Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of Johanna Cantor is copyright (c) 1977 by Johanna Cantor. Originally printed in Contact #3, 1977.
BORN OF THE SUN
It was beautiful here, high on the cliffs overlooking the ancient harbor of T'Ar. In this place all the elements of Vulcan seemed to meet and merge, just as the heat and sand and delicately colored desert flora combined with the rhythmic beat of waves on the shore far below. Kirk stood still, letting the quietude seep through him as he read and reread the inscription on the huge lintel.
"...born of the sun, they traveled a short while toward the sun, and left the vivid air signed with their honor."
Typical of the Vulcans to choose a fragment of Terran poetry for their new pantheon -- this generation's monument to the idea of the IDIC -- works of art, commissioned and dedicated, then left open for the entire galaxy to enjoy.
Kirk walked up the steps and into the cool peristyle. Most of the memorials were statues, beautifully carved of the Silin stone, depicting either the person honored or some incident from the person's life. He stood for a long time in front of a montage honoring T'Bat of Kaltor. It puzzled him, until he realized that all the figures had the same face. T'Bat sat at the feet of Swan, the great Vulcan biochemist who had been her teacher. She stood touching two fingers to the fingers of her consort. She nursed a baby, and presented a child for the Kahswan. She worked in her laboratory and finally, at the focal point of the group, presented to a group of emaciated Rigellians the findings which had ended famine on that planet.
Kirk wandered around, luxuriating in the leisure which made it possible to open himself to the experience of these artworks. He studied a fresco dedicated to the Lawgiver of Aurelia, and a mosaic commemorating the Andorian Shril. His eye attuned to larger works, he almost walked by a small abstract tapestry. Then a vaguely familiar combination of symbols caught his eye. He moved closer to study the dedication, and realized that it bore the name of Spock's kinsystem.
He sat down in front of the tapestry, letting his eye grow used to the form. As he looked, a figure emerged from the colors -- a woman standing on a platform next to an antique piano, her slender body infused with the vitality of a communication. Memory swirled around Kirk, and the present receded.
He sat lost in memory until Vulcan's sister planet rose in the evening sky. Then he came to himself with a start. He had promised to meet Spock half an hour ago. Spock would be-
"Here I am, Mr. Spock. I'm sorry, I lost track of time."
"There is no urgency, Captain." Spock walked over to him, studying his captain.
"That's a beautiful piece of work, Mr. Spock. You designed it, didn't you?"
"Yes." Spock hesitated. "Forgive me, Jim. Had I known you were coming here, I would have warned you."
"It's all right. It's all very long ago and far away."
They walked out together. Kirk was quiet, and Spock respected his reserve. But he might be surprised, Kirk thought, to know that his friend was no longer thinking of Edith Keeler, but of his first officer. He was so patient with me, Kirk remembered. Even when I was grossly out of line...
* * *
"Our last bit of information was obtained at the expense of thirty hours' work," Spock protested.
Kirk's conscience pricked. He should have been helping rewire the burned out circuits instead of hanging around the kitchen -- and Edith, but he was in no condition to apologize. "I must know whether she lives or dies, Spock. I must know what to do!"
Spock settled down to the work. Kirk paced savagely, longing to break into that Vulcan placidity. Spock had already accepted the possibility that Edith Keeler might die -- regrettable, no doubt, but a logical possibility. To him, Kirk's agony was neurotic -- mere thrashing in the face of fate. It seemed so unfair! Kirk slammed out the door.
Left alone, Spock looked after him for a moment. Indeed, it could be hard to be human. If he could place his fingers in a certain way and surround the pain... But he had no right to intrude. His own pain, the loss of comradeship, he thrust aside. It could be dealt with later. Now there was work to finish.
* * *
"We've simply got to find McCoy," Kirk said tightly.
"He must come here," Spock pointed out. "It is the only way he can make contact with Ms. Keeler."
"Miss, Spock. You've got to remember that that word still has a vowel."
"Yes, sir." Spock was woodenly correct, and Kirk felt a twinge of shame. He'd called Spock down at least a dozen times in as many hours. He must stop taking it out on the man in front of him. But it was more than that. Ever since that episode on the stairs, Spock had been watchful and reserved. He couldn't really think Kirk would sacrifice the future for one woman. Kirk swallowed the "why not?" that rose in his chest and wrenched himself back to the issue at hand.
"You're sure the obituary you saw was undated?"
"The obituary was dated, Captain. But it gave no time of death."
"Then we simply can't afford to leave here. How much money do you have?"
"I have fifty. We have to eat. And we'll owe two dollars for the room Friday. Damn it, it's laughable! The future of the Earth at stake, and I have to worry about the rent for this crumbling, rickety..."
He ranted on. Spock stood, hands clasped behind him, outwardly respectful, inwardly analytic. The Captain might simply be "griping" -- that odd method of ventilation so deeply ingrained in Human custom. But he might be breaking down. Only an expert in Human psychology could be sure, and Spock made no claims to expertise in that area. Again, he resolved to stop the captain, if need be, when the time arrived. That it would mean the end of a cherished friendship, Spock had no doubt, but duty was clear.
The Captain stopped, choking in frustration. Spock could not decide whether to try to console him logically -- a method not always as successful as one might wish -- or to leave him alone to get a grip on himself. Perhaps that would be best. "Will you excuse me, Captain?"
It was the wrong choice. Kirk seemed to shrink into himself. Then he turned his back, fighting for control. Spock hesitated, then turned to go.
They stood in silence for several moments. Then Kirk took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Mr. Spock."
"Quite all right, Captain."
"I don't know what's the matter with me here. It's driving me crazy -- washing dishes and stoking furnaces and digging ditches. And all the time waiting--" Kirk broke off, ashamed.
"An understandable reaction, Captain."
"This isn't exactly what you're used to, either."
"All labor has dignity."
"Not washing dishes when you're trained in science, and mathematics, and xenobiology, and -- oh, hell."
"Interesting. Ms. Murphy was making the same complaint yesterday."
"Ms. Murphy? Oh. Edith's friend."
"Yes. She is a hospital dietician, but the institution she worked for discharged its married female employees when it was forced to cut back. So she is keeping house for her husband and his brothers. I suppose one would feel a sense of waste."
"Don't you feel that way, Spock? So far from your work?"
"My work is here, Captain."
"Building the computer? I suppose so."
Spock let it go at that. "Would you care to--"
A light rap on the door interrupted him, and he turned to open it. It was Ms. Keeler, dressed in her work clothes. "Mr. Halvorsen, the man you worked for Monday, wants the two of you again tomorrow afternoon. Can you catch the noon bus?"
"Fine." Kirk answered for both of them automatically. "What are you doing?"
"I have to help Jimmy with the soup."
"Give it a miss and come for a walk with me."
"I can't, Jim."
"I will help with the soup," Spock volunteered.
"That's kind of you, Mr. Spock, but--"
"I am happy to serve," Spock said formally. The captain was already getting his jacket.
* * *
Kirk returned from the walk more miserable than ever, but determined simply to accept. He'd talk with Spock about it now. He felt the need of the Vulcan's gentle serenity. That might make amends, too -- he'd really treated his friend rather badly. But exhaustion caught up with Kirk. He fell asleep before Spock returned, and slept late into the morning. He hunted around the mission then, but there was no sign of Spock.
At a few minutes before noon, Kirk was at the bus stop, worrying. If Spock didn't make the bus, he'd have to be in serious trouble.
"Your name James T. Kirk?"
"Yes." Kirk turned to face the stocky man who had spoken.
"Gotta message for you. From Mr. Spock. He said you'd give me a nickel." Kirk shelled out. "Mr. Spock said you go ahead and take the bus. He'll meet you at the job."
Kirk caught the bus, both apprehensive and annoyed. Spock wasn't at the site. Then, a few minutes before one, a limousine pulled up. Spock climbed out, thanked the driver, and hurried over to the group.
"Where have you been?"
"A job, Captain. I--"
"Time!" The group scattered for assignment.
The work kept Kirk busy without really occupying his mind. It was easy enough to resolve to accept the situation, but it was hard to relate to unborn millions, and all to easy to relate to one vital, intelligent -- stop it. When they finally were allowed a break, he was in the deepest depression he could recall. It took all the energy he could muster to make his way over to Spock.
The Vulcan was sitting in the shade, his attention turned inward. A twinge of alarm shot through Kirk's depression. "You okay?"
Kirk dropped on one knee. "You don't look it."
"I have a headache. It is not--"
"I was playing the piano for a young lady with a singularly penetrating soprano."
"What? No, never mind. I heard you. How did you get on to that?"
"Ms. Keeler asked me if I would take the place of an accompanist who resigned yesterday, rather suddenly, I would judge. The lady is a friend of hers. She had an audition this morning and wished to rehearse beforehand. Her -- is 'backer' a word?"
"Her backer promised me five dollars and a ride here."
"Did you get the money?"
"Well, that certainly solves our immediate problem."
"So I thought."
"How did Edith know you play?"
"I played for the mission services last Sunday."
"Mr. Spock, your talents--"
"Time!" They separated again.
When six o'clock came, Kirk lost no time getting back to Spock. The Vulcan insisted he was all right, but Kirk, who had had time to remember how rarely he admitted to minor ailments, could not feel reassured. He sat beside Spock on the way back, cursing the joggling of the bus. In many ways, this period was unbearably primitive. When they finally reached their corner, he said, "You go back to the room and rest. I'll go pick up some food." Spock pulled a bill from his pocket, handed it to Kirk, and left without argument.
The store was crowded -- these distribution systems were unimaginably inefficient, but finally Kirk got his food and started toward the mission. His pace quickened as he rounded the corner.
"Jim! Jim Kirk!" It was Edith, calling from the window of their room. "Come quickly! Mr. Spock is ill!"
Panic coursed through Kirk as he raced for the house. Edith was holding the front door open for him, and he burst in.
"He won't let me touch him, but I felt his pulse, and--"
Kirk continued past her, to their room. Spock was sitting in the chair, very erect. "There is no cause for alarm, Captain," he said.
Kirk panted to catch his breath.
"Jim, you've got to make him see a doctor. He almost fainted."
"Captain, I am all right. I regret that you were alarmed. There is no necessity."
"Some men from the bus tried to rob me. I got away from them, and back here, but I was struck over the head. It made me dizzy, but it is not serious."
"Why didn't you tell me you'd been hit?" Edith moved toward Spock quickly. "Here, let me see."
"No!" Spock clasped both hands to his head, holding his cap on. Swiftly, Kirk moved between them and placed his hands on Spock's shoulders. Spock put a hand on Kirk's arm, as if to steady himself, but then he pulled away. Kirk, who hadn't known whether to be pleased or scared, gave him a quick pat, and turned to Edith.
"I'll take care of him."
Kirk rose and gently pushed her toward the door. He thanked her, then closed the door and locked it. Then he crossed swiftly to Spock. "Let me see that." Spock took hold of the cap. "Wait. Is it bleeding?"
"Then don't try to take your cap off. I'll get some water."
He was back in moments, feeling himself for the first time in days. Nothing was important now except Spock's condition. Gently, he soaked the blood-matted cap off and bathed the wound. Spock was right. It was not serious.
"Ouch," he said sympathetically. "Here, lie down." He settled Spock, cursing the unyielding mats these people slept on, and folded a wet cloth for a compress.
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
"It was a mistake to separate. They probably saw you giving me the money. I'm sorry."
"No great harm done, Captain."
Kirk nodded, swallowing the remnants of his panic. If Spock had been seriously injured... "Get some rest." He made it an order and Spock obeyed, taking deep breaths and letting them out rhythmically in a relaxation exercise. Kirk sat down.
Spock was almost asleep when a gentle rapping at the door made him start. Kirk swore again under his breath. "Who is it?"
Spock stiffened. "Take it easy," Kirk said. "She can be trusted--"
"--not to barge in." Kirk allowed an edge to creep into his voice, but then he rested a hand on Spock's shoulder. "Just a minute," he called. He took a quick survey of the room, and arranged the compress so it covered the exposed ear. "Just lie still," he said as he picked up the bowl of water and carried it to the table. There he opened a small vein in his wrist and allowed it to bleed until the water was the proper color. Then he crossed to the door.
Edith stood patiently, holding bandages, antiseptic, and a brandy flask. He took them from her and thanked her sweetly, still blocking the door.
"How is he?"
"Jim, I know a doctor who would trust you for the fee. He's very good."
"Thank you, Edith. But it's not necessary."
"You're not a doctor."
"Spock says he's okay. He knows."
"He might be trying to keep you from worrying."
"That's possible, but he wouldn't lie. He never does."
"That must be rather a problem."
They grinned at each other, then Edith frowned. "Jim, seriously, don't take this too lightly. I don't want to alarm you, but I felt his pulse when he first got back here. It was incredibly fast. I think--"
"Hm," Kirk interrupted. He crossed to his silent first officer, picked up a wrist, and counted professionally, ignoring the faint, rapid beat. "It's normal now," he announced. "Probably he was agitated. Good night, Edith. And thank you again for your help." He crossed to the door, shut it firmly, and returned to Spock.
"You, Captain, are an accomplished liar."
"Nonsense, Mr. Spock. I hardly said a word that wasn't true. Now, get some rest."
The next morning, Spock declared himself quite recovered.
"No, you're not."
"Captain, I assure you--"
"No. A human would be feeling very rocky. So you pretend. It gives us the perfect excuse for hanging around here. You're sick and I don't want to leave you. And thanks to your musical talent, you don't have to go out to work. We can be sure to be here when McCoy arrives. Now get back to bed."
Again, there was the gentle rapping. "I brought you an ice bag," Edith said.
"An ice bag?"
She looked at him in surprise. "It's for Mr. Spock." She handed it to Kirk, who took it over to Spock. The Vulcan eyed it uncertainly.
"You hold it against your head," Edith persisted. "It's good for relieving a headache."
Spock put the bag against his head, winced, and handed it back to Kirk. "Thank you. But I believe that, on the whole, I would rather have the headache."
Edith kept a straight face as she accepted the ice bag, but her eyes danced. Kirk watched her, knowing that Spock's air of dispassionate judgment entertained her as much as it did him. Strange how much they responded to the same things. If only -- forget it.
"Want anything, Mr. Spock?"
"Thank you, no."
"Okay. I'll be back as soon as I've eaten."
"Understood, Captain." Kirk nodded. Spock did understand, of course. He always did. He managed a quick grin, then followed Edith out the door. Maybe she'd be free to go out tonight...
* * *
Kirk looked around him in surprise. They were in the city proper. Apparently they'd walked down. Spock was at his side -- supportive, but quiet. "Sorry, Mr. Spock. I was wool gathering."
"Of course, Captain."
"That tapestry is beautiful. What does the title mean?"
"I believe the closest translation would be 'prophet'."
"Prophet. Yes. Mr. Spock?"
"It must have cost you a year's pay."
Spock did not reply, and Kirk felt him stiffen. He smiled under cover of darkness. After all these years, the Vulcan was still afraid of intruding. "I don't know if it is permitted to ask, Spock. But, may I go halves with you?"
"I would be honored."
They were in the gardens now, and Amanda and Sarek stood in the doorway, watching for them. Amanda saw them and she ran toward Kirk. "Jim, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Amanda. I'm sorry I--"
"Now, that doesn't matter a bit. You're here to enjoy your leave." She drew his arm through hers. "But you come on in, now. It's past time you had something to eat."