rynne: (k/s this simple feeling)
[personal profile] rynne
Chapter Five


6


Sybok insisted on coming with them. Jim didn't mind -- Sybok could be very useful to have along.

Sybok also had his own vehicle, therefore making himself useful immediately. At least they had a way to get out to the middle of the desert now.

Getting there turned out not to be a problem. Neither was getting in, really. There was a bit of a snag when, upon saying they wanted to see Elder Kopek, the Vulcan at the front desk insisted on them remaining in the lobby while she called Kopek. Finally she let them go back to his lab themselves, but she was visibly unhappy about it -- for a Vulcan -- and cautioned them against disturbing the Elder's experiments.

They didn't bother to inform her that was why they were there.

Still, by the time they got to the right lab, she had clearly warned Kopek he had visitors. As they came in to the main lab, he looked at them from behind a wide window showing a smaller room, then ordered his two assistants to leave. Jim found his eyes drawn to the side of the room, where there was a larger chamber with clear windows. A vacuum chamber, probably. There was no other way to experiment with red matter. Any touch of regular matter on it would turn it into a singularity.

"Dr. Kirk, Ambassador Spock," Kopek greeted calmly through a comm unit; Jim could see the commspeaker above the window, but not a way to reply. Kopek made no move to leave his smaller room. "I am not familiar with your companion.” He looked on as they said nothing, then added, “You may speak normally. The lab’s computer transmits all sound from that room to this one."

"I am Sybok, elder son of Sarek," Sybok answered.

Kopek tilted his head. "The one who was V'tosh Ka'tur? You were exiled from Vulcan."

Sybok nodded. "However, there was no comment made when I chose to immigrate here."

"I see." Kopek dismissed him and turned his attention back to Jim and Spock. "Why are you here?"

Should they tell him? It would probably be easier to stop him if he didn't know their purpose, and he didn't try to fight them.

Everyone deserves the chance to make a difference choice, Jim, Spock murmured along their bond. Jim met his eyes.

Spock had a point. It would be better for Kopek to stop himself. Jim wasn't sure that would happen, but he supposed he had to give him the chance.

"We know about the red matter," he said, folding his arms across his chest.

Kopek raised an eyebrow. "How did you find out?"

"You know details about red matter I told Sarek when Spock and I got to this universe. I also told him about the Nexus, and what it did to me. I felt it, Kopek. You've had five experiments so far, right?" Kopek nodded, his eyebrow still raised. "I was drawn into the other universes caused by the red matter each time."

"You experienced them directly?" Kopek asked, actually showing his excitement in the speed of his voice and the brightness of his eyes. "I attempted to direct the path of the universe created by my red matter, but it was more difficult than I anticipated, and my computer could only record minute amounts of data, nearly useless. Tell me everything," he ordered.

Jim snorted. He was not going to try to help, but... "You might be interested in knowing that in the latest two, whatever you did caused Earth to be destroyed along with Vulcan," he informed Kopek. "In fact, in the latest one just a couple hours ago, Earth and Vulcan were both destroyed and Nero was still on the loose."

Kopek frowned. "That was not my intention," he muttered. He focused on Jim. "Were you able to determine the catalysts for each universe?"

"Elder Kopek," Spock said, stepping forward, "we are not here to assist your experiments. We are here to insist you stop them."

Kopek shook his head. "Why would I do such a thing?" he asked. "Our people will be better off when I succeed in my experiments."

"If you don't end up destroying what's left of them," Jim reminded him. "How well do you understand red matter, truly?"

"The Vulcans in our own universe thought they understood it," Spock added. "Yet they were completely unaware of its ability to take any who traveled through the singularity back in time. What further secrets might the red matter hold?"

"That is why I am experimenting! To discover those secrets! I have already discovered a way to control the temporal end-point of the singularity. From what the computer recording my experiments has been able to determine, I am able to direct the destination."

"And where were you trying to go?" Jim asked. "The later ones were about Nero, I got that, but the first two?"

Kopek looked pleased at the question. "My first attempt I had less of a particular destination in mind," he explained. "I simply wanted a path which would lead away from the necessity of a colony on this planet. For the second, I had thought if Vulcan were not part of the Federation, the Federation would not bring its enemies on us, so I attempted to turn them away from the signing of the Federation Charter. However, according to the computer, that made no difference to Nero when he came, so I abandoned that attempt."

Jim nodded. He couldn't imagine Nero being stopped by Vulcan not being in the Federation. He'd been angry at Vulcan itself, not just because it was a Federation planet. And now Jim had confirmation that the earthquake probably had been Nero.

"Where you did get the decalithium?" he asked next.

Kopek made a gesture that was nearly a shrug. "Vulcans have been studying it for over a decade," he answered. "We knew of its properties regarding energy, but had not considered the possibility of red matter. Still, we had supplies of it off-world. No one questioned me when I requisitioned some for further experiments."

As nice as it was to get his questions answered, it wasn't why they were there. "Kopek," he said, "surely you realize how dangerous red matter is."

"After a single drop consumed my planet, how could I not?" he responded, with audible bitterness. Jim's apprehension ratcheted up another degree.

It wasn't a good sign that Kopek displayed emotion so openly. He'd be more likely to act from emotion, rather than logic. And while Jim wouldn't mind seeing more Vulcans acting from their emotions in a healthy manner, Kopek had red matter. He was even more dangerous than the ordinary Vulcan.

"And a single drop could consume this planet as well," Jim stressed. "Any mistake could be catastrophic. Why are you doing this here when you know the consequences?"

"T'Korin needs me," he replied stiffly. "I am all she has left. I could not take my experiments to a remote location when I knew I would be leaving her alone."

"Do you think she does not feel alone right now?" Sybok asked gently. "I am an empath, Elder Kopek. I have felt her loneliness and her pain. She wonders why her grandfather spends so much time with his experiments and so little time with her. She needs her family."

"She does," Kopek agreed. "All of her family. It is my intention to return them to her -- to return all of Vulcan to her. She will be a great Clan Matriarch in the future, but she needs her Clan."

"She can build one," Jim said. "And so can you. All of you can rebuild your lives!"

Kopek glared at him. "It is not so easy--" he began, but Jim interrupted him.

"You think I don't know that?" he snapped. "This is the second time I've had to rebuild my life, Kopek. The second time! Spock and I arrived in this universe with nothing except each other, but we're moving on! And before that, I left the Nexus seventy-eight years after it sucked me in. Only two of the people I loved were still alive, and one of them only because of another quirk of stasis."

Jim made himself calm down. "No one said it's easy," he said, more gently now. "It isn't. It's really hard, and no less so the second time. But that doesn't mean it's not necessary, Kopek. You have to learn to move on, or you can destroy your life with what-ifs. And, if you have a substance as dangerous as red matter, you may end up destroying more than your own life."

"You would destroy T'Korin," Spock added. "Rather than dwell on what you have lost, look to what you still have."

Kopek shook his head. "I am careful," he said. "I will succeed."

"In creating red matter," Jim agreed. "And maybe even in not destroying the entire planet with it. But from what I've seen, you're not very good at directing it. Most of those universes have been worse than this one."

"Further experiments will refine the process," Kopek insisted.

"No," Jim said, firmly. "Kopek, we can't let you continue like this. It has almost no chance of ending well."

"How do you propose to stop me?" Kopek challenged. His hand hovered above the computer he stood in front of. Park of Jim itched to break open the door to the smaller room, but he didn’t want to provoke Kopek. Not yet, at least.

"I presume you would not be here had you properly brought your concerns to the Council and they agreed that stopping me was necessary,” Kopek went on. “Planetary security forces, or even Starfleet, would be standing in your stead."

"We did try to go through the High Council," Jim confirmed, "and they didn't listen. But Spock and I are not without influence in Starfleet. They would come to investigate if we requested it. And they aren't emotionally compromised the way the High Council is, and you are. They would want to remove the threat red matter poses."

Jim wasn't entirely certain of that -- in his and Spock's initial interview with the Starfleet brass, they'd demonstrated interest in red matter before Jim shut them down. What was important, though, was making Kopek believe it.

"Spock and I were members of Starfleet for over four decades," he added, just to hammer it in. "In fact, I was an admiral, making decisions on cases much like this one." Well, not quite. But again, not necessary for Kopek to know. "Starfleet is not going to help you if we have to call them in. Your best bet is to just stop on your own. You can go back to your granddaughter and learn how to move on with your lives."

But Kopek didn't respond to the implicit threat. In fact, he didn't even look like he'd really listened to it. When he opened his mouth, what he said was, "I am not emotionally compromised."

Jim exchanged glances with Spock and Sybok. It was Sybok who replied. "You are, Elder," he said. "Remember, I am an empath. I can feel your turmoil, your grief and rage, very clearly."

"So can I," Jim added. "You heard about the red matter from Sarek -- did he mention my empathic sense as well? It’s not just Sybok who can feel your pain, Kopek."

"There is no shame in this," Spock said. "Most of our race is similarly compromised. I assure you, the cause is sufficient."

Kopek's eyes narrowed. "I am not emotionally compromised!" he nearly yelled, then clamped his mouth shut at the volume of his own voice. His eyes widened. "I am not," he said again, but now it was nearly a whisper.

"You are," Spock gently affirmed. "As was I, when it happened. It is only through the support of my bondmate and my meaningful work here on Ha-kel that I have recovered as much as I have. Perhaps you and your granddaughter can find healing together."

Kopek raised his hands as if to physically push Spock's words away. "My decision is logical," he said, visibly struggling for calm. His hands trembled. "Vulcan must be restored. Its destruction was highly illogical."

"It was," Spock agreed softly. "But the workings of the universe are often so. Remember cthia, Kopek. We all must face reality-truth."

Kopek shook his head again, and kept shaking it. "No," he said, more in pure denial than disagreement. "Reality can change. I can change it. I will change it!"

He started typing into the computer, his hands flying faster than his mouth could speak. Jim, Spock, and Sybok all made a move towards the door to the room, Jim cursing himself for not battering it open earlier, but panels lighting up on the vacuum chamber distracted them. Jim looked through the clear window and saw something start to form. Something almost too small for his aging eyes to see, except it was bright red against a pale gray backdrop.

Kopek typed a few more commands into the computer, then looked up at Jim. "This one might interest you," he said, dangerously calm, and then hit a final key.

A moment later Jim was no longer in the lab. In fact, he no longer felt he was anywhere. He gasped, but couldn't get any oxygen, and closed his mouth before he could let any more air out. All he could see was blackness, broken only by tiny, distant points of light.

And something was pulling on his feet -- pulling stronger and stronger the closer he got. With a moment of horror that almost made him gasp again, Jim realized he was now being drawn into a singularity, without a suit. He didn't know what would get him first, the airless vacuum or the tidal forces the singularity gave off.

Probably the tidal forces, which would make his death quick but unpleasant. If the singularity were bigger he'd already be dead, without having had time to even think of all this. And he had no idea what would happen if he died while in another universe.

Jim! someone called. Jim! You are not there, you are here, I have you! Follow our bond to me!

Spock. Spock was calling him. Spock was showing him a way out.

The bond in his mind was now a lifeline, and he grasped it eagerly. The moment he did he felt Spock haul him out until he once again opened his eyes to the lab. He gasped in air, then let it out again, concentrating on his breathing for a moment. When he could, he once again looked at Kopek.

"What was that about?" he demanded. From what he understood, he’d left the previous universes when the experiment ended and the red matter Kopek had used for that trial was used up. The black hole, on the other hand, would have eaten whatever part of him went to that universe long before the red matter had consumed itself if Spock hadn’t pulled him out -- even now, Jim could see a trace of red in the vacuum chamber.

"I must be allowed to finish," Kopek replied, with the tone of one stating the obvious. "And you are correct. If Starfleet gets involved, I won't be allowed. Therefore you must be prevented from speaking to Starfleet. Your death will cripple your bondmate and an empath, and I will be able to continue my work."

He started typing again as Sybok worked the door panel, trying to get it to open. Jim glanced at now-empty the vacuum chamber before going to take over hacking the door. What had Kopek been planning to do with Spock and Sybok? His death would hurt them, but not to the point of keeping them from stopping Kopek.

Red matter started forming once again in the vacuum chamber. Jim saw it out of the corner of his eye, and redoubled his efforts on the door. Spock stood by, his still-sharp eyes catching anything Jim missed.

Jim grunted in triumph as the door hissed open. He began to move, but Sybok was already there. Kopek had not yet typed in all of his commands when Sybok's hand closed on his shoulder and he dropped. Sybok caught him before he could land on the computer, and lowered him to the floor.

"Good job," Jim told him. "Now we just have to take care of that red matter." He turned to Spock, who knew more of red matter than he did, to begin to ask how to dispose of it safely.

However, he didn't get the chance. The computer calmly informed them in Vulcan, "Magnet Three is no longer functional. There is red matter in the chamber. Warning."

Inside the vacuum chamber, the red matter started drifting to one side.

Spock immediately moved to the computer and began typing, stepping over Kopek’s prone body. After several keystrokes, he nodded and said, "Sybok, the computer notes there are more magnets in the second room on the right. Please retrieve one now."

Sybok left without a word, and Jim alternated gazes between Spock and the red matter, still drifting toward the wall.

"I do not believe Kopek customarily did several red matter experiments in a row," Spock explained as he continued typing. "Doing so seems to have interfered with the superconductivity of one of the magnets. These seem able to retain superconductivity at room temperature, but it is difficult to make them retain that property, and once lost, the magnet is ruined. It must be replaced, or the red matter will soon hit the wall of the vacuum chamber."

Jim understood. Vacuum chambers provided conditions of vacuum, but without electromagnets to hold the red matter in place, it would hit one of the walls of the chamber, and the walls were certainly matter.

And red matter coming into contact with regular matter would provoke a singularity. Red matter was designed so the singularities it created would close themselves up within a few hours, but a few hours would still be too late if the red matter were triggered on the surface of a planet.

Should the red matter even now drifting closer to the chamber walls touch one, Ha-kel would end up as consumed as Vulcan was.

Then Sybok returned, carrying another magnet. "Sybok, remove the damaged magnet and replace it with the one you hold," Spock ordered without looking away from his computer screen. "Jim, assist him. When the magnet is in place, there is a sequence of commands you will need to input into the magnet's control panel to sync it with the main computer. I will guide you."

Jim moved without an argument. Spock was the scientist -- Jim would follow his orders there without compunction. His adrenaline spiked, sharpening his senses.

He couldn't watch the path of the red matter from his position at one end of the chamber, away from the center window, but he didn't move to go look at it. His heart pounded with a mix of adrenaline and fear, and thoughts of Vulcan’s implosion kept intruding, and how he had felt the destruction of the planet, the loss of all those lives, the push of this timeline further from his original universe.

He would not let that happen a second time.

Sybok soon had the magnet in place, and Jim moved forward to the control panel. "We're ready," he said.

Spock didn't respond -- at least not with words. Spock's guidance was not out loud, but Jim could feel his bondmate looking out of his eyes, giving him impressions of the steps he needed to take. They were fortunate Vulcans could multitask, because Jim could still hear the quiet clacking of computer keys.

Jim was not quite an observer in his own body -- he still controlled the movements of his hands. Spock only provided, as he said, guidance. But that guidance was enough -- it was only moments later the lights on the control panel turned red, the default Vulcan color of success. Spock's mental touch lightened until they were at their normal distance.

He moved around to look once more through the window at the center, and couldn't help a shaky laugh when he saw the red matter just two feet away from the nearest wall. It slowly moved back towards the center, drawn by the replaced magnet.

He and Sybok joined Spock by the computer again, and without a word, Sybok bent down to pick Kopek up and sling him over his shoulder. The same thought in Jim's mind was in Spock's as well, and probably Sybok's.

They would take Kopek back to Shi'masu and confront the High Council again, this time with greater proof. If nothing else, Kopek had attempted to kill Jim, if in a strange way, and likely would have tried to kill Spock and Sybok as well to preserve his experiments.

Even the stubborn High Council should have something to say about that.

--

They couldn't reverse the process on the red matter in the vacuum chamber to break it down once more into its component parts. For lack of any other ideas, they ended up having to do as Kopek had, and run the experiment until the little drop was gone. Spock accelerated it as best he could, but the last alternate universe Jim found himself in was once again on Ha-kel. He didn't want to go home and see whether or not he lived there, so he ended up going to the biggest natural pool in the city and taking a nap on the orange grass inside a small grove of trees. When he was once again pulled away, he had no idea how long it had been, but he didn't really care.

Spock then directed Sybok to remove all of Kopek's store of decalithium while he himself removed Kopek's notes and research from the computer. Kopek had had at least two assistants when they'd come in, and possibly more, but Jim didn't know who they were or how to tell how many people in the whole complex were part of Kopek's little plot. Spock said it was unlikely they would be able to continue Kopek's experiments without his research and without his decalithium, so Jim satisfied himself with that. The High Council, or possibly Starfleet if the Council remained stubborn, would have to deal with the rest.

They kept Kopek unconscious while they had him, and headed back into the city, back to the Council's building. Jim didn't care what other business the Council had at the moment; he wanted to get Kopek dealt with now. So the four of them moved through the building, Kopek carried over Sybok's shoulder, until they came to the main doors of the Council chamber. The Vulcan watching the door tried to put them off, but they wouldn't be swayed. Still, it was probably Kopek's unconscious form that convinced him to go tell the Council they were there.

"For what reason dost thou interrupt the Council's schedule?" T'Pau asked when they were allowed in. Her gaze fixed on Kopek. "What is wrong with Elder Kopek?"

"What is wrong with Elder Kopek," Jim said as Sybok lowered his burden carefully to the ground, "is he was making red matter. He was, in fact, willing to kill us rather than stop making it."

"Kill you?" Sarek asked. His focus sharpened on the three of them, looking them over quickly as if making certain they were all right, before moving to rest on Kopek's limp form.

"Kopek once again induced his experimental red matter into becoming a portal to another universe," Spock told the Council. "He said he was able to direct the universe to some degree, and Dr. Kirk's initial experiences confirm the theory. When we informed him, however, that he must stop, the alternate universe to which he subjected Dr. Kirk this time was that of being drawn into the heart of a singularity. He could feel himself spaghettifying before I was able to use our bond to call him back."

"To experience death in a possible alternate universe does not necessarily mean attempted murder," T'Mou began, but Spock stared at her until her mouth snapped shut.

"As all Vulcans know, when the mind dies, the body goes with it, whether or not the body was initially in danger," Spock said. "It was no less attempted murder because Jim's consciousness was in another universe. I do not know what he had planned for me and Healer Sybok, but it is not necessary we know. In his emotional compromise, he both attempted to kill Dr. Kirk, and has been experimenting with a highly dangerous substance that could have destroyed this entire planet. He cannot be allowed to resume such experiments."

"Has thou proof?" T'Pau asked.

Spock inclined his head. "Any of the three of us would be willing to share our memory of the event," he replied. Jim and Sybok both nodded.

T'Pau looked at Spock evenly. "Then approach me, Ambassador," she said. "I would have thy thoughts."

Spock went up to her with no hesitation and held still as she fitted her hand to his meld points. Jim reinforced his mental barriers as he felt the strong ripples of her plunge into Spock's mind, but only moments later, she removed her hand and let Spock rejoin Jim and Sybok in the center of the room.

"They speak the truth," T'Pau announced. "Kopek has made red matter, in an effort to turn back the path of the universe. He did attempt to kill Dr. Kirk. They speak the truth."

And then Jim saw something he had never before witnessed, which was Vulcans all speaking at once, trying to talk over each other.

“--cannot be true,” one insisted.

“Kopek is a Councilor!” another exclaimed.

“--should have let him--”

“--something so dangerous on a populated planet--”

“--but if it had worked--”

Some of them even had expressions, with soft snarls and widened or narrowed eyes. If it weren't for the slanted eyebrows and pointed ears, he would never have guessed they were Vulcan.

"And you say your logic is not compromised," he said, in commanding tones designed to carry over the din. They did, and slowly the councilors quieted until they were all looking at Jim.

Gently, he told himself. Don't berate them too much or you'll lose them.

And no one responds well to "I told you so."

"From my understanding of cthia," he said, "it means following the path of reality-truth. It means rejecting the wishful thinking sentient beings are prone to. It means rejecting the denial that builds up when we don't like reality. Following cthia means facing reality as it is, not how we wish it to be. Is my understanding correct?"

"Somewhat simplistic, but essentially correct," Sarek answered.

Jim nodded with exaggerated thoughtfulness. "The thing is," he said, "no matter how absolutely horrible Vulcan's destruction was, trying to go back in time sets a very dangerous precedent. It says that whenever we don't like reality, we should just change it. It says that what is reality doesn't matter, because we can change it any time we don't like it.

"Completely aside from the potential effects on the timeline, it seems like a dangerous way of thinking to me. Especially for Vulcans who claim to follow cthia." He paused. "Because this does not at all sound like cthia to me."

"I assume you have a point?" T'Mou asked, her face pinched.

"Cthia demands recognizing reality as it is, even when you don't like it. Even if it means that most of the surviving Vulcans are emotionally compromised, which none of you wants to believe. Even if it means you yourselves are emotionally compromised." He raised a hand when T'Mou opened her mouth again, and he had enough command of the room that she closed it. He looked around at the rest of the Council. "Maybe I am being arrogant in dictating what I think your needs are. That doesn't mean I'm wrong. Sometimes the only solution can come from outside, because the people experiencing the problem are too close to it to see it clearly."

"Assuming our cthia is clouded and your own mind is clear," T'Ral said, leaning forward, "what exactly is your solution? To have us display our emotions to all, letting them control us as they would?"

Jim sighed. He supposed he couldn't blame them for their hostility now. No one liked having illusions broken. It was still tiresome, though.

"I'm sure you'll be able to find a happy medium, as my people say," he said patiently. "You'll be able to find a way that works for you -- and actually works, doesn't just cover up the problem." He indicated Kopek's still form on the floor. "Trying to make something work when it doesn't is what led to Kopek having free rein with his experiments."

"Dr. Kirk, the reason Vulcans turned to logic in the first place was our inability to find this 'happy medium,'" Sarek reminded him. "We either use logic to control our passions, or they control us."

"This is an issue with which I have myself struggled for many years," Spock said, stepping forward. "I, too, am Vulcan. My genetics may have some amount of human, though they too are overwhelmingly Vulcan. My upbringing was as a Vulcan, as was my training. I have spent most of my life among other peoples, but I am still Vulcan.

"And I have found this happy medium. Surak tells us to master our passions, or they will master us. I do not dispute the accuracy of this statement, but I believe that, in a time more complicated than Surak's due to the influence of other peoples and cultures, there are more solutions to our dilemma than pure suppression.

"I spent years watching humans wrestle with their emotions, and from their wins and losses alike, I discovered something -- that those who wrestle with emotion, learn far more about mastering them than those who seek to hide their emotions, or suppress them. The humans never stop this wrestling, and as such they have mastered emotions for which we may as not yet be prepared.

"I believe that there are things we can learn from humans, and from all the peoples of the Federation, that can make us better able to truly master our passions. After all, suppressing something does not lead to mastery of it. Mastery comes from understanding it, and being able to use it without it using you as well."

"What is the purpose of logic?" Jim asked, in the wake of a moment of silence brought by Spock's words. "Is it an end in its own right? I was under the impression that Vulcans used logic to control your emotions and keep yourselves from being savages. However, I suggest that if logic is not sufficient for the task in the wake of Vulcan's destruction, then it's logical to pursue other options."

"And it is not sufficient for the task," Sybok added, coming to stand at Jim's other shoulder. "I did not believe it was even before Vulcan was destroyed, but I know it is insufficient now. Kopek is but further confirmation of this. I will remind you once again I am an empath who does not even require touch to feel others' emotions. I can tell you in absolute certainty that logic is not sufficient to overcome the grief of our loss."

"I understand you're reluctant to change a method of dealing with the universe that has worked for millennia," Jim said. "But I submit to you, Councilors, that never in those millennia have you encountered a situation like this. Never have your people experienced such devastation. When the circumstances have changed so drastically, one cannot assume the techniques that have worked for millennia will continue to work as well as they have been. Vulcans are still experiencing dramatic grief as they never have before. You have to be able to adapt in order to deal with it."

Sarek looked at the rest of the Council, and then he looked at them, his gaze heavy. Jim wondered what he saw. Three troublemakers, or his son and two who had been his family in another universe? Finally, he spoke.

"I believe their logic is sound," he said, those few words allowing Jim to relax. Then he raised an eyebrow. "What is it, Ambassador Spock, Dr. Kirk, Healer Sybok, that you suggest we do? The mandate to 'find a happy medium' is somewhat vague," he pointed out with some amount of humor.

Jim set his shoulders against the informal motion of shrugging. "Healer Sybok has suggested a program of emotional therapy to be instituted across the city," he said. "That would be a start. And I think he would be better equipped to tell you what else might benefit you."

Jim took a half-step back, and so did Spock, leaving Sybok the one standing forward, the attention in the room shifting to him. Jim could feel Sybok's exhilarated buzz as he took another step forward.

"As Dr. Kirk said, therapy is a good start, but only a start," Sybok said. "And Ambassador Spock's reminder of the resources that other peoples present is also good. One suggestion I have for helping our people is to have the Federation send in more aid workers, but this time ones focused on our emotional rather than physical needs. And..."

Jim and Spock exchanged a glance as Sybok continued.

It was a good start.

--

Days later, Sybok was once again having dinner with them, telling them about his progress.
Some members of the Council still resisted the need to adapt, but most had started to seriously examine themselves and their commitment to cthia. These members were helping push many of Sybok's suggestions through, including non-Vulcan emotional counselors to be stationed at hospitals throughout the city, and contacting more of the Vulcans who had not lived on Vulcan and were generally more stable.

The younger Spock volunteered to come assist his people as the Enterprise was rebuilt, and the younger Kirk, on medical leave, volunteered to accompany him. Jim and Spock both looked forward to the chance to see their younger counterparts and friends in person again, even though it would probably be difficult to continue to keep their relationship secret. Still, they would manage. Jim was especially looking forward to seeing the younger Spock and whether his emotional courage in choosing love over logic was benefiting him -- he was certain that emotional courage would serve as an example to the rest of his people.

"I have charge of Kopek," Sybok went on. "He is kept securely in a center specifically for mental and emotional health. He does not seem violent, but my associates and I keep watch over him."

"And T'Korin?" Jim asked. "If I remember right, Kopek was the only family she had left. What's going to happen to her?"

And Sybok beamed at him. "I have petitioned for custody of her," he said. "And I believe my petition will be granted. My reputation in the city has been rising, even if I do not currently have a bondmate and stable family situation. That will come soon enough."

"Congratulations," Jim offered, maybe a bit pre-emptive, but still heartfelt. Sybok would probably make a good father.

"And the two of you?" Sybok asked, tilting his head. "What is next for you?"

Jim looked at Spock and shrugged. "Back to work, I suppose," he said. "The physical needs of the colony don't stop just because the emotional needs are finally starting to be met. I still need to deal with food and replicators."

"And I with computers and defense," Spock agreed. "Life does continue on, even in the aftermath of big events and great change."

Jim nodded and took Spock's hand, accepting Spock's squeeze. "There are plenty of things still left for all of us to do," he said. "Now we can do them."


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