Chapter 2

 

One year prior...

 

S’Von picked himself up from where he’d landed.  He was lying in a wide, rolling meadow of stunted yellowish grass, rippled by the hot breeze that blew across the field.  Overhead stretched a tangerine colored sky and surrounding his location were low hills that rose in the northeast into weathered mountains.

He stood and looked around with satisfaction.  Not exactly where he’d intended to appear, but close enough.  The Guardian, through its arcane manipulation of time and space, had placed him  in the location he’d requested — the Province of D’Khahl near the foothills of the Faladorn Mountains.  His homeland.  He trusted that the time period was the one requested as well.

Kneeling down again, he checked the contents of the backpack and found all in order.  He brought out a small coin-sized compass, got his bearings, then shouldered the pack into a comfortable position and began walking north.

The land did not change much as he traveled all that day.  He was in the northern hemisphere of the planet, a fairly temperate zone covered with untold miles of sweeping prairies, an area that might have been compared by a Terran to the steppes of Asia or the Great Plains of North America on Earth.  In his own day, much of the area had succumbed to desert and what wasn’t too arid to farm was under cultivation in tikh, Vulcan’s staple cereal crop. 

In fact, S’Von had come from a farming family and had fled at the first opportunity to a life away from the vast open spaces of golden grain and harvesting machinery.  “Farm” was a misnomer, of course.  His father had been manager of a huge agricultural complex, one of several that kept the planet fed and self-sufficient, so that the importation of foodstuffs was small and limited mainly to exotics.  The temperate north was the “bread basket” of Vulcan and S’Von had been expected to follow his father and grandfather in the family business.

He’d had no taste for it.  To his lively mind, harvest yields and crop futures were as dull as his father and three older brothers, tromping in covered with grain dust and chaff from their work, worrying about black blight and seena beetle, planning how they could afford the newest model of harvester on this year’s crop profits.  He found that his imagination came alive in the past, in the history of the planet and its peoples.  Pre-Reform history especially fascinated him, before the Vulcan people had adopted Surak’s logic and emotional control and had settled into the peaceful, but — to S’Von’s way of thinking — pallid and unexciting lifestyle they now maintained.

So, as soon as he could, he left home for university study in ShiKahr in the Province of Llangon to the south.  And it was there that he not only learned his profession of historian but also got his first taste of politics and the way things really “worked” on Vulcan.  Time and again, he’d seen funding and improvements go to the larger cities clustered near the equator of the planet while the northern provinces were left wanting. 

He soon realized that the old woman T’Pau, matriarch of the House of Ni’ikhirch, for all intents and purposes ruled Vulcan and controlled the Council that established policies and laws.  The clan had been wealthy and prestigious before but, when she had taken First Chair of the Council nearly 70 years ago, the House of Surak had acquired such power that its members were practically considered royalty by Vulcans and out-worlders alike.

With a seething sense of injustice and purpose that outstripped his Disciplines, S’Von grew to hate T’Pau and all her arrogant, multiple descendants.  Grew to hate her daughter, T’Lar, First Adept of the Temple of Ancient Thought, a haughty, formidable old woman, ruling from the heights of Mt. Seleya itself.  Grew to hate her grandson, Sarek, ambassador to Earth, who had defiled the Vulcan people by taking an out-worlder to wife and getting a son on her.  The very thought made S’Von shudder. How a Vulcan, and one of such a long and distinguished family line, could even entertain such a thought ... could even bear to touch one of the creatures, let alone take her into his bed and ... 

S’Von closed  his eyes and shook off the revulsion he felt at such a thing.

He had grown to hate that son, too.  Spock.  The great Spock, heir to the family fortunes, legend in Starfleet ranks, celebrated by his very existence as the first Vulcan/Human hybrid ever born to live into adulthood.  Might as well celebrate the cross between a Vulcan and a pongon ape, he thought.  Little wonder that Spock had gone into Starfleet, a Human organization.  No decent institution on Vulcan would have accepted him.

S’Von’s eyes narrowed as he trudged onward.  He would make sure that Spock was never born.  That none of them were ever born.  That Ni’ikhirch would crumble into antiquity as an insignificant and penurious house of low repute. That it faded, forgotten, into the mists of history without trace and issue, without thought for time eternal.

S’Von camped that night beside a small stream that wandered across the grassland and, in a depression that he’d scooped out, he built a bonfire out of the deadwood he’d snapped off a small stand of kintu trees growing beside the water.  He didn’t care if it was seen; he wanted to be found. And, frankly, he hoped that it would keep away any predators that might be prowling in his vicinity. He passed the long night rolled in a blanket near the fire, keeping a phaser in his hand.

But, although lonely and cold, the hours of darkness were tranquil and he eventually slept and dreamed fitfully.

The morning sun woke him as it broke over the hilltops and he breakfasted on rations he had brought with him and purified water in his pack.  He didn’t dare drink from the stream, although it looked fresh enough.  He wasn’t acclimated to whatever germs this time period might hold.  It would do his plans no profit if he arrived safely, only to die of plak f’rul two weeks later.  Although he’d vaccinated himself against everything he could think of, there might be active viruses here that no longer existed in his own time.

Clearing his camp and stowing his gear in the backpack, he once again set out north, walking briskly across the seemingly endless meadows.

He hadn’t traveled far, however, when riders appeared on a nearby hill and sat watching him.  There were four of them, astride powerful looking hoxa, but were too far away for him to tell who they were, what House.  Halting, he faced them and stood waiting, and it wasn’t long before one of them made a signal to the others and all four thundered down the hill in his direction.

As they neared him, he determined that they were warriors, armed for patrol duty, not battle.  They were dressed in studded leather, with surcoats of deep green carrying the sigil of a stylized s’wu’un, a mythical animal that a Terran might have likened to a Chinese dragon.  S’Von smiled to himself in satisfaction.  These were the people he sought — warriors of the House of D’Khahl.  His House.

The four riders circled him, studying him with suspicion, and at last they halted, surrounding him.  The evident leader leveled a short pike at him and demanded, “Who are you, stranger?  And what are you doing on D’Khahli land?”

“My name is S’Von and I come seeking your Householder.”

“For what purpose?”

“That is between him and me, sai.”

The warrior exchanged glances with his fellows as if to make a comment on the stranger’s arrogance, then he turned his gaze back on S’Von.  “You speak in high tones for one who is trespassing.”

“Nevertheless, you will take me to him.  I bring power to him that will make him great.”

This caused another round of looks among the D’Khahli.  “Indeed?” questioned the leader, shifting in his saddle with an air of superiority.  “Give the power to me and perhaps I will let you live.”

“Take me to your Householder and perhaps I will let you live,” S’Von responded.

That caused all four of the riders to laugh scornfully.  The leader moved his mount a bit closer and poked S’Von in the shoulder with the tip of his pike.  “You have a big mouth for such a little man,” he said and prodded the scientist with his pike again.

“Don’t do that,” S’Von warned him darkly.

“What?  This?”  Another jab followed.

“I will strike you down if you touch me again.”

The leader laughed and repeated his action.  S’Von stepped back and brought his hand up, pointed in the warrior’s direction.  He held a small black box with silver fittings and, without warning, the box spat out a cobalt blue beam of light that blasted the warrior out of his saddle and knocked him ten feet from his hox, where he landed unconscious.

The hoxa screamed and reared in terror and the other three riders had to grab handholds of saddle and manes to keep from being thrown.  When they had calmed their plunging mounts, the three warriors huddled together and regarded S’Von with fear.

“How can you do this?” demanded one.

“He’s a wizard!” commented another one.

“I told you I hold great power,” S’Von answered, his expression still dangerous.  “Your friend isn’t dead, merely stunned.  But I can kill just as easily.”

As if on cue, the fallen warrior groaned and sat up, holding his spinning head.  “What happened?” he asked groggily.

One of the other warriors warily dismounted and went to his aid.  “He is a wizard!” he answered as he helped his comrade to get to his feet.  “He shot lightning at you!”

“Impossible!” the leader responded, now angry.  “It’s a trick!”

“Shall I demonstrate my power again?” S’Von retorted and brought his hand up once more.

“No!  No!” the second warrior hurriedly cut in.  “We will take you to Stefin!  Here, Tavahk, get on your hox and don’t make any more trouble.”  The warrior helped his friend to mount and then handed up his pike to him before swinging back up onto his own beast.  He rode slowly over to S’Von then reached down a hand and took his foot out of the stirrup, offering S’Von a step up.  “You can ride with me, sai.”

S’Von studied him for a moment, searching for any subterfuge, then grasped the proffered hand and mounted up behind him.  Turning their hoxa back the way they had come, the group broke into a gallop toward the hills in the east.

* * *

Admiral Komack was absolutely livid.  James Kirk sat quietly before the comm screen in the Gateway science station’s main briefing room, waiting for his regional commander to shout himself out.  When Komack finally ran out of steam, Kirk repeated his question.  “When can we go through and look for them?”

“What?!  Never!  Wasn’t that clear, Kirk?!” the admiral responded, thoroughly red in the face.  “This is the most colossal blunder I’ve ever known you to make!  Letting a madman like that slip through your fingers is bad enough — but allowing him to go back to an unknown period in time on a major Federation world is — is —” He couldn’t think of a word bad enough to express himself and finally just pounded his fist down on the table in frustration.  “And with relations the way they are right now with the Vulcans —”

“Admiral Komack,” Kirk said in a reasonable tone, trying to get the situation back under control, “I don’t believe it’s as bad as you seem to think.”

You don’t believe — Kirk, you’re either an idiot or—”

“Admiral, let me finish!” the starship captain snapped in irritation.  “Do you know of anything that’s changed on Vulcan?  Anything that is markedly out of the ordinary to you?”

“Well, no, but how could we tell?  If the timeline has changed around us, we wouldn’t know it, would we?”

“Hear me out, sir.  When McCoy originally traveled back to Earth the first time we found the Guardian, we who were on Gateway were unaffected by the time change.  I mean, we had all our memories and were aware that time had changed only because the Enterprise had disappeared.”  Kirk took a deep breath.  “Sir, I believe it’s possible to tell if the timeline has changed.  We can compare the research station’s database of Vulcan history to that from Vulcan itself.  Since we know that the records here on Gateway haven’t changed, then we’ll be able to find any discrepancies.  I ask that you allow me to contact the Vulcan High Council and bring in a team of Vulcan specialists to help us search through the Guardian’s time view until we find Dr. S’Von and Spock.”

Komack was staring at him with a peculiar expression on his face.  “Who did you say?  S’Von and who?”

“Spock,” Kirk repeated, puzzled.  Komack didn’t respond and Kirk repeated, “Mr. Spock. My first officer.”

“Your first officer?!  Kirk, what the hell kind of game are you playing here?  You know bloody well that your first officer is Lt. Commander Marty O’Brien.”

Kirk sat back in his chair, stunned speechless for a moment.  Oh, God... he thought. It’s happened.  They have changed history.  Cautiously he ventured, “Then you don’t know Commander Spock?”

“Sounds like a Vulcan name.  No, never heard of him.  Anyway, you know there aren’t any Vulcans serving in Starfleet.  They won’t serve anywhere but on their own ships.  Commander Spock, did you say?  What is he?  A ship commander in the Vulcan fleet?  What ship?”

Kirk swallowed and took a deep breath to get his voice steady.  “Sir, you don’t realize it, but time has changed around you.  In my world, Commander Spock of Vulcan, son of the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, has been my first officer for the past four years. He has served honorably in Starfleet for over eighteen years and been decorated for valor on several occasions.”

“Impossible!”

“No, sir, I assure you that’s how time is supposed to be running.  It is now more imperative than ever that we get the Vulcans involved in this.  We’ve got to get Spock and S’Von back to where they belong and change the timeline back as it should be.”

Komack looked skeptical, but Kirk persisted.  “Having the Vulcans search their records and comparing the records here may be the only way to find them, and, if you’ll pardon the expression, sir, time is of the essence.  They could change history even more at any time, in a hundred different ways.”

The admiral sighed and finally answered, “All right, Kirk.  I think you’ve gone completely mad, but if you’re right, I suppose it is the only option we have to determine what’s right and what’s wrong.  Get on it at once.  If the Vulcans agree to work with us on this, then I suppose anything’s possible.  And good luck, Kirk.  We’re all going to need it!”