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Randall Landers & Rob Morris

July 23rd 2295

Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov lay on his bunk, slightly chilled by the ship’s ventilation system, unable to sleep. He’d thought about getting up and adjusting the environmental controls, but it didn’t seem to be worth the effort. Besides, he’d had years of bone chilling cold during the long winter nights of his childhood decades ago in Russia. He glanced upward, out the porthole over his head.

So far, the mission had seen tragedy befall it when Ensign Demora Sulu had succumbed to a parasitical infestation that literally had destroyed her brain from within. So young, he thought, sadly reflecting on her death. And such a waste, too.

He yawned loudly and considered getting out of bed to finish up some of the paperwork piled up on his desk. He cracked his knuckles and looked at the antique clock on his wall. It had been his father’s, and it had been the only thing his father had left Chekov in his last will and testament.

The bosun’s whistle sounded softly. "Bridge to Captain Chekov."

The Enterprise commander swung out of bed and into his desk chair in one smooth motion. "Chekov here. What is it, Lieutenant Kirk?"

Peter Kirk’s familiar visage filled the monitor screen. "Captain, I’m sorry to disturb your sleep. We’ve detected an isolytic pulse from a star system half a degree off our present course," came the assistant chief science officer’s voice.

Chekov had been impressed with Kirk’s performance since he joined the crew a few months ago. "Does it present a danger to the Enterprise?"

"We’re shortly going to get bombarded by a fairly thick spread of tachyons, sir. May play havoc with some systems, especially higher warp functions in the engineering computer system."


"Slow our present speed to Warp Four until the tachyon wave dissipates. Increase shields to maximum, and put engineering on stand-by alert status."

"Agreed, Lieutenant. Issue orders on my behalf to that effect immediately. Call me if the situation worsens."

"Aye, sir. Kirk out."

Chekov put himself back into bed, this time willing himself to relax. He might need to be in peak form if the situation became critical.

Somehow, he dozed off, haunted by fitful dreams.


There’s a Terran expression: "Vulcans do not dream."

Saavik reminded herself of this saying as she sat on the beach. It was patently untrue, of course. She had been haunted by dreams of her mother as a child on Hellguard. To be honest, those nightmares were more than overwhelming for a child being raised in such a barbaric environment. And clearly she was dreaming now, a vivid, clear dream, more lifelike than any she could ever recall. She sat on a beach, wearing a one-piece translucent swimsuit that no Vulcan would ever wear. Of course, she was only half-Vulcan, but she could not envision a Romulan wearing such a revealing outfit either, let alone wearing it herself. The sun was setting, judging from the colors of the sky, and the waves were crashing against the beach as the tide was rolling in.

She raised an eyebrow as a figure slowly began emerging from the water. It appeared humanoid, covered with silvery-clear transparent scales that slowly seemed to retreat within the bronze skin of the figure. It strode toward her as if he knew her (and it clearly was male, judging from the appendage now dangling above the water). As it continued its walk toward her, she noted with interest that it continued to become more and more Human, with blonde hair now blowing in the ocean’s breeze like ribbons of gold. It stopped before her, looked down and her and smiled. Saavik looked up to meet its eyes, and was almost blinded by the brilliant blue energy glowing there.

"Hello, Saavik," he said.

"David?" she wondered. Was this a dream about David Marcus, she asked herself. As if in answer, the eyes flashed, and all she could see was his eyes. So piercing, so blue, as if they had the power to strike down the stars in the sky. They flashed brilliantly, blinding her.

She opened her eyes to find herself curled up her bunk, a blanket wrapped around her tightly. "David?" she asked aloud, wondering if she had been visited by his katra.

No, she decided. It was just a dream.

"Just a dream," she mumbled to herself as she dozed off.


"V’ger!" a startled Spock said aloud, opening his eyes in surprise. He had been in the midst of his early morning meditation. He blinked in puzzlement, and opened his mind, reaching out with the Vulcan mind touch. There was nothing there now. But there had been. Of that, he was certain. But what? He immediately tried to calculate the odds, and determined them to be in excess of 35,513.7 to 1 against his ever finding out exactly what had disturbed him.

Faced with that logic, Spock returned to his meditations.

July 24th 2295

Morning on a starship is quite an experience for the uninitiated. And although Intergalactic News Service Reporter Willis O’Brien had been aboard the Enterprise for nearly eight months, he was always amazed at the chaos. One quarter of the crew was coming off duty. One third was going on duty. And the remainder were either sound asleep, exercising in the gymnasium, or involved in some other recreation activities, including chess matches, judo tournaments, orchestra rehearsal and plenty of sex.

The corridors were an ordeal to navigate, filled with personnel coming and going. Rec rooms, dining halls and galleys had an overwhelming smell of breakfasts, but some had wafts from the dinner menu as well. The gyms and pool were crowded by those who exercised before shift, those who exercised after shift, and those who exercised off duty. The forward observation deck’s manager always locked the doors open, and crew and officers alike came through those doors and walked through the corridors beyond in a constant stream.

And O’Brien soaked it in on a daily basis from a small café-sized table in the forward observation lounge, a cup of hot French roast coffee and a plate with two croissants and assorted jellies and honeys before him.

He noted with amusement how predictable the command crew was: Captain Chekov and his blintzes, Commander Uhura and her buttermilk biscuits with honey and sweet cream butter. Chapel and her oatmeal with nuts and raisins. Ch’terr and his lox strips. Saavik and her...well, Saavik was never predictable. Ordinarily, she chose globefruit or pastries or even grits, but never the same thing twice in a week, and never in a pattern or schedule that he could discern. Willis fancied that he himself was this way, when in fact he was more predictable than the crew.

This morning was different, though, O’Brien decided. There was something in the air. He’d awakened early this morning, a nightmare of poor Demora Sulu’s death in Sickbay jarring him from a deep slumber. Other members of the Enterprise’s crew seemed to have suffered from a loss of sleep as well. He looked up in surprise as Saavik stepped into the room, seemingly lost.

Seeing her hesitantly step toward the buffet table, he watched as she selected a sausage egg biscuit. The reporter rose quickly and made his way across the room, drawing a few surprised stares from others. "Something wrong, Commander?" he asked once he was at the tactical officer’s side.

"Wrong?" she repeated, as though she were struggling to comprehend his words. "Yes, something’s wrong." She looked at her biscuit and tilted her head. "I can’t eat this."

O’Brien took the plate with the biscuit from her as she dropped it. Slipping his arm around her, he held her steady as her knees began to buckle.

"Mister O’Brien?" she asked as she slumped.

He turned to the observation deck manager. "Call Sickbay. You’ve got an officer down here." O’Brien helped Saavik to the floor, her face pale and covered with perspiration. He helped her lie down, and elevated her legs with a seat cushion, staring at the door.


Chekov casually walked into the forward observation deck, unsuspecting. He had had a rough night of it, too, being haunted by dreams of Montgomery Scott floating in space, forever lost. When he saw Saavik on the deck with O’Brien holding her hand, he whispered, "Bozhe moi!" and quickly made his way to them. "What happened?" Saavik looked an unpleasantly pale green, he decided, quickly suppressing his next concern of whether or not another one of his crew had turned up with something deadly.

O’Brien shook his head. "I don’t really know. She looked lost when she came in here, and picked up a breakfast entree she’d normally never touch. I knew something was wrong then and there."

Chekov looked up at Chief Petty Officer Grant, the deck manager. "Gary, can you add anything?"

"No, sir. Just hasn’t been a good morning. Looks like a lot of folks didn’t get much sleep last night," Grant answered. "Here come the medics."

"Funny, I didn’t get much sleep either," remarked O’Brien as he surrendered Saavik’s ministrations to the trained professionals.

Chekov raised an eyebrow. "Neither did I."

O’Brien cleared his throat. "Excuse me!" he addressed the crew gathered around them. "At the risk of sounding like a nosy reporter, can I ask if anyone here had a good night’s sleep?"

When no one answered, Chekov asked his question. "Did anyone have bad dreams?" Everyone present in the room raised their hands.

"Vwonderful," the captain mumbled. "Absolutely vwonderful."


"Doctor, at the risk of sounding like Kyptin Kirk, I vwant answers, and I vwant them now."

Commander Christine Chapel, R.N., O.D., Ph.D., looked up from her padd with controlled exasperation. "Captain Chekov, I am the chief medical officer of this starship. I am not our Creator, and despite the fact that some physicians think they’re our Creator, I know that I am not. I’m still hunting for exactly the same answers you’re asking for."

"Doctor...Christine, I am sorry. It is just that I did not get wvery much sleep either." He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.

"Last night, every member of this crew had a dream, usually involving some sort of loss of a loved one. This wvessel vwas bombarded by tachyons from an isolytic pulse vwe detected. I am asking if these events are related, and if there is any danger to this crew. If you don’t have an answer, fine. But at least give me an educated guess!"

She bowed her head and rubbed the side of her face with her hand. "Then my guess is that they are related. Isolytic weaponry which generates such pulses is forbidden by Intergalactic Accords because it’s so unpredictable as to what sort of effects will be experienced. For example, the Kalandan Outpost on Gamma 342 in star cluster M7 used an isolytic pulse to transport the original Enterprise nearly a thousand lightyears from its orbit above that artificial planet."

"Nine hundred ninety point seven to be precise, Doctor," came the profound voice of the man, of the Vulcan who once held the key to her heart and who never once dared to turn it.

"Mister Spock!" Chapel answered with a warm smile. She chuckled. "Why is it that whenever I approximate, you’re there with the precise figure?"

"Unknown, Doctor. But it is a question I’ve heard from time to time," he took in Chapel and Chekov with a quick glance, "by both of your predecessors. Surak himself said, ‘Timing is everything.’"

"Ah, I see. Everyvone alvways accuses me of twisting English expressions into Russian expressions, but do they make the same claim about Wvulcans?"

"I do not know, Captain." Spock raised an eyebrow. "Do they?" The Federation ambassador-at-large turned to Doctor Chapel. "I came to inquire about Saavik."

Chapel put it bluntly. "She’s not resting comfortably, she’s intimidating the nurses and doctors, and in general, she’s being a pain in the fanny." The doctor noticed the captain’s soft chuckle. "Fortunately, she’s not being as difficult as a certain starship commander is, otherwise, I’d give up my commission and move back to Canada."

"I would like to speak with her," Spock said, looking beyond her to the ward.

"Of course."


Ambassador Spock intently studied the face of the young woman before him. Illogically, it seemed as if it were only last week when he had rescued her from Hellguard. It seemed as if only a few days ago, they had said goodbye to Aunt Roberta Grayson together. It seemed as if only a day ago that she had chosen to accept an assignment on Vulcan. It seems as it were only this morning that she had purged herself of David Marcus’ katra.

Interesting, he wondered idly. Is this what Humans refer to as nostalgia?

He looked at the mediscanner readings. They were relatively normal. And yet none of them were exactly normal, even for a half-Romulan half-Vulcan woman. Her blood pressure, pulse rate and temperature were all higher than usual. Her enzyme production, blood filtration rate, and electrolyte levels were all lower than normal. Spock knew enough about the readings to come to the same diagnosis as Chapel had: Saavik hadn’t slept in the past twenty-eight hours and had not eaten breakfast.

She appeared to be in a meditative state, but the faint twitching of her nostrils indicated it was not a deep one. He made his decision, and spoke. "Saavik-kam."

Her eyelids snapped open, and she sat up suddenly. "Ambassador!"

He studied her expression, her Vulcan training unable to control her wildly emotional Romulan half.

"I beg forgiveness. I was visibly startled," she said, bowing her head slightly in supplication.

He tilted his head in unspoken forgiveness, as if there was anything to forgive. "Saavik-kam, how do you feel?"

He patiently waited for her to explain what had happened. After three point two minutes, she still had not said anything. "Humans are a curious race," Spock said. "They have enormous psionic potential, but they rarely utilize it. The psionic event of last night, however, was a reminder to them all of their innate abilities."

"Indeed?" she asked, puzzled.

"Indeed. Every single member of this ship who was asleep at the time of the event suffered what could only be described as a nightmare involving a tragic loss. Some off-duty personnel reported disturbing daydreams and recollections. A few on-duty personnel were affected as well, but..." His voice trailed off.

She studied his face. "But no one had as severely adverse of a reaction as I had."

"Correct." He raised an eyebrow, but she remained silent. "Saavik-kam," he dropped into Vulcan. "It is not logical to conceal that which has caused you harm."

"It’s not a matter of concealing anything, Spock-kam. I just don’t want to talk about it."

"And why not?"

"Because it was about David."

"Doctor Marcus?" His eyes narrowed. Had his katra not been truly released? No, highly unlikely. He witnessed and experienced the release himself. He decided to admit his own experience. "I, too, was affected."

"You were?"

"Vulcans are not impervious to psionic disturbances, Commander. In some instances, we are, if anything, that much more susceptible."

"Did you dream of Captain Kirk?"

"I did not dream. I was meditating when suddenly I felt a powerful presence. Immediately, I thought it might have been V’ger, but I have deduced it was not."

"Interesting. So we all experienced a dream of a lost loved one?"

"So it would appear, Saavik-kam."

"What could have caused it?"

"I have experienced such a level of psychic awareness before. My encounter with V’ger was one such instance. There have been others."

"And this...presence?"

"Unlike the others in any way I can determine. I find it interesting it should choose to manifest itself as V’ger in my mind."


"V’ger was incomplete, yet flawlessly logical. This manifestation does not appear to be logical. Merely alone. Perhaps even desperately lonely, if I may use an emotional term to describe the condition."

"And that’s certainly a condition that we as Vulcans would be unfamiliar with, is it not, Ambassador?" She smiled slightly, then put on her Vulcan mask. "Will Doctor Chapel release me at any time in the foreseeable future?"

"Unknown," the ambassador intoned dramatically. "She appears more interested in your welfare than you yourself admit to being." Spock’s lips twitched in an unseen smile. "I shall convey to the chief medical officer your desire to return to your duties."

"Thank you, Spock."

He raised an eyebrow. "One does not thank logic, Saavik-kam."

July 25th 2295

"Captain," shouted Chief Science Officer Roberta Vasquez, "I’m detecting another isolytic burst and a subsequent massive tachyon fountain. Contact in ten seconds!"

"Raise shields, sound red alert," ordered Chekov quickly. "Mister Ch’terr, are we under attack?"

The chief security officer had been pressed into duty at Saavik’s tactical station. "I do not belllieve so, sir," the Skorr replied. "It’s alllmost as if this was being cause by a naturalll phenomenon. Perhaps a heretofore unclllassified type neutron star."

The ship shuddered nosily. "Structural integrity is holding, Captain," reported Lieutenant Commander Katya Sorenson. "It’s not a significant threat to the ship, but it’s two orders of magnitude greater than what we encountered last night." She scanned the engineering boards. "I will say, though, that our warp systems have been affected. Complete disruption. It’ll take an hour or two to depolarize the engines. Damn." She made her way to the turbolift. "With your permission, sir, I’ll be in engineering."

The captain of the Enterprise nodded as his executive officer stepped forward from the communications bay. Uhura called across the bridge to the science officer, "Lieutenant Vasquez, you said this tachyon burst is a fountain? What exactly did you mean by that?"

"It’s a directional burst. The first isolytic pulse released a tachyon burst in all directions from the presumed center of the pulse. This second isolytic pulse has released a torrent of tachyons in our general direction. Not directly at us, per se, but in a conical pattern. And the point of origin for the pulse is three parsecs closer to our relative position."

Chekov’s eyes met Uhura’s. "As if somevwone is looking for us," the captain concluded. "Vwhich leads the question of ‘Vwhy?’"

The ship’s navigator, Lieutenant (j.g.) Escri, turned, his voder’s annoying voice filling the bridge. "Captain, excuse my interruption, but during the first tachyon wave, I felt...well, overwhelmed with a feeling of loss. This tachyon ‘fountain’ has not affected me at all."

"Me neither, Captain," said Mrs. Brooks, the ship’s weapons officer. "During the first wave, asleep in my quarters, I relived my husband’s death following a crash landing on Xiang Four. I couldn’t wake up, no matter how hard I tried. It was a devastating experience. During this fountain, I felt as if I weren’t the if whatever is behind this has chosen to ignore me."

Lieutenant Roberta Vasquez cocked her head at Brooks’ revelation. "Perhaps your question isn’t only ‘why’, Captain. Perhaps it’s also ‘who’?"

"Meaning," concluded Uhura, "that whatever it is, maybe it’s looking for..."

Chekov stood suddenly, and strode toward the turbolift. "I’ll be in Sickbay."


Saavik found herself in a forest...the same glade as she had shared with David Marcus’ katra. David was there again, this time with downed and colored wings spreading out from each shoulder blade. The water of the glade’s small lake danced beneath him as he went, leaving marked ripples where his feet passed. The shadings of the sunlight striking the water reflected upon his strong lean body in a cascade, the colors shimmered over his body, providing an illusion of clothes on his naked skin. Alighting gently upon the shore, he merely placed his feet down, and thereby caused all the forest to shake with his power, at his very presence. As if in answer to her every last unspoken question, the eyes flashed, and all she could see was his eyes. So piercing, so blue, as if they had the power to stun. They flashed brilliantly, blinding her, and she clenched her eyes tightly.

When she opened them, she found herself again in Sickbay with an obviously concerned Captain Chekov and Doctor Chapel standing over her.

"Saavik, are you are all right?" asked the doctor.

She had herself gathered quickly, yet she still seemed not quite herself as yet. "I am not unwell, Doctor Chapel."

"The people that saw you faint disagree with that precise assessment, Commander." His expression clearly indicated that he knew her vague answer was in itself an attempt at misdirection.

She looked at him as though holding a light glare in check. "There is the matter of my right to privacy, sir."

Chekov nodded, choosing to counter her objections by finding simple areas of agreement. "As I once told a friendly acquaintance of yours, Commander, rights are often defined by how we choose not to use them. Saavik, as the captain of the Enterprise, sometimes it is my duty and responsibility to ask my officers and crew to forego their right to privacy. I do not want to make this an order, and I will not. But it may give us some insight into what your dream was, and why you might think you are more adversely affected than any other member of the crew, and perhaps even what this source of energy might in fact be."

"Sir, I must take issue with your assessment of my condition. I do not know for a fact that I was any more affected than any other member of this crew."

The captain knew his tactical officer well, and knew also that only a calm, resolute firmness had a real chance of seeing this through. "I’m not an doctor, Saavik. But the one I have on hand tells me that my assessment is correct. You are on the verge of falling apart. Christine?"

Chapel pointed at the diagnostic display above her bio-bed. "Electrical activity of the brain showing decreasing coordination, and critical areas with diminishing amplitude. Blood pressure as low as I’ve ever seen it in a Vulcan. Electrolytes, fructose and assorted hormones and autocoid levels falling faster than I can corral them. Signs of no sleep for perhaps longer than I can measure."

Chekov sighed. "All clear signs, even to a layman, of a person falling apart, Saavik. And to be honest, so is this ship. The last isolytic pulse disrupted our vwarp systems. And unlike the first one which released a tachyon wave which may have led to dreams in every sentient being aboard this ship, this one released a tachyon fountain which appears to have affected no one. Unless it’s had an effect on you." He leaned forward, an earnest expression on his visage. "Doesn’t logic suggest that you tell me vwhat your dreams have been about?" His eyes narrowed. "You had another one, didn’t you?"

Retreating in the face of his question, Saavik spoke softly. "There was an angelic being. He greatly resembled a young man of our mutual acquaintance, a man who is no longer among the living. I have dreamt of him twice now, but I see no importance in this matter."

Chekov was forced to wonder about this statement, but kept that from showing on his face, or in his voice. He stuck to the facts at hand. "And this second dream occurred...?"

She was more willing to speak now, but only just. "You awakened me from it."

The bosun’s whistle sounded. "The tachyon beam has dissipated, Captain," reported Uhura. "We have navigation and impulse drive back on line."

"Warp drive?"

"Off-line, sir. Commander Sorenson reports that the warp field coils remain polarized. It’ll take a another hour or so to repair them."

"Understood. All senior officers to report to Briefing Room One in five minutes. Chekov out." He glanced down at Saavik. "Present company excepted, Commander." He looked at Chapel. "Join us, Doctor."

And when she was all alone, Saavik looked up, as though trying to catch sight of something she had lost a long time ago.


Chekov usually was the last one to arrive for a briefing. It was not out of some need to make a dramatic appearance; it was not some sort of power play. It was simply because the demands of his duties pressed him for every bit of attention they could have. But this time was an exception. He sat at the head of the large table in the big empty room and wondered if his crew had drawn the same conclusions he had. He reached forward and pressed a button on the comlink. "Captain to Spock. Please report to the briefing room immediately." He pressed it again. "Captain to Kirk. Please report to the briefing room immediately." He’d decided at the last minute to invite Spock due to the Vulcan’s invaluable experience and insight, and to invited Assistant Science Officer Kirk whose specialty was xenobiology.

Slowly, the senior officers of the Enterprise took their customary chairs. Chief Engineer Sorenson, Security Chief Ch’terr and Chief Science Officer Vasquez came in as quickly, some of them with padds in their hands. Chief Medical Officer Chapel came in with a handful of disks, followed closely by Ambassador Spock and Lieutenant Kirk, the latter who looked as tired as everyone else present.

Chekov furled his eyebrows in concern. Usually, Peter Kirk was brimming with energy. The fact that he was clearly fatigued doubly brought home the crisis at hand. As they moved to sit down, the captain spoke to his younger friend. "Trouble sleeping, Peter?"

"No, sir. My experience occurred well before I first tried to go to sleep."

Tried, thought the captain. That surely said it all, at least based on what they knew thus far. He hoped to change that. He hoped they’d find a way to try.

Finally, Uhura came in and took her seat. "Mrs. Brooks has the conn, sir," she reported, sitting at Chekov’s right.

"All right, everyone. Vwe are beginning to see evidence of a guiding hand behind all this. We even have a notion about who might be the primary target"—all eyes in the room glanced toward the empty chair at Chekov’s left side—"but we have no idea for its motive, and vwe lack the means to end this situation. So quickly tell me what you feel is the best vway to do just that."

"Captain, we are under attack. That much is obvious." Ch’terr spoke much as one might expect a security chief to. "If there is a guiding hand, lllop it off. Better stillll, find the guiding head and do the same."

"So we’re to shoot first, and ask questions later, Lieutenant?" asked Uhura.

"And how’re we supposed to do that, Ch’terr?" snapped Sorenson. "This thing is technologically more advanced than us. How do you propose we take it on and lop off its head without getting swallowed like a worm?"

The Skorr’s feathered wings dropped, and his plumage was tinged with the silver coloring his race had for regret. "I’m sorry. It’s just..." He glanced at the empty chair again. "I have come to regard Lllieutenant Commander Saavik as my friend."

"We all have," said Vasquez, sympathetically. "What’s obvious is that whatever is generating this force is trying to communicate with us, or at least one of us. It just doesn’t know how to do it effectively. Give me and my people some time, and we’ll find the means that gets our message heard."

Ambassador Spock gently shook his head. "That, Mister Vasquez, presupposes both that contact may be truly initiated from our side, and that this force is not already aware of precisely what it is doing. In fact, much evidence exists to the contrary. This force is being generated by a being with designs on one of our crew."

"Then it’s malllevolllent," Ch’terr chirped. "We must protect our tacticalll officer at allll costs. She has information that could compromise Starfllleet security."

"I don’t get the impression that it’s up to no good," remarked Commander Uhura.

Spock nodded. "I have not received the slightest impression that malevolence is guiding its actions either."

Kirk brought his head up and looked challengingly at the Vulcan. "We have to stop it. Whether its actions are in defense or offense, whether it’s aware or unaware of what it’s doing to us, to Saavik, we have to stop it. Now. No matter its intentions. This crew is bearing the brunt of its actions, and in case it’s slipped everyone’s notice, Saavik is in harm’s way. I don’t care if she’s the chief tactical officer or the chief bottle washer and cook. Whatever or whoever is responsible for this unprovoked attack on her has to be stopped."

There was a very brief silence, following these words. Perhaps this was not the answer anyone had expected of Kirk, Chekov reasoned, because he certainly hadn’t. "Bluntly stated, Mister Kirk. Yet perhaps you are correct. As Doctor Chapel here vwill surely agree, a cure for a disease is almost vworthless if in the meantime, the patient expires from a high fever."

Chapel now spoke as well. "And speaking of patients and tactical officers, I’m still at a near total loss as to why Lieutenant Commander Saavik has succumbed in such a wholly unique way. There are obviously other Vulcans and strong psi-positives on board. Blood-work, gene-scans, and none of it tells me a thing as to why this one woman is the only one needing constant care in Sickbay." She slipped a disk into her comlink, and a chart appeared on the wall screen. "Look at this: her vital signs are ebbing. I give her twelve hours at most before she’s dead."

"Could she be placed in stasis?" asked Sorenson. "It would have the advantage of stabilizing her condition."

"It could also enrage whatever is doing this to her and us," Uhura warned.

Ch’terr twitched his beak, just a bit. "If it is an entity, and if it is contacting her, then finding a way to reverse the signalll through her brain could give us a means of attacking it."

Vasquez raised a finger. "Or send it just enough of a jolt to make it aware, if we fail at communicating with it. You know, this could be part of her mixed nature. The controlled side arguing with the uncontrolled side. After all, if Romulans are like Vulcans once were, that’d make them even more emotional than Humans. Maybe this...whatever this is is splitting her into two."

Spock almost sighed. "Having great familiarity with both a dual-heritage conflict and the officer in question, I, of course, disagree. This may tie in to an experience of which I am not free to speak. Still, she may have to yield all this up, as we seek to better understand this unique situation."

If Kirk’s attention had seemed off before, he now looked both fully engaged and somewhat flustered. "I don’t believe this! We all agree that Commander Saavik is at issue, yet here you all are talking about her, behind her, and around her. You’re doing everything except talking to her. Ambassador, she is your ward. Captain, she is your friend, not to mention a vital officer that it's clear you depend upon. So why is she not a part of this conversation? Instead, Saavik is being debated like she, not the source of the isolytic pulses, were the untouchable anomaly."

He wasn’t shouting, although he was close to it. Chekov also wondered what had him so visibly upset. "Lieutenant, I wvalue your input, but you’re vway off base here. Don’t you think that the wvery first thing I did vwas try and speak to Saavik? She vwould not talk to me, except to give wvague clues about an angelic being in her dreams. I cannot include her in this discussion when she excludes herself by not talking to me."

Lieutenant Kirk then stood up. "Well, she’s sure as hell going to talk to me! Captain, may I have your permission to go and speak with her?"

Chekov was a bit thrown off by this display, as shown by his next words. "If you think it's going to do any good, certainly. But Peter, she’s being vwery difficult..."

Peter Kirk was out the briefing room door before his captain could finish.

All stared a bit at the door, until Ch’terr broke the silence. "They’ve become somewhat clllose. So I’llll give ten to one odds that she onllly breaks his lllegs."

Vasquez smiled. She had commented to her captain on how many surprises her new assistant held. "I’ve seen Pete and her go at it in the gym. So I’ll suggest that Doctor Chapel may need to call for the body bags."

Doctor Chapel shrugged. "At least they’ll both already be in Sickbay."

Captain Chekov weighed some factors in his head. "I give him a fifty-fifty chance. Of vwhat exactly, I am not at all certain."

Ambassador Spock made something of a prediction. "There will be no conflict. She will listen to his words." All stared at the peacemaker, who then added, "Of course, that is only my best estimate."


As he entered the Sickbay, Peter Kirk suddenly realized that he could have easily offended the captain by stalking off as he did. Captain Chekov had recently granted him the privilege of actually calling him Pavel, when in private. Upsetting a man who had always been there for him was neither helpful nor desirable to a young officer with a checkered past.

But the sudden attack on Saavik had brought certain feelings to the forefront, and ignoring such strong feelings had always proven disastrous for him in the past. Given the fact that the senior staff were all talking around and about the chief tactical officer instead of to her, he felt he had no choice but to act. "Commander?"

She was asleep again, and sudden naps were neither typical of Vulcans in general nor Saavik in particular. He at first took note of her beauty, then reminded himself why he was there. A bit startled, though not seemingly by his presence, Saavik woke up. She looked over at who sat next to her bio-bed. "Lieutenant, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be addressing the current emergency?"

He spoke the simple truth, for such was the only thing that could see him past the obstacles she would throw up at him, as surely as she had Captain Chekov. "In a way, Commander, that’s exactly what I’m doing."

Her face turned downward, just a bit. "The captain sent you."

Again, he responded with simple truth. "Nope. Heck, I’m not entirely sure he even wants me to be in here, Commander. I do know that he wants to help you. As do I. I also know that since we’re operating with almost no information about this force we’re facing, by definition, almost any information, no matter how seemingly obscure, could be vital to the captain as he helps the ship, its crew—and again, helps you."

No theorizing or speculating, he told himself. In order to deal with the nervous energies of tense situations, he had in the past leaped the boundaries of his chosen profession. Sometimes, he had even shown real flashes of near-genius. But he couldn’t afford a tangent here. Her next words confirmed that as nothing else could.

"I require no help save the rest that I have in fact been receiving in Sickbay. Both you and Captain Chekov are to be lauded for your concern, Mister Kirk. But it is a misplaced concern."

"Is it? Last time I saw readings jump around like that, not too long after I was mourning Demora Sulu. I don’t know what all those readings mean. But I do know they are supposed to be a mite more stable."

Having been engaged to a doctor, Peter, in fact, had a better-than-average idea what all the readings meant, even if he still lacked the knowledge to do anything with what they showed. But his current dilemma was Saavik, and so he used what he did know well, rather than what he only knew in passing. Her resistance was as yet considerable.

"Lieutenant..." She stopped, and then offered up a bit of a surprise as she resumed, "Peter. One of the aspects of our brief acquaintance that I have enjoyed the most has been the lines of demarcation we established early on. We excluded the difficulties of our childhoods and then the Academy from our discussions. Unlike so many on this ship, or that we have both known, we do not stumble over subjects that one may wish to speak upon when the other clearly does not. In each other’s company, I feel strongly that we both know contentment and even real peace."

Finding nothing to object to, Kirk nodded as he responded, "You’ve stated my feelings almost exactly."

A frown formed on her face. A true frown. Not a frown that one needed to know Vulcans to detect, either. This was a frown by any standard. "Then know that, by pursuing any more private information from me, you are acting to jeopardize what I would even call a friendship, given time."

Perhaps, he thought, but I’m betting you’re just trying to up the ante. Yet without meaning to play any sort of game, Peter found the means to raise and call her bluff without any real effort, save on the part of the butterflies that had seized control of his stomach. "Actually, Saavik, I already consider you to be my friend. Perhaps even a close friend. So let me tell you, my friend, that I am very very scared that I will soon be attending a memorial service for you. As you might well imagine, I feel I’ve attended more than enough of them this past year. I’m a little bit tired of coming to care for people only to have them snatched away in a ridiculously short amount of time.

"But here’s the more positive part: I don’t believe I have to say a final farewell to you, just yet. Part of me believes that the key to helping you and maybe all of us lies in you yielding up the full imagery seen in your dream." Maybe, just maybe, he had gotten through to her. Yet Peter could tell none of this by her sudden surge of recalcitrance.

"I have expressed a desire to be left alone, and to have my privacy maintained. Must I phrase it as a direct order, Lieutenant?"

For all the whispers about her Romulan temper, and for all the sometimes-cruel asides about her reputation in Starfleet, Peter felt he knew there was a woman in Saavik who should not be pushed. While not mercurial, her anger, when it surfaced, was no less formidable or frightening than his own. Yet Kirk was still thrown off when Saavik took her right hand and balled it into a fist. Though she never moved to strike him, the mere sight of a Vulcan forming a fist was unnerving in the extreme.

"Your offer of help is rejected. Now please remove yourself, or I will call Security."

Instinct took him over at the oddest times. Not battle instinct, or problem-solving instinct. Interpersonal instinct. It had happened when he reconciled with Jim. It had happened when he finally learned to cope with Princess Teresa’s relative lack of modesty around those she trusted. It happened now. Grasping his hand fully around a fist capable of killing him instantly, he gave it a gentle, supportive squeeze. For a bare moment, both stared at this oddity, before he released her hand, now no longer making a fist, and pulled back.

Peter felt ashamed. For an exobiologist to violate one of the simplest known cautions when dealing with a member of one of the two major species in the Federation was close to unforgivable. "I’m sorry, Commander. I’m so very, very sorry. I have no idea why I did that."

For her part, Saavik did not call Security or the captain. That she was upset was beyond question, for that look was all her face. But she took that upset in a totally unexpected direction. "You choose to engage in random personal contact. You desire to have me reveal my innermost dreams on the excuse of protecting myself and this ship. Well, Lieutenant? Where are your dreams? What is it that you desire to keep to yourself? You expect this exposure of me. But what did you see, when this phenomenon struck the crew?"

On some levels, what she asked of him was almost childish. But inherent within that old childish game was trust, right along with silly titillation. Ignoring the latter and embracing the former, he gave her what she asked for--demanded, really. He gave it freely, and without real hesitation. "It was like the legend of Orpheus, if you know that one. As I studied the star and its energies at the Science Station, I heard a ball bouncing. I heard two boys laughing. It was Jimmy and Davie McCoy. I heard their mother tell them to keep it down. I then heard Jim tell them to go with him. They laughed, and Scotty was there, too. I started hearing them all. Demora. My Academy roommates. My folks. Behind me was a huge get-together of everyone I’d ever lost."

The anger was now gone from her eyes, perhaps replaced by concern. "Did you turn around?"

A few tears came out of his eyes as he looked directly at her. "Yeah. Yeah, I turned around. And when I did, Bucky asked me what had been holding my attention, all that time. She had been waiting to relieve me for twenty minutes. All because I never wanted to turn around, Saavik. Because I wanted to spend the rest of my days believing that they were all right around the corner, just outside of my vision. I’ve had trouble turning around ever since."

Her condition had been met, and yet what she had to speak on involved no petticoats or hidden flesh. Just all that she really had. Even with this, she stopped and gave him something more. "Thank you, Peter. I am honored by your...openness. In my recent vision, I saw an angel as in my previous vision, the one I only told the captain a little of. This one danced wildly upon a lake, and he was beautiful to me. He was...he was David Marcus."

Peter nodded. "My cousin."

What happened next Saavik would later be able to provide no better explanation that Peter would for grasping her hand. "My bondmate."

His jaw dropped, and she seemed almost as stunned, at hearing her own voice say the words. Yet they had been said, and could not be taken back. Nor would either of them wish that this should be so.

The gate open, Saavik kept on. "Before I awoke to find you here...I saw him yet again as I slept. He was dancing, dancing like a felinoid upon the stairs of an ancient castle. As if he were a prince, with flowing purple robes, all very noble and very, very ancient, and yet childlike and full of wonder. There was a beating of drums..." Her eyes became glassy.

The ship’s red alert klaxon blared, startling Kirk.

"And now I see him," Saavik said slowly, pointing shakily, almost as if in a stupor. "He’s there in the star, looking down at us... He’s all alone."

Kirk stepped to the comlink. "Kirk to Captain Chekov."

The captain answered, the earlier annoyance in his voice swallowed entirely by concern. "Chekov here. Are you two all right?"
"I was about to ask you the same. Are we under attack, sir?"

"There is a tachyon beam directed at the Enterprise. We have the shields up, but they’re proving largely ineffective. The beam is a tight one, concentrated on Sickbay itself."

Peter looked over at her, still pointing at nothing. His heart began to race, fit to burst. "Saavik seems to be in contact with it, sir. Whatever it is, she says it needs her."

"Intruder alert! Intruder alert!" blared the computer’s warning.

Kirk could hear Spock’s voice on the comlink. "Captain, the entity behind this force is here. Aboard this vessel. It wants Saavik."

"Peter, vwe’re on our way! Stay vwith her! Ch’terr! Get me a squad down there on the double!"

Kirk immediately sat back down beside her, fighting the urge to again take her hand or stroke her hair. "They’ll be here soon."

She closed her eyes, and began to shake violently. "Peter! Are you still here? You promised you wouldn’t leave me."

So as not to have his hand crushed by her spasms, the lieutenant placed his palm over the top of her hand, and pressed only a little. "I’m right here. I won’t leave you."

She stopped shaking, and opened her eyes. "He is here as well. He has come for me."

He looked around. "Who? The captain? The ambassador?"

She looked directly at him, seemingly comforted by his presence. "My angel."

"I don’t see any angels, Saavik. And I don’t hear any heavenly choirs singing," Kirk answered. "It’s only a dream, Saavik. Fight it!"

He took her hand in hers. Let her break the damn thing, he thought. "Saavik, keep focused on me. Feel my hand. It’s real. Stay with me."

As though in protest of his calling the situation unreal, the quiet sickbay shifted and took on the atmospherics of a monsoon. Kirk was slammed against the far wall. Shaking his head to clear the cobwebs, he saw a portal of energy appear over her bio bed and small energy bolts destroy the restraining straps. He stepped forward as Saavik was drawn upward into it. Her Romulan half in control, she looked confused as if trying to decide whether she should laugh, cry or scream.

Climbing onto her bio-bed as she vanished, Peter jumped for the hovering portal, shouting as he entered. "You can’t have her! Saavik, hold on!"

And with that, they were both gone.


The darkness had passed, and to Peter Kirk, he felt as if he were standing within the sun itself. They were in a large crystalline chamber, a solar furnace blazing outside. More, a man Peter knew and could never forget, probably even if he were mind-sifted, stood near them both. Except for shocks of graying hair and a moustache, he was nearly a twin for his younger brother, and like James Kirk, he was Peter’s greatest hero.

"Leave her with us, son. We’ll take care of her, now. But you have to go. You don’t belong here."

The very solid, very real-seeming image of George Samuel Kirk, Jr., may have had many intended purposes for use in interacting with Sam’s son Peter, most likely for deceiving him. But no matter what had been behind its conception, its creator could not have anticipated the reaction it generated.

"How dare you?!" Kirk’s face shifted from confusion over the situation and concern for Saavik to an aspect of pure rage. He pointed at what his eyes told him was his long-dead father. "End this illusion. My father is dead. And if you dare assume the form of anyone else I’ve known, I swear to God that all your power won’t protect you!"

The image spoke again while shifting from Sam Kirk to David Marcus. The transition almost caused an echo as the empty boast was slapped down with one word. "Unlikely."

Saavik now moved near him, as his aspect shifted ever closer to what could only be described as an angel of immense power.

"Say your prayers," the angel said to Kirk, suddenly throwing him through the air to land against the crystalline wall of the chamber that the lieutenant couldn’t even see. It was hot to the touch, and burned him as he slid down to the floor.

"David, no!" Saavik cried.

Kirk quickly recovered and put himself in harm’s way, between Saavik and her angel. "Saavik, this is not David. I don’t know who or what he is, but he’s not David Marcus."

The true likeness of the being swelled up before him, distinctly felinoid, somewhat like a Vedala, but far more spry despite it clearly being immensely older than the oldest of that ancient starfaring race. "No, Saavik-kam. I am not David Marcus," it said. "And I am not an angel either. I’m merely someone who’s incredibly, impossibly alone." Its eyes shone with that raw emotion. "I have found within you a kindred spirit, one who is also lonely, and tormented by a great loss."

His poor position clearer than ever, Peter tried to reason with the being. "She is not yours! She has her own life to live. What you seek to do is–"

Kirk felt his mouth slam shut, quite against his will. The being glared. "Do not presume, primitive, to know my thoughts. The emptiness of her soul will be filled by me. She will complete me, and I her."

The lieutenant spun around and willed his mouth to move. "Saavik, listen to me. This thing has tricked you. Now it wants you to be one with it; it wants your entire life to spend as its own." He spun back around. "You can’t have her, you hear me? She’s got her own life."

"To do with as she pleases," conceded the alien. "I will let her make the decision."

Kirk shook his head. "Not right now. You’ve weakened and confused her. Deceived her. Used her loss to enervate her. We all know loneliness..." He felt himself batted back, against nothing at all, by nothing at all.

The entity now had a glare of its own, a good deal scarier than Kirk’s ever was. "When I brushed you, child, I felt the touch of so very many souls. You are never alone. You have never known loneliness. Know it now."

Kirk felt his gut relocate to his legs. He felt his legs give way beneath him. He felt the skin on his face constrict. He felt alone, as though he was the sole survivor not of one planet, but of an entire cosmos. All around him was nothing, containing no one at all.

Shaking, he looked up at the alien. "I’m sorry. Didn’t know. You’re—so alone."

The creature seemed almost satisfied, but not quite. "Know that what you tasted was not my aloneness. But Saavik’s. Do you understand now why she belongs with me?"

Almost unable to think, Kirk tried one last bit of reason. "You are ancient, far older than her race and mine. Her life will be at best, three hundred years. Can you extend her life?"

The alien shook its head. "No, that is for the Originator of Life."

Kirk stepped forward. "After she passes, you will be alone again, and feel it even worse than you did before. "

Less angry now, and perhaps a trifle less strident towards its lesser, the being gently shook its head. "The memory of our time together will last me long beyond her meager lifespan. Now, we will depart. You may not stop us."

Unable now to even look up, Kirk tried a desperate tack. "Don’t take her. It’s not fair."

"Perhaps, not. Existence itself is not always fair," it responded, "but I must not be alone any longer. My need must be met, and so it will."

Just then, a voice, strong, calm and clear, emerged through the ether. "To place a want, need or desire over the sacred right to determine one’s own not logical."

To Saavik, torn in two directions, he appeared in the Romulan robes he had worn when he took her from Hellguard. To Peter Kirk, he appeared as the blue-tunicked titan that was his uncle’s good right arm.

Without wasting any words, Spock looked the entity squarely in the eyes. "Are you, sir, at all aware of the immense distress that you have caused?"

Spock’s words couldn’t be plainer or more reasoned. What Peter Kirk had merely played at with the alien, the master now brought to a crescendo. After all, he was Spock.

"It was not my intention to cause Saavik any discomfort. I desire only her company, and her happiness in my company. Together, we will not be alone."

Sometimes, the alien’s mouth moved. Other times, it spoke merely in thoughts, as though the spoken word was more effort than it cared to yield up, even in pursuit of its stated goal.

Spock of course had no such predilection. "I speak of far more than discomfort, and of far more than Saavik. Your search has brought this starship to a sudden stop. It has also caused grief to surface where it had been well buried." He pointed to Peter, "That young man alone has experienced..."

"I will not weep for him! Nor for you, whose mind contains even deeper touches by even more souls than he! Nor for the others aboard your vessel whose lives were only briefly inconvenienced by our encounter."

Spock stayed on his subject. "I take offense at your casual attitude toward mental probes that burrow so deep and so painfully. Thus you have harmed more than these two young people that I care for, but the entire crew of our ship, and you offend me further by your selfish desire to take one of them away forever."

The creature now seemed vaguely Kzinti-like as its face formed a deep snarl. "I showed the child only Saavik’s loneliness. Now know mine."

Spock merely nodded as the wave of thoughts hit. "I have known such before, as your mind-brush must have told you. Now I ask that you see all I did, upon contacting V’ger."

Spock made no attack. He merely thought of that incredible moment, from nearly drowning in V’ger’s being, to grasping his Jim Kirk’s hand in recognition of all they had that this being did not. The alien actually seemed a bit stunned.

Spock continued, "Not aloneness, as you have endured. But an apartness of a different kind."

The felinoid entity shook its head, not wishing to acknowledge this turn. It was now speaking again.

"I have the right to seek an end to my isolation! I have the right to not be alone!"

Peter Kirk stepped forward. "You just asserted that life itself was not always fair. I agree. But it may be your lot in life to live alone."

"That may or may not be true." Spock tilted his head. "As to whether or not you have a right not to be alone, I choose not. But that right cannot be allowed to supercede the rights of others. That is plainly what you have done. To this ship. To its crew. To this young man. And most especially to Saavik. Your loneliness and time apart does not make you a monster. Your present actions to alleviate that loneliness may, however, accomplish just that. Saavik does not wish your company. She does wish the company of her angel, but she may not have that angel. For he is a lie. Worse, he is a lie that is bait for a sinister trap."

The alien, now plainly shaken, looked over at Saavik. He saw her help Peter Kirk to his feet. Yet she still looked over at the place where her angel had been, and she looked terribly afraid and confused. "What have I done? What have I become? But doesn’t she need me, as much as I need her?"

Saavik’s looks were more and more focused on her very Human would-be rescuer. "Peter?" she asked again as if trying to come out of whatever trance the alien held her in.

Spock tried to offer the lonely being a way out. "You have helped her. By showing her that what she has is good enough."

The alien nodded in concession. "You are...wise, for someone of so few years in age."

Tears streaming down his face, the solar chamber washed away in his tears, and all were standing in Sickbay. The alien, now more pitiful in appearance, like a nearly starved cat caught in a flash flood, stood in the center of the ward. Peter Kirk at its side, Spock facing it from the front, and an almost delirious Saavik to its left.

Chekov, Ch’terr and several armed security men were one and all ignored as the alien looked at Saavik one last time. "I sought you out because you and I are kindred spirits. My loneliness has consumed me, and I am a pitiful fool." It regarded her with sad but loving eyes. "Do not let it consume you, Saavik, as it has me."

Oddly, for all his dismissive and contemptuous talk, the alien looked at Peter with kindness as well. "You will care for her?"

Perhaps a bit defiantly, but mainly out of concern, Kirk responded, "If that is her choice."

Perhaps having gotten sight of something that he had long ago lost, the former angel vanished entirely, and was not seen again.

"No!" moaned Saavik.

It could have been the experience itself. It could have been sheer exhaustion, almost literally on a cosmic level. It could have been the sight of her angel fading away for all time, leaving her with not even the illusion of eternal togetherness. Whatever truly triggered it, the event itself was apparent. Saavik began to sob heavily, crying as she hadn’t even at Spock’s funeral. That same man, whose life she had played a vital part in restoring and who was the closest thing she had to a father, lightly opened his arms, preparing to hold her, publicly and without shame.

But it was the arms of another she sought. For she was no longer a child. A shocked Peter Kirk held her in turn. For a moment, his face regressed four years, and the released felon on probation asked Spock through his eyes if this was to be allowed. If Spock’s eyes could have spoken, they would have reminded Peter that it was not four years ago, and that he approved. Somehow, the message was conveyed, anyway.

"Saavik, it’s all right now. It hurts, but you made the right choice. You rejected the comforting lie that he was offering. You chose what was real. You chose what we have here."

She looked at him, still badly off-center. "And what do we have, Peter?"

At times, he tried so hard to have the answers. But he didn’t have them all, nor did he ever pretend otherwise. Not with her. "I don’t know. But it’s more than I ever dared to imagine. Stop your crying, and hold on to what we’ve got."

Peter Kirk held her for several minutes, ignoring the security concerns of Ch’terr and Chekov.

Doctor Chapel directed each of them straight into waiting bio-beds, nearby each other. "You two workaholics are off duty, understand?"

The lieutenant had said a number of things that day, that one might think he would never say at all. But then and there, he said something that threw his very status as a Kirk into some question: "Whatever you say, Doctor."

July 26th 2295

It was a little past midnight, ship’s time, and they were seated in the forward recreation deck, playing three dimensional chess. Spock had a pot of Vulcan herb tea, and Chekov had an icy cold bottle of vodka, from which he occasionally would pour a small shot for himself. The weekly chess match was something Spock had suggested to his former pupil, and it was an event to which Chekov eagerly looked forward.

"How little is truly known of the soul or katra, despite the immense lore from Vulcan’s experience, and that of the Human experience," remarked Spock to Captain Chekov. It had been the first words the ambassador had uttered since the match had begun half an hour ago.

Chekov smiled. "How little is truly known of love, Ambassador."

Spock met the Enterprise captain’s eyes."You’re speaking of Saavik and Peter. Tell me, will Peter’s abrupt departure from the staff meeting be met with any sort of disciplinary action?"

Unsure of precisely where the ambassador was taking this query, Chekov merely answered with firm candor. "Nyet. Penda and I spoke with him about it, and he apologized. When one considers how seriously he takes any hint of upbraiding, I believe that vwill be more than sufficient. Also, he vwas as exhausted as any of us, and gravely concerned for Saavik. Add to that the being’s sheer power. It is not outside the realm of possibility that he vwould have discarded Enterprise like wrapping paper, once he took Saavik. By delaying matters until you arrived, his actions may have helped save this ship."

Spock shook his head. "The entity was not malevolent. Yet, I must concede, its sense of disconnect from the consequences of its actions did allow for a far grimmer conclusion to these events. Our young friend therefore proved very pivotal. Indeed. How little we know of love. Yet you seemed not at all taken aback that he would risk so much for her."

"Dos hartz hot mir gezogt." The captain shrugged, and seeing the Vulcan’s raised eyebrow, repeated the Yiddish expression in English. "‘My heart told me.’ I expected it, in fact. But you..."

Spock sighed. "Yes, I was somewhat surprised. They are going to make quite a unique couple."

Chekov laughed. "That they are." He glanced out the forward port. "Any other observations on her...angel?" He moved a bishop to the second level. "Check."

"An immensely old and lonely being. Sadly, not the first we’ve encountered, and likely not the last. I think back to Apollo, Flint, Kukulkan, V’ger..."

"All virtually immortal, are they not?"

Spock nodded, moving a rook to the third level, countering the captain’s check, but it was a purely defensive maneuver.

"Then perhaps that’s the key," suggested Chekov. "The shorter the life, the greater the need to touch as many others as one can. The longer-lived races are generally less passionate than the shorter-lived ones."

"A matter of natural selection," the Vulcan suggested.

"Perhaps, both."

The bosun’s whistle sounded, and Lieutenant Buchanan’s voice came over the speakers. "Bridge to Captain."

"Chekov here," he answered, moving a queen into "Checkmate," he whispered.

"Sir, we’ve detected a solar collapse in progress."

"Does it present a danger to the Enterprise?"

"No, sir. It’s just...well, it coincides with the source of the isolytic pulses and tachyon bursts."

Spock leaned back in the chair, and templed his fingers in contemplation.

Chekov himself felt his heart grow heavy for an instant. "Maintain monitoring. Let me know if it presents any danger to the ship, Lieutenant."

"Yes, Captain. Sorry to have bothered you."

"It’s no bother, Bucky. Chekov out." The captain looked across the table as he poured himself a large shot. "Care to join me, Ambassador?"

"I believe that I will." Chekov poured the fine icy vodka into Spock’s cup.

"Le’chayim," the Vulcan said, raising his teacup in a toast.

"Indeed," Chekov answered, "to life. And to those we love."

The two in question sat together on the forward observation deck. Perhaps another day would find them in a far more private, perhaps even intimate circumstance. Perhaps another day would find them singing to each other. Perhaps another day would yield up the wealth of secrets that are only shared with that one and only person. The one event of note came when her tired head found rest on his shoulder.

For now, they merely sat together, and reveled in what it meant to be young.

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