Authors: Judith Reeves-Stevens
“And you, Captain?” Spock said.
Kirk looked around as if searching for answers. “I don't know. My ship's been comandeered by Starfleet. No reasons. No explanations.”
“Didn't Commodore Wolfe tell you anything on the bridge?” McCoy asked.
“Nothing. We're to continue on to Memory Prime. I'm technically in command. But she's coming along as âsecurity adviser' with a staff of twenty troopers.”
“What's Starfleet afraid of?” McCoy was beginning to share his friend's frustration.
Kirk stumbled over the word, then said, “Spock.”
“Starfleet's afraid of Spock?” McCoy's eyes widened.
“That would seem logical, Doctor. I was the one member of the crew singled out for interrogation.”
“But why? What were they trying to find out from you?”
“Difficult to say. I detected no precise pattern to their questions. Though I believe the most probable conclusion is that Starfleet security has been made aware of some threat against one or more of the prize nominees on board this vessel. For reasons unknown, I am their chief suspect.”
“That fits with what Wolfe told me about the new security arrangements,” Kirk conceded, ignoring McCoy. “All events that were planned by Mr. Spock have been canceled. No more colloquia, poster sessions, or dinners. You're confined to your quarters for the duration of the voyage. There're two troopers waiting outside to escort you there after this checkup.”
“Most regrettable,” Spock said. “Still, I shall be able to carry on my conversations over the intercom netâ”
Kirk shook his head. “Incommunicado. I'm sorry, Spock.”
“This is crazy, Jim,” McCoy said. “Why didn't they just throw him into the brig at the starbase and be done with it?”
“I believe they would have had to charge me with some crime, Doctor.”
“So they think you might be responsible for some real or imaginary threat, but since they aren't sure, they've sent a security team along to keep an eye on you and the nominees,” Kirk said.
“That would appear to be an accurate assessment.”
“Then all we have to do is find out what kind of threat has been made against the nominees and, if it's legitimate, find the person who made it. Then you're free and clear.” Kirk looked satisfied with his conclusion.
“I point out that there are at least eight other vessels carrying nominees to Memory Prime, Captain. If Starfleet security really does not have much more information about the nature of the threat, then these activities could be taking place on board those ships as well.”
“That's easily found out, Spock. But in the meantime, Commodore Wolfe and her troops are on board
ship interfering with
crew. And I'm going to see to it that that interference ends as soon as possible.” Kirk was calmer, more assured than when he had arrived. McCoy could tell it was because the captain now had something to focus on, a way to fight back.
“At warp four, we shall be arriving at Memory Prime within three days,” Spock said. “It might not be possible to accomplish all of that in so short a time.”
“But at least we'll be doing something, Spock. Finally.” The captain left, his pace quicker than before, full of energy.
Spock turned to McCoy. “Finally?” he asked.
“The captain does not enjoy being assigned to duty in Quadrant Zero. He thinks we're here because of a foul-up at mission planning.”
Spock considered that for a moment. “It would not be logical for Starfleet to waste a valuable resource such as the
by assigning it to routine duty. However, our presence here could be intended to honor either the attendees or this ship. When it comes to matters of prestige and honor, Starfleet is seldom logical.” Spock silently considered the possibilities that presented themselves to him. “I must admit, Doctor, that I had been so caught up in planning for the event that I had not properly considered why it was we were taking part.”
As usual, McCoy couldn't see where Spock was going with his arguments with himself. “So what
that make our presence here?” he asked impatiently.
“Fascinating,” Spock said eloquently, then left the sputtering doctor for the company of his guards.
Throughout the ship, common area lighting was stepped down in intensity. Nonessential labs and duty stations were closed for a shift while reduced teams monitored critical environmental and propulsion operations. On viewscreens small and large, flat and three-dimensional, the latest serials uploaded from Centaurus and Starbase Four played in private quarters and department lounges. Most of the recreation facilities were in full use and the romantically inclined wandered through the plants and flowers in botany. Within the warp-compressed brilliance of the passing stars, it was nighttime on the
The light was also turned down in the captain's cabin. Most of it came from two white candles that flickered softly amid an elegant setting of antique silver and crystal dating back to the first Tellarite contact. The food upon the plates and the champagne in the gleaming flutes had come from ship's stores, instead of its synthesizers; a privilege of rank not often called upon.
At one side of the private dining table, Captain Kirk smiled warmly, hard at work. At the other side, Commodore Montana Wolfe smiled coldly back and wondered what the hell was going on.
“I suppose all of this is meant to impress me, hmmm?”
Kirk surveyed the table. “We're traveling at warp four, eating prime swordfish steaks from Mars, and drinking champagne from Laramie Six.
impressed.” He looked up at Wolfe. “And you helped me get here, Commodore.”
“If you want to think that, you go right ahead. I never mind having people like you feel you owe me favors.” She held up her glass in a toast. “Toâ¦what do you think?”
“Absent friends,” Kirk said quickly, holding his glass to hers.
The commodore pursed her lips. “Specifically your science officer?”
“Since you brought him upâ¦”
Wolfe returned her glass and picked up her fork, playing with her Wallenchian loopbeans. “How long have you known Spock?” she asked. Kirk could sense it wasn't an idle question.
“Since I took command,” Kirk said. “He was science officer under Chris Pike.”
“Bit of a maverick, I understand.”
Kirk nearly choked on his champagne. “Spock? A maverick?”
“First Vulcan through the Academy. Not as if there's a huge lineup of them trying to follow in his footsteps.”
“But that's always the way with Academy enrollment. Real enlistment doesn't begin until a full generation has grown up with the idea of Starfleet and the Federation.”
“Vulcan isn't exactly a new member.”
“No, but they have long generations.” Kirk pushed back from the table. It was a signal the social part of the evening was over. “Tell me the truth. What do you have against Spock?”
“Mixing friendship and duty isn't a good idea, Kirk.” Wolfe's voice hardened. She had reached some sort of limit.
“I'm not asking out of friendship. I'm asking because we're both Starfleet officers, dedicated to our duty and our oath. And you know something about a valuable member of my crew that might make him unfit for duty.” He leaned forward, held up a beseeching hand. “Help me do my job, Mona.”
Kirk could see Wolfe arguing the pros and cons with herself. He watched her closely, keeping his calculated expression of innocent trust frozen on his face.
“This is off the record, Kirk. Is that understood?” she finally began.
Kirk nodded somberly, hiding his knowledge that he had won this particular showdown. “Absolutely, Commodore.”
“Literally minutes before your ship arrived at Starbase Four, I received a priority communication from the security contingent on Memory Prime responsible for the prize ceremonies.”
“I can't give you all the details because I don't have them all myself. But off the record,” she stressed again, “they suspect an attempt will be made to assassinate one or more, perhaps all, of the nominees.”
She stopped as if she had said enough.
“To tell you the truth,” Kirk said, “I had already guessed that much myself. My question is: why Spock?”
“Not even off the record. I'm sorry butâ¦I'm under orders.” She truly did look apologetic. Or else she can put on a performance as well as I can, Kirk thought.
“But the security contingent on Memory Prime has reason to suspect him?”
“I don'tâ¦” Wolfe said, then placed her hands on the table, leaned forward, and spoke almost in a whisper, as if she were afraid of being overheard on Memory Prime. “The security people there are working from rumors, intercepted communications, garbled codes, and probability analyses run by the facilities on Prime itself.”
“Sounds circumstantial to me,” Kirk said.
“That's the problem. It's all circumstantial. Except for the name. Except for Spock. He's there in those messages.”
“By name?” Kirk was shocked. It was unthinkable.
“Not the name. But his position, his background. His motivation. His actual name wasn't necessary. Everything else fits. For the Fleet's sake, I wish it weren't true. Maybe it isn't true. But the stakes are too high. We can't risk it.”
Kirk felt as if he were in a game where the rules were changing with every move. “If Spock wasn't specifically named, then who was?”
Wolfe shook her head. She had said too much.
“Who?” Kirk demanded.
“T'Pel,” Wolfe said. It was a cross between a croak and a whisper.
Kirk leaned back. The name didn't mean anything to him. But before he could say anything more, his door announcer beeped.
“That'll be the yeoman for the table,” he said to Wolfe. “Come,” he called out to the door circuits.
The door slid aside to reveal a stooped thin figure, clothed in black, definitely not a yeoman.
“Lights, level two,” Kirk said, and the strips around his walls came to life. “Please come in,” he said to his visitor.
“Captain Kirk, I presume?” the visitor asked with a precise, clipped delivery Kirk recognized. He was Vulcan.
He shuffled in from the dimly lit corridor and paused impassively. Kirk saw a noble face, lined from almost two centuries of experience, with a cap of star-white hair, and a striking green tinge to his complexion that came with the thinning skin of Vulcan old age. But Kirk didn't recognize the man.
“Captain Kirk,” Wolfe said, quickly getting up from the table. “May I introduce Academician Sradek of Vulcan. Academician, James Kirk.” She moved to stand beside the elderly being, making no move to touch him in grudging deference to the Vulcan dislike for telepathically sensing the emotional thoughts of humans, unless absolutely necessary. However, she was there in case he needed to take her arm to prevent a stumble.
Kirk stood and held his hand in the proper manner. “Live long and prosper, Academician Sradek.”
Sradek returned the salute in a trembling, offhand manner. “Live long and prosper, Captain Kirk.” Then he sighted the chair by the captain's bunk and headed for it.
Kirk questioned Wolfe with his eyes but she shrugged to say she didn't know what Sradek wanted either.
“Please, sit down,” Kirk offered as Sradek sank into the chair. “May I offer you something?”
“Of course you may, but I do not wish anything,” Sradek said evenly.
Kirk had heard that sort of thing before and knew what it meant. Spock was usually the one who had to make the effort to change his thinking processes to suit his human coworkers, but in this case, Kirk would have to be accommodating to the Vulcan. And that meant forgetting politeness. Since Sradek was here, he had a purpose for being here, and no doubt would explain himself soon enough. Small talk wasn't necessary.
“I am here to ask questions concerning the situation that surrounds the presence of the nominees on board this vessel,” Sradek announced as Kirk sat across from him on the edge of his bunk. Wolfe stood off to the Vulcan's side.
“I shall answer them to the best of my ability,” Kirk said in what he thought to be an acceptable reply.
Sradek narrowed his eyes at Kirk. “I haven't asked them yet.”
Kirk said nothing, quietly admiring the delicate golden inlay on the silver comet-shaped IDIC symbol the academician wore pinned to his black tunic.
“Why am I not allowed to meet with Spock?” Sradek asked without preamble.
“Mr. Spock is confined to his quarters, incommunicado, for the duration of this voyage, by order of Starfleet command, and for reasons which are classified,” Wolfe answered. Then she said to Kirk, “Sradek was one of Spock's instructors at the Vulcan Academy of Science. Spock spoke to me just before the
arrived and said he looked forward to meeting with Sradek.”
“And I with him,” Sradek added. “Is he considered a threat to the safety of any on board?” he asked.
“No,” Wolfe said.
Kirk spoke at the same time. “Not at all.”
Sradek turned from one to the other. “The commodore states a falsehood, the captain states a truth. Truly, I do not understand how your species has accomplished what it has.”
“Do you have other questions?” Kirk prompted.
“Will you allow me to speak with Spock?”
“No,” Wolfe said again.
“Not until we reach Memory Prime,” Kirk qualified.
“Humans,” Sradek said without intonation, though his meaning was perfectly evident. “Will you allow me to take part in any of the activities that had been scheduled for me while on this vessel?”
“Not if they were activities organized by Mr. Spock,” Wolfe explained.
“There was to be a tour of the warp nacelles tomorrow, to be conducted by the chief engineer. Has that been canceled also?”
Wolfe checked with Kirk. “Scotty set that up for Professor La'kara. Spock had nothing to do with it,” the captain said. Wolfe gave permission for the tour to proceed as scheduled.
“Anything else, Academician?” Kirk inquired.
The Vulcan looked over to the shelf behind Kirk's writing table. “That carving of the Sorellian fertility deity,” he said, pointing to the primitive red sculpture that scowled behind Kirk's back every time he sat down to do his screen work.
“Yes?” Kirk said, wondering what the Sorellian fertility deity had to do with anything.
“It's a forgery,” Sradek stated, and pushed against the arms of the chair to stand.
Kirk rose also and he and Wolfe followed Sradek to the door.
“Good night, Academician,” Wolfe said. “Perhaps I will see you on the tour tomorrow.”
“Is something expected to happen to your vision?” Sradek asked.
Kirk smiled at the commodore's reaction. Even he knew better than to say something colloquial to a Vulcan like Sradek. The academician shuffled back into the hallway.
“The more time you spend around them, the sooner you'll learn,” Kirk said after the door had whisked shut behind the old Vulcan. “I'd guess he's almost two hundred years old. Peace Prize nominee, isn't he?”
Wolfe said yes. “He's also historian at the Academy. Which is why he knew about your fertility god over there. Did
know it was a fake?”
Kirk walked over and picked it up from its shelf. It was carved from the egg casing of a Sorellian linosaur, or so Gary Mitchell had sworn repeatedly to him. “No, but I'm not surprised. A good friend paid off a gambling debt to me with this.” He shrugged, setting the deity down on the table, and turned back to the business at hand. “What was the significance of that word you said to me just before Sradek arrived? T'Pel, I think it was.”
There was a troubling mix of anger and sadness in Wolfe's eyes. “That was a mistake, Captain. The truth is, I've found the galaxy isn't anything like what they teach at the Academy. I don't trust Vulcans. I don't trust Spock. And the terrible thing is, that until all this is settled, I can't even trust you. But thanks for the dinner. Whatever your motives were.”
Kirk walked her to the door, said good night as she left, then contemplated the disorganized table, hefting the Sorellian deity in his hand.
“So, Gary,” he said to the sculpture, “it looks like you really did put one over on me, after all.” He looked over to the closed door, thinking of Montana Wolfe. “But you'll be the only one I'll let do that, old friend. Mona and Starfleet don't stand a chance.”
Thirty seconds later, responding to the captain's priority request, the ship's computer began searching for every recorded reference to the word or name
His name was no longer Starn.
This time, all of his names and identities were forgotten as he lost himself in the savage rapture of his heritage and his destiny. Within the billowing images of shared meld dreams, he saw the battles in which he and his kind had been born millennia ago, battles that would now spread throughout the galaxy, bringing to it the death and destruction it so richly deserved.