Here it is at long last! The continuation! Exclamation point! This is a sequel to "Sins of the Lion" but hopefully there won't be too much confusion if you haven't read it. I will do my best to keep to my usual uploading plan of posting a chapter every week or so. Reviews are much appreciated to keep me inspired!
"If ya ask me, this whole thing has a bad vibe to it."
"It may be worth pointing out to you, doctor, that no one did ask you."
"Well, maybe it would do you some good, Spock, if you did ask me once in a while for some intuitive input, 'cause you sure as hell don't have all the answers with pure logic."
"Oh my God, why is this elevator taking so long…?"
"The validity of any input based on intuition is highly dubious—"
"Dubious? What's dubious is the fact that we're on our way to pay you a visit—but wait a minute, you're going to visit you, too! If two Spocks standin' in the same room together doesn't make somethin' dubious, then I dunno what does."
"…how many floors does this place have…?"
"Though Ambassador Spock and I inhabit the same physical body, varied by age, we are in fact individuals with our own unique histories."
"A thorn by any other name still pains my ass…"
"Your metaphor and the Shakespearean quote you seemingly hoped to allude to are virtually irrelevant in this case, since Ambassador Spock and I do, in fact, have the same name…"
"I'm tellin' you, Spock, I gotta bad feeling. Take it or leave it."
"I shall choose to 'leave it' then, since your 'feelings' are nothing more than a physical manifestation of your own commonly overactive imagination coupled with your chronically rampant emotions."
"Guys, come on…"
"Yeah? Listen here you green blooded machine, we'll see who's havin' emotions when I get to say I told you so."
"I see three fallacies in your prediction, the first—"
The elevator stopped and the doors opened, cutting short any and all arguments.
"Thank God!" Kirk said under his breath.
With Spock and McCoy on each side of him, the captain stepped out into the immaculate hallway of the Vulcan Embassy. Through the windows could be seen the grounds of Starfleet Academy in the distance, half cast in blue shadows by the setting sun. Glowing red behind it as it caught the waning light of the sun was the Golden Gate Bridge.
Hours earlier Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had each received personalized messages from Ambassador Spock, who requested them to meet with him together. No reason was given, except that they all happened to be in San Francisco at the same time by fortuitous circumstances.
"You tell me, Spock," Bones was whispering gruffly now as they passed by a few somber Vulcan diplomats. "What are the chances of you inviting anyone over for some whiskey and a game of cards?"
"You suggest that this is a social call. We have not been given enough information to conclude one way or the other…"
Kirk let a heavy sigh escape as the other two debated endlessly. He wasn't going to think about the reasons why they were asked to come here when they were literally on their way to get the answers anyway. When they finally reached a barren lobby, they were met by a young Vulcan man in heavy, dark robes.
"Captain Kirk," he said flatly, but with a softer voice than most Vulcan's tended to have. "My name is Velek. If you would all please follow me, the Ambassador is expecting you."
They were led to an office, which was adjacent to the private suite given to all Vulcan diplomats staying at the embassy. The office was dimly lit, the orange Vulcan-made lamps glowing eerily from the table tops. The temperature was well into the eighties Fahrenheit, a comfortable climate for their copper-based blood but a little too toasty for Kirk's taste.
As they entered by Kirk's lead, the thin, angular form of Ambassador Spock rose from behind the console at his desk. He was slightly stooped, his features withered and his eternally perfect hair silver and gray. Kirk had not seen him with his own eyes since he bid him farewell on Delta Vega seven years ago, and after becoming so close and familiar with the younger counterpart, it was surprisingly shocking to see the aged version. When his eyes fell upon the entering trio, they showed the intelligent spark that Jim knew all too well. Young or old, it was still Spock, and yet… his aged face betrayed something that wasn't often seen. There was a small smile.
"Jim," his voice was lacking in the crispness that Kirk was used to as it crackled instead. "I am pleased to see you again, my friend."
"It's good to see you, too."
It actually was good to see him in a really, really weird way.
"Commander Spock…" He nodded respectfully to his younger self.
"Ambassador Spock," the first officer gave an almost imperceptible nod back.
"Jesus Christ," Bones mumbled.
"Dr. McCoy…" the old Vulcan looked thoroughly amused as he approached the bug-eyed doctor. "You and I have not been properly introduced."
"Properly, no… Though I feel like I know you already."
The doctor offered a hand to the aged Vulcan despite of the visible vein at his temple. The handshake was polite, but Kirk had to hold in a laugh at the utter confusion that plagued the poor country doctor. He clearly didn't know how to take two Spocks at once.
"I have been following the accessible reports of your five-year mission," Ambassador Spock was speaking to all of them, though his attention was primarily on Kirk. "I would like to congratulate you on its completion." The glimmer in the old Vulcan's eye was tinted with nostalgia and perhaps pride.
Kirk, however, felt a weight in his stomach at the sentiment that should have made him proud as well. He ignored it with a clearing of his throat. "Thank you. But, with all due respect, sir… You called us here for a reason?"
"Indeed, I have." He held a long hand towards the cushioned chairs on each side of a small table. "Please, gentlemen…."
They seated themselves in a semi-circle, Ambassador Spock sitting serenely in front of them. His knotty hands concealed themselves within the dark fabric of his sleeves, a pensiveness furrowing his gray brow.
"With your five-year mission having been completed for half a year now, I have advocated to Starfleet the candidacy of the USS Enterprise for a mission of singular interest."
Kirk recognized the sound of Spock choosing his words carefully, even if he was roughly a century older. "And what is this singularly interesting mission?"
"To survey a star system that faces an inevitable cataclysm. This event will destroy one planet and subsequently devastate others as a result, rendering almost all life within the system unable to survive."
The captain lifted a skeptical brow. "If you followed our five-year mission, then you know we've dealt with worse scenarios. There are natural disasters occurring in every corner of the Federation at any given moment. Not to mention the tensions with the Klingons are at an all-time high. There are multiple other—more pressing—missions in the queue for the Enterprise concerning planetary negotiations or the delivery of supplies to Starfleet outposts near the neutral zone. What could possibly make a survey mission take precedence over all that?"
Ambassador Spock did not so much as blink, his gaze steady. "The star system that is doomed to ruin is Ceti Alpha."
Kirk's mouth fell open and McCoy bolted upright beside him. Though the younger Spock was not so obvious in his reaction, he did turn his head quite suddenly to regard his captain. An awkward silence fell, and Ambassador Spock was the first to speak.
"According to the official records," he said calmly, "there are no sentient life forms in the Ceti Alpha star system, therefore Starfleet has no responsibility to interfere. I am suggesting a purely scientific expedition."
Kirk managed a nod, playing it as nonchalant as he knew how. "Naturally… But, uh… I fail to see how that makes this particular mission significant. Maybe if we knew the details of this so-called cataclysm we could make a more informed decision."
"An informed decision is precisely what I intend to provide you with, Jim."
There was a sudden darkness in the elder Vulcan's eyes that chilled Kirk. It told him that somehow this Spock knew about the secret colony of augments and was feigning ignorance. They both had their own histories with the infamous Khan Noonien Singh and Kirk was beginning to tap into those bad vibes that Bones mentioned earlier.
"What is it that this survey mission will be looking for?" He attempted to keep up the charade, to not mention the name of their mutual enemy.
"The cause of the disaster, perhaps... There is no hazard in telling you that in my own time, stardate 2267, the sixth planet of the Ceti Alpha Star System mysteriously exploded. No cause was ever detected before or after. In fact, the occurrence went entirely unnoticed by Starfleet. It was so immense, however, that it affected a majority of the planets in their orbits, the remnants of Ceti Alpha VI itself becoming little more than fragments added to the surrounding asteroid belt. No planet within the system was impacted as severely as Ceti Alpha V, which was decimated from the only life-sustaining Class M planet to a wasteland of dust and rock."
The captain was dumbstruck as he listened. When he had left Khan and his people on Ceti Alpha V, the place was beautiful, nearly an Eden in its own right. He was content (up until now) to think they were living out their lives peacefully.
"While you were on your five-year mission," Ambassador Spock continued, "I have devoted much of my time to this very task. With the approval of the Vulcan Science Academy, I have been leading a study of the system in an effort to discern any potential causes—blackholes, incoming asteroids, volcanic disruptions—all without success. I did not wish for this to interfere with your mission, which is why I have waited until now to apprise you of it."
"You think we should try to prevent this disaster from occurring?"
"I am not your commanding officer and I cannot know with any certainty what the future holds. It would also be highly remiss of me to attempt to alter your destiny in any one direction. Therefore, I am in no position to tell you what should be done. I have arranged the survey mission, should you decide to accept it. How you make use of your authorization in that quadrant is your own choice."
There was no way in hell Kirk was going to turn away from this one, and the elder Spock knew it. This supposed survey mission was a means to cover the young captain's ass from any inquiries Starfleet Command might have of the Enterprise's presence in that sector.
"The Enterprise may have other assignments that will override this scientific venture of yours."
Kirk put on an air of professionalism that every man in that room probably knew was a lie. He was the first to rise to his feet. The others followed suit.
"I have faith in your judgment of what is important, captain," the ambassador replied without pause. It was bizarre to hear a word like 'faith' come out of a Vulcan's mouth—especially Spock's. "I will be awaiting your acceptance or refusal of the mission."
"I'll let you know by tomorrow," Kirk offered a confident smile, but he could feel the apprehension beginning to claw at him.
A respectful farewell was exchanged between the four men and the trio walked in silence through the halls of the embassy. The moment they were alone on the elevator that carried them earthbound, Kirk's face dropped into his hand with a sudden oncoming headache and Spock frowned meditatively at the closed doors of the elevator. Meanwhile, Bones bounced on his heels with unusual cheerfulness, a small smile tugging at the edge of his mouth as his eyes shifted askance to stare at Spock's profile.
"I told you so."