If Spock was the legend his treacherous former bond-promised had said, then the place he had beamed to was one of a few places he could go and not be immediately noted. A Vulcan might not even turn heads on Earth anymore. One seen in San Francisco or Paris would not even catch the eye, and a Starfleet officer was as one camouflaged by commonness. Even so, Spock's beam-in had been at an odd remove, so that even this would not draw one iota of potential attention. With Admiralty Hall in sight like a grim face peeking over a hill, Spock began a proprietary ritual of House Surak, taught by law only by Sarek himself, and then only to those he called his son.
"Kunlunrand'cage--I call upon the outward sweep. My mind is a thing unbound. Touch is a sign of savagery. The mind I seek is known to me. The mind of his father is known to me. He is of my house, though at a great remove. He is Rihannsu, and I seek his return."
Spock saw the sidewalks and the streets, and the concrete and the clay around him fall away to nothing, and his astral being approached the Hall. A man dressed as a Biblical prophet appeared in his sight.
*Beware those pillars of stone--they are filled with the dust ground from the bones of the living.*
Then, Spock saw in physical form one he could not have expected. She wore an eye-patch.
"That little animal took my eye! MY EYE!"
"Be calm, Mistress T'Pring. For you in turn made him wish he had not been born. The little beast's privates were reddened beyond belief."
A Vulcan in the most xenophobic spot on Terra. That Vulcan also being the most xenophobic of her kind.
Yet, he reasoned, it was no less logical than a social club for Admirals rising to become a rival to the CIC for control of Starfleet itself. A direct result, he told himself, of Human resistance to specificity. The Hall had no legal basis for its power, yet somehow it used that very fact to accrue power that no one could take away. So he pushed away the walls and entered.
*Don't go in there, Mister.*
Spock turned and saw the spirits of children, more children than he had seen since Miri and the Onlies. They were haggard, in ripped and torn clothes, those who had clothes. The older teens refused to meet his gaze, looking ashamed. One little girl bit her lip before speaking.
*Don't. The Bad Lady will get you. Then she'll tell your Mommy and Daddy she's looking for you when she's not.*
Spock moved forward, and heard mewling, cooing noises. The girl from before pointed.
*Don't step on the babies!*
The Vulcan saw the tiny beings crawling about the floor. One of the teens in a cadet's uniform stepped forward.
*One of them is mine, Commander. Admiral Kellick used me, got me pregnant, and then he sacrificed my baby's heart to the Ancient Destroyer. I killed myself right in front of this place, to embarrass him, but they covered it up. They--they have contingency plans for everything! You can't even slap them.*
Spock used a misplaced piece of logic to escape these unfortunates.
"If I am as a thing intangible, then the floor will not keep me in one place. I will sink straight through it."
It briefly occurred to Spock that if he were aboard a starship and truly had been rendered physically intangible, this thinking would be less than useful. But he was a mental projection, so this line of thinking was not long pursued.
The sensation of his friend and captain was all about him, yet it also led in two vastly differing directions. Power and presence that was both better hidden than in James Kirk, yet was also more blatant as well. More was asked of this one, yet the debt to his elders was twice as pronounced. He was more than what they were, and he was nothing without those that came before him.
"Peter, is it you?"
A light rose up from the floors below, and met Spock halfway. The image was as solid as Spock's own, meaning this was a living being, not a ghost as he had seen. The captive soul saw him, and virtually sprouted a smile.
"Mister Spock! You came to get me out of here!"
As though physical, the image rushed forward and embraced a flabbergasted Spock, who now knew beyond all doubt that the worst sort of evil beings sat near the top of Starfleet Command.
"Your ordeal is over, Peter."
A single corn on the cob was all the Captain Of The Enterprise could eat. His thoughts were literally constricting his stomach.
It was an inside job. That was what all his friends said. TJ Durant all but said that Kirk should invade the Hall, guns blazing. Matt Decker's widow said that she in no way believed that Finnegan was responsible for what happened to Starbase 50, that the Hall had been playing him.
"No. I refuse to accept it."
A creature bred for duty, James T. Kirk could accept that the sovereign was distasteful, or mercurial, or had corrupt aspects. But for Starfleet Command itself to have played a part in his son's death, too much of what he believed would have to be dead wrong. His thinking was flawed, but it was also spoke to the needs of a man who lived by and in ways was made up of his deeply-held beliefs. So while he didn't like the Hall, Kirk refused to call it evil. And so another nail was placed in Peter's empty coffin.
"I'm really sorry about your mother and your nephew. Are you all right?"
From his pain and confusion, Jim looked up, and then he actually smiled. The day had at least one bright spot.
"It's good to see you, David."
David seemed somewhat nervous. Jim felt it, too. At least with the departed Peter, he didn't have to pretend they weren't related. With David, he had to watch every last word, and at least pretend that he didn't want to scoop this boy up and hug the stuffing out of him.
"You don't mind that I'm here?"
*Careful, Jim*, he told himself.
"Of course not, David. I've always liked you."
But the boy was as naturally intelligent as his half-brother, and as apt to rely on the scientific method as Peter was to rely on instinct.
"Then why'd you leave? I mean, you left when I was really little. Then you left again before last year. Why do you keep coming back, if you're not gonna stay?"
*Ask your mother about her terms for a relationship, kid. Ask her about a deal that has me giving up space and her giving up--nothing.*
"Your mother and I tried, David. Then we tried again. It just wasn't meant to be. It isn't anybody's fault. I was just hurt by the death of my friend, Gary, and it made your mother and me think we could do what we couldn't."
David still looked skeptical, but now changed the topic. He pointed again at Peter Kirk's portrait.
"Can I ask you a question about your nephew?"
Jim imagined David tagging along with his half-annoyed, half-overjoyed, older half-brother, and nodded.
"Go right ahead."
David got a sly look, like a trap had closed.
"Why did you kill his whole planet? Mom says that Deneva Three looks like Armageddon hit. She's not even sure it can be terraformed anymore."
Of course, Jim reasoned, Starfleet would ask someone of Carol's caliber to look at possibly reviving Deneva. How David found out was a question, but then, so was how Peter survived his trip through Deneva's zombie-infested capital city. And why Peter was now dead.
"David, there was a plague. A plague of the kind you only hear about in legends and holy books. I didn't do what I did lightly. My own brother and sister-in-law became--monsters. What I did was not a good thing. But I had no choice."
David looked at him, and said some surprising words.
David at last sat down next to him.
"I know that you're gonna tell me about how I shouldn't know about Deneva, and stuff like that. But first you answered my question. Like I mattered. Was this how you talked to your nephew?"
Jim's heart strained against the simple truth. The truth that could destroy Carol's lie, and give Kirk back the son he was burying this day. But he had a good reason for keeping his silence, far better than Carol's.
"Yeah. He could go where he wasn't supposed to, though. He cried when I said he couldn't live aboard Enterprise with me. He beat up three of my crewmen who gave him grief."
David's eyes went wide.
Jim smiled, and breathed in the air of this simple, loving moment.
"Sure. He always ate his spinach."
"Was it at least cream spinach?"
"Nah. Light stuff. Garlic and olive oil. Tastes great."
Without warning, the gentle conversation took a grim turn.
"Was your mother afraid of you? Because I think sometimes my Mom is afraid of me. Like I might do something, or turn into something. What sort of Mom was your mother?"
The query had Jim stunned and silent. His mother, Brianna, was indeed afraid of him, perhaps mortally afraid, reflected in her abusive behavior. Just as Sam and Aurelan had so feared Peter, they made him the parent, the grown-up of their home. Carol had been beaten, as well, so he could not see her making her son endure that, and Jim had enough feelers out to know if she had. Carol's nature was to take control, just as Kirk's was, so having a child cater to her seemed too much like surrender. So if the boy was right in his feelings, then what form did Carol's fear take?
"What's going on here?"
Carol stood before them with folded arms, looking highly impatient, which to Jim always made her look sexy. It also made it clear that what Carol feared in David was the boy's father.
Peter's astral image looked up at Spock, still smiling.
"I knew that Uncle Jim wouldn't leave me in this place. I think its Hell, Mister Spock. They hurt me, and they laughed while they did it. They made me naked, and---"
The smile faded, and Spock knew that time was of the essence. The boy would break, if left too long with these monsters.
"Help me to find your location, Peter. Where are you inside this Hall?"
"I'm at the very bottom. Commodore Cartwright said he was taking me straight down to the pit. I don't feel anyone beneath me."
He would contact Enterprise, and go immediately back to Iowa. With the Captain and the others, he would find a way to beam Peter to safety, shields and safeguards aside. Then there would be a reckoning. Even T'Pring would fall, the loss of her House and station stinging more than a mere empty eye socket ever could.
"Await my return, Peter. You shall not be here long."
Again the captive soul embraced him.
"You're my hero. Just like Jim."
Spock withdrew, and attempted to return to his body. But a thundering voice, a twisting of his own, batted him back.
*Coward! Do you plan to do for this child what you would not do for your own?*
The mental image of another Spock appeared, harsh and unyielding as the Vulcan Forge.
*The boy is dead, as is the girl. Let them play together in the boneyard.*
Spock tried to overcome his mental warden.
"No. This is not Hellguard. I had no chance to save my daughter. But I may help my friend's son. He is a good young man, who believes he is in Hell. In many ways, he is. If I possess the power to deliver him from that place, and fail to act, then what am I?"
The other Spock, not an alternate personality so much as a mental tripwire, gave up not a centimeter.
*The boy's pain is no concern of mine. You made me to enable the shattered thing you were to rise again. I am the lie that permits the legend of Spock to go forward. I am the stopper to that which drains away the Vulcan son of Sarek. Because I exist and keep you from staring at your humiliation and destruction, no one knows that Spock of Vulcan was ground to powder by the Romulans, whom he knew of years before the Federation. You may not lie once. Your mind cannot stand the strain of rescuing the one child while leaving the other to die. Speak of this to Kirk, and you will be a hero residing in a madhouse like Tantalus. If forced to truly consider your pain, you will be incapable of even weaving baskets.*
Spock saw a young boy in a living hell. He saw himself possibly disintegrating beyond reclamation.
"The boy is strong. He will endure."
The clamps began to reset. He had no daughter. He learned of who the Romulans were two, not seven, years ago. David Marcus was a boy who had a nightmare. Peter Kirk was dead. He was Spock, the good right hand of a living prince of the universe, and that was that.
"Spock to Enterprise. Initiate transport back to Riverside, Iowa."
And if a voice in the darkness asked where his rescuers were, it didn't do so very long.
*Mister Spock? Are you still there? When are you coming back for me? You promised me you'd come back. Don't leave me here...*
David looked at his mother.
"We're just talking."
David's eyes shifted and rolled as he got up and walked away.
"Mom, I didn't tell him about my nightmare, where the Klingon was in my closet, you know? So calm down."
Carol didn't lecture him on his tone of voice, correctly gleaning that he had at least technically kept his promise. But her own tone now left much to be desired.
"Nice try, Jim."
He was too far into his grieving to cipher out what she meant, or to care.
"Nice try what? What invisible line have I crossed now, Carol?"
"You--you tried to tell him the truth, Jim. Go on, deny it."
He looked at her. He began to forget why he had ever loved her.
"Which truth would that be, Carol? The identity of his father, or the real reason his mother got pregnant with him?"
"Oh, that is low, even for you, Jim."
He stood up, and looked her in the eye.
"You've never seen low for me, Doctor Marcus. Pray you never do."
His anger was now feeding hers as well. Opportunities that were lost, chances that only seemed to exist. But ten years of silence were about to begin, and what came directly before that would be ugly.
"I think I've seen it today. Two of your family gone. David's sympathy for you at its height. Your phony call after the murders, saying suddenly you didn't want David to know who you were to him. All so you can sit him down here, become his pal, tell him your revised version of our time together, and what do you know, he starts begging me to summer aboard Enterprise. Mission failure, Captain. Mission failure."
The day had gotten as absolutely crappy as it could get for James Kirk. So he went for broke.
"I was serious about not telling him. Dammit, Carol, they're killing Kirks. David's best chance for survival is if he isn't one. Now, before you take your son and get out of my sight, two things. One--damn you forever posing as Nyta's friend, when you had tactics like pregnancy in mind. Two--David is my son, but he is not me. Don't fear him, or try to control him more than you need to. Bri, Sam and Aurelan could all tell you about why that doesn't work. If you try to pull away the thread of me that's in him, you'll tear apart the entire tapestry."
Carol shook her head.
"Tell me, Jim. Is this advice based on the stellar job you did raising Peter?"
He let her have that last word, no longer regarding Carol Marcus as an honest opponent. David looked over at him as they walked out, perhaps a bit angry that history had gone a third round on his heart.
A small voice cried out.
*Daddy? Daddy, help me. I'm in Hell, Daddy. Please come and get me out of Hell. Why am I in Hell, Daddy? I didn't do anything. Please, Daddy. I'm burning, and I'm cold, and there are demons laughing at me. Why won't you come and get your little boy out of Hell?*
Kirk awoke in his chair, not quite crying out but very startled. Thomas Sorel stood in front of him. Kirk had thought, however briefly, that Spock's father Sarek had come to pay his respects. The voice was that similar.
"A nightmare, Jim?"
"Tom? I hadn't known you were here."
"I was not sure what we had to say to one another. I do not blame you for this tragedy. Do you blame me?"
Kirk asked an obvious question for one who knew Sorel's secret.
"Could it have been the Tal Shiar?"
Sorel shook his head.
"The Tal Shiar do not know I am alive. They strike in completeness. If it were them, Brianna would be alive, but I would not, and they would have seized the headstone marker of Peter's younger brother Marc, as well, even though his grave is empty. The Orions would have mailed us Peter's head, by now, or a verifiable picture of it. The Klingons would have left him for you to find, with a message scrawled in blood from which they had extracted all non-Kirk DNA. While I am not familiar with Kzinti behavior, they do not seem the sort to laugh in silence over such a thing as this. So in the end, all we either of us has is the vague promise of your father's sworn enemies that they will find who killed his wife and grandson. I wish you well, Jim. But I suspect neither of us will sleep well for a very long time."
The next blow was a gentler one, but it presaged one ending to a long relationship of fits and starts and stops.
"Nyta? How are you holding up?"
She didn't push her lover off or away. But Uhura didn't look at the living father. She looked at the portrait of the dead son.
"Jim, don't take this the wrong way, but I need space. I loved that boy. I had invested my hopes in his future, and now he doesn't have one. Please understand."
He kissed her on the cheek.
"You were more a mother to him than Aurelan or Brianna. He loved you, and he was not alone in that. And space? Well, my darling--I need all the space there is, right now. Just pull me out of my pit, once in a while."
She caressed one side of his face.
"When we were kids on Tarsus, running from Kodos' forces, looking each other over while we sought justice, we thought we were superheroes. So why couldn't we save one young man we both loved?"
Kirk had no answer, and let her walk away. The final blow would not be registered for some time to come, but it would be telling. Kirk saw Spock come back.
"Spock, can I tell you something?"
Knowing better but doing it anyway, Kirk placed his hand on Spock's shoulder.
"I had a brother named Sam, but I never knew how broken he was by life. I had a brother named Gary, but it seems I perhaps never knew him at all. Today, I buried one son and had to accept that I will never be known to another. But again I have two brothers, and they are named Spock and Leonard. Life is getting too short and too cheap, Spock. So let me be forgiven in advance for saying this. I love you, brother. I'm sorry for violating your people's customs, but I am compelled to say it. Peter told me he hoped that one day, he would have your strength. You were his hero, as well as I or Uhura were. Through saying this, I honor his memory. Can you forgive me for embarrassing you like this?"
Some part of Spock screamed, to be praised so by the man whose son he had just condemned by way of forgivable weakness. But this part was not given voice.
"I find nothing at all objectionable in what you have said, Jim. And I thank you for it."
It would occur slowly, the rift between these two. In time, the girl supposedly dead would return, and Kirk would wonder why Spock kept her at a distance. Then, other questions would arise. Finally, the secret of what Spock knew and kept secret would be revealed. What followed would make even a surrounding apocalypse seem tame. A father angry that his firstborn son spent ten years in a cryonic dungeon for no good reason would exact the final revenge upon yet another brother whose pain he never knew.
His uncle Bill Kirk would see to all legal issues concerning Peter and Brianna and the house. So it was that at the request of one not a brother but always a dear friend, Kirk left his home in Iowa forever, stopping before Enterprise to see a small home in Scotland.
The engineer came out, holding a smiling little girl.
"This, Cap'n, is the reason I couldnae be with ye to honor the lad. Isn't she a treasure?"
Kirk smiled, and leaned close to little Jessa Preston, who grabbed his nose.
"She's an angel, Scotty."
Invited in to Hannah Scott Preston's home, the grieving father lost himself in a little face that knew nothing of mysterious death.
"Can I sing to her? I don't know anything Scottish."
"Go on. But only so long as it's at least a wee bit Celtic."
Rocking the girl, Kirk saw the boy, once a toddler, who he thought he would never hold again.
"Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling From glen to glen, and down the mountain side. The summer's gone, and all the flowers are dying..."
The adventures of a mighty ship, its legendary Captain, and his crew of heroes, would continue without the lost boy, and to see them, one would think the loss had been dealt with, long ago and far away. But while this was mostly the case, nor would it or he ever be entirely forgotten, right up until the day a miracle occurred. Yet then and there, songs of mourning came to a close as life went on, as life always does.
"...'Tis you, 'tis you must go..."
Kirk shed one last tear for his Peter.
"...and I must bide."
2278, USS Enterprise
Spock sat him down in front of the comm-station inside the Vulcan's quarters. McCoy stood by him, looking anxious but not unhappy.
"Would you gentlemen mind terribly much telling me what's going on? You said it was an urgent matter, but so far I'm not seeing it."
Spock activated the monitor screen.
"My father wishes to speak with you, Captain."
"Now, you just take it easy and let Sarek talk, Jim. And No, nothing's wrong with Saavik."
Kirk turned to the monitor and saw the Vulcan Ambassador.
"Sarek? What could be this important? Couldn't it have been done on the Bridge?"
"I fear not, James. What must be said here must remain for now a tightly held secret."
Sarek motioned off-screen.
"There is a young man here who wishes to speak with you."
Kirk wondered for half a second what a young Vulcan could have to say to him. But though the boy who came on screen had Vulcan ancestors, his face and his name left no doubt of why Sarek had called with such urgency. His voice broke as he fought back tears.
These were tears of joy. The boy spoke words he had waited for a hellish decade to say and to have heard.
"Uncle Jim? I'm Alive!"
For then and there, every question was set aside. For the worst thing that had ever happened to James Kirk had been summarily undone.
Soon, Uhura would join her man in welcoming their boy back from death, as would his crew, and in months to come, this would be a physical welcome, not transmitted words and images.
It was a happy moment.
"But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
t'is I'll be there in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so."