Time’s Warrior is © 1999 by Cheree Cargill. Star Trek characters are property of Paramount Studios, Inc. and their usage is not intended to violate any copyright or trademark. No portion of this story may be reproduced in any form whatsoever, either print or electronic, without the express written permission of the author. This copy of Time’s Warrior is intended for private use and enjoyment only. All rights reserved.
Dedicated to Randy and Katy
with all my love
and with special thanks
to all my fannish buddies who cheerfully discussed
innumerable aspects of Vulcan mating rituals,
plot twists and turns, and amorous situations
we’d like to see Spock get into
* * *
“Think, man! What’s happening on your planet,
right now at this very moment?!”
“My ancestors are barbarians. Warlike barbarians...”
“Who nearly killed themselves off with their own passions!
Spock, you’re reverting into your ancestors —
5,000 years before you were born!”
— All Our Yesterdays
“Stay with him, Mr. Sulu,” said Captain Kirk from the command chair, his eyes locked on the distant point of light in the center of the main viewscreen, the sole stationary object amid the stream of stars flowing past.
The helmsman ran his fingers lightly over the control switches, guiding the big starship’s course with finesse. “He can’t outrun us, Captain. The top speed of a Vulcan shuttle is warp 6.”
From the science station behind him, Commander Spock glanced from his viewer to the main screen then back into the hooded display, its light painting a bright blue rectangle across the Vulcan officer’s lean, angular face. “He’s maintaining warp 5, Captain, and has not varied his course for Gateway. He does have a good lead on us, however.”
“How long to Gateway now?”
“He will reach orbit in 11.5 minutes, sir. At our present speed of warp 7, we shall arrive exactly 24.3 minutes later.”
Kirk nodded. “Are we close enough to throw a tractor beam around him?”
“No, sir. We are not yet in range,” the science officer answered. “Sir, I point out to you that the shuttle is capable of landing on the planet’s surface. He will most likely not establish an orbital trajectory but will land the craft.”
“Noted, Mr. Spock. Track him all the way down. We don’t want to lose him now.”
Kirk turned his thoughtful attention back to the main screen, where a low magnitude star had begun to grow in prominence as they approached it.
The star was old and dying, a Class K orange giant whose light had faded until it was almost a luminous brown. Its nuclear fires still burned, but it did not have long to exist in the stellar course of things. Although it would continue to shed its weak light for millennia, inevitably its core would finally collapse in upon itself and rupture into a brief, bright nova. Then the gases that comprised its furnaces would spread themselves out into an ephemeral nebula and serve as the birthplace for new stars and systems as yet unimagined.
For the present, the occupants aboard the starship
rapidly entering its ecliptical plane gave the star scant thought. Their attention was focused on the sole
planet that circled near its sparse fires as if attempting to soak up the
star’s last portion of warmth. The
planet was dark and forbidding as it grew on the viewing screen of the
James Kirk had been here twice before and knew the desolation that covered its expanse. Once the planet had held a vast civilization, one of elegance and wealth. Immense cities spread across the landscape and there was evidence of spaceports, universities, enormous agricultural complexes, even more enormous industrial areas. Linking the cities and continents was a web of roads that even today were still usable. But something had happened tens of thousands of years ago that had ended the civilization of this world. Today it was totally lifeless — no people, no animals, no plants. A dead world. Its oceans and much of its atmosphere had been blown away into space, leaving it parched and cracked, the thin wind endlessly blowing dust and debris across its seared surface. Today, its only inhabitants were the Federation science teams studying it.
And there was one object here that had made Gateway a restricted world, that put it off-limits to any but authorized Federation personnel, an object so potentially devastating that the planet was under constant Starfleet patrol, a quarantined world. It was part machine and part being, so immeasurably old that even it had lost the recollection of its creation. Capable of transmuting time and space, it served as a doorway into the past — the Guardian of Forever. Even after three years of study, the scientists assigned here still had no idea how it functioned, who had constructed it, and if it was indeed a sentient being as it seemed at times.
It was at that point they had received a red priority message regarding the fugitive now headed for Gateway and the captain of the patrol ship had called the nearest starship for help — the Enterprise. The big cruiser had been 18 hours away, however, even at top warp but had moved to intercept at fastest speed. They were now decelerating as they approached the star system of their destination and had their target in sight.
So far, he had managed to elude them, but Kirk was determined that the chase would end soon. He rose from the command chair and walked over to the railing that separated the lower part of the bridge from the service level. There he paused and addressed his science officer. “What have we got on Dr. S’Von?”
Spock swung his chair around towards the captain and folded his arms across his chest, a meditative expression on his face. “He was originally assigned two years ago to the Federation archaeological team that was stationed on Gateway, but was not authorized to study the Guardian itself. He was part of the team working with the ruins of the dead civilization there. However, apparently the Guardian fascinated him and he could not stay away from it. Twice he was reprimanded for unauthorized access to the portal.”
The Vulcan shifted his position and cocked his head slightly. “Finally, he could not resist making a small, unauthorized foray into the past. He apparently intended no harm, merely meant to observe Sigma Orionis 4 at the dawn of its age of spaceflight. But while he was there, he caused an accident to occur. It seemed relatively minor. A young boy was thrown from a riding animal when it was startled by S’Von’s presence on a park trail. The boy appeared unhurt and they parted company. But the fall had caused an aneurism in the boy’s brain and he died the following week. Because of his death, he would never grow to develop a breakthrough energy source that would lead the planet into spaceflight outside its own solar system. Without interstellar spaceflight, the planet would never colonize a nearby world and would never be discovered there by the Federation.
“When S’Von returned to the present, he discovered that the peaceful planet he’d studied for so long had become a barbaric world recovering from a world war. He was caught trying to go back through the Guardian to right his wrong. Time manipulation is a very delicate and tricky thing, as you know all too well, Captain. Fortunately, the other scientists on Gateway were able to correct the error and the timeline went back into its proper shape. But the Federation High Council did not take lightly Dr. S’Von’s transgressions and sentenced him to a rehab colony on Vulcan for re-education and treatment.”
“But what’s he doing out?” Kirk demanded. “Surely they didn’t just let him go.”
“Apparently, they did, Captain,” the first officer replied. “After rehabilitation and exhibiting an improved mindset and more socially appropriate behavior, he was certified as cured and released.”
Kirk turned back to the main screen, where the planet was growing rapidly in size. “Well, he didn’t stay cured for very long, Mr. Spock. Not unless you classify stealing a warp shuttle as ‘socially appropriate behavior’.”
“Not at all, sir,” Spock replied calmly. “This is highly aberrant behavior, especially for a Vulcan. Obviously, Dr. S’Von has some plan that he formulated while incarcerated and he intends to implement it.”
“Whatever that plan may be,” Kirk answered softly and went back to the command chair to sit tightly staring at the main screen.
“He’s gone to impulse, Captain,” Sulu reported from the helm. “He’s beginning entry maneuvers.”
“Stay with him...” Kirk murmured again in answer, although the directive was unnecessary. Sulu was one of the finest pilots in Starfleet and he had served under Kirk long enough to be highly attuned to his captain’s thought processes, usually anticipating Kirk’s orders before he gave them.
A quarter of an hour crawled past and then Sulu reported, “Coming up on Gateway, sir.”
“Standard orbit, Mr. Sulu.”
“Aye, sir.” The helmsman expertly brought the starship into a parking orbit around the planet, tightly synchronizing its position and speed above the surface coordinates Spock fed over from the science station, specifying the location of the shuttle’s landing.
Once orbit was established, Kirk rose from the command chair and went to stand beside Spock. “Do you have him pinpointed?”
“Yes, Captain. I show him quite near the Guardian, no more than several hundred yards. As I recall, there was a large space there that we surmised might have been the floor of an amphitheater. It would serve quite well as a landing pad for a ship the size of the shuttle.”
“Let’s go get him then,” the captain responded with grim determination. “Mr. Sulu, you have the conn.”
* * *
Chief Engineer Scott was waiting for them in the transporter room, one of the few Federation officers who had actually seen the Guardian. He had been in the original landing party three years before that had discovered the puzzling object. Now, from behind the console, Scotty handed a communicator and number two phaser to each of them, and they quickly slapped the instruments into place at their waists. As Scotty passed Spock his tricorder and the first officer slipped the strap over his head and took his place on the transporter pad next to the captain, the engineer spoke up. “I’d feel better if you had a few security guards goin’ down with you.”
“You know the Federation Council’s ruling, Scotty,” the captain responded with a sigh. “No one without prior approval is to set foot on this planet. Unfortunately, that means Mr. Spock and I have to take care of this ourselves.” Kirk smiled at his chief engineer. “Don’t worry, Scotty. We’ll be fine. Energize.”
Scott didn’t look very convinced, but locked in the coordinates and activated the transport switches. The transporter hum filled the chamber and then faded away along with the two men on the pad.
When the golden dazzles had disappeared around them, Kirk and Spock found themselves on the desolate surface of Gateway. No one knew the planet’s real name, although archaeological evidence had determined that the city stretching around them had once been called Oyya. It was hard for Kirk to imagine the vibrant metropolis this had once been, busy with life and commerce, peopled by millions of beings going about their business. What had happened to them was one of the galaxy’s unsolved mysteries.
A cold, mournful wind howled around the endless ruins that extended as far as the eye could see, swirling a fog of dust and decay throughout the ruins and into the chill air. The two starship officers took a few seconds to orient themselves to their location, then Spock began to scan the area with his tricorder. “I read the shuttle in that direction, Captain.”
Using the ruins and broken columns of the city as cover, they made their way to the clearing. There they found the elegant little Vulcan shuttlecraft resting incongruously amid the crumbling stones and weathered arches of the city amphitheater. The airlock door was open and steam still rose from the landing thrusters. It hadn’t been here long.
They approached it cautiously, although neither expected to find Dr. S’Von on board. What they did find was the body of one of the Federation archaeologists assigned to work on Gateway. He was lying face down in the dust beside the portside warp nacelle, an ugly burn mark in the middle of his back. Kirk grimly knelt down to examine him. “Dead. Point blank phaser shot.”
Spock nodded as if not surprised at all and ventured into the shuttle, phaser drawn. He was back in a few minutes. “Dr. S’Von is not on board. Logic would dictate that we will find him at the Guardian.”
“Agreed. Let’s go.”
Quietly they approached the enigmatic object, a huge
translucent oval amid the ruins. The
sight of it made Kirk think back to the fateful events that had led to its
discovery and first use by Federation personnel. The
McCoy, in his madness, had leaped through the time portal
and, somewhere back in the past, had changed history. The Federation and the
Kirk and Spock had no choice but to follow McCoy back in time and set things right. It was an especially painful memory for Kirk, because, in order to do so, he’d had to stand by and allow a woman to die -- a woman with whom he had fallen deeply in love. It had been like allowing his living heart to be ripped from his chest, but the fate of a universe had rested on this one pivotal act.
The memory still ached inside him, but he damped it down with iron-willed determination and turned his attention to the Guardian. Sure enough, the man they sought was standing in front of the large opening and, even from this distance, they could see the cloudy curtain dropping from the oval’s upper rim and the flickering images of passing time playing out across its surface.
S’Von was Vulcan, about Spock’s age, but shorter, slighter, and with a definite air about him of the classroom and library. His profession was research historian, specializing in paleocultures of various planets, and he looked deceptively mild, not at all the type of man who would contemplate larger plans than next week’s student assignment. And yet, if their information was correct, this man was capable of almost anything. His logical Vulcan training had metamorphosed into madness and megalomania and the Federation had ordered that he be brought back at all costs. The two starship officers knew that in the backpack slung over one shoulder was a brace of stolen phasers and power packs. If he took them back into time, the consequences could be unimaginable.
Now he stood intently studying the images before him. Kirk motioned Spock to circle around and come up behind the fugitive.
“S’Von!” Kirk called and the scientist snapped around to face them, looking startled. His eyes were unusually light for a Vulcan, the color of caramel, and they gave his features an even more striking appearance. His face settled into a frown.
“You got here quickly, Captain,” he commented. “I congratulate you on your detective work.”
“Just stay where you are and don’t make any moves,” Kirk responded, advancing toward him, phaser steady in his hand. He could see Spock quietly making his way to a position behind the other Vulcan.
“You can’t stop me, Captain,” S’Von answered. “It’s too late for that. I have already set into motion a plan that will change the history of my planet.” He suddenly produced a phaser of his own. “I won’t hesitate to shoot you, Captain, and I’ll do it a lot quicker than you can pull the trigger.”
“We seem to be at an impasse then,” Kirk replied, still watching Spock move silently up behind S’Von but keeping his eyes locked on the Vulcan scientist.
Spock’s boot made a soft scraping sound on the gravel beneath his feet and S’Von spun to bring his phaser to bear on the first officer. “Drop it!” he ordered.
After a second’s hesitation, Spock slowly let his phaser fall to the ground and held his hands out where S’Von could see them. But he kept his eyes locked on the other’s face and advanced with slow deliberation toward the scientist.
“Stop right there!”
Spock complied, for the moment at least. “Whatever it is that you propose, Doctor, your chances of success are distinctly limited,” he said. “Your plan will not work.”
“You think not? I believe it will,” S’Von sneered, keeping the phaser leveled on the other Vulcan. “I had a great deal of time to think while I was sitting in that rehab facility. The fools! Thinking they could re-educate me — their intellectual superior! They’re all like you, Spock. Your kind did this to me.”
The science officer’s eyebrows lifted quizzically. “My kind? I don’t understand.”
Kirk had been listening closely and now he frowned. He didn’t understand the Vulcan word S’Von had just used, but clearly Spock did, for he looked surprised and then skeptical. “I fail to see how the Ni’ikhirchi caused your incarceration.”
This was rapidly becoming a personal conversation between the two Vulcans, and the human present was becoming more and more confused. What were they talking about?
“Of course, you don’t,” S’Von spat back. “You blithely sit on your mountain and rule. The north is ignored because we don’t have the population to influence things.”
“You have as much influence as anyone,” Spock answered, frowning.
“Theoretically, but not in reality. You know as well as I do that Ni’ikhirch has controlled Vulcan as far back as anyone can remember. They still do. Don’t play coy with me, Spock. You know who holds First Chair on the Council. Who she is.”
“That is a delusion on your part, S’Von. You know we have no more influence than anyone else.”
S’Von gave a harsh laugh. “I’d expect to hear that from the scion of Ni’ikhirch!”
Suddenly Kirk understood what this was all about. Ni’ikhirch was Spock’s family name! And “she” was T’Pau, the powerful de facto leader of Vulcan and matriarch of her clan — and Spock’s great-grandmother. They were talking about Vulcan planetary politics.
S’Von was beginning to ramble, talking more than he was paying attention. “While I was in the rehabilitation facility, the days were extremely long and the nights even longer. I had a lot of time to think, Spock, and I began to wonder ... what if things were changed? What if Ni’ikhirch did not rule Vulcan? What if some other House were given a chance? Like D’Khahl, for instance. My House. With the right leader in command, it could. But that leader would have to go far enough back to circumvent Ni’ikhirchi power. And he would need some overwhelming advantage to establish himself as the Holder of his House, something that made him invincible. And I realized that I had the perfect means for accomplishing this — the Guardian. Walking out of that rehab facility to freedom was child’s play. All I had to do was behave nicely and give the right answers. After that, it only took me days to obtain what I needed for my journey.”
His face twisted into a nasty sneer. “I intend to wipe your clan from Vulcan’s history, Spock. You should bid your farewells to your friend here, because, in a very short time, you won’t ever have existed!”
Kirk was growing more and more convinced that the Vulcan scientist was completely mad. He had to be apprehended, no matter what it took. Cautiously, Kirk moved a step toward him, ready to grab the phaser he held, but S’Von immediately swung the weapon in the captain’s direction, snapping it up into firing position and pulling the trigger.
At the same instant, Spock hurled himself at S’Von and seized the hand that held the phaser, attempting to wrest it from S’Von’s grasp. The shot went wide, striking Kirk in the left shoulder and spinning him backwards into the dust, stunned. Trying to get his head to stop whirling and his eyes to focus, Kirk lay watching as the two Vulcans grappled fiercely over possession of the weapon, their equal strength making it an even contest, wrestling back and forth before the Guardian’s still cloudy opening, the images of an alien history flickering eerily behind them.
As Kirk sat up and tried to locate his own phaser, Spock freed one hand, reaching for the base of S’Von’s neck, but again the other Vulcan matched him, catching his wrist and preventing him from getting a hold on such a vulnerable spot. S’Von fired again, this time the deadly blue beam sizzling past Spock’s ribs. He flinched aside just in time. Spock gave up his attempt at a nerve pinch and jerked his grip back over the phaser that S’Von held, again trying to twist it out of his hand.
Then S’Von let go of the phaser and plunged that hand towards Spock’s throat, obviously going for a more deadly grip than a nerve pinch. The first officer must have instantly recognized his intent, for he countered that move by seizing S’Von’s wrist and the contest became one of defense on Spock’s part. He’d once told Kirk that there was no such thing as a Vulcan death grip, but there was such a thing as lan-dovna, an ancient technique of strangulation, and S’Von was obviously attempting to use it on Spock now. For his size, S’Von possessed every bit as much strength as his taller opponent and the Federation officer was finding it difficult to keep the reaching fingers from finding their target. Using all his strength and concentration, Spock began to press him back.
Kirk had finally managed to find his phaser and had struggled to his feet, still dizzy from the stun, his shoulder beginning to hurt abominably. He steadied himself against a column and tried to take aim at the two men grappling together before the Guardian’s portal. He had decided that he would have to shoot them both.
Abruptly, S’Von slammed his knee up into Spock’s thigh, and the science officer winced at the force of the blow and loosened his hold, enough for the renegade to wrench away from his grasp. Spock lunged at him again, seeking to reestablish his hold, but only managed to snatch the front of S’Von’s jacket. The scientist jerked away, but one foot suddenly shot out from under him, his boot slipping on loose sand around the base of the Guardian.
Flailing wildly to regain his balance, S’Von made a violent grab at Spock, tripped, then fell backwards into the time field, yanking Spock after him a fraction of a second later. All Kirk registered before he could move to prevent it was a look of extreme surprise on Spock’s face, then his first officer was gone, disappearing into the cloudy mists of history. Immediately the Guardian’s field cleared and the ruins of the dead city were visible behind it.
Aghast, Kirk stumbled forward to stare dumbfounded at the now inactive oval. “What happened?!” the captain demanded. “Where are they?!”
“They have passed into what was,” the Guardian’s deep voice responded implacably.
“They have passed into the making of their world. Time must unfold as it should.”
The magnitude of the situation nearly drove Kirk to his knees, his gut twisting inside him. Ten thousand years of recorded history on a planet the size of Earth. They could be anywhere at any period of time during that entire inconceivable span. And any action or non-action they did had the potential to change the course of history. Kirk felt faint at the prospect.
“Dear God...” he murmured. “Dear God, how will I find them? In all of Vulcan history ... how will I find them?!”