DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Karen Bates and is copyright (c) by Karen Bates. This story is Rated PG.

Reasons, Part 2

Karen Bates

Synopsis: Reasons Part 1

Discontented, Christine Chapel seeks a life and career away from the Enterprise. Fearing she has thrown too many years of her life away pursuing the unattainable, Spock, Christine signs on with a new colonizing expedition to the planet CALL-135, Calico by nickname.

At Kirk's accidental death, McCoy decides to resign and asks Spock to join him in a new colony venture, unaware of Spock's marriage to T'Mira of Vulcan. Not realizing Christine is on the planet, Spock agrees to accompany McCoy.

T'Mira, wife of Spock by T'Pau's arrangement, cannot adjust to Spock or Calico and dies at the birth of their daughter, Beth. Guilt and jealousy prompt Christine to leave Calico and try starting over again somewhere else. Spock convinces her to stay on Calico, but she still has doubts about his motives.

REASONS Part 2

"Go play with the other kids, Jeremy," he mimicked, throwing the innocent stone into the water. "You're too little, wait till you grow up." Another stone followed the first. "It isn't fair! I never gettado anything around here." Nine was such a terrible age. Too old for this and too young for that. Jeremy Throxton took one last look down the path that led back to the colony and set out in the opposite direction.

Running away was the only alternative, he'd decided. That'd show them. Leaving in the morning, pretending he was going fishing down at the river, would give him a clean getaway. Now wiyh the sun high overhead, Jeremy wasn't quite so certain leaving that early had been such a good idea. His pack of food, filched from the community kitchen was heavier than it had been several hours ago, he reflected.It was real quiet around here, too. Maybe being this far from the colony by himself wasn't such a clever idea after all... Squaring his shoulders, Jeremy reminded himself of the resolve to leave the colony and strike out on his own. A real man wouldn't be afraid. Would his father be scared?

Twilight was upon him when he reached the cave. He remembered his father telling him about it last year, when the exploring expedition had returned from traveling down river. Mr. Spock had said it had only recently been uncovered after many, many years of being underwater. Something about heavy rains making the river move, of something like that. Well, it looked dry now, Jeremy decided. It was a long climb down the slope of the dry river bed to reach it. There was a shallow stream to step through, but once inside, the floor was dry and the roof over his head made him feel safer from the not so distant animal noises, than being outside. Exhausted from the long day of travel, he soon fell asleep.

Nibbling some bread, Jeremy left his pack behind and began his exploration of the cave. Sunlight had wakened him not long ago and in the light of day, the cave had proven itself bigger than first thought. The exploring team hadn't been able to get past the entrance last year because of high water. A slight tremor shook the floor beneath his feet. After a moment of panic, nothing more happened. Jeremy took a deep breath and moved to the rear of the cave. An odd shape on the back wall caught his eye and he moved closer to investigate. Using his sleeve, he rubbed it until it sparkled.

A crystal! Embedded in the wall! Digging with his knife, Jeremy worked until the large stone fell to the floor. He scraped some of the dirt away and stuck it in his knapsack. Hoping to find more, he scraped additional wall surface. No more crystals appeared, but some funny squiggle marks did. Rubbing vigorously, Jeremy uncovered more of them and stared in awe at his find. Now he'd be somebody important! No one else had ever found anything like this before!

Searching further, his hand encountered a large crack beneath a rock. There was another shudder, but feeling secure within the heavy stone walls, Jeremy ignored it. Something was lodged in the crack, but try as he might, he couldn't budge it. Giving it up at last as a lost cause, he kicked the wall in frustration. "Stupid wall! If I was bigger..."

There was a groan as the mighty wall shifted on its balance/counter-balance mechanism. Squeezing past the opening, Jeremy entered the small chamber. More of the squiggle lines and symbols covered the walls and floor, even the short raised dias in the center of the room. There was a strange chill in the air and Jeremy quickly decided he didn't want to stay in there any longer than necessary. Soon he was standing on the other side of the entrance trying to figure out a way to close the massive door. The floor buckled and heaved beneath his feet. Jeremy turned to run for safety, but the heavy rock above him fell with a roar.

* * *

Christine Chapel, personal log:

"Seems rather silly, after nearly five years, to still be keeping a log. Must be the pioneer spirit in me that makes me keep what used to be called a diary. Who really cares what I have to say? I keep thinking that maybe Beth's children or grandchildren might one day be curious about the kind of people that settled on Calico. Still a dreamer, as Leonard would say.

"Despite the hardships and inevitable setbacks, it's been a good five years. All the married couples have their own houses, and only the single folks are still living in the Great Hall. Out of the eighty three colonists, we have twenty married couples, thirty two singles aged fifteen plus and eleven small children. Beth was the youngest till last spring when Katherine Townsend had twins." Her hand hit the pause button. "Spock and I have tried for a child of our own, but it doesn't look promising. At least, we have Beth.

"She's so bright and quick. Doesn't quite know what path she should follow. She sees her father behave one way and me another. It must be very confusing to her, not really understanding the whys. Vulcan is a storybook land to her, peopled by creatures she'll probably never see. Yet, this is her heritage, her birthright. It's hard to remain silent, to watch this battle inside of her at such an early age, but I feel I must. Spock has stated that Beth must find her own path, her own person. It is not something we can dictate to her. He is right, but it's so difficult ...

"I wish he were here tonight. I miss his presence, his touch ... He's gone to search for Jeremy Throxton, with two other men and Jeremy's father. Jeremy's been gone for three days and with the last rain, there's no trail. I hope he is safe and they can find him. Susan is distraught with worry, but is holding up well. It's a beautiful evening out tonight. Stars are shining brightly, it's a full moon ... Everything a romantic like me could want on her anniversary. Only thing missing is Spock. Leonard came over for dinner and stayed for a while, talking about old times on the Enterprise. Beth's eyes always get so big and round when he starts telling stories of all the places we've been and people we've met. I wish all my memories of the Enterprise were so pleasant and exciting.

"I see it's getting late. Would have been nice for Spock to be here so we could reflect on our two years together. We missed our anniversary last year because of the flood, maybe next year ...

"Wish I had pictures or something, it was a nice wedding. Small, with Maggie and Leonard standing with us as witnesses. Guess the colony didn't quite know what to do with the Human-Vulcan mixture of vows, but it was what we wanted." She smiled at the memory. It had been a perfect day ...

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Christine tipped her head back, reveling in the warmth of his embrace and public kiss. It was like a dream come true for her. First, his method of keeping her on the planet, and now this. How could she possibly have considered leaving the colony, and Spock behind? Leonard was positively beaming. Beth ... Beth was so solemn standing next to her father's leg.

Maggie hugged her tightly, whispering words of congratulations, only to be replaced by McCoy demanding his rights to kiss the bride. Christine found herself enveloped in well-wishers and completely lost sight of Spock. When she located him at last, Christine chuckled at the sight of Spock holding Beth in his arms, using his daughter as a barrier against the many who wanted to congratulate him. There was silent gratitude in his eyes when she 'rescued' him and made the excuse it was time for Beth to say good night.

How many years had she dreamed of this night, when she would at last be alone with him? His arms were so strong and warm, his touch so feather light ... If this were only a dream, Christine decided she never wanted to wake up.

* * *

Waking with a start, Christine took a moment to reorient herself, then settled back with a contented sigh. This was Spock's home, her new home, that's why it felt different. Stretching out her hand, Christine felt for the presence of her husband, but encountered empty space.

"Spock?" There was no answer. Padding lightly, Christine checked the back bedroom and found Beth sound asleep, but no Spock. Pulling on a robe, she left the house. Not certain why, she headed down the river path toward the same rock where Spock had confronted her two years ago, laying out his arguments of why she should remain on Calico. Coming around the last bend, Christine saw him silhouetted in the moonlight. Wordlessly, she knelt on the cool grass at his feet.

There were several minutes of silence before he turned his gaze away from the stars to look at her. "Beth?"

"She's fine," Christine replied softly. Somehow the words, "I came looking for you" refused to come out. There was so much distance between them tonight, she felt. Where was the man who'd married her, then made love to her now? What had driven a man from his honeymoon bed to seek the night air, alone? "Shall I leave Spock?"

At first she wasn't sure he'd even heard her, he was so long in answering. "Stay." Another silence. "I was thinking of ... T'Mira."

Biting her tongue, Christine felt the insult cut deep, that he had left her to come out here and think on his first wife. Suddenly the whole day felt sour. Had it all been a lie, concocted so she would remain on Calico to care for his daughter and give her a mother figure? Could she have been so blind?

"Our marriage was arranged. It was the time of the ... fever." It took her a moment to realize it was T'Mira and not herself he was talking about. "She brought with her T'Pau's forgiveness, I gave my name and properties."

"She gave you a child. A beautiful daughter at the cost of her own life," Christine reminded him gently. "Surely that counts for something."

"I had not anticipated a child from the union, yet I am not displeased." How could he regret a child that was Zarabeth's namesake? A daughter who reflected the beauty of her mother and the personality mixture of her father ... "She does me honor."

Christine rose, preparing to leave, but Spock grasped her arm.

"Why do you go?"

"I'm intruding."

"Stay, my wife."

"Am I? Am I really your wife? Or am I just a replacement for the woman you lost? I believed you when you promised to be a husband to me in more than name, but now I'm not so sure. How many nights am I going to find you out here on a rock thinking about T'Mira, leaving me alone in our bed? If this is the way our marriage is going to be, I don't want any part of it. I won't accept second billing the rest of my life."

"You do not understand."

"Damn right. You never mention her name for two years, then the day we're married you're out here in the middle of the night with her on your mind." Her voice rose in anger.

"You are disturbed at this," Spock observed, unsure of what had triggered this reaction. T'Mira had preferred his nightly jaunts, Christine was offended.

"It's a generally accepted custom that husbands and wives sleep together for at least their wedding night. I was unaware that our marriage was going to take a different route," she threw back sarcastically. What was happening? Why was she being so cruel? This was the man she loved and had married, not some enemy to be confronted.

"Forgive me, Christine. My actions were never intended to offend you."

Christine placed her hand on his chest, feeling the warmth of his body through the thin shirt. "Do you regret me, Spock?" she asked quietly.

"Regret is a human emotion. No, you are the woman of my choice. A decision of my own, not one dictated by the laws and traditions of Vulcan."

"The last morning ... before T'Mira died, she spoke to me of seeing my face in your mind. It seemed important to her at the time."

The anger was gone, replaced by bitter and guilty memories. All the jealousy and hurt, so carefully buried for the last two years, at seeing Spock's young, beautiful, and very pregnant wife was coming back to haunt her. It hadn't been T'Mira's fault that she had everything Spock desired in a wife. The comparison between the Vulcan woman and Christine left the human coming out second best every time.

"She spoke of this to you?"

"I assured her it was only because we had served together for many years in a professional capacity of Nurse and patient. I could think of no other reason for her to encounter my presence in a mind meld with you. Wait a minute, it could have been from the time Sargon placed your consciousness inside of me. I hadn't thought of that! That was probably it." Her hand dropped to her side. "Oh well, it doesn't really matter any more. It'll be dawn soon and Beth will be up in a few hours."

He remembered the meld vividly during their time on Vulcan. It had been brief, but necessary to establish the link for the 'time of mating'. T'Mira had shunned further contact and Spock had felt no need for it, so the true communion of mind and spirit was left incomplete. Her refusal to renew it even to save her own life during Beth's birth bore testimony to T'Mira's abhorrence to her husband's mental touch. How would Christine have reacted to the same circumstances? Would she also deplore the meld her husband needed to maintain his grip on sanity during the pon farr? In four more years the question would no longer be academic.

Touching her face lightly, Spock felt the shadow of a tear on her cheek. Gathering her into his arms, he held her close, feeling the resistence fade and her arms entwine about him. "It was not professional images T'Mira saw in my mind that day. They were memories of a time when you came to me in my pain and told me the Enterprise was headed for Vulcan. I wanted to touch you that day, to join with you, but could not. The bond with T'Pring could not be severed and would have stood between us forever."

She withdrew a step from his arms. "And after?"

Why did you continue pushing me away? was the unspoken question. Her doubts still remained.

"After ... I was bound to T'Mira as payment for actions taken at the ceremony. T'Mira wanted a Vulcan husband, I wanted you. I came here tonight to meditate, to free myself of the past."

Suddenly, Christine felt very foolish for allowing her old fears and insecurities to surface and nearly destroy their new relationship. T'Mira was gone. She would be remembered with respect, but never allowed to stand in their way again.

"I better get back to the house in case Beth wakes up. I love you, Spock. Good night."

"I will accompany you." He took her outstretched hand and held it as they walked together back to their new home.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"I think back on that night now and see things in a different light entirely. My jealousy of a dead woman nearly destroyed something I'd waited a lifetime to have. Never will I be so blind in the future, I hope.

"The house feels so empty tonight without him. I look forward to his return and good news of Jeremy."

* * *

"They're back! They're back!" someone shouted. Susan Throxton came on the run, dreading the worst. Tears fell from joy as even from this distance she could distinguish the smaller form of her son with the four men. Running to greet him, she gathered the wayward son into her arms, scolding and welcoming him at the same time.

Spock searched the crowd quickly for Christine, maneuvering his way agilely through the milling throng to her side. It was not logical, but Christine always appeared more beautiful to him after an absence. Pushing the thought aside, he greeted his wife and daughter.

"Where did you find him?" Christine asked immediately.

"A day's journey down river, coming this way. He appears uninjured from the experience, though I am certain his parents will want either you or Dr. McCoy to examine him."

"Of course! Did he say where he'd been or anything?" she pursued. Spock had an irritating habit of neglecting to fill in the details without prompting. Christine had a suspicion he did it on purpose just to exasperate his human companions.

Spock placed his knapsack on the table and kissed his wife now that they were in their own abode. "He claims to have taken a walk down stream, become lost for a time, then once finding the river again, was returning to the colony."

"You don't sound convinced."

He hesitated. "I would prefer to have more facts before making any statement."

"Well, at least he's back and safe." Seeing it was Beth's bedtime, she scooted her daughter off to bed.

Returning some time later, Christine found Spock ensconced in his chair by the lamp studying McCoy's experimental results taken in his absence on a mutual project. "Leonard dropped those by this afternoon. He was muttering something about crazy Vulcan notions, I believe was how he put it."

Spock refused to rise to the bait, but enjoyed seeing Christine in such a good mood. The last few weeks had been hard for everyone. It had been voted to expand the medical facilities before the seasonal rains and with cloud banks building in the distance preparatory to the eventual onslaught, everyone had pushed to the limit to complete the project. The building had been completed the day Jeremy was discovered missing, but Spock knew that Christine had been working hard in his absence to install the interior needs, leaving McCoy free for research.

"How was the trip otherwise?"

"Uneventful." Her hair was no longer tied up and hung loosely about her shoulders.

"We put in some of the preliminary shelving markers today, with any luck we can start laying the floors tomorrow." She took the papers from his hands and laid them aside, sitting on the stool beside him.

"You have made much progress, my wife." His keen hearing picked up the steady pattern of Beth's breathing. His daughter was already asleep.

Christine traced the gentle curve of his ear. "Ben announced the dam needs some work soon before the rains hit." The finger traveled down his neck.

"I will attend to it first thing in the morning."

Slowly the buttons of his shirt were unfastened. "I missed you."

An eyebrow rose. "Are you trying to seduce me?"

Lips found his. "Of course not, Spock. Vulcans can't be seduced."

"It would be illogical." His fingers found the fastening to her robe.

"And you are never illogical..." She pulled him to his feet, leading the way from the room.

Spock paused to blow out the lamp. "Never."

* * *

Howard Throxton leaned back on the pillow, listening to the gentle breathing of his wife. Jeremy was in his bedroom, safe and secure. For the first time in days he felt he could sleep. His son was home and safe, there was no more need to worry. A warm breeze wafted through the open window, bringing with it the scents of Calico's outdoors. His eyes closed and slumber was upon him.

The trees were beautiful, just as he remembered them. If you looked real hard, you could see the old homestead on the far hill. His great grandfather had built it over a hundred years ago. A great place to live and raise a family. The weather was perfect. Warm, but not hot. A breeze just strong enough to refresh and carry the smells of the woods. Looking down at the blanket, Howard saw his companion. She was so beautiful, a vision of loveliness. He bent to kiss her, but she avoided it and came to her feet, tugging at his hand to follow her. Onward they ran, he chasing her. Howard shouted for her to stop, but she only laughed and ran faster. At last they came to a hilltop. It was such a high pinnacle, with all the world spread at his feet. She caressed his face with tenderness.

"Life," she breathed into his ear. "I promise you life, Follow me, I will give you eternal life." The effect was dizzying. His head swam with the fragrance of her. Clouds were so close he could reach up and touch them. He felt the tug of her hand pulling him onward up the hill. "Life, I promise you life, eternal life." The wind tugged at him, branches scratched and tore at his clothing. Overhead, the clear blue sky roiled in blackness, yet all he could see was the beautiful woman urging him forward to eternal life. Suddenly there was nothing beneath his feet....

* * *

"MEDICAL LOG, DR. LEONARD MCCOY RECORDING:

It is with regret I am officially entering the death of Howard Throxton into the Colony Register. Cause of death ... suicide."

McCoy shut down the recorder and made the same entry by hand into the written record. Suicide, what an ugly word to end a mans life. Howard had been a good man. What could have prompted him to get up in the middle of the night, run through the woods, climb a rock promontory and jump off? There were no tracks but his own, no sign of a struggle, no ... nothing. Just a mad dash through the trees, then a leap to death. Didn't make any sense.

It had taken half a day to find the body once Susan had awakened to find her husband gone. The funeral would be that evening at sunset. The little graveyard would now have two bodies.

Later that day, McCoy could have sworn he saw a brief grin on Jeremy's face as he watched the dirt being shoveled onto his father. It was only there for an instant, perhaps he'd just imagined it ...

The next day, life in the colony returned to a semblance of normalcy. Susan withdrew to be alone in her grief, Jeremy wandered about the Colony silent but always watching. McCoy took some time away from his tasks to watch Jeremy, to try and speak with him, but met with no success. Other children approached the boy to play with them, but each time they met with refusal and soon gave up. McCoy decided to give it some time, perhaps it was just Jeremy's way of coping with the loss of his father.

* * *

"Christine Chapel, personal log:

"I know it's only been a week, but it feels as though years have passed by me since the last time I recorded an entry. It's nearly midnight, but without Spock here, I can't bring myself to go to bed. Spock would probably say I'm over reacting, but how else can I feel when every night this last week someone has died? Beth is in the next room where I can hear her at all times.

"Leonard is as puzzled as I am by the sudden rash of suicides. First there was Howard Throxton, then Melanie Taylor, Joe Tynes ... It only happens at night. For some reason these people choose to rise from their beds and kill themselves. No warning, no personality changes, no clues whatsoever that something's going to happen.

"I remember talking to Melanie the night before she died. We'd planned to go berry picking the very next morning. She was the same as she'd always been. I just can't understand it. There must be a reason for all of this. Leonard and I have discussed it from every angle in the book. We've run air samples, blood samples, autopsies ... nothing. We've even gone so far as to test the food and water for possible contamination that could be reacting with individual body chemistries. Again, nothing. I must be overlooking something. I have to be. There's a reason for all of this and I'm going to find it.

"Jeremy Throxton is still behaving somewhat strangely. He keeps his distance from everyone, even the other children -- especially his friend Bobby. Susan is at a loss of what to do with him, he won't even communicate with her. The other two children that have lost a parent are coping in a normal fashion, but not Jeremy. We've tried to talk to him, but nothing works. I hate this helpless feeling."

* * *

Spock came to a halt, pausing to listen for any sounds out of the ordinary. The woods were black with little light to see by, but it didn't bother him. There was a fleeting moment of worry over Christine and Beth being left alone in the house, but he quickly squelched it. Christine was a strong rational woman, she could take care of herself and Beth. The doors and windows were latched, no one could get in and she would not allow entrance to anyone but McCoy or himself.

Threading his way through the underbrush, Spock traversed the distance to the dam site. One year old, it was already in desperate need of repair. Torrential rains that fell every year on a seasonal basis had made the dam necessary to the survival of the colony. It had brought about the rechanneling of the river and further walking to reach the river's edge, but it was either that or relocating the entire Colony.

The dam site was a logical choice for his night vigil. Three of the seven deaths had occurred at or near the place. One person had drowned, another had been impaled on a bracing pole, the third had simply jumped from the top of the retaining wall to the rocks below.

Choosing his placement with care, Spock sat high above the site with a clear view over the entire area. Hours passed with no activity of merit. His internal time sense set the hour at three in the morning. Perhaps the pattern would not hold tonight. It was a possibility, one he didn't particularly want to consider, however. A slight breeze began to rustle through the tree tops. Spock ignored it at first, but after a while noticed a pattern to the sounds. It was like listening to a whispering voice. A soothing monotone. Without volition, Spock found himself entranced.

The elevator doors closed behind him with a familiar whoosh. Uhura smiled a greeting as he walked to his station. Checking the sensors, nothing of immediate interest appeared, so he set the monitor to automatic and brought up his own project on which to work during the shift. Without looking he knew Jim Kirk was propped on his hand watching the stars glide by.

What did his Captain think about at times like these? What was there in the passing flickers of light that could keep his attention for hours? Spock mentally shrugged his shoulders at the activity and began running his data tape through to review the latest computer findings on the problem given to it last time.

His Captain could be so illogical, yet there was something about him that demanded his respect and earned his rare gift of friendship. So many times they laid their lives on the line for each other, and would probably continue doing so until their luck ran out. Random factors operating in their favor was the more accurate way of expressing the occurrences. Luck didn't exist in a Vulcan's vocabulary.

A blip from the automated sensors pulled him back to duty. "Captain, I'm picking up energy readings, 3704 mark 12."

"Confirmed," Sulu reported. "Coming on the screen now."

Blurred images filled the screen, swirling and pulsating with energy. Spock forced his attention from the visual to the readings the sensors were picking up. "High energy readings, no discernible mass ... registers as a lifeform, Captain."

"Uhura, open hailing frequencies, see if we can contact it in any way." Kirk leaned forward in his chair, studying the screen. "Reduce magnification, Mr.. Chekov." Immediately the overflowing screen brought the swirling entity to a more digestible size for viewing. It reminded him slightly of the computer screen when Jack the Ripper had invaded the Enterprise. Yet, it couldn't be that because that murdering entity had been destroyed, scattered into oblivion by the transporter beam.

"Readings, Spock?"

"Nothing yet. There is little of substance for the sensors to read. It is creating and destroying energy even as we watch."

"I've tried all hailing frequencies and put it through the universal translator, Captain, but there's no response," Uhura reported.

"Keep trying. Mr. Sulu, back us out of here, slowly."

"Aye, sir." His fingers played over the console, bringing the ship to a halt, then backing it up.

"Fluctuations in the readings now, Captain."

"Shields up. Carefully, Sulu."

A flash filled the screen as the entity moved, covering the surface of the ship. Sparks flew and the console blew up, taking crew members with them. Spock threw himself over the railing, barely escaping the destruction of the science station. Uhura's screams echoed in his ears as he pulled Kirk to the floor.

As quickly as it had come, the entity left. Spock carefully turned Jim over, looking for signs of life, but it was too late. All around him he could hear the hissing of sparks and flames, but no sounds of life. Jim was dead. The most important person in his life was dead. There was no point in living any longer. Without Kirk, the Enterprise was lifeless. Without Jim, life itself was an empty vessel. Stretching out his hand, Spock felt for the charged navigation console ...

Spock woke with a start and pulled his hand back from the interior of the power generator. The panel had been wrenched from it, exposing the naked power beneath.

* * *

"Spock, you're the only person in this entire colony with the strength to pull that shield from the generator without tools."

"I am aware of that, Doctor."

"What made you wake up to what you were doing?" McCoy pushed. The knock on his door at four in the morning had nearly gone unanswered, but the physician in him forced him to the door.

Spock placed his hands behind his back. "The suicide premise of the dream was that I had nothing to live for without Jim. That is not true. I believe the implication was that if I died I would in some way be joined with him."

McCoy was grateful he was slightly turned away from Spock so the amazement he felt at the matter-of-fact statement wouldn't be evident to the Vulcan. Could this really be Spock blatantly admitting to such a thing as needing Jim? The Captain was a subject they didn't discuss. Each leaned on the other for support in coping with the loss, but it was strictly on a non-verbal level. He wondered just exactly what it had been that had brought about this change. Marriage to T'Mira, Calico, Christine, Beth? McCoy quickly relegated himself to the fact that he would possibly never know. Sitting down, McCoy returned to the matter at hand. "So you woke up?"

"Affirmative. It would be logical to assume that whatever, or whoever, planted the dream in my mind pulled on past memories without taking into account the present."

"That would imply mental telepathy of some sort," McCoy observed, "and I don't recall anyone of our group having that sort of ability on record ... other than yourself."

"It was more than mere telepathy, Doctor. The ability to gain access to another's mind on such an unconscious level, to induce such actions speaks of a much higher order of being. It would require a great deal to stage a scenario whereby the victim would willingly commit suicide."

"Do you realize what you're suggesting, Spock?"

"I do."

"Until we find out who, or what, is behind this we could be facing one death or more, every night." McCoy didn't like the direction this conversation was taking.

"That is correct. A system will have to be established to watch over those sleeping at all times." Spock raised his head to stare at a nonexistent point over McCoy's shoulder. "It would be advisable for you to temporarily seek shelter in our home."

"Take turns keeping guard over the rest. Sounds reasonable. Give me a minute to grab a few things."

Spock ignored the sounds of rustling as McCoy packed his belongings. Unlike other single males of the Colony, McCoy had his own quarters within the medical facility. It struck Spock suddenly that each of the deaths had been of people who were married, not one had been single. There had to be a pattern to this, but what?

* * *

It was shortly after dawn that the new victim was discovered hanging from a tree limb just outside the colony perimeter.

* * *

Beth woke to find the house empty, but could hear the sounds of Maggie as she worked on her garden behind the dwelling. The other children had risen first today leaving her alone. Pulling on her shoes, Beth stood at the doorway debating which way to go. The other children were several houses down, Maggie was in back, Christine would be in the lab and Spock could be anywhere. Looking at the far woods off to the side, Beth noticed a pretty colored light that hovered in the trees. Obviously, there was no choice to be made where to go ...

It hovered and danced before her as she followed it through the trees. There was such a shimmering sparkle to it that fascinated her. It was elusive, always staying beyond her grasp, much as a butterfly would. After a time, it even laughed and teased her to follow it, teasing her to catch it if she could ...

* * *

"Spock, have you seen Beth?"

Spock immediately set his tools aside at Christine's question. "She was with Maggie."

"She *was*. Now we can't find her anywhere." Christine tried to remain calm, but found it difficult. With Spock in the lead, they retraced Christine's steps back to Maggie's. It was hard, but they finally isolated a single set of small footprints that led away from the Colony and into the woods.

"This isn't like her, she would never go off on her own like this," Christine insisted, "but there are no other footprints except hers."

Spock barely heard her as he concentrated on following the trail. He regretted the absence of a tricorder keenly. Tricorders and other Federation equipment were non-regulation for colonies and other civilians. The path was erratic as if she was skipping or running rather than just walking. Before long they came to the river's edge. Here, along the bank, the tracks were clearer to follow as they led downstream.

Night fell and they were forced to stop. Without illumination there was no way they could hope to follow the tiny footprints, even with Spock's vision. Spock propped himself against a tree trunk and held Christine as she simply dropped into exhausted slumber.

* * *

Christine wandered the rocky tunnels as they led further and further underground. Just when she was sbout to give up and return to the surface, she stepped into a large room.

"Christine, you made it at last!"

"Roger, oh, Roger!! You're alive!" She laughed with sheer joy, feeling the familiar touch of his body as he hugged her tightly.

"Of course, my dear. I've been waiting for you."

"I couldn't believe it when I heard your voice ... " She stepped back from him at the sight of the other woman. "Who is this?"

"This is T'Mira. She's an android."

Christine's eyebrows rose as she considered the woman. This is what Roger had been living with for five years? It was no wonder he hadn't felt any pressing need to leave the subsurface caves. T'Mira had that special petite beauty Christine had always envied in other women. "I see," she remarked drily.

"No, it's true. She's not human, there's nothing to be jealous of, Christine. I couldn't possibly be attracted to one such as her."

Perhaps it wasn't as it appeared. After all, this was Roger, she trusted him. "I understand, Roger."

"You don't know how lonely I've been here, how much I've missed you and longed for you. I want us to be together forever."

"Of course, Roger."

"I mean it, Christine. Forever."

"That's impossible ... " Could it be though? Could there be an outside chance of being with Roger forever?

"It is possible." He gestured to the silently watching T'Mira. "How old would you say she is?"

"I have no idea," Christine stalled. Roger, she had finally found her Roger. No more lonely days and nights, no more wondering what she would do with her life ...

"Guess!"

"Twenty five."

"Tack on a few thousand years and you'll start coming close. Think of it Christine, thousands of years, we could be immortal!"

"I don't understand."

"I can make a copy of you ... and put you, the real you, inside of it. We can be together forever."

"But what of you?" Be immortal?

"Thats already been taken care of. Just think of it!"

"Forever?"

"Forever, Christine."

Together with her Roger for eterninty ... "If it's what you want ... " Immortality with Roger... "Just hold this to your head."

"What is it?"

"A container to hold your essence until it's placed in the android."

The metal surface felt cool to the touch. Within moments, she felt weaker, as if her very soul was draining from her.

"Christine, Christine ... "

"Christine, wake up."

She struggled against the lethargy, fighting to answer the insistent voice. "Spock?" Christine felt the answering tightness of his arm as he held her closer. "What happened?"

"You were dreaming."

She pressed a hand against her forehead. "I ... remember Roger. Roger Korby. We were back on Exo III. He was trying to convince me to become an android ... like T'Mira."

"Why?" T'Mira an android? He chose to ignore it rather than question the reference.

"Immortality. He said if I let myself be made into an android we'd be immortal and be together forever. That's the last thing I remember. No, wait. There was something sool touching my forehead ... "

"I was forced to mind meld with you to bring you out of the dream. Forgive me, my wife. I was unable to reach you in any other manner."

"Forgive you for what? If you hadn't joined minds I could be dead, or worse by now."

"It was an invasion of your privacy."

She reached up and kissed him gently. "Feel free to invade my privacy any time. Did you think I would find the touch of your mind and thoughts distasteful?" Christine snuggled deeper into his grasp. "Why immortality? I find that strange. If my dream is in any way connected to all those other people who committed suicide, I fail to see what immortality has to do with suicide."

"Unknown. It will be light soon." His Christine was not T'Mira. There had been no rejection of him ...

"I'm worried about Beth."

"We will find her."

* * *

McCoy grumbled as he questioned Maggie for the third time on what had transpired. Beth was missing and Spock and Christine had gone in search for her. But that was yesterday. Today there was still no word of them and one more person had died in the night.

Returning to their vacant house, McCoy sifted through the few items on the table, searching for anything that would give him a clue. He and Spock had attempted to warn the Colony and arm them mentally for what was happening, but it had been a lost cause. Louder words than theirs had weighed out and most of the colony lived more in fear of each other than some outside force. For the first time in the colony's short history, doors were latched and windows barred with the coming of each dusk. Yet, every night, without exception, someone would walk out of the safety of their home and die. McCoy, himself, had taken up the practice of sleeping as much as possible in the day in order to remain awake at night.

Remaining indoors the rest of the afternoon, he watched the setting of the sun through the open door. All was peaceful as one by one the lights went out and the Colony went to sleep. By midnight, he was the only one that stayed awake with a purpose.

Setting a stool on the porch, he settled back to keep a close eye on the silent colony. The night air was filled with the sounds of insects and animals alike. Nocturnal predators blended their cries with the innocent chirps of restless birds. A slight breeze came up, bending the tops of the trees and rustling dead leaves on the ground. From around the corner of a far house, he spied a figure coming his way. Suddenly, the man began frantically searching for something in the middle of nowhere. He was alone, in the middle of the open, searching the air as if it were a crowded closet. At last, his search bore fruit as he patted the pocket of his work clothes.

McCoy, by this time, had risen from his seat and crept closer. The man appeared oblivious of the physician, intent on his quest for the hidden object. Moonlight gleamed for a split second on what the man pulled from the pocket. McCoy reacted without thinking, throwing himself at the other man. Blood splattered in every direction as they rolled in the dirt. His tackle had been a moment too late and a slit throat had resulted.

Others had gathered by the time the last spasms had passed from the man's body. McCoy held the body across his legs, the knife clutched in one hand. His vigil had been in vain for yet another had died.

"Is this how it was with the others, Doctor?" A voice questioned harshly.

"I tried to stop him," McCoy explained, rolling the body gently off of him and onto the ground.

"You tried to stop him from killing himself, with the knife in your hand? I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that," Logan spat. He turned to the knotted cluster of people behind him. "This is exactly what I've been talking about. "We're not fighting some strange alien like he's been trying to tell us. This is the work of one man, this man."

"Now look ... " McCoy interrupted.

"No, you look. That was my brother that got killed four nights ago. Left a wife and kid behind. Did you help him along, too? Like Pete here?" Logan thrust his fist into the air. "I say we lock him up like the animal that he is."

Murmurs of ascent met the pronouncement. Logan and another grabbed McCoy's arms and forced him along to a small storage hut. Before he could even protest, they'd thrown him in and slammed the door. "Be thankful we're giving you time to pray before we hang you for murder," he heard Logan shout through the heavy door.

"Great, McCoy," he said to himself through gritted teeth. "Now you've really gone and done it. It wasn't enough that you had to make a damn fool out of yourself by telling everyone there was a bogey man out there. No, you had to try to be a hero!" There was no use looking for a way out, he'd help build the place and knew it was tight. The small ventilation openings were useless for anything bigger than a jackrabbit. This is where they'd put him and this was where he was going to have to stay until Spock and Christine returned.

* * *

It was Christine who saw her first, huddled beneath a bush, sound asleep. Beth came awake with a start at the sound of Christine's voice, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Did you see it, too?" she asked.

"See what?" Christine questioned cautiously, not certain whether to be more relieved they had found her safe, or angry that she'd wandered off on her own.

"The funny light. I tried to catch it, but it kept laughing and running away."

"Where is it now?" Spock inserted. Laughing light?

"A hole in the ground."

"Can you show us where?" Christine held Beth's hand as the little girl led the way surprised at how cool it felt to the touch. It also struck he that her daughter had never mentioned food or being hungry. Surely after this long from the colony she would be hungry, especially after walking so far. Still, it could just be the Vulcan in her coming out, or just the excitement ...

They'd walked nearly a mile before Beth stopped and pointed down the hill to the cave protruding from the river bed. "The light went in there. I think that's where it lives."

"Christine, remain here with Beth while I investigate. If this is indeed where the alien is located, there could be considerable danger."

"I understand." I understand, but it hurts to watch you walk into danger with no one to guard your back, she thought to herself. Beth seemed unconcerned, busily picking the occasional wild flowers that grew nearby.

The closer Spock came to the cave entrance the more distressed Christine became. She could find no rational reason for it, as nothing had happened which should make her feel that way, yet it was there and increasing.

By the time Spock was swallowed up by the entrance, she could stand it no longer. Exacting a promise from Beth that she would not move from the spot, Christine headed for the cave.

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the suddenly dim light, time she was loathe to lose in finding her husband, but at last she could see clearly and proceeded carefully. The front room was empty, but along the back wall she perceived carvings of some sort. Spock was no where to be found and calling out his name proved fruitless.

After several minutes of frantic searching she discovered a large footprint next to a solid wall. Poking and prodding, Christine examined the entire surface for some sort of mechanism that would force the wall to move. Footsteps didn't just stop at a wall. Finding a crevice, she pulled hard and the wall swung open. without thinking, she grabbed a bag near her foot and jammed it into the hinged side to stop it from swinging shut.

There, near the raised dais stood Spock ... and Spock. Even worse, lying on the dais was Beth. Stay calm, she told herself, don't panic. Just like Exo III. Two Kirks, one real, one not. First, get Beth. The girl outside couldn't be Beth, not the way she felt to the touch and the way she'd been acting, therefore, this had to be the real one, Christine reasoned. Keeping both Spocks in her sight, Christine cautiously made her way to the dais, tugging on Beth's foot till she was able to slide the entire body into her waiting arms, then backed her way to the door again. Beth was cool to the touch and barely breathing, but at least she was alive. For that much, Christine was grateful. It took but a second to deposit her daughter outside the portal and turn back to the men.

"Which one of you is real?"

"I am," they answered in unison.

"Christine, you must get back to the Colony and warn them," the one on the left said.

"Leave and close the door, my wife," the one on the right ordered.

Christine was caught in indecision. Both were giving commands as Spock would, sacrificing himself for the good of the others. Yet one of them was not Spock. She couldn't bring herself to seal her husband inside the vault, that much she knew. But how to tell them apart?

"Tell me about T'Mira," Christine countered, playing for time. There was a rumble beneath her and the door moved a fraction.

"My first wife, bonded to me by order of T'Pau ... "

" ... she died in childbirth four point three years ago ... " the other finished.

This obviously wasn't going to work. The duplicate Spock had no fear of being trapped in here and was going to stall both of them until it was too late for either Spock or Christine to escape. The door was inching its way shut, soon it would close forever, sealing them inside for eternity.

It was clear they shared the same knowledge and memories, but how recent were those memories? When the alien had tried to force Spock into committing suicide, it had drawn on feelings long past, not realizing new ones had taken their place. Could the same be true now? Was the alien unable to draw on very recent occurrences and only on the past? Was it able to distinguish fact from fiction in those memories?

"I had a dream last night," she started. "I was on Exo III with Roger and Ruk. Roger was promising immortality if I would give up my life as I know it and join him. Do you remember the dream, Spock?" Christine asked the one on the left. It was a gamble as the alien was responsible for the dream and might very well know more about it than the real Spock. She wasn't sure, but she could have sworn there'd been a glimmer of recognition in the right Spock's eyes at her words.

"Of course, Christine. Exo III was where Jim was duplicated as an android by Dr. Korby, which made it an ideal method for the alien to approach you," the one on the left answered.

Stooping to the ground, yet keeping her eyes on them, Christine felt the ground until she found a fist sized rock. Straightening up, she turned to the one on the right. "I'm taking my husband out of here. The door's nearly closed and there are only seconds left." Throwing as hard as she could, Christine changed directions and struck the one on the left. The door slammed shut behind them as she and the other Spock fell to the floor on the other side.

The ground was still shaking slightly as they rose unsteadily to their feet. Spock gathered Beth into his arms, and Christine grabbed the bag which had been pushed free of the door. It wasn't until they'd turned to leave that she noticed the small foot protruding from beneath the slab of rock. The name scratched on the bag gave her the identity: Jeremy.

The Other Beth was nowhere in sight when they emerged from the cave. Wordlessly, they put as much distance as possible between themselves and the river bed. Feeling safe at last, they placed their daughter on the ground and hoped for the best. Her color and breathing had improved until now it appeared she was merely asleep instead of unconscious. Spock lightly melded with her to make sure she would heal, then withdrew from her.

"She will sleep for a few hours," he reported.

"She's okay?" Christine couldn't help but be worried after the events of the cave.

"Yes." Spock opened Jeremy's bag, setting each item on the ground. "I am pleased at how you were able to distinguish the two of us apart, my wife. I am most curious, however, why you did not simply close the door when you had the chance. Most illogical for you to delay."

"If I had any doubts of whether I'd saved the wrong one, that last statement proved my guess right."

"I fail to see ... "

"Spock, remind me sometime to tell you just how exasperating and illogical you can be. In the meantime, let's go home." Christine picked up the crystal Spock had removed from the bag. "This is curious. Wonder where he got it?"

Spock held it up to the sun and peered through it. "It is not a naturally formed crystal."

"An artificial crystal, on this planet?"

"So it would seem. There were also markings on the wall where the door was located."

"This planet was surveyed as uninhabited, with no archeological findings of significance."

"The markings and this crystal would suggest otherwise. There is also another factor which must be considered: Jeremy Throxton is dead."

"Then the Other must be the alien. What about the colored light that brought Beth to the cave?"

"It could be part of the same entity sent to lure her to the cave for some purpose, or there may be more than one."

* * *

McCoy heard and felt the rumblings of his stomach and wondered if they were going to give a condemned man a last meal, or hang him without even that much dignity. There'd been no word all day and now that twilight was descending, it didn't appear there would even be a trial. That afternoon he'd heard Logan expounding on McCoy's guilt and shouts for a hanging. Maybe that had been his trial, only he hadn't been invited. If only Spock would get back. There'd been a few voices which spoke on his behalf, but they'd quickly been shouted down. Once he'd heard the titter of laughter outside his door, but couldn't place the voice.

At last the door swung open and two men led him out into the evening air. Most of the Colony was there, but Logan and his cohorts were the only ones carrying weapons. The situation did not look promising.

"Leonard McCoy, based on the evidence, you have been found guilty of the murder of Peter Jameson. It has been decided that you shall be hanged from the neck, until dead, for your crime." Logan folded the piece of paper and stuck it in his pocket. "Since all the others died in the dark of night, it was decided that you should do the same. Take him to the tree, men."

"This is ridiculous!" McCoy protested. "You can't hang a man for trying to stop someone from killing himself. This isn't justice, it's a vigilante committee."

* * *

"Spock, what's going on up there? What's everyone gathered at this time of the night for?"

"Unknown." Motioning her to stop, he listened intently, trying to hear what was being said. "It's McCoy, they're reading charges against him ... for murder." Handing Beth to Christine, Spock set off at a run for the crowd. Christine was burdened with their sleeping child, but hurried as fast as she could.

The rope had already been placed around McCoy's neck by the time Spock was able to push his way through the knot of people. Without wasting time on diplomacy, Spock grabbed Logan's wrist and forced him to release the rope, then tossed the man aside.

"About time, Spock," McCoy croaked. "For a man with a reputation for punctuality, you cut it pretty close this time." He felt the bonds loosen as Spock cut through them with his boot knife.

"What happened?" Having seen the Vulcan in action, there was hesitation on the part of the ringleaders in combating him ... for the moment.

"Not really sure. Get me down from here. Thanks. Stayed up late last night, hoping to find out what was going on. About two, three in the morning, I saw someone, turned out to be Peter Jameson, outside. Seemed to be looking for something, then pulled out a knife and cut his own throat. I tried to stop him, but just couldn't get there fast enough. That's when this bunch came along and decided I'd killed him."

"Fascinating."

"I nearly get hanged and you call it fascinating?"

"What's going on?" Christine finally pushed her way to Spock. When the story had been repeated, she gave Logan a look of pure disgust, wishing there was a way she could punch his lights out, then realized the one person she'd been unconsciously searching for was not present.

"Where's Jeremy?"

* * *

"Where's Jeremy?" she repeated later after they'd managed to get the crowd dispersed. Once Logan's authority had been directly challenged, his supporters had melted away, leaving an angry ex-leader in their wake. There was animosity still from those wanting a scapegoat for the death of their loved ones, but cool heads for once prevailed -- this time.

"We are dealing with an alien which has the ability to change form and shape. It will be difficult to determine what or where it is at any given time," Spock answered.

McCoy mentally shuddered at the memory of another planet, another time when they encountered a similar situation. He could still see Nancy in his quarters as she begged him to save her. Somehow the memory of the creature on the floor was never as clear as the image of her face as she lay dying. "What does it want? There were no signs on any of the bodies giving evidence of what the creature was after."

"Perhaps it is after something mental rather than physical," Christine suggested, "like the alien who forced us to fight the Klingons." The event was still a nightmare in her mind. Fatal wounds that healed, the hatred that each side carried for the other. "After all, each of the deaths was violent, and in each case, loved ones were left behind to grieve. Not one unattached person has been a victim."

"That is quite possible," Spock agreed, studying the copy he'd just finished making of the symbols from the cave wall. "I believe the answers we need may be found in these markings, if I can translate them. They are similar to those found on AFL-962, a planet in a system not far from here. I believe them to be much older, however, than any of the artifacts discovered on the digs."

"Great. In the meantime, we have no defense against this thing." McCoy picked up the crystal. Using his sleeve, he rubbed the surface until all the dirt and many years of accumulation came away. It was several inches in diameter, with a symmetrical surface, and now because of the rubbing, sparkled with reflected light. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

Wind blew night air into the room, billowing the curtains. Christine moved to close the windows a bit, but stopped when she saw Beth, the little girl had been put to bed earlier, but now was staring intently at the open window. Then, as if mesmerized, she walked toward it. A smile stole across her face at some inner thought.

Christine yanked the windows shut and latched them tightly, but Beth seemed not to notice. Her path was steady and unaltered. The windows opened of their own accord, resisting Christine's efforts to close them again. Now, even she could hear the voice calling out to Beth. So insidious, so inviting. It was difficult to resist the pull of its insistence. At a loss, Christine picked up Beth and carried her across the room to stand next to her husband. The voice filled the air, unvarying in its demand for Beth to come out and join it. Beth struggled in Christine's arms, but could find no escape.

Spock stood between the window and his daughter, McCoy was behind them all. Glancing downward, McCoy noticed the crystal was now glowing. The closer the voice, the brighter it shone. Not sure why, he played a hunch and passed it to Spock.

A face appeared over the window ledge, grinning from ear to ear with an evil smile. Beth thrashed violently in an effort to break free as Jeremy continued beckoning. It was all Christine could do to keep her from escaping.

"She is mine," Jeremy cried out harshly. "The children are mine!"

Abruptly, Spock threw the crystal, striking Jeremy on the forehead.

There was a shriek, then all was silent. The wind stopped and Beth no longer struggled; instead she lay sound asleep on Christine's shoulder.

McCoy rushed out the door to check on Jeremy. Crumpled beneath the window lay his smoking remains. Seeing a group starting to gather, McCoy surreptitiously nudged the crystal, now quiet and dark again, back under some plants out of sight.

Susan Throxton knelt beside the body, uncertain of how to react. This had been her son, yet this smoking caricature of a human wasn't. The crystal had done considerable damage, leaving little in its wake, yet she knew instinctively the truth had been told earlier that evening that Jeremy lay dead in a cave down river. Why hadn't they listened? Standing up, she looked McCoy straight in the eye and said "I'm sorry," then walked away to be alone with her grief.

* * *

By morning, the body was gone, disintegrated. Mid morning brought word that another victim had been found. McCoy went to investigate, his findings showed Logan had been dead for three days.

* * *

"The children are mine," Christine said aloud. Afternoon was upon them as they pondered the symbols and crystal. Beth had slept through the night and remembered nothing of what had happened. Now she played in the corner of the room where they could keep an eye on her while working.

"It never occurred to me before that with the exception of Jeremy, no children have been killed, thank goodness. But why?" There was no answer, so she continued compiling notes on all the deaths. All had been married, three had children, all died violently.

"If I am reading this correctly," Spock announced at last, "It is a warning, left here several millennia ago by a race now extinct from the AFL-962 system."

"Somehow I'm not surprised," McCoy inserted dryly. "It never fails. If there's going to be trouble, we always seem to be in the middle of it."

"Always the cynic," Christine observed with a smile. "What else does it say, Spock?"

"According to this, the 'Nameless One' cannot be killed."

"What about last night, it sure looked dead to me."

"It would seem, Doctor, that all we did was kill one of the 'forms' it can assume at will. The actual creature was unharmed. The crystal is the key, quite literally. They brought the Nameless One here, to this planet, and sealed it inside the cave, using the crystal as the locking mechanism. It would be logical to assume that when Jeremy Throxton removed it from its place, the seal was broken and the creature was able to escape."

"Can we put it back?" Christine inquired. "As long as that thing's on the loose, no one will be safe."

"I shall have to return to the cave and search for more information. These symbols were the only ones uncovered, by Jeremy, it would appear, and are incomplete."

"I'm going with," McCoy and Christine said together.

"It is not safe for you to go alone, the last time proved that," Christine argued. "I'm not taking any chances on losing you. And that's final."

"You're outnumbered, Spock, just accept it, we're going with you."

"So it would seem," he said resignedly.

Before dawn the next morning, the tiny party was ready to go. Provisions and weapons were included this time in addition to the crystal. Spock rigged a harness to carry Beth on his back for when she grew tired of walking. They had considered leaving her behind, but there was no one they trusted to take care of her and keep her safe from the creature. The Nameless One wanted her, though why, they didn't know.

"I want to come with you."

Christine whirled to find Susan Throxton standing quietly behind her, bag in hand. It was Jeremy's knapsack.

"I have to see Jeremy."

Christine looked to Spock. He barely nodded, "I understand, Susan," she said.

* * *

The journey took the better part of the day, making it mid-afternoon by the time they arrived. As a group they entered the cave, staying as far away from the entrance to the back room as possible. Using their knives, they all scraped at the back wall until the entire surface was uncovered. By now darkness had descended and a breeze was blowing up.

"What does it say, Spock," McCoy demanded.

Spock traced the markings lightly with his fingers as he contemplated their meaning. "It speaks of the Nameless One, the devouring darkness that walks in the night. It craves not death ..." more markings "but rather the terror of violent deaths and the sorrow it brings."

"Does it speak of the children?" Christine interrupted. "Why the children?"

"Here, over here it tells of the young ones ... some of the symbols have been obliterated with age. I believe it stores the life energies drained from the victims inside the children."

"The eternal life," Christine breathed. "The eternal life it promises is its own ..."

"So it would appear. It stores up the life energies to draw upon during the times it cannot feed."

"Is there anything else? We must hurry, there's not much time," Christine urged. "It's dark already." The wind was picking up in intensity even as they spoke. "Beth can already hear it!" Beth stood at the stone door, answering the creature's summons.

Wasting no time, Spock grabbed his daughter and lashed her to McCoy's back in the harness. "Go, get away from here. It will concentrate its energies in here, the further away you get, the safer she'll be." He turned to Christine and kissed her gently. "Go with him, my wife."

"Why are you doing this? What do the symbols say?" Christine would not be moved. "Go, Leonard, take care of Beth. I won't leave Spock."

There was a flash in her eyes that told him she would not be persuaded otherwise, so McCoy turned and left, bidding them to be careful. Trusting Susan to follow him, he carried the screaming child away from the cave. Outside, the sky was pitch black, with no sign of stars. It made walking difficult, even with a portalight, but there was no choice, he had to get Beth away from the cave.

"What does it say?" she repeated. The wind whipped them violently, carrying their words away. Inside the cave was a whirlwind, outside, it was calm.

"The crystal must be placed in position, without the crystal the door will not retain the creature. Then someone must enter the chamber."

"Why?"

"To force the creature to return. Once the door is shut, with the crystal in place, the chamber will be permanently sealed."

"And the person inside?"

"Will be sealed in as well."

"You forced McCoy to take Beth because you knew he would sacrifice himself."

"You must leave, Christine." The ground shook. "There is a great instability to the cave, you will not be safe here much longer."

"I won't leave."

"What of Beth?"

"Stop it, Spock! Don't force me to make that kind of choice. I love you both. I would rather be sealed in with that creature than make that decision and have to live with it the rest of my life."

The ground vibrated with intensity, knocking them from their feet. Small rocks rained down around them. "Go, Christine!"

"I will do it." Susan came to her feet, clutching the knapsack tightly. "It killed my husband, it killed my son. I have nothing left." She nodded at the back wall. "Put the crystal where it belongs." She held up a hand to stop their protests. "There's no more time, do it."

"Are you certain of this?" Spock asked.

"I'm sure." She took a deep breath and worked the lever n the door.

"Put the crystal in now." Susan took one last look at the pile of rock covering her son, then stepped into the chamber. One destroyed family was enough.

Spock set the crystal carefully into place, then stepped to the door. He waited a few moments until there were two Susans standing there, signifying the creature was indeed present, then closed the door. With a bone wrenching heave, he broke the lever mechanism off, sealing the chamber forever. The ground shook as they ran away from the cave. Christine fell once, and Spock pulled her onto his shoulder, still moving as fast as he could. His ears could still pick up the creature's cries of anger as it tried to escape its prison. Once or twice he thought he heard Susan scream in agony, but he couldn't be certain.

* * *

They pushed home. Traveling was difficult in the dark, but Spock held her hand, leading the way. They caught up with McCoy, stumbling in the dark. By dawn they were back at the Colony. The humans were exhausted, but they knew they had one more task to perform. Leaving Beth at Maggie's the three of them gathered tools from the storage shed and made there way to the dam. It took time to destroy all the braces and hard work the Colony had put into building the dam, but at last the water began flowing, tearing away the rest of the barricade as the stream increased. With a rush, the river was channeled to the former bed. They could only hope Susan was already dead by the time the water reached the cave.

The Colony would have to be relocated now to avoid future seasonal flooding, but somehow that didn't seem to be such a bad idea anymore.

* * *

Christine Chapel, personal log: "The nightmare is behind us. Many lost their lives, many will be grieving for some time to come. I think my greatest sorrow will be for Susan Throxton. I can understand completely what drove her to enter the chamber that night. If something had taken Spock and Beth from me, I would have done the same thing. We made sure there would be a stone for her in the tiny cemetery, lest she be forgotten. I can never forget her, for everytime I see my husband and daughter I am reminded of the sacrifice she made.

The Colony has sent out a team to locate a new place for us. It will be a hardship leaving all we have built behind, but the alternative of remaining here has no appeal for anyone. It seems like everytime I make a log entry Spock is gone and this time is no exception for he and Leonard are on the team surveying for a new location. I miss him, but it's not the same kind of missing that it used to be. I have felt the touch of his thoughts and know he is with me always."

END