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 Three, published by Checkmate Press, 1984. Checkmate Press is the property of Karen A. Bates. This story is Rated PG-13.
Guardian: Part Three
Karen A. Bates-Crouch
//Christine Chapel stepped into the swirling mists and was gone. The portal returned to the empty hole that it was. "Many such journeys are possible," the Guardian rumbled. "Let me be your guide."
Spock felt the loneliness of true solitude as he stood alone on the dead planet. Everything he had ever known was gone. Vulcan was destroyed, Sarek and Amanda were both dead, Uhura was now dead sometime in the past, T'naari, his wife, had met her death at the hands of Christine who was now also gone from him into the past. Nothing remained for him.
Setting T'naari's body aside, Spock addressed the Guardian, requesting the coordinates of Vulcan, the Vulcan of his past. Uhura had given her life to save him from T'naari. This time, he would stop it.//
* * *
The spaceport had an alien, yet familiar, feeling to him as he walked the empty corridors. It didn't take him long to traverse the way to that specific port where he had stood waiting through the night to leave Vulcan for Starfleet. Spock stood in the shadows, weighing the situation. His younger self was at the viewing window, Uhura and Christine were hidden across the room.
A diminutive figure swept by him, never seeing him in the darkened corner. T'naari. He could hear her speaking to the young Spock, the Spock that didn't know her for what she would become. How could the youth know the beautiful woman, who accompanied his betrothed the next morning, would one day be his wife and seek his death?
"Tell me why it must end here," Spock stalled. "What can you gain by my death?"
The older Spock watched as Uhura and Christine crept closer. T'naari's hand was unwavering as she held the phaser on Spock. There was no time left. He knew T'naari, her patience was at an end. He stepped forward.
"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.
Uhura was on the move, but Spock was faster, distracting T'naari with his presence and the shot that had killed his First Officer in the other time line was deflected. Ripping the weapon from her grasp, Spock disarmed his wife.
T'naari cringed at his touch, pulling away. He released her now that she was unarmed. The two other women rushed to join him.
"What happened? How did you get here? The Guardian said you were dead..." Both spoke at once, puzzled by the turn of events, yet grateful for his presence. Spock was alive after all.
Spock motioned them to silence, then turned to his younger self. He doubted a story of being a distant cousin would work this time as it had the last. What could he say that would not change the future? "Spock..."
"Do not speak," the younger man asked. His curiosity was killing him to ask and understand what was happening, but something inside told him it was better not to know. One should not tamper with the future. It was enough to know he would one day be respected as this man obviously was. The small Starfleet insignia on the man's cape told him everything he needed to know. His choice in leaving Vulcan was the right one, one with which he could live for the rest of his life. Turning back to the window, he gazed at the beckoning stars.
"T'naari," Christine shouted. They turned at her voice to see T'naari being swallowed by the mists of the Guardian. "Stop her!"
"It is too late," Spock said. "We must return now, too." Together they stepped through the portal
//and out onto the Guardian's planet. Uhura stood beside him, Christine was gone.
"Where's Chris?" she asked.
"She has returned to what was before," the Guardian replied.
"What happened, Spock?"
"Christine chose to return to the Enterprise," Spock answered slowly."I returned to Vulcan to keep you from dying." He shifted to face her. "I found I could not bear to lose you. She realized this and returned until such time as I may need her."
"Poor Christine. I understand how that decision must have hurt deeply."
"Guardian, where is the other traveler?" The body was not where he'd left it. T'naari didn't die this time.
"What was once, has now been altered. The past had been changed."
"Is T'naari returning to the present?" Uhura inquired.
"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 been changed?" Spock asked. What was T'naari's plan? Was he to spend the rest of his life chasing his wife through time correcting the damage she was wreaking to the time line? Hadn't she already left enough destruction in her wake?
"All you once knew is gone. The Klingon/Romulan Coalition now rules all known space. There is no more Federation."
"No," Uhura cried out. "This is what we went back to stop!"
"Guardian, can we return to Vulcan again and stop her?"
There was almost a sadness in the inflectionless voice. "She has altered the time frame and can no longer be found there."
"Can we go back and stop T'naari from doing whatever it was that changed the past?"
"No. The Other has made many journeys and crossed many time lines."
"In other words, there's no way of knowing just exactly where and what she did," Uhura observed bitterly. Even if the Guardian opened the portal in the same order, it would be impossible to know exactly what she had done to alter everything. "Spock, we have to do *something*. There must be a way we can fight this thing."
"Guardian, I wish to return to the
"What are you planning, Spock?"
"I'm coming with..."
"I will return to you, here." He touched her face lightly with his fingertips."I *will* come back for you."
The mists were already forming inside the portal. The Enterprise was hovering in space, then it showed the interior of the ship. At the right moment, Spock stepped through, leaving Uhura behind.//
* * *
Spock thought he would feel comfortable, at home, once back on the Enterprise, but instead felt like a stranger. The Suuni had become his home over the last ten years. That was where he belonged, not here.
There was a klaxon sounding the red alert the next second. Was he too late? Had he cut it too close? The ship rocked, telling him they were already under attack. Running to the nearest elevator, he rode at top speed to the bridge.
Security guards which normally attended the elevator doors were busy moving bodies and didn't notice him as he strode on to the bridge. Smoke and small fires were adding to the confusion as volley after volley struck the ship. A ship would appear on the screen for just the moment it required to fire, then disappear beneath the mantle of the cloaking screen. Sulu was punching in every evasive maneuver he could devise to protect the weakening shields. Scott's voice could be heard over the intercom ordering his engineering crew in all directions. The three ships appeared simultaneously, then vanished as they all cloaked themselves. There was silence as they waited like sitting ducks for the next attack.
"Anything on sensors?" Kirk asked, never turning around.
"Nothing. I can't break through their screens," the harried Science Officer reported. There were no energy disturbances, no blips, no ... nothing. Their own power was minimal, warp engines were damaged, and with the enemy under cloak, they were blind.
Spock crossed the bridge and opened the lower grill below the science station. He waited for the expected reaction from the security team, but nothing happened.
"Spock!" It was Kirk's voice.
"Affirmative, Captain" was the muffled reply from beneath the console. "The Guardian."
"Understood." The guards were ordered away and the bridge waited in silence. Kirk considered the significance of Spock here on the Enterprise through use of the Guardian. Spock would not have used the time portal unless it was an extreme situation. What had made him come here? The Enterprise was in trouble, but it wasn't the first time, and probably wouldn't be the last. Or was it?
Sulu smiled at the confused look on the man sitting next to him at the startling appearance of the legendary Spock, now Captain of the Suuni the last four years. Let him wonder, Sulu thought to himself with glee.
"What are they waiting for?" the navigation officer asked tersely. "Why don't they just get it over with?" The confusion was being replaced by panic.
"They're making us wait, Mr. Hadley," Kirk replied distractedly. Spock was here by means of the Guardian. Why? And why the black garments instead of a Starfleet uniform?
Spock worked feverishly, knowing there was little time. The secret of the cloaking device had come later in the war, but the Enterprise needed that knowledge now. When the last of the connections was made, he came to his feet, punching in the data to the computer. The Enterprise's Science Officer stared in amazement as the computer responded to Spock's touch as it never had his own. Sensor readings were coming in giving enemy positions and relaying them to Sulu's weapon board.
"Message coming in from their flagship, Captain," the Communications Officer broke the wait. "We're to prepare for boarding or be destroyed."
Playing a hunch, Kirk asked, "Are their shields up?"
"Negative, Captain," Spock replied instantly, overriding the other men. "The cloaking device draws on power normally channeled to the shields."
"Photon torpedoes armed and ready, sir."
Sulu's fingers skipped over the board as he fired his available weaponry at the defenseless ships surrounding them. He gave no mercy, aiming for the vital parts. The viewscreen was a pyrotechnic wonderland as the three enemy ships were blown apart.
A ragged cheer went up on the bridge. "Well done, Mr. Sulu. Secure from red alert." Kirk turned in his chair to stare at the figure in black. "Martins, notify Scott and McCoy, I want them to meet me in the briefing room, on the double. Sulu, join us. Hadley, the conn is yours. Coordinate damage control parties. Tyler, heading 9344 mark 2, impulse power. Get us out of here."
* * *
"We lost contact with the Federation High Command five weeks ago," Kirk replied to Spock's question. "Since then, activity on the borders has accelerated. Ship's complement has been reduced by ninety seven, we're on the last replacement crystals."
"It would appear the damage to the time line is even more extensive than I first thought. If the Federation did indeed capitulate to the Coalition five weeks ago, it is too late to alter the outcome of the war."
"Aye," Scott agreed, "and we're in trouble with no more crystals."
"We're not far from a cracking station," Sulu offered. "They've been unapproachable in the past because of the cloaking devices on the guard ships. With Mr. Spock's modifications the odds are more even."
"The fact still remains," McCoy jumped in, "they have cloaking devices, and we don't. That still makes the odds uneven."
Kirk remembered the day Starfleet had placed the stolen cloaking device under lock and key for further investigation rather than installing it on Federation ships immediately. His anger flared momentarily at the stupidity of Starfleet which had allowed the Coalition to have an unnecessary upper hand. If the cloaking devices had been made and installed, the war might not have been lost. "Scotty, think you can build a cloaking device from the specs you took on the one we stole?" With no Federation, there was no reason why they couldn't fight fire with fire.
"Captain." Scott's voice took on a hurt tone. "You know those specs were removed from the computer when we had that overhaul and dropped off the Romulan Commander."
"Aside from Federation stupidity, can you make one?" he repeated.
"I suppose I can dig up a duplicate set of specs somewhere..."
"A week. With help, two days."
"It should be possible to modify it sufficiently that the Coalition will not be able to track it using their sensors."
"What do you have in mind, Jim?"
"If I can't change what has happened, bones, I'm going to fight it any way I can."
"But we don't know what all this T'naari person has done. Spock doesn't even know," McCoy objected. "We could be chasing rainbows halfway across the galaxy, not knowing if we're on the right track or not."
"She has somehow changed the course of the war making the Federation lose. We can't sit idly by waiting to see what's going to happen next. Today was only the beginning. The Coalition has never grouped their ships like that on a border patrol without good cause. They were after us. They knew exactly where we'd be."
* * *
After a time, the discussion wound down and the others departed, leaving Kirk and Spock alone. "Will you be staying, Spock?" Somehow the question had never come up earlier.
"Negative. I must return to the future. It is where I belong."
"The cloaking device?"
"I have already entered the information into the computer for Mr. Scott. With Mr. Sulu's assistance it will be completed in two days." Kirk knew the time had come for Spock to leave. He would have preferred him to stay, but knew Spock had work to do that could only be done through the Guardian. "Will I see you again?"
"Unknown. I don't know what awaits me when I return. If it is at all possible, I will contact you."
"At least six years."
Six years. And a lifetime to live in between. Spock rose to leave but Kirk detained him for one more question. "Uhura. Is she still alive?" He saw something flash in Spock's eyes, but it was gone in an instant.
"She lives." The hope in Kirk's eyes cut like a knife. There were still feelings for his former lover that time hadn't erased. What could he say that wouldn't hurt his Captain and friend? It would be best to say nothing and hope that time would heal the loss. "Guardian..."
* * *
//The barrenness of the planet was unchanged as he stepped back on it. There was relief on Uhura's face as she held him tight. Stepping back finally, she asked him of the trip.
"Guardian, did the Enterprise survive the war?" he asked.
"The past has been altered. The Enterprise fights even now against the Coalition."
"You did it, Spock! There's still hope."
Hope. Hope for what? What was the galaxy like now under joint Klingon/Romulan rule? Had T'naari completely sealed the fate of all with her actions?//
* * *
Their small craft had somehow survived all the time line changes. Traveling with what few sensors they had on maximum, they left the Guardian. Spock took no chances and immediately erased all coordinates of the Guardian's planet from the ship's memory banks. Uhura didn't know them and Spock would never willingly divulge the information.
Spock knew of a small planet, out of the way, where they could perhaps stop and refuel, so he set the navicomputer on automatic while he and Uhura scanned the memory banks of the little ship in hopes of learning what had happened to their universe.
The picture drawn by the computer was not a pretty one. With the fall of the Federation six years prior, subjugation of all Federation planets was swift and brutal. Those who would not bow to Coalition rule were destroyed. Earth was now the home seat of the Coalition power council, her defenses patrolled by Klingon and Romulan cruisers at all times.
Slavery was the normal fate of the new Coalition subjects. Freedom was a thing of the past. The sick and wounded were left untreated as they could easily be replaced by others, or the space they made by dying filled by the expanding Empires in desperate need of room.
Federation High Command had been executed to the last person. Military outposts were either captured or obliterated. Every last vestige of Starfleet was eradicated. Nothing and no one was spared in the sweep. Diplomats were now expendable. The Coalition did not negotiate, it dictated. Any planet with enough weaponry to oppose was destroyed, which conveniently rid the victors of technologically advanced opponents.
Spock shut the computer down finally, disturbed by the information. There was little recognizable of the Federation after just six years. Reports of resistence were becoming more numerous as the years went by, but retribution was always so quick and final that small progress had actually been made.
The strangest force behind the resistence was the Enterprise, a thorn in the side of the Coalition. Always operating in a random pattern, she struck vital points and vanished. Contact with supply areas was quick and irregular. They never released anyone, and rarely accepted new crew so no one knew the location of their base of operations.
Spock planned to rendezvous with the Enterprise, if at all possible. She would be hard to locate, but Spock knew Jim Kirk's mind as well as any man could and felt they would eventually contact her. The difficulty would be to avoid patrols in the meantime. Luckily, their craft had no markings or insignia on it. Uhura had pulled other clothing from the ship's storage to wear, destroying her uniform completely. Spock had done the same, again choosing black for his wardrobe.
* * *
The navicomputer switched off automatic, signaling them of the change. Uhura manned the navigation console while Spock checked the sensors. Alpha 6 swirled below them. Spock ran his readings through a second time to verify his findings. "No life readings."
"And the refueling station?" It was doubtful they could make it to another remote place for refueling on what remained. Mainstream refueling points were under Coalition domination, it would be suicide to even attempt one of them.
There was no way of telling if the destruction was as complete as thought without landing. Rubble lay everywhere, and there was silence, not even the sound of insects remained. They took tricorder readings before disembarking, but whatever had removed all life on the planet was gone now. Taking further readings, they eventually located a subsurface fueling base that had received minimal damage. Several hours later, their efforts to phaser clear a path was successful and they moved the craft into the subchamber for refueling.
Leaving Uhura to refuel, Spock took the opportunity to explore the caverns. His footsteps echoed hollowly in the empty corridors where hundreds had once walked. Annihilation had been complete. There was nothing left alive on the entire planet. Locating the central computer facility outlet, he punched up the available memory banks, ones that hadn't been destroyed in the surface attack or deliberately sabotaged. The attack had been without warning. One moment all had been peaceful, the next ... death. Millions had died instantly as the Coalition destroyed the population in a test of a new weapon.
He was gone so long, Uhura began to worry. There was something spooky about this place. It seemed unnatural for there to be so much -- nothing. The fueling completed, she locaated supplies which her tricorder read as safe and loaded them an the ship. Now there was nothing to do but wait.
Forcing her mind off the situation, Uhura thought back on what Spock had said about his trip to the Enterprise. It had been such a joy to hear of friends from long ago. She hadn't seen any of them in ten years, but her memories were clear. In the other time line, they had all died, but now they lived.
They had accepted Spock's story of T'naari without a word. It must have been difficult for them to hear the truth of what she had done, just as it had been for her, when the Guardian had told them. To have the actions of one person destroy a universe...
Kirk had asked about her, too. What was he like now? Did he still remember her now that six more years had passed? Had he found someone new to take her place? Uhura found that she hoped he had as no one deserved loneliness. She was still very fond of Jim, but her relationship with Spock was more important.
A noise from behind startled her. The greeting to Spock died in her throat at the sight of an armed party of Romulans. Her heart pounding, Uhura made herself remain calm. Where was Spock? Did they know he was here? Hope that he would remain undetected evaporated as she saw him being herded into the fueling chamber.
Their ship was quickly inspected and the tricorders and phasers confiscated. Spock was relieved he'd erased the Guardian's coordinates already. If that information ever fell into the Coalition's possession there was no telling what would happen.
The Commanding Officer spoke to his captives, but both shook their heads pleading ignorance of the language. Switching to Standard, he asked their names and what they were doing on a restricted planet.
"I am Sarne, she is Chapel." Spock hoped using Christine's name would be safer than making one up for Uhura. It was possible records still existed which listed Spock and Uhura as Starfleet personnel. "We were unaware of the planet's restrictive nature. Our only purpose was to obtain fuel."
Dissatisfied with the answer, Tor struck Uhura, knocking her to the ground. Surely that would force the man into showing his hand and feelings. Everyone had their weaknesses. Spock remained unmoved, not even helping Uhura back to her feet. She glared at Tor, but was pleased his ploy had failed. Spock would never betray his loyalties, not even for her. Perhaps if they were fortunate death would come quickly.
Tor refused to waste any more time on them. His job was to patrol the perimeter and collect slaves for the mines. He was fortunate the resistence was in a far quadrant rather than here. He had enough trouble as it was without inviting more. These two were nothing more than civilians who had chosen to run for the fringes than submit to the Empire. It was unusual to see a Vulcan as most of his race had been exterminated with the planet, but no matter. He would make as good a slave as any other Federation subject.
Ordering their ship destroyed, Tor returned to his own, taking the two with him to put in the hold with the rest of the slaves.
* * *
Kirk looked over the latest acquisition list from the outpost they'd destroyed. It was convenient that the Coalition inevitably placed their supplies so far from the personnel centers. Weapons and medical supplies were always in demand. Signing the sheet, he handed it back to the yeoman.
The Enterprise crew was small, fewer than one hundred, but they were loyal and hard working. All had been given the choice of going planetside to make their way back to their homes, or remain on board for the duration and help fight the Coalition. Those with no planets to which they could return elected to stay, many from Earth also stayed once word was received the Coalition had made it their seat of power.
Most of the supplies, in the beginning, had to be taken by force from outposts and enemy supply depots. It was dangerous and many lives were lost in the process despite the cloaking device. Later, when the outlying Federation planets realized what was happening, supplies would be gathered and left for the Enterprise to beam aboard. It infuriated the Coalition that no pattern could be found in the pick up times. If the ship was near a pick up point, it would take advantage of it, otherwise, the supplies could sit for months at a time until they were in the vicinity.
They'd spent the last six years harassing the enemy, hit and run operations only. At no time did they try for an extended confrontation with the Coalition. The best they could do was cripple the outer sectors and force the enemy to expend men, ships and supplies to maintain their hold. With every passing year the Enterprise pushed the boundaries, shifting them in the Federation's favor.
Care had to be taken, though. It was only one ship against an entire Empire that controlled the known space. The uncharted sectors of space became their home, a refuge from the home that was no more.
"Sir." Mims' voice cut into his thoughts, "I'm picking up a transmission."
"Romulan in origin, I'm putting it through the translator now." Kirk missed Uhura at times like these. Her fluency in both the Klingon and Romulan languages had saved them precious seconds in battle situations. Mims was learning, but it would take time to gain a fluency. The loudspeaker projected the translation. Orders were being given for an accelerated subjugation of the perimeter planets. There were also six additional ships being sent to the sector to track and destroy the Enterprise.
Sometimes there were advantages to being able to monitor the Coalition's frequencies. Spock had left information in the computer during his time visit of more than just cloaking technology. Where was he now? "Are you receiving acknowledgments?"
"Coming through now."
"Mr. Sulu, plot a course for the next quadrant. If they want to look for us, we'll give them plenty of room."
Sulu grinned as he laid in the coordinates that would take them away from the sector where the search was being concentrated. There were few things he enjoyed more than foiling the enemy.
An hour later his board lit up as the deflector shields automatically popped on. "It's a trap!"
"Cloaking device on, course 0003 mark 9," Kirk ordered tersely. "How many, Sulu?"
"Four. They haven't seen us yet."
"Good. Get us out of here." There was obviously a leak somewhere either in his crew or one of the rare ground contacts they made. The setup had been deliberate. If someone other than Sulu had been at the console they might have been caught in the trap. It was time to move to another new sector, one where they weren't known.
* * *
McCoy didn't look up at the sound of the buzzer. "Come in."
Jim Kirk poured himself a small glass of brandy and sat down. McCoy's office hadn't changed much in six years, except to be less cluttered now that he didn't have the required bureaucratic paperwork to do. He still complained about not having enough staff to help out in sickbay, but it was all just words. McCoy knew, probably better than anyone else, the rarity of medical personnel that were available. The Coalition had been ruthless in tracking down all those even remotely connected with the medical profession. The Enterprise now boasted of one doctor and three nurses. Most of the labs hadn't been opened in years.
"You look like I feel," McCoy observed.
Kirk swallowed down the last of the drink. "We've got another spy."
"Think I'll have a drink." A glass appeared from his desk drawer. "Any ideas?"
"An idea. I've ordered Sulu to take us into a new quadrant where we aren't known."
"Sometimes I wonder if we're really doing them any damage, or if they're just playing with us."
"I refuse to give up hoping. I have to keep on believing there are always possibilities."
"Now you sound like Spock." McCoy poured them both another drink
"I wonder where he is. If he hadn't told us it would be at least six years... He was on the Suuni the day it was destroyed."
"That was nearly six years ago, Jim. There's been no word from him or of him in all that time. T'naari may have altered the time lines again and we'll never know it."
"Damn it, Bones, I know he's out there, somewhere."
"And in the meantime?"
"In the meantime..." Kirk drained the liquid in a gulp and came to his feet, "we keep blowing up every depot we can find and make life hell for the Coalition."
* * *
Tor's flagship had been modified into a prison transport. Instead of extensive crew quarters, there were tiny cells filled with Federation captives destined for slavery. Lighting was poor and food sporadic for the duration of the journey.
Having checked the cell for monitoring and finding none, Spock settled in for the trip. Uhura was more edgy, disliking the cramped and dimly lit quarters. The only comfort she found in the situation was that they were together rather than separated.
What would happen to them now? Their ship was gone, and they were destined for a life completely unlike what they'd planned. It would be difficult to locate the Enterprise from the business end of a slave mine.
"How long has it been, Spock?" Her stomach growled with displeasure at being left empty for so long.
"Three days, four hours, thirty two minutes since coming on board," he replied, then returned to a meditative state.
"They spoke of the Tillon Mines. I didn't recognize the name." She felt the need to communicate, to hear more than the sound of her own heartbeat. They'd spoken very little in the last few days on the off chance of being overheard but Uhura had reached the point where it no longer mattered. The cells around them were empty and the guards were rarely even in the vicinity.
"I believe they were referring to the planet Tillon Three in the Centaurus Vega system."
"Doesn't ring a bell."
"The system is located in the mining belt along the sector four perimeter."
"That explains it. Neither the Enterprise nor the Suuni ever patrolled that area. What do they mine?"
She whistled softly. "Pretty powerful stuff. Why do they need so much? If I remember correctly, they use it in very small quantities to tunnel out subterranean passages in mining asteroids."
"That is correct. I believe, however, they have found another use for it. The computer on Alpha 6 had the schematics for a hand-held weapon which employs Liniite in much the same way as a phaser, only with a greater capacity for destruction."
"Why would Romulan schematics be in a Federation computer?" she mused, shifting position on the hard floor in an effort to be more comfortable.
Spock also changed positions, feeling the solid wall against his shoulder blades. "I believe they were stolen and placed in the memory banks for safe keeping. The retrieval code was quite complex, anyone with a lower rating would have been unable to call it up. It was fortunate I was no longer in the computer room when the Romulans arrived."
"Where's the information now?
"I erased it from the memory banks."
"Suppose that was why they destroyed the population?" she asked abruptly.
"Possibly. There were signs of tampering within the system, but they were unable to get the correct access." Spock felt uneasy over the information in the computer. The code had been too logical, too easy for him to break. Only one person could have placed the data in the banks, only one person in all the Federation had the required A-7 rating: himself. Somehow, in the altered time line he had stolen the weapon information and placed it in the Alpha 6 computer. What would have happened to them, had he given their correct names?
The dim light faded completely, leaving a stygian blackness in its wake. "They could at least warn us," Uhura complained to the deaf walls. "I'll almost be grateful when we get there at this rate."
* * *
Uhura changed her mind quickly once she saw the hellhole they called the Tillon Mine. All digging for Liniite was done by hand with blunt tools in poorly lit and ventilated tunnels.
Tillon was an ugly, discolored world which lay parched beneath a blazing orange sun. Surface temperatures often exceeded two hundred degrees. Below, in the caverns it was cooler, only a stifling one hundred, but Romulan tempers often matched the heat and the slave laborers were the outlet for them. Spock and Uhura were separated immediately after being registered and tagged.
* * *
Days blended into each other until she couldn't tell them apart. The only way to tell day and night apart was that they worked in the day and slept at night. Part of the time was spent digging, part hauling, the rest working in the kitchens to feed the labor force. Occasionally, if she was working in the kitchens, she would see Spock at a distance in the eating room, but was never allowed to speak to him.
When working, Uhura allowed her mind to wander back to other times, when there was still the Enterprise or Suuni. Specific people and events played over and over in her memory. The games of Triskelion, the sadistic culture of Platonius, even the time spent in the alternate universe re-lived was preferable to existence on Tillon. The hard labor was easier to withstand when she could think on the happier moments in her life, times with Jim or Spock. Two men, so different, yet so alike. How Christine must have hurt when the truth came out...
As she became more accepted among those who'd been there the longest, she learned more of the war than she had through the record tapes. These were the people who had lived through the destruction of their planets, the ripping apart of entire families. Yet, despite the horror and deprivations there were stories of those who had fought back. There were tales of a ship that had survived the war and even now attacked the Coalition. No one knew much about it, except that it would appear for a brief time, then vanish once more in the nether reaches of space. It was hard to keep from telling them they were speaking of the Enterprise. Was she still intact? Was Jim still alive?
* * *
Uhura could feel the tension that ran through the other slaves, but didn't know the cause. Magdala, the woman who worked beside her, whispered to her to keep working and act normally. After another hour, Uhura finally put the pieces together. This was the shipment pickup, scheduled for every three months, hence the only chance for the slaves to try for an escape.
Instead of feeling elated, Uhura felt the futility of it. The Romulans knew this was the prime opportunity for the slaves and were prepared. Just prior to docking, all slaves were returned to the cells and sealed in. The one attempt was immediately crushed and those involved were publicly executed the following morning.
* * *
The corridors were empty at this hour of the morning as Kirk made his way to the appropriate cabin. It had taken time, but the facts had finally been glued together and it was time to confront the one who had betrayed him. Using his rank, he overrode the locking mechanism and walked in.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, but in seconds he could perceive the sleeping figure in the dimmed cabin light. Sitting down, Kirk gently shook her shoulder.
Mims rolled onto her back and opened her eyes sleepily. "Jim! What are you doing here so late?"
"I got tied up earlier."
She moved over to make room for him. He lay down, stretching out beside her. Mims kissed him and moved into his arms. "I missed you last night."
Pushing him away playfully, Mims could feel an edge to him tonight that was new. "Of course! How could you think otherwise? Besides, I heard the computer won again last night."
"Oh?" He stroked her cheek.
"Why don't you give up? I don't know who programmed it, but that computer is impossible to beat."
"No, not impossible. I've seen it lose, many times." He smiled at the memory of days gone by when Spock had defeated his mechanical opponent.
"Oh, well, I'm just glad you're here."
"Me, too." Jim nuzzled her ear, then traced the line of her neck with kisses that made her shiver. In moments she was purring with contentment as he kissed and fondled her, whispering endearments while nibbling her lobe. Lost in passion Mims found herself verbally responding to him, answering the passionate words he was speaking. He stopped suddenly and she sat up with a start.
"What's the matter, Jim?"
"You're a quick student, Mims," he acknowledged grimly.
"What are you talking about?" She pulled the sheet up self consciously, keenly aware that he was no longer seeing her with the eyes of a lover.
"A few days ago you had to put the Romulan's transmission through the translator, yet tonight, you speak it fluently."
Slipping from the bed, Mims tried to reach her hidden phaser, but Kirk was faster, holding her tight. He dumped her unceremoniously on the floor, pulling out his own phaser. "I trusted you."
"And I loved you."
"Because this is war." She came to her feet defiantly, "and I am a Romulan before all else. Even personal feelings."
"You know the penalty for espionage." His words were strained, but the phaser was steady.
"There are fates worse than death."
"Yes," she heard him whisper, more to himself than to her, "there are."
* * *
Captain's Log: Stardate 8341.5
It is with great regret that I must enter the trial and execution of Lieutenant Mims into the record. //You were so beautiful and loving.// All tapes are being pulled from the memory banks and replayed for errors and/or omissions and mistranslations. //You were the enemy, but I miss you greatly.// Medical records have also incriminated Ensign Conley, the nurse who gave the physical examination and altered the records to show Lt. Mims as human. Punishment is permanent exile on an uncharted planetoid. //Mims...//
If these punishments seem harsh, I wish the record to show that the decision was made only after long and careful consideration. The board was faced with the very real possibility that should either Mims or Conley make contact with the Coalition, the fate of the Enterprise would be at stake. It was a chance we are not in the position to take. The responsibility is mine alone.
We are now en route for the fourth quadrant, tenth sector. For the time being we have a sufficiency of supplies to patrol a new area for several months. It will be necessary to avoid this sector of space for a time.
* * *
Spock kept to himself, listening, but never entering into the discussions and escape plans. Three attempts had been made since his arrival ten months ago, all three had failed and the instigators executed. Armed guards were on duty at all times in the mines, with periodic changing of personnel and routine. As far as he could determine, he was the only male slave with a knowledge of the enemy's language, though others had picked up a smattering from prolonged exposure to their captors.
After eight months his docile attitude had placed him in a select group which was allowed into other parts of the complex to perform menial tasks. The Liniite was processed from the raw ore to a pure refined state under supervision for shipment. Spock had professed himself to be a Vulcan trader in rare spices before the war, so ignorance of the high technology of refining the ore was expected of him. With an occasional blunder to cover the truth, Spock used his time in the labs to advantage.
He only saw Uhura at a distance, but at least he knew she was alive. Treatment of the women was harsh as Romulans considered them to be more expendable than the men, but Spock knew Uhura to be a strong woman who would survive whatever the circumstances. She had proven her ability to bounce back from adversity many times, he felt this time would be no different. The months of hard labor were telling on her, but even from the distance between them, Spock could tell her spirit was unbowed.
Today the lab was sparsely populated with only him and one other working to refine the new batch of ore sent up from the mines. After today his preparations would be complete. Months of stealing and working in the dark had resulted in a single weapon made according to the specifications he found in the Alpha 6 computer. The destructive power it contained made the Romulan disrupters look like toys. He suspected the specs stolen from the Romulans were the only ones available, or they would have been mass production by now. If this were true, the massive quantities of pure Liniite shipped from Tillon had to be for other purposes. An overheard conversation had implied it was being used for tunneling to obtain dilithium crystals and other necessary minerals. There was also talk of a new weapon which was being used to tear planets to rubble. He could see no practical use for such a thing. What use did a land hungry Empire have for destroyed planets?
It was too soon for him to make a move this time when the shipment freighter came. He needed to contact Uhura and seek out those he'd tagged as trustworthy to assist in the plan. There were few of the many slaves he felt could be trusted, too many other attempts had failed, not because of poor planning or preparation, but because their fellow slaves had betrayed them for freedom from the mines. Spock had his doubts whether the purported freedom was little more than execution away from the mines once their usefulness was finished. A freighter had arrived today with flagship protection, but there would be another in three more months.
His hearing picked up the sounds of someone coming, someone whose steps he didn't recognize. On order, he and his companion turned to face the new arrivals. Two guards flanked a Commander he didn't recognize. Walking slowly, she inspected the lab, making no comment to the Mining Officer giving the tour. Once finished, she ordered the tour to continue without her, sending the Officer and guards away along with Spock's fellow slave.
She carefully sealed the door and overrode the monitoring system. Coming back to where he was standing, the Commander searched his face for ... what?
Spock was uncertain. The woman obviously knew him, but he had no remembrance of her. Where had he known her? His memories of another woman Commander from whom he had stolen the original cloaking device were strong and clear, but not this woman. She was tall, perhaps two inches shorter than himself, young and very beautiful.
"You do not remember me. I can see it in your eyes." She sighed deeply. "I am Litani. You served beside me for six years on the flagship Conqueror." There was no flicker in his eyes that showed it meant anything to him. "When you left that night, you said there was a chance you would not remember me. I had hoped it would not be true. It was."
"I am sorry." Who was she?
She bit her lower lip in indecision, then made up her mind. "Touch my thoughts, touch them and tell me you do not remember..." There was hesitation on his part as he weighed the alternatives. Litani was well aware that the act of melding was a very personal thing to Spock. "Touch them, Spock," she urged again.
The use of his name spurred him into action. Litani did indeed know him for who he truly was. Yet, she wasn't reacting as an enemy... His fingers found the proper positions and Spock felt his mind moving closer to hers and saw himself through her eyes. There was a brief flash of pain as the time lines merged and the memories of a life he'd lived elsewhen became his own...
The war was technically over. The Federation had signed the treaty of total surrender to the Coalition. Officially there was nothing he could do but bring his ship into dock and turn her over to the enemy, as stated in the treaty.
In the privacy of his cabin Spock clenched his fist in rage at the stupidity and waste of it all. Vulcan and a hundred other planets, had been destroyed, billions of lives lost, even Earth was no longer immune to the effects of the war as the Coalition had wiped it clean of population and now made it the new seat of power. Now that the Enterprise had vanished, only the Suuni remained. All other starships had been obliterated in the last four years. The Coalition cloaking device was impenetrable, succeeding in the defeat of the Federation where every other method of attack had failed.
His orders were to bring the Suuni home for decommissioning and all hands to be surrendered for trial and sentencing as war criminals. Starfleet officers and Medical Personnel were expendable under the new regime. Sentencing for officers was usually life imprisonment on a slave planet, Medical Personnel faced execution.
Summoning Uhura, Spock sat back and contemplated the flickering flamepot as he waited for her. She had been a fine First Officer the last four years, bringing to the position a vitality that belied the sorrow she felt at having to leave Kirk. He could understand her feelings, his own sorrow had been great when his wife, T'Pring, had perished along with the rest of Vulcan. Seeing T'naari, Chief Medical Officer and long time friend of T'Pring, here on board often brought the pain of separation back alive.
Pushing the thoughts and feelings aside, Spock concentrated on the matter at hand. He had no intention of bringing the Suuni to port. There was no way Spock would ever allow the Federation to decide the fate of his ship and crew under the present circumstances. Jim Kirk would have never surrendered his ship, and neither would he.
There were many areas of Federation space where Coalition control was still weak. His crew would be deposited on various planets to assume new identities and survive as they could. Everyone would be given supplies and weapons, things that would give them a fighting chance to live--something they wouldn't have if they surrendered to the Coalition.
The fate of the ship and its Captain would be the last message the Coalition would ever receive from a Federation Starship. A taped message of defiance and then the destruction of the Suuni would tell the powers in control who really had the last word.
* * *
Commander Uhura had been in complete agreement with him, assisting in the locating of planets, beaming crew members down, and now in the placement of charges that would destroy the Suuni when detonated.
The ship had an empty feel to both of them as they rigged up the last of the charges. Everything possible had been put on automation so Spock would be able to pilot her by himself the last leg of the journey. Uhura had requested to stay and help, but Spock had remained adamant that the responsibility was his alone.
She stood alone on the transporter platform, gear surrounding her. "I'm going to miss you, Spock."
He raised his hand in salute, fingers parted. "Live long and prosper, Uhura."
"Come with me, Spock, don't do this," she urged. "Please!" Why death...
The beams caught her and she was gone.
* * *
As the beams around him faded, Spock rechecked to make sure all was in order and set off for the readings he'd picked up on the ship's sensors. In another minute, the ship would leave orbit and go to the preset coordinates. Once there, it would send the taped message of Captain Spock on the bridge refusing to surrender, then detonate the charges on the warp engines and destroy itself. For all intents and purposes, Captain Spock was dead and Sub-Commander Tahn lived.
* * *
Spock had chosen this particular planet with care. The battles here had been recent and Romulan warriors were still regrouping and waiting for the arrival of flagships and cruisers to transport them off planet. Wearing his confiscated torn and soiled uniform, Spock blended in perfectly. Waiting a day or two to pick up enough information, he finally declared himself as Tahn, sole survivor of the scout ship, Saaj. The real survivor of the Saaj had been helpful in supplying him with the necessary details about the ship and personnel before Spock had applied tal shaya, allowing the man to join his comrades. War records in the Coalition were in as terrible shape as the Federation, there would be no way to check on him.
His years of living among humans was paying off. too. It was difficult, but necessary to display emotion. Spock remained apart as much as he could without being obvious, adopting a reticent behavior that was neither friendly nor unfriendly. A smile, the slight raising of the voice, subtle things that humans take for granted became his defenses. His command of the language and diction were good, and coupled with the outward expressions of emotion convinced everyone he was Romulan. No one would ever mistake him for Vulcan, not even those who'd known him before.
It was weeks before the transport arrived, and another month before new orders were cut assigning him to the Flagship Conqueror as Sub-Commander to Commander Litani.
* * *
He missed the familiar confines of his quarters on the Suuni. The spartan quarters assigned to him on the Conqueror were serviceable, but not comfortable. Still, he shouldn't complain. He'd been accepted as Romulan, no questions asked, in the last six months, four of which had been on the ship. His rank made him unapproachable to the rest of the crew, and Commander Litani had seemingly taken little notice of him other than to comment on his efficiency.
Spock found Litani intriguing. She was young for a Commander, but this was often the case in war times when the attrition rate was high for field officers. More importantly, he found her intelligent and an excellent commanding officer, which surprised him. He occasionally wondered what Jim Kirk would have thought of her as an opponent.
The duty of patrolling the newly acquired Federation space was hard for him. Often they would encounter a planet of which he was familiar, or had visited and the job of cataloguing it fell to him as Science Officer. Sometimes the planet would have specific memories, such as Omega IV where the Yangs and Kohms had fought for supremacy only to have it taken away by aliens, or Iotia, where the piece of action was more than they could handle. If the Klingons had been there first, there were no societies to catalogue as they immediately destroyed the culture and enslaved the population under a military dictatorship.
His knowledge of the Romulan Empire and its technology grew as he gained more and more access to the main computer. Some of the codes were difficult, but each was broken in turn and the information carefully memorized for later reference and replaced. The more culture he was able to research and experience the more comfortable he grew with his new identity. He was Tahn.
* * *
Attired in dress uniform, Spock made his way to Litani's quarters as requested. The invitation had came only an hour ago, requesting his presence for dinner with her. Spock was uncertain why she had sent for him. In the year he'd been serving under her, their relationship had settled into one of comfortable respect, but no more. Perhaps this concerned the routine transfer he'd put in for, hoping to gain access to information unobtainable on a patrolling vessel.
The door opened immediately at his touch and Spock entered the richly decorated quarters of the Commander. This was his first visit and her lodgings were a stark contrast to his own. Litani rose from her desk, also in dress uniform and greeted him. Gesturing him to a seat at the prepared table, she sat down across from him. He accepted the offered drink and mentally prepared himself for whatever was on her mind.
The meal was exquisite and the conversation, ship oriented. Spock observed the hour was getting late and he had work to do on the bridge. Litani filled her goblet again and came directly to the point.
"I have received your request for transfer from the Conqueror, Tahn. Are you displeased with serving under my command?"
"No, Commander." He was right in discerning the purpose of the meeting.
"I wish ... to move on. That is all."
Litani leaned back in her seat, twirling the long stemmed glass between her fingers. "I have been watching you for a year now, Tahn. You have served me well as my right hand."
"I am honored."
"Who are you really?" The question, so calmly spoken, was unexpected.
"I do not understand."
"Your grasp of the language and culture are excellent, my compliments on your abilities. Before the war, however, I spent time as an attache to a Federation Embassy. Few in the Empire have had that privilege. I happened to be related to the right man at the right time, but no matter. The important thing is that I can see the subtle things you would not think of, that mark you as Vulcan."
Spock could find no hint of animosity in her voice, just a statement of fact. Words of denial sprang to mind, but he found his respect for her would not allow the lies to be spoken. "Why have you waited so long?" It had been a gamble, one he'd lost.
"To watch you." Litani set the glass down and leaned toward him. "I have no quarrel with a man who is willing to fight to survive. There was no future for you in a Federation that no longer existed. The Klingons destroyed your world so you had nothing to which you could return, it was 'logical' for you to choose the path you did."
"I am still the enemy."
She smiled. "Are you? What can you gain or achieve alone in the Romulan Empire that will return the Federation to its former glory? I am a soldier, but I am also realistic."
Spock remained silent, sorting out her words. This was an unexpected development. Litani was right, but she was also wrong. He couldn't restore the Federation, but perhaps with the right information, he could at least fight back, from the inside. Still, he would hear her out...
"I will strike a bargain with you."
"I am listening."
"Stay on the Conqueror as my Sub-Commander. Your scientific abilities have already brought me to the attention of the Council."
"And in return?"
"Your secret remains safe."
"Why are you doing this?" he asked. None of this was logical. Litani was the enemy, someone who should be seeking his death as a spy -- an act punishable by death under Romulan law. Here she was offering him life and a place by her side in command of the Conqueror. It was not logical.
"My reasons are my own."
"I see no alternative to your suggestion," Spock conceded finally. She had held her silence for a year, there was no reason to believe that would change. He had come to respect her as an honest person, one of her word.
She brought her glass up in toast. "To a long and prosperous relationship."
* * *
Where before she had avoided him, now Litani sought out his company. Spock remained guarded in his words and actions, but grew to enjoy her presence and conversation. She taught him the complex Romulan game of strategy, he taught her chess.
The Coalition's grasp on Federation territory grew with each passing month. Within two years of the Treaty of Surrender, all vestiges of Starfleet had been eradicated and Coalition equivalents placed in their stead. Yet, peace had not been established. Tiny rebellions flourished on planets that refused to accept Coalition rule. Animosity, inherent to the races, grew between the Klingons and Romulans now that the Federation had been defeated. No longer was it necessary to display a united front. Squabbles over planet and space ownership, boundaries, laws, everything imaginable erupted on every level.
Earth became a political battlefield as the two powers struggled for supremacy. Patrols were not looking solely for possible rebellions, but for infringements of Coalition boundaries by its own members. The Klingons began showing their true colors, advancing their boundaries, stomping on Federation and Romulan alike in their haste to expand.
Spock waited and watched, silently gathering information.
* * *
Fire raged out of control on all sides of them and they could hear the whine of disrupters as the Klingons fought doggedly to trap the Romulans. The bulk of their force was above, in the ship, but with the Romulan ship nearby, neither side could lower their shields to beam up or down.
Spock took readings and pointed down the side corridor. The smoke was billowing into the hallways, spreading rapidly. Litani led the small armed party, leaving several dead behind. The fire had been started accidently, but it would require the Klingons to go around instead of through to get to them. The Romulans had come to the planet to secure dilithium crystals, but once on the surface discovered the Klingons had been there first and lured them in with the intent of destroying them. The Klingons had adapted the cloaking device to work on a planet surface, hiding them neatly from Spock's sensors. Only Litani's habit of leaving orders for the Conqueror's shields to always be up had saved the ship from immediate destruction. Now it was cat and mouse on the planet.
"How many, Tahn?"
"Sensors indicate thirty one."
"Against our remaining ten. Could be worse."
"The Talon should be here soon. We have only to hold out until then."
"Damned Klingon treachery. I knew we shouldn't have trusted then," Litani muttered angrily. "We must keep moving." The deserted Federation complex was a maze of tunnels and passageways constructed haphazardly as needed to reach the different veins as they were discovered. Now they were a trap for the band of Romulans as they tried to keep away from the Klingons until reinforcements arrived.
"They're splitting up."
"Can you get us back to the surface?" Litani asked, firing down the main corridor at the distant Klingons.
"It will be difficult. There are either Klingons or fire on all sides."
"Try." The man next to her disappeared and she wasted no time in moving away from the spot. "Let's go."
They ran, searching for corridors, shafts, anything that would take them back to the surface. At one place, Spock stopped long enough to set the controls on something Litani didn't recognize. The implication came clear when moments later she heard the sound of rushing water as the lower tunnels began filling. Turning a corner, the group, down to six now, stopped in their tracks. Three Klingons fired at once, aiming for the ceiling, preferring their victims to die from slower and more painful means than disrupter fire.
Spock threw himself at Litani, pushing her away from the crashing stone. When the noise and dust cleared away, the passage was blocked and their four companions buried. Litani lay half buried beneath rock, knocked unconscious. Knowing it would not be long before the Klingons arrived to check on their handiwork, Spock frantically threw the rocks aside to uncover her. Sensor readings of her indicated several broken bones and possible internal damage, but at least she was still alive. For now.
Ripping his uniform shirt, Spock bound the wounds that were bleeding, so no blood drops would betray their route, then gently cradled her in his arms, carrying her. The Klingons would be expecting any survivors to be pushing for the surface, so Spock journeyed downward. Water was running knee deep in some of the tunnels, but it was either that, or tangling with the Klingons again.
It was five full miles before he found an intersecting tunnel that went back up. Several hours later, Spock was in a surface building some distance away from the main complex. While searching for possible signs of Klingons, Spock discovered living quarters, now abandoned, and decided to put Litani there rather than leave her on the hard floor of the main room.
Her readings were lower than ever. Shock had set in, and complications would not be far behind. He could rig temporary splints for the arm and leg, even wrap the ribs, but there was nothing he could do for the internal damage. Nothing but wait for the Talon to arrive and the ships contact them to be picked up. At last contact, the Conqueror was still in an orbital standoff with the Klingon ship. Neither side would admit defeat, and neither side would risk dropping their shields long enough to bean up landing parties.
Doing what he could to make her comfortable, Spock left her for a moment to check the passageway and outer grounds. It was only a matter of time before the Klingons would come. When he returned, Litani was conscious, but barely.
Sitting beside her, Spock checked her readings, showing no change in expression at the alarming results. "We are safe. The Conqueror is maintaining the status quo and waits for the Talon's arrival."
"They will find us."
"Possibly." It was a certainty which could not be avoided long, but there was no reason to burden her with that knowledge.
"Do not be foolish and attempt to save me, Tahn." Litani could feel the taste of blood in her mouth as she spoke. She had always expected to die in battle, but not by inches like this.
"We will wait. The Talon should arrive shortly." For some reason she reminded him of McCoy in her protest not to be saved at the expense of others.
"I order you to leave, Tahn." The effort to speak further was too much and she slipped away again.
Spock checked once more, but there was still no sign of the enemy. Perhaps they thought the Romulan party dead and felt no need to look further. Coming back to her side, he sat next to her, weighing the situation. If help did not come soon, she would die. The thought of her death troubled him deeply. He'd come to respect and like her over the last three years. Nothing more of his identity had been spoken since that night of confrontation. It was as though it didn't exist. Her behavior struck him as illogical. yet very much in keeping with her character.
When their assignments called for them to beam down to Federation planets, she would give him the option of remaining on board. It was small considerations like this which had made his life on the Conqueror bearable. For this and other things he owed her a great deal. Litani had made it possible for him to remain within the Romulan Empire as a respected officer instead of life imprisonment had he stayed as a Vulcan.
She was growing weaker, with the Talon's arrival time unknown. Placing his fingers with care, Spock established a mind meld. The tendrils of his thoughts wound deeper until they were firmly planted. He and Litani were one. Spock could feel the wounds, the pain. He erased the pain, taking it upon himself, then set about starting the healing process from inside. Though they had common ancestry, the Romulans had lost the ability to heal themselves, Spock was now doing it for her.
When he withdrew hours later, Litani was no longer on the verge of dying. Setting the sensors on automatic to warn him of Klingons approaching, Spock sank into exhausted slumber. The meld had been deeper than any he'd ever experienced, one that had exposed him thoroughly. He now knew Litani, and she would know him as no one else ever had. Not even his wife, T'Pring.
* * *
The room was bathed in darkness as Spock sat in his quarters. Once the Talon had arrived, the Klingon vessel had been destroyed and those on the ground eliminated. The Commander of the Talon had given the command, taking the responsibility for attacking an ally. Spock was still curious as to why the Klingons had laid the trap. True, the alliance between the two Empires was weakening, but outright hostility was something new. If things continued in this vein, Federation territory, so recently conquered, would become a new battle ground for the two powers that controlled it.
Litani was in sickbay, heavily sedated, leaving him in command of the Conqueror. The medical personnel had been amazed that she still lived after such injuries, but had dutifully set the bones and did everything possible for her. Spock had not been to see her since coming on board, but could feel her through the link and knew she was out of danger.
It was a strange feeling to have someone else inside of him, other than T'Pring. His wife had been bonded to him at an early age and with the Koon-ut kal-if-fee, the bond had been deepened to a mature level which remained unchanged until its severence at her death. He had always felt her presence after their time together during the pon farr, but this link with Litani was more than even that. It was more than just a bond, more than a single mind link. It was a symbiotic relationship unlike any he'd ever known.
Spock understood Litani now. As the youngest daughter of an ambassador, she had seen sides of the Federation few Romulans ever did. Her enemy had faces and names, had personalities. They weren't just 'humans' to be hated, they were people just like herself with their own ideas and customs. Litani had felt fortunate not to achieve her command until most of the hostilities were over. It would have been difficult for her to destroy whole planets, or enslave entire populations merely to demonstrate the power she had at her disposal.
It was more than just the attention she was drawing from the High Command that had prompted her to ask him to stay. Her feelings toward him ran deeper than merely along the surface. Spock could feel the emotions that he'd never seen shown to him. There had never been any sign of how she felt, nothing that would betray her to this man who had no emotions. Litani had accepted the situation as unresolvable and left it at that.
The situation struck him as illogical. T'Pring had been his wife, yet he'd never felt this amount of emotion for him through the bond. The other women in his life, Leila, Zarabeth, Droxine and now Litani, had given unreservedly of themselves in their feelings for him. It was not logical.
Jim would have been able to explain it to him, but he was gone. The Enterprise had disappeared with no further word. Even McCoy would have understood it better than he did and found some way to express it. After all, it had been McCoy who'd come to him at last and explained that it had been an unrequited love which he'd flagrantly walked on that prompted Christine Chapel to commit suicide that day. How could he have known what his refusal of her that day would cause her to do? He would not accept the blame for something about which he knew nothing. She'd come to his quarters that day to tell him they were diverting from Vulcan and would not reach it for another ten days. In reflection, Spock now knew she'd figured out what was wrong with him and was offering herself to save his life. At the time he could see and feel only the fever and had physically thrown her from his quarters. It was only after the marriage to T'Pring and the cooling of the fever that he remembered the incident. He'd tried to find her, to apologize and explain, but it was too late. Her realization that he would rather die than be with her had been too much. McCoy had blamed him for her death and it had stood between them until the day Spock left to take command of the Suuni.
Spock missed his flamepot at times like this when he wanted to meditate. His had been destroyed with the Suuni and the odds of replacing it with another were astronomical even if he dared while living among the Romulans. Sometimes it felt as if his entire life had been destroyed that day. Here, he was Tahn. There was nothing of Spock visible other than his scientific abilities. He'd even grown a beard on the chance he would meet up with someone who knew of him from before the war as a Starfleet officer. Every day he spent in the Empire as Tahn made the concept of returning to what was before more difficult. If there'd been even the slightest vestige of the Federation or Starfleet remaining he could have felt some loyalty, but there wasn't. There was nothing left even reminiscent of Starfleet, literally nothing to which he could return. It was illogical to remain loyal to something that no longer existed.
Without Vulcan and its Healers, the bond with Litani was permanent. Only a select few had the ability to break such a bond and they were gone. How would Litani react when she found out she was forever bound to a Vulcan? Would it have been kinder to let her die instead of burdening her with this?
Yet, he was not displeased with the bond. It felt strangely pleasant to feel her nearness. The emptiness that had been part of him for so long was gone. But would she feel the same way?
* * *
He knew when she awoke in the sickbay and he relinquished the bridge to his navigator. For three days they had kept her sedated to allow the body to heal without disturbance. Spock knew she would find the bond unsettling, should she even figure out what it was and wanted to be there when she wakened.
Ordering everyone away, Spock took in the bewildered look on her face and knew this would not be easy. His mental shields were on maximum to keep the brunt of the bond from her until she was ready for it, but there was still much emanating.
Spock stood a short distance from her, giving her a chance to adjust to his nearness. All equipment was shut down, no one would have access to this conversation. The Chief Surgeon would register a complaint when he found tampering of his records, but Spock didn't really care.
Litani sat unsteadily on the edge of the bed, favoring the freshly healed wounds. Everything was so confusing. She remembered the battle, and the falling rock ... and Tahn carrying her to a place of safety. Tahn was here now. The doctor had told her she'd been unconscious for three days and would feel disoriented, but this was something more than that. It was as if she could 'feel' him standing there, even when she closed her eyes. "Tahn?"
"I am here." He remained motionless, uncertain of what to do exactly. Spock could see the concentration on her face and knew she was trying to sort through the impressions she was receiving through the bond.
"You are ... Spock." The name slipped out and it took her a moment to place where she'd ever heard it before. That was it, Spock had been on the legendary Enterprise with James T. Kirk until receiving a command of his own. Reports had said both men were now dead. Somehow she knew Spock was standing here directly in front of her. She'd known he was Vulcan, but to be Spock? The monitors! They would have registered her remark, giving his true identity. Litani struggled to reach the panel that would shut them down.
"I have already disconnected them."
"It is true then, you are Spock from the Suuni." Even now, knowing his name didn't really change anything. She had accepted him as a Vulcan three years ago, labeling him with a former name meant nothing. "How do I know this?"
"To save your life," he explained stiffly, "I bonded with you to start the healing process. We are forever joined. Forgive me." He purposefully blocked off her thoughts, to give her the privacy she needed to make up her own mind. He sensed confusion, but her thoughts were her own.
Sliding from the bed onto her feet, Litani balanced herself carefully, fighting the initial dizziness. "Tahn, take me to my quarters where I can think in peace."
* * *
Litani occasionally checked with the bridge over the next two days from her quarters, where she was mending, but since Spock was keeping the ship out of the mainstream of activity, there was nothing that needed her immediate attention other than getting well ... and thinking.
She was alive, something she hadn't thought possible while lying in the outbuilding on the planet. The physical damage to her body had been extensive. Yet, Tahn had forced her body to start healing itself, making it possible for her to be here in her own quarters instead of serving in the Otherworld.
Litani tested out the link, to see what being bonded truly meant, but came up against a barrier. It was obvious Tahn regretted his action now, but could do nothing about it.
It was late, but she'd asked Tahn to come to her quarters. There was no need to prolong this any further. He would know what needed to be done to set himself free of her.
Spock entered her quarters, pleased to see her mobile and no longer in pain. Despite the strong barriers he'd placed between them for privacy, Spock could feel she was unsettled. He sensed Litani had decided the bond was undesirable. There was not much he could do about it other than continue putting up barriers between them and show her how to do the same. Perhaps time would dull the unused bond. It would probably also help if he transferred from the Conqueror and there was greater distance between them.
Litani gestured to a cushion near where she was seated. She could read nothing in his face. There were times when she envied his Vulcan heritage and training that allowed him to give no clues of what he was thinking or feeling. Silence filled the room. "I wish to thank you for saving my life." He merely nodded acknowledgement of her words. "I only wish it had not been at such a great cost to yourself."
"I do not understand." Cost to him, what of the cost to herself? Spock lowered the barrier a fraction to obtain a grasp on what she was feeling since her words were making very little sense to him. There was such sadness on her part. He could detect no anger, only a resignation to ... something.
Litani felt the lowering of the defenses and wondered what had caused it. "In sickbay you spoke of the bond being permanent."
"The price paid for my life was too high, Tahn. You, Spock of Vulcan, are now tied to a Romulan Commander for the rest of your life. Surely this was not what you intended when you left the Federation. I can never repay the debt, other than to release you from the conrmittment as best I can." Litani felt the last of the barriers slip away.
Spock kept them down for only a moment, then reinstated them. This was not a time for misunderstandings. The decision to attempt severing a bond was a permanent one. "I will transfer from the Conqueror immediately. With time the bond should lessen and your life will return to normal."
Litani struggled against the brief surge of his feelings before the barrier was put back into place. How foolish she'd been in trying to read a Vulcan. Her interpretation of the barrier was to keep her away from him, when in reality it was to keep him from invading her privacy since she had no such defenses. She should have known this would be the case. There had been nothing in his words or actions of the last three years to suggest otherwise. She could see now where her actions had been tinged with the memories of her husband. He was dead now, but there had been such pain and distrust when he'd left her for someone else. The words he'd thrown at her that no one could possibly want her had stung deeper than even she had suspected.
"I will teach you techniques which will help block me from your mind..." Spock continued.
"Is this what you want. Tahn? To leave?"
An eyebrow lifted at the question. Why was she questioning him for obliging her request? It was not logical. The choice had been hers. It had been made, and now she was asking him if he wanted to leave? "The meld was made without your permission, the decision is yours."
"You didn't answer my question. Do you want to leave, or stay?"
"I would prefer to remain, however..."
"Then why do you make plans to leave?" she interrupted him.
"You do not wish the bond and the only way to lessen it is for me to leave." The words were spoken harsher than he'd planned. Living with the Romulans and being a Rornulan for three years with visible emotions was coloring his actions now. The force of her emotions made the bond powerful.
"I do not want to force you into remaining with me simply because I would grant you the freedom to go. I want you to stay, but only if it's what you want."
"I wish to stay."
"Tal once told me I would be alone the rest of my life after he left."
"You knew him?" She was impressed that he would know a Romulan of less than Conmander grade, now dead for five years.
"We ... met ... many years ago. He was serving on the cruiser, Destroyer, near the neutral zone at the time."
"That must have been before I met him. We'd only been joined a short time before he found someone else and broke the union. At least I can honestly say I don't miss him." Litani pulled the coverlet higher to keep the chill from the freshly healed bones in her leg and arm. "I thought you regretted your actions when I could not break through the barrier, so I asked you to leave."
"The bond cannot be broken," he said again, to make sure she knew what she was facing. "It is a 'joining' for the rest of your life until one of us is dead." Placing it in Romulan terms of marriage would make it the most clear, he felt.
"Somehow I never envisioned myself joined to a Vulcan spy. Oh, well, if this is the way the coins have fallen, so be it. There are worse fates in life." She chuckled at the expression on his face. "After all, you could have been human."
Spock felt the humor in her mind. Drawing himself up, he announced, "I am half human, Commander."
"Which half?" she touched his ear tip. "Top half looks Vulcan to me. Is it the bottom half which is human?" Litani tried to keep the smile off her face and look serious.
"A proper Vulcan wife does not ridicule her husband," he returned.
"What about an improper one?"
'Such a thing does not exist."
"That figures. Life must be very dull for Vulcan wives. No impropriety, the perfect woman at all times. I can see my work is cut out for me. On the other hand, you shall have to change somewhat to be the perfect Romulan husband."
"Certainly. If I'm to be the perfect Vulcan wife, it's only fair that you be the perfect Romulan husband." The smile could no longer be contained.
"Perhaps it would be better if we were to be ourselves..."
"Sounds good to me, Tahn. By the way, who's manning the conn?"
* * *
Spock rose from the bed, making sure he didn't wake Litani. There'd been a noise in the outer room, but fortunately his wife hadn't woke up. The extra shifts she'd pulled the last several days during the refitting of the Conqueror at a base had worn her out completely. It had been a busy time for everyone, since time was short for the refitting. Klingon aggression had been increasing until the Empire was on full battle alert against their former ally. He'd made use of access to Empire computers during the stay at the base. They would be leaving on the morrow, but he had all he needed to know for the moment to change the course of the war.
It was dark, but he could still discern the small figure huddled over his access console. "I knew you would come out here eventually, Spock. Seems like no matter what time line I travel, I always find you in bed with a woman." The voice was familiar, but he couldn't place it. "No matter, my travels are done now. I have destroyed everything possible to ensure your life will be a nightmare."
"Who are you?"
The figure turned to face him, tossing back the hood to show a disfigured countenance. "Don't you remember me? I am T'naari, your wife."
"I knew a T'naari once, first on Vulcan, then on the Suuni. She was never my wife."
There was a phaser in her hand, set to kill. "Not in this time line, but in the original strand of time, I was." She waved him to step away from her so she could stand.
"Why are you here? How are you here?"
"The Guardian has been most helpful in my journeys. It has allowed me to destroy the Enterprise, and the Federation. I even disposed of Uhura this time."
He could hear Litani silently rising from the bed. Distracting T'naari, he continued plying her with questions.
"I have had my vengence. There is no way for you to unravel the strands of time and return to what really is. Soon, the Klingons and Romulans will go to war with one another and fight their battles on Federation territory, destroying everything. You and your entire ship will perish in a blaze of fire, burned as you fall into the atmosphere of Earth. The Enterprise will become a plague ship. Uhura will be hanged as a spy."
"You said the Enterprise was already destroyed," he argued.
"This is the last time line in which it exists, I've destroyed it everywhere else. Soon, it won't even be in this one."
There was a touch of madness and illogic to everything she said. If even some of what she said was true, however, she had to be stopped. She had come by the Guardian, therefore the portal had to be somewhere near. The Federation hadn't really lost the war originally...
He moved so fast, T'naari didn't even see the motion as he seized the phaser and threw it across the room. Litani stared wordlessly as she watched her husband grasp the tiny woman by the neck.
"Tell me what you have done or I will break your neck," he threatened. How dare this person destroy a universe? Images swam before his eyes as he held her. The Guardian, Jim, T'Pring, places he'd never seen, people he didn't know... Spock felt as if he'd been sucked into a vortex of time displacement. He absorbed everything he could before it became too much. His grip tightened and she fell to the floor lifeless.
Stumbling backward, Spock fell into a chair, clutching his head, trying to sort through the images. T'naari had so scrambled the strands of time it would be impossible to straighten them out. Yet, there had to be some way of stopping this insane war before it even started. Life under Romulan rule was harsh, under the Klingons it would be unbearable.
Standing up finally, Spock held Litani close, expressing himself through the bond. She could feel the emotions that would forever remain unspoken, but also knew from the sadness that he was leaving soon. There was small comfort to be taken in his words of explanation of why it was necessary to go.
"When will you return?" Tears came unbidden.
"Perhaps soon, perhaps never." Her pain was almost more than he could bear. He finished dressing, checking to be sure all weapons were in place. "It is possible, Litani, that when we meet again, I may not know you."
"You will not stay?"
"I cannot." He kissed her gently, sealing the memory of her in his mind.
Litani was never sure whether there was a mist that formed in the air into which he stepped, or if she was seeing through the tears.
* * *
He pulled his fingers away from her face, feeling the bond stretch between them as it once had. Three years of married life with this woman played in his mind, the joys, sorrows, love, pain, all the many facets that make up a meaningful relationship. He could see her in the command chair making life and death decisions, then the image would soften to their times together in the privacy of their personal life. Nights of holding her close, fighting by her side against the Klingons, touching her in passion, stopping the blood from her wounds. They had shared so much together.
Litani felt his arms go around her and knew he had returned to her. The year he'd been gone had felt like ten. He belonged at her side, both as a husband and a Sub-Comnander. There was no way she was going to leave him here in a slave complex. Thinking fast, Litani held him at arm's length. "Tahn, how would you like to be a spy?"
* * *
"This is all quite irregular, Commander," the Mining Officer objected. "If this man is indeed a spy, why hasn't he come forward before this to be reinstated to his proper position?"
"You dare question me?" Her hand slapped the table in premeditated anger. "Watch your step, Krang, or I shall have you demoted to a position far lower than that of Mining Officer."
"Take him and leave me be," he snarled. "What do I care?" The man knew there would be far worse than demotion in order for him should the spy tell of certain things that occurred in the complex.
Spock turned to leave, then whirled back on the man, seizing him by the collar and lifting him from his seat. "Do you think I care for your petty thievery or pocket lining tactics? You and your kind mean nothing to me. I care not what you do, but should you get in my way I will crush you. "
Gasping to breathe, the man could do nothing but nod acknowledgement of the threat. The day would come when a knife could be slid between the spy's ribs, until then he would hold his peace. There was enough strength in those fingers to squeeze the life from him. Fingers that had been strengthened by digging rock in his own mine. Krang slid to the floor am the two left his office.
* * *
"It actually worked." Litani laughed. "The idiot believed us. Of course, your threat was wonderful. No Vulcan would ever do such a thing." She stretched back on the pillows watching him dress in clothes this Spock had never worn, but would feel comfortable in because of the memory link between the time lines. Litani grew serious. "I'm glad you're back, too, because of the Klingons. I need your expertise to help my ship survive."
"Declaration has not been official, has it?"
"Soon. Perimeter skirmishes have picked up the last few months. That's the main reason we keep this mine open. We drained our own mines to fight the Federation, now we're stockpiling toward the next war from Federation mines. The Klingons have been doing the same. Dilithium is at a premium, we're having to dig deeper and deeper to reach it."
"Needing more Liniite to do it. What of the other rumor I was hearing of using it to destroy planets?"
She frowned. "I can see I'll have to do something about that idiot after all. That's classified A level material, not for bandying around a Liniite mine. It is true, but only in an experimental stage. The Klingons have something similar to it, but High Command doesn't like it as it disrupts the entire system by removing one of the planetary bodies."
Spock put his weapons into place as she rose to dress. "It would appear the time lines have merged at this point and nothing is going to stop this war. I left this line and returned to the Guardian to change it, but I've only succeeded in returning to where I started. There is no way back to the original line. T'naari has altered the factors so no matter what is done, the Federation loses the war."
"I'm truly sorry, Spock. I have more bad news for you." She sat down on the edge of the bed. "Two officers from the Enterprise were captured six months ago. The ship escaped with no sign of her since, but the men are now in a high security prison awaiting execution."
"Kirk and McCoy." She had never seen such anger in him. The information had been costly, but she'd never given up hope that he would return. "They are on Noone 4, maximum security."
"Date of execution?"
"Sentence was one year hard labor, then public execution for crimes against the Empire." Litani slid the boot knife into place. "I think High Command was hoping to learn the location of the Enterprise from them, I doubt they will. Their Captain is not stupid enough to have his ship return to any known location he could divulge, nor would he give orders to have himself rescued at the cost of his ship."
"Your appraisal of the situation is quite accurate." Before his journey to the Guardian there had been no Enterprise in this time line. Perhaps his trip had not been in vain after all... He concealed the tiny handmade weapon made from Liniite, knowing Litani would not betray him. "There is not much time for me to get them out. I would appreciate it if you would drop me off where I can obtain passage."
"Forget it. It will be impossible for you to even get through the defense shield. Unauthorized vessels are destroyed first, questions asked later. No one has ever broken in, and no one has ever left Noone 4 alive."
"I will find a way."
"The only time a ship is permitted to establish orbit is to deliver a prisoner. What of the woman who came with you?"
His head turned at the reference to Uhura. It was obvious Litani had lifted the files to erase all traces of his presence on Tillon, and the fact that he had someone with him at time of capture had been in the files. He wasn't sure which was going to prove more difficult, explaining Uhura to Litani, or vice verse. "It is too great a risk for her. The logical alternative is to deliver me as a Starfleet officer, thus giving me access to the security complex."
Litani stopped the refusal on her lips. There were better ways to get around Tahn than the forward approach. "Tahn, we will continue this discussion later. I need you on the bridge while I beam back down to take care of that idiot who's breached security regulations." She kissed him gently. "Welcome back, my husband."
* * *
Litani found the monitoring devices in the Main Office, where she'd confronted Krang twice today, permanently disconnected. How convenient for doing 'business'. At the moment, Krang was sitting in her brig contemplating his probable fate for treasonous activities. Clearing his desk with the sweep of her arm, Litani sat on the edge of it and waited.
It was nearly half an hour before she heard the sounds of her men returning. Motioning them to leave, Litani faced the prisoner alone. Months of digging rock showed, but the human woman was still beautiful. This was the one she had felt in Tahn's mind through the bond when they first melded. In another time line, there had been no Litani, only this woman who'd served as his second in command and lover.
"I wish to speak with you privately before my Sub-Commander arrives."
"I have nothing to say," Uhura refused. Who was this woman Commander and what did she want with a prisoner? No explanation had been given by the guards who'd come to get her from the mines. Uhura couldn't think of anything she'd ever done out of line that would warrant an interrogation by a line officer of the Romulan fleet. Unless... Was it possible that someone had recognized and betrayed her as a Starfleet officer? If that was so, what about Spock? He was better known than she.
"I am Commander Litani of the flagship Conqueror. You are Commander Uhura, First Officer of the starship Suuni."
"You're mistaken. My name is Chapel and I'm a civilian technician."
Litani ignored her. Were their positions reversed she would be doing the same thing. "Before Tahn arrives, I wish to give you something to think about. Two men from the Enterprise, Kirk and McCoy, are now incarcerated on Noone 4, a penitential planet. The only way my ship can approach the planet in hopes of releasing them is to deliver a prisoner. Do you follow me?" Time was running out, Tahn would be here any minute. It was so hard to do this. This woman meant nothing to her, Tahn meant everything. Yet, care had to be taken. If Tahn felt there had been any kind of coercion he would be unforgiving of her actions and still sacrifice himself. If this Uhura refused to go along with the plan, Tahn would still go. Once inside they would rescue all three prisoners, but how much of Tahn would be left? Punishment of a man who'd impersonated a Romulan officer for six years would be harsh.
"What has this to do with me?" Uhura asked. Jim was a prisoner. Was this Commander telling the truth, or was it all just an elaborate trap to force her into admitting she was an officer?
The door whooshed and Litani nodded greeting to her Sub-Commander. Spock felt the warning to be careful through the link. He stayed by the door where Uhura couldn't see him. The anger first felt at Litani's interference faded as he realized what she was doing. Uhura needed a way out. In this time line, the bond between himself and Litani was real and couldn't be broken. No matter what had happened before, this is what existed now.
Litani stood up. "I leave the choice to you, Commander." Uhura kept her eyes straight ahead, never seeing the look that passed between the two people behind her.
Once Litani had left, Spock waited, debating what to say to her. "Uhura."
She knew that voice. Turning slowly, she stopped the greeting at the sight of the Romulan uniform. It looked and sounded like Spock, yet it couldn't be. Spock was a prisoner here at the mine, not masquerading as one of the enemy.
"It is me. This is where all the lines merge."
"Explain." There was something different about him. He looked the same, but his words and mannerisms were slightly altered. It was as if he was electrically charged instead of the stoic, unemotional Vulcan she'd always known. A merging of the time lines, he said. Was he then also a combination of time lines? Uhura wondered.
She listened to him as he explained what had happened, how he was a Romulan officer by choice to escape the fate that awaited all Starfleet officers in this strand of time. What had begun as vengence against the Romulans was to become a joining of forces with them to defeat the Klingons. The Suuni was gone, everything they'd ever known was gone -- except the Enterprise. She still lived. The commander had been telling the truth that Jim and Leonard were prisoners on Noone 4.
Her head swam an she tried to comprehend what was happening. T'naari was dead now, he said, but the damage could never be undone. The information they'd found in the Alpha 6 computer had been placed there by himself in this time line for safekeeping, not knowing he would return as a Spock that didn't knov about it. The weapon was a prototype. Klingon spies had been closing in on it, so he'd removed it from the Central Computer the very night he left to keep it from them. The creators of it were all dead at Klingon hands without divulging its secret. He was the only one who knew of it.
"There really is a chance to break them from the prison?"
"Yes. It will be dangerous, but possible."
"Why is she doing this? Why save Starfleet prisoners?"
"The war will be declared very soon. Commander Litani believes the Enterprise holds the key to defeating the Klingons. She wants to join forces with her."
"None of this is making sense. The Federation is gone, Starfleet is gone, and she wants to join up with Captain Kirk against her own ally? Doesn't wash." Uhura stepped away from him. "You're really serious about this, aren't you? The only way she can join up with the Enterprise is to defy Romulan orders..."
"This is true," he agreed smoothly. Why was this so difficult? This was Uhura, a woman he had known for so many years...
Her expression grew hard. "She wants me to give myself up as a prisoner in order to get inside Noone 4."
"It is not necessary. The Commander had considered it as an alternative, but an unnecessary one. The Captain and Dr. McCoy can be rescued without such a drastic measure on your part."
"Who will she use?"
"It is irrelevant."
"Damn it, Spock, what's happened to you? We were friends, even lovers, now I hardly know you," she cried out. "The last time we spoke, you held me in your arms, now you stand across the room from me. Was this how Christine felt?"
"You're the one she's going to turn over to them on Noone, aren't you?"
"It is the only way. The choice was mine, not hers."
"What is she to you that you would trust her like this? Why do you trust a Romulan?" Uhura asked brittlely, tears streaming down her face.
"She is Litani. my wife."
END OF PART THREE