"For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."
Dr. Gillian Taylor stared at the screen in front of her for one last minute, then sighed and reached to switch it off. No, that was not the way to do it, not in the twenty-third century. Feeling a little self-conscious, she looked around at the door of the room before saying quietly, "Computer off." The text on the screen disappeared in compliance, leaving a pleasantly shaded geometric test pattern.
Gillian slumped back in her chair. So much to learn, so many details to absorb, not to mention the distance she'd come—one minute she was just another marine biologist, working at the Cetacean Institute in Sausalito, leading a fairly normal, twentieth century life, and the next, she was hitching a ride to the future, to a place where she was definitely unique, a specialist in a field that didn't exist anymore. It was all a little overwhelming. But she did not regret the decision for a minute. She had spoken only the truth when she had said to Kirk, “ I’ve got nobody here.” A few people would be upset by her disappearance, and it would certainly puzzle the authorities, but she had no delusions about her impact on the people she had worked among, lived among. All her emotional giving had always gone in one direction: the whales. They had been her life, her focus, ever since adolescence—just as horses were for some young girls, she thought with a smile. Back at the Institute, Bob had called her unprofessional, but what he'd never realized was that her studies, her job, even her doctorate, were merely socially acceptable outlets for the major love of her life, and that professionalism didn't even enter into it.
She swiveled around in her chair again and surveyed the office that she had been assigned. She knew she wouldn't be here very long, but it was nice to have some kind of an anchor after the last few days. Ever since the shuttle had picked them up in San Francisco Bay, there had been a mad flurry of activity that she had barely understood. Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew had seemed both elated and nervous by turn, and the authorities they had reported to had been both relieved and stern. Almost immediately, she had been separated from all of them and given over to the care of Admiral Cartwright and Ambassador Sarek; all they would tell her was that the crew was being debriefed, and that she would also face the same process and then begin her training. Gradually it was revealed to her that Kirk had had other reasons for bringing back George and Gracie, reasons that explained the urgency of his pleas for her help. For a few moments she had been irritated that he had hidden this truth from her, but when she stopped to think, he had had enough trouble convincing her of the other reason; would she really have believed that he was trying to save the world?
Sarek had told her that George had saved them all by communicating with the alien probe, and she felt both proud and confused. How had he been able to do it? The more she thought she understood about her protégés, the more she realized that she had only scratched the surface of possible knowledge. And what was it that Spock had said to her—it seemed so long ago—at the Institute? "They like you very much, but they are not the hell your whales."
There was a sudden awareness that she was no longer alone. She looked up and saw Spock in the doorway, as if she had called him there with her thoughts.
"Dr. Taylor." The Vulcan nodded solemnly. "I hope that your period of transition is not proving too difficult. My debriefing was completed before the others', and I thought I would meet with you, perhaps answer some of the questions you must have, now that you are somewhat settled."
"Th-thank you—it's good to see a 'familiar' face again," she said with just a little hesitation. Since she had come on the ship the first time, she had felt a strange, magnetic response to Spock: He both frightened and attracted her. She was already able to see that Kirk was a very special man, just by the attitudes of those around him and the deference that was shown to him, but he was still a Human male, a quantity she was accustomed to dealing with. This man—no, this Vulcan—was something completely outside her experience, and she was not quite sure how to react to him.
"Has the operation of the computer presented any problems?" Spock asked as he crossed the room to stand beside her, maintaining a polite distance between them.
He sure believes in personal space. I'm beginning to feel like I'm living in a specimen jar! Gillian shook her head.
"Not really. Just a little getting used to. Ambassador Sarek has given me some instruction on the operation of the hypnotutor, but I think I'm still a little nervous about using it."
Spock nodded and sat down beside her. "Although he has—I believe the word is 'mellowed'—over the years, I can believe that my father's mode of instruction might still be intimidating to a novice. It was to me at one time."
Gillian looked at him quickly. "Your father? I didn't know— Wow! I mean... I sure wasn't fooling around when I hooked up with you guys, was I? Right to the top!"
Spock looked at her, puzzled. “’Hooked up'? I don't understand. Human idioms are still very confusing to me."
"All I meant was that, if you're going to start your life over again in another place—or time—it's best to have friends in high places." She paused and looked at him; he continued to stare back. Obviously, her meaning was still not clear. "It was... a joke, sort of...." She trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
"Ah-a joke. I see." Spock seemed to concentrate on something for a minute, and then his expression cleared. "Doctor, I assume—"
"Gillian, Spock, Gillian. It's okay to call me by my first name."
Spock sighed and looked away. "While I understand that, for Humans, the custom of using given names is quite common, I must admit that I do not yet feel comfortable with it."
"Yet?" Gillian echoed. "I've noticed the way you talk—remember that photographic memory?—like so much of what goes on around you is new to you; but at the same time I get the impression that you and Kirk have known each other for a long time."
"You are correct on both counts. I have recently, and unwittingly, been part of a great experiment that altered my state of being; and it was Admiral Kirk who, out of a sense of long-standing commitment, saved my life when the experiment went wrong. If you like, I will make what material is not classified concerning the subject available to you, Doctor."
Gillian began to correct him again, but Spock merely gave her a look that was both adamant and tranquil. He was so formal, so emotionless most of the time. Yet, on the spaceship, she had sensed a certain tension between Kirk and this man, a feeling she couldn't quite put her finger on. She shrugged her shoulders and clasped her hands in front of her. "You were saying?"
"I assume that your first line of inquiry would have been to find out the extent of our knowledge about humpbacks, as compared to your own time."
"As a matter of fact, it was. And I have to admit I was disappointed. Even with another hundred years before they were... gone"—Gillian couldn't help choking over that thought—"we didn't succeed in learning anything more of value. I think they were—no, are—just too smart for us." Then she smiled. "I did find, however, that there was one enlightened soul in the 2070's who tried to gain support for his theory that the whales were actually communicating with cetacean societies from other planets. We all know how ridiculous that idea is!"
Spock nodded again. "The Human race does seem to have a propensity for short-sightedness in almost every era," he said. "I hope that George and Gracie will be able to communicate a sense of their ways and culture to us, and that we may learn something from them at last."
Gillian turned to stare at him. Communicate... their ways and culture? And then she remembered some of the other things Spock had said to her in San Francisco. "They like you very much... The hell they did... Gracie knows... " How did he know these things? She had assumed that he was fabricating a story to go along with Kirk's plans, but now, for the first time, she had the feeling that something else was going on here.
"You can... talk... talk to George and Gracie?" she stammered, studying him closely.
"You are damn correct," Spock replied calmly.
"Why didn't you tell me? That time you jumped in the tank—is that what you were doing? How do you do it? I can't believe this—it's more than I've ever dreamed of—can you teach me—?"
"Doctor, please," Spock interrupted her, looking slightly pained.
Gillian made a monumental effort and controlled herself, holding onto the sides of her chair like an excited schoolchild, afraid that its teacher would not go on if it did not contain itself. "All right, Mr. Spock, I’ll behave. Just please tell me how you did it, and what they said to you, and—okay, I'll behave."
Spock looked at her strangely for a moment, then clasped his hands together, four fingers steepled, and assumed an almost tutorial pose in his chair. "The 'how' is actually very simple, Dr. Taylor. Vulcans possess the capability of direct mental communication, among themselves and with other species. The process is called a mind meld. The actual technique involves placing the fingers of one hand on various strategic contact points on the face, and then 'reaching' into the other's mind. It is a very private thing, and one that is not usually done without permission; I apologized to Gracie for the intrusion before I actually communicated with her. But neither she nor George seemed to be surprised by the practice."
Gillian gulped. "You... apologized to Gracie?"
"I did. We are extremely fortunate that humpbacks are so gentle and forgiving, otherwise we would not be having this conversation. George and Gracie could certainly not be blamed if they had decided to turn their backs on us, but they gave their permission to be brought ahead in time most graciously." Spock looked at Gillian, a slight frown framing his mouth and eyes. "That was the reason I entered their tank, Doctor. I did not want to 'mess' with them, as you thought, but rather to ask their consent. We needed them, but only if they were willing participants could we expect success. Short-sightedness having caused the problem in the first place, I did not want to compound the situation."
Gillian shook her head slowly. "You sure don't have much of an opinion of Human nature, do you?" She paused, giving a sarcastic sniff. "I guess I don't either. That's why my best friends are whales."
Spock cocked his head to one side, eyebrow raised. "I was not attempting to make a value judgment, Dr. Taylor. I was merely stating the facts. I am half-Human myself, though the Vulcan way does rule my personality and my actions."
Gillian stared at Spock all over again. This guy is full of surprises. Half-Human? How is that possible?
"My mother is from Earth; she is a professor and language expert, as well as an Adept at Mount Selaya."
"An Adept ..." Gillian muttered. "That's pretty damned adept, all right. Talk about mixed marriages!"
"I beg your pardon?" Spock looked at her, obviously puzzled.
"Never mind, never mind," she said hurriedly, hoping he really hadn't caught the implications of her slightly tasteless remark. What kind of world had she thrown herself into? Learning to cope with all of this was not going to be easy, but she had the feeling that Spock would be a good place to begin her understanding.
"Mr. Spock, could you—"
"Dr. Taylor, if I may. I believe that you are taking in a good deal more information at this point than you are able to assimilate and correlate properly. I can understand your scientific curiosity, since I am also anxious to learn more of the whales' culture. I have an idea in mind that may satisfy both of us, but it will involve conquering your fear of the hypnotutor."
"No problem," Gillian said eagerly. "If I can talk to them—"
"I did not say that would be possible—exactly," Spock cautioned her. "But there may be an alternative. If you will allow me to program a combination of elementary Vulcan history and culture into the hypnotutor—as basic background and to satisfy your curiosity about the meld technique—plus a concentrated synopsis of both biological science's advances and contemporary aquatic exploration/study techniques, I believe that, within a day or two, we might be ready to attempt another communication with Gracie. An auxiliary mind meld, so to speak, with myself as the conduit so that you could also participate. There is more at stake here than the acquisition of knowledge, as important as that may be. Your relationship with the whales, as well as your augmented knowledge, will be crucial in any attempt to repopulate the species."
"Whatever you say, Mr. Spock. If there's a way that I can communicate with George and Gracie, I'll do whatever I have to. Haven't I proved that so far?" Gillian asked, smiling.
"You have. Very well, I shall begin. I must also immerse myself in a deeper study of what knowledge this century does possess about cetaceans."
Gillian could contain herself no longer. She jumped up from her chair and began pacing the room excitedly. As she passed by Spock's chair, she reached over and grabbed his shoulder on an impulse, wanting to share her enthusiasm in a physical way. But Spock stiffened at her touch, meeting her eyes with an unfathomable look.
What was his problem? He didn't seem upset exactly, but there was definitely a noli me tangere aura about him. Was touching a Vulcan a crime or something? Kirk had touched him; she remembered the two of them playing, actually playing in the bay after George had communicated with the probe. Spock certainly hadn't seemed untouchable then. But when she stopped to think about it, she couldn't remember anyone else touching Spock in the same way. Maybe the fact that they had known each other a long time gave Kirk some special privilege.
She smiled weakly at Spock by way of apology and sat down quickly, feeling very embarrassed. Vulcan culture must be a real doozy of a subject; she almost couldn't wait to get at it, but at the same time it made her a little tense. There was that strange polarity again—he seemed to generate a lot of weird feelings in her. One minute they were scientists in search of a common goal, and the next, she felt like an unsocialized child who had shamed its elders.
“Curiouser and curiouser,'" she muttered. "Maybe I really am a modern-day Alice."
Spock walked down the long, winding corridor of UFP guest barracks, hands laced behind his back, brow furrowed deep in thought. His conversation with Gillian Taylor had been both interesting and disturbing. Rarely had he encountered such a combination of scientific intelligence and irrepressible emotionalism in one person—Dr. McCoy was the only other example he could think of at the moment. His own well-ordered mind, made especially so by his recent Vulcan retraining, cringed at the thought of such uninhibited chaos vying for control with a scientific nature. Perhaps Dr. Taylor would find unexpected benefit in her studies of Vulcan culture and mind control techniques—although it was true that McCoy had not shown the least bit of improvement even after his recent hosting of Spock's katra.
Far from McCoy having shown any change, Spock had to admit that the doctor's effect on his own equilibrium seemed to be much greater. The ghosts and shadows of McCoy's inimitable psyche still seemed to haunt the outer edges of his mind, and he was half-convinced that they had been the reason for some of his more erratic behavior while in San Francisco of the past. If there had been another opportunity, another way, he would not have joined with McCoy, would have sought out more familiar ground.... But it had not been meant to be, and the situation itself no longer existed; it was pointless to speculate now.
Spock paused in his travels to stand in front of an observation niche overlooking the bay. He was pleased that, for the next few days, he would have a certain amount of freedom; there was much that he had to sort out in his mind, due to the events of the last thirty-six hours, so much that he wanted to understand. Moving about seemed to help his thought processes—illogical as that sounded.
Illogical... He had told his mother, before leaving Vulcan, that Humans were illogical, and she had agreed. Nevertheless, she had also stressed the importance of his own Humanness. How could this be so? He could almost remember, or rather, intuit a time when such a statement would have been distressing or shameful to him. At the time his mother had stated it, it had merely been a puzzle, a mystery to him. Now it confused him more than ever. Being with his Human crewmates again had caused a struggle between his two selves, a struggle that he also remembered dimly from the past. What did his mother want from him? For him? Surely not this tormenting interplay of thought and emotion?
And what did Admiral Kirk want from him? Since he had boarded the bird of prey on Vulcan, Spock had had a very strong sense that the admiral was watching him, waiting for something to happen. At first, all Spock could remember was that this man had been his commanding officer for many years, and that they had functioned well together as a team. His father had told him that the admiral was also his friend, and he had accepted that as fact, though it roused no strong emotion in him, as his father almost seemed to expect. Very strange...
Then Admiral Kirk had tried to convince Spock to call him by his given name, and had done so several times—a request that was definitely not consistent with proper Vulcan behavior, or even proper procedure toward a superior officer. His insistence on it had almost alarmed Spock; there seemed to be a symbolic significance to the act for the admiral that Spock could not comprehend. Spock wondered if Admiral Kirk had not had a conversation with his mother before leaving Vulcan.
It was only after the disturbing incident in the cargo bay, where his admiral had actually raised his voice to him, employing a particularly vehement metaphor ("You're half-Human—haven't you got any goddamn feelings about that?") that Spock thought he had reasoned out what was expected of him. Admiral Kirk—and his mother—wanted him to acknowledge the fact that, as a person with a divided heritage, there would be certain times when it was not only proper but necessary to express emotions. He could see the logic of that, simply in terms of his psychological health. And he had tried to respond, both in his acknowledgment of other's emotions when analyzing a particular situation, and in his own verbal responses to the situations they had found themselves in. He had even allowed himself to participate briefly in the emotional release of water-play that had occurred after George's communication with the probe. The admiral had seemed satisfied, and happy.
But when they had reached Federation Headquarters and Spock had again assumed the demeanor required for his position and the seriousness of the situation facing them, he had sensed the return of his commanding officer's tension. Surely Admiral Kirk realized the gravity of the charges he faced, the position of his entire crew, even in the wake of their successful mission. Certainly he could not expect to be regaled with inappropriate demonstrations of emotion simply as a reassurance that Spock was recovered from his recent experiences.
Spock gazed out the window of the observation niche as he thought about these things, and gradually his attention was drawn to the full view of the bay afforded by this particular vantage point. George and Gracie... they were out there now, waiting for whatever insight he could give them into their new home. It would be one of the most difficult projects he, or anyone else, had ever undertaken—the actual reintroduction of a species. He thought about the details involved in a task of this magnitude, and as he did, he recalled his first mind touch with Gracie back in the Institute's tank, and how, instead of the brute force he had expected to encounter from the mind of a creature of that size, he had been enveloped in a gentle, nurturing blanket of concern, compassion, and curiosity. It was indeed strange that a being whose species had suffered such mistreatment could still project a sense of interest in, and affection for another being who was as likely to do it harm as not.
Forgetting again, for the moment, proper codes of Vulcan behavior, Spock recalled the great leviathans at play, and felt a sudden eagerness to be with them again in their own habitat. His original intention in relating to Admiral Kirk the account of his experience with the dolphin as a youth had been simply to explain a knowledge that he should not have had. But, if he were truthful, Spock had to admit that he also felt... proud of the fact that these gentle creatures would talk to him, and that he could talk to them. And he also had a strange sense of something unfinished between himself and Gracie. Their communication had necessarily been brief and to the point, but it had left a ticklish curiosity and a disturbing anxiety in his mind that he could not quite dismiss or classify. Had Gracie wanted to tell him something? Could they possibly have something to communicate to each other? What could he—a child of the Vulcan desert—have in common with this giant of the seas?
Spock shook his head as he brought his attention back to the present and the corridor, which was now beginning to fill with people. His mind had been too full lately with the ghosts of other beings—McCoy, the healers, and now even Gracie. He must remember control. He had never experienced this amount of difficulty in focusing his attention before. Admiral Kirk. He was on his way to have dinner with the admiral. The other members of the Enterprise crew—including her commander—were not at liberty as he was, but were confined to quarters until the actual Federation hearing could take place. They had been charged with several Star Fleet violations, while he had not. His eyes narrowed with a sudden, illogical feeling of incongruity at that thought, but it passed quickly.
Spock squared his shoulders and returned to the corridor, once more headed for Admiral Kirk's temporary quarters.
Kirk paced the confines of his quarters, nervous and tense with waiting. He wondered how long Star Fleet and the Federation would go on with this charade of investigations and debriefing. There had been a time in his youth—Kirk almost smiled as he remembered that brash young man—when he had invited such an inquiry, had asked that his motives and actions be examined, sure that they would prove his case. Now he no longer cared whether they understood or not. He had asked for their help; Star Fleet had refused it; he had disobeyed them. And he had disobeyed them again in order to save them—and the entire world. Any tactician could see that the two cancelled each other out, or pretty nearly anyway. The only option open to Star Fleet was to reduce him in rank—they knew it, he knew it, so why prolong it? It would be nothing more than a slap on the wrist to him, and then he could go about his business. But then, the brass—excepting Nogura—had never been known for its tactical knowledge or ability, which was why they were all behind desks instead of out in space... where he belonged.
But Star Fleet stupidity was not the only thing on his mind, not the only worry that was keeping him restless. Spock. He was concerned about Spock. How could it be that Spock was back, standing by Kirk's side as he always had... and there was still something missing? The ties that bound them had always seemed as natural as breathing to Kirk, ever since their earliest days, even before those ties had been tested and strained, transcended and transformed into something far deeper than mere friendship—certainly deeper than any friendship Kirk had known with anyone else.
Part of the reason for—or maybe it was the result of—the closeness they had known was the mental link he and Spock had established. Or rather that Spock had established; he'd just been first a nervous and then an enthralled participant in that blending of souls. It was the indescribable comfort and necessity of that communion that Kirk was missing now, at this most crucial point in his career. He'd never even had to think about it—Spock had just always been there, without question, in body and in spirit. When Spock had first recovered from the fal tor pan, Sarek had told him that only time would tell whether his friend was really himself again. But it had never really occurred to Kirk that Spock would not remember him.
You were too sure of yourself, you took him for granted all those years, and now you're... alone.
Maybe this dinner would help. He'd invited Spock—Star Fleet had "graciously" permitted the contact, since Spock had not been charged with any misdeeds—to join him in his temporary exile for an evening, hoping that the time spent together would help dislodge some of the memories he knew were there. They weren't gone—only sleeping.
The door buzzer sounded. Kirk looked at the chronometer on the wall. Exactly 2000. It was Spock, then. Some things never changed. He smiled wistfully.
The door opened and Spock entered the suite. Kirk swallowed past the sudden obstruction in his throat, remembered that he had to breathe regularly, and forced himself to smile easily at the Vulcan. Don't lie to yourself Kirk, it's not just mental communion that you miss....
"Hello, Spock, how are you?" he said warmly, ignoring the small voice in the back of his head, watching as the Vulcan crossed the room and stood in front of him, hands clasped behind his back.
"I am well, Admiral. And yourself?"
Was he just imagining it, or was there a slight indication of actual worry, concern in Spock's voice, in his eyes? Kirk decided to test his suspicion.
"Spock, you have to admit that I am no longer exactly on duty or, by any remote stretch of the imagination, in command. I think it's time you started calling me Jim. It's only... logical." He flashed one of his most charming smiles at Spock and waited.
Spock looked at him for a moment, then looked down at his boots, biting his lower lip. "What you say is true; however... " He paused, frowning, as if he were trying to remember something.
Spock raised his head, stared at Kirk again for a moment, then nodded firmly. Kirk had the definite feeling that Spock had come to the conclusion that it was illogical to resist the suggestion further.
Kirk permitted himself a small—hopefully invisible—sigh of relief. The first step taken. He had to admit that, while it made him feel almost giddy with a sense of accomplishment, there was still something missing in the tone of the Vulcan's voice as he uttered that all-important syllable. But it was a beginning. Don't push him.
"Great," he said enthusiastically, putting his hand on Spock's shoulder and gesturing toward the sofa in the sitting room. He followed Spock into the room and moved to the bar to pour himself a drink. He lifted the bottle, eyebrows raised in question. Spock shook his head—as he'd expected. Kirk took his glass and sank into the easy chair closest to where Spock was sitting. "In a little while we can order dinner. I'm sorry we can't go out to one of San Francisco's finer dining establishments, or even to my apartment; Star Fleet's chefs will have to suffice for now."
"Has Star Fleet given any indication of when the debriefing will be completed and the actual hearing take place?"
"No, not yet. I don't know what they're waiting for, either. The situation is pretty straightforward."
Spock nodded. "Some punitive measure must be taken, for the sake of discipline, but the success of our mission should temper the final decision." Spock glanced at Kirk suddenly, a cautious look on his face. "I am... sorry, Jim; I do not mean to sound... uninterested in either our travels or our fate...."
Kirk smiled encouragingly at Spock, hoping he was hiding his disappointment. Spock was remembering the incident in the cargo bay, when he had actually cursed at the Vulcan, a lapse Kirk was determined not to let happen again. Considering the circumstances, Kirk felt his momentary flash of annoyance and frustration was entirely understandable—but he knew Spock had not understood it. Still, he had hoped that his friend had analyzed the situation since then, come to some kind of conclusion or revelation about why Kirk had done what he'd done. When Spock had told him that rescuing Chekov was "the Human thing to do," he'd been sure Spock had sorted it out. Obviously, he hadn't—not completely.
"That's exactly right, Spock," he said, with only a trace of wistfulness in his voice. "As usual, you have a perfect grasp of the situation."
Spock looked at him for a moment, then sighed, obviously relieved that another outburst had not taken place. He studied his hands for a few minutes as the two men sat in silence.
"Jim... " Spock suddenly broke the stillness of the quiet room. "I have been reviewing Star Fleet records that were not available to me on Vulcan, and, as a result, my memory has been stimulated into recalling many of our... mutual exploits."
Kirk managed to stop himself from choking on his drink—barely. His eyes were riveted to the Vulcan's face as he searched for a sign that Spock's posture so far had been just that—a pose, leading up to the declaration Kirk had been waiting over three months for. After all, Spock had had a sense of humor once. Kirk suddenly remembered Spock turning command of the Enterprise over to Saavik as they left spacedock with a crew of trainees. It felt like a decade ago.
Spock continued. "I remember now that you have a decided talent for recognizing and analyzing new and unique situations, making momentous and effective decisions from a completely autonomous position that would incapacitate most other commanders, and for succeeding where no one else can, albeit by using, on occasion, extremely unorthodox methods. Your ingenuity, intelligence, integrity, and courage far exceed the average starship captain's example. I also recall that, for many years, I have been most privileged to share in your phenomenal career, and that we have comprised, according to one admiral's report, 'the hottest team in the galaxy.'" Spock delivered these last words in a somewhat puzzled tone of voice. Then, his face softened slightly. "I know now that this must be why my father told me we were friends. I am... proud to have been associated with you in the past, and pledge myself to continue that association in the future, come what may. I have a... "—he paused and swallowed—"... feeling that this must be my destiny."
Kirk stared at Spock, his mouth hanging slightly open; he remembered himself in a moment and snapped it shut. Then he got up and walked over to the room divider, trying to collect himself and hoping Spock would assume he was struggling with an emotion. Actually, he was—just not the emotion Spock probably had in mind. Never in his life had he heard what basically amounted to an emotional outburst delivered in such a calm, detached manner. He had thought that, back on the bird of prey, Spock was beginning to loosen up, but obviously any "looseness" Spock exhibited was being very carefully... planned.
As a heavy sense of disappointment threatened to weigh him down, Kirk pushed back with the strong reserve of hope he refused to give up. He was sure that there was some true feeling behind what Spock was saying—maybe even feeling that the Vulcan was not even aware of himself. Only time will tell. The final part of Spock that he had been waiting for was still in there—must be—slumbering, waiting to be called up... but by what? He set his lips grimly, admitting to himself that, whatever the key was, Spock had to find it himself. But there was also nothing that said he couldn't try to help the process along as much as possible, and that was what he intended to do. His conscience wouldn't permit him to merely sit around, hoping Spock would remember what they had meant to each other.
He turned around to face Spock, a genuine grin on his face this time. "Sorry, Spock—I was just a little... overcome. I'm so glad to see that you're remembering more and more all the time. It's good to have you back."
Spock nodded at him, his features puzzled. "Yes, Jim."
Kirk came back across the room and picked up his glass. He decided to take the plunge.
"Is there... anything else you remember?" Kirk concentrated all his mental energy as tightly as he could and thought, My mind to your mind... He had no illusions about the strength of his psychic/telepathic abilities—Spock had always been mystified by this one "shortcoming" in his otherwise strong, success-driven personality—but he was counting on their former link having left an impression on Spock's mind that even the Vulcan healers couldn't spirit away.
Spock looked at him blankly. "About what, Jim?"
Kirk developed a sudden, blinding headache. He closed his eyes for a second or two, waited while it flared, then ebbed suddenly. He opened his eyes. "Oh... nothing in particular." Damn. "I just wondered if you remembered any... details about some of our missions. You know, little anecdotes that never made it into the records. If you like, I can tell you some of them while we have dinner. And, speaking of which, I think we should order now."
After a brief conferral—and an immediate agreement that Star Fleet food had never been what it used to be—Kirk placed both their orders using the computer console. The compulsory Human server would bring the food to the prisoner in due course, he was told, and he returned to his chair, scowling at the reminder of his status. When will this farce be over!
Kirk decided that he needed a complete change of pace—or rather, mind. He settled in comfortably and proceeded to do just what he'd offered to; he entertained Spock with tales of their missions, giving details that had never found their way into Star Fleet's files. Accounts of his own "derring-do"—much of which seemed embarrassing and hopelessly callow now—and also of his failures, and how he felt about both. He told Spock of various crewmembers who'd made both small and heroic contributions to the family they had been, and who had given their lives in the process. Kirk had no false modesty, and knew that his skills and ingenuity had taken him far in the world. But he was also aware that part of his reputation had been built on the anonymous backs of people such as these, and he never forgot any of them.
And then he told Spock of McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov—the command crew, the heart of the Enterprise, who had been through both hell and high water together, and had not only survived but been welded into a unit of caring and loyal comrades. As he spoke of private conversations, personalities, and incidents, he couldn't stop himself from watching Spock, from trying to gauge the effect of these intimate details of their shared personal lives on the Vulcan.
Spock had been sitting quietly on the sofa, listening raptly to Kirk's monologue, obviously intrigued and pleased—if that word could be used—to be able to add to the information and memories that had already been restored to him by the healers. As the reminiscences became less factual and more subjective in nature, Kirk noted occasional frowns of puzzlement, blank stares of incomprehension, and even the odd sigh of what could only be exasperation. Kirk decided to end with one last story, just risky enough to determine something of Spock's present state of mind.
"Do you remember the incident on Gamma Hydra IV, Spock?"
The Vulcan shook his head. "That specific a reference is too complex for immediate recall, but perhaps if you told me a few facts? ..."
Kirk sat back in his chair, carefully keeping his eyes on Spock's face. "We had gone to the planet to deliver supplies to the scientists there, on our way to Starbase 10, and were all affected by radiation sickness caused by particles from the tail of a rogue comet. The result of the sickness was that all who were exposed began to age very rapidly; those affected included McCoy, myself, and you. The aging process was so accelerated that it wasn't long before Commodore Stocker—we were taking him to his new post on Starbase 10—took over command, believing me to be unfit."
Spock moved slightly closer to the edge of the couch, an eyebrow cocked in disbelief. Kirk felt a disproportionate relief at that small sign that his friend was, in many ways, still intact.
"It is difficult for me to accept that you could be found unfit for command."
"Oh? Is that a belief, Spock, or just an opinion?"
"It is an assessment based on the facts that I have re-learned and... also, to a certain degree, on the memories I do possess at this time. I also find it hard to accept that you would have allowed such an occurrence to take place. My... experience, both recent and in the past, has shown that you have a very forceful personality, and one that is strongly linked to being in a powerful and responsible position."
Kirk nodded and smiled. "No, Spock, I did not 'go gentle into that good night.’“ I never have, he thought ironically to himself, recalling his many—and recent—brushes with death.
"Dylan Thomas," Spock supplied.
Kirk shook his head, smiling, and went on. "I did not accept it, Spock. McCoy found the cure, and I saved the day, as always." He flashed a self-deprecating grin at the Vulcan, who did not respond. Kirk swallowed and went on, suddenly determined to try a frontal assault. "But the more important thing to me now, Spock, is that you didn't accept it either."
"I did not?" Spock raised both eyebrows.
"No. Stocker tried to make you take command, but you refused. You said at the time that it was because you were also unfit, which may or may not have been true; I like to think now that it was done out of loyalty to me."
Spock frowned. "I am not capable of basing such a decision on—"
Kirk forged ahead. "Which makes me feel like such an ungrateful, insensitive son of a bitch now for throwing you out of my quarters as I did." He had been leaning forward gradually as he spoke, but now he sank back, still observing the Vulcan's reaction closely.
Spock stared at him, speechless with astonishment for almost a full minute. Just as he opened his mouth, obviously distressed and about to demand further details concerning this perplexing emotional incident from his past, the door buzzer sounded. Kirk smiled wickedly to himself and stood up.
"That must be our dinner, Spock; I'm good and hungry, aren't you?" He left the Vulcan to stew over his bombshell as he answered the door, let the service personnel in, and watched them do their work as they spread out the meal on the small table in the other section of Kirk's suite. When they were finished and gone, he turned an innocent face to his friend and smiled.
"Dinner is served, Captain."
Spock rose from his seat on the sofa and moved to the table, never taking his eyes from Kirk. He sat down, ignoring the meal, and gave the appearance of someone waiting for permission to speak.
Kirk picked up his napkin and shook it open with a flourish. "Now, Spock, where were we?"
Spock swallowed with some difficulty, in his eyes a look as close to agitation as a Vulcan could properly show. "Jim... could you please give me a full account of this incident? It appears that there may be many elements of our life together that I would not have been permitted to retain."
Kirk was now the one amazed. "What do you mean, not permitted to retain'?"
Spock shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "The healers reintegrated my body and katra, and, in the process, since they are Vulcan healers, they would have minimized or excised any emotional elements in my memories they deemed too disruptive or disturbing to that recombination of my Vulcan self."
Kirk felt a slow anger burn its way up his throat, his face. Now he knew why Spock was acting so constrainedly-like himself, but not like himself. Those so-called "healers" had very effectively ruined most—if not all— of Spock's chances of reconnecting himself to any of his most personal history. And, coincidentally, had done the same for James T. Kirk in the bargain. An accomplishment that would no doubt fill them with pride, if they had the honesty to admit it. He felt as if he could very cheerfully dismember them.
"How dare they do that to you? They have no right—"
"Jim, please. What are accounted as basic rights to Humans are not necessarily the same for Vulcans. Our society is ruled by tradition, and also by respect for and obedience to the interpreters and arbiters of those traditions. They do have this right." Spock paused, and a look of sadness seemed to touch his eyes for a second. "Besides, it is done. We cannot change that. Please, tell me about this incident you mentioned. I cannot recall it, but I feel... disturbed by it somehow."
Kirk wanted to protest, but he knew it would do no good. He pushed away from the table and stalked over to the bar to fix another drink. Suddenly, as he stood on the other side of the room, a new thought struck him. He had been afraid all along that Spock didn't want to respond to him, that it was his friend's choice. But now... Now he knew that Spock simply couldn’t— couldn't respond to things no longer part of his active memory, that didn't exist for him anymore!
Kirk felt strangely elated as he realized that this was the key to the Spock he had known, and this was also something he could do something about. If all Spock needed was memories, he could give them to him. What Spock had felt before he would feel again, given the proper circumstances and reminders. He cursed to himself as he remembered that his time with Spock right now was limited, but he would find some way around that. He put the top of the brandy decanter back in place with a determined push and returned to the table, a decidedly confident grin on his face.
He then related, with just enough colorful detail to make Spock slightly uncomfortable, the volatile episode that had taken place after Commodore Stocker had taken command of the Enterprise; how he, Kirk, had repudiated Spock, not for taking the ship himself, but, ultimately, for handing his lady over to the bumbling, inexperienced ministrations of a desk-bound paper-pusher, whose mistakes Kirk had barely been able to correct in time. Spock seemed to flinch a couple of times, but whether from the lash of violently reborn memory or the unsettling quality of necessarily accepting Kirk's account of an event he would rather not own to, Kirk did not know.
"Jim—I do not understand. What would you have had me do?"
"What you should or shouldn't have done is no longer the point—for me, anyway. The point is that then, the Enterprise was more important to me than anything else. I would have trusted her to you, if I had to, but when you handed her over to someone else—a stranger—I felt as if you had betrayed me."
"Betrayed you... " Spock echoed, and not entirely without understanding, Kirk thought.
"And now, the reverse is true," Kirk continued. "I know that the trust, and loyalty, and... company of a good friend are more important than any duty."
Spock again seemed distressed. "But duty is—"
"I do not mean to say that duty's importance to me is less," Kirk interrupted with an abrupt gesture of his hand. "Only that—" he took a deep breath before speaking again "—love's importance is more."
He let out the breath. It occurred to him, in an absurd corner of his mind, that this encounter was not dissimilar to deep-sea diving and the subsequent coming up for air.
Kirk continued, looking up at Spock's now carefully arranged, noncommittal face. "Otherwise, how could I, as a flag rank officer—for the time being, anyway—justify the destruction of my ship for the life of a friend?"
"I do not know," Spock replied to the rhetorical question. Kirk grinned fondly at him.
"Duty is not all, Spock. It wasn't easy... and it was." He made a quick decision and laid a hand on Spock's arm for a moment, daring the first even remotely intimate physical contact they had had since Spock's return. His friend looked at him across the table—not responding, but not moving either—and Kirk knew that he saw in his eyes, for a moment, a searching hunger as strong as his own. At the same time, Kirk's intuition told him that he'd done enough pushing and reminding for one night. He looked discreetly away, giving Spock the chance to recover, and removed his hand calmly.
"But the important thing is that you're back now, and the hottest team in the galaxy can, hopefully, continue their adventures—together. The first of which concerns the welfare of our world's newest inhabitants, George and Gracie," Kirk continued, trying to put Spock back on comfortable ground by changing the topic entirely. "I may not be able to participate right at this very moment, but I hope to soon. What plans do you and Dr. Taylor have in the meantime?" He picked up his utensils and began eating.
Spock blinked a few times, confused by the abrupt change, then answered the question slowly. "It is a most complex problem, Jim, but one which should prove fascinating in the solution. George and Gracie are all right at the present time, but it is their future which must concern us immediately, an adequate food supply being one of the first orders of business."
Kirk nodded and rubbed his chin. "Yes... krill. Is it still there, in quantity, in our oceans?"
"It can be found in some areas—we still have an active marine population in the twenty-third century, it just does not include the great whales. Some re-seeding of the krill grounds may have to be done. But that is not the problem uppermost in my mind, since the whales are now in their season of fasting. The two things that concern me most are Gracie's actual pregnancy and George's singing." At this point, Spock also began his meal, eating sporadically as he talked.
"Why Gracie's pregnancy?"
"According to Dr. Taylor, Gracie is due to deliver at any time. For a female in her physical condition, our rather unsettling return flight could have caused at the very least discomfort, at the most, complications. We are anxious to get to her as quickly as possible, to insure that she is not in difficulty."
"I never thought of that," Kirk said, fork in mid-air, looking alarmed. "I was so busy just trying to get them here I really didn't think of Gracie's condition. Do you suspect that she's having difficulty now?"
Spock shook his head. "There is a medical shuttle keeping track of both the whales at this time, and there are no signs of distress. But they may not evidence themselves until the actual time of delivery. Dr. Taylor is... understandably anxious to reach them, however, especially after discovering that twenty-third century underwater breathing apparatus will allow her much more freedom of movement and contact with the whales."
Kirk chuckled and continued eating, well imagining the form Gillian's excitement must have taken, and how Spock must have reacted to it. "Well, I hope that your fears are groundless, and that Gracie won't need a Human—or Vulcan—midwife. What about the other thing you mentioned—George's singing? What's the problem with that? He sang well enough the other day!"
"That is not the point, however, Jim. Through my own research and the information given me by Dr. Taylor, I have discovered that whalesong is a very complicated phenomenon. The song itself is individual in certain ways to each whale, and again to each pod, but it does require the presence of other whales to build on, to evolve into the constantly changing, unrepeated, never completed song. George—at this time—does not have any other males with whom to build the song. This will undoubtedly have a deleterious effect on the whales' culture, and perhaps even on their health."
"Yes," Kirk murmured. "Being cut off, no communication with one's own kind, one's brothers, would be harmful to the future of the whale nation." He glanced at Spock quickly. "It's not a good condition for anyone to exist in. What do you plan to do about it, Mr. Spock?"
Spock leaned forward, intent on explaining his course of action. "The first step is obviously to meld with George and explain the problem, obtain his views. There is, as I mentioned, other cetacean life in our seas, and perhaps some stop-gap form of communication can be established. Some species of dolphins are known to be extremely intelligent, as well as being quick studies, and perhaps they will consent to help us. My experience with one particular dolphin—"
"The incident you told me about," Kirk interrupted "the dolphin who saved you from drowning, here on Earth."
"Yes, Jim. That dolphin seemed to have purposefully stored as much humpback lore in its memory as was possible, hoping to preserve at least that much of its brothers' history. I think the dolphin nation will be amenable, to the best of their ability."
"Good." Kirk nodded firmly. "What else?"
Spock constructed a familiar steeple with his first two fingers, absorbed in the discussion, his meal forgotten. "During the twentieth century, a brilliant scientist—Dr. John C. Lilly—was responsible for much ground-breaking experimentation with interspecies communication involving tursiops truncatus, the bottlenose dolphin. He was an unorthodox and eccentric man, and certain of his methods were either questionable or scoffed at by his peers, but there is no doubt that his crowning achievement was his conception and invention of the JANUS computer—JANUS standing for Joint Analog Numerical Understanding System. JANUS was the beginning of a new way of communicating with other species, one that would translate language in both directions rather than force the dolphins to learn human language in order to communicate with people, as had always previously been done. It was a completely innovative approach, and a scientific method that was not given proper credit or attention, due to the lack of regard in which the doctor was held by some scientists of the time. Unfortunately, the field of science is not without its own measure of political machinations." Spock shook his head disapprovingly. "Nonetheless, Dr. Lilly felt it to be a more... respectful and just way to communicate with 'his friends,' as he called the dolphins.
"I have checked, and a descendant group of Dr. Lilly's supporters, the Human/Dolphin Foundation—small, but tenaciously active—is still in existence, in routine contact and communication with the dolphin nations, and definitely eager to work with us. I believe this will be the answer to our—or rather, George's problem for the time being."
Kirk put down his fork and pushed his plate back. "Good again," he said emphatically. "I'll bet that group suddenly finds its popularity—and its funding—suddenly and dramatically increased!"
Spock nodded with an air of scientific satisfaction. "And perhaps Dr. Taylor will find them friendly allies and colleagues in her new life."
"Perhaps." Kirk nodded, frowning a little as he thought of the problems inherent in Gillian's situation. "I hope so."
Spock shifted in his seat slightly. "I believe that the work that lies ahead of us will not only be an honorable addition to the Enterprise crew's list of achievements, but also augurs well for the continuation of that history of accomplishments."
"How is that, Spock?" Kirk asked, puzzled by the Vulcan's optimism.
"Some of the finest work accomplished by the Enterprise and her crew involved the fostering of communication and understanding between different peoples or species. The project on which I am about to embark, as I said, is an outstanding example of that tradition, as was our retrieval of the whales in the first place—a joint effort between the whales and ourselves that literally saved the planet. All of these things cannot help but bring a positive influence to bear on the Council's decision."
"Unfortunately, Spock, your work will have very little bearing on our fate."
"Why?" Spock demanded. "I am a member of the Enterprise crew."
Kirk studied the Vulcan, not sure whether he was speaking out of genuine innocence or stubborn obtuseness. Finally, he shook his head. "Never mind, Spock. Never mind."
Spock looked at him quizzically for a moment, then shrugged and launched into an avid discussion of the intricacies of the JANUS computer and its merits. Kirk sat back, listening with part of his attention and studying his friend at the same time. Interspecies communication indeed. He and Spock were no strangers to it; they had spent the last fifteen years struggling through various channels and impasses caused by their different natures and cultures. And here they were, at the beginning of it all again....
As Spock went on, Kirk became uncomfortably aware that, even with the advances made by Lilly and his followers, these new inhabitants of his world were being asked—had already been asked—to sacrifice far more than their Human counterparts; were almost being forced to take a brave leap into new territory without too much of an assurance of success—with his own species standing only to gain.
He thought grimly of the many times Human insecurity and need had forced change on another people or culture. How many times had he himself, as a starship commander and representative of the Federation, forced a culture—even a single person—to accept his government's point of view so that communication might be established, or some goal might be achieved? Or even just tried to force, not always with success, sometimes with egg all over his/their face? His mind counted over the various examples: the people of Vaal, the Ekosians and Zeons, the Iotians, the Organians, the Eminians and Vendikarians...
Kirk almost jumped as that name suddenly occurred to him. Spock? Of course. How often had he, in the name of duty, forced Spock into actions certainly no Vulcan would have condoned. Orders to kill and requests for mind melds with unknown entities when no other mode of contact was possible trailed through his memory reluctantly. And that was not even considering the personal compromises he knew he had caused Spock to suffer in the course of their relationship. Lies used in the same way Kirk himself always had, as tools; admissions of emotion and friendship that must surely have caused Spock secret pain. And for what?
He considered the question. He knew in his heart that the end—his relationship with Spock—did justify certain means. But maybe... they should not always have been his means. Had he ever asked Spock, once, whether he was willing to make the changes in his life Kirk had relentlessly asked him for? Did his Vulcan friend also consider the means justified?
Kirk scowled, castigating himself for the Human arrogance that assumed everyone wanted to speak its language. He should have left Spock to find his own way, to work his way through to an answer that was the same for both of them—just arrived at by different roads. Was he—had he been—afraid that Spock might not have found the path? No, Kirk decided firmly. What they were, what they had had, was meant to be. And would be again. There were just a few... patterns that had to be changed.
"Jim? ..." Spock interrupted his thoughts, looking at him with concern.
Kirk smiled fondly at his friend; there was no time like the present. "I've just been thinking, Spock. In so many ways, our life together has been an excellent example of interspecies communication, hasn't it? We are two different species, and we have managed, through the years, to learn to communicate very well. To establish a solid, meaningful contact, each in our own necessarily lonely lives." Kirk paused as he watched both Spock's eyebrows rise slowly, then continued, swallowing nervously as he did. "But... I'm beginning to think now that I may have been unfair to you, asked you to do things my way too often. I didn't always show the proper respect for your ways, your culture, your personal sensibilities. I'm a commander, and I'm used to ordering other people's lives; but I've abused that power, demanded responses and actions from you that perhaps you would rather not have given—if I had left you that choice."
Kirk had bent his head as he spoke, but now he looked up, needing to see into his friend's eyes, forcing himself to confront the real truth of his confession, hoping—how, he did not know—for forgiveness, or at least memory, a place to start from. Then he smiled again, gently, and changed the moment.
"Anyway, this is one old dog who desperately wants to learn some new tricks. Perhaps... this time, I can do better. You know it's in my nature to be forceful, Spock; but I did what I did because I believe—and still do—that feelings, emotions are meant to be expressed, and they will out. That's a universal truth—even for Vulcans." Kirk sat back and held his breath, waiting for Spock's response to his outpouring.
Spock stared at him for a few stunned moments, a variety of expressions passing over his face in a manner that reminded Kirk of a kaleidoscope. The Vulcan opened his mouth to speak, closed it, frowned, and then took in his own deep breath.
"Old dog... Jim?... I do not—"
Kirk waved his hand dismissively. "It's just another type of metaphor, Spock. An old dog—someone too set in their ways to change."
Spock nodded, though he still looked confused. "Jim—I don't understand why you are... apologizing to me, merely, it seems, because you were my commanding officer. I am sure that you acted in a correct and necessary manner at all times; it is unlikely that Star Fleet would entrust a man with the power and authority that they have given you if they deemed it likely that you would want only to abuse it and your officers."
Kirk was a little disappointed; he had hoped that Spock might already have formed more of an emotional opinion about their past than this rousing career review. "I'm not talking about making people walk the gangplank, Spock! This was something of a more personal nature, more... emotional...." He smiled at Spock hopefully.
Spock's brows came together in frustration, and he bit his lip, concentrating on Kirk's words. Suddenly he straightened in his chair. "Did you have a conversation with my mother while we were on Vulcan?" he asked, almost suspiciously.
"What? " Kirk gasped, totally taken by surprise, and then he started to laugh. This, at least, was his logical, literal, incomprehensible Vulcan. "Why do you ask that, Spock?" he managed to get out.
"On Vulcan, while I was completing my testing, the computer asked me how I felt. I did not understand what response the computer expected of me. My mother explained that, since it knew I was half-Human, it was simply testing my state of being, given that condition. I believe that her prediction was that my emotions would 'surface.’”
Kirk laughed again, feeling extremely grateful that he and Amanda both seemed to possess great quantities of those two strongest of Human impulses—stubbornness and optimism. "No, Spock, I did not talk to your mother, but I do understand her position. We're both concerned about you and your health, physical and mental. We want to see you find a wholeness you can live with, both ethically and comfortably; and we are convinced that you will eventually see the 'logic' of emotions." He grinned at Spock. "We have faith in you, Spock."
Spock inclined his head to one side slightly and sighed. "At this moment, I believe I would be satisfied to understand the 'logic' of your position," he said wearily.
Kirk suddenly noticed how tired his friend looked, saw the dark hollows under his eyes and the slight droop of his shoulders. They had all been through a rough time, but Spock especially so. And with the emotional curves he had thrown at Spock this evening... Kirk looked at the chronometer. It was already 2400; they had been talking for hours.
"I didn't realize how late it was, Spock," he said, knowing that Spock would never make the first move if he thought Kirk still wanted to talk. "It's easy to lose track of the time when you're cooped up this way. If you're heading out for the open seas tomorrow, you'd better get some rest, mister," he continued affectionately.
"You are probably correct, Jim," Spock answered, refusing for once the refuge of his usual proviso about the superiority of Vulcan physiology and fortitude. "There are still several matters to be taken care of, supplies and equipment for the vessel, and at least one more tutoring session to take place with Dr. Taylor before we leave tomorrow night."
"How are you getting along with Dr. Taylor so far?" Kirk asked curiously.
Spock hesitated as if he were searching for something tactful to say. "She is an intelligent woman, and a good scientist, but I find the effusiveness of her personality somewhat ..."
Kirk nodded. "I thought so." He felt suddenly protective; he was not sure that Gillian's "effusiveness" was the best thing for Spock to have to be dealing with right now. Never mind that he had spent the evening emotionally bombarding the Vulcan. Despite his resolutions, he still felt that was a privilege of his no one else had a right to.
"I have decided the best way to deal with her may be simply to... 'imagine' that she is Dr. McCoy and act accordingly," Spock said suddenly.
Kirk stared at Spock. Had he heard correctly? Had the Vulcan actually made a joke? After a moment's consideration, he shook his head, deciding not to pursue the matter; Spock seldom gave a straight answer when caught behaving emotionally. It was a little game they had always played, and... actually, it felt... comfortable to be playing it again.
"I feel like I should be there with you, Spock. I'll miss you." Kirk paused, letting that sink in. "Keep me posted."
Spock eyed Kirk cautiously, obviously uneasy about how to respond. Finally, pursing his lips in a minute sign of frustration, he chose a noncommittal answer. "Yes, Jim. There is one other question I wanted to discuss with you before I left. I have been thinking about the best possible way to protect the whales; this is our most crucial responsibility, now that we have brought them here. Their position is secure at present, but safeguards for future generations should be set up now."
"I agree, Spock. What did you have in mind?"
"I propose that George and Gracie be designated as an autonomous people or country unto themselves, and that they be made a member nation of the Federation. They would then be awarded the same respect, rights, and privileges as any other member. This would, in effect, save them from the possible depredations of future generations of Humans who might again consider them as merely resources rather than intelligent life forms. We know we can communicate with them now, either through melds or by interfacing languages, using Dr. Lilly's computer. They will be able to voice their opinions on any issue that might affect their lives—or the lives of others." Spock paused. "The whales are very compassionate beings, Dr. Taylor's emotionalism aside. They would no doubt display a commendable interest in and concern for their brother nations if made members. Do you think you could take this matter up with the Federation while I am gone?"
Kirk nodded absently, rubbing his bottom lip with one finger. "You're absolutely right, Spock. A precedent for George and Gracie's position here has to be set now, before the inevitable shortness of Human memory can set in. I don't think that the next generation, or maybe even two, would forget who George and Gracie are, but what about the one after that... or the one after that? It definitely is our responsibility to see that it's done." He frowned. "I'm not sure how much weight I can throw around at this very moment, but I'll do whatever I have to. And somehow, I just can't see how the Federation could disagree with us, considering what George has done for them."
Spock seemed satisfied with that promise; he inclined his head once and seemed to consider the matter closed, taken care of. Then he stood up from the table. "I believe I will take my leave now, Jim. I have... enjoyed our evening together. You have helped me to reconstruct a great deal of personal history. Most... fascinating."
Kirk could not stop a huge grin from taking control of his face as he walked his puzzled friend to the door. "Anytime, Mr. Spock, anytime." Spock looked at him strangely one last time, and then exited without another word.
Kirk felt the smile release him, and he shivered suddenly as he turned to face the littered table, and his empty suite.
Gillian walked around her room touching each piece of equipment that she had assembled there, counting it off and reciting its name, familiarizing herself once again with this strange new technology. She had been studying frantically since yesterday, trying to swallow whole the huge chunks of "future" knowledge that Spock had thrown at her, hoping that it would all stick to her subconscious and come up when needed. Kinda like intellectual peanut butter, she thought to herself giddily, and then groaned. Cramming always had made her silly. I sure wish I'd had the hypnotutor around when I was in college and could have really used it! With a device like that she could have outrun all her classmates, and left her professors in the dust as well.
And she had taken to it like a duck to water, once she had gotten past her initial fear. As a matter of fact, she had encountered very little in this twenty-third century that she didn't like, or wasn't fascinated by and eager to try. Gillian smiled. Maybe I should file a complaint somewhere for having been born too early. But... it really isn't necessary anymore, now that I'm here... is it? She shook her head in confusion. Comprehension of the conundrums and vicissitudes of time travel were beyond her at the moment—she was just glad to be here.
But her arrival in this time had, at first, caused a definite uproar among the powers that be in the Federation. For a few hours she thought she might be skinned alive for "distorting the fabric of the ages," as one old Andorian had lisped at her, a withered blue finger shaking as he scolded. It seemed that Kirk—the quintessential gentleman!—had disavowed any responsibility for her presence, immediately and in no uncertain terms. She had squared her shoulders, telling herself that she had to be fair: He was in a hell of a lot of hot water himself, and it had been her idea to hitch a ride to the twenty-third century. Well, she could deal with it—just as long as they didn't think they could keep her away from George and Gracie. She had thrown herself into this uncertain future just to be with her whales—they couldn't take that away from her!
She had been about to argue her case, reminding them that if it hadn't been for "her" whales they might not have even been standing here, tsk-tsking her, when someone had come running up, holding a computer printout. It seemed a little research had proved that her disappearance from 1986 had not had any significant effect on Earth's history; therefore, her presence was no longer a problem. Well, excuse the hell out of me! she'd thought. But she had somehow felt pleased at the verdict. It was like a justification—she did belong here. And once they all acknowledged that fact, the high muckety-mucks of the Federation had been so thankful, and so concerned for her welfare and her future plans... typical bureaucratic bullshit, she had thought with contempt until she really started listening to what they were saying. Her pick of science vessels... as many assistants as she needed to conduct whatever research was necessary to help the whales adjust to their "new" home... money... equipment... It was a scientist's dream come true, and they really seemed willing and able to deliver, not blanching at all when she took them up on their best offers. Yes, she was really going to like it here....
A pang of guilt stung Gillian for a moment as she thought of the opportunities that stretched before her. How Bob would have loved a setup like this! The things that the Institute could have done with such a backer! Sorry, guys, she thought with just a twinge of homesickness. Then she pushed it brutally aside. No time for that. She had wasted too much of her life selling out to the necessities of keeping those above her happy—doing things the conventional way, neglecting her own plans and research, and acting like she was one of the guys—when all she'd ever wanted was to just be with George and Gracie. Now she had the chance of a lifetime—anybody's lifetime—and, coming from such a unique perspective, she was determined to accomplish bigger and better things than anyone ever had before. She smiled absently as she indulged in daydreams of a life of nothing but uninterrupted research, uninterrupted George and Gracie. And who knew? If they were very lucky, and very careful, and Gracie—and her progeny—were very fertile, there would, within a decade or so, be a whole family of whales, populating the oceans again after too long an absence. The cloning process that Spock had mentioned to her in their first conversation in her office sounded promising as well. And they will all be the hell my whales, Mister! she thought defiantly as she remembered Spock's words.
Spock. He should be here very soon. He had said that they would have one last tutoring session before they left, including a first try at this technique he called a mind meld. Her heart started racing as she thought over the possibilities of this strange, alien idea. What would it feel like? Would it be anything like the sensation of the transporter? Probably not, since one was essentially mechanical and the other was... Well, she wasn't sure what it was exactly, she just knew it would be exciting. Gillian rolled her eyes. Exciting was definitely not the half of it, but her vocabulary had seldom been strained to these limits before. I'm about to begin the biggest research project of my life, doing what I've always wanted to do, with unlimited funds... oh, yes, and I will be working with a scientist from another planet whose ears are pointed, whose blood is green, and who can speak to whales with his mind—using his fingers. I'm very... excited about it.
The tapes she had studied on the hypnotutor concerning Vulcan culture had left her practically speechless. She had expected to have some trouble grasping three centuries worth of scientific advances, and that particular task was not easy. But at least she understood the foundation of that new knowledge. How was she supposed to understand a people who could touch minds telepathically—as a matter of course, without any equipment? And how in hell was she supposed to believe in copper-based blood? It was all... impossible, like something out of a bad science fiction novel, the type that she, as a scientist, had always disdained. But she no longer had the luxury of that sort of detachment. This was real life; she was in the middle of it.
So far, the main differences she could see between Vulcans and Humans were matters of the mind. But they were big differences, and not easy to get a handle on. Which is why I'm sitting here, blithering away to myself like an idiot, she thought savagely, and stood up suddenly. Time for a caffeine break. Thank God they still have coffee in the twenty-third century.
As she made the coffee she tried to clear her mind of a gritty, dull ache—the by-product of oxygen-deprived brain cells and hasty, half-assimilated learning. Settling herself in a chair with a full, steaming cup—and a full pot close at hand—she opened her eyes as wide as they would go, yawned deliberately and at length, and decided to review all the points about the hypnotutor's operation that Spock had told her. It was a device for subliminal education, he'd said; in the initial stage it laid down tracks of knowledge and information in the mind at a speed too fast for the learner to consciously grasp anything but brief flashes. Then, later, usually after a couple of nights of sleep—or a self-induced meditative state—the information floated into a place of easier access for the waking brain, and gradually became available in its entirety. He had also told her that she would know the process had begun when supposedly new information seemed strangely recognizable and familiar to her. She'd laughed and called it the "a-ha!" reaction. Spock had looked at her strangely for a moment and then gone on, ignoring her attempt at humor.
So here she was, only partly in possession of the facts and hoping they would start coming around fairly soon. She and Spock had a lot of work to do, with her already at a disadvantage and hardly needing another handicap.
She poured herself another cup of coffee and sighed as her thoughts came around to her new partner again. She was still having difficulty getting over the idea that he was a being from another planet, hypnotutor or no hypnotutor. This was not something she had ever prepared herself for. Sure, the concept of life from other worlds was one she'd discussed with friends, at school, but she had always been on the nonbelievers' side. Or, rather, on the ambivalent side. She had been interested in the oceans of her own planet, and the evolutionary processes that might or might not be found in other, alien waters had not concerned her.
Until now. She massaged her lip with a finger as she tried to scientifically catalog the similarities, the common factors of Vulcanness and Humanness. Basic stuff: the physiology was more or less the same—except for those ears. They both moved in the same elements, required a similar atmosphere. Requirements for sustenance were basically the same—except for ideological concerns such as vegetarianism. That one still amazed her, actually. How did you get a whole world of people to agree on that? Wasn't there somewhere, someone who craved something other than vegetables and fruits—a secret society of meat-eaters maybe? Gillian tried to conjure up a picture of Spock eating a rare steak; she didn't quite know why, but it just didn't fit. And he didn't seem like the underground type either, any more than the Berkeley type.
But just what type was he then? The polarized response she had had to him earlier was getting stronger, and she didn't like that. She had always been a loner, and becoming too attached or interested in a person—even from a professional standpoint—had never been in her plans; now wasn't any different. And if she wanted any personal companionship in this new life, Kirk was more her type. She knew he would feel the same way she did: enjoy good times while they were there, enjoy good sex when it was available and didn't interfere with the important stuff in life, and then... see you around, sometime. She was sure, judging from the intensity of Spock's personality, that sex—if Vulcans did it at all—would never be a casual thing; probably nothing was casual to him. And she didn't really—again, she was not sure why—think of him as a sexual being at all. So what was this stupid attraction she was feeling?
She considered the other people in Spock's life, the ones she had met so far. Commander Scott, Dr. McCoy, Uhura: they all seemed to have a warm affection for him that she couldn't quite fathom. Respect, yes. Maybe even a little awe she could understand. But affection? He just didn't seem that... approachable to her. Maybe you had to work with him for twenty years before you could see it, Gillian thought, shrugging her shoulders.
And Sarek—whom she now knew was Spock's father; there was someone she wouldn't want to try explaining a crumpled fender to—or whatever the Vulcan equivalent of that part of the family car was! To Gillian he seemed almost grim and forbidding, yet, like his son, everyone seemed to treat him with an overly respectful and deferential regard. Vulcans were evidently hot shit even in this century; she would have thought that people would have had time to get used to the idea of beings from another planet by now. And Humans have always been notoriously hard to impress. So... she was willing to concede that Vulcans might be worthy of respect and admiration, but probably only for their minds, so to speak. She was a scientist, so was Spock, and she could learn a lot from him. Especially when it came to this mind-meld technique. Gillian sipped the last of her coffee as she considered the possibilities of such a thing, considered what could be done with it—what she could do with it—if it turned out to be for real.
It wasn't that she didn't believe Spock, it was just... well, hard to believe!
And then her mind came to rest on Admiral Kirk. There was definitely more to this man than met the eye—that much she could testify to. She'd never been much for the hero type, but she had to admit he was pretty impressive. Even though she had been told that he was in a lot of trouble—which was somehow centered around but did not exactly affect Spock—she still got the sense that he was also regarded with nothing but the highest respect by everyone around him. Even by the muckety-mucks who were after his hide.
And yet... There was a very unusual something or other going on between him and Spock; the best way she could describe it was a creative tension. Not something bad, certainly, but something that was not... quite... good. Yet. She scowled at herself as she drained her cup and got up to clean out the pot. What was going on here? She was not usually even the self-analytical type, let alone the type who tried to figure out what other people were all about. But these two were different; there was something very uncommon about them that made you want to... watch them.
That was it; they were, somehow, very compelling, though she couldn't have said why for the life of her. Here was an admiral, someone who obviously had more than his share of the right stuff, honored and respected by all those around him—and he seemed to care more about what one other person thought of him than anything else. Gillian remembered their conversation in the restaurant —two days ago now—when she had asked him why he traveled with "that ditzy guy" who called him Admiral. Kirk had gotten the strangest faraway look in his eyes, sort of... sad, and nostalgic. It didn't make sense.
And Spock—he was someone who, from all she had read and been told, should be the center of all attention; a genius by anyone's standards and a man of science who had probably won honors all up and down the galaxy. She smiled at herself as she recognized new idioms creeping into her speech. But instead of the usual self-centered or absent-minded jerk—whom she had known too many of—he was a man who seemed almost totally without ego. She'd always made a practice of not being impressed with anyone's intelligence, since she had a healthy respect for her own, but it was hard not to be impressed with Spock—especially since he didn't seem to expect anyone to be. And yet, she would be willing to bet that he held at least quadruple doctorates. It was definitely very strange.
And when they were together—that was even weirder. At first, even when she had thought of them as possibly demented and hopelessly out of place, they had still projected a sense of... being in tune with each other. Once she knew who they really were, she had felt it even more strongly, and she had noticed other little, important things. The way they walked together, with a strange sort of balance and symmetry, always the same space of joined distance between them. The way they seemed to know and complete each others' thoughts, as people did when they had known and been close to each other a very long time. Conjugal ESP, her mother had called it. And she supposed that that kind of thing could be expected from two military officers who had spent, according to the records, almost fifteen years together.
Gillian shook her head vigorously, trying to clear her head of the confusing line of thought. Why should she care about any of this? She had better things to do, and more urgent ones. She finished cleaning up the dishes in the kitchenette's sink and headed for the shower, hoping she would have time before Spock got there to pull herself together. He had said something to her about a "voice-lock" on the door of her suite and how it could be set to leave messages for expected company if you had pressing business elsewhere, but she wasn't sure she wanted to announce to all and sundry—or Spock in particular— that her business was in the bathroom. She scurried over to the chest of drawers and pulled out a new set of clothes, then ran back to the bathroom. As she stared into the mirror at herself for a moment, a new thought suddenly occurred to her.
Wait a minute! She had read in the computer tapes all about their most recent mission, the one that had ended in Spock's death on that planet called Genesis. It would have made great science fiction in the twentieth century, and she had at first had some trouble swallowing it. But it was true, it had happened—and if Spock had been dead, how the hell did he and Kirk still manage the kind of rapport, that form of silent communication which so obviously existed between them? As far as she could understand from what had happened, they shouldn't even really know each other, should be barely comfortable with each other—but instead, they projected an undeniable aura of... oneness. Gillian wondered if this strangely mystical relationship had anything to do with the large passage in the Star Fleet tape that had been security locked and marked "Excised by request of the Vulcan Council." It had to have something to do with the telepathic abilities she had been studying. She was sure of it.
As she finished her shower and got dressed, Gillian found herself shivering. Using these telepathic techniques for her work was one thing—they would finally put her in touch with the whales in a way that she had never dreamed possible. But with another person? That was a little too intimate for her, thank you. Now that she had thought about it, she wasn't sure she wanted someone else to see that much of her. Or that she wanted to see that much of someone else, for that matter. The meld, which she was about to experience for the first time, suddenly seemed a little spooky and unnatural. Just who was this guy, that she should let him into her mind?
Gillian closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe slowly, calming herself, leading her thoughts away from the threatening panic. / am a scientist. Even though she had always been famous for her "unscientific" methods and feelings among her colleagues, she knew that this was just an emotional jag caused by exhaustion and an unprecedented amount of culture shock. She had enjoyed most of the twenty-third century's differences so far, and she would no doubt enjoy this one as well. There is nothing to be afraid of. Spock certainly didn't seem like the type to go around committing any sort of invasion of her mind that she didn't feel comfortable with. It was all in the cause of science and learning. And George and Gracie. They were worth anything.
Gillian grimaced. People had never been her forte; marine mammals were so easy to deal with. George and Gracie belonged to her, and she to them, in a way that nothing else did. And even though she couldn't actually talk with them, she had the feeling that they understood her. She thought of the mind meld again, and was suddenly frozen in doubt; would the whales be what she had always thought them to be? Would they still be her whales? Or was she just anthropomorphizing, and her whole life a waste? She shuddered suddenly, pushing the thought ruthlessly from her mind.
Enough speculation. It was all Spock's fault—he made her think too much. Why the hell did she have to cope with this alien being, with pointed ears and green blood, no less? That much scientific curiosity her biologist's soul couldn't come up with at the moment. Maybe later, when the subliminal learning had kicked in.
She started suddenly as the door buzzer sounded. It had to be him. She squared her shoulders and walked into the main room of the suite. In the boldest voice she could manage she said, "Come."
The door slid open and Spock entered. He assumed the same pose, she noticed—hands clasped behind his back respectfully, face carefully arranged in a neutral expression, standing just inside the door until he was invited further in. Gillian smiled to herself. He was the most polite and gentle man she had ever encountered; she didn't need to be afraid of him.
"Come in, Mr. Spock, sit down. How are you?" She rambled through preliminary conversation inanely, not quite sure what to say to this paragon of virtue with whom she was about to take the concept of intimacy to new heights.
"I am fine, Dr. Taylor. I trust that you are well also, and that your studies have been at least partially enlightening—taking into account the telescopic nature of your apprehension of them."
Gillian looked at him, mouth slightly open for a moment. Getting used to the way you talk is almost as difficult as any part of these studies. She shook her head quickly. "Yes, it really is... fascinating. I just wish I'd had these facilities when I was in college—I'd have gotten my Ph.D. years earlier!"
Spock finally took a seat on the sofa. "The hypnotutor is a fine tool, but the potential for abuse is great."
Gillian grinned. "I'll say! A person could have made a fortune selling bootleg copies of that program."
"Bootleg? ..." Spock was at a total loss, not even able to associate a meaning from the context of this idiom.
Gillian suddenly stopped grinning, absolutely certain of what Mr. Spock's opinion would be concerning the theft of software. "Yeah... you know... illegal copies. It was very common in the 1980s, you know. Everybody did it. Software was expensive, and not everyone could afford it—especially highly specialized programs that you might only need once but were still crucial to your thesis."
Spock looked at her in amazement. "That type of theft is not necessary in this century, since the hypnotutor is freely available to all who wish to use it. But that was not the sort of abuse I had in mind.... ”
"Forget it, Mr. Spock, it was just a joke, anyway. Put it down to sleep-deprivation silliness. I'm sorry, I'll try to straighten up." She sat down too, feeling very uncomfortable—the gauche-child syndrome again. Did he do this to everyone?
Spock looked at her quizzically, an eyebrow raised. "I have heard of that sort of reaction to a marked lack of sleep. I do not remember observing it, though I am sure I must have while on board the Enterprise.” He paused. "You remained awake all night, in order to review and study the material I gave you? That is not very damn efficient."
"Yeah, I know, but it's the way I've always done it," Gillian said defensively.
Spock stared at her, unable to determine or understand any thread of continuity in her logic. She was indeed the most illogical, emotional scientist he had ever encountered, he was sure of that. Even more so than Dr. McCoy, which was no small accomplishment. He thought he remembered once being told—before—that life scientists were "by nature" irrational, and tended to become emotionally involved with their field. If Dr. Taylor was an example, that information was certainly true. Spock remembered a remark Jim had made to him the evening before, and began to wonder himself, for the first time, how successful his working relationship with this young woman would be.
Yet he knew that he felt a respect for her stubborn strength, her fierce will, and her almost arrogant trust in her own abilities that was definitely... Human. It also seemed... familiar.
Spock pursed his lips for a moment as he pursued the disappearing edge of a memory in his mind; it faded suddenly and he had the sensation of being brought up short in front of a wall. Illogical, he thought to himself. No metaphor is necessary; this is merely a portion of my mind, a neural connection, that has been scarred and healed over during the fal tor pan. He returned his thoughts to the situation at hand.
"Mr. Spock? Hello!"
He looked up, suddenly aware that he had been looking out the window of her suite. He frowned. "Yes, Dr. Taylor?"
"Uh... are you sure we can't dispense with the titles? I'd rather call you something besides 'Mister,' and I feel uncomfortable having you call me 'Doctor.'" She fidgeted, feeling uncharacteristically humble as she thought again about his most assuredly multiple degrees. The more she was around this man, the more he seemed to... intimidate her. It was not necessarily a negative reaction, but it was one she was not accustomed to, and it almost annoyed her.
"But you are a doctor of philosophy, are you not? You have earned the title?... "
"I'm just a little old marine biologist; you're probably a doctor four times over, in areas of study I couldn't even comprehend."
"Six," Spock said simply.
"Huh?" Gillian managed, not sure she wanted to hear it again.
"I have six doctorates. My service with Star Fleet has interfered with intensive academic pursuits."
"Right. How unfortunate," Gillian replied glumly. "Anyway, let's just say that I'd feel more comfortable if we were more... familiar, you'll pardon the expression."
Spock tried to understand her position, then shrugged his shoulders. He had complied with Jim's request the night before, but that had felt appropriate, in some strange way. They had—as he had been told—known each other for many years, shared many experiences. But he scarcely knew this woman. How could she feel "more comfortable" with him merely because of a name change? He simply could not comprehend this Human preoccupation with first names, but if a lack of compliance with her request would hamper his interaction with this particularly volatile Human—as he sensed it would—he would do his best to honor her request.
"If you prefer, I will call you—Gillian," he said finally. "Spock is actually my given name; as for the other, you couldn't pronounce it." He felt a strange/familiar thrill along a nerve ending somewhere. Something else gone... excised. What had it been?
Gillian looked at him strangely. "All right, I guess I'll take your word for it. Actually, judging from some of the doozies I ran into on that Vulcan history tape last night, I probably would put my jaw in a sling trying!"
Spock sighed. He would never, he was sure, catch up on all the possible permutations of Human metaphoric idioms in this century, let alone ones from the past. He decided to change the subject rather than ask for yet another explanation.
"Gillian... if we could return to the subject we were discussing—your lack of sleep. We do have much to discuss this morning, but after those matters have been taken care of, during our practice meld, I could give you some relief, or assistance, whichever you'd like."
"What do you mean?" Gillian looked at him warily.
"Simply that I could stimulate certain nerve centers with the purpose of either maintaining a state of wakefulness or inducing a heavy sleep, whichever you prefer. The condition would occur immediately after the meld.
Gillian recoiled, springing to her feet before she could stop herself. "No! No... I don't think so... thanks... I mean—" She stopped, angry at the way she was sounding. And once her initial fear reaction was over, she found her scientist's mind was just a little curious. She started to speak, stopped, decided to go ahead. "Can you... really do something like that... like... " She stopped again, at a loss for words.
"You will understand what I am proposing somewhat better once the subliminal knowledge from the hypnotutor has connected itself to your own scientific learning. But it is a process not easy to explain or to comprehend."
"In other words," Gillian interrupted, "I have to trust you."
Spock nodded. "Yes."
Gillian looked at him. Again she saw the gentle, polite, enormously intelligent being she had recognized in him almost from the start. Even when she had thought of him as a ditz, she had still known there was something... different about him, something special. And somehow, she suddenly knew that if anyone could be trusted, this man could. Even as she squirmed against this unacceptable lowering of barricades, she felt something—an attitude? a feeling?—shift position deep inside. Damn. She got up and walked to the window, looking out for a moment on her new San Francisco, struggling to control unfamiliar, unasked-for emotions. What is happening to me? I must be more tired than I thought. She found herself turning from the window, back to Spock.
"All right, Spock, I'd like to give it a try, then," she heard herself say. "After all, I'm a twenty-third century woman now—there's no sense in being afraid of the unknown."
"There is no need to be afraid," Spock said quietly. "I would not hurt you."
Gillian stared at him, and her eyes suddenly smarted with tears. "I know."
She stood and quickly walked over to the desk and the computer, desperate to change the subject and the tone of the conversation. Goddamnitalltohell! I should never have stayed up all night—I’m too old for that shit anymore. Can't control myself when I’m this exhausted.
She glanced over at Spock, who had suddenly appeared at her elbow. He seemed either unaware or tactfully oblivious to her fragile emotional state. Maybe he was used to this kind of thing, living with Humans as he did. Or did Vulcans, because of their rigid emotional control, somehow cause compensatory outbursts in Humans? Gillian latched on to that theory, comforting herself by blaming her emotional behavior on an outside influence, and concentrated on listening carefully to what Spock was saying.
"I have spoken to the Admiral concerning George and Gracie's status. He agrees with me that their best protection lies in becoming members of the Federation, and he will plead their case while we are gone. I believe that we can expect a positive response."
Gillian smiled and shook her head. "I never thought I'd see the day when the whales would actually be treated as intelligent beings and given rights. Especially by a government! I can't—George and Gracie can't thank you enough."
Spock looked at her quizzically. "No thanks are necessary; it is only logical that our first priority be to ensure the safety of the beings we have traveled hundreds of years in time to obtain."
"I guess I'm just not used to people who think logically," Gillian said with a frown. "Anyway, I think we should discuss Gracie first. How is she doing?" Gillian barely noticed her tension and anxiety melting into the unconscious portion of her thoughts as she asked the question, suddenly realizing how anxious she was to see her whales again. It felt like forever since she'd left them. There are people monitoring them, it's true, but I should be there.
"Gracie is fine," Spock replied as they both sat down. He activated the computer and quickly brought up a screen of information, then beckoned to Gillian to come read it. "This is the latest report from the scientific crew monitoring them. The whales are moving steadily south, and sensor scans indicate that the fetus is almost in the appropriate position for delivery—although we cannot be entirely certain, since our knowledge is, at this point, only theoretical."
Gillian peered at the screen. "Let's hope she doesn't start anything before we get there; actual delivery of a calf doesn't take more than about two hours." The screen changed and they saw footage of the crew in the water with the humpbacks, collecting information and recording any sounds made. She felt a rush of envy and fidgeted in her seat. "Lucky stiffs," she mumbled. "When are we leaving again?"
"I should be prepared to leave by eighteen hundred hours tonight," Spock replied. "Do not worry, Doctor. You will be with them soon, and no one disputes your relationship with them."
Gillian turned to the Vulcan in surprise, so shocked at his perception that she didn't even protest his use of her title. How could he tell she was feeling insecure—longing for the only activity and environment where she'd ever felt at home, afraid that others perhaps more qualified than herself in this century would slowly but surely phase her out of the really important work. It was almost... spooky. As she forced her attention back to the screen, she could almost swear he was smiling at her.
"I am a scientist, Gillian. Did you think me incapable of understanding another scientist's affinity for their field and their work?"
"After reading what information I did on that Vulcan history tape—quite frankly, yes!"
"But I am half-Human."
Gillian closed her eyes for a moment. "Oh, jeez. I'm sorry for ever making fun of you and Kirk in 'my' San Francisco. Getting used to a different century is not easy."
"Actually, I was quite moved by my brief contact with the whales. I once experienced communication with a marine mammal—a dolphin—as a youth. I found it an extremely... satisfying experience." Spock paused, replaying the memory again. Strange; each time he recalled it, his perceptions and impressions of that encounter grew stronger, more... tangible. This seemed to be happening to him more often, with more memories.... His thoughts of his friend... Jim seemed to echo with a different quality each time he explored them. At first he'd thought it was part of the after effects of the fal tor pan; now he was not so sure. This resonance of emotion did not feel very Vulcan. And now Gillian seemed to be affecting him as well, causing him to manifest an enthusiasm for their project that seemed both proper and improper at the same time.
He recalled the testing computer's query—HOW DO YOU FEEL? —and his mother's hopeful probing. The emotions she spoke of did indeed seem to be surfacing; surely impulses so strong had to have some validity. Spock sighed heavily and turned his attention back to the computer, calling up another screen of information.
"Oh, the JANUS computer!" Gillian exclaimed. "I had heard something about this in my own time, though I'd never seen it or Dr. Lilly's center. He focused almost exclusively on communication, and I really hadn't started an intense study of that area—until now, of course. Actually, very little research, communication-wise, had been done with any marine species other than the bottlenose dolphin—they were the most accessible."
"That is no longer a restraining factor for you, however," Spock reminded her. "The opportunities before you are endless, Doctor."
She grinned, not caring how silly she looked. "You're right. And I'm hoping that the dolphins will consent to being our partners. I used the hypnotutor to implant all of the Human-Dolphin Foundation's work in my head, so by another day or so I should be much more familiar with the dolphins and able to work with them easily."
Spock nodded. "The crew has reported that the school of dolphins summoned by the Foundation seems to understand the situation completely, and has assumed both escort and midwife positions around Gracie."
"Good." Gillian nodded emphatically. "She will need help, from whatever sisters she can find!"
"There also seems to be quite a bit of... conversation going on between the whales and the dolphins. Presumably George and Gracie are explaining how they came to be here, and the dolphins are most likely informing them of present conditions." Spock paused, and an eyebrow lifted. "One of the crew members has reported that the dolphins are 'elated'; however, there is no substantiation for this, as the dolphins have not returned to their communication consoles at the Foundation's headquarters since joining the whales."
"See, there's your proof right there!" Gillian laughed, not a little elated herself. "They're too excited to go home and report. Besides, everybody knows that dolphins are basically happy creatures—they're always smiling!"
Spock looked at her skeptically, but she returned her attention to the computer screen, watching another scene from the Pacific basin, this one plainly showing George and the dolphins sporting back and forth with wild abandon, with only Gracie, gravid and ponderous, maintaining her languid pace.
Communication... it was about time they got down to it, she supposed. She dragged her attention away from the whales and turned to Spock, swallowing a sudden lump in her throat.
"I have reviewed the underwater equipment and technique here in my room," she began, pointing at the various pieces scattered about. "I'm going to have a practice session in a pool somewhere this afternoon, and then, tonight, I'll just have to jump in feet-first—so to speak. It's a good thing I do have some scuba experience, though."
Gillian stopped and stood up; she began pacing up and down the length of the room. Spock watched her, and suddenly a memory leapt fully formed into his thoughts. Kirk... a much younger Kirk... pacing the length of a room, so long ago... the first time they had melded!
Spock blinked, for a moment oblivious to all else but the clarity of that scene. Of course he and Jim had melded! Sarek had told him that the admiral had been his friend for many years, and it suddenly felt very... natural to Spock that he and his Human friend had participated in this most circumspect of Vulcan arts. And that it had happened many times. He was suddenly suspicious that Jim had tried, obliquely, to lead him into an acknowledgment of this fact during their dinner last night, and that he had, stupidly, not understood. What he still did not understand was... why? Why had they engaged in a ritual so private that the Masters had hinted that it was not practiced indiscriminately among Vulcans themselves?
He looked at the young woman again as she sat down opposite him. Yes, there was a familiar anxiety there, as well as a tenacity of purpose, a determination to see anything through if a goal could be reached thereby.
"I guess you know what I'm thinking," Gillian finally said tentatively.
"I do not; your thoughts will not actually be known to me until I place my fingers on your face in the meld position. I am sure that the tape explained this—"
"No, no, no!" Gillian slammed her hands down on the table.
Spock started, then his eyes narrowed with concern. He wished he could think of something appropriate to say.
Gillian attempted to calm herself, then spoke quietly and deliberately. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock, I'm just a little nervous about the... meld. I wasn't speaking literally; I just meant that, well, we both know what comes next." She looked down at her folded hands. "Shit. I don't know why I'm so scared," she began.
Spock's voice was deep and reassuring, and she raised her head slightly.
"It is perfectly understandable that you should feel apprehension about someone entering your mind. It is a deeply personal thing, to know another's thoughts, and not something to be undertaken lightly. But it is not a painful process, and it is the best possible way to actually communicate with George and Gracie."
That was all Gillian needed to hear. Squaring her shoulders, she sat up straight and smiled. "You're right, Spock. Just a small case of cold feet. Never mind," she groaned as Spock frowned and opened his mouth to ask the inevitable question. "Where do you want me?"
Spock continued to look puzzled but only replied, "If you are ready to commence the meld, I think you would be most comfortable sitting on the sofa."
"Fine," Gillian said firmly. "Let's get started then. There's still a lot to do today, and I want to get back to my whales as soon as possible." She got up and practically marched over to the sofa, then sat at attention on the edge of it, looking at Spock expectantly.
Spock returned the gaze evenly for a moment, and decided that, given the propensity for selective blindness Humans seemed to display concerning their emotional behavior, there would be little purpose in reminding her that she had been the reluctant party up until now. And as he thought the words he realized the truth of them; it was he who, at this moment, wished that the deed did not have to be done. He felt uncomfortable, strange, and he did not understand it. This was not even his first meld since the fal tor pan, so nervousness at resuming the practice—as improbable as the idea was for a Vulcan, he had to consider all possibilities—could not be the reason for his unwillingness.
The Masters had told him that the mind meld was the perfect expression of superior mental processes, rational and utilitarian in both theory and practice, and he had had no reason to disbelieve them. Until now...
There is something missing here, a voice insisted, something important. Spock sighed and deliberately returned the thought to that part of his mind from which it had come, knowing that a thought being dwelt on by the subconscious, if allowed, would come forward again with greater clarity. This was what he had done with the many puzzling incidents he had encountered since the fal tor pan and his retraining; the testing computer's strange query, his mother's insistence on the necessity and worth of emotion, the disquieting but enlightening evening he had spent with Jim...
He had realized early that morning that direct, rational thought would not, no matter how hard he tried, shed any light on subjective reasoning, and that the answers he needed about what these two Humans expected of him would be more easily found using a... vernacular of the mind. Although it seemed to him only logical to use the most effective means available to solve a problem, he realized that the Masters and Adepts of Mt. Seleya would disapprove of his choice. They preferred the tangible, the concrete, the graspable—and Spock's subconscious was not something that they could grasp. They had, in fact, been quick to point out to him that they had been unable to determine the state of his subconscious, for fear of disturbing the blocks that his Human heritage had thrown up at its gate and causing him irreparable psychic damage. He had also sensed that they were not... pleased with what they interpreted as a passive resistance to their authority, and he felt a sudden rebellious satisfaction in pursuing his own independent path. He was uncomfortable with this meld, and he would understand why—somehow.
A resonant stirring rippled through his soul, but it did not have the same quality as his moments of slowly grasped memories. This had a sense of newness, of discovery, but the comfortable weight of rightness as well.
Spock returned his attention to Gillian; she was staring at him again, as he stared off into nothing. He did not, however, feel a sense of annoyance this time at his relaxation of control. He wondered at that briefly, then shrugged and turned toward her to begin his explanation of the meld process.
"In order to initiate the meld, I must place my fingers on your face at certain contact points. If I may," he said politely as he raised his right hand.
Gillian nodded, giving a weak smile. "Should I do the same thing?" She moved her arm as he had done, trying to mirror the shape his fingers had assumed.
"That will not be necessary. Humans are not usually capable of transmitting their thoughts powerfully enough to penetrate the contact points without assistance, so I will both send and receive the images in our minds."
"Oh, yeah?” Gillian sniffed. "Maybe I'll surprise you."
Spock raised an eyebrow at her brashness, but smiled gently. "Perhaps you will." As others have, came up from nowhere. Turning the thought over and examining it in another level of his mind, he continued. "Let me stress to you that I will not enter any part of your mind or even perceive any thought you do not wish me to know."
"Well, what the hell is the good of being able to see into someone else's mind if you can't do that?" Gillian interrupted. "I mean, is this the twenty-third century or—” She stopped herself as she realized what she was saying. "Ahh—not that I want you to do that, you understand, not that I think it's a good thing... I was just... curious... you know."
Spock looked at her calmly, his face inscrutable. "I did not say that it could not the hell be done. I said that I would not."
Gillian gulped. That didn't necessarily make her feel any better, but there was no turning back now.
Spock continued. "Simply concentrate on projecting, in your mind, whatever thought or idea you wish me to perceive, as you would project your voice when speaking to room full of people. It is a similar concept; I hope the analogy will be helpful to you.
"I will have no difficulty in receiving the thoughts you send. But what I am most concerned about in this first meld is establishing your comfort with the experience of my projection of information to you—as I will be doing in the melds with George and Gracie. I will be the channel between you and each whale, and if you think of me this way, it may relieve your trepidation."
Gillian nodded again, somewhat reassured. "Okay, Spock, ready when you are." She studied him intently as he inclined his head toward her in a sort of shorthand bow. There's something almost... Oriental about Vulcans... that inbred politeness... actually, it's very Japanese... Her mind rambled along that path for a moment as she watched his hand come closer to her face. Oh, jeez, don't think about him just as he's about to come in! She tried to clear her mind as his fingertips settled on the left side of her nose, her temple, her jaw, and she waited for... what? She wasn't sure. A picture? An ideogram? An equation?
Heat. An incredible, muscle-melting temperature that actually left her weak, even though she knew she was sitting on a couch in an air-conditioned suite. She remembered brushing against Spock's arm in the truck (when? ages/hours past) and thinking "fever." Not fever-alien body heat. Her lungs felt scorched, and she seemed to be losing oxygen with each inhalation.
Then, an image began to form in her mind, and she slowly realized that it was not Spock's body alone whose heat she was experiencing. She was no longer in the room, but standing at the edge of a world as a red, dusty, arid wilderness began to spread itself out before her, going on for miles of plains and deep chasm-valleys, endless salt flats and jagged terra cotta peaks that smoothed down to sandstone at their bases, where the forces of desert storms could better consolidate their powers. She felt as if she were standing at one end of an immense Utah looking toward the horizon—but this Utah had nothing else in it except red, red stone.
She sensed a gentle curiosity suddenly expressing itself in her mind, and she realized with a start that it was Spock. It felt kind of spooky. Like an unexpected bass line sneaking up and zapping you while you have the headphones of your Walkman on—but intensified. Not knowing exactly what to say, she concentrated and projected, opting for the simplicity that somehow always seemed to accompany earth-shaking moments.
Spock... is that you? Can you hear me?
Rather too well. Please think of projecting to a small classroom, not an auditorium.
Sorry. Gillian's mind suddenly reeled as she realized what she was doing. She was talking to another being without words or hands or any outward signals—completely through the power of the mind. Holy shit!
Gillian, what is Utah?
You've never been there?
I do not believe so; I have not yet completed an intensive study of Earth geography.
You'd love it! If what you've just shown me is an example of your home town, you'd fit right in. She focused on a succession of images in her mind of the beautiful, desolate wilderness areas in the state that had been preserved as national parks in her time—Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce, and Zion—and felt/heard an appreciative murmur from Spock.
There does appear to be a great deal of similarity; I should like to see Utah myself someday. In the meantime, we should proceed with the meld. Are you experiencing any discomfort or difficulty in grasping the images I am projecting?
I think I'm gonna need some sun-block before we go any further—does that answer your question? Gillian sensed Spock's amusement through the meld, and before she could even think about figuring out how to do it, an answering rill of laughter flowed back to him, expressing her joy at this astonishing thing she had discovered she was able to do.
She reined herself in as she received another impression from Spock, this time a faint prompting that could not properly be called impatience, but... She struggled to make herself assume the mental pose of a proper student, finally persuaded to abandon the school yard in order to pursue her formal studies, and concentrated on the images Spock was now projecting.
This was another part of Vulcan: the great desert tamed to provide a habitable environment with all the trappings of civilization; cities with great, ancient buildings rich with the decorative work of generations of deliberate Vulcan artists and their carefully planned design. All of these grand designs had been altered over the centuries—with or without the artists' consent—by the whims of nature, in the forms of wind and sand, into fantastic interpretations of the original intent.
Gillian walked along the streets of each city, marveling at how well she knew their history, how she recognized this building, that austere garden, those public facilities... A-ha! Now she realized where the knowledge had come from or, rather, how it had come to her. Just as Spock had said, the bits and pieces of history, culture, art and expression, daily life and habits that the hypnotutor had lodged in her subconscious had begun to break free and float up into her waking mind's grasp. And the infinite detail of each image, far above what she had expected to experience, must be an amplification by Spock, providing her with a guided tour of his world, as she had given him a tour of hers, back at the Institute.
...thank you... It was all she could come up with. It was not right, it was not enough, it was not anything—but it was all she could come up with. Gillian turned her attention back to absorbing the images of Vulcan Spock had assembled, at a loss for words or thought.
Spock watched her with another part of his mind as she continued on her journey. She had indeed surprised him; Gillian showed, if not an aptitude, a definite affinity for the meld, and seemed perfectly comfortable within the parameters of his mind. He knew she would be content for some time, wandering, as it were, in this new territory. He would have some time to examine his own thoughts.
He had, during his three months on Vulcan, entered into several meditative trances, and had undergone a series of rigorous melds with the Masters and the Adepts, all aimed at reintegrating his katra and the body of knowledge he had acquired in his former life, creating again that being known as Spock. All of these experiences had been straightforward and clinical in nature, as Spock had been told they would be, as he had come to expect them to be. The only variations had been the two melds he had entered into with his father, and one brief encounter with his mother, in order to reestablish the familial bond; these melds had held an altogether different quality—still bound by formal observances, but less austere, almost welcoming on his father's part, and definitely emotional on his mother's.
That had been his first suspicion that the meld could be something other than what the Masters had taught him, that it could possess a different character from what they believed possible—or proper. His mother had expressed, in a way words could not, how relieved and ecstatically joyful she had been to have her son back, whom she had thought lost to her forever. He had noticed how frail in body, yet how strong in spirit she was, this woman who had given him his first life. And he had accepted her unbridled exuberance as simply an expression of maternal feeling—Human maternal feeling. He did not expect that sort of texture to be found in a meld otherwise.
But here was another shade of exuberance, in Gillian—not the same as his mother's, certainly, since Gillian's joy was not directed at or intended for him, but a height of emotion that he had been told was not possible.
Spock had already experienced several instances where he had done or said something that he knew was not proper Vulcan behavior, and the results had always been, on the whole, positive. Perhaps, as his mother and Kirk had suggested, his path might lie in a different direction than strict obedience to one way; his double heritage certainly suggested it, logically. Further exploration of this meld might also provide an answer to the uneasiness he had felt just before initiating it.
Spock retraced the mental steps already taken to find his way back to the connecting point of the meld, the place where the join had had been made; he marveled along the way at how smoothly he moved through the passageways of the mind—almost effortlessly, with comfort and ease. He knew that, aside from his retraining, he had once spent nine seasons at Gol, a period of apprenticeship that had also involved constant and rigorous mental disciplines and almost daily melds with the Masters. It would, therefore, be logical to assume that such an unprecedented accumulation of exposure had given him a greater than average degree of facility with such practices as the meld—even taking into consideration the Human heritage that had led to his failure at Gol, as the Masters had explained it to him.
As Spock continued his abstracted, routine exploration of his own psyche, he was suddenly strongly aware that he did not care for the term "failure." He had not yet, since his awakening from the fal tor pan, found anything in himself that would warrant shame or disappointment; his parents had claimed him with the familial bond and had seemed quite satisfied to do so, almost improperly so. His shipmates had also shown, with every word and action of the last four months, that they valued him as a person... and a friend. Where was the logic in this persistent image of imperfection? Could it not be that, perhaps, the Masters simply did not understand him, that they judged him from the wrong standards? After all, Jim¬...
...a whirling, howling blizzard of sand swallowed him without warning. Spock careened dazedly from one point of reference to another, suddenly lost in what had been, a moment ago, a safe haven. Red and ochre sand devils, whipped into a frenzy by the raging winds, trapped him in a suffocating web of color... roaring, deafening noise... it scoured his skin and assaulted his eyelids, his mouth, his ears. Spock tried vainly to cover his face with his hands, stunned by this sudden attack. What part of his mind was this? A memory... a fear... a punishment?
He stumbled a few steps forward, then turned, trying to get his bearings—which way out? A strong gust knocked him to his knees with a giant shove, and Spock remained there, trying to draw his thoughts together, knowing he would be lost if he did not. He knelt for several hours of the mind, focusing his thoughts into a beacon light and ignoring the instinct to run blindly....
... a sudden gust of cool, saving wind touched his face and he looked up, astonished, to find that the sandstorm was dying down... and a door wavered there in front of him, solidifying into his field of vision. A door... to where... from where? He stood, unsteady for a moment, pulled toward it by some force he almost thought he knew... and stepped over the threshold.
Spock fell, but it was not a sensation he feared, even for a second. He fell... he floated... and knew a world of light and cool/warmth—several degrees different from normal Vulcan body heat, but he knew a comfort in it that he would not have believed possible... until now. Spock looked around, above, below, and saw that this "world" was really a suspended square, an ethereal mesh of memory and mind that protected him while the storm of his other half still raged outside its walls. He felt content and safe and... happy; yes, happy to be held in the arms of a dreamed world where all was well, where all was understood and accepted and supported... and he had no fear or pain or frustration because of who he was... because he was...
Because he was Spock... and he felt a sudden wrench, a shift in the axis of his heart and soul.... Could he finally know, truly know who he was, who he had been, what he could be—how he felt? He knew this place. The more he reveled in it the more familiar it became. But... strangely... he knew it was not a Vulcan place, not an oasis in that constrained and deliberately barren landscape. Perhaps, though, it was not so strange... this place of longing and completion... of search and satisfaction...
He closed his eyes and prepared to sink even further into the protective memory-womb in his mind; a blast of heat penetrated his content, and he opened his eyes reluctantly to find that there was an end to this safe place. Another door, another threshold, the same wild storm beckoned savagely, almost with satisfaction, and he felt his body stiffen as his mind and heart resolved... never again... NEVER AGAIN!... JIMMMMM ...
Spock?... Spock... please...
Spock's mind snapped back from his vision and he reeled again, at the mercy of memory's unexpected strength. In the moments it took for him to collect and steady himself he realized what had happened; how, drawn by the beauty and comfort of what he had discovered deep in his subconscious, he had completely abandoned Gillian to another part of his mind, left her there to wander, unescorted, alone. It was unforgivable; no matter what truths had just been unearthed in his soul, it was unforgivable.
Forgive me, Gillian. I was distracted momentarily by... self-exploration. I will not abandon you again. Did something frighten you?
N-no... Spock felt her gasp, her body shudder under his fingers. I just felt suddenly alone, so completely alone. It made me a little nervous, that's all. I'm okay, really; just wanted to... know where you'd gone, I guess.
An eyebrow lifted on two separate planes. Spock realized that her affinity ran deep indeed if she had noted his absence. She had no power of projection, no ability to communicate on her own, but her powers of perception were unusually strong.
It was wrong of me to leave you so; but, I am afraid that I am still experiencing a certain degree of reintegration of existence and experience that is... compellingly uncontrollable. Spock paused, then made a sudden decision.
No doubt you are tired, but I would like to attempt one last exercise, if I may.
Oh, please; I'm not that tired. He felt the eagerness of her response and he girded himself to go on. This must be done, even though he longed for solitude, time to meditate, to think, to remember....
Our first contact with the whales might be most effective if it is reduced to an almost elemental level; in other words, I would ask George and Gracie to project their most basic understanding of themselves to me, and I will carry that through to your mind. Then we would do the same for them. I believe that this would give us all a solid base of common experience and... empathy from which to begin our work.
What I would like to do now is to perform a trial of this exercise with you. Are you sure that you feel strong enough to continue in this vein?
Absolutely. Go right ahead.
Spock was still for a moment as he prepared himself. The idea that he was to project an image of himself into another's mind, when he barely understood that puzzle himself, suddenly struck him as absurd. Fighting down another urge to leave, he concentrated, focused, and then projected.
The quiet intensity of this last part of the meld surrounded her so completely that it took Gillian a moment or two to realize that Spock had actually dissolved the contact between them. She opened her eyes and realized that his hand was no longer in the arcane position on the side of her face, but lay limply on the couch beside him. As she stared at this man whose soul she had just glimpsed, he suddenly turned very pale and started to sag.
"Spock—are you okay?" She reached over to support him, afraid that she had somehow done something to harm him during the meld. He had said she couldn't really participate, only receive; maybe supporting both ends of their mental conversation had been too much for him.
But Spock pulled himself straight, and just out of her reach; it was such an abrupt gesture that Gillian almost looked for a wire coming down from the ceiling that attached to his spine.
"I am fine, Gillian, just... tired. The meld is an absorbing process that drains a great deal of psychic and physical energy, and this particular instance required more from me than I had expected. I am afraid that I will have to rest now. Will you be all right if I leave?"
Gillian blinked at the abruptness of his question, and her guilt began to multiply. "Did I do something wrong? I—I mean—I'm sorry if—"
"Gillian—you have done nothing wrong." Spock looked into her eyes, and Gillian suddenly felt calmer, quieter, sure of the truth there.
She smiled awkwardly. "I was just... worried about you."
"Thank you." He actually almost smiled at her. "I did implant a suggestion for sleep at the end of the meld, as we discussed. It should begin to take effect shortly, since you are also badly in need of rest." He paused. "What is the time of your underwater practice? If you like, I could awaken you then."
"It's at two—I mean, fourteen hundred hours. But I thought you were going to be resting too. What are you going to do, set my alarm for me now?" Gillian said, laughing.
Spock reached over and touched her forehead with the first two fingers of his left hand for the briefest of seconds. "Your 'alarm' is set," he said simply.
Gillian stopped laughing, speechless with amazement as she realized what he had done.
Spock got up from the sofa and walked over to the door. "I will see you at seventeen thirty hours, in the shuttle bay."
Gillian nodded slowly and watched as he walked out the door. Now it was her turn to sag against the sofa's back as she contemplated what she had just experienced. She had known, when she'd made her impetuous decision to hitch a ride to another world and time, that life would not be the same, and that there would be a period of real adjustment, but she had could never have fathomed anything like this in her most far out dreams or imaginings.
I've been inside someone else's mind. She turned the thought over and over, as if she were looking at a fossil or a bone or some artifact that proved a long-disbelieved theory. All her life she had been afraid of getting too close to people, of trusting people; you could never be sure of them, what they were up to, what they might do, what kind of games they might try to pull on you. That was why the whales had always drawn her, given her her only real emotional outlet; they were intelligent, sensitive creatures who wouldn't try to bullshit you, and she felt safer with them because they were not like people. But now... now she had to admit that there was someone else she could trust, someone who had let her see that she did not need to be afraid of trusting.
She had made half-hearted jokes before about Spock's degrees and intelligence being above her, but she had felt a little sensitive about it, afraid that she was going to have to compete for a place in a scientific community where everyone would have an edge on her. She had been almost stubbornly prepared to prove herself to him, to show him that her decision to come here had not been wrong. After their meld, she had finally realized his knowledge and experience and ability were so far beyond anything she was capable of that, conversely, all her insecurity was gone and her confidence restored. She was Gillian. He was Spock. There could be mutual respect and admiration without measurement here.
Gillian slid down the back of the couch and began to stretch herself out full-length. She was beginning to feel very lazy and drowsy, and the thought of even walking to her bed seemed like too much effort, so she stayed where she was and continued to contemplate her experience. This must be the sleep button Spock said he would push for me. This is neat; I don't know why I was scared shitless of the idea. I don’t know why I was so scared of him. She thought back drowsily on all her fears and misgivings before the meld, and a small laugh tumbled around in her throat. She had consistently felt at home in this century; reviewing those Vulcan history tapes that had done it to her, she was sure. Who wouldn't be nervous about meeting a Vulcan after reviewing that material? They came across as a very cold and forbidding people. But Spock was nothing like that. He might try to be—why he would want to she had no idea—but he was really a very gentle, sensitive man. Her face suddenly grew hot. And I called him a ditz.
As a matter of fact, Spock reminded her slightly of one of the few people who had meant something to her in her life—her advisor, Dr. D'Arceau, the exuberant little marine biologist who had guided her through the rocky waters of the thesis years. If she took every bit of admiration and respect and platonic, nonthreatening affection she had had for that wonderful woman, who had been the first person to really understand how she felt about her whales—she just might come close to how she was now beginning to feel about Spock. But there was even something else about him that set him apart; he was as wise and wonderful, as ancient and mysterious as... as the whales themselves had always seemed to her. It was an analogy that she was sure many people might not understand, but she knew he would, and would know that it was her highest compliment. And she could tell he cared for the whales with the same innocent joy that she did, whether he wanted to admit it or not—she had seen it in those images of himself he had flashed through her head at the end of the meld, along with a stray picture of a dolphin she had just glimpsed... She had never met someone who deserved her respect more—and who seemed to demand it less, who did not require her own self-worth as the price of admission to his.
Gillian rolled over on her side and groaned. Exhaustion strikes again; I have never been this given to introspection in my life. I must be hanging around him too much. Come to think of it, maybe he needs to hang around me a little more. If he really believes all that nonemotion crap... Nobody could be completely without emotion, I don't care who they are. It's got to be hiding in there somewhere, she thought as she snuggled further into the sofa's nubby fabric.
With a sudden, startling clarity, Kirk popped into her mind. Hadn't she seen him in the meld too? But why would?... No, she must have been mistaken... Soon her breathing became deep and even, and she was asleep.
Spock's usual purposeful gait was gone as his feet merely followed one another down the corridor, the only thought in his mind that he must get to some place of privacy as quickly as possible. He had stayed in Gillian's room only long enough to ensure that she was well, but even so, he felt as if his control had been strained to its limit. The vision he had found in his subconscious was all that occupied his mind now, and his patience strained for an opportunity to examine it, understand it.... I must find—An observation port suddenly presented itself—thankfully, it was empty. Spock almost threw himself inside and locked the door.
He closed his eyes and began to call up a light meditative trance, attempting to calm the anxiety and tension that held him paralyzed. As his body relaxed slightly, he found the tension no longer threatened him, and he began a tentative exploration of it. He found, to his surprise, that it was not a negative force at all, but an anticipation of some other discovery that tugged at his nerve endings. Spock let his mind fall into the next level, and the next, folding in on itself like the myriad, intricate paper angles of an origami crane....
Once again, the serene resonance of memory bestirred and confirmed rippled through him. He saw now that he was beginning to use this sensation as a gauge, to measure the recovery of his former life, that part of himself that Vulcan had tried to deny him—for whatever reason, honest concern or fear. Spock "watched" the concentric circles of past events as they came up into his conscious mind, spreading out and multiplying until the furthest reaches of his being perceived them, struggled to remember them and make them his own again.
An impression of the delicately enclosed, fragilely protected haven he had experienced in his mind's deepest passageway came forward again, and he relived the welcoming coolness he had found there. He puzzled over that sensation; why should he find such comfort in coolness? His mother, of course—what she was, he could not help sharing in. That answer did not satisfy him, and he probed further. There was an even more familiar comfort there; less basic, more elemental, definitely Human in experience... someone he knew in as deep a sense as the maternal bond provided for, but as far from it in expression as could be...
Kirk... Jim... Jim!... Spock sank into the memory as a stone glides to meet the ocean's floor. It was Jim who had been his haven, before, in that other time. A haven from—
Spock felt a great sadness as he recognized also the state of tension in which he had spent that other life, the rigid choices he had made in order to please the authority that had shaped him, that had given him a code of behavior and attitudes and expected him not to question them.
And he had not—not truly. But far away from their eyes, he had found a guilty harbor for the questions that he had sublimated, the feelings that did exist and would not be buried, no matter how he had tried. Spock felt shamed by what he perceived as his cowardice in that earlier time.
He turned back to the image of the netted world, acknowledging at last the experience of knowing another person in the deepest sense—the experience of knowing Jim. He felt the response of the substance of emotion giving some stronger meaning to the form of his recreated life. Spock understood now that Kirk's mental "voice," that forlorn cry in the desert had been the first influence he had known after leaving the protective shroud of the fal tor pan... calling him back from his path to the Healers' aerie with a plaintive strength. Spock recognized—without understanding how—that Kirk would have been appalled, would not have allowed it had he known what he was doing, what effect he was having. Spock remembered the conversation he had had with Kirk the night before; he still rejected Kirk's confession of guilt and undue influence. Kirk was too honorable a man to have tried to influence his... friend; he had called to Spock without realizing the strength or impact of his uncontrolled, subconscious plea for recognition.
His friend... Spock smiled as he fathomed the importance of that word. He had assumed that the mental linking he and Kirk had shared had been of a compulsory nature, accomplished for duty's sake in their capacity as captain and first officer. It could be reasoned that this might be an important component of an effective command team. But this was not the case—or not the only reason, but a minimum requirement that had changed and transformed into something that was... much, much more. And there was more here; perhaps these were the very emotions, or rather the motivations for emotion that both Jim and his mother had assured him he would find.
Spock reached out again to find the definition of this space in his mind—and found a wall. He was shocked to find this barrier, insubstantial and weakening in some places, but still an impediment to his full understanding. He had not thought to find another dead end. As he felt around the edges of it, interrupted enlightenment began to frustrate him; he had been so close to... what?
With a heavy sigh, Spock made a rapid decision and began to telescope his mind back out of its meditative state. He must talk to Jim. As before, Jim was the only place he could go to truly discover himself. He stood quickly, and his head spun for a moment at the suddenness of his return to the exterior world. Gasping slightly in the rarified atmosphere of discovery, Spock palmed the door-lock and moved with unusual haste out of the small room and down the corridor again, in search of an explanation.
Kirk sat at the desk in his suite, drumming his fingers impatiently as he waited for the communication line connection to be made. The delay was not simply a matter of clearance because of his status, the smug comm officer told him, but also that they were still digging out from under the havoc and destruction the alien probe had caused to rain down upon the ultra-modern (and unprepared, Kirk supplied ungraciously) facility. Nevertheless, he continued to chafe at his inability to take control of the situation. If I could only let Uhura loose in there, she'd show them how it should be done... that's what they need, actually, someone who knows what the hell they're doing—
He cut off his grumbling as the screen in front of him suddenly flickered out of its test pattern and resolved itself into a perfect image of Amanda, so real that, except for the size, she might have been standing there in front of him. It is amazing what they're doing with holographs these days, Kirk allowed; he sat up and flashed his most charming smile in a warm greeting.
"Lady Amanda—it's always good to see you."
The beautiful, diminutive woman smiled back at him. "Admiral Kirk; it's been so long."
Kirk chuckled. "Yes, it has. I hope I'm not disturbing you, but I wanted to talk to you about something. I also have... plenty of time on my hands right now, as I'm sure Sarek has explained to you."
Amanda's brows came together as a worried look quickly replaced her smile. "Yes, he has told me about your... adventure, and I am thankful for its successful outcome. You have given my family back to me more times than any wife and mother has a right to expect, James, and I consider you a member of it because of that. Are you all right? Is Spock... how is he?" Her hands came together in an unconscious twist of worry, then returned to their proper place in front of her. "Sarek tells me that he's fine, but I'm never quite sure he understands exactly what I want to hear... you know."
"Don't worry," Kirk smiled reassuringly, "Spock came through the whole thing with no problems—at least not any more than the rest of us had in the twentieth century." He was about to tell Amanda a colorful anecdote or two, and then stopped himself; he was not sure how she would react to the knowledge that he had somehow managed to teach her son how to swear. "He-ah-had a few awkward moments, but we would literally not have been able to come back without him. Actually, I think it's Spock who somehow always manages to get me out of the situations I invariably get us into." His tone suddenly became serious. "I really don't know what I'd do without him, you know."
Amanda replied with an enigmatic smile. "I know," she said after a moment's silence.
Kirk was keenly aware of the heat that was beginning to color and warm his face. "I do want to talk to you about him, though. He said something a little peculiar to me last night at dinner. I was trying to tell him that I thought emotions were a... necessary evil, even for him—and he asked me if I had had a conversation with you!"
"I know what he was referring to. Before he left Vulcan, he was puzzled by a question the testing computers asked him. I tried to tell him essentially the same thing you did."
"And what did he say to you in response?" Kirk asked, leaning forward avidly.
Amanda sighed heavily. "Basically—'If you say so, Mother.'"
Kirk laughed out loud in spite of himself. "I think, between the two of us, we've got him on the run. And I mean that seriously. He seems to understand that we are both looking for something in him that we knew before, but—he hasn't figured out what it is yet." Kirk bit his lip and looked at Spock's mother hopefully; this was the first time he had actually put his theory into words, and he was anxious to see how it was received. To his relief, Amanda nodded, a look of dawning understanding on her face.
"Yes. He seems to be doing the right things, but without knowing there's a right reason; I know what you mean. I had hoped that he might have been able to reintegrate more of himself before he left Vulcan, but he was determined to go. Actually, I was tempted to point out to him then and there that there was no logical reason for him to go back to Earth—Saavik had made her deposition here and sent a tape back to Star Fleet Command. He could have done the same. But I was afraid to contradict him at the time. I wasn't sure how he would take it."
"I know the feeling." Kirk sighed heavily. "I swear he's trying to reason out the proper responses to give me; and then he gets confused when I don't seem... satisfied with them." He thought of all the time he had spent with Spock last night, pushing as much as he dared, looking for something in Spock to awaken and remember. A heavy wave of depression settled on him without warning, leaving him feeling helpless and lethargic. He had hoped that this call would lift his spirits; instead, it seemed to be confirming his worst fears and doubts. What if Spock never recalled their life together? Kirk might soon be court-martialed; it was not likely, but it was a possibility. What would he have then, if Spock could not remember him?
Amanda peered at him from the screen. "James, are you sure that you are all right?"
Kirk made an effort to look at least neutral, if not hopeful, and rescinded his approval of the clarity of the transmission.
Amanda gazed at him with a gentle concern. "You are afraid that Spock will not come back to you in spirit, now that he has returned in the flesh."
Kirk felt as if she had punched him in the chest; he struggled to find again his regular pattern of breathing before he could reply. "How did you... I mean, when... "
"I have known for many years that you and Spock share a... special affection," she said softly. "It was very obvious to me, actually, the few times that I saw you together. The phenomenon of Vulcan-Human... admiration is not one that is unknown to me, after all."
Kirk actually blushed. "That is true, Amanda. Forgive me my surprise."
"There is nothing to forgive, James." Amanda hesitated for a second. "I do not know, of course, the extent of your commitment to each other, nor do I need to know. My son's happiness and well-being are my only concern. But I must say it is my belief that you have nothing to fear, no matter what the depth of relationship you seek."
Kirk gasped. There was far more to admire in this woman than he had ever imagined, candor being only the first virtue that came to mind. He had always valued forthrightness, but had not been sure of what he could properly say to her. What the hell? He made the decision to plunge ahead.
"I am... glad that you feel so positively about Spock—and about me." She smiled, and inclined her head slightly; Kirk thought he saw approval in that gesture. "I only hope you are correct in your optimism. I haven't been able to spend as much time as I would like with Spock since we returned, but what time I've had I have spent trying to restimulate his memory. I thought, now that the Healers' were finished with their job, maybe I could help with the... less logical parts." Kirk shrugged his shoulders. "But I think they beat me to it."
"What do you mean, James?"
"Spock told me the Healers had most likely excised certain portions of his memory that they decided were too 'disruptive' to their vision of his total Vulcan being. Which probably means almost everything that he could remember about me. I'm sure they consider me a bad influence on him." He paused. "I'm not sure that Sarek doesn't as well."
"Perhaps at one time that might have been true, but I think... no longer," Amanda said, a sparkle in her eyes.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." All at once Kirk found that he was able to smile again.
"And you should not judge the Healers quite so harshly, James. They are learned people, bound to care for the health of a very complex world. They weigh each case individually, holistically, and logically, to determine the best Vulcan solution. They take their responsibility for the social and cultural imperatives they protect very seriously. They are Vulcan, after all," she chided gently.
Kirk set his chin with an instant fierceness. "Spock is not just Vulcan. He is unique, and they have not done the best thing for him. They have not given him all the facts he needs to survive as what he is." He looked down at his hands and some of the fierceness went out of him. "It may be true that I have not always been fair to him, either, have not always allowed him to be who he is. I tried to tell him that last night, but I don't think he understood me...."
"The desire to reform someone we love is very strong; believe me, I know." Amanda nodded gently, and then looked up, the devilish twinkle back in her eyes. "It's especially tempting in the case of a Vulcan—and I did try! But ultimately, we know the truth of the matter, don't we, James? She looked at him kindly. "If love is true, it is because of what the beloved is, not what they could be."
"Yes," Kirk said quietly, and he lowered his head, closing his eyes for a moment against the film of tears that covered them. "But I am afraid—afraid that the Healers have left me nothing to work with. Nothing to make him love me again."
Silence filled the millions of kilometers of space between them. The moments of misery stretched out before Kirk, and he could not open his eyes; then he heard Amanda speak softly.
"James... forgive me, but I must ask you this. Your pain is much too difficult for me to bear in silence. Did you and my son share a bond?"
Kirk raised his head and smiled at the warmth he heard in her voice and could almost feel. "No, Amanda, we did not. We were linked only." He paused, his mind turning over memories both bitter and sweet. "If we had been bonded, I don't think he would have gone to Gol. I still blame myself for that; I should have seen it coming!"
"I know, James—that was a hard time for me as well. I felt that he was rejecting me and all I'd ever tried to give him. He was afraid, James. We cannot blame ourselves for Spock's fear."
Kirk shrugged, unable to find any comfort in her words. "Anyway—we did discuss the bond several times, but... "
"But? ..." she prompted carefully.
"But I was a jackass. Or he was. Or maybe we both were. When I was younger, we were still out in deep space, living on the edge; I wasn't sure it was wise for a command team to be that closely connected. If something happened to me... " Kirk waved his hand in circles to complete the thought. "Sometimes I think I was just scared, and didn't want him to know it. By the time I got older and wiser, and had changed my mind, I was afraid again—but this time, afraid to ask him. What if he had changed his mind? What if he thought I had rejected him? So we continued to share our thoughts on a very selective basis, through the link. He showed me how to shield, and I didn't know how to ask for any more. I just enjoyed the closeness we did have, and wished for something deeper."
"And if I know my son," Amanda interrupted, shaking her head, "he probably decided that, when you were unsure, he had committed an unpardonable sin by asking you in the first place, and never wanted to offend you by asking again. You're right—jackasses, both of you!"
Kirk grinned in the face of the God-given maternal right to scold. "In our defense, let me say that we were beginning to grow up somewhat. Things were beginning to change; as we got older we grew closer—closer than I had imagined possible, actually—and more comfortable with each other all the time. If we'd had more time, it might have happened, we might have bonded.... I would have made sure that we did!" I'm not the callow youth I once was, he thought to himself. I'm a man, growing older—alone. And duty doesn't satisfy me anymore. It hasn't for a long time. He looked off in the distance abstractedly, then realized he had come full circle to that immovable wall again—lost chances that might never be found again.
"That is all I wanted to hear, James. A mind cannot be shared without the establishment of ties of the strongest and most profound kind, such as I know you and Spock had—bond or no bond. Spock was dead—but his katra was saved, and you returned his body so that the two could be reunited. All that he was has been restored, including the deepest parts of his subconscious—which the Healers cannot touch, for fear of irreversible damage to the Human elements of his psyche."
Kirk's gaze was riveted to her instantly. "Are you sure?" he asked, breathless at the look of triumph in her eyes.
"Positive. Just between us. I think it has always frustrated them slightly that there was a part of Spock they could never reach. Although they would never acknowledge any such... emotion."
"I thought you respected the Healers, said that they were very wise people," Kirk challenged her with a silly grin, not really giving a damn what she thought of them.
"I do, and they are. But I do not always agree with everything they do," she said merrily. "But please, James, rest assured; if you ever were a part of Spock, you still are, and he will find you. It may just take him a little longer than you would like. We Humans are a tenacious lot. We don't willingly let go of any territory we hold, once it's ours—and that includes the heart. Even the heart of a Vulcan." She cocked her head and fixed him with a steady gaze. "Do you have such little faith in yourself—or the power of love and logic? They are both very sturdy, quite valid, and not incompatible. I stand before you as living proof of that."
A peace that he had not felt in many days flooded Kirk's body. "So you do, my Lady Amanda—so you do."
Spock hung suspended in the cool, blue-green offshore waters and surveyed the triangle he had constructed. They—George, Gillian, and himself, deeply involved in their first meld—were now positioned somewhere off the coast of Baja California, intermittent rays of sunlight breaking through the thick soup of microscopic aquatic life—krill—that surrounded them; larger fish, crustaceans, and some manta rays circled them lazily with a seemingly detached curiosity, and the dolphins chased them off with frantic motions and their own peculiar staccato clicking. And while the three of them floated, leisurely adrift in the ocean current, the rest of the dolphins and Gracie measured the perimeters of the inshore birthing area over and over.
It appeared that the birth of Gracie's calf was imminent; the scientists who had been monitoring the whales had informed Spock and Gillian immediately on their arrival that Gracie had become quite restless and the dolphins more frenetic than usual. Gillian had become quite excited; apparently a live humpback birth was a phenomenon that had never been witnessed in her time. Spock was amazed at that at first, then, remembering the prevailing Human attitude toward the whales, perceived that it was only too possible.
But since Gracie had merely continued to circle the small area she had chosen as her nursery, he had decided Gillian's nervous anticipation could best be deflected by another, equally important activity. He had suggested that the first meld be instituted with George while they waited, since Gracie was temporarily "occupied" and would probably appreciate some privacy. Gillian had expressed skepticism (snorted was, he believed, the correct word for her response), but had followed him eagerly nonetheless to don the suits and breathing apparatus necessary for what might be a prolonged underwater session.
Spock had first established the meld between George and himself, explaining quickly their intent and the possibilities that had been devised for the whales' future well-being, stressing strongly that everything was subject to their—his and Gracie's—approval. George seemed to understand, and had projected back to Spock a quiet, shy affection; Spock was struck by how young the cetacean seemed, and how innocently trusting. Gracie had presented a much stronger personality back in Gillian's San Francisco, and it seemed now that it was true, and she was the dominant one of the pair. But they were both so young, and without a social and family structure to guide them, Spock had some fear for them. It might also happen, however, that in this new world they would realize an even greater potential without fear of the depredations of man. George and Gracie did not appear to understand even the concept of fear, so sheltered had their lives been. Spock found himself shuddering as he contemplated the fate the whales might have met had their presence in the twenty-third century not been so vital.
When an agreement and understanding had been established and the mechanics of the meld explained, Spock had beckoned to Gillian to join them. As she hung back for just a moment, he could see that she was torn between the realization of a long-held, impossible desire and the fear that, once accomplished, it would never measure up to her conception of it. Would she be disappointed? Spock had wondered. She had called the whales hers; she must now be able to accept the fact of their very definite, individual personalities.
But as he watched, Gillian's face broke into an awestruck look of wonder, marveling at the deep, sonorous quality of George's "voice" as it was relayed along the channel of the meld. Startled and fascinated, she turned for a moment to Spock and shook her head, at a loss for words. Small bubbles, caused by what he presumed to be laughter, escaped the plastiskin seal of her breathing mask; she reached over to squeeze his hand briefly, and then, without waiting for his reaction, returned her full attention to George, looking straight into his eye as her hands shifted slightly on his throat to compensate for the movement of her body by the underwater currents. From then on, Spock had retreated discreetly behind his role as conduit and allowed them their own time together—time to create, or recreate an acquaintance long-established that had now been moved to another plane of expression.
He was careful as he monitored the meld not to allow himself the depth of digression that had occurred earlier that day in his meld with Gillian, but could not resist the temptation of exploring the aftermath; his almost frantic search for Jim after leaving the observation port, which had ended with the discovery that his friend was being questioned by the Council and was unavailable. Bewildered and frustrated by his own attempts to push aside the screen that still guarded his innermost remembrance, Spock had been counting on his friend—his newfound friend—to help him, and he felt hopelessly lost in his own mind. Whatever the construction of that wall, he knew that Jim was the only one who could break it down, just as he had been his only safety in the dream-vision. Jim was the key to who he had been, to who he must become again.
So intensely sure was Spock of this that he no longer noticed or cared that proper Vulcan behavior had—for the moment—been abandoned. He knew that the Healers would have been shocked at his quest, but... what they did not know... would not harm them. He remembered with fondness that his mother had used that expression on occasion in his youth, always in defense of him when rigid Vulcan precepts threatened to crush the resolve of a small boy struggling to be right. That these small, infrequent indulgences would certainly have caused harm—to him—was evidenced by the fact that his father never heard about them. But the love and care behind them now crystallized in Spock's subconscious and became smooth stepping stones to that other time he could now follow with ease. The whisper of a sorrowful regret came floating back to him: I never told my mother... I loved her … When I call you friend... I feel ashamed...
Spock pulled himself back just in time from the siren call of memories newly recovered. These journeys must wait for another time... unfortunately. He felt a strange curiosity about the refracted images of a lonely, tortured man these reminiscences brought back to him. Why had he existed that way, why forced himself to conform to a life of constraint that now seemed... ridiculous... and illogical?
Checking briefly to ensure that the meld between Gillian and George was still progressing smoothly, Spock again turned his mind to more conscious avenues. He thought of Jim and worried about the forthcoming Council's decision, and what it might mean to his friend. His friend... Spock mulled over the word in his mind. Discovering the true significance of the word had given it a different... texture altogether. He was mildly intrigued at the idea of a word having texture. So many new things to know... so many things of value. He remembered the poetry his mother had insisted that he read aloud during his reeducation; she said that she regretted not having done it with him before, and would not lose the chance this time. He suddenly understood, tasted the regret of moments lost, left untouched by caring... affection... love.
I am... most fortunate to have been allowed these two unique beings in my life—now, and then. They seem to understand who I am and what I need better than I do myself, better even than the wisest sages of Vulcan. The Vulcan way was one that he would always follow, could not abandon, for he was Vulcan, as the Healers had told him. But he knew that he was also Human, and that his perspective on how those two halves could and should mesh had amazingly overshadowed theirs. Was he more wise than they? No... but more knowledgeable about Spock.
His reveries were abruptly interrupted by a break in the meld, followed by an impatient tugging on his arm, and movement. Returning his attention to his two companions, he realized that it was Gillian who was gesturing frantically, trying to gain his attention, while George had turned to swim in the direction of Gracie's shallow pool, with the two of them in tow. Spock realized that the calf must be about to be born—but how had George known that?
There was no time to ask, however, as George quickly closed the distance between himself and his mate. A crowd of chiding dolphins tried to push them back as they got closer, but George continued, oblivious, to the edge of the inshore basin, where he finally stopped and... watched. Spock and Gillian took up positions by his great head and also stopped, enthralled by what was happening before their eyes.
Gracie's massive body was turned so that her back was to them; she curled and spun and writhed in the grip of labor, looking absurdly like she was attempting to touch her flukes with the tip of her rostrum. She was still for a moment, then suddenly made a violent lunge toward the surface. The midwife dolphins darted around her like streaks of quicksilver, raising a curtain of air bubbles, and Spock's view of the center of the pool was momentarily obscured. Straining to see, he was startled when Gillian suddenly appeared at his side, grabbed his arm again, and pointed. Spock looked again; as the bubbles began to dissipate, he began to make out a shape, and then saw clearly a small—for its kind—pure white calf, about ten feet long and, he estimated, a little more than a ton in weight.
Spock was transfixed with delight and amazement at the witnessing of such an important event; surely even Vulcan could admit the uniqueness of the occasion and permit a sense of celebration. He turned to Gillian with an expression of joy—but she was no longer at his side. He look wildly about, suddenly afraid that, in her excitement, she might have done some damage to her breathing apparatus or otherwise put herself in jeopardy. A dolphin darting past his shoulder made him turn his attention forward, and then he saw her. Gillian, obviously unable to contain herself, had headed straight for the calf, and was now swimming along with the cetacean midwives, stroking the calf and encouraging it to rise to the surface so that it could take its first breath.
He was shocked; he would not have thought that she would be allowed near the calf, knowing the propensity of creatures in the wild for extreme privacy concerning any of their reproductive functions. Yet the dolphins, the calf, and even Gracie, who had now returned from her quick trip to the surface for breath, all seemed to be accepting Gillian's presence calmly and matter-of-factly, with no indication of distress or hostility. Spock was bewildered and, without thinking, he leaned back against George while he attempted to find some explanation for the ease with which Gillian had found her way into the social structure of this underwater world.
Spock slowly became aware of a gentle curiosity, formed without words, emanating from George, and realized that, through their physical contact, George was communicating with him, trying to ask a question! He had not thought the whales capable of that much strength in establishing contact; clearly he still had much to learn from and about them. He turned back to George and established his hand in the position of the meld.
You are puzzled, my friend, that we welcome Gillian? George's thoughts were deep and low, and caused a tremor in Spock's bones. The adroit phrasing of the question caused a trembling of another kind altogether. He had judged George much too quickly, relegating him to a lesser position before he had had all the facts. Spock felt ashamed.
My thoughts... are known to you? How can they be? Before—during the meld—you did not initiate... and I have never read or heard in my studies that whales are telepathic.
Perhaps not telepathic, Spock. But consider... empathy—not to mention very sharp hearing, aided by the embracing currents of the ocean. A deep rumble that Spock recognized as a chuckle boomed between them. A capacity for caring and sensitivity is aided much by the simple fact that, having no means of building outward things, one must focus on... extensions of the inner resources, developing them to their limits. If those can be found. Because of this, we "hear" more keenly than most. As for why I did not initiate conversation before—you were speaking to me, teaching me. It would have been rude of me to interrupt, don't you think?
Spock was touched by the simple logic and eloquent power of the being beneath his hands, and was gratified to be called friend by him—a sentiment he found himself suddenly more than willing—anxious to return. He struggled with his thoughts for a moment, searching for the correct way to express his regard and affection.
I understand you, Spock; there is no need to say more. We know this feeling well, Gracie and I; this is how I knew so keenly the moment of birth was at hand. And we have shared it with Gillian all our lives. She was not able to comprehend it fully herself until just now, until you gave us the ability to "speak" to one another at last. I must admit, she was amazed to hear that we called her "our" Human—just as she called us "her" whales. George chuckled again.
Spock remembered the ancient Russian appellation for the humpbacks—vessyl kit, merry whale—and wondered at the unintentional appropriateness of that name.
George continued. But this feeling is why we can so readily accept her, even into the most private of our moments. She is one with us, and at the same time, she is herself. Only with us, I think, is she able to find that; and for this joy, I believe we have you to thank, Spock. We name you brother as well.
Spock felt his lack of skill in the matters of friendship keenly at that moment. Such gentleness and grace left him fumbling like an awkward child as he continued his search for a suitable response. There must be some concept, some word or phrase—even in Vulcan—which could express such a rich and varied feeling....
A wisp, a fragment of memory began to move; he almost felt a click as it detached itself from the lump of unrecalled life that lay, fused and formless, in the deepest well of his mind, waiting for just the right stimulus, just the right moment, just the right desire to break it free. Spock watched, detached, as if he were outside the experience staring at an image on a screen, outside his body, not involved at all in the inexorable change he knew was about to take place. The memory took on a life of its own, swirling in a lazy pattern at first as it solidified, crystallized into a molecular construction; without warning, the crystal suddenly spun madly and slammed itself into place in Spock's soul—the last piece in a living jigsaw puzzle.
You do know this feeling, George said simply.
Kirk stood at the open door of his suite, hand still on the lock button. The buzzer had surprised him in the first place; then he had had a wild thought that it might be Spock—though he knew full well Spock was somewhere very deep in the Pacific Ocean. He had not heard from Spock the day after their dinner, as he'd hoped he might before Spock left on his mission. He had been summoned to the Council chambers for yet another questioning yesterday morning, but if Spock had tried to get in touch with him surely he would have left some kind of message... wouldn't he? He'd done his damnedest to jiggle free as many memories as he'd dared, but perhaps it hadn't been enough. God damn this lame excuse for a Council! If only they'd make up their minds—it had been three days now. And now the wrong Vulcan was at his door—again.
"Admiral Kirk," Sarek said quietly.
Embarrassed by his seeming lack of courtesy, Kirk quickly recovered and gestured for Sarek to enter. "You do me an honor I may no longer deserve, Ambassador," he said, smiling. He did feel a—respectful—admiration for this austere man, and it wasn't that he didn't want to see him—just that he would really rather be face to face with his son.
Sarek entered the room slowly and then turned to face Kirk. "You refer to your rank, and the chances of it's being... removed for your actions."
Kirk frowned. "Yes, I do." He gestured at a chair. "Please, sir, sit down. May I get you something to drink?" He was totally taken aback when Sarek accepted both offers; he was used to his Vulcans denying any need for social conventions and comforts. He poured the fruit juice that Sarek requested, and then quickly decided on a brandy and soda for himself, even though it was only noon. He had the feeling he might need it.
The two men sat in silence for a moment; Sarek finally raised his eyes from his contemplation of the glass he held in his hands and spoke.
"Kirk, I would speak to you about... my son." Kirk was puzzled—and fascinated—by the uncharacteristic hesitation in the Vulcan's voice. "Do you believe him to be recovered from his experiences on Genesis, and the fal tor pan? "
"I believe him to be recovered," Kirk said carefully, "but not completely... restored."
Sarek stared at him for a moment, then nodded. "I am not certain that it might not have been best for him to remain on Vulcan until this process of... restoration is complete."
Kirk swallowed, hard, and decided to take his life in his hands.
"I'm afraid that I disagree with you, sir," he said, respectfully but firmly. And so does your wife—but there's no sense in causing trouble at home. "Spock is a unique and complex man, and it may be—perhaps should be—that the questions he has now must be answered from more than one source. And I think—with all due respect, sir—it's time Vulcan recognized that."
Kirk waited, poised to respond to the rage he was sure would follow. Surprisingly, Sarek's only reaction was an elegantly out-of-place eyebrow.
"You think so?" Suddenly the elder Vulcan's body sagged slightly, and a sigh of long-suffering proportion escaped him. "I have come to accept that... perhaps... this may be the truth for Spock. I have tried my whole life to pass on to Spock a way that I found to be logical and honorable—and which I thought best for him—as any father would. There were times when my wife disagreed, times when I saw how difficult it was for Spock. But what I did was right; it was Vulcan."
"Right for you, sir. Spock admires and respects you as a wise and honorable man. He always has. He respects and reveres Vulcan philosophy, and would never turn his back on it; he would not be Spock if he did. But he is something more than Vulcan, or Human. He is both. And he must live up to both of those ideals, if he is truly to be Spock." Kirk paused and took a deep breath, aware of treading a thin line between delicacy and what had to be said. "I think it would be easier for him—this time—if you could try to understand that."
Sarek's gaze was riveted on him, heavy brows now knitted together in—anger? Thought? Kirk waited, returning the look with equal intensity.
"You have sacrificed much for my son."
Kirk was startled, not sure whether he was hearing a question or a statement. He decided that he could be equally obtuse.
"So you said, on Vulcan."
"Such sacrifice suggests a certain... commitment. If my son is a unique and complex man, he also has unique and complex needs in a... committed partner. Are you aware of this?"
Oh, shit. Talking to Amanda about his deepest feelings for her son was one thing. Discussing them with Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan was... well—shit. Kirk wondered how long Sarek had been harboring this question. It had certainly seemed a perfectly natural and reasonable thought coming from Amanda.
What could he say? Did he really know what he was in for? An unexpected calm came over him as a few choice memories flitted through Kirk's mind from a happier, more contented time. Yes, of course he did.
It dawned on him belatedly that his lack of an answer to Sarek's abrupt question might very well be taken as hesitation. Kirk put down his glass on the table between them and met Sarek's stern. expression.
"I am aware. I have accepted your son for who he is, and will do so again, if he permits it. I... love him; always have, always will."
The elegant, active eyebrows reached their upper limits at this declaration. Kirk steeled himself, waiting again for the fallout of such an emotional and inappropriate declaration.
But it seemed that he had misjudged the state of Sarek's equilibrium. The Vulcan ambassador finally nodded and allowed the smallest corner of his mouth to assume the attitude of a smile.
"Despite my position in Vulcan society, I have been somewhat... renowned since my youth for my slight lapses into unorthodoxy—the Lady Amanda being the most notable and worthwhile example. It would seem, however, that my son is determined to surpass me in this."
Kirk released the breath he had never intended to hold—this family was going to be the death of him yet. "Yes, sir—at least I hope so."
Sarek merely nodded in satisfaction and set down his own glass. "Tell me about the work Spock is engaged in. Have you heard from him yet?"
Head swimming, Kirk got up and went to fill his glass again as he tried to gather the thoughts that had just been sent spinning. "Uh-no, I haven't heard anything, but I assume all is going well. The last message from the science vessel monitoring the situation reported that Gracie was about to give birth. I imagine once that happens, I'll hear from him."
"And what of Dr. Taylor? How is she adjusting to her new environment and position?"
Kirk grimaced. "I'm not sure. Spock seemed to think that she was doing fine, other than a little overly emotional behavior." Kirk laughed as he recalled their conversation. "He said she reminded him of Dr. McCoy."
"We can only hope then that his association with her will be as beneficial for him as was his experience with the good doctor."
Kirk's hand stopped in mid-air, glass halfway to his mouth. What in the hell was that supposed to mean? He knew what he would mean if he had said the same thing, but Sarek?...
"And the whales." Sarek pursued his innocuous line of conversation relentlessly. "Are they content in their new time and home? Have they adjusted?"
"Again, Sarek, I only know what the science vessel crew has reported." That was beginning to bother him. "Both George and Gracie appear to be fitting in perfectly, with the help of the dolphins and the Human/Dolphin Foundation. That reminds me, though, of something Spock and I discussed before he left; perhaps you would be able to help us with it. The whales need protection. Not necessarily now, when their presence is still so new; but in the future, come the next generation, when people may not remember what the whales did for us of their own free will. Humans are, regrettably, known for their short memories."
"That may well be true. I have learned from my brief scan of history files that the whales were once thought of as 'harvest'—a mind-set that certainly precipitated their decimation—and the cause of our near-destruction. It is quite logical, given Human nature, that this could happen again."
"Which is why we must not allow it. Spock suggested that the humpbacks be made a member nation of the Federation, for their protection, and for our edification."
Sarek seemed both amazed and pleased. "This was Spock's suggestion?" Kirk nodded. "It is most... logical."
Kirk almost laughed at the look on the elder Vulcan's face. "Yes, it is. Could be he'll make a fine diplomat someday—what do you think?" he said, daring to tease Sarek just a little.
Sarek rearranged his features into a carefully neutral mask, but Kirk would have sworn there was a light gleaming in his eyes, signifying pride, or amusement, or both.
"We shall see, Kirk; we shall see. In the meantime, Spock's other career occupies him, so I shall see that his suggestion is implemented."
"I think that the Federation will see the logic in this."
"I shall see that they do."
The two men sat in a companionable silence for a time, much different in character than the one that had begun their session. Again it was Sarek who broke the mood.
"I must return to the embassy, Kirk. I am glad that we have had an opportunity to speak." He rose from his seat. "And I shall consider... all that you have said."
"Thank you, sir. That is all that I ask."
"Live long and prosper, James." Sarek raised his hand in the ancient Vulcan greeting, the first time he had done so with Kirk in private, unofficial conversation—and the first time he had used his given name. Kirk was moved by what he knew to be the strongest gestures of respect this man could give.
"And may you also," he replied, bowing slightly.
The Vulcan nodded brusquely and exited the room, leaving Kirk to ponder anew the Vulcan heart.
Spock sat shivering on the deck of the floating science vessel, not bothering to adjust his body temperature for comfort, not even noticing the cold. He looked out over the ocean and wondered that it could be so calm and imperturbable. Perhaps this was why Humans were so adaptable, able to recover so quickly from the traumas their emotions inevitably brought about; they had been spawned in and evolved from the changeable yet ultimately lulling currents of this very sea that held him now. Vulcan was more ancient by far, but her beginnings had moved with slow deliberation in a liquid cradle that scarcely changed its chemical composition every million years.
A fanciful thought; he knew it. But at this moment, he was no more sure of logic than he was of fancy, or anything else. He had been told, and had believed, that Vulcan was nothing more than the sum of logic and tradition, and that emotions—and emotional attachments—were something to be avoided, something to sublimate and ignore. And now he knew that provision had been made for both.
After the shattering revelation in the meld, he had clung to George, shaken by this discovery of more than he had ever hoped to find, and the tranquil giant had affectionately supported him, allowing him to absorb, to come to terms with the depth of emotion now resounding in his heart, his soul, his mind. They had floated for a time, Spock at least oblivious to the other miracle which had unfolded in front of him.
But as he watched, as the interior landscape of his self resculpted and redefined itself, the joy had suddenly begun to fade, to shimmer and flicker in and out of his mind's grasp.... The happiness that had made him feel complete, found, and no longer alone dissipated into inevitable, interminable despair. Spock had felt betrayed—but he did not know whom to blame. All the emotions that had just begun to stir felt dead, and one alone came to take their place.
Anger. A bitter gall had rushed to this throat from a pit of rage he had not even known he possessed—not a part of himself he would have wished to recall. Embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted, he had torn himself from George, ignoring his worried concern, and found his way back to the science vessel, where he sat, alone, for some time, meditating and trying to regain his equilibrium.
And here he was still—he had not found any answers to this quandary of why his mind did not seem to... want to allow him to enjoy what he had found. He recalled the unique aspect of the concept that had just been revealed to him; the Masters had retrained him carefully, making sure of his sciences and history, his physics and languages and even his math—but they had not taught him this one Vulcan word. T’hy’la... He tasted it again, feeling the soft intimacy it created in his mind, the affinity in that space for the one other word—not Vulcan, but English—that was its equal. Jim...
And again the block intruded—a sullen dampening of the love he knew he had once felt, a small, mean feeling instead of the expansiveness of an acknowledged life together. Followed, inevitably, by the slow, burning anger.
Spock had pushed this anger down, back into the recesses where it had come from during his meditation. He did not want to know it; he had been searching for completion, not destruction. Now that it had reappeared, he sighed, knowing that he could not avoid what was unpleasant, picking and choosing those emotions he would experience and those he would not—a dilettante at life. He had decided that one way was not enough for who he was, who he was meant to be; it was necessary then to embrace and understand what was presented to him.
He made a place for the emotion in his mind, conceiving of it as a physical entity, and set it there, then began an examination. His eyes closed, he sent his mind spiraling down into the center of the mass, resisting the urge to flee. For a few moments he was so still, so deeply inside himself that the lapping of the waves around him did not even penetrate his senses.
With a violent wrench, Spock's head fell back, his eyes suddenly wide open in shock. The mass of his anger exploded in his mind like fireworks, and for a moment all Spock could do was watch the display. When it had settled, he saw the truth that had been in its center.
He was angry! And totally confused. He had told Jim that there were certain elements, certain pieces of his experience that the Healers had not allowed him to keep, but he had never imagined that they would have denied him the knowledge and memory of something so vital and essential to his understanding of himself. He and Jim had not just melded—either once, twice, or any possible number of times. They had been t'hy'la, beyond friend, brother, and lover... their minds had been joined as a condition of their life, inseparable from each other, two and yet one—and the Healers had failed to reconnect this joining, had failed to even inform him of it!
Spock was stunned, incoherent. This sin of omission did not conform to any precepts of Vulcan logic that he could recall—there was no logic to it. The familial bonds with his father and mother had been restored; even the scars of his ill-fated link with T'Pring had been acknowledged, though he remembered little else about that time still. Why had they made this one choice for him? Why reject his attempt to blend his Human weakness into an acceptable Vulcan form—which they had also neglected to inform him of, leaving it to the vagaries of his own reconstructed memory to discover? It seemed to Spock that something had been hidden from him, perhaps in the hope that he would not find it.
He felt a brief sensation of shame in being a Vulcan, if this smug xenophobia was indeed what it meant to be one. Surely this could not be the sum total of the world of his birth. Spock knew a flash of deep weariness as he realized that the retraining he had thought complete was actually far from over. And that the emotions that his mother—and Jim—had urged him to know had been there, inside himself, all the time—just waiting to surface. He was not sure now, for the first time in his life/lives, which was the more emotionally complex—Human or Vulcan. Thinking again of his analogy about the waters of the ocean, he speculated that perhaps Vulcan's slowness to change had preserved the power and fierceness of elemental emotions and primary impulses, and that this accounted for the almost morbid fear of and desperate need to control these emotions that he now accepted as shapers of the Vulcan psyche.
A sudden sneeze brought Spock back to the present, at last aware of the uncomfortable temperature. He realized his fatigue, too, but also a real peace—not a final, ultimate peace, certainly, but he saw now that discovery was as much a process as a result. He had found—at last, and for good—his correct path.
His first step on that path was Jim. He must return to Jim. Spock stood up quickly, searching in his mind for an explanation he could give to Gillian and the crew. But before he could leave to find her, she suddenly appeared around the corner of the ship.
"Hi, Spock! Are you all right? All I knew was that George was very upset all of a sudden; he kept dragging me back to the surface, looking very frantic and worried... Boy, I can't wait for them to get that communication device rigged, so I can tell what the hell he's saying."
"I am quite well now, thank you, Gillian. I am sorry to have distressed George; I would like to ask you to apologize to him for me, as I must—" He stopped, suddenly hearing what she had said. "Communication device?" he repeated.
"Yeah; the scientists from the HDF have been working on a little project since they got here. They didn't know you were planning on a meld—and that wouldn't be possible over a long-term project anyway—so they've started adapting the dolphin's communication device for use by George and Gracie. It seems like the dolphins have been reeducating them, telling them all the legends and history of humpback culture, which the dolphins had memorized —they were given it by the humpbacks when they realized how close to extinction they were. Jeez, it reminds me of Farenheit 451!
Gillian's eyes were gleaming, and her words fell all over each other as she rushed to get them out; Spock almost had trouble understanding her.
"I am aware that the dolphins are carriers of the humpback's history, but I do not understand your reference to... Farenheit…"
"It's a science fiction story, about a time when books weren't allowed, and the only way people could preserve them was to memorize them, and carry them in their heads always. That way, they could never be taken away. And each person taught their book to someone else, so that when they died, it wouldn't be lost. That's what George and Gracie's ancestors did—they passed on their history, and the dolphins preserved it, so that... George and Gracie could have it again!" Gillian sighed deeply, a smile almost splitting her face. "Even in my time, we knew that the cetacean brain had a capacity for memory that was far greater than ours; we just didn't know why, or what such a memory would hold. But now, they're going to share it with me. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven."
Spock was about to make the observation that the voyage she was suggesting was not always a smooth and uneventful one when suddenly she reached over and grabbed him in an exuberant, unabashed hug.
"Thanks, Spock," she whispered into his shoulder as she held him for a moment.
Spock stiffened, from the memory of a reflex more than anything else, and then allowed himself to relax and enjoy the sensation of affection she projected.
Gillian noticed his body language, though, and reacted to it by loosening her grip. She looked up into his face and continued. "I thought I knew George and Gracie before—but I was wrong. I never realized how much my... my ego got in the way; I thought of them as 'mine'—what an insult! Me, the great marine biologist, and I couldn't even see the truth. They love me! I always loved them, but I never really thought of George and Gracie... loving me back. Because I was looking through 'the glass of my own knowledge,' as a great naturalist once said. And now, I'm looking through theirs. It's so wonderful! They're—they—I can't even verbalize what they are. You must know! After all,"—she laughed, a free, clean sound, full of life and spirit—"you're the man with the mind."
She pulled him close again, and this time Spock did not resist at all. "You've done something for me that no one else ever has, or would even be able to, and I'll never forget you." Then, just as abruptly as she had embraced him, she stepped back, blushing slightly, and began fussing with her face mask, which had been pulled down around her neck. "You have to come and see the calf. Spock, it's a female, another little Gracie! That doubles the whales' chances of survival!"
"Gillian, I have something to tell you. I must return to San Francisco immediately. I have—"
She looked up at him in disbelief, then set her chin firmly. "Oh, no you don't. You're not going anywhere yet, not until you make a call on Gracie. What's the matter, didn't your mother ever teach you any manners?" Ignoring his protests, she grabbed his hand and started pulling him by sheer force of will to the ladder on the side of the vessel's dock. She adjusted her mask over her face and jumped in, leaving Spock standing there helplessly with no chance for explanations and no other choice but to follow her.
The cool water washed over him as he dropped into the ocean, calming and settling his thoughts. He knew how to set his life aright, and he would do what must be done, as soon as he had fulfilled his obligation to Gillian. As he swam toward the pool, he saw George ahead, coming toward him. The young leviathan sailed past and around, and came up beside Spock, his great eye fixed on him—in concern, Spock knew.
He reached out his hand to touch George. / am sorry, my friend, I did not mean to alarm you. I— Spock paused, not sure how to explain.
There is no need, brother Spock. The upheavals of the soul are part of every thinking being's life. Has the turmoil that gave you such pain subsided?
Yes, George, it has. And it has revealed something of great meaning.
It is good—and as it should be, I think.
Yes, George. Spock smiled at the imperturbable whale. You are correct. A sudden thought occurred to him. George—you must have another name, aside from the one given to you by Humans. I would be honored if you would consent to share it with me.
He was instantly assailed by ancient, familiar sadness—loneliness. I am sorry, my brother. I would be most happy to share it with you, but I am afraid... you could not pronounce it. There is no one left who can, save for Gracie.
Spock hung there silently with his friend for a moment, fathoming the emotion, as another piece of his former life floated up and was known.
Come, brother Spock. We must not dwell on these things. I want to thank you for the music Gillian tells me you will make for me. I have seen music in your thoughts, and I am sure that, if it can be done, you alone can accomplish it.
I thank you, George. The synthesization program that I have planned should provide you with another voice against which to build your song—at least until there are others to truly sing with you. I... regret that I will not be here to implement it myself, but...
I understand, brother Spock. And I will think of you when I sing. Now, let us go and visit the newest addition to our family. I am anxious for you to meet her, as is Gracie.
They swam together into the shallow area where Gracie had given birth. Gillian was already there, joining in as Gracie and her calf played. Mother and child circled each other languidly, with the calf following Gracie's movements carefully, imitating every lunge and breach, spy hop and tail slap. Then she would rest for a while, either on Gracie's back or held gently in her long, graceful pectoral fins, before beginning again. The calf would also occasionally dart over to Gillian and nudge her with her rostrum, sending her spinning, and then return just as quickly to mother's side. Spock's heart felt light as he watched the elegant sea creatures.
You must be very proud, George.
I will be proud if she is proud of herself the whale replied. Spock nodded, understanding.
George left him then and took up a watchful escort position close to his family, hovering near but not interrupting their activity. Spock also came closer, to get a better view. He could stay for a short while; it would make Gillian happy, and—to be truthful—it gave him great pleasure as well. How often did one see such magnificent beauty?
As he watched, Gracie made a sudden turn and came to rest in a position just over George's "head." She hung there for a moment, calf directly behind her; from the knowledge he now possessed, Spock assumed that they were carrying on a conversation. Abruptly, the conversation ended, and Gracie began to move in his direction, calf still in tow. As they rounded over him, Spock felt the soft scraping of two pectoral fins over his back—one large and almost enfolding, then a smaller echo.
Come, Spock—come and play with us.
He felt himself pulled along by the current of their passing, and without willing himself to, he was suddenly rolling down Gracie's back, grabbing her flukes as she swirled by, feeling the deep warmth of her body's heat as she held him briefly to her side with her fin. His own body knew a more profound level of contentment and peace, and again he was amazed at how deep was the well of emotion that he could experience. There must be limits, somewhere, to this falling into happiness—but then he remembered what George had said to him about limits... if they can be found... He hoped at this moment that he would never find his own.
Gracie... what is this... that I feel?...
Look deeper, Spock. It is known to you.
Spock obeyed her, wondering as he did. What could be left? He had thought/hoped that he had reached the end of his mysteries. He waited again for the ripples of his subconscious to deliver up yet another memory.
Warmth... enfolding warmth... It dawned on Spock slowly that what he was now feeling was no longer Gracie's heat, but the welcoming embrace of his own mother's love, as she had expressed it to him in the maternal bond—the same emotion that Gracie shared with her calf. He had received this from his mother—and from his father, in a different sense—before leaving Vulcan, but its true meaning was like a shout in his mind after the pale ghost that he had perceived... until now. And he had not even known that its strength, its very character had been missing; what he had seen was a flat, two-dimensional thing that now lived in his mind, full of color and light—and understanding.
Spock reveled in this new state of being; he could not imagine that he had existed before without experiencing the reality and complexity of this. He was more innocent and new than he had been on Mount Seleya after awakening from the fal tor pan, but he was now filled with knowledge of a kind that Vulcan could never have given him. If this was the richness of his family bond, how much more abundant and tangible must be his bond with his t'hy'la, whom he had chosen.
Spock reached down to touch that place and found... nothing! No, not nothing... but still a ghost, where he had expected to find flesh and blood. How could this be? He struggled with the image; it seemed always just out of his grasp, no matter what effort he exerted.
He cursed the Healers, almost in tears, no longer caring what he did or who he was, if only he could reach—
The now familiar sense of truth ascending coursed through Spock, and he stopped to see what it would reveal. And could not believe it when he saw. I have never had a bond with Jim! Only a link... we were incomplete.
He had judged the Healers too harshly, too soon, then—for he saw clearly his own illogic, the waste that fear had caused in that other life with Jim. Yes, fear—of his father and mother's disapproval, of Vulcan's disapprobation, of Jim's possible rejection of him, of his own ability to love. The Healers had not hidden anything from him, or failed to acknowledge his wholeness. It had been his own fault, his own cowardice, that he had not acknowledged it himself.
Spock stirred within a pair of loving arms, and realized with a start that it was Gracie who still held him. Now she gently released him, and looked at him penetratingly with her great eye. He touched her once more, projecting feelings of gratitude and humble affection, then quickly headed for the surface.
Gillian, who had been playing with the calf, noticed that he was leaving and started after him. But Gracie intercepted her with a seemingly lazy swipe of her fin, bringing her firmly back into the family circle.
George maintained his position as escort, and watched Spock disappear.
Kirk reread the same paragraph for the third time, then slammed the book down in a fit of frustration. Headquarters had told him that the Council might convene sometime today, and that was the only thing he could keep in his mind. He hated killing time like this, and he didn't like the idea of someone else deciding his fate. He wasn't used to it anymore, after so many years on the Enterprise.
He shifted in his chair, looked back at the book, then peered at the chronometer. It bothered him a little—no, a lot—that he had still not heard from Spock. When he had sent him off two days ago he hadn't been exactly sure what to expect, but he had hoped that it was only a matter of time before Spock reconnected his past and the present. After his talk with Amanda, and the unexpected interview with Sarek, he'd felt more confident. Spock would be back. There was no other way for either of them. It had taken him years of foolish posturing and foolish fear to learn that; he just hoped it wouldn't take Spock as long.
The door buzzer sounded. Kirk jumped and dropped the book he had just picked up again. Could the Council have reached their decision? He'd expected a call, not a visit. He stood up, rubbing the palms of his hands together vigorously. All right, let's get on with it.
But it was not a Council messenger at the door—it was Spock. He was wearing a Vulcan robe instead of his uniform, his hair was wet, and he seemed almost... excited.
"Spock—I wasn't expecting you back this soon! Is everything all right? Gillian and the whales— Are you all right?"
"I am fine, Jim," Spock said simply, and smiled at him.
Kirk felt a rush as he realized that, for the first time since the whole nightmare of Genesis had begun, there was a full, true meaning behind that word. It was not just a word to Spock anymore, not just a name, but an acknowledgment of something much deeper—something finally comprehended and accepted.
He could not prevent the silly, lop-sided grin that seemed to flow directly from his heart to his lips.
"Spock ..." The word was spoken softly, fondly.
"Gracie has sent me to you, Jim."
Kirk stopped short. This was not what he had been expecting to hear. "Gracie did what!"
"I had thought my retraining complete when I left Vulcan, but I have discovered that it is scarcely begun. I found a place in my very heart and soul—a place I had been told did not exist—and you were there! It belonged to you—I belonged to you! And I was left to find this by chance, at the mercy of my own memory! ..."
"Spock, Spock—" Kirk interrupted, seeing the confusion and actual pain on his beloved friend's features. "We need to talk. Come, sit over here. Tell me what's happened."
Kirk spoke calmly, but his eyes roved hungrily over Spock's face, absorbing each new/restored nuance and emotion he found there. This was the Spock who had been his... once, and, he knew now, would be his again. Only a few explanations, a few questions first—
...and a few limits to be explored. Spock seemed to be himself again, but how much did he actually remember? Kirk decided to perform the first test. He reached over and folded his hand around Spock's long, elegant fingers.
Spock grew calmer and smiled at him, returning the warm, firm pressure. Kirk thought he might faint with relief; somehow he managed to lead Spock over to the couch, where they sat, side by side.
"Now, tell me," he continued. "What did Gracie do?"
"Let me rephrase that statement, Jim—I fear I have... exaggerated a damn bit."
Kirk looked at him sharply; was Spock actually joking with him? He gripped Spock's hand with both of his, as if to hold down this recaptured piece of his life and make sure he wasn't dreaming.
Spock's response to his desperate clinging was a deep, throaty chuckle. "Don't be afraid, Jim. I am here, and this time, I will not leave you for any reason—ever again. I have discovered who I am—or rather, who I should have been."
He paused and settled back into the cushions of the sofa with a thoughtful, far-away gaze; Kirk waited, almost holding his breath to hear what Spock would say next.
"I tried so hard to be everything Vulcan wanted, that my father wanted, and never realized I was something more." He turned back to Kirk. "You and my mother knew this—I believe you have always known it. Do you remember what you once said to me? 'Why fight so hard to be a part of only one world? Why not fight to be the best of both?'"
Kirk breathed out heavily. "So... you found your truth." He paused and frowned. "Don't get me wrong—I'm not complaining—but I didn't think you would be able to... reconnect yourself so quickly."
"When I was a child, I was a blank slate. I had no other frame of reference but Vulcan; she told me what was truth, and I, wanting to meet with her approval, desperate to find a place to fit in on a planet where I was an anomaly, accepted her authority. I had no other choice if I was to survive psychologically. But this time, clean slate as I found myself again, I had another home, another truth waiting for me. You. My mother—older and wiser in the ways of raising a half-Vulcan child. Dr. McCoy, Mr. Scott, Uhura, and the rest of the bridge crew. All waiting for me to be who I was, not telling me who to be, not asking me to modify and temper myself to their rules or expectations. I had somewhere else to turn, another place from which to make a choice—and a way to blend myself into a being who could live with both the worlds that shaped me."
Kirk grinned, feeling ridiculously happy. "That's the way I wanted it to happen this time. On your own, without any pushing or prodding from me."
Spock's smile faded, was replaced by a puzzled frown. "But why, Jim? Why did you leave our history—our future, to chance? What if I had not remembered? What if—"
"I knew you would," Kirk said simply, overriding him. "Remember what I said the other night at dinner, that maybe I hadn't always been fair to you, let you find your own way? This is what I meant! If I had told you that we loved each other that night, what would you have thought?" Spock opened his mouth, but Kirk rushed on, not letting him speak. "You would have thought I'd taken leave of my senses, that's what you would have thought. You didn't know what that feeling was yet, Spock, I could see that you didn't, and my telling you about it wouldn't have meant a damn thing. Love is something you have to discover in your own heart. I knew you had one, and that you would find it—and me—there. The only thing I wasn't sure about was... when." He settled back into the sofa himself with a sigh, then looked over at Spock keenly, eyebrow cocked. "You're the one who quoted my service record to me the other night. You know what a ruthless, determined character I am. Do you really think I'd let you go if I thought for one minute you wouldn't come back?" he teased.
Spock smiled and shook his head. "You are more sure of me than I am of myself. How can this be so?"
"I told you, Mr. Spock, it's called love," Kirk said brightly. Time for test number two, he thought, feeling reckless. He leaned over slowly, giving Spock time to react—to resist?—and with his heart in his throat, he touched his lips to Spock's. Gently... carefully... scarcely daring to breathe, he reveled in the feathery-quick sensation he had not experienced in what felt like a hundred lifetimes, but had really only been a hundred days. He forced himself to pull back.
"Remember that, Spock?" he asked quietly, hoping Spock couldn't hear his heart pounding. It seemed deafening to him.
"Jim ..." Spock looked embarrassed, and Kirk felt his heart drop, suddenly silent. He'd been wrong; Spock hadn't remembered everything. Was that possible? Could he have remembered everything but... sex?
"I'm... sorry, Spock—please forgive me. I—"
"Jim, it is I who must ask your forgiveness. I have done you a great wrong, and I cannot... share such intimacy with you until I have corrected that wrong. It would not be... proper."
"What are you talking about, Spock?" Kirk tried to keep his voice level and calm.
"I have realized, to my shame, that in our other time together, I did not offer you the bond, but only a mind link—a mere shadow of the commitment you deserved. It must have been my own weakness, or cowardice, perhaps; whatever the reason, I must ask you now. Will you understand and forgive me my lack of courage?" Spock paused, bowed his head, and continued in a whisper. "I would like to bond with you, my t'hy'la, so that we will never lose each other again. If it were not for my faults, we would not have been lost to each other this time."
Kirk stared at him for a full minute before he closed his eyes and began chuckling to himself quietly. He opened his eyes a minute later to see a stricken Spock gazing at him in dismay.
"I—I am sorry, Jim—I"
Kirk lunged forward and grabbed Spock around the shoulders, kissed him—this time, soundly and loudly—and then hugged him tightly, as if he would never let him go. "You silly Vulcan; don't you think it's about time we stopped apologizing to each other? And time that you stopped feeling so damn guilty about everything? You've always done that, you know. Has it not occurred to you that maybe I turned you down once upon a time, a long time ago, and that we were both afraid—of asking the other again?" He gave Spock another squeeze, then leaned back to watch his reaction. Spock's mouth fell open; it was the first time Kirk had ever seen Spock at that much of a loss for words, and he decided that he enjoyed it.
"No buts, mister; that's just what happened. And the answer to your question this time is yes! I want to bond with you, I never want to lose you, and I sure as hell never want to go through what we've both been through in these last few months again! Is that clear?"
Spock nodded obediently. "Yes, Admiral."
Kirk had been taking in a breath, finger poised in midair, preparing to continue his tirade if necessary; Spock's words took the wind out of his sails. "Ad—?" He stopped and blinked. "What do you mean—'Admiral'?
"I am merely signifying that this silly Vulcan understands you the hell completely... sir." Finally Spock smiled, his dark eyes gleaming in satisfaction.
"I see you've also remembered that Vulcans are capable of a sense of humor—a weird sense of humor, but it'll have to do. The next thing we have to work on are those colorful metaphors—"
"Jim... " Spock stopped him, hand outstretched in the familiar meld position. "I believe we have wasted enough time—in both our lives together."
Kirk smiled fondly at his Vulcan; he felt like he was falling in love all over again. "You're right."
He moved closer to Spock, welcoming the lightness of his lover's fingers on his face again after the ages that had passed without that sensation, and almost wept with joy as he felt the whisper-touch of Spock's mind within his at last. At first he saw nothing, heard nothing, knew only the weightless, buoyant sensation of being supported between the strength of both Spock's and his own subconscious desire, search, and fulfillment. He could sense—on his mind's horizon—the dim, wavering outline of all that had been ripped from him these last few months. Acceptance... comfort... protection... love... more-than-love, which only the mind knows... his true home/haven—the only one both he and Spock had ever known.
Then he began... slowly, slowly... to feel Spock's presence, back where he belonged, picking up the threads and tendrils of their former joining, and he sensed Spock's determination to make of them this time a structure that was whole, complete, sound. The open wound that had, for a time, taken Spock's place in his memory began to heal. He sent his love out in a burst of energy along the restored, still-fragile catwalks in his mind, determined to participate fully this time in their forging. Together, they mended them, healed them, made of them a delicate web—diamond-bright and just as indestructible, free of the flaws they had built into it before, in that other time. Strong enough to hold them forever. Then, he saw in his mind a great, white light, shining but not burning him, cool and powerful as it lit the way to a place he'd almost given up for lost.
And then Spock was there; he could see him, he could touch him, and they held each other, would never let go.... They were inside the web, inside the protection of each other's souls, and the wild, red sandstorm that raged outside could never touch them again.
Kirk's body shuddered in the passion of his relief, and he woke as from a dream, in Spock's arms.
"This is what we missed before, Spock?" he asked dreamily, enjoying the feel of Spock's strength around him.
Spock nodded. He leaned forward and touched his lips to Kirk's eyes, to his cheeks, and then settled on Kirk's mouth, kissing him slowly, gently at first, then more intensely. Kirk found it difficult to breathe as the Vulcan drew him closer, his embrace more powerful, more passionate and thorough. Who cares about breathing? The absurd thought ran through his head as he clutched at Spock, running his hands over his shoulders, his back, his small, wonderful—
The comm console's buzz grated loudly on their ears, and they both sat up with a sudden start. "God damn it!" Kirk swore through gritted teeth, and he got up to answer it, trying to calm his breathing before he did.
He looked back at Spock on the couch, who returned the look, a most unVulcan attitude of smug fondness on his face. He grinned at him, then turned to the console. "Yes, what is it?"
"Admiral Kirk. The Federation Council is about to convene. A guard will be at your door in one half hour. Be ready on time, please." The aide to the President nodded at him curtly and cut off the connection.
Kirk's euphoria suddenly left him. He had completely forgotten about the Council meeting in the last few minutes. Spock rose from the sofa and came to stand beside him.
"Jim, I will go and change immediately, and join you in the Council chambers. I am going to stand with you to meet the charges."
"No, Spock." Kirk shook his head, feeling slightly sick. "You don't have to—"
"I will meet you in the Council chambers," Spock repeated firmly, his face set in harsh lines. "We are bonded now; your fate will be mine." Then his features softened. "You will never be rid of me." He kissed Kirk lightly and walked out the door.
Kirk felt a sudden urge to call him back, lock and barricade the door, and hold him in his arms forever.
Spock watched with complete and utter satisfaction as Kirk played with the whales. Now that the hearing was over, their fate known, and order—more or less—restored, Jim could finally relax. For the first time in months, Spock realized, frowning. He could almost wish that Star Fleet had delayed their return to active duty for at least another week, but as he continued to follow the playful antics in the water, he knew that the decision, heartily endorsed by the new captain, was the best thing for his t'hy'la. A ribbon of words floated through his mind and he caught it neatly, savoring the memory's familiar texture.... your first, best destiny... anything else would be a waste... He felt oddly pleased with himself—not just with the knowledge of Jim that he possessed, but with the very fact that he possessed it.
Spock kicked once lazily, moving sluggishly in the cool water, and then began making his way in earnest toward the quartet of gamesters. Left with these few days of R&R before their new ship was ready—although Star Fleet refused to reveal what sort of ship they would be assigned—Kirk had expressed a desire to go meet George and Gracie properly, and to see their progeny for himself. Spock recognized a desire for a measure of freedom after involuntary confinement in the request as well, and had agreed readily. He would be sorry to leave these wonderful creatures behind after finding such an affinity with them, would miss their gentle ways and ancient wisdom. Spock wondered briefly what the Masters and Healers of Vulcan would make of George and Gracie of Earth.
He had even understood and sympathized with Gillian's distress when she had taken off in Calypso XX, the Federation's newest marine science vessel, to assist in a special conservation effort on Mer IV. That world, upon learning of Gillian's arrival in the twenty-third century, had begged to have the benefit of her twentieth century experience in helping them save a cetacean species on the brink of extinction. Gillian had been reluctant at first, but after being told that there were no longer many scientists left in the Federation who had first-hand experience with conservation strategy and tactics, she had consulted with George and Gracie, and then decided that she had no other choice but to help if she could. Nevertheless, Spock had sensed her unhappiness at this sudden, if temporary, departure and—although he did not feel public manifestations of emotion appropriate, and private displays were reserved for Jim—had tried to express his empathy with her state of mind by enfolding her in a brief but intense embrace as they parted company. The resultant stares of disbelief from both Gillian and Kirk had given him a strange sense of gratification as well.
Spock saw George suddenly heading toward him, Gracie, the calf, and Kirk following slightly behind. The whale's bulky form glided beneath him smoothly, and Spock took hold of the convenient dorsal fin and let himself be pulled along.
We will miss you also, brother Spock. But surely we will meet again?
I cannot be certain of this, brother George, but I will... hope for it, and do the best I can to return.
With Kirk, Spock affirmed.
Gracie floated by a moment later, and Spock changed partners effortlessly.
You are well, Spock.
And for that, I thank you, Gracie. You have shown me—
I can show you nothing, Spock. Your truth is found inside your own soul, and can only be found by you, though others long to help.
Spock did not reply to her firm, maternal wisdom, but merely projected his warmest affection, and thought of the message he had sent to his own mother via his slightly bemused father. Everything was, indeed, fine.
We are on our way to the open sea, Spock, to take the child on her first long voyage. She must be exposed to the world she shares, and the creatures she shares it with; when she knows her place here, then she will also know her name. Will you come with us on this journey?
I am sorry, Gracie, but we cannot. We must return to our place, our world... soon.
Our thoughts will be with you, Spock, and with Kirk. We will see you again. Gracie's tone was firm, positive, and Spock did not dispute it. He hoped, somewhere in his heart, that she was right, and reluctantly let go her fin, breaking the contact.
As he hung suspended in the clear, blue-green pool watching his two friends leave, a sudden flurry of air bubbles surrounded him, and he was bowled over by the friendly attentions of the calf herself, momentarily distracted from the pursuit of her mother. Spock smiled to himself and encircled the calf's upper body with his arms as best he could. The resultant mental contact gave Spock a vivid impression of bright, inchoate intelligence—eager to express itself and explore, not quite able to form the images and thoughts necessary to communicate its discoveries. He sent a message of warmth and tender benevolence, and was surprised to have it mirrored back at him with an overpowering, if untrained force. But then the calf became impatient, wriggling to be free of his grasp, as all children will if held too tightly, too long. Spock released her, and she shot like an arrow in the direction her mother and father had taken.
Alone again, Spock watched them disappear. But he was not alone for long; he began to sense Kirk's presence, coming up behind him. Spock waited until the very last moment and then turned quickly around, effectively spoiling Kirk's supposed surprise attack. Smiling fondly at Kirk's frustration, he drew his t'hy'la into his arms.
That's not fair! I'm not used to you being this sneaky.
There may be many things you will have to become accustomed to, Spock communicated through the bond, letting go of Kirk and beginning to circle him in indolent, tantalizing circles. With each orbit he let his mind wander over Kirk's body—“touching” a nerve ending here... and there, "squeezing" a muscle or a pinch of flesh in deliberate, teasing patterns, encouraging the feeling of tension that he knew was developing in Kirk's groin with a tidbit of well-placed concentration... at the same time staying just out of Kirk's reach.
This is definitely not fair, Kirk whispered through the bond. You were never this... free before, either. I like it.
With knowledge comes wisdom, Captain, Spock replied blandly.
At that, Kirk lunged for Spock once more; Spock evaded him with a wider smile. Kirk drew himself up into his sternest captain's pose, not affected at all by the fact that he was floating in sixty feet of water. All right, mister, this is your captain speaking. You are increasingly guilty of insubordination, and I would like you front and center—now.
May I remind you, Captain, that I am also a captain, and have held that rank for a longer consecutive time than yourself. Therefore, I believe that I am entirely within my rights in requesting you to—
Kirk interrupted him with a deft swimming tackle, and the two lovers tumbled, turning end over end, their laughter and contentment and love echoing on an unheard level of the watery sanctuary that was theirs for a small march of time. Spock felt so comfortable, so at ease—as he knew Kirk did—and the sensation was familiar in the deepest part of his soul. After some reflection, safely enfolded in Kirk's arms as they drifted aimlessly for a while, he recognized the familiarity: This sensation was the physical corollary of those that he and Kirk knew in the mental confines of the bond.
Spock indulged in the emotion of supreme happiness for a few more minutes, until a nagging sense of duty began to pervade. They were, after all, he admitted to himself, creatures of duty, men in positions of responsibility. The only difference now was that the duty existed in conjunction with the rest of their lives, and did not usurp any other's place.
Jim... Jim... He nudged Kirk gently out of his own reverie, connected to but not a direct part of his own—a warm reminder to Spock of the rightness of their bond.
I know, Spock, I know. It's time to go. But we will have to come back here some day.
Gracie has assured me that we will.
Then I feel reassured. In the meantime, we have to go find out what kind of a vessel they're going to trust to a renegade captain and his scurvy crew. McCoy swears it's going to be a freighter.
The good doctor is well-known for his pessimistic nature regarding Star Fleet Headquarters.
Kirk's laughter echoed in Spock's mind; he took his t'hy'la's hand in a gentle, possessive gesture, and together they swam toward the surface.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Lest I be credited with more imagination that I actually possess, I would like to make it clear that Dr. John Lilly (d.2001), the Human-Dolphin Foundation, and the JANUS computer actually existed at the time I wrote this story, and were not invented for the purposes of my story. The Foundation operated out of California, with other phases of their activities centered around Florida and the Virgin Islands. The JANUS phase is no longer active; the HDF intended to concentrate on working with dolphins totally in their own environment rather than the controlled world of the laboratory and research center: While I understand and agree with this dolphin-oriented (rather than Human-oriented) emphasis, I do hope that someday a way will be found to combine the two areas of research, as I have suggested in SEA CHANGE.
As far as I can tell at this time (March 2018), none of this research or the foundation is still active, sadly. http://dolphintrail.com/organizations/humandolphin-foundation/
I would also like to take this opportunity to get on my soapbox (an author's and an editor's prerogative!) and encourage you to support, to the fullest extent possible, the many fine conservationist, preservationist, and educational societies that are active in our century (Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, The Cousteau Society, your local zoological society—if it is conservation-minded—etcetera). It is true that species are disappearing from the face of the earth at an obscene rate. If we want to change the dire scenario that is the basis of STAR TREK IV, now is still the only time we have.
"For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."