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 One, published by Checkmate Press, April 1983. Checkmate Press is the property of Karen A. Bates. This story is Rated PG-13.

Guardian: Part One

Karen A. Bates-Crouch

Many a time I have made a comparison

between nobility of sacrifice

and happiness of rebellion

to find out which one

is nobler and more beautiful;

but until now I have distilled

only one truth out of the whole matter,

which makes all our deeds

beautiful and honorable.

-- Kahlil Gibran

//Time displacement ripples gently rocked the small craft hovering in orbit around the planet. No one had encroached this section of space since its discovery and subsequent charting by the USS Enterprise fifteen years prior. Starfleet had buried away the coordinates of its location deep within the central computer system for reasons of security, but with the destruction of the main core early in the Klingon-Romulan war with the Federation, the data had been erased permanently. Permanently, except for the memory of a single man who had stored the knowledge away for future reference strictly out of habit. Now, so many years later, the time had come to use that information.

Spock stood alone on the desolate planet surface, draped in the somber black that had become his trademark. Deep lines and shadows of sorrow etched his still handsome face. There was little sign of the curiosity that had influenced his actions so profoundly the first time he'd been here. Instead, there was a complacent passivity that had been impressed into him harsh measures.

"Guardian."

After a moment that seemed an eternity, the ageless voice replied, perhaps with a touch of recognition? "Welcome, traveler."

"I wish to return to stardate 7783.5; location: the USS Enterprise; purpose: to bring an individual to the present."

"This individual is alive in the present?"

"Negative, her death was incurred on the stardate I wish to visit."

"You wish to prevent it?"

"Affirmative. History will not be altered as the records will still show this person is deceased."

There was yet another long pause as the Guardian weighed the factors. "Explain farther."

How could he explain the events which had transpired that day so long ago? Or the time span between then and now? The Guardian listened in silence as the story unfolded...//

* * *

Kirk absently wiped at the blood running down his face from a cut as he listened to the endless list of casualties and damages. A break in the hull had rendered several of the lower decks uninhabitable and a rupture in a toxic gas line had taken out another entire section. Engineering was a shambles and completely isolated from the rest of the ship because of pressurization difficulties. Half the medical staff had been killed outright and the other half could no longer handle the influx of injured, dead and dying.

"Lieutenant, have you been able to reach Starfleet?"

"Negative, Captain. All subspace radio connections have been destroyed. Only certain of the intership communications remain intact," Uhura reported in a strained voice. She was one of the lucky handful of bridge personnel that had been spared, but like the rest, needed further medical attention badly.

Those still manning their stations averted their eyes from the collection of bodies carefully placed out of the way. Most were in shock yet, wavering between intense anger and sorrow. Kirk grimly noted the absence of Spock from the bridge. He had been down in one of the labs during the first attack and no word had been heard from him since the initial barrage. The attack's implications struck the Captain nearly as hard as the helplessness bombarding him. Leaving the bridge to Uhura, Kirk left to assess the damage first hand and start putting his ship back together.

It was some time before he could make his way to the sickbay, but upon arrival found mass disorder and confusion. The adjoining corridors were littered with bodies of the living and dead indiscriminately mixed together. Kirk spotted McCoy at a distance directing any available hands to duties. The doctor gave him a cursory glance then turned back to his tasks, giving his report as he worked.

"We're using the large rec room down the hall for the morgue. Johnson, take this woman in to M'Benga. They're still trying to get into the lower medical labs, but the circuits are all shorted out and they can't get past the wreckage. Does this hurt, Lieutenant? What's our situation, Jim? Here, give me a hand."

"Uhura's minding the bridge. Sulu's handling navigation from auxiliary control." At McCoy's quick look, he elaborated. "The main console blew out, taking Chekov with it." The flat tones projected no sorrow; there had been too much death and his senses were numbed. "I'm still looking for Spock. Have you seen him?"

"Haven't seen him."

"Dr. McCoy, Holmes needs you right away in surgery."

Kirk stayed only long enough to lend a hand and reassure the assembled crew before moving on.

* * *

While placing a hand gingerly on the back of his head where a piece of flying equipment had connected, Spock's internal clock relayed a two hour interim of unconsciousness. The nearby technician proved to be dead, the same condition as the communication console. After a considerable length of time and much effort Spock managed to clear a pathway to the door and pry it open. Further up the empty corridor, he espied three men struggling with yet another lab door. Sending one of them to report to the Captain, Spock took the man's place and the errant seal was soon broken. Equipment and papers were spewed about the room and several of the large storage cabinets lay on their sides or propped against the work tables. Finding no inhabitants, the three men moved on to the next door, discovering its interior in much the same condition. Knowing there was a workroom beyond the cabinets in the rear, Spock figured he could get to the door and open it, so he sent the other two, along with the returning third member, on down the corridor.

The door came loose without much trouble and Spock's eye was immediately caught by a thin trickle of blood meandering around the table leg. One of the large shelving racks had toppled over, pinning Christine Chapel beneath it. He lifted the heavy metallic mass and set it aside without effort. She was still alive, but it was already too late. The loss of blood through the severed artery in her leg had drained the very life from her. Kneeling down, he tried to stop the flow, but found his efforts to be futile. Her eyes opened a crack and tried to focus on him.

"Spock?" she asked feebly.

"Do not speak, save your strength." Various alternatives of obtaining aid were examined and discarded as he tried to staunch the wound. There had to be some way to stop the blood and get help. The other men were beyond shouting distance already, and the table top in here was obliterated, including the intercom. She was dying and there was nothing he could do. In the back of his mind there was a feeling of relief, for a brief moment. Spock dismissed the morbid thought and turned his full attention to the problem at hand.

Her lips moved again and the words were barely distinguishable even with his acute hearing. "I'm sorry." The pumping action of the artery ceased as the heart stopped. Gathering her body into his arms, he wound his way up through the decks to sickbay and deposited it in the morgue, then continued on to the bridge. Kirk would be waiting for him. There was much to be done, the time for reflections would come later. Much later.

It was three weeks before the crippled ship made port at Starbase 4. Of the original 430 crewmembers, only 160 remained among the living. A short service had been held and the bodies interred in space. The dead were honored and the living tried to keep on doing just that ... living.

* * *

//The Guardian rumbled into life like a sleeping beast rousing itself from sleep. "It is she you wish to bring forward in time?" The question came out more like a statement.

"Affirmative."

"Proceed."

The transparency of the Guardian's gateway filled with the white mist and a wavering view of the Enterprise in space. Within seconds the scene switched to an inside shot of the empty corridors down by the labs. Then, the workroom itself. Christine was alone, working on some private research project in her off hours. Trusting the Guardian to have chosen the time accurately, he leaped through opening and found himself once more on the ship, now gone, he once called home.

Christine Chapel turned at the slight noise behind her and dropped a beaker at the sight of the stranger inside the room. No, not a stranger. It was Spock. Only it wasn't Spock. Never before had she seen him look so gaunt and his face, it seemed almost old. He said nothing, just stood there dressed in a color she'd never seen him wear; but then, she'd never seen him in anything but regulation clothing since she'd first boarded the Enterprise.

"Christine." His voice was low and mellow.

"Mr. Spock?" She had to be imagining the whole thing. That was it. She had mixed the chemicals wrong and now she was undergoing an hallucinatory experience. Satisfied that was the answer she turned away, headed for her quarters and a nice long nap till whatever it was wore off.

"Christine." Again that voice.

Spock checked the chronometer on the worktable and noted he had only a few minutes. He caught her by the arm as she walked toward the door.

Christine looked down at the hand holding her in place. "Mr. Spock, you're not really here. I'm imagining you and when I open my eyes you'll be gone and I'll just be waking up from a drug induced sleep."

"No, Christine, I am really here." The intensity of his voice must have finally reached her, because she turned and faced him. "I am from the future." That did it. Now she was listening and believing.

"What do you want? Shall I get the Captain?" she asked, reaching for the intercom.

"No, I have come for you." Briefly he explained they would soon be attacked and he wished to take her into the future and let her complete her life there. The real impact of his words sped on by her. Instead, all she heard was the phrase,"come for you" over and over in her mind. They were to be attacked and he was here to save her. Not Kirk, or McCoy or any of the others, but her ... the one he had always ignored. She didn't bother to question his motives, just said,"if that is what you want" and stepped through the gateway with him even as the first volley struck the ship, throwing the shelving rack to the floor where she had stood seconds earlier.

Her name appeared with the others on the official death list: CHAPEL, CHRISTINE MARIE, Ph.D., R.N. PRESUMED DEAD, NO BODY RECOVERED.//

* * *

Spock leaned back in the command chair and perused the starlit screen directly in front of him. For six months the newly commissioned starship Suuni had been patrolling the ever changing perimeter of the Federation. News traveled slowly because of the vast distances between outposts and starbases out here, but the latest reports had not been good. Four of the fifteen active starships had been destroyed and all hands on board lost within the last month. The Enterprise, still commanded by Kirk with Sulu as his First Officer, had dropped out of sight and no word had been received from her for almost a week.

The months of war had dealt harshly with the Federation. Millions of lives had been lost, planets decimated, whole systems now uninhabitable because of the wholesale destruction committed by the Klingon-Romulan Coalition. There was no knowledge of prisoners being taken for any reason other than slavery, and mass slaughter was standard procedure to make room for the expanding overpopulated alien empires. The constant state of alert and countless skirmishes and battles were telling on his crew, too. It seemed that services were being held almost daily for the 'killed in action'.

There had been no problem in fulfilling his duties as a Captain. Years of service on board the Enterprise under Pike and Kirk had prepared him well, nor were there any difficulties encountered in assuming the mantle of responsibility for the lives of his people. The habit of tempering his every decision with that responsibility had become instilled almost overnight.

No, the problem lay in his age old struggle of dealing with people constantly. He knew almost no one on the ship since Starfleet had thrown the crew together in haste, relying mainly on freshly graduated Academy students. Kyle and Chekov had perished in the attack on the Enterprise. McCoy and Sulu had remained with Kirk. The only person aboard the Suuni he could trust was his First Officer, Commander Uhura. At least on the Enterprise he had been able to relax and be himself, but not here on the Suuni. The censorism placed on him by the two Vulcans under his command was worse than when he'd lived on Vulcan. During his childhood the Elders would shake their heads and point to his youth and mother as the causes for any derivations in his impeccable behavior they could imagine. Here, Lt. Sanne and Dr. T'naari seemed determined to prove once and for all he did not qualify as a Vulcan. The racial bigotry was not the least bit deterred by his experience and achievements, rather it was as though they were all back in the Vulcan Academy of Higher Learning and he was the only one who wasn't allowed total acceptance.

Dr. T'naari. Spock heaved an inward sigh as he compared the sickbay under McCoy's control and what it was now under hers. Highly efficient, but it always felt as if there were a layer of ice coating everything. When he'd been there ten days ago, to have several broken ribs repaired, there was none of the concern and lectures on being more careful as McCoy had given him or the gentleness of Chapel's hands as she assisted the physician. Instead, there was silence so thick you could cut it, then a curt dismissal. In many ways the Suuni for him was like the Enterprise had been when he'd boarded her the first time; lonely as hell.

* * *

Dr. T'naari finished the mandatory updates for Starfleet Command and gave them to a yeoman for transmission preparation. Bureaucracy and red tape consumed much of her time and she resented the intrusion; the time and energy wasted on such trivialities could be utilized elsewhere with greater results. Her precious research had become of secondary importance to her duties as Chief Physician on the Suuni. With a momentary surge of anger, T'naari silently railed at the Vulcan High Council's decision to send her here. When Starfleet had petitioned the Council for assistance after the breakout of the war, she had never dreamed they would respond in this manner. No choice was given to those selected to enter the Service. It was an obligation, a duty to perform for Vulcan, refusal was unthinkable. The war couldn't last forever, but in the meantime it was an inconvenience not to be taken lightly.

It was her opinion also that insult had been added to injury by assignment to the starship commanded by Spock, the half-breed son of Sarek. A son who had abandoned the teachings of his youth for a life in the Federation. T'naari remembered him well from their days together in the Academy in ShiKahr. Even then he had been different, apart from the others; achieving an unprecedented academic level, leaving immediately upon graduation, returning only on rare occasions to his home planet.

'Almost a legend' T'Pring had called him. Those words, told to her by T'Pring shortly before the aborted wedding, came back to haunt her now as she stood on the decks of the Suuni. At the time, T'naari had thought the woman faulty in her reasoning that she would turn down her chance at the power, prestige and wealth available to her as Spock's consort, and still felt that way. T'Pring had thrown it all away by choosing the Kalifee. And for what? A minor member of one of the lower houses on Vulcan. An opportunity wasted because she had allowed emotion to temper her judgment. Even if she had married Spock, he would have been gone in a short march of days and Stonn would have still been there. In the end, T'Pring had lost all. Stonn had abandoned her in disgrace because of the shame placed upon him and his house by her refusing him as her champion. Now, no man would claim her. T'Pring's behavior on that fateful day had bought her a life of solitude and humiliation.

T'naari recalled her own marriage of a year ago as she hung her lab coat away with meticulous care. The bonding had drawn her to the appointed place and she had obediently accepted the yoke of traditional servitude to a man chosen by her parents. Fortunately, the relationship was short-lived as a fire had claimed his life only weeks later. Freedom was hers at last for the first time in a well-ordered and disciplined life. Free at least until this prison sentence on board the Suuni. The Council would pay for this indignity! How dare they send her to serve under a man who had defied and disgraced them for the last twenty years!

The sickbay staff had grown accustomed to her icy indifference and ignored her as she left for her quarters at the stroke of the shift change.

* * *

//Once through the gateway and safe on Spock's ship, Christine found herself brimming with questions of every kind. Who was alive, what happened, what were things like now ... what was going to happen to her ... Spock tried patiently to answer the myriad of inquiries, having prepared himself for just this event, but often found things too difficult to discuss. He had chosen her from the many women he had known to remain with him from this time forward, yet somehow his perceptions, so subtly altered with time, now found themselves being forced into clarity. Instead of being able to reach out to her as he had hoped, Spock found himself drawing even more inward. No matter what he might feel at this point in time, he had brought her here, now he would live with it.

Christine found herself still drawn to this man who was familiar yet a stranger. The years had changed him considerably. The bits and pieces she managed to dredge up out of him painted a picture of a universe so different it meant nothing to her, yet. She felt the distance he was putting between them and chose her course accordingly. Patience and understanding would bring him to her; after all, hadn't he brought her here for that very purpose? As their ship journeyed back toward the more common thoroughfares of space travel, the pieces of a ten year old puzzle gradually began connecting.//

* * *

The next year passed in much the same manner as the beginning of the war. Loss of lives and territory matched the number of days that marched on past. The Enterprise had limped back to port on impulse power, weeks after being officially declared lost. The Coalition's invisibility cloak was still proving to be impenetrable for some reason, making border patrols even more dangerous. Whispers of treason, in connection with it, were becoming more audible every time another planet or outpost was lost, but nothing could be proven. The Federation's invisibility cloak stolen years earlier from the Romulans was useless against an enemy that had created the original concept and design. The Suuni continued its ceaseless prowl of the perimeter, desperately trying to keep ahead of the fate half the starships had suffered so far.

Uhura gratefully turned the communications console over to her relief and headed for her quarters. Kneading fingers into the base of her spine, she stretched backwards trying to relieve some of the kinks in her back. Giving up finally, she stepped into the solitude of her cabin and stripped down for a welcome shower.

Later, curled up in a soft chair with an old fashioned book, she found herself straying from the printed pages, dwelling instead on other matters. Especially on how different life was now, than two years ago. Then, she had been a Lieutenant, not long out of the Academy, serving aboard the finest starship in the fleet with the best Captain the Federation had ever boasted. Back then, one didn't really worry whether there would be a tomorrow. Sure, discovering and charting new planets and civilizations was dangerous work, but somehow the excitement of exploring new territory always made the lethal side of their work fade into the background. Now the Suuni made her feel as if she were a caged animal waiting for that single death blow that could come at any time, from anywhere.

At least the Enterprise was still safe, if one could call patrolling Sector 9 outposts safe. Scott had been lost on their last foray into Romulan space, but he was the only close friend she'd lost since that attack eighteen months ago. She wondered briefly how Spock was handling everything. He had made a fine Captain. Uhura smiled in memory of the first few months when she had overheard several junior officers complaining about the automaton in the command chair. "Perfection," they moaned, "all he wants is mere perfection. I think I'll defect to the Klingons, there they only kill you once for an inadequate report..."

At least now she thought she understood why Spock had left Vulcan if the two they had on board were any indication of the rest of the populace. Funny though, Sarek had never expressed any kind of racial attitude of superiority stemming from pure ego, as these two did. Maybe he was too much of a diplomat, but Uhura had a feeling it ran deeper than that. Apparently Spock inherited the same inclination from his father. His remarks concerning the superiority of Vulcans over humans stemmed more from his sense of humor than any real need to play one-upmanship. Uhura shook her head and set the neglected book aside. Imagine sitting here in her quarters at midnight, in the middle of a war zone, comparing Sarek and Spock with T'naari and Sanne. Maybe a cup of coffee would put her back into a reading frame of mind.

The rec room was nearly deserted when she arrived for the much needed caffeine. Spock engaged in a chess match with the computer over in the corner looked infinitely more interesting than the book she had left lying back on her desk. He acknowledged her presence with a raised eyebrow, then proceeded to remove the queen's knight belonging to the computer. The game lasted another half hour before the inevitable draw was firmly established.

"How many does that make now, Captain?"

"I believe, at last count, approximately 47 tied games, and 3 wins each, Commander."

Uhura winced visibly and threw up her hands in mock defeat. "All right, you win. I won't call you Captain off duty if you don't call me Commander. Agreed?"

"I thought you were beginning to like the title, Miss Uhura." At last some of the weight and seriousness seemed to lift from his shoulders.

"Hhhumfpp." Switching subjects, "care for a living breathing opponent? One who is someday going to win or least call a draw with you?" The chess games became a usual occurrence for them in the wee hours of the morning after the shift changes. It was a time to escape the daily nightmare and retreat into another world. Other times they would discuss music or try out new compositions scrounged from the computer banks.

* * *

Uhura turned in her chair, earphone carefully held in place with one hand while the other played over the instrument board. "Captain, incoming message from Starfleet Command, priority."

"I will take it in my quarters, Commander."

Static crackled in the background from the vast distance it was crossing to reach him.

"Starfleet Command to all of Sector 121 Combined Klingon-Romulan attack force broke through perimeter 3 using cloaking devices. Planets destroyed include Tanus 4 and Vulcan. Please inform those members of your crew directly involved. Starfleet Command out."

Spock acknowledged the transmission by automatic reflex, later not remembering his exact words or actions. "Planets destroyed... Vulcan... destroyed... Vulcan..." The anonymous voice had delivered the chilling words of finality with no more inflection than it would have used ordering supplies. Two planets gone, millions of lives lost in scant seconds ... didn't anyone care anymore? Had the war taken so much humanity away from people that they could no longer feel the pain or loss? Maybe those words spoken when he'd felt the death of the Intrepid were more true than even he had thought, that the death of one was indeed more keenly felt than the death of millions.

Vulcan, his Vulcan, was now and forever taken away from him. Sarek, Amanda, the desert of his youth were gone. Only his memories remained now to remind him of the one place that had shaped the pattern of his entire life. The pain and emptiness of loss was carefully sequestered and put away deep inside where nothing and no one could touch it. With a calmness and serenity accomplished only by many years of practice, Spock summoned the other two Vulcans and Uhura to the briefing room.

* * *

Uhura endured the rest of the duty shift, covertly watching her Captain go through all the motions, almost like the automaton he had often been accused of being. More than once she had wanted to be near him, to let him know someone still cared. T'naari and Sanne had taken the news without so much as a blink of reaction. At the first possible moment they had taken leave and returned to their duties or whatever it was they had been doing. There had been no exchangement of condolences or visible signs of sorrow at losing their families and world. Were Spock and Sarek truly the exceptions to the Vulcan culture? Was that why Spock had gone, because he could no longer conform to the sterile environment created by such artificial means? Logic and cultural traditions and inhibitions had dictated they feel nothing, did that mean they truly did feel nothing after forty years of this harsh disciplinary training?

Messages and countless reports went through her dancing fingers on the console, but nothing could stop the building resentment she felt at T'naari and Sanne for putting Spock through this "I'm more Vulcan than you" routine. Hours later she could no longer sit idly by in her cabin and decided to seek Spock out. The corridors were nearly empty in the early morning hours as she traversed the short distance between their respective quarters.

The door was opened at her hesitant request for admittance. He was sitting in the dimly lit room, ensconced in his ornate chair, fingers steepled. Not quite knowing what to do or say, Uhura remained where she was just inside the door. After a moment, Spock gestured to a seat across the desk from him. Her eye caught a glimpse of his harp lying on the bed in the alcove. So, she hadn't been imagining music while standing outside debating whether to go through with her resolve. Taking a chance, she decided to not even attempt the usual approach of "I'm sorry to hear of your losses" routine; rather she waited a long moment then requested him to continue playing.

Wordlessly he rose to his feet and collected it from its resting place, then reseated himself. He positioned the instrument into place with practiced ease, yet seemed uncomfortable even while his fingers lightly brushed over the strings. After making minute adjustments in tuning, his eyes closed and the circle of energy between the body and instrument was completed. The anger intertwined with the lyrical lines of melodic sadness and sorrow beyond human ken. When at last he pulled himself away from the music and emotions generated from it, the room was empty again, but not really so, as finally some of the peace she had brought remained behind.

* * *

T'naari paced the floor of her quarters while Sanne reclined on the bed watching her movements. It had been simple to make him believe she had wanted him for a lover. Men were all alike in their vain conceits and self-gratitude. Toss them a few petals and they would believe the whole flower to be uprooted into their hands. After Vulcan was destroyed, Sanne had practically begged her to accept him, fearing eventual death from the pon farr.

With the Council gone there would be nothing to stop her from advancing to the position and wealth that was rightfully hers. T'naari stopped treading long enough to look long and hard into the mirror. The face staring back at her was that of a young woman, barely forty, with untarnished beauty. Her Vulcan intellect and training would hold her in good stead among those controlling Terran Corporation interests. Once off the Suuni, everything could move according to plan.

Plan ... the one she'd been using involving Sanne had paled to insignificance beside the information that had come her way that very morning. A technician's error had brought the Captain's medical file to her attention and the data had been confirmed by a visit to the bridge. The condition would be invisible to detection for several more days to an uneducated eye, but to a Vulcan physician it was already obvious. Only the First Officer would be a threat to the plan, but a little surreptitious tampering of the main circuit board near the bridge relay system by Sanne would guarantee her absence. Satisfied everything would have transpired by morning to assure success, T'naari turned out the lights.

* * *

//The days passed by in a fog for Christine. She spent hours at the small computer console searching the archives for answers to questions she had, and those she hadn't thought of yet. More than once she had to bite her lower lip and hold back the tears as another name appeared on the war casualty lists. Chekov, with all the unbounded enthusiasm of the young, Scott, whose only true vice was his love for his engines, Kyle, a former lover who had remained a fond friend. But confusion remained her most constant companion as she tried to find her own place in the scheme of things. One minute she had been in the lab on board the Enterprise, the next on a barren planet in one of the most far flung outer reaches of space standing beside a man she no longer knew.

Christine leaned back in her chair and watched Spock moving about with cat-like grace from beneath lowered eyelids. Such a mass of inconsistencies to exist within one person. He had brought her to this time to be with him, or so he said, but had not made a single move toward her or laid a hand on her in all the time they'd been together on board the tiny craft. Her hand fairly itched to touch him, to hold him close, but still she sat, only watching, waiting. Years of rebuffs and repeated refusals held her back from approaching him, as she desired. But then, why shouldn't she? What was there to stop her now? She was no longer under the constant scrutiny of everyone from the lowliest yeoman to the Captain himself.

The Captain. Somehow he always managed to keep that protective shielding around his First Officer, when she was near. Spock certainly hadn't needed it, having one of his own. But Kink had apparently decided she wasn't good enough for Spock and had determined to prevent any and all contact and contamination. Well, James T. Kink wasn't here now, and neither was anyone else.

Spock finished the instrument check at last and was stationery, bent over the sensor hood. Christine arose and came close to him, gently placing a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head in her direction and cocked a questioning eyebrow. She whirled away in anger at his obtuseness and eternal "don't touch" attitude.

"Damn it, Spock. Why did you even bring me here?" The words were ripped from her throat before she could stop them.

"I have explained..."

"You explained, but so far all I've heard is words. I need ... more than that. I'm a person, a woman stranded in nowhere, with no one except a man who evades my questions. A man whose words hold empty promises. I can't stand it anymore. We've been on this ship for ten days and you've hardly spoken in five of them. If you didn't mean what you said on that first day, then take me back to the Enterprise."

There wasn't the slightest flicker of reaction from him as he straightened and flipped the controls to automatic. "I have neglected you." Christine couldn't tell if it was a question or a statement of fact."What is it you want?" The dark brown eyes stared directly at her and she felt trapped.

"You," she finally managed to whisper.

"As you wish."//

* * *

Uhura, where was Uhura? Spock groped in the dark for the light switch as he tried to get a grip on reality. The pounding headache subsided some as he forced an iron hard clamp of control on his system. At last he remembered the answer to his waking question. Uhura was in sickbay being treated for massive shock and trauma after having a circuit board short out on her while repairing it yesterday.

After a lengthy cold shower, Spock made his way to the bridge enduring the shift strictly by a supreme effort of will. The shaking of his hands must have been noticeable in the last hours as several of the crew were caught, rather sheepishly, watching him.

The peaceful solitude of his cabin was interrupted only moments after arrival. Gritting his teeth at this further intrusion on his private misery, he at last relented, if only to rid himself of the buzzing noise.

As Dr. T'naari entered the dim quarters, Spock maneuvered his position to place his desk between them. In typical fashion, T'naari came to the point of her visit.

"What provisions have you made for yourself. Spock?" Even in his agony he noted the subtle non-acknowledgment of his rank and position. Couldn't she just leave him alone? Even as his mind registered discomfort at her presence, his body reacted to her nearness. Just as quickly however, he squelched the momentary inner weakness and met her stare coldly.

She picked up immediately on his carefully concealed hostility. "I am a physician, Spock, and have access to any and all medical records of personnel on board this vessel, including yours. As a Vulcan, your symptoms are obvious to me and..." she added with a hint of sarcasm, "others."

"This does not concern you, Doctor."

"On the contrary. Logically, I am the primary one to be 'concerned', as you put it." T'naari adopted a stance that reminded Spock of the instructors he'd had on Vulcan. He could mentally see her ticking off the reasons on her fingers one by one as she listed them for him. "All Vulcans believe in the preservation of life, and yours is in danger. With Vulcan destroyed, your duty is clear, for the preservation of the race as a whole is of paramount importance. Most importantly, it 'concerns' me in particular as I am the only female Vulcan within a reasonable proximity."

"And if don't desire you?" Spock felt an unreasonable flash of resentment toward this woman who was blatantly listing reasons in an empirical fashion of why he should go to bed with her. He could hear his father's voice answering Spock's question concerning Amanda, "It seemed the logical thing to do." Somehow he couldn't quite picture Sarek using the same phrase to describe this situation.

T'naari glanced sharply at him. "Desire?" She drew herself up with disdain. "I am offering you a logical alternative to dying the death of madness and shaming Vulcan with such unbecoming behavior." Hearing no rebuttal, she continued, "We shall observe the customary procedure of marriage to insure the legality of any possible 'offspring'. It is within my right to refuse the bonding, and I choose to do so; therefore, Sanne can serve as witness and the law will be upheld." Without waiting for an answer, she stepped over to the intercom to summon him. T'naari gasped in surprise as Spock caught her arm in midair with a trembling hand.

"I choose and it is not you."

"You have no choice. Without me you'll die. Vulcan must continue, even if it is through a half-breed like you," she hissed. "You think I want to do this? To have you take and use my body for your own base desires? I do this for Vulcan, not for you or your precious ship. The only reason Sanne and I are here is because the Council sent us. It is my obligation and yours, that we do this. A true Vulcan does not place personal likes and dislikes above their duty to the whole."

Suddenly Spock found himself weary of the whole thing. What did it matter anymore? She was right in a way. She was the logical choice in that he had no other choice. There was no woman waiting for him on Vulcan as there was last time. There wasn't even a planet anymore, and the odds were certainly against this pon farr being neutralized by violence and murder. Perhaps if Christine were still alive things might have been different. It was doubtful however, if he would have felt differently toward her now as then, but at least she would have probably been willing. Uhura? He almost shuddered at the thought of admitting this weakness on his part to the woman he called friend. Plus he had no wish to die, especially for such ignominious reasons. No, there was no other alternative.

"I reluctantly accede to your logic, Doctor." Soon it would be over, the shame would be behind him. She was Vulcan and would not flaunt it to his face. There would be no bonding, his inner self would be safe from prying eyes and humiliation from the feelings of this moment.

The brief ceremony was conducted in a manner similar to a business merger, and the door was locked for privacy afterwards.

* * *

His quarters were empty once more of T'naari's presence and Spock felt somewhat cleansed by her absence. The passion and violence of the pon farr was behind him now and he could begin functioning in his normal capacity again. Unanswered questions flickered through his mind as he showered and readied himself to go to the bridge after the unsolicited three day hiatus. Was it always to be such an ordeal? To be endured every few years without hesitation? Was this all he was to have for the rest of his life? A physical coupling with no other motivation than the satiation of an uncontrollable rutting urge? There had to be more, he reasoned with himself. His experiences with Leila and Zarabeth had held the promises of things yet to be, but that was over now. He was married to T'naari now, and as Jim Kirk might have put it; he'd made his bed, now he would have to lie in it. Perhaps ir would not be a total loss, however, as she would be remaining in her own cabin, seeing no reason to stay with him past the initial stages of the pon farr.

It was simple to rise above the unspoken curiosity of the crew concerning his mysterious disappearance. The difficulty came in having to face Uhura. She was the one however, who brought it up in the course of the conversation that evening over the chess board. Although tired after her first day back on duty, Uhura insisted on keeping their customary appointment in the rec room. She shifted her pawn down a level and spoke quietly.

"I believe congratulations are in order, Mr. Spock." His eyebrow lifted slightly. "Dr. T'naari mentioned it to me this morning as I was leaving sickbay. She seemed to feel I should know as I would probably have to rectify any aberrations in the ship's functioning this past week, I believe was how she put it." Uhura smiled briefly. "She does have a way with words. Anyway, I wish you the best, even if it was kind of unexpected."

"It was ... unavoidable." Spock found himself unable to meet her eyes, finding his next move absorbing. He suddenly felt her hand on his. Looking up, he saw concern on her now solemn face.

"I understand, Spock. Christine explained it to me a long time ago."

"She knew?" Both Christine and Uhura knew...

"Being Head Nurse, she was privy to a great deal of information, but please don't get the idea she went around telling things to everyone. We were very close back then and she came to me one night, unable to cope with what she had found out. It was hard on her, you know, finding out you were married to a beautiful Vulcan woman, then learning about the pon farr... She needed to talk to someone. I'm sorry if I've offended you. Just wanted you to know someone cared." She rose carefully, balancing herself on the table's edge as a touch of vertigo hit. "I think better get some sleep tonight, still a little rocky on my feet. Good night, Spock." Silently he came to his feet and escorted her to her cabin, bidding her good night before continuing to his own quarters.

* * *

Alone in the privacy of her cabin, Uhura lay awake trying to sort out her feelings about the man with whom she'd been serving the last seven years. On the Enterprise, her emotional desires had been focused on James Kirk. Nothing lasting had ever resulted from the relationship, but now those same feelings were becoming focused on Spock. Was she merely the kind of woman who would forever seek gratification for those emotional needs from a man who sat in the command chair, no matter who it was? Christine had laughed about it once, saying Uhura was in love with the power and prestige of the position, not Jim Kirk the man. But Kirk was not Spock. They were as different as night and day. With the Captain of the Enterprise, everything and everyone revolved around his precious ship. No woman could possibly hope to compete with that inanimate object and come out in the forefront of his affections. He was brilliant, exciting, flashy, but there was little substance beneath it all. Theirs had been a loving and caring relationship, but Uhura had known from the beginning where she stood in respect to his ship and career.

On the other hand, she'd spent years watching Christine pursue Spock with a single mindedness unmatched by anyone else she'd ever known. What was it that had driven her on with unceasing determination to obtain the unobtainable? Even when Uhura had asked her point blank, Christine had just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. He reminded her slightly of Roger Korby, she said, a scientist of the highest caliber with a kind and gentle disposition. There had to be more than that, Uhura argued, something that drew Christine to Spock besides an intellectual resemblance to Korby. The reply: she loved him, there was no other reason necessary.

Uhura returned to the present, deciding perhaps it was best Spock had married T'naari before she had become too wrapped up in him. If T'naari pleased him and he was happy, that was all that was important. There would be other men in her life, maybe after the war was over she would settle down. But when she rolled over in hopes of falling asleep the resentment that he had gone to another woman instead of her in his time of need remained.

* * *

Several days later they came upon a recently damaged outpost while on patrol. Suuni landing parties were on the surface assisting with repairs when a Klingon vessel appeared, opening fire on the Federation ship. The Suuni fought doggedly, and eventually won, but the cost was high. Just before their destruction, knowing they had lost, the Klingons opened fire and razed the planet surface wreaking havoc and annihilating every living being.

Never before had the Suuni suffered such a great loss and the crew was in shock. The memorial service for the outpost personnel and their fellow crew members was difficult for Spock. The responsibility for all these deaths was his alone, no one else could be blamed for such a loss. The event was duly recorded into the Captain's log and the order to continue on their present course was given.

Uhura watched helplessly in silence as Spock pulled further and further into himself, retreating into the brittle shell of Vulcan impassivity. Even she could no longer reach him as she had. It was as though he refused to journey back out into the light of day and reality.

Spock felt her eyes on him and kept his attention riveted on the screen of stars in front of him. The barrier he'd erected between them was unavoidable. There could be no more closeness or even the least hint of dependency on her now that he was married to T'naari. No words on the subject had passed between them since that initial night's discussion. She had known all along of his private shame, even said she understood. But how could she? How could she begin to comprehend the humiliation of being intimate with a woman who fairly loathed him, yet having no control over his own body? To touch the barrenness of the mental shielding stopping him from forming a meld, leaving him to suffer in isolation. T'naari had said nothing during the three days, enduring her conjugal obligations with a tight-lipped stoicism.

Without looking he knew T'naari had come onto the bridge with the medical report, by an involuntary movement by Uhura. Spock took the board and scanned the data carefully compiled in neat rows and columns. He signed the report and returned it to her, paying no attention as she swept off the bridge.

Going off duty Uhura passed T'naari in the corridor and asked her if she knew where Spock was. An engineering report needed his immediate attention and Uhura was trying to locate him.

"I do not know, Commander, I suggest you continue looking or handle the situation yourself."

"Everything is channeled through him, Doctor. He's the Captain of this ship, in case you've forgotten."

"I do my duties as prescribed by Federation standards and regulations. The ship and its multi-faceted functions are your and his responsibility. You will excuse me."

"Yes, his responsibility. And a large one. But then you don't really care, do you?" Uhura demanded quietly. "You're his wife, too, or have you forgotten that also?"

"He is a Vulcan, there is no need for concern," T'naari replied haughtily.

"He's a person, a person that's responsible for every life on this vessel. Doesn't it matter to you that thirty of those lives were lost recently and he might feel responsible and need you to stand by him right now?" The First Officer's patience was nearly at an end with this obstinate woman.

"He is my husband. When he desires my presence, he will call. Until then, I have duties to perform." With a quick turn, T'naari brushed past Uhura, heading down the hallway.

"He may be your husband, but he sure as hell deserves better than you." T'naari didn't even bother to look back as Uhura's words bounced off her retreating figure.

* * *

//Christine traced the graceful contours of the ear of the man asleep next to her. He had made love to her at her request, fulfilling her expectations. Then why did she feel so cheap now? No, that wasn't quite the word she wanted. Unsatisfied was more accurate. First he had come for her, then had established a physical relationship, albeit at her urging, why? This was not the Spock she knew. There was almost a callousness to him now. The ease in which he had given in to her was unlike him. The tapes had listed a wife, a Vulcan woman named T'naari. Where was she now? Christine hadn't finished the tape before losing her temper with him so her question was academic at the moment.

She felt jealousy and resentment toward the two women that had been with him all the years she'd been 'dead'. Uhura had been lovers with Kirk for years, evincing no interest in Spock, yet now Spock called her friend, a word rare in his voluminous vocabulary. Here she was his lover, would he ever call her friend? At least she had this much, which was considerably more than she'd had on the Enterprise. And T'naari. Out of the blue sky she walks onto the Suuni and marries Spock.

What had life been like for him, married to a full-blooded Vulcan woman? Had there been any love between them, or had it been merely a marriage of convenience? Christine rolled over and lay on her back staring up at the ship's ceiling. She felt him stir next to her and rose on her elbow to watch him wake.

"Spock, tell me about T'naari."

He turned to face her."There is nothing to tell, Christine."

"Did she make you happy?"

"You ask of irrelevancies."

Christine bit her lip in vexation. It was like asking a blank wall to paint her a picture. Giving up temporarily she changed topics."Tell me about Uhura, what's she doing now, where is she, is she married..."

Spock grew pensive as he considered the subdivided question. "She is supervising layover repairs on the Suuni at the moment. We will be joining both the ship and her at the drydock facilities on Starbase 6 in two days. Starfleet has offered her a promotion recently to either a Captaincy of her own or to head the newly constructed Communications Center at Starfleet Central. They have given her until the Suuni repairs are completed to decide."

"What do you think she will do?" Christine asked. In her imaginations she could see Uhura in the command gold she'd wanted many years ago. Or maybe the prestige of directing the Communications Center would be more appropriate.

"I do not know. She was ambivalent about it when I left."

"And what of you?" What of me? was the unspoken question. Till now the reality of the situation hadn't sunk in. All of a sudden the enormity of what he'd done registered. She was dead, the records said so. Her identity would have to be changed as there was no way to explain her appearance except with the truth and that was too dangerous. There was always the chance of running into someone she'd known before, from Earth, one of the universities she'd attended, a former crew member from the Enterprise, anyone. To avoid any confrontations they would have to be away from the mainstream of civilization, which meant Spock would have to leave Starfleet. Christine didn't like the direction her thoughts were taking her. Starfleet was Spock's home, his life, he had nothing else. Vulcan was gone, he had no family of which she was aware. How could he bear to leave something so important to him behind like that? And for what? A woman? His voice interrupted her thoughts.

"I have not yet decided. There was no guarantee the Guardian would allow me to bring you to the present, or that the Guardian had even survived the war. We shall remain on Starbase 6 while repairs ane competed to decide and make further arrangements."

Christine noticed the evasiveness of the answer, but kept her silence. Without conscious volition she wished herself back on the Enterprise, away from this pain her presence was causing. But she wasn't to blame, she told herself. He brought me here, it's not my fault he has to leave Starfleet. It was his own decision, for whatever reasons. At least she could look forward to seeing Uhura. Maybe some answers would be found there.

Spock saw the shadowed look in her eyes and guessed its cause. The truth would come in its own time. Until then silence would be the best recourse. He gathered her into his arms and made her forget all but his nearness.//

* * *

Uhura put the last fitting into place and crawled back out of the access tunnel. One more major overhaul without base facilities and she was going to start doing some damage on her own. Twelve straight hours it had taken her to recircuit the last bit of destruction given them by the Klingons. Well, at long last, it was done. Now she could go up to the bridge for a rundown on ship activities then go to her quarters for some much needed shut-eye.

The bridge seemed abnormally quiet to her as she did a quick check through at the library station. Just as she was headed for the communications station to review the tapes of incoming messages while she'd been off the bridge, Spock turned over command to a junior officer and motioned her to follow him.

He waited until they were in his quarters before breaking the news. The treason high in the ranks of the Federation Council and Military Command had been uncovered, but not before the ultimate sacrifice had been made. A lone starship had been sent into a trap with no hope of survival. The ship had been destroyed and all hands on board lost. The Enterprise was no more.

"The Enterprise gone? I can't believe it, there must be some mistake. There must be."

"There is no error." The news was so devastating he understood the difficulty she was having accepting it. His own grief at the hours-old information had been carefully probed and put away. He had nothing left now. Everything was gone. The war had quite systematically eliminated those things of value to him. Family, friends, home, even his home away from home, the Enterprise, was gone. He now had a wife who hated him, a command he'd never wanted, the responsibility of the lives of his crew, and the countless lives of all the planets within the sector of the Suuni's patrol. Uhura's voice brought him back to the moment at hand.

"...stupid senseless war. Why does everyone have to die? Tell me that, Spock. We keep fighting and killing just to survive another day. Where does it stop? Does it ever stop?" Her voice broke finally and the tears started. "I'm sorry, Spock. I'm worn out, tired, I just can't handle it anymore." She rubbed the backs of her hands over her eyes trying to dry the tears. "Thank you for breaking it to me alone. I better get back to the bridge and finish running those daily tapes."

"They can wait." She looked up at him in surprise. Spock tried to explain. "Even among Vulcans there is a time for mourning."

"But T'naari and Sanne..."

"...are irrelevant. They do not reflect the true spirit of Vulcan." He stopped and watched Uhura seat herself, then followed suit. Steepling his fingers, he directed his gaze at the glowing firepot in the far corner. "They seek the outward appearance of non-emotion without understanding it must come from within. One cannot deny what truly exists, but to place it in a proper perspective is a worthy goal." Spock focused his attention on the woman across from him. "Do not deny your own grief simply because others lack the capacity to experience such loss."

"But you deny it also. You've pulled so far away from everything nothing can touch or affect you anymore."

Spock shook his head, negating her claims. "Because I do not show feelings you assume I have none."

"That's not what I'm talking about. I just don't understand you. Jim is gone and you do nothing. You don't feel anything, do you?" She stopped, horrified by her own words. "I'm sorry, I know that isn't true. You're trying to help me and I'm being cruel in return." His stoic expression remained unchanged. "It's just that ... you've changed so much lately. You let me lean on you in times like this. When Scotty died you said the right things and helped me get over it. Now Jim and the rest are dead ... and you're letting me reach out to you again, but you never reach out to me anymore. In the past I felt there were moments when you needed me, but not now. Ever since you married T'naari, you've pulled away. Do I mean that much less to you as a friend now?"

"Uhura..." Spock started.

"Why did you go to her instead of me?" The words hung in the space between them.

Spock hesitated briefly before answering the stark accusation. "I could not ask you to submit yourself to such an ordeal. T'naari came to me and offered. It seemed the logical choice at the time."

"And now? Why do you still remain so far away?"

"It was necessary ... to free you of any ties that might exist."

"'You can't deny what truly exists, but to place in a proper perspective...' What perspective have you placed me in now, Spock? Good old efficient Uhura. You can depend on her, she'll get the job done. That's all I am to you, isn't it? Just like I was for him." Spock suddenly barred her way as she strode to the door. "Let me go, Spock. It doesn't matter anymore. It's my own fault. I should have seen it coming a long time ago. Christine pursued you for a long time and I never quite understood until now. She can't chase you anymore and I refuse to place myself in the same position."

"Christine Chapel was a woman in love with an image of a man who didn't exist. In her eyes I had no flaws. I was the paragon of all she'd wanted from Korby but had lost." His eyes became shadowed. "I found her dying that day on the Enterprise and her life literally slipped away from beneath my hands, but I could feel no sorrow, no grief at her passing. Only a sadness that a life had been lost." Spock straightened, the haunting memory slipping back into the past where if belonged. "Do not compare yourself with one such as she. Christine could never accept my disinterest for what it was. She preferred rather to see it as a challenge." He turned away from Uhura but remained blocking the door. "I almost came to you that night, but could not face the revulsion I knew would be on your face and in your mind. By then also, you were in sickbay and the decision was taken from me."

"So you married and made love to a woman who despises you and speaks of you only with contempt."

"It is past."

"But it will come again, and you'll force yourself to go through it then just as you did this time. It isn't fair, or right. There's more to it than that. Much more. Just because you can't admit to love being involved, doesn't mean there should be only hate."

"It is of no consequence. The pon farr has passed and will not recur again for several years."

"So between now and then you will carry this experience with you as a bad memory. Knowing that sometime in the not so distant future it will strike again and once more you will be left to T'naari's mercy." She lightly touched his chest with her hand. "Jim is gone now, but he left me with some very beautiful memories, memories like that are what life is about. The joys of living each day to the fullest, knowing that perhaps we too may die. But that isn't what is important. Living is what is important. Life is too precious to just throw away. Just for tonight let me share those memories with you. Tomorrow things will be just as they were before. The choice is yours, Spock. Two individuals sharing the same time and space."

There was a long moment of silence as Spock weighed her words. With deliberate movements he brought his hand up to caress her tear streaked face. A portion of his brain viewed his actions with an analytical detachment. There should be guilt felt for this betrayal of his marriage comnittment, yet he felt none. There should be shame for this act of pleasure, this defiance of logic and training, yet there was none felt within him. The thoughts were silenced as his lips found hers.

* * *

The tide of the war began turning with the discovery of the invisibility cloak's secrets. Attacks previously made under its protection were now thwarted and swift countermeasures were at last possible. The shrunken Federation perimeters began slowly expanding to their original dimensions, taking every effort to destroy the remains of the Coalition in their wake. Recovery of all the lost space would be a multi-year undertaking, but the beginning was on firm footing. For the billions of lost lives and ruined planets it was too late. For the war-weary survivors it was a hopeful start.

It was two months after the destruction of the Enterprise before the Suuni made port for the desperately needed overhaul and repair work. Spock finished the last of the engineering reports and picked up the transfer sheets requiring his signature. There were surprisingly few names on it, but one caught his eye in particular. Lt. Sanne. The door buzzer interrupted further perusal.

"Come."

T'naari gracefully walked into the cabin and seated herself. "I wish to speak with you." At his nod she continued. "I carry your child. For this reason I request an immediate transfer off the Suuni." She got a reaction from him, but not the one anticipated.

"My child?" Spock's even tone held a slight note of disbelief.

"You dare question me? Perhaps it is your own guilt which prompts this attempted disparagement of my word," she snapped back.

He carefully set his stylus aside and turned his attention fully upon her. "I fail to see about what it is I am to be presumed 'guilty'."

"You think I am blind to your actions, Spock? I am your wife, yet you have ignored the ancient laws and taken another unto yourself." Her cold eyes flashed fire. "Do not attempt to deny it. Your behavior has disgraced me and made me an object of ridicule on board this ship of yours."

"Indeed?"

"Indeed? It is common knowledge you have bedded that human woman. Do you really think it possible to deny it?"

"I account to no one for my actions. What is it you want?"

"I want a transfer off the Suuni, as I stated earlier."

"How convenient. I believe Lt. Sanne has also requested something similar."

"I fail to see..."

"The connection? I find it quite obvious." He rose from behind the desk and circled it to stand directly in front of her. "You have accused me of being less than the perfect Vulcan husband, yet your own perfidy lies within you, T'naari."

"You accuse..."

"You carry a child."

"Of course. I have stated that fact already." T'naari stood up, refusing to be placed at a disadvantage by sitting."

"You are my wife according to the laws of our people and can only be divorced by the Kalifee. For the record I will claim filial rights of paternity. Now if you will excuse me, I am busy."

"What are you talking about?" The words were harsh in their delivery.

"As a physician the answer should be obvious even though it is not in my records, yet you seem to have overlooked it. The child you carry is Sanne's."

"Upon what do you base this claim?"

"Two things. One, there is nothing on board the Suuni which escapes my attention."

"And the second?"

"I am a hybrid and am therefore sterile. I cannot possibly have fathered your child."

"You accuse me of infidelity, yet you still intend to claim the child as your own." Her eyes narrowed. "Could it be you wish to keep your lack of manhood a secret perhaps, Spock? It would be a most befitting act upon your part. The great son of Sarek, a legend I believe is how T'Pring put it, may as well be a eunuch for all the good he can do." His expression hardened and she took an involuntary step backwards. "You should thank me for saving you from the disgrace of admitting to sterility. I'm the perfect wife in that I'm really no wife at all -- except that I have your name and your property in accordance with the laws. Your First Officer has nothing, or have you not told her the truth?"

"It is none of your concern."

The door sounded, cutting off T'naari's reply. Spock said, 'come' and Uhura entered. Realizing the situation at once, she apologized for the intrusion and turned to exit. Spock motioned her to remain and gestured to T'naari. "Dr. T'naari was just leaving, Commander. You have the latest reports from Mr. Mitchell?"

T'naari decided her point had been made and went in search of Sanne to explain that she was pregnant with her husband's child and would not be transferring to the same outpost, as originally planned.

END OF PART ONE