On the planet Vulcan, a crisis of unprecedented proportion has caused the convocation of the planet's ruling council -- and summoned the "U.S.S. Enterprise" TM from halfway across the galaxy, to bring Vulcan's most famous son home in its hour of need.
As Commander Spock, his father Sarek, and Captain James T. Kirk struggle to preserve Vulcan's future, the planet's innermost secrets are revealed, from its beginnings millions of years ago to its savage prehistory, from merciless tribal warfare to medieval court intrigue, from the exploration of space to the development of "o'thia" -- the ruling ethic of logic. And Spock, torn between his duty to Starfleet and the unbreakable ties that bind him to Vulcan, must find a way to reconcile both his own inner conflict and the external dilemma his planet faces, lest the Federation itself be ripped asunder.
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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 limb of 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
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