(From Visions of Future Past,Spock ended the log entry and turned to Uhura. “Uhura, contact Sickbay.”
Classic Trek anthology by Gamin Davis, 1992)
TOS/AU, S/Ch, K & S, Mc; H/C, angst – Rated PG
A Rose Amongst the Ashes
By Gamin Davis
A deceptively Earth-like blue sky rose, cloudless, over a jungle-covered terrain -- an endless, green, tropical environment broken only by overflowing streams and rivers and dotted with flowers, blooming in an incredible array of colors, most of which were as big as a man’s head. The only apparent animal life seemed to consist of birds, which chirped away unseen in the upper branches of the trees, which rose skyward to Olympian heights. The landscape, however, was of secondary importance to the three men who were making their way slowly through the dense underbrush. They were presently engaged in a ‘discussion’.
“God forbid that I should ever agree with Spock, but this time he’s right,” McCoy was saying. “Why is it, Jim, that every time we’re on a dangerous mission, you insist on coming along yourself?”
“All missions are potentially dangerous, Doctor; you know that,” Kirk responded quietly. “Which brings up another point: I notice that nobody had to force you into coming.”
“Any landing party needs a physician.”
Spock finally got into the conversation. “It still does not follow that your presence is required, Dr. McCoy. Anyone from your department could have fulfilled the medical requirements for this mission. Neither a Captain nor Chief Medical Officer are to be considered expendable personnel—”
“Oh, Spock, don’t start quoting regulations again,” McCoy interrupted, obviously annoyed and making no attempt to hide it.
At last they reached a clearing, and Kirk decided enough was enough. “All right, all right, you two. Let's put a stop to this bickering and get on with the mission,” he chided, raising his voice a little.
The mission was the Enterprise’s first since leaving Earth after being in orbital drydock for two years (not counting their dealings with V’ger). Some years ago, an expeditionary force had been sent to
the planet Alaar to explore it and report back with their findings to the Federation...then, suddenly, their transmissions had stopped a few months ago. Now Starfleet had sent the Enterprise to investigate their silence.
The three wandered around the clearing, though what it was they were looking for was unclear. McCoy knelt to examine a large, pink flower, then turned to Kirk. “This place is incredible, Jim--like a tropical rainforest back on Earth,” he commented.
Kirk joined him, but remained standing. “You won’t find any flowers like that on Earth,” he pointed out, then looked around for Spock. “What do you make of all this, Spock?”
The Vulcan was walking around, aiming his tricorder at things. “Interesting, Captain. Abundant plant life, but no fauna at all...except for the birds,” Spock replied.
“Well, something is responsible for Starfleet losing contact with that expeditionary force, and I don’t think it’s the birds,” Kirk concluded warily, looking around the clearing as if expecting something to sud- denly jump into view and take the blame (or credit) for whatever had happened to the previous expedition. “Adjust your tricorder to a wider scanning range,” he ordered. Spock complied silently. “How far have we come?” Kirk asked then.
“Approximately three kilometers from the beamdown point,” Spock answered.
“Well, now what?” McCoy asked.
“Let’s keep going until we find something, Bones.”
“Same direction, Jim?”
They hadn’t gone far when they noticed the underbrush beginning to thin out. Soon they came into an area where it had been beaten down sufficiently that moving around was relatively easy. This area was a little over two meters wide and extended indefinitely in a curving and winding fashion to either side of them.
“A path, Spock?” Kirk had intended to make it an observation, but his puzzlement at the size of the beaten-down area turned it into a question...for the damage extended several meters up into the trees as well.
“Apparently, Captain,” Spock confirmed, aiming his tricorder up and down the path in various directions.
McCoy stared up at the surrounding trees, most of which looked as if some large, carnivorous animal had chewed pieces out of the lower sections of the trunks. “Look at the trees, Jim.”
Kirk nodded, indicating the underbrush. “All the undergrowth is trampled, too,” he added, joining McCoy in visually scanning the area and trying to imagine what kind of creature could have caused such damage.
“What the devil could have done this?” McCoy asked rhetorically, finally voicing the curiosity he and Kirk shared.
Spock realized he could come no closer to explaining it than Kirk or McCoy. “Totally illogical,” he commented finally.
“I was wondering how long it would be before you said that,” McCoy quipped.
Spock chose to ignore him. He had turned away and was looking off down the path to the right, holding his tricorder out in front of him. “Tricorder readings indicate some sort of activity approximately
a kilometer away in that direction,” he announced, turning back to Kirk.
“Let’s go,” Kirk directed in response, then the trio headed off down the path with Spock in the lead.
They continued along the path, alternately walking, climbing or crawling, as the condition of the underbrush indicated, for perhaps an hour, without talking. At last, however, it occurred to Kirk that they must surely have come a kilometer by now. “Well, Spock? What happened to all that activity you were picking up?”
Spock looked around as he answered Kirk, clearly as confounded as his Captain. “Unknown, Captain.”
Kirk perceived the suggestion of puzzlement in Spock’s manner, though the Vulcan’s face was expressionless. “You seem confused, Spock,” he observed.
“I am...mildly puzzled,” Spock responded carefully.
“You admit that?” McCoy asked incredulously.
“With reluctance, Doctor.”
“What puzzles you?” Kirk asked.
“Whatever creature made this path is obviously too large to move in any direction in a jungle as dense as this without making another such path. And it also seems too large to move down the path we are following rapidly enough to be out of our sight now,” Spock explained.
“Maybe it’s unusually agile,” Kirk suggested.
“Well, at any rate, it seems Spock was wrong: there is animal life here,” McCoy concluded, throw- ing Spock a look and waiting for him to deny he could ever be wrong about anything.
Spock, however, merely cocked an eyebrow at him and said, “Perhaps. But I suggest you restrain your sense of triumph at finding me to be mistaken until we actually encounter such animal life.”
“We don’t have much information on this planet. The reports of the expeditionary force dealt mainly with the climate and plant life. I just skimmed through the tapes, but don’t recall any mention of animals,” Kirk told them.
“I had an opportunity to review the reports much more extensively, Captain, and you are correct—
no animal life was reported, nor any intelligent life,” Spock confirmed. “Nonetheless, we have seen some evidence to the contrary; I advise caution.”
Then they were on the move again, cautiously making their way along the path and hopefully drawing closer to whatever forms of animal life might be indigenous to Alaar. They had rounded two
turns in the path when they suddenly came up against an obstruction: almost a wall, but closer to a sheet
of thickness, it was composed of interwoven silver-gray strands. The three men exchanged startled looks.
“Spock, is that what it looks like?” asked Kirk.
Spock moved his tricorder slowly over the web-like surface. “Yes. A network of adhesive, fibrous strands, interwoven in such a way as to make escape impossible for any life-form that might attempt to pass through it.”
“It’s a spider web,” McCoy concluded, looking more closely at it.
Spock raised an eyebrow at him. “It is a web, Doctor. Considering its size, however, I think it highly unlikely that it could have been constructed by a common arachnid of the type you are familiar with on Earth. The strands are too thick and woven too densely,” he observed quietly.
“Well, can we get through it without getting stuck?” Kirk wanted to know.
Spock returned his attention to the web and his tricorder. “Readings indicate that, in addition to being more densely woven than a common spider web, the strands themselves have a far denser molecular structure; hence, it may be too strong for us to tear through.”
Kirk was about to propose that they use phasers to cut through it when McCoy interrupted his thoughts. “Jim! Look!”
The other two followed his gaze off to the right. There, another path branched off the one they were following. Then Kirk noticed the bottom portions of the web were torn, and that pieces of it littered the trampled underbrush in the first few meters of the newly-discovered path.
“However strong the web is, it obviously didn’t stop the creature that made these paths,” he pointed out.
“Apparently not. It would be logical to assume that the creature’s size is matched by its strength,” Spock surmised.
“And intelligence," McCoy added. “It realized the web was dangerous and tried to avoid it.”
“No, Doctor; that was instinct. The instinct for survival is built into every living thing. An intelligent creature would not have had to get entangled in the web before realizing the danger,” Spock pointed out patiently.
To McCoy, he sounded annoyingly like a teacher trying to explain something to a slow student for the umpteenth time, but Kirk wasn't going to give the Doctor time to resent it. “Which way, gentlemen?” he asked, looking at each of them in turn.
“Is there a choice?” asked McCoy.
“I think so. The opening in the web is big enough for us to go through one at a time,” Kirk replied.
“Well, whatever made that web is probably down that way,” McCoy pointed out, jerking a thumb toward the web-blocked path. “On the other hand, whatever made these paths is probably down that way,” he added, indicating the new path.
Kirk nodded, looking uncertainly from one path to the other. “Let’s split up,” he decided. “Spock, with me. Bones, take the web. If you find anything, contact me.”
He and Spock watched as McCoy turned his attention back to the web, examining it thoroughly before trying to go through it. Soon he found the torn section Kirk had mentioned. It was technically large enough for McCoy to walk through, but he got down on his hands and knees and crawled--just to be sure
he didn’t touch any of the sticky strands, which were hanging loosely over the opening. They then watched McCoy making his way along the path until he disappeared around a turn, then Spock began to follow his Captain down the path Kirk had chosen for them.
Some hours later, the sun was starting to set and it was already starting to get dark in the section of the Alaari jungle where Kirk and Spock were searching.
“We’d better find a clearing soon, Spock,” Kirk told his Science Officer.
“Understood, Captain,” Spock replied, examining his tricorder readout display.
Kirk activated his communicator. “McCoy, come in. This is Kirk.”
“Not so far.”
Kirk was disappointed, but decided to concentrate on the more immediate problem. “Spock and I are looking for a clearing, Bones, and I suggest you do the same. I don’t think we should keep going after dark. I also don’t think we should stay separated, so as soon as one of us finds a clearing, we’ve got to get back together.”
“I hear you, Jim. McCoy out.”
Kirk and Spock continued along the path, rounding a turn after a few meters. Then Spock, who had been dividing his attention equally between his tricorder and the surrounding jungle, suddenly looked up from the tricorder and off to his left. Kirk had gone a good way up the path before realizing that Spock was no longer beside him, apparently staring off into the trees.
“Spock?” he shouted.
Spock looked toward him after a few seconds’ hesitation. “Captain, I have found something,” he responded, just loud enough for Kirk to hear him.
It was nearly impossible to run in the jungle, even in the ready-made paths on which the Enterprise men had traveled, but Kirk nonetheless hurried back down the path toward Spock, moving as quickly as possible through the broken remnants of underbrush. Though Spock had given no indication as to just what it was he had found, Kirk was sure this was their first contact with Alaar’s indigenous life-forms...plants notwithstanding--and hopefully it was of the same species as the creature that had made the paths. It would probably be beneficial, strategically speaking, to become familiar with the makers of the webs, too, though Kirk was a good deal less enthusiastic about that prospect.
No amount of speculation could have prepared him for what he found when he reached Spock, however. Kirk followed the Vulcan’s gaze, fighting his natural instinct to turn away. They were looking down another path. A short distance down it was another web, but unlike the first web they had seen, the creature caught in this one had not managed to tear itself free.
It had obviously been wrapped in a cocoon made of the same silver-gray material as the web, but the cocoon was now torn almost to shreds, as was the creature inside. Dried, purplish blood spattered the corpse and the web, and streamed (or had) from various gaping wounds. There was, however, enough left of the creature for Kirk and Spock to see that it was indeed arachnid in nature, though larger than any spider either of them had ever seen or heard of: fully three meters in length, not including the legs. Enormous fangs pro- truded from the slack mouth, below the two sets of compound eyes.
“My God...” Kirk stammered, barely aware that he had spoken. He looked at Spock; the Vulcan was still staring at the grisly scene, his facial features frozen into a mask of impassivity.
Spock turned to Kirk, who had finally been forced to lower his eyes and was fighting nausea. “I believe that this creature--or one of its kind--is responsible for construction of the webs we have seen,” he informed Kirk.
Kirk shook his head in disbelief. “A spider caught in its own web?”
“No. Rather, a ‘spider’ caught by one of its own kind,” Spock corrected.
Kirk stared at him. “Spock, do you realize what you’re saying?” he demanded.
Spock nodded. “There are records of various arachnoid races scattered throughout this galaxy, but these clearly differ in a significant way. They apparently move through this dense jungle by eating their way through trees and other plant life, yet are clearly carnivorous, as indicated by the teeth. Until and unless we find evidence of other species on Alaar...one, for instance, that could be held responsible for the construction of the paths ...we must be prepared to accept the possibility that all the arachnoids on this planet are canni- balistic,” he explained.
Kirk was beginning to feel sick again. “Well, it looks like we’ve found out what happened to the first expedition.”
“Perhaps, Captain, but I must point out that we have not yet found any Human remains, nor any- thing else to confirm what actually happened to them,” Spock reminded him.
“And my orders are to find out, beyond any doubt, what happened to them,” Kirk recalled. “But that may not be possible, under the circumstances. Come on, let’s go find that clearing.”
Kirk contacted McCoy and told him what they found, advising him that they were resuming their search for a clearing and that he was to let them know if he found one first. By the time he and Spock did locate a clearing, however, the jungle was as dark as midnight, though Kirk knew it couldn’t possibly be that late.
He was assailed by visions of McCoy’s body torn and mutilated, half-wrapped in a silvery cocoon and hanging from one of the giant webs...and was understandably relieved when Spock interrupted his macabre thoughts to announce his discovery of a clearing immediately ahead of them. Then there was a debate on whether or not both of them should go after McCoy.
“It’s better if one of us stays here. It’ll be a lot easier for you to use your tricorder to find your way back that way,” Kirk was saying.
“That seems logical, Captain. However, as you yourself pointed out earlier, we should not be separated for any longer than necessary,” Spock cautioned. “And I am extremely reluctant to leave you alone after what we discovered earlier this evening.”
Kirk could only dimly make out Spock’s features. Alaar had a moon, and it was full tonight, but it was almost totally hidden by the branches of the towering trees. He did not have to see Spock, however, to sense the Vulcan’s concern for him. The voice was enough: a little softer than usual, slightly higher pitched ...the sort of voice that Spock only used when, intentionally or accidentally, he allowed his Human half expression.
He had become noticeably less cautious about revealing that part of himself since the V’ger inci- dent, Kirk noted to himself. He found a leaf-covered spot near the middle of the clearing and sat down tiredly, then looked up at Spock, managing a smile. “Spock, stop worrying about me and go find McCoy. You shouldn’t be gone long enough for anything to happen here--and if it does, I have my phaser,” he told Spock reassuringly.
Spock was not convinced. He came to stand before Kirk, clasping his hands behind his back. “These arachnoids may be phaser-resistant, Captain. I would still prefer that we go together.”
Kirk simply shook his head in negation, and Spock realized that this was an argument he could not win. “Are you sure you will be all right, Jim?” he asked hesitantly.
“I just said that.”
Spock tried one last time. “But we already know that at least one species of animal life here is carnivorous. There may be others. And it is quite likely that the arachnoids are nocturnal.”
There were no webs in or near the clearing, at least none that Spock had picked up on his tricorder, but Kirk knew that these particular arachnoids might not require a web, particularly if their potential victim was asleep. Nonetheless, he drove these thoughts out of his mind and again sought to reassure Spock that he would be all right alone. “Go on, get out of here. McCoy’s waiting,” Kirk told him.
Spock glanced back once more, raising an eyebrow at the smile Kirk gave him, but offered no fur-ther protest.
Kirk estimated that about thirty to forty minutes passed before Spock reappeared in the clearing with McCoy beside him. Both were relieved to find Kirk still there, apparently safe and sound, and it was quickly decided that they would sleep in shifts.
Spock volunteered to take the first watch, so Kirk and McCoy stretched out on the leaf-covered ground and got as comfortable as they could. Soon they were both asleep, leaving Spock alone with his thoughts...and the Vulcan found himself unable to think of anything but the one thing he’d been trying not to think about: the arachnoid remains. He was relieved that so far they had not encountered one of the creatures while it was still alive--but it was clearly imperative that they leave Alaar as soon as possible.
Spock spent the rest of his watch formulating a plan which seemed to him the only logical way to complete their mission. Clearly, there was no need for them all to risk their lives; therefore, the Captain and Doctor, being non-expendable personnel, would go back to the Enterprise and he would stay until he found out for certain what had happened to the previous expedition. The only difficulty Spock foresaw lay in con- vincing Kirk and McCoy to agree to it.
It was around midnight when Spock woke McCoy. The Doctor, however, did not find it as easy to relax and reflect as Spock had. He remained tense, keeping his eyes trained on the surrounding jungle...for the clearing in which they had chosen to spend the night had been formed by the convergence of several paths, so it was possible to be attacked from any direction.
McCoy yawned loudly, not because he was unbearably tired, and not meaning to wake Spock or Kirk, but because he couldn’t stand the silence any longer. Whereas most jungles, or at least the ones McCoy had been in, had crickets chirping and frogs croaking (or the local equivalent); here, the quiet was
as pervasive as the darkness. An occasional breeze stirring the branches high above was the only interruption of the silence, and the motion had gone down far enough to have disappeared entirely behind the trees.
McCoy recalled all too vividly Spock’s description of the remains he and Kirk had found; it didn’t seem likely now that any intelligent life existed on Alaar. In any case, if one of those arachnoids found them, McCoy knew he’d have to rely on his ears to detect the creatures, since he’d never see them in this black- ness. He groped around in the grass and leaves, finally finding what he perceived to be Spock’s tricorder. McCoy looked down and found that Spock had left it activated: a faint light shone from the readout display and controls.
Bless you, Spock, McCoy thought, hastily taking possession of the tricorder and resuming his former position. He remained alert, phaser at the ready, for several more hours, but his watch passed without inci- dent. When he woke Kirk at approximately 0500, the sky--what they could see of it--was just beginning to lighten, though the jungle was still dark.
Kirk decided this might be a good time to record a log entry, his first since beaming down, so he moved a short distance from Spock and McCoy...near the edge of the clearing...and detached a recording device from his belt.
“Captain’s Log,” he began softly. “Stardate 8307.12. We have now been on Alaar for just over twelve hours. No trace of the expeditionary force sent here by the Federation yet, but we have made another discovery: it seems this planet is inhabited by cannibalistic arachnoids. My orders leave me no choice but to continue the search for the missing scientists, however—”Kirk paused, hearing something...a rustling sound. Behind him.
He put up the recorder and drew his phaser, then paused again, casting an anxious glance back at Spock and McCoy. It might not be wise to leave them here alone and unprotected. The rustling sound came again, louder, and Kirk made up his mind. If it was an arachnoid, it had to be driven away or killed before it reached the clearing. He plunged down the nearest path in the direction of the sound.
Kirk didn’t have far to go, however, to realize there was no arachnoid to be found. For an instant, he panicked. Had it already gone into the clearing after Spock and McCoy, having lured him away? That didn’t seem likely if it wasn’t intelligent.
Then where the hell is it? Kirk asked himself. There were no answers on the path, so Kirk decided
to take a brief look in the jungle immediately surrounding the path before going back to the clearing, since
it was light enough now to make out individual forms. Trees, bushes, flowers, but still no arachnoid.
Kirk was so busy looking for that elusive creature that he never noticed the web looming up on his right. Instead, in the course of his searching around, he turned, backed up a meter or so...and suddenly couldn’t move. Kirk struggled instinctively to free himself, but the more he struggled, the tighter the web seemed to hold him.
Suddenly, there was a great deal of noise off to the left--a crashing sound of hissing breath, then
a sound like a gigantic rabbit chewing on a giant carrot. All at once, there it was, directly in front of Kirk: fully twice his size in height and nearly that in length, totally black except for the stomach and two clusters of compound eyes, which were red; mouth opening to reveal tiger-like fangs...the arachnoid, having baited its trap, was moving in for the kill.
Spock remained in the trance-like state which passed for sleep among Vulcans for a while longer after Kirk left, but his tranquility was soon interrupted. Images of blackness, fangs, and blood forced themselves upon the Vulcan’s mind, then he seemed to hear Kirk’s voice: Oh God, no... Spock! Help me! Spock-- The thought broke off suddenly.
“Jim!” Spock cried, sitting up abruptly. The entire thought sequence had lasted only a couple of seconds, but that had been enough. Spock looked around anxiously. McCoy was still there, lying asleep nearby; Kirk was gone. Spock grabbed his tricorder and crawled over to McCoy’s side.
“Dr. McCoy, wake up!” he shouted.
McCoy woke with a start. “Spock, what...?” He looked around. “Where’s Jim?”
Spock stood, dragging McCoy up after him, and they faced each other. “I have been in telepathic communication with him,” the Vulcan explained.
“Well, where is he? What happened?” McCoy demanded.
“I...am not sure,” Spock admitted, his face troubled. “But I know he is in danger. We must hurry.
It may already be too late.”
No further discussion was necessary. McCoy followed Spock as he walked around the clearing, adjusting his tricorder to scan for any Human life-forms in the area, then suddenly the Vulcan whirled around to face down a path behind them. He threw a look at McCoy, who knew without asking that Spock had found their Captain--then they both took off at a dead run.
It wasn’t long before they found Kirk. Far too soon, in fact, for either Spock or McCoy to prepare themselves for it. McCoy, of course, didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to speculate. Spock knew, but refused to accept it. It was Spock who found it first; McCoy still trailed some distance behind. The enormous, black spider-apparition loomed up suddenly before him, its back to the Vulcan, and Spock knew from tricorder readings that Kirk was just beyond.
The arachnoid was oblivious to Spock, clearly intent on its victim, so Spock wasted no time. His phaser came out, set for kill, and he fired. A white glow spread from the point of impact across the creature, and then it was gone, leaving Spock to see what he had to see: Kirk...or what was left of him... hanging from the web, still partially bound by the cocoon-like wrapping of strands.
Spock tried to call to McCoy, but no sound came from his throat. His normal Vulcan emotional controls virtually destroyed, he moved slowly toward the Captain’s body. Kirk’s chest and one side of his stomach was torn open, and blood still spilled from the open wounds, but Spock fought back his revulsion. He had to get close enough to see if Kirk was still alive, remote though that possibility seemed now.
Spock tried to ignore the wounds and looked instead at Kirk’s face, which had remained untouched. It was pale, too pale... Spock forced himself to speak--not a logical course of action, but this situation was not logical.
“Jim...” There was no response.
Just then, McCoy arrived on the scene. He stopped and stared up at Kirk’s body. “Oh...my...God,” he managed to say, tearing his eyes away and looking at Spock.
The Vulcan looked toward him, still trying to regain his composure--trying and failing. Shock still showed on his face, drawing McCoy to his side. It took all of McCoy’s professional training to fight off the overwhelming nausea as he took out his medscanner and passed it over Kirk’s body. Slowly, he looked up
“I don’t know how, but he’s...still alive.”
Spock’s eyes hadn’t left Kirk’s face, but now they looked up searchingly at McCoy. “Can we do anything?” he asked, his voice a hoarse whisper.
McCoy met Spock’s eyes, but shook his head sadly. “Other than try to get him down out of this web, I’m afraid not,” he answered gently. “In any case, he’d never survive the beamup.”
He watched Spock’s face for some reaction, but the Vulcan had returned his attention to Kirk. McCoy knew, nonetheless, that Spock was likely to be more hurt by Kirk’s death than he himself would be...too deeply hurt, perhaps, to be willing to share his pain with anyone. “Come on, help me get him down,”
Spock closed his eyes for a moment, then moved to comply. The entire procedure took several minutes to complete; the web simply did not want to release its captive, even when both Spock and McCoy began cutting through it with their phasers. At last, however, they succeeded in cutting a hole around Kirk’s body, which immediately fell and was caught by Spock, who lowered it gently to the ground.
Then, incredibly, Kirk moved. Sensing the presence of his friends by some power other than sight, he groped in his own darkness, reaching out toward them with one hand. He found Spock’s arm. The Vulcan was sitting on his knees beside Kirk, the Captain’s head in his lap.
Spock took Kirk’s hand, helpless to do anything else, fighting down the frustration he felt in order to keep it from showing on his face and aware that he was not succeeding. Jim Kirk, his t’hy’la, one of only two in the universe that Spock had ever allowed himself to feel affection for--had somehow survived the arachnoid’s attack, only to die before his eyes.
McCoy watched him silently from his vantage point on the other side of Kirk, knowing what the Vulcan was going through, and knowing also that Spock would have emphatically denied it. He nonetheless felt empathy for Spock, for McCoy himself was feeling just as helpless and lost.
“I’m sorry, Spock. I can’t do a damn thing for him,” he admitted, voicing his own frustration.
Spock shook his head, keeping his eyes on Kirk’s face. “Not as sorry as I, Doctor. There was no logical reason for him to be down here. I should have been able to persuade him to remain on the Enter- prise.”
McCoy felt a great desire to put a hand on Spock’s shoulder, to comfort him as Kirk would have done...but he was not Jim Kirk, and it was too soon for him to try to be to Spock what Kirk had been. If
such a time came, he knew, it would have to be a time of Spock’s own choosing.
“We both tried. He insisted. You know how Jim is,” McCoy reminded him kindly.
Any answer Spock might have made was cut off as Kirk tried to get into the conversation. They could barely hear him, but he was talking: “Spock...not your fault. Bones...is right.”
Spock tightened his grip on Kirk’s hand. “Jim...please do not talk. Save your strength,” he urged softly.
Kirk tried to open his eyes. “Save it...for what? Spock...I have to talk...to both of you.”
“No, you don’t, Jim. Spock’s right. Just lie still and be quiet,” McCoy insisted.
“Bones—” Kirk was forced to stop as a stream of blood and mucus erupted from his mouth. Spock closed his eyes against the sight; McCoy's just filled with tears. “Don’t...fight...with Spock,” Kirk continued. “Help him...get through this. It’s going...to hurt. Be his friend...promise me, Bones.”
Forcing himself to open his eyes, Kirk then focused his attention on Spock, knowing his friend would insist on blaming himself for his friend’s death. “...not your fault, Spock... don’t blame yourself,” he reiterated, his voice becoming hoarse and raspy.
“Jim...please...do not talk any more,” Spock pleaded.
“Take care of my ship...”
“I will, Jim.”
“Do not be concerned. I will be with him,” Spock assured Kirk gently.
Satisfied, Kirk closed his eyes slowly as tremors began to wrack what was left of his body. McCoy watched with tears running down his cheeks, though he made no sound. Spock simply sat, holding Kirk’s hand the whole time, unwilling to let go physically, emotionally, or mentally. Then, finally, Kirk’s body quieted. Through the severing of their mental bond, staggering in the sudden emptiness and loneliness left
in its wake--even though Spock was by now prepared for it--he felt the Captain die.
Spock gathered Kirk’s body into his arms and sat unmoving for a time, still unable to accept it. He and McCoy looked up at each other silently, McCoy’s face still tear-streaked. For once, Spock’s eyes held no condemnation within them for the Doctor’s overt emotionalism; what he himself felt was too similar. In that moment, a bond of empathy existed within them... they were emotionally and mentally one.
Dr. Christine Chapel was in Sickbay when Spock and McCoy brought in Kirk’s body. She assessed the two living members of the landing party silently: McCoy, red around the eyes, trying to recover some semblance of professional decorum; Spock, in his bloodstained uniform, hiding behind his mask of Vulcan impassivity.
Then she looked at McCoy, her whole face a question: What in God’s name had happened down there? McCoy’s only answer was to shake his head slightly in an I’ll-explain-later sort of way. She then looked at Spock worriedly, not expecting him to return her gaze.
For the moment, Spock’s eyes were on Kirk’s covered body, which was being carried off on a medtable by two orderlies. McCoy followed, glancing once more at Spock before he left, a concerned look in his eyes. Spock turned away and realized Christine was looking at him. Assuming she was waiting for some explanation, he took a couple of steps toward her.
“The Captain...was killed by one of the animal species native to Alaar,” Spock informed her, trying to keep his voice steady. The initial sight of Kirk’s torn, bloody body hanging from the web was still fresh in his mind.
Christine’s first instinct was to ask how, but as Spock’s eyes briefly met hers and she saw the lost, distant look and the pain the Vulcan failed to hide--she realized his logical front was not quite intact, and decided to wait until she could talk to McCoy. It was approximately an hour later before McCoy returned and found Christine waiting for him.
“Did Spock tell you anything?” he asked.
“Not much. Just that the Captain was killed,” she replied. “I didn’t press him for details. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it.”
Poor Spock, McCoy thought. I wonder if he ever will. “No, and he probably won’t for quite a while,” McCoy agreed aloud. “I don’t blame him,” he admitted, staring briefly at some invisible horror.
Christine closed the distance between them. “Dr. McCoy, what happened down there?”
McCoy sighed, sitting down. “We didn’t find the expedition, or any trace of them. I don’t think we were there long enough. Oh, the planet was beautiful--just like the reports said, a tropical rainforest, very Earth-like...and no animal life, we thought, except for birds. We were wrong.” His voice became somewhat bitter. “We did find one other animal species: giant spiders with fangs. They turned out to be cannibalistic, but not exclusively. One of them lured Jim away while we were asleep. We'd never have known if not for Spock’s telepathy.”
“Was he dead when you found him?” Christine wondered.
“No, though I don’t know why not. The arachnoid had been... feeding on him. He’d lost too much blood, too much internal damage…” McCoy had to pause here; tears were welling up in his eyes again. He covered them with his hands, resting his elbows on the desk in front of him, and tried to calm himself. “He should have been dead, but was conscious and trying to talk to us before...he died,” McCoy finished.
Christine lowered her eyes, unable to think of anything to say in response, and sadly watched him leave. She knew it would be a long time before McCoy got over this loss; he had been close to Kirk in a way he would never be close to Spock. And what of Spock? On the surface, the idea that he would be affected to the same degree as McCoy seemed preposterous. Or did it? The Vulcan was half-Human; he did have feel- ings, despite countless statements to the contrary, and had been trying to learn to express them since his encounter with V’ger. The key words were “had been”.
Christine wondered if he would be so eager to continue the learning process now that his principal teacher was gone, having theorized for some time that Spock had returned to Starfleet and the Enterprise chiefly to be with Kirk. Secretly, she hoped Spock could learn to trust and confide in her and McCoy as much as he had in Kirk...but like McCoy, she knew she would have to be patient with Spock for the time being, helping him only when he asked for help, for only then would Spock accept it.
McCoy was on the Bridge with Spock when the Vulcan announced Kirk’s death over the shipwide intercom. Spock kept his eyes lowered and tried not to watch as Bridge personnel reacted with varying degrees of shock and grief. Uhura had asked how it had happened, and Spock, leaving out as many of the gory details as he could, explained that the Captain had been killed by one of a species of animal life that had previously been discovered to be cannibalistic--much the same explanation he had given Christine. Needless to say, this left a great deal to the imagination... too much, as far as Uhura was concerned--but Spock couldn’t bring himself to discuss it further.
McCoy, standing beside the command chair and trying to ignore the conversation, suddenly looked up and found Spock’s eyes on him. He could almost hear the Vulcan saying to himself, I am a Vulcan...I
am in control of my emotions. For the present, Spock seemed to have convinced himself of that--but hadn’t convinced McCoy, and he knew it. The dark eyes still revealed too much of the grief he was fighting to control. He looked at McCoy now, searching the Doctor’s eyes for...understanding, strength, something. Whatever it was that Kirk had given him when he was troubled.
McCoy met his gaze with what he hoped was a reassuring look, though he didn't feel himself in a position to give comfort, even to Spock. He himself was still unable to deal with the Captain’s death. Spock nonetheless looked into the blue eyes and was comforted, as if the very fact of the Doctor’s failure to accept the tragedy made that possible.
Very suddenly, however, Spock became acutely aware that he was sitting in the command chair: Kirk’s chair. He stood up, too fast, finding several pairs of startled eyes on him, including those of an increasingly worried McCoy.
Totally illogical, Spock told himself. Why should I have any reservations about sitting in the command chair? I am the Captain now. I am in control...I am a Vulcan...I am in control...of my emotions...
Suddenly, Spock turned and headed for the turbolift doors.
A brief memorial service for Kirk was held the next day, with everyone attending who could find someone to relieve them. All of the Enterprise’s inner circle were there, those who had served under Kirk the longest and knew him best: Drs. McCoy and Chapel, both looking very unprofessional as they sat in
the front row, directly in front of Spock; Commander Scott, Lieutenant Commanders Uhura and Sulu, Lieutenants Chekov and Rand ...and a few others Spock didn’t recognize.
Inevitably, he reached a point in the service where he had to tell them all how Kirk had died, and did so from behind his Vulcan mask, ignoring their reactions. McCoy kept his eyes lowered; Christine watched Spock anxiously, trying to see the emotions he was hiding; Scotty sat with his face buried in his hands; Rand cried softly. Sulu and Chekov seemed to be in shock. Spock tried not to watch as they all went through suc-essive stages of shock, revulsion and grief with varying degrees of intensity.
He himself was dissatisfied with the service, but it was the best they had time for right now. Spock vowed to himself that he would see to it that a more suitable, dignified service took place as soon as time permitted--something with dress uniforms, full military honors, and sufficient advance notice given so that as many as possible of Kirk’s friends throughout the galaxy could attend. Perhaps when this mission was completed... perhaps then there would be time. Spock departed the room rather abruptly after finishing the eulogy, an action which McCoy noted with alarm.
Spock spent the rest of the day in his quarters. He tried to sleep, but as had been the case ever since his return from Alaar, he was always abruptly awakened by the same nightmare: the vision of Kirk being bloodily devoured alive by the arachnoid, crying out mentally in pain and horror. Spock wished that some-one could erase this memory for him as he had once done for Kirk; it was physically and mentally impos- sible for him to perform this particular Vulcan mental technique on himself. Finally, Spock caught himself doing something he could not remember having done in a long time: he was pacing restlessly back and forth across his room.
He sat down in his meditation chamber and became still, trying to let his mind go blank. Medita-tion...that was the answer. And it worked: for all of five minutes. Then the mind-voice of Kirk leapt unbid- den into his thoughts: Oh God, no...Spock! Help me! Spock-- Spock closed his eyes against the sound-thought and tried again. Logic, he told himself. Control.
“I am a Vulcan,” he said, speaking aloud for effect. “Grief is a Human emotion. I will not allow it. I am in control of my emotions. I am a Vulcan...” Over and over, until finally, having convinced himself that he was in control, Spock forced himself to think of something else. The mission...yes. Think of that. The mission was not complete. McCoy--he had to tell McCoy, remind him. The Doctor lacked Spock's Vulcan training; going back down to Alaar was certainly the last thing on his mind.
Spock found McCoy in his office, apparently busy with some paperwork. “Doctor, I should like to discuss something with you,” he stated formally, standing in the doorway.
“Spock!” McCoy looked up, startled, putting the paperwork aside. “Don’t just stand there; come in.”
Spock entered and came to stand before McCoy with his hands clasped behind his back. “I assume you realize that our mission to Alaar is not complete.”
“So?” McCoy responded irritably.
Spock didn’t elaborate--he didn’t have to. McCoy immediately realized what Spock was getting at. “Wait just a damn minute! Spock, are you suggesting that someone has to go back down to that damnable planet?” the Doctor demanded incredulously.
“I am not suggesting it, Doctor; I am stating it as fact,” Spock replied levelly.
McCoy was on his feet. “Are you out of your Vulcan mind?”
The Vulcan raised an eyebrow at him. “An interesting possibility,” he admitted.
McCoy couldn’t decide what he meant by that, and that fact worried him.
“You need not be concerned; I intend to go alone. I merely wanted to inform you of my intentions.”
“Do you really think that helps any? Dammit, Spock, I’m Chief Medical Officer on this ship! People die on Alaar! Jim died there!” McCoy was hurt and angry, on the edge of tears.
Spock didn’t know quite how to handle it. “Doctor, please ...” He pushed McCoy back down into his chair. McCoy didn’t resist, but was still angry. Spock found another chair nearby, positioned it in front of McCoy’s desk and sat down, putting himself eye-to-eye with McCoy--in more ways than one, he hoped. “...I know what you feel,” he continued, more softly.
“How?” McCoy demanded. It was out of his mouth before he realized what he was saying, and an expression of anger and agony immediately filled the Vulcan’s eyes...without him being aware of it, appar-ently, for he did not try to suppress it; it touched McCoy.
“I’m sorry, Spock. I didn’t mean it. I know you must hurt as much as I do, even if you won’t admit it,” he apologized gently. “But for God’s sake, why risk your life again on Alaar when the mission isn’t that important?”
“Our orders were to find that first expedition, or at least some trace of them. Those orders still stand. I go alone because there is no logic in asking anyone else to risk their lives as well.” After careful consider-ation, Spock added, “Jim would have wanted the mission to be completed.”
“Yes, he would,” McCoy agreed. “But he wouldn’t want you to be the one to do it--and certainly not alone.”
“There is no alternative,” Spock stated flatly.
McCoy was about to give him a list of alternatives when Christine entered the office. “Doctor, I have the final autopsy report on...” She stopped when she saw Spock, knowing better than to mention the subject of Kirk's autopsy in front of him, and looked back and forth from him to McCoy. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to interrupt. Is everything all right?”
McCoy took the report from her and dropped it unceremoniously down on top of his own stack of paperwork, then looked up at her, realizing her concern. She thought Spock had come here seeking emotion-al comfort from McCoy...which, as they both knew, didn’t seem likely. Not yet.
“Well, Christine, you may as well stay and hear the fool notion this Vulcan’s gotten into his head,” he told her in obvious exasperation.
“And what notion is that?” Christine asked, taking up a position beside McCoy’s desk.
“He wants to complete the mission to Alaar--alone!” McCoy informed her, his voice filled with what he thought was righteous indignation. “I can’t talk any sense into him.”
Spock’s only reaction to this was a raised eyebrow.
Christine stared at the Vulcan, horrified. “Spock, you can’t be serious!”
“I have never been more so.”
“But surely this mission isn’t worth risking your life over!” she protested. “Certainly not when one person has already been killed!”
“Starfleet regulations do not specify completion of only the ‘safe’ missions, Dr. Chapel,” Spock reminded her.
“That may be, but you still shouldn’t go alone,” Christine insisted.
“I cannot allow anyone else to take the risk,” Spock said firmly.
“Spock, you can’t do it...not alone,” McCoy decided, getting up.
Spock stood also. “Indeed? And who do you suggest accompany me?”
“You can’t go back down there without a physician.”
Spock saw McCoy’s intent all too clearly, and apprehension welled up within him. “No, Doctor. I--we--have already lost the Captain. I do not wish to lose you as well.”
McCoy smiled, knowing that this would be as close as Spock would come to admitting his grief...for now. “Logic, Spock?” he ventured, challengingly but gently.
“Certainly, Doctor,” Spock replied, knowing McCoy had understood and in appreciation, nearly smiling back in return.
McCoy resisted an impulse to laugh. “Be that as it may, you still need a physician.”
“I’m available,” Christine volunteered.
McCoy looked up at her, startled; Spock merely cocked an eyebrow in her direction.
“It will be extremely dangerous, Dr. Chapel,” the Vulcan reminded her.
“I’m perfectly aware of that, Spock.”
Spock hesitated, glancing back at McCoy. “Well, Doctor? Can you spare her?”
McCoy nodded silently, and Spock turned back toward Christine. “Very well, Dr. Chapel. I suggest you begin preparations now, so that we may complete this mission as soon as possible.”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 8703.20--First Officer Spock recording.
We are remaining in orbit around Alaar until our mission is completed. Dr. Chapel and I will immediately beam down to the planet’s surface in a last effort to locate the members of the first expedition
to Alaar, or at least some tangible indication of what may have happened to them. We have already lost Captain Kirk, and I do not consider this mission important enough to endanger any more lives than nec- essary. Therefore, on my authorization, if no trace of the expedition is found within 24 hours, we will
assume them dead and abandon the search.
“Sickbay. McCoy here,” came the response.“That’s what Jim said before he left,” McCoy reminded him.
“Dr. McCoy, this is Spock. Have Dr. Chapel meet me in the Transporter Room.”
“She’s already on her way.” There was a pause. “Spock?”
Spock raised an eyebrow at that, but decided it would do no good to remind McCoy that luck had no part in actions based on logic. Instead, he merely replied, “Thank you, Doctor.”
“Be careful down there. I don’t want to have to do another autopsy.”
Spock closed his eyes and lowered his head, sensing that McCoy’s concern was genuine.
“Understood, Dr. McCoy. Do not worry. We will be all right,” he assured the Doctor, trying to console him.
Spock did not dare reply.
The transporter was still set for the same coordinates that the first landing party had used, so Spock and Christine soon found themselves at the same spot where the first ill-fated search had begun. Christine watched Spock anxiously, but the Vulcan seemed to be in full control of himself now.
“Well, Mr. Spock, which way do we go?” she asked.
Spock looked around and glanced down at his tricorder. “Since we traveled northward in our initial search and found nothing, I suggest we go southward this time,” he recommended, gesturing off to his left. “That way.”
Five hours later, they were still fighting their way through underbrush without having found anything. Spock had kept silent so far, clearly preoccupied with something other than completing the mission, and Christine decided it wasn’t the right time to question him about it. Finally, they came to
a stream, and Spock broke his silence to call for a rest period. Christine gratefully lowered herself onto
one of the large rocks lining the stream and dipped her hand into the cool water, then glanced up at Spock.
“Is it safe to drink?”
The Vulcan had just positioned himself on the other side of the rock, where he knelt and passed his tricorder over the water. “Hydrogen-oxygen ratio parallels Earth norms...no other harmful elements present,” he stated, almost in monotone.
“It’s safe,” Christine concluded, catching some water in her hands and bringing it to her mouth.
Spock did not respond, but sat down on his side of the rock, staring down into the water for a time before following Christine’s example. Finally, Spock stood, saying they had rested long enough, and decided to follow the stream westward. Christine got up and followed him, and they continued on for an indeterminate period of time, Spock constantly monitoring his tricorder and Christine keeping her eyes and ears trained on as much of the surrounding jungle as possible at once. Their journey, however, remained annoyingly uneventful, and Christine gradually became aware that it was getting dark.
“Shouldn’t we be stopping somewhere soon?” she asked.
“Affirmative,” Spock replied tonelessly, looking around. “Once we have found a path, we will eventually be able to find a clearing.”
“A path, Spock?” Christine’s tone was incredulous. “In a jungle this dense?”
Spock nodded. “The arachnoids...make their own paths. The paths are wide enough that clearings form at their intersections.”
“How big are these arachnoids?” Christine asked.
“Approximately three meters in length and four in height; perhaps two meters in width. Of course, the size varies, depending on the individual arachnoid,” Spock replied factually, but Christine sensed that their discussion was beginning to penetrate his mask of emotional control.
She saw her belief confirmed when Spock, deliberately avoiding her gaze, abruptly began to busy himself more than was necessary with his tricorder, ostensibly scanning the surrounding area for the nearest, most likely location of a path. When he finally turned from the stream and headed back into the jungle, Christine followed unquestioningly, but with growing concern.
There followed another thirty minutes or so of the two of them fighting their way through the underbrush--a relatively short time, considering how long it had been since they had beamed down...but Christine was less used to it than Spock was, so their progress was slow. Then, at last, they stumbled into what Christine thought at first must be a clearing. On closer examination, however, she observed that the “clearing” extended indefinitely to each side.
“Is this one of the paths you were talking about, Spock?”
Spock nodded, scanning in each direction of the path with his tricorder. “Readings indicate a clearing 1.7 kilometers in that direction,” he informed her, heading off down the path to the right without bothering to look to see that she was following.
Christine followed silently, shaking her head worriedly at the Vulcan. So far, he had been like a walking computer. He had kept his face carefully averted from her, and when he spoke, it had been in an almost emotionless voice. Almost...but not quite. Christine found herself wondering how much longer
Spock could keep that tight control of his from breaking.
By the time they reached the clearing, it was almost totally dark, so they began making preparations for sleep. Christine put down her backpack, unrolled her sleeping bag in a randomly chosen area of the clear ing and sat down on the sleeping bag, looking at Spock, who was still unrolling his. When he had finished and sat down, she spoke.
“Spock, you haven’t said a word to me except to give information since we beamed down,” she observed.
“I saw no reason to engage in idle conversation,” he replied, knowing full well what it was that she wanted to discuss and knowing also that he could not bear it.
Spock raised an eyebrow at her, though it was hard for her to see it in the dark. “Now, Dr. Chapel, I wish to go to sleep. Unless you would like me to take the first watch,” he returned tolerantly.
Christine sighed. Maybe Spock would be willing to talk tomorrow. “That’s not necessary, Spock. I’m not tired. I may as well take the first watch,” she offered.
Spock sensed her growing concern and disappointment, but again chose not to respond to it. “Very well...” He reached across and handed Christine his tricorder, then stretched out on his sleeping bag. “...take my tricorder. Monitor it carefully and wake me if it indicates the presence of an arachnoid.”
Christine nodded and took it silently, setting it down beside her, leaning it against her backpack.
Spock, however, was to get no more sleep that night than he'd gotten any night since he and McCoy had returned from Alaar with Kirk’s body. The nightmare began again, not long after Spock had fallen into his trance-like sleep: the echo of Kirk's helpless mental plea, then the horrible image (which Spock knew would stay with him forever) of Kirk’s mutilated body suspended in the web after the Vulcan had arrived too late to save him, then the memory of the last painful moment before Kirk had died... All replayed in endless sequence through Spock’s mind as he tried to sleep.
Christine watched in growing alarm as Spock turned and shifted restlessly on his sleeping bag, try- ing to divide her attention evenly between the tricorder, the surrounding jungle, and Spock. Soon, however, she found herself devoting more and more attention to Spock. The Vulcan was not sleeping well, to put it mildly. Clearly, he was having some kind of nightmare. As Christine watched, he suddenly rolled over to
lie on his back. His arms lay straight and rigid at his sides, his fists clenched. Then she heard him call out Kirk’s name.
She went immediately to Spock’s side, though what it was she could do for him was unclear. Fortu- nately, Spock had awakened himself with his own cries. As he looked up and saw Christine’s face, naked grief showed on his own--immediately followed by embarrassment--and he lowered his eyes, sitting up slowly.
“I am sorry...” he began, but his voice was unsteady, so he stopped in mid-sentence.
“Don’t be. Just talk to me,” Christine pleaded.
Spock shook his head, not looking up at her. “Is it not enough that I see him and hear him every time I try to sleep? Must I also discuss him?”
Filled with empathy, Christine reached for his hand. Spock let her take it.
“Well, you can’t sleep. It might help,” she pointed out.
Spock nodded reluctantly. “Jim’s mind cried out to me just before he died. He was calling to me for help, and--I failed him. I could not find him in time; he was not in any of the paths. Now, whenever I try to sleep, I hear him cry out to me again. I see...his body as it was when I found it. I--watch him die all over again,” he revealed softly.
It was almost more than Christine could do to keep herself from taking Spock in her arms, but she managed to settle for taking his hands in hers. “Spock, it wasn’t your fault. You got to him as quickly as you could,” she reminded him.
Spock hung his head, ashamed of his apparent need to share his grief with her. “Perhaps Dr. McCoy is right. I should not have come. I am obviously not in control of my emotions, and thus am endangering both of us.”
“I don’t see how. You’re being too hard on yourself,” Christine assured him.
Spock shook his head, resisting her attempts to console him.
“Spock, don’t you think I have some idea how close you and the Captain were? You loved him as a brother. What was the word you liked to use? T’hy’la?”
Spock nodded. “T’hy’la. Bond-brother and friend. Jim was all that to me. I tried--to tell him that, show him...”
“He knew,” Christine told him.
“Yes. Because of our bond.” Spock closed his eyes and sighed heavily. “At the moment of his death, that bond was severed, and...Christine, you cannot comprehend--the emptiness left within me by its absence.”
“You’re wrong, Spock. I do comprehend it...emptiness, pain, loneliness. I’ve felt those feelings, too. Remember Roger Korby?”
Spock gave a barely perceptible nod. “You know me well,” he observed, and Christine got the impression that his words were based on something other than their present conversation.
“Better than you would think--or probably prefer,” she admitted.
“How?” Spock asked, lifting his head. “Certainly I have not given you sufficient opportunity to... psychoanalyze me?” He ended the sentence as a question because he was uncertain of his wording, not as
an attempt at humor, but Christine smiled at him anyway.
“I’ve spent enough time around Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy to have a pretty good idea of what makes you tick,” she assured him.
Spock regarded her in wonder, too startled and pleased to be concerned about her possible invasion of his privacy--for he immediately realized the reason for it. “Christine, you...still love me, after all this time?”
Tears formed in Christine’s eyes, and she wasn’t sure why. “Heaven help me, yes, Spock. I--still love you,” she admitted. “I don’t know why. But I promise I’ll keep it to myself and not do anything to embarrass you. Right now, I want you to lie back down.”
Spock obeyed, holding Christine’s hands fast when she tried to go back to her own sleeping bag, still afraid to sleep and wanting to console her. “Christine...please stay. Perhaps--your presence will help me sleep.”
“All right,” she agreed, settling down beside him.
It was as Spock was drifting off to sleep, one hand still tightly gripping Christine’s, that he said softly, “A Human should never be ashamed of loving...one who has need of love, Christine. I do not express it well, but--I appreciate your feelings for me, and if I could choose, I...would have them continue.”
After a quick check to see that she had Spock's tricorder close by, Christine enclosed Spock’s hand in both of hers, knowing that she would not return to her own sleeping bag. She would neither sleep nor leave Spock’s side that night.
The night passed without further incident, though Spock still moved restlessly in his sleep. Each time the nightmare troubled him, however, it seemed to pass and his body quieted itself as soon as the touch of Christine’s hand allowed him to perceive her presence. She herself remained watchful and alert the rest of the night, realizing that one of the arachnoids could come upon them at any time--but the night passed and became morning, and there was no sign of any arachnoid.
Spock awoke shortly after dawn, and Christine watched and waited expectantly, wondering if the Vulcan would choose to ignore, forget, or at least regret his emotional openness of the night before. She had felt very close to him for those few minutes, closer than she had ever remembered feeling to him before. For once, Spock had needed to share his pain with her rather than hide it, and she was pleased to have been able to offer some consolation. But now? Would Spock still want her emotional support, or did he want to deal with his loss on his own and in his own way...as a Vulcan normally would?
Spock sat up slowly and looked over at Christine, now sitting on her sleeping bag and breakfasting on some of the food she had in her backpack. “I take it you encountered no arachnoid while I was sleeping last night?”
She hastily swallowed the last of her breakfast and answered, “No. Not hide nor hair of one.”
Spock raised an eyebrow at her. “Dr. Chapel, you are surely aware by now that, other than their carnivorous tendencies, the arachnoids I have described have no mammalian characteristics, and therefore could not have—”He had to stop. Christine was laughing uncontrollably.
She tried to get hold of herself. “I’m sorry, Spock. It’s just that...” Another spasm of laughter. “I knew you’d say something like that!”
Spock’s only response was a slight smile. Looking at him, Christine suddenly stopped laughing and smiled back. Spock had chosen to acknowledge his need for her emotional support, and she knew instinct- ively that, whether he was willing to speak of it or not, Spock would not forget her compassion and under- standing. The thought that he might yet learn to trust her with his feelings filled Christine with joy.
After Spock had eaten, they rolled up their sleeping bags and prepared to leave the clearing. Spock then proposed that they continue the way they had come, and soon they were on their way again.
As they moved deeper into the jungle and further away from the stream, Spock and Christine began to find more and more webs, most of which had been torn through so that they had no trouble getting past them. By the time the sun had climbed high enough to be seen through the upper branches of the trees, how-ever, the webs were getting progressively larger and more fully intact, and soon Spock had to cut through one with his phaser in order for them to get through. Then suddenly, there were no more webs at all.
The two from the Enterprise traveled for almost three kilometers without seeing a web, and Chris- tine began to get nervous. “Spock, this is strange. Do you suppose the arachnoids don’t live in this part of the jungle?” she queried.
“Possibly not. However, tricorder readings indicate no change in climate since we left this morning, and certainly we have not come far enough since the last web for there to have been any environmental change since then that would make it impossible for them to live here,” Spock informed her.
“And there are still these paths,” Christine added, indicating the path they were following.
Spock nodded silently in agreement.
“Then where are the webs?” she demanded.
Spock had no answer for her. He returned his attention to his tricorder and they continued along the path for a few meters, then Spock suddenly stopped as they were about to reach a turn in the path and looked up from the tricorder. Christine almost bumped into him.
“What is it, Spock?”
“Readings indicate a web of immense proportions some 15.8 meters beyond this turn,” Spock answered, turning to her. “They also indicate the presence of several arachnoids.”
Christine stared at him. “Oh, God...a whole colony of the things?” She had known they would have to encounter the arachnoids at some point, but had hoped it would be one at a time.
“Not precisely, Dr. Chapel. More accurately, a series of webs combined into one massive web.” Spock looked back up the path briefly, then turned again to Christine. “It is not necessary for both of us to go.”
“Then I’ll go,” she said.
“No, Christine. I will go. Alone. You wait here. I will return as soon as I have found a way to circumnavigate the web,” Spock decided, starting down the path.
Christine noted again the use of her first name, but decided not to comment on it until they were back on the Enterprise. She knew she had to go with him. Somebody had to keep an eye on this Vulcan. Remembering how determined he had been to complete the mission alone, Christine would not have been surprised to learn that the loss of Kirk had given him some kind of subconscious death wish.
“Spock, you know I can’t let you do that,” she told him, following determinedly.
“But we already know what these arachnoids are capable of,” Spock pointed out.
“Which is exactly why I can’t let you go alone,” she countered. “You’re the Captain now. You owe it to Captain Kirk to stay alive.”
Spock lowered his eyes, clearly dismayed at having what he thought buried deep within him read so accurately.
“I’ve come this far with you, Spock. I’m not about to back out now,” Christine continued, making it a promise.
Spock bowed his head in resignation. “Very well. Set your phaser on kill. We cannot take any chances if one of them sees us.”
They proceeded cautiously along the path and rounded the turn. The web was immediately visible in front of them. “Down!” Spock ordered in a loud whisper, and they crouched amid the trampled bushes and undergrowth and stared up at the sight that had greeted them as they rounded the turn.
The web was, as Spock had anticipated, not a single web, but the union of many smaller ones. It dwarfed all the webs either of them had previously seen and extended hundreds of meters upward into the trees, and most of the webs had one or more arachnoids crawling around on them. Spock directed Christine to follow him, and both began to crawl forward with difficulty through the underbrush, continuing until they were within two meters of the bottom-most web. Even Spock evidenced a certain degree of surprise when they had managed to get that far without being detected by any of the arachnoids.
“So far, so good,” Christine whispered. “But now what?”
“We must find a way around the web,” Spock whispered back. “I shall watch the arachnoids. You see if you can find some way to get around the web without being seen.”
Christine nodded and hesitated for a moment, studying the situation. Clearly, there was no way to pass unseen using the path; it dead-ended in the clearing where the web was, and Christine suspected there must be any number of other paths leading away from the clearing as well. They must also be unsafe. The only other option was to go into the jungle on one side of the path and skirt the perimeter of the clearing until she reached the opposite side. Simple enough...in theory, at least.
Slowly, Christine crawled through the underbrush to the edge of the path, then paused, sitting on her knees, staring into the dense foliage and contemplating the task before her. Finally, she got up with a sigh and began literally fighting her way through the foliage, trying to move sideways toward the opposite side of the clearing.
She reasoned that it would be best if she could somehow clear a path around the clearing first, while Spock was watching the arachnoids to be sure they made no threatening moves toward her, and then come back and bring him through. She realized then that that must have been what Spock had in mind, though there had been no time for any explanations--and simultaneously realized that Spock had also known that it would be safer for her in the uncleared jungle.
He would have made his way to the edge of the path by now, Christine knew, and would be watch- ing from there in case one of the arachnoids decided to make a new path in the jungle toward her, and she knew they dared not tempt fate for any longer than necessary. It was imperative that they get out of the arachnoids’ sight and get around the web.
Presently, Christine was forced to stop momentarily. She had come to another arachnoid path. Shaking her head in frustration, she lowered herself almost to the ground and began to crawl lizard-fashion through the crushed foliage and across the path. As she wondered how many more of these paths she would have to cross before reaching the opposite side of the clearing, she suddenly caught sight of something strange through the underbrush.
Curious, she crawled toward the clearing and poked her head up just high enough to see over the foliage. Staring up at an obscure section of the web colony, Christine resisted the gasp that was her first reaction to what she saw there: in the bottom- most section of one of the webs, in the corner next to one
of the trees to which the colony was attached, was a skeleton of Humanoid proportions.
It was still wrapped in the cocoon of silvery strands that the arachnoids customarily wrapped their prey in before consuming it, but Christine could still see the skull and parts of the arms and legs; they were sufficiently preserved to retain most of their original shape. She’d gone over the preliminary reports with McCoy and remembered that the first expedition had been composed of three scientists. Christine frantically searched as much of the web as she could see from her angle for a second and third skeleton, but there was none.
Spock, she thought. I’ve got to tell Spock.
She turned then, checking first to see that none of the arachnoids had seen her, and moved as quickly as possible back down the path she had made toward Spock.
The Vulcan was crouched near the edge of the arachnoid path, behind a tree, approximately where Christine had expected to find him. “Spock!” she cried, so excited that she forgot to whisper.
“Kindly lower your voice, Dr. Chapel,” Spock admonished quietly, glancing up at the web colony. Two arachnoids close to the bottom had been alerted by the noise and were moving around their webs in confusion.
Christine saw them, too, and hastily complied with Spock’s request. “Spock, I’ve found something,” she whispered urgently.
Spock turned toward her, both eyebrows raised in anticipation. The missing expeditionary force? Christine directed his attention upward and quickly relocated the skeleton, comparatively more visible from this angle.
“There. Doesn’t that look like a Human skeleton to you?”
“Affirmative,” Spock replied, not even bothering to consult his tricorder to confirm their discovery, his eyes remaining on the decaying skeleton.
“I couldn’t find any others,” Christine told him apologetically, still searching the webs.
“Unnecessary. We now know what has happened to the previous expedition--this skeleton is suffi-
cient tangible proof. I now suggest that we go back down the arachnoid path by which we arrived at this web colony, stop at the first clearing and contact the Enterprise to arrange for beamup. There is nothing more to be done here.”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 8307.22--First Officer Spock recording.
Our mission to Alaar has been completed. The first expedition sent here was discovered to have been killed by the spiders that are indigenous to this planet. As these spiders are carnivorous, I have contacted Starfleet Command and requested that Alaar be quarantined, so that these...deaths will not
Spock switched off the recorder on the arm of the command chair and looked up to find McCoy eyeing him in mild surprise. “Spiders, Spock? I thought you said they were arachnoids.”
“The term ‘arachnoid’ is commonly used to refer to members of the spider-like races of beings who are intelligent, Doctor. These clearly were not,” Spock replied.
“All right, let’s talk about these log entries you’ve been making,” McCoy suggested, resting his hands on the arm of Spock's chair and leaning forward, becoming serious. “When do you cease to be ‘First Officer Spock’?”
“When I have discharged my final duties to the Captain.” The Vulcan’s voice was quiet, but McCoy sensed the tenuosity of his control. Would Spock ever get over Jim’s death?
“What do you mean by that?” McCoy asked.
“I do not believe the service held for him after our return was... adequate. I would like to arrange for something--a little more elaborate,” Spock explained, lowering his head. After a moment, he lifted it and looked steadily at McCoy. “Do you think he would approve?”
McCoy smiled encouragingly, silently berating himself for all the times he had accused Spock of wanting the Captaincy for himself. “I think he’d appreciate the gesture,” the Doctor assured Spock.
The dark Vulcan eyes remained troubled, but Spock nodded slightly in gratitude and acceptance. It had been important to him for McCoy to verify that he was ‘doing the right thing’. They both knew that Kirk had always viewed formal affairs with tolerance, but it was important to Spock to have a fitting and appro- priate farewell for his friend. His t’hy’la. Spock considered himself fortunate to have had Kirk’s friendship for as long as he had.
He turned in his chair to face the Communications station. “Uhura, I will be in my quarters. Please notify me when you receive a reply from Starfleet.”
Uhura nodded, watching the Vulcan rise and move toward the turbolift door. She and McCoy exchanged concerned looks, and McCoy wordlessly followed Spock out.
Spock didn’t notice McCoy following him until he got out of the turbolift and started toward his quarters. He realized then that McCoy was still behind him and turned, raising an eyebrow. “Doctor?”
“Spock, are you all right?” McCoy asked.
“Yes, Doctor,” Spock replied from behind his mask.
“Are you sure?” McCoy pressed, not convinced. “You left the Bridge awfully suddenly.”
Spock’s expression softened. “Do not be concerned, Doctor. I assure you, I am in control.” He turned and continued along the corridor to his quarters.
McCoy watched him for a moment, trying to decide whether or not to believe him, then turned and got back into the turbolift.
Several more days passed. Spock spent most of the time in his quarters, in communication with Starfleet Command. After having received an affirmative reply to his request that Alaar be quarantined, Spock began negotiating plans for a formal memorial service for Kirk.
It had to be done, as far as Spock was concerned, but it was not easy for him. It meant that he had
to be constantly thinking of Kirk and what he would want...and after a few days of this, Spock began to feel his emotional controls slipping again. The nightmares came back with a vengeance, and soon he couldn’t eat either.
By staying in his quarters most of the time, Spock managed to keep McCoy from knowing the extent to which his grief was affecting him, and to the other crewmembers, he appeared to be the personi- fication of Vulcan logic when he had to be on the Bridge--but Christine Chapel remembered vividly the nightmare she had seen him through on Alaar, and she finally decided the time had come to tell McCoy.
She confronted him in his office one day some two weeks after the Alaar mission had been completed.
“Dr. McCoy, have you seen Spock lately?”
McCoy looked up at her, sat back in his chair and pushed his work aside, noting the concern in her voice. “Not since yesterday, on the Bridge. Why do you ask, Christine?”
“Did he seem...all right?” Christine asked, obviously worried about something that as yet eluded McCoy.
“He seemed his usual self,” McCoy told her, standing up. “Christine, what is it?”
“Doctor, I don’t know if I should be telling you this, but—”Christine hesitated, then took a breath and plunged ahead. “--when we were on Alaar, Spock...had a nightmare.”
McCoy was stunned. It wasn’t as if Spock had never had nightmares before, but he never had them unless he was deeply, emotionally troubled by something...and both McCoy and Christine knew that there was only one thing that could be bothering Spock that much now.
“About Jim,” McCoy responded. It was not a guess.
Christine nodded. “He woke himself up calling the Captain’s name,” she elaborated. “I got him to talk about it. He said he heard Captain Kirk’s mind calling out to him for help, then saw the Captain’s body and relived the last few minutes before he died. And he said he’s had the same nightmare before.”
McCoy sat back down slowly, the full realization of how deeply Jim’s death had affected the Vulcan leaving him speechless.
“Doctor, Spock blames himself for the Captain’s death,” Christine concluded. “Can’t we do some- thing for him? Help him see that it wasn’t his fault?”
“And help him deal with his grief?” McCoy suggested, anticipating her.
“No, Christine--not yet. He’ll come to us when he’s ready to accept our help.”
“Are you sure? I’ve never known Spock to seek emotional consolation on his own initiative.”
“Normally, no. But he’s been through a lot this last year or so. V’ger forced him to take a good, hard look at himself, and what he saw made him decide to make some changes. He knows now that he may not
be able to deal with Jim’s death like a full-blooded Vulcan would, and that--under the circumstances—his Human half may be more than he can handle. If anything could break down that damnable logic and control of his, Jim’s death would do it...and Spock knows it as well as we do. I think he’s going to find it necessary to start looking for someone to fill the void, just like a Human would,” McCoy opined.
“Or maybe he’ll isolate himself from us out of fear of losing someone else...just like a Human would,” Christine countered.
“No, I don’t think so. Spock doesn’t enjoy being alone that much, or he’d have stayed on Vulcan and achieved Kolinahr,” McCoy returned, refusing to give verbal credence to something that was more possible than he cared to admit.
Christine chose to agree silently, though she was aware of McCoy’s uncertainty. “So we just watch and wait?”
McCoy nodded. “Watch and wait...and be here when Spock decides he needs us.”
Among other things to come out of Spock’s discussions with Starfleet Command, if was established that the memorial service for Kirk would be held on Earth, at Starfleet Headquarters, so now the Enterprise was en route to Earth. It was a long trip for Spock, in more ways than one, and he spent most of it in his quarters. McCoy and Christine grew increasingly concerned about Spock as the days passed, but held their peace, as McCoy still insisted that Spock should be the one to seek them out, not vice versa. Nonetheless, they kept a watchful eye on him.
Finally, the Enterprise drew near her destination. When they were three days away from Earth, Spock was still spending nearly all his off-duty time in his quarters. He hadn’t eaten since they had left Alaar, and little remained of the mask of logic and emotional control that Spock had forced himself to hide behind since Kirk’s death. The nightmares continued to assail him every time he tried to sleep, so he had stopped trying some time ago.
Only then, three days before the memorial service, did it occur to the Vulcan there were still certain Humans from whom he could seek guidance: specifically, Drs. McCoy and Chapel. He knew they had been trying to help him ever since Kirk’s death, but his initial inability to control his grief in front of Christine had embarrassed him so much that he become determined to deal with it in his own way, shunning their proffer- ed emotional support after (mistakenly, he realized now) interpreting it as pity...until now.
Spock came to them that night, knowing he would find them both in McCoy’s office, worriedly discussing him behind his back without meaning any harm by it, in the manner of Humans who are emo- tionally close to someone and don’t want them to know how worried they are about them. He watched them silently for a moment before speaking.
“Dr. McCoy, Dr. Chapel...”
They both turned toward him and stood up. “Spock!” McCoy cried, startled by his unexpected visit. “Are you all right?”
Spock made no answer, but the emaciated Vulcan form leaning weakly against the side of the door with an empty look in its dark eyes bore little resemblance to the Spock who had been Jim Kirk’s second-in-command and best friend for so many years--and both McCoy and Christine knew it.
“I...must speak to you both,” Spock began at last.
“Well, by all means, come in and sit down,” McCoy urged, going to the Vulcan and taking him by the arm. Under normal circumstances Spock might have objected, but now he let McCoy lead him into his office. Christine got up and turned her chair around for him, and Spock sat down tiredly. There was an awkward silence as Spock had no idea what to say or how to begin, but McCoy and Christine waited patiently. McCoy sat down behind his desk and Christine remained standing beside Spock, but the Vulcan still did not speak.
“Well?” McCoy prompted.
Spock still hesitated, but finally realized that nothing would be accomplished by his just sitting here. “As I am sure you have both noticed, I have not been myself since the Captain’s death,” he began softly, with obvious uncertainty. “I cannot sleep, I cannot eat...and do not know if anything can be done to remedy the situation, since I--seem unable to do anything about it myself. I would appreciate any suggestions or help either of you can offer.”
McCoy stared at him incredulously. “Spock, look at me,” he directed. The Vulcan looked up reluc- tantly and McCoy studied his face intently before speaking further, weeping inside at the emptiness in the dark eyes. “What are you getting at, Spock? What do you want us to do?”
“I had hoped you would be able to suggest something, Doctor,” Spock replied, lowering his eyes again in embarrassment. “I had not expected the--grief to be this intense. I thought I could control it. I was wrong. Clearly, I cannot command in this condition.”
He stopped, and they waited while Spock tried to gather his thoughts. Finally, the Vulcan spoke again. “It recently occurred to me that I am perhaps dealing with these emotions in the wrong way,” he explained, looking up at them again. “That is why I require your help. How would a Human endure this... emptiness?”
McCoy and Christine exchanged startled, curious looks, then McCoy turned back him. “Do you want to deal with this as a Human would? Are you sure you can?” the Doctor asked.
“I seem to have no other alternative than to try,” Spock returned, then his face took on a pleading expression, dark eyes searching for his answer in McCoy’s face. “I am quite serious, Doctor. You know my...inadequacies in that area better than I do. Simply treat me as you would any Human who was suffering from a--severe depression.”
As moved as he and Christine were by this desperate request for help from Spock, McCoy was still skeptical. It was a little too soon yet for the Vulcan to be relying on his Human half to help him through a situation this serious. “I don’t believe it, Spock. No Vulcan logic, no holier-than-thou lectures on the super- iority of Vulcan anatomy to Human? You want me to treat you like any other Human patient on this ship?”
“No...not like any other. Like one whom you might consider a friend,” Spock answered softly, bowing his head. “It seems that Humans sometimes treat each other with more consideration than they treat Vulcans--or half-Vulcans.”
McCoy suddenly felt furious with and ashamed of himself and his insensitivity as he watched the Enterprise’s resident half-Vulcan with growing concern. He leaned across his desk, as close as he dared to the bowed black head.
“I’m sorry, Spock. It must certainly have seemed that way to you sometimes, and there’s nobody to blame for that except me. But I know how close you and Jim were, and I promised him I’d take care of you. Christine and I want to start doing that now, if you’ll let us.”
The aforementioned half-Vulcan looked up at McCoy with a forgiving look in his eyes. McCoy had been with him more than physically at the moment of Kirk’s death, lending his silent support, knowing that that was the only kind Spock would have accepted at that moment, ignoring his own grief in favor of Spock’s--and Spock knew his offer of help was sincere.
At that moment, all his doubt and embarrassment at having to bring his emotional turmoil before McCoy and Christine vanished. “Thank you, Doctor, Christine. I appreciate it,” Spock said, noting as he did so that no words he knew of could fully convey his gratitude for their help and emotional support.
They decided that the first thing to be done was to get Spock to start eating and sleeping again. Remembering her previous success in getting Spock to release some of his inner agony and thus allowing him to quell the nightmares so he could sleep, Christine persuaded him to again let her sit with him while
he slept. He was still quite awake, however, when she arrived at his door that night. Spock admitted her,
but made no secret of his puzzlement.
“Christine? I had not intended to go to bed just yet.”
“I know. I thought...” Christine hesitated. “...well, you did say you wanted to deal with this like a Human would. So I thought you might want to talk about it now.”
“Yes, of course. Forgive me. I have been--rather distracted,” Spock assented in a muffled voice, getting up from his desk and going to sit down on his bed.
Christine followed him, sitting down on the bed beside him. “I think that’s understandable, under the circumstances.”
There followed a long, awkward silence, during which Spock’s discomfort seemed to multiply geometrically with each minute that passed. “It is difficult,” he explained. “I am not at all certain that I know how...to put what is within me into words.”
“I know. Don’t worry; we’re not on a time limit here,” Christine pointed out. “You always found the words when you talked to the Captain. Try pretending you’re talking to him now instead of me,” she sugges- ted cautiously after careful consideration.
Spock's eyebrows shot up into his hairline, and he stared at Christine as if she had just proposed that he appear stark naked on the Bridge, until he realized what she was really saying: there was no way she (or McCoy) could begin to help him get over Jim’s death until he started trusting her with his feelings. This was the Human way, Spock reminded himself--the way in which he himself had specifically requested Christine and McCoy teach him to survive this loss; he knew that this time there was no other choice for him. And he made up his mind.
For the next hour or so, Spock spoke hesitantly and in hushed tones of the powerful emotions that had been at war within him since Kirk’s death: the complete desolation, the emptiness and self-loathing caused by his inability to prevent Kirk’s death, a growing reluctance--fueled by grief too deep and profound to be expressed verbally--to ever again allow his emotions to lead him into such a friendship with anyone else (and thus risk the devastation of losing it again), and yet the loneliness left within him by his loss and his inner need to replace it.
Christine understood these things implicitly, perhaps by virtue of her own mental bond with Spock--since his wording, as he had anticipated, was not always too clear. She listened in silence as he spoke, not interrupting, but aching with empathy for him and wondering (not for the first time) if she was equal to the task of consoling him, or convincing him that his world was not going to come crashing down around him, no matter how it seemed...wondering also if Spock would ever trust anyone as completely and unquestion- ingly as he had trusted Kirk.
Suddenly tired after his painful revelations, Spock decided to try once again to sleep, and stretched out on his bed with Christine still sitting beside him. She took his hand in hers and watched him carefully as he began to drift off. The nightmare came again, as usual, scarcely an hour after Spock had fallen asleep--but when he woke up, there was no warning, for he did not cry out.
He awoke instead with a gasp, sitting so instantly upright that he frightened Christine, who emitted
a wordless yelp and stared at him, not yet knowing how he was going to react or what to do herself. In the next instant, Spock became rigidly still for an indeterminate period of time, his grip tightening on her hand until it threatened to cut off circulation (though she didn’t dare flinch) and his eyes slowly closing, tighter and tighter.
Christine suddenly became aware that the Vulcan was trembling ever so slightly, and Spock, as if aware of her discovery, suddenly bowed his head--but not before she caught sight of something glistening
in the corners of his eyes. Without a word, she reached up and touched the wetness. Spock released her
hand and opened his eyes, freeing the tears he knew she had discovered, tears unleashed by the nightmare and aided by the recent exposure of his emotions.
All he could think of to say was “Sorry...I am sorry,” over and over again.
Christine could hardly stand to see him in such emotional pain. She took his hands in hers. “Spock, it’s all right. Don’t be ashamed, and don’t apologize. Just let the tears come,” she urged gently. “Let them come.”
Spock obeyed, mainly because he seemed to have no other choice. It was readily apparent that he could not stop. Tears, he knew, were part of the Human healing process, in the wake of such grief and loss as he had suffered--that was why Christine had encouraged him to release them now instead of trying to stop them. He was uncertain if they would have the same cathartic effect on him as on a full-blooded Human, but at this stage he was willing to experiment with anything that might help.
He barely noticed when Christine pulled him into her arms, until his bowed head bumped into a soft barrier which he soon perceived to be her shoulder. Spock rested his head there, feeling Christine’s arms around him as she tried to pull him closer, and wept silently as she held him--for how long, he did not care to speculate. Finally, after remaining silent for most of the time she had been with him, Christine spoke.
“Spock, how are you doing?”
In answer, Spock sat back up and looked at her. His face was still tear-streaked, but his eyes were dry, and a relieved expression played about the dark eyes. “Somewhat better,” he admitted quietly, with a trace of startlement. It was obvious to Christine that he hadn’t expected the dealing-with-emotions-like-a-Human ploy to work for him. She was glad that it had, and prayed it would continue.
“You see? You had the right idea. Dr. McCoy and I are going to see that you survive this,” she promised, gently wiping the remains of the tears from his cheeks.
Spock lowered his eyes and was silent for a minute, then looked back at her. “Christine, do you think Dr. McCoy holds me responsible for what happened to Jim?”
Clearly, Spock’s recovery had some way to go before it would be complete. Christine looked into
his eyes, still holding her hand against his cheek. “Spock, listen to me. Dr. McCoy doesn’t blame you; he knows it wasn’t your fault. According to him, the Captain said as much before he died. The only one who blames you is you, and you’ve got to stop it. You’re not being fair to yourself,” she told him firmly but kindly.
Spock called to mind his own memories of Kirk’s final words to him and nodded in acceptance, capturing Christine’s hand and touching it lightly with his lips. “I wish...to thank you for being here for me, Christine. You have no idea what it means to me.”
Christine blushed slightly, then smiled. “That’s what friends are for, Spock. Would you like to go back to sleep?”
Spock considered this for a moment. “No,” he replied. “Somehow, I am not tired now...though I do not know why not.”
“Well, I’m under orders to get some food in you, too. Feel like eating something?”
“An agreeable suggestion,” Spock decided, moving to get up from the bed.
He paused, looking back at Christine and realizing that he would prefer company. At this hour, the Officers’ Lounge would be as dark and empty as he had felt inside. Now, however, there was a glimmer of light and hope in the midst of the cold, black void of his grief--a rose amongst the ashes, not yet in full bloom, but a bud filled with the promise of the healing and peace that would come in time because of Christine and McCoy’s friendship and compassion.
And Christine would be forever be remembered by Spock as the one who had come forward to offer her consolation and encouragement first. She had once again found a constructive way to express her feel- ings for him without embarrassing him, and Spock was again reminded that she was worthy of his trust.
“Would you join me?” he asked.
Christine, pleasantly surprised, beamed at him. “Love to!”
“Then let us go.” They rose together, heading for Spock’s door.
In this way, the last days before the memorial service at Starfleet Headquarters passed without further incident. Spock was still clearly not himself, but there were no more nightmares. He was able
to eat and sleep again, and slowly began to find it easier to discuss his grief and self-recrimination with Christine and McCoy. Finally, the day came when the Enterprise crew found themselves receiving per-mission to assume standard orbit around Earth.
Kirk’s body was removed from the Sickbay morgue and Spock insisted on beaming down with it alone, although both McCoy and Christine offered to accompany him--trying to assure them that he was
in control of himself and they need not be concerned as he stepped onto the transporter platform. Yet somehow, Christine knew that all was not as it appeared, and that what control Spock had was not being maintained without cost.
The memorial service itself was to begin a few hours later. Messages and invitations had been sent, and now Federation officials and Starfleet personnel who had known and respected Kirk were beginning to arrive. There was Kirk’s nephew Peter, his only living relative, now a cadet at Starfleet Academy; Jamie Finney, now a young woman, and a recently widowed Areel Shaw Barnett--both old friends of Kirk’s...as well as many others whom Spock's mind was too occupied to recognize.
Virtually every planet in the Federation was represented, and Spock eventually found even his own parents among the mourners...and even he would have admitted to considerable surprise upon discovering that T’Pau herself had come to pay her final respects. T’Pau of Vulcan, who had always avoided Federation/ Human contact whenever possible! Apparently Kirk had made more of an impression her than Spock had thought in the brief time he had spent in her presence all those years ago. T’Pau had little business engaging in space travel at her age, but had risked it anyway--for Kirk. And she barely knew the Human.
Spock ignored her now and instead went to greet his parents. Amanda noticed him first and came
to meet him. “Mother...” he began quietly, from behind his mask.
Amanda, of course, saw through it. In fact, his inner agony was quite obvious to her, his control noticeably more relaxed than it would have been before his encounter with V’ger. She could also see the results of the war Spock’s emotional turmoil had waged with his body--he looked thin and tired. She would not see him so without trying to comfort him, and before Spock was aware of it, Amanda had gathered him into her arms.
Despite his control, a part of him--the Human part, perhaps--ached for solace, and Spock allowed her embrace without being certain why. He only knew that, for some reason, physical contact between himself and the few loved ones he had left seemed to ease his pain and help him control his grief. He kept
this to himself, however, assuming it to be some unforeseen side-effect of his determination to follow Human mourning customs. There was an ancient Terran saying he had once heard: If it works, don’t fix it. And this had definitely helped him, when Vulcan logic and every method of emotional control he had ever been taught had failed him.
They were interrupted by Sarek’s voice: “Amanda, restrain yourself.”
Amanda and Spock separated immediately, Spock trying to restore his mask of logic and control, and Amanda looked at her husband in mild exasperation. “Sarek, we’re not on Vulcan now. Besides, Captain Kirk was practically family,” she pointed out.
“I am aware of that, my wife. Why else do you think we are here?” Sarek returned quietly, shifting his attention to Spock. “Spock, are you certain you wish to attend this service?”
Spock searched his father’s face, wanting to believe the question was motivated by concern and compassion for his son’s feelings, rather than doubt of his rationality and control. “It was my idea; I must be here. Besides...the Captain was like a brother to me," he told Sarek neutrally. “You need not be concerned that I will embarrass you. I am in control.”
“Are you so certain of that?” Sarek questioned.
Spock tried to ignore the challenge in his voice. Amanda, previously silent during their conversa- tion, sighed softly. It was obvious that things had not changed between her husband and son, as much as she had hoped that Sarek would put aside his differences with Spock on this occasion.
When McCoy and Christine found Spock, the memorial service was less than an hour away. He was sitting near the front of the pavilioned State Room within Starfleet Command Headquarters with Sarek and Amanda. The Vulcan Ambassador was silent as mother and son talked quietly. Spock had questions that Amanda would be more capable of answering than he would, and she was more capable of providing conso- lation when answers would not suffice.
Spock wanted to discuss the situation fully with her, but this clearly was not the time or place--in a soon-to-be-crowded room with Sarek sitting right next to them. However, there was still too much turmoil still within him for Spock to wish to remain totally silent, and this was the first time he’d seen his mother since his return to the Enterprise. He was still trying to put that turmoil into words when the two Medical Officers approached.
Amanda was glad to see McCoy, who, after greeting Sarek, immediately drew her aside and began explaining the circumstances surrounding Kirk’s death, then described in detail Spock’s reaction to it. While Amanda was still digesting that information, beginning to understand why Spock found it so difficult to discuss, McCoy introduced her to Christine, whom neither Amanda nor Sarek had met formally, and they rejoined Spock and Sarek.
The five of them talked politely for a few minutes. McCoy and Christine were both somewhat nervous; Kirk, after all, had been the only one to spend any time with Sarek and Amanda...but were quickly put at ease by the Ambassador and his wife. Both had come to respect Kirk during the brief stay on the Enterprise so many years ago, and he had occasionally visited them on Vulcan.
Besides which, Spock had tried to keep in touch with them since that trip to Babel, and amid what- ever other news he had, he always managed to chronicle the doings of his Captain. Spock’s stargrams since his return to the ship had been no different; that was how Amanda and Sarek had learned of Kirk’s return to command...and finally, a few weeks ago, another message had come to them through the Vulcan Embassy: Captain Kirk was dead. Both had reacted with shock, even Sarek, but it had been Amanda’s idea to attend the memorial service. And Sarek, for once, did not attempt to change her mind.
As they talked, Spock’s eyes fell upon an object in the back of the room: a casket draped with a UFP flag, waiting to be brought up to the front at the beginning of the service. He began to feel his hard-won emotional control slipping, and knew that it could not be maintained for the duration of the service unless he did something drastic--something he really would rather not do, even under normal circumstances.
His face remained impassive as people began slowly filing into the State Room, but as he turned back toward his parents and two friends, something about Spock’s facial expression changed. He searched each of the faces before him, and his eyes came to rest on the countenance of Christine Chapel.
Yes...their brief sharing of consciousness a few years ago had left them with a partial mindbond which had apparently survived Spock’s three years on the Gol desert. Spock had often thought of that bond with certain undeniable and conflicting emotions, but the fact of its existence might help him now. Of the four present with him, she was the least likely to consider his telepathic contact an invasion of privacy--she knew his thoughts already--and circumstances made it impossible for Spock to ask her permission first, as
he normally would. It was logical...though Spock was aware that his sense of logic was not entirely reliable these days. Mentally, he began to reach out.
At first, Christine felt nothing. There were too many faces and voices, and she was still too occupied with the present verbal conversation to be aware of Spock’s attempted mind-touch. Then, slowly, she sensed something vaguely familiar reaching toward her mind.
Christine, it said softly.
Spock had seldom mind-melded with her, so it took Christine a minute to understand what was happening. Soon, however, the faces and voices blurred, faded, and were gone as she gradually became aware of his presence in her mind. She allowed her mind to respond, reaching out to him with concern.
Spock, what’s wrong?
Spock allowed her to see his gratitude for her quick acceptance, then, as if one followed too close
on the heels of the other for him to shield, his embarrassment: Forgive my intrusion, Christine. I needed... help--and this was the only way I knew of, at the moment, to attain it.
Christine drew him closer and deeper into her mind, her presence radiating compassion, affection and anxiety. But here? Now? The service is about to start.
I know, but it is necessary. I just saw Jim’s coffin, and...seem to be losing control again, Spock’s mind explained, gently touching and probing thoughts and emotions as Christine showed them to him, but not going any deeper until he was sure he had her consent.
Christine showed him puzzlement, but also eagerness to help; Spock could find no reproach or embarrassment within her. I’ll do whatever I can to help, Spock, but what is it you expect me to do?
Sorrow and doubt filtered through Spock’s consciousness as he slowly lowered his shields and intertwined with hers, realizing that what he wanted was something Christine might not be capable of.
Her mind, meanwhile, embraced his, reaching and probing with an inquiring and reassuring touch. Spock sensed the sincerity of her wish to console him and finally revealed the reason for his mental contact.
It is something Jim used to do sometimes, when I was--disturbed and wished to talk to him, but could not seem to find the words. He would...think of something pleasant and allow me to mind-meld with him for a moment; it would help me--relax enough to talk to him.
He saw that his uncertainty was shared and amplified by Christine. I’m not Captain Kirk. Your bond with him was much stronger than ours, you know. I doubt I’d be able to do that.
She was unprepared for the level of unshielded agony and desperation with which Spock responded, followed by sadness and resignation. I ask only that you make the attempt, Christine. Please...it will only take a few seconds, and will help me maintain control until we are back on the ship.
For one embarrassing and painful moment, which seemed to last far too long, all Spock could feel within Christine was fear and humiliation. Then he realized that her fear was not for herself but for any possible mental or emotional damage she might cause him, her humiliation rooted in what she perceived
as her own inadequacies in knowing how to help him. Finally, her mind conveyed acquiescence.
All right, I’ll try, Spock. Give me a minute.
Spock held himself at the current level of her mind he now occupied, allowing her to search her memories without any intrusion by him, waiting for her to reveal them to him on her own. At length, Chris- tine called up her memory of the day Spock had returned to the Enterprise and she, McCoy, and Kirk had greeted him on the Bridge--a happy memory for her, even though Spock had never responded to her greet- ing, and she allowed him to touch and feel her happiness.
Spock explored the memory cautiously but willingly, marveling that she found it pleasant as he viewed her image of him as he had appeared on that day: not half-Human...not even Vulcan. A mobile
statue cast in stone. It was a wonder any of them had even recognized him. He revealed his surprise to her.
This is a pleasant memory for you?
Of course it is. I wangled the reassignment in hopes that you’d come back, after all. Remember my big, stupid grin? Something like laughter echoed through Christine’s mind.
Intrigued, Spock called up his own memory of that day, wanting to share it with Christine and compare it with hers before he broke their link. It was a mistake. His memory, so deeply repressed that
he had forgotten the pain it always brought him, centered on Jim. Jim smiling so affectionately at him,
Jim saying “Welcome back” without getting so much as a raised eyebrow out of him in response, trying repeatedly later that night to talk to him and finding it impossible. Guilt filled Spock, then agony.
If I had only known how little time we had left together...perhaps I would not have wasted so much of it in futile pretenses. It has only been a little over three months since my return.
Christine felt the intensity of Spock’s pain and grief and ached for him, turning her disgust with her apparent ineptitude inward and showing him only compassion and affection. I’m sorry. I obviously picked the wrong memory. Spock, I love you. I want more than anything else for you to be happy.
Spock accepted her offered consolation, embracing her emotions while attempting to rein his own.
I know, Christine. The attempt means as much as the results; please believe that.
Christine thought of her previous successful effort at consoling Spock of a few days ago, unaware until it was too late to do anything about it that she was sharing it with Spock. They relived the entire inci-dent in reverse order, starting with the late dinner they had shared that night in the Officers’ Lounge and going backwards through the seemingly endless time Spock had spent curled up in her arms, crying like a child...to the nightmare.
Spock, who had been still cautiously touching and exploring the memories--since his own memory up to that point had been pleasant--suddenly froze and tried to withdraw from it, filling both minds with fear and pain. By that time, however, it was too late to stop the inevitable from happening.
All other thoughts were lost as both minds were submerged in a single all-too-familiar vision: somewhat less intense than when Spock had experienced it alone, but just as persistent and tormenting...a swirl of blackness and blood, out of which rose a jagged row of fangs. As they closed over the image, both minds heard Kirk’s crying out and then fading away, as if he were falling into a well: Oh,God, no... Spock! Help me! Spock--
In real time, though neither Spock nor Christine retained any concept of that, scarcely a minute had passed. McCoy had seen this too many times. Spock would achieve a mind-meld with someone or some- thing and become so immersed in both sets of thoughts that he couldn’t break the link. It was normally dan- gerous for sender and receiver alike, but now could be even worse with Spock’s uncertain state of mind.
Frantically, McCoy ran around and herded everybody else out of the State Room, quickly making
up something about the time for the service having been moved back in order to accommodate Nogura, who was speaking the eulogy and hadn’t arrived yet. At the same instant that McCoy closed the doors behind
the others, the macabre image and Kirk’s mental cry tore through the minds of Spock and Christine. She screamed, pressing fingers against her temples, and collapsed to the floor.
Spock’s eyes seemed to be frozen open in horror. McCoy ran to the Vulcan and grabbed him by the shoulders, shaking him vigorously. “Spock, break it off!” he shouted. Contact had already been broken by Christine, but instead of snapping Spock out of it, this had only intensified the effect of the image on his mind. At last, as Amanda knelt beside a reeling but conscious Christine Chapel and helped her to her knees, Sarek intervened for Spock.
“Allow me, Doctor,” he urged, pushing McCoy aside to grab his son by the shoulders and slap him hard across the face. Stunned, Spock dropped to the floor...and as his eyes focused, he saw Christine kneel-ing shakily in front of him. Trembling violently and still somewhat out of breath, the Vulcan forced himself across the floor to her side.
Unable to speak at first, Christine simply stared at him in shock, horrified by what she had seen in his mind and fully understanding for the first time what he had been going through and why he had been afraid to sleep. Spock was still trying to recover when she found her voice again.
“Spock, was that the nightmare?” she asked in a half-whisper.
Spock, still trying to focus his attention on controlling his shaking body, could only nod assent.
“Oh, God...” Christine reacted the only way she could: she crawled forward and took the Vulcan
in her arms, wanting to convey her newfound understanding. Spock tolerated her embrace for a moment, though it destroyed his concentration, ignoring the presence of his parents, then pushed her away. Christine compliantly retreated several feet and simply sat, shaken and looking miserable, as she tried to pull herself together.
After a time, Spock again moved to her side, cautiously reaching to take her hand. “Forgive me, Christine. I did not mean to expose you to it.”
Christine looked up at him, placing her other hand on top of his and squeezing it. “No, Spock...I’m glad you did. Now I can truly say I know how you’ve felt, and that knowledge will help me help you get over it,” she returned.
Spock's eyes met hers, conveying understanding and appreciation, and the sudden realization that
it was all right to feel deep grief--even this deep. Even though he was a Vulcan. They sat silently for some time after that, holding each other’s hands, drawing strength from each other and helping each other recover.
The service finally began--on time--after Nogura arrived. He spoke the eulogy as planned, and the entire affair took place without further incident. No one said anything about what had happened, but both Spock and Christine seemed physically and emotionally drained as they sat beside Sarek and Amanda.
And yet, Spock was pleased with the memorial service he had spent so much time and effort putting together. The State Room was filled to standing-room-only capacity with Enterprise crewmembers, Starfleet brass, dignitaries representing planets throughout the Federation, officials of every title and description ...all of whom had come to pay respects to James T. Kirk... and banners from a hundred planets lined the walls.
Spock cast an uncertain look at McCoy as the question again came into his mind: Would Jim have approved of all this? The Doctor saw the question in his eyes and smiled reassuringly.
Christine watched Spock worriedly as the service progressed. “Are you all right?” she asked in a whisper.
Spock nodded silently.
“Are you sure?”
“I will live.” But Spock's attempted sarcasm fell flat.
Later, as Spock was saying goodbye to his parents, Amanda--remembering his mind-meld with Christine and not convinced that its effects had completely passed--repeated the question. “Yes, Mother. I am all right,” Spock replied, though the unsteadiness of his voice indicated otherwise. “As soon as I resume my duties aboard the Enterprise.”
“Spock...” It was the first time since before the service that Sarek had attempted to talk to his son. “...perhaps it would be better--under the circumstances--for you to resign your commission and return with us to Vulcan,” he suggested.
“Even if that were possible, I told you in my last stargram that I had no intention of returning to Vulcan.” Spock’s response was tinged with indignation.
“I am aware of what you told us. But do you really wish to stay now, with Captain Kirk dead?”
Spock could not tell from his father’s expression, tone or manner whether he was sincerely concern-
ed or just testing his son's present grasp of logic, and that caused him even more discomfort. “I have a responsibility to the ship and crew,” he responded.
For once, however, even Sarek could read the turmoil revealed in his son’s eyes. “There is no need to become emotional,” he chided tolerantly. “I only made the suggestion because—” He stopped upon realizing that he didn’t know why he’d made the suggestion.
Spock raised an eyebrow, regarding his father with the stony expression that usually indicated supreme disapproval or impatience...or, every once in a while, anger. “You speak of emotionalism? Your suggestion is totally illogical.”
Amanda usually tried to stay out of arguments between Sarek and Spock, but this time she couldn’t resist jumping in. “He’s right, Sarek. You’re not being very logical.”
Sarek looked past Spock to his wife, eyebrows arching in surprise. “And since when are you an authority on logic, Amanda?” he demanded.
“Since I married a Vulcan,” she answered, smiling. Sarek hesitated for a moment, then held his first and second fingers extended toward her, managing a smile of his own. Amanda touched her fingers to his and looked at him affectionately; their eyes met. At last Sarek turned back to his son.
“Spock, you imagine that I do not understand you--but you misunderstand me,” he explained. “I do understand. I understand that you are obviously...deeply affected by the Captain’s death--perhaps not to the point of irrationality, but beyond your ability to control your emotions. I am offering you an alternative ...a way to regain that control.”
Spock tensed, knowing he didn’t dare tell his father that he had chosen the Human way to deal with Kirk’s death. “I have found my own alternative,” he said coolly.
“Then your alternative method is inefficient,” Sarek returned.
Seeing Spock’s control beginning to disintegrate and his eyes growing cold and hard, as they always did when he was backed into a corner and forced to defend his not-entirely-logical actions before Sarek, Amanda intervened again. “What Sarek means is that you’re welcome to come home with us if you want to,” she elaborated, realizing that Sarek’s suggestion had been emotionally motivated.
“Amanda!” Sarek cried, aware of her discovery and scandalized that she would be so willing to reveal it. But Amanda ignored her husband’s uncharacteristic expression of astonishment and kept her eyes on Spock, awaiting his response to her invitation.
“No, Mother. I must remain here. The Enterprise is my home,” Spock reiterated. “Besides, I prom-ised Jim to take care of the ship.” This last was barely audible, even to Amanda, who was at his side; Spock hadn’t wanted anyone else to hear it--especially not Sarek.
Amanda nodded, understanding. Spock would never fit in anywhere else. She had realized that long ago, when Spock first made his decision to join Starfleet against Sarek’s will. It was the reason she had supported his decision. She had understood that the satisfaction of Spock’s emotional need to belong was at the same time logical for him--and that to join Starfleet was the only choice he could have made. Besides, Spock had another reason to stay: two friends still at his side to see him through this.
Amanda looked anxiously past Spock to McCoy and Christine, who were preparing to beam up, and McCoy looked back at her with an encouraging smile. “Don’t worry, Amanda. We’ll take good care of him,” he assured her. Christine nodded in agreement.
“My wife, attend,” came from somewhere near the door, and Amanda, finally satisfied, turned and went to join Sarek, and together they left the State Room.
As Spock went to rejoin McCoy and Christine, T’Pau suddenly appeared before him. “T’Pau...” he began, but trailed off as he realized he didn’t know what to say. He had never found it easy to talk to her. “I...had heard you came--against your doctor’s advice,” he ventured. “Why?”
“For my own reasons,” the ancient matriarch replied. “Kirk’s death was a... tragedy.”
“Yes,” Spock responded, unable to think of anything else to say. His mind was too preoccupied
to even be surprised at T’Pau’s use of the term. He was thinking of Kirk again, and how he had died. A tragedy? It was also... “Useless,” he told himself, not realizing he had spoken aloud.
T’Pau remained silent for a time, watching Spock and trying to comprehend the thinly disguised emotions apparent in his voice and expression. “I grieve with thee,” she said finally, knowing that Spock would remember the one other time she had spoken those words...many years ago on Vulcan at the conclu-sion of a ceremony at which T’Pau had thought ended Kirk’s life.
Spock nodded in silent acceptance of T’Pau’s unusual expression of sympathy, wishing that Kirk’s death had been simulated as it had been that other time, but such ‘wishes’ served no purpose. At least Spock knew that T’Pau was as sincere as she had been before--probably more so, since she knew that she wasn’t being deceived this time.
At last T’Pau departed the State Room, and Spock gratefully went to rejoin his shipmates. They stood together silently for a few minutes, Spock watching McCoy, suddenly realizing that he had been so wrapped up in his own inner turmoil that he had given little thought to the Doctor’s emotional state. And he had promised Jim not only to take care of the Enterprise, but to be a friend to McCoy. “I will be with him,” Spock had said to Jim as life drained from his body. It was time to start keeping that promise, as well.
McCoy was oblivious to him, eyes downcast and fighting tears.
McCoy appeared not to hear.
“Doctor, are you all right?” Spock queried, reined concern in his voice.
McCoy looked up at him. “I...just can’t believe he’s really dead, Spock.”
Spock looked into the blue eyes and saw a reflection of the emptiness he himself felt. “I know, Doctor. You have been so preoccupied with me that you have not had time to accept it yourself.”
“Have you accepted it?”
Spock thought long and hard before responding. “I believe so.”
“Are you sure?” Christine asked, touching his hand gently.
Spock turned to her. “Yes, Christine, I am sure.”
Christine smiled, knowing he was keeping the truth to himself, but also knowing that he had become determined to survive the loss of the Captain with their help and support.
Spock managed a smile of his own in return. It had never occurred to him that anyone but Jim could ever feel any sort of deep emotion, like love or friendship, for him. Now he suddenly realized that McCoy, too, was his friend--was, and always had been. Christine still loved him, and their mindbond was still intact and capable of providing comfort. There would come a time for them, he now knew, when he would ask her to share his life and their partial bond would be completed. Their eyes met, and Spock knew she would know his feelings without his having to speak.
Finally, McCoy interrupted them. “Come on, Spock. Let’s go home.”
Spock drew a deep breath and nodded, taking out his communicator. He felt better now, physically as well as emotionally. It was unlikely that he would ever share the special bond he and Jim had had with anyone else, but it was good to know that McCoy and Christine would continue to be at his side. Kirk’s death, which had seemed so pointless to Spock at the time, had at least proven to him that Jim wasn’t his only friend.
Again, Spock’s eyes fell upon the flag-draped casket before them. Goodbye, Jim, my t’hy’la. May you find peace, he said silently. Finally, he activated his communicator. “Spock to Enterprise. Three to beam up.”