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NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote Promises to Keep over twenty-one months in 1993, 1994, and 1995. I wanted to explore several things all at once, and a novel seemed the right place to do it. PTK looks at what happens when James Kirk, the wonder-boy who can accomplish all things, fails; it answers the question of what really constitutes the bedrock of the relationship between Kirk and Spock; and it examines the roles we assume in life and how others’ assumptions about those roles can define us. For the first time in the series, McCoy comes on stage in a major way, and one subplot is how the relationship among Kirk, Spock, and McCoy changes as a result of Kirk and Spock being lovers.

WARNING: There is some violence in this novel, so I warn you about that. Nothing that I consider too harsh or explicit, but at the same time I don’t like to pull my punches about things like that. I’d like to think none of it is gratuitous. I am aiming throughout to understand Kirk and Spock, and sometimes stress is required to reveal the real person.

This version of the novel has been pieced together from files found and very kindly provided by Kathleen Resch, the editor and publisher of Promises to Keep in its zine form, brought out in print back in 1995 and still available from her. Thank you, Kathy, for your amazing help! We think this is the version printed in the zine; if it differs, it’s not by much. If anyone notes significant differences, please contact me at Hilary54@aol.com and let me know so I can fix them. Ditto on any formatting glitches you encounter.

Promises to Keep is unedited from its original form, even though I’ve learned a lot about writing in the years since I created it. (I’m currently writing professionally published gay romance for Dreamspinner Press. For more info, you can check out bookworld.editme.com/jennahilary.) Because Real Life is way more demanding than it should be, I’ve decided to post all the Sharing the Sunlight stories and novels without additional editing, errors notwithstanding. I hope that you’ll enjoy the series anyway. I’d be happy to receive any feedback directed to Hilary54@aol.com or as a review on the archive. Thanks!
Love,
Jenna

PROMISES TO KEEP is the ninth entry in the author’s Sharing the Sunlight series, which includes, in order:
Sharing the Sunlight (novel)
Reflections on a Lunar Landscape
Pursuing Hyacinths
Heart’s Delight
Primal Scream
Parallel Courses
Double Trouble
Son of Sarek
Promises to Keep (novel)
Jagged Edges
Manna
Journey’s End
One Night
In the Shade (novel)
All stories and novels in the Sharing the Sunlight series will be posted to the K/S Archive

PROMISES TO KEEP is complete in three parts and an afterword:
PART ONE includes: The Prologue, Leonard McCoy’s Personal Log #1, and Chapters 1 through 7.
PART TWO includes: Leonard McCoy’s Personal Log #2 and Chapters 8 through 11.
PART THREE includes: Leonard McCoy’s Personal Log #3 and Chapters 12 through 21.
AFTERWORD includes: Leonard McCoy’s Personal Log #4 and the Epilogue.

PROMISES TO KEEP is dedicated to my dear husband, who was as wonderfully supportive of my writing then as he is now, and to my two daughters, whose little, high-pitched voices asked me almost every day how Kirk and Spock were doing. 

PROMISES TO KEEP

by Jenna Sinclair

PROLOGUE

The first sun was rising. Soon, the darkness would no longer hide her.

Mar shivered in the dampness, and crouched down lower against the rough stone wall inside the laundry house. She could see one-half of the animal yard through the open doorway. If only she couldn't. She didn't want to, she didn't want to. I'm not seeing this. I'm not hearing this. It isn't happening.

The new-born sunlight glittered against the blade in Luka's hand as he and the others walked towards where the gowlie waited patiently for her morning feed and milking. Mar knew what they were going to do. The same thing they had done to Dirka, her love, what they would do to her and Sari if they discovered that she and the baby were still here. Slit their throats.

Luka laughed with Marthi as they walked side by side. It was a horrible sound, loud and frantic, abandoned, and soon Saul and Stephanos were laughing with them. Evil. Evil had come to their land, masked in the faces of friends. The shiver that ran down Mar's spine was the devil's touch, reaching to pull her into the insanity that swirled about her.

She prayed then, harder than she'd ever prayed on the Sabbath, prayed that they wouldn't see her and the baby. Dear Father of All, hear me! Save us! Let this be a dream!

But it wasn't a dream. And even the desperate words her heart flung at heaven could not shut out the sounds of what they did to the gowlie.

Luka raised his hand. For the frozen moment before the knife descended, he looked exactly like the picture of Abraham on the wall of the church, ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac. But surely Abraham had cried, not laughed, at what his God had asked him to do. And in the Book, the voice had called, and the knife never drew Isaac's blood.

The gowlie bellowed as the knife traveled across its throat. Mar closed her eyes, remembering just hours ago in the darkness, and the short surprised sound from Dirka.... She hadn't been able to see him, but her mind supplied each second of pain and astonished betrayal that must have filled the dark eyes she loved so much. She did not know if she could live through the memory. She never knew that she would have knives inside of her, slashing her, cutting her. If only they could really pierce me and drain my memories as they would drain my blood....

The bellow ended in a grunt. The gowlie never grunted. Except, perhaps, when she was dying. Not the way Dirka had died. In silence. With dignity. Not cursing the way Mar now cursed in her heart. God forgive her. She cursed. Let them die. Let them suffer and then die.

There was the sound of a heavy body falling to the ground, then other thudding sounds as the four of them took turns kicking the heaving animal. Stephanos, the one who had fed the gowlie every morning and evening for the past five seasons. Marthi, who had given Sari a beautiful blanket for a birthing present, with hand-stitched doves and flowers, and the sign of the Lord in the center. Saul, who farmed the field right next to theirs, and who shared fresh honey from his hive.

Mar's heart pounded loud, so loud. They were not the friends and neighbors who worshipped with her in the church. They were possessed! Strangers. If only she had a weapon, a phaser like the four of them carried, as only the law enforcement officials in the main village should have. She would stand up and shoot, and kill them, and the last one standing would level their weapon and kill her and she would fall into the dirt, crying in delight because she would be where Dirka was now, in the dirt, for the Book said that was where they would all return....

But no.

Mar looked down at the baby she cradled in her arms. Get Sari, Dirka had whispered as the sounds of intruders in their house had awakened them. Take care of her. Make sure she's all right. How could Mar protect Sari if she joined Dirka?

In the animal yard, Luka and the others turned away from the bleeding form on the ground. They looked around, seeking something else to kill.

Mar shrank back into the shadows.

*****

The team from the Enterprise found seventeen bodies at the church, twelve murders and five suicides.

Captain James T. Kirk stood in the open double doorway and looked out as the rays of the first rising sun caressed the rolling hills. He breathed in the fresh morning air. He couldn't help but remember rural Iowa where he grew up. The bright fields of hay, the peaceful cawing of the birds in the dawn, even the pink-streaked sky was Earth's. There had been a church like this in Riverside, with stained-glass windows of the ancient prophets and saints. On this planet, far from Earth and home, the preoccupation was the same. The building was filled with statues of holy men and women, and the windows cast rainbows of light on the opposite wall.

Without turning to look he knew what his people were doing. Spock was standing before the central window behind the main altar, recording the scene with his tricorder. The picture featured the final battle between a pointy-eared Lucifer, clad entirely in black, and the archangel Michael, white wings unfurled in righteous anger. Lucifer, who like every other representation of the devil Kirk had ever seen looked like a Vulcan, snarled back in rage, and undefeated scorn.

In the long aisle leading to the sanctuary, M'Benga and the security guards were laying out the bodies. There was little else they could do here.

And the captain was still standing in the doorway.

Kirk drew in another deep breath, but even the early morning sweetness could not mask the bitter taste in his mouth. Three days ago, the captain of the Enterprise had made promises he had not kept.

"And your doctors don't have a clue what's causing it?" Kirk asked.

"Nothing. They have taken sample after sample, performed many tests. There is nothing physically different in the people who are violent!" The planetary governor stopped his pacing and faced Kirk with outstretched hands. "Can you imagine what it has been like here? We are a peaceful people. We all live together well, the religious sects have accepted all the other humans, the Timti, even the Danarakh who live in the desert wastes. We must accept each other, for this is a frontier world and we depend on our neighbors. But the violence has spread, from one section to another. It takes many forms, some become cunning, others outraged, still others believe they are the subject of religious persection, or they suffer religious delusions. But they are all irrationally violent, and nothing we have done has stopped it."

The grey-haired man took a deep breath. "Everyone is living on the razor's edge, never knowing what will provoke a murderous rage, and then the all-encompassing despair that has caused so many of the infected ones to take their own lives. No one is immune, it seems. I could attack you, or Mister Spock, in a moment! Husbands against wives, parents turning against their children.... Can you imagine what it has been like? Can you imagine?" Benelli collapsed into the chair behind his desk and dropped his face into his hands.

Kirk exchanged a glance with his impassive first officer, then went to stand before the slumping figure of the governor. Kirk's spine was ramrod straight. "Governor Benelli, the crew of the Enterprise is not a police force. There is very little we can do to help you control your people. But my personnel are the best in Starfleet. You won't find labs or people better able to help you anywhere in the Federation. We will discover the source of this disease that is infecting your people."

Benelli raised his head. His reddened eyes looked up at the man who promised salvation. "I pray that you will, Captain. Who else can we turn to?"

"The Enterprise is here now. We'll help you. But we'll need your cooperation."

"Anything," Benelli said. "Anything. Michaelan society is being torn apart, do you understand?" Abruptly the man got up and turned to stare out the window behind his desk.

"Captain Kirk, do you know why this planet is called Michaela?"

Spock shifted his weight from one foot to another, but Kirk only shook his head. "No, Governor, I do not."

"My grandfather headed the religious group that first colonized this planet. He named it after the Archangel Michael, the great defender of heaven who cast Lucifer and all his hordes into the fires of hell." Benelli turned to face them. "I am not a religious man, but I cannot help but feel as if that battle is being fought again, here, every day." His eyes grew wide as he looked directly at Kirk. "Help my people, Captain. Please. Help us."


But the labs had found nothing, the scientists had no theories, and the violence raged on. Finally, his own safety became a burden Kirk could no longer bear, and so he set out, with his landing party of trained security personnel, his reliable phaser, and his confidence in his own abilities, to do what he could to gather the information the scientists needed. And to protect the people of Michaela from themselves.

But during the long night, Kirk had been as impotent as M'Benga was now. They'd been too late. Again and again, they'd been too late. Five times in the darkness they'd come across the remains of battles that had been fought for no reason. He was sick of the stench of death.

Kirk sensed rather than heard a presence behind him.

First officer Spock stood there. He looked at his captain, then wordlessly indicated two bleeping displays on the tricorder.

Kirk straightened. "Let's go."

*****

They burned the tree next to the woodshed. They chopped the antique rocking chair from the porch into kindling. They ripped the sign of the Lord from where it hung over the front door and spat upon it.

Then Luka whispered into Marthi's ear and she smiled. She lay upon the hard ground, right next to the watering trough, and pulled her skirts up to her waist. The triple layers of petticoat, worn to protect a woman's purity, billowed about her. Then each of the men, Luka first, pulled their pants down to their knees and pounded into her. They all laughed, Marthi loudest of all.

And then, finally, Saul pulled Marthi up from where she sprawled. They all walked around to the back of the house, out of Mar's sight.

Mar let out her breath in a shuddering sigh and leaned back against the cold wall.

But then she jerked her head up as a sharp sound came from outside, as if metal scraped against rock. Was there someone outside the laundry? Coming for her? How could she have missed their return? Frantically she looked about for a weapon, anything. A bucket, a broom, her two big washtubs, the new agitator Dirka had brought from town. Scissors! Triumphantly Mar grabbed it up in one hand, balanced Sari in the crook of her other arm, then turned to face the open doorway. It wouldn't be so hard to hurt one of them. And if not, then a weapon could be turned in the opposite direction....

But it wasn't one of the crazy ones who rolled inside on the hard-packed dirt floor. A man wearing a gold shirt and carrying a weapon in one hand came to his feet in one easy motion. Mar drew back, confused. She clutched the scissors tightly, holding its point out like a knife.

They stared at one another for a long moment. Mar tried to still her trembling.

The man reached out towards her. "Don't be afraid. I'm here to help you."

His accent was strange. His clothing was strange. She hadn't seen him at the church services. Maybe he was crazy like the others.

But maybe he wasn't.

"Who... who are you?" Her words came out in a whisper. Dirka used to say Your voice is so soft, like your skin. I love it. She brushed the errant thought away with an effort, wondering if she too were succumbing to insanity.

"I'm James Kirk," the man said, his voice soothing. "I'm the captain of the starship Enterprise. We're trying to help your people."

"My...my people? This is happening to others? Attacks?" She hated how she sounded, like an idiot who couldn't form words. The church had a school she had attended, all the way to university level. But her fear choked her so it was all she could force out.

The man named Kirk nodded. "Yes. To many others. The governor of your colony called the Federation in for help. That's why I'm here." Gently. "To help you. Please, put the knife down."

She looked at where she still held the scissors between them. Slowly, she opened her fingers, and the meager weapon fell to the ground. Its point embedded in the dirt, and she heard herself laugh. She was horrified to hear it, yet powerless to stop the strange hiccupping sound. Mar wondered if Sari heard it as she slept, the way she must have heard the laughter coming from the yard. "It's not a knife. Just... just a scissors. For cutting.... Dirka always says..., said you can't do without a good pair of sharp scissors...."

And suddenly she was shaking all over, and her lips were mouthing cries she could not utter, and Sari was stirring in her arms. I'm hysterical, Mar thought even as she slumped to the ground, but Kirk was there beside her, holding her in strong arms, cushioning her as she collapsed after hours of tension and horror.

"Shhh..., shhh...," he murmured, pushing back the hair from her face. "It will be all right." His embrace encompassed the baby, and he rocked both of them against his hard body.

He smelled of sweat, and of the hay they had begun to harvest yesterday. His hair was the color of ripe hay too, so unusual on this colony of dark-haired people.

If the elders saw me, what would they say? Mar thought. She sniffled into the stranger's shoulder and tried hard to still her silent weeping. Only Dirka and her mother had ever held Mar in this intimate way, body against body. Dirka had taken her from her mother before the altar of the Lord, had said "I will honor this woman." The stranger Kirk touched her, made no such promise, and yet Mar trusted him. Why? I cannot help it. Even if this man is one of the crazy ones, what else can I do? I am at his mercy.

Sari stirred within her arms, finally coming awake after the long night. She yawned and turned her little, precious head towards her mother's warmth.

Kirk ran one finger over the feathery-soft curls that Dirka had so loved. "What a beautiful baby," he whispered. "She looks like you. What's her name?"

"Sari."

"And your name?"

"Mar."

"Mar, your baby needs you, and we need to keep her quiet. Will you nurse her?"

Mar stayed within the sanctuary of his arms while she put the child to her breast. She holding Sari, the stranger holding her. The touch and then the sound of Sari sucking made her eyes fill again, and Mar turned her face against Kirk's shoulder.

His voice was soft. "I know it must be hard for you to talk of this, but I have to ask. Are you..., and the baby, the only ones not infected? Is there anyone else we need to protect who's... rational?"

The knives inside her stabbed again, bringing the vision of Dirka dying that she had not seen, that she would always see. "Infected?" She asked so she would not have to answer. She kept her forehead against his shoulder so he would not see her cowardice.

"Yes. This madness that has swept over your people. Even though we haven't been able to find a physical cause, it's like a sickness. We have to find out what's causing it so we can stop... all this violence."

The intensity in his voice caught her. "Have... many been killed?"

Kirk's hand rubbed against the back of her neck. "Yes," he whispered. "Far too many."

Behind the words she caught his own dark visions. She blotted her tears on his shirt and found the courage to answer his question. "There is no one else here to protect. They... killed Dirka."

"Your husband?" The arm around her back tightened.

So easy for him to say. "Yes. You cannot protect him. Protect me. Us. Please."

"We're going to get you out of here," Kirk promised. "I'll take care of you."

When he said it, the words felt real, and a vision of freedom came to her. All these hours, she had been paralyzed by her fear, had not contemplated escape. But with him, perhaps....

She drew herself up straight within his embrace and gazed him full in the face. He had light eyes, with glints of brown and green flecking the gold. She examined him, in the way the Book said you should examine evil if you encountered it. Evil would always flinch before good. The one called Kirk did not flinch. He smiled at her, and she found that his smile gave her confidence.

"Yes," she whispered. "But how? What can you do?"

"Don't worry." Another caress of her hair, meant to be reassuring, she was sure. The elders could not possibly object. "I'll keep you safe. I promise."

"Yes," she murmured. "I know. You said it before. I trust you."

There was a sound from outside the open stone doorway, the slightest noise that Mar would not have noticed if not for the way Kirk stiffened against her.

He put one finger up to his lips in the universal signal for silence. "Shhhh." Then he edged forward to look out the door. His weapon was up and ready. She followed him and looked over his shoulder. He was a shield; she would be safe.

Across the yard, by the woodshed, another man crouched. His red shirt stood out against the dull plank wall. His grey hair made him look like an elder.

This other man looked over towards them and caught Kirk's eye. They exchanged a series of signals, their hands gesturing.

The older man nodded, held up a restraining hand, then cautiously stood upright. He paused, eyes darting in all directions, then he ran forward towards the house. He held a phaser before him.

A beam escaped from the house and cut him down.

Before the blood began to flow from the wound in his belly, before his body had settled completely to the ground, Kirk fired at the window. The beam swept across the front of Mar's house, bathing it with brilliant life and searing a whining noise into Mar's eardrums. She covered her mouth with her hand. Sari began to cry in her arms.

The phaser fire stopped. There was a terrible light in Kirk's eyes as he shouted to the fallen man. "Giotto! Giotto! Get away! Move!"

At first Mar thought the older man was dead, but after a few moments of silence Giotto groaned. He lifted one arm, but then it flopped back onto the ground with a puff of yellow dirt. Already, his blood was a dark stain beneath him.

Kirk glanced behind him to where Mar shivered against the rough wall. "Stay here," he said. "I've got to get to him."

Before she could reply, or even think, Kirk was out the laundry doorway and running for the cover of the old tree stumps and some bushes.

She couldn't believe it. No! NO! He had said he would keep them safe. Their nightmare was over, but only if Kirk was here, beside them.

"Stop!" she screamed. "Don't go. Don't!" But he was running so fast and was so far away he couldn't hear her, because he didn't stop. If he had heard her he would have come back, back to protect them and keep them safe. So Mar left the shadows and began running too, awkwardly, holding Sari with both arms against her chest, feeling her three long petticoats swish against the yellow ground. The innocent sunlight fell against her face, into her eyes; it dazzled her so that she stumbled and almost fell. But Kirk was still running in front of her and so Mar caught her balance and kept going. And then the sunlight dazzled her again, only it was more brilliant than before, and a faraway part of her mind wondered if the second sun could have risen so soon. Then the reasoning part of her answered her question even as she heard a masculine voice yelling, "Down! Get down!" and she could see again, and Sari was crying and Kirk was running next to her and pulling them all down to the ground.

They landed with a thud behind the cover of the three old tree stumps Dirka had never managed to pull from the iron ground. Kirk's weight was heavy on top of her, and Mar was just able to avoid falling on Sari. The baby shrieked, and Mar squirmed against Kirk's pressure as she pulled Sari against her side, but he just pushed her further down into the dirt. He hissed, "Why did you do that? I told you to stay put. Their phasers could have killed you, and the baby!"

As if on cue, the bright light shimmered about them again, and Mar could feel the vibration of the stumps as the beam splashed against their only protection. Fear rose in her throat, and she knew that she couldn't answer Kirk's question. Why had she done something so irrational?

"Will you stay down now?" Kirk whispered fiercely in her ear as the phaser whine abruptly stopped. At Mar's nod, he rolled off to one side, popped over the stumps to let loose one blast from his own weapon, then reached behind him for the communicator that hung from his belt.

"Spock here."

"Spock, I need reinforcements. Giotto's been hit and I've got civilians here and--" The rest of what he'd been about to say was drowned out as the phasers whined again. Kirk flattened himself, one arm coming round Mar's shoulders in inadequate protection.

Mar pressed herself as close to the ground as she could and still hold Sari to her side. She could barely breathe, barely think. This was worse than hiding in her own home, worse than the long hours cowering in the laundry. What had she done? Mar looked at Kirk as he turned his head to look at her, and this time she could not name the emotion shining in his fever bright eyes. Kirk squeezed her shoulder. "Don't worry," he said. "Don't worry."

It seemed like hours passed, with the white light flashing all about their meager shield. The wood trembled as if it were alive, she could feel it shake, she could hear it moan from deep within as the light tried to force its way into the dark brown depths. Mar cried into the crook of her arm, and Kirk muttered, "Where are you, damnit?" and she remembered how Dirka had given up after three days of battling the stumps. Give up, she whispered as she cried, give up, and she did not know whether she were talking to herself or to her enemy-friends.

When the barrage stopped she could still hear the whine ringing in her ears. But then there was another sound. They were close enough to Giotto to hear the effort in each breath, the raspy rattle in his lungs. He knew they were there, consciousness had an unshakable hold on him. "Sir..." she heard him gasp out, and the arm that was pressed close against her own stiffened.

"Bastards," Kirk hissed. "They could have killed him. But they won't. They want him to suffer."

His anger propelled Kirk over the stump again, weapon blazing as he fired at the house. But the power just bounced against the front stone wall that Dirka had built so carefully to ward off the winter's bitter wind.

And then Kirk was forced back down again when another phaser whined. Luka's? Saul's?

Across the yard and behind them Mar thought she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. She was afraid to move, afraid to expose herself or Sari to the fire beyond the wood, but this might be another enemy.... She carefully turned her head. Her eyes widened as four people ran through her vegetable garden and crouched behind the cover of the woodshed. Two of them were in the same red as Giotto.... Mar gasped as her eyes focused on the features of one of the beings in blue.

The communicator on Kirk's belt chirped.

"Captain, you are in an untenable position."

Kirk, the side of his face flat on the ground, his cheek and nose smeared with the yellow dirt of Michaela, grimaced at the grid he held in the air between himself and Mar. "I know it. These stumps aren't going to hold out forever. But Giotto's in real trouble...."

"Agreed. We must obtain medical treatment for him as soon as possible. However, a frontal assault is not indicated under these circumstances."

"I know, I know. And the Enterprise's orbit won't bring her into position to beam any of us on board for another half hour. I want you to send Josephs and Prendel't to the back of the house while you and I fire on them, then we can all move up from both directions. It's the only way I can see. Maybe take them by surprise if they're not watching their backs."

There was silence. Mar clutched the sleeping Sari closer to her and looked across the mere inches that separated her from the man in gold. And where would that leave her? Cringing while men fought around her, hearing their bodies fall again and again?

"That is a risky course of action, Captain. I estimate the odds of success without multiple fatalities are less than twenty percent. However, may I suggest another possibility? I have noticed...."

Sari squalled against Mar's clenching fingers. She scrunched up her little face, pulled in her legs and arms, then erupted into spreadeagled outrage as she let loose a loud protest.

And her kicking leg caught the open grid of the communicator where it lay in Kirk's palm and sent it spinning out into space.

Kirk lunged for it, but before he could grab it white light drove him back. Both he and Mar watched the communicator skid across the yard, propelled by the force of the beam.

"Damn. Damn it. Damn it to Orion's hells." Kirk cursed even as he pulled Mar and Sari into the shelter of his arms again. He drew a deep breath. "It's all right," he whispered into Mar's ear. "It's all right. Don't worry."

The silence in the yard now seemed more ominous than the firing had been. Surely the four in the house had seen the new ones. Were they afraid? Were they planning more murder and pain?

"Hail to the house." A strong, deep, assertively masculine voice called from the direction of the woodshed. Kirk went as rigid as the wood. He slowly turned his head so that he could see across to the edge of the yard.

"Hail to those in the house who have unleashed my force and done my bidding."
The voice was loud and penetrating. To Mar's uncomprehending ears, the mysterious accent was forbidding and yet compelling at the same time. She shifted to rest on her side so that she, too, could see what was happening.

"I unveil myself to you. I will come to you and then you will come to me. See me now, Prince of darkness, the powers of black that overwhelm the light."

The blue-garbed being who had crouched around the corner of the woodshed took a deliberate step out into the yard. Only he looked different now, clad only in black trousers, black boots and a black shirt that seemed molded to his thin frame. The rising sun glinted against highlights in his dark hair, which framed the flaring tips of his pointed ears.

"Spock. No," Kirk whispered, and his despair flavored the air all about them. Mar felt it as she felt the pounding of her own heart. "No," he said again. "Don't. They'll kill you."

Kirk moved convulsively, up to his knees in a moment, his phaser clutched between both his hands. Mar watched him as his mouth opened, about to form words to shout across the yard. She saw the effort it cost him to catch the words before they erupted, and the slackening of his body as he slowly slipped down to the ground again, next to her.

The being in black walked across the yard with a deliberate pace. No light from the house splashed against his darkness. Of course not. Luka and Marthi, Saul and Stephanos would not fire against one who might be their own.

The dark one stopped when he came to Giotto. He looked down at the man, who raised one trembling hand as if in supplication. The bloodied legs moved restlessly in the dirt.

The dark one looked back at the house. "Behold, the one you have prepared for me. To show you my power, I will silence him, I will stop his movement. Watch as my strength flows through my touch." He leaned over and touched Giotto. The figure in red stiffened, his arm flopped back over his chest, and he was still.

"Come now," the one with power gestured, beckoning. "I will show you many things, now that you are mine. Come to me here and share in my might."

Mar felt Kirk slowly coming to his knees, aiming his weapon, this time taking care to stay behind the cover of the stumps. "Come on," he whispered, the words hissing between his stiffened lips. "Come on."

The door to the house squeaked open. And then they were all there, standing on the wooden porch, the four who had killed the gowlie, who had laughed as they profaned Marthi's purity. The ones who had taken a knife and drained all the life from Dirka, her love. They stood there, looking confused, staring at the dark one who had come to claim them, looking innocent of the blood on their hands.

Three beams of light traveled across the yard, two from the direction of the woodshed, and one from the statue who now stood next to Mar's crouching form. The four figures crumpled to the dust.

The phasers stopped their whine, and silence took over the yard.

Kirk's phaser slowly dropped down to his side. The weapon hung slackly in his grip for a long moment before he heaved a heavy sigh, slapped the phaser onto the back of his belt and moved briskly out to tend to Giotto. He did not look back at Mar or the child.

And was that all? Mar wondered. After all the hours, her fear for Sari, all the pain that was yet to come as Mar faced a life alone? Were the lifeless bodies and this heavy silence all there was to be?

She slowly got to her feet, settled Sari in the crook of her arm once more, and walked up to the four bodies. No one stopped her. The bodies were guarded by the two other beings in red, a man and a strange woman with blue skin and antennae.

Mar frowned down at the obvious breathing that shook Luka's frame. "They live?"

The man bobbed his head. "Yes, ma'am. We just stunned them. At that distance even the heaviest setting will only produce a stun, just like the lightest setting on a Starfleet phaser could kill at very close range. We're very careful. They'll come around in a little while."

No. Not possibly. It didn't seem right. They should have died. Something inside Mar called for death. Something inside Mar shrieked for it. She could have it now in the morning light, with Kirk here for Sari. She walked back to the stumps. For the first time since she had snatched the baby up from her crib in the awful darkness, Mar relinquished her hold on her child, laying her down on the ground in the small indentation where she had been protected between Mar's and Kirk's bodies. She stood up and shook her hair back from her face, remembering Dirka burying his face in her dark tresses, remembering how he used to say I love you, Mar.

She walked over to where Kirk and the dark one and the other man in blue conferred over Giotto.

Kirk was crouched over the silent figure. It was an easy thing to reach out and pluck his weapon from his belt. He never felt it until Mar stepped back, the phaser already pressed to her temple.

Kirk straightened and spun around. "No," he croaked, arms entreating.

She noticed those strong arms. They were what was needed here. For her people. For Sari.

Kirk took a huge step forward.

She took one small step back. She smiled at him. "It's all right," Mar said, echoing him. "Don't worry." Her finger pressed the firing button.

*****

Three days later, Admiral Komack ordered the U.S.S. Enterprise to leave their mission on Michaela and come to the aid of a different planet half the quadrant away. The crew left the violence and the sorrow and the crying of a baby girl behind them. It was one of their few failures.

*****

CONTINUED WITH LEONARD McCOY’S PERSONAL LOG, #1, AND THEN CHAPTER ONE

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