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Spock knelt, stoically enduring - and almost successfully ignoring - the merciless heat of the early afternoon sun, attempting - rather less successfully - to meditate.
An irreverent part of his mind wandered, wondering - not for the first time - why it should be so desirable for first year novices at Gol, the Place of Perfect Logic, to endure so many things that any sensible Vulcan logically avoided.
No intelligent Vulcan of his (pre-Gol) acquaintance ever moved out of the shade, except for the briefest of moments, during the heat of the day. No intelligent Vulcan ever suffered voluntary dehydration. No intelligent Vulcan starved himself (calling it fasting) while performing heavy manual labour such as the Gol novices were expected to undertake in the cool of morning and evening. And although in times of need Vulcans could go without sleep for many days, no intelligent Vulcan deliberately kept himself awake at night when it was not necessary.
Oh, he knew the theory behind such deprivation. A Master of Kolinahr had to show his mastery over his body as well as his baser emotions; had to show his total indifference to physical suffering as well as external stimuli. He had known that before ever he came to Gol, but - like so many novices - he had assumed that he would be broken in gradually; he had not realised that the first months would be so strenuous.
At least, his pride admitted, he had outlasted more than half of that year's intake. Of the fourteen who had entered the novitiate with him, ten had already left, unable - or unwilling - to endure the harsh discipline.
Perhaps next year might be easier? But he knew it would not be. It would not become easier until he could successfully ignore as irrelevant excessive heat or cold, hunger or thirst, lack of sleep, pain... and by the time he could, it would no longer matter.
Not for the first time, he wondered just why he had sought entrance to the Discipline of Kolinahr. His family had tried to dissuade him, but that was to be expected. His father's only son, it had been assumed that he would follow Sarek into a political career.
He had no interest in politics; but it had proved impossible to persuade Sarek of that.
The sciences drew him - always had. In particular, he was fascinated by the relatively new science of astronomy. But while Sarek might have been persuaded to tolerate pure science as a career for his son, he regarded the world of astronomy as fantasy, a 'study' for dreamers, and those who followed it as little better than the tellers of tales, those wandering vagabonds who entertained the many who were still too easily led from the paths of logic. That some of the most imaginative of these 'vagabonds' were rich mattered little; dreaming and fantasy were beneath the notice or dignity of any member of his House. After all, why study the stars? Nobody could ever reach them.
Was it rebellion, then, that had brought him here? Spock was forced to admit to himself that it was. And that same spirit of rebellion would keep him here, no matter what he suffered. He might fail the Kolinahr - indeed, he admitted to himself that he probably would, for instead of encouraging him to ignore the mysterious blank in his lonely life the Disciplines were actually aggravating it - but he would not leave voluntarily!
He thought back through his life.
So much of it had been influenced by that blank...
He had never felt any rapport with the other children at school, never become friendly with any of them. Yet he seemed to remember a time when he was not alone; a time when he had friends, good friends... friends who would risk their lives for him, for whom he would risk his life.
Ridiculous! A child did not form that kind of relationship with anyone. The Elders in his Family cared for his welfare, but it was illogical for someone to risk life, limb and perhaps even sanity for another. All that might mean was the death of two rather than one, with corresponding loss to Vulcan.
So why was he so drawn to the illogical idea, so sure that it was a good - nay, excellent - basis for a relationship between two or three people?
Insight came suddenly, almost burning out his mind in its intensity.
The Vulcan Way was wrong!
A handful of followers had taken the Teachings of Surak and twisted them into an exaggerated mockery of Surak's Vision. Surak had never envisaged a world without any emotion, where each person was an island, forced by conscientiousness and duty, nothing more, to rear children. It had always been quite clear to him that only duty had persuaded Grandmother T'Pau to bring him up after his father left for Shassar. His father had not wanted him; certainly he had received no affection from either.
He had a faint, distant memory of someone who had given him affection, someone who had taught him the meaning of the word, but who had not been part of his life for many years. Someone who had given him affection... and then left, vanished without a word. Yet - somehow - Spock knew that whoever it was had not gone voluntarily; some day he would return.
No - they! There was one in particular, but there had been more than one.
But when? When had he known them?
He had come to Gol almost straight from school; a season spent with his father, vainly trying to understand the devious logic of diplomacy and necessary only because he had not quite attained adult age before he left school, was all that separated him from those unhappy days. He had always been alone. He had not understood any of his schoolmates; none of them had understood him.
At home there had been only Grandmother T'Pau and her involvement in the House's affairs. The three servants had been too busy to involve themselves with him. So how could he have that elusive memory of having been... yes, loved?
No matter. The memory was there, albeit hidden deep. It would serve as a perfect focus for meditation in this basically unstimulating environment.
His realisation that Gol was unstimulating shocked him for a moment, and changed the direction of his thoughts.
Yes... Yes! The Disciplines were all geared to destroying original thought, to keeping everyone at Gol - novices, acolytes, hierophants, Masters and the Grand Master whose lightest word all Vulcan obeyed, on a path that led in a continuous circle from the Teaching of Surak to the Teaching of Surak... Gol interpretation. The Masters lived in stagnation - heretical thought - yet if only one Grand Master could break free of that mould, how he could change Vulcan!
Such a Grand Master would have to move slowly, of course - the customs of ten thousand years could not be overthrown overnight. Indeed, he might never live to see his reforms accepted; but if he chose his acolytes well and taught them well - and chose his successor carefully - in two or three generations Vulcan might be able to break free of its unquestioning acceptance of Surak's values. Of what Gol said were Surak's values.
Spock knew his history. Surak had brought peace to a warring planet whose peoples had nearly destroyed themselves... or so it was recorded.
So it was recorded.
Many of his followers - men who were tired of the waste of war - had died while trying to persuade the leaders to talk, to discuss their differences, and Spock honoured their bravery. Eventually Surak himself had gone to mediate, to preach the doctrine of emotional control; he too had died, but in dying had finally persuaded them to talk... and those talks had led to a lasting peace. So it was recorded.
Yes, Surak had been a great man. Spock had no thought of denying that. But - heresy of heresies - had he been quite as great as his reputation, carried down through the millennia?
No. History would have remembered him, of course, but if he had had no followers left to repeat his message of peace and emotional control would Vulcan have turned to logic as the answer to all its problems?
Perhaps it would. Perhaps Surak had simply put into words what many Vulcans of his time must have realised: that continual warfare was destroying their world. It was the almost incessant warfare of the years immediately before Surak's time that had destroyed so much of Vulcan and turned it into a desert world. Vast forests had been put to the torch to destroy cover that would hide an approaching enemy or shelter defeated fugitives. Salt had been thickly scattered over the rich fields of their defeated enemy by one race who had realised too late - after their enemy starved to death - that it had also made the land for which they had fought unusable for them as well. The Th'aiden Desert was still, after ten thousand years, the most infertile land on Vulcan, despite the attempts of many generations of scientists to find a way of neutralising the salt and restoring fertility.
A bell rang, its steady pealing the first stimulus the novices had been taught. It drew Spock's mind from his thoughts back to the intolerable heat of the Gol Plateau.
He licked dry, cracking lips with an equally dry tongue, and rose from his kneeling position, cautiously stretching joints stiffened by long hours of immobility. Then he headed back towards the Gol caves, where it would at least be cooler, to face six hours of backbreaking work in the gardens where most of the food was grown.
There was a new certainty in his step.
The Masters had been watching the five remaining novices carefully. They noted the change in Spock, and knew that his meditation had given him an insight which they assumed concerned the purpose of life at Gol.
They were not wrong... but neither were they right.
At the end of the first year three of the novices were sent from Gol. Despite all their efforts their meditation had failed to give them any insights, meaningful or otherwise. The two who were left were Spock and T'Ria, an older woman whose husband and children had died in circumstances that Spock had learned were tragic, although he knew no details. Curiosity was not encouraged at Gol. Her need to forget those details was undoubtedly the reason why, at her age, she had survived the rigours of the first year of Training, when thirteen young, fit and initially enthusiastic novices had failed.
Grand Master T'Sai studied the two new acolytes, searching for signs of pride in their achievement, and found none. Satisfied, she said quietly, "You have both done well, but you are a long way yet from achieving Kolinahr.
"Unless this year's novices all fail, you will no longer have to work in the gardens. Instead, you will study gymnastics in the evenings. A Master has control of his body as well as his mind."
Both lowered respectful heads.
Spock soon discovered that the hours spent at exercise were in many ways more arduous than those spent digging, hoeing and weeding. Slowly, however, he found it becoming easier as his muscles adjusted to the demands made of them. T'Ria, on the other hand, never found the exercises becoming easier; her older body had lost most of its youthful flexibility. She persevered, however, refusing to admit defeat, until the day that she strained her back so badly that despite herself she was unable to stand. After that concessions were made for her age, and she was permitted to exercise to a simpler routine. She knew that this would prevent her from ever advancing beyond the rank of hierophant, but accepted it philosophically as the logical thing to do.
Although he eventually enjoyed the exercise, it was the hours spent in meditation that Spock found becoming more and more rewarding. Memory was connecting; the day came when he remembered the beginning of the blank in his memory. He remembered walking out of the School Doctor's office feeling more alone than he had ever been in his life.
Something had happened there. Something had been taken from his mind!
The realisation gave him hope and even more incentive to continue. If he attained full mastery of his thoughts, his mind, he would surely remember what it was the Doctor had made him forget. Although he could guess. The Doctor had surely made him forget whoever it was who had given him the affection he still craved.
Time passed. Spock finally attained Kolinahr and became a hierophant, and only he knew that it was a sham. Yes, he had learned total control... and that control hid both his search for a lost memory and his wish to change Vulcan so that the day would come when no other Vulcan child would search in vain for a love that was denied him because it was totally illogical.
Over the years, he advanced in rank. He became a Master, in charge of testing novices and acolytes. Slowly he built up a small following of those acolytes who sought Kolinahr to escape from their need for something that was missing in their lives, something that they could not name, but that Spock recognised because it was also missing from his own life.
The only thing that surprised him was that there were so many of them.
After a few years Spock was transferred to other duties; he was put in charge of the library. This did not take him from close association with the acolytes, for one of their duties was the careful writing out of anything important that was happening on Vulcan; Spock merely had to supervise, a task that predominantly consisted of boredom - or would have done if he had had less control of his thoughts. He took advantage of his position to search the oldest records, finding texts so old that their writing was faded, and suggested to Grand Master T'Lar that these ancient records should be copied.
"It is not logical that the words of Surak and his immediate followers be lost. It would seem sensible to copy the oldest texts while they can still be read."
T'Lar agreed, a faint gleam in her eyes suggesting to Spock that she, too, might have wondered if Surak's original teaching had been misinterpreted.
It was not an easy task; the texts were written in Old Vulcan, and while the words were mostly familiar the style of lettering was almost completely different from the alphabet the acolytes were used to. After consultation with T'Lar, Spock had decided that the texts should be copied twice, once in the original lettering and once in modern lettering to make them easier to read.
He selected his followers for the task, knowing that if any of them found anything to hint that Surak had been misinterpreted, it would be brought to his notice immediately. The only thing he had to worry about was whether, then, to report it to T'Lar.
Success came in the form of an ancient, almost totally illegible document. The acolyte who unrolled it to start work on it brought it to Spock apologetically.
"Your forgiveness, Master, but I do not think this one can be copied."
Spock examined it carefully. "It will certainly be most difficult, Sharla. Leave it with me. I will see what I can do with it."
Spock took it to his desk, and examined it again. Unlike most of the other documents they had handled, this did not seem to be a straightforward report; rather, it seemed to be a letter.
He began by writing out the letters and words he could read, putting in a faint line for those he could not, and quite soon established - to his own satisfaction at least - that this was a letter written by Surak to some of his followers.
He sat staring at what he had deciphered for a long time. One phrase that was quite distinct was 'control of greed'.
He was aware of an almost-forgotten emotion - satisfaction. He could hardly wait to begin trying to decipher all the document, but the bell rang and habit led him to roll up both the document and his copy when what he longed to do was remain at his desk. But he knew that he must not show such impatience in front of the acolytes, his followers though they were. It would be different if he was nearly finished with the copy - it would be logical, then, to work on to finish it.
It took him months of painstaking work before he managed to decipher approximately 80% of the document. The remainder seemed to be lost beyond retrieval.
The 80%, however, was enough to confirm what he had suspected; it was indeed a letter from Surak to his followers, and although Surak was advocating control of emotion, it was the negative emotions he was criticising - at least in the part that could be deciphered.
Spock studied the original yet again, trying to make sense out of the few faint marks that still showed. That 20% would be enough to let the most hidebound of Gol Masters insist that how did anyone know it did not criticise the positive emotions too. He must try to make sense out of a little more of it!
He frowned slightly. He really ought to take this to T'Lar soon. If only he could be sure how she would react! There was, however, one thing he could do as insurance in case she reacted adversely; he carefully made another copy of what he had deciphered and put it among the acolyte-copied material, reasoning that the best place to hide something like this was in full view. Then he took the original and his copy to T'Lar.
She studied both carefully, then looked up at him. "You are quite certain of your reading of this?"
"Yes, T'Lar. Of course, if the missing segments could also be read it would be more meaningful, but as it stands... " He allowed his voice to trail off. She could interpret his statement either way.
She nodded and looked at him almost quizzically. "You believe Surak did not recommend the suppression of all emotion."
"That is how I read his letter," he admitted.
"I agree. I have long thought that Surak's teaching may have been exaggerated by some of the more fanatical of his followers. This would seem to confirm my thoughts."
"It would be more readily accepted if all of the letter could be read," Spock commented. "I will endeavour to decipher the rest of it."
"You are correct," she said. "I do not think, however, that you will manage."
"I agree," he admitted. "But I must try. It is wrong for a world to live a lie - and if we continue to follow misinterpreted teaching, we are living a lie."
T'Lar named Spock her successor shortly after, and leaving the acolytes to continue copying the old records under the guidance of a newly appointed Master who had shown an interest in the work, Spock began to work with her. He took Surak's letter with him and continued to work at it in his free hours, few though these were.
They soon became fewer. Barely a month after his promotion T'Lar died, and Spock found himself, without adequate training, in the position of Grand Master.
Now it was time to begin preaching heresy.
He began slowly, by showing his transcript of Surak's letter to his acolytes and to those of the hierophants and Masters that he thought could accept the revelation. The new novices, too, were to be judged by a different set of values. People who came to seek a judgement from the Grand Master - usually against an erring son or daughter - sometimes found that that judgement was not what they had expected. Spock soon came to be known as a Grand Master who permitted a person's choice to affect his decision, rather than giving a cold judgement based only on external facts. He was criticised by the elderly; but the young thought well of him.
The houses that dropped out of the sky taught many Vulcans who thought they had forgotten emotion the meaning of fear. The three houses landed in an open area and did nothing. At last, one or two of the braver or more resilient souls ventured out of hiding and approached slowly.
A door slid open in one of the houses and a man came out. He looked almost Vulcan, apart from the near-immodest clothes he wore. His legs were clad in two tubes of cloth, black as a novice's robes, that reached from ankle to groin, where they joined to make one tube. His robe was tight-fitting and reached only to his waist; instead of being decently white it was close to the yellow of mourning. And his ears had round tips.
Could he be some kind of priest?
He raised one hand, palm forward. "We come in peace."
The boldest Vulcan stepped hesitantly forward. "Who are you? Are you a follower of Surak?"
"We come from far away; our leaders have sent us to talk to you. We need to speak to someone in authority."
The Vulcans muttered together, then -
"You must travel to Gol, where you can speak to the Grand Master. He speaks for Vulcan."
There was a strange look on the visitor's face, but he said only, "How do we get to Gol?"
The Vulcan pointed. "It is that way - sixteen days' travel."
The visitor smiled. "I think we will get there a little quicker than that. How will we know it when we get there?"
The Vulcans conferred again. Finally the spokesman said, "There is a great plateau, and at one side it rises into a mountain. The Masters live in caves in the mountain, but they grow crops on the plateau. If you go there in your... house... you will recognise it by the crops. All around it is desert."
The visitor said something incomprehensible, turned and disappeared back into his house. A few moments later the three houses rose from the ground and headed off in the indicated direction. Seconds later they were out of sight.
Spock was checking the work of his newest copyists when the afternoon bell rang. He nodded his satisfaction with the work, and turned to leave. He was halfway to the kitchens when one of the novices came running - actually running - up the carved steps of the cave.
"Grand Master! Grand Master!"
"Control yourself, S'Par," Spock said firmly. A rebel he might be at heart, but certain principles had to be maintained.
S'Par stopped dead, lowered his head and took two deep breaths. "I ask forgiveness, Grand Master. Sir, there are strangers at Gol. They arrived in three flying houses and ask to speak with the Grand Master."
Flying houses? Spock stiffened. Why did that description sound somehow familiar?
"I will come."
He turned, strode down the stair and out of the cave. On the plateau below he saw the three strange shapes, and felt he should know what they were. He looked down the main stairway. At the bottom was a small group of strangers, easily recognised by the colours they were wearing and the unusual clothes. Three wore yellow; two wore blue; the rest wore red. He moved steadily down the steps, followed by several acolytes, hierophants and Masters - not all the control of Kolinahr could prevent their curiosity about these strangers.
Spock stopped when he reached the strangers, and looked at them. His attention was drawn to one of the men wearing yellow - a man with an oddly expectant look.
"Jim," he said softly. "Your name is Jim."
"Yes, Spock. Yes!"
Behind him, Spock heard a soft murmur of surprise, but he ignored it. "I did not want to leave, but I had no choice. Someone took you from my mind."
The stranger called Jim nodded. "I know. I have been lonely without you, Spock... but I knew that one day we would meet in reality, not just in our dreams. When I learned that this world is called Vulcan... But I dared not hope we might meet so soon. How much do you remember?"
"Very little." He looked searchingly at the... the Human. "You must also have been a child."
"Yes. A child with space in my blood. But space was not out of my reach." He looked round. "You have no technology here, do you?"
The word did not translate, but somehow Spock knew what was meant. It meant the ability to build houses that flew... no, ships - he remembered the word from his long-forgotten dreams. "Not as you do. If we want to travel, we usually walk. Our tools are very simple, made of stone or wood. My people cannot begin to imagine... " He indicated the three ships.
A world reverted to a stone age level of culture . All the probes had indicated so, of course, although some of the crew hadn't believed it possible that in a whole world, especially one where living was as hard as here, nobody had come up with some kind of technology. Jim Kirk shook his head, wondering how his dreams could include a child of this race. Yet it was no stranger than the simple fact that McCoy had been in his dreams too. He beckoned the Doctor forward.
"Do you remember Dr. McCoy?"
Spock studied the older face for a moment. "Bones," he said.
"Did you dream too?"
"Yes, sometimes." He nodded to his leader. "But I reckon it was Jim's dreams that reached both of us."
Another memory surfaced. "You come from a cooler world than this. Come - you will be more comfortable in the cave. Eat with us."
"We'll be glad to," Jim said happily.
As they climbed the steps, Spock asked, "What brings you here?"
"Do you remember the Klingons?"
Spock climbed several steps before he answered. "I think so. They were a ruthless enemy, were they not?"
"That's right. We've been watching Vulcan for a while, but it never occurred to me that this was Spock's... your... world. I was sure that you must have come from a world that, like mine, had space flight. Anyway, we got word that the Klingons are interested in this world, and my superiors decided that we should offer you help to resist them."
"You will remember that the people of my race are pacifists."
"All the more reason why we should defend you. But we probably won't have to fight. If the Klingons know that Vulcan is part of the Federation - or at least allied to it - I think they'll decide it's too big a mouthful and leave you alone."
Spock considered that as he led them to the top table where normally only the Grand Master and the Grand Master Elect sat, gesturing for novices to bring stools. "You could be right. But what would the Klingons want with Vulcan? Our world is poor, impoverished by the wars of ten thousand years ago. So much was destroyed then!"
"Did your people never discover metal?" Jim asked as he sat.
"Long, long ago... but there was very little. Too little to be used for common things. A few of the old Families have metal brooches, passed down from mother to daughter, so old the catches are worn, so valuable they are never worn in case they are lost. For a Family to own such a thing is the proof of its antiquity." Spock motioned the waiting novice to serve his visitors first.
"Mmm. What about rock crystal? Is there much of that?" Kirk took a mouthful of steaming vegetables, chewed and swallowed appreciatively. "This is excellent."
"It is a matter of discipline that the food at Gol be well prepared. Crystal? In some areas. But it is valueless, too brittle to be worked into knives although its split edges are sharp. Some of the small pieces are used as jewellery by the women."
"Spock, I'll make a small bet that some of that crystal, maybe all of it, is dilithium. Remember? We use it to power our ships?"
"So we would have something of value to trade with the Federation in return for membership?"
"You would indeed."
Spock ate in silence for some moments, appreciating Jim's polite silence as he waited for a reply.
"I favour joining the Federation, though there are those, especially here at Gol, who will not, who would prefer to die in support of the old ways, fossilising for ten thousand years. But I think it is time for change."
"Grand Master!" An elderly Vulcan seated at the top of one of the other tables rose.
"You may speak, Stolor."
"With respect, you are betraying all that Surak taught us!"
"I am sure that Surak - our Teacher for those ten thousand years - " he explained in an aside for the benefit of the Humans, "would have agreed with me. He did not teach us to refuse a challenge, Stolor. He taught us to control our destructive emotions. Note I say 'destructive'. Some time ago we discovered in the library an ancient document which we believe is a letter written by Surak himself. He talks of controlling greed and hatred; nowhere in it does he talk of controlling love. He talks of settling dispute by discussion, so that tribes can get to know each other; nowhere does he say that a strange tribe is automatically an enemy that must not be trusted. I say the time has come for change; for reaching out and learning new things. These people - " he indicated the Humans beside him - "can help us to learn." He rose and gazed over the ranks of novices, acolytes, hierophants and Masters. "If you disagree, that is your right, and you may leave here and set up a new sacerdocy. Meanwhile, I suggest that no-one acts hastily; if you are doubtful, spend the night in meditation. But also consider this: we have been warned of the possible approach of a race who will not permit us to make our own decisions, who will either kill or enslave us, or force us to fight to defend ourselves. Do you want either of these options? If not - how much better, then, to be part of a group so large that we are safe from attack." He looked round once more. "I will ask for your decisions in the morning."
He turned to the Humans. "Would you care to remain here this night? I cannot offer you much comfort - here at Gol we pride ourselves on our mastery of our minds and bodies - but... "
Jim smiled. He glanced at the Doctor, who made a face. "I have to get back tonight - I need to be available in case Harris has a relapse."
"Yes - but I think you and Spock have a lot to talk about."
Jim looked at the Vulcan. "He's right, Spock. We do have a lot to talk about. All those years... I'll be glad to remain, Spock. I don't think there's any need for my men to stay, though."
The vote went in favour of listening to the Humans. Only a few were opposed, but when they realised how few of them there were, they accepted the will of the majority.
"Good," Jim said later, when he and Spock were once again closeted together, officially discussing terms for a preliminary treaty. "I'm sure that Vulcan has a lot to offer the Federation - quite apart from dilithium."
"Yes... but are we likely to meet again, Jim? I cannot leave Vulcan - not now, not when we are in the middle of such an upheaval. I have, after all, just turned ten thousand years of custom upside down. It is my duty to help steady everything again. And you - you are a Starship Captain... "
"A Starship Captain who is close to the end of the current five-year mission," Jim replied, "and is unlikely to be given another. I've already done twenty years in space, and that tends to be regarded as the maximum anyone is asked to serve off-planet, even though they want to. Rumour has it that I'm to be offered promotion to Admiral. I don't want it, but if I refuse they'll probably assign me to a Starbase. It's a different kind of desk duty, but it's still a desk. But I could volunteer to act as Starfleet representative here. They'll almost certainly go for that, since I'm responsible for contacting Vulcan in the first place. We needn't tell them we already knew each other - that First Contact was actually made thirty-two years ago."
"They would not believe it if we did."
"Bones will come with me," Jim added. "The Humans on Vulcan will certainly need a Doctor. We won't be serving on a ship, the way we did in our dreams, but we will be working together."
Spock nodded. "It should be... most rewarding," he said formally. But inside, he was singing.
He would never be alone again. He had, against all logic, found the long-lost friends of his childhood, and he would not lose them again. For, of course, when you were an adult and ruler of a world, there was nobody to interfere with your friendship. And friendship - and love - were, thanks to that long-forgotten letter of Surak's, now known to be perfectly logical.