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KS Alternative Factor

"Beyond the Barrier" - a K/S novella

I thought I'd post one of my old stories - "Beyond the Barrier", a K/S novella first published in 1984.

WARNING: This story includes NC-17 male/male material, suitable for readers 18 years of age and older. Please do not read if you object to the premise.



TITLE: Beyond the Barrier
AUTHOR: CatalenaMara
RATING: NC-17
CODES: K/S
SUMMARY: A mission to the Galactic Barrier brings old fears and new dangers.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount/Viacom, blah blah. No infringement intended, no
money being made.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: California K/S, 1984, Editor Noel S.
BETA:
- 1984: My thanks to Marilyn and Meg--both of you helped enormously with this story. Your comments helped me smooth out the rough spots and focus on what I wanted to convey.
- 2007: Thanks also to Noel, the original publisher; for our friendship then and our friendship now.
IN MEMORY: In memory of Meg, whose joy in K/S and fandom was always a delight. You haven't been among us for many years, but your memory lives on.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I couldn't resist some minor tinkering, but the story itself is essentially the same as it was when first published in 1984.


CAPTAIN'S LOG: Stardate 3742.1. In coordination with the Caitian ship HEART OF TAENOR, we are proceeding to Jheungseih, leading world of the tonKitzhe Hegemony, in response to their request for membership in the Federation. As the seven worlds of the Hegemony contain races of both felinoid and humanoid extraction, the decision was made to utilize both the ENTERPRISE and HEART OF TAENOR to demonstrate the Federation's commitment to all of its member races.

The only other ship to ever explore this region of space was the survey ship BRADLEY, and its mission was cut short by the aborted Tholian conflict. Our mission will include exploratory functions as well, thus utilizing the two starships to their maximum potential. In addition to the worlds in the Hegemony, there are at least a dozen solar systems with planets capable of supporting life within a 30 light year radius. There are also many more stars without planetary systems, or with worlds falling in the Class G and T categories, possible sources of mineral wealth. In effect, this area forms a minor star cluster, unusual in that it is so close to the Galactic Barrier. Its unusual location is made even more striking by the nature of the space through which we must travel to reach our destination, for it is almost entirely void of stars.

ETA calculated to be another 5.6 days...


Panic shot through Kirk as he started from sleep. body automatically taking a defensive stance, gaze seeking the attacker even as he reached for the light control.

As the lights cast a dim glow over the obviously empty room, a choked cry next to him brought him back to reality. In that instant, fear ran out of him like a wave, cresting at some far, faintly-felt shore, and came racing back again with tidal force.

Spock was curled up tightly beside him, shivering violently, low moans escaping tightly-clenched lips, eyes squeezed shut.

Kirk, caught in the tight link of fear and confusion that was pulsing along their bond, then abruptly the emotions damped down. He froze for an instant, then reached out to touch his lover.

Spock didn't respond to the gentle touch, but the fear again drained away, and when it returned after a pause it was only a fleeting muddy echo of that earlier, sharply-defined wave of fear. A final shiver of emotion passed along the link. Then it was abruptly cut off.

Kirk's head was pounding, but he ignored the pain. He was terribly frightened by the pallor on Spock's face and the confusion evident in the now-open eyes.

“What the hell was that?” Kirk demanded.

Spock pulled himself to a sitting position, wrapping the blankets tightly around him. He met Kirk's confused gaze.

“Unknown, Jim,” he said, his voice rough, uneven, as he searched out words. “Something...some presence... some need... fading...”

“You're not making any sense,” Kirk said gently, more alarmed than he dared admit that his awareness of their bond was nearly imperceptible.

“A moment, please...” Spock closed his eyes, steepling his fingers.

Slowly Kirk felt the beginnings of warmth, the familiar feel of the basic level of the bond between them. His fear that something had attacked their link began to transform into a question--what had happened, and why?

Spock was looking at him again. The trance had been remarkably short.

“You cut me off,” Kirk said, his voice quiet.

“It was necessary. It was still there.”

“What was? Show me.” He started to reach out, and was badly startled when Spock flinched away. “Spock?”

Instant regret came into Spock's eyes. “I can't explain what just happened, Jim. But it is not something I wish to share with you now. I must meditate upon it and discover its meaning. I will share it with you once I have done so.”

“Do you have any idea what caused that--”

“Violent reaction?” Spock smiled briefly. “Something--some powerful telepathic invasion touched my mind and was gone. I felt--helpless--before it. I couldn't understand. It only lasted a small fraction of a second. It was my reaction to it that brought you awake.”

“Not just that,” Kirk said thoughtfully. The hint of something alien--brief, shadowy tendrils of incomprehensible thought patterns--lodged at the back of his mind. When he tried to focus inward, his mind flinched. He looked at Spock, deeply disturbed.

Spock laid a hand gently on his shoulder. “Do not think of it. That could pose a danger. It was unavoidable that some contact seeped through. It was somewhat similar to what I experienced with V'ger--but not entirely comparable. It--”

The shrill sound of the intercom pierced the air in the room.

Kirk's nerves were already strung tight. He hit the button forcefully. “Kirk here.”

“Garrovick, Captain. Sir, HEART OF TAENOR has assumed an erratic course--correction, they've just dropped into sublight.”

“Track and follow,” Kirk ordered. “Where are we?”

There was a pause, during which the shudder of a sudden jump back into normal space stirred through the ship, the yellow alert signals flashing simultaneously.

“Still in the K-71 sector, sir. Deep space. The nearest system is 19 light years away--that would be TZM19.”

“Any planets in that system?”

“None.”

“On my way,” Kirk said.

“Captain?”

Kirk's hand stopped an inch from the intercom button. “Yes?”

“One other thing--Lt. M'Ress collapsed at the same time as HEART OF TAENOR went off course. Sickbay reports several other instances.”

“Who?” demanded Kirk, feeling a bad sense of premonition.

“No list of names yet, sir--except for all of the Vulcans. No report on Spock.”

Kirk glanced at his First Officer, whose face had returned to its usual calm appearance. “He reported a disturbance as well, but it appears to have passed. On my way.” This time he successfully cut the communication.

“Interesting,” Spock observed neutrally.

“What the hell are we getting into now?” Kirk grabbed for his shirt. “You all right?” he asked, needing the reassurance of words.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “I am.”

“I'd like you to go to Sickbay.”

“It is likely that Dr. Chapel is already well occupied,” Spock commented, his voice gentling fractionally as he added, “It is not necessary.”

Kirk completed his hurried dressing by tugging on his boots. He gave Spock another hard glance. Spock pulled on his shirt and met Kirk's gaze levelly.

“Meet me on the Bridge, then,” Kirk said, at the door by the time he finished his sentence.



Lt. Masumori looked up from the science station as Kirk entered. “Sir, sensors reported unusual energy activity along the Galactic Barrier at about the same time HEART OF TAENOR began evidencing difficulty. “

“Track that down. Any contact with TAENOR?” He paused at the comm station.

Ensign Stevens turned to meet his gaze. “Still trying, sir, but they do not acknowledge.”

Kirk took his position in the command chair. “Any sensor readings to indicate the reason for·their difficulty?”

“No, sir. The mass/energy flow indicators all appear stable. No signs of impediments in the transmit tubes. No indication of loss of interior power.”

“Life readings?”

“Undiminished.”

“Our own casualties?”

“Science section reports that the Vulcans on duty suddenly all collapsed; Lt. M'Ress, as well. Later reports also mentioned Ensigns Manderley and Avioto.”

Kirk hit the comm button. Behind him the bridge door slid open and Spock stepped in as Kirk began speaking. “Security. An unknown force has struck the ship. I want an accounting of every crewmember. Check the cabins, report anyone found unconscious. Kirk out.” His eyes met Spock's.

//Are you all right?//

He received the answer on a calm, warm level. He relaxed a bit as Spock relieved Lt. Masumori.

“Casualty report coming in now.”

“Yes, Chapel.”

“Add Ensign Gentelvic to the list. They're all recovering now. They were only dazed and disoriented for the most part. None of them has a coherent explanation for what happened.”

“Keep me posted.” He hit the switch. “Spock?”

Spock stopped the flow of information on the playback circuit and turned to Kirk with an expression of interest on his face. “There was indeed a strong energy surge along the Galactic Barrier at 23.49 hours,” he stated. “It lasted for a total of 9.5 seconds and maintained an unvarying level of power for the duration. The area of the Barrier affected extended for some 35 light years in all directions.”

“Source?”

“Unknown. The level of intensity was equal in every part of the Barrier so affected.”

“Purpose?”

“Unknown.”

“Effect?”

“There have been no physical effects on any of our equipment. Spectrum comparison of the nearby system indicates no alteration in any form.”

“A...natural occurrence of some sort?”

“It is true that there is much about the Barrier which remains unknown. However, I consider this highly unlikely.”

Kirk stared at the view revealed by the screen. The distant dim flicker was like a tenuous sheet behind the few visible stars. “Any sign of any alien ships?”

“None.”

Kirk's unease was rising. He remembered Gary... Miranda...the Kelvans. Though the location of each incident had been parsecs apart, the galactic barrier always meant trouble. The crawl of distant energy the screen revealed was like a warning of disaster. The Kelvans...something alien... he was abruptly reminded of the time Spock had melded with one of those beings; the distress and disorientation that meld had cost him. He glanced at his First Officer, the beginnings of an idea forming. Spock looked back, eyes showing that he understood.

Stevens' voice broke in., “Sir, communication coming in from the TAENOR.”

“On the screen, Ensign.”

The face of Aure'ev, Captain of HEART OF TAENOR, appeared. His ears drooped, golden eyes betraying a lingering sense of shock.

“Captain Kirk,” he acknowledged.

“Do you have any information on the recent occurrences on your ship?”

“We are still... notetaking, Captain.” The voice revealed even more weariness than the face. “When it hit--whatever it was--a full 90% of my crew was incapacitated. Recovery is still not complete. But data indicates that of the 10% who were relatively unaffected, virtually all of them were singletons, and thus without a sibling bond.”

“Fascinating.” Spock rose and moved to Kirk's side.

“Spock--those other people affected. What was their--”

“Telepathic quotient? Checking.” A moment later he had his answer. “All more than 25% above normal Human or Viranian capability.”

“Status, Cpt. Aure'ev?” Kirk asked.

“Reapproaching normal. Bridge crew is now drawn from those unaffected.”

Kirk stared again at the viewscreen and silently cursed the fact that the Hegemony was so near that damned barrier. “Spock, any signs of activity?”

“None.”

“Can you get any readings out past the Barrier?”

“Negative. The Barrier creates too much interference with our equipment.”

“Then we shall proceed on course to the Hegemony. Captain?”

“I concur,” Aure'ev said. “I request a meeting by synchronous real-time 0600 to correlate findings.”

“Agreed. Kirk out.”

The viewscreen flickered back to the exterior view. The sight of so much empty space was unnerving... empty, but not totally dark, for in the distance the energy flicker continued, whirling and eddying slowly, sometimes at the extreme limit of the range of vision. The few stars visible were a sparse reminder and counterpoint to the empty void beyond, the incredible, as yet uncrossable, distances between the Milky Way and Andromeda.

Kirk looked up at Spock, his eyes betraying concern. “Has the Barrier ever shown any effect on telepathic species before?”

“Negative, Captain. except where those abilities were combined with high psychic ratings as well. I must point out that there has been little research done in this area.”

“Noted.” The word was calmer than he felt. “I'll be in Sickbay.” He directed his attention to Stevens. “Contact department heads and alert them to the 0600 meeting. Masumori, I want you there, too. Spock?”

Spock joined Kirk in the turbolift. As it sped down and across the ship towards Sickbay, Kirk met his eyes.

“I don't like it,” he said. “Everything about this area is wrong.”

Spock lifted a brow. “I concur.”

Kirk grinned. “No comment on the illogic of intuition? No facts, figures and statistics—or even theories? Just ‘I concur’?”

“I have found your intuition highly logical on many occasions.” Spock’s lips curved up in a slight smile.

The turbolift opened on an orderly scene. Four Vulcans were in the outer office, talking quietly among themselves in their own language. At the sight of their superior officers they rose respectfully, faces carefully neutral.

“Dr. Chapel informed me you all suffered some ill effects earlier. Can any of you shed any light on just what happened?”

Kirk sensed Spock's amusement as the other Vulcans rapidly sorted past the idiomatic expression to the actual meaning. Soquel, senior science officer on the third shift, was first to speak. His wife, T'Mek, stood close by.

Kirk sensed, as always, the overwhelming closeness of the bonded pairs, attuned as he was to that psychic connection. Though it was Soquel who spoke, he saw by the tiny changes of expression on T'Mek's face that she concurred entirely with every word; that they had, indeed, been her experiences as well.

“This evening we felt an overwhelming telepathic presence. Data was imparted then withdrawn so abruptly as to cause a brief, intense mental shock. For that period of time--” he glanced at the other Vulcan couple, “--the sense of disparate identity disappeared. The boundaries of individual personality vanished, and I experienced a--oneness, for lack of a better term--with the beings in my immediate vicinity. We have discussed this since and they concur. Perhaps Spock has told you of the sekleriae?”

Kirk glanced at Spock, and almost instantly began to understand portions of the concept. At the same time, the door slid open and several more people entered the room--the final pair of Vulcans, as well as Lt. M'Ress, Ensigns Manderley and Avioto, and the willowy, elongated form of the Viranian, Gentelvic. Dr. Chapel brought up the rear.

“The sekleriae,” Spock said for the benefit of the-non-Vulcans in the room, “is a mass mindmeld, usually performed at ceremonial clan gatherings and utilized as a means of sharing common experience, ancestral wisdom and knowledge, and reaffirming the unity of the family.”

“It was similar to the sekleriae,” Soquel acknowledged, “but without control. There was no direction, no purpose. It was an opening without a filling. Nothing was given but chaos.”

Kirk felt chilled by these concepts. He looked at Dr. Chapel, who was standing close to Lt. Manderley. “Physical consequences?”

“All readings show normal. The only variations that appear can be easily accounted for by a sudden shock.”

Kirk turned his attention to M'Ress. “Your experiences?”

She frowned, the tip of her tail twitching in agitation. “I am a singleton--I have no brothers or sisters, Captain. I have never shared the sibling bond. But my mind has been touched by Healers, and I am told that I can reach out. I was taught how to control this; it is not an ability I practice. But this... it was something reaching in--something very alien. I felt a type of presence...not just one, but many.”

“Were you aware of any of the thoughts of those around you?”

“No, I was not.”

Kirk exchanged glances with Spock, and turned to the two Humans affected. “Lt. Manderley--what was your experience?”

“I was in the chem lab, helping Frank--Ensign Morgan--with the rytallin2 sequence when it hit. It's hard to explain, sir--it was like I was suddenly a part of him and Karen--excuse me, Lt. Silver.” She drew in a deep breath. “Sir. There were five of us in the lab. For a moment it seemed like I was in all those places at once. I could--could feel their positions--get little pieces of their thoughts--there wasn't much of anything intelligible. It was like white noise.”

Avioto and Gentelvic backed her up with their own impressions.

Kirk looked over the people involved. “Besides Lt. M'Ress, did any of you sense any alien intelligence in this?”

“No, sir,” Manderley said, with Avioto and Gentelvic agreeing.

“There did seem to be an agency behind the effects--more than just a blind force,” Soquel said thoughtfully.

“I concur,” Spock said. “I, too, sensed such an agency.”

“The concepts I sensed were radically opposed to any I have encountered prior to the present time,” Soquel continued. “Physics--mass conversion--interdimensional displacement--”

Kirk liked it even less. Particularly Soquel's last phrase. Ugly, alarming thoughts intruded. He remembered a man called Lazarus, and their fears of invasion. “Was there anything to indicate that the ENTERPRISE, the HEART OF TAENOR, or the Federation itself is under scrutiny? Any sense of an imminent attack?”

“No, sir,” Lt. M'Ress said. “It was more like a question--as if we were some new species just discovered--like turning over a log and finding some insects beneath--stopping to look, but not really being involved.”

That, too, was an unsettling thought. Kirk added it to the rest as he dismissed the group and headed with Spock back into the turbolift.

When it came, it was without warning, like a white-hot explosion in his mind. The sensation of having dual bodies was overpowering--there were too many arms, too many legs; sickening flashes of double vision. The angles were wrong--he saw his own face and Spock's simultaneously--his mouth open in shock--Spock, pale and strangled-looking. Balance was gone; he lurched dizzily and dropped to his knees. Dimly he felt the turbo coming to a halt. The door slid open; he closed his eyes against the double input of visual images, leaving only Spock's view of the open door to assault his mind.

Then the sensation tripled, quadrupled, as two crewmen stepped toward the open door and paused, confusion tumbling in their minds--

He was seeing from four sets of eyes at once--jagged slashes of view--jumbled layers of thoughts--Captain? Mr. Spock? Captain?-- Somewhere, like a thready pulse, a hint of rationality held on. He reached out to it, recognizing it as partially separate. He closed his eyes again, pressing them tight, and leaned against the turbo wall. Spock' s eyes were now shut, as well. Now there were only two distracting viewpoints maintaining that jarring cacophany of images, each slightly out of synch, like a recording played, and replayed an instant later on two machines. Stray tendrils invaded his mind--My god it's the Captain--have to report this--call Sickbay--

An instant later there was a quick exchange of conversation between the crewpeople--the sounds grated on the air--

Nausea filled him--he was dangerously close to passing out--the thread of himself was unraveling, winding away from him--

Faces peering at him in concern--one withdrew, moving down the hall to the comlink--

Then, like unwinding gauze, layer and layer of perception fell away. The minds were shielded from him until he and Spock alone remained, and there was a growing barrier between them as well. A rapidly solidifying barrier.

Spock was behind that barrier. The psychic assault hadn't stopped.

Abruptly, for him, it was over. His vision cleared. He blinked, trying to focus, then viewed with alarm the sight that met his eyes.

Spock was pressed up against the wall, eyes glazed, face blanked out with shock. He was as pale as Kirk had ever seen him.

Kirk shook off his paralysis and reached out. instinctively stopping his hand just before it touched Spock.

He was instantly disgusted with himself. Was he afraid? Of Spock? Of the pain, the terror further exposure to his bondmate's mind might bring? But if he reached out...would that hurt Spock even more?

An instant later, Spock slid to the floor, knees buckling as if a force field had been turned off somewhere, releasing him.

Kirk was there to prevent him from toppling face forward. Terror filled the Captain at the continued sensation of separation. He forced himself to move slowly as he carefully laid Spock down upon the floor.

“A medical team's on its way, sir.”

He looked up, startled.

Ensign Rahda was there; he suddenly remembered she and another had been watching the whole time. Ensign Nguyen came into view then, and Kirk shuddered, remembering the distorted perceptions. I was there--in you--and yet there was nothing individualized about it.

Turning his attention back to Spock, he cradled the dark head in his lap. Spock's chest rose and fell slowly. Kirk grasped a wrist and felt the rapid pulse beneath. A moment later, Spock opened his eyes.

“Easy, now,” Kirk soothed, struck by the look of confusion and fear that filled the brown depths.

“Jim,” Spock gasped. Just that one word, then Spock tensed his muscles as if he were about to attempt to sit up.

“Easy,” Kirk repeated, trying to speak past his fear. “Sickbay's coming.”

Spock's response was immediate...and distressed. “I do not want--too many people--” Spock once again attempted to raise himself, only to be restrained by Kirk.

At the touch, Spock seemed to ease. He focused fully into Kirk's gaze and said clearly, “It's over now, Jim. Please. Let me up.”

Kirk released his grip uncertainly. Spock took a deep breath, then sat up gracefully. He didn't try to get to his feet immediately, but raised an eyebrow at the two crewmembers who were staring at them with concern.

“The others will have experienced this as well,” Spock said in a voice which approached his usual calm tones. “It would be best to check on the status of the TAENOR.”

“Of course.” Kirk needed this reminder, this return to reality. He found that his hands were shaking; he forced them into fists by his sides. “Will you be all right?”

“Perfectly.” Their eyes met. Slowly the link reasserted itself, the sense of calm, cool, rational thought returned. “The occurrence is over. There are no ill effects.”

Kirk nodded once as he got to his feet. He left the turbo and went directly to the commlink. By the time he finished his call to the bridge, Spock was by his side, Dr. Selini in tow, running scans.

He shook his head at Spock's unspoken question. “The bridge crew on the TAENOR weathered this one out. Did you sense anything different this time?”

“Aside from the differences in perception caused by being awake and near other people, no. It appeared to be of the same duration, the same intensity.”

Kirk remembered the nauseating sense of chaos that had seized him but deliberately forced it away. “I won't change the plans for the meeting then. Doctor?”

Selini shook her head. “Readings normal.”

Kirk got on the comm again. “Sickbay.”

“Yes, Captain.” Christine Chapel's voice broke in almost before he'd finished the word. “Those who were still here reported the same effects. Again, no physical changes.”

Kirk rubbed his forehead. “All right. Keep me posted.” He nodded to Selini. “Thanks, doctor. That will be all.”

He and Spock started down the corridor, heading to his quarters. After the door closed behind them, sealing away the light and noise from outside, Kirk turned to Spock.

“I have a gut feeling we should get out of here.”

“The mission is one of great importance,” Spock reminded him.·

“They always are.” He pressed a hand to his temples; Spock gently pulled it away and ran his fingers lightly over the area.

The ache subsided and he gave him a tired smile. “What say we get some rest? That meeting will be on us soon enough.”



“It is fortunate that we staffed the bridge crew with singletons. The rest of my crew was virtually immobilized,” Cpt. Aure'ev said, continuing his report. The people sitting around the conference table in one of the ENTERPRISE's briefing room consisted of equal numbers of personnel from both ships. “Even some of the singletons reported ill effects. And nearly 5% of our crew are still in Sickbay.”

Dr. Chapel and Lt. Masumori ran through concise reports of their findings. Then Kirk spoke.

“Captain, the one Caitian member of our crew, Lt. M'Ress, reports experiences different from the other affected people in that she is not exposed to the thoughts of anyone else during these incidents, but rather is aware of some powerful alien intellect--a group consciousness, apparently. What exactly does your crew experience?”

“Healer Ra'aulae can best explain.” Aure'ev nodded to the greyfurred Commander seated at his left.

“Captain, the bond between siblings--brothers and sisters born at the same time--is the strongest force in our society. It is a constant, lifelong, low-level telepathic contact, similar in some respects to the Vulcan bond. But it is unique in that it is exclusive. There are very few in our society capable of reaching out to any mind not so related, and almost all of those are singletons--sole births, such as your Lt. M'Ress. What our crew experienced was a type of static which wiped out the exclusivity of the link and let in other minds. From what I have heard, it was similar to what those telepathic members of your own crew experienced.”

Kirk nodded. “Recommendations?”

McCoy, who had come back on duty as soon as all the thirdshift medical activity alerted him, was the first to speak up. “With members of both crews affected to this degree, there's only one choice. Let's get out of here.”

“Captain?” Kirk turned his attention to Aure'ev.

“That is also my recommendation. Cancellation of the mission; an immediate report to Starfleet Command. The Hegemony is located too close to the Barrier to risk going any closer.”

“Mr. Spock?”

“Whatever is initiating this contact, Captain, should be responded to in some manner. To disregard it entirely is to risk several possibilities. This force may have no idea of the consequences of its actions. To contact the intelligence responsible may lead to mutual benefit.”

“There is, of course, another alternative,” Kirk went on. “Invasion. What sort of beings would exist beyond the Barrier of the galaxy? We've had experience with other beings capable of travelling the gulf between here and other galaxies.” He let his gaze sweep the room until his eyes rested on Cpt. Aure'ev. “My recommendation, Captain, is a transfer of personnel. All affected members of the Enterprise crew to be transferred to your ship. From there, you return to Federation space, while the Enterprise continues its original mission. This may in some way relate to the Hegemony's desire for contact. If it is unrelated, we'll be in the position to investigate.” Kirk found Spock's eyes on him. The realization suddenly dawned... he'd used the word 'we' so casually...but this was one mission Spock wouldn't be able to come along with him.

//It is necessary, Jim,// he heard through the link.

“Agreed.” Aure'ev was answering his last question. The Caitian Captain looked slightly relieved.

“Good,” Kirk went on decisively. “Dr. McCoy, pull the records for any crewmembers with high telepathic ratings.” The memory of Gary and Elizabeth Dehner intruded. “Include all those with high psi readings. I want anyone who might possibly be affected by this off the ship.” He took another glance at Spock. Understanding was there. That, and regret that, for once the Vulcan would be the last to know the results of what was certain to be an important mission.

Not the last, Kirk thought, as long as I'm here. He rose to his feet. “We'll begin immediately. Spock?”

Together, they left the briefing room. Kirk spoke, “Bridge,” once, then turned to look at his First Officer.

“It's necessary.”

“Of course,” Spock replied levelly. Kirk felt Spock's support for his decision flow through the bond. “As it stands, I could pose a danger to your command.”

“Never.” Kirk didn't have words for the pain he suddenly felt. He briefly pressed his lover's hand. Hot, strong fingers momentarily returned the pressure. Then the turbo slowed and they turned to face the entrance.

Once on the bridge, they got busy with respective tasks; Kirk sending the first of his messages; Spock checking the latest readings and monitoring the progress of the personnel notification/transfer. He also dispatched a yeoman to pack a few necessary things.

While mentally composing his next message, Kirk glanced up at the viewscreen. The Barrier was there, its shuddery flicker an annoyance to his already-tense nerves. He was about to order that the focus be redirected to the TAENOR when the quality of the light changed.

Like some slow explosion, the light surged, a liquid boiling outward along the Barrier, brightening immediately to blinding intensity. The automatic damping devices took over, but his eyes retained the brilliance. Blinking against the dimness, he saw the figures at the navigation station silhouetted against the screen. Chekov was half-turned toward the weapons console; Sulu spun partially around in his chair, eyes shielded by both hands. The light flickered--a sudden, intense strobe flash. The last thing he saw clearly was Spock, face frozen in shock, mouth open though no sound emerged, hand pressed to temples, not eyes--

And as the shift of light slowed and coalesced into millions of intense, pulsating particles, it seized him too--

He was one vast pain of hurt eyes--confusion fear hurt--his thoughts scrambled for rationality--he was--

--Uhura's fingers on her console, pressing a comm button, her voice a barely heard echo--

--Captain--Captain--Captain--

--someone was saying but he couldn't quite hear or see who and--

--Sulu turned, hands cold with sweat, asking questions questions and--

--Chekov questions--

--orders sir? are you all right right captain spock are you all right? can you hear me hear me hear me--

Echoing dizzily, reverberating in his mind--

--there were arms around him--hot, safe, enfolding arms--tighter, tighter until his breath seemed to stop and a vise at his temples brought more pain--no, familiar hands touched him, reaching--

No more, he screamed, no more, and would have pulled away from the touch and then...

It was gone.

He collapsed, back pressed against the smooth cool side of the comm chair, and one of Spock's arms was around him; the other, retreating from his temples. A last surge of terror sliced through him, was seized back and taken away, and he felt his heart straining in the sudden dead silence.

Back in his own mind. Alone. Totally.

His heart thundered; sweat poured from his skin. Lightheaded with shock he staggered to his feet, stunned by the amputation.

One of his hands grasped at air, but Spock backed away from him, terrible pain in his eyes.

The bond was gone.

He sucked in air, mind blank, not wanting to explore the loss, to acknowledge the nothingness where the bond had been.

Spock's face was now closed, fully controlled, but the anguish was still readable in his eyes.

Kirk realized the eyes of everyone on the bridge were upon them. He straightened, caught his breath, and turned his attention deliberately to the viewscreen. The band of light was distant and the slow surging of colors muted and dull.

“Status?” he managed, taking his place in his chair.

Spock had already moved back to the science console, but his long fingers trembled visibly, and his face was white. The lights flickered inside the bridge, flickered again, then caught and steadied.

“Power drain, Captain,” he reported. “Minor, but constant.”

“Source?”

Spock focused his attention fully on his console, then read out a series of coordinates. “Whatever it is, it is some unknown distance beyond the energy barrier.”

“All right,” Kirk said. He curled his hands over the arms of his chair, pressed hard. “Sulu, plot a reverse course. We're getting out of here. Uhura, contact Cpt. Aure'ev.”

A moment later Uhura turned to him, face concerned. “Sir, the HEART OF TAENOR is not responding.”

“Sensors record a drop in the life readings emanating from the TAENOR,” Spock reported, voice dispassionate, hands now under control.

Kirk stared at him for a moment, implications stirring through him which could lead to the one thing he would not be able to face.

“How significant?” he asked.

“2.7% drop, Captain.”

“Visual.”

Sulu worked on the controls, obviously grateful for have something constructive to do. The image shifted on the screen; the TAENOR, behind them in real space, appeared on the monitor, bathed in flecks of the distant light from the Barrier. There was nothing in its appearance to indicate anything was wrong.

“Communication coming in, Captain,” Uhura reported.

“Put it on the screen.”

Cpt. Aure'ev's golden fur was bristled; his great green eyes were narrowed to slits. “Captain. I've just received a status report from our Healer. Thirteen of our crew have died. Cardiovascular shock.”

Kirk's own heartbeat, since slowed to normal, now leapt upward again. He glanced away involuntarily and found Spock's eyes directly on his. Immediately, his First Officer turned his attention back to the screen.

“I'm very sorry,” Kirk said. “I suggest a change of plan. Immediate retreat out of the sphere of influence of this force.”

“Agreed. Plotting course now.” Kirk watched as Aure'ev gestured to one of his officers. “We'll send navigation coordinates upon completion. Out.”

“Captain.”

He turned to Uhura, hearing the distress in her voice.

“Dr. McCoy reports Lt. M'Ress has fallen into a coma.”

“And the others?” He didn't let time for feelings get in the way of the words.

“Soquel and T'Mek don't respond.” She paused a moment, listening to a further report. “He's had Security check on the rest. They were all in their quarters and appear to be all right. He says he'll get back to me about Soquel and T'Mek.”

An instant later she followed that message with another--the new navigation coordinates from the TAENOR.

“Coordinate those with ours, Mr. Sulu,” Kirk ordered. “Spock.”

Spock turned away from the science station, almost as promptly as always. His face betrayed nothing; his eyes were too well-guarded.

“Report to Sickbay.” The words came out sounding harsh in his ears. He fought against a wave of dizziness. There seemed to be a chasm between him and Spock swallowing up the sound of his voice.

Spock seemed about to disagree; Kirk gave him a hard glare indicating that he meant business. “We'll speak later,” he said as Spock finally rose. The words echoed in the emptiness in Kirk's mind as he watched Spock walk across the bridge and heard the turbolift doors close behind him.

“Course coordinated and ready to implement,” Sulu reported.

“Contact the TAENOR,” Kirk ordered, and followed up with a short conference with Aure'ev. The two ships slowed, began to turn.

“Warp 6.”

The order was executed, but the ship responded sluggishly. For a long moment the great starship strained and the pattern of warped space danced crazily.

The engineering tech shouted in alarm. “Something's caught us!”

Chekov was at the sensors. A shrill engine screech went through the room as the deck suddenly bucked and heaved, throwing those not secured away from their stations. Lights flickered down for a moment as the momentum slowed. Finally the power holding them snapped and they were plummeted into space normal.

“What the hell just happened?” Kirk demanded as the lights came on again and a babble of voices broke out over the communications board.

Continued in Part 2.
http://catalenamara.livejournal.com/34245.html

Comments

Thanks for posting this! I haven't read any good K/S in years. *adds all four parts to memories for later reading*
Thanks for posting this!

Thanks for reading! :-)

I haven't read any good K/S in years.

Go to ksarchive.com for lots of great reading. Killashandra, Jenna Sinclair, Greywolf, Elise Madrid, lots and lots more. I could rec all night...!

(Anonymous)

Why are there not more comments on this?!?

Hi, never actually reviewed any of your stuff before, but I just wanted to let you know that you are one of my favorite authors in any fandom. Your writing is so consistently good and your are ideas are so fresh. I hadn't read this before, and am really enjoying it - in fact, I'm actually so enthralled I can't sit down and do the work I'm supposed to be doing right now. Just really good.

Thanks for posting!
Thanks so much for the comments! I'm glad you enjoy my work so much!

I've been putting my older zine stories up online, both here and at ksarchive.com and on ASCEML (a yahoo mailing list).