Chapter 21

 

 

By morning the clouds had returned and it rained the entire way back to Seleya.  Cold, drenched and tense, the troops of Anskar and Sefak trudged doggedly through the mud throughout the long day.  Towards late afternoon, as they came down out of the hills and into the R’uhn s’vat Valley, the sun finally broke through the clouds and bathed them in a warm orange light.  It did little to banish the chill in their bones, but the sight of it was good to behold.  Far across the valley, about four kh’eet in distance, rose the lower slopes of Seleya and on its flanks shown the Yellow City, Shar’ram, gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight.  Many took it as a sign from Heya that they had reached the destination she had appointed for the coming fight.

Camp was pitched on the soggy field overlooking the valley itself, guards and lookouts were posted, and the weary troops began to make preparation for the battle that would surely take place with the coming of morning light. 

Spock had been thinking all day as they rode back and there was a chore that he had to perform tonight.  There was a very real chance that he would die in battle in just a few hours and he must make sure that he left nothing behind him that might fall into curious, unknowing hands, no item that was monstrously out of place in this time period.

Leaving Ansaric in charge of his hox, Spock tossed the saddlebags over one shoulder and climbed up alone onto the barren mountain overlooking the valley.  When he judged that he was far enough away from the camp that he would not be disturbed, he stopped and knelt down to examine the contents of the carrybags.

The first things he drew out were a pair of dirty black uniform trousers and a ripped black t’shirt.  Neatly, he folded the pants and shirt and placed them on the ground.  Next came his uniform tunic.  For a long moment, he ran his hand over the soft blue velour, the luxurious texture of the fabric conjuring a host of memories.  Gently his fingers drifted over the double gold braid on the sleeves and he thought of the years it had taken to win the right to wear that braid and the sacrifices he had made in the process.  Finally, he folded the tunic and went to place it atop the pants. His fingertips lingered most painfully on the arrowhead insignia on the breast, the stylized double-circle nestling on the silver-gold background calling to him of his past life.  With reverence and regret, he steeled himself and placed the tunic on top of the pants.

His boots he set aside.  Should he survive, they would be useful and were irreplaceable. 

Next onto the pile went his communicator.  But first, experimentally, he flipped open the grid and once more listened to the chirp of opened channels.  Nothing came back but static, as he’d expected, and he laid it on the shirt.  His tricorder followed.  He was most reluctant to lose it, for it had been his lifeline as a scientist to the world around him.  How many landing parties had he gone on with the long strap draped across his chest?  How many readings had he taken of unknown life forms or worlds?  He remembered some of the most unusual — the horta, the Companion, the brain-cell creatures that had attacked him on Deneva.  He thought of the “stone knives and bear skins” he had used to build a primitive computer to tap into the images his tricorder held when they’d gone back in time to search for McCoy.  So many other occasions, more than he could remember.

He caressed the black leather case of the instrument then gently folded the strap and placed it onto the other things from his past life.  Finally, he removed his phaser from the bag.   Of all the things he carried, this must be destroyed at all cost.  He had considered carefully how he could do so.  A forced chamber explosion would take out the side of the mountain and he wanted to do this as quietly as possible.

In the fading light of sunset, he set about partially dismantling the phaser.  He worked out the focusing array on the “barrel” and then reversed and reinserted it.  The array didn’t fit back very well, but he wouldn’t need it to slide in perfectly.  All he needed it to do was reflect the power beam back on itself and force the weapon to disintegrate itself.  He’d never actually seen it done and he hoped the theory didn’t backfire disastrously in practice.

When he was ready, he stood gazing for a few introspective seconds down at the little pile of articles that was his final tie to his former life.  Once they were gone, he would be irretrievably wed to the time period he now occupied.  Then, sighing, he set the phaser on high, jammed the trigger with a sliver of rock to hold it in firing position, tossed the weapon onto the articles heaped before him, and dived behind a large boulder.

The hum of the phaser rapidly rose to a high-pitched scream and then there was a blinding flash of light and all became silent and dark.  Spock waited for a moment, then peered out from behind his shelter.  Where once there had been clothing and instruments from a future time, there was now only a large blackened circle on the rocks.  Those traces of his former life were gone forever.

Spock bent down and picked up his boots and the saddlebags and began the next phase of his mission here.  He climbed until he found a ledge of rock facing east over the wilderness stretching away toward the Se’han Hills and settled down there into lotus seat, drawing his cloak around him and pulling the hood up over his head.  As the red sun sank below the peaks behind him, he closed his eyes and stilled his mind and soul into meditation, preparing himself for the coming day.

* * *

The morning sun broke over the rim of the mountains on the horizon, penetrating his consciousness.  He was not asleep but the depth of his meditation might have been interpreted as such.  He had sat alone on the mountain all night, meditating, clearing his soul and readying himself.

Throughout the cold of the night, he had remained oblivious, unmoving.  Even when the le’matya had slunk close enough to sniff at his jawline, he might have been a rock for all the notice he took.  The beast had finally crept away, finding him unappetizing.  If he had moved, it would have attacked, burying its fangs into his vulnerable throat, but even his breathing was so shallow that his chest barely rose and fell.

Now the rosy sunlight fell full upon his face, painting his skin crimson.  His nose and cheeks created shadows and planes of light across his features, accented by the upswept angle of his dark, slim brows.  Slowly, he blinked as he came back to himself and the sun momentarily blinded him. His vision adjusted quickly however and he opened eyes the color of deep brown suede to observe the morning.

The world fell away before him, reaching out to the horizon in rugged hills colored with shadows of purples and blues.  The morning breeze ruffled the hood of his cloak and caused strands of his thick black hair to play about his mouth and eyes.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had it cut. In his previous life, probably, when such things mattered.  They didn’t here.  He enjoyed the feeling of freedom it gave him.

Now he stretched his back and shoulders, stiff from the long hours he’d sat in lotus seat upon the mountainside.  One by one, he flexed muscles and tendons then smoothly rose to his feet and finished his morning exercise.  The discipline of kh’thy’nera, the slow deliberate movement of the body through controlled paces and stresses, both limbered and strengthened him, and when he finished, he felt alive and alert.

Pushing back the hood, he stood for a while watching the day brighten as the sun climbed higher into the tangerine sky.  Stiffening a bit, the wind fluttered the fabric of his cloak and whipped his hair into his face.  Absently, he reached up to brush it back behind the pointed tip of one ear, his sharp hearing picking up the sound of war preparation from the camp below him.

It was time.  He was ready.  Quickly, he descended the trail into camp and found Ansaric waiting on him.  The squire helped him don his battle gear, heavy brass-studded leather armor and mail over which he slipped the red surcoat of his House, emblazoned with the Eye across the chest.  He chose to wear his Starfleet boots, for they called up a memory in him of the times he had fought before.  Ansaric found the boots strange and wonderful, marveling at the hard soles that held their shape without brass studs and strengthening.  For extra protection, Spock laced metal-reinforced shin guards around his lower legs and then straightened to take his weapons from his shi’ka’ree.

Spock strapped on his sword belt over the surcoat and settled the weapon comfortably at his left side.  He had grown so used to the weight of the sword and its scabbard that he felt unbalanced without it.  On his right, he hung the leather sheath that contained his dagger, the blade ready at hand should he need it.

Holding Spock’s war helm, Ansaric was watching him proudly as the Ni’ikhirchi warrior fastened his cloak around his shoulders and then pulled on his gauntlets.  The younger man was attired for war himself but still he gazed wistfully at his friend.  Spock peered back at him with a questioning expression and Ansaric answered, “You make me think of Lord Tumik when I last fought at his side.”

Spock smiled and reached out to grasp Ansaric’s shoulder.  “I will try to be worthy of him.”

Then he turned to where Brax was waiting and mounted with a graceful movement.  Ansaric handed up the helmet and said, “The Goddess keep you, my lord.”

“And you, my friend.  May we return together in peace to Shar’ram.”  Impulsively, Spock held up his right hand with his fingers spread.  “Live long and prosper, Ansaric.  Thank you for your service to me.” 

In wonder, the young man stared at Spock’s gesture, then held up his hand and tried to imitate the movement.  He wasn’t entirely successful but his meaning was clear.

With a reassuring smile for his young friend, Spock reined Brax around and rode to join the nobles on hox-back and the commoners on foot as they moved out to battle.  Behind him, Ansaric gathered his things and swung up onto Kreyla’s back, following his master into battle.

* * *

Kirk blinked and stared at the computer screen.  “Wait!” he said.  “Go back!  What was that?”  He moved closer to the monitor, trying to force his fatigue-weary vision to focus on what he thought he had seen.

T’Lon, the Vulcan historian working with him, gazed serenely back at him.  “I did not notice anything out of the ordinary, Captain Kirk.”

“I just caught a glimpse of something.  It didn’t ... look right.  Run the tape back.”

T’Lon complied, although she betrayed a bit of impatience as she did so.  It was a measure of the fatigue she was beginning to feel.  On the screen, yet another battle was being fought, a rather big one.  It was no different from the dozens of other battle scenes they had viewed earlier, except for the number of men involved.

“What are we watching here?” Kirk asked.

“This is the Battle of Seleya,” the historian replied.  “It took place on the 4th day of Sarmoon in the year 4583 P.R. ... pre-Reform.”

“Where?”

“The valley that is now the location of the city of ShiKahr, the Valley of R’uhn s’vat.”

Kirk was staring intently at the screen.  “There!” he suddenly exclaimed.  “Did you see it?  What’s that?”  He pointed to a spot on a far hill, away from the main fighting.

T’Lon shook her head.  “I saw nothing.  Let me run it back again.”  She did so and watched where Kirk had indicated.  This time she saw it — a tiny blue spark of light.  “Probably only the sun glancing off a weapon.”

“No — that was no reflection.  Computer, grid 82.  Magnify and enhance.”

The computer zeroed in on the indicated section and brought the scene up and more into focus.  It was still too blurry to see clearly, but this time on playback, the blue spark leapt out at them with terrible clarity.

It was the beam of a phaser.

Kirk turned to his Vulcan companion, unable to contain the swarm of emotions that engulfed him.  “Call the rest of your team in here.  I think we may have found them.”