USS Phoenix Log, Stardate: 8223.4
Lieutenant Aer’La commanding in the absence of First Officer Hadley.
Phoenix has been called out of maintenance in spacedock and ordered to follow the path of the USS Enterprise, stolen by a band of Starfleet renegades led by Admiral James Kirk and including former Phoenix commander Sulu, to the Genesis planet in the Mutara sector.
It was truly the most bizarre order she had ever been given: pull the ship out of dock in the middle of maintenance work and reassemble what crew she could to track down and arrest six of the most celebrated officers in the fleet—the former command crew of the Enterprise. Two thirds of the crew had been available, and, despite their grumbling, the repair crews had had the ship ready to go in six hours.
Aer’La had looked at Admiral Morrow as though he were mad when he had called her, a simple lieutenant just off of border patrol, into his office and put her in charge of the most delicate mission the fleet could ever dream of undertaking—the arrest of a band of heroes for mutiny. No diplomatic undertaking could ever be so sensitive as this. Starfleet would not be popular when it hauled Jim Kirk in for court martial. Why her? And why Phoenix?
The answer had been simple: no other ships were available. Of all the vessels in dock, only Hikaru Sulu’s former command was in any shape for a deep-space probe. Even the proud Excelsior, which would have been Hikaru’s next command if not for the Genesis affair and all the complications thereof, had been too effectively sabotaged by Captain Scott for immediate repair. By the time Starfleet got her spaceworthy again, a regular, non-trans-warp ship would have been to Genesis and back again.
And, of course, there was the psychological factor—the indignity of sending a mere scout to pick up these celebrated rebels. Morrow had liked that. It showed any sympathizers just what Starfleet’s stand was in this matter. Therefore, neither Morrow nor that pompous Captain Stiles had accompanied Phoenix as her temporary commander.
So, here they were. Roy Hadley had taken leave on a remote part of Earth where no one could contact him until he came back to civilization. Damn Earthers anyway! Why did they insist on preserving such areas of wilderness on their worlds? Aer’La’s people, the Orions, used their resources to their maximum potential. They didn’t waste precious land on such things as wilderness reserves. Gods, weren’t there enough backward planets in the galaxy already?
If the fleet could have contacted Hadley, he would have led this mission. As first officer, command would fall next on him; but Aer’La had been left instead at the helm of a captain-less vessel. In front of her, at the helm console, was her acting exec, Terry Metcalfe. He was, of course, a competent officer; but he was still a j.g. with only a year’s real experience behind him since leaving academy. And he was Sulu’s protege. He wouldn’t take well to arresting his friend and former captain—no matter what crimes he had committed.
Terry looked back at Aer’La with blackish-brown eyes. His eyes always unsettled her. Like Sulu’s, they were so dark. All of Aer’La’s people had clear, green eyes that matched their emerald skin. “Now entering Mutara sector,” he reported.
Aer’La nodded and looked to the sciences station, being manned by Sernak, the Vulcan navigator. Normally it would be Hadley’s position, but he wasn’t there, and many operatives were doing double-duty. She asked the most obvious question. “Genesis?” The newly-formed planet had apparently been destroyed forty-eight hours ago. Astroscience officers on ships in the surrounding regions had noted signs of planet breakup in the area, and Starfleet’s science division had concluded that Genesis, only a few weeks old, no longer existed.
Sernak worked the controls and brought the viewscreen in front of them around the sector to stop at a small, glowing mass. “There,” he said.
“Full magnification,” Aer’La told Metcalfe. The image on the viewer increased in size, but still appeared tiny.
Metcalfe gave a soft whistle. “She broke up all right.”
“The planetary remnants are now contracting and cooling into a small, dense, planetoid-like mass,” Sernak reported. “Dead rock.”
Aer’La shook her head in wonder. “What the hell could have caused that?”
Sernak speculated. “The planet was apparently constructed using a flawed matrix. If I understand the parts of the Marcus research which have been declassified, an instability in the matrix could have caused premature aging of the whole system. That is, of course,” he pointed out, “only what one might term a ‘guess.’ The majority of the Genesis information is still top secret.”
“With good reason,” Aer’La pointed out. “The Admiralty intended for the project to remain under cover until they saw proof positive of its effectiveness. They didn’t want it falling into the wrong hands.”
“Unfortunately,” Metcalfe said grimly, “it appears it did.”
“Unfortunately,” Aer’La echoed. “But we and the crew of the Grissom are still the only ones the Admiralty has chosen to brief on the subject. Not counting Admiral Kirk’s group–and whoever pirated that tape from Fleet command…” Aer’La trailed off. The incident involving the pirated tape of Genesis information had been a damned embarrassing one for the Admiralty. Someone out there now knew what Genesis was, and no one knew how they’d managed to steal the information. She turned back to Sernak and asked, “Any trace of vessels in the area?”
Sernak studied his monitors. “No sign of vessels, Lieutenant, however… ” he leaned particularly close to one of the monitors as splashes of color danced over its face. “There are fragments of debris. Small pieces of a hull, it appears. And apparently,” he added quietly, “from the hull of a Federation vessel.”
Aer’La saw Metcalfe swallow hard. They both must have been thinking the same thing.
Only two vessels were in this area: Enterprise and Grissom. Fleet operations had lost contact with both of them. Now, it seemed, at least one of them had been destroyed. Through the lump in her throat, she asked, “Can you tell which ship it was?”
“I believe,” he said, again studying the monitors—his voice dropped to a low gravely pitch that Vulcans used when trying to control extreme emotion. “I believe that there are fragments of both Enterprise and Grissom present.”
All around the bridge, jaws quivered and eyes slitted shut in expressions of great pain. Hikaru Sulu had commanded the loyalty of every officer aboard, and the friendship of many as well. if both ships were gone, there was no possible hope that he still lived. They had all known they might discover this when they’d left base thirty hours ago, but, till now, they’d managed to avoid that fact. Now it was forced upon them.
All around her there were tears on the faces of officers and crew. Metcalfe faced away from her, toward the viewscreen. He appeared to be simply frozen in place. Sulu had been his captain, and Kirk had been his personal hero at the academy. The crew of the Enterprise were the representatives of all Starfleet meant to him.
Amidst the emotionally charged atmosphere, Sernak, controlled and competent, still took his readings. He played the controls of one monitor many times before calling out, “Lieutenant.”
Aer’La looked around.
“I have discovered a trail of energy, leading away from the Genesis planet.”
“Another ship?” she asked hopefully.
“It would appear so.”
All eyes were turned on the Vulcan as he read the data off his board. “High warp speed,” he observed. “They were in a hurry, whoever they were.”
No one voiced the hope that they all felt; that the crew of the Enterprise had somehow escaped destruction. Aer’La summoned her courage and asked, “Could it be Enterprise?”
Sernak shook his head almost apologetically. “No, the trail is not that which would be left by a Federation ship.”
Puzzled, Aer’La asked, “Were there reports of any other ships in the area?”
“Not that there would have been,” Metcalfe pointed out. “We lost contact with Grissom before the Genesis planet went. Obviously, neither it nor Enterprise were destroyed in the blast, as their debris is floating in space and wasn’t entirely vaporized in the breakup. Only Grissom would have told us that another ship had entered the area, and, if they were destroyed, we wouldn’t have been alerted. Enterprise wasn’t about to risk contact, I’m sure.”
There was the faintest touch of bitterness in his voice, causing Aer’La to wonder exactly how he felt toward the Enterprise fugitives. Could he be trusted on a mission such as this? Even a Fleet officer as dedicated as Metcalfe had his limits. And wouldn’t his concept of just what Starfleet was be somewhat muddled right now?
She asked Sernak, “Any idea what kind of ship that could have been?”
The Vulcan was busily making adjustments and was oblivious to her question. “Is something wrong, Ensign?”
“I’m getting a very peculiar reading on one scanner. I can’t identify it.” His face was as close to open dismay as Aer’La was sure she would ever see it.
Before she could ask any further questions, Metcalfe’s voice called her attention to the main screen. He was staring in disbelief as he murmured, “My God.”
The reason for his expression was readily apparent. What was on the screen was enough to send them all into shock. Hanging in space where the cooling remnants of the Genesis planet had been before was the glittering, ethereal image of a starship. Something in Aer’La’s mind whispered “Enterprise” before she had any time to really consider the apparition before her.
This was not a damaged ship, much less a totaled one. This ship was fully functional as it drifted in front of Phoenix. No one even bothered to question how a ship could survive so close to the gravitational field of the Genesis mass; they all accepted, as she did, that this was Enterprise, back from the dead.
The spell lasted a considerable time on the bridge before Aer’La herself broke it by asking Sernak, “What the hell is that? Some sort of mirage?”
“Negative,” he replied. “Sensors confirm its existence. It is real.”
Skeptically, Aer’La asked, “Are you trying to tell me that that’s really the Enterprise?”
“I am not. I do not know what it is, but it is there. It cannot, of course, be the Enterprise, but I would be interested to know what caused you to entertain such a suggestion at all. We have not seen the ‘ship’s’ nomenclature, therefore we have no clue as to its identity.”
Aer’La grinned as she realized that she had actually voiced her own sub-conscious hopes by trying to deny them. “I guess I’m just being emotional, Ensign.”
Sernak raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. I hope not, as a similar thought crossed my mind when I first saw the image.”
“I guess we all just have Enterprise on the brain,” she said lightly.
Communications officer Kevin Carson turned from his post and said rather timidly, “Ah, I believe that is—I picked up a fragment of a transmission a moment ago. It was an automatic ID signal.”
“And it was Enterprise?” Aer’La asked in some disbelief.
She sighed. “See if you can raise them.”
Carson turned back to his station and began the methodical ship-to-ship hail.
“USS Phoenix calling Enterprise. Do you read? Come in Enterprise. This is USS Phoenix.“
“Fascinating,” Sernak said, ignoring the complete unbelievability of the situation. “Notice the shimmering effect. The image appears to be fading in and out of view. I have encountered such an effect before.”
“You have?” Aer’La was surprised.
“Yes. In the log of the Enterprise, in fact. Captain Spock, then the ship’s science officer, filed a report on a phenomenon they encountered in searching for the starship Defiant. That ship was in a state of interphase between two universes.”
“Could this ship have slipped into another universe?”
The Vulcan shook his head. “I must remind you, Lieutenant, that that cannot be the Enterprise. The Enterprise was badly damaged in battle with the Reliant. Unless she was somehow repaired—which would require the facilities of a spacedock—she would not appear as functional as she does here.”
“What’s your theory, then?”
Sernak almost shrugged. “I have none. I could offer suggestions, however. This could be another Enterprise—from another universe parallel to our own.”
Metcalfe turned to join the conversation. “Could she have been re-formed by the Genesis wave, in the final throes of breakup?”
“Doubtful,” Sernak replied. “The Genesis effect only creates organic matter from inorganic. To produce a starship would be beyond its capabilities as I understand them.”
“Well, maybe—” Metcalfe began.
But he was interrupted by Carson, who called their attention back to the screen.
Aer’La had been listening too closely to the debate between the other two officers to notice anything; but, when she looked, she saw that the picture was as it had been before. No Enterprise —or ghostly image of one—obscured the view of the cooling planetoid any longer. Their “mirage” had vanished.
She gaped in shock. “What the hell happened?”
Sernak, of course, had an explanation. “If my theory—if you care to call it that—of dimensional interphase is correct, then the ship has likely slipped back into its own dimension. Interphase periods are not reputed to be long.”
“Well, what caused an interphase here in the first place?” asked Metcalfe.
“Quite probably,” the Vulcan speculated, “something related to the Genesis effect.
Since we know so little about it, it is difficult to say exactly what it is capable of causing.”
Metcalfe seemed satisfied with that. It probably comforted him to think that the Enterprise still existed somewhere—even if it was in another universe. In the meantime, they had other concerns, such as Kirk and company. “I’d like to stay and investigate further,” Aer’La said to the others, “but I’m afraid we’ve got a report to make to Starfleet. Mr. Metcalfe, tie into Sernak’s computer and keep us on course with that mysterious ship of ours. I’ve a feeling that, if we find it, we’ll find out what really happened here.”
The course did not seem to be leading them out of Federation space as Aer’La would have expected it to, She was pleasantly surprised, in fact, to discover that it followed a well-travelled route through the Federation—the route a Fleet captain or other UFP pilot would follow. After several hours of tracking, her confidence was beginning to build that some of their own personnel might have survived.
As they drew nearer to their unknown destination, Carson turned from his board to report a signal. “It’s top priority from Fleet Command,” the young officer told her. “For the eyes of yourself and your exec only.”
Aer’La made an impressed face. “I wonder what that’s about.” She turned to the helm. “Exec, Metcalfe, that’s you. We’ll take it in my quarters. Pipe it down there, Carson, and take the con.”
* * *
To all of the officers of the Phoenix, the male ones, anyway, the ship’s Orion third-in-command held a mysterious attraction. Phoenix was a border patrol ship, the only kind the individualist Orions ever seemed to sign aboard. They liked the freedom and lack of military formality.
As a result, few of the academy graduates who populated the ship’s ranks had ever met an Orion, much less an Orion female. In her own world, Aer’La’s kind were enslaved—objects of sexual exploitation. To the males of Orion, this seemed the only way to control these wild, green women who so attracted them. It was said, after all, that no male could resist one. The male who controlled one would feel very powerful indeed.
But, in Starfleet, Aer’La and her fellows were free. How she had come to be in the Fleet, Terry Metcalfe had never asked; but he was sure she hadn’t found it easy to get there. Free, not only his equal but his superior, the attraction she held for him was only increased. He had never had occasion to visit her quarters—to many of the ship’s males, such a visit would constitute a major conquest; but this was an official visit—in the line of duty.
Still, Terry took the opportunity to have a look at the way the Security Chief lived. Her quarters were furnished quite luxuriously for those of a Starfleet officer. They were decked out with pieces of the culture anyone would expect her to despise—her own. Of course, Orion was the world she had been born into. The barbarically splendorous furs draped on the bed and walls, the tapestries, the beautifully carved erotic sculptures—all were probably reminders of happy times of her childhood, as well as reminders that she was a woman, a passionate one, as well as an officer.
Aer’La herself was busy activating her computer console and calling up the priority signal from the memory. Once she had completed vocal identification and retina scan, she called him over to a seat by the console and they waited for the tape to begin.
On the tiny screen, once the standard UFP banner had vanished, Terry immediately recognized Admiral Morrow, Commander, Starfleet. The handsome black man smiled perfunctorily and addressed them. “Lt. Aer’La, Lt. Metcalfe, as you know, you are currently following the USS Enterprise and its crew in order to find out exactly what happened to both them and the Genesis planet, which we are quite certain has been destroyed. I’m afraid we’ve left you a bit in the dark regarding some of the specifics of this mission. For various reasons, we felt that the details should be revealed only to the two of you and only after you had seen for yourselves something of what had happened.”
His expression became somewhat sympathetic. “I realize that this is a difficult mission for you and your crew. Had we had any choice, we would have sent someone else, but we didn’t have a choice. I’m sorry we’ve had to do things this way, but the Admiralty believed it best.” His businesslike expression returned. “Apparently, there was another ship—a Klingon ship—involved in the incident at Genesis. I think it’s safe to assume, therefore, that they are responsible for the silence of the Grissom.
“I assume that Admiral Kirk would have broken radio silence to inform us of any danger to the Federation or an attack on one of our ships, so I wouldn’t think Enterprise was left untouched either. Although the ships—and we believe the majority of the crews—have probably been lost, we do know that someone from Grissom has survived. After the Genesis explosion, we received the following transmission:” Morrow reached in front of him to a small control panel and keyed an audio tape to play for them.
The voice was that of a woman. It was cool and controlled, but somewhat haggard.
“Lt. Saavik of Federation science ship Grissom calling Starfleet communications. Come in please.“
The next voice was familiar—oh, so very familiar. It was Kevin Carson’s. He had been on duty at Starfleet communications during the period between assignments. “Communications to Grissom. We’ve been trying to reach you folks for days! A freighter just picked up a lifeboat with a couple of survivors from a merchant vessel—they claim Klingons raided their ship!“
“It is likely that claim is true. We… experienced a similar encounter.“
“Are you all right?”
“I regret that we are not. We have a serious and continuing emergency. We have incurred many fatalities. We need your cooperation.”
“You have it, Lieutenant, what do you require?”
“A patch into your library’s data-base, and a general message to all ships between Mutara sector and Vulcan.”
“The patch is made. Lieutenant, what communications protocol are you using? What the devil are you flying?”
“Please stand by.”
Now Morrow’s own voice introduced itself into the taped conversation. “Cut that damned data link! Lieutenant Saavik! This is Starfleet Commander Morrow! What the hell is going on out there? Let me speak. with Esteban!”
“I am sorry, sir. That is impossible.”
“I want some explanations! Have you seen the Enterprise?”
“The Enterprise is not within our range, sir.”
“What message do you want us to relay?”
“‘Klingon fighter on course to Vulcan. This ship is not an adversary. It is held by a contingent of Federation personnel. It is running with shields down and weapons disabled. Essential that we reach Vulcan. Delay will result in further casualties. This ship is not an adversary.'”
“A Klingon fighter! Lieutenant, I ask again, where is Grissom? What in blazes is going on out there?”
“Lieutenant Saavik,” Morrow explained, keying the tape off, “was aboard Grissom as a part of the special scientific team investigating the Genesis planet. It was she, along with Dr. David Marcus, who discovered that the photon tube bearing Captain Spock’s body was still intact on the surface of the planet. And therein,” he said with an ironic twitch of his lips, “hangs a tale. You see, Admiral Kirk found out that Spock’s body was there, and insisted on going. As you know, when I refused his request, he… stole the Enterprise.
“Kirk seemed to believe that Spock had some sort of… immortal soul, I guess you could call it. He believed that Spock had placed it inside Dr. McCoy’s mind before his death. He seemed quite concerned that Spock’s body and soul be returned to Vulcan for some sort of ceremony and eventual burial. As of now, we do not know whether or not they did retrieve Spock’s body… or if they even survived. Lt. Saavik’s claim that it was ‘essential’ that her ship reach Vulcan or others would die could indicate that they had Spock or McCoy or both aboard, but that is only speculation.
“We must assume that Captain Esteban is no longer alive, as well as many of the Grissom’s crew… ” he trailed off for a moment and gave them a hopeless look. “A Klingon fighter wouldn’t hold many people. And God only knows how they got aboard! There could be survivors from either ship—” he grinned for but a moment—”you must admit, Mr. Metcalfe, that the presumptuous behavior of the surviving ship has Jim Kirk’s signature on it. I, personally, wouldn’t be surprised if he and his other officers were the ones who commandeered that ship.
“I know that all of you must be anxious to know the fate of your former captain, but remember that your duty is to the Federation and Starfleet first. With the benefit of the knowledge contained in these orders, you will continue on your mission to round up both Grissom survivors and Enterprise fugitives. And remember that they are fugitives. They have all committed crimes worthy of court martial.” His face softened again and he added, “Like you, I hope that we find someone alive to stand trial. Good luck.”
The screen flashed to black.
Aer’La looked at Terry. “Well, there you have it. Now we know everything.” She seemed to be studying him with great care.
“Is something wrong, Aer’La?” he asked.
After a pause, she said, “I hope you’ll keep in mind what he said—about the status of Kirk’s party. They are to be treated as fugitives. We can’t allow our own feelings—”
Terry supposed he should be angry at the implications regarding his loyalty to the Fleet; but he knew that he had a bit of a reputation as someone who didn’t always go strictly by the rules when friendship was involved. He also knew that he had worked damn hard to earn that very reputation. He wouldn’t lash out at Aer’La just for believing exactly what he wanted her to.
“I promise I’ll behave myself, Lieutenant. I’m an officer first, and I’m not about to jeopardize my career in some vain display of loyalty. Spock wouldn’t have found that logical.” Aer’La smiled at that word. “But after we’ve returned them to the Admiralty—” he added somewhat threateningly.
She nodded. “I understand perfectly. I’ll be on their side too.” She stood and straightened her tunic with a smile. “First, though, let’s go make sure their alive. Although, I’m sure that’s only a technicality.”
* * *
The crew had been more than a little surprised when Aer’La had given the order to cease tracking the alien vessel and proceed immediately to Vulcan. Morrow’s tone in his transmission had made it clear to her that he didn’t want any of the others among the crew to know what was going on until they had to. As politicians went, Morrow was a good man; but Commander, Starfleet was a political position and he did have the Fleet’s image to worry about. So nothing would be known about Kirk’s crimes if he could help it.
Terry Metcalfe worked confidently at the helm. Not happily, but confidently. Of course, she couldn’t blame him for being angry at Fleet command. Despite his pledge of loyalty in her quarters earlier today, he had made other statements regarding the situation which were not exactly kind to the Admiralty.
Aer’La still remembered the look on his face when she’d called him at Command HQ at the Fleet officers’ barracks. Oddly enough, he hadn’t left for any leave-taking. As she understood it, he had family on the North American continent of Earth, but he’d preferred to stay around until his reassignment took effect.
He was to be given a position on Enterprise. Perhaps that was what had hurt him most. When Morrow had ordered her decommissioned he’d been furious, thus he had somebody to aim his anger at when she told him that Kirk was to be arrested.
“That desk-ridden, bureaucratic sonofabitch!” he had roared, ill-caring of the others around him at the public compic booth outside his quarters. “Of all the back-stabbing… the bastard’s got a red-tape dispenser where his brain oughtta be!”
Aer’La hadn’t understood that reference, which she assumed to be an archaic Earth term. She did understand, though, that it wasn’t meant to be complimentary. “Terry,” she had pointed out, “he doesn’t have much choice. Admiral Kirk stole a starship.”
“After Morrow decommissioned her!” he said bitterly. “He didn’t have any need to—”
“Enterprise is outdated, Terry. If the Excelsior class goes through—”
He choked back an ironic laugh. “That over-streamlined monster? I’m surprised it made it off the drawing boards. Trans-warp drive isn’t even fully-tested—besides, the damn thing looks like a pregnant sehlat.”
“Hikaru was assigned to it, you might be too.”
“Was assigned, yeah. They took it away the first chance they got. And I wouldn’t want to serve on it anyway.”
Terry was quiet enough now that they were on the actual mission, but that, as he had promised, was only temporary. Once Kirk and his party—if they were alive, and she couldn’t help believing that they were—had been turned over to the courts, Terry would be right in there rallying behind them. Whatever a lowly lieutenant could do for a gang of felonious heroes, he would do.
As she daydreamed about the possibilities of Kirk’s trial, Aer’La found herself thrown suddenly, violently from her seat. Picking herself up from the floor amidst several native Orion curses, she demanded, “What was that?”
Metcalfe looked incredulous. “I don’t know. She just… lurched. We must have passed through some sort of… shock wave.”
Hoping for a more technical explanation of whatever had sent the ship into such fits, she turned to Sernak with a hopeful look. “See anything?”
The Vulcan looked uncharacteristically puzzled, pulled back from his scanners, and then looked again, squinting. “A disturbance, yes. But I’ve no idea what it is.”
“That helps,” Aer’La said impatiently.
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” he said. “That’s all I can say about it. It exists, but exactly what it is I don’t know. I have never seen a phenomenon like it.”
“If it helps any,” said Terry from behind her, “it played hell with the chronometers. They ran forward, backwards… everywhere but sideways.”
“Fascinating,” Sernak remarked. “It would appear that this effect is some sort of time-immune field.”
“Time immune?” Aer’La asked.
“No other phenomenon would account for such erratic behavior of chronometers, Equipment failure is a slight possibility, but why only during the shockwave? If it affected electronic devices, it would not single out the chronometer alone, either.” He glanced again at his scanners. “And it would explain these odd readings. If there were a ripple in the fabric of time—”
“Fabric?” Aer’La’s eyes grew wide.
“An illustration. I refer to a disturbance of the continuum.”
“Is that possible?” she asked.
“Quite possible,” the Vulcan replied. “They have been observed before, but their causes have not often been discovered. If we could study this one—”
“We don’t have time,” she reminded him. “Take your readings while you can, but we can’t slow down.”
As she returned to her chair (“Her” chair. What an odd thought. Was she growing used to command?) Sernak played with his scanners, rapidly taking data on the phenomenon. After several minutes of this, he looked up sharply. “Lieutenant, I believe you should see this.”
Aer’La turned around. “See what?”
On the screen in front of the bridge, Sernak keyed up a diagram of Federation space.
Over this, the computer’s tactical display produced a set of points of green light. “These are all points of time-disturbances like the one we encountered. Our long-range sensors have detected many others in this area of space.” A blue line grew out from their location on the map in two directions. It arced out and came together to form an elliptical shape with sharp points at both ends. It looked something like a leatherish object Aer’La had seen several crewmen tossing about in the gym.
“The blue lines, forming a kind of ellipsoid, are the projections made by the computer following a mathematically calculated parabolic course. Assuming the points of disturbance continue their pattern beyond the range of our sensors—and I would say it was safe to assume so—the ‘time ripples’ seem to meet at two points in our space. One of these points is the location where the Genesis planet used to be. The other planet is listed in the directory as ‘classified.’ It is restricted to command personnel.”
“These ‘time ripples,'” Aer’La asked him, “could they have anything to do with the appearance of our ‘Enterprise‘ back there?”
“I would say they must. In fact, there is a great probability that they are the immediate cause of the interphase.”
Aer’La sighed heavily. It was an intriguing problem, yes; but they had a mission to attend to. She couldn’t stop off to investigate every scientific oddity they spotted along the way. “Is that thing… all of these time ripples—are they dangerous?”
Sernak made an uncertain gesture. “As navigational hazards, certainly. They are not readily visible on sensors. As threats to the continuum itself, possibly. If the fabric of space-time is not repaired, they could expand and cause grave damage. Then again, they could be no threat at all. It is quite possible that they merely exist as paradoxes of some sort which will be compounded no further.”
“What are the chances of that?”
“I would estimate several hundred-million to one against.”
“Wonderful. I can’t just abandon these… whatever they are. Are they dangerous to anyone in the immediate future—say, a year?”
“Only if someone were to pilot a ship directly into one of them,” Sernak replied seriously.
“Well, I hate to be an armchair commander, but I’m afraid we can’t be the ones to worry about them just now. Contact Starfleet, alert them of the dangers, and notify them that I am proceeding with the mission to Vulcan.” As her orders were carried out, Aer’La sat back in her chair, feeling put upon. Why, on her first real command, did she have to deal with so many insoluble mysteries? As if arresting Jim Kirk wouldn’t be hard enough.
* * *
The planet Vulcan had no moon, but it did have a twin locked in orbit with it around its huge, red sun. This smaller planet provided a reasonable facsimile for moonlight, albeit moonlight of a different color. Hikaru Sulu was grateful for the effect. He had always enjoyed moonlight on those alien planets fortunate enough to have it. It had a calming effect on the mind and spirit, enabling one to sort out the many problems with which one was beset when the sun was up.
Sarek and Amanda’s garden behind their house had apparently been constructed with Vulcan’s “moonlight” in mind. The central fountain had no need for artificial lighting; it picked up the reflection from the huge twin and scattered it in beautifully symmetric patterns on the ancient stone walkways around it. A fountain was really quite an oddity on a desert planet—obviously, Amanda had introduced her husband’s planet to the concept.
Despite the heat and thin air, making breathing a bit of a chore, Hikaru felt quite relaxed out here. He and his companions had been staying with Spock’s parents for several days now, since the katra ritual had been successfully completed, restoring Spock’s mind to his body.
Spock was different now. In fact, everyone was different. The eight survivors of the Genesis incident felt like just that—survivors. They were numb. Only now, after a week had passed, were their feelings beginning to return to them. After all the death, and the one astounding resurrection, no one knew exactly how they should feel. And that was why Hikaru needed time to sort things out. After making his decision to back Kirk and Spock at any cost, he had been at peace with himself. Now he had to restore that peace, for he wouldn’t have a chance later.
Soon, they would all be taken back to Fleet headquarters for court martial. Oh, Sarek was trying to stay the order of arrest—he might even succeed for a time—but sooner or later they would be taken back. Starfleet had probably already dispatched a ship to come after them. Probably, it wolud be the Excelsior, his own ship.
Breaking the silence behind him, footsteps sounded lightly against the stone. He turned and saw Leonard McCoy, quite visible in this light. “Hey, Doc,” he said pleasantly. “How’s the patient?”
McCoy laughed humorlessly. “Spock? He’s fine. Sarek’s with him now. The healers seem to think he might get his memory back completely someday.”
“Someday? That doesn’t sound promising.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t really say I’m too worried about Spock right now. Confused or not, he’s alive and fully sane.” The doctor’s voice trailed off. “But Jim… “
“You’re worried about him?”
McCoy nodded. “He’s been through an awful lot these past weeks—Spock, David… the Enterprise. “
“He’s always bounced back before,” Hikaru offered by way of comfort.
“He’s never lost so much before—not all at once. No, Hikaru, I’m really worried. As his friend, I’d say he hasn’t been himself; and as a psychologist, I’d say his mental stability is deteriorating rapidly. He’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
“He’ll have time to rest,” Hikaru pointed out. life’s peaceful enough here for now —almost like shore leave.”
McCoy looked at him skeptically and said, “This ‘shore leave’ will be over very soon. You and I both know that.”
Hikaru nodded. “They’ve certainly dispatched a ship.”
“Yep. And when this ‘shore leave’ is over, we’ll have no ship to return to. The Enterprise is gone. Instead of going back to his command chair, Jim’ll be hauled into a court room and slapped down with the rest of us. And I’ll tell you frankly: the shape he’s in right now, he won’t be able to stand up to that kind of strain. He’ll go over the edge, and we might not be able to bring him back.”
* * *
Once the ground car had stopped in front of the large residence on the east side of ShiKahr, Terry, followed by Kevin Carson and four security officers from the Phoenix, got out and surveyed the house of Sarek of Vulcan, father of the late Captain Spock.
After getting ground clearance from Vulcan Space Central, Phoenix had contacted the Federation embassy and asked the whereabouts of Lt. Saavik and any other survivors of the Genesis incident. They had been directed to the Vulcan Bureau of Federation Affairs, where a humorless man had informed them that Sarek was acting as representative for the fugitives they sought. No one had bothered to tell them which of Kirk’s party were still alive, but at least now they knew someone had survived.
Until the Federation Council made them decide otherwise, Vulcan’s planetary government was taking the part of Admiral Kirk and his associates. They had claimed diplomatic immunity for them as representatives of Vulcan interests. The Vulcans were not happy that Morrow and the Admiralty had been so insensitive to their concern for Spock. The diplomatic immunity, however, didn’t really hold up against grand theft and mutiny, but the extradition procedures at least gave them time.
Meanwhile, whoever was still alive was inside this house. Terry couldn’t help a silent prayer for the life of his former captain. It was somewhat selfish to wish for the life of one man over all the others who were now dead, but he couldn’t help being a little selfish.
Phoenix’s orders required them to deliver the arrest orders despite the diplomatic snags, so Terry had been sent down to see to it. The officers with him were really an honor delegation of sorts—they didn’t want to insult the Vulcan ambassador by treating this matter too lightly. They wouldn’t actually be arresting anyone; the guards were just for show.
Aer’La had wanted to come along, of course, but she was needed aboard ship to deal with all the incoming communications from both Starfleet and Vulcan. Such calls required the attention of no less than the ship’s highest-ranking officer, leaving Metcalfe to play messenger boy on the planet’s surface.
As they walked toward the house, Terry felt as if he were advancing toward his opponent in a showdown in the Old West on Earth. The guards showed little expression one way or the other—they were trained not to—and Carson was the picture of arrogant confidence, as always. He looked to Metcalfe at the door and asked, “You ready?”
His mouth dry, Terry said, “Hell no.”
He pressed the door buzzer, realizing that his hands were trembling. He wondered what the attitude of Sarek and Amanda—not to mention the Enterprise themselves—would be when he announced that he’d been sent to arrest them. He wondered how he would feel in their place—not a pleasant thought.
After agonizing seconds the door slid back to reveal a woman—Amanda, obviously—with elegant silver hair and a kind of beauty and grace acquired only after many years of life. In many ways, she reminded Terry of his grandmother—a proper southern lady from his native North America.
In soft, measured, tones, she said, “Hello, Lieutenant.” She greeted him by the rank on his jacket. “May I help you?”
Trying vainly to swallow, he asked, “Are you Amanda?”
“Yes,” she replied pleasantly.
He extended a hand, hoping she still responded to ancient Terran gestures. “I’m Lt. Terrence Metcalfe of the starship Phoenix. Ah… I’m here about Admiral Kirk’s party. We were referred… “
Amanda noticed his discomfort and said helpfully, “Yes, they’re here. I take it this concerns an arrest order?”
“I’m afraid so,” he said apologetically. “I’ve spoken with officials of your government about the situation, and the immunity granted to the Admiral and his companions was explained. However, Starfleet still requires me to deliver the proper documents.”
With a surprisingly understanding smile, Amanda said, “Of course. I’m familiar with Starfleet law.”
There was an embarrassing pause. Of course she was familiar with Starfleet law!
She, too, was an ambassador of Vulcan. He continued, “If we could see… ” he broke off, remembering a pressing question. “Just who is here, anyway?”
“I thought you’d be somewhat concerned, Lieutenant,” she said with laughter in her eyes. “All of the Enterprise personnel survived their ship’s destruction,” she paused as Terry and Kevin exchanged obvious glances of relief. “And of course Commander Uhura and Lt. Saavik are here also. I take it you have a warrant for her arrest as well?”
“And a subpoena for the Lieutenant.”
“They are all here, and quite immune to Starfleet interference,” said a new voice from behind Amanda. There was no threat in it, simply a statement of fact edged with… a bit of anger? As he stepped into the light, Terry recognized the impressive figure of Sarek of Vulcan, whom he had seen often on news broadcasts. Had he not known him from his public life, Terry would surely have recognized this man anyway as the one who must be Spock’s father. “I trust you realize this fact, Lieutenant Metcalfe?”
Terry paused for a moment, wondering how the ambassador knew who he was. Clumsily, he raised his right hand in the Vulcan salute he had learned from Captain Spock. “Peace and long life, Sarek. I see you already know me as well.”
“From my son, yes,” replied the older man. Terry understood then how Sarek had known him. Vulcans, being a telepathic race, could share information in other ways than simple word of mouth. Using mental images, Spock could easily have shown his father a picture of one of his students.
He gestured behind him. “And these are my fellow officers. Forgive me, Amanda, for not making the proper introductions earlier.”
She smiled. “You do have other things on your mind, Lieutenant.” Her good nature and politeness contrasted sharply with Sarek’s apparent hostility. Of course, Vulcans did seem a bit cold sometimes anyway; but Sarek had good reason to be hostile.
He introduced Carson and the guards, and then addressed Sarek again. “I assume you also know why I’m here, Ambassador?”
“We have been expecting an officer,” he said flatly. His facial quality changed slightly, and he added, “I am pleased that Star fleet elected to send one so familiar with the parties involved. Your presence should take some of the stress out of the necessary proceedings—especially for your human colleagues.”
Slightly astounded that Sarek had broken from his hostility to what was, for a Vulcan, a practical statement of welcome, Terry blurted out, “Thank you, sir. I—I hope so.”
“Admiral Kirk and the others are waiting inside. We heard you would be arriving soon. But I must ask that only you, Lieutenant, accompany my wife and myself in to speak with them. If you other gentlemen would wait in our outer room,” he gestured in the direction of a door just behind him.
Terry didn’t like the idea of going in alone, but he didn’t want to make the situation any more difficult for himself or Sarek and his wife. After the loss of their son, they were behaving with extreme kindness to someone who was, in a way, betraying his friendship. “If you Wish, Ambassador.”
As they started on through the door with Sarek leading the way, Carson grabbed Terry’s sleeve and pulled him back from the rest. “I don’t like this, Terry,” he whispered.
“I’m not exactly crazy about it myself, but we don’t have much choice. This is a damn sensitive issue.”
For one of the few times since Terry had known him, Kevin looked genuinely worried.
“You sure you should talk to Kirk alone?”
Although touched by his friend’s concern, Terry tried to brush the question off lightly. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ve got a phaser.”
“That’s not what I mean. This won’t be… easy.”
Terry mustered a grin. Damn, his throat was still dry! “That’s why I’m going instead of you.” He gave his friend a playful slap on shoulder and walked on. He followed Sarek, who had stopped and patiently waited, and wondered what the hell he would say in there and why his palms were beginning to sweat.
And, for those of you familiar with my original work, here are the Arbiters. Their second appearance, though Kaya is missing. When I re-created them 16 years later, they had, I think, more depth and character.
Aer’La is thinking positively about the Orions! As I wrote her later on, Aer”la would have had nothing good to say about her own race.
I had no inkling of Aer’La and Sernak/Cernaq’s relationship then. Aer’La just happened to be an Orion, and Sernak was just this guy with ears. Aer’La here has almost no personality! Like a Starfleet officer!
And who the hell is Metcalfe? He seems to have no identity here, other than as the generic hero.
Carson was timid? Not hardly. I don’t know what I was thinking here. I knew Carson as a character better than any of them then. He was not timid.
“We’ll take it in my quarters” has a whole new meaning, now that I know Aer’La better.
Orions served on Starfleet ships? I didn’t get it then. Orion was not a member system.I planned to write Aer’La’s history even then — was there an outline or premise? I think I created her slaver, Harl, back then too.
I so casually let slip that Metcalfe is turned on by women in superior positions!
“Splenderous?” Not even a word. This was before auto-replace and spell-check, children!
Aer’La’s quarters is much as I later described it. I don’t know if I remembered this when I wrote “Man of Letters,” where I first showed it in the Arbiter Chronicles.
Saavik’s transmission is, I think, quoted from Vonda McIntyre.
“Data-base” Hah! 30 years ago, that was still a word in a foreign language to most of us.
I wrote most of this shortly after I stayed up until 3 or 3:30 in the morning to finish Vonda’s “Search for Spock” novelization. I had just seen the 10:00 showing of the movie that morning.
Here is irony–Metcalfe has family and doesn’t want to visit them! I think that stray line is the most I had said about his background up until now. A big change came when I made him a tortured soul, mourning his mother and sister, never having known his father.
I can tell I read a fair number of British authors–so many of my spellings are non-American. Believe I corrected them all for this publication.
The characterization of Sulu definitely shows McIntyre’s influence.
SO WANT TO EDIT!!!
“Are you Amanda?” Not “Lady” Amanda. Obviously, I’d read Jean Lorrah by this time. Jean established, in fan fic, that Vulcan use the first name as a gesture of respect. That makes sense to me, because it puts your individual identity ahead of who your family connections are. It’s logical. I probably should have explained, or let Metcalfe make a mistake and then corrected it. When Bev Volker, editor of Contact and my mother-in-law, read this, she didn’t remember this quirk. She just thought Metcalfe was disrespectful and over-familiar.