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


Karen A. Bates

"Well, Jim, here's to three long days of R&R." McCoy raised his glass in toast.

"Here's to four months, fifteen days and thirteen hours of tour that earned it for us," Kirk responded, meeting the doctor's glass with his own, making a solid clinking sound as they met. "Wish it could have been on some more interesting planet than Cylos VII, but beggars can't be choosers."

"It may not be Wrigley's, but at least it's off the ship and on solid terra firma that doesn't need charting, scouting, exploring, negotiating..."

"All right already, you've convinced me." Jim held up a hand to stem the flow of descriptions. "You and I will journey down to this oasis of happiness and Spock here will hold down the fort in his usual inimitable fashion, foreswearing all pleasures and relaxation in preference to duty."

"I assure you, Captain, the alternative of spending three entire days on Cylos VII is quite unappealing," Spock protested. " The sight of the ship's complement 'cavorting' in their pursuit of 'R & R' is quite enough to consider, let alone actually view." The innocent look on his face belied the disdainful words. The prospect of three whole days of having the ship and computer to himself, minus a skeleton crew, held a lure these humans would never understand.

"The ship's yours, Spock. We'll see you in three days."

* * *

"Not exactly the Palace on Cotta," McCoy observed wryly, taking in the dismal surroundings of the bar and its equally shabby local clientele. "I'd say rigor mortis set in about three hundred years ago and somebody forgot to bury the body."

"Cheer up, Bones, we could still be charting the nebula system." Kirk swallowed the last of the drink in a quick rush and held his breath, waiting to see if it would rise again. Good, it stayed down. Of course, the way his stomach was burning, perhaps it would have been preferable to have it come up instead. "Let's wander down the street a ways and see if there's anything else."

* * *

"According to this brochure, there are thirty-four bars and/or other drinking establishments, twenty-seven brothels and assorted places for such activities, fourteen gambling parlors, forty-one hotels, six cemeteries, and three religious centers." McCoy carefully refolded the paper and placed it reverently in the provided ashtray. "I think I'll join Spock on the ship."

"I think I'll join..." Kirk's sentence trailed away as he caught sight of the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen walk into the bar. "Why don't you go ahead, I'll catch up later..."

"Three days later," Bones muttered under his breath. "Never fails. Godforsaken planet with nothing but overgrown cockroaches and fleabag hotels and Jim finds Paradise on two legs." He pulled out his communicator and signaled the ship. "McCoy to Enterprise. Come in, Enterprise."

"Enterprise, Spock here."

"One to beam up."

"The Captain?"

"The usual."


* * *

The heady smell of her perfume made his head whirl as they walked along the beach in the moonlight. Waves lapping at the sand created a rhythmic pounding that matched the one in his pulse. It was incredible that such a beautiful woman would be on this backwater planet. But Jim Kirk wasn't complaining. He had three whole days to himself away from the ship and he intended to enjoy them to the fullest.

The last six months had been nothing but patrols and milk runs, certainly necessary functions to Starfleet, but of no interest to starship intended for exploration. Then, when time was given for leave, the best Starfleet could do was Cylos VII. Sort of like giving a bored man another does of ennui. Well, if the last few hours were indication, his time on Cylos wouldn't be as bad as he'd originally thought.

Jim stopped walking to stare at the moonlight reflecting off the water. He could practically feel the tiller of a ship in his hands, the caress of the wind in his face. A tall ship and a star to steer her by. What more could a man want?

Mara tugged at his hand and Jim turned, enveloping her in his arms, reveling in the feel of her against his body. What more could a man want? Someone like Mara perhaps, to spend a few days with and pass the time between voyages. The sand beneath his feet was solid and fine, comforting in its very existence, but overhead, the stars beckoned as nothing planetside ever could.

* * *

Mara propped herself on an elbow and stared at the man sleeping soundly beside her. Even asleep he exuded a strength few men had. His tousled hair and untroubled brow made him look younger and vulnerable.

Unable to resist any longer, she ran a finger down his forehead and across his nose to rest on his lips. A magnificent creature, this human starship Captain. Never had she met anyone quite like this. Her search for the perfect man was over.

Brilliant green eyes met his as he opened them to face the day. They were captivating and entrancing. "Good morning."

"Morning yourself, sleepyhead." A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.

Chagrined by the sun pouring in through the window, he ventured a question as to the time of day.

"Middle of the afternoon, give or take a day." Mara nipped at his ear.

Rolling her back onto the bed, he held her immobile. "Hungry?" He kissed her throat.

"Only for you."

* * *

Time had never passed so quickly on a leave before, Jim reflected as he watched the sun gently touch the horizon. He would never forget Cylos VII. One day had been spent along the beach, another up in the mountains, and today they'd sailed down the coast and back in a small rented boat. Each day had been more glorious than the one before.

Sitting in the sand, Jim watched Mara as she danced along the water's edge. Her long blonde hair swung freely through the air in its own dance pattern. Mara Kujanian. A name that tripped from the tongue. He'd spent three days with her, but hadn't learned much about her other than her name. Somehow, he always ended up answering questions and describing the many worlds he'd visited. She was like a puff of smoke that titillated the senses, but couldn't be grasped.

His communicator buzzed insistently, demanding his attention. Reluctantly, he pulled it from his belt and flipped it open. "Kirk here."

"Spock here. Our new orders from Starfleet just came through."

"How many left to beam up?" Kirk inquired. Mara was dancing up to him, distracting him from the conversation.

"Just one."

"Understood, stand by." After closing the lid, he caught her hand in his and pulled her down to the sand next to him. Those eyes... "That was the ship. My time's up."

"You are leaving?"

"Afraid so. Duty calls."

"Stay a while longer," she lured. "Another hour, another day..."

He bent toward those inviting lips, laying her back in the sand. Those eyes... There was another insistent buzz, reminding him of duty. "I must leave, Mara. I will always remember you." He stood up and tapped the acknowledgement button. She was like a siren of the sea, beckoning the lonely sailor to come in to her port.

He disappeared from her sight and she sat alone on the beach. "Your ship is another woman, James Kirk, but I will make you forget her. I will destroy her if I have to, but I will have you."

* * *

Kirk leaned back in his chair, enjoying the sounds of the bridge and the vision of stars on the viewscreen. They were a month out of Cylos, but he could still picture her in his mind, hear the sound of her voice...

"Captain," Spock repeated, trying to get Kirk's attention.

"Sorry, Spock, just thinking. What is it?"

"Picking up a distress signal, alpha quadrant."

"Any other ships in the area?"

"Negative, we're the closest."

"Divert. Set course, Mr. Sulu, warp seven."

* * *

The planet rotated innocuously below them, oblivious to the ship in orbit above it. "Readings, Mr. Spock?"

"Sensors indicate a Class M planet, standard atmospheric conditions, flora and fauna." Spock looked up from his scope. "No discernable point of origin for distress signal."

"Are we still receiving the distress signal?" Kirk inquired.

"Negative, Captain." Uhura turned to face the swirling planet. "It was there. Now it's gone."

"Distress signals don't just disappear," the Captain insisted.

"Picking up strange energy readings," Spock reported. "Gone now."

"Are there readings or not, Mr. Spock?"

"Momentarily, Captain," Spock admitted.

"Compute coordinates and prepare a landing party. We're going down to investigate."

* * *

"Nice place," McCoy observed sarcastically. The landing party had materialized ankle deep in a swamp with thick tree-like growths which laced tightly overhead. What light filtered through illuminated a murky world.

"The smell..." Security Officer Grimes remarked, lifting one foot at a time from the muck and placing it down carefully in a new location.

"Spread out," Kirk ordered. The place had a strange feel to it. Something that wasn't quite ... right. Choosing a direction at random, he set out with tricorder in hand.

Voices faded behind him as each went their own way in exploration. His feet found dry land and he tried shaking the clinging moss from his boots without success.

"Welcome, Jim."

She was there, beside him. "Mara?"

"I've missed you." She twined her arms around his neck and kissed him.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, pulling her closer.

"I came for you. I've missed you."

He reached for his communicator, but she stopped his hand. "Do you really want them to come here?"

Her nearness was intoxicating, her touch ecstasy. "No..."

* * *


Kirk opened his eyes and saw Spock standing before him. With a start, he sat up and found himself leaning against a tree on a tiny island of dry earth. "I must have fallen asleep," he said, puzzled. "How long have I been here?"

"Three hours, Captain. I had difficulty locating you with the tricorder."


"Unknown. Things appear, then disappear."

"Like they did on the planet where we found Lazarus?"

"Similar, but not identical." Spock concurred."The rest of the landing party is waiting for us at the original beam down point."

"Spock." Kirk stopped him from leaving. "Did you pick up any lifeform readings, other than flora and fauna."

"Negative, Captain, but as I indicated, the tricorders do not appear to be functioning in a normal capacity on this planet surface." One eyebrow rose in question. "Did you detect something, Captain?"

"I'm not sure."

* * *

Once on board, all the members of the landing party went to their quarters for clean, dry clothing, a welcome change after tracking through a swamp for three hours. Kirk entered his quarters and, undressing quickly, heading for a welcome shower. He emerged refreshed a while later and lay on the bed, forearm on the pillow above his head deep in thought. Rolling over, he contacted the bridge for a sensor update.

"Nothing unusual registering on sensors," Spock reported.

"Any more on that distress signal?"

"Negative, Captain," Uhura chimed in. "It was a class one planetary distress signal. A non-informational repeating signal."

"Keep me informed."

"Is she pretty?" Mara asked, sliding her hand up and down his arm languorously.


"The communications officer, of course."

"Beautiful, why?" Kirk asked. Mara was here, he could feel, here and touch her, yet she couldn't be.

"As beautiful as me?" Mara pouted.

"In her own way," Kirk replied diplomatically. This must be a dream, a dream such as he'd had on the planet surface below.

"Kiss me, Jim."

He compiled, melting into her arms and forgetting all else.

* * *

The bridge was quiet in the wee hours of morning except for Uhura's humming. Spock enjoyed the solitude, preferring to do his work during times like these. The intermittent energy readings from the surface of the planet were an intriguing problem. They would appear for a few brief seconds, then wink out of existence. A pattern was developing, though. Each of the energy readings was within a coordinate zone the size of a small room. The image of a door opening and shutting came to him as another brief surge appeared on the sensors.

The humming stopped. "Mr. Spock, I'm picking up an abnormal amount of static in the ship's communication system. Are your instruments affected?"

Checking quickly, Spock swivelled in his chair to face Uhura. "Negative, Lieu..." His answer was cut short at the sight of the woman staring at her hands.

Uhura was speechless with horror as long hair grew rapidly from the backs of her hands. There was a strange sensation in her face and she looked in the mirror above her station, only to find more hair sprouting over the remainder of her body. "Spock..."

He punched the signal for sickbay emergency and ran a scan or her from the station to be placed on tape. While the equipment was doing its part. Spock went to her, tearing the small mirror from its moorings and smashing it with his fist. He felt totally helpless as the hair continued growing at an accelerated rate. When he tried to touch her, she pulled away, afraid the condition might be contagious. By the time McCoy and Chapel raced onto the bridge, the human Uhura could no longer be seen beneath the long shaggy coat.

* * *

Kirk rolled over, instantly awake at the sound of the intercom. "Kirk here."

"Sickbay, McCoy. Jim, you better get down here right away." Checking the chronometer, Kirk saw he'd been asleep for an hour. Odd, he didn't remember lying down to sleep...

Spock met him in the corridor outside of sickbay. "Captain, there's been a strange occurrence on the bridge. Lieutenant Uhura is the only one affected thus far. Dr. McCoy has placed her in isolation until farther tests can be made."

"What happened?"

Taking the Captain to McCoy's office, Spock played back the scanner tape he made of the incident. "So far we have been unable to discover anything concrete about her condition, including its cause," Spock concluded.

//"Is she pretty?" Mara had asked. "Beautiful," he'd answered.// Kirk sat on the edge of the desk, considering the direction of his thoughts. Could it be a coincidence? "You say there was one of those energy readings just before this happened?"


"Do you remember the woman I met in the bar on Cylos VII?"

"I do," McCoy answered as he joined them. "Why'"

"I saw her again on the planet below and then an hour ago in my quarters, the same time as Spock registered an energy reading on the surface."

"What's the connection?"

"I don't know yet. But this time, she asked about Uhura, whether she was pretty. I told her she was beautiful. Then this..."

"Are you sure you weren't just dreaming?" McCoy probed gently.

"There's a connection, I know it," Jim insisted.

"Assuming it's true," McCoy began, "how did she get here, to the planet, the ship? We left Cylos VII a month ago. If she managed somehow to stow away, we would have found her long before now."

"I don't have the answers, Bones, but I'm sure they're out there somewhere, waiting for us."

"What about Uhura?" Spock broke in. "If this was indeed an act of jealousy, as you suggest, it would require a highly sophisticated lifeform to accomplish it."

"We've seen stranger things in the galaxy, Spock." Kirk walked to the door. "I'm going to talk to Uhura, see if she can tell me anything that might help explain this. Spock, I want a full analysis of those readings in an hour. Also, form a landing party. I want to investigate those coordinates."

* * *

The landing party of Spock, McCoy and three security men was already in the transporter room when he arrived. "Anything, Spock?"

"I have laid in the coordinates of the energy readings. We should arrive approximately thirty three meters from the source of the readings."

"Let's go."

Expecting swamp again, they were surprised to find themselves on solid ground. "Which way?" Kirk asked.

"Four three eight mark two. Thirty three point four meters." The tricorder stopped registering while Spock led the way to a small clearing surrounded by a perfect circle of stone columns. It was exactly three meters in diameter with a tiled surface embossed with figures that continuously moved. "This does not register on my tricorder."

Grimes stepped forward, mesmerized by the undulating pattern. Stretching out his hand to touch one, he was sucked into the design and vanished from sight.

"Fascinating," Spock intoned. "None of this is registering."

"Captain, look!" Robertson called out, pointing it the design. Everyone looked to where he was pointing and saw, beneath the surface, as if underground, Grimes, scratching at the design as if trying to escape, then he was gone.

Kirk ordered everyone back from the clearing, taking no chances of losing another member of his crew. "Spock, what is that thing?"

"It would appear to be a portal."

"To where?"


"I suggest we get out of here," McCoy inserted."We don't know what we're dealing with and we've already lost one man."

"For once, I concur with the Doctor. This phenomena does not register on my tricorder and until data is available, there is no way of determining what precisely this mechanism is."

Robertson protested, "But what about Grimes? We can't leave him trapped in there!"

"Yeoman, we do not even know where 'there' is."

"We could it least try to get him out." Adams joined in the discussion.

"What would you suggest?" Kirk asked

"Use a phaser, try to blast through it, maybe make a hole large enough for him to crawl through," Robertson shot back immediately. "At least try..." Before anyone could stop him, Robertson ran to the edge of the clearing and fired directly into the center of the swirling figures. A golden tendril emerged from the surface and wrapped itself around him, pulling him into wherever Grimes had gone.

Kirk pulled out his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Beam us aboard."

* * *

"I've never seen anything like it," Leonard told Christine. "It looked like a polished glass floor with a moving design just beneath its surface."

"How horrible for those men." She shuddered. "I wonder if they are still alive or if we'll ever see them again."

"Somehow I get the feeling we'll never see either one of them again." McCoy accepted the tapes in her hand. "How's Uhura?" He wanted an update before checking on her personally.

"Not much change. Hair growth is continuing, but at a decelerated rate."

"How's she holding up?"

"As well as can be expected, considering the circumstances." Christine shook her head. "I'm concerned about her."

"I'm beginning to believe this is all tied in somehow to that thing on the planet. I was going to take these to Spock, but I think it's more important I check on Uhura. Why don't you take them? I think he's in his quarters."

McCoy left before she could argue with the assignment. "Thanks a lot, Leonard," she announced to the wall.

Checking Spock's quarters first, Christine rang the buzzer with no response. Seeing the Captain, she stopped him in the corridor to ask he knew Spock's location.

"The lab. Of course, the lab, you idiot," she chided herself. "Where else would he be?" Pocketing the tapes, she set off for the lower lab.

* * *

Leaving Christine to find Spock on her own, Kirk entered his own quarters. Today's events weighed heavily on his mind. The Enterprise was an exploration vessel, but some things were better left alone. The structure on the planet didn't register on sensors, two men were dead, not to mention the strange thing that happened to Uhura. It was all too odd.

"Who was that you were talking to in the corridor?" Mara asked, resting comfortably on the bed.

"Who are you, how did you get here?"

"I didn't like her at all." She patted the bed next to her. "Join me, Jim."

The brilliant green eyes flashed at him, sucking him into their depth-. "Who are you?" he repeated, trying to resist their power.

"I am Mara. I have chosen you."

"For what?"

"I have searched for the perfect man. You are the one I want. Come with me."

"I cannot. This is where I belong." Her seductive power was impossible to resist.

"You would toss me aside for a mere ship?" Mara snapped her fingers and the ship rocked. "This toy, this bauble? I am everything you could ever want, or need."

"You are so beautiful..."

"Come with me," she invited. "I will take you to my world."

"My ship..."

"Will be destroyed. Come with me. I will make you happy."

Kirk blinked hard, closing his eyes to the green ones that were so penetrating. "Destroy the Enterprise?"

"You don't need her anymore. You will have me."

With an effort, Jim pulled away from her touch and stood across the room from her. "Who are you?" he demanded. "Why are you here?"

"You fool! I would have given you the universe. You will regret this day. No one rejects Mara." She was gone.

Kirk approached the bed, uncertain of what he would find. There was an indentation where she'd been lying, but nothing else except a small hairpin. Where had she gone? How had she come here?

Leaving the hairpin where it was, he contacted the lab and ordered a technician with the appropriate tools to his quarters. It was the only clue they had.

* * *

Spock indicated the small hairpin within the sealed case. "It does not register on our equipment."

"You're suggesting she's tied in with that structure we found on the surface," Kirk surmised. "The question still remains, who or what is she?"

"Her power appears unlimited. I submit that she is the probably source of the mystery distress call."

"She lured us here specifically," McCoy agreed. "A rather elaborate ruse to simply kidnap the Captain."

"Not kidnap, Bones. If that were the case, she could have spirited me away while we were on Cylos VII."

"I agree, Captain. Her jealousy could imply a need to possess, of having a willing partner."

She spoke of showing me her world. The planet below?"

"Doubtful. Most likely, she uses the portal we found as a passageway."

"To where?" McCoy asked.

"Another planet, another universe, perhaps even another dimension. There is no way of knowing at this juncture," Spock supplied.

"I suggest we just get the hell out of here before she destroys us."

"She came through the portal. We'll start there," Kirk decided.

"Are you out of your mind, Jim? Look what happened to Grimes and Robertson. Once you go through, you may never get back."

"It is too dangerous a venture," Spock agreed with McCoy.

"What other choice do we have?"

"We wait until she shows her hand again. We need data, Jim, not wild assumptions. Let's not forget what she did to Uhura out of piqued vanity."

There was a knock at the door. "Enter," Kirk announced. Christine walked in and handed Kirk a tape. "These are the latest results."

"Of what?" he asked.

"The lab tests Mr. Spock ordered earlier today."

Without warning, Spock shoved her aside, narrowly avoiding the flash of light that had been hurled at him. Christine climbed to her feet, falling deliberately into Spock and both disappeared.

* * *

"How did Spock know it wasn't me?" Christine wondered.

"Something obviously tipped him off." Kirk brushed the question aside. "The most important issue is, where is he?"

"We're right back where we started, Jim. The portal." McCoy sat down wearily. "She's playing a game with us. If she can't entice you, she'll blackmail you."

"It's all speculation, Bones."

"Suggest something better," McCoy invited. "She's baiting you."

"Perhaps I should oblige her."

"I'm coming with you, Jim."

"No way, Bones. Besides, Uhura needs you."

"I'll go," Christine offered.

"I'm going alone."

"Don't be ridiculous, Jim. That's what she wants."

"I can't order someone through the portal."

"I volunteered," Christine spoke up again. Why did Kirk always have this habit of ignoring her? Not for the first time, Christine wondered at Mara's taste in 'perfect' men.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked her, finally taking notice of her offer.

"I'm sure. Let's go, Captain."

* * *

They stepped to the edge of the surface together. At a nod from Kirk, they each placed a foot on it. There was a moment of disorientation, then they were falling.

* * *

Kirk stood up first and helped Christine to her feet. It was a world of multi-colored swirling patterns and scintillating colors. Everything was in a constant state of motion. The ground felt solid beneath their feet, but when they looked down at it, it was moving. There were no landmarks, no buildings, nothing but color and movement.

"Why have you come here?"

Both whirled at the voice, but could see nothing. "I'm James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise. This is Dr. Chapel. We come in peace."

"Why are you here?" the question was repeated.

"We seek the woman, Mara, and the man she took against his will."

"We know of the one you seek. Her lies and treachery could not be tolerated. She was banished to the Other World."

"We must find her," Kirk insisted.

"She is not in this dimension. When she was sent to the Other, the portal to this dimension was closed to her."

"Where is she?"

"There is another dimension which may be reached through the portal. It co-exists with this one. You will find her there."

"My men who came through the portal earlier?"

"They entered the portal between phase. They cannot be contacted. We are sorry." The voice was silent for some time before it spoke again.. "It is decided she must be returned to this dimension from which she came. Return her to us and the portal will be closed forever."

Without warning, they were sucked upward into the portal.

* * *

"Doesn't anyone believe in walking places, or even using a transporter?" Christine complained, rubbing her bruised posterior.

"This must be the other dimension they spoke of." Kirk surveyed the landscape of barren rock. "Not a scenic spot for a shore leave."

"Compared to the last place, this looks prettyˇ good to me, Captain." Christine took a deep breath. "Which way?"

"Welcome to my world, Jim."

"We couldn't resist the invitation, Mara." Jim wasn't surprised to see her so soon after their arrival.

"Why did you bring her?"

"You have something I want." Christine stepped forward. She may be an alien, but she was also a woman.

"Your wants are of no consequence to me," Mara scoffed.

"Where is Spock?" Kirk demanded harshly, grabbing Mara's wrist. "I'm tired of your games."

"Games?" she repeated indignantly. "Was that a game you played on Cylos, Jim? I would have given you everything."

"You're nothing but an arrogant spoiled child," he spat. "You want to be treated like a woman, then act like one."

"Like her?" Mara pointed at Christine.

"I don't recall kidnapping anyone to get a man's attention," Christine defended herself. "Are you so desperate for attention you have to blackmail for it?"

Mara waved her hand and Spock lay at her feet in the sand. "Take him and leave my world."

Kirk nodded to Christine. She picked up the signal and stood next to Spock's body. "Good bye, Mara," he told her.

Mara stepped close to him, staring into his eyes. "Stay with me, Jim. I can make you happy."

Those eyes... how they danced with brilliant green lights. The lure of her body was intense. His arms wrapped around her of their own volition. "Mara..."

Christine threw herself into them, knocking them apart. The Captain was succumbing to her hypnotic spell. "Captain, Captain Kirk..."

"Thank you. No more games, Mara. I'm leaving and you're coming with me."

"Leave my world?" she laughed shrilly. "Never."

"This isn't your world." Christine grabbed a handful of sand and allowed it to sift through her fingers. "This pathetic excuse for a planet? Poor Mara. A pathetic woman on a pathetic world."

With a wild shriek, Mara flailed her arms violently and a storm roared around them.

Sand bit into their skin as they crouched over Spock's body, protecting their eyes from the blinding particles. It was becoming harder to breathe as the sand piled higher and higher.

Her scream of defiance could be heard over the wind until they could hear no more...

* * *

Colors swirled, blinding in their brilliance. Kirk rubbed his eyes, trying to adjust to the technicolor effect. Sitting up he found Christine and Spock also waking up.

"Welcome back, Captain Kirk."

All three stood up. "Mara?"

"She, too, has been returned to this dimension. Once you have been sent to your own dimension, the portal will he closed forever."

"What will happen to her?"

"She has learned to manipulate the technology of the portal. There is no way to banish her from our midst. Her crimes are too heinous to allow her continued existence even in our own dimension. Her sentence will be one of entering the portal between phase. Her life will be spent in an eternal void."

"Is there no other way?"

"Her power is too great to unleash upon your dimension, Captain. She would destroy you eventually in a rage. No, there is no other way."

"There are no others like her?"

"We are a peaceful society. One such as she cannot be permitted. Do not be deceived, Captain. She knew the consequences of her actions before she took them. Goodbye."

* * *

Kirk stood beside the water, looking out over the waves, but not seeing them. She had been so beautiful and loving. It'd been three months, but he could see her clearly in his mind. Beautiful on the outside in the human form, but vicious and lying on the inside.

Uhura had returned to normal after their return through the portal, but the mirror above her station was frequently consulted to make sure there was no relapse.

Obsession was what Spock had called it. The same emotion he had once used to describe the Captain's actions on Tycho IV. An ugly emotion that could rarely be leashed.

Spock never had fully explained how he'd known the woman in Kirk's quarters wasn't Christine. McCoy kidded him about it, but to no end.

It was over now. There was no more Mara.

"Jim." Mara held out her hand to him. "I have returned..."