Like an overpowering magnetic attraction, Spock was pulled to the entity. For two and a half years, the masters at Gol had been inundating him with mental orderliness, and reinforced their instructions with repetition and controlling exercises. Spock responded with obedience, always, yet something was missing. He was drawn to this “V’ger” and it could contain that which he sought. The seductiveness overshadowed the spark.
“You’re an idiot, you know! You’re already down one crewman, and possibly a second. Trying to make it three?” McCoy was tugging at the spacesuit as Kirk was trying to pull it on.
“That’s Spock, Bones! Don’t you see? I CAN’T lose him again!”
“Maybe you never got him back?”
Kirk’s pain-filled eyes hardened as he scorched McCoy with a stare. “He’s not gone yet.”
Sulu directed Kirk towards Spock via the suit communicator. Once Kirk sighted Spock, his entire focus was on the Vulcan. There was no threat to Earth, the Enterprise didn’t exist, there was only Spock.
Behind Kirk, the slithering crystals generated from the entity reach out to entrap him. Kirk called for help over his suit communicator, but his distress was also projected along the bond and reached Spock first. “Spock!”
Spock was distracted from the mesmerizing pull from the core of the entity: Jim!
Spock freed Kirk, and pointed forward. “I must go.”
“Then I go too.”
# # #
The meld, the flash, the scream—then they were in sickbay with Spock’s unconscious body being scanned and Kirk barely able to hold together while standing next to the biobed. Nearby, McCoy and Chapel conferred softly.
Eyes popped open, and biobed sensors started bleeping. Spock turned his head to see…Kirk. Recognition flashed over his face, and he grabbed Kirk’s hand with his. Carefully, tenderly, he matched their fingers, then rotated his hand and interlaced his fingers with Kirk’s.
“Jim.” After two and a half years of silence between them, Kirk heard his name spoken by his bondmate.
McCoy practically grabbed Christine Chapel by the scruff of her neck and pulled her out of the room.
Kirk leaned over, and rested his forehead against Spock’s. He inhaled the smell of the Vulcan, that familiar musk that was uniquely him and that had been desperately missed. Spock pushed his chin up, and was able to brush his lips against Kirk’s mouth with the lightest of touches.
“So many questions.”
“I have answers now.”
“Forever and beyond.”
The Captain and the Science Officer left Sickbay together and returned to duty on the bridge of the Enterprise.
# # #
It was over.
A scroll existed within James T Kirk’s consciousness. Upon it were etched the names of his dead, beginning with George Kirk. Included were the Starfleet crewmembers who died in action during the battle with Nero. Of special note was the population of Vulcan, destroyed with the planet because of the red matter detonation. He valued every single one on this record. Next came the Enterprise people killed during the battle with the cloaked Romulan ships. Forty-five men and women, under his command: they belonged to him. The scroll then unleashed a river of blood from Bajor. Most names had not even been recorded for the history disks, but millions of bodies were on that scroll, and they weighed heavily in Kirk’s mind.
Now, Decker and Ilia.
Command is lonely.
It often stands on top of a mountain of dead. A great commander is one who knows his feet must tread on the flesh of others. Those in charge who cease to acknowledge that morbid fact ultimately lose the respect of those they lead, and they become impotent in waging war.
War is the ultimate insult to Life. It should be engaged masterfully, swiftly, and completely.
Kirk looked down from that pinnacle, accepted this responsibility, and grieved. He prayed that he would ever tread softly on those dead.