DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Karen A. Bates and is reprinted from Nuages Five, published by Checkmate Press, 1986. Checkmate Press is the property of Karen A. Bates. This story is Rated PG-13.

Christine/Christine: Part Three

Karen A. Bates


Pulling the furs closer, Christine nestled deeper into their warmth, shutting out the bright Vulcan sunlight that filtered through the window shading. In another hour the desert night air would be dissipated and the broiling heat of the day would be upon her. If only there was some respite from this interminable sun...

Coming awake, she moved her hand to locate the body next to her, caressing it and reveling in its warmth. Even after three months on Vulcan with Spock, she still amazed herself that she could remain with one man for so long a time. Not since her youth when she'd used the Commander of the Outpost as her ticket off the dead end planet had she been with one person more than a single night. Until now.

Spock awoke at the touch of Christine's hand. His choice of consort had been a good one. She was cool and efficient by day and passionate by night. Each day was a revelation of what a relationship could involve. Pulling her close, he rolled onto her, pinning her to the bed.

"Off me!" She pushed against his chest, getting nowhere with the effort.

"It was you who awakened me," Spock reminded her.

"Since I was up, there was no reason you should be allowed to be lazy and sleep the day away," she argued. "Besides, you know how prompt Sek is."

"Let him wait."

* * *

Today was little different from any of the other days of the last three months. Spock had flexed his new political powers, testing the power and control he wielded over the Empire. The consolidation Sarek had attempted and Stonn pursued but never achieved, was now his. The Warrior Caste supported and protected him on Vulcan; the starships performed his bidding, albeit begrudgingly. It was only a matter of time before they, too, were completely in his dominion.

Christine slipped away from the throne room as yet another dispute came under debate. How Spock could withstand the constant protocol and decision-making was beyond her. She preferred to spend her time with the Vulcan healers and exploring the planet. Her grasp of the language, both written and spoken was still rudimentary, but there would come a time when the recorded knowledge of the archives would be available to her.

Sek walked beside her as she headed for the gardens. He was her constant companion while Spock was in session. Other members of the Caste guarded him in the massive throne room, leaving Sek to guard his consort. Although unsure of him at first, Christine had found him to be an intelligent and educated companion. He was not as brilliant as Spock, but more than her equal nonetheless.

Her problem at the moment was boredom. Something she rarely encountered. There were no demands upon her, no crises to deal with, no immediate danger to her person or position. It was an uncomfortable feeling because of its newness. Another month of this kind of life and she would be climbing the proverbial walls.

Her personal life with Spock, when they found time to be together, was wonderful. The remainder of the time was the pits. It was funny, Christine mused, that she would realize it today. She also understood there was little to be done at the moment to alter the situation.

"You seem troubled," Sek observed. He'd come to know her well in the last few months and recognized something was bothering her.

"Just bored," Christine replied. "I've spent my entire life living on the edge, now, everything is too comfortable and predictable."

"I understand." And indeed he did. Sek had spent his life learning to fight and survive -- it was what he did best. Now his life was sedentary

"What about you? All you do is stand watch over me day in and day out. Surely you must be bored with my company by now."

"Negative. However, the inactivity is unsettling," he admitted reluctantly. In truth he did enjoy her company. She was unlike anyone he'd ever known.

"I'd settle for starship duty right now to relieve the tedium. Surely Spock would not object to my resuming the post of Chief Medical Officer on the Enterprise," she conjectured. "At least until things have settled down for him."

"Perhaps if I volunteered to accompany you as bodyguard," Sek offered. Even life on a starship would be preferable at this point.

"You are bored!" she laughed, for the first time that day. "Then it's settled. I'll ask him tonight."

* * *

Spock listened silently as Christine outlined her plan to resume her post on the Enterprise, taking Sek with her as bodyguard. He had known this day would come. His duties as Emperor were too confining right now to allow her the freedom to which she was accustomed. In six months things would be different, permitting him to leave Vulcan and travel at will. She would be in no danger as Sek would protect her at the cost of his own life.

"How long did you wish to be gone?"

"Three months or so," she projected. "I dislike the thought of being away from you, but it would allow me independence, something I don't have here on Vulcan. You said yourself, Vulcan has only accepted human women as chattel in the past. They can no more accept me as your consort than they accepted Stonn's patricide of Sarek."

"Will you return?" What if she found her freedom among the stars preferable to life with him under the present restrictions?

"Unless you tell me otherwise." Thank goodness she had found a man who didn't try to possess her. So many others had tried, and failed, over the years. Spock was possessive in a sense, but not in way that made her feel restricted.

"I want you to return." he said, realizing she needed to hear the words asking for her return, yet knowing the decision would ultimately he her own. The bonding, withheld from all others, but given freely to Christine would join them even across the distance of space and time.

* * *

It was another two weeks before the Enterprise was in orbit around Vulcan. The orders to divert to Vulcan had come through the channels, implying the stop to be routine. Christine had no desire to return to the ship under any pretenses. The less anyone knew of her relationship to the Emperor, the better. Few outside of Vulcan knew the Emperor had a consort. Vulcan was reticent to divulge the leader of the ruling race had chosen a mere human for his companion.

A wave of familiarity swept over her as she perused the sickbay and staff. The Chief Physician who'd replaced her had been transferred at the last stopover before Vulcan, allowing Christine to board ship in her former capacity.

* * *

Christine settled into the routine without effort, inwardly pleased at the daily responsibilities and stress. The animosity from M'Benga was comfortable, even the defiant attitudes of the head nurse was a welcome relief from the impersonal slights she'd received on Vulcan. She could feel Spock through the bond, reveling in his nearness, yet enjoying her freedom from Vulcan.

Although it puzzled those who noticed, Sek was eventually accepted as a permanent presence next to Christine. There were conjectures of a relationship between them, but after a single crewman overhead making a snide remark concerning Christine's activities, ended up with a broken arm and leg, nothing more was said on the subject -- in public.

Sek took his position and duties seriously, accompanying Christine daily, and sleeping in an adjoining room at night. He was especially vigilant when her presence was required on landing duty. At first, security resented this intrusion, but came to accept and even welcome him when his skills as a fighter were evidenced more than once.

* * *

"Something wrong, Christine?" Sek inquired, noticing the look on her face. It was the third time in as many hours the expression on her normally placid features had registered disgust and anger.

"Those bungling fools botched every single test," she replied, tossing the last of the damaged samples aside. "That ion storm's approaching and they've ruined every sample with their carelessness."

"They will obviously need to obtain more." He could understand her consternation. If Lyesee 2 was to become the site of the new genetic research facility, all possible natural contaminants which would interfere with the project would need to be discovered and neutralized. The last site had succumbed to contamination, forcing the building of a new location.

The native population of Lyesee, a recently discovered planet, had already been forcibly removed to make room for the extensive project. It was left to the Enterprise to complete the compilation of data which would allow the Empire to begin building. Within five years, the protective domes would be in place and experimentation begun in earnest.

"There's no time to send those incompetents back down there to do the job right. I'll do it myself." Christine stood up from the scope and readied her equipment.

Sek caught her arm as she headed for the door a few moments later.

"I have contacted the bridge. There is insufficient time to effect beaming and retrieval before the storm is upon us."

"We have to try. That storm could be in this quadrant for weeks. We can't remain here that long waiting for it to disperse or move on."

"It is unsafe to beam down. The safety margin is not enough," Sek insisted.

"The longer we argue, the less margin there's going to be," was her reply. "I need you to bring the sample case from the other lab. I'll meet you in the transporter room."

As soon as Sek left for the other lab on the errand, Christine hurried to the transporter room. Notifying the bridge that she was beaming down, Christine stepped to the pad and gave the order.

Alone on the surface, Christine ignored the roiling black clouds and lightning in her intent to gather the samples as quickly as possible. Her communicated buzzed, but knowing it was Sek, she refused to respond. The majority of the samples had been gathered by the time she felt the tingling of the transporter beam. Sek had obviously convinced the transporter technician to defy her orders and commence beaming.

The transporter room came into focus, then faded to the planet surface. When she next focused, the transporter room was somehow different, less austere. Spock was standing at the console.

Only it wasn't quite Spock. The beard was gone and the uniform was changed. A wave of nausea hit, then she knew no more.

* * *

"Why is it," Christine muttered under her breath as she gathered her equipment, "I get all the routine landing assignments? Christine, we need samples. Christine, we need a routine survey... Christine this. Christine that. All I ever do is 'routine' garbage." She fastened the last of the tiny monitors into place and slung the bag over her shoulder. "Head Nurse on a Federation Starship, a Ph.D. and extensive medical training. And what do I do? Collect samples!"

Seeing McCoy headed her direction, she ceased verbalizing her frustration, but continued the litany inside. "Ready to go, Doctor."

"Security personnel is already planetside. You'll have to hurry, Captain informs me there's an ion storm approaching the quadrant."

"How long do I have?"

"Half an hour at the outside." McCoy was concerned at the brevity of time allotted for the collection of samples. "I better go with you."

Her reply was interrupted by one of the nurses at the door. "Doctor, we need you right away. There was an accident in the lab. Rogers is burned, Connors and Taft are also injured."

"On my way. Chris, be careful. Don't take any chances," he admonished. "If the data weren't so critical right now I wouldn't allow you to beam down under these conditions."

Her anger at the assignment evaporated when she saw the concern on his face and in his voice. "I'll be careful."

Hurrying to the transporter room, Christine beamed down immediately and began working. The three security men cast anxious looks upward at the gathering storm clouds and ominous thunder and lightning. Christine's communicator buzzed and she snapped it open in irritation at the interruption. "Chapel here."

"Prepare for beaming," came Spock's voice.

"Acknowledged. Request transporting of security personnel first to allow a few more minutes for gathering."

Spock admired her willingness to complete the task under less than ideal conditions, but the storm was approaching faster than anticipated. "Stand by. Alert personnel of immediately beaming. Spock out."

Christine signaled the three to stand apart from her for beaming, then returned to her work. Scattered raindrops pelted the ground in preparation for a deluge. As the transporter beams hummed several feet away, Christine realized it was rapidly growing too dark to work. Perhaps she should have beamed up with the other members of the landing party.

When the transporter room alerted the bridge of difficulties in beaming up the landing party, Kirk sent Spock to assist. When the Vulcan arrived, the technician stepped aside, watching the Science Officer use cross circuiting and dispersal to bring them aboard. They shimmered in and out several times before finally materializing. Spock next contacted Christine to stand by for immediate beaming. There was no time to spare as the storm was upon them.

Christine was inwardly relieved to note Spock handling the transporter controls instead of a regular technician. If there were trouble, Spock would be the best shot she would have at survival. Slinging her bag, she stood ready. In seconds, the beams touched her and she felt the familiar sensations of transporting. The room, and Spock, wavered before her once, twice, then everything shifted slightly at a skew. When her vision cleared, a strange Vulcan, not Spock, stood before her wearing a uniform she thought existed only in her nightmares. Suddenly, she realized the Vulcan was no stranger at all. He was Sek, directly from her dreams. Unwilling to accept the truth, Christine blacked out and fell to the floor.

The Federation

Christine swam upward through the nausea, focusing on the voice that penetrated the swirling waves. The voice was somehow familiar. Opening her eyes, she stared directly into those of Leonard McCoy. Christine reached for her knife in automatic response, but couldn't locate it. Damn, he'd already disarmed her. Wait a minute. Leonard McCoy was dead. Killed on Spock's orders over a year ago.

"She's coming around now, Jim," Leonard announced, seeing the eyes open and focus on him. Observing her response to him confirmed Spock's hypothesis of possible hostility, but he hadn't counted on the pure hatred in those blue eyes.

"Welcome to the Enterprise, Miss Chapel," Kirk intoned gravely. This was more serious than he'd thought. The transfer between universes had happened again, something that should have been one chance in a million.

Right now the Enterprise was en route from the quadrant to escape the ion storm. Spock had already begun investigation into the possibility of a reverse transfer between the universes, but it was too soon for any firm answers. In the meantime, they would have to cope accordingly. Last time, Spock had been forced to place those from the mirror universe in confinement--would this be the same situation?

Christine sat up cautiously, scanning the room and its occupants carefully, noting every detail. It was modeled on her own sickbay, with slight modification. The universes were more disparate than she had thought, though, since McCoy and Kirk were still alive. How much danger would they present to her in this universe?

Her examination of the room ceased, however, when Spock entered the room. He was different from the one in her universe. This one had a softer edge to him, a gentle side shown to more than just his consort. This man did not have the appearance of one who could kill to survive and one day rule the entire Empire. Still, the face was unreadable, leaving her to wonder what he was thinking. What was her counterpart's relationship to this man? Were they lovers or enemies?

"What have you found out, Spock?" Kirk questioned.

Christine was disconcerted by the tone of voice Kirk was using. There was no harsh demand in it, just a request for information. It was unfortunate she had nothing to compare him with, since the Empire Kirk had been killed before her arrival on the Enterprise. His reputation had been one of a vicious back-stabber who would not allow anyone or anything to stand in his way. Where were the bodyguards? Nobody seemed concerned over a lack of protection while in each other's company. It was unheard of for three officers to be in the same room with one another without taking extreme protective measures before hand.

"Data is sketchy. Damage to systems was extensive. It will take time to effect repairs. Transporter main core was completely destroyed."

"Meaning?"

"It is impossible, for now, to return this woman to her own universe and retrieve Miss Chapel." Spock finished his report and stood silent, hands clasped behind his back.

"How much time do we have before the exchange is impossible?"

"Unknown, Captain. The field is closing rapidly. I will assist Mr. Scott with the repairs, but it is doubtful they will be completed in time for a transfer."

"Do you realize what you're saying, Spock?" McCoy jumped in. "You're condemning them both to lives in opposite universes. Christine can't survive in that universe. I've been there. I know."

"Bones is right. We have to make the transfer, and soon. Who knows when there'll ever be another chance?" Kirk contacted the bridge for an update on the storm's progress.

"Sensors were showing a decrease in ion activity."

"Were, Mr. Chekov?" Kirk interrupted.

"Readings in the last few minutes indicate another building of intensity. Magnitude four."

Kirk moved aside, allowing Spock access to the intercom. "Transfer readings, Mr. Chekov." Figures flashed across the viewscreen in rapid succession for a short time, then stopped, replaced once more by Chekov's features.

"According to these readings, Captain, another storm is building which will be in this sector in less than forty eight hours."

"Then we have a chance for a transfer at that time," Kirk surmised.

"Data is insufficient at this time for such a projection."

"But it's possible," McCoy insisted.

"If the Enterprise can ride out the storm, the core is repaired and the universes are aligned, it may be possible," Spock admitted reluctantly.

"We must be prepared for the possibility, Spock." Kirk turned to the fourth person in the room who had been silent the entire conversation. "Are you willing to chance it, Miss Chapel?"

"That's Dr. Chapel, Captain," Christine replied harshly. "The risk of danger is far more acceptable than the alternative of remaining here in your universe."

"I'll take that to mean yes," Kirk observed dryly. This Christine was certainly different from the one he'd always known. The layer of ice surrounding her was at least equal, if not in excess, to that around Spock.

Kirk caught the look from McCoy that said he'd come to the same conclusion concerning their visitor's character. If the records they'd seen in the other universe's computer on their counterparts were any indication, this woman would require constant surveillance to insure the crew's safety.

The Empire

Christine pressed a hand against her aching head and sat up, moving carefully to keep the room from spinning. She would have to talk to Spock about his transporter technique. What a horrible experience that had been.

"Are you injured?" Sek asked.

She turned at the sound of his voice and saw the strange, yet familiar Vulcan sitting near the bed behind her. "Oh, damn! This isn't a dream, is it?"

"Unfortunately, no. However, I was able to bring you to her quarters without being seen." Sek stood up and walked around the bed, studying the woman before him. The superficial resemblance to Christine was remarkable.

"What about the technician?" she asked. Why the secrecy?

"He is no more," Sek replied evenly. "You are from the other universe, are you not?"

"Apparently so." Taking a deep breath, she jumped in. "Are you Sek?"

"You knew me in your universe?"

"No," Christine admitted."Just in my dreams."

"I do not understand."

"Never mind. Why all this secrecy? How soon can you return me to my own universe?"

"Approximately forty eight hours." He saw the expression on her face and realized how frightened she was at the prospect of remaining in this place. "Until then we must convince everyone that nothing has happened. You must become Dr. Chapel."

"But why?" she insisted. "Why the secrecy?"

"If word of an alternate universe ever reached the wrong ears, the balance of power would be in danger. The Empire has been solidified, but it would not take much to shift the balance and upset the stability."

"Absolutely none of this makes any sense to me, nor do I particularly care." Christine stood up, noticing her two piece uniform, replete with knives for the first time. "This is insane. I can't stay here. I don't belong here."

"Agreed. But until such time as transfer can be made, you are stranded here in this universe," Sek told her harshly. This woman was too weak to survive here. She was not hard enough to hold her own against those who wanted her power and position as Chief Medical Officer.

Realizing there was no way to fight it for the moment, Christine temporarily capitulated. "I'll do it." What was she getting herself into? If even half of her dreams had been true, this was going to be a walking nightmare. How could she possibly convince anyone she was the Christine Chapel who belonged on the ISS Enterprise? The Christine of this universe was a cold, hardened woman who'd sold her body to pay for medical school, then fought tooth and claw for her position on a starship. Not to mention her position as consort to Spock, the Emperor. The impact of the situation hit her suddenly and she sat down on the edge of the bed. "I must be out of my mind!"

"There's no time to waste. First, your hair. We must dye it the correct color."

"Never mind," she said, recovering from the shock by small increments. "I know a method for reversing the coloring process to get it back to its natural shade. I'll need a few things from the lab..."

"Tell me and I will obtain them." Sek made a mental list as she named the items, then left the room. If Christine didn't return to sickbay soon, questions would be raised, questions he didn't want to answer.

Christine wandered about the room, now that Sek was gone, picking up this item and that, trying to understand the other woman. It was one thing to dream of her, it was another to take over her life. Picking up a single strand necklace from the bureau, Christine recognized it as identical to one of her own. It was an unusual piece she'd found in an open air market on an obscure planet. The proprietor had told her it was Vulcan in origin, a symbol given to a mate in honor of the relationship. She and Uhura had chuckled over the tale, figuring the proprietor had invented the story to help sell the piece. She had bought it, though, because of its unique quality and beauty. Where had this Christine obtained it?

As she continued exploring, Christine began to understand the bond that existed between herself and her alternate self. Somewhere inside of her was an inner strength that had allowed her to survive the pain of her own life. She'd proven herself a brilliant doctoral student at a young age, achieving recognition in her field through publications and research. If she had not gone to space in search of Roger Korby, her reputation would have probably increased and her contributions to the field of exobiology exceeded even Korby's. The Enterprise crew saw only Nurse Chapel, not the scholar she truly was. Besides, it was far more comfortable to work in sickbay under Dr. McCoy than to cope with being in the Science Department under Spock's auspices. Her feelings for him would have interfered with her work. Understanding this, she continued in the life she'd chosen as medical officer, setting aside her initial vocation.

This Christine had pursued her medical career single mindedly, refusing to compromise in the long run to achieve what she wanted. She had controlled her feelings, refusing to let them run her life.

By the time Sek returned, Christine had reached the conclusion that much could be learned in taking this Christine's place. Her experiences had been different, but there was no reason she, too, could not survive.

Sek noticed the subtle change in her attitude as she worked on her hair, returning it to its natural brown shade. Something had obviously changed her way of thinking, but he didn't know what. He was even more surprised when, finished with her hair and makeup, she asked him to teach her how to protect herself. If she had to live here for a time, she was not going to take any more chances than necessary.

The Federation

Christine shut down the computer and considered her findings. The file on her Federation self bore little, if any, resemblance to her own file. The offspring of wealthy parents, this Christine had never been forced to face privation and humiliation to achieve her ends. One curious difference between the two of them was the importance of Roger Korby. This Christine had studied with him and nearly married him. The Roger Korby in her own experience had also been her professor; but a disgruntled student had ended the professor's career while she was still in school.

Her professional credentials were impeccable, so why was she merely a Head Nurse to McCoy on this ship? Why had she refused the position on Ceta III and continued on the Enterprise? There were no clues in the records, so Christine turned her attention to the quarters. Kirk had originally assigned her to visitor's quarters but Christine had pressed the matter, stating her preferences to remain in Christine's.

A search of the room's contents eventually produced a hand-written dairy. Setting an extra pillow behind her, Christine stretched out on the bed and began reading. When she closed it many hours later, the words of frustration and anger stayed with her.

* * *

No one paid her any particular attention as she walked through the corridors on her way to sickbay. Several crewmen had even smiled or greeted her. Two had even complimented her change of hair color. Not a single person had been wearing a weapon or had a bodyguard with them. Not even the Captain.

"Good evening, Doctor," McCoy greeted her as she entered sickbay. "What brings you here so late?"

"Boredom. I am unaccustomed to wiling away my hours in trivial pursuits," she replied cooly.

"You sound like Chris. She could never stand to be doing nothing either," he grinned. "Would you care to join me for a late night cup of coffee?"

"Coffee? I was unaware you touched anything less than one hundred proof."

"An occasional brandy perhaps, but not as a rule," Leonard admitted. "As I recall, my counterpart had a slight drinking problem."

"No more than was required to incapacitate him. I frequently had to cover for him in surgery on Alten."

"Never been there. Amazing how different our lives have been," he answered. "The offer for coffee is still open."

Her answer was cut off by a shuddering of the deck beneath their feet. Both reached for the intercom button in reflex. McCoy won. "Sickbay to bridge. What's happening?"

"Bridge. Uhura here. Ship is experiencing an increase in the ion storm. Spock warns it will get worse before it gets better."

"Lousy bitch," Christine muttered. "Thought I got rid of her."

"Thanks for the warning, Uhura. McCoy out," Leonard acknowledged. "You got rid of Uhura?"

"She was conspiring against the Captain," Christine supplied. "She attacked me, so I killed her."

"She was conspiring against Kirk? I thought she got along with him."

"Not Kirk. Spock."

"Spock is Captain?" There'd been no time to question her before because of the ion storm crisis. Perhaps they should have...

"He was. Kirk was killed before I was assigned as Chief Medical Officer." Why did McCoy have such an astonished look on his face at the news? Everyone knew how corrupted Kirk was. The assassination had come as no surprise to anyone.

The deck shuddered again, this time throwing both to the floor. McCoy extended a hand to help her to her feet, but Christine refused it.

They had no sooner climbed to their feet when the ship pitched again. Lights flickered and the straining of the engines reverberated through the deck. Each grabbed for solid support and hung on as the ship was tossed in the storm.

"The ship can't take much more of this," McCoy shouted over the din.

Christine ignored him, having reached the same conclusion independently. This McCoy was quite a change from the one she remembered. The Federation McCoy was garrulous, whereas her former colleague had barely retained the capacity for speech, let alone superfluous conversation.

When the shaking stopped, Christine stood back and watched McCoy as he contacted the other members of the medical staff and mobilized sickbay to handle the incoming patients. She did have to admit he was calm and efficient under pressure, unlike the one she'd known. After simply observing for a short time, Christine decided to pitch in and assist the harried personnel. It was something to do to alleviate the ennui.

McCoy kept an eye on Christine as she took over one section of sickbay and relieved some of the burden. Skeptical at first of her abilities, based on what he'd observed in the alternate sickbay, he was soon impressed with her skill. A smile came to him a short time later when one of the interns tried to step in and take over from a 'nurse'. Christine gave him a look that would have quelled even the staunchest and the fellow had slunk quietly away. Leonard noticed later that the same intern came back to stand beside her, watching with interest as she worked. It was no wonder she'd achieved the position of Chief Medical Officer in the other universe.

When the crisis had passed and sickbay settled down, McCoy motioned M'Benga to take over and quietly asked Christine if she was ready for that cup of coffee.

She studied Leonard's face and eyes, looking for ulterior motives in the request. Seeing nothing more than a tired surgeon, Christine acquiesced. As they walked the corridors, Christine felt exposed and regretted the absence of Sek. She'd come to depend on his constant presence and the security he represented without knowing it. Squaring her shoulder unconsciously, Christine resolved to remedy that particular feeling of insecurity and rely strictly on herself from here on.

The dining area was sparsely populated and quiet. Both sat in silence, sipping welcome cups of caffeine. After a few minutes of unwinding, McCoy began asking questions of the status of things in the other universe.

She named the changes that taken place in little more than the space of a year. Leonard had a gut feeling Christine was omitting things that touched on personal areas, which he could understand, after all, her personal life was none of his business. Her cold blooded murder of Sulu and the fight to the death with Uhura was unsettling though. He'd been to the mirror universe, albeit for only a few hours, but the savagery of the life there was shocking. He heard no remorse in her voice, or guilt for her actions. Neither was there pride or boasting. It was simply a recitation of facts in answer to his questions.

Christine could sense the discomfort of her coffee companion at her answers. His sensibilities were offended by the life she lived in the Empire. It was beyond his experience or comprehension to accept death as a way of life. Then, again, it was beyond her to conceive of walking around with worrying about assassination or threats. McCoy had no fear of his colleagues or underlings. From her observations of today in sickbay, he was respected and admired, not feared. The entire scenario was sending chills up her spine. Things were too different, too strange.

"Mind if I join you?"

Christine was startled out of her reverie by the sound of Uhura's voice. Immediately alert, she adopted a defensive stance.

"Not at all," McCoy answered, pulling up a chair. "Just off duty?"

"Can't you tell? Stayed over into the next shift to make some repairs to the console. That storm really played havoc with the bridge equipment. How were things in your department?"

"The same." McCoy gestured to Christine. "Uhura, I'd like you to meet Dr. Christine Chapel from the ISS Enterprise."

Uhura sat back in her chair, memories of her time in the savage universe racing through her mind. The ion storm must have done it again. "I'm pleased to meet you, Doctor. I assume our Christine is in your universe?"

"Assumably," came the curt reply. McCoy was bad enough, but Uhura was too much to bear. "Excuse me."

"Wait a minute." McCoy stopped her leaving. "This Uhura is not the same as yours."

"Do not test my patience, Doctor. I have killed before, I will do so again, if need be, to protect myself," Christine flashed back.

"This isn't the same, Christine. This is another universe entirely!" McCoy protested. "Damn it, sit down and behave in a civilized manner."

"Never mind, Leonard," Uhura stepped in. "It's obvious she's not on good relations with my sweet natured namesake. There's no sense trying to force her to accept me here."

"I killed her," Christine stated flatly.

Uhura masked her surprise. "I'll bet Sulu's disappointed."

Christine grinned wolfishly. "Not any more. I was the last woman he ever saw."

"Guess I really can't say I'm sorry to hear that," Uhura finally got out. "That guy gave me the absolute creeps. Nothing at all like our Sulu." Uhura took a breath and asked the question she'd been wanting to ask since hearing about it moments ago. Christine had sat down again and appeared to at least be willing to be rude. "Why did you kill Uhura?"

"She was spying for the Emperor and nearly cost Spock his life. When she knew I was on to her, she attacked." Christine studied the woman across from her. McCoy was right, this Uhura was nothing like the one she'd known. A bit squeamish, but there was no streak of viciousness. Would she never understand this crazy place? It was uncomfortable, and dangerous, not to know who your enemies were and where they would be coming from next. Christine sincerely hoped Sek was doing his best to keep the other Christine alive long enough to transfer with her. The prospect of remaining in this nightmare universe was more than she could stand.

The Empire

Christine swallowed hard, forcing herself not to vomit at the sight of the secondary lab where two of the technicians were performing their tests without anesthesia. Leaving as quickly as possible, she ducked into a side lab which was empty and leaned against the wall. This place was worse than a nightmare. These people were animals. How could anyone in their right mind allow such things? "Christine allows this sort of activity?" she finally was able to ask.

Sek looked puzzled at the question. "She neither promotes nor discourages the researching of private projects." Why was she so concerned? Christine had always simply looked the other way unless it posed a threat to the ship, crew or herself.

Steeling herself, she pushed away from the wall and adjusted her uniform. "Let's keep going and get this over with." Why had Sek forced her to take this inspection tour? Just because his Christine did it routinely to keep tabs on her staff didn't mean it had to be done exactly on schedule. Squaring her shoulders, she led the way to the last two labs.

By the time she reached her office, Christine was ready to collapse in her chair and shut out the rest of sickbay. How much longer did this charade have to last? Sek was impervious to all of it. At least she'd made it through an entire day. Christine closed her eyes and forced herself to relax and unwind in the luxurious chair.

Sek sat in his usual chair and watched the woman gradually drift off to sleep. He'd kept the pace frenetic all day to see how she would react under pressure. Christine had assumed this was her counterpart's normal schedule and complied accordingly. Sek grudgingly admitted she'd proven equal to the task.

She wasn't much like the Christine he knew. This one had a softer side, a generous and giving nature that most would consider a weakness. Sek saw it in a different light. In her universe there was no daily struggle to stay alive, or survive a colleague's ambition. Christine had relied solely on intelligence and good fortune to gain her position on the Enterprise. A rather novel concept, in Sek's opinion.

What would she be like under other circumstances? Could she retain the softer side and still survive? Sek recognized the direction his thoughts were moving and forced them into other channels. His time was nearly upon him and the thoughts were taking their own twists and turns. When the time was right he would 'appropriate' a female who was willing. Being unbonded had both its advantages and disadvantages. In times like this it was definitely advantageous.

Deciding it was useless to halt the direction of his thoughts, Sek allowed them free rein. What would she do if he approached her? He stopped again. This woman was from another universe, how could she possibly be expected to react favorably to someone like him? He was a trained warrior of the Brotherhood, she would prefer a gentle man without blood on his hands. Sek looked at his wrist where a delicate brand, which matched that of Spock, marked him as bastard. No, a woman like this would never accept someone of his ilk. He would seek elsewhere.

When Christine woke an hour later, somewhat refreshed after a nap, the first thing she noticed was Sek's absence. Panicked, she went immediately to the door, but found it coded from the outside, sealing her inside the office. Coming back to the desk, she espied a note propped on its surface. After first seeing the signature was Sek's, she calmed down. It stated he had business to attend to and would return in a while. She was safe inside the office as it was voice locked under his code.

Since it could be some time before Sek returned, she decided there was no time like the present to find out more about Dr. Chapel. Christine began a systematic ransacking of the office, searching for clues of what she was like. At last, she found what she was seeking. There was a file in the computer under voice code which unlocked for her. In it was this Christine's equivalent of a diary. Mainly interested in the recent entries, Christine flipped it forward to the time when the other woman had returned to the Enterprise from Vulcan. They were the writings of a woman in control of her life on a starship, but lonesome for the man who awaited her back on Vulcan.

At the end of the file, just days before the transference to the Federation Enterprise, Christine found reference to Sek. After reading it through twice, she relocked the file and sat back in the chair, absorbing the information. His 'business' had now been explained.

As she waited for him to return, Christine wondered whether he had found the person he'd been seeking. The attitude toward the pon farr in this universe was not that of the other. Her research after Spock's aborted marriage to T'Pring had been fascinating and difficult. The topic was so taboo and shrouded in mystery and tradition, the bulk of the material she'd located had been in the ancient high Vulcan writing style. Forcing herself to learn a whole new language, Christine persevered until she was able to translate not only the medical knowledge, but also some of the literature of the pre-reformation authors. Much of it was beyond her skill, but at least she wasn't ignorant of the pon farr as the majority of the medical field was.

In the Federation universe, unbonded males were in danger of death unless a bonding could be made at the time of the pon farr. She was still waiting to see what Spock did the next time around... In this universe, unbonded males were free to choose as they wished without the restrictions of bonding. Her counterpart had done her homework in the archives while on Vulcan, Christine mused. Had the Healers caught on to her? It would be interesting to observe Sek while she was here, she decided. Where and when would she ever have the opportunity again?

* * *

Alone that night in her quarters, Christine finished reading the entire diary file, gradually coming to understand her other self. It was a harsh universe and Christine was hard woman, but somehow, beneath the surface, there was a person of integrity that refused to compromise. She fought and clawed her way, surviving where a lesser person would have died or given up. Yes, she'd killed on occasion, but in each instance, there was justification for her actions. It was an entirely different way of thinking for her, but Christine's opinion of the other woman was being revised. If their positions had been reversed from the beginning, would she have done as well?

The door buzzed and she pressed the unlocking mechanism out of reflex. Realizing her mistake too late to correct it, she stood up, hoping for the best. Christine stepped from the desk, recognizing her visitor as one of the physicians from sickbay earlier that day. "Yes?"

"I've come to discuss some personnel changes," Dracus announced

"Anyone in particular?" she bluffed. //Now what do I do? This is exactly what Sek warned me about ... and here I am, all alone. Face it, Chris, you blew it.//

"Only one," he replied, stepping forward.

Christine retreated slowly, finally coming to a halt when the desk stopped her progress. "You are suggesting, perhaps, a promotion is in order..."

"Exactly." He moved closer to her, enjoying the terror in her eyes. The tough Christine Chapel was terrified of him. This was too easy.

Christine lunged at him, screaming at the top of her lungs. Catching him off balance, he fell backwards, pulling her with him. Strong hands clenched around her neck as she fought to escape. Suddenly, the hands and weight were gone. There was a loud thump and a horrible cracking sounds.

Sek tossed the body out into the corridor, then helped Christine to her feet. No sense keeping a corpse in her quarters when the corridor would do as well. Punching for security, he alerted them to the body, then sealed the door. "Are you injured?"

"Just shook up, I guess." She massaged her bruised neck, thankful it had been no worse. "Thank you."

"How did he get in here?"

"I accidentally let him in." She saw the look of disbelief in his eyes. "I'm not used to this! When someone buzzes, I let them in."

"You are fortunate I heard you scream," he lectured.

"I know and I'm grateful." Just when she was adjusting to this place, something like this had to happen.

"I will stay here tonight," Sek announced. "It's obvious you are unaccustomed to the way of life here."

"That's not necessary," she protested. "I'm not a child."

Sek took in the long robe and loose hair. "Definitely not a child." He stepped forward, then stopped. "The matter is settled, I will remain here tonight."

"Are you always this insistent, Sek?"

"Always."

"Would you be so pushy if I were your Christine?"

"No," he admitted. "But then, she would not have allowed herself to be placed in this position."

"If I refuse to let you stay?" she asked, half in jest. //You're out of your mind, Chris. He just killed a man and you're basically discussing whether he stays in your cabin tonight?//

He seized her and lifted her from the floor, holding her gently, yet firmly. "How are you going to stop me?"

"Are you sure you're a Vulcan? I can't imagine Spock behaving this way."

He set her down carefully. "Have I offended you?" Sek asked in a serious tone.

"Not in the least," she answered truthfully. "You're the first person to ever be this concerned about me. I don't really know how to react."

"I have overstepped the bounds of propriety, forgive me."

Christine laid her hand on his arm. "I understand the stress you're under, Sek. There is no way you could possibly offend me." //Chris, you're out of your mind. Face it, you're first in line for the little men in the white coats.//

"Be careful of what you say," he warned.

"My statement stands."

"In that case..."

* * *

Christine cautiously slid from the bed and slipped her robe on before sitting down at the desk. In the space of twenty four hours she had been transferred to an alternate universe, changed her appearance, seen a sickbay which rivaled a gallery of horrors, been attacked and nearly killed, and just spent the night with a Vulcan she met the day before. //What next, old girl?// This was all just a dream from which she would soon awaken. //This is not a dream,// came the little voice from inside. //This is reality...// The only other alternative was waking to discover the men in the white coats had come to visit her and this was all just a portion of her insanity.

On the other hand, what was wrong with enjoying it while it lasted? When was the last time she'd had this much excitement? Sek wasn't Spock, but then ... Spock wasn't Sek!

//You're starting to answer yourself.//

The body on the bed turned over, a hand reaching for the person that was no longer there.

"You only live once, Christine," she told herself. Dropping the robe to the floor, she slid back into the warmth.

The Federation

Spock sat in his darkened quarters and considered the glowing firepot. This was the first break he'd had since before the start of the ion storm. Most of the repairs had been effected, including the core for the transporter system. Now it was a time of waiting for the right combination of factors to try the transfer. Storm intensity would increase in another four hours.

This Christine Chapel was not like the others that had been shifted between universes. Those four had been barbaric and vicious human beings. This woman was cold and efficient, even deadly, but not out of control as the other four had been.

Christine was interesting to study in this universe. She was hard and ruthless, completely opposite of the Christine he knew here. The Christine of this universe was timid and soft, seemingly fearful of life in general. Her record of academic pursuit was excellent, but the individual behind it didn't coincide with the facts. It was too bad the two characters of the Christines couldn't be combined into a single person. To be both cold and efficient, yet have a warmer side. It would be an interesting combination of factors. One worth pursuing...

* * *

Christine stood on the observation deck, staring out at the stars. A beautiful display, one in which she rarely indulged. Observation decks were notoriously dangerous places if one wanted to live long. But, here, on this Enterprise, there was a freedom to do as one pleased without fear of attack or spies. It was still uncomfortable, but yet... there was something very special about it.

In a few hours she would be in the transporter, hoping for successful transfer back to where she belonged. It was easy to be confident now, before it occurred, but what if the attempt failed? What if she had to remain here permanently? Never to see Spock again... She didn't belong in this universe. There was no way she could totally alter her personality to fit into this peaceful place. One day she would slip and that would be the end of her career. They would never tolerate a personality such as hers.

Spock would be worried by now, too. Her absence in the bond was certain to have told him there'd been trouble. Christine missed him terribly, especially the closeness they'd felt through the mental tie. What would it be like to live a life that didn't contain him? The prospect was not an appealing one. She'd searched her entire life for a relationship such as she had with Spock. It would be impossible to replace him.

In a few hours she would know. Her fate would be decided permanently at that time. Sek would keep the other Christine alive for a time, but any longer would be impossible. If the transfer did not work this time, another chance could be years in the future. Years. Refusing to give in to her feelings, Christine stood alone, dry eyed, transfixed by the stars. It was going to work, it was going to work...

The Empire

Spock stepped off the transporter platform, followed by his personal retinue of bodyguards from the Brotherhood. The transporter technician's hands trembled as he saluted the Emperor. Why did he have to be on duty when the Emperor, and all of his Vulcan bodyguards beamed aboard? He was too young to die...

Spock ignored the technician, much to the man's relief, and strode from the room, intent on his course. The trip from Vulcan to the Enterprise had been a long one. When the bonding to his wife had been broken without warning, he'd set out immediately. Only two things could break a bonding--death, or another Vulcan.

* * *

Christine snuggled closer, welcoming the body heat against the chill of the cabin. She'd actually survived another day in this universe. She'd gone through Christine's schedule, distracted by the responsibilities. Sek had remained by her side the entire time, guarding and assisting with information when necessary. The high point of the day had come when she'd kicked two of the nurses out of sickbay for incompetence and cruelty. The cruelty was not mentioned, of course, but the incompetence was sufficient ground for their dismissal from the premises. //Too bad,// she thought. //we can't do the same back home for incompetence, instead of having to put up with it or try to correct it constantly.//

Christine rolled back on her pillow. What kind of thinking was that? Incompetence wasn't a sin, just a problem which needed correction. Unfortunately there were always going to be a few people that would never improve, but still... Putting her head back on Sek's shoulder, she held him tightly. He was sleeping as if dead, exhausted from the pressures of the pon farr.

The time with him had been special. They were from opposite cultures, opposite ways of life, yet they were able to coexist in harmony. Sek had asked her to stay in this universe, with him. He'd spoken also of returning to Vulcan for an official bonding, beyond what they already had.

Could she survive here? There was nothing waiting for her in her own universe... Here, she had a someone who loved and respected her. With a change of hair color and name, she could have a career, too. Sek had suggested a research colony or farflung outpost for a place to work and live. Away from this hothouse environment of cruelty and violence, she could be happy ... very happy.

The computer had already indicated a transfer of the other Christine back to this universe could be accomplished without her. As long as the transporter was activated at the right time, a transfer could take place. She still had a few hours to think about it, but the longer she was here, with him, the more her mind was made up. Christine quietly chucked at the memory of the fears she'd had upon coming here. Yes, it was a dangerous place, but she could learn to take care of herself physically and, intellectually, she could face anything in time.

Christine sensed the return of the pon farr through the slight bond they had even before he reached for her. The bond told her what kind of person Sek was, it was enough for her.

A burning pain and ripping sensation cut through the kaleidoscope of colors and images in her mind. Crying out in pain, Christine felt Sek pulling away from her, of blood running down her body. Opening her eyes, she saw a bearded Spock standing over her, knife in hand.

"I trusted you," he said, blade poised above her throat.

"I'm not Christine!" she cried out.

"You broke the bond for Sek," he continued, laying it to her jugular.

"Stop!" She struggled, but stopped when the knife nicked her. "I'm from the other universe ... I'm not your wife..."

The blade stopped. "You are telling the truth?" Spock looked into the blue eyes and saw ... a stranger. This was not his Christine "You are not Christine." Spock motioned his men to leave the room.

Freed, Christine sat up, staring at Sek's body next to her. Blood was everywhere, congealing in green puddles. Sek was dead. She threw herself at Spock, pummeling him in anger and grief. "You killed him!"

Spock sat there, allowing her to work through her anger. His own sorrow was great. He'd killed a friend ... for a case of mistaken identity. It had not been the action of a man ruled by logic, but rather one driven by rage.

Exhausted finally, Christine wept till there were no more tears. Sek was gone. Now there was nothing left for her in either universe. She'd loved him, now he was dead.

Christine stood up, taking the robe from Spock wordlessly. The nightmare had returned. "Now what?" she asked, not really caring what the answer was.

Ignoring her for the moment, Spock sat at the computer, retrieving data and running his own computations. Three hours, forty two minutes before maximal point of exchange. Not much time. Shutting it down, Spock turned to the woman standing beside the bed. "Go clean up."

It was an hour before Christine emerged from the bathroom. showered and in a fresh uniform. The room had been straightened and Sek's body removed. Spock was in the same chair, fingers steepled in manner reminiscent of her own Spock. Maybe it'd been a dream after all... Then she saw the few green stains on the floor and knew it had all been real.

Holding back the tears that threatened to flow again, Christine sat down on the chair Spock indicated. "Why did you come?" she asked "Why did you kill him?"

"When the bond was broken I came to find out why." Spock continued staring at this woman who was a ringer for his wife. "It can only be broken by death or another Vulcan. When I saw you I knew it had not been death..."

"So you killed him in jealousy," she finished for him. How different this Spock was from her own. They looked alike, but that was all. This Spock had traveled across the galaxy for his Christine, her Spock wouldn't have walked across the room to find out if she were dead or alive. The other differences was that this Spock killed, mercilessly.

"Jealousy is an emotion. I was within my rights to kill any man who touched the consort of an Emperor," Spock elaborated.

"You would have killed me, too. That's also within the rights, I assume," Christine replied sarcastically. She was suddenly appalled at her actions and words. This man had no reason to keep her alive. This wasn't Spock. This was a ruthless killer who'd just murdered a friend because of her. "I'm sorry. I'm just upset about things," she apologized. "What now?"

"Transition is in two hours, fifteen minutes."

"You're going to return me?" He wasn't going to kill her...

"Of course." Why didn't she react? She should be overjoyed at the prospect of returhing to her own universe, a place far different from this one.

"Fine." What difference did it make? One place or the other, no difference."In the meantime?"

"We wait."

The Federation

Christine stood on the transporter platform and looked out at the tiny group who had come to say good bye. Kirk, a Captain whose crew followed him out of loyalty, not fear, a man even her Spock respected. McCoy, a kind and gentle man, respected by his staff, a physician of the highest caliber. Uhura, no enemy this one. She was efficient and hard working, a woman who could have been a friend had things been different. Spock, a man quite unlike her husband in many ways.

Her husband. Had he found out yet why the bond was broken? Perhaps Sek had contacted him, but Christine doubted it. Sek was there to protect her, not spy or report on her. Chances were nothing had happened in her absence and no one would notice her return.

"Mr. Spock," Kirk ordered. "When ready."

The deck rocked beneath their feet as the storm hit with renewed vengeance. Spock moved the controls and Christine disappeared from their sight as she was beamed down to the planet surface where the transference had taken place the first time. Calibrating the new set, Spock reversed tie transporter and beamed her back up.

Each looked hopefully at the woman who materialized, but Christine shook her head. "Try again."

Spock beamed her back down, fighting the fluctuations in readings. This time, when he tried to reverse the process, one of the pads blew. Cross circuiting, he made another effort to bring her back from the surf ace.

Seconds crawled as he searched for her readings. Finally, he located them. Odd for them to have moved like that... He reversed the controls one more time, struggling to hang onto the figure that shimmered in and out. At last it solidified, then slumped to the floor.

The Empire

Spock turned the woman on the platform over, holding her carefully in his arms. The eyes fluttered open, then focused on him. He felt the tendrils of the bond as it reinstated itself. "Christine." The emotion flowing through the bond told him the truth of her feelings.

"Husband." She was home at last. A universe she understood. "Why are you here?"

"To find you."

She searched the rest of the room. but it was empty except for the two of them. "Where is Sek?"

The Federation

Christine accepted the greetings of those present with cursory comments. Time enough later for explanations and stories. Kirk left first, as expected, after congratulating her on a safe return. McCoy and Uhura had questions which she put off to a later date, then they too departed. McCoy had wanted her to accompany him to sickbay but Christine wanted some time alone first, saying she would be by shortly. The only one remaining was Spock.

She walked to the door, turning to thank Spock for his expertise in helping her return, but stopped. One did not thank duty.

"Miss Chapel."

"Yes, Mr. Spock?"

He noticed the flat tone of voice immediately. She'd never spoken to him like that before. It was an even duller tone she'd used with the others. Christine was somehow ... changed. He'd observed it when the other were talking to her, but it was even more apparent now. There was a sadness in her eyes that had not been there previously. "Is anything wrong?" he asked finally, uncertain of how to approach this ... stranger.

Her head came up at the question. Spock asking her if something was wrong? Maybe this was yet another universe she'd slipped into... "No, Mr. Spock. Everything is exactly as I left it." No, not everything. She'd left intact and returned with a broken heart. But what did that matter to him? Walking away, she thought she heard him say something to himself, but since Vulcans didn't do things like that, it must be her imagination.

//Not necessarily?// she repeated silently.

THE END