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


2


When he woke up the next morning, Jim put the dream behind him, disregarding the lingering sense of disquiet. Under the bright light of the system's star, his fear and his panic seemed both distant and foolish, easily banished by the light and the heat of the day. As Spock went to the site of the Ha-kel Science Academy, Jim went on to do his own work with an easier heart. Spock worked with Ha-Kel’s planetary defense system, and Jim assisted where he could, but while he had some facility with computers, he did not have an A7 rating. Jim helped more in the designs and workings of their energy system. It was not starship engineering, which was what he had his doctorate in, but his knowledge was best adapted to planetary engineering in energy design. Both starships and planets needed energy.

Today, however, he was scheduled to meet with Sarek, currently the Council's representative, to discuss provisions for the colony.

Transporter technology was another aspect of his degree in starship engineering, and Jim knew enough to be competent. Replicators, which were based on transporter technology, had become something of a hobby, though he'd only gained the leisure to study them in depth after his retirement from Starfleet. Ever since witnessing the deaths of half a colony on Tarsus IV because of food shortages, it had been important to Jim to make sure all of his people always had enough food.

Though the colony did have Vulcans who studied transporters and replicators, Jim was probably the most knowledgeable about them -- he got his degree in the future, but still had the experience of knowing how they worked in this time period. He could adapt future knowledge to current technology fairly easily, and while Jim wasn't sure Spock entirely approved of this disbursement of future knowledge, he didn't caution Jim otherwise.

"Dr. Kirk," Sarek said, when Jim reached his office. He held up his hand in the ta'al, and Jim repeated the gesture before sitting down in front of Sarek's desk. They were often less formal when meeting casually -- Sarek would, at least, use Jim’s first name -- but today Jim was meeting his sort-of father-in-law for business.

"Ambassador Sarek." Jim didn't bother with "illogical" small talk, and launched right into their topic. "How are the hydroponics?"

"Settling well," Sarek replied. "We only have one biosphere at the moment, which limits the amount we can grow. The climate here is not exactly as Vulcan's was, and we are not certain how the plants will survive in these conditions. We only have a limited quantity of seeds, and do not wish to risk them."

"Certainly not," Jim agreed. "Is it your intention to resume open-air farming once you're sure the plants will be able to survive?"

Sarek tilted his head. "The Council has not yet decided," he said. "We do not wish to put a burden on the native ecosystems. Our own plants would be considered an invasive species. The simplest solution will likely be to continue growing our own plants in biospheres and rely on replicators to ensure we have sufficient quantities."

Jim nodded. "Logical," he said, his lips twitching. "However, I don't believe we'll be able to rely on replicators for some years yet. The colony has very few, and none yet for individual homes. Furthermore, the ones we have aren't sophisticated enough to handle all of our needs, from seeds to plants to prepared meals. I can teach others what I know about them, but that's going to take time, as is building the new prototypes and enough of the new prototypes."

"We have time," Sarek replied. "The Federation keeps us very well supplied. We are not yet in a state of crisis regarding provisions, nor do I believe that crisis to be imminent. You will have your students, Dr. Kirk."

He hadn't been a teacher for years, but Vulcans, at least, were very good students. His biggest problem would probably be keeping up with them.

"Can I see the biosphere?" Jim asked.

Sarek tilted his head. "For what purpose, if the replicators are not yet ready?"

Jim shrugged. "I can at least get the patterns," he said. "We might have to store them in the transporter mainframe for now and get them to the replicators themselves later, but we might as well do this much in advance."

In response, Sarek rose and came out from behind his desk. "Would it tax you to walk to the biosphere? It is perhaps two kilometers from here."

Jim tried very hard not to roll his eyes. "I'm old, not dead," he said. "It's still pretty early in the morning. I can walk a couple klicks."

If it had been later in the day, he definitely would have preferred an air-conditioned aircar, but more because humans just weren't built for the kind of sun the colony had. He tried not to spend much time outside in the middle of the afternoon if he could help it. But while that was a reasonable precaution in light of the colony's conditions, he did not need to be coddled.

"You don't have to come with me," he pointed out as they left the building. "Don't you have other work to do?"

"I would find it useful to inspect the biosphere myself," Sarek replied serenely. "I have not been there since the seeds were initially planted. I welcome the opportunity to observe the progress for myself."

He walked through the morning's heat like it was a refreshing spring day. Which to him it probably was. Sarek had settled on another foothill near Jim and Spock’s, and Jim recalled he often walked the several kilometers to work and back each day.

While Jim and Spock had settled into a modest house, big enough just for them and a guest or two, Sarek's was much bigger. Ready and waiting for the new family that Sarek would eventually build.

Jim didn't know how long Sarek had before he would have to remarry, and he knew better than to ask. But he knew that Sarek had to, and that he intended to have more children. In Jim's own universe, Sarek had never had another child after Spock, even with his new wife after Amanda's death. Jim had never had the chance to ask him why.

Sarek would not have that luxury here. The Vulcan population had been reduced from roughly thirteen billion to four million. They were not extinct, but they were far from the population threshold they wanted to feel comfortable.

Jim wondered how the younger Spock felt at the prospect of becoming an older brother. Jim's own Spock was mostly intrigued at the idea, but his relationship with the Sarek of this time was strange. They were willing to acknowledge each other as family, as Clan, but decided it was best not to claim immediate family. Spock was, after all, a good sixty years older than Sarek now.

Unlike Sarek, though, Jim could not walk to work regularly without risking heat stroke; two kilometers was about his limit. It wasn't too hot for Jim to be out, but neither was it entirely pleasant. He could already feel the sweat building on his forehead and the back of his neck.

Jim let silence fall between them on the rest of their walk, since he didn't really have anything else to say, apart from small talk. As a diplomat, Sarek was proficient at it, but though Jim would have felt more comfortable with conversation to distract him from the heat, very often he found himself making more concessions to Vulcan sensibilities. Vulcans disdained small talk, and he was living on the planet they were making into their home, so it just seemed more polite to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

The sweat started dripping down his back, and he suppressed a sigh. Even if it made him less comfortable.

A distant buzz of raised voices caught his attention, and he jerked his head around to see where it was. Vulcans rarely raised their voices. As Jim’s eyes slid past Sarek's face, though, its utter stillness stopped him for a moment. Sarek's face seemed even more carefully blank than was usual.

Jim deliberately turned his head further, looking for the source of the disturbance. What he saw was enough explanation for Sarek’s blank face, but this one Jim couldn't let go.

Without a word to Sarek, Jim turned on his heel and marched off to the two young Vulcans, in perhaps early adolescence, who stood taut in front of each other, voices still raised by not quite shouting.

"--don’t understand, can’t understand, you have not lost them all--" one boy said, half-hissing, half-stammering the words.

"Can't I?" the other interrupted, a sage flush suffusing his cheeks. "My aunt and uncle and cousins are not enough?"

"No," the first boy spat. "You can’t understand, you can’t even see how lucky you are--"

Jim saw the other boy’s face twist and then go blank, just as Spock’s once had when Jim provoked him into fighting free of mind-altering spores, and knew where this was going. "Hey!" he shouted, breaking into a jog. The second boy's head jerked up, but only momentarily before his eyes fixed once again on the first boy. Before Jim could reach them, he threw himself forward, shoulder slamming into the first boy's gut. Jim winced in sympathy, but the first boy barely blinked. He started beating on the second boy's back, flailing fists catching him once about the ear, knocking his head back, grunting wordlessly as the second boy shouted incomprehensibly.

Jim reached out to pull them apart, but before he could get a grip on the first boy's collar to pull him away, someone else did it first.

"Stop this unseemly display immediately," an adult Vulcan ordered both boys, her voice harsh but low. She let go of the first boy, then wrapped a hand around the wrist of the second, her other hand brushing against green bruising beginning to bloom on his head before jerking away and tucking into the folds of her robes. His mother, perhaps? She looked around, meeting Jim's eyes briefly before turning away without acknowledging him. "Come," she said to both boys, and as they strode away, no longer touching, Jim heard her say, "The medical center is busy enough without treating unruly children who behave illogically. You will both apologize to the healers--"

"You should not have interfered," Sarek said, drawing Jim's attention to him where he now stood beside Jim.

Jim crossed his arms. "They were about to start fighting in public," he replied pointedly.

"Perhaps they would have restrained themselves, had you not called attention to your impending interference with their quarrel," Sarek said. Jim opened his mouth to point out all the ways that did not make sense when Sarek continued, "It was for the boys' guardians to end it, if they could not stop themselves. We have another appointment."

Jim closed his mouth and let his arms fall. He had a lot of things to say, but he bit his tongue against them. The atmosphere didn't need to get even more heated than it already was, literally and metaphorically. He'd think about what arguments he wanted to make against this whole let-it-go course of action, but he wanted to do it with some air conditioning.

Jim almost didn't realize when they reached the biosphere, and it seemed he'd only blinked after the fight ended and they were standing outside with Sarek looking at him. He gave a little half-shrug and let Sarek precede him inside.

The air was slightly drier inside the biosphere, the heat somewhat less oppressive. Ha-kel had slightly greater humidity than Vulcan had had, with more water on its surface, and the drier heat was at least somewhat easier to take. Not much, though.

Sarek went off to inspect the plants himself, while Jim headed to the main office. There was a small transporter there, which was how many of the plants had arrived. Not everything in the biosphere had been grown from a seed on Ha-kel -- several plants had been preserved by Vulcans living off-planet when Nero hit. Those plants had been donated to the new colony when the biosphere was set up, and had been transported directly there to preserve them as well as possible.

Those plants already had their patterns stored in the transporter, but that still left all the other plants. He probably didn't even have to do this himself, and certainly couldn't do all of it, since there were a lot of plants, but what he could do, he wanted to.

After helping himself to some offered water, he told T'Han, the director of the plant life conservation project, what he needed: mostly just time and some fiddling with the transporter computer to make sure it saved all the patterns in a specific location for later retrieval. He also asked her to have some of her workers continue the project until all the individual species had been saved once he was gone, and she inclined her head in agreement.

When he finished his modifications to the transporter computer, he wandered back out into the main biosphere, which was a riot of plant life. The foliage was not almost uniformly green, as it would have been on his home planet, though many plants were a duller green, almost a sage color -- perhaps unsurprising, since on Earth sage was a desert plant.

The overwhelming color in this room, though, was red, every shade from a paler pink to the orange glow closer to sunset to a vibrant crimson to a ruby so deep it was almost black. The Vulcans had actually arranged them according to shade so the room looked like the entire red spectrum, exactly in order according to frequency, with thin bands of other colors mixed in to rest the eyes. The effect was rather stunning.

After pausing to take it in, Jim moved forward to join Sarek, who stood near a rust-shaded bush close to the center of one row. "The plants are doing well?" he asked as he approached.

"Acceptable," Sarek replied. "There have been some difficulties with native insects, but none insurmountable. Your task is complete as well?"

"As much as I can do. It will be easier for the staff here to actually be the ones entering all the patterns in, though. I just set the computer up for easier access later."

Sarek nodded, and the two of them left. Jim closed his eyes briefly when back out under the sun, but he followed Sarek when he began walking back towards his office.

"Dr. Kirk," Sarek said as they walked, "you might wish to stop by the medical center nearest you at your earliest convenience. The healers have developed an inoculation suitable for humans for the latest illness."

His voice carried a hint of irony, and Jim grimaced. The latest illness.

The Vulcans had not been able to plan their colony as thoroughly as they would have a more voluntary one, and there were plenty of native bacteria and viruses they hadn't had time to prepare themselves for before beginning to live and build here. So far most of the illnesses had been minor and mild, but the latest one was somewhat more virulent, particularly in children and the elderly. Spock had insisted that Jim stay away from any place it was concentrated. So far no humans had caught it and no one knew how it would affect them, except it likely would if they were exposed.

Jim had agreed, but only after extracting a similar promise from Spock.

"I will certainly do that," Jim agreed. "Thanks for letting me know."

Sarek lifted an eyebrow at him, as if to remind him of the illogic of expressing thanks, and Jim grinned. As many behavioral concessions as Jim was making to the Vulcans, he wasn't going to act like he'd grown pointed ears and straightened eyebrows and rearranged his internal organs.

The Vulcans also needed to be comfortable dealing with other species.

Jim and Spock would have to have Sarek come for dinner again; he had done so several times already, and seemed to relax further with each visit. It wasn’t familial, but it was friendly.

It wasn't later than mid-morning, so once he parted with Sarek, Jim decided to just go get the inoculation over with before the afternoon heat left him enervated and ready for a nap. He did take public transport instead of walking, though, because the nearest hospital was about five kilometers away and he'd already filled his exercise-in-horrible-heat requirement for the day.

Some other humans were waiting for their inoculations when he got there, a few Starfleet technicians and three women dressed in the uniform of the Interplanetary Red Cross. He had no idea who they were -- there were enough humans on this planet right now for him not to know all of them individually, despite having a species in common -- but he nodded at them to be friendly, and they nodded back. Vulcans were as self-sufficient as they could be, of course, but they did allow aid workers on their new planet, and they allowed those aid workers to do their jobs. Jim was in the strange position of being one of the new citizens, who would continue to live there even when the colony was complete enough for the aid workers to leave, but he was still not Vulcan.

The inoculation went smoothly when it was his turn, the Vulcan healers as efficient as ever. On his way out, though, he decided to stop by the children's ward, to see if the boys who had been fighting earlier were there. This would have been the closest hospital to the fight.

He didn't know very many of the settlement's children personally, and none of them very well. So many of them were orphans, shoved by their parents onto transports off the planet. All of them had at least been claimed, but Jim doubted that made it very much easier for them. He thought even the Vulcans, inexperienced with understanding emotion, could see how lost those children were.

And sick ones would have it even harder. They'd survived the destruction of their home and the deaths of their families, but now found themselves coughing and burning with a fever. They were too young to know the healing trance, and there weren't enough trained Vulcan healers to put them all in trances and have them monitored, so they had to just endure it.

Children were a lot tougher than many people gave them credit for, but it was still very difficult to just watch them endure, knowing they suffered, and not just because they were too sick -- or in too much pain -- to hide it. Those boys were proof of many of the children's difficulties.

The hospital was comparatively rudimentary; the builders had not had time to construct primarily individual rooms, so most of the wards really were wards, rooms full of rows of beds. A glance around showed that neither of the fighting boys were in this ward, and Jim tried not to be disappointed; it had been a long shot that he would see them, and he wasn't sure what he would have said. The children were no more likely than the adults to give him an honest assessment of their emotional health.

Only a dozen children, most of them pallid, eyes sunken, shivering despite the warm air, seemed to be cooped up in this particular hospital. Only one had a visitor, an older man who sat in a chair beside a teenager’s bed. The man read a datapadd without glancing at the teenager, who lay on her back, looking at the man until she closed her eyes and slowly turned over to lay on her side.

Looking away from the scene, Jim recognized a patient as his eye passed over her, and thought he might as well see what he could do for one Vulcan child.

"Hello, T'Korin," Jim said, strolling closer to her bed, where she was sitting up, perusing a padd.

"Dr. Kirk," she replied, resting the padd in her lap. Her normally dark skin retained a sickly pallor, and she clutched the padd as her hands trembled. "You are not ill?"

He shook his head. "Just getting my inoculation. I thought I'd see if there were any kids who might like cheering up."

She gave him an unimpressed look. Jim repressed a laugh. "Vulcans do not need 'cheering up,'" she replied predictably. "To be cheered and to be without cheer are both emotional states."

"Well, maybe I'm the one who's cheered up, then," he said, smiling at her.

"If it fulfills one of your emotional needs to converse with me, I will not resist you," she said solemnly, and Jim's smile widened. She was an adorable girl, almost pixie-like, the granddaughter of one of the surviving High Council members, of whom only a few survived; Elder Kopek was her only living relation left. He was particularly stuffy, but T'Korin had a lovely wry sense of humor.

"I am gratified," he said, inclining his head toward her. "Not everyone is willing to indulge my illogical need to be human, you know."

"The need to act in accordance with the tenets of your species is not illogical," she said, her brows furrowing slightly.

"I don't mind adapting myself to fit the circumstances."

She tilted her head to the side. "I have observed humans to be very adaptable."

Jim had been about to reply when he caught sight of the Vulcan healer who had just entered the ward and headed for the bed nearest the door, probably starting on rounds. He had actually blinked and had to look again, because he wasn't sure he entirely believed it.

The healer was younger than Jim had ever seen him, but he still looked remarkably the same as when Jim had known him in his own universe. His hair was wilder than Vulcans typically kept theirs, and he had a beard, though most Vulcans didn't, particularly beards so blatantly shaggy. But when he turned his head and Jim could see his face full-on, he had no doubts.

It was Sybok, Spock's older half-brother, who had once been exiled for rejecting Surak's principles on emotion.

"Dr. Kirk, do you know Healer Sybok?" T'Korin asked, and Jim tore his eyes away to look at her again.

"Not exactly," he said. "I know his father and brother, though. I didn't realize he was on Ha-kel."

"He was already here when I arrived," she said. She'd only been there three days, though, so who knew how long Sybok had really been there.

Jim looked at him again, unable to stop. His feelings about Sybok were conflicted -- Sybok had once hijacked his ship, but he had done it in a quest for respect and validation, and he had ended up sacrificing his life in part for Jim's. Not to mention he was Jim's brother-in-law. And now here was his younger counterpart. How similar were their histories? Jim hadn't even thought to ask Sarek about Sybok.

He only realized he was staring again when Sybok looked straight at him. "Do you need me, sir?" he asked politely.

"Not right now," Jim replied, thinking quickly. What should he tell him?

But he couldn't make this decision on his own. "Excuse me," he told Sybok, and to T'Korin, he said, "I enjoyed talking with you. Feel better soon."

"That is my intention," she replied. He grinned, then turned around and hurried out of the room before she could see the smile slip off his face.

He immediately headed for the lobby, and the quiet corner where the public computer terminals were. He quickly keyed in the code to Spock's office at the HSA, where he should be right now, and drummed his fingers against the desk while he waited for the computers to connect.

When Spock's face did appear on the screen, Jim didn't even bother with the pleasantries. "Sybok's here," he said abruptly.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean by 'here'?" he asked. "And how did you come by this information?"

"Sarek told me there was an inoculation for humans for that illness, so I came to get it -- at the hospital closest to Sarek's office. I was visiting with T'Korin, Kopek's granddaughter, when I saw him. He's a healer here, Spock."

The eyebrow came down, but Spock looked grave. "And what do you desire to do with this information?"

Jim bit his lip. "I don't know," he admitted. "He hasn't done anything to us yet, not this him. But I don't want to give him the chance to, either. I don't know what his life has been like here."

"Then the logical course of action would be to ask him, or someone who knows him."

"I don't think we should ask him yet, not directly. He'd want to know how we know him, and why we care what his life has been like, and it'd be hard to answer that without explaining all about our own universe."

"Do you not wish to tell him?"

Jim shrugged. "He's your brother. Shouldn't you be the one to decide that? What you're willing to have him know?"

"He is not my brother," Spock corrected. "He is possibly the man my brother could have been in his younger years, but I could not know for sure; until Sybok implemented his plan to hijack the Enterprise, I had not seen him since he was sixteen. I do not know what he had been doing with himself up until our final meeting."

"Sarek, then," Jim said. "Would you like to ask him, or do you want me to?"

Spock tilted his head, considering it. "I shall ask him," he said finally. "It would be a reasonable query. Sarek would think nothing of it should I want to know what became of the brother I had once had."

Jim nodded. "And about Sybok himself? Do you want him to know about us?"

Spock took longer to answer this one. "I do not know," he said slowly, "but I am inclined towards...yes. I do wish to know him, to have him know us. I would prefer he avoid the fate he found in our universe."

"Yeah," Jim said. For many reasons, it would be better if Sybok could be deterred from the path Jim remembered.

"What do you think about inviting him to dinner?" Spock asked.

A smile pulled at Jim's lips. "Don't want to wait to hear what Sarek has to say?"

"I do not believe it will make a significant difference," Spock replied. "He is respectable enough right now to be a healer. I would like to know the circumstances of his life, and I would prefer to know prior to our meeting with him, but..."

He looked hesitant, but Jim thought he understood. "You'd like a chance to build some sort of relationship with your brother, even if he's not exactly your brother," he finished, and Spock nodded. "You want me to invite him?"

"Yes, if you're already there. Though an invitation for tomorrow would also allow me to time to speak with Sarek."

Jim nodded. "Will do," he said. Then, with that taken care of, he asked, "How's work going?"

"Adequately," Spock replied, and tilted his head.

Jim grinned. "Hey, let me have my small talk with someone who will put up with it," he said.

"Are you certain you are not presuming?"

"Yep." Spock's eyebrow lifted again, and Jim laughed. "You'll listen to anything I say, won't you? Go on, go back to work. I should go talk to Sybok, and get back to work of my own."

Spock nodded. "I will see you this evening, then," he said. Jim smiled at him and confirmed it, then signed off.

He went back to the children's ward, where Sybok was now at the far end of the room. Jim hovered just to the inside of the doorway, trying to think of the best way to invite him without having to go into the whole alternate timeline thing right away. But he didn't have very long to think about it, because Sybok finished with the last child soon and turned to look directly at Jim. Jim waited as he approached.

"There is something I can do for you now?" he asked dryly.

Jim smiled a little uneasily. "You are Sybok, son of Sarek, right?"

Sybok inclined his head, both eyebrows raised with about as much surprise as a Vulcan showed. Did this mean Sybok controlled his emotions more? "I am, but I do not recall meeting you."

"We haven't. I'm Dr. James Kirk. I've been doing some work with your father, and I met your brother. I didn't realize you were on Ha-kel, though."

"I only recently arrived." He looked at Jim with narrowed eyes. "I do not believe my father and brother would be particularly inclined to discuss me," he said.

"It's complicated," Jim replied. "And actually, I was wondering if you'd be willing to come to dinner with my bondmate and me tomorrow. My bondmate...is also familiar with your father and brother."

Sybok nodded slowly. "I am curious, Dr. Kirk," he said, and then favored Jim with a slow smile. "You're not one of the Federation aid workers?"

Okay, he was at least willing to smile. "I'm helping, of course," Jim replied, "but no, I'm primarily here because my bondmate is Vulcan and he wanted to be here. Can we count on seeing you tomorrow?"

"Yes," Sybok replied. "As I said, I am curious. I believe I'm looking forward to meeting your bondmate."

They confirmed a time and the directions, then Jim let Sybok get back to his rounds. He still had plenty of things to do himself.

When Spock arrived home that night, Jim was already there. He'd come home for lunch, and then again for good in the late afternoon, needing a nap before he could think of dinner and a serious discussion. He was still tired, though, when Spock walked in the door, and waited for Spock to come meet him on the sofa before giving him a quick peck in greeting.

"Sybok's willing to come have dinner," Jim said, letting his head fall back against the cushions as Spock put away his work things. "He's curious, though."

"As any Vulcan would be," Spock replied. "I have spoken with Sarek. Sybok's history in this universe seems to parallel his history in our own, at least as far as leaving Vulcan. After that, Sarek knows no more about what Sybok has done than I do. He had not realized Sybok was on the planet."

Jim tapped his fingers against his lips in thought. "You think he came here to help?"

"That would be logical," Spock said. "Sybok, despite his stance on emotion, is also a child of Vulcan. He would want to be a part of our people's rebuilding as well."

Spock prepared dinner, though Jim found himself just toying with half of it, not hungry. When Spock looked at him, he just shrugged and offered a wry smile.

"Still tired," he said. And he was. His sleep last night had not been especially restful, and while the nap helped, he still felt somewhat groggy.

He did go to bed early that night, but this time he didn't dream, and he was grateful for it.

--

Sybok was prompt, arriving exactly at their agreed meeting time. Jim greeted him and drew him inside, and Sybok followed him to the living room equivalent, where Spock waited.

"Healer Sybok, this is my bondmate," Jim said, as Sybok raised his hand in the ta'al and Spock mirrored the gesture. "Spock."

Sybok frowned. "No family name?" he asked, and then looked closer. "You are familiar to me, but I cannot recall meeting you."

Jim could see the amusement in Spock's eyes, and wondered if Sybok could as well. "The question of whether we have met has a complicated answer," Spock said gravely, though his tone belied the twinkle in his eyes. He was having fun with this. "I am, in fact, Spock, son of Sarek, of the house of Surak."

"And my brother, I presume? But my brother is younger than I."

Spock nodded. "He is. And I am only your brother in a sense. Jim and I are not from this universe. We arrived here by the same means Nero did."

"Can I get you anything, Sybok?" Jim asked, when it seemed Sybok would not say anything. "A glass of water? Something else?"

"A glass of water would be appreciated," Sybok replied. He lowered himself into a straight-backed chair at Spock's gesture, sitting as if his spine had fused to the back. Jim went to get the water, and when he returned and handed his guest the glass, Sybok and Spock were both still in the same positions.

"I have many questions," Sybok finally said, breaking the silence, "but I do not know what to ask first. Shall we start with Nero? You sound like you know more of him than I do."

Jim let Spock tell the story, since Spock had it pretty much down pat by now, and he was the one Sybok kept most of his attention on anyway. Well, it probably wasn't every day that someone several times your age claimed to be your younger brother.

"And my counterpart, in your universe?" Sybok asked calmly when Spock had finished. "What happened to me?"

Jim and Spock exchanged a glance. "We would prefer not to tell anyone their fates," Jim said. "This is a different universe, and things have already changed so much."

Spock nodded. "We do not desire to be prophets," he said. "It is still our intention to help, and perhaps offer what general knowledge will be of use, but we do not want to influence the path of anyone's life."

"Beyond what advice any friend might offer," Jim added. They had influenced their younger counterparts, after all, but as little as they could.

"I understand," Sybok said, but his eyes were unreadable.

"We'd like to know more about you, though," Jim said, watching him. He did seem very Vulcan -- certainly far more restrained than the Sybok Jim had first met, whose face had been far more open. Had Sybok grown into his expressiveness? Spock never had said very much about what Sybok had been like before his exile.

Much like this, Spock said within their bond, catching Jim's thought. He did have his initial training in Surakian principles. While he found emotions to be worthwhile, and did not hesitate to display them when he thought it necessary or...enjoyable...he would often fall back on his initial training. I believe it was his exile from Vulcan, and the decades he spent away from his people, that led him to both his quest and the expressiveness you noted.

Jim didn't nod, but he did send an impression of understanding back at Spock.

He appreciated knowing that Sybok was not so very different here. Hopefully it would be easier to subtly steer him away from the path that had led to his death.

"What do you wish to know?"

Jim shrugged. "You're a healer, right? Why did you decide to do that? Why come to Ha-kel?"

Sybok smiled. "More precisely, I am a doctor," he said, "trained by the Federation. I know enough Vulcan-specific medicine to qualify as a Vulcan healer, but I did not learn that on the homeworld, considering by that time I would not have been accepted as a student. I learned on the Vulcanis Lunar Colony.

"As for why I became a doctor, and why I came to Ha-kel, the answers are much the same." He leaned forward, something in his eyes starting to gleam. "My people may have cast me out for my beliefs, but I am still a Vulcan. I wish to serve my people in the manner best suited to me. And Spock, Dr. Kirk, I believe my people are stagnating -- or were, before Nero's incursion. Fewer and fewer of the Federation’s artists came from Vulcan, and it has been growing harder to live as one would like, regardless of how much that life adheres to principles of pure logic. Scientific achievements are not everything. Neither is logic. As important as I do agree it is for keeping us from being savages, a life lived by logic alone is sterile. There must be more to existence than being a walking computer."

He sat back in his chair again, but Jim could still see the passion bright in his eyes. "I have studied the medicine of the body, because I do believe living things are of the body, and we should not forget it, nor denigrate its importance. But my primary interest and training is the medicine of the mind and the soul. I came to Ha-kel because it is my hope that in the wake of this terrible tragedy, I can help my people wake up and lead fuller lives."

Spock tilted his head. "Fascinating," he said. "And certainly a worthy goal. That pure logic is ultimately sterile is a conclusion I came to myself, after much time and difficulty, and I believe my life has been the better for that revelation. However," he warned, "Sybok, my brother. Please keep in mind the principles of infinite diversity in infinite combinations."

Sybok, whose face had brightened at Spock's initial words, shut down again. "Vulcans do not celebrate IDIC as they should," he argued hotly. "That is why I was exiled. If we properly embraced that as our core tenet, I would never have had to leave my home."

"All of us have now had to leave our home," Spock reminded him. "You are no longer alone in your exile; every Vulcan shares it. And Sybok, although our people do not celebrate IDIC as they should does not mean you should cease to do so. While I do believe in many ways we would benefit by becoming more open to our emotions, there are those of us for whom such openness would be an unbearable burden. The Kolinahru have as much right to the way they would live their lives as do the V'tosh Ka'tur."

Sybok eyed him, then, after a moment, grinned. "I cannot argue with that," he said. "Already it is a greater victory than I had foreseen to hear my brother speaking this way to me, my brother who had for so long endeavored to be more Vulcan than Vulcan. I dreaded hearing you would become Kolinahru yourself."

"I did attempt it," Spock said ruefully. "It was due to my failure, and an experience I had not long after it, that I became more open to my own emotions. My hope, and one Jim shares, is that my younger self, the one who is truly your brother, can find peace with himself without attempting to cut part of him out."

Jim nodded. "Kolinahr is all right for some," he allowed, "but most Vulcans do not, actually, purge all of their emotions. Why not, if there's no value to them? Sybok, I also hope that Vulcans, including Spock's younger counterpart, learn to see that value."

"I am...very gratified to hear both of you say so," Sybok replied. "My own progress has been slow."

"Perhaps the one area in which Vulcans are slow learners," Jim said, and smiled when both the Vulcans raised an eyebrow at him.

Well, Sybok might be an ally in Jim's own quest to get the Vulcans to actually process their grief rather than just ignoring it. Still, Jim thought, watching Sybok and Spock begin a lighter conversation, he would be an ally to keep an eye on. Jim was not going to forget what the Sybok of his own universe had done.




Chapter Three

August 2013

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