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 Two
Karen A. Bates-Crouch
//Christine shut the computer console down and leaned back in her chair. The records were sketchy at best, concerning the years of destruction during the War and the gaps in the memory banks were frustrating. It was like trying to read a textbook with half the pages missing. Names would appear from nowhere of seeming importance, only to fade into obscurity just a few entries later. After only a few months into the War, accurate records became impossible by the sheer volume of lives and planets lost so the attempt was considered futile.
And what had become of T'naari? For a short time, following her transfer off the Suuni, her name appeared occasionally in the Starfleet records, but after her resignation, there was no trace. Spock's record showed the legal marriage to T'naari of Vulcan, but apparently there had been no offspring and no mention of divorce.
Starbase Six was only a day away and she felt no closer to the answers than the day she'd stepped through the Guardian's portal.//
* * *
T'naari double checked the medical logs to make sure there was no mention of her pregnancy. With quick sure motions, she erased the last of the entries and test results, replacing them with falsified information pertaining to her health.
Things were not falling into place as anticipated. When hearing of her pregnancy, Sanne had immediately assumed she would be leaving with him as originally arranged and would not hear otherwise.
"Men", she snarled to herself. Spock claimed filial responsibility to cover up his own inadequacy, dismissing her out of hand in preference to the woman that served at his right hand and warmed his bed. How dare he? I will not abide by this humiliation! Sanne had argued that the child was the issue at hand, stating that its upbringing should be by the two most qualified Vulcans available -- he and T'naari -- to insure the accurate preservation of the race.
"Preservation of the race! Of all the..." Not only Spock, but Sanne as well, had believed her reasons for marrying the Captain of the Suuni. There was so much more to it than she had admitted. Vulcan was gone, taking away the security it had previously offered. Spock could give her honor, prestige, respectability outside Vulcan's boundaries, wealth, all the things she would need to pursue a career. These had been carefully weighed against the repugnant thought of marriage to the half-breed 'legend'.
The untimely arrival of the pon farr had been so convenient, so persuasive, only the presence of Uhura had stood in her way. Sanne had surreptitiously removed that small obstacle and everything was T'naari's: the prestige, the wealth, the long line of impeccable ancestry that put her own to shame. All of it was hers.
Only, nothing was succeeding. Spock was proving a formidable interference to her plans and ambitions. He was not pliable as Sanne and her first husband had been. At the news of a child, Spock should have immediately resigned his commission and left Star Fleet behind. Instead, he had turned the tables and left her out in the cold. As her spouse, by Vulcan law, Spock controlled everything. Without his cooperation, her hands were effectively tied and there was no way he would relent so long as he served the Federation. T'naari's anger was most unVulcan whenever the presence of her 'husband' served to remind her of the uncomfortable position she had now because of the war.
It might take some time to exact her revenge and gain what was rightfully hers, but in the end it would be worth the wait.
* * *
Spock frowned slightly as he read the list of transfers and personnel changes. Sanne was still leaving, but T'naari's name had been removed. How could she possibly hope to remain on a starship while expecting a child? It took a few moments, but he finally tracked her down on the planet surface not far from the Base. Beaming down not far away, he overtook her near a civilian medical dispensary.
"Do I take your presence to mean that Starfleet facilities are inadequate for your needs, Doctor?"
T'naari stopped at the sound of his voice and turned to face him squarely. "My needs are none of your concern, Captain."
"On the contrary. The crew, of which you are still a member, is my concern, or have you forgotten that minor detail in your haste?" he asked coldly.
"I iterate my previous statement." T'naari's heels clicked on the metal surface beneath them as she strode toward her destination.
"And the child?" Spock questioned from behind her.
"Is only temporary."
Spock gripped her arm tightly, stopping her forward motion abruptly. "Is that your purpose in being here, T'naari? To insure the child's life is only 'temporary'?"
"Let go of me!"
"Answer me," Spock demanded.
T'naari drew herself up haughtily, looking him straight in the eye. "Yes. Now leave me."
"And should the child be mine?"
"That is an impossibility, as you have already stated," she retorted.
"I don't believe you. It is of no consequence, however, either way. The decision is mine."
"You would destroy a life to your own ends?"
"The subject is not open to discussion, Captain," T'naari stated firmly.
"To defy traditions..."
"Who are you to speak of defiance?" she interrupted. "I am no more defying the traditions than you did by lying to me, or by taking a mistress in your efforts to cast dishonor upon me. Imagine the great son of Sarek, who broke with all of Vulcan to become one of the humans, trying to tell me my duty to a dead race and a dead planet."
Spock released his grasp on the diminutive woman and stood in silence as she walked away. T'naari, his wife, was on her way to destroy a tiny unborn life, a child which very well might be his own. The lie told to her that day in a gamble to force her hand had come back to haunt him. He signaled the Suuni to beam him up. Would this nightmare never end?
* * *
//The small craft docked near the other civilian ships and the two of them made their way through the base to the quarters Spock had reserved for them. Christine studied her surroundings from beneath the hooded cloak Spock had provided, noting the various faces that passed by. What if someone recognized her? How would she explain her presence, or the fact that she had not aged in ten years?
Once inside the room, Christine breathed a sigh of relief and shed the voluminous garment. Was it going to be like this the rest of her life, forever avoiding people in hopes of passing unrecognized? To live in constant fear of discovery? And if she was found out one day, what then? She didn't know the coordinates of the Guardian planet, but Spock did. Would the authorities attempt to force him into telling them so it could be used to their own ends?
Christine could easily imagine the people in power utilizing it to alter the outcome of the War, to change history into some warped version of how they thought it should have been. The crew of the Enterprise had once proven the dangers of tampering with history. How would it end if the tampering were premeditated and purposeful instead of accidental, if there was no one there willing to correct it again?
What of her own presence? Had Spock altered the future somehow by adjusting the past? Would she have to live her remaining years in hopeless isolation to assure the least change in the time lines? Her dreams of a home and family were gone, destroyed on that day she stepped through the time portal. If she had stayed on the Enterprise her death would have resulted, but was this life she'd been offered going to prove any better?
"Remain here while I return to the Suuni. Room service will see to any of your needs in my absence." Before she could ask how long he'd be, he was gone. There was nothing she could do but wait.//
* * *
"Come," Spock replied to the door buzzer on his quarters. They had left the base scant hours before and the hour was late. T'naari had reported on board just minutes before their departure and had been assiduously avoiding him since their encounter on the surface.
"Sorry to bother you so late, Spock, but a message just came that thought would interest you. It was a small blip under the general news category." Uhura stopped a moment to prepare her next words. "Spock, Sarek is alive."
She hurried on in her explanation. "I'm not sure of the details, but apparently he wasn't on Vulcan when it was destroyed and because he was involved in the most crucial negotiations of the peace settlement, they kept the news of his survival away from the public." She didn't tell him all the effort it had taken to obtain the information, the strings pulled, favors returned; the slight easing of tension in his shoulders was sufficient thanks.
"Where is he now?" Sarek alive. After all this time he had surfaced once more. Perhaps Amanda had been with him.
"According to the tape that arrived today, he's at Starfleet Central, and was just appointed to the Council."
"Thank you, Uhura." Five years ago, even two years ago those words would have been left unsaid, now they came naturally to him, especially to her. Uhura had proven herself a good friend, a solid right arm to him since they had come on the Suuni. How could the two women in his life be so opposite from one another?
* * *
//Uhura handed the clipboard to the yeoman at the sight of Spock and walked the length of the corridor to greet him. Where had he been these last few weeks? "Repairs are scheduled for completion day after tomorrow, Captain."
"Crew lists and transfers?" How was he going to break the news to her?
"Complied and ready for your signature." The door to his quarters closed behind them, shielding them from any prying eyes. Uhura studied the black robed figure as he efficiently handled the immediate ship's business, adjusting himself to the familiar surroundings once more. Once completed, he leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers in front of his face as he contemplated the woman seated across from him. How would she react to his news?
"I have several matters to discuss with you, Uhura."
"I thought as much." Was she imagining the barrier growing between them since his arrival?
"Have you made a decision concerning the offers from Starfleet?" Whatever her choice, Spock was sure she would be more than capable of handling whatever came her way. He could not have asked for a better First Officer these last ten years.
Uhura settled back in her chair, a bit uneasy at his direct approach. What was he seeking that he should be pressing the matter so soon after his return? Did he have a preference in how she made her decision? Could he, after all these years together in a close relationship, finally be admitting to something that had remained entirely unspoken since that first time on the day the Enterprise was destroyed?
Yet, he seemed troubled by something. He still offered no explanation or clue as to his whereabouts since the Suuni had docked for repairs. Why was he making this difficult for her?
"I wanted to discuss it with you before making any final decision, Spock." Why are you doing this to me?
"As both options seem to be of similar quality, the final choice must be a personal one." I have made my choice, you must do the same.
"I would rather not accept either one of them."
Spock was uncertain for a moment of how to proceed. "What would you rather do?"
"Stay here on the Suuni, with you." She continued before he could interrupt. "This is my home, my life. It may not be the 'logical' answer you're looking for, but it's the truth. I enjoy my work, I enjoy serving under you, I enjoy being with you."
"Let me finish. I know it's against regulations, but I've been happier these last several years than I've ever been in my life. It's selfish, but I don't want to give that up ... not for a Captaincy, or head of the Communications Center or anything."
"I will be resigning my commission effective end of docking. I have requested that you be given the Captaincy of the Suuni, should that be your decision." His voice was flat in its delivery.
Uhura sat in stunned silence. Resigning? What was happening? Why was everything suddenly falling apart, crumbling to dust even she watched? "Why?" she finally whispered."Why now suddenly? Have I..."
"I have been giving the thought consideration for some time now," he started. "It was not an easy decision to make, but it is necessary."
"Necessary for who?" Uhura demanded softly.
* * *
She stiffened and placed the beaker of corrosive acid carefully on the edge of the table. "What is it you want, Spock? I am rather heavily occupied at the moment."
"There are certain matters which we need to discuss and as you have chosen to avoid me during your free hours, I have found it necessary to bring them to your attention at a less appropriate time."
"I assume you will not mind if I continue working while you 'discuss' these important matters of yours." So saying, T'naari covered the length of the small room in a few strides and transferred a large stack of tapes to her work area. Several slipped to the floor from her brusque motions and she knelt to retrieve them. Spock stooped to assist and bumped the table accidently, trying to avoid the arm pushing his help aside. The beaker swayed at the motion, then was carried over the edge by the movement of the contained liquid, spilling its contents over T'naari and splashing onto Spock's hand and uniform.
She screamed as the acid bit into her flesh and ran to the sink to bathe the wounds, but it was too late, the damage was done.
* * *
"The scars should heal with time and eventually fade, Captain. In a few years, your hand will barely show where the acid hit." Dr. Hopkins found his gaze drawn to the flickering firepot in the corner of Spock's quarters while giving his report. It was his first time in the Captain's private living area and the effect of the dimly lit room was eerie.
"And Dr. T'naari?"
"I'm afraid she was not quite so fortunate, Captain. The Doctor suffered the full effects of the acid, while your wounds were simply the results of superficial splashes."
"The damage was quite extensive. It will be some time before there's been enough natural healing to justify any kind of cosmetic surgery to rectify the facial scarring. She's fortunate not to have lost both eyes, being so directly struck as she was."
"Captain ... there is one additional problem." Hopkins shifted his board down to his side. "Even with the finest surgery available, some of the damage is irreparable and inoperable. Dr. T'naari's features will never be completely restored to their original state. I'm sorry."
* * *
//Christine paced the room unsure of what she should do. Spock had been gone for quite some time and she had no way of reaching him, or even of simply finding out where he was or what he was doing. He'd said he was going to the Suuni, but what if he'd left her here with no intention of returning? How would she survive? Her panic increased with each passing hour. Once she heard muffled footsteps in the outer hallway and her heart leaped with the hope that he'd returned, but it was only a false alarm.
Unable to contain herself any longer, Christine donned the hooded cloak once more and slipped cautiously out of the room. Few paid her any attention as she casually wandered about the complex absorbing the insignificant things her present day colleagues took for granted, that were new and innovative to her after a ten year absence. Christine nearly collapsed, however, when a man stopped her at an intersecting passageway asking directions. Mumbling a few words about being a stranger, she stumbled down the hallway back to her room. It took all her control not to break into a run and maintain a steady walk.
With a gasp of relief, Christine flung the door open and walked into the suite of rooms. She stopped mid-stride at the sight of a small figure standing near the large window on the far side of the room overlooking the busy spaceport docking facilities.
"Who are you, what are you doing here?" the stranger demanded.
"I belong here. These quarters are registered to Commander ... I mean, Captain Spock. It is you who are trespassing," Christine replied coolly.
"On the contrary, Madame." The figure moved away from the window and approached the wary Christine.
Christine backed up a step, away from the oppressive presence. The voice was female, but the voluminous cloak hid the features completely. A scarred hand came out from beneath the lengthy sleeve and pushed back the hood from the hidden face. Christine kept her expression frozen in a professional mask as the hideously scarred face came into view.
"You are his latest mistress?" the stranger asked pointedly.
"I don't know what you're talking about. I suggest you leave at once."
"You called him Commander. He hasn't held that rank in ten years."
"If you do not leave immediately, I shall be forced to call the authorities," Christine bluffed. Who was this person? How did she know Spock? Why was she here?
"I think not." A few steps and she was between Christine and the door. "You do not recognize me?"
"Should I?" How could she possibly recognize someone she'd never met? Obviously there was a case of mistaken identity at work here. Spock had never mentioned anyone joining them, or the possibility of someone dropping by for any reason.
"I am T'naari, the wife of Spock."//
* * *
Spock settled into the command chair and gave the order to leave orbit, setting course for the Suuni's next destination. There were numerous reports of Neutral Zone violations following the peace treaty negotiations that required investigation. He sighed inwardly at the prospect of further hostile encounters with the Klingon empire. Had not the War been sufficient appeasement for their barbaric nature?
Reports and lists passed through his hands constantly, but his mind kept returning to T'naari. She'd steadfastly refused to see him following the accident while in sickbay, and even after beaming down to a base hospital for further treatment he was forbidden entrance to see her. Her behavior was illogical to him. It had been an accident, highly regrettable, but an accident nonetheless. He would be reminded of the incident every time he saw the scar on his hand.
* * *
T'naari stood in front of the mirror, studying her reflection for a long time, twisting the hooded cape this way and that to test which would conceal her face the most. Extensive therapy during the last year while at the Base Infirmary had restored much of her motor control of the hands, but the massive and disfiguring scars remained on the majority of her body.
It was about time they were releasing her, T'naari thought to herself, as she finished fastening the cape. She'd overheard the Vulcan Healer and Base Physician discussing her, down the hall, recently over her readiness to leave. The Healer wasn't convinced she was prepared, whereas the Physician felt her presence in the Infirmary further would not help. T'naari knew she was ready to step back into the world, and her opinion was the only one that really counted, as far as she was concerned.
Satisfied with her appearance temporarily, T'naari stepped away from the mirror in her room for the last time. Her hands would be slightly visible beneath the long sleeves, but gloves would remedy the problem soon. It was time for her to leave this place. Not one hour more would she allow them to retain her here.
* * *
After the necessary paper signing and other miscellaneous details, T'naari left the Infirmary and went straight to the civilian space facilities and purchased passage to Terra 2, one of the largest conglomerate corporation planets in the galaxy. With the exchange of credits for the ticket, T'naari felt as though she'd bought her freedom from Starfleet.
* * *
Her first few days on Terra 2 were spent researching further what she had done preliminary work on while still in the hospital. She'd studied the major corporations, their officials, business dealings, holdings, anything and everything she could get her hands on, and even a few things she wasn't supposed to know. T'naari hungered for the power it was possible to obtain through a high position in one of these Terran Corporations and nothing was going to stand in her way of achieving it. Nothing and no one.
* * *
It had taken time to claw her way to the top. A short duration by some standards, long by hers. Many had felt the tread of her foot as she climbed over them to reach her goal. T'naari had gambled on her intellect as being the finest asset to her credit, but it was her ruthlessness which proved to be the most advantageous. In five years time she had become a silent partner in one of the largest Terran Corporations on the entire planet. The business practices and dealings were not necessarily scrupulous, but they were always salient to say the least. Her partners respected her abilities, but they also feared her. Wealth and power were hers at last and she was rapacious in all her dealings.
The mirror had become her greatest enemy. It followed her everywhere; in the reflecting surfaces of buildings, in the water of the tiny streams channeled through the city, in the eyes of those who met her. Gradually she became a nocturnal creature, using the dark as a mantle to protect her from prying eyes.
Along with the forced reclusivity grew her hatred until it became a litany recited every day. It was not only others who could not bear to gaze upon her, it was T'naari herself that could no longer withstand the sight of her appearance. All reflecting surfaces were stricken from her home and the hooded cloak became her armor to wear at all times when confronting the world.
During this time, T'naari had not forgotten the part Spock had played in this cruel game. Her power and wealth had brought her the invisibility she craved, but it was also keeping a finger on the very heartbeat of what was happening with the Federation. Patience and time were on her side. For Spock, it was running out, quickly.
* * *
//"Why is it necessary for me that you leave, Spock? I don't understand. If my presence has become a burden for you, then I'll go, but don't give up the Suuni because of something I've done."
"It is nothing like that, Uhura."
"Then what is it? We've always been honest with one another, at least I thought we had been all these years. Why this sudden turn of events? What's happening? If you just wanted to put a stop to our affair, I'm sure you could have chosen a more direct route than resigning your commission."
"How old are you, Uhura?" Spock asked.
She was nonplused by the sudden change in topics. "Forty three. But you know that. Why are you asking?"
"What plans do you have for the future?"
"What does that have to do with anything?" she countered.
"Everything. I cannot marry you, because of T'naari. It would be unfair to you to ask that you remain my 'mistress' for the rest of your life."
"Have you asked?" Uhura interjected.
"In a few more years it will be too late to obtain an active duty Captaincy, " he continued. "There are not always second chances."
"What aren't you telling me, Spock? I've come to know you too well for you to deceive me for long."
"I have chosen to step out of your life and allow you to continue with your plans as they were before the War. It is necessary."
"Stop it, Spock. This isn't like you ... to make decisions for someone else without a good reason. So far I haven't heard what I would consider a good reason."
"You are making this difficult."
"Damn right I am. You may be my Captain, but you're also the man I love. If you're going to waltz out of my life with no more notice than hello, goodbye, I'm leaving, I want to know the reason why. You owe me that much I think, if not, then I made one big mistake that day you asked me to come back."
"Do you believe me to have been insincere?" Spock asked quietly. "It is because of my ... feelings ... for you that I do this."
"What is it you have done, Spock?" Uhura finally inquired, not sure she really wanted to hear the answer.
"I have just returned from the Guardian of Forever."
"The Guardian?" She was lost for a few minutes in her own memories of the place and what had occurred there fifteen years ago.
"I returned to the Enterprise the day of the initial attack and brought Christine to the present."//
* * *
Reality had warped into her own private perceptions. When she wore her cloak, she was invisible to the rest of the world. No one could see her, no one could touch her. Her knowledge was infinite and her influence great. She had the power to perceive, the power to create, the power to destroy.
Vengeance was hers by right. It had been earned and paid for the hard way. She had been the innocent one beset by the vicious man known as her Husband. All actions to be taken in recompense were justified.
* * *
The time had come at last. It was no longer necessary to sit idly by and wait for a propitious moment to begin retrieving from Spock everything he had taken from her. The time had come to face her wrath.
* * *
The guest wing was silent as a tomb in the early hours of the morning and the small figure dressed entirely in black blended in with the shadows. At the far end of the hall, she stopped long enough to slip a tiny pellet into her sleeve hem before knocking on the massive door. It was opened immediately by a man whose desk showed late hours of toil.
"You are Sarek of Vulcan?" Her money had been spent well in locating him and getting past the security.
"I am. Who are you?"
"I am T'naari, wife of your son."
"Is it your custom to slink about in the night rather than face me in the light of day?" His son was married?
She walked around the room, stopping every now and then to admire the various works of art, ignoring his question momentarily. While passing his desk, she casually dropped the tiny pellet into a glass of liquid sitting by his papers.
"As a matter of fact it is my habit to do my traveling in the dark. It was not always so, but that was a long time ago."
"Your purpose in coming here?" How had she bypassed his aides and guards?
"Curiosity. It has been many years since I saw you last on Vulcan. I had thought you dead with its destruction, but it seems I was misinformed."
"I was off-world at the time." Amanda, his Amanda had stayed behind that time. There was nothing left to him now. The breach with his son had never been fully healed and now with Amanda gone there remained nothing of profound importance in his life other than his work. "Why do you conceal your face?" Who was this strange woman who claimed to be his daughter-in-law? T'naari. The name was vaguely familiar for some reason.
"I am still seeking a surgeon qualified to correct the damage Spock caused while I was serving under him on the Federation Starship Suuni. Until then, I cover my face. I see you had not heard. No matter."
"What is it you want?" Something was not quite right. The woman was obviously Vulcan by her flawless use of the mother tongue, but there was something in her choice of words and the inflection that spoke of a type of madness.
"From you, nothing. From Spock, everything." A gloved hand touched the lockplate. "Good evening, Sarek of Vulcan."
The next morning his aides found Sarek dead at his desk. Reason of death: natural causes attributed to his failing heart.
* * *
//Uhura came out of her chair in a single motion. "I don't believe this. Of all the..." Her anger erupted at least. "I never would have thought it of you, Spock, but obviously I was wrong. First T'naari, now this. I can recognize my cue for an exit line when I hear one. It's been a nice time, Uhura Hope you don't mind stepping aside now while I move on to someone else."
"You are reacting illogically."
"Illogical? Of course, I'm reacting illogically. How else should I react? It isn't every day I get my guts ripped out like this. You couldn't find another lover the conventional way, no, you had to duck into the past and bring Christine Chapel here." She stopped pacing for a moment. "I don't believe this. I'm being replaced by a dead woman, not just any dead woman, but one that you could hardly tolerate in the same room ten years ago. I'll say this, Spock, when you do something, you do it big."
Spock grabbed her by the shoulders to stop her movement, but she shrugged free of his grasp. "Stop it, Uhura, it is not that way. It was my only choice to provide the present parameters. You do not mean any less to me, on the contrary. It is because I value your friendship, because I value you that I could not ask you to submit yourself to a life with no future. Your life is here, on the Suuni, not in some forsaken corner of the galaxy with me."
"But why are you suddenly leaving? Answer me that," she demanded.
"Ask me no questions. Please accept that it is something I must do."
"No, that's not good enough, not for me."
"I have a duty to do so I must leave the Suuni, and you, behind."
"What does Christine have to do with it?" Why not me, was the unspoken questions.
"Sarek's death of 2.3 months ago was not due to natural causes as the report listed," Spock stated evenly.
"How do you know?" What did Sarek have to do with anything? Uhura wondered. Their conversation had certainly changed tack suddenly.
"His aides have informed me that a small black garbed figure was seen in his hallway the night before his death. There was never a connection made and all the evidence pointed to death by natural causes. I believe, however, it was T'naari."
"T'naari? After all this time? But why? What could she possibly hope to gain by murdering Sarek?" Where did Christine fit into all of this? Uhura wasn't sure if she was more hurt by Spock's sudden and unannounced departure or the fact that he had chosen Christine Chapel to go with him instead of her. She and Christine had been good friends before the latter's "death", now all Uhura could feel was anger and resentment toward her.
"I believe T'naari is exacting her revenge on me through whatever means possible. Sarek was a logical choice on her part as an attack point. Her move was well planned and executed."
"You sound like you condone her actions," Uhura replied bitterly.
"On the contrary. I do, however, respect her abilities and will not make the mistake of underestimating her again. T'naari has proven herself more than capable in achieving her ends since her departure from the Suuni."
"You mean you've kept track of her all this time?"
Spock looked surprised at the question. "Of course. She in my wife. By Vulcan law, I am responsible for her actions when they have violated the Code."
"Slow down, Spock. One minute we're talking about why you're leaving, the next thing I know Christine Chapel is replacing me, and NOW we're discussing the possibility that T'naari killed Sarek out of vengeance against you. Is there an ending to this story, or shall I just calmly commit myself somewhere until it all straightens out?" Her tone was sarcastic.
"It is all quite logical," he explained calmly."T'naari has violated the Code by killing Sarek, making it my responsibility to pass sentence on her in absence of a Justice Council. In order to carry out that responsibility I must leave Starfleet, and you, behind. Christine Chapel is a woman without a future, for that reason she is an ideal choice for a companion."
"Forsaken corner of the galaxy, you said. I'll never see you again, will I?" Why had she let herself get in the position of being hurt? Why hadn't she kept apart, emotionally uninvolved with this man? She'd been so stupid to get tangled up with a man who already had a wife, not just any wife, but one married under Vulcan law. Death was the only thing that could ever alter the commitment.
"Never mind. I've heard enough. At least this conversation has enabled me to make a decision as to which offer of Starfleet's to accept. I think heading the new Communications Center will be more appropriate than remaining on the Suuni, where all I'll ever have is memories. If you'll excuse me, I have some details to accomplish before the inspectors arrive late next week."//
* * *
//"You're T'naari?" Christine was caught totally off guard. The woman in front of her bore no relation to the image pictured in her mind of the person Spock had married. She had imagined someone tall and plain looking, rather drab in appearance. Not this tiny woman covered in ugly scars.
"You appear startled. Perhaps he neglected to mention my existence. It would be like him to delete such trivial details. No matter. The question now is, who are you? I was unaware of his preference for blondes."
"I think I'd better leave," Christine decided. "He should be back shortly. "
A phaser appeared from beneath the long sleeve."If I allowed you to depart, you might take advantage of it and warn him of my presence."
"I don't even know where he is!"
T'naari ignored the outburst."Who are you?"
Christine kept her eyes glued to the unwavering phaser and hoped Spock would return soon. Yet, if he did, he might end up dead. What should she do? Perhaps, if she could distract T'naari long enough she could work her way over to the door and escape. Christine took a tentative step that direction while answering the question.
"My name is Christine Chapel."
There was a long silence."The name is familiar. Yes, of course, I recall it from the record tapes transferred from the Enterprise to the Suuni. There was a Nurse Chapel who served with a Dr. McCoy prior to the War. But you do not appear old enough to be she. Furthermore, the records showed her deceased, a casualty of the initial attack on the Enterprise."
"The similarity of names is purely coincidental," Christine bluffed, taking another step. "Like you say, I'm not old enough to have been around that long ago."
"The hair is altered, but the face is still the same. You even called him Commander before correcting your error. Tell me how you came to be here," T'naari demanded.
"I won't tell you anything," Christine spat back as she dived for the door. The beam from the phaser caught her mid-stride and she crumpled to the floor.
"I think you will."//
* * *
//Uhura was puzzled by Spock's summons to his room base side. Her first reaction was to refuse, but there was something in his tone that changed her mind. Her knock was answered immediately and she had barely stepped inside before Spock began the explanation.
"T'naari was here, today, looking for me."
She noticed Christine sprawled out on the floor nearly hidden behind some furniture. "What happened? Where's T'naari now?"
"Unknown. Christine is still unconscious from what appears to be a phaser stun. The manager admits to unlocking the room for a woman answering T'naari's description bearing credentials identifying herself as my wife. Christine appears to be coming out of it now."
Christine allowed Spock to help her into a sitting position, holding her hand to a pounding forehead. "What... Spock! What happened?" She struggled to stand up. "T'naari. She was here ... she's gone!"
"What did she want?" Spock pursued. "Did she say anything?"
"She was here when I returned from taking a walk. I tried to leave, but she wouldn't let me. Spock, she knows who I am..."
Spock came to his feet immediately, punching the desk console computer. "It's too late. She has already taken the craft and is presumably heading for the Guardian."
"What craft? What are you talking about?" Uhura finally cut in.
"The coordinates for the Guardian were still in the navigation system of my ship. I was in a hurry to return to the Suuni and neglected to immediately erase then, planning to do so at a later time."
"We have to stop her. There's no telling what she might be planning to do with that kind of knowledge."
"Granted. I must follow her immediately. Uhura, look after Christine in my absence."
"Like hell. I'm going, too. I have a score of my own to settle with her," Uhura said angrily.
"That goes for me, too," Christine inserted.
Spock felt he should argue the point, but realized the effort would probably be futile and a waste of precious time. Within an hour they had acquired a craft comparable to the one T'naari had taken and were on the way.//
* * *
//T'naari knew it was a race against time to find Spock before the Suuni left dry dock. She'd spied Uhura from a distance inside the Base, but had managed to keep from being observed herself. It was a long shot, but there was a chance he might have taken rooms planetside since the repairs being affected on the Suuni were rather extensive. Several hours later she had success, Spock was registered in a suite of rooms under his own name. It wasn't difficult convincing the manager to let her in after she had provided him with adequate identification and a large sum of credits.
The blond woman, though, was another matter entirely. The last T'naari knew, Spock was still involved with Uhura. Why the sudden change of women? Then, the fool had tried to escape, after seeing T'naari's face, making it necessary to stun her. Fortunately it did make forming a mind meld easier and the information obtained had been invaluable ... the Guardian of Forever. ... an unlimited gateway to the worlds of the past ... a perfect opportunity to exact her final revenge on her erstwhile husband.
Since Spock had been considerate in leaving the coordinates locked into his navigational system, there was little for her to do on the journey other than monitor the automatic pilot system and decide the precise route of action, once she reached the Guardian.//
* * *
//The ship was an uncomfortable one for the three travelers. Christine tried to approach Uhura, to re-establish some kind of relationship with her, but couldn't seem to get further than a superficial level. It puzzled her, but finally put it down to the fact that Uhura had lived those ten intervening years and could no longer relate on a deep level with someone who'd been dead during that span of time. She was saddened by this event, one she hadn't anticipated during the trip from the Guardian.
It wasn't her fault things had turned out this way, she hadn't asked Spock to come back to the Enterprise and bring her forward in time to this mess. The fault was also his that he had not explained anything about T'naari. The records had been devoid of any information concerning the accident which had left her permanently scarred. Why it had been erased and who did it was still unanswered. Why, also, had T'naari never received the proper treatment to cover the worst of the damage? Nothing made sense.
Uhura found herself to be of two minds toward Christine. On the one hand Christine knew nothing of the situation that existed, had existed, between Spock and her. Spock had assured her, in private, that Christine was oblivious to everything in that area. He hadn't felt it pertinent information she needed to survive in her new life. On the other hand, here she was sharing a cabin with the woman Spock had chosen to replace her. Why did the hurt have to continue, why couldn't it just come to a solid ending? Damn T'naari and her scheming. How could someone so brilliant in her field become so warped and twisted in her thinking that she could commit one murder and be planning yet something else?
Spock found himself being pulled many directions simultaneously. T'naari was his responsibility and he had to stop her before she could succeed in changing history through the Guardian. Christine needed him as her anchor in this foreign time and place. Uhura was his right arm he'd cut off and now found himself regretting. He could see the hurt in Uhura's eyes even though she never exhibited her feelings publicly. None of this was developing as he had planned. What had prompted T'naari to move so fast? He'd figured another week's leeway in tracking her. Her arrival at the Base had been completely unexpected. They would reach the Guardian in a few more hours, he could only count on her unfamiliarity with the terrain and the Guardian to give them the time needed to overtake her. //
* * *
//Uhura's vague recollections of the place gained substance as she looked out over the desolate planet. The morbidity of the place struck her anew with each fallen column and pile of rock they approached. Her tricorder was busily storing information as they walked and registered one life-form near the Guardian's portal.
It was too far away to comprehend the conversation T'naari was having with the Guardian although they could hear the voices. The opening filled with the telltale mist and scenes began playing against the unseen backdrop.
Spock started forward to seize T'naari, but it was too late. She stepped through and was gone. Uhura and Christine watched in horror as Spock disappeared before their eyes.
They both ran to the portal, staring through its empty gateway at the rocks beyond. "What happened?" Christine asked helplessly.
The Guardian rumbled into life at the question. "What was once, has now been altered. The past has been changed."
"Is T'naari returning to the present?" Uhura queried.
"The traveler has chosen to return to a different time frame. She has created a new present totally unlike the one which existed before."
"What has changed?" It was going to take a few moments to rewind the tricorder and Uhura figured they might as well get as much information as possible before trying to follow T'naari.
"The companion who was with you was killed. When the War came, the Federation lost and is now subjugated to the joint Romulan-Klingon Empire. The Enterprise survived the War and headed out into uncharted space rather than surrender."
Christine's head came up in surprise at the news of the Enterprise. Could it be the Guardian had recognized them? Was such a thing possible? She noticed Uhura had finished resetting the tricorder and directed her request at the portal. "Will you show us where T'naari went? History must be corrected."
Mist filled the hole once more and the scenes played again. Uhura grabbed Christine's hand in preparation for the leap and at the closest moment, pulled her through the Guardian//
and landed under the arid baking sun of a desert planet. They stood up from the rough landing and dusted themselves off.
"Where are we?"
Uhura squinted up at the glaring ball in the sky. "I'm going to guess this is Vulcan. I've never been on the surface before, but it sure fits the description."
"Great. Now all we have to do is figure out what, when and where T'naari is planning to kill Spock. How far are we ahead of her? For that matter, when are we?"
"Your guess is as good as mine, Chris. My tricorder picks up heavy readings that direction, might as well start there."
* * *
The carefully patterned city was a welcome sight to the weary travelers. Few people were on the streets, but the ones they did see confirmed their suspicion that this was indeed Vulcan. When and where exactly was still pure conjecture.
It was surprising to them both how little attention they gathered walking through the alien city. Humans on Vulcan were rare even in their time and nearly unheard of this long ago. Yet, their movements were unhindered and the small translator recently added to the tricorder was met with no particular reaction concerning the advanced technology. It confused them further as to when they were by the responses they received.
"I swear we've been over every street in this place and we're still no closer to solving anything." Christine protested in disgust. She caught sight of a stone bench sheltered from the burning rays and collapsed on it.
"Why didn't I learn to read Vulcan script?" Uhura plopped down beside Christine and fanned her face with her hand. "We have to find her. There's no way around it."
"Maybe we're going about it the wrong way."
"What do you mean?"
"Instead of looking for T'naari, we should be looking for Spock. If she came here, he must be around somewhere. Right?"
"The sun must be frying my brain. Of course. Spock spent his childhood right up through Academy in ShiKahr. So this must be ShiKahr and it has to be prior to his departure for Starfleet Academy."
"How do you know so much about him?" Christine asked, curious at her companion's knowledge. She had spent years trying to track down information on the elusive First Officer and had come up with nothing other than official Starfleet records.
"Guess he must have mentioned it in passing," Uhura brushed the question aside. "I don't know precisely how much time we have before T'naari arrives, but I'm sure it can't be too long. Our best bet would be to find Sarek and Amanda. Unless I'm mistaken we should be able to obtain directions somewhere around here."
After a few wrong turns and a couple more questions they found themselves standing outside the gates of Spock's home. "Now what do we do?" Christine ventured. "We can't just walk up and announce, hello, we're from the future. You haven't met us yet, but we're here to keep your son from being murdered by his wife."
"Somehow I don't think that would go over too well," her companion agreed. "Let me think a minute. How about something along the line of being stranded here by the small private craft on which we booked passage, and since there's no Terran Embassy here, it was recommended to us that we try and stay with the only other human in ShiKahr."
"Pretty thin story, Uhura, but I can't come up with anything better to explain (a) us and (b) our lack of baggage." She paused, then took a deep breath. "Well, we might as well get on with it. You want to announce us or shall I?"
"Be my guest."
* * *
Amanda was thrilled with the prospect of two fellow humans staying with them for a time. Sarek was silent on the subject, preferring the sanctity of his home, yet realizing his wife's yearning for her own kind. Moreover, it might impress upon his son with such first hand experience the folly of venturing beyond Vulcan's boundaries.
He frowned at the thought of his son's recently stated intent to enter the Starfleet Academy. Spock would be departing in three days, only one day after his graduation from the Vulcan Academy. If the decision to leave had not been reversed by then, the silence effected by Sarek, between the two of them, would continue. This, in itself, should prove effective in keeping his son on Vulcan, where he belonged.
Spock was startled to hear the sound of laughter in his home as he strode up the winding sidewalk. The day had been unusually long with final examinations and he still had several hours of work to complete before retiring for the night.
At the round of the door, Sarek graciously took his leave of his guests and retired to his study. Amanda didn't allow her expression to alter at this obvious slight to her son. It was becoming more difficult daily not to be caught in the middle between the two people she loved most in the world. Sarek was refusing to recognize his stubborn streak in Spock and Spock could not understand his father's inability to recognize how incompatible he was with Vulcan society a s a whole. She missed the shadowed looks that crossed her guests' faces as she greeted her son. Introductions were made and Spock excused himself almost at once claiming studies which needed to be done.
"I apologize for the seeming discourtesy," Amanda said as soon as Spock had left the room. "Vulcan customs are quite different from those of Earth." Perhaps the women would not be offended at the indifference shown them if a plausible excuse were offered. Sarek and Spock had never behaved this way before in front of guests, but to offer the true explanation of their actions would be too great a transgression into private lives.
"No offense is taken," Uhura reassured her. "Our arrival is quite unexpected and we have no wish to infringe upon your hospitality by interfering with schedules or anything else." Was this the Spock that would later become her commanding officer and lover? He was so withdrawn and aloof, with a stiffness that looked unnatural.
* * *
Christine waited until they were alone in their room before approaching the subject of T'naari. "Amanda mentioned Spock would be leaving in three days for Starfleet. What if T'naari plans to kill him there, instead of here?"
"Can't be. The Guardian was definitely showing scenes from Vulcan before she stepped through it. She has to make her move sometime in the next two days, it's the only possibility."
"The question is, when and where? How will we ever track her down?" Christine pulled the pins from her hair and started brushing it vigorously. "She has all the advantages right now. ShiKahr is her familiar territory, moreover, she knows what's going to happen in the next two days and we don't. It's hopeless."
"I'm not giving up. We've come this far. I'm not about to go back to a universe ruled by the Romulans and Klingons and there's nothing for us here."
"The Enterprise isn't destroyed in this universe. If we succeed, I gain back Spock, if we lose, you gain Kirk." Christine stopped brushing when no reply came back. "What are you thinking about?" Uhura's back was turned to her, but the reflection in the far mirror showed a sad, but pensive expression.
"Nothing in particular." Try as she might, the memories of the laughing Captain of the Enterprise refused to coalesce, remaining wisps of thought, constantly replaced by the alien features of Spock. How could she ever explain to Christine that no matter what the outcome, she was going to lose Spock? "Let's turn in. Tomorrow's going to be a long day."
* * *
The sights and smells of her childhood planet were immediately familiar as the Guardian deposited her onto the cooling sand. T'naari knew her location from the jagged black peaks in the distance and set out for ShiKahr. It would not be difficult explaining her presence to her family as a distant relative visiting for a few days. Questions were never asked of visitors and her movements should be free of suspicion.
Her desire for revenge grew as she watched her younger self, so beautiful and untainted by the world of humans, bend over her work preparing for the next day's exams. It was Spock who had taken it all away from her. He and the rest of his Starfleet had allowed Vulcan to be destroyed, forced her into service as a physician on board one of its starships. He was the one who had pushed her into an affair with Sanne because of his own inadequacy and shameful desire for the human woman, Uhura. He was the one who had sealed her fate by throwing the acid on her to destroy her beauty.
T'naari's mind continued its ramblings into the night as she lay on the bed in the guest room. The facts had become so twisted and intertwined with imagination that the two could no longer be separated. In her reflections she was blameless, driven to misfortune by the man she had married. Her dreams were tangled images of the man who had become her obsession.
* * *
Christine had accompanied Amanda into town, leaving Uhura to keep watch at home. The day previous had been uneventful, and the night restless as they tried to anticipate T'naari's final move. Tension in the house because of Sarek and Spock was growing and Amanda was nearly beside herself in trying to handle husband, son and guests simultaneously.
"Vulcan is famous for its carefully nurtured horticulture displays."
The voice was younger, but still identifiable to Uhura as Spock remarked on the garden behind the house where she was sitting. It was only mid-afternoon and she hadn't expected him until later in the evening.
"They are quite beautiful," she agreed. "Good afternoon. I take it you finished your exams early."
"Will you join me?"
Spock hesitated, then seated himself a short distance away. He was unsure of how to behave around the Terran woman. His experiences with the female gender had extended only as far as the women of Vulcan and his mother. Yet, this one was different still. For some strange reason, he felt comfortable with her in just the brief amount of time he had known her. It was as though they had met before. Uhura always seemed to know just what to say and how to say it. The other, Christine, was similar, but not as familiar.
The time passed quickly as they spoke of things in common. He was only mildly surprised when she asked him to play the harp hanging on display in the main room. How had she known he was an accomplished player? Uhura smiled to herself as she remembered the many hours spent in his cabin listening to him practice and the attempts she had made to match his proficiency. She couldn't resist the temptation to pick out a short tune he had taught her when the young Spock left the harp on his seat, while answering a call. Her imagination took her back to the day when he had patiently explained the ancient poetry behind the music, preferring to call it Pre-reformation writing still performed for its artistic merit rather than the emotional symbolism it contained. Uhura had argued that a love poem was still a love poem, no matter what the disguise. Spock had staunchly defended artistic merit until they both gave up and laid the harp aside for other things.
Anger welled up inside of Christine as she heard Uhura singing when Amanda opened the door. It wasn't fair. Uhura had always been able to communicate with Spock and be accepted by him, both in the future and here in the past. Her voice and musical talent set her apart from everyone else, an interest in common with the First Officer. Whereas Christine had nothing of the kind to offer, and after the Psi 2000 virus, there was no chance at all to capture his attention.
* * *
Later that evening, in their room, Christine brought the subject up. "What happened in those ten years I was dead?" It was still difficult for her to accept that she had technically been deceased while others had continued their lives.
"What do you mean?" Uhura countered. That afternoon with Spock as a young and inexperienced man had brought some of his later actions and thoughts into clarity. The friction with his father, which he never discussed with her, now held tangible reality, as did the attraction and affection he held for Amanda, but had never spoken. Spock was a complex man, but one definitely worth knowing. Sometime between now and ten in the morning, T'naari was going to try and destroy that life. When was she going to do it, and how?
Christine found her patience at an end. The afternoon episode of the singing and the further rebuff of that evening by Spock choosing to retire rather than spend the time with both of them still hurt. "I'm tired of this game playing. You must have figured dumb Christine wasn't going to catch on eventually."
"What in heaven's name are you talking about?" Uhura felt her stomach sink as she realized the scene she'd wanted to avoid was now upon her without warning. If she could only stall it until they were back through the Guardian, things would take care of themselves.
"Why did Spock come to get me?" The question bothering her the most was out in the open at last. "What possible use could he have for me?"
"That's something you're going to have to ask Spock. He didn't discuss it with me."
"You expect me to believe that? Quit playing innocent with me, Uhura. I know you better than that."
"No, you don't know me. Not any more. Maybe ten years ago, but not now. You didn't live through the War, the death, the wasteful destruction that came on us every day. It was a living hell. Where were you when T'naari blackmailed Spock into a marriage he didn't want and has regretted ever since? Were you around to see what the loss of the Enterprise and its entire crew, including Jim, did to Spock? Yes, he turned to me. Even Spock has a limit of how much he can endure. If you feel neglected for some reason, that's your problem." Uhura couldn't believe she was saying these things. They were supposed to be trying to stop T'naari and here they were declaring war on one another.
"Why should I feel neglected? After all, I'm only ten years behind on all the latest information. Gee, I shouldn't mind a bit to be kept in the dark," Christine retorted sarcastically. "Some strange woman shows up in my hotel room telling me she's Spock's wife and the next thing I know she stuns me with a phaser and is on her way to the Guardian to kill Spock. Let's not forget the part about keeping the truth from me concerning your affair with him either. I enjoy feeling like a piece of excess baggage, gives me a sense of importance, of belonging."
"What are you complaining about? When we get back he's going to be all yours. That is, assuming we can stop T'naari."
"I always wanted a man of my own who had another woman on his mind all the time."
"We can argue about this later. Right now, I'm more concerned with finding T'naari before she makes the entire question academic. Now, are you going to help, or not?"
"Truce, for the moment." Christine compromised reluctantly. This discussion was not over, by a long stretch. "His ship leaves at ten, right? So, that means one of us better be with him every minute from now until then."
"Let's go." They entered the front hallway on the way to his room, hearing voices in Sarek's study off the side hall. The voices stopped abruptly and only moments later the front door closed. Amanda was just outside the study when they arrived. Uhura had a feeling they were already too late to avert the disaster. "Where's Spock?"
"I'm sorry for the noise." Why were the only words spoken between father and son anymore those of disagreement?
"You have to tell me where Spock is!" Uhura demanded roughly. "It's matter of life and death. Did he just leave? Where did he go?"
"I don't know where he is," the other woman answered in shock. What was going on? Why was the situation so urgent to these strangers?
"Come on, Chris, we have to find him."
The darkened streets were silent and offered no clue to which direction he had taken. Once they thought a cloaked figure had moved through some shadows, but could find no trace. Every street was covered around the house, but nothing and no one could be found.
"Where could he be? I hope she hasn't caught up with him already!"
"I won't believe it. Now think, Chris, where would he have gone? Where could he possibly go this time of night?"
"The Spaceport," Christine announced suddenly. "It's not that far from here, Amanda pointed it out today on our way back from downtown."
"Of course. I remember now! He remarked once that Amanda had sent the harp to him because he'd left without it. Somehow T'naari must have found out he'd left early and has been hiding until now. Can you find your way back there?"
"I think so. We caught an underground tube just up the street."
* * *
The Spaceport was empty and their steps echoed hollowly in the large reverberating hallways. Maintenance personnel ignored them as they hurried to the section of the facility put aside for Starfleet use.
"Slow down, we're almost there. Good thing I grabbed the tricorder ... hold on while I try and get a reading. Great, I'm picking up all kinds of readings on this things. I swear every Vulcan in ten square kilometers is registering on this blasted machine. Wait, I think I'm picking up Spock. Yes, definitely him ... ahead, about fifty meters."
They stopped in the far shadows and kept watch on the solitary figure standing by the viewport staring up at the sky. "Now what?" Christine whispered.
"We wait." And hope, she added to herself.
* * *
T'naari quietly rose from the bed and padded to the door. Everything was silent in the house. Her chronometer showed 2 a.m., time for her to leave. She remembered the morning of Spock's departure for Starfleet well. T'Pring had taken her along as chaperone to see Spock leave. At the time, T'Pring had felt disgraced by her betrothed's choice of career, but by tradition it was her duty to stand by him. It was later to be the first step in the final choice to divorce him by the Kal-i-fee. They had arrived early, so not to be seen by too many, finding Spock already there from the night before. No one else had shown to see him and they made their visit as short as possible. None would be sorry to see him go.
Now that knowledge of his activities this night would serve her well, so many years later. The complex would be nearly deserted this time of night. In a short time, she would step back through the Guardian and be free of Spock and her scars. If he didn't exist, the acid would never be thrown and the scars would never exist. She would be beautiful and untainted once more. A smile nearly touched her lips as she contemplated the future -- her new future.
* * *
The wait stretched on into eternity for them before they finally caught sight of the garbed figure. T'naari had no reason to keep her presence secret since the Guardian would take her away before the peace authorities would arrive. Spock was alone by the viewing portal, oblivious to his surroundings.
"So, my husband, we meet at last."
"I beg your pardon?" His reverie interrupted, Spock turned to confront the interloper of his private thoughts.
"You have not looked upon my face since you destroyed it that day on the Suuni." Her voice was smooth, sing-song in quality as she carefully pushed the hood away from her face. "My humiliation by your actions previous was not sufficient. Apparently you felt it necessary to wipe me from your memory."
"Who are you?"
"Wiped completely away. You took me in your madness to ease your suffering, then threw me away without a moment's thought."
"Madame, you obviously have me confused with someone else."
"No, you are the one. I understand now why she could not accept you that day. At the time I could not see what she did. You made her pay for that, too. I remember it well." T'naari's eyes clouded over as she thought back on the results of T'Pring's challenge. "Now the circle has been completed. This is where it all began and this is where it must end forever." He could not harm her, cloaked as she was in her robe. She was all powerful and vengeance was hers.
Christine and Uhura were creeping over closer to T'naari, signaling Spock to keep her attention. Unaware of the two behind her, T'naari stepped closer to Spock, bringing the phaser out from beneath her robe.
"Tell me why it must end here," Spock stalled. "What can you gain by my death?"
"Peace. Something I have not had since the Council sent me to the Suuni. You took everything away from me. Now I am taking it back. I have earned my vengeance, you have earned death." The phaser moved higher and the finger began to move.
"T'naari!" Uhura shouted as both women threw themselves at her. T'naari jerked at the sound of her name and fired the weapon. There was a brief glow, then Uhura vanished.
Christine finished her motion and felt T'naari give way beneath her. There was a sickening thud as T'naari's head struck the hard stone floor. The phaser flew from the numbed hand and skidded to a stop several feet away. A silence filled the huge chamber and time stopped for an instant.
* * *
//"All is as it once was."
Christine dropped the burden in her arms on the barren ground and gave way to the tears that had been held in check. Uhura was gone. Lost in a single moment on an alien planet over thirty years in the past. She could understand now the hostility Uhura must have felt toward her. The love she felt for Spock was freely expressed in that last breath of life when she'd diverted T'naari's phaser. They had been the best of friends many years ago, why did their last words have to have been so bitter?
"Christine." Spock, the future Spock, was striding toward her, finishing the distance T'naari had interrupted. How was she going to explain what had happened?
The Guardian spoke again. "Many such journeys are possible."
Her thoughts were broken by the voice of the portal. Perhaps there was an answer after all. History had been altered once, there was no reason why it couldn't be altered again. T'naari lay crumpled at Christine's feet, peaceful at last in death's cradling arms. Spock was alive, the Enterprise was gone again and the Federation had won the War ... this time. Uhura had died in this variation of historical rewriting, but that didn't mean permanency the next time the hands of time were swept in reverse.
The rewrite had given Spock solely to her. Christine's only competition would be a dead woman. All that remained of Uhura were the memories Spock would have. In time, even those would fade and be replaced by the reality of Christine's presence. She would love him as no woman ever loved a man. The last ten years of constant nightmare would gradually be obliterated, put to rest by the peaceful existence she could give him.
"Where is Uhura?" was his first question. "What happened?"
"She's dead." Christine knew suddenly her plan to remain with Spock was futile by the look on his face. It was as though something died inside of him, at her words. It would never be. There wad no way she could fight a ghost.
"Guardian." Christine tried to keep the tremor out of her voice."I wish to return to stardate 7782; location, the USS Enterprise; purpose: to remain there."
"Why, Christine?" His world was so hollow. His wife lay dead on the ground, Uhura was dead somewhere in the past and now Christine was returning to a certain death
"Go back to the night before you left for Starfleet Academy. Be there at the Spaceport. This time kill T'naari before she kills Uhura."
"What about you?"
"I have to go back to where I belong. I couldn't live the rest of my life with you, always seeing her in your eyes and knowing she's in your thoughts. It wouldn't be fair to either of us." Leave me alone, she wanted to scream to him. Can't you see what this is doing to me? Don't you understand how much I want to stay here with you? I don't want to die and be forgotten again, like I was the first time."Go to her, Spock. She's the one you need right now." She watched as the portal became the gateway for her return. "Yes, I love you, I probably always will. But you need someone who's been through the joys and sorrows, who's been through the last ten years of hell with you. Not someone who's been dead all those years, unknowing."
Christine stepped forward and gently kissed him, at last admitting to herself he truly belonged to someone else. Someone who would love him as much as she did. "If, after she is gone, you still want me, I will be waiting for you. I can wait forever." With a single step the swirling mists of the Guardian swept her away from him.//
* * *
When she stepped through into the workroom, the memories remained with her as she hoped they would. In just moments the attack would come and the hours of pain were yet to be endured. Yes, she would die this time. Perhaps the time after that would be when he would return for her.
Hours later when Spock did come to her, searching through the ship for survivors, she felt only regret for the suffering he would encounter in the many years to come. Death would be her end this time, but she had a feeling next time it would be life. He was busy trying to staunch the wound, but she spoke the only words that could express her own sorrow for him. He wouldn't understand the context or her reasons for saying them, but one day she would explain.
"Spock ... I'm sorry."
END OF PART TWO