Jim Kirk tossed his report board and pen down on the desk and sat back, picking up the Saurian brandy he had poured earlier. No, that report wouldn’t be written tonight. He was too tired. Taking a long drink, he pondered for a moment over the number of reports he had filled out and submitted to Starfleet Command in all his years. He couldn’t count that high.
Somewhere, in a case of software buried deep in the bowels of Starfleet headquarters, were the complete files of the USS Enterprise—no doubt untouched since the day they had been submitted. And Enterprisewas just one of hundreds of other ships, each of which took a week out every few months and had its poor, downtrodden senior officers fill out a set of reports on efficiency or the lack thereof. God, that storage room must have been a crowded place! He wondered if anyone at Fleet command could honestly explain to him the difference between that room and the station’s waste disposal tanks.
But he hadn’t been complaining, not one bit. This was the first time in ten years that he had filled out one of those mundane things which were the bane of every ship commander’s existence, and he had enjoyed every minute of it. The Enterprise was coming to the end of its first thirty-day mission with Kirk in command, and naturally the bureaucrats at HQ wanted reports filed. After all, the ship was up for a new commander now.
Wouldn’t they be surprised?
Jim couldn’t wait to tell Harry Morrow (he had no intention of asking him) that he wanted Enterpriseback again, and that he would do everything in his power to get her. First, of course, Morrow would be shocked. Then he would explain the infeasibility of an Admiral returning to command after all these years. Then he would sigh and nod his approval. He knew that there was no stopping Jim Kirk better than did his predecessor, the stiff Admiral Nogura. Kirk would have his ship back once and for all.
Uhura had delivered her reports to Kirk already. She was starting early, as the first officer still had all the collected reports of the other departments to coordinate after she had finished with her own. Kirk still marveled at the efficiency all his execs —past and present—seemed to share. As he recalled, he had always recruited some poor junior officer—usually a female—to do the paperwork while he bitched about all his responsibilities; but hisexecs took it all on and finished it on time without a word. Amazing! Of course, Spock had been a Vulcan; and Uhura… well, communications was her business.
The door chimed. He called, “Come,” and Saavik entered.
“Good evening, Mr. Saavik,” he said pleasantly. “I take it you’ve completed your reports?”
She hesitated for the briefest of moments before she replied. “Unfortunately, I have not, Admiral.”
Strange, Saavik was the first one he would have expected to have the report completed and turned in. She was normally very efficient. You’re just reading too much of Spock into her, Jim,he told himself. She’s not Spock.“I see. Well, there’s still plenty of time.”
“Yes, sir, I realize that.” She did not seem to be comforted any by this thought, though; and she still stood very stiffly—even for a Vulcan—in front of him.
“Mr. Saavik, in order to save us both the redundancy of a formal request, may I assume that you are about to ask my permission to speak candidly?”
“You may, Admiral.”
“Permission granted. Shoot.”
She raised an eyebrow at this expression, but Kirk was happy to see that she didn’t ask him about it. “I’m afraid I need a favor.”
She nodded abruptly. Vulcans did not enjoy asking personal favors—it was somehow undignified. Her reticence was not unusual. Spock, also, had always been unwilling to speak openly of such matters—even with his best friend.
“Perhaps you’d better explain.”
“You are familiar with the Guardian of Forever?” Kirk’s jaw dropped. Yes, he knew of the Guardian. He had been one of the ones who had discovered it fifteen years ago… he didn’t like to think of that particular incident too much. Thoughts of Edith Keeler still brought him pain. just as thoughts of Spock did—even more so.
He said quietly, “I know of it. How do you?”
“That is,” she told him, “not important.”
“And what is?”
“I must go there,” she responded instantly.
Kirk waited for a moment after this announcement, expecting it to be followed by an explanation; but it wasn’t. “Why?”
Now she was speechless. A request to go to the Guardian? Surely she had a good reason. Then why didn’t she just say what it was? “It’s difficult to explain.” she finally managed.
“I would… I would rather not.” She was quiet a moment and then she straightened and said decidedly. “Sir, I realize that this a rather… unorthodox request—”
“Unorthodox? It’s unheard of! Lieutenant, junior officers are not allowed to visit the Guardian. If you do know of it, you must know that. Even senior officers can only visit under extraordinary circumstances.”
“I did not know that. Admiral. However, I must go there.”
“And you can’t tell me why?”
“It is necessary. I must ask you to trust that that is the truth.”
He shook his head. “I’m sorry. Saavik. I’d like to oblige. but the paperwork alone before I could take the ship there… not to mention explaining to Harry Morrow
that I don’t know why I want to go… ” He sighed. “The Time Planet is one of the most sensitive areas of the Federation. Most of StarFleet doesn’t have any idea it even exists, much less the population at large. It’s a heavily classified subject. After all, if the Klingons were to find out about it—”
“I am aware of that, Admiral. I assure you that my knowledge of it will not spread.”
“I wasn’t suggesting that it would. Your security rating does allow you knowledge of the Time Planet, but I can’t get you there. Especially without a reason.”
Saavik stood still for a moment, marshaling her energies. She was obviously having a difficult time discussing this. “James,” she said quietly, her voice now less controlled, “you and I have shared one mind. You surely understand the importance of that sharing, and you must know that it is almost impossible to hide anything within the meld. You know me well, now—as well as Spock did. You know that I would not be dishonest with you.”
“Then trust me when I tell you that I do have a good reason for making such a request. I would not do so lightly.” Her control was faltering. He had seen her display emotion before, but only superficially. It was still difficult for her to reveal her true feelings, especially when it came to the mind meld they had shared weeks ago. It seemed to make her very uncomfortable.
He reached across the table and touched her hand lightly, afraid that she might draw back. When she did not, he clasped it tightly in his own. “I know you wouldn’t, Saavik. It’s not a matter of my trust in you. It’s a matter of explaining all this to Starfleet command. I can’t ask for something like this without a good reason.” He gripped her hand even harder, saying sympathetically, “If you have a problem, tell me about it. I’ll help in any way I can. You believe that, don’t you?”
“Yes,” she said expressionlessly. “But I… cannot explain.”
“Then I can’t help,” he said, hoping the finality in his tone would evoke a positive response.
It didn’t. Saavik withdrew her hand and backed away. “Very well,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry I disturbed you, Admiral.” Kirk tried as she headed for the door to think of something to say to make her come back and level with him.
He thought of nothing.
After she had gone, he sat back and considered what she had said, and her reaction to his refusal. Had she been angry? Saavik was hard to read, but he didn’t think so. He had sensed disappointment, but surely she had expected his answer to be no.
Strange behavior. Very strange, especially from a Vulcan. What reason could she possibly have for wanting to go to the Time Planet? And why had she been so formal? Oh, she was always rather proper—she was Spock’s student, after all—but recently she had learned to be more comfortable around Kirk. Why change now?
Well, he thought, I’ll talk to her again later. Maybe after she’s had time to think she’ll be willing to explain. He looked again at the report board in front of him. Why wasn’t life on a starship ever as simple and concise as those damn things always wound up making them seem?
* * *
Christine Chapel approached the door and pressed its buzzer with unnecessary force. She was upset, and it was time she talked to McCoy about it. At first, she had not thought Saavik’s increasing irritability worth mentioning—it could be only her imagination, after all—but after tonight… Entering on McCoy’s call, she found her colleague seated at his desk, glass in hand. Kirk sat across from him, similarly equipped.
Not wanting to violate the sanctity of the captain/chief surgeon nightly discussion, Christine said apologetically, “I didn’t know you were busy, I’ll come back later.”
McCoy set his drink on the desk and pointed to a chair. “Please, Chris, stay.”
Once she was seated, he offered her a brandy—which she accepted with more fervor than she cared to think about. “I assume you came to talk about Saavik?”
Shocked, she stammered, “I—I—how did you know?”
McCoy grinned ironically. “Just a hunch.”
“In fact,” Kirk said, “we were just talking about her ourselves. Have you noticed any strange behavior from her lately?'”
“Very strange. That’s why I came here. We were having dinner just now—Saavik, Uhura and I—and Saavik… well, she seemed extremely irritable. And when I tried to question her, she became… defensive,I suppose. She left—she seemed calm enough—but I could tell something was really upsetting her. I’ve never seen her act this way before.”
McCoy nodded. “For a Vulcan, that little lady’s got quite a temper.”
“She’s got it, yes,” Kirk agreed, “but normally she controls it very well. And temper had nothing to do with the request she made this evening.”
“What request?” Christine asked.
Kirk put down his drink and explained. “Saavik came to me a few hours ago and said she had to ask a favor.”
“That’s damn funny right there,” McCoy observed.
“Yeah. And the favor… she wanted me to take her to the Guardian of Forever.”
“And that’s a helluva favor for anyone to be askin’,” McCoy added.
Christine shook her head in disbelief, murmuring, “But she must have had a reason.”
“She claimed she couldn’t tell me what it was.” Kirk thought for a moment and looked at Christine. “Doctor, you’ve spent quite a bit of time with her lately. Can you think of anything that might explain this?”
She cringed at the reference to her friendship with Saavik. She knew that others thought that she had latched onto the girl simply as a replacement in her affection for Spock, but she had not. Christine genuinely liked the young lieutenant. In some ways, bizarre as the comparison sounded, the girl reminded her of herself. Both of them had lived through tragic pasts, and both grieved bitterly—although Saavik tried not to show it—over the death of Spock. The companionship had helped them both through a difficult time.
At least she thought it had. “I’m afraid I don’t, Admiral. She seems to have handled Spock’s death well—at least as well as any of the rest of us—and aside from that… ” she shrugged.
Kirk looked thoughtful. “When that cloud creature took over both our minds, Saavik put herself under tremendous strain to help me free myself. I wonder, could that have had any adverse effects on her mind?”
McCoy shook his head. “Now, Jim, you know that Chris and I ran a thorough psych-exam on both of you right after you came outta… well, whatever you call that godforsaken state you were in. You both checked out fine. In fact, if anybody underwent psychic strain it was you. Saavik’s the one who’s trained—”
“And Saavik’s the one who’s been behaving oddly, Doctor,” Kirk interrupted. “Couldn’t there be some sort of delayed reaction?”
McCoy conceded hesitantly. “I suppose so, but—”
“Can you check it somehow?”
“We could run another exam,” Chris volunteered.
Kirk nodded triumphantly and said, “Do it.”
“All right,” McCoy said” “I’ll prepare the equipment and run her through tomorrow.”
“No, Leonard,” Christine broke in. “I’ll do it.” When both men glanced at her, she explained, “I think it might be easier that way.”
Both nodded agreement, and McCoy added, “And I think we’d better check you out too, Jim. Just in case.”
Kirk looked sharply at him. “I haven’t experienced any ill effects.”
“That’s not the point,” McCoy explained. “we don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”
“Saavik would probably feel the effects first, as a telepath,” Christine pointed out. “But if something went wrong with the meld, you might feel them, sooner or later.”
Kirk sighed. “If you think it’s that important—”
“I do,” McCoy replied. “If whatever it is affects Saavik this way, I’d hate to see what it’d do to you.”
Kirk grimaced. “Let’s hope we don’t find out.”
* * *
His last report completed, Terry Metcalfe wandered out his door and into the corridor, stretching elaborately and blinking his tired eyes. Four hours in front of a computer screen was not good for one’s vision, but such was the penalty of doing all of the work in one night. Actually, he had three days left before the report was to be filed with Admiral Kirk; but Terry detested this part of his responsibilities as chief helmsman of a starship. He didn’t want to spend more than one night working at his desk.
It was 0100 hours now, but the rec-room would no doubt still be awake—it always was. At the last door before the turbo-lift, he stopped, wondering if Saavik, too, might still be awake. Although he also wanted to be with Angela Teller, she was still working on her own departmental reports; and as science officer she had significantly more to do than Terry did.
The last few weeks aboard had gone well for both himself and Angela. Since the first day of the voyage and the excitement it contained, all had gone quietly, and they had had time to come to know each other in a more than friendly way. Despite her seniority in both age and rank, he and Angela were quite compatible. Their relationship balanced itself well between business and pleasure, with neither of them demanding too much of the other or getting in the way on the bridge.
Of course, Angela had learned a great deal already of the intricacies of love, having had two contract marriages—and almost having had a traditional one. Traditional marriages were increasingly rare in the galaxy at large. On Earth they were still prevalent—Earthers didn’t easily relinquish their customs—but elsewhere they didn’t occur as often. Few people pledged themselves to one individual for life. More commonly, men and women found themselves coming together into loosely organized family groupings. These were ideal for Starfleet officers, as they allowed the various members freedom to come and go for indefinite periods of time. No formal contract held such groups together—though that would probably come with time—but a sense of fraternal ties and shared affection.
That was the common practice in Starfleet, but sometimes a man or woman would meet one person with whom they wanted to share an entire life—not just a set period of time written in a contract. Angela had once met someone like that, and his memory was the one blotch of sadness on an otherwise happy past. Her fiancé, Robert Tomlinson, had been the only victim of the only conflict between Federation and Romulan Empire forces in a hundred years.
Tomlinson had been dead for fifteen years, but Angela had met no one else to take his place in that time. She had engaged in many contracts and many short affairs, but Terry wondered if perhaps that one experience had scared her away from commitments.
And Terry himself? He had never been much for commitments. His past relationships had been brief, playful—generally more friendly than romantic—and he was starting to wonder if there wasone person he could give an entire lifetime to.
Angela was understanding and perceptive; she knew what he needed and gave it without drowning him in the empty displays of affection that some women relied on as the entire basis for a relationship. She knew the times when a simple touch—or none at all—had more meaning than an entire night in bed. She also knew the times when an entire night could be well spent. He was simply happy with her. And for Terry, that was definition enough for love.
But then there was Saavik. Angela relaxed him, pleasured him, and made him feel satisfied with the universe in general. Saavik, on the other hand, challenged him with her elusiveness, excited him, made him feel… alive.
And yet, though she knew he was attracted to Saavik, Angela did not object to his friendship with the young Vulcan. Love, for her, did not seem to include any sense of exclusive possession. That they had each other right now was enough for her. And if his feelings for Saavik should become stronger? Terry had heard often since leaving Earth that genuine love need not be limited to one person. Perhaps it was true.
Now, if Saavik were only still awake, perhaps he could talk her into coming to the rec-room. He pressed the door buzzer and waited expectantly for the voice from within, but none came. Where could she be? She had said earlier that she would be spending the evening completing the navigational reports. He buzzed again, but still received no response.
Perhaps the door was on privacy lock, in which case he could hear nothing from within. Of course, Vulcans rarely, if ever, locked their doors. It was possible that she just didn’t want her work disturbed. He turned to leave.
As he did, a sound finally came from the other side of the door, but it wasn’t an acknowledgement. It was a scream—Saavik’s. His heart racing at the thought of what might make a Vulcan scream, Terry rushed to the door, which couldn’t be on privacy lock as he had heard the scream through it. But it was locked to outside entry—still odd for a Vulcan’s door—and refused to open when he approached.
Keying the computer access panel on the wall, he gave his personal code and ordered a command override on the lock, cursing the machine for the slight delay it presented. Hearing the sequence, the computer freed the doors and they flashed open. The doorway was not dark as he might have expected. The lights were on inside, and the room appeared as it normally did. The desk was cluttered, the walls were rather plain, the tape reader was drowning beneath the cassettes stacked on top of it. Only one thing was different:
Saavik was in a half-seated position on the bed, sweating, breathing heavily, her uniform rumpled and damp.
As a matter of fact, while her uniform was occasionally less than well-pressed—though not often slept in—she never sweated. Vulcans didn’t generally sweat much in the cold climate humans enjoyed. What could have caused that? And why was she… trembling?
“Saavik? You okay?”
For a moment, she didn’t seem to recognize him, looking up with dull eyes obscured behind matted hair. Then she whispered, “Terry,” as if asking confirmation. He found himself nodding instinctively.
“That must have been a helluva nightmare,” he observed as he knelt on the floor next to her.
Saavik brushed her hair from her eyes and made an attempt to control her breathing.
“Yes… it was. It was very—”
“Real?” He grinned. “They usually are.” After letting her compose herself for a moment, he explained. “I came by to ask if you wanted to go get a drink in the rec lounge, and I heard you scream.”
“I screamed?” she asked, a trifle unsettled.
Terry couldn’t help a slight laugh. “Yeah, judging by the state you’re in. that’s perfectly understandable.”
She said nothing more. Apparently having recovered from the emotional effects of the dream. she seemed to be analyzing what he had said. Well, for her, that was normal. “Why don’t you get some rest? You’ve been working hard.”
Before he could stand, she put her hand on his shoulder. Was it just her natural strength that made her grip so hard, or was that gesture a trifle frantic? “No.” She said. “I—I believe I would like to go to the lounge for a time. I’m… rather hot.”
“Okay,” he said quietly, trying to keep the worry out of his voice. She was still acting shaken as she stood and went to the bathroom to change her uniform and wash up. As he waited for her, Terry went to the computer terminal on her desk, which he noticed was still lit. As he reached to turn it off, his eye caught what was printed there: the periodic navigation report—only half-completed. Had Saavik actually fallen asleep in the middle of an assignment? He found that hard to believe.
The door buzzer sounded again. Seeing that Saavik was still busy, Terry called, “Come.”
Christine Chapel entered. She smiled at him somewhat stiffly. “Hi, Terry. I’m, ah… ” she looked around the room. “I’m looking for Saavik.”
He nodded to the door. “She’s changing.”
The door slid open, and Saavik emerged, her hair still wet. She was combing it as she walked. Terry smiled at the sight of a Vulcan doing anything so mundane as combing her hair.
But Christine was not amused by the young woman’s condition. She rushed immediately to her side. “Saavik, what’s wrong?”
Saavik made an attempt vaguely reminiscent of someone trying to look innocent, and then gave up. Vulcans were lousy liars—and worse actors. “I had a nightmare, Christine, you needn’t be alarmed.”
The doctor grimaced. “I’m afraid I don’t agree. I’m very alarmed.” She gestured to Saavik’s face. “You look terrible! And you’ve been sweating. Tell me, just how much energy does it take for a Vulcan to expend before she sweats in this kind of temperature?”
Saavik raised her eyebrow and made a quick calculation. “I would estimate a rate of—”
“I don’t need to know,” Chris interrupted. “It’s a lot. I want you to come to sickbay right now.”
Saavik showed no visible reaction to that, but Terry was a bit astounded. He was worried about her too, but it wasonly a dream, after all. Much as he hated to interfere, he began to speak; but Saavik beat him to the punch.
“I believe you are overreacting, Christine. A nightmare is a normal phenomenon—even in Vulcans. I hardly feel an examination to be in order.”
“Fortunately,” Christine said with a touch of irony, “that isn’t for you to decide.”
Her expression softened. “Saavik, you’ve only just recently been through a harrowing mental experience—”
“If you are referring to my mind meld with the Admiral, I must remind you that we both found it quite beneficial.”
“I realize that, but it was still a great strain for you, and it could have delayed effects.”
“I doubt it.”
“Saavik,” she said with an impatient sigh, “please just let me do my job.”
Saavik quietly gave in and left with the doctor. Terry followed them out, keeping a close eye on both women. Saavik still appeared shaken, and Christine was more upset than he had ever seen her. Was there more to this than just a simple nightmare? As he thought it all over, a chilling question reappeared in his mind.
What could make a Vulcan scream?
So, yes, this is the Terry Metcalfe who stars in The Arbiter Chronicles… and it isn’t. Reading him again now, and knowing the Arbiter universe Metcalfe as well as I do, I think he’s a very different character: upper middle class, product of a stable if not necessarily happy family, no real quirks or oddities about him.
About the reflection that “loosely organized family groupings” were the ideal families for Starfleet officers… I’d recently read Heinlein’s Friday—where he described the group marriages called “S groups.” Was this ever mentioned elsewhere in Trek fiction? If so, I don’t remember it. KS aside, Trek fiction stayed pretty vanilla.
Metcalfe’s distaste for “empty emotional displays” was likely the result of a recent breakup I’d had with a college girlfriend. That may have been unfair to her. But I suppose it happens.
The statement that Vulcans don’t lock their doors I’m pretty sure came from my reading of Jean Lorrah’s Trek fic–fan and pro. I learned of her from a fellow fan at a bookstore (B. Dalton?) at Shore Leave in 1984–the same con where several new friends convinced me to write this sequel.