McCoy stared down at the unconscious body of Captain James T. Kirk. Despite all the doctor’s skill, five minutes beforehand the theta brain wave had ceased. Kirk’s breathing too was becoming deeper as if it took a great deal of effort to take a breath.
“Your effort is wasted, Doctor,” Spock was standing in the doorway.
McCoy turned and snapped, “Your precious logic, Spock?”
“No Doctor. Reason. You have done everything in your power to save the Captain and he is still dying.” Spock paused, “therefore your effort is wasted.”
“When you’ve finished quoting your precious ‘Reason’ to me Spock, perhaps you’d care to cast your mind back to the oath I took upon becoming a doctor!”
“I am aware of that,” Spock replied, “but despite my demeanour, Doctor, this is not easy for me, nor do I revel in telling you of what you must already be aware. Since we are dealing in facts, the facts are that James Kirk is dying.”
“If that’s all you came to say Spock, you can leave me alone to try and save him.” McCoy’s tone was caustic.
Spock replied, “One final hope is the Vulcan Science Academy. I know that their techniques of late have improved tremendously, they have even managed to regenerate brain cells and nerve axons - perhaps -” he left the words unspoken but McCoy grasped the fleeting hope.
“Yes, Spock. Yes! Will you order a course change to Vulcan?”
“Anticipating your answer in the affirmative, I have already done so, Doctor.” Spock replied.
Half a day later Kirk lay silent in a single room, his condition had deteriorated further. M’Benga looked up at the overhead monitor and shook his head, only the omega wave was flickering now.
“Leonard,” he said softly, “there’s nothing anyone can do, he’s dying.”
McCoy stared at his Captain and friend of more than ten years and uttered one word, “When?”
“One, maybe two days it’s hard to say,” M’Benga replied, “once we’ve hooked him up to a parental fluid system his condition should stabilise – but I give him a week at most.”
Suddenly McCoy collapsed, Spock caught and held him as easily as one supports a child. M’Benga turned to the nurse, she stared back, her dark eyes wide, “T’Kar,” he said softly, “Can you put a Saline i.v. up, there’s an attachment on his arm. Stay here and call me if anything happens tonight.” A small smile touched his lips, “Don’t worry. I’ll be back soon.”
T’Kar walked out with them and slipped into the medical cabinet, she returned with the bag of saline, T’Kuht, the moon of moonless Vulcan had risen and she caught a glimpse of it as she passed one of the windows, hanging like a balloon in the night sky.
The ventilator was still pumping oxygen into Kirk’s flaccid lungs, T’Kar surveyed the encephalograph and saw that even the omega wave was beginning to fail, the peaks and troughs of each wave were flattening out and each wave was less pronounced. T’Kar hooked the saline up and watched the solution beginning to drip into the vein.
Gently she laid her hand along the side of his face, pity welling up within her, not just for this man but for the one that Dr. M’Benga had called ‘Leonard’. There was no movement from the supine figure on the bed and she looked up at the brainwave display. The omega brainwaves had stabilized but the others remained flat and she knew, as Dr. M’Benga had said, that it was just a matter of time. She stroked the hair away from his forehead and sighed again, she hated the Death Watch which essentially was what this was, I wish I could do something, She thought helplessly.
M’Benga was as good as his word, within five minutes he was back in the room. T’Kar stood up as he entered, “You know why I’ve asked you to stay here,” he said gently.
“To show me that we can’t save everyone,” T’Kar’s face became troubled.
M’Benga nodded, “It is something every doctor, nurse and healer must face sooner or later. Will you stay with him tonight? I would like you to even if you feel uncomfortable.”
“I will,” T’Kar replied, her voice thick.
M’Benga smiled again, “Well done. I do not expect him to pass soon, but within the next few days.”
She swallowed hard and nodded, wishing with all her heart and soul that she could do something. M’Benga left soon after and the hospital had settled into silence and she could hear the occasional sound of footsteps in the corridor. T’Kar had the feeling that her room was being avoided like the proverbial plague.
Moving across to the bed she took the PADD and looking at the panel above the bed wrote down some readings and then replaced it. She wondered about this man again, she’d seen how much the one called ‘Leonard’ cared about him, and although Vulcans were taught to control emotion, she’d seen the depth of grief in Spock’s eyes and the tense lines of his face that belied his sorrow.
Again she laid her hand on the side of his face, “I am sorry,” she murmured, glad that none of Vulcan could see this display of emotion, “I wish we could have saved you.”
As she lifted her hand from his face a trail of blue-white light followed it and the monitor above the bed bleeped suddenly. Puzzled she looked up and saw that the omega brainwave seemed to have steadied, the peaks and troughs seemed more pronounced, clearer.
Shaking her head to clear it, she turned back to the PADD, she ought to note down the improvement in the omega wave at least, and then she heard the voice, Touch him.
Her head jerked up and she looked around wildly for the source, Touch him, the voice whispered again.
Slowly, reluctantly, almost as if she was afraid of the consequences she laid her hand along the side of his face, and watched with a mixture of horror, disbelief and fascination as light seeped from beneath her palm to be absorbed into the body of this man.
The PADD dropped from nerveless fingers onto the floor and her other hand, now free, came up to rest on the other side of his face.
“Gukk,” she said, trying to speak but it was as if she was held in amber. Then her hands moved so that they rested on certain points on the unconscious man’s face which bore no resemblance to the Vulcan mind meld, and light began to creep up her legs and torso until she shone like a star.
A small part of her was wondering why the alarms weren’t going off, and that was the last conscious thought she had before she slid into his mind. At first it was fire and confusion and she had to fight her way up through scorching air and pain, then he was standing in front of her, a boyish, quizzical look on his face. Charmer, she thought wryly, and knew that he’d heard her.
Spinning away, she saw great cornfields and felt her heart clench. She had no memory of earth, despite the fact that half her heritage was there, but suddenly she knew the meaning of homesickness.
He too caught snatches of things. An injury during a trial of strength that she’d bound up and not mentioned to anyone only seeking a healer that night when all of ShiKahr was asleep. A tight lipped whiteness when other Vulcan children called her ‘half-breed’.
Dipping deeper she sensed the presence of another from a previous meld and was surprised and gladdened when she saw it was Spock, T’hy’la she heard him say, and for an instant she could see below Spock’s cool, crystalline exterior, and realised the strength of their bond, their loyalty and Spock’s pride.
Great trio we make, huh?He was standing in front of her again, but this time the fire and flames had gone, and they stood in what appeared to be an Iowa cornfield. Then she was back in herself again and looking through a shimmering veil into a pair of hazel eyes.
A sensation of something filling her throat almost overwhelmed her before she realised that it was the ventilator. Almost in a trance she looked down at him. James, she thought, a wave of joy bubbling up inside her. I must remove the tube, you have to help me.
A quick nod was the response and her second thoughts wondered how her body could operate while her mind seemed to be doing something else. She watched, almost incuriously as her hands gently removed the sticking plaster, and stared down into his eyes, I need you to cough as I begin to remove it. He nodded and she gently began removing the endotracheal tube, as she did so, his eyes met hers and as if responding to her command, a half cough erupted from his throat and with it came the end of the tube.
Thank you. A half-smile touched his lips and then his eyes closed. She sat still for a few moments her whole body shimmering with a blue-white silver skin, and then it began to run off her like water, some sinking into the floor and the remainder disappearing into the supine body of the man in front of her.
Somehow she found the strength to lift her head and stared in disbelief at the display above Kirk’s head, all the brain waves were active: alpha, beta, gamma, delta through to the epsilon, theta and omega ones.
She was suddenly seized with a totally irrational un-Vulcan impulse to stand up and cheer but she forced it down. Standing up she noticed the PADD on the floor and a plan began to take shape in her mind.
Sitting down in the chair she pressed the buzzer and contrived to look shocked. Dr. M’Benga and Mr. Spock burst in on her so quickly that T’Kar was sure they hadn’t been asleep. Then, Dr. M’Benga was leaning over her, his face concerned and the dark eyes filled with compassion,“Nurse are you all right?”
T’Kar would later say that it was the best performance of her life as she raised her head, “Yes, Doctor, I was sitting at my desk when everything went black. When I woke up I thought I ought to call you.”
Spock cleared his throat, “Look at him, Doctor.” M’Benga turned around slowly and stared, all the brain waves were flickering, and as he regarded the occupant of the bed, Kirk sighed in his sleep and turned over pillowing his head on his hand.
“I-I’m flabbergasted,” M’Benga said, “This is impossible! The man was dying!”
Spock turned to the Nurse, “Did you see anything?”
“I’m sorry,” T’Kar lied, “I thought after I regained consciousness I should call Dr M’Benga first.”
M’Benga eyed her thoughtfully, “I see.” He said dubiously.
T’Kar watched the two men guardedly, aware of the silence, punctuated only by the hissing of the disconnected ventilator. As if suddenly becoming aware of this, M’Benga walked across the room and switched the machine off.
Spock looked thoughtful and then he said, “This kind of happening sounds like one of the old legends about Vulcan. No-one even studies this philosophy now but while Surak was alive there was more than Kolinahr that an adult Vulcan could undertake, it was called Kahinahr. They say even today that beyond the mountains of l-langon lives one called the Shatry’a and that once every ten thousand years a new one is chosen to undertake the ritual of Kahinahr. They can hold back the curtain between life and death and even restore life to those dying-” Spock halted suddenly aware of the expression on M’Benga’s face. “We do not talk of this legend very much, the last Kahinahr’a was before even my father’s time - besides which if there was one who could heal everything then the whole of the universe would come to Vulcan to seek her out.”
Suddenly a half-stuporous Dr. McCoy shot into the room, “He’s dead, isn’t he!” Spock turned and caught him, he was firmly propelled to the side of the bed, Kirk stirred dazedly and opened sleepy eyes, “Bones,” he murmured, “I had the strangest dream.”
McCoy found his voice from somewhere and replied, “Jim. How d’you feel?”
A dry chuckle erupted from Kirk’s throat, “Like I’ve been jumped on a couple of times. You did a great job, Bones.”
Spock bent over him and gently laid the back of his first and index fingers against his eyebrow, “Do you remember anything, Jim?”
T’Kar watched Spock’s face and saw the tenderness in the gesture and in his eyes and was suddenly glad that whatever had erupted within her had done so tonight with this man.
A crooked smile touched Kirk’s lips, “it was a woman,” he whispered. “She blazed, like a comet. She had amazing eyes-” his eyes closed again and he was asleep.
T’Kar felt the tension drain from her body, M’Benga turned to her and said, “T’Kar, are you all right?”
“I’m feeling a bit tired,” T’Kar admitted.
“Go home,” M’Benga ordered, “All of us will spend the night here. In any case, you need rest. See you in the morning.”
“May I remain with this patient - I mean I know I shouldn’t have lost consciousness-”
M’Benga took her shoulders and replied, “There is no shame involved, you could not have prevented it.” The smile he bent on her was gentle,“go home, T’Kar. Tomorrow you may attend to him, will that satisfy you?”
T’Kar’s face became a mask and she inclined her head gracefully, “Forgive my outburst, thank you Doctor.”
“There is no need for thanks.” M’Benga replied, “the cause was sufficient.”
T’Kar left the hospital her heart singing. She placed her books in her car and drove herself home, then she sat down to attempt to study, after only ten minutes she stood up and walked across to the window. T’Kuht seemed so close that T’Kar felt she could reach out and touch it.
Suddenly her weariness dropped away from her and she was filled with the desire to go out onto the desert floor and dance beneath the moon. The flat was dark and silent as she crept downstairs, every nerve and muscle tense as a bowstring scared that someone might discover her. Eventually the door to the apartments opened quietly and T’Kar slipped out into the warm evening air, she walked for miles, it wasn’t until she looked behind her to see the lights of ShiKahr faintly winking on the horizon that she realised how far she’d walked. Then she saw the creature, it was a Kenel, a breed of horse thought extinct on Vulcan, they had claws and fangs and ate flesh.
T’Kar thought that it must have been at least seventeen hands high. Then she became aware of the le-matya surrounding her, there were almost fifty, possibly more. Her knees started to shake as one of them began to advance, it took her trousers in its jaws and tugged firmly,
T’Kar staggered and nearly fell but managed to regain her balance by taking a step forward, the le-matya tugged again and she took another step, gradually she became aware that the creature was guiding her towards the Kenel. As she reached it she realised that her estimation of its height had been quite wrong, seventeen hands! It was closer to twenty!
She turned and saw the lights of ShiKahr now mere flickers on the horizon and realised how far she was into the deep desert. The Kenel stood as if were a solid marble statue, she reached up towards it and with the realisation that she was doing a very foolish thing she slid a finger beneath one of the fangs that protruded from the Kenel’s upper lip and tugged. The creature moved, like cold marble coming suddenly to life and T’Kar nearly leapt out of her skin with shock. Very carefully and very slowly she led the creature across to one of the many outcroppings and then released it.
Climbing onto the rocks she placed her hands on its back and then very gingerly, mounted. The Kenel moved so fast that she gasped for breath, the land rushed beneath her and she looked up as the l-langon mountains suddenly leapt forward and felt sick and dizzy and out of breath all at once. She remembered feeling the wind whipping through her hair and wondering where the creature was taking her. She wound her hands into the thick mane and tugged, but it seemed to make no appreciable difference to the creature’s direction or speed and logic taught her that it would be futile to continue.
The horse had the agility of a mountain goat, although once or twice as it scrambled up mountainsides that seemed almost vertical and she wound her fingers tighter into the Kenel’s mane and squeezing as hard as she could with her thighs, T’Kar wondered if this was the day she was going to die.
Eventually the animal seemed to find its footing and for a moment it stopped, breathing heavily and T’Kar looked out across a high plateau. Although T’Kuht still shone, the dark valleys seemed threatening and the mountains and plateaux glowed with an eerie light. She gripped the mane harder and the creature turned its head and snarled at her. Slowly, and with great presence of mind she carefully relaxed her hands. She thought about dismounting to give the creature a chance to recover but as she looked down she saw a pair of yellow eyes and then another pair and then another pair and realised that the le-matya were accompanying them and wisely decided to stay where she was.
The night seemed to pass slowly but eventually she saw the thin line of fire which told her that dawn was coming. She watched as the sky turned from black to violet and then the creature turned so that the line of fire was behind her and all was blackness in front.
Swallowing hard she straightened her back and felt the animal move beneath her. Dawn found the Kenel picking its way up what looked like a well worn path until it finally stopped in front of a small cave. She was relieved to see that the le-matya had disappeared. She dismounted, or rather slid from the animal’s back, her thighs and back protesting as she landed on the hard ground.
She saw a fire burning within the cave and wincing she walked towards it and saw the old woman seated before the fire. “Shatry’a,” she said softly, inclining her head in a gesture of obeisance, “we meet again.”
“So it would appear, T’Kar.” The woman replied, “I hoped you would return and now I see that my faith in you was not misplaced. Be welcome.”
“Did you know that I would?” T’Kar replied sitting herself before the fire and accepting the drink that the Shatry’a poured for her.
“Let us say that I had a strong feeling that you might, but I could not tell you of that four years ago.”
“Why not?” T’Kar demanded.
“Because of many things,” Shatry’a replied, “for instance it was only a possibility, what would have happened if your power had never developed? You would have become bitter and twisted. Better that you should know it now.”
“I suppose,” T’Kar sipped the dark liquid thoughtfully and said, “am I to be the next Shatry’a?”
“Not necessarily,” the woman replied, “I still have many years ahead of me and you must follow your dreams for a long while before you receive the call to return to this planet. You are the youngest Shatry’u ever and so I must give you some leeway with regard to your own life.”
“What about this power,” T’Kar asked. “I have no control over it, and I don’t know why it erupted last night.”
“I know that. Any power takes time to develop, do you think I was born Shatry’a?” The woman smiled, “Take your time to explore your limits.”
“Can I heal anyone?” T’Kar swallowed, “the man last night. He was almost dead-”
“The universe may not have finished with him, you may come to believe as I do that the universe itself has sentience. I have always believed that the universe puts you in the place you are needed. They are not easy places, nor places without pain, but they are the right places. So, you were needed last night.”
“Is it my power or the power of the universe through me?” T’Kar asked, “or am I just a conduit?”
“Now that you will have to find out for yourself,” the Shatry’a replied, “as do all who come into this power.”
“And the man I healed? Will he know?”
“That depends on him, and on you. The bond you shared may enable him to recognise you. If not you lose nothing and he may become a good friend. Drink your tea, you will have to return soon.”
A sudden terror took hold of her, “What if I cannot maintain my control, what if I give in to my emotions? Everyone will know.”
“No, they won’t.” The Shatry’a replied gently, “They did not know last night after your extraordinary display.”
“They were more interested in the Captain,” T’Kar replied quietly.
“But I maintain that had any Vulcans sensed your high emotional state they would have taken steps to inquire why. You will have to maintain your meditation sessions and it is possible now that when you receive momentous news you find it harder to keep your emotional state in check. But I have faith in you.”
T’Kar set her cup down, “I must go. I do not want to be missed.”
“You will not be, count on that. Go in peace, T’Kar, you will not see me like this again. Fare thee well.”
“Will I ever see you again?” T’Kar asked in a small voice.
“Not here in this place. As for the future, that is undecided. Go back to your people and remember what I said. You must find the answer within yourself.”