you, but I believe you know some of the consequences should you refuse.”
I cannot force you. True enough, she supposed, but certainly it had seen to it that she would not refuse. What kind of creature would? A low, unprincipled one might, one that placed the lives of a select few above the lives of a universe. Saavik might have—long ago.
Another woman might choose to keep things as they were in this universe—to keep David Marcus alive and the Enterprise intact, to stay within the realm of the known. Saavik wished briefly that she could be such a woman… but only briefly.
“I do not refuse,” she said slowly. Perhaps no four words had ever been so painful.
When all was done, Spock would live again, but others would die—others she… cared for.
McCoy finally recovered from his shocked silence and began to ask a question. “Guardian—”
But it cut him off with another order for silence. Its vaporous interior began to swirl again, grey shades of gas becoming colors, warm and cool refractions and reflections of light formed that could not exist anywhere but in this ancient gateway. The colors became more real, and an image began to form. Saavik had already deduced what was about to happen, but she doubted that the Doctor had. She hoped that his highly emotional psyche could withstand another shock today.
Using these bizarre lights, the Guardian painted a masterful image of their deceased comrade, Spock. It was perfect in every detail, so accurate that it might be the original. Within a matter of moments, it became the original as the space/time transference was completed.
Calmly examining his new surroundings, Spock adjusted his coat against the cold and nodded to Saavik in greeting, indicating their shared knowledge of what was to come.
McCoy rushed forward, blurting, “I don’t believe it!”
Spock’s eyebrow raised in an all-too-familiar manner. “You have seen the events that occurred in my universe, Doctor. Didn’t you suspect this?”
“Well, dammit!” McCoy exclaimed, looking more irritated now than he was shocked, “how was I supposed to understand all that? For your information, I was practically dragged here against my will! No one gave me the faintest hint as to what the hell was going on!”
The Guardian spoke. “I regret that you were so sadly uninformed, McCoy; but even Saavik and Spock had little knowledge of what they would discover when they came to me. The methods used were-by necessity—not the most forthright.”
“Well, now that we all know, could someone please tell me what’s going on-in English?”
“All that is necessary will be explained now,” it said. How odd, Saavik thought, that the Guardian should classify its statement in such a manner. Why should it feel the need to dispense on a need-to-know basis? “As you have now seen, a rift, or bridge, exists between the two universes. Spock was correct in deducing that this universe is a sub-universe of his own. He is also correct in his speculation that both universes will be destroyed if their differences are not soon reconciled. A paradox exists in time, and it must be eliminated.
“Toward this end, I have had you brought here; and I have restored Spock’s mind to its former state for the duration of his stay in this universe. Spock, Saavik, in your minds are the plans which must be followed in order to carry out your mission. Using them, and me, you will journey into this universe’s past and make the changes necessary to restore time to its proper form.”
Again, McCoy had a question. “Guardian, how did this rift or whatever it is occur in the first place? Was it some kind of accident?”
“Indeed it was not. Necessity caused it.”
It did not seem to Saavik that McCoy’s questions were being very well answered—nor did it seem so to McCoy. “What?” he demanded.
“I cannot explain further,” it said in final tones. “Go and do what must be done.”
Even Spock grimaced somewhat. “As always, it couches its answers in riddles. However, we have more important matters at hand than finding the answers to trivial questions. Dr. McCoy… “
McCoy was still staring at the Guardian in dismay. “Huh… oh, what?”
“We are ready to begin now. Saavik and I will effect changes in history as the Guardian has instructed us. You must go to Jim and divert his suspicions from our operation. Please keep in mind that at no time must he be allowed to come to the Guardian or uncover any information regarding my ‘rebirth.'”
“That’s a pretty tall order, Spock!”
Spock inclined his head. “Indeed. And I can think of no one more qualified to carry it out.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” McCoy said pointedly. “I want to know what you two are going to be up to now that the Guardian has placed all this mystic information in your minds.”
“There is no mysticism involved, Doctor. Somehow, the Guardian—or something—touched the mind of Jim Kirk in my universe. When I had occasion to join with him, as I take it you saw, I discovered the knowledge it had left there for me. Upon reaching the Guardian itself, I found all of my previous memories restored to me.”
“Well… I suppose if anyone could do it, that thing could,” McCoy admitted. “Saavik, did you receive your information through mind contact too?”
“Through a series of dreams, to be precise,” she replied. “Like Spock, I felt more a drive to come here than any coherent set of instructions. Now that I have seen the events from Spock’s universe, the vagaries of my dreams have fallen into place. I now know what I must do.”
“And that is… ?”
She looked briefly at Spock, uncomfortable, for some reason, as their eyes met.
Spock explained. “The changes which took place in your universe were the result of certain decisions being made differently by certain individuals than they were in my universe. In order to accomplish our purpose, Saavik and I must alter the minds of these individuals—”
“You mean control them?”
“Not precisely. We shall free their minds of certain inhibitions which would prevent them from making the proper decisions. Somehow, these inhibitions have formed—or been placed—in their minds.”
“Placed by who?”
Spock shook his head. “Unknown. It is enough to know that it has happened, however, and that it must be corrected.”
“I suppose,” the Doctor muttered. “Do we have to… ” he began, looking somewhat apprehensive. “I mean, does what we saw have to occur? Is that the reality we must restore?”
“For the sake of both universes, yes,” Spock replied, adding, “I am sorry.”
“But when we reconcile the two universes, won’t this one cease to exist?”
Saavik chose to answer this. “In a manner of speaking, Doctor, yes—if we are successful. But, if we are not, suffering will occur in both universes… and it will be quite real.” She wished there were some way she could escape the suffering—some way that Spock and David both could live. For that she would gladly give a universe! No, she was a Starfleet officer. Her duty was to the Federation. She could not forsake that duty for the happiness of one woman.
“But, Jim… ” McCoy protested. Saavik understood the unvoiced question. Must Jim Kirk go mad?
“If we are successful, Doctor,” Spock explained, “both universes will benefit in the reconciliation. We must do this.”
Saavik wondered if Spock honestly believed that, or if he were merely “exaggerating” for the Doctor’s sake. Whichever it was, his statement had the desired effect. McCoy quietly nodded his understanding.
“Very well, then,” Spock said. “If we are ready to begin, you and Saavik, Doctor, must return must return to the ship and allow it to go on its way. You will stay with Jim and keep his suspicions allayed, and Saavik will return here as quickly and as inconspicuously as possible.”
“How is she gonna do that?” McCoy asked.
Unfortunately, Saavik had no answer for him. She hadn’t given the matter of returning to the Guardian great thought, but of course she must go back to the Enterprise. Kirk would never let her simply stay here. No, she would have to sneak away, using the skills of thievery she’d learned on Hellguard. “I suppose I will find passage back on some ship once we reach base.”
“I don’t know how you’ll manage without raising suspicions,” McCoy said skeptically.
“It would take the craftiness of a Jim Kirk to do it. Unfortunately, he’s not available.”
“No,” Spock agreed, “but perhaps another is. If you could enlist the aid of a fellow officer, Saavik—”
McCoy’s eyes lit. “What about Metcalfe?”
“Indeed, an excellent suggestion, Doctor. If you will go to Mr. Metcalfe and explain the situation to him—”
Saavik had been unable to prevent a brief facial twinge when the helmsman’s name was brought up. That her control was so slack embarrassed her—especially in the presence of Spock. As she feared, he noticed her slip and stopped to question her.
“Does that recommendation trouble you, Saavik?”
Saavik hesitated only a moment, and McCoy answered for her—not quite in the way she had intended to. “I wonder if it might have something to do with Mr. Metcalfe’s… attraction to her?” he asked in that absurdly impish tone that humans took on when they wished to make light of another for their own amusement. “Perhaps it’s a sentiment that’s returned?”
She only narrowly avoided blushing, and her years among civilized beings only barely stopped her from tearing the Doctor’s jugular open with her bare hands. She must be calm, McCoy had not intentionally offended her… had he?
The slightest of smiles came to Spock’s lips. Saavik had seen it often, but she was surprised that he would allow himself such a luxury in front of his eternal opponent, Dr. McCoy. “If I may say so, Saavik, you may find the Lieutenant’s feelings to be to your benefit. Human emotions do have their positive applications.”
Saavik couldn’t keep from showing open astonishment. “Spock, are you suggesting that I take advantage—”
“He’s suggesting,” McCoy finished boldly, “that you make use of something we used to call ‘feminine wiles’ on Earth. I believe you’ll find them quite effective on our young Mr. Metcalfe.”
To Saavik, the whole idea seemed unethical; but there was much at stake here. There were times when ethics took second priority. She nodded agreement.
“Very well,” Spock said. “I believe it is time for the two of you to return.”
“Right,” McCoy said, withdrawing his communicator. He stopped for a moment. “Spock,” he said gently, “if I don’t see you again—”
“You will,” Spock assured him.
McCoy nodded and signaled the Enterprise. Saavik walked over to Spock and briefly touched her fingers against his palm in a display of open affection she could not help but engage in. The last time she had touched this hand, it had been cold and dead. Now, it was alive with the heat of a living Vulcan. Spock’s hand pressed briefly against hers, and then pulled away. “Take the utmost care,” he said to her, and then glanced to the Doctor with a gleam in his eye and added, “both of you.”
She joined McCoy and the transporter washed over them both, leaving Spock alone.