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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.

"Spock?"

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.

"Mister Spock?"

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?*

7

 

VULCAN, 2278

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."

Q snorted.

"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?"

Q continued.

"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?"

Q nodded.

"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."

He smiled.

"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.

----------------------------------------------------

8

 

MEMORY ALPHA

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?"

Saavik understood.

"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.

--------------------------------------

USS ENTERPRISE

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.

****BACK OFF!!****

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.

 

USS ENTERPRISE

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."

Sulu nodded.

"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.

"My God--No."

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.

9

 

VULCAN, 2278

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.

"Go--go on."

"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."

"When?"

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---"

Q smiled.

"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.

"Thank You!"

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.

 

10

 

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."

Chekov nodded.

"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.

11

 

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.

12

 

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!"

*BE SILENT!!!!!!*

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.*

13

 

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."

West snorted.

"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.

14

 

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.

*BE SILENT!*

*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.

*I--hear--you.*

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.

"Father!"

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."



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