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Story Notes:

This story follows "Naked Truths" in my "A Trek Redeux" series.


9:  JUST EAST OF PARADISE   By:  M. C. Pehrson

 

Surrounded by the senior staff of the Enterprise, Spock sat stock-still at a briefing room table. Captain Kirk was in the midst of speaking.

"...and there hasn't been any communication from the colony since soon after Elias Sandoval settled in. Since we now know that their planet's sun emits Berthold rays, it's likely that all 150 colonists are long dead. Mister Grayson, what can you tell us about the radiation's effect?"

As always, Spock was prepared. Clamping down on his emotions, he spoke with the professional detachment for which he was known. "Experiments with direct exposure to Berthold radiation have been shown to disintegrate living animal tissue in three days. Given the shielding effect of a planet's atmosphere, one can expect, at most, an additional week before absorbing a fatal dose." Drawing a breath, he added, "There is no cure."

Kirk nodded. "Well, we should find out everything we need to know in a day's time. Mister Grayson, Doctor McCoy, Mister Sulu. You'll join me in the landing party."

After the captain decided on two other specialists, the meeting broke up.  Spock stood and was not surprised when Leonard McCoy's hand settled on his shoulder.

"Spock," his stepbrother said very quietly. "Omicron Ceti III.  Isn't that where Leila..."

Spock nodded and walked away.

***

The pastoral scene, with its cluster of single-story buildings, might have been a farm in the state of Georgia, where Spock had spent most of his childhood. But holding tight to his humming tricorder, he occupied his mind with scientific thoughts. If other thoughts intruded - such as how this sunlight might have glinted on her long, golden hair - he dismissed them as irrelevant. Years ago, she had left him to follow Sandoval here, and she was never going to come back.

Spock's mother would say that he must have faith; that the universe was unfolding as it should. But just now the universe seemed a dark and lonely place.

At his side, Captain Kirk said, "It took these people a year to make the trip from Earth. They came all that way...and died."

"Hardly that, sir," spoke a strange voice.

Every member of the landing party stopped and turned toward it.

Spock would have known the man anywhere. But here? Impossible!

Dressed in tan coveralls, Elias Sandoval needlessly introduced himself.

***

Inside Sandoval's office, Spock aimed his tricorder at the colony's leader. Though radiation interfered with its readings, the instrument was accurate at close range. As Leonard had drily put it, "Just as an educated guess, I'd say that man isn't dead." Nor were the other colonists, placidly going about their daily tasks - none of whom should be alive.

An alien plant with bulbous pods grew in a pot near a sunny window. Spock was turning his tricorder toward it when a door opened.

"Ah, Leila," Sandoval said. "Come and meet our guests."

A strange mingling of pain and joy seized Spock's heart as her blue eyes locked onto his.

"This is Leila Kalomi, our botanist," Sandoval was saying. Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, Mister Grayson..."

"Mister Grayson and I have met," she said, as strikingly beautiful as ever. Then her eyes lowered.

Sandoval went on to explain the philosophy of the settlement - a return to a simpler way of life with few mechanical conveniences. "Here we have found peace and harmony."

"We'll try not to disturb your work," Kirk said, "but we do have a mission here. A matter of examinations and tests..." He stopped short of mentioning relocation. "If you will excuse us..."

Sandoval smiled. "By all means. Make yourselves at home."

***

Spock stood by himself in a field of vegetables, attempting to make sense of the illogical situation. Berthold radiation in the lethal range. No farm animals and not a single insect, yet the colonists were alive and in perfect health. Why?

He heard someone slowly approaching, but there was no need for him to turn. The residual link between them set his heart pounding.

Coming to a halt beside him, Leila softly said, "I never wanted to hurt you."

It was pointless to deny that she had hurt him, and deeply. She knew him much too well for that. His face burned as he recalled their last moments together in San Francisco. The brilliant stars, the cool night air, the way he had pleaded with her to reconsider.

"I've missed you," she said.

Anger rising, he faced her. Why did she stir him so? "You made your choice."

"As you made yours." Her soulful eyes glimmered with tears. "I saw no way for us to be together. But now that you're here, we can stay together...always."

"How so?" he asked with asperity. "Nothing has changed. I have my career, and you..." He gestured at the field dismissively.

Rather than argue, Leila offered a secretive smile. "I'll show you how. Just come with me; it's not far." And she held out her hand.

Spock declined the touch, but followed her to an uncultivated field where a stand of pod plants - exactly like Sandoval's - gently waved in the breeze.   

"These plants are the answer," Leila explained. "They're the reason we can live here, without being harmed by the radiation. And the reason you can live here, too."

His curiosity aroused, Spock aimed his tricorder and approached the nearest plant. "Do the leaves have some protective property?"

"The spores."

At that very moment, a pod burst open and spewed its contents straight into Spock's startled face.

***

His communicator was chirping, but Spock didn't care. Lying with his head on Leila's lap, one hand holding hers, he gazed up into the sky. With all differences settled, their reunion had proved most satisfying. Never had he felt so at peace. Thanks to Sandoval's spores, the days of striving were over. He would abandon Starfleet and remain here with Leila always.

Once again, his communicator chirped.

"Perhaps you should answer it," Leila suggested.

"It will only be the captain." But from some fast-fading sense of duty he rose, drew out the communicator, and flipped it open.

"Mister Grayson!" Kirk said at once.

Now Leila was on her feet, providing a pleasant distraction as she caressed him.

"What do you want?" he answered with his eyes on her, smiling.

"Spock, is that you?"

"Yes, Captain. What do you want?"

A pause, and then, "Where are you?"

Going in for a kiss, Spock said, "I don't believe I want to tell you."

His lips met Leila's. From the speaker in his hand, an outraged voice snapped, "Grayson, I don't know what you think you're doing, but this is an order. Report to me at the settlement in ten minutes. We're evacuating the colony."

Spock drew back in order to say, "No, I don't think so."

"You don't think so?"

"I don't think so, sir."

"Grayson, report to the settlement immediately! Acknowledge! Grayson!"

The communicator slipped from Spock's fingers as he embraced Leila and passionately kissed her.

***

All over the colony, pods were bursting. Crewmembers began taking the fruitful pods aboard the Enterprise, and as tranquility spread, the ship emptied. Everyone wanted to join the colony - everyone but Kirk, who remained in an unabated state of fury.

Spock and Leonard sat peacefully at Sandoval's table while the captain paced about, fuming.

Hoping to calm him, Spock mildly said, "Jim, you need to accept the inevitable. Leonard understands. Why can't you?"

Leonard took a languid sip of his mint julep before drawling, "He's right, Jimmy boy. Stop bein' so all-fired stubborn."

Kirk glared at them both.

"Captain," Sandoval said. "Why don't you join us?"

"In your private paradise?"

Sandoval nodded. "The spores have made it a paradise. You see, Captain, we would have died when we first came here. We didn't know what was happening, but the Berthold rays made us very sick before Leila found the plants."

"Technically, they aren't really spores at all," Spock explained, "but a kind of group organism made up of billions of sub-microscopic cells. They originated from an unknown planet and drifted in space until finally drawn here by the Berthold radiation, on which they thrive."

Kirk focused on him. "How do you know that?"

Spock shook off a vague sense of uneasiness. "The spores...tell us. They act directly on the nervous system."

"You're describing an alien symbiosis. And you approve of it?"

Spock considered. Did he truly approve of it? He answered as if he did. "They need our bodies, and in return they give us complete health and peace of mind."

Kirk remained so argumentative that it came as a relief when he finally stalked out.

***

Spock was strolling with Leila along a creek when the call came. Strange, that he still carried his communicator. Hesitantly he drew it out of his bland colony coveralls and flipped it open.

"Grayson here. What is it now?"

"I've joined you," Kirk replied in a new, placid tone. "I understand now, Spock."

Relieved, Spock answered, "That's wonderful, Captain. When will you beam down?"

"There's some equipment aboard ship that we can use at the settlement. Will you help? I'll beam you up right now."

Spock turned to Leila and promised, "I won't be long."

Nodding, she stepped aside.

"Alright," Spock spoke into the communicator. "I'm ready."

The swirling transporter beam locked onto him. As he arrived aboard ship, Kirk stepped out from behind the instrument console, metal bar in hand. The captain did not return Spock's smile.

"Alright," Kirk growled, "you mutinous, disloyal, computerized half-breed! We'll see about you deserting my ship!"

For a moment Spock almost laughed. Then he realized that Kirk had tricked him. Never mind. Once the captain got out of his way, he would beam himself back down.

Kirk continued his tirade. "You should never have been made an officer! They should never have let you in Starfleet! No wonder your Vulcan father disowned you!"

Spock felt his peace threatening to shatter and give way to anger. "Jim. That's enough."

But Kirk kept pushing. "You don't know the meaning of integrity, and never will! You cheated your way through the academy! And now all you care about is screwing around with that blonde-haired trollop!"

A sudden flush of heat raced through Spock's veins. "Leila Kalomi is-"

"Nothing but a tramp! Didn't you know? They're all laughing behind your back. A half-breed and a-"

With a roar of rage, Spock attacked. Kirk leaped to one side, metal bar raised to ward him off. Spock ripped the bar from his hands and knocked him across the room.

Lying there with blood at his mouth, Kirk grinned ruefully. "Alright, Mister Grayson. Had enough?"

Spock was lifting a stool over his head, planning to crush the captain's skull, when confusion set in.

Kirk continued to smile. "I never realized what it took to get under that thick hide of yours. Anyhow, I don't know what you're mad about. It isn't every First Officer who gets to belt his captain."

Very slowly Spock lowered the stool to the deck. "You...you deliberately did that to me."

"Yes. The spores, Mister Grayson. They're gone, aren't they?"

Spock felt empty...and frightened. By losing the spores, had he lost Leila again? "I...don't belong anymore."

"That was my intention. You said the spores were benevolent and peaceful. Violent emotions overwhelm and destroy them. I had to get you angry enough to shake off their influence. That's the answer, Spock."

"Then the things you said about Leila..."

"It was all pure fabrication." Kirk got to his feet. "Come on, Mister, we have work to do."

***

The signal Spock and the captain broadcast over the planet was beyond human hearing, but served to irritate the nervous system. In a matter of minutes, fighting broke out and adrenaline flooded through bloodstreams, dissolving away the spores. Soon after, shame-faced members of the crew began to report in and beam aboard ship. Next came the colonists and their belongings, for now even Elias Sandoval realized that his pioneering group must settle elsewhere in order to achieve its goals.

Two days out from Omicron Ceti III, Spock peered into his sensor hood as he attempted to focus on the matter at hand. Though fresh from meditation, his mind kept straying back to Leila Kalomi. Until now, he had avoided those areas of the ship open to the colonists, but eventually he would have to face her.

He jumped as an announcement burst over the intercom. "Sickbay to bridge. Mister Grayson, report for your physical immediately. And no cotton-pickin' excuses this time."

Annoyed, Spock straightened and caught Lieutenant Uhura squelching a smile. His irritation deepened. Though he risked meeting Leila in sickbay, there was no way to avoid it. Leaving Lieutenant Sulu in charge of the bridge, he complied.

Five minutes later, Spock stripped to his black undershirt and stretched flat on an examination table.  Leonard McCoy looked weary as he studied the table's readouts, and no wonder. Providing medical clearance for 400 crewmembers and 150 colonists was no small task.

"Hm," Leonard said, fidgeting with the settings. "Says here, you're running a low grade fever. How do you feel?"

Though tempted to say "fine" and be done with it, Spock knew there was good reason to take even minor symptoms seriously. Alien contamination, infectious disease, and a threat of a more personal nature...

But he preferred not to think about that.

Taking stock of his physical and mental condition, he reported, "I'm experiencing some lack of appetite, difficulty concentrating, and restlessness."

Leonard's eyebrow rose and his face went grim as he stared at the readouts again. "There's something more here. A Vulcan hormone akin to testosterone. It's a little high of normal and steadily rising."

An icy hand clutched at Spock's insides. A deep shiver passed through him. "Perhaps a delayed reaction to the spores?" he suggested, barely keeping his voice steady.

"Yes, perhaps the spores," Leonard said gravely.  He picked up a handheld scanner and waved it over Spock's torso before meeting his eyes. "Time for some straight talk. Before we shipped out, Dad took me aside and...let's just say that I know what these readings mean for a Vulcan. Thank God that Leila's aboard. Now shall I contact her or will you?"

Irritated beyond control, Spock lunged up, snatched the medscanner from his brother, and hurled it across the room. He might have thrown Leonard next if Christine Chapel hadn't entered the room.

"Nurse," Leonard said over his shoulder, "send for Leila Kalomi."

"No!" Spock objected, his hands balled into fists.  

Chapel hurriedly left the scene.

Once more it was just the two of them, and Leonard was not backing down. "Look at yourself. And this is only the beginning. What'll happen when things really heat up? A sedative might help, but I suggest you take care of business and take care of it fast. I can tell Jim that it's a "Vulcan thing" and you need some time off with your lady friend."

***

Even with sedation, Spock was nervous. The condition he had feared since the age of fifteen was at long last becoming a reality. On Omicron Ceti III, making love to Leila had seemed as natural as in the days before she left with Sandoval. Now, with his hormones in turmoil, he could scarcely bring himself to look at her.

Leila stood quietly waiting for him to speak. Hurt evident on her lovely face, she finally said, "You never came back."

"I did not know what to say," he conceded. "Everything has changed."

Her head bowed. "All that time at the colony wasted. We accomplished nothing."

"Sandoval will establish another." And Spock dared to ask, "You will be joining him?"

She nodded and his heart went heavy. It was just as he had thought. Once again, she would go her way and he would go his.

The trembling began anew.

"What is it?" she asked, suddenly wide-eyed. "I...I can feel that something's wrong."

It was so like her very first words to him at Caltech. Instinctively he moved closer. The tips of his fingers brushed her cheek, further opening a connection between them.

"You still love me," she whispered, surprised and perhaps even pleased?

"Was it not you who left me?" he reminded her. "I always intended for us to marry, even if it meant lengthy separations. I haven't changed in that regard." Losing himself in her tender gaze, he asked, "Have you?"

Leila's arms encircled his neck and drew him into an embrace. For now it was answer enough, but he would not go to her without first disclosing the reason for his present need. And so, in halting phrases, he revealed all that he knew of pon farr.

***

Leonard was plucking a speck of lint from Spock's dress uniform when Spock brought himself to say it. "I must admit that you were correct in your assessment of the situation...and I was wrong. Had I not spoken to Leila..."

Leonard's hand went still, and his lips stirred into a lazy smile. "Well, thank you for that, brother." Growing serious, he lowered his arm and adjusted his own matching blue dress uniform. "I just hope and pray that your marriage turns out better than mine did."

"Indeed," Spock concurred, adding logically, "But since Leila and I will seldom be together, we will have little opportunity to argue."

Leonard loosed an ironic chuckle. "Oh, believe me, you don't have to be on the same planet in order to argue. Or even in the same solar system."

Music filtered in from the adjacent chapel, a predetermined signal that all was ready. Drawing a deep breath, Spock entered the chapel with his "best man". Every seat was filled, with still more crew members and colonists thronging the room's perimeter. Spock saw his captain in the front row. They exchanged a brief smile as Spock and Leonard went to stand near the chaplain.

The music changed to a classical wedding march. The main chapel door opened, admitting Leila on the arm of Elias Sandoval.

Spock curbed a residual stab of pon farr possessiveness by reminding himself that her heart belonged only to him. She was resplendent in a cream gown from the ship's fabricator. Her hair glinted like gold beneath a circlet of blue and white blossoms. Their eyes met, and all the universe seemed to fade away. As from a distance he heard the music come to an end, and then the chaplain's voice.

Both he and Leila responded with the traditional vows she had chosen.

"I, Spock, take thee, Leila, to be my lawfully wedded wife..."

"I, Leila, take thee, Spock, to be my lawfully wedded husband..."

Plain golden rings were exchanged, and then a kiss. Applause burst forth, followed by more music as they exited in a shower of rice.

A reception was held in the officer's mess, complete with a layered wedding cake and Rigelian champagne. Spock indulged sparingly, since refined sugar converted to alcohol in his system. Captain Kirk and a few others proposed amusing "toasts", and there were also some gifts of a humorous nature. One by one, the guests went off to their duties or pastimes, leaving only Spock, Leila, and Leonard.

Smiling mysteriously, Leonard offered a small, colorfully wrapped package to Spock and said, "I got the idea for this a couple of days ago, after I gave you two your follow-up exams."

Knowing his brother's penchant for "practical jokes", Spock cautiously accepted the gift and slowly began to open it.

Leonard's smile broadened to a grin as Spock peeled back the paper, revealing some sort of harmless-looking needlework.

"Hand-knitted by a lady colonist," the doctor boasted. "Just like in the olden days."

With a gasp, Leila reached over and drew out two miniature blue socks. Spock watched in puzzlement as she gave her new brother-in-law a swift, ardent hug. Then she threw her arms around Spock, unleashing waves of feminine joy.

Suddenly the situation became abundantly clear.

Spock's jaw dropped and his heart rate increased.

"They were fruitful and multiplied," Leonard murmured and walked out, leaving them some privacy in which to celebrate the coming of their son.

 

oooOOooo


Chapter End Notes:

Next in the series, "Journey". 


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