Doctors Orders | Chapter 6 of 9

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lasted a long time. From the Ornae there was no sound


at all anymore.


Something passed overhead, silhouetted silveredged


by the light of the one small moon-a blunt, sleek


shape, that went over with a roar of ion-drivers and was


lost against the moonhaze at the horizon.


Kirk cursed, and found that he was standing in daylight


again, the beAt


beside him, looking down at a flower.


He looked around at the bright sunlight, breathing


hard with shock. Beside him the beAt stood silent and


stolid, as if it had been rooted in that spot since


the morning of the world; and it cast no shadow.


"Do you know that vessel?" said the beAt.


"From what I saw of it," Kirk said, "it


looked like an Orion pirate lander. The mothership


would have been up in orbit somewhere."


"Yes," said the beAt.


Kirk shook his head. "How did you do that?" he




For the first time, he got an impression from


the beAt that felt like


uncertainty. It was very strange, from something that


until now had seemed solider than some mountains


Kirk had climbed. "I shall have difficulty


telling you," it said. "Tell me; where will you be




Kirk shrugged. "Back aboard my ship, I


suppose. I may be able to get down here again if


I can finish my other work." He looked around at the


sunny woods and said, "I'd like that, if I could.


This is a nice place."


"Yes," said the beAt. But there was something faintly


troubled about its


voice. "Can you not make a picture for me of


where you will be tomorrow, as you have been doing of where you were at


other times?"


"A picture-?" Oh Lord, Kirk thought, the


creature's a concept telepath.


It's been in my head all this 149


time, seeing every image that's occurred to me. Heaven


only knows what I've shown it! This thing could


destroy us with a thought if it wanted to-


Then he shook his head. He could hear McCoy


saying very annoyed, Why does it always have to be a


thing? The creature shows no sign of


destroying anything . . . and it's had enough destruction


visited on it. "Sir," he said, "I


can't do what you're asking me. You're asking me


to predict the future.


Visualize it, yes, I can do that. I can


approximate future events in my


mind. But not one of all our peoples can truly


tell, reliably, as an act of will, what will


happen tomorrow. Or five minutes from now."


The beAt was quiet for a moment. "This will be our


difficulty," it said,


more to itself, Kirk thought, than to him. "Captain,


I must try to make you understand us a little now."


"Be my guest," Kirk said.


"So we shall be. I think that you perceive-the past-and


now-but not the


future. Am I right?"


Kirk sat down in the grass again-gratefully,


for he was feeling slightly weak-kneed after that sudden


episode in the dark-and said, "You mean you can perceive the




"Exist in it. Yes. To a limited degree."


"Holy cow," Kirk said softly.


"Pardon?" said the beAt.


Kirk laughed. "Sorry, the image


must have looked strange. And what about the past?"


"You saw for yourself," said the beAt.


"So I did." Kirk shook his head again. "This


ought to be impossible," he said, bemused. "Spock


will have a field day with you. The future shouldn't be


accessible, 150


by any rules we know. Even the Guardian of


Forever can't get at it."


The beAt paused a moment, perhaps looking at the


image in Kirk's mind. "That instrumentality is


operating on different principles," it said. "It


is only capable of managing one time-branch at a


time; its programming forbids


more, if I read correctly the way it


described itself to you. We are living in a way the


Guardian is not. All time-branches are


accessible, though the past ones are simpler


to access."


"Oh jeez, time," Kirk said, for in the midst of


all the excitement he had forgotten to check in with the


ship. "Sir, would you pardon me for a


moment? I won't go anywhere. I just need to talk


to my people."


"Of course, Captain."


He pulled out his communicator and


flipped it open. "Kirk to Enterprise. was


"Enterprise," Uhura's cheerful voice said.




are you doing down there, Captain?"


"No problems. How's the ship?"


"No problems up here either, sir. his


"Fine. Kirk out."


He put the communicator away, and leaned back


a little to gaze up again at the beAt. "Now then . .


. where were we?" Kirk rubbed his head for a moment.


"You were telling me that you people can visit the future."


"We live in it," said the beAt. "To a limited


extent, as I said. Also the past and the present, as you


perceive them."


"We were actually there, just then, weren't we? That was


the last time the Orion pirates attacked your




"How often has this been happening?"


"At irregular intervals for some six rounds of


our sun, now."


"That's more or less eight of our years. Sir-was


Kirk paused a moment. "I


really do wish you had a name," he said. "I may


not use it much, but it


would help to have something to think of you by."


The beAt looked at him, and suddenly had a


shadow again, which fell over


Kirk. "We have little use for them," it said. "The


others, the Ornae and the Lahit, sometimes call me


by words that mean the one who manages things, having


understood them."


"Chief," Kirk said. No, too


nonspecific. "Boss." No, too informal.


"Hmmm . . . Master." As in teacher, or


skilled proponent of some art. That sounded more like it.


"Master," said the beAt, "says it well."


"Fine. So these people have been raiding you for eight


years now-was Kirk


tried to fit that together with reports he had heard


concerning their


depredations in other parts of space. "They've come


a long way from their usual hunting grounds if


they're all the way out here. Then again," he


said, "it's possibly our more widespread


presence, and the Klingons', that has driven them away


from the more populated parts of the Galaxy." He


thought for a moment. "What are they after? Can you




"Every time they come here, they dig," said the Master.


It sounded rather bemused by that. "What for, I


could not say."


"It's not minable minerals," Kirk said. "Your




is poor in those. Then again, McCoy was getting


rather excited about the dirt earlier. And Spock


mentioned that the plant life here seemed rich in


medical alkaloids." That rang an


unfortunate bell. "It could be drugs," Kirk


said. "There are substances on some worlds that are


innocent enough in their own environment, but when used on


an alien species, are psychoactives of


greatly varying strengths. Such things bring huge


prices . . . and those who obtain and sell them


don't hesitate to kill." He shook his head.


"But it's just a guess."


"What I do not understand," said the Master, "is why


these Orion beings


feel it necessary to kill our people as they have been doing.


Surely they could take what they desire and depart


unharmed. There are many parts of this world with the same


plants, the same earth, but where none of us




"Sir, sometimes people like that just like killing. It's a


game to them. Or else they see it as fumigation .


. . cleaning an inconvenient infestation off


a world so they can more easily exploit it." Kirk's


mouth set in a


straight hard line. "The Orion pirates have


done that often enough before. Early on in their history, they


sometimes destroyed whole inhabited planets


simply because they weren't economically viable . . .


then us ed the


fragments to build Dyson spheres and


populate the increased areas with


slave labor. In a way, they did us a


favor . . . their behavior so


disgusted a lot of worlds that the profit motive went


out of style. There are a few holdouts, here and there.


But the pirates . . . I think they just like to kill."


The Master rumbled, a low slow sound that would have


made Kirk very nervous if he had thought it was being


directed at him. "I would tend to agree with you," it




Kirk stood up and started to pace slowly back


and forth among the flowers. "But you've told me that you



can exist in other times. That's a tremendous


advantage, or it should be. If you can exist in the


future, why can't you perceive the pirates coming, and


act to keep your people away from them? Or find


some way to stop them?"


Kirk got a sense of profound regret from the


Master. "Don't you think we would if we could?" it


said. "We can exist in the future, but we cannot act


on it or in it without withdrawing our presence from


present and past. We would have to live permanently in


the future, our own future, so that we might warn


ourselves in the present of any danger. To do so would be




give up life in the present, forever."


Kirk thought about that for a moment. "I guess living


in the future


wouldn't be any more healthy than living in the past,"


he said. "You're


right. There must be some other way."


"It is hard for us," the Master said. "We are


prepared to do that if we


must. We are, in our way, the guardians of the


Ornae and Lahit. They share our perception of


time, but not the wider view; they can live in past and


present and future, but in only one at a time . .


. not all at once. They are innocents, with their own


concerns-mostly one another, discovering


their differences and likenesses. There are many."


"There certainly are," Kirk said.


"That's partly what brought us here-we know of no other


place where three species so different all






The Master seemed gently amused by that. "Yes,"


it said, "we enjoy it-this discovering how different others


can be, while still being alike at root. Life is


a joy because of it."


"I think I understand you," Kirk said. "Though


it's possible I'm deluding myself." He shook his


head. 154


"Your ability to coexist among times alone is


going to raise a lot of


questions. Especially since you seem able to extend the


effects to others. You may find yourselves having a lot


of visitors . . . not just Orion


pirates." He clasped his hands behind him as he


paced. "There must be some way to put a stop to that,




"We should be glad to hear of it," said the Master.


McCoy sat in the center seat, holding onto his


temper with both hands.


"Kaiev," he said, "I'll tell you again. I


have better things to do with my time than go killing your


crewpeople. I don't care how they go


running all over the planet with their little toy diggers


and I don't know what all. If they've vanished,


that doesn't surprise me. I told you that


strange things were happening down there, but you wouldn't


listen to me-oh no. We've had people vanish too, and


we don't know where they are."


"How many?" Kaiev demanded. "When?"


"Classified information," McCoy said. "You should


know better than to ask. And I don't care if it


means taking our statement on trust. You'll just


have to deal with it. If you don't believe me, and you


want to make


something of it, you just go right ahead."


McCoy looked at Sulu and Chekov


meaningfully, and threw a glance over at Scotty.


He could see that the screens were already up, and Sulu


brought up the little firing sight on his console.


Kaiev could see all this, and was having a hard time


keeping his face still.


"Now son," McCoy said, "I'm an


easygoing man, but you have an attitude


problem. If you force me to, I'll be glad


to adjust it for you,


permanently. Make up your mind."


He was very glad Kaiev couldn't see


how his hands were sweating.


It was very quiet over on the Klingon bridge.


"About what?" Kaiev finally said.


McCoy smiled. "About whether you're going


to cooperate with us. We'll send down some extra


search parties and help you look for your people. We have this


place a lot more completely mapped than you can have just


yet; that may be an advantage. Also, we'll do


some analysis on their sensor traces and see if


we can't find out where they went. We haven't had much


luck with finding our own missing yet, but we'll share


what we've discovered with


you. Spock," McCoy said, looking over his


shoulder, "make up a data packet about that odd


radiation and see to it that the Science Officer over there


gets it, will you? Thanks."


He turned to the screen again and smiled. "Anything


else you need, Kaiev?" The Klingon commander


looked at McCoy with an expression that was


difficult to decipher completely, but there was a lot


of perplexity in it. "Before, was he said, "you mentioned


that some of your people had been-eaten by trees- His


McCoy raised an eyebrow. "Tell your people


to leave their chain saws home, Kaiev," he said.


"McCoy out."


Uhura ended the transmission. Spock came


down to stand by McCoy, and


favored him with a look of mild annoyance.


"Doctor," he said, "have you any idea of the


weapons ability of a Klingon battle cruiser?"


"Enough to know that he can't take us one to one,"


McCoy said, "not with our screens up and with our fingers


on the button. Which is where we will stay, 156


until this situation has become calmer. It may


take a while. Yellow alert


until I say otherwise."


"Noted, Doctor." But Spock had not finished


being admonitory yet. "I must ask, however, why


you are being so provocative."


"I'm being nothing of the sort," McCoy said.


"Spock, it's pure Klingon


psychology, or as close to it as an Earthman


is going to get at the moment. Snarl first, and louder,


and never let up. Out-aggress the aggressor, and he


falls over and shows you his throat. It works for


wolves. And there are aspects of Klingon


behavior that suggest that "pack' psychology is




effective with them."


Spock still looked dubious. "You were


showing dangerous signs of enjoyment, Doctor," he


said. "Would you care to comment on the chance that you are


taking out your own anger at this situation on the




McCoy laughed. "Why, of course I am,


Spock. That's one of the things


emotion is best for to use as a tool,


consciously, to achieve a goal.


One's own emotions, of course. In your case,


I speak theoretically." He


smiled; Spock looked at the ceiling.


McCoy was satisfied by this result. It would be a


poor day for him, even under these horrendous


circumstances, if he couldn't manage to tease


Spock a little.


"Meantime," he said, "I have to start putting together


some more


information for Starfleet; they're going to be wanting


my log extracts,


damn them. Have you found out anything else about that




"There continue to be minor incidences here and there on


the planet


surface," Spock said, "but again, none of them


seems attributable to any specific


event 157


that I can identify. I shall continue working on the


problem. But you should know," he said, "that I have had a


look at the heat and radiation scans for the area in which


the Klingons disappeared, and the traces are identical


in nature to the remnants left by the Captain.


Whatever the instrumentality is that is operating here, it


is the same in both cases."


"Wonderful," McCoy said. "So something now


has both Kirk and a batch of


Klingons in the same playpen. I needed something


like this to put my mind at ease."


"There is of course no evidence that any such thing


has happened-was


"Spock," McCoy said, "I will bet you a




Spock raised his eyebrows. "Do you mean


to indicate an actual coin?"


"Just so happens that in my quarters, carefully


secreted from prying eyes, I have a genuine


buffalohead nickel, dated 1938 old date.


I bet you that nickel that the Captain and the Klingons


are going to wind up in the same place. And,"


McCoy said, "T bet you that Jim is going


to run rings around them."


"If I lose this bet," Spock said, "I will


be unable to redeem the amount in question. I am afraid


I do not have any nickels."


"That'll do," McCoy said. "Here, give me that


padd. I've got to think of something that'll sound good


enough to keep Starfleet off my neck for the next few




"Are you expecting something to happen in that time?"


Spock said.


"Spock, with my luck, something will. You just




Katur was a young officer, but experienced in many


landings in her time. She prided herself on her ability


to cope with the unexpected. She had seen many things that


had been the deaths of those less prepared than she,


those less ready to react in a second, to kill


quickly and without undue


consideration of the consequences. Too much thinking,


Katur felt, was bad for the pulse rate.


Reaction, reflex, swift and merciless, that was the


secret of survival . . . and advancement in




But she had not been prepared for anything like




The briefing with Commander Kaiev had been


brief and simple. "The place is full of


aliens," he had said. "There are indications that some of


them may be dangerous. Use due care, but do not


hesitate to make examples of them if you find it


necessary. Our intelligence indicates that this planet


is most likely a rich source of tabekh. You


are to search out the necessary raw


materials, and once identified, bring as much


back to the ship as possible. At all costs, stay


away from the Federation personnel. We do not desire


them to have any idea what we are after in this area,


lest they attempt to co-opt the resource.




Katur had understood all too well. There wo uld


be precious little glory on this landing. My mother did


not raise me to dig in the dirt like a menial, she


had thought, as she went to the Transporter room with the


others. But one must suffer in silence sometimes to gain


greater goals.


Katur frequently thought like that, in axioms and


wise sayings. It was a bad habit she had


acquired from her brother, who had died suddenly in


some world south of the Galactic Rift, when a


creature with too many teeth and no appreciation of


wise sayings had leapt on him from a tree


and bitten his head off. Katur had never cared much for


her brother, so she had been


little moved by this, except to take the occurrence as


an omen that wisdom was best left to others, and that


thinking too hard tended to distract one from what was going


on in the immediate vicinity. The wise sayings continued


to rattle about in her head, but she kept them to herself,


and did her best to ignore them.


Now she sat in the back of the all-terrain


vehicle and muttered to herself over Kesaio's


driving, which was certainly suitable for a muck-cart, but


nothing much better than that. The transporter had


put them down


practically in the middle of the Federation camp, and


they had had to


endure a great deal of staring and interest as they


made their way out of the clearing. That was another


problem-the lack of proper roads. The


Commander had forbidden them a


flyer, apparently thinking that the Federation commander, not


the famous


smooth-talking Kirk but some other officer, was


too easily antagonized, and might misconstrue


the flyer as being rather too handy should they decide


to attack the Federation landing parties.


That statement alone had made Katur's liver


twist in her. She despised


Kaiev, even when he was being prudent; perhaps more


than usual, then, for he so rarely seemed


to exercise good judgment at other times. He was


capable enough of being reckless when the foe was small and


helpless, which annoyed Katur. No honor in such


pretenses; enslave them and be done with it. But this


sudden careful courtesy being 160


exhibited by Kaiev in the face of


Enterprise's puny guns annoyed Katur


considerably. It was a great pity that the ship had


been prepared for them. All it would have taken was a


moment's surprise to add glory to all their


names. Glory, and an early end to this tour of


duty in the middle of nowhere at all.


Instead, they were forced to act meekly, and drive out


through the


Federation people. And even worse, through the aliens.


"I would shoot them all," Katur muttered to herself.


"Look at these disgusting things."


"I am trying not to," said Helef, who was


sitting beside her and glowering. And it was understandable, for they


were revolting. Half of them were like fat bags of


sickly colored jelly; the other half were


dumb plants, except they had little cold eyes that


made it plain they were watching you, and thinking no one


knew what.


"I will take an axe to one of them yet,"


Katur said under her breath. "Why is it that everywhere


we go, we keep finding these things? Does the idiot


Universe have nothing better to do than to keep creating


more and more


life? And most of it not worth conquering." She


shuddered. "All simple


life, no sophistication about it, no elegance,


no grand passions. The


Universe is hopelessly pedestrian,




Helef shrugged and looked away. He was no


philosopher at the best of times. Kesaio took


them out of the clearing along a narrow, bumpy path.




branches whipped at their faces; they ducked, and


Kesaio and Tak in the


front seat all swore. Katur longed to see


the day over with. Digging tabekh like any servant,


she thought. Someone ought to call challenge on Kaiev


for this, and cut his liver out. Except we need the


stuff, I suppose. It had 161


indeed been three weeks now since any of them


had had tabekh, and there had already been several


murders aboard ship as one crewmember or another




out and killed another for his or her supply.


To happen on a planet that was a source was incredible


luck, and had to be exploited. But Katur was


intensely annoyed at having been sent to do the




They came out into another clearing and went roaring


across it. And then something happened. Katur was not


sure of the details even later, when she had time


to think about matters, but it seemed as if suddenly there


was a stone in the middle of the clearing, where previously


there had been none. She had little more time to consider the


problem, as she was pitched out of the vehicle over the




She was well-taught enough to hit the ground rolling,


and a moment later she was on her feet, sidearm out,


looking for the others. They were all


lying about in various states of disrepair.


Kesaio was sitting up groaning, with the blood coming


down from a good long scrape on his head. Katur


went and helped him up roughly by one arm. "A pity


you weren't killed," she


said, "but that's all right; the Commander will do that for you


when he


sees what you've done to the vehicle."


Kesaio wasn't up to much but groaning yet.


Katur went over to Helef,


pausing along the way to kick at one of the


pulse-diggers, which had come down and broken rather neatly


in two pieces. "Fine," she said. "We're going


to have to do all this by hand now." She helped Helef


up; he was stunned, that was all. "Tak?" she said.


"I'm all right," he said. "Katur, did you


see that? The stone got in front of us."


She stared at him. "You're addled. Here, pick


up your gun."


He picked up his sidearm, but at the same time


he was looking suspiciously at the rock.


"Katur, I mean it. It was somewhere else first, and


it moved."


"Nothing moved," she said scornfully. "Don't


be a fool. How should a rock move? Do you see


any marks in the grass, anything of the kind?"


"No, but-was


"Idiot," she said, and stalked away. Another


disappointment. She usually rather liked Tak, but if


he was going to start hallucinating on her,


there was no point in him.


Katur stared at the vehicle. A ruin. How


quickly everything could go to


pieces in the world. She had gone out with hopes of a


commendation for a task well done; now there would be


discipline for all of them. And still no tabekh.


The windshield of the vehicle was quite shattered.


Katur looked at it,


rubbing her slightly sore neck, and wondered how


she had managed to go


flying over it and not hit the rock.


Unless the rock had moved-


No, ridiculous. She went over to the other


digger and picked it up. It was still in one piece, but


whether it would function was another question.


"Come on, the lot of you," she said. "At least


we still have one of these


left. We'll get the damn tabekh anyway,


more than enough for everybody."


"What about the vehicle?"


"We'll tell the Commander that one of the wretched


tree-things got in front of it," Katur said.


"Rocks we can't explain except by people's




She glowered at Kesaio. "But we can


catch one of the trees 163


and make it look as if the alien got clumsy.


Nothing easier. Here, take


this," she said, and handed the surviving pulse-digger


to Helef.


He took it with ill grace, but he had no


choice; she was most senior.


"Here," she said, "give me your scanner." He


handed that over reluctantly as well. He had


spent time making special alterations in it, and


disliked having his settings fiddled with. She knew it,


and delighted in


discomfiting him. Katur changed the


reading-slides until they suited her, then did an


allaround scan.


"There," she said. "There's a positive trace.


Northnorthwest, no more than four thousand paces


away. We can make it in an hour or so, I should


think. Come on, let's get this over with."


They set off north-northwest, up toward the


bluegreen hills. A long soft afternoon, blue with


haze and the planet's idiosyncratic


chlorophyll, was settling over everything. Katur,


uncaring, was blind to it.


Another thing she also did not see, that she


might have cared rather more about, was the rock, which was following




KIRK WAS SITTING in the shadow of the Master


of the beAt, thinking hard.


Afternoon was setting in; the light was changing from the


odd coolstwarm


mixture of the morning to earlier day to something almost


wholly warm,


though blues and greens were still predominant. The


brassy light of


Flyspeck's sun was shading down to old gold


through the still air. In the


trees leading up to the hills northward, birds


were beginning to sing, or


something that would have passed for birds. The song was


muted, abstract,


and slightly melancholy. It reminded Kirk of


nightingale bats, or chickadees in winter, and it


suited his mood, and the feeling of the place,




The Master had not spoken for some time. Kirk


leaned back against its


bulk-it had told him it didn't mind-and


waited. One feeling he had been


getting steadily, ever since he had


beamed down, was that there was no


point in rushing this process. This was exactly


what the Enterprise had


come for-the diplomacy, taking place in a rather


different manner than 165


he had originally imagined, but taking place


nonetheless, and requiring the same care and attention as


if the usual forms were being observed. Pity more


diplomacy can't take place like this, though, Kirk


thought. Sitting out in the fresh air and the sunshine is


a lot more pleasant than being stuck in


stuffy meeting rooms and bureaucratic


cocktail parties.


He kept finding himself looking around, though, as if


to reassure himself that the day would not suddenly give


way again to a night full of bombs and phasers.


There was no question in his mind that he had been there,


physically. It begged an interesting question could the


beAt affect others' physicalit y, as well as their


own? It seemed likely. But he would need


Spock later to help him work on answers to that


question, and many others. There was no doubt that the Federation


would be very, very keen to get


Flyspeck in.


He could not allow that to concern him, however.


His business was to


discover whether membership in the Federation would be as


good for the


beAt-and the Ornae and the Lahit-as it would be from the


Federation's point of view. If it wasn't, he was


going to tell the Federation to go take a


flying leap. Theoretically, if that was his decision,


they would support him.




He sighed and thought again of that horrible night full


of carnage. "I


think I can understand," he said after a while, "why


you're in the mood to be a little cautious of aliens."


There was a silence. Then the Master said, "Can you?


Can you indeed?"


Its tone of voice was curious, and made him


wonder if he had been missing something. Kirk said,


"You're 166


implying that there may be reasons for your caution that


I don't understand as yet. Nothing is more likely.


But I don't know what questions to ask as


yet, sir, to get the right answers."


"Nor do I," said the Master. "I suppose


we'll just have to play Galactic Twenty Questions


until we both discover what we need


to know."


Kirk chuckled. As they had been talking, the


beAt's idiom was becoming more and more fluent, even


witty. Kirk supposed it was picking this up from his


mind somehow, catching snatches of other people's conversation


as he


remembered them in the course of his own talking and


thinking. "That's as good a name for this as any," he said.


He stretched. "It's a pleasure to have the time


to ask the questions


today," he said. "I feel a lot less


pressured than usual." He cocked an eye up


at the beAt. "That wouldn't be your doing, would it?"


The beAt hesitated-Kirk was growing able to hear


its hesitations now-and


said, "I couldn't answer that until I was certain


I knew what you meant by doing. I would have to tell you


everything I do, I suppose."


Kirk was amused. "And what do you do?"


"Watch the world, mostly."


"No different from most of us. Except we have to do


things about what we see happening. Not always the right


things, I'm afraid."


The beAt made a long slow rumble that Kirk was


coming to recognize as


agreement. "You do a lot of doing, was it said.




"It must be strange," said the Master, "to spend so


much of your time in the present."


Kirk laughed outright at that. "We're kind of


stuck with it. The future is a closed book . .


. the past is frozen. The present is all we've


got to


work with."


"Very strange," said the Master. "Time as you conceive


it is a little


place, it seems. A box. You sit in the


present moment, with everything


outside the box inaccessible to you."


"We get out," Kirk said slowly. "But only


occasionally. Dreams . . .


there's no time there. A hundred things happen in


an eyeblink."


"Yes," the Master said, "that is the way it is."


"There was a saying on Earth, among some of the early


philosophers, that time was Nature's way of


keeping everything from happening at once."


The Master rumbled with amusement again. "What a


quiet context you must


exist in," it said. "A simple






"But do you see," said the Master, "what our


caution is founded in? Here our people have this


perception of time as a whole thing, unbreakable; a


field that we live in, and move through at will;




sun, trees, wind. Now comes a species that


tells us that


all other species, nearly, live in boxes,


and let in the


sun only a blink at a time, glance at a star


only once in


a while. Should that not seem unutterably strange




us? Frightening? And should we not fear that the


species we live with, and care for-the Ornae and the


Lahit-might somehow catch this view from contact


with these other beings, be contaminated by it? Might


we not fear that our friends, who see the world mostly


as we do, might themselves crawl into the boxes, and


come to ration their perception of the world to the


occasional breath of air, a glimpse of


sunlight through


the cracks?" It sounded grave. "I


think that would be a mistake in our




"You would be right there," Kirk said. "But you have no


guarantee it would happen. You might as easily


become enriched as impoverished. Think of the other


side of the question. People from a hundred worlds coming here-as


many new, strange ways of thinking as you can


imagine; more than that. For strangeness doesn't always


have to be terrible. We got over that fear,


though it took us a long time. Some of the most


different of us are the


best friends. Maybe there's something to what people say


where I come from, that opposites attract, that people as


unlike as they can be have nothing to argue about, and get


along the best of all, much better than people who are more




"Like your friends the Klingons."


Kirk laughed. "We may be a little too alike


for our own good. We were both bred from predator


species. Are there any predator species on this


planet?" he said, for he could feel the Master's


momentary confusion. "Creatures


that live off other creatures, by actual ingestion


of their tissue, or by taking something belonging to the other


creatures from them?"


The beAt shuddered. Kirk did too, in


sympathy; perhaps the Master was


leaking emotion a little, for its wave of shock and


revulsion went straight through him. What was the image


in my mind? he wondered, for he had never even


noticed. Lions on the veldt? Or something




"We have nothing of the kind here," said the Master, and


there was an


undertone of unhappiness in its voice, "though I


have heard of the concept. This, then, would also go far


to explain the behavior of your 169


Orion pirates, if they are descended from


predators too."


"Hominid stock," Kirk said. "I'm afraid


so. Most hominids had


ancestor-creatures that hunted and killed


to live. The habit is in our


genes. It's hard to break. Some of us choose


to break it. Some delight in the killing, and see no


problem in that. We try not to judge them by our


standards." Kirk sighed. "We have trouble enough living


by our own."


"You can see," said the Master, "the difficulty


I would have in justifying contact with such kinds


of creatures."


"Justifying to whom?" said Kirk.


There was another of those long pauses. "I will have


difficulty explaining that," it said, though there was an


undertone to its rumbling that sounded almost cheerful.


Kirk shook his head. "Never mind, then. It can


wait till later. I'm more concerned about the


pirates. They're bound to come back again. They'll


keep coming back until they've drained your planet


of whatever resource they


started coming here for. And they'll kill more of your people,


and the


Ornae and Lahit, in the process."


"Oh, they haven't killed any of my people. We


are hard to kill," said the Master.


"I just bet!" Kirk said. You could drop a


planetcracker bomb on a creature that could put


its physicality in abeyance; and when it came


back, not a vein of its stone would be out of place.


"But the others . . . yes. I would prevent that, if


it could be prevented."


Kirk weighed his next words for a few seconds.


"This might be one advantage that being in the 170


Federation could offer you," he said. "One of the things


we cooperate in is protection. If it


became known that your world was affiliated with our


Federation, odds are that the pirates would avoid you.


We have had run-ins with them before." Kirk smiled,


and the smile was grim. "Generally not to


their advantage."


"You were telling me," said the Master, "that you thought


perhaps the


reason they were coming here was because they had been driven


out of other spaces comby you and the Klingons. Should you


come here, then perhaps they would be driven farther out-to some


other world even less able to defend itself. Some world that


your people would see no advantage in defending. For


clearly you see advantage in us."


"I can't deny that," Kirk said.


"I would find it hard," said the Master, "to take


on my conscience the


burden of deaths on another world. This one is


problem enough."


Kirk had to see the logic in that. So much for the


diplomatic initiative, he thought unhappily.


I have a feeling these people are going to say no to us at the


end of the day. Regardless, something has to be done


to help




"This predation," the Master said, thoughtful,


"seems unusually widespread. One wonders if


something could be done about it."


Kirk smiled slowly. "I'm sitting here trying


to think of ways to help your people," he said, "and you're


trying to think of ways to help mine."


"Well, who wouldn't?"


"The Klingons, for one."


"Yes," the Master said, still thoughtful. "But that's


their problem. They cannot help their genes any more 171


than you can. One must transcend such things, not try


to deal with them by simple removal. Removal never


turns out to be permanent, or effective."


"So we found out, sometime back in our history,"


Kirk said. "Mastery is


better than change, as a rule. And usually more




"Yes, was said the beAt, and the earth round about shook


with its agreement. .kirk steadied himself until the


bouncing stopped. I


have the feeling I've just missed something


significant, he thought. I wish I knew what


it was. "In any case," Kirk said, "the


Klingons don't seem


particularly interested in transcending their heredity.


They appear to be


very fond of it." He shrugged. "Their choice."




"At any rate, I thank you for trying to think of


ways to help us. But I


think that we would probably not benefit unless we


impl emented the help




"I was going to say something similar to you," said the


Master, and Kirk could feel it smiling, though there was


not the slightest change in the


contours or terrible weight of that great tall stone.


"And you see, if we had to depend on others for our


protection, our-sufficiency-would be


impaired. Never again would we, or the other


species, be quite whole. It might be better to die,


than to lose that wholeness. It is all we have,




"Live free, or die," Kirk murmured.


"Yes," said the Master of the beAt. "That is the


choice to be made, I




"And you will be making it," said Kirk.


"Oh, I have made it, eventually," the Master


said. "I just don't know what it is yet."


Kirk sighed. Every now and then the




tenses became confused, but it had something to do with the


beAt's odd


perception of time, rather than a glitch in the


Translator. "Well, let me


know when you find out," he said.


"You will be the first to know," said the beAt. "And


possibly the last. Tell me something, if you would."


"Certainly," Kirk said, thoroughly confused.


"The other ship-tell me about that."


"Oh, our initial survey vessel," Kirk


said. "They were under orders not to reveal where they came


from or what they were doing here. I have regrets about that,


in retrospect," he said. "It seems a childish


way to treat


another intelligent species. Unfortunately,


I don't make the policies; my job is


to carry them out."


"Not that ship," the beAt said. "The other ship in


orbit, the one with the name Ekkava on its hull.


There are not as many people aboard it as there are aboard your


vessel, but the ship seems to be carrying many more of the


energy-directing devices than yours does."


Kirk broke right out in a cold sweat.


BonesYA-ND my ship, with a green


officer in the helm, one that no one else will be able


to relieve because of my orders. "Ekkava-that sounds


uncomfortably like a Klingon ship," he said.


"Sir, I need to contact my ship." He pulled


out his communicator and flipped it open. "Kirk


to Enterprise. his


The result was a horrendous electronic


squeal that he had heard before, and it raised the hair


on the back of his neck-not with delight, either.


"Jammed," he muttered. "What the devil are


they up to?"


"They appear to simply be orbiting at the


moment," said the Master. "I can tell you this in


certainty your ship is in no danger from the




"If you don't mind," said Kirk, "I'd rather be


the judge of that."


"A moment only. We have been discussing the


Klingons mostly in the


abstract," said the Master. "Do you consider them as


bad as Orion pirates?" Kirk had to think about


that for a moment. "There are more of them," he


said, "and they're less cautious, and more violent,


in more straightforward ways. Usually they're better


armed. But they're usually more predictable.


We know each other moderately well," Kirk




"So it seems. Well, they are here, and I


suppose they must be entertained as well." The


Master sounded to Kirk more like a host who's worried


about the hors d'oeuvres running out than a


creature with what might be the


beginning of an invasion force sitting on its


doorstep. "What would you


recommend we do?" Kirk frowned furiously


at the nonfunctional communicator, and put it


away. "Probably," he said, "get ready for a




Captain's Log, Supplemental. Commander


Leonard McCoy recording in the


absence of Captain James T. Kirk


(oh Lord, Jim, where the hell are you?)


Conditions remain largely unchanged since our


last log entry. We are


keeping a channel open to the Klingon vessel


to keep them reassured that we harbor no ill Will


against them, and continue to check in with them


regularly regarding their missing crewmen. No


sign has been found of their people as yet, or of


Captain Kirk, though our searches have


extended to include three of the other continents and the


Waters off the continent on which most of our researches


have been done. Mr. Spock continues to


investigate odd radiation readings and other


slightly unnatural phenomena that he feels may


shed some light on the method used to remove the


Captain. The Ornae and Lahit on the planet


continue to insist that the Captain is present and


unhurt, though they are unable to prove this, or


to tell us how they know.


Meanwhile, datagathering continues on the


planet, though many personnel have been diverted


to searching for the Captain. We have rediscovered


penicillin eighteen times, streptomycin and


hemomycetin three times, and have isolated several very


promising antifungal and antibacterial agents.


The planet also seems to harbor some plant life


that occurs on planets a good ways away, such as


snortweed, which as far as we knew only grew on


Delta Orionis Eight. Other specimens have


also been found and identified, leading some members of


Botany to suggest that the Preservers may indeed have


been out this way, but may have transplanted


vegetative plant species rather than the usual


intelligent animal-descended ones, and


may have used the planet as a greenhouse rather than a


zoo breeding program. The


interest of this planet continues to increase. My


only wish is that the Captain were experiencing it from


up here, rather than wherever he is.


McCoy handed the recorder to Uhura. "Did that


sound all right?" he said. "You're getting the hang


of it," she said. "Thanks, Doctor. This will go out


with the next transmission in a little while."


"Good." He frowned a little. "Aren't we due for


another love letter from Starfleet pretty soon?"




"Oh, wonderful." He was feeling the dread in the


pit of his stomach, a


feeling he hadn't experienced since he was in


grammar school, sitting and waiting for what he


knew would be a failing report card to be put


into his hands to take home.


"Don't panic yet," Uhura said. "They'll


have your last reply at this point, but it's going


to take five hours for them to get this one and figure


out what you've 175


been doing with what they told you. Maybe something will


happen between now and then."


"Maybe," he said, not wanting to rain


on Uhura's parade. But he had a


feeling that if anything was going to happen, it was on


that little spark of light that was trailing them two


hundred klicks back in orbit. It made his


back itch. Several times now he had considered


telling Sulu to slow


their orbit so that the Klingons would slip in front


of them. But he had restrained himself. The Enterprise


could fire just as well backward as


forward, and as for the Klingons, any sudden move on


Enterprise's part


might make them nervous. No use doing anything


that might alter the


delicate balance that presently prevailed.


"Spock," he said, looking over his shoulder,


"anything new?"


Spock was bent over his station's viewer, intent.


He straightened up slowly and said, "I am . . .


uncertain, Doctor."


"How uncertain?"


Spock came down to stand beside the center seat.


"Doctor," he said, "you said that high-energy


physics was a little "over your head." How far


over?" McCoy shrugged. "I understand the basics;


you have to, to understand most of the diagnostic


imaging systems we use in Sickbay. I can fix


our little cyclotron when it breaks down, but that's about


the size of it."


Spock nodded thoughtfully. "I have been doing some


time-lapse scanning of the planet surface," he


said, "concentrating on the area where the Captain went


missing. I keep locating Z-particle decay


of a certain kind, the kind associated with tachyon


incursion in atmosphere."


That surprised McCoy a bit. Tachyons were




heralds of particles that had been traveling at more


than the speed of


light, and had slowed down and so become perceptible


in the "real"


timeframe; their high red shift always gave them


away. "That's curious," he said. "What do you


make of it?"


"I have no theories as yet," Spock said. "But


we have come across these


particular kinds of decay before."




"On the planet of the Guardian of Forever."


McCoy raised his eyebrows. "The characteristic


decay patterns are all


there," Spock said. "Typically they were found when


the Guardian had just been active in engineering a




"You think there's another Guardian down there?"


He swallowed. No question but that the Klingons would be


interested in that. "Is it buried somewhere? Is that why


our friends down there were out with their digging gear? Maybe


we were wrong in thinking they were hunting mineral




"Insufficient data," Spock said. "All I


have been able to determine is that the radiation decay is


the same. I must say that I doubt the Klingons have


had time to come to my conclusions."


That struck McCoy as small consolation, at the


moment. "Has something


grabbed Kirk and thrown him into some other timeline?"


he said. "Is that why the Ornae keep insisting


he's there . . . but can't produce him?"


"I cannot say. But I will continue my




McCoy brooded a moment, then said, "Have our people


down there been asking the Ornae if they know where the


Klingons are?"


"Yes, but the answers have not been conclusive.


They are still trying to get replies that make




Spock turned away. "Still no sign of the


beAt?" McCoy said.


"None, Doctor." And Spock went back


to his station.


McCoy sat back, watching the screen, which at


the moment was showing the main clearing down on the


planet. In the background of the picture Lt.


Kerasus was sitting with an Ornaet half in her


lap, talking a mile a minute to her tricorder,


and herself now using the scratchy noises the Ornae


used. Lia was off at one side, peering among the


branches of a grove of Lahit, using an


ophthalmoscope on their holly-berry eyes. The


eyes were foll owing her as she moved around, and goggling


at her. He smiled a bit through his annoyance and




TheeaAt are at the heart of this, somehow, he thought.


If Jim hadn't called me up just then, I would have


found out something about what's going on


here . . . I know it. Maybe I would have been the


one to disappear, but who cares about that? I d have found




1 hope.


Uhura glanced over at him.


"Doctor," she said, "we've got a


transmission coming in. I'm afraid it's




McCoy moaned. "I guess there's no use in


trying to avoid it. Let me have it live."


Uhura smiled demurely and said, "Yes,


sir." She touched a button.


The pleasant scene on the screen went away and


was replaced by, oh Lord, Delacroix. And


puns aside, he looked cross. He was sitting


in exactly the same position as he had been for the


previous message. 178


Does the man ever get out of that chair, I


wonder? But this time his face


looked as if he had been sucking Demons.


McCoy tried to be inconspicuous


about gripping the arms of the center seat.


" Starfleet Command, Delacroix, was he said.




Leonard McCoy, commanding Enterprise. Command


er, we confirm receipt of your last set of log


extracts and


data. As of this stardate, you are re-was


The picture broke up in a howl of noise and a


blizzard of static. Very


slowly, McCoy turned around and smiled at




"Nice job," he said. "Oh, Uhura, that was




"I didn't do it, Doctor," she said. "Much


as any of us might dislike the contents of the message,


I can't interfere with reception. Ethics."


McCoy sighed. "Yes, well then . . . what




And the horrible suspicion hit him. "Or who?"


"Checking," Uhura said. She turned her


attention to her board for a moment, touched a couple of


controls, and said, "I thought so. It's a jamming


signal, Doctor."


"Klingon?" he said.


She nodded.


"Never thought I'd be thanking them for some tilde


thing, but by Heaven, if I see Kaiev, I'll


buy him a jelly pastry," McCoy said.


Spock looked over at McCoy with a bemused


expression. "I am uncertain why you're


celebrating, Doctor," he said. "From the


syntactical construction we heard, the


probability is high that the Admiral was about


to relieve you."


McCoy stopped right where he was. He had been


so delighted not to have to take a scolding from


Delacroix that that hadn't occurred to him. His 179


mouth dropped open, and he said, "Damn.


Damn, damn, damn!


Then he stopped. "Wait a second," he said


to Spock, and advanced on him


with glee. "If you're so sure that that's what he


said, then you have to relieve me!"


"Doctor, I only said the probability was


high. One officer cannot relieve another on a


probability. The order must be heard. We did not


hear him




McCoy's scowl came back. "I'll kill


him," he said, turning to Uhura.


"Uhura, get Kaiev on the horn. I'm


going to give him such an ache in that bumpy head of


his-to "


"I take it the jelly pastry is off, then,"


Uhura said softly, and reached out to her console. Before


she could touch it, it beeped at her.


"Put it on screen," McCoy said angrily,


and swung to face it. It lit up


with Kaiev's face a moment later.


"Commander," McCoy said to him, "do you know that it's


not polite to


interfere with people's communications with home?"


Kaiev looked both annoyed and upset, and for a


moment McCoy found himself wondering whether he was


running up to another liver relapse; he was pale.


Kaiev said, "Commander, I have just received a number of


orders from our High Command-was


Oh boy, McCoy thought. It never occurred


to me that he would have his own bureaucracy breathing down


his neck. I should have thought of that long


ago. I am really not cut out for this job-


"We have decided that you and the indigenous peoples of


this planet have


conspired in the kidnapping of our personnel. We


are also convinced that


your stories of missing personnel are a blind


to allow you to 180


stay in the area for reasons of your own, probably


treacherous. Therefore, if our crewpeople are not




turned to us within one of your standard days, was Kaiev


said, "7 am ordered to destroy your ship. Reinforce


ments are being diverted to this area. If you


attempt to leave without returning our people,


we will hunt you


down wherever you run, and blow you out of space. We


have jammed your communications to prevent your


calling for help. Since we are a peace-loving




and wish to give you a chance to rethink the conse


quences of your aggression against us, for the present


we will take no action against your landing parties on


the planet, and will allow you to recover them. But




Federation personnel found on the planet after the


one-standard-day time limit will be considered a casu


alty of the security action that will be mounted


to recover our own people. You may also wish to warn the


planet's inhabitants that should they repent their




sion with you, and assist in the return of


our personnel


to us, we will spare them. Otherwise we will kill




thousand of them for every one of our missing people,


and will continue to do so every standard hour until our


people are returned. Long live the Empire. was


And the


screen went black before McCoy could


get in a single




McCoy sat down and swiveled around to face


Uhura. "Are we jammed as he




"Yes, Doctor, we are. Subspace is


full of artificially generated black


noise. Not a thing we can do about it without leaving the


area. At the


strength they're using, not even a signal buoy


would do us any good within the time limit."


"Wonderful." A moment later he said, "Wait


a minute! They can't do this. The Organians-was


Spock shook his head. "Doctor, test cases


of whether or not the Organians will or will not


intervene, this far away from their home space, are very


thin on the ground. I should not care to rely on their


intervention. Would you?"


"Mmf," McCoy said. "Yes. Well, I


suppose the Universe helps those who help


themselves, eh, Spock?"


"The body of statistical data does indicate


something of the sort."


McCoy folded his hands and thought. "Look,


Spock," he said after a little, "will it help


you if we take some of the people who're doing general


survey work and get them looking for more of those


tachyon-Z particles?"


"I doubt it," Spock said, "but the decision is




McCoy could hear Spock's private thought


if it made McCoy feel better, it would do no


harm. "No," he said, "let them keep doing what


they're doing, then. Uhura, put together a buoy


anyway, and get it ready to take last


batches of information that the landing parties will be bringing




tomorrow at this time. The DNA'-ANALOG analyses


will be done by then, and that information in particular mustn't be


lost, if this whole mission isn't to be wasted."


"Yes, Doctor," Uhura said.


McCoy sighed. "Spock," he said,




"I should say that we are in a difficult


position," said Spock.


"Thank you ever so much. Analysis."


Spock looked thoughtful. "Kaiev's ship by itself


is not capable of taking on the Enterprise


successfully," he said. "But three or more ships


would be; and three 182


is the usual number of ships sent along on an


intervention of this kind.


With four-to-one odds against us, our ability


to leave the encounter without serious damage becomes


seriously impaired."


"Spock," McCoy said gently, "your bedside


manner is flawless. You mean,


we're all going to be blown to hell."


Spock hesitated, then nodded.


"Right. And if we run, they'll run after us . .


. with the same odds."


"They would. Tactically, our advantage


increases slightly if we remain in orbit.


Space battles in the close neighborhood of a


planet are a complex business, but the


opportunities for mistakes involving the


planet's gravity increase exponentially, and that


is to our advantage."


"If an experienced officer is directing the


fight," McCoy said softly.


Spock simply looked at him.


"Right," McCoy said. "Well, we can't do


anything else at the moment, so


we'll sit tight, and prepare ourselves the best we


can. If any suggestions occur to you, let


me know. Uhura, make sure a complete


recording of that last little lovenote goes in the


buoy. Spock, department heads" meeting


this evening. We'll want to make sure everybody


is as ready as they can be for this gymkhana."




McCoy got up. "I'm going to go off and have my


lunch," he said. "Call me if anything interesting




"Yes, sir," Uhura said.


McCoy got into the turbolift; the doors


shut, and he waited for his shaking fit to start. It


declined. "Oh 183


hell," he said. "Don't tell me I'm


getting used to this now. his


As far as he was concerned, this was a bad, bad




Katur tossed the digger to the ground and said words that


would probably have astonished her mother. "We must have


come half a kalikam," she said, "and there's nothing


to be found. What do they mean, sending us on a mad


chase like this?"


The sentiments were treacherous, but none of the other


members of the party seemed inclined to disagree with her.


She sat down on a big rock and looked


around her. This was a wretched planet. Ugly


colors, hot dry atmosphere, dim little sun-a


waste of time. And they were stuck down here, and the ship


hadn't answered their last call. Katur supposed


there was something wrong with the ship's transmitter again.


It wouldn't be the first time, or the last.


"Never mind that," she said to Tak, who was slogging


on up the hill as if he still meant to obey orders.


"Come back down, Tak. There's no point."


"I think I see something up here," he said. "It


looks like the right color of leaves."


"Oh, go ahead," she said. "Let us know if


it's tabekh after all." I hope it's not, you


miserable little sycophant...


"I wonder why all these rocks look so much


alike," Helef said. He was


leaning against one, mopping at his face. Helef was


soaked with sweat;


typical of him, Katur thought. He had not been


in shape since he was first assigned to the ship, knowing


that no one cared about his physical


condition as long as he completed his duties and did


not bother the ship's physician by becoming ill.


Helef was soft. But this had its advantages


as well. One who knew his weakness could


exploit it when necessary.


"What about the rocks?" Katur said, looking


back down the valley, the way they had come.


"They all look alike. See this one-was He


squinted up at the one he was


leaning against. "It looks almost exactly like the one


that Kesaio hit."


She glanced at it and away . . . then looked


back. Odd, but it did bear a resemblance to that


other standing stone. And there was another one farther up the


hill that looked similar-several of them, in fact.


"Someone else must have lived here once," she said.


"None of those jellybag things, or the trees, could


put up anything like that. They haven't enough technology


to crack nuts."


"Foul things," Helef muttered.


She nodded, wondering why the Federation people were so


eager to bother


with aliens at all. She had heard a theory that the


Feds had such an


inferiority complex that they had to consort with


animals to make


themselves feel like real people. That made a kind of


sense. All she knew for sure was that she would rather


die than so lower herself.


Tak was running down the slope, waving his arms and


shouting something.


Katur looked up in surprise.


"It's tabekh, it's tabekh! Not where I thought


it was; farther up. There's not much of it, just a little




Well, that's something. We won't be whipped when


we get back for completely failing in what we were


sent to do. But I for one will be sure that Kesaio


has to account for the vehicle. Katur sighed, picked


up the digger, and


began to walk up toward Tak.


Then she turned around, blinking. For a moment


she had been sure something had moved behind her. There


was nothing, though. She turned again . . . and found


another rock in front of her.


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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