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Story Notes:

This story was written between Blue and Grey for the publishing of the ‘zine by Jenna and Dusky et al and I’m so glad that it was done.

 

Author's Chapter Notes:

Third in the Big Black series. Links to 1. >>> Out of the Big Black and 2. >>> Onto the Deep Blue These need to be read first to understand the context of this universe.


“The idea that a baby doesn’t amount to anything! Why, one baby is just a house and a front yard full by itself…. He is enterprising, irrepressible, brimful of lawless activities…. Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don’t you ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection.”
~ Mark Twain, The Speeches

“You want the lobster today, Kapena?”

The voice cut across Kirk’s reverie. He had been staring out from Pulehu Bistro, across Lahaina Bay toward the whale roads. The double rake of the CloudDance’s masts showed plainly in the marina at the foot of the street but he hadn’t been watching, really. Worrying, instead. About his little family. His boys. Sam and Jimmy had abruptly begun to talk three days ago. To speak in full sentences. No “dada” nonsense for them, oh no. “We want milk.”

“Kapena Keleka? Kimo, you in there?”

He grinned at the Hawaiian version of his name, all sing-song from Leilani’s mouth. “Sorry, Leilani. Yes, lobster, please. No butter though, just some lime.”

“I have some nice ahi poke for starter.”

“Sounds good. No taro or breadfruit, please. A tomato, if you have one. Or a paw-paw. Or both.” Leilani nodded as she carefully wrote down his order.

“Omole o ka pia?” Kirk considered. Did he want a beer?

“Just water, please.” Leilani nodded and finished writing, then tucked the pad into the pocket of her capacious muumuu.

“Where ke ali i kane and my pretty little boys? The polopeka finally leave you for a smarter man?”

Kirk laughed at the teasing. “My lovely husband and our boys are having an evaluation with a Vulcan healer in San Francisco. I’ll tell them you asked about them.”

“Nothing wrong, I hope?” Leilani’s concern was instant and genuine; the twin boys were extremely popular with the Hawaiians. Kirk suspected some kind of legend or luck about twins but hadn’t managed to track anything down.

“Nothing wrong, no. They started to talk and, well, it’s a bit early. Spock wanted to get them reassessed, that’s all.”

“Bright boys. None of my boys bothered talking to me until they were almost two years old, lazy things,” she replied, her voice full of affection. “Mind you, they haven’t stopped talking since, and always to ask for something. I’ll bring your starter.”

She swung away, unbelievably graceful for a woman who couldn’t have weighed a gram less than one hundred and fifty kilos. Kirk watched her go and then turned back to the view.

We want milk.” Jimmy. High little voice in a tiny mouth. And Sammy, echoing; “Papa, please, we want milk.” Saying “please,” of all things. Three days ago.

Their palates shouldn’t be that well-formed, nor should their comprehension of the language be well-developed enough to string words together. A human child might start talking as early as nine or ten months, but not in whole sentences. A Vulcan child might start speaking in sentences abruptly at fourteen months, but that would be early for either species. The twins were barely ten months old. Apparently Jim wasn’t going to get to experience the “dada” stage at all.

Both Spock and he had been astonished but proud when the twins had abruptly decided to walk, just three weeks ago. They hadn’t bothered much with middle stages then, either, going from sitting around with the occasional burst of crawling, to pulling themselves erect one day, by the simple expedient of grabbing on to Jim’s pant legs and hauling themselves up, and then taking their first steps. In the short time since, both had become quite adept at that incredibly complex and difficult motor skill. Again, it had been earlier than anyone had forecast; extremely early for either a human or Vulcan child to master the art.

Jim Kirk dreaded the renewed onslaught of the Federation and, more intrusively, the Vulcan scientists and medicos who had made his sons possible. The boys had been conceived and brought to term in vitro, their strange little hybrid metabolisms easier to control that way than with chemical interference in a female surrogate. He and Spock had spent nearly ten months on Vulcan with one or the other of them always in the sterile room that housed the foetal support tank. They slept there, took their meals there. Both had felt that the developing babies needed interaction with the outside world in the same way a normally conceived child would. They had insisted on heartbeat sound and vibration in the tank, on movement that simulated a woman’s own movements, and on being allowed to talk, sing, read, play music and make love as often as they chose.

It had occasionally been a touch on the embarrassing side, he reflected.

Vulcan science had looked down its collective nose at them. Here was the perfect opportunity, they seemed to think, of raising children free of any attachment to the emotional upheaval that pregnancy brought on in even the most disciplined of Vulcan mothers. A fascinating opportunity to study the effects of a pristine conception and gestation, ruined by human interference.

Jim startled as the raw, marinated tuna appetizer was plunked down in front of him, followed by a dripping glass of ice water. He thanked Leilani and lifted his fork, letting his mind drift back to the unprecedented day, the amazing moment, when he had held his little sons in his arms for the first time.

“The lack of normal birth trauma is not something I am concerned about,” Spock had said seriously. “There is, in fact, evidence from other in-vitro gestations which suggests that lack of birth trauma can greatly increase early development.”

Kirk had laughed aloud. “Spock, it’s not that I want their first day as real, alive, breathing people to begin with pain,” he explained. “We’ve sacrificed a lot to make sure that they didn’t miss anything a normal child would. I just want to be sure that birth itself isn’t necessary to their lives.”

“Healer T’sai T’Pak assures me that it is not. That is a consensus opinion. It is little different than a Caesarean delivery. We have discussed this before.” Both men could sense the intense excitement building in the other as the technicians and doctors re-checked the tank and the chemical balance of the fluid within. No one wanted a pre-mature ‘birth,’ but the hybrid children’s level of development was difficult to ascertain. T’Pak had announced several days ago that she considered the children ready to be ‘born,’ but Kirk and Spock had held off until all the experts contributed their assessments.

Today was the day. This morning. Now.

“I know, Spock. I’m just nervous.”

“I confess to a certain amount of anxiety and anticipation myself.” He hadn’t needed to say it; Kirk could feel it plainly through their bond. For Spock the admission, voiced out loud, was practically babbling. Kirk remembered feeling a violent stab of desire for his mate—Spock raised an eyebrow at him and shaken his head. “Acting on that would be entirely inappropriate at this time,” he had murmured.

Kirk laughed, and then let the topic drop.

The opening of the tank was almost ceremonial in its solemnity. The inner membrane was pierced, and then T’Pak reached in and carefully extracted the first of the tiny people. Samuel Sovel Kirk cha’ Spock kicked and struggled against T’Pak’s hands as she cleaned the mucus from his mouth and nose, and then suddenly he drew a breath to let out a thin, protesting wail.

The sound slammed like an arrow into Kirk’s heart and the vibrations still thrummed in him today, ten months later. He held Sammy for several minutes while T’Pak cut the umbilical cord and tied it off. He felt the tears streaming down his face as he devoured the little form with his eyes. Perfect toes, perfect fingers. Slimy with amniotic fluid, mouth working furiously as he howled his outrage in louder and louder tones. A surprising mop of ashen hair above perfectly pointed tiny ears.

The second wail had surprised him. So caught up had he become with Sam that he hadn’t even noticed James Sevek being raised from the tank and handed to his Vulcan father. Remembering the look on Spock’s face made him laugh, even today. Absolute, undisguised astonishment, changing rapidly to a dreamy vacancy that Kirk had never imagined on Spock’s austere face. No tears could have better broadcast his feelings. I can feel him came the wondering thought. Now that I am holding him, I can feel his fear, his confusion, his disorientation…

“Hold them both for a while,” Kirk said, wishing he were a telepath and could comfort them without words. “Help them to feel safe.” He handed Sam across to Spock and guided him to the bed. Spock sat down, his eyes unfocused, and Jim could feel him sending out reassuring feelings of comfort and love and safety, including Jim in the new family bond, helping him feel what the twins were feeling. The newborns slowly calmed down. “This is absolutely the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me,” Spock said.

Jim had laughed again in total delight, thinking of Spock’s death and resurrection, their many strange experiences, shared and unshared. “That, coming from you, is quite a statement!”

“Kimo, the chef is going to come out here with a knife. You had even one bite of that yet?” Leilani was regarding him with a worried expression, her arms akimbo. Jim startled guiltily and took a quick mouthful of the marinated fish.

“Sorry, Leilani. I was miles away. It’s very good, I just….”

“You are worried. About your boys.” She slid her bulk into the next chair and rested her head on her hands. “Why? Is it a bad thing for a young child to speak? No, no, keep eating. You are so thin, you and your husband. You should eat more taro. Why you don’t eat any taro? Will you raise skinny children, too?”

Kirk laughed and took another mouthful of the poke. “It’s not a bad thing that they’re talking. But they’re not using just a word or two, they’re actually talking in sentences. That shouldn’t have happened for months yet. If it hadn’t happened for another whole year we wouldn’t have been worried. You don’t know what trouble we have had with the geneticists, the doctors, the research scientists. They look at Sam and Jimmy like an interesting experiment. Spock and I just want them to have a normal childhood.”

“That is what all parents wish,” he nodded agreement.

“I guess what I’m worried about is, well, they are just not like either Vulcan children or human children. Of course, they can’t be. But they’re not hitting any ‘mid-way’ points, like we expected, you know, half-way between Vulcan and human norms. Spock did, other hybrid children do.” Sammy had said ‘please.’ It was amazing.

“Auè!” Leilani blinked. “I guess you have to learn to expect the unexpected from them.”

“Yes.” It was true. Kirk finished the poke. “Tell the chef that he can keep his knives in the kitchen, I promise to eat my lobster.”

Leilani heaved herself up and reached for the plate. “Very good, Kapena.”

“Captain!” The new voice belonged to Mike, the young and enthusiastic second mate of the CloudDance. Kirk pushed out a chair for him and waved him into it, and Mike flopped down loosely, running his fingers through his black braids. “Afternoon. Any news on the home front?”

“No.” Jim sat back with his water in hand. “What have you got for me?”

“Nothing major, Captain. North tells me to report that the logs of the last observations have all been transferred to the Mala Institute, and we’re securing the ship for whatever you want to do with her once the boys and the professor are back. Any idea when that might be, or if you’ll be taking her out?”

There was longing in the youthful voice. CloudDance had been ‘day-tripping’ for the last six months, with North at the helm. She would sail at dawn from the Mala Institute dock below them, carrying her linguists and telepaths out to the calving grounds a mere ten nautical miles away and then bringing them ashore every night. It was a far cry from the life they all preferred and had become accustomed to the first year, but better than the year they had all spent ashore during the twins’ conception and gestation. And better for Jim to be close to his ship. The first four months after their return from Vulcan the CloudDance, with North as her master, had been high in the Alaska Panhandle while he and Spock had been immured with the boys in an apartment in San Francisco, in order to be close to all the infant care facilities they were afraid of needing.

Kirk frowned, realizing he was lucky to have gotten his crew back intact the previous year, despite the hefty retainers he had paid for their extended shore leaves. “No, no idea. They’re shut up with the Vulcan healers, and I’m told that I am far too noisy in the family bond for the sort of analysis they’re doing.”

“The pod will be heading north soon,” Michael responded. It was late April, and the Humpbacks were showing signs of restlessness, the new mothers starting to wander out of the feeding grounds with their calves. “The Board of Directors agrees that there is not much point in trying to talk with them further this season. Most of the males have stopped singing and the Matriarch is getting ready to send the updated Song around the world.”

“I know. Mahalo, Leilani.” He sat back to allow Leilani to plop a still-sizzling lobster, halved, blackened and fragrant, down in front of him, then looked back up at Mike. “Are you eating?”

“No, Raven made lunch. Aloha, Leilani.”

“Aloha, Mikala. Tell Raven that chef wants some more of that scotch bonnet sauce, and we’ll knock the cost off the ship’s tab. Ômole o ka pia?”

“No thanks, Leilani. I’m on duty.”

“How’s your lobster, Kapena?” Kirk nodded around a mouthful of the succulent white and pink flesh, and Leilani smiled her satisfaction. “Now, if we could get some taro into you.” She bobbed away, and Michael laughed.

“She’s better than a mother.”

“She thinks she is my mother,” Kirk replied. Mike got up to leave, then hesitated and reached into a pocket to pull out a small envelope.

“Almost forgot. This was delivered by hand for you and Spock, by a little Hawaiian kid, mid-morning.” He handed it to Kirk who set down his knife and fork and examined the envelope. It was hand lettered in flowing gold ink, addressed to Kapena Keleka & Polopeka Spock, Moku Kia Lua CloudDance, Lahaina. He furrowed his brow and looked up at Mike. “What does all that represent? I understand Captain Kirk, and Professor Spock. And CloudDance, obviously, but the rest?”

“Oh, that’s easy, Kimo, I’m ashamed of you, you are such a haole,” Leilani announced. He jumped in his seat, amazed that the big woman could move so quietly. She peered over his shoulder. “It’s from the Queen. That says ‘schooner.’ You nearly a Kanaka, Kimo, you should learn some more of the language!”

Kirk blinked. “This is from the Queen?”

“Gold ink,” Leilani said solemnly. “Only from the Alii Nui. What does she say? She’s a nice girl.”

He opened the envelope and sighed; it was written in Hawaiian and was beyond his limited abilities. “Not a clue, I’m afraid. Will you translate for me, Leilani?”

“Sure.” She took the folded paper and scanned it. “She invites you, Spock, your boys and your crew to a luau at the Beach Preserve on Lanai, this Saturday. Sunset. It’s the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the re-introduction of the Humpbacks to the Pailolo Channel. Hey, that will be a hell of a party, Kimo! I think I’ll close the Bistro and go myself!”

“Don’t you need an invitation?” Mike asked. “I mean, it is the Queen.”

“Invitation my eye,” Leilani replied, stuffing the paper back in the envelope and handing it to Kirk. “I’m her auntie after all, I had better not need an invitation!”

“The Alii Nui is your niece?”

“Sure. Everyone is related to everyone here, Mikala. Half of Maui will show up, invitation or not. Will the polopeka and the boys be back in time, Kimo?”

“I don’t know,” Kirk replied. “But if not, I’ll attend anyway. Do I send a reply, Leilani?”

“Only if you’re not going,” she responded. “Otherwise, if you are going and she expects you anyway, why go to the trouble of sending an answer? Too much work.” Leilani sauntered away, and Kirk shot Mike a look of amusement.

“Pass the word to the crew, will you, Mike? North can secure the CloudDance for one night so that everyone who wants to attend can go, as long as there’s no wind in the forecast.”

“Very well, Captain.” Mike turned away and then hesitated and turned back. “Will you be moving back aboard, do you think? Your quarters are always ready, of course….”

“I just don’t know, Mike. I thought that once the boys were talking that we would move back aboard and follow the migration again,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “But talking and toddling so soon! Don’t you find the notion of having them on a moving, working, sailing vessel just a bit insane?”

Mike shrugged. “Not really. I’ve seen how well you watch over them. Now that you can tell them what to do, what not to do, now that they’re big enough to wear a life jacket, why not? The whole crew would help. Hell, Jim, lots of people raise children on sailboats.”

“There are no children like these being raised anywhere, Mike. What if they go directly into the ‘terrible twos’ behaviour that all human children live through? They can talk, agreed, but does that mean that they are able to understand at any more complex level than other children their age?”

Mike shrugged again. “Isn’t that what you’ll find out from this examination Spock took them for?”

“I hope so.”

When Mike had gone Kirk pushed away the partly finished lobster and sat back with a sigh that wasn’t entirely contentment caused by the good food. He hated being cut off from his bond to Spock and the boys. Although he understood that it was necessary in some instances, that he was a distraction to his sons with his less-than-disciplined mind, it didn’t make him feel any less lonely to know that he was doing the right thing. He wiped his hands and stood up, yelling goodbye toward the kitchen as he did, and then strolled out into the hot afternoon street.

The waterfront apartment that he and Spock had hired in the fall seemed echoingly empty. Their helpers, an old married het couple named Kendra and Olders, had been given a few days off while the boys were gone. Without even their footsteps and chatter, the squeak of an overhead fan seemed unbearably loud. Kirk glared at the spinning blades for a moment, and then searched out a stepladder and toolbox. Damned if he would sit and mope another moment. He could make no decisions without input. He didn’t want to visit the ship and upset whatever routine was going on there. He didn’t want to turn on the computer and lose himself in languages, or any other sort of learning. But he could, and would, fix a ceiling fan.

After the ceiling fan he moved on to the shaky leg of his work desk, and then picked and re-stitched a frayed seam in the bolster of his bed. By the time he had exhausted his list of household annoyances the sun was creeping toward the horizon and he was hungry again.

He showered the sweat off and redressed in loose trousers and a long sleeved shirt against the sunset onslaught of biting insects, while considering his options for evening meal. Raven would welcome him, he decided. He commed the ship to let them know he was coming for dinner and was disappointed when his call was re-routed to North’s personal communicator. She and most of the crew were already up at the Bistro, leaving only Mike aboard for an evening watch. Raven was in the kitchen with Leilani and her chef, and magic was happening, apparently.

Kirk considered for a minute and decided he was not, after all, in the mood for society tonight. He wished North well and signed off, then dumped a handful of the small coins the Hawaiian Monarchy minted as currency into his pocket, grabbed the small marketing bag from the kitchen, and headed down toward the beach stalls.

In minutes he had half-filled his bag with packets of skewered huli-huli style chicken, two banana leaves full of steamed pork pot-stickers, and a fragrant bundle of steamed fish that he suspected was some sort of reef snapper. To his amusement he was unable to dissuade the proprietors of the three stalls from including the poi that always came as a side-dish here; it looked as if he was going to be forced to eat taro whether he wanted to or not. He rounded out the meal with a ripe Julie mango and a handful of fingerling honey bananas, a large bottle of water and a couple of icy beers, and headed toward the beach headland with his bag bulging, away from the lights of the town and the Institute.

It was peaceful and quiet out there, very dark in the gap between sunset and moonrise. He settled on the rocks above the quiet ocean and set the bag between his feet. As he did so there was a strange, gingery tingling sensation in his head that he associated with the opening of his bond. Excited, he straightened up and turned his head automatically toward the east, unconscious of his physical reaction. Spock!

A moment of silence, and then a tired but affectionate mind-voice. Jim. The boys are fine. I am fine. They are asleep. I, too, need to sleep.

How like Spock, Jim mused, to get the important information out of the way at once. He smiled broadly. I’m having a picnic dinner on the beach, and wishing you were here with me. Are you well, really?

I am well. Merely tired. It is difficult to maintain the shields against you, even in this shielded place, while concentrating on what T’Sai, T’Pak and the others are doing. The boys are taking it well, and have not been upset. They are confused by my blocking your link to us, but otherwise they are fine.

Jim felt a surge of guilt. I’m sorry I’m making it more difficult. Do you know how much longer you will be there? Do you have any news for me?

A mental sigh—Jim could envision the shake of the head as if he saw it first-hand. I think they are grasping for excuses to keep us here already, Jim. There is nothing physically or mentally wrong with either Sam or Jim. The healers wish to run a few more tests tomorrow. The boys are merely precocious, as we suspected. A moment of silence. I miss you. I will not allow this to be dragged out, that is a promise.

I didn’t think you would, Kirk replied. I miss you too, but you sound exhausted. Go get some sleep.

I am already abed, Spock replied, and Jim felt an instant surge of desire at the image. He knew the desire had been communicated when Spock’s sleepy mind-laugh answered him. We will deal with that when I return, Spock sent.

Jim nodded, grinning. I look forward to it. Goodnight, love.

Goodnight, Jim. I will call you tomorrow afternoon by normal channels. This is more tiring than I thought it would be.

I’ll keep my communicator with me. The connection faded and Kirk knew that Spock would be asleep in seconds. The shield remained down, however, leaving a faint and comforting back-ground hum in his psyche that told him Spock and he were still connected and, beyond Spock, the twins.

The night was growing noisy as the crickets and frogs in the trees behind him began their nightly serenade. Everyone looking for someone to love, he thought, and remembered an awkward conversation from his youth. “It happens to the birds and the bees, Mister Spock,” he had said. And the crickets and the frogs and everything else, he could have added. Smiling, he reached into his bag and took out the bottled water and a package of pot-stickers.

How different would this lonely stretch of beach have been a thousand years ago, he wondered. Would there have been a village in this protected harbour? It seemed likely. Perhaps there would be a bonfire on the beach, the sound of drums echoing up the cliff’s side. Old men in feathers, young men and women dancing the sacred hula. He unwrapped the banana leaf from around the pot-stickers and lifted one to his mouth.

“Is that pork I smell?”

The voice, coming out of the dark, startled him so badly that he nearly dropped the opened leaf. He swung his head around. In the pitchy blackness of the forest behind him he was barely able to make out the speaker, who he at first took for a child. Then the voice registered, and he realized he was looking at a very small-statured man.

“Yes, it is,” he replied. The man sauntered over and squatted a couple of paces away. With the distant lights of the town on his face Kirk could see he was Hawaiian, and older than Kirk. He had very long straight hair that brushed the ground around him as he bent there. Kirk was reminded of Alexander of the Platonians, for the man had the same powerful shoulders, though he seemed more in proportion than Alexander had. He also appeared to be naked, but on a Hawaiian beach at night that wasn’t unusual. “I’m Jim Kirk.”

“Aloha, Jim Kirk. Did you know, in the olden days, it used to be death for a commoner to eat pork?” The tone was conversational, the man now looking out to sea. “I think it was because pigs eat the same sort of food people do, and so were very expensive to raise. Isn’t it funny how we can analyze our old beliefs these days and discover science behind them! Pigs, they were sacred to the Alii Nui and to the gods.”

“I didn’t know,” Jim replied, taking another bite of potsticker and swallowing. He smiled again at his uninvited company. “We’re lucky that the Alii Nui today thinks there’s enough to go around for everyone.” A thought struck him; the man might be hungry. “Would you like some?”

The man faced him again. “You are offering me food from your own dish?”

That was a queer question. Perhaps the man was afraid of infectious disease; lots of older people were, Kirk knew. “If you like. Or, I have a whole other packet of them in here, not opened yet. You’re welcome to it.” He rummaged in the bag and pulled out the other leaf-wrapped package to hold out to the older man. “Will you tell me your name?”

There was a moment of silence, and then the man reached out and grasped the package. “I am called Mo’iki,” he responded. “Mahalo for the pork.”

“You’re welcome, Mo’iki,” Kirk replied. The man shifted out of his squat to sit cross-legged and opened the package. Kirk finished his potstickers and pulled out a package of chicken, his hand brushing over one of the containers of poi. “Would you like poi?”

This time there was quite a long silence before the hand reached over again. “Is it good poi?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know. I bought it from a street vendor.”

“You paid for it?” There seemed to be wonder in the voice. “I am pleased to accept it.”

“No problem,” Kirk said, wondering if the man were, perhaps, a bit simple. “I’m thankful to have plenty and to be able to share.”

They ate in silence for a few minutes, Kirk taking occasional swigs from the water bottle. He offered Mo’iki part of his fish, which was refused, and the rest of the poi, which was accepted in a manner that Kirk could only call gracious. Finally Mo’iki set down the last poi container and belched loudly. “A meal fit for a king,” he announced. “I thank you, Jim Kirk, I can work all night on that.”

Jim, pleasantly full himself, decided against eating any of the fruit or drinking a beer. “You’re working tonight? What sort of work do you do?” he asked, handing Mo’iki the water bottle.

“Odd jobs,” Mo’iki chuckled. “Tonight I am going to rebuild my fish trap, just down there. It’s hard work, but will be easier now after that good food.”

“How can you work on a fish trap in the dark? That seems dangerous to me,” Kirk ventured.

“Oh, no. The moon is starting to peek over the hill now, and she’s full tonight. Easier to work by the moon’s light than in the heat of the sun. If I start now, with luck, I will finish before the sun comes up.” He rose and looked down at Kirk. “It is a good job worth doing well,” he finished. Jim began to stuff the remains of the meal back into the bag. He was well fed, not the least bit tired, and intrigued by his companion.

“I have never seen one built, though I understand the theory. If I lend you a hand with it, perhaps you can teach me how to do it properly. I think it would be interesting to learn. You never know when you might need that sort of knowledge.”

The moon’s first light came over the trees behind them and illuminated Mo’iki. He was grinning broadly, and Kirk could see in the surprisingly bright light that he was missing his front teeth and that he was, indeed, naked. “To help in a project such as this isn’t easy, Jim Kirk, but if you want to help you are welcome. I admire a man who pursues different sorts of learning. Though I warn you it is difficult, moving the stones.”

“No problem.” Kirk rose and dusted his hands on his shirt. “I’m assuming I’m going to get wet. Perhaps I’d better leave my clothes here.”

“They’ll be safe enough. Nobody else will come down here tonight.”

Minutes later Kirk was half-regretting his impulsive offer, and half glad he’d made it at the same time. It was staggering work, moving the rocks as directed by the little old man. He didn’t voice a complaint though, as Mo’iki was moving rocks at least as large as the ones Kirk set his hand to, and moving them at a pace that astonished Kirk. The old man was certainly fit, but Kirk knew there was no way he could have accomplished this alone! Kirk followed his directions, wading into the surf from the beach, placing the rocks where he was told, Mo’iki following behind to make sure that they were secure. The work seemed to get easier as his muscles loosened up.

While he worked, he talked. Mo’iki wanted to know all about him, and Kirk answered his questions about the whales, the sailboat, and his earlier life among the stars. Mo’iki volunteered little about himself, however, and after a while Kirk tried to draw him out. “Have you lived here all of your life, Mo’iki?”

“Oh, most of it,” the old man replied. He had pulled some sort of wooden rack out of the bushes and was standing in the shallows, his hands busy re-weaving branches together while Kirk stacked rocks in the warm water, into what was rapidly becoming a significant wall. “I moved here in my early youth. A long time ago now. I don’t remember much before coming here.”

“Where was that from?”

“The south,” Mo’iki replied. “Now look here, the entrance to the trap must be made just so….”

Kirk attended to the weaving lesson, and then helped place the wooden entrance at the mouth of the trap. “Do you have a family here?”

“They’re pretty scattered,” Mo’iki replied cryptically. “Now, we need to anchor the entrance with two more rows of stones, to bring the wall above the high tide line. The fish swim in and are caught, and most remain alive until we need them. Do you understand?” Kirk gave up on the interrogation and moved back up onto the shingle to gather the required materials.

At some point he was telling Mo’iki about the drawbacks of telepathy, about the difficulty he had shielding his thoughts and emotions from his young sons, and about the strain it was putting on Spock. Now that the boys were verbal, he feared that the strain would become worse. Mo’iki had chuckled softly and agreed that sometimes keeping one’s thoughts from one’s family was very important indeed, and then sent him after some smaller rocks to reinforce the top row of large stones.

It was with relief that he placed the last stone, Mo’iki declaring the trap perfect. The old man followed him back up onto the headland, and Kirk looked around in astonishment. The town lights were mostly out now, and the moon was sinking fast toward the sea. “Mo’iki! Time flies when you’re busy, I had no idea it was so late.”

“It is a long job,” Mo’iki agreed. “But now it will stand for years, unless men break it down.”

“Or unless there’s a tsunami or earthquake,” Kirk hedged. Mo’iki nodded, squatting again on the rocks. He seemed as fresh as he had at moonrise. Kirk hoped that he would be as fit and healthy when he reached Mo’iki’s physical age. “May I offer you a beer? They won’t be cold anymore, but a job like that deserves some celebration, don’t you think?”

Mo’iki shot him a look of pure happiness. “I would love a beer,” he replied. Kirk grinned and sat down on his folded pants. He extracted the warm tubes from his bag and popped the tops, handing one across and settling back to watch the moonset. Mo’iki crouched beside him, sipping the beer slowly and sighing now and then. They drank in silence otherwise, watching the moon path grow and then shrink as the white ball sank slowly into the ocean.

Finally the old man rose and handed the empty tube back. “Thank you, Jim Kirk. It has been a long time since I so enjoyed a night’s work. In the old days you would be entitled to half of the fish from my trap. Consider Mo’iki to be watching out for you; if you need my help, just come down here and ask. I’m always around somewhere.”

“Thanks, Mo’iki. Same from me, although I won’t be spending as much time ashore here in the future. If you ever need a hand, contact me. The harbour master can always track down the CloudDance.”

CloudDance. A good name for a schooner. Goodnight, Jim Kirk. Mahalo.” The old man climbed down the rocks and paced away onto the shingle. He looked out toward the fish trap for a moment, and then turned and walked into the forest.

Kirk sighed and put the empty tubes into his bag. He stood up slowly, his muscles beginning to complain about the hard night’s work. “Still, better than tossing in bed worrying about Spock and the boys. I hardly thought about them all night,” he said aloud. “Thanks for that, too, Mo’iki.” The sky faded to a pale blue as the sun rose behind the hill. He dressed and picked up the bag, then climbed awkwardly down from the rocks and walked slowly up the sandy beach, toward the dock and the town and the Institute and his life.

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