By Rabble Rouser
DATE: January 10, 2003
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Jungle Kitty, Wildcat, and Kathy Dailey for their very useful comments on a very early draft of this. (Which doesn't mean they would endorse this final version). And a very special thanks to Djinn for her beta and her encouragement—without which this story would have never come back to life.
This story touched off a powerful vignette by Djinn "Not All At Once," a sequel from Khan's point of view. Do NOT read Djinn's story first, since it would spoil the ending of this story—but it's the perfect continuation to "Weeds." You can find the link for it at the bottom of the story.
© 2003 Rabble Rouser
v v v
Spock: It would be interesting, Captain,
to return to that world in a hundred years
and learn what crop has sprung from the
seed you planted today.
Kirk: Yes, Mr. Spock, it would indeed.
v v v
Professor Gill used to tell us that the grand sweep of history is to be found precisely in personal memoirs, journals, and letters—like infinitesimal dots that only at a distance create a full panorama. He said our first duty was to observe and record our own lives. The present properly looked at is already the past; a second gone by is as much the past as a century. It's all history as soon as we put the words down.
I winced more than once reading over my journal. But even if I made a poor Starfleet officer, I still take pride in being a decent historian. As easy as it would be to erase passages here, add some self-justification there, adjust, trim, tailor, insert, edit, until I paint a heroine worthy of admiration, the one thing I won't betray is my duty to history. And of all that I once was and had hoped to be, duty and history is all that I have left.Excerpts from the Logs of Marla McGivers Personal Log, October 19, 2264, Starfleet Academy
I found out today that I'm being assigned to the Enterprise. I'm not sure if that's a reward or punishment. I wanted the opportunity to go out there; to be where exciting events were unfolding, and the Enterprise is the fleet flagship. That was the point of this uniform, of the posting at the academy. If I wanted the conventional academic track, I should have stayed at Stanford for my doctorate. But I'm also Professor Gill's teaching assistant, so I wonder if this is Nogura's broom sweeping clean.
Professor Gill fell because he wouldn't trim his words to fit our softer age. Nogura had been made superintendent of the academy this term. Last week the Admiral had sat in on one class of the professor's—"Patterns of Leadership." I had seen him lean forward when the Professor spoke of the rise of Japan in the 20th Century, of the samurai spirit born again. Nogura had gone very still and his face had become totally devoid of expression. I had taken it as a sign of rapt attention. I suppose in a sense it was.
This morning when I went to tell the Professor my new assignment, I found him cleaning out his office. He told me Nogura had generously allowed him the chance to observe living history far away on Ekos. Nogura had told him the planet was in a similar state of technological and cultural development as 20th Century Earth and that much might be learned from the parallels. The professor's voice grew ironic when he spoke of his gratitude to be given such an opportunity and Nogura's kindness in not requiring him to finish out the term.
It was frightening somehow, how utterly still he went then and how tightly he closed his eyes as if trying to shut out everything around him. How easily the office had been stripped of his presence. Over twenty years fitting into a medium-sized box he clutched to him. I put a hand on his shoulder and he opened his eyes then, looked at me blankly for a moment, then moved away from me and out the door.
I knew what a bitter exile this would be for him. Professor Gill saw Starfleet Academy as infusing the spirit of an inquiring, cultured Athens with the ordered, disciplined Sparta. Here he'd have the chance to shape the minds that would be masters of the galaxy. I knew he had longed to find an Alexander to his Aristotle. And I knew that wasn't me.
Personal Log, Stardate 1242.1, USS Enterprise
Captain Kirk doesn't have a face I find at all compelling. As an artist, I have long known how to draw character from the expression in the eyes, the set of a mouth. Oh, I know artists who would have envied the chance to capture those well-proportioned features. The broad brow, the chameleon-colored eyes with their thick fringe of eyelashes, the nicely molded nose, the fine lips that shaped into an engaging asymmetric smile.
For my taste, his face was too conventionally handsome with too few lines to make it interesting, his eyes too soft and that smile too boyish. The palate too shaded toward pale colors. Even the contours of his body suggested more a dancer than an Atlas who could carry worlds. There was grace and poise yes—but none of the things that attracted me. There was nothing outsized about him.
At the party welcoming new crew, I thought he had caught me staring at him, assessing him. I blushed and stammered over my own name when he came up to say hello. His slightly amused expression angered and embarrassed me with it's unspoken assumptions about my study of him. I felt even more stupid when I had to ask him to repeat his question.
"You're the new ship's historian?"
"We haven't had much call for a historian on deep space missions. Which does give you the opportunity to shape a lot of your role here. We thought of placing you with Commander Finney in Records."
I was dumfounded. Not much call for a historian? "On the contrary. Deep space missions make history. What's that old saw? History with every light year? A Starship captain has the power of a god under his fingertips with such awesome weaponry under his control. The power to shape civilizations."
He shook his head. "Our foremost law was written to keep us from playing God. We don't have a god's power of creation in those phaser banks—only the power to destroy. All too human and not very impressive." He smiled. "We will be making real history very soon. The first ship to cross beyond the galaxy's edge."
"Other ships have come this way."
"And were lost. We'll be the first to return to tell the tale. Should be interesting." His voice was cocky and unconcerned that the Enterprise could meet the fate of ships like the Valiant.
Then Mitchell, the first officer, came up and whispered to Kirk who then excused himself as if he were the host and I his guest rather than his subordinate. I had heard Mitchell was Kirk's own choice for first officer. They had known each other since they were together at the Academy. No doubt Kirk felt comfortable with him.
With their youthful good looks, Kirk and Mitchell looked the same type; college boys whose biggest concern was making the right play in the next home game. I grimaced and thought of Captain Archer of the first Enterprise who had blundered his way through his missions. I had found his logs disappointing; with more reflection on water polo plays than first contact with the Klingons. I watched Kirk and Mitchell, and seeing the swagger in both their strides, I found myself wondering if these two really had the depth and breadth of mind to make choices that could affect billions.
The professor had told me that of all his students, Kirk had the most promise, the most chance to shape history. I think that the professor was wrong to pin any hopes on Kirk. Kirk doesn't strike me as a Garth. I know the professor would share my skepticism over Garth's fate. A spirit worthy of Napoleon we had thought, and they've shut him in an asylum and called him insane. Now there was a starship captain! This captain seems a man who takes far more pride in new worlds discovered than enemies vanquished. But the truth is that the truly great explorers—a Columbus, a Cortez, have as much of the soul of a conqueror as the spirit of discovery. But then, after all, Kirk is a protégé of Nogura's.
Professor Gill had told me Kirk had a first rate and original mind. I hope he's right. Because out here my very life may depend on it.
Personal Log Stardate 1322.0, USS Enterprise
We've made it past and back from the galactic barrier with eleven dead. I'm not entirely sure what happened. The official log is fairly cryptic, and just where things get interesting, I find I'm barred from crucial passages because I don't have a high enough clearance. I am becoming increasingly frustrated. How can I possibly fulfill my function as a historian if I don't have full access to what happens as it unfolds?
I expected to be the ship's Plutarch, the captain's Virgil. But instead of chronicling momentous events, I'm reduced to such mundane duties as helping Record Officer Finney update personnel files. Kirk, reputed throughout the fleet for caring about the least of his crew, can't even get my name right two times out of three. When I complained about that to Finney, he smirked, telling me that was an ominous sign. "Kirk couldn't even get his own yeoman's name right— kept calling her 'Jones' instead of Smith." Now she was being transferred. "She's history," he told me then laughed at his own wit.
I know this much from interviewing some of the medical and engineering techs. Mitchell was changed, transformed, into a man of great powers. Witkowsky told me that when Mitchell was in Sickbay, he read through the library tapes at such a speed the screen blurred. Objects flew through the air at Mitchell's will. One of the engineering techs told me Kelso had exclaimed that Mitchell had seen with only his mind that the impulse pack points had decayed to lead. Lee Kelso, whom rumor says Mitchell strangled with a thought.
I can understand what must have driven Mitchell. We are not kind to those who are different—especially those who are special, superior. The impulse to chop down the stalk that rises too high goes very deep in humans. They were going to strand Mitchell on Delta Vega for no reason I can find other that they feared his newfound power. All that great potential lost. One thing I know without question because the entire ship is abuzz with it. Kirk killed Mitchell himself.
I used the issue of access to data as an excuse to approach Kirk. I thought I might be able to draw him out on the subject. I found him sitting alone in the mess hall toying idly with the food in front of him with little apparent appetite. One wrist was still in a cast. He did say he'd get my clearance upgraded but then began to gesture dismissal, so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"Professor Gill urged me to take a posting with you if I got the chance. He thinks very highly of you."
At the mention of his old professor, Kirk's eyes lit and his voice grew animated. "I can't think of an instructor I disagreed with more often, but he always seemed to enjoy it when I challenged him."
"Great teachers do."
"It was he more than anyone else who inspired me to make history one of my majors. He made me feel we aren't at the mercy of remote forces—that history is not shaped by a single impersonal cause, and what we do matters."
I nodded my head. "Refreshing after professors like Torak insisting that history can be reduced to a science that could predict the future with an equation." Kirk grinned back at me and for a moment I felt a fleeting connection with him.
"Gill's a bit of a throwback. History as the 'recording of the Will of Great Men.'"
For a while I forgot he was the captain and sat down with him and we spoke of Plato, Nietzche, and Hegel and their theories of what shapes history. But after a while I could tell those philosophers did not sing to him the way they did to me. I'm not sure what it was I said—but slowly I could feel him pulling away from the discussion and had a vague feeling he was disappointed with me.
"I heard Professor Gill is doing field work these days," he said as he went back to picking at his food.
"Oh, yes," I said, trying to suppress the bitterness in my voice. "If you'll excuse me, Captain?"
"Carry on, McIvers," he said absently.
"It's McGivers," I answered sharply. He didn't even have the grace to be embarrassed, had already dismissed me from his mind. After having basked in his regard for a short time, it left me feeling invisible. Cast into the outer darkness. A feeling Professor Gill would have understood.
Who cares if Captain James T. Kirk can't remember my name? In a hundred years who will remember his?
Personal Log, Stardate 1679.8, USS Enterprise
I swear I don't understand Kirk. Just when I think I have him figured out he jumbles the picture. His bluff of Balock approached genius. Yet moments later he's putting us back at our attacker's mercy by going back to save him. I'll never forget that voice breaking in and telling us we had minutes to make peace with our maker. Professor Gill is right. There is a first-class mind there. Like a chess prodigy. But real strength of will or character?
Only last week I thought I had finally glimpsed in Kirk the rawness, the passion, you look for in greatness. I saw the captain prowling the corridors carrying a bottle of brandy. He stopped in front of Janice Rand's quarters and took a swallow right out of the bottle then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Something in his pose arrested my attention. There was a primal and uncontrolled quality there that sent a thrill through me. Then he entered her quarters. We all heard whispers about what happened afterwards. The official story was that this Kirk was an imposter. Finney complained to me bitterly of a cover-up—that he was sure the real Kirk was responsible for the assault on Rand. After all where had this "imposter" gone afterwards?
So when I saw Janice today, I could hardly resist probing her. We had become friendly through our common interest in painting although her taste tended toward the abstract rather than my portraits. I asked her about some of the rumors going around the ship. She looked at me strangely. Her eyes narrowed and her voice became sharp.
"I don't know why anyone thinks that imposter is interesting." She then turned on her heel and strode out of the rec room. I'm finding that brush off hurts more than I thought it would. I've made few friends aboard ship.
It's not that people haven't been friendly. Lieutenant Uhura took the time to find a way to route a package through seven ships to get it home in time for my father's birthday. Christine Chapel and Rand have tried to include me in conversations, invited me to make a seventh in poker one night. Uhura warned me with a wink that Chris is a shark.
And Ensign Chekov just joined the ship. I saw him when he came down to Records. He'll be working in Auxiliary Engineering on the same deck. He had been my student in a history seminar I taught at the academy last year. We discussed his hopes of a bridge assignment. He's very sweet and I think he has a crush on me. But he's hardly someone I can confide in.
There is of course my art. There's hardly a space left on the walls of my quarters. I surround myself in the company of heroes there if nowhere else. Even as a child I used to thrill to history as the best storybook ever written. Maybe my Richard the Lionheart owes more to Ivanhoe than a history text—but at least he doesn't disappoint.
Personal Log, Stardate 2892.4, USS Enterprise
Right now I could use a violent outlet for my fury. Maybe I should join Sulu's martial arts class. Damn Kirk! The captain won't allow me to interview him or Miss Karidian after the revelations that Karidian was Kodos. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for a historian. I had been in the audience when the last act of this particular drama had played out before the crew's eyes. Kirk put me off saying that Lenore Karidian was in no condition to give interviews, and that he had no intention of revisiting the events of Tarsus IV. His eyes grew shuttered and he turned his attention back to his padd, clearly signaling the discussion was at an end. At least this time he didn't get my name wrong. He played it safe and called me by rank.
I am a trained, gifted historian. I know five Earth languages including Latin and Sanskrit. I know six alien languages including Klingon, Vulcan and Andorian. I'm familiar even with obscure, discredited historical theories and isms that once held wide sway over billions. I hold joint doctorates in history and archeology. I have an eidetic memory and can transcribe exact words I've heard spoken from memory even days later. I've authored journal articles as a graduate student and my dissertation on Kahless the Unforgettable was called "seminal" by Professor Gill.
Even after gaining access to the full logs, I still find myself shut out on the wider story. Historian Dunsel at a feast of epoch-making events. In the last six months, we've encountered a creature that was the last of its kind, the entire ship went mad with a virus akin to water that acts like alcohol, we took on the orphan from hell with demonic powers, and not long ago ran smack into the mysterious Romulans finally seeing the face of the enemy—and they're Vulcans! Or damn close. Shouldn't have been such a surprise. There have been hints in the Romulan linguistic database plenty of scholars have pointed out from Hoshi Sato on.
We've even had run-ins with the famous Doctor Adams and the even more famous and thought lost Doctor Korby. What happened down there? Korby's initial message to the ship is in the official record. Yet the captain records in the log that Korby wasn't ever there—just some android that could imitate his voice. We lost two good people and Chapel won't talk to me about it even though I know her entire purpose for coming aboard was to find the man. Korby was her fiancé and once upon a time all she could talk about.
Even when people will talk to me, I find I can't get even half of it through Starfleet censors. Mister Spock told me there's a difference between a historian and a journalist and that the Enterprise doesn't need a journalist. Fine, but it could use a historian—someone to add perspective, put things in context, if I could only have the captain's ear.
I had eagerly questioned Sulu about Kirk's demeanor on the bridge during the battle with the Romulans. Sulu said the captain had shown grief at their destruction. This is the man Lenore had called Caesar? He may bear the middle name of one of the Caesars, but he does not have the same will to power.
I'm saving my grief for our comrades dead on those Neutral Zone outposts. And for Lieutenant Tomlinson whose memorial service I attended on the same day as his aborted wedding. The captain hardly showed much grief over those deaths that I could see. Rand had tartly told me to go to hell when I commented on that—that I'm not the one who'll have to be telling Tomlinson's family how he died. Fine, I don't want or need his grief. But where is the strength of mind and purpose that can deal with the enemy and not flinch?
Personal Log, Stardate 2923.6, USS Enterprise
Yes! Commander Spock asked me today if I might prefer to be assigned to Lieutenant Palomas' cultural team instead of Records. I jumped at the opportunity. I could have kissed him if the very thought wouldn't have horrified a Vulcan. A chance to get away from the sour Finney and maybe even get a chance at landing party duty with the cultural team? To do actual work as a historian? Maybe things are finally turning around.
Personal Log, Stardate 3047.2, USS Enterprise
My stomach is tying itself up into knots. Kirk spared the Gorns after they had destroyed one of our outposts! How will we overcome strong adversaries like the Klingons if we can't match their ruthlessness? I'm sure the Gorns wouldn't have shown us the same mercy.
Oh and today is my birthday. I just turned thirty. A historic moment.
Janice dragged me out of my cabin saying she refused to let me celebrate my birthday alone. I found once we hit the rec room that Uhura had arranged a party with all the traditional trimmings. I cried like an idiot when they pushed a slice of cake into my hands.
"What's wrong," Janice asked, rubbing my arm and giving me a napkin to wipe the tears.
I shook my head mutely. It won't be long before Janice will leave us. The captain's recommended her for the officer candidate's program at the Academy. I'd like to be happy for her, but all I can think of is that I'm losing one of the few friendly faces on the ship.
It's hard to untangle yourself from your own party, but it wasn't long before I had all that I could stand. All the forced cheer made me ill. I was surprised to find that Uhura had followed me into the corridor.
"I suppose you all think I'm unsociable and ungrateful," I said.
"I know it can be hard for people on their first deep space posting. It was for me. And birthdays are tough away from family. Especially milestones. But this was our way of letting you know you're not alone here."
I let her lead me back to the rec room and I tried, I really tried. Except I can't help but think that for all the effort, no one will be inviting me to spend shore leave with them, or share any late night confidences, or think of me any other day out of the year. This is just my turn for the generic cake and candles because my name got flagged as an opportunity for a party.
And it's not as if I can share any of my doubts with them. Janice is ready to jump down my throat at the least bit of criticism of the captain and Uhura's hardly less protective. It was unbelievable how they all talked when Kirk was being court-martialed. As far as the crew was concerned, the only question was how someone had been able to doctor the records to frame him. I don't know what is more incredible—that people believed that or that it turned out to be true. How can I keep a critical distance and be close to any of them?
Personal Log, Stardate 3141.9, USS Enterprise
Magnificent. That's the only word that describes him. I'm trying to capture him with canvas and pigment and find it's a medium completely inadequate to convey his fire, his commanding and regal air. Or is it my technique that can't stretch enough to show what I see in him? Words seem similarly inadequate.
My man out of the past. I have always felt out of step with our softer, gentler age of pallid, pastel hues or at best bright, garish primary colors. We have banished the darker, dramatic colors. We live on a ship where extremes are unknown. Where the light never glares, ship's night is dim but never dark, the climate is an eternal, temperate early summer. This man is not temperate, not moderate. Moderate men don't push out into the dark on crude, twentieth century pre-warp space ships. That alone speaks to a spirit of a Viking turning his flimsy skiff into the ocean without caring where the currents might take him. A Leif Erickson.
I suspected it was Khan almost as soon as I saw him of course. Any historian worth their salt would from what we already know. A ship in no registry named after a colony of exiled outlaws that conquered a continent: The Botany Bay. A ship out of the 1990s—the era of the "eugenics tyrants" and especially Khan Noonian Singh. The biological readings, Dr. McCoy tells me, are more typical of a Vulcan with their superhuman strength and recuperative powers than a human. How can they not know? But then Kirk can be overcautious. Not even a voice match proving Karidian was Kodos was enough for him.
Of all of the infamous 20th Century tyrants: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Peron, Castro, Pol Pot, Mao, Sadam, it was Khan who truly breathed greatness. He looks the part of the leader. Tall, dark, muscular, with a hawkish, strong visage. Even when lying in the sleeper chamber, he looked a prince in that golden mesh clothing, with his jet black hair rippling loose to his shoulders.
Kirk dressed me down for my school-girlish behavior when I first saw Khan. My stomach clenched as soon as the captain asked to speak to me alone. I knew I had betrayed too much of what I was feeling. I had been distracted, had been giddy at this discovery.
"If I were to rate your performance today…"
"I know, sir. I'm sorry," I answered. Just a short time ago I would have felt eager to work at the captain's side, to impress him with what I knew. Yet it was as if my body resisted telling him what I suspected—my teeth clenched shut over the knowledge.
"Lieutenant, at any
one time, the safety of this entire vessel might depend upon a single crewman,
and the fact that you find a man strangely compelling to you personally—
"Not personally, Captain. Professionally." But it was already more than that. It was as if one of my paintings had magically come to life before my eyes. "My profession is historian, and to find a specimen from the past alive—I mean, the sheer delight of examining his mind."
"And men were more adventuresome then...bolder, more colorful?"
I looked at Kirk,
compared him in my mind to the prone figure in sickbay. Remembered how the sickbay smock had left
exposed the smooth, hard expanse of chest.
Next to him Kirk looked like an unfinished boy. "Yes,
sir, I think they were."
"Good. If I can have
honesty, it's easier to overlook mistakes. That's all."
I almost told him then. I knew it was my duty to immediately inform Kirk of whom he was dealing with. But then I remembered what Kirk had done to Gary Mitchell, to Kodos. How threatened Kirk feels by anyone truly superior. I can't help but notice they're not moving to revive anyone else on the sleeper ship. So I held my tongue.
If he had asked? But Kirk didn't. No one has asked me to run any checks, do any research, used me as a resource other than having me along on the original landing party. When I asked Spock if I was needed for anything, he said he'd "inform me if my services are needed." Uhura mentioned there'd be a debriefing tomorrow at 0800, then stumbled over her words when she realized I wasn't on the list of those invited. Even Mr. Scott is scheduled to attend but I'm not? The ship's engineer but not her historian? They can't make it clearer that they don't trust me. And I've done nothing.
Personal Log, Stardate 3142.3 , USS Enterprise
All I need to do is close my eyes and concentrate to hear his words again.
"Marla McGivers." He knew my name before I could even introduce myself. Did he remember me from that tiny instant when death hovered over him on the sleeper ship? Just the way he spoke my name was electric. His voice has the clipped, resonant tones of authority with an accent that made him sound exotically romantic. He said he didn't expect such luxuries on a starship as a beautiful woman. He called me beautiful.
God. He not only made me feel visible but a vision. He had barely spoken a few dozen words before I found myself enthralled. I came to question him but from the beginning he took control of the conversation. I had just started to ask him about his ship, his purpose, when he started talking about how I arranged my hair as if such a small detail about me was the most fascinating thing he could think to talk about. Thinking back on it, I can't help but wonder if it was his way of distracting me, deflecting my questions, defusing me as a danger to him.
Yet he isn't really trying very hard to hide his identity. He gave his name as Khan. It is as if a man of the right looks and era identified himself as "Napoleon." Is it that hard to finish and provide the "Bonaparte?" And surely, he could have just refused to answer? Just said he was "fatigued" as McCoy told me he had fended off other questioners?
I can still conjure up every small detail of that encounter. In fact I can't put it out of my mind no matter how hard I try. I had put some distance between us and he erased it. Came to my side and cupped my chin with a hand then slid his fingers down my jaw in a caress that took my breath away. Taking me by the arms and moving to a mirror he began to undo my hair, to undo me. God. His fingers in my hair, along my neck making my skin prickle.
"There...soft...natural...simple." His voice intimately breathed into my ear as
he remade me to his liking.
I should have run. I should have run before he ever touched me. Because Khan won't be distracted, deflected, or defused. Because he won't soften things with polite inanities. Because he left me feeling more known, more understood than by anyone here after nearly a year on this ship. I felt like finally someone wasn't looking right through me—or rather that someone was seeing into me all too well. I did try and remember who I was, where I was. I'm not even sure what I said, something about my being here on business.
"You find no pleasure here?" he asked.
He knew. He had to feel the way my body—I wasn't trembling so much as vibrating to him. Did he feel how his touch raised the hairs on the back of my neck? Hear my respiration pick up? Did he know what he was doing to me? I felt drugged.
"There...simple...soft..." he said as he finished. "Please remember."
How to do my hair to
his liking? Remember him? How can I not? Because there is nothing about Khan that is soft or simple and if
that is what he wants in a woman I want to be those things. Not that I'll ever get the chance. I turned to leave—no, to run and he grabbed
my arm, pulled me back to him and compelled me to look at him.
"I'm glad you came. Please do it again."
between us, I'm not sure what. But I
can't imagine him choosing me. I'm no empress worthy of a Napoleon. What scares me is that after two minutes in
his presence, I can't imagine choosing anyone else.
Personal Log 3142.8, USS Enterprise
I can't sleep. This may be the longest night of my life. In a few hours we will be taking the ship. I never could easily sleep before the important events in my life.
I remember how the night before my college boards my father gave me a tranquilizer to take the edge off so I could sleep. Father was so proud when my scores were high enough to try for the academy—so disappointed when I chose Stanford instead. Joining the reserve officers program was my compromise. The best part of putting on the uniform and getting the Academy posting with Professor Gill was that for once I could make us both happy. I could be both soldier and scholar. Finding I couldn't sleep, I've sat at my desk for hours now and tried composing a letter to my father, to explain why I'm doing this, but I can't imagine making him understand.
Other men, boys really, would come into my rooms and see my portraits and busts of great men and blanch. They were intimidated knowing they could never live up to that. Khan didn't flinch. He wasn't overwhelmed at the implied challenge. He knew himself as one of them.
I felt exposed. I didn't expect him to come to my quarters to escort me to dinner. I saw him take in my chosen subjects: Leif Erikson, Flavius, Richard the Lionheart, Napoleon, and then lift up the drop cloth to see my attempt at capturing him as a Sikh warrior. He might as well have been reading my journal—or my mind. He even noticed I had arranged my hair the way he liked it. After that I could be no mystery to him. He took me in his arms then. I could feel his hard, corded strength as I moved my hands up the expanse of his back, could feel his power in the crushing force of his kiss.
The dinner was a disaster. It had been my idea, my suggestion to Kirk to welcome Khan to our century. Kirk mostly sat back and watched and let Spock needle Khan. Forcing Khan to defend his century, his people. I became frightened for him then. He is our guest here, out of place and time and outnumbered. We know so much about him, and he knows so little of us. They were playing with him. I would have respected them more if they had confronted him openly. But it was all done between smiles and pouring of wine and a polite sheen.
It was I who came to Khan then afterwards. Apologized for them. Wanted to apologize for being one of them. And he would have none of my equivocations, hesitations. I could stay and open everything I am to him without question—and become an empress. Or I could walk out and live forever with being nothing but a good little soldier. Prove myself unworthy of the heroes I worship.
When Khan forced me to my knees, I had felt a sense of exultation. Finally, here was a man of destiny and will who would force the universe to his liking.
I also felt fear. Great shuddering fear. But in the end, the fear of losing him was greater than my fear of losing myself in him. Khan had warned me that such men as he take what they want. And he wanted me. And I wanted him. And it was as simple and as right as that.
He isn't a tender lover. But I didn't want tenderness; I didn't want to be wooed. I wanted passion. Afterwards, if I felt sore and bruised, it was a feeling I cherished. I didn't want us to come together and not have the effects linger.
Or at least it seemed right. Right when I felt the force of him through my arm and later through my whole body—as he said he needed me, needed my help. Wanted me. Right when I sat naked between his knees guiding him through the schematics of the ship's security systems and he inclined his head toward mine to whisper what he wanted to know next sending shivers through me as he'd nip at my ear or lazily caress my throat.
I thought of the Enterprise's last encounter when Kirk destroyed a computer that was keeping the entire population of a planet as soulless automatons. In destroying Landru, Kirk went farther in stretching the Prime Directive than I would have thought. But afterwards, Landru's people were left to their own devices and choices. The Prime Directive allows no further intervention. For all the distance of light years that can mean the strictures of Command can be several weeks away, in the end Kirk isn't going to pull at the leash.
But this man sleeping not ten feet away from me? Khan has the will to pull down the Prime Directive, to shape cultures in the right way, to protect us from the Klingons, and the Romulans, and the Gorn. We can reshape Man himself, lifting all humans to greatness and ensure we are the equals of our allies and enemies in physical and intellectual strength. Who can deny this man's greatness? The heights he can take us to?
Then why am I writing this on my padd at 0400 thinking about how Kirk said that one day the entire ship could depend upon me?
Personal Log, Stardate 3143.3, USS Enterprise
We failed. Or rather in the end I failed. I found I didn't after all have the will or strength to sit and watch them kill the captain and the others. I'm confined to quarters under guard rather than the brig because in the end I saved them. And perhaps because they're not sure that Khan wouldn't snap my neck if they put me in the brig with him.
I had no choice but to pull myself back from the brink and save Captain Kirk. I told Khan that Uhura must have managed to get a message off to Starfleet despite our efforts to block communications. I told him that could be the only reason Kirk had held out on the bridge—to buy time. That soon we would not be dealing with only the crew of this ship but a fleet of ships against us. That was inevitable. They would take very seriously any adversary who had so easily taken the Enterprise.
But the truth is that I didn't want anyone hurt, and it was dawning on me this wouldn't be a bloodless take over. What could I have been thinking? That the crew would stand up and cheer Khan as their leader? That Captain Kirk wouldn't even resist? That Khan would not hurt anyone to obtain his goal?
The hatred of the crew scared me whenever I encountered them in our takeover of the ship. First their eyes would widen with incredulity when they saw me. Then they would either glare at me or their eyes would look right through me like I wasn't there. Or they would pointedly stare at my uniform then look impassively at my face. One of Khan's people had to push Ensign Martine back as she launched herself at me, reaching for my throat. Her cries of "traitor" pierced right through my feigned control, leaving me shaking.
I did not rate the crew as low as Khan did. We could not with only 73 control 427 trained officers and crew. Given time they would turn things around even without the captain. And Khan would gain no other converts. I think he misjudged that given how easy it was with me.
Within minutes of our takeover, we had found a group of about a dozen who had sealed themselves off in a part of Engineering. Unlike on the bridge, from that position they had found a way of fixing things so we couldn't cut off life support to them and they were already finding ways of shutting down systems: helm and navigation so far. When Khan called for their surrender, we heard laughter and I heard the voice of Lieutenant Masters saying they would surrender when Sol's sun went nova. I couldn't help but feel pride at her defiance.
Khan had asked me to appeal to my crewmates, to try to win them over. I thought I had a chance with Ensign Chekov. I knew he was proud of his Russian heritage—a history filled with men of enormous scale who did not ask before they acted. I knew he had something of a crush on me.
He had been found scrambling through the Jeffries tubes dragging behind him a satchel full of weapons and heading toward the area where we were holding the bridge crew. He must have gotten them from one of the weapons lockers. We were spread too thin to really secure the ship. Chekov would have made it too if he hadn't had the bad luck to re-emerge from a tube just as Joaquin had been heading back after depositing Kirk in the decompression chamber. That too was mad. Did Khan actually think the captain's death would break this crew? We would only create 426 avengers.
When I asked Chekov to come over to our side, he too called me a traitor and said he'd never side with a filthy Cossack. That earned him a blow from Khan but Chekov only looked oddly triumphant and asked me just how superior were men who couldn't even control their temper. His lip was split and bleeding and his jaw had begun to swell, but he still held a tight smile and said that if we hurt any of his shipmates they had better kill him.
To tell the truth, I began then to be just plain scared. It flashed through my mind that these were my own people I had betrayed. So easily betrayed for a hard body and arresting face that spoke the words of my fantasies. The comments of Khan's followers had left no doubt they put me among the ranks of the inferior. How long would it be before Khan turned on me? Before I too wound up beaten and bleeding at his feet? Too late I mourned my actions. Too late I began to feel shame.
I started to remember all the small kindnesses I had taken for granted. I thought back on all the ways the Enterprise crew had tried to make me feel like one of them and how I had brushed each attempt aside. How I was one of them. In this uniform. That Captain Kirk had said that someday it could all depend on me.
When I thought of my father, my face burned. He had been a career security officer and wore prosthetics to replace the legs that had been burned off by a disrupter rifle. Despite those wounds he had crawled on his elbows and dragged his unconscious commanding officer to safety then propped himself up and returned fire on the advancing Klingons delaying them just enough to get both him and the security chief beamed up to safety. He had earned a medal of valor for that. I knew he was proud that I served on this ship.
So when I saw them brutalize Uhura to force her to obey, I saw what it would be like under Khan's rule. When I saw that Khan would kill my comrades one by one before my eyes if I didn't stop him, I remembered who and what I had sworn to defend. Despite the vaunted superiority of these people, it was ridiculously easy to free Kirk. And now that Kirk knew who and what he was dealing with, he easily took back his ship. At least no one has died because of what I have done.
Tomorrow I with the others will face summary judgment by the man whose ship we tried to steal and then tried to suffocate. And somehow I don't feel afraid. I actually think I'll sleep well tonight. What can Captain Kirk do to me I don't deserve?
Personal Log, 3143.9, USS Enterprise
I wasn't really surprised at Captain Kirk's decision. It was perfectly in character for him to show mercy, to allow others their choices, to want to give a chance to have potential fulfilled. For Khan and his people, a world of their own to tame. For me, the choice to go with them or face court martial.
In the end my decision wasn't hard. Choose to return and face my father's condemnation? Put myself through the slow and painful torture of having my rank and career stripped from me and hear the whispers that would follow me the rest of my life?
Instead I'll put my
faith in the man whose face holds no trace of compassion and tie my fate to
his. And it might be all right. I'm still not sure if what led me
to free the captain was my weakness or my strength. But Khan didn't just
use me. He spoke to me with respect, even tenderness, at the
hearing. What was it that gained his respect? That in betraying him
that I finally stood up to him? Or my belated loyalty to my comrades?
He didn't plead with me to go with him. Just faced me and said it would be difficult at first, even to stay alive. But how he looked at me, the tone in his voice. I find that despite everything I still love him. I still see a lot in him of my heroes: the courage, the strength of will, the passion, the charisma, and all that ability. And he in his turn called me "a superior woman." His equal. There is something exciting in thinking we could build a world together, and build something between us that will last.
So I'll go with him and we'll have an entire planet for our prison. Ceti Alpha 5 is far from any traveled star routes. It was evaluated and rejected for a colony because of its eccentric orbit that causes much of its surface to be out of the inhabitable range for humans most of the year. We would be set down in an area that is always temperate and no one will bother us there. And more importantly we won't be bothering anyone. The Federation will be safe from us.
Chekov came to tell me he forgave me and to beg me not to go with Khan. I cried when I saw the bruises on his face from Khan's brutality. He'll be shuttling us down to the planet. He told me Kirk put a commendation in his record for his attempts to retake the ship. He's going to be on the bridge in navigation. Gamma shift for now but the captain told him he'll be in the prime slot once the current navigator's transfer goes through. I hugged him hard. I can't believe I'll never see him or any of the others again or even know what happens to them. It's the end of history for me.Personal Log, Day 3 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 5, South Eastern Continent, High Summer
The cove is beautiful. I've been trying to capture that tint of the sky that's just a shade darker than that of a Terran summer with a bare hint of green. The sands here are a pale coral with a faint touch of iridescence at night. The water a dark sapphire. During the day creatures in exotic colors leap and cavort through the gentle waves. Unlike on the ship or even the cities I've lived in, you're always aware of the thrum of life here. Chittering and whoops and clicks come from the trees beyond the stretch of beach and there's always a tang in the air of the native seaweed. Sweeter smelling than Earth's, almost flowery. The neighboring planet, Ceti Alpha 6, is so close in our skies that instead of looking starlike it looms larger than Earth's moon.
I don't know how much longer my art supplies will hold out and I'll have to start looking for native substitutes. I find myself uninterested in heroic portraits. I'm finding peace in painting landscapes these days.
We hadn't been left on the planet a day before Khan told us of his plans for conquest.
"We will not long be limited to this small, backwater world. Kirk and his people have given us the tools to fashion their own destruction. We still have the ionic propulsion system on the Botany Bay as well as the shuttle pods and means to set up manufacture we brought with us for the original colony. And we now have the knowledge to bring more into our grasp."
I was obviously the only one shocked at his words—everyone else was nodding. Everyone but one gangly boy.
"There's barely enough resources for us to make the transition to a viable colony. Kati said so. How are we going to do both that and get crops in?"
A voluptuous brunette I had noticed always lingering near Khan responded. "Listen to Khan, boy." Her eyes, shining, rested on my husband and she smiled fiercely. "Whatever I may have said, I trust he's seen farther than I could."
"You dare question me?" Khan was smiling in seeming amusement but his eyes had already narrowed in a way I knew was dangerous. He swept his hands taking in all of us in a circle around him. "Do we look like farmers?" Laughter roared around him. "We left Earth to regroup, to gain space where we could rebuild. We are not peasants. We are rulers. We always meant to go back. Now we have a universe to win not just one world."
"I guess our little run-in with Kirk taught you nothing," the boy said.
At that Khan's fist shot out and sent the boy crashing across the room. And in moments I was at the boy's side between him and my husband's kicks and blows.
"Get out of the way, Marla!" I shook my head mutely and even after taking a slap that made my ears ring refused to move.
"Stop it!" I yelled. "He's just a boy!" Khan stopped then and seemed to shake himself then turned his back on me and faced his followers.
"I've absorbed all the knowledge on the Enterprise's computer about warp technology. I will get us off this planet I swear it. And we won't be needing this." With that he took the subspace emergency beacon that had been given us and smashed it on the floor, then stooped to retrieve the small crystal in the debris. "Dilithium. There's more of it on Ceti Alpha 6 and everything else we will need. I'm not saying it will be easy. But better to die trying than to end a placid gaggle of lotus eaters."
So now I paint scenes of tranquility to steady the constant thumping of my heart.Personal Log Day 9 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 5, South Eastern Continent, High Summer
A shadow fell over me as I was painting in my cove and I jumped, startled. It was the boy.
"I'm Desheng Wu." His adam's apple bobbing up and down was so distracting it was hard to move my gaze. Finally I looked up to take in his face. It set him apart from the others who were all handsome people. His face didn't look chiseled like theirs but as if his features were clay slapped onto clay then allowed to harden without any further molding or refining fire.
He saw my regard and one hand passed over his face rather shakily. "I'm the mistake. It happens when you're playing in the gene pool. I'm only here because my father made me come with him. Wasn't safe for any of us on Earth back in 1996. They were tracking down any of us who had been genetically enhanced to kill us. Didn't matter what we had done. Or hadn't done. It was our blood that counted. But then you know that. You're the historian after all." He smiled weakly and I smiled back and put a hand on his arm.
"Are you all right?"
"Oh, I still have the advantages that count. I heal up quickly. Not like you." His free hand gently touched my face where the imprint of Khan's hand could still be seen. I had examined it with wonder this morning. Spectacularly garish hues of purple edged with green. I flinched at his touch and he cringed and moved away. "I'm sorry, did I hurt you?"
"No." My voice came out shakier than I would have liked and I moved back to my easel and busied myself with cleaning my brushes. Khan had been loving since the incident, at least for him, telling me for the first time he loved me, being very public with endearments and his solicitousness over my "fragility." A new, cynical part of me whispered that if Caesar's wife must be above suspicion, then Khan's wife must be superior. The Great Man couldn't allow others to think he was wrong or already regretting his choice.
"I came to thank you for helping me. And to bring you this." He unzipped the satchel and inside I saw small jars filled with different pigments. "I know you paint. I saw all the portraits when I was moving your stuff into the habitat. We're all scientists and the children of scientists you know. Geology's my hobby. I found some iron oxides to make a good red. Something like azurite that makes a nice blue and like orpiment that makes a decent yellow. We found a plant just yesterday that'll make a good paper for drawing and stuff."
"That's very sweet. But you didn't have to."
"I wanted to. You stood up to him for me."
"Why did you defy him?"
His face scrunched up in a scowl. "Because he's stupid and he's going to get us all killed."
"Don't say that."
"'Cause it isn't true? 'Cause you just don't want to hear it? Or 'cause if anyone hears my saying it to you he'll beat the crap out of both of us? All this bullshit about it being better to rule in Hell. Only I get hell and I get ruled. I would have liked to stay and serve in Heaven."
"Then why didn't you? Captain Kirk would have given you asylum."
"After what we did on that ship?"
"You're too young to be so bitter."
"Young? I'm nearly 300 years old."
"Going on fourteen."
"Sixteen." He stared at me then and for some reason I was reminded of another uncomfortably thorough appraisal so many months ago. "You're so full of questions. Let me ask you one. How come no self-portraits?"
"Van Gogh, Dali, Kahlo—all those great artists do self-portraits. No women either. All those canvases and busts of Vikings, Romans, knights and soldiers and no one who looks remotely like you."
"I…I paint heroes," I finally stumbled out.
"So? No Boadicea, Tzu Hsi, Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great?"
"Go to Hell." I said lightly.
He laughed until he started hiccupping. Then he took deep steadying breaths. "Despite the nice climate—we are in hell."Personal Log Day 34 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 5, South Eastern Continent, Late Summer
I suppose I should find it amusing. More and more people have started to come to me to intercede with Khan. Seventy-two supermen, 42 of them male, and none with the belly to stand up to Khan other than me and a 16 year old boy going on 287.
Seeing how they deal with each other is frightening. In Starfleet, we had our ranks, and the protocol and privileges to go with it. If someone had the same stripes as you, then you looked to their position or just asked when they had been promoted to learn who was more senior. Few ever tested the boundaries and usually a rebuke, or more often a softly spoken reminder, would be enough. Strange viruses notwithstanding, it rarely came to even that on the Enterprise. The crew admired Kirk and Spock, wanted to please them. But by doing the best job they could, not by stoking their superiors' egos and then beating each other up behind their backs.
They seem to settle arguments around here in the way of a pack of wolves. Snarling and biting at each other to establish who dominates. The women are just as bad even if their rank has as much to do with who they slept with as whose bones they had last broken. The hierarchy constantly shifts and Khan doesn't seem to mind. He says it doesn't affect him and keeps his people strong. Maybe he calculates that as long as they are establishing the order between themselves they won't be thinking of challenging him. And the problem with that is two-fold: Other than Desheng and I, no one challenges Khan's decisions, tests whether his thinking is sound. And these superior specimens of humanity are so busy fighting among each other they aren't working with each other.
I'm not sure how much longer our food supplies can stretch. Khan has ordered almost all of the food synthesizers the Enterprise gifted us with cannibalized for his crazy scheme. He has turned two of them to making fuel for the shuttle pods and one to making oxygen for both the shuttles and the space suits we will need on the airless Ceti Alpha 6.
That leaves one overtaxed food synthesizer for 73 people with no means of repairing it if it breaks down. And as Desheng noted, with everyone working on establishing an off-world base and turning Botany Bay into a real starship, no one's planting any crops.
These people are gifted biologists and geneticists with some sophisticated tech we left fallow after the 20th Century. So not two weeks after we were stranded here some formerly cryogenically frozen cattle are already calving. But we've been losing the cattle to some strange parasite. First they become listless, the bulls as biddable as any cow. Then they go wild, even mad, and die.
The results of Kati's autopsy are disturbing. The parasites seem to be some pupal state of the adult creature. The young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex. There's no reason we can't be affected by the nasty little eels except our habitats are airtight to keep out vermin. I've ordered the cattle to be kept in the pre-fab barn. It means feeding them grain and hay since they can't be allowed to graze any more, at least until we can better understand these creatures. That's further taxing our resources to their limit.
Ordered? But it seems increasingly I'm making the day-to-day decisions since no one else is really stepping in. Khan can set the big picture and give orders, and Joaquin will wander about throwing his weight around. But they're not actually great on organizing. I find myself drawing upon my memories of my old crewmates for guidance. I'll bring to mind Janice's chatter about work and make lists of tasks and inventory what we have to learn our resources and set priorities. I've begun noting everything from people's birthdays to favorite foods and pet dislikes, remembering how Uhura took it upon herself to do that the better to boost morale, endearing herself to people with small kindnesses. I'll go from Otto to Joaquin mediating between one and the other and will find myself reminded of how Spock dealt with the squabbling between Finney and Chang, the quartermaster.
And then there was last week when I was dealing with the young Joachim, Joaquin's son. I had found out that Desheng's father wasn't one of those who survived the journey. He had no one to look after him and was constantly bullied as a result. About a quarter of the Botany contingent were teens and children. Even the youngest of them had been made to swear a personal oath to Khan before gaining a berth on the Botany Bay. Joachim was the leader of this younger group and I was trying to get him to act as Desheng's protector. He leaned against the wall and gave me one of those cocky looks of his.
"Why should I care about the little freak?"
"Because you have better in you than to act the bully. Because we need everyone if we're going to survive, and someday the fate of the colony could depend on him. Because the younger people here look to you to set the tone."
His mouth twitched up and he shrugged an answer.
"But you can't see why you should listen to someone who's not a product of genetic enhancement and a woman to boot?"
"Something like that." He shrugged again. "But some of what you said makes sense. I'll look after the toad. He could be useful."
"You're warming my heart."
"Hey, I could soften it some." He sketched me an elaborate bow.
"I prefer honesty. It makes a good start and makes the rest of your less than winning personality easier to overlook." I barely refrained from ruffling the boy's blond hair. I didn't want him to think I wasn't taking him seriously.
I shot up out of bed tonight after it suddenly flashed through my mind where I was getting most of my command style. It's a cosmic joke I am certainly not going to be sharing with Khan.Personal Log Day 65 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 5, South Eastern Continent, Autumn
So, Kati is sleeping with my husband. The thing is that I find myself caring much less about the fact of it than whether or not she wanted me to know. Her way of rolling me and biting until I whine and throw all my limbs in the air?
I knew something was wrong. Times unaccounted for. The way Khan would take showers in the middle of the day. How he'd be even touchier than usual when I asked him where he was going. His pronouncements of love strangely timed and with an odd emphasis. But then I found her college ring on our bedside table. A woman's ring with the crest of the University of the Sorbonne. I know she went there—she certainly lets everyone know it not five minutes after meeting her.
I wanted to run and rake my nails through her face. Not so much for sleeping with my husband, but for doing it on our bed. But over the nine weeks and more that we've been here, I've learned that's not the game I can afford to play. I can't win in a physical fight against any of them so I don't shout and I don't scratch. I counter their rages with my control, their brutality with every bit of dignity I can summon to shame them into acting better. I'm finally learning from history—and even my reading of Kirk's logs. There's more to leadership than brute strength.
So I took her ring, went to the lab, and quietly placed it in front of her. "Not on my bed, Kati." Then turned and walked out before she could react.
I'm so tired of the same script being played over with these people, especially Khan. The sentences all in the active voice and imperative mood. Everything decided by fiat and the necessity of obedience underlined with a twist of the arm or pull of the hair or slap in the face. I'm tired of being in pain. The others all heal up so quickly, I don't think Khan realizes his careless cuff on my arm leaves me aching for days. He never makes love, he takes possession, and the least suggestion to give me pleasure is seen as a challenge to his masculinity. I could almost wish he would transfer all his attentions to Kati—except even being with him is better than going back to being alone. Or worse being given away to one of his lieutenants, none of who are any better.
More and more in past weeks, Kirk has become an obsession with Khan. He never seems to have recovered from his defeat at the captain's hands. At first I thought he was trying to get closer to me. He kept asking me about my days on the Enterprise and every bit of gossip, anecdote, and innuendo. Afterwards he'd be aroused to a fever pitch. He seemed disappointed that in the end I didn't know Kirk all that well, had all of four conversations with the man, all but one brief. He's never interested in my life before the Enterprise. Grows bored if I speak of my father or Gill. It wasn't long before he was asking me to repeat Kirk's logs word for word. And as I have an eidetic memory, and much like Khan, an indelible one, it's not hard for me to dredge them up. The strange thing is that as I spoke those logs out loud, Khan wasn't the only one being swept up in the words. The more I told, the more I mourned my old life and all that I had refused to see, and I think Khan was sensing that. He was certainly making it felt in his own inimitable way afterwards.
I wish I could numb the pain with that awful mash Panesh has made with his crude still. Or smoke some of that purple six-pointed plant the kids think I don't know about. But that would be as dangerous as flying a flitter under the influence. I can't afford to be numb or have a slip of tongue in this place. So I heave my feelings into these personal logs on the padd I was allowed to keep, encrypt them, and hope that's enough to steady my roiling emotions. Spock would be proud of me.
And Khan isn't the only one listening to tales that fray him to a thread. It's been a month now since Desheng began sitting beside me as I paint and giving me history lessons. History speaks of Khan as the best of the genetic tyrants. Until the Western Alliance got around to toppling him, Khan didn't wage wars. He had toppled governments from China to Turkey from within and moved quickly to consolidate his rule. And there were no real massacres because Khan was much more selective than to employ the "ethnic cleansing" of the European, African, and Latin American tyrants.
But Desheng's father had been talking to his son about his work under Khan while the boy was still in grammar school, hoping to toughen the boy up so he would take his turn at rule when he grew older. So I got to hear how Khan turned a blind eye when the elder Wu had Desheng's mother killed when she tried to take their son away. How the regime routinely employed torture.
I think in his way Desheng is punishing me for my loyalty to Khan. Or is jealous of him out of some schoolboy crush. There was rage in his voice at first and his voice was savage when at first I told him to shut up. Wasn't I interested in the truth? Wasn't I a historian? So I listened and let him pull away the last of the hazy gauze through which I could find anything heroic in my husband. At the end of the anecdote of the day, he'd smile tightly up at me and I thought I saw triumph that he was shredding everything I thought I knew to pieces. And his stories have the ring of truth, fit too well with historical accounts I had ignored or discounted. So now I'm not sure how I can even let Khan touch me.
And now not even my cove is any solace. Khan sees this planet as disposable. A place to exploit rather than develop. The easiest way to manufacture fuels and plasma with the means we have at hand produces radioactive and toxic wastes we are dumping into the sea around us. So the sands of my pleasant cove are now covered with dead sea-life. I ran there this morning to find some peace. The dead creatures squished beneath my feet, the purple gaze of one dolphin-like creature seemed to follow me reproachfully as it lay heaving on the beach. The once lovely sapphire waters are foul smelling with a green scum over the surface. Even the familiar friendly sounds of life that used to comfort me from beyond the tree line are gone, replaced with the buzz of the insects hovering over the carrion. I tasted bile and forced it down my throat. Not even a Federation team could restore it, I know. Only years—thousands of them.
Khan and Joaquin had laughed at my concern, my "Starfleet morality." To their mind since the sea-life didn't prove edible there's no value in preserving it. I'm indeed in the kind of world Khan always said he'd prefer to rule over. And my only escape from this hell would let the devil loose with me.Personal Log Day 93 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 5, South Eastern Continent, Autumn
The only thing that has made the days tolerable this past month is that we're so busy that even Khan at the end of it is too tired to do anything but sleep. Tomorrow we're launching the shuttle pods and the old Botany Bay minus her cargo containers to set up a base camp on Ceti Alpha 6. Khan will be going with them, Kati included, and I'll stay here for now. We agreed we'd rotate. He'll supervise operations the first month, and next month will be my turn. It makes sense since my Starfleet training and his thorough absorption of our tech manuals makes us the most knowledgeable about ship construction and operations. It also makes sense because it puts the least strain on the frayed cord of our marriage. Oh, in public we still present a united front. I can't afford to visibly lose his protection and if I'm to help him on his project he can't allow me to lose my status.
I don't know whether to be elated or in despair over our progress. I didn't see how we could do it. It takes the knowledge and resources of a very complex technological culture to build a starship. But then I shouldn't have underestimated a man who managed to build and launch an interstellar ship with the sophistication of the Botany Bay when the most advanced nations on Earth still hadn't sent a manned mission to Mars.
He couldn't have done it without my knowledge and my taking so much in hand. I'm not sure I should be proud of that. Superior? After spending three months among them I'm not so sure. They are physically stronger than even Vulcans or Klingons. They can do complex equations in their head and have almost perfect memories. The quickness with which they absorb new knowledge is phenomenal. But the kind of intellect that can find creative solutions, have flashes of intuition, considered judgment? Not only don't I find Khan's people out of the ordinary in that, I'm not sure they're even the equals of an ordinary Starfleet crewman.
I'm not a geneticist—and more importantly I'm not a psychologist. Maybe the arrogance, the ratcheted up drive and ambition in these people preclude much imagination. Maybe that explains the general lack of empathy too. They don't have the ability to put themselves in another's place. It makes them both less dangerous, and more. If we make our jailbreak and escape this solar system, Starfleet will find it hard to stop Khan and his people. Before Kirk or someone else can be found to bottle them back up, a lot of people are going to die.
Personal Log Day 122 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 5, South Eastern Continent, Late Autumn
I've spent hours trying to calm myself enough to hold a stylus steady to make this entry. Khan came back a week ago from Ceti Alpha 6 in a foul mood. The even closer quarters and sparser resources among the thirty people in Base Camp One made for fighting between them that was even nastier than usual. For once people were sniping at Khan himself and even Otto was questioning his orders. Khan couldn't spare Otto since he is our best pilot and navigator. So he threatened to break the neck of Otto's wife instead.
In one of those horrendous happenstances that make one think that if there is a God, he plays with us for his sport, Otto found me alone as I was headed home and offered the information that Kati was pregnant. At the time, I shrugged for an answer and walked away, my expression carefully controlled. If I had had more time then to absorb the information, to throw off the shock, everything would be different now.
It was like one of those conflagrations that flare up after a hot dry summer without warning. One moment Khan and I were laughing together, joking amiably about what it was like in those space suits as he got dressed in the next room. Then he noticed that while he was away I had cut my hair. He was angry. He had always taken pleasure in my hair, counted it a great part of my beauty, and how I wore it was the first thing he changed in me to suit him. Suddenly, I was sick of him, of how he expected the least part of me to be arranged to his liking and I was spitting it all out. I was hurling Kati in his face, calling him a monster, telling him I was glad I had never conceived his child.
The next moment, I felt it as his fist connected with my nose and blood splattered over my face. Then he dragged me by my hair right into the middle of the compound. I was told later that it was Joachim and Deshang that managed to pull Khan off me.
If only that was the worse of it. The next day, Deshang went after Khan with a knife and managed to badly injure him. I could have told the young fool the axiom every historian knows: if you would strike at the king, make sure you kill him.
Khan couldn't believe that Deshang had acted on his own, that it wasn't part of a conspiracy to take the leadership of the colony. So he told Joaquin to bring him his genetically enhanced "pet."
I'm told Deshang's screams as the Ceti eel burrowed its way through his ear were so piercing it was heard throughout the compound. I suppose I should consider it a mercy I was still unconscious. After that I'm told Deshang looked at peace and didn't seem in pain at all as Khan began his questions. In fact, so peaceful that Khan wasn't convinced the eel was working as Kati said it would and ordered more conventional means of loosening the tongue.
By the time I could leave my bed five days later and learned what had happened, Deshang was already mad and gibbering nonsense. I spent the last two days of the boy's life with him as the parasite wound around destroying his brain. He thought I was his mother and the only thing that seemed to bring him peace was for me to rock him in my arms and croon to him.Personal Log Day 175 of Exile, Ceti Alpha 6 Base Camp
Finally the peace we all have hoped for has fallen on Ceti Alpha 5 these last several weeks. Khan has found the perfect enforcer and ensurer of harmony. His pet is never far from him and has pride of place near his desk. There is no more infighting. No more questioning of orders. No more flexing and biting and snarling to set the order among the betas. It's truly a brave new world.
Oh, Otto resisted and found he was not after all indispensable. So far ten "superior beings" have been fed to the true emperor of the Ceti system including Otto's wife and daughter, Gretta and the seventeen-year old Anna. If such higher beings can be extinguished with nary a wince, there's certainly little doubt what Khan will do to such inferiors as Kirk and Uhura.
But there's good news; or so Khan wants me to believe as he tells me all is forgiven, that he cherishes me still. In the Age of the Eel, who am I to question what the Great Man tells me? Something must be wrong with me if his repeated assurances that I am his "beloved wife" begin to grate. He tells me he loves me, needs me, wants me, and I force myself to smile and not flinch when he touches me. I try to speak to him and look at him with an imitation of the old adoration and he doesn't seem to be able to tell the difference. He's tells me he's showing his trust in me by leaving me up here and by leaving the project in my hands. And so I'm here without him at the Base Camp with all the best toys.
Ceti Alpha Six is such an interesting place and it's about to make it's closest approach to Ceti Alpha Five. We set up the classic Bore Hole mine that is so easy to establish on an airless world like this one. I told Khan it was the most efficient to use and much simpler than the one he read about in the tech manuals with our resources. Very true. Of course the tech manuals are devoid of history so he doesn't know the dangers of its instability. And tech manuals give you such a sketchy feeling of how a starship works. It's no substitute for practical experience and chief engineers close in your face telling you all the things you must not touch, must not do or you'll get a warp core breach.
I have had six months to reflect on history and see it replayed before my eyes. It is not pretty when supermen used to having others do for them, who base their entire ego structure on conquest, have only each other to dominate. How arrogant we were—Gill and I. We mistook our readings of philosophy and history for knowledge of the real world and expected it would be people like Kirk who would change with experience or be counted a failure. I wonder sometimes if Gill is learning his own lessons about power and leadership.
I'm not an engineer, but I know enough. I am after all a graduate of the academy's officer training program. I knew my way around both engineering and the bridge. I remember the tragic mining accident on Sigma Delta when I was a child that shifted the planet out of its orbit—causing the banning of the Bore Hole technique. Khan will never make it off this planet. I am not sure if my sabotage of the engines so near the mines will blow this planet apart or shift it off its orbit. Or what it might do to the neighboring planet with the main colony. But it should be enough. At the very least it will blow up the Botany Bay and the shuttle pods, and make sure Khan can't try again.
Early on Khan had
destroyed the emergency beacon because he did not want to give people any
alternatives or choices other than his leadership. But now I have a
choice. Now I sit at the just completed
new gleaming communications console on a refitted Botany Bay that is
almost ready to begin new voyages of conquest.
So now my hands hover over the controls undecided. It's a great temptation. A chance to make it out of hell. But I find my reawakened sense of justice and duty will not allow it. So I am sending a transmission. But not a subspace signal to Starfleet Command to ask for rescue.
I know my people too well. And I don't mean those here at the base or down in the colony, but my brothers and sisters in Starfleet. They will show mercy, compassion. Kirk, after all, dropped the charges. If I send a signal asking for rescue, they'll pull everyone out and there will be nothing to stop Khan. So instead I will send a transmission set at light speed of all I have experienced. It should take 30 years to reach a Federation base. After sending my message, I'll take the shuttle back down. Kati can then take the shuttle back up just in time for the fireworks on my delayed fuse. It's her turn up here.
Sending this is my duty as a Historian, and a Starfleet Officer. I am Lieutenant Marla McGivers of the Starship Enterprise and I finally appreciate what that means. May God forgive me.The End
Now read Djinn's continuation of "Weeds" in "Not All At Once," told from Khan's point of view at http: // users.erols.com / gleen / NotAllAtOnce.htm
Please let me know what you thought.