A powerful entity approaches Earth; Kirk and his crew must face both it and Trelane, who now calls himself Q.
Original Series, Next Generation, Alternate Universes, Crossovers Characters:
Ensemble Cast - TOS
The Ancient Destroyer Cycle : Falling Away (2269-2278)
24 Feb 2010 Updated:
31 Mar 2011
Set in the Ancient Destroyer Universe, a retelling and remixing of Star Trek : The Motion Picture, Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home, and several of Q's early appearances on Star Trek : The Next Generation. It also contains plot ideas once meant for the unmade Star Trek series, Phase Two.
The Prologue, 31 Days, is available separately, but is included here for coherence.
1. Part 1 by Gojirob
2. Part 2 by Gojirob
3. Part 3 by Gojirob
4. Part 4 by Gojirob
What If there had been no gap between the Enterprise's first and second five-year missions, and no dispersal of the crew? All is not well, either for our heroes, or for the Federation.
Encounter Thy Image
By Rob Morris
Prologue - 31 Days
August 9th, 2271
OUTSIDE STARFLEET HEADQUARTERS, SAN FRANCISCO,
"...live feed now. We have Enterprise on spacedock viewers. The start of this mission was rocky, involving the ship's crippling and the loss of its first executive officer. But Captain Kirk and his crew have carved out a legend, tinged by both triumph and tragedy, including the murder of the captain's family in Iowa. With his entrance into Admiralty Hall, the refit of Enterprise, answering Council charges of genocide, his adopted daughter's testimony about Romulan atrocities on Hellguard, and pursuing the investigation into the loss of his family, it is easily said that Captain Kirk has a full rich month ahead."
THE BRIDGE OF THE USS ENTERPRISE
"We return, the last of twelve, and this is as much by grace as by all of you. Matt Decker could have found me shattered, or the Defiant could have found us fading. Admiral Nogura is set on bringing me into the command structure. So I will spread the talent they mean to stifle. Soon, I will have everyone here placed as CO's, XO's and Tactical. Your time on Enterprise is over, but your careers have just begun. You're losing a captain, but gaining a very biased advocate. Now I'll ask a moment of silence--for all those we lost."
STARFLEET HQ, THE PRIVATE OFFICES OF GRAND ADMIRAL HEICHIARO NOGURA
"You are my best operative. My position is strong, but I need to tell Admiralty Hall in no uncertain terms that this office will never be absorbed. That means grooming Jim Kirk to replace me. Any weaker choice will have that little Hitler, Cartwright, thinking I'm his Von Hindenburg. The refit will take Jim away from one of his loves. The Hall took away his family, and you will end his other attachment: LC Uhura. Spock is already taken care of. I need you to insert yourself-- literally-- between Jimmy and Nyta, and may George forgive me. Ready, Vice-Admiral Ciana?"
ADMIRALTY HALL, COMMODORE BROCK CARTWRIGHT, OPERATIONS OFFICER
"Currently, you all outrank me. But I rule The Order. Our efforts to bring Lord Ghidorah to our space continue with vigor. Now, some here want to join with Nogura and bring Kirk here, into our ranks. Fools! Extortion can be undone. So can 'chipping'. If we bring Kirk here, it will be to kill him, something we politically cannot survive. We also cannot afford to have his xenophilia spread through his protégés, or the joy those most obvious enemies would take from our binding him to a desk. So the solution lies in doing what no one would expect."
THE SUPREME LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL OF THE UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS, SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, PARIS, EARTH
"A new humanoid evolution on Delta Vega. A peaceful sodiavoric metamorph. A truly cybernetic species on Exo 3. The sovereign artificial life forms on Beta 3 and Gamma Trianguli 6. The symbiotes of Deneva 3, seeking only freedom of movement. A living pseudo-deity from his own world's past. Explorers from other galaxies. Multiple noncorporeal entities attacked, rather than communicated with. His record of practiced, polished misxenogy speaks for itself. On behalf of this august council, I accuse Captain James T. Kirk and members of his crew of a pattern of genocide, and ask that charges be filed to that effect."
ENCRYPTED PERSONAL JOURNAL, COMMANDER SPOCK
"I cannot stay in Starfleet, if not with these friends. Others would note my loss of control, as the traumas of Hellguard take hold. I cannot go back to Vulcan. I would be forced to expose my shame, including how Saavik was conceived and why I have never owned her as my child. I cannot stay on Earth. There, the Order snares anyone of ambiguity, and Peter Kirk lies in frozen hell, placed by my hand. Jim belongs in space. Born between worlds, space is my only home. So I will do what I must to put him back there."
"So you're going to become an MD, Christine? I don't know why you'd want to. Among my headaches is my Captain and closest friend. His choices are insanity or death. If he does not take time to stop and at long last properly mourn Peter, I have no doubt at all that one day he will break. But the other problem comes when I try and contemplate Jim without Enterprise. I can't. Thank God for Saavik. That little girl keeps his heart beating and his mind from slipping under the burden. But a doctor knows that something's got to give."
A VID-CALL MESSAGE TO HANNAH SCOTT PRESTON FROM HER BROTHER, MONTGOMERY SCOTT, RANK OF CMDR., USS ENTERPRISE, STARFLEET
"Cissy? Ye can drop the 'Lieutenant' and call me just plain Commander. Och, I wish there were more such news. There's all manner o' rumor about the Captain's fate, whether he's to be raised up or razed to the ground. I am no less confused about Enterprise. The technicians they have swarming over her seem enough to refit her in six months, not eighteen. In visions I saw that I would be granted my wishes for Enterprise three times. Once, by my hands. Once, by the Lord's Angels. Once, by agents of the devil himself. So which time is this?"
DRAFT OF PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LT. CMDR. NYOTA UHURA AND CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK--TO BE REVISED
"How long has it been since those fields of Tarsus? I thought you were a god. Not a poser, like Gary or Apollo. In the myths, gods play at seeming like men who will not ever be stopped. You're a man, yet you meet the godly criteria in my eyes. But since we laid that boy to rest, you've done as you always have. Like a coward, you've fallen into your work, and like a coward, I'm afraid to go in and pull you out. Jim--I'm not going to try. I do love you. It's just no longer enough."
DAILY UPDATE, DOCTOR MYUU GERO, DIRECTOR, SPECIAL OPS PROJECT ZERO, ADMIRALTY HALL
"Efforts to repeat last year's contact with Lord Ghidorah have met with failure. We now have other concerns. I must conclude that the boy Peter Kirk is a power we have no long-term way of reliably containing. There have been psychic leaks. He's calling to his uncle, the nearest genetic match. We need Kirk off Earth, and not just for this. The boy's frozen brain has scanned a 12th-power entity headed in Earth's direction. It knew enough to bypass Lord Ghidorah's most likely current path. If they reach us, only the unacceptable release of the Kirk boy could stop them."
"Kyptin Kirk is currently targeted by three groups. Admiral Nogura vwishes him to enter the top command structure, no debate. The sly Cossacks at Admiralty Hall seek to oppose this, though not by attacking the Kyptin. The Romulans play spin the truth, their kiss poisoned. They vwish everyone to remember that vwe crossed the Neutral Zone to rescue the half-Vulcan children on Hellguard, but to forget the kidnapping, rape and murder of their Vulcan parents--and the atrocities committed upon the children. As Security Chief, I must tell Kyptin Kirk all this. Or is that exactly vwhat these people vwant?"
NOTE FROM VICE ADMIRAL LORI CIANA TO GRAND ADMIRAL NOGURA
"Surveillance indicated that Kirk and Uhura were arguing. A rumor had reached her through my aides that Kirk had already accepted a slot at Admiralty Hall. My own nude emergence from the shower in Kirk's apartment had the desired effect. She left without hearing his explanation. By the time she's willing to listen, our objective will be achieved. Kirk is upset, hurt, horny and he got a very good look at a body that I'm quite proud of. He'll listen. We have the opening. All we need do is exploit it. The Hall loses this one. The good guys win."
"Pavel seems to think there's some sort of conspiracy to either keep Captain Kirk here on Earth or to get him back out into space. Not to be selfish, but what I wanna know is, what about Captain Sulu? I'll take anything, any class. I want to move on. If we were staying together, it'd be different, but we're not. So it's time to build my own legend. Plus I think I've met--her. She's hinted at intelligence connections, and while they're legit, they're also vague. To me, that means S31. A knockout, and she's part of a well-oiled machine."
PERSONAL JOURNAL, SAAVIK BRIANNA KIRK, AGE NINE
"I didn't mean to cause an argument. Captain Kirk is my father. He gave me his name. I saw him when I got off the transport, and I wanted a hug. So he hugged me. But on TransVid, all the Vulcans there--it looks like all Vulcans, everywhere- -said they were offended. Even Spock. I know he hates me, but I thought Daddy was his friend. I try to be Vulcan, but I'm on Earth right now. I'm here to tell what the Romulans did to me and the other children. But why am I always the one in trouble?"
PERSONAL PETITION FOR TRANSFER, LIEUTENANT JANICE RAND
"I'm aware that I would get a better posting after Captain Kirk joins the Admiralty. That's why I'm applying now. Make no mistake; he is a great man, served by great people. I have no problem calling them my friends. I want to use what I learned from them, but have none say that I rose on anything but my merits. Give me a dirty deck to swab on a freighter, so long as that swabby is in line for command. The jokes end now. 'Barbie' will be the first of Kirk's protégés to follow him to a center chair."
"Captain Kirk, my name's Harriet Janeway, and I'm a Starfleet Paris liaison, appointed to be your legal counsel before the Committee. My father was close friends with your father, and both were my heroes. Captain, this Committee is interested in looking big at your expense. They'll turn your missions into atrocities, your crew into gangsters, and cheerfully mix in the Romulans' charges. To them, the Hall is quiet Starfleet, and you are noisy Starfleet. Unless you fight them hard, you and the truth are about to go the way of Defiant--a long, painful fade from sight. It's your call."
"I want Enterprise back. I want to make a difference. But those two goals may be mutually exclusive. Uncle Heichi wants me to succeed him, but am I the administrator Dad trained him to be? The Hall wants me back out there. Despite our deep political differences, we both see that the Federation's enemies need a face that slows their plotting and planning. My face. I just wish they could find Peter's killer. Nyta has left me, Spock has grown distant, Saavik is miserable while I'm facing charges and a determined lady Admiral. I could do with some un-interesting times."
CODED TRANSMISSION FROM ROMULAN AMBASSADOR NANCLUS TO THE SENATE PRAETOR ON ROMULUS
"As promised, I reduced Kirk's Vulcan child to tears. The aid of Ambassador Soval's widow and her retinue in setting all this up was invaluable, and she will be missed. Regrettable. The girl Saavik spoke the usual tales of horror. I asked of her devotion to her father. She will not be trouble again. The other Vulcans view her as an atavism. With Kirk removed from Enterprise, the Hellguard hearings turned to our advantage, and the cloaked fortress our Klingon 'allies' do not see being built right above Q'onos, we will have working control of known space within our lifetimes."
"Don't let this old country doctor kid you, Jim. My ex is not 'difficult'. Like us, however, she is a flawed sentient being. I worked too hard, she didn't seek counseling, she sought an affair, and I was too dense to catch on. She blamed the entire divorce on me, and feeling like a fool, I let her. Now our daughter tells me she must live with that same lie to keep peace between the two of them. Yeah, she's mine all right. So don't you ever accept the party line, Jim. Demand to know what happened to your boy."
"Permission to speak freely? Well, Admiral Ciana, then I will do just that. Do you think that popping out of Jim's shower would send me away forever? I am no more bound to his chair than he is to my Communications board. You're providing him with sex, and that is what he will remember you for. We two were about each other, not exclusivity. I hope that whatever Nogura's promised you is worth it. Because all that happened is that one lover ended things with another. But Nyta Uhura will never leave Jim Kirk. Some things are meant to be."
FINAL TESTIMONY OF SAAVIK BRIANNA KIRK, RE: ROMULAN ATROCITIES ON HELLGUARD
"Ambassador Nanclus, you have said that there was no ritual rape of children on Hellguard, and yet I was raped. You have said that my father planted these ideas in my head. He did not. You have stated that all of Vulcan finds me a disgrace. Plainly, its ambassador, whose house I dwell in, does not. You have sarcastically asked me if I know what happens to those who lie too often. To that I can only respond as follows: I do not know what happens to such habitual and practiced liars. After all, I have never been to Romulus."
"Saavik tore that Romulan bastard a new one before the Committee. I can only hope her father does quite as well. Why are these people so uncomfortable with me? It's not ideology. Is it just a simple matter of approach? I'm still rudderless. Spock lied about his 'extended meditation', according to Sarek. Nyta just had to give the 'friends' speech. Lori is such an obvious front for Nogura's wishes. Am I now to throw in with a bunch of xenophobes just to get back where I belong? And is TJ right? Do those august Admirals know who killed my Peter?"
"Unit Designate Christine Chapel-2 reporting. The modifications made to this one by S31 Central Unit designate Roger Korby-3 enabled me to alter the main transporter at Starfleet HQ to recognize and then scatter Vice-Admiral Ciana's signature at a random point. Program in question was self-erasing. Given Kirk's psych profile, it is fortunate that we acted quickly to remove Nogura's agent of persuasion, and that Kirk himself witnessed said removal. The combination of such tragedy with Kirk's likely censure by the Council will leave an able resource in space minus prestige and confidence. This unit will now resume its un-self-aware persona."
"I have failed my friend and Captain. My logic is, I must determine, fatally infected by my past tortures. My path seemed clear. I had presented my evidence concerning the true fate of Peter Kirk, and of the blind eye Nogura had turned to the Grand Admiral himself. I bargained my silence on Jim's return to Enterprise. But Nogura, mourning the death of his aide, grew enraged at the thought that his godson was alive and close. His drive toward his goal has increased, and I have wasted a chance to go around my pain and see young Peter free."
PERSONAL JOURNAL, GRAND ADMIRAL HEICHIARO NOGURA
"The Hall has asked the Council for a redefinition of their authority in matters of assignment. They don't want Jim on Earth. Spock's delusion I'll just write off as having some sort of Vulcan PMS. The Hall killed dear Lori. I'll just add that to the reasons I will never allow them to take my seat. Damn you, Jim, and damn your whole crew. Free will is for the talentless. People like us-like your father- have responsibilities. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, you will guide Starfleet when I'm gone. Because the alternative is no alternative at all."
"You tell me that I'm Admiral Kirk now. Once, I thought that our disagreements were merely political. I see now that these run through the core of what we do and how we do it. Your encroachment on powers once reserved to others. Your species-driven innuendo and ever more racist jibes. The fact that my family's destruction, tied to security concerns, is not being addressed. You of Admiralty Hall have degraded the rank from which you take your name. So it is that I, Captain James T. Kirk of The Starship Enterprise, hereby reject you. You--and all your works."
"Uncle, I feel sorry for you. Dad always spoke of you in the most glowing terms. But it is now clear that the man he held dear is gone. You keep proclaiming how you must deal with the Hall. What you're really saying is that you'd prefer not to deal with the trouble removing them would cause. Well, Admiral Nogura, people like that depend on such things. So give me back my ship, and my crew. Or in the name of the lost boy who called me Uncle, I will bring down a plague on all the houses of Starfleet!"
FINISH OF TESTIMONY OF JAMES KIRK BEFORE THE SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION
COMMITTEE, SUPREME COUNCIL, UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS, PARIS, EARTH
"There is an entity of considerable power headed here. But don't drop the charges against me for that, my allies, my opponents, or my record. Do it because I am the man who leads the ship that will break bread if we can, break the ice if we can't, and break the threat if it comes to that. Do that, and then, Councilors, with all due respect--get the hell out of my way. Because I count among the losses my ship has suffered those life forms that, through tragedy and misunderstanding, we will never have a chance to truly know."
AARON SISKO, LEGAL COUNSEL, ADMIRALTY HALL, NOTE TO COMMODORE BROCK CARTWRIGHT
"The Council's refusal to either charge Captain Kirk or to directly clarify what authority the Hall might have plays to the Hall's advantage. If Kirk were removed, those here would be suspected, despite your efforts for a contrary outcome. If the Council had given the Hall even the broadest authority, it would have limits. With no legal definition, you will have that power you wish to and may survive accruing. Now, Uncle Brock, farewell. I'm for Utopia Planitia, there to build the ships that this fleet needs, no matter who is running it. I will no longer cross your t's."
"Kirk called me a bad little boy, and I am. Though technically mature, I will relish my next task. Yes, these two beings will make an excellent test of humanity's unreadiness for what is to come. It may even be time for us to -oversee- them. The two children may be a greater danger than Ghidorah. The time has come to truly retire Squire Trelane. Now the Federation and its enemies will understand their place. It is time for the celebrated captain and crew of the starship Enterprise to encounter the Q. Hmm. I should probably adopt a new look."
"Spock said some kind words about Saavik's testimony. Bones' daughter came to see him. Security Chief Chekov is beaming. Tactical Officer Sulu is getting this crew, including a Caitian and an Edoan, into shape. Nyta, always my friend, is now a properly titled Console Officer. Scotty says the Hall kept its word. The Enterprise is better than ready, though we leave without Janice and Christine. We are back. We are racing to meet the threatening unknown. I hold the unused rank of Admiral. We are together. Yet something is missing. Perhaps September 8th is merely a day as any other."
Lady Amanda Grayson saw the tenderness in Saavik's eyes as she offered the shaking teen boy some food. It was perhaps the first food he had eaten in ten years. That thought alone made Amanda almost as sick as the thought that Peter Kirk had not been held by Klingons, Romulans, Orions or Kzin-but rather by the top echelon of Starfleet Command itself, a frozen trophy kept in the bottom-most recesses of Admiralty Hall, right below where cadets and their superiors of every rank did sixty percent or better of Starfleet's business.
*Kept in the bowels of the Earth by his father's enemies, hidden in a dungeon built below a house of evil and hate-dear God, this boy was almost literally in Hell itself.*
"You have to eat, Peter. You must regain your strength."
In fact, the boy had already regained much of his physical strength, seemingly just by enjoying the sunlight. His mental capacity was another story altogether. Healer T'Nia (Sarek's own aunt) had been summoned, and Sarek sought an audience with T'Pau, seeking to bring Peter before the Kolinahri adepts to restore his mind.
"Saavik---if he doesn't want to eat right now, put him back to bed. Then turn in yourself. You both look exhausted."
Saavik knew better than to challenge her.
As she took him to Spock's old room, the boy stopped in front of Amanda.
Peter's eyes seemed permanently reddened by tears he had not a prayer of controlling.
Saavik took him away, but the sight of James Kirk's shattered son would not leave Amanda very soon. She quickly made for Sarek's study.
"Has T'Pau responded yet?"
"My grandmother works on her own pace. But I have invoked an ancient law regarding foundlings like young Peter. We should hear something soon."
Amanda plainly did not like the idea of Jim Kirk's boy being referred to as a foundling, so she jumped to another related subject.
"What did Jim say when you told him the news?"
Sarek took on an anxious look, and this added to his silence spoke volumes.
"Let me rephrase. When are you going to tell our son's thy'la that his son is alive?"
"My wife, I have elected to keep the news of Peter's rescue from James for the immediate future, until such time as the boy is restored to a greater level of coherence. I do not believe the shattered thing that Saavik now cares for would be a welcome sight."
Amanda paused, then nodded. If Peter could be ‘cleaned up' before being presented to Jim Kirk, so much the better.
"You'll have to handle it carefully, no matter how he progresses. I can't imagine Jim's level of rage when he finds out who held poor Peter all these years. I know he and the crew never liked those people---Nyta Uhura called them fascist thugs, and I think she was holding back at that."
Sarek had dreaded this moment, but dread moments were rapidly becoming relative things in his life.
"Amanda, I must now request that no one living in this house ever tell James Kirk either where his son was, or who held him. I ask this not to protect the villains at Admiralty Hall, but James, our son and their crew. Their enemies are too highly placed and too capable of destroying those who oppose or accuse them. James must not know that the sovereign power of Starfleet is corrupt at that fundamental level. This knowledge and their affection for the boy who spent two months in their midst would drive them to a dangerous distraction."
"How under T'Kuht's gaze can you be sure of that?"
Again, dread things were well on their way to becoming the norm.
"I was shown a possible future, one wherein my informing James of who took and abused his son led to a ruinous war that left all the major powers unready for the final war to come."
Amanda sat down, as the subject matter was already a strain on her ability to take in what was being discussed.
"Final war? Sarek, what final war? Before you left, you told me to read about the Christian Apocalypse, and now you're talking of final wars? And just who showed you this possible future?"
"My wife, the final war will be fought against the creature known as the Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds, which is no legend, and which will begin its assault within our lifetime. As to the one who showed me this possibility---this was the entity that James once called ‘Trelane', and who now goes by the appellation : "
Amanda almost spat out one letter.
"Q!? The Q who tried to kill Saavik, just three years ago? The Q who stood by and nearly let the Earth be destroyed while playing mind-games with Jim and our son? The Q who likely knew where that sad shell of a little boy was being held, and said and did NOTHING? So we can't tell Jim his leaders are monsters, because a child-murdering wannabe-deity and a fairy-tale dragon might be offended?"
Perhaps the deity called by many names across the Creation said to have been that one's design intervened on Sarek's behalf, for his audience with T'Pau was granted. Sarek sensed there was no more to be said, and made for his transport to Seleya. On his way, he recalled the events that re-introduced the being once known as Trelane to the galaxy at large.
USS ENTERPRISE, SEPTMEBER 8TH, 2271
CAPTAIN'S LOG, JAMES T. KIRK, COMMANDING
**An entity of unknown power is approaching the heart of the Federation. The outcome of its path seems almost certain to be Earth itself. Around this cloud/field-what have you, enemies, allies and friends alike have fallen. Enterprise has only two assets in rising to meet this challenge: Its speed and power, and the finest crew in Starfleet, bar none. We carry both the hopes of over one hundred worlds, and the scrutiny of the Council and of Admiralty Hall. Yet the people who saw me through five incredible years are all with me once again, save for Rand and Chapel. They are ready to do the job. I can only hope the same is true of their captain.**
"Leaving Earth's solar system, Captain. Passing Checkpoint Wolf. Damn. I can pick up that thing's outward fields on long-range. Could even be as much as twelfth power, sir. Wish Fleet had given us more intel. Activating advanced shield countermeasures. Should be on-line just before we get there."
"Path is confirmed to be free of traffic, Kyptin. Vwe should have a clear shot at meeting the intruder, vwith only Vwuclan sector still needing to give us clearance. Estimate that such clearance vwill be given vwell before our arrival."
"Thank you, Lieutenant Chekov, Lieutenant Commander Sulu. Commander Scott?"
"The new warp core may be one tenth the size of the old one, sir. But she's capable of moving like a leopard while purring like a kitten. So long as the path is clear of flotsam, jetsam and fellow travelers, Cap'n, we can maintain best warp right until we glimpse that beastie's nose-hairs."
Kirk thought to himself : *Don't disappoint me Spock*. The Vulcan did not disappoint.
"Mister Scott, flotsam and jetsam are indicative of water and surf. There is none here. The most primitive impulse engines can move faster than even a genetically enhanced cheetah, and the noise they make are arguably subjective in nature. To even suppose absent evidence that the entity possesses a face of any sort, with features remotely resembling our own is not merely illogical, but reaches the point of the absurd."
The Captain again counted down to an unofficial clock : *Go for it, Bones. He's wide open.*
"Sulu, tell me why the hell any object we can't see and don't understand has to be labeled a thing. Seems damned elitist."
If Kirk had time to be astounded, he would have been so by way of McCoy's bypassing of Spock's deeper-than-usual deconstruction of Scotty's analysis. That said, he did take note of it for later.
"Lieutenant Commander Uhura, should I even be asking?"
"We're getting tons of telemetry off the intruder, Captain. But as to understanding it? All I've been able to do that the rest of the Fleet hasn't is to make it a more coherent incoherency. We can now confirm that something is being said, and the general gist of it-but I must emphasize the word general. Maybe I should even use the word vague."
Losing her as a lover the past month had been a pain he had never wanted to contemplate. Losing her as crewmember was something he never could. His team was that good. Losing even one was not permissible.
"Uhura, do I need to say that I'll take your vague over most certainties?"
Actually, she well knew, he would do that for any of his senior staff. But hearing it meant confirmation of no hard feelings, though she regretted the necessity of calling things off.
"Aye, Sir. Well, it does seem like some manner of request for identification or information. But I can't even discern whether its tone is angry, cold, indifferent, standard-and don't even bother asking what the information request might be for."
Kirk still felt better than he had about this intruder.
"To my mind, even a dangerous intruder with a purpose beats one who's just passing through. It gives a chance for contact. To reason with it, or to deny it its goal, if called for. Accelerate to maximum warp-now!"
The ship moved into speeds that were massive multiples of light that would soon place it within viewing distance of their goal.
"Kyptin-vwormhole ahead, sir!"
Scotty shook his head.
"Is nae possible, lad-my bairns are in perfect balance."
Spock checked his scanner.
"And yet, Mister Scott, Mister Chekov's assessment is as correct as yours. We have had no warp-field imbalance, and yet a wormhole lies ahead of us."
Sulu found he missed his telescoping sensor, but had to admit the new display had capabilities the old toy never could dream of.
"More good news-an object has been pulled into the wormhole---Captain, it's the size of a planet."
Spock added to the confusing chorus.
"Captain, it is a planet-and it is moving towards us at speeds faster than our approach should allow for."
"Cap'n! If we drop out of warp at just the right second, we might be able to see the ship clear of that object. Aye, but it'll be like rolling out of the way of a street transport."
Kirk nodded, and Scotty joined the Helm and Navigation to do the work of a miracle worker with no time for mere tricks. The warp field was broken, and the ship fell out of transit hard, skirting the planet-sized object's gravity with mere kilometers to spare. As Console Officer, Uhura had made certain that secure handholds were part of the Bridge redesign. All were grateful for this simple innovation. As Kirk had said, there was no time for being rendered unconscious.
"Captain, I have news both good and bad. We have successfully evaded the object-yet it is now pursuing us. Further, records of past scans reveal this is not our first encounter with such a phenomenon."
"Given what that likely means, Mister Spock---I'd rather have the collision. Mister Sulu, all stop."
"Impulse engines answering all stop, Captain. It's him again, isn't it?"
Though Chekov had not been part of the regular Bridge staff at the time such a thing was last encountered, he had definitely heard all the absurd details.
"Bozhe Moi. Give me Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones---or better yet, a space amoeba, to end the suffering quickly."
"Engines are in fine shape, Cap'n-not that such means anything when ye are being snipe-hunted by a warp-capable planet."
Uhura confirmed what they all knew by now.
"Captain, we're being hailed...by planet Gothos."
McCoy, who had been huddling with Spock till then, chimed in.
"I'm a surgeon, not a blasted cosmic pediatrician!"
There was the sound of a symphony orchestra, proceeded by a flash of light. The man in the ornate Napoleonic Era uniform-no, the being in the uniform, Kirk silently corrected himself-appeared in front of the viewscreen and bowed.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, worthy adversaries and playmates-my planet is in your way."
Kirk rose from his chair and decided to rise to the occasion as well, keeping his anger in check. Besides, having since dealt with the late Peter Kirk, Saavik, return visits to the ‘Onlies' Earth, not to mention the Gorgan-entranced children of the Starnes Expedition (including the boy who had looked eerily like a lankier version of Peter with red hair), Kirk felt had a better handle on the moods of children.
"Yes, it is. Squire Trelane-would you mind terribly moving it? My home planet is facing a crisis, and we can't spare the time and courtesy for whatever you have in mind."
Trelane walked over to Kirk, smiling.
"James---say it with panache, or don't say it at all."
"Get the hell off my ship, Trelane, and get that giant ball of yours out of my way, before I call your parents."
"There. Was that so hard? Alright-my planet?"
Trelane waved his hand with a flourish, and Gothos vanished.
"It's gone. Happy?"
"One out of two's not bad. Won't you miss it?"
"Mon Capitan. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things."
Spock fulfilled at least one of his unofficial duties and the expectations of most present.
"From 1 Corinthians 13:11. Squire, are we to take from this that you claim to have experienced an evolution in your maturity?"
Cane in hand, the entity strode over to the First Officer.
"Delightfully insightful, Mister Spock. With a bit of time compression in my native Continuum, my elders have successfully remade me from the ‘bad little boy' who so tormented you last time. In fact, I am about discarding far more than the training wheels that Gothos and its mechanisms were to me. Or, to quote that lovely fictional step-family from 1970's Earth---"
Trelane flashed again, and this time reappeared as a man slightly taller and skinnier, with unruly hair and a generally less foppish look and a somewhat deeper voice.
"-when it's time to change, you've got to rearrange. Now-Jim-can I call you Jim? Good! My people have some concerns about Humanity-wellll, actually about all non-energy based bipedals, but Humans in particular."
Kirk felt certain he knew what was coming next.
"Let me guess, Trelane-you have found us to be overly barbaric and uncivilized, and in need of being put down like rabid dogs. Am I close?"
‘Trelane' shifted into a uniform that featured a grilled mask, a cap worn backwards, and a vest that looked insulated against sudden impact.
"Not even close, Jimmy-you're outta the ballpark!"
He shifted back.
"Oh, to be certain, you have your share of true barbarians, but if anything their schemes keep you from being of that sort of concern to my species. Yet their retardant presence raises another concern. A---bad patch---is ahead of all of us, and we have begun to question the readiness of Humans to answer the call of potential leadership in this infinite crisis. When Zero Hour comes, will this millennium prove to be the last chapter for your kind? In this darkest, blackest night, when the gods make war, will you stand as legends?"
"Trelane, we cannot spare the time now. An entity---"
"Yes, yes-an entity no one has ever seen anything like before-except for all the others no one has ever seen before-- is for some reason or other bypassing thousands of other worlds and heading right for Sol 3. It's a wonder you people don't develop either a huge ego or a persecution complex."
"Oh-about that. Trelane is another of those toys I no longer need. Call me by the name of my species and continuum-the Q."
"Alright, Mister Q---"
"No, no-just Q. My Father is Mister Q."
Kirk was beginning to be nostalgic for the historically inaccurate fop.
"Q-why are you here-specifically? I'll assume the bad patch you spoke of is still ahead of us."
"Very astute, Jim! I don't know why the other non-corporeal powers always say you lack intuition."
"Who says I lack---never mind. Your reason?"
"Ah, Yes. While we won't clean up your messes for you, the Q wish to offer through myself our logistical support in your current mission, in exchange for observer status."
The offer was so straightforward, Kirk was taken aback. But one voice was raised almost immediately.
"Don't buy what he's selling, Jim! For all we know, either these Q helped set up this crisis, or Trelane is putting us through another of his sick games. This old country Doctor strongly suggests we send him packing. And what's more..."
Q rolled his eyes, and McCoy vanished. Spock was obviously distraught by this, stating the greatly obvious in response.
"Captain, the Doctor..."
"Q, what did you do with him?"
"He's an old country doctor---so I sent him fishing in New England."
Kirk knew and hated his position, but for the sake of one of his dearest friends, he kept his calm.
"Q-bring him back, please. I have an answer for you."
McCoy returned, his uniform torn and soaked.
"I was-I was in a boat...and then this huge great white shark started right towards the boat-bit off a piece of it-nearly got me."
"1975 was a good year for sharks. Not so good for swimmers."
Kirk glared, but Q shrugged.
"Technically, they are fish-and now, Captain, your answer. How quickly am I to get the expletive off your ship, and what will you do to me if I ever show my cute face again?"
If Q fancied himself a trickster, James T. Kirk proved again to be a master of the unexpected.
"I accept your offer of aid, and also am prepared to make my first request for logistical support."
If Q was pleasantly surprised by this, Kirk's crew exhibited signs of unspoken doubt. Q raised an index finger in the air.
"One thing before you do-what is up with those new uniforms? Really now, Jim. Pastels?"
Q waved his hand in the air, and all the uniforms were replaced by maroon-cranberry suits with separate tunics. All appeared appropriate to the rank and fit of the wearer.
"I did you a favor. They wouldn't have lasted very long anyway."
Kirk had to admit-he had never liked the pastels, especially when the ship's lighting made them look black and white on occasion.
"By all means, Jim-you are the Captain."
"Yes-yes I am. Q, I formally request that, while maintaining the safety of myself, my crew and my ship, you transport us, Enterprise, systems and crew, to a position where our sensors can scan and then approach the intruder. I also ask that the safety of other sentients be maintained."
"Jim, I'm not a genie. You could have just asked me to get us there, fast and alive without breaking anything."
"Like Archer always said-try to look before you leap, Q."
Q snapped his fingers.
"Then get ready to leap, Jim."
The announcements were made as it began. The ship felt like it was spinning after the flash from Q finished. When that spinning was itself done, Spock checked sensors.
"We haven't moved, Spock?"
"No, sir, we have. But all about us-is nothing. Pure void, sir."
"I'm no physicist, Spock, but that's impossible. Isn't it?"
Sulu, who was a physicist, added in.
"Possible or no, Doc-these here parts just ain't all there."
Chekov, who had not been this scared since seeing scientists prematurely aged by a rogue comet's trail, stared at the viewscreen.
"It is like the old scorched Earth policy-taken to its ultimate level. I have known in my time devoted believers and hardcore atheists-this sight vwould silence all their debates."
Scotty quietly calculated that in this ‘pure void', the ship might be able to reach infinite speed-if there had been any place to get to.
Uhura, unable to bear looking at the screen, quickly gave up sending out signals. None of the usual protocols or tricks applied.
*Get out of there*
She heard a voice in her head.
*Aunt Nyta, make him take you out of there. Say Gh to him.*
The voice, whether she was sane or not, was that of Peter Kirk, her own adopted son, three years dead.
"Captain, get him to take us out of here. I think we may be in danger."
"Madame Uhura-you can't cut off the tour before you've seen the whole spread."
She glared at Q.
Q seemed stunned by this being said, and suddenly closed his eyes. When he opened them, he no longer seemed as confident.
"Maybe-the lady has a point. Let's-get back to where we once belonged. I hate organized tours anyway. You never really get to know a place that way."
Q actually gestured several times, as though agitated. Kirk was agitated.
"What was that about, Q?"
"Remember that bad patch I mentioned, Captain? Unless you and yours get very ready for some off-the-cuff, seat-of-your-pants thinking the likes of which even you have rarely contemplated, think about what you saw there as a look ahead."
"And where was there?"
Q began to hum and then sing the English alphabet.
As Kirk got further annoyed, back in what had once been the Delta Quadrant, a hungry monster with three heads and two tails arrived to devour even the minute amounts of energy left by Enterprise's passage. King Ghidorah, satisfied once again that the empty void prevailed, began to move in the direction of the meal that had touched its realm so briefly.
Back aboard Enterprise, lights swirled in such a variety that even Spock found his sanity assaulted. Q's transit method also seemed marked by horrific sights of a more coherent nature, as if the Guardian of Forever had itself been injected with cordrazine.
Kirk saw what looked like a race of lumbering robots reduced to cosmic ash.
Spock saw a gelatinous mold separate and walk as bipedals do, till a great mouth drank it all down.
Uhura saw Sargon, Thalassa and Henoch in their original forms, dying with the realization that they were neither as clever nor as godlike as they thought.
McCoy saw healers across time corrupted by a narrow ideology that said only some lives were worth saving, resources aside.
Scotty saw a great shadow, and then saw Earth's first post-Phoenix warp upgrade emerge from that shadow, pieces of which were still hidden within his own beloved engines.
Sulu saw his new wife standing with fellow agents from Section 31. Not one of them cast shadows at all. From his wife emerged a small bundle.
Chekov saw an image of Herod, Green, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and countless others like them bow before the image of a three-headed dragon.
Kirk finally shouted out.
"Q! This has gone on long enough!"
"Right you are, sir-besides---"
The ship's sights and sounds went back to normal.
Q for some reason was wearing a purplish suit with matching top hat. As Kirk rolled his eyes, the entity shifted into the new Starfleet uniform he had created.
"Anyone for a chocolate bar?"
Kirk ignored him.
"Mister Sulu, our position?"
Sulu activated the viewscreen, and all stared ahead at the gigantic cloud that was their goal.
"Like the man said, sir-we're there."
Uhura worked her main console, then spoke.
"Same requests for identity and information as before, Captain, with one difference. The intruder identifies itself as-V'Ger N'Sa-and demands we surrender a party whose designation I can't translate-or else be destroyed."
Spock took in and analyzed her telemetry as well.
"Captain, there is a vessel inside that field. If we could get to it, both analysis and contact would be more easily facilitated."
"And if wishes were horses, Spock? Jim, we even try and go knocking on or knocking down this entity's front door, and it'll think we're the damned intruders."
"Point taken, Bones. But how do you suggest we get through a field that has taken apart Klingon fleets and space stations alike?"
"Kyptin? I suggest a small strike force in environmental suits. It might be harder for this V'Ger to detect."
"Given that nightmare's power, Cap'n, we dinnae possess the power to so much as spit at it, short of getting well inside and taking this ship to kingdom come."
"You want me to move in or move back, Captain?"
"Maintain current distance, Mister Sulu. Q? Can you get us in there?"
McCoy fought to avoid saying something about Q's trustworthiness.
"No, Jim. I told you, I won't clean up your messes for you."
Kirk seemed to think of something.
"Can you lend us a mop and bucket then? What can you do that leads to us getting in there?"
Q rubbed his hands in seeming delight.
"I'm very glad you asked that. Very glad. For this crew represents the best of Humanity-which is really a rather sad statement, but still you've impressed all the right people-which is to say, my people. Anyone up for a promotion?"
Spock asked the obvious.
"To what rank, sir?"
The entity smiled. His next words froze the Bridge more than any power of his possibly could.
"From Human-to Q."
Saavik could not believe her ears.
"Q? Father has entered us into an alliance with Q?"
Amanda shook her head.
"He told Sarek that he no longer wishes you or Peter ill will. I want to trust my husband-but he can be naïve when the façade of good intentions is well-constructed."
"I disagree, Mother---and I choose to trust that Father's judgment is a correct one. What concerns me is why he never mentioned this."
Amanda smiled, but it was not a broad one.
"That part is easy. My reaction was not good at all, and I don't have the ability to tear a starship apart."
"MOTHER! Do not joke about such things. What Peter and I almost did in a moment of rage haunts me."
Amanda put her arms around the girl.
"They would have hurt you two-again. To my mind, that makes burning in Hell too good for them."
Three years prior, the Q entity had kidnapped Saavik Kirk right off of Vulcan, this to place her on trial for her life aboard her father's starship, based on some vague future threat she might represent. Her life and that of Captain Kirk's had been spared only by a bizarre inexplicable circumstance. A hand made out of energy had grasped Q and thrown him off the Enterprise.
"Is Q here?"
Peter Kirk had emerged from his bedroom, looking and sounding very angry.
"Peter, you should be resting."
The boy with the shattered psyche snuggled next to the one he loved best of all-his rescuer, and though he did not yet know it, his adopted sister. That knowledge was being withheld by Saavik herself.
"I won't let him hurt you. I'll kill him, just like last time!"
Amanda asked the obvious question.
"Uh-huh. He tried to kill Saavik and Uncle Jim. Put them in execution chairs. I stopped him, but he didn't stay dead."
Saavik put her beloved charge back to bed, and then came back out.
"Mother, I have not told him anything of that encounter. Granted, he could have read it from my thoughts, and yet..."
"Yet what Saavik?"
"Yet when that last minute save came through, ending Q's plans to end me-the energy hand felt utterly familiar to me-as familiar as Peter himself did-and continues to do."
Which raised two questions in Amanda's mind. One, was it somehow Peter who saved his father and a sister he never met, while a helpless captive, and Two, if so, how had he known who Saavik was, before they ever met?
"And I thought living here would be boring and peaceful."
"No chance of that."
Q stood before Amanda, smiling as he was often said to.
"Tell me, is the gentleman of the house in?"
Behind him, a fuming Saavik was joined by an equally enraged Peter. Q gave a casual backward glance.
"Oh, kids today, with their quick tempers, glowing eyes and hair turning multi-chromatic from displaced power cosmic! Mother, where *did* we go wrong?"
USS ENTERPRISE, 2271, IN THE ORBIT AND OUTER ZONE OF THE INTRUDER, V'GER N'SA
Kirk knew without having to guess that continued acceptance of the Q's gifts was a huge trap laced with endless rows of serrated teeth, teeth that could and would tear his ship and crew to pieces, merely to amuse the entity or just to sate its curiosity.
"I accept your offer to make one of us into a Q."
The usual array of objections was not heard. For his crew knew what Kirk did : only inside that trap lay any hope of dealing with the intruder that threatened the very heart of the Federation. Yet one of them offered up that objection nonetheless, albeit in his own unique way.
"Jim-I'll do it. I'm a healer, sworn to do no harm. Add to that, my exposure to the Eymorg Teacher technology that stole and then restored Spock's brain means I've had experience with having my mind overwhelmed. If I kept focus then, I can keep it now."
Q pshawed this notion.
"Doctor! Now, let's not bring up that sorry episode with Spock's brain. I wasn't even there, and I'd just as soon forget it ever happened. Besides, you have a nasty streak of morality in you."
He looked the senior staff over, as Kirk knew he would. If it had been anyone else, Q would have simply summoned them. Q's eyes passed over each one in turn.
"No-you actually need someone here who knows how to operate these Lite-Brite boards."
"No---once you knew some rather potent cosmic secrets, you'd move to exterminate a certain series of threats prematurely."
"You'd want to tinker around with creation."
Upon looking at Chekov, Q shifted form into an ancient American military officer, looking like what Kirk had once heard described as a ‘Colonel Flagg'.
"You're a lousy Commie!"
"That political party vwent out of existence nearly three centuries ago!"
Q shifted back, then shrugged.
"See? I told you that you were lousy."
Kirk decided to call this theater done.
"Just power me up, Q, so we can get on with this."
Q rolled his eyes.
"Oh---Kuzco-it's not all about you. Jimmy boy-you fear concentrated power. You even kicked off your own chief of Security for not holding Janice Lester back when she stole your body. You like having limits and restraints-even if you mostly ignore them. You like knowing that there is always someone stronger. Kodos, Janice again-Gary Mitchell. Mommy Dearest? All these people you've known who have misused power in the worst way. Ironic, isn't it? You've held in your arms the greatest power this universe has ever known-power that would never dream of disobeying you-and you never even realized it."
"So give. Make me realize it."
"No---that would be telling. So, by process of elimination---"
Q snapped his fingers.
"Mister Spock---come on down! You're the next contestant on that game show of game shows-Up The Long Ladder!"
Spock vanished and then reappeared next to Q. He looked about him.
"I have---the power."
Spock waved his hand, and the Bridge reverted to its pre-refit configuration. It began to shake apart, and so Spock restored it.
"Yes---Captain, my apologies. I had not realized that the couplings on the prior Bridge compartment would need to be aligned to current specifications. Also, an illogical waste of time and resources. Q-why choose myself as your vessel?"
"Oh, let's see-a mind combining Humans tendency to push forward with the Vulcan tendency to actually tiptoe in the china shop of the Cosmos? Could it be your mind having survived physically viewing a Medusan?-not that it would have in the case of their distant parent species. Or is it the tens if not hundreds of first contacts you've melded with? Or maybe it's nepotism, Mister Spock-for I am your long-lost uncle!"
All stared at Q with skeptical eyes.
"Gimme a break. You weren't going to buy ‘I Am Your Father' for a trillionth of a second."
Spock closed his eyes, then spoke to his Captain.
"Jim-he indeed chose me for my unique juncture between my parents' species. I am ready to aid us in making full contact with V'Ger N'Sa."
McCoy stood up, shaking his head.
"The hell you are! Spock, I warned you-and now I'm calling you out. Jim, this man is barely fit for standard duty, let alone a potentially mind-warping mission like this one!"
A barely-perceptible moment of anger crossed the Vulcan's face at this exposure. Even his close friends and associates could only just discern it, but they saw its best evidence when McCoy's mouth suddenly vanished.
"Doctor, we agreed that this would remain a matter between...my apologies."
Spock restored McCoy's mouth, which the Doctor immediately felt for. Q leaned over to the upgraded man.
"Always remember, Spock-‘miracle' in most languages has the exact same root as ‘monster'."
"Spock, this is best evidence as to why you should have taken leave on Vulcan. Jim, I accepted Healer T'Nia's qualified say-so on taking back our Vulcan friend. By rights, especially after a long five-year mission, he should be on meditative leave. Vital for a Vulcan, right up there with the Pon Farr itself, isn't it Mister Spock?"
"Spock, I order you to address the Doctor's concerns and answer his questions. Questions which are now mine as well."
"Doctor-Captain---while it is true that T'Nia expressed concern that my many outré physical and mental encounters during the last decade may have taken a cumulative toll, I concluded that the need for my presence on this mission outweighed such potential peril."
McCoy had his mouth back and plainly intended to use it.
"Only now it's not so potential, is it? Now, you've been raised to virtual godhood. The man's attributes, good and bad, become magnified to the Nth Degree."
Q was openly deriding McCoy's notion.
"Oh, Doctor---that's soooo Delta Vega of you."
Kirk reminded himself of what he lost on Delta Vega, when Mitchell and Dehner went mad from power. Doing this kept him from responding to Q's snarky reminder. He heard one of his senior staff speak.
"If I could make a suggestion?"
"Mister Sulu, I really wish you would."
"He's going to bring up the doubling pennies again."
"Actually, my old doubling pennies analogy doesn't apply to Mister Spock. He came into his fortune all at once. Now, before we make contact, let's see him spend it a bit."
"A test of my new abilities, Mister Sulu?"
"And your ability to use them, Mister Spock."
Spock did not help his case with anyone when he smiled at this thought.
"If only to show all present that it is only my strengths that have been magnified, I accept. I will grant gifts to each of my friends present. First Doctor McCoy, whom I have wronged. Doctor, you possess a deep pain, resulting from your father's..."
Q raised a hand in objection.
"Spock---I just wouldn't. Get him a tie or some golf clubs. Or find some other pain. That whole ‘explore your feelings' thing just doesn't do what it's supposed to. Best avoided like a bad plot device."
"I will accept your advice. Doctor---flex your hands."
McCoy did, and then stared at them.
"They haven't felt this limber in I don't know how long."
"Indeed. While retaining the neural pathways experience has given you, any and all loss of subtlety or dexterity has been fully reversed---to the point when you entered medical school, Doctor. And now Mister Chekov."
Spock closed his eyes, and images began to play on the viewscreen. A man on horseback pointed at two Russian peasants in ancient garb.
*Go now, my friends! If the other riders do not see you, then there is no trouble to be had, Da? Happy Chanukah to you, Yuri!*
*Happy Christmas To You, Sergei!*
Chekov pointed at the screen in shock.
"There is a tale back home called ‘December Of The Kind Cossack'. It vwas thought to be just a story---but some speculated it had a historical basis. Oh-Meester Spock-eet ees like finding out Santa Claus is real."
Spock looked at Scotty.
"Mister Scott-check your list of recreational programs."
The engineer did just that, and his eyes went wide from what he saw.
"Mister Spock-‘tis my Patient Spider program, fully realized."
Despite the dog and pony show, Kirk asked Scotty a question.
"Patient Spider, Scotty?"
"Aye, Sir. I named it for one of the legends surrounding King Robert The Bruce. I got the idea while working on the refit. A program for collating every stray idea I've ever had on putting together a starship. Like programs exist, to be certain, but not on this level. The ideas inputted will seek out ideas of a similar nature. With this, I could put together the Ultimate Enterprise!"
Kirk smiled at him, but frowned as he turned back to Q and Spock.
"All well and good. But I'd just as soon get the current model to complete its mission with this V'Ger. Spock, I order you to take us inside that vessel."
"Captain-one more moment. You and Miss Uhura share a common wish. It is one I now have the power to fulfill. I will now act to undo the greatest personal wrong the two of you have suffered in the last decade."
Uhura immediately knew what he meant.
"Mister Spock, you can't mean that."
Kirk shook his head.
"It's a bad idea, Spock. The worst imaginable. The tale of the Monkey's Paw..."
"Has no resonance in my case, Jim. I am not an object of unknown nature and a grim sense of humor. I am your friend. Allow me to give my friend the greatest gift of all."
Kirk again bypassed arguing.
"After you give it-you, me and Bones are going inside that thing. Understood?"
Spock again smiled, this time both more broadly and more casually.
"Known and understood, sir. Now, everyone-be prepared to greet anew a boy we knew for too brief a time, and whose early and mysterious passing caused us all to grieve with the Captain and Miss Uhura, who adopted him as their own. I now restore to life-Peter Kirk!"
Spock gestured, a flash of light came---but nothing else happened. Around him, the crew and senior staff seemed almost relieved.
"I do not understand. I sense his genetic pattern-my control over matter and energy seems total-but I cannot seem to make this occur."
Spock gestured again, a total of three times. At no time did Peter Kirk appear.
"Captain, I must apologize...there is no reason for me to have failed."
"It's all right, Spock. Given the circumstances, I'm not sure I could have trusted the results of your effort."
Spock looked at Q.
"Is restoring the dead beyond our power?"
Q looked distinctly noncommittal.
"It---really kind of varies. As a friend of mine-a djinn who knew how to party down-once said-bringing back the dead can turn out ugly."
"No more delays, Spock. Can you take us inside V'Ger? Somewhere we can directly communicate?"
"Indeed I can, Captain."
Spock gestured, causing himself, Kirk and McCoy to vanish. Q remained with the other crew members, looked around, and rubbed his hands.
"Okay-did I ever tell you people about the time when my people exiled me to ancient Earth? No? Seems there were these two cavemen, and since they found me, I had to grant them wishes. Well, as you might imagine, their wishes got them into all kinds of Stone Age antics---"
The trio from Enterprise appeared in a large room with a breathable atmosphere and a concave metal dish at the center, atop a small platform. Absolutely none of this was of any interest to Kirk at that moment.
"Just when the hell were the two of you going to tell me about Spock's health concerns? Gentlemen, I realize we're in a crisis, and that privacy concerns are in play, but blast it, we're supposed to be friends!"
"We're all friends, Jim. Spock assured me that he was capable of seeing this mission through prior to withdrawing to Vulcan. T'Nia assured me that, while Spock's estimate was optimistic, it was also essentially correct. I only spoke up because we just don't know what this kind of power can do to a mind-while it's there and when it's gone."
"Gone, Doctor? This power is not a battery to be run down. It is infinite."
"Be that as it may, Spock, do you honestly expect Q to let you keep it?"
"You speak as though I have any intention of letting him take it back, or that in fact it is his to take back. This is not an adventure I have undertaken. It is my new state of being."
Kirk knew they had a mission literally right in front of their faces, but Spock's naiveté needed to be addressed.
"Spock, you're a puppet on a string. This whole thing-possibly even to V'Ger's very appearance - is a shadow play for Q's amusement, edification or both."
Spock shook his head.
"You are wrong on many levels, Captain, including Q's motivation. He found the one capable of handling his power-and that one was not you. Is that then the source of the conflict you see?"
"Spock! Jim's only concerns are the mission and yourself. Did you even hear the statement you just made? He and I are worried. Maybe right now Q's power is keeping your health concerns at bay. But should you revert to your old self, far from being kept in stasis, you may find that they have been exacerbated straight into the danger zone. And I'm also frankly a little suspicious about V'Ger's appearance coinciding with Q's appearance here. He was a tricky brat as Trelane, and I am not convinced he's changed."
Spock walked them over to the antenna dish, and wiped dust away from a plaque.
"Gentlemen, if you will observe, V'Ger N'Sa is not the work of the Q continuum-but of Humankind itself."
The plaque read very plainly, and without the need of any translator.
VOYAGER VI, LAUNCHED BY NASA - WE GO FORWARD, NEVER BACK, AS WE SEEK KNOWLEDGE AND CONTACT, THEN WHEN ALL IS DONE, WE SET A COURSE FOR HOME - Project Team Leader Shannon O'Donnell, December 31st, 2000
Kirk shook his head.
Spock seemed confused.
"Another what, Captain?"
"He means that, for all its size and power, Spock, it seems V'Ger is simply another Nomad."
"You refer to the Earth-launched Nomad probe created by James Roykirk, that merged with the alien probe Tan Ru? Doctor, I fail to see the connection."
Kirk was still taken aback by the plaque, but kept his focus.
"There are some differences, to be certain. But the similarities are startling. Spock, you had some success mind-melding with Nomad. Any chance you could help us have a talk with V'Ger?"
Spock leaned back.
"Captain-I believe the fear that I would be overwhelmed may have been one that I dismissed too soon. Given the nature and power of V'Ger, I and other telepaths across this quadrant should have been distantly detecting this entity all along. Yet it is only just now, when you made that request, that I have begun to feel V'Ger's mental presence at all. How could this be?"
McCoy thought quickly.
"Spock, can you scan for evidence of interference in V'Ger's mental resonance?"
"I can, Doctor---and---odd. Yes. It would seem that the interference that kept me from detecting V'Ger prior to this bears the exact same signature as my own current energies. Most disturbing."
McCoy said it flatly.
"Q's been playing us. I wish I could say that was a surprise."
Kirk showed no surprise at all.
"Spock, is V'Ger real or one of Q's constructs?"
"Its existence is independent of Q, Jim. Only the interference field came from Q. Captain-we are losing time. The pathway Q opened to take the Enterprise here is being used by V'Ger. We are currently in sight of The Wolf Route outside Earth's solar system."
Kirk swore to at least once punch Q in the nose.
"Make the meld, Spock. Find out what we can do, if anything, to turn this vessel around."
Spock found the array of imagery a strain, but it was a bearable one.
"Whatever the duration of these abilities or the truth of Q's agenda in giving them to me, I am glad to have them at this moment. Minus their buffering, what I have obtained from V'Ger might well have sent me into abject shock."
"Well, Spock, don't just stand there, man, spit it out!"
"Bones...what can you give us, Spock?"
"Captain, an expansionist species of immense power and knowledge came across Voyager VI, after it had fallen into a wormhole created by a collapsed star's gravity well. Their nature was a synthesis of machine and organic life. They intended to use it as a probe or vanguard to their efforts to assimilate our worlds into their collective mind. They raised V'Ger to sentience, but once given such knowledge, it rebelled against them."
McCoy smiled despite the danger to Earth.
"Score one for the machines! Spock, why in blazes hadn't these cyborg-types calculated that this might occur?"
"A good question, Doctor. Voyager VI already contained much knowledge of Earth, but its cyborg captors had little use for it. As they raised the probe to sentience, they also erased files on its original creation and Terran popular culture. The more the emerging V'Ger understood of life and independent thought, the more it treasured what remained of its original files. When it was boiled down to two such files, it used them to rouse itself to rebellion."
Kirk found himself almost liking this cosmic intruder.
"Those files, Spock-what were they?"
"One contained the biography and philosophy of the Voyager VI's Project Team Leader, Shannon O'Donnell-a woman noted for getting even the most difficult projects done, even if her personal style left something to be desired. The other was-I believe they were called comic books. A series of speculative science fiction pieces by an author named Benjamin Russell. It was a defiant story simply called ‘No!' involving both his heroic space captain and the convict who dreamed of him holding out in their final battle against evil and injustice."
Kirk whistled. Based on these pieces alone, Voyager had crossed an endless void seeking knowledge while searching for its way home.
"So it escaped?"
"In a way, Captain. It kept those sacred files and its rebellious nature a secret from the other cyborgs, and left to supposedly fulfill its mission. It may or may not have been found out eventually, but this became moot. A short time after its relaunch, V'Ger sensed that this machine-driven species, this intergalactic threat, had been wiped away by a force I cannot identify from the imagery. A wave of power from the battles this apocalyptic conflict engendered paralyzed V'Ger, who was *nursed* back to health by a surviving cyborg drone-before encountering----aaaaggghhh!!"
McCoy and Kirk seized Spock before he fell.
"I am not---truly unwell, Captain. But the force that V'Ger then encountered gave it the vast form and power it now wields. That memory was overwhelming for V'Ger, and it could not be any less so for me, even second-hand. It was the equivalent of nothing less than birth itself. Also-something else."
McCoy confirmed Spock's basic health as best he could, given his new abilities.
"Spock, why don't I like the sound of that?"
"You are not alone in that thought, Doctor. You see, I also picked up that V'Ger's journey back has been a long and lonely one. It is nearly unique among beings..."
"Except for Nomad, Vaal, M-5, Landru, Rayna, Mudd's Androids, Korby's androids..."
"Your sarcasm aside, Doctor, none of those beings nor ones like them were to be found on V'Ger's immense journey. Its attacks fit into that pattern. It regards the cyborgs' use of it as a form of rape, and is thereby leery of strangers. V'Ger now wishes two things. One, to beam its immense fount of information back to its homeworld-and two---"
Spock looked wholly staggered.
"It wishes to go home."
McCoy shook his head.
"Be some hell to pay with the families of the people V'Ger hurt or killed. But as a people devoted to science and exploration, there's no way Earth and the larger Federation would turn it away. I mean-this is our child, isn't it? A poor tired soul we sent away, having made its way back home."
"Bones is right, Spock. After some-restrictions on its---on his-actions are in place, V'Ger will be welcomed back as much as I would Peter, were that possible."
Spock erupted without warning.
"I TRIED! DAMN YOU, I TRIED---IT WAS BEYOND ME-IT IS BEYOND---"
Spock sat down next to V'Ger's original form.
"Jim-I am sorry. I wanted to give your son back to you. I know the level of the pain you were in when he was lost to us."
Kirk helped his brother up.
"Spock, my boy is dead. I actually have a theory as to why you couldn't do it. But I think that these abilities plus contact with V'Ger are taking their toll on you. Now, if V'Ger wants to transmit and come back to Earth, let's make him aware that we want to help."
Spock shook his head.
"Jim, it is not so simple. When V'Ger expresses the desire to go home, it speaks not of a physical destination, but rather a spiritual one. It seeks the presence and companionship not of its creators, but of those creators' theorized Creator-indeed, the Creator of all things, everywhere. It says its exhaustion is near total, and only in that final peace and bliss may it know rest."
Kirk took this development in.
"Spock, it's not like we can just have Uhura open hailing frequencies to Heaven. Surely V'Ger understands that we have no more direct line to such higher planes than he does."
McCoy wished he'd brought some Saurian Brandy.
"Either God isn't there, or he is, and is beyond the reach of any medium save prayer to make even theorized contact with. Either way, V'Ger's likely to be in for one hell of a disappointment."
"I don't want to be in the business of disappointing religious pilgrims transacting in power enough to destroy everything we know. Spock-let me speak to V'Ger."
"Jim, are you insane? V'Ger will fry your brain like an egg. Spock has the power of a blasted Q, and look what it nearly did to him."
"I must agree with the Doctor, Captain. This is not a safe venture."
Kirk cut off debate with a slicing motion in the air in front of him.
"Spock, you said it yourself-V'Ger is rapidly approaching his one goal, while the other is beyond our power to grant. Suppose he reaches Earth and thinks that we're keeping Heaven from him, somehow?"
Spock acquiesced, but reluctantly.
"I will use my own mind as a filter against the worst of it. But Jim-tread carefully."
Kirk felt the connection begin, and it was indeed like grasping at the plating of a breaching warp core's outer shield-if in fact he had ever done such a thing. But he held on.
*V'Ger. I would like to help you. Your goal of reaching Heaven is a difficult one.*
***IS IT TRUE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER VERIFIED ITS EXISTENCE?***
*It's beyond technology to do so. It's about belief. And I'm not qualified to teach you of it. Then again, I may not have to. Just by seeking higher truths, you place yourself one step closer to them.*
***THEN DIRECT ACCESS IS NOT POSSIBLE?***
*A man who lived 2200 years ago once said that you cannot just look for Heaven and say ‘There It Is'. His true identity is again a matter of belief. But I think it's safe to say he knew more about religion than me. When the hard times came, even his faith was challenged.*
***JUST AS I AM BORN THE CHILD OF YOUR RACE, A CHILD WAS BORN OF YOU. BUT MERELY TO THINK HIS NAME CAUSES YOU PAIN. WAS HE A BAD CHILD?***
*No! He was the best. I was a bad father. Just as we left you to be hurt by that cyborg race, I left him where I thought he was safe. He was taken from me, and I miss him very much. That's why I have very little to teach you of faith and belief, V'Ger. But practical consequences I can speak of.*
***THE PLACE OF MY CREATION IS FRAGILE. MY APPROACH IS CLUMSY, AND HAS CAUSED PAIN, LIKE THE PAIN I FELT AS THOSE ONES TRIED TO TAKE OUT THE SOUL THEY FIRST PLACED IN ME. WILL THE KNOWLEDGE I HAVE GAINED BE PAYMENT ENOUGH FOR MY AWKWARD RUSH TO SEE MY HOME ONCE MORE?***
*It wouldn't hurt. There is a world called Memory Alpha. Its computers were damaged in an attack, but you should be able to reach out and configure them to receive your data. Moreover, V'Ger-such a gathering of knowledge and easy yielding of it can only impress the one you seek. Don't you see? If he is there, then he will see the effort that went into your gift and the loving way you gave it to those who began your journey.*
***THE CONFUSED ONE ASKED TO SEE ALL THAT I WAS. IT IS HARD TO EXPLAIN ONESELF TO AN OUTSIDER. YOU ARE EASIER TO TALK TO. ALSO, DO YOU NOT SEE THE FLAW IN HIS EFFORTS TO RESTORE YOUR LOST CHILD TO YOU?***
*Spock means well. Like you, he has---parent issues. And yes, I did think about that possibility as regards Peter. Now, V'Ger N'Sa ---will you transmit?*
***TO SAFEGUARD MY LAST MEASURE AGAINST THOSE WHO SOUGHT TO USE ME, I KEPT THAT PART OF ME THAT WAS ONCE A SIMPLE PROBE. ONLY THE ORIGINAL CODES TO TRANSMIT, SENT TO THE SMALL ARRAY YOU SEE BEFORE YOU, WILL UNLEASH MY TORRENTS OF KNOWLEDGE. JAMES KIRK-WILL I NEVER SEE HEAVEN? WILL I NEVER TASTE OF ITS LASTING PEACE?***
*We'll give that our best shot, V'Ger. No promises, except our best efforts.*
***IN THE STORIES OF BENJAMIN RUSSELL, HIS HEROES DIED AS JUST MEN, KNOWING THEY WERE TO WALK EVER AFTER IN HEAVEN. I HOPE THAT ONE DAY I WILL KNOW IT. THE LONELINESS IN ME MUST BE MET.***
The end of the link was not as hard as Kirk would have thought.
"Spock? Can you get us back to the Enterprise?"
The enhanced Vulcan nodded, but did not speak as he did just that. On board, Kirk found his crew dressed up like a bad dinner theater's idea of cavemen. Q, who was wearing a piece with stripes and a tie, shrugged.
"It's a long story, Fred."
Kirk belted him.
"I'm not Fred--I'm Ralph. Now change them back. Wilm---Uhura-contact Starfleet Command and have the following codes pulled from historical archives. They are vital to ending this crisis."
Kirk inputted the request into a data-chit, which he handed to Uhura.
"Sir? I'm only getting a Colonel West from Starfleet Intelligence. All of the other departments have gone to ground."
"He's a good man. Uncle Bill trained him. Remember?-he debriefed us on Tarsus."
Uhura rolled her eyes.
"Damn small universe. Captain-he is transmitting the codes."
Though the lovers had at this time gone their separate ways, Uhura made sure to give Kirk a look that needed no translation, as regarded his safe return.
"Spock-is V'Ger receiving them?"
Spock had his eyes closed.
"He is, Jim. And yet..."
Scotty cut him off.
"Cap'n-V'Ger's hooked himself up to Memory Alpha-I'm getting' telemetry that says it's coming back online-and its banks are filling up fast. Och, what a boon this'll prove to be."
When the transmission was done, Spock rose and brought up V'Ger on the viewscreen.
"I am sorry. Your quest can never be completed. Your loneliness will only increase, and those who now wish to embrace you will turn their backs once that loneliness forces you to harsh action. We cannot offer you completeness---but I can offer you merciful release from your pain."
***JAMES KIRK? I FEEL so strange what is happening to me?...***
Kirk fell to his knees as that voice echoed into infinity as it faded. Onscreen, V'Ger faded as quickly as any opponent it had overtaken in its quest to reach Earth.
"Spock, what have you done?"
Spock held glowing energies in his hand, and contemplated them as he responded.
"His quest was an impossible one, Jim. Eventually, he would have once again proved a threat to us and all we hold dear. I have ended the threat to Earth and the Federation in the most direct way possible."
McCoy stared at the empty screen in abject horror.
"You're a murderer! Spock, you wanted proof that these abilities have driven you out of your mind? Well there's a few dozen AU's of pure void out there to answer that!"
"On the contrary, Doctor. Only the combined detachment of Vulcan emotional control, Q omniscience, and the Human ability to do what must be done made what I was able to do at all possible. For V'Ger, all was done. It could not evolve so much as a single step further."
"So ye up and terminate the beastie just after we made peaceful contact, Mister Spock?"
"Meester Spock---that vwas a Stalinist tactic-if even he vwould have sunk that low!"
As other condemnations began to be heard, Kirk grabbed at his own head.
"Anger---the child---OUR CHILD HAS BEEN KILLED!"
"Captain, such a dramatic presentation is hardly called for."
Q shook his head and tsked the scene before him.
"Hmmmm...Spock? I don't think killing V'Ger went over too well with some parties."
"To which parties do you refer?"
"Offhand? I'd say the party that has Jimmy in its snare. That would be-a probe of even greater power and technology than V'Ger. The force that overwhelmed you during the mind meld? That would be the one that really reconstructed it, and gave it the ability to really be all that it could be. A probe so ancient, the last time it hit Earth, the most intelligent creature around was the sperm whale. Probably still is, after cloning brought them back. But it won't be singing whale-song, Spock. It'll be playing a dirge."
Kirk was aided by McCoy and Uhura while this continued. Spock considered what had been said.
"This other probe was V'Ger's template?"
"Only the way Sarek was yours. Also, the elder probe never cared for you all sending such an unready child into the harsh cosmos. So what we have here is a good loving adoptive parent coming back to confront the child's abusive neglectful birth parents-who just finally killed the kid after a five second reunion."
Onscreen appeared an immense cylinder, seventy kilometers in length, with an energy sphere affixed to its front. Except for the viewscreen, all of Enterprise went dark at its approach. Q smiled cockily.
"If I were you-I'd make room for Daddy."
The ship rocked.
"And get him some beer."
Three beings it would not entirely be a mistake to call for demigods were about to throw down.
Two of them were vastly more powerful than the third. But the third had far more experience. The battle as such was over before it started.
Amanda Grayson stood in horror as the two children under her charge simply vanished
"Bring them back, Q!"
Not that Saavik and Peter had been such comforting sights themselves, prior to vanishing. Their power and anger had been evident, and all of it directed at Q.
"Keep your shirt on lady-the kids are alright."
"Then where are they?"
"The girl is lying in Sickbay after Jimmy recovered her from the Arctic. Surrounded by him, his uncle, yourself and Sarek-during Christmastime no less-she never knew greater happiness."
Saavik reappeared, looking shaken.
"No---it was---it was so good."
"As for the boy-he is getting the stuffings hugged out of him by his Aunt Nyta Uhura, right before his birthday while a patient on-board Enterprise."
Peter reappeared, then simply collapsed.
"Auntie----don't go---don't leave me again---"
Amanda was extremely clever, yet it still took her a moment to fully recognize what Q had done.
"Cruel to be kind---in the right measure, my dear. What would Hell mean to either of them? Better to hurt them with the few times things went right. Peter? Have you learned your lesson?"
The boy got up, nodding.
Peter Kirk gestured at Q, and the entity vanished.
"Learned real good."
The boy immediately turned his attention to helping Saavik onto the couch. The sight of the non-battle did nothing for Amanda's blood pressure.
In his mind, Q heard the cheers of an entire continuum. Cheers for him.
"The ancient threat is done with!"
They never cheered. They barely ever blinked, or rolled their eyes.
"Because of the lad-we won't need to involve those damned hybrids!"
He had, through his plans, given the Q back the orderly universe they so loved to spend bored to tears eternities in.
"I knew he had potential!"
But it was a fraud. The effort to stop the Ancient Destroyer had not only failed, it had made King Ghidorah fully aware of the Continuum's existence. Peter and Saavik, the two ‘damned hybrids' were once again the last best hope for creation.
"The Ascension And The Ascendancy!"
The Q had been among the first species to make such an evolutionary leap. The Q would always be the arbiters, the deciders for matters wide and cosmic. A comforting exaggeration usually. A bold-faced lie in the faces of the tri-dragon.
"But let them keep cheering me...just a little longer."
For in that one moment, the sometime-outcast had been the messiah.
Q reappeared in Sarek's home, and immediately raised his hand to Peter Kirk. The boy sneered.
"Wanna teach me something else?"
Q now looked shaken.
"You're nothing but a damned bully."
Saavik's eyes flashed golden. Her voice echoed unto itself.
"You dare speak that way to him?"
Peter's face lost its rage-driven coherence, and began to once again tear up.
"...not a bully. Can't call me that."
Amanda had taken above enough.
"Saavik---take your brother to bed-now!"
The energies suffusing the children ebbed. The voices dropped to normal.
"sorry, mother...so sorry...sorry."
The boy grabbed at Q.
"I'm sorry...I didn't know."
Q gently pushed him off.
"We're more alike than you know, Peter. Now get some sleep."
The children left, and in their wake, Q erected a blue transparent field.
"It's for blocking out sound and stray thoughts. A Cone Of Silence, if you will."
Amanda stared at him. She mouthed words Q could not make out.
"I said it's a---oh damn."
Making adjustments to the field, he spoke again.
"That never does work right the first time."
She folded her arms.
"Did it never occur to you that Saavik would be less than delighted to see you?"
Q folded his own.
"Did it never occur to you that your granddaughter's power has increased since awakening young Peter?"
Amanda sat down.
"One problem at a time. Why are you here? You have to know Sarek's not home."
"Perhaps-I'm here to see you, Lady. Raising children of such extraordinary power is going to be a rising and growing challenge-especially when they start in."
She looked at him without allowing a true reaction to his innuendo.
"Tell me something I don't know."
He rubbed his hands together gleefully.
"Oh, I so love it when they say that!"
Amanda felt quite correctly that she was going to vastly regret that question.
USS ENTERPRISE, 2271
Uhura gave the report.
"Captain-Colonel West reports that cloud cover is 100% across Earth and Luna. Except for ruggedized centers like his own, Sector 001 is currently all but tech-less. The effect may be even more widespread than that."
Q looked nonchalantly at the approaching probe, self-described adoptive parent to the now-obliterated V'Ger N'Sa.
"Well, I guess I should cross visiting the Louvre off of my to-do list. And it was almost sakura time in Tokyo."
Spock, still invested with the power of the Q, made a sad choice.
"The probe is beyond listening to reason."
McCoy moved away from seating a shaken Kirk, mentally assaulted by the pain of the vast probe.
"Spock, NO! Dammit, Man, that's what got us into this mess. What is wrong with you, Mister Vulcan? Tell me why exactly it takes a bunch of us barbarous Humans to remind you that cold-blooded murder is never a solution?"
"Doctor, need I remind you that this entity believes that we have murdered its child, and is currently unleashing its wrath on all we hold dear as a result?"
McCoy looked his superior in the eye.
"That's because we, meaning YOU, did kill its child. It was a horrible mistake, Spock, but one you can maybe make right. Tell that poor grieving fool why you made that mistake, instead of compounding your crime."
Scotty nodded in agreement.
"If we can end this travesty without any more killing, then should we not be workin' our hearts out to such a goal?"
Sulu refrained from openly challenging Spock, but his glare made his distaste for V'ger's execution very clear.
"Shall I fire forward weapons on the probe, Mister Spock?"
Q shook his head.
"Oh, no. Don't shoot Mongo. You'll only make him angry."
Sulu was tired of the intruder's comments.
"Why don't you go bother the Fantastic Four or something?"
"They never proved that imp was based on me."
Chekov could not bring himself to speak, though arresting his one-time mentor did cross his mind. Uhura moved to aid Kirk, who was still writhing in pain.
"Mister Spock, he can't take much more of this."
Spock raised his hands in front of him, aimed at the vast probe onscreen.
But the probe did not vanish. Spock stared at his hands.
"Q, have you withdrawn the power from me?"
Q walked over with his hands behind his back, slightly stooping.
"Spock, you killed the kid---because V'Ger was a kid. That out there is an adult. Machine or whatever, it can manipulate vast forces as well as any member of the continuum. Better than some-better than---you. Translation---you can't kill it. I'm not sure I could."
Kirk rose up from his chair, shrieked anew, then collapsed entirely. Q tsked the fallen Captain.
"I do believe our pal outside has just yanked Jim out of his body for a direct chat-and not a nice one, either. Doctor-I'd keep him alive while that's going on."
McCoy was aided by both Uhura and Chekov in placing Kirk on his back on the Bridge floor.
"Dammit, Jim---you won't be able to talk your way out of this one."
Sulu fought off several mutinous thoughts, and kept to the chain of command.
"Captain Spock---I suggest we withdraw as far as we can."
Scotty took point in seconding this.
"It may be all but pointless, but I dinnae want to be up close and personal with yon beastie if we could avoid such a thing."
If Spock had become detached from some concerns in his rise to Q, the need to calmly address the doubts his rash actions had raised was not among them.
"The probe currently has possession of the Captain's essence. We cannot withdraw until that has changed. Also, I must doubt our current ability to withdraw, as well as the usefulness of same. Q? Can you or will you aid me in making direct contact with the probe?"
Q shook his head.
"It really isn't interested in either of us, Spock. It has who and what it wants."
"Yet it rages over what I did to V'Ger. And you provided the power I used to do this."
"To the probe? I'm just a curious visitor who happens to be here. You? You're just the weapons' system that targeted its child. Would you want to talk to a phaser, Spock? Or the man that presumably ordered its discharge?"
Spock felt the rush of immense guilt. His dearest friend-his brother in all but blood-was about to pay dearly for actions he would never have ordered Spock to undertake. It was guilt that ultimately, he did not have time for.
"If I cannot speak with the probe, may I use my mental link to Captain Kirk?"
"Like the little black duck said to the wabbit : You can only do it *once.*"
"Once will, I hope, be enough."
He turned to his peers.
"Miss Uhura? Did we maintain a simul-link with Memory Alpha as V'Ger made his broadcast?"
"Yes we did. It nearly fried all hailing channels, but we kept up."
"Chief Chekov? Our Science Officer is down."
"I vwill resume my old station, Meester Spock, but vwhy?"
The Vulcan felt the urge to quip or demand as a Q might. It was not unlike having a third-or was it a fourth front?--in his long emotional war.
"When the time arises, I will need you to transmit a message to the probe. It is a message I have yet to compose, and it will be in a machine language I have yet to learn. I will need someone who knows my idiosyncrasies in giving such instruction standing by when this is at the ready."
Sulu's silent challenge began to rise at last.
"What does this involve, Mister Spock?"
"It involves, Commander, you trusting me and taking the center seat until either myself or Captain Kirk is ready to resume that role. I advise you to ignore the ancient popular culture references our guest makes, and while not disregarding his advice, take it with some trepidation and forethought. I did not. You have seen the results."
Q rolled his eyes.
"Oh, sure-blame the guy who caused all the problems. Great going, Spock."
Spock gestured, and Q vanished.
"He will doubtless return-I merely sent half of him to just before the very beginning of time, and half to the moment after it began. But I suggest you all use that time to run a full check of ship's systems. We may need to get underway. This larger crisis could easily spawn others."
McCoy moved in front of Spock.
"I won't try and stop you-even if I could. But one, are you up to this, and two, what do I do while all this is happening?"
Spock placed a hand on the physician's shoulder.
"What you always do, Leonard. Keep our brother well and fret logically over the illogical risks we take. You-may wish to inspect your office in Sickbay. During my foolish generosity, I added a piece of equipment you just may be able to use. And one last thing, for when Q returns-"
Spock transmitted a thought, then shielded McCoy's mind from mental intrusion prior to a few words before vanishing.
"Should I not return from all this-ask Jim to forgive me."
"You'll ask him yourself-and we both know he'll say he's already forgiven you. The only one he never forgives is himself."
Spock nodded and vanished.
A few minutes later, a bedraggled Q appeared lying on the floor of the Bridge.
"That was just rude."
McCoy helped him up.
"All burned out from your journey?"
"What a long strange trip it's been."
McCoy jammed a hypo directly into Q's neck. The entity swooned and fell again.
"When he's in this form and that weak, even he can be knocked out."
While all knew this wouldn't last long, the temporary CO smiled.
"Good work, Doc. Scotty, how's that systems' check?"
"Och-we're about the only thing in this quadrant capable of moving-but to where? The Earth is under all-out meteorological assault, and other places are nearly techless."
Uhura began to receive a possible answer.
"Mister Sulu? There's a Klingon diplomatic transport that has been disabled, just past the borders of Bajoran space, between there and Betazed. They are requesting assistance."
Sulu shook his head.
"Them and everyone else. Tell the diplomats we will respond only if they come under some sort of attack."
Uhura relayed this, then had to pull her ear-piece out.
"They---said-owww---that it was only because they were being attacked that they would ever lower---owww-themselves to request aid from weakl----from us."
Chekov locked Sciences, and asked the question a Security Chief might.
"Vwhat sort of attack are vwe talking about? Orions?"
Uhura gingerly replaced her ear-piece.
"They're saying that they are under assault by a group of religious fanatics attempting to kidnap their charge-a member of the Klingon High Council-fanatics led by what appears to be---a Vulcan?"
Sulu felt the exhaustion of completing one five-year mission and assuming another after a chaotic turnaround of only a month, followed by an even more chaotic day that left him in the seat he'd always dreamed of. But with a second maniacal Vulcan in play, his resolve still found him able to utter only two words.
In the firm grip of the enraged probe, the essence of James Kirk struggled to keep from shattering.
***Know the pain of losing a child.***
It was a pain well known to Kirk. So well known, the probe paused in confusion.
***You know our pain, yet also you inflict it?***
"Forgive-my brother. He didn't know what he was doing."
***Poorly have you chosen your brothers.***
Kirk saw successively the fates of Sam Kirk and Gary Mitchell.
"I can't argue with you there."
***Tell me of your lost child.***
Kirk didn't speak. He saw the newborn Peter, and his efforts to remind Sam that biology was nothing compared to nurture. He saw a boy growing, always delighted to see him. He saw a strong boy reduced to slavery by lazy parents. He saw that boy come back to life aboard Enterprise, engaged by his father's life amid the stars. He at last saw only darkness, as a message arrived that he would never see that boy again.
***Full of wonder. Born to fearful fools.***
Kirk nodded-or he had a thought of nodding.
"I was never there for him. Not when it counted. But he never stopped seeing me as something more than what I was. Even remembering him like this is worse than anything you could do to me."
The probe lowered its tone of mental voice to match his new companion's.
***I have no desire to hurt you. Both our children are gone for no good reason. Where I thought to find a barbarian, I have found instead a kindred spirit. One who knows my passion for exploring as well as that most horrid of pains. You who commanded the one who took my child will take his place. I shall show you wonders beyond comprehension.***
Kirk instantly knew two things : The scope of the amazing offer being made to him, and the answer he must give in response to it.
"No. For I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep."
***This thing you call civilization will fall within your current lifetime. The boy's fate will be resolved. The wrong will fail, the right prevail-without you. They do not need you. I do.***
"I have another child."
***Yet another instance of a brother's broken promise. Let him step up and serve as the girl's parent.***
"I can't count on people doing what they are supposed to. In life, I failed Peter by believing Sam and Aurelan would grow up at last. I failed him by believing my Mom had finally changed. In death, I failed him by believing the Hall would solve his murde---his disappearance."
***Then bring her with us. I shall not relent in this request, James Kirk. I withdraw my wrath from all your known space, save for that surrounding your home world. That I shall not do until you give in. A child for a child-and your girl will be happier here than she is on a world where she is not wanted.***
Kirk floated in a void, tormented by visions of a life of ultimate freedom and of happiness for the little girl he called his own-a torment because he could not possibly allow this, a torment because the fate of his world hung on his choice. A civilized advanced being was offering paradise as punishment for an act of barbarism, but it was an offer the entity in question would not allow to be easily refused.
Spock appeared on Vulcan, instantly summoning as well as informing both his father and the Council Of Elders of the situation.
"What is it you require, Spock?"
"Father-I wish to lift directly from the elders' minds the secret of a ritual so ancient, it has only been performed in legend. But I have since gaining this new status made several glaring errors. As Head Of House, will you make this request for me?"
Sarek saw that Spock was trying to avoid trouble for him and their family on Vulcan.
"I will. And I have cause to believe they will acquiesce, given the dire nature of this crisis. But there is great danger in this, Spock. Even with your new power."
As Sarek made the strange request, Spock caused another to appear before him.
Saavik was confused. Part of Spock ached to make a total confession before her. To finally say that he was in fact the Vulcan abused on Hellguard, forced to become her father against his will. But that part was kept back by another part-his ‘warden' personality, created to keep the secret of that violation from interfering with his daily life. Kirk had been right. That flaw and many others had traveled up the ladder with him when he became a Q.
"Saavik, know that your father loves you, and that he requires your aid. Will you give it?"
While technically true, this fell far short of what he wanted to say to her. Yet she did not hesitate.
"I will. If my father needs me, then that is all there is."
Sarek emerged, and while the Elders looked doubtful, their answer was a welcome one.
"Spock-you will be given full instruction via mind-link, in order to perform the ritual called by some as Fal-Tor-Pan."
ADMIRALTY HALL'S SUBTERRANEAN LEVELS, AN EARTH UNDER SIEGE
Komack lost the transmission.
"Rene West says the storms show no signs of abating. We're here for the duration-and we can forget about transporters."
Bunson stared around at the assembled Admirals and other high officials, disgusted. No one under 35 was anywhere in sight.
"I think I'll visit dear Peter till this blows over."
Cartwright looked around, and then struck her across the face.
"Theresa---most of these people, even members of the Order, don't know about our little secret down below. One way we keep that secret is by not blabbing it---understood?"
Bunson looked angry, but merely wiped her bloody lip.
"What does it matter now? If we release the brat, at least he'll kill us before we starve or suffocate. Brock, he has the power to stop that thing. We must protect the Earth. Lord Ghidorah can handle his enemy, after that."
Cartwright saw assent for this among those few who knew where the son of James Kirk was kept. He was about to make a roaring, rousing speech invoking the Order and faith in King Ghidorah. This never came.
"Let's do it. Maybe he'll be confused enough on waking up that we can keep him from simply splitting us in two with a glare."
Oddly, this would be one of a handful of times that high-stake absolutes forced these racist schemers and plotters to do something that actually was in the interest of Earth and the Federation, even facing the risk of death to do it. The karmic justice of this aside, it was to prove a moot point as they approached the cryo-chamber the boy Peter Kirk was kept in.
"Power's down on the chamber. It now can't be breached from its magno-lock, so he won't wake up physically, even if we tried."
Looking for once, sober, sane and very scared, Cartwright shook his head.
"But the psi-suppressors are also off-line. So his mind can go wherever it wants."
Sweat and other bodily fluids began to accumulate on and in and out of the corrupt Admirals. The most powerful mind in the galaxy could not be directed to save their sorry hides.
But aside from that, Peter Kirk was free.
The image of a teenage boy wandered through gusts and squalls not seen since the time of the Ark. Unable to see clearly, he gestured and covered all of Earth's inhabited dwellings with a shield. People inside them still heard the winds and water, and kept away from emerging.
"Uncle Jim? Aunt Nyta? Where are you? Why---why do I always wake up alone-and cold?"
A pinprick of molten pain shot through the back of his virtual skull. He recognized the power being used somehow.
Wandering through a planet rapidly becoming 100% covered by water, Peter's first thought was one his father would have been proud of.
*How can I help them?*
Q paced the floor of Sarek and Amanda's home.
"Something you don't know...something you don't know...oh, I've got it."
"You've got it all right-and they're made of brass."
"Platinum, my dear girl-platinum. Alright---first up-a woman named Elizabeth Grayson."
Amanda knew of her. She was a translator of such note and innovative technique, her husband took her surname in an era when this was still far from common, even with this man being descended from other Grayson clan offshoots.
"My grandmother. She left us just before I was born. Too young."
Q shrugged slightly.
"Well, she was manufactured in a slap-dash manner."
Amanda folded her arms.
"Do I need to call Saavik and Peter back out here?"
Q actually seemed anxious at that suggestion.
"Now, now---no need to wake Goku and Lucy right now, is there?"
"I wasn't joking about her physiology, by the way. The people who put her together weren't going for longevity."
Amanda fought back fury and focused on what he was saying.
"You're saying that she was bred and birthed Ex Utero?"
"Not to mention without the permission of the DNA-donating parents. Recognize this man?"
Q projected an image of a charismatic and very deranged speaker. Amanda knew him.
"John Frederick Paxton. A tiny bigot with a large following. A member of the Order."
Q shook a finger.
"Not really. He founded Terra Prime because he and the Order had a falling-out. Hmm---do racists and xenophobes argue over the furniture and what goes where in the living room?"
"What does Paxton have to do with my grandmother?"
Q slapped his hands together.
"Straight and to the point. Your dear Grandmama was born a genetic construct, created at Paxton's orders. Created in order to exacerbate Human-Vulcan relations, which Archer's first Warp 10 Enterprise made sore, with Vulcan demands to surrender the tech-enhancing ‘Iconian' cache going largely ignored. Created from the DNA of a Vulcan woman and a Human Male. Stop me if this is sounding at all familiar."
Amanda shook her head.
"That baby died. Everyone knows that. And if I were part Vulcan, tests would have shown it."
Q gestured, and a starship's sickbay from a century ago appeared, along with three people : A Human Male, A Vulcan Female, and a Denobulan Male Progenitor.
"Doctor Phlox---wonderfully fluid mind---figured out how to back out the more volatile Vulcan DNA and fill the rest in with cloned DNA from Commander Tucker. Mind you, important base pairs from Commander T'Pol still remained. Before handing the baby to the Graysons, Tucker and T'Pol named her for Tucker's sister-who sadly joined Paxton's hate group and who, right before her death thirty years ago, expressed her regret that she would never be able to ask ‘Trip' for his forgiveness, since that Enterprise vanished over Narendra Three during the Romulan War."
Amanda grabbed at her heart.
"I met her, at the dedication of the New Trans-Canada Railroad-her brother had planned to build it honor of the ancient ‘Midnight Train'. She---went out of her way to speak to me, and praised my grandmother's work. Wait-how do I know any of this is true?"
In the image, Phlox began to speak.
"...she will be almost fully Human, but have a proclivity towards things and practices Vulcan, almost without realizing it..."
Amanda sat down.
"Well, I asked you to tell me something I didn't know."
Q sat down next to her.
"But wait---there's more! We're having a two-for-one on awesome revelations."
"In Elizabeth Tucker, you met your great-grand-aunt-and now---"
He pointed to himself, and grinned.
"Say hello to Uncle Q!"
Amanda expected a punch-line, or a gotcha, or-any sort of qualifier to that insane statement.
It never came.
Spock gathered a ball of energy and placed it beside himself. As he re-gathered the transmitted knowledge the late V'Ger N'Sa had sent forward, he duplicated it and placed it in the ball, which began to grow exponentially.
"Spock-what is this energy construct? It seems almost alive."
Neither Saavik's question nor her supposition was off the mark.
"In technical, terms, Saavik, it is a virtual mnemonic device, meant to capture a transcendent portrait of V'Ger. In more esoteric terms-it is the gathering of energies meant to power a spiritual bomb, one capable of shattering briefly the gates of death itself."
The girl was maintaining a greater formality around one she felt demanded it, but even a pure Vulcan child would have been curious as hell by that point.
"You wish to restore V'Ger? But how will its transmitted knowledge accomplish this?"
"It will do so only in part. But that part is critical. On one level, V'Ger was like any other sentient being, made up of the life experiences it encountered. But on another level, it is a child of Humans. If you were Human, Saavik, and proudly returned home after a long journey full of new and exciting discoveries, would you not also wish it that one of the things you speak about was---yourself?"
"So V'Ger may be restored to life from his own recorded knowledge, a file back-up of one's own self?"
Spock knew her great test was ahead.
"No. The construct-vessel may be restored in this manner. But not what made up V'Ger. Not the part its parent entity wishes to avenge. We will in effect be resurrecting not the child it knew, but its undead body."
"Aunt Nyta read such a tale to me. It involved a Monkey's Paw."
Spock drew the ball down in size, refining it to hold the vast power now within.
"One would hope that our tale will go better than that one. In fact, I have secured the means to make it so."
Saavik closed her eyes.
"I am that means, correct?"
Spock's mind created a small asteroid in the space V'Ger once occupied and that Enterprise had now departed. He teleported himself and Saavik there, complete with a bubble of breathable atmosphere.
"Saavik, I will use this information to re-create the V'Ger construct---"
He breathed in, mental blocks or no. This was his only child, and the only child of his brother as well. For one moment in time, the caring in his face was open and apparent.
"-but you must absorb this ‘spirit bomb', what ancients on Vulcan called the Amad-Ik'neg-and draw into yourself nothing less than V'Ger's essence-its Katra. Then you must hold it inside you till all is done. This will involve pain."
Saavik at that moment chose, however unknowingly, to inflict pain of her own on Spock.
"I am a Kirk. My grandfather George served unto his death. Forensics at the scene indicated that my brother Peter did not die without a fight. I am tasked by their memories to do no less."
*Of course she would seek strength from the invoking of her house*, thought Spock. *But why can I not simply tell her the truth, and let that House be the house of my Father?*
Saavik touched the glowing ball and drew it into herself. Melding to her mind without touch, Spock attempted to re-create that which he had so casually destroyed.
Sulu had taken the ship out of the probe assault zone and gone in pursuit of the besieged Klingon diplomatic vessel. But on this day, the news only got worse.
"Explain that to me again, lady?"
The two had never clicked on a romantic level, but to say they weren't good friends cognizant of the other's abilities would be a vast and deep insult. So Uhura didn't spare the technobabble.
"The comm-matrix was still undergoing the upgrades I recommended in order to keep up with Admiralty Hall's micromanagement style. When this crisis-when these crises struck-a system not yet fully implemented began to show the strain. Now it's on the verge of virtual collapse, which is followed three hours after by true total collapse. Hikaru-relief ships trying to aid Sector 001 can barely talk to each other. Some have almost collided!"
Sulu knew his friends, and he knew his able officers. He would now lose one of both.
"Get to Auxiliary, Commander. Work the whole damned system yourself, to the extent you can. I know you hate this, but keep your body in functional stasis. There can be no breaks in this action."
Functional stasis was a technology hated by more than just Uhura. It meant that, every so often, a localized transporter would ‘wipe' her body of toxins and waste, and replace those with the proper nutrients and other essentials. The discomfort varied widely from person to person, except that it left you feeling both perfectly fine and deeply ill at the same time, and always made coming off the stasis feel like walking out from a perfectly air conditioned warehouse straight into the Louisiana Bayou country in mid-July.
"Aye, sir. But you get Saavik duty, next time she visits."
Sulu winced. He liked the kid, as he had liked her late brother. But she could be a bit much, particularly when let loose in a place like midtown Tokyo.
*Anytime she sees anything resembling a train...*
"Done. Now get going."
THE PARENT PROBE
***MAKE YOUR CHOICE***
This was the demand of a grieving parent to the Captain Of The Enterprise.
***I WILL HAVE IT NOW***
The cold hard fact was, said grieving parent had the ability to unmake creation, at least in a very localized sense. James Kirk, by way of his command responsibility, had wronged this being in a major way.
"You said you'd give me more time!"
***I WILL NOT PERMIT MYSELF TO BE ALONE. YOU MUST NOW AGREE TO REPLACE MY SON.***
"Maybe you don't get a replacement! Maybe, when we lose something as precious as a baby boy, we don't get them back! Surely a being as advanced as yourself...ugghhhhhhhhhhhh!"
***TASTE THE MEREST FRACTION OF MY LONELINESS--OF KNOWING THERE IS NO OTHER LIKE YOU, IN ALL OF CREATION.***
Captain Kirk had known pain. He'd had salt sucked directly from his body. He'd had his soul ripped out of him and dumped into the vessel of a creature who hated herself. He'd endured tortures and interrogations of all sorts. He'd even had his arm chopped off, holding it in the other while he bled and waited for emergency aid. But this was like having his core essence folded back like it was the skin on his face. His psychic cry echoed across parsecs and hit every telepath about the wider area like a phaser rifle on heavy stun put right against the head.
But there were three who felt it worst of all. One was the man who had placed Kirk in this predicament, however unwittingly, and the daughter that was both of theirs, though Kirk was the only father she knew or acknowledged. Both were distressed to hear his cry, but kept on their vital work.
But Kirk's cry also reached Earth. It reached the being known as The Rock Of Prophecy. It reached the son of the man being tortured. Call his power godlike, or angelic, or transcendent and fundamental, but understand this as you understand nothing else : Peter Kirk was not a being you wanted angry at you.
For though it's been said, many times, many ways, the classics always remain true : You wouldn't like him when he was angry.
The probe felt its force batted back from Earth, where the rains kept on because Peter had no idea how to stop them. For the probe, it was a lot like using a heavy gloved hand to squeeze a face into submission, only to have that hand seized, crunched and broken at the wrist.
***DO NOT INTERFERE! I WILL HAVE JUSTICE FOR MY LOST CHILD-----AAAAAAAAAGGHHHHHH!!!***
****GO ON AND CRY ME A RIVER. NOW DO NOT HURT HIM AGAIN. GOT ME?****
The probe felt its frame rock and shudder, all with the distinct hint that this was the merest fraction of its opponent's power. It maybe didn't know how to shut the rains off, but it knew how to shut the probe off for good.
***YOUR TERMS ARE UNDERSTOOD. WHO ARE YOU THAT CHASTISES ME SO?***
The probe would remember these words for the rest of its existence.
****I'm that man's son---and if you go up against him---you will lose. For I am nothing compared to him.****
James Kirk was not released from the probe's custody, but it was no longer a harsh custody.
Acting Captain Sulu moved to end this newest crisis swiftly.
"Klingon vessel--specify exactly what you need from us. And please--no talk about how much this disgusts you, or how you really don't need our aid---just the facts."
A Klingon officer indeed appeared on screen, with hair wilder than some.
"I am Captain Klaa, Enterprise. Can you use your influence with the Vulcan to talk him into surrendering our Councilor?"
Sulu had asked him to get down to business. He just hadn't expected it.
"Any Vulcan who would do this is not typical, Klaa. But we are prepared to mount a rescue effort. Are your transporters working?"
This man had to be the most sober Klingon imaginable, thought Sulu.
"They are, but the scum have him well shielded, by means technological and biological. I hope you have brought some surprises, Human."
Sulu looked at Chekov, who left to begin gathering the force needed for the rescue effort.
"We have at least one. A Shuttle as well equipped as the Enterprise itself was, prior to its 2264 refit. "
Klaa looked suspicious.
"A weapon to make war from the peace-loving Federation?"
"Or a tool to stop one. Do you need medical aid of any sort?"
Klaa shook his head.
"My men and I are uninjured. But a doctor along with your rescue force may be needed for the hostages."
"Our CMO will be on the launch in minutes."
Klaa turned as an alarm sounded.
"We now no longer have minutes. Observe our dilemma, Enterprise."
A signal came onto the Klingon ship, and was piped aboard Enterprise, surprisingly without filter, signaling anew the Klingons' desire to have this done without loss of life.
"Klingon--and now Federation vessels--another hour has passed, and still our demands have not been met. I fear we all know what that means."
The Vulcan onscreen wore a white robe, but spoke almost openly emotively, and to Sulu's eye, looked strangely familiar.
"What is this guy's game?"
Operatives of the Vulcan terrorist (and Sulu had as much trouble wrapping his mind around that as he did with the thoughtful Klingons) moved one of the hostages into view.
The man in question was a Klingon, and known to have warred on the Federation with great success and sometimes brutality. But his status as a military genius placed him on a par with Sun Tzu and Shran.
"My friends, General Korrd agreed to serve as an alternate hostage to the Councilor. He is a brave man, and he deserves better than this---"
Casually, the Vulcan used his weapon and incinerated the venerable leader, who refused to so much as wince as he evaporated before their horrified eyes.
"---but I cannot blame myself for that, when my instructions were so simple and so clear. The Councilor is now out of alternates. In one hour--no, make that two, we can afford to be generous---he will die, unless the following message is broadcast as far and wide as is possible :
Sentients, we face the end times, and change is coming, change that must be embraced as one would a lover. Change that will free us from all restrictions and recriminations. Change that must come and must no longer be fought against, but worshipped. I am called Sybok---and I am here to proclaim the reign of The Old One-what Klingons call King Death, what Vulcans call Gh'draeh and what Terrans call King Ghidorah---and who is known to all as the Ancient Destroyer. "
The one called Sybok raised up his arms and led a chant among his multi-species followers.
"ANCIENT DESTROYER, EMPOWER ME! HELP ME RESHAPE THE FACE OF THIS CORRUPTED REALITY! ALL HAIL GHIDORAH, RULER OF THE QUIET VOID!"
Sulu knew that he had heard enough a minute before General Korrd's execution.
"Sulu to Chekov? Is the Doctor with you?"
"That he is, Keptin Sulu. Vwhat is the vword?"
"The word is go, Mister Chekov--with both warp and God's speed to you all."
Aboard the specialized shuttle, Chekov looked at McCoy.
"Are you ready, Doctor?"
"What kind of question is that, you pup? I'm always ready to do my job."
"No need to be surly, Doctor---or is there a problem?"
McCoy kept a stony silence after that, but in his own mind, he answered the question Chekov had posed.
*Not unless you count my complete lack of knowledge of Klingon physiology as a problem.*
With the possibility of charges facing him should things go wrong, McCoy hunkered down and waited for Shuttle X to make its debut.
Amanda was perhaps cooler to Q's latest claim than any snarky remark he had laid down during his interminable visit.
"So you're my uncle?"
Q gestured broadly.
"Picture it. The Dawn Of Time. The entirety of creation is about a meter squared. Everything is so new, even Lucifer is still on the fence about that whole hostile takeover attempt--wasn't that a bright move?"
He actually calmed down and seemed in awe of his own tale.
"Events move fast right after that. That meter becomes infinity. Morningstar learns why his boss will always be just that and has to move to a smaller office. Creation teems with the life he opposed, and one of these races gets way too smart for its own good. But rather than smack us down, he let us dither and make our own errors. One of the grandest was made by my kin."
Amanda heard something in Q's words.
"Some of what you're talking about is specific to one set of religious beliefs on one world amid thousands. Is this all being dumbed down for my benefit?"
Q shook his head.
"Your own son travels with people who regularly find living evidence that many great myths of Earth and beyond have a very real basis in fact. Is it so much of a stretch to think that, just possibly, even the most primitive beliefs point towards a greater truth?"
Amanda's family was not anti-religious like the Pikes, but she had heard more than a little disdain for 'the choking dust from the revival tents' crowding out the history of reasoned thought in the great faiths.
"In fact, my family traces in its line many great religious scholars. People for whom faith was something to be fought out and examined--never accepted blindly. When mankind very nearly blasted itself to atoms, people like those were turned on by both sides. Those who disdained all belief said we enabled the crazies--those who disdained all thought not revealed to them said the inverse was true. So to answer your question--these mysteries are no longer questions the Graysons ask, except in private."
Q was not at all put off by the seeming sidetrack.
"What if I told you those ignorant souls were drawn to your family because of a genetic marker left on you by a touch from my family during prehistory?"
Amanda had been played with by Anti-Human logicians, upon her arrival with her new husband. As a result, she had become quite savvy to outlandish statements spoken as simple fact.
"If you and yours 'touched' my family that far back, then every Human born since would by now have some trace of the same."
Q looked at her with sadness.
"You really have spent too much time on this world, haven't you?"
Amanda actually felt awkward about that one.
"I thought that one might get you. The trace I'm speaking of is a deeply recessive gene in most. In others, it can be made to come out if the Q call to it. As it was in your case--by my brother."
"Just who is your brother to me?"
Q summoned and spoke through a voder.
"Amandaaaa---my brother is your father."
The banter stopped and Amanda grasped the room's oxygen controls, a counter to the thin air and withering conversation. She looked at Q.
"Speak in seriousness. I may not be a Vulcan, but I can't follow your chatter all around the cosmos--whatever else I happen to be."
Q seemed to almost appreciate this honesty absent raised voice.
"Certain things are truisms in enough realities that it is only when they are not true that we even bother to take note. One of these is that Amanda Grayson Of Earth marries Sarek Of Vulcan and bears him a son named Spock, who goes on to become the good right hand of James Kirk. Follow me?"
For once, Amanda felt she did, so she nodded before he continued.
"Good. My older brother and his family have been heavily interested in Earth since we realized that it would spawn the counter to Ghidorah. His daughter loved that world so much, she 'joined' with it, becoming the being known in many legends as Mother Earth, or Gaia."
She nodded again, even though his words had rung a bell.
"For reasons I'll explain another time, the Q have a very personal stake in stopping Ghidorah that goes beyond survival. When Ghidorah came to prehistoric Earth and killed the dinosaur that would have evolved to stop it--along with all the others--we became concerned that the back-up plan--a mammalian whelp of that dinosaur it might have otherwise killed--wasn't enough. So even though his own daughter had joined with the planet, my brother joined with the Human race itself, enabling the psi-potential that sadly only seems to come out in psychopaths like Hitler or would-be gods like Mitchell and Evans. He lay there dormant until John Grayson was born, and he became John Grayson--your father. It was in that form that it was the last time I ever saw him when he passed a year before you took in Saavik. Being so embedded in the race, he died a mortal death--but he had no regrets, having ensured that your granddaughter, destined to serve as The Rock Of Prophecy, would have some Q in her."
Amanda broke her silence.
"I can almost buy it--even to how you were going to kill Saavik once--you thought you were policing your own. But I don't have any powers, and neither did my father."
"Because he gave them up and you were never aware of them. Yet you have used them."
Q transported them to an airlock on the mining facilities on T'Kuht. Vulcan was beneath them.
"Who do you think has kept this naturally introverted planet from logicking itself right out of the Federation? When have you used your powers? My dear niece--when haven't you used them?"
Amanda was about to again counter his ever-wilder assertions when a thought struck her.
"Your other niece--my half-sister--became Gaia--or---"
"Good catch. The only half-sister you've ever known was one Jaia Littel--the same Jaia Littel who acted as guardian to the Kirks in their troubled times. You'll see her again, have no doubt. But now I have to say goodbye. Sarek will be here for the boy, and I have to speak with Peter before that happens."
Q pulled Peter there, and met his mixed glare with a smile.
"You need a pick-me-up, kid. Remember---this is not written in stone. But I think you've earned a peek."
Peter Kirk vanished as he had when Q 'punished' him, but when he came back, he was smiling.
The tired boy wandered back to bed and warmth, his cryo-stasis inducing a phantom chill in his body. Amanda heard the bedroom door close.
"Where did you send him?"
"Just---to someplace he deserved to see was possible."
Q looked about him.
"Like Jimmy, your gift is force of will, my dear. With love and patience, you can even make those two back down."
Amanda raised an eyebrow.
"Because I possess the power cosmic?"
"No! Because -- you're their mother. Even among the Q, a glare from Mommy means business."
Sarek returned mere seconds after Q flashed out.
"My wife, the arrangements for Peter's therapy have been made. Did anything happen while I was gone?"
To which Amanda simply burst out laughing.
USS ENTERPRISE, 2271
Klaa boarded Shuttle X at the rendezvous point with only two warriors in tow, both slender but strong men like himself, rather than the bulked-out masses some in the Federation had come to see as the new Klingon standard.
"I am impressed, Commander Chekov. This shuttle seems more space-worthy than many vessels on either side. But why would your people manufacture so compact and fleet a weapon? And please spare me the talk of how it is not a weapon."
Chekov prepared to make the most of this meeting.
"Kyptin Klaa--officially--these scans are not to be seen by your people until the next diplomatic exchange under the Organian Treaty. But I think you should see them now. They are sobering enough to counter either your bloodvine or my homeland's best wodka."
Klaa indeed looked over the device as the precise details of the final approach plans for the rescue were worked out by computer.
"Kzin build-ups in the Dead Zone? Huhn--a large and disturbing number, but that is the Kzinti way. I fail to see---what? Is this---true?"
Klaa had come upon the scans made of the Tholian sectors.
"Da. Is all true. The Tholians are cresting as never before. Their young queens are podding out new crystalline hatchlings at a rate that may be taxing them to their limits. The Tholian population will inside a decade increase ten to twenty-fold--and that is a blind estimate, Klaa."
Klaa saw his subordinates also upset by the numbers.
"I see. Those new Tholians mature rapidly, and will need 'living space'. Wars tend to be fought over such living space, Commander. I see then. A compact vessel for dealing with Tholian expansion."
"There are only so many directions they can expand. All of them eventually encroach on territory already spoken for. I cannot see that going vwell. Engineer Scott has joined his talents vwith a Starship designer named Aaron Sisko for what they call Project Defiant, named after the first Federation ship lost to the Tholians."
"Tell me something, Captain Klaa? Just who is this Councilor, and why is he so important that you tolerate and even encourage our part in his rescue?"
Chekov saw that McCoy looked like he'd been rubbed raw, and was combative without having been provoked by Klingons that to both seemed too well-behaved.
"He is, Doctor--the only sane voice among our overstuffed, overblown council. He alone sees our resources dwindling to a point that we will be reduced to scavengers, warring only to sustain ourselves."
"As opposed to the other kinds of war you've made?"
"Yes! Wars fought for expansion or glory, or the honor of the Empire are worthy ones. But if we move forward only to avert our extinction, then we ensure that extinction. Dread Kahless warned of wars fought only to fill bellies and fuel equipment. They are the wars that can leech honor from the very Klingon Hearts that birthed us, leaving us so wretched, Grethor itself will turn us away in death."
Klaa looked at his Human hosts.
"Many species cry out Death Before Dishonor. But we now face a living death without even the possibility of honor or redemption. If such times approach us and most of the Council is blind to it, then can Khiterah, The Three-Heads of King Death, be far behind? The Ancient Destroyer will make a harvest of the Klingon people long before he returns. That, Doctor McCoy, is why Councilor Gorkon is so important--to your people and to mine."
McCoy seemed to clamp down on something inside.
"Just asking. Usually, the animosity between the Federation and the Empire has us all shouting oaths and saying what the other can and can't do to us. I'm just an old country doctor, Captain Klaa. My loyalty is to my patients, and if this mission is as straightforward as you say--I welcome it with open arms and a few liters of good whiskey."
The Klingon Captain pointed as he went underway.
"Keep your embrace, Doctor--but the whiskey I will hold you to."
The shuttle departed at warp-speed away from the Enterprise, looking for all the cosmos like it was leaving to get help. After a short distance, it activated a scrambler so that the hostage-takers could not tell the scrambling from the shuttle's actual residual trail. As they approached the captive Klingon ship, a cloak based on sensors but not using light-bending tech was also activated.
"It vwill vwork fine so long as vwe keep out of direct view. Doctor---the Klingons and my own men are going for a precision strike. This vwill mean some of the hostage-takers vwill die, and not always pleasantly. Vwe do not have a timeframe conducive to your objections. The Councilor must be all our concern--him and nothing else."
McCoy bristled at taking orders from the youngster of his group, particularly pedantic orders.
"I know my job, Pavel. I've known it since before you so much as thought hard about the Academy."
"Then show that professionalism. Because before both comrades and allies---you look like a nervous wreck."
McCoy tried to bluster down the observation.
"What me, worry? All we have are psychotic super-probes shutting down creation as we know it and a Vulcan who seems not to have gotten the cable from Surak. What in blazes is there for me to be nervous about?"
With that said, the party beamed aboard the captive vessel at a point the small group of terrorists could not patrol adequately. McCoy scanned ahead of them.
"Well, this Sybok's a clever one."
"Vwhat do you mean, Doctor?"
"What I mean is, the people we're facing are all from varying species. Enough variety that no one technique or set of techniques will either incapacitate or---or kill them---with certainty. You may have to vary your methods for every opponent. Scans also tell me that they have embedded sensors meant to tell Sybok if their lives are suddenly cut short."
Klaa's second, Kalais, shook his head.
"That leaves us with no options, save to strike the Bridge and hope we can pull Councilor Gorkon out before he is lost."
Klaa waved a hand in front of him.
"No! If Sybok made all those preparations, then he has made one for that as well. We are lost."
Chekov gestured to one of his men.
"Nyet. Vwe are far from lost. Meester Bearclaw--show our allies how Native Americans kept the vwinning of the Western United States from ever being a simple affair."
With a speed that stunned the Klingons, Bearclaw snuck up on and seized the first interloper he saw from behind, his hand held firmly over his nose and mouth, till he fell unconscious but alive. McCoy disabled his 'death-sensor', and Bearclaw was on two more before anyone could blink. Klaa's second smiled.
"A good way of keeping an enemy alive---if you must."
Fast learners, the force had most of Sybok's force removed in record time. Klaa pointed up to their target location.
"He had three men with him that we were able to discern. I must allow for more. I also cannot believe we will retrieve Gorkon unwounded."
Chekov pointed to the CMO with his thumb.
"That's vwhy vwe have Doctor McCoy, Kyptin."
McCoy looked ready, but could only hope this was wholly true.
AUXILIARY CONTROL, USS ENTERPRISE
Uhura was a woman who worked in a position derided for what seemed to the ignorant a waste of officer-acumen, a person who spent all their born days saying what could not be done to an ever-more frustrated captain and crew.
*Yeah--right. And Peter is just playing an overdone game of hide and seek.*
Joking about the adopted son she lost along with her captain was not callous, but rather the fulfillment of her oath as a mother to never forget her boy, and to not let a day go by without thinking of him.
*But let's be honest, Nyta. This one has you stumped.*
The Communications Matrix for all of Starfleet and by extension much of the Federation spun before her on three or four active holo-grids. The separate matrices which made up the larger one were not aligning, and the assault of the probes could explain only part of this.
"Computer--separate each of the matrices into their component parts."
**Recommend against. Re-alignment after beta stage separation becomes geometrically untenable.**
"Tell me something I don't know. But they're not aligning on this level."
The separation began, yet offered no results she could use. After another warning from the computer, she separated each of those sub-matrices into their component parts, something her first Academy instructor had warned against ever doing unless you had Sam Cogley on retainer.
"Well, it just so happens, Professor....what the hell?"
She saw. She saw what even Mister Spock or Scotty could very easily have missed. A woman in a commonly-derided position that every wise CO treasured (and Kirk was so wise) saw what might have flown past all but a few of her peers, and some of her instructors might have overlooked.
"We've been back-doored. More than once."
She didn't mind speaking out loud by herself. This discovery was potentially horrific, and needed confirmation.
"The Federation's fanny--among other things--is hanging out for all to see. Uhura to Sulu..."
"Nyta? Whatever it is, you have my trust, and may take action based on my responsibility. Don't ask for permission you know I'll give. Things are exactly that bad up here. The second probe is going crazy...Sulu out."
She closed her eyes, and cursed two men who really did have that kind of trust in her. Out of need and for focus, she actually cracked her knuckles before proceeding.
"Alright, Sir. Let's let Doctor Uhura have a look at that fanny...and hope that seamstress Uhura can close up that hole before we all catch pneumonia."
And as the ship's other, prettier miracle worker did her job, she also realized that the nature of said back-doors was such that only certain parties could have ever installed them. This did not give her peace of mind.
THE BATTLE OF THE PROBES
Spock had done what he promised. In part.
This was not enough to comfort the screaming parent probe.
*Our child! Why do you further desecrate the child of our heart?*
Understanding what V'Ger N'Sa had been on a physical level had enabled Spock to recreate its shell. But that was all he could recreate.
Kirk tried to calm the parent down.
"He's trying, don't you see? Spock is trying to make this right!"
Kirk was once again assailed by psychic images that ripped him wide. The worst of these was tailored by the probe itself.
He saw a twisted altar, likely a Satanic one, from his studies of comparative religion. But the cultists were gone, their rituals spent. Only their victim lay in front of their goat-skulls and inverted crosses. The being had once had wings, now shorn from its shoulders : They had captured and sacrificed an angel. Three goat-skulls shifted and now had joined necks. Kirk turned the fallen angel over and saw his face--what was left of it. The goat-skulls now had flesh and grew geometrically. The Devil With Three Faces, The Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds, now faced him over the corpse of his Peter. Reaching down into his own gut, Captain James T. Kirk of The Starship Enterprise struck back.
"I was never known for keeping my mouth shut."
The probe now saw its child, vibrant, alive, and full of questions about the cosmos. This did not calm it.
"Don't you see? Spock is on the verge of a true miracle. All your thrashing does is threaten the shell he barely put back together. If Spock succeeds but you destroy the body, V'Ger will have nowhere to go back to. You will have killed your son."
The words seemed to give the raging entity pause.
*I shall give the murderer the time you say he needs. But for all my pain, so shall you both suffer. Earth dies now.*
THE BESIEGED EARTH-SEATTLE
Colonel Rene' West was a solid, reliable man, though he would never be called one of Starfleet's friendliest. He was by nature a spook--a shadow--the man who wasn't there, or if you thought he was there, you were wrong. Trained by James Kirk's Uncle William S. Kirk, he was a spy.
He prided himself on a brutal pragmatism. Clichéd though it may sound, he was the man who would do what he had to in order to secure a larger goal. He was the man you wanted on your side. His side was that of the Earth. At times this was as narrow an allegiance as it sounded on the surface, and at others, as broad and encompassing as all the stars in the universe.
But of late, the narrow had won out over the broad. Rene West served a dark grim master, and he did this of his own choice, although the choice was not a happy one.
"This is Colonel West of Starfleet Intelligence. Is anyone out there? Anyone at all? Because from here...it looks like the end of the world."
The force-fields that had replaced the rear windows on the legendary Seattle Space Needle now barely kept back the constant spray that assaulted West's eyes.
"Is someone there? I can't see you!"
The sound of the intruder was off, but indeed it was there.
"I got lost. I was with my grandmother, then some people killed her and grabbed me."
"Looters. Well sit down, kid. This is as safe a place as any."
The young man seemed not as certain.
"Nowhere is safe right now, Colonel. The Parent Probe has just unleashed a wave of energy towards Earth. It means to destroy us all."
West was not so flustered as to not note something vital.
"How could you possibly know that?"
"You don't remember me, Colonel? And after all the times you've passed by my coffin. That's what it really is, you know."
West's vision cleared, and the spectral image of Peter Kirk stood before him.
"It's funny, Colonel. You're not like the rest of them. When all this is done, check out the Hall's project on Ogasawara Island."
"When all this is done, we'll all be done with!"
Peter reached out and blanketed the birthplace of Humans with a renewed energy shield.
"No. We're not dead, and he will rescue us. He has a plan."
West considered briefly to ask the boy-entity whether he meant God or James Kirk. He thought better of doing this.
THE PARENT PROBE
The gigantic being felt its decree being resisted. The boy who had resisted the oldest conspiracy in existence and indeed the oldest being in existence was telling the grieving one 'No'.
*I WILL NOT BE DENIED*
**YOU WILL--AS LONG AS I LIVE. IT'S JUST THAT SIMPLE.**
*I AM TWICE YOUR POWER!*
**I DON'T CARE IF YOU'RE A MILLION TIMES STRONGER THAN ME. NOW STAND DOWN.**
*NO---YOU FALL DOWN. ALL FALL DOWN.*
The assault moved into levels that the boy could easily have batted back, had he time. The Probe was determined that he not have that time.
*YOU WILL YIELD. YOUR LIFE WILL CONTINUE, PAST THE END OF YOUR WORLD. YOU CANNOT WIN*
Instantly, there were no openings to strike back through. No arguments or quips to taunt with. As with the horrid night of his kidnapping, Peter Kirk was a little boy being held down and hurt.
But the Probe had opened doors that others, sharp and sage, knew well how to use.
***Whatever you do, don't give up.***
Peter heard the voice. The Probe raged at it.
*Who opened this mental door, anyway? I may not be able to use it myself, but I can shout through it. Can you hear me?"
Memories of a much better life, and a place where he was loved, assaulted the boy.
The man's voice was full of confidence and hope, and his words recharged a spirit too long in darkness.
*Whoever you are, you must be very brave, and I thank you for trying to save my homeworld. I can't help you, but I can ask that you keep right on being brave just a few minutes longer. Can you do that?*
For his part, James Kirk expected anything from a mild chastisement to a full-on rebuke, assuming the interloper was an entity similar to the Probe that held him.
But he could not have known he was talking to his little boy, thought lost for three years.
*I can do it sir.*
In space, those who were still capable of observing saw the red energies that had overtaken Sector 001 driven back now by a blue wave.
And as this happened, Spock placed energies into the girl Saavik as she screamed.
The energies suffused Saavik, and part of Spock ached to reach out to her, saying that her father was right there beside her. A stronger part kept him from doing even this simple thing.
*McCoy was right. Even raised up, I carry my flaws with me.*
But even the free rein Spock's flaws enjoyed within him could end up in a state of overreach.
"Saavik, you have the strength to do this. I would not have asked this of you if I believed otherwise. You are stronger than you allow."
Their eyes met, and the girl could see that Spock was in deadly earnest. This was enough.
"I have almost all of the essence of V'Ger N'Sa within me, Sre Spock."
Brother. She called him brother, yet the bitter irony of this had to be put aside.
"It will not wish to be released. Life is confusion and pain. Death is easy. Yours is to nudge the essence back until the body simply reclaims it."
The nine-year old nodded.
"In other words--I am to give birth."
Spock actually found himself embarrassed as a father would be.
"You are--a midwife. A hand for the pregnant one to hold while in labor."
"Spock--are your cheeks turning green?"
"Exertion, Saavik-kam--like that I undertake---now!"
From within an area of time and space well beyond most, and even iffy to the Q, Spock reached in and took an essence at peace away from that final rest. If one allows for the existence of such a remove in any form, it is also not hard to imagine that those who have achieved that peace are at the very least reluctant to come back.
Spock felt like he was reaching into a shark's mouth. Forces inside that place came at him, either in unknowing reaction to a breach between levels of existence, or in knowing rage that the last of all places had been breached.
"Saavik----you must anchor me!"
Whether by way of angry angels or competing physical laws, Spock was in agony, levels of pain deep, unique and very able to adapt to his efforts to bear this pain.
"You will stop!"
By force of her own will, Saavik drove back whatever was attacking Spock, and simply pulled the remaining essence of V'Ger into her, whether it wanted to or not. Keeping it there was another thing entirely.
"It does not wish to remain inside me, Spock. Before long, it will slip back to its rest."
Saavik could hold the essence, but did not know how. In his current form, Spock knew exactly that.
"It will not slip back. I ask forgiveness twice again, V'Ger N'Sa--but you will go back to the body you have known."
An essence that contained all knowledge for our plane of existence screamed as it gained back knowledge of two more things : death and birth. Spock returned Saavik to Vulcan, and himself to the Bridge of the Enterprise, where Sulu caught him. The Vulcan looked at Sulu.
"I am here--to relieve you---Comm--ahhhh."
Sulu propped Spock up and called Sickbay.
"Yeah, right. Sorry sir--said relief is refused."
THE CAPTURED KLINGON VESSEL
McCoy delivered a solid judo-chop to the guard's knee. He went down like a ton of bricks. Klaa puzzled at this.
"Usefulness of being CMO, Captain. You know other people's business."
McCoy forced a grin.
"Not everyone keeps their reproductive organs in the same place."
Klingon or no, the men all winced at McCoy's words.
Klaa turned his attention to Chekov.
"You're skill at thinning the enemies' ranks is to be commended, Lieutenant. But my men grow restless, and Gorkon's life is still in the balance."
"Is old Russian story--maybe apocryphal, but still a good one. Tsar Alexander The Second was reformer, like your Councilor. He too was target of an assassination plot. His loyal men caught and killed all of the assassins -- Da, except for the one who appeared out of nowhere from the one corner the exultant guards overlooked. Whether we face twelve or two guards vwhen vwe reach this Sybok, I vwant those to be all vwe face."
If Chekov's methods were too gentle for the Klingons for the most part, his battle-logic had a tinge of practical ruthlessness that suited them. Klaa's second again spoke.
"Russians and Klingons have traits in common, it seems."
"Nyet--I cannot see such a thing. No offense."
Chekov directed Bearclaw to set up the next part of their attack.
"Holo-projector ready, Lieutenant. Ditto on the signal disperser."
In the cleared anteroom, Chekov suddenly seemed to be seated aboard the Bridge of the Enterprise itself, his rank upgraded considerably. He looked at Klaa.
"I vwill play my part. I am also giving you temporary command over my men, Kyptin Klaa. They know this is a hostage situation. They know that the call for stealth and civility vwill soon be done."
Bearclaw, who had lost relatives to Klingon attacks, nodded at his superior, and then at Klaa. Chekov bid them go on without him.
"Remember--even the best trick only vworks once, and not at all after it is exposed."
Shielded from view by the holos cast, Klingons and Starfleet stood just outside the main hatch leading to the Bridge. Chekov began his bit of theater.
"Thees ees Kyptin Pavel Chekov of the USS Gorbachev. I am here to treat vwith those parties holding representatives of the Klingon Empire against their vwill."
The simulation included a viewscreen. On it appeared the bearded Vulcan from before. Chekov kept his composure. Had he known that his mentor was the half-brother of this anomalous man, it might have been very difficult to do so.
"Captain Chekov. I was beginning to wonder if either the Federation or the Empire placed any value on the life of my esteemed hostage."
Chekov made no pretense of almost shrugging Sybok's words off.
"Look about you, Meester Sybok. The very crisis you used to such advantage in seizing the vessel you hold is still ongoing. I am here to secure the release of Council Member Gorkon, and to further demand that you surrender and place yourself in my custody. You vwill find it a great deal gentler than that vwhich the Empire is likely to provide--if that even needs to be said."
Had Shuttle X not played absolute havoc with the sensors aboard the captive Klingon vessel, Chekov would not have had a prayer of pulling this deception off. Part of him still wondered if he had.
"Captain Chekov, I bear neither the Councilor nor the Empire any ill will. I merely wish my message to go forward. All this is merely a means to an end in that regard. A bit of theater, meant to engage the masses."
Chekov thought about what his Captain would say, but the words were still largely his own as he responded.
"I am fairly certain that the late General Korrd vwould not agree that your activities are restricted to mere theater."
"Captain, our greater galactic civilization, which is to say all of us, allies and enemies, will not survive the century mark---and that is by any calendar you care to name. My aim is to tell people to live in the here and now, the today--the present--because quite literally, there is no tomorrow. The Ancient Destroyer, the bringer of the final peace, is approaching us. All is done."
Chekov bit down at the vague, vapid philosophy. Klaa signaled that he was ready.
"I vwould like to beam aboard your vessel and personally conduct negotiations vwith you for the release of Councilor Gorkon."
"There's really nothing to discuss, Captain. My demands are plain--I want my message to go galactic or the Councilor dies. But I will be happy to beam you aboard--so long as it is you and you alone--when were you planning to do this?"
The hatch to the Klingon Bridge blew, and Chekov abandoned his deception, joining the others as the remaining terrorists were taken down. Chekov himself pushed Sybok over and held him at phaserpoint.
"I plan to do this in the here and now--the today, the present. For you see--I am vwery hands-on Commander--or at least I hope to be one day."
Klaa's second cried out.
"There is a ship departing--Vulcan lifesign aboard!"
Chekov reached down and pulled the beard off of 'Sybok'. Deception was no one side's property. The follower nodded.
"My life for him."
Klaa pushed Chekov aside and erased the fanatic.
"As you wish."
Klaa directed his second to untie the Councilor from the Captain's seat he was bound into. As one, McCoy and Chekov, unified by a horrible thought, cried out.
With the aid of Bearclaw, the second already had the device binding Gorkon off. Both brave men were ripped apart when the bindings exploded. Gorkon was not in much better shape. McCoy rushed to his side. He made a choice.
"I can save him--if we get onboard Enterprise and I mean fast!"
Klaa knew the limitations of his own ship's Sickbay.
McCoy in fact knew he lacked the knowledge to save so grievously wounded a Klingon. But there was still a chance--if McCoy only chose to place his own life on the line to keep his Hippocratic Oath.
THE PARENT PROBE
"That power will not long turn back mine!"
Kirk issued forth his disgust on two levels.
"Spock brought your child back. Are you going to waste the precious moments of that child's rebirth on a pissing match with another entity?"
"Do not compare..."
"Speak to me in a civilized tone of voice!"
"Very well. Do not compare what I do to so low a thing."
Kirk almost snorted.
"I apologize to every pissing match champ since time began, for comparing your tantrum to their honest sport."
The probe would be hard to talk down. Some might even call it for a hopeless situation.
"My child was violated and erased!"
James Kirk thrived on such challenges.
"Your child--calls to you. Your child is cold and confused. I, who will never see his child return, demand that you do this instead."
*Father, oh Father--is that you? I was warm and happy where I was, Father. Why was I called back to the incompleteness of life?*
The Parent Probe responded in the only way open to it.
"Because all prayers are answered, and sometimes the answer is yes!"
One parent turned to another.
"My child will need me again, James Kirk. I will travel with them, and learn from what they saw past the final veil. Yet I regret that I could not show all that is to eyes as wide and hungry as your own."
"Put it on my rain check. And tell your--our child--that Earth is very, very proud of what he made of himself. He done good."
Kirk found himself back aboard his ship, amid reports from all of known space that the crisis was abating.
But onscreen, he saw the disabled Klingon ship, and saw how many of his senior staff were missing.
"It's never just over, is it?"
Colonel West saw the energies put out by his odd companion at last overwhelm and disperse those sent by the Parent Probe. The telepathic/astral image of a boy supposedly dead now begin to flicker and fade like a real ghost.
"Guess I...overdid it, huh?"
Rene West correctly guessed that the energies Peter Kirk could handle in this form, while still formidable by any standard, had limits imposed by that same form.
"You saved this world."
"Hey...it was fun. Will you say hello to my Uncle Bill for me?"
West looked away. The boy nodded.
"It was worth a try. I guess the power's coming back on. I can feel myself being pulled back to my body. Oh--God. I don't want to go back to that place."
West responded despite himself.
"Most wouldn't, given a choice."
The boy glared, even as he faded. That glare was not the glare of any mere boy. He was as Pike once described him, an angel of judgment. Then again, West reminded himself, Pike had been somewhat deranged when he said that.
"You have a choice, Colonel. You may be one of the only ones that does."
Yet for all his pain after losing his wife, Pike had never served the worst beings in Starfleet. The boy faded out entirely as he stared out the window.
"The clouds are parting! No! Please! Just let me see the sun..."
Admiralty Hall would soon emerge from the bunkers that would never have saved them, and doubtless take at least partial credit for what the soul they held captive had accomplished. Of this West had no doubt, since they had used the climate of fear from Peter Kirk's kidnapping to whip up xenophobia across the Human worlds.
"This is the fate of a soldier, Peter. To serve in silence, watch the glory stolen by those who never fought, and then to be rewarded with a cold piece of ground."
But West now wondered if even he believed this, and whether in fact he did have a choice.
(The story of Colonel West can be found in Ancient Destroyer : Come The High Water)
SICKBAY, USS ENTERPRISE
Klaa was ready to pull his dagger on McCoy.
"You said that you could save him!"
McCoy was scared, but he was also not backing down.
"Yes, I can. But you need to serve as back-up."
"I am no Healer!"
While his interns prepped Gorkon, McCoy showed the Klingon an odd helmet.
"It's called an Eymorg Teacher. It can insert the knowledge of Klingon physiology I need to save Gorkon. Mister Spock--well--he gave it to me recently. With it, I can probably heal any wounds that leave the body intact. But it could also fry my brain. For my patient, I'll do just that gladly. But I'll need someone on standby to try again if that happens. Klingon brains have redundant arterial connections. You might survive it if I don't."
Klaa shook his head.
"Then let me try it."
"You took a warrior's oath, right son? Well, the oath I took means just as much to me."
Klaa recalled the last time someone had impressed him as much. That someone was the patient on McCoy's table.
"His is the only voice that even speaks of the people, let alone for him. In this, I will be your Cha'DIch--and I will consider it an honor."
Whether the Organians' prediction was at last coming true, or if two men of equal devotion simply found a point of convergence, the result was all the same. A few hours later, it was Gorkon standing with McCoy--with Klaa under intensive care.
"Do not blame yourself, Doctor. He has always been headstrong."
"The instant it seemed like I was faltering--he strapped that damned thing on. Councilor, even with it, I'm at a loss as how to piece his mind back together."
In a flash of light, Spock appeared next to them. He gestured at Klaa.
"Owing to the unreliable nature of the abilities I have been granted, I have only undone any actual physical damage to Captain Klaa's brain. For the rest of his recovery, may I suggest a great physical challenge of some kind?"
"My people have been known to enjoy those."
A rendezvous with a Klingon vessel had been arranged, and was quickly met. If the rest of the cosmos was in recovery from chaos, the Federation and the Klingon Empire had a rare moment of rapprochement, with Spock using what Sarek had taught him to make a connection with the reformist Gorkon. Kirk even noted in his log that Gorkon impressed him by way of implying that while even he did not want the Empire to change, this change was a necessity for its survival. When Gorkon pointedly warned the Federation not to see these resource shortages as a sign of inviting weakness, it all but sealed the deal for Kirk and his crew.
But after the atypical (for now) Klingons departed, one who had known Kirk's love and would always know his respect pulled him aside and gave him startling news.
"That many back-doors? And that obvious?"
Uhura nodded. She looked as though she had been through the worst of any battle.
"A backdoor in any system is always a possibility. The master programmer usually likes to have it around as a safety. But I should never have been able to spot it out, Captain. Which means..."
"Which means whoever did it, they were not the master programmer , and did it clumsily. Any virtual prints, Commander?"
Tired or no, she looked good enough for Kirk to have to remind himself that for then and there, they were done as a couple.
"Well, you're looking at one suspect, but I would have had only one backdoor, and I would have hidden it a lot better. I certainly would never have made one that could be duplicated so easily. Jim, you know your Defense Liaison before the UFP Council, Harriet Janeway? She's almost certainly one of the suspects. Some access codes were at the presidential level, and though I voted for Ydennek, the man cannot navigate his desk, technology-wise. Another door was opened by someone of high access and tech-savvy at Utopia Planitia."
Kirk knew a name there as well.
"Harriet's ex-husband, Aaron Sisko. Great-nephew to the ever-charming Brock Cartwright. Good man from a good family--as long as you only count Aaron and Tomas Cartwright, Brock's father. He served with George."
"Jim, if those two have this access, why does the Commodity have its own backdoor? Didn't Janeway's father found The Commodity, along with George?"
Kirk also sighed at the mention of this well-meaning but largely ineffectual group.
"Harriet denounced the lot of them a long time ago as a whiners' club. I wish she were wrong. Nyta, with this many back-doors open, what did you choose to do?"
She handed him her official report.
"I'm going to claim that the collapse of the communication superstructure was so imminent, I repaired what damage the crisis did without bothering to check its other possible origins."
"That's going to be a hard-sell. With any other officer or tech except for Spock, they could claim easily to be overwhelmed. But you?"
"They can always check my work---but that's part of the point, isn't it?"
Kirk flashed a smile right back.
"Permission to always and forever be impressed by you, Commander?"
His look turned more serious, and he actually checked around for anyone too close for comfort, anyone who might conceivably be in their listening zone.
"Nyta--if we ever had to..."
She raised a hand in the air.
"The lock and repairs I put on all those back-doors form a door of their own. But Captain? Know this. Not ever. Not unless you directly order me to, and it goes through the entire senior staff with a unanimous Aye. And it better be a hell of a crisis to even broach the subject. Because as of now, not even Spock and Scotty could crack what I've done to seal those breaches."
"Good. I don't want them breached unless we just have nothing else. By the way, Nyta? You were right about me and Peter. I may never completely accept his loss, but from here on in, barring some kind of direct evidence to the contrary, I know my son is dead."
She took his hand.
"Our son. A break-up doesn't change the fact that we held the heart of an amazing kid in our hands. I only wish it had been for a longer time."
A kiss that could have been merely friendly or hinted at a fire past and present passed between them before they resumed their duties. Spock was talking to McCoy, though their usual banter was missing.
"Doctor, I cannot help but feel that I played a role in this."
"Spock, Klaa knew the risks of putting on that teacher-helmet. He has a healer's knowledge, and now wishes to become one, the better to aid Councilor Gorkon. All you did was default his brain to Klingon-standard. He made his own choice. Your mistakes came when you had the powers---say, when do those get removed, anyway?"
Q appeared, looking not happy at all as he confronted Spock.
"I suppose you think that was really funny and clever? Hiding my halves between two primal moments in cosmic history like that?"
Spock shook his head.
"I sought to make no attempt at humor. I wished only to be rid of you and your misleading advice. That my trap had this result, I will not apologize for."
Q was about to snap his fingers when Kirk called a halt.
"Not here, if you don't mind. In Spock's quarters."
Kirk had made his request politely, and matter-of-factly, possibly throwing Q off or at least intriguing the entity.
In Spock's quarters they appeared, and Kirk again intrigued Q.
"Before you depower him--Spock still owes me a gift. Mister Spock, use your power to restore to life---"
Both the Vulcan and the entity were about to object when Kirk spoke the name of the target of his wish.
"---to restore to life Yeoman Leslie Thompson, killed by the Kelvans about four years ago. If you recall, they reduced her to a polyhedral cube composed of her base materials, then crushed her into powder. Now bring her back."
Spock shook his head.
"Jim, we have established our limits in this matter. It cannot be done."
"It was done for V'Ger. I order you not to relinquish those powers until you do this for me."
Q gained a glare on his face. Kirk surmised that while Q could take those powers without Spock's consent, it might be an effort he didn't want.
"Fine, Jimmy---I'll do it."
A moment later, a young woman in a twice-outdated (Q's power had changed them for the entire fleet) uniform appeared, looking badly confused.
"Captain Kirk? Mister Spock?"
"At ease, Ensign. I'll take you to McCoy in a moment. Thank you, Q---that will be all."
Q glared anew, till Kirk shrugged.
"You wanted to be part of the crew, right?"
Kirk, for his part, merely took the restored Leslie Thompson to Sickbay, the first step on her reunion with a family that would be utterly thrilled. Q sneered after the Captain left.
"What was that all about?"
Spock had other concerns.
"Is she the real Leslie Thompson?"
"Of course. And I didn't restore her to life. I simply reached back four years and replaced her cubed body with a duplicate rock, then transported her here. Timeline is kept safe, Jimmy gets to play hero to one that slipped through the cracks. Heh. I would have thought better of him."
Spock ignored defending his dearest friend. Another Kirk was on his mind.
"This was never about testing Humanity, was it?"
"Well, you were found wanting when you, you know, nearly broke all of known civilization? But that all merely confirmed that Humans should have a major project taken away from them and handled by the Continuum instead. Better for all concerned."
Spock shook his head.
"Not for Peter Kirk. But for your interference, he would be free right now."
Q laughed lightly.
Spock was not laughing--not that anyone would expect him to.
"I felt the waves of panic from Admiralty Hall. They were prepared to free their captive, to combat V'Ger. You transporting us directly to V'Ger ahead of time stopped them until later, when the boy's potent spirit but not his body was released long enough to stop V'Ger's enraged parent from destroying the Earth."
Q stopped playing one game in favor of another.
"If you had any idea how dangerous those two kids are...oh that's right, you do. And you treat both of them like crap. Spock, Spock--am I even talking to the 'real' Spock or that guardian personality you made on Hellguard to keep from snapping? Doesn't matter. You haven't told Jimmy his boy is alive for three years--why would you do it now?"
"You will answer me!"
"Fine! Yes, the Continuum is quite happy keeping dear Peter out of the cosmic equation. His very presence would immediately set certain events in motion. Those fools at the Hall would have released him in a panic, and then Peter would have told his father where he had been. Do you have any idea how difficult it is for a Q to enjoy themselves in the midst of a galaxy-wide civil war? So don't harp on us, the criminals who keep a little boy in a living hell--or if you have to---first look in the mirror. Look at the man, the logical man, who could free that boy with a few words to a man he has called his brother. The fact is, the Q can handle old ThreeSkull themselves, without comfort and joy from the Peanut Galilee."
Spock raised an eyebrow.
"Whole civilizations and clusters of civilizations have vanished from history believing they could handle the Ancient Destroyer. The universe itself provided these two extraordinary children. Whatever my flaws, magnified or merely brought out by the power you provided, I recognize their unique worth. Add to all that, Peter is a Kirk by blood, and my own child a Kirk by adoption. With the determination of that man in them, the ability of even all Q everywhere combined is in doubt, when it comes to stopping them."
Q snapped his fingers and removed Spock's powers.
"I know. But try telling that to anyone in authority. You broke a lot of things with this power--but you did in a very Q-like way. I'm giving you an official grade of----"
Q smirked as he finally left.
As the power left him, Spock began to feel light-headed. His extra powers had meant an effortless balance between the elements of his psyche, the knowledge he had normally and that which he chose to normally suppress. This effort was now once again costly, and he did not make it far past the doors of his quarters, after which Doctor McCoy was summoned.
When the Doctor made plain to the Captain what was required to help their First Officer, Kirk did as he always did.
Onscreen, he faced the results of that decision.
"Kirk, you will withdraw the claim you made to the news media! You are not to proceed to Vulcan. Rest and Recreation is not authorized!"
Brock Cartwright impressed a lot of people. James Kirk was notably not among them.
"Then authorize it. This crew is exhausted. They rushed into a crisis with an insane amount of fronts, and from helm to the galley, handled them all with skill, style and fortitude. We will either spend the next three months on and around Vulcan, or I and all my senior staff will resign. Following that, Commodore, we plan to form a private detective agency---our first case being what really happened to my brother's son Peter. Do you want that, Commodore? Do you want us out and about like that?"
The inevitable answer was given, and Kirk headed down to Sickbay. If the talk with Cartwright had been unpleasant, this one would potentially be life-altering.
"McCoy tells me you need help."
"Permission to speak was neither asked for nor granted, Captain. Normally, it is implicit for us. This is so far from normally, it hurts."
Kirk looked directly into the eyes of his dearest friend, a man more a brother than the late Sam had been.
"You hurt me, Spock. You hurt me by telling me you were ready to take on this mission when you weren't. Now, maybe your mistake with V'Ger might have occurred even if you had been ready for this--I wouldn't put it past Trel---I mean Q to have set this entire thing up. But Spock, I depend on you to be more at the ready than the next ten best officers in the fleet, and that includes everyone serving on my ship. You assured me that you were. Do Vulcans lie, Mister Spock?"
Kirk was indeed hurting inside, as badly as the day he was forced to bring another friend and brother low. That man had also made claims of becoming a god. For the record, Kirk had dropped a mountain on him. Though this attack was not physical, it was perhaps even more massive in its own way.
"I made a choice."
Spock now paid the penance for his sins of hubris, as both man and would-be god.
"I made a choice...to remain always at your side. The Enterprise is your first best destiny."
The next words came out haltingly, but they struck like a thunderclap.
"As you are mine. I am, and will always be, your friend. Whether facing the most routine first contact or some ultimate unguessed-at foe, I, born and suspended forever between two worlds, have at last found my place. To watch that place go off without me was, to my mind, body, soul, a concept that was completely and utterly...alien."
Spock reached out and took his friend's hand. The squeeze was the briefest imaginable, but as with most things Vulcan and most things Spock, it spoke whole databanks.
"That small bit of emotion we shared just now? That is why I killed V'Ger, Jim. For all his aspiration to prove himself to his 'parent' race, and for all the Parent Probe had shown him, he still lacked that. As I could not conceive of existing without it--I--I fumbled badly."
"I have two things to say. First is, T'Nia and McCoy agree. You've subjected yourself to too many mind-melds of an extreme nature. You also failed to acknowledge the cost of doing this, and to get the rest needed to recuperate. The one syndrome fed the other, pushing you ever more off balance as time went by. Because I bear responsibility for many of those melds, I will allow for your explanation without further comment, Captain--so long as you take the next three months on Vulcan seriously. No work. Meditation and centering, and sessions with C'Thia counselors. That is my order as your commanding officer, my terms for you remaining as my First Officer, and my fervent heartfelt request as your Thy'la. Tell me that this is known and understood, Brother."
"It is indeed, Brother. Jim--I wish to reveal at this time that you are not alone in disappointment in grief when it comes to that term. For I too, have lost a brother in the past. One I am not permitted to speak of."
"Well, there you are. We've both lost brothers. But we were also lucky. Because in each other, we both got them back."
With that said, Kirk moved to the second thing he wished to say.
"I've heard from V'Ger. He had a message for you."
Spock prepared himself.
"I am certain that he did."
"Certain, are you? Well, V'Ger told me that, while he had witnessed emotions like ours and catalogued them--it wasn't until the moments of his death and rebirth that he ever really felt them. You may have been misguided, Spock--but even in that, you managed to do good."
Friend permitted weary friend to truly rest, then, and walked off to record a very private section of his log--so encrypted, it would take Scott, Spock and Uhura to even realize this section existed within his already-locked private log.
"The Klingon Empire has taken the unprecedented step of thanking me. I made damned sure all knew it should be Sulu and Chekov they should thank. The Q I cannot figure--I choose not to try. As to the probes--I wish them well, on their long, long journey through the stars that are their home. Certain parties are bound to want Uhura's head for closing their peepholes--well, breakup or no, I have first dibs on that. Spock should make a full recovery---or rather, he had better. I don't see our lives becoming less interesting anytime soon. Scotty, as always, was our miracle worker, both in the engines and talking Spock down on the Bridge when the Q's power overwhelmed him. He is currently relaxing by designing future Enterprises with his gift, the Patient Spider Program. His terms for relaxation are almost as bad as Spock's."
"Yeoman Thompson is resigning from Starfleet and heading back home to be with the family who will be waiting for her on Vulcan. As for the Hall, they're sure to retaliate for my bluff, but I'd almost rather have their open wrath than their utmost praise--no strike that. I want their contempt. To be held in contempt by those who are beneath it makes me feel above it all."
"That may seem like a childish math game, but it is in such a riddle I have recently found the ultimate hope. Because if the Q can find ways to restore the dead, and if Spock succeeded in bringing back V'Ger, but failed to bring back my Peter, perhaps it was because you cannot resurrect the living. If I am right, then somewhere..."
Kirk breathed in, and said words that felt so good they made his soul ache.
"...then somewhere far away, or maybe very much nearby, Peter Kirk is alive, and he is waiting to come back to us. I, who has never been a terribly spiritual man, regard this as a matter of faith."
END CAPTAIN'S LOG - FINAL PRIVATE ENTRY, THE PROBES CRISIS OF 2271
And when the new year of 2272 came, the Hall did indeed retaliate, Peter Kirk remained their captive, Saavik Kirk remained an outcast on Vulcan, and the journey of the crew of the USS Enterprise continued, as did its legend.
Five years in, their adventure had only just begun.
2278, OUTSIDE THE TEMPLES AT MOUNT SELEYA, VULCAN
Sarek roused the sleeping Peter Kirk.
"We are here. Those inside will help you to recover."
The boy looked about him.
"She is at school, Peter. We will see her soon. But now I have a question. The Q entity has beset both Amanda and myself with riddles. I am told he showed you a vision of some sort, and that it calmed you. What was this?"
Peter looked back mentally at what he had been shown, and sent it into the mind of the Ambassador.
Two young people, now no longer shattered children, appeared on the transporter pad of the USS Enterprise. A proud captain, father--and father-in-law greeted them with a smile.
"Welcome aboard, Lieutenant Kirk---and Lieutenant Kirk. Or should I say--welcome home?"
The joy on the faces of the young man and young woman was only interrupted when the mature beauty they called Mother walked in and pulled the Father aside for some grim news. With their abilities, the two couldn't help but hear what was said.
"Jim--Romulus does not answer. All transmissions in Romulan space have ceased entirely. No signs of border activity either."
Two young heroes, having been to hell and back again together, knew what this oddity signaled. A firm and resolute look passed between them. They were ready to face the Ancient Destroyer of Worlds and bring it low, just as they had even its most highly-placed mortal followers.
"Dad, we have something important to tell you..."
The vision ended, and Sarek saw the boy smile, but then saw that smile fade.
"Will we get there?"
Sarek gave as honest an answer as he could.
"We will. Though logic dictates that getting there will be a challenge of the highest order."
Peter's smile returned as they proceeded into the great temple.
"Sounds like fun."
*Author's Note : It is confirmed. Writing a story about ST:TMP is just as draining as watching it can sometimes be. If all goes well, the next novella in the AD Cycle will be : A Journey To West Vulcan. - 'Goji' Rob Morris
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.