Near the Galactic Barrier
"Do Vulcans believe in deja-vu?"
Captain James T. Kirk, captain of the Federation starship Enterprise, stifled a grin at Bones' blatant attempt to goad Spock into a reaction. He did not need to look over to know that his first officer would have fixed McCoy with a single raised eyebrow.
"If you mean the sensation of having experienced an event or visited a place before, neurological studies have proven that it is nothing more than a construct created by the brain in order to make up for partial perception. Considering the fact that human explanations of the phenomenon date back to the early 20th century, I can only surmise that you are referring instead to the belief in precognition or prophecy. To which I would respond, doctor, that whether I believe it or not is besides the point. There is not enough scientific evidence one way or another to prove or disprove the theory."
"Damned pointy-eared devil," McCoy muttered loud enough for Kirk to overhear. "I ask him a simple question and he gives me a scientific treatise."
"In fact, doctor, a treatise requires-"
"Captain, we are about ready to launch the probes."
Thank goodness, Kirk thought, getting up off his chair and walking over to stand behind Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu. The Asian helm officer glanced up at him with a wry smile - McCoy and Spock had been at each other's throats even more than usual ever since the Enterprise's encounter with the Eymorgs a few weeks before. McCoy seemed to take great pleasure in reminding Spock that he was responsible for reattaching his brain, while Spock seemed determined to ignore that fact at costs.
Tapping Sulu on the shoulder as a show of thanks, Kirk looked up at the main viewer. A flickering, flaring pink and purple field filled the screen, the origin of McCoy's deja-vu crack. While he knew that McCoy had only brought it up to get under Spock's skin, the doctor did have a point. In their five year-mission, Kirk and his crew had already encountered the Galactic Barrier twice, passing through it both times. An unhealed ache arose in his chest and Kirk's memory flickered briefly with a single image: a man with silver eyes pointing to a gravestone with Kirk's name on it.
Shaking his head to banish the image, Kirk stared into the Galactic Barrier again. Deja-vu indeed.
"I don't understand why Starfleet thought we should be the ones to do this," McCoy said, this time from Kirk's side. "Do they think we haven't had enough encounters with this thing?"
"I think we're the closest thing Starfleet have to experts on the Barrier, Bones. And on the Kelvans."
McCoy grunted, but he didn't make any more unhelpful comments. Kirk looked over at Spock.
"Are the probes ready?"
Spock nodded once. "The prerecorded signal has been installed on all three and the treaty - in audio, electronic, mathematical and textual forms - has been carefully stored inside."
"And we're sure that their shields and other systems have been modified according to Rojan's specifications."
"I saw to it personally, Captain."
Kirk smiled. "Not doubting you, Spock."
"I see no reason why you should, Captain."
Rolling his eyes - Spock did seem to be more sensitive since the whole brain incident - Kirk returned to his chair and sat down. McCoy moved over to stand beside him.
"Do you think they'll make it?"
"The probes?" Kirk sighed. "Why wouldn't they? It isn't as if they have to survive passage through one of the most volatile energy fields known to the Federation, then make their way across untold lightcenturies of pure void before entering a galaxy we know next to nothing about and somehow navigate their way to a planet whose coordinates were provided to us by an alien race who a few months ago tried to hijack this ship. What could possibly go wrong?"
McCoy looked at Kirk for a long moment, then leaned forward slightly, lowering his voice. "You miss him, don't you, Jim?"
Kirk opened his mouth to say something, but whatever it was vanished from his mind the moment Sulu spoke up. "Probes ready, captain."
His friend gave him a this-isn't-over look that Kirk knew all too well. Well, psychoanalysing me is just going to have to wait, I'm afraid Bones. He stood up, smoothing his gold uniform jacket with his hands.
"Launch on my mark, Lieutenant. Mark."
On the screen, three brilliant stars suddenly appeared, racing across the distance between Enterprise and the barrier. Kirk watched them until they were swallowed up by the dancing violet energy, then turned to Spock.
"Telemetry coming in now, captain. The probes appear to have survived entry into the barrier. They are being buffeted by the energy eddies inside, but the modifications described by Rojan seem to be working as promised."
No surprise there. The three probes carried a treaty signed recently by Rojan, the representative of an extragalactic race known as Kelvans, and Federation President McLaren. The Kelvans, led by Rojan, had come across the void between galaxies from the Andromeda galaxy, looking for a new home for their people. As ruthless and warlike as the Klingons, the Kelvans had been determined to return home to tell their Empire that the Milky Way galaxy was ripe for conquest. Kirk and his crew had been the unfortunate tools Rojan had chosen to achieve his objectives.
"The probes are approaching the edge of the barrier, captain. They should be safely on the other side in thirty seconds."
After taking over the Enterprise, Rogan and his men had modified its systems to make it safe to pass through the Barrier. Whatever they had done had protected the crew from suffering the same adverse reaction as Kirk's friend, Gary Mitchell. Once again, Kirk glimpsed those silver eyes. I don't know what would have been worse, Kirk thought. Surviving the passage through the barrier and being forced to help those Kelvans or seeing another of my friends fall like Gary did.
"Probes leaving the barrier in five, four, three, two... All three probes have safely passed through the barrier, captain."
"What now?" McCoy asked.
"Each probe is equipped with a very small warp drive and enough dilithium crystals to get them to the Andromeda galaxy in about three hundred years."
"Courtesy of Rojan and his people," Kirk added.
"And they still won't share those modified warp drive specifications with Starfleet?"
Kirk shook his head. "It was clearly stipulated in the treaty, Bones. Whatever they did to make their warp drives go faster, it'll die with them."
"Still, three hundred years... A lot can happen in three hundred years."
Kirk had been watching the Barrier all this time. Now, he finally tore his eyes away. "Who knows, Bones. By the time those probes arrive and inform the Kelvans that we have an alliance with them, we may have found a way to get their ourselves." He smiled. "And who knows what kind of ship and which type of captain might be chosen to undertake that mission. I do know one thing though."
"And what's that?"
Kirk looked at his friend and winked. "It sure as hell won't be us. Lieutenant, set a course for the Halava system. The Medusan ambassador is expecting us."
Chapter Notes: The following takes place between The Original Series episodes "Spock's Brain" and "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"