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Spock's World (Giant Star Trek)
By Diane Duane
Rebound by SagebrushCopyright ©1989 Diane Duane
All right reserved.
Chapter One: Enterprise
Position yourself in the right place - on the surface of the moon, say, somewhere near the slow-moving dayline, or in one of the L5 habitats swinging in peaceful captivity around the world - and you can see it without any trouble: the old Earth in the new Earth's arms. Some people prefer her that way to any other. Not for them the broad blue cloud-swirled disk, all bright and safe and easily seen. They want mystery; they want the Earth's nightly half-bath in the old dark. She always emerges, but (to these people's relief) she always dips in again - the blue fire fading away down through the spectrum, the rainbow of atmosphere's edge, down through the last flash of crimson, to black.
And when she does, the stars come out. Faithful as the other, farther stars, in steady constellations, they turn as the night that holds them turns - he splatters of spilled-gem light that are BosWash, Ellay, Greater Peking, Bolshe-Moskva, Plu'Paris. The great roadways across continents are bright threads, delicate as if spiders of fire had spun them: here and there the light is gentled by coming from far underwater, as in the Shelf cities off the Pacific coasts of Japan and old North America. At the edge, a limbof brightness shows, the sunrise inexorably sliding around the curved edge of things: but the limb is narrow, the merest shaving of pearl and turquoise curving against the breadth of night. And for the time being, night reigns.
In places light shows without man having made it. When the moon is in the right phase, the polar icecaps are one wide sheen of palely burning white; the Rockies and the Himalayas and the Alps and Andes glow with a firefly fire, faint but persistent. Sometimes even the Great Wall will show: a silver hair, twisting, among the silver glint of rivers...and afterward the Moon will slide away and around in her long dance with the Earth to gaze at the great diffuse bloom of her own disk's light in Atlantic or Pacific. Half a month from now the Moon will swing around at the new, and all these places, under the sun again, will give their light back to her, ashen, a breath of silver against the dark side of the satellite's phase. But for now the Earth keeps the moonlight and the romance to herself, slowly turning, shimmering faint and lovely like a promise made and kept a long time ago. Darkness scattered with diamonds, and the darkness never whole: there she lies, and turns in her sleep...
...and over her comes climbing other light, passing out of the fire of the far side's day: a golden light like a star, dimmed from a blaze to a spark as it passes the terminator, twenty-five thousand miles high. Moonlight silvers her now as she approaches, not hurrying, a shade more than eleven thousand miles per hour, not quite geosynchronous, gaining on the Earth. She seems a delicate thing at first, while distant - a toy, afl slender pale light and razory shadows - then bigger, not a toy anymore, the paired nacelles growing, spearing upward, reaching as high as thirty-story buildings, the main dish blocking the sky away from zenith to "horizon" as it passes by, passes over. Silent she passes,, massive, burning silver, gemmed in ruby and emerald with her running fights, black only where shadows fall and where. the letters spell her number and name in one language of her planet of registry, the planet she's about to leave. NCC 1701, the Starship Enterprise, slips past in moonlight, splashed faint on her undersides with the light of Earth's cities, ready to give all the light up for the deep cold dark that is her proper home...
It takes time to walk right around a starship. Eleven decks in the primary hull, twelve in the secondary, from an eighth of a mile of corridors per deck to maybe two or three - the old simile comparing a starship to a small town becomes more obviously true than ever to someone determined to do the hike. Jim, though, didn't mind how long it took, and he did as much of it as time allowed, every time he came aboard after a refit.
This time he altered his usual routine a little. After all day stuck down at Fleet, he thought, I'm entitled to a change of pace. Bloody desk pilots...But a second later he put away the annoyance: he had what he had gone for. Jim laughed to himself, and shortly thereafter beamed up via the cargo transporters, along with a shipment of computer media, toiletries, and medical supplies.
Cargo Transport was a more pleasant place, in some ways, than the usual crew transporters. The huge room was in the space next to the shuttlecraft hangars, and needed to be, since anything too big to ship up any other way, from warp-engine parts to container cargo, wound up here. The place tended to be noisy and busy any time the ship was near a planet: at the moment, it was a vast happy racket, boxed and crated and forceshielded matériel being carried in all directions on gravflats of varying sizes. Jim got down Off the pads in a hurry to avoid being run over by a couple of G-flats the size of shuttlecraft, and then paused on the loading floor, seeing who was maneuvering the flats by him - two Earth-human crewmen, a small wiry auburn-haired man and a tall dark-haired woman with a Valkyrie's figure under a cargoloader's coverall.
"Mr. Matejas," he said, "Mz. Tei," and as they heard his greeting and realized with surprise who he was, they started to come to attention. He waved them off it. "As you were. How was the engagement party?"
The two of them looked at each other, and Jorg Matejas blushed, and Lala Tei chuckled. "It was terrific," she said, shaking her red hair back. "Everybody had a great time, especially the Sulamids...Rahere and Athene got into the sugar, and you know how Sulamids are about sugar, it was a riot, their tentacles got all knotted, and it took us about an hour to get them undone. Sir, thank you so much for the 'gram! Jorg's mom nearly went to pieces when Fleet called and read it in the middle of the party, she was so excited..."
Jim smiled, for that had been his intention. One of his more reliable sources of gossip had let him know that Mr. Matejas's mother was very uncomfortable about her son marrying someone holding higher rank than his. Jim had responded by studying Jorg's record very carefully, noting that he was somewhat overdue for promotion, and then correcting the matter...making sure that the news of his promotion hit him during the party, via the addressing of the congratulatory telegram. The source-of-gossip, also present at the party, had let Jim know later that the name signed at the bottom of the 'gram had counted for almost as much as Jorg's jump in grade to quartermaster's mate. Jim had been gratified - there were apparently times when being a galactic hero could be turned to some use. "You're very welcome."
"Sir," Jorg said, "I'm glad we had the chance to see you. I wanted to thank you, very much indeed."
"You earned it," Jim said. "Don't think otherwise. If I helped with the timing a little, consider it my pleasure. Meanwhile, how's the loading going?"
Jorg heard the when under the "how." "Half an hour, Captain," he said. "Less if possible."
Jim smiled more widely, for reasons that had nothing to do with the timetable. "Good enough. Carry on," he said, and went away feeling unusually pleased inside.
He strode across the loading floor, and all the way across it was "Good morning, Captain," "Good evening, Captain," and Jim's smile got broader and broader: not at the inconsistency among greetings, for the ship was back on cruise shift schedules again, three shifts relieving one another, and some people were working overtime. Out into the corridor, and it was the same thing, when he said hello to his people or they said hello to him: no "Admiral," nothing fancy, just "Captain" again, as God intended. It was a great relief. As he walked the halls, Jim acquired a grin that would not go away.
The long afternoon in Fleet Admiral Nogura's office had been trying, but the results had been worth it. Twenty hours after beaming up from the Willow Grove, eight hours after beaming over to Fleet to handle the inevitable paperwork involved with a new set of missions, he was happily demoted to captain, effective immediately, revocable at Fleet's discretion. Some people would not have understood it, this desire to be de-admiraled. But most of those people weren't naval, or had lost touch with the naval tradition that was so much a part of Starfleet. And Nogura, in love (Jim told himself tolerantly) with the power of the Fleet Admiral's position, couldn't understand it either. It's not his fault, Jim thought. He's been one too long, that's all.
Admirals, from time immemorial, didn't command anything but fleets: they managed strategy and tactics on a grand scale...but Jim wasn't interested in a scale quite that grand. Captains might be obliged to give admirals rides to where they were going, and to obey their orders: but for all that, the captains were more in command than ever an admiral was. There might be more than one admiral on a ship...but never more than one captain. Even as a passenger, another captain would be "bumped" a grade up to commodore - partly out of courtesy, partly to avoid discourtesy to the ship's true master. It was real sovereignty, the only kind Jim cared for, and he was glad to get rid of the extra braid on his arms and settle into the happy business of interacting, not with fleets, but with people.
Jim did that for the hour it took him to cover the manned parts of the engineering hull, stopping last at Engineering. He strolled in, and almost immediately began to wish he hadn't. Pieces of the backup warpdrive were all over the floor, or hovering on placeholders, and Scotty was thundering around among his engineering ensigns, shouting at them. Fortunately, he was doing so in the tone of voice that Jim had eventually learned meant everything was going all right, and so he relaxed and stood there for a bit, enjoying the spectacle.
"Ye can't put a drive together as if it was a bitty babbie's picture puzzle, for pity's sake," Scotty was telling the air with genial scorn, as junior crewmen scuttled around him with calibrating instruments and tools and engine parts, looking panic-stricken. "There's got to be some system to't. You can't bring up the multistate equivocators until the magnetic bottle's on-line, and where's the bottle then? Ye've had ten whole minutes! - Afternoon, Captain," he added.
Jim smiled again. "Problems, Scotty?" he said, not because he perceived any, but because he knew Scotty expected that he would ask.
"Ah no, just a drill. What if these poor children have to reassemble a warp engine by themselves some one of these days, with only impulse running and a pack of Klingons howling along behind 'em? They've got the brains for it: would they be on the Enterprise if they didn't? Best they learn how now. We'll be tidy again in twenty minutes. Or I'll know the reason why!" Scotty added, at the top of his voice. The scuttling got much more frantic. Apparently Scotty's crew considered the chief engineer in what Jim had heard them describe as "one of his moods" to be slightly more dangerous to deal with than mere Klingons.
Jim nodded. I might as well get out, he thought; they look nervous enough without me watching as well. "Officers' briefing at point seven, Scotty," he said.
"Aye, I checked my terminal for the schedule a while back." Scotty looked around him with satisfaction. "Just before I crashed the Engineering computers.
Jim was astonished, and looked around him...then felt mildly sheepish, for he'd never even noticed that every screen in the place was blank. "They're putting this thing together without the computer prompts? Not even the emergency systems?"
Scotty shrugged. "Who's to say we could guarantee them that the backup systems would be working in an emergency?" he said. "Even backups fail. But their little brains won't...if we train them properly. FIVE MINUTES!!" he told the world at large. Then looking around the floor, he said, "By rights I should evacuate the place and make them do it in pressure gear. If her side was blown this far open that they'd have to reassemble from scratch, they'd need that practice."
Jim shook his head, feeling sorry for this Engineering crew, all doomed to be turned into mechanical "geniuses" like their mad teacher. "Talk to Spock about scheduling, if you feel the need."
Scotty nodded, and together he and Jim stood and watched the matter-antimatter mix column being put together from the field generators up. "By the bye, Captain, have you scheduled the crew briefing yet?"
"Point four, tomorrow morning."
Jim patted Scotty on the back. "I'm off, then," he said.
Scotty eyed him suspiciously for a moment. "You've picked up a bit of an Irish accent," he said.
"Might not be strange," Jim said. "The people I was with were claiming that my family wasn't Scots. Sorry, " he said, as Scotty looked at him with an expression of shock that was only partly faked. "Really. They claim the name Kirk was an Anglicization of O'Cuire. It would explain why my family was in the east of Ireland to begin with..."
"Those people will say anything," Scotty said, and grinned a little. "Get on with ye. Sir."
Jim headed out. "THREE MINUTES!" the voice roared behind him, as he got to the turbolift and stepped in.
"Where to, Captain?" the lift said to him.
He smiled again. "Bridge."
The place looked a little strange when the lift doors opened on it, as home often does when one's been away from it for a while. Jim stepped out, nodded greeting at Uhura and Sulu, who gestured or smiled hello at him. He waved them back to what they were doing and glanced around to the Science station. Spock was bent over it, making some adjustment. "Readout now," he said, straightening and looking over his shoulder at the large, shaggy-fringed rock that was sitting in the center seat.
Some of those glittering fringes stroked the open circuitry of the communicator controls in the seat's arm. "Point nine nine three," said a scratchy voice from the voder box mounted on the rock's back. "A nice triple sine."
"'Nice'?" said Spock. Jim raised an eyebrow: you could have used Spock's tone of voice to dry out a martini.
"Within high-nominal limits," said the rock, and there was a definite smile in the voice, despite the fact that the voder should not have been able to convey emotion. "A third-order curve, sir. Skew no more than e minus zero point two two four six. No crystal infrequency, no parasitic vibrations, signal loss within accepted IEEE and CCITT parameters, layback less than point zero two percent, hyperbolic - "
"That should be sufficient, Mr. Naraht," Spock said, looking over at the captain with a slight wry expression.
"Mr. Naraht," Jim said, stepping down beside the helm.
Excerpted from Spock's World (Giant Star Trek) by Diane Duane Copyright ©1989 by Diane Duane. Excerpted by permission.
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