Chapter 23
There's No Place Like Home

Spock sat alone in his study trying to meditate. He was failing. Over and over again, his mind replayed the events of the past few days, trying to see what he could have done to prevent this from happening. But try as he might, he knew deep down, that he was not to blame. Lien would have found Kirk no matter where or when they had gone. It had only been a matter of time.

As if reading his mind, Seleya appeared at the door and said, "Even if you had been with him, there was nothing you could have done. You do know that don't you?"

Spock sighed. "Perhaps."

Seleya walked into the study and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Kirk will survive. There is just no killing some people."

"Are you trying to make me feel better or worse my wife?" Before she could answer, the room brightened by several degrees and they were no longer alone. Spock shot to his feet and gasped at the tall dark man.

Seleya regarded the newcomer coolly. "Spock - who is this?"

Q looked Seleya up and down once and then dismissed her. "Spock - at last. When you didn't return, I assumed you'd been trapped in the nexus. It's taken this long to find you. Why did you return to this time period?"

"It was not my intention. The nexus did not act in the manner we assumed. Were you successful?"

"I failed. Picard was already gone when I arrived at his home. And you?"

"I was successful in retrieving Captain Kirk, but since then, Lien has captured him and returned with him to the nexus."


"That is not all. My son had also been taken into the nexus."

The man seemed genuinely surprised. "Perhaps Kirk will find a way to defeat Lien from within."

"You believe that?"

"No, not really."

Spock licked dry lips and glowered at Q angrily. "I think it is time you took responsibility for your kinsman's actions. You have tried using me as an intermediary and it did not work. Face up to the facts - this is your problem. Deal with it."

"I will not enter the nexus. Remember - it sent Lien mad."

"You have no proof that is what caused Lien's insanity and nothing to indicate that the same fate would befall you. You are afraid. Your cowardice will cost the lives of every living thing in this reality if you do not act soon."

The man began pacing the small study. "Don't lecture me, Spock. I've already interfered in this reality more than our continuum allows. This mission was not undertaken lightly."

"A member of your continuum is the cause of all this. It is your duty to intervene. Will you stand back and allow him to achieve his goals and do nothing? That will make you no better than he - it will make you an accessory to his plans for mass genocide. Can you truly live with all those deaths on your conscious because you are afraid?"

Q stopped his frantic pacing and spun round to fix Spock with an icy glare. "You would have me risk my life?"

"I demand that you risk your life - just as I have, just as Kirk and Picard have. We were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice - you can do no less."

Q closed his eyes momentarily then turned his back on Spock. "You ask too much. To take such a risk would be... suicide. I must think about this."

And he was gone. Spock sunk down into his chair and laid his head on his hands. Seleya rubbed gently at his neck. "Will he do it?"

Spock did not raise his head. "I do not know. I hope so."

"Hope? Is that not illogical, Spock?"

This time he did look up into her eyes, his own so full of pain it made her heart bleed. "Perhaps. But it is all that I have left."

"We have to get him to attack us whilst he is still weak - otherwise we don't stand a chance," Kirk was saying.

Picard nodded. "I agree. Leaving the nexus seems to tire him. Each time he comes back, his powers have faded. I was able to maintain this reality myself."

"Can you manipulate it?"

"Only a little. I managed to make an apple grow on an oak tree earlier but that seems to be the extent of my control."

Ashan joined the other two men. "But you are weak Picard, perhaps the two of us would have better luck?" He turned his hopeful gaze on Kirk. The Captain seemed to be deep in thought.

After a moment of tense silence, Picard clapped Kirk loudly on the back, "I know that look - you have a plan."

"Maybe..." Kirk murmured, then louder, "He's weak, his powers seem to have diminished to the point where he is almost human. I'm willing to bet that right now, the three of us could beat him at his own game even within the nexus. I don't remember much about my time in there. Were you able to create people as well as settings?"

Picard was smiling broadly. "Yes, Rene was there and I had a wife and children. They seemed so real at the time."

"Good. We have to create a reality where we are in control. If we can fool him into believing we have left the nexus - he'll be at an even greater disadvantage. And I think I have the perfect place... but first we have to create a false trail."

"What do you propose?"

Kirk took Picard and Ashans wrists firmly and closed his eyes. Then he did something which Ashan found totally incomprehensible. He clicked his heels together three times and began repeating the mantra "There's no place like home, there's no place like home...."

They found themselves standing in a clearing in the middle of a forest. The small yellow sun was beginning to sink below the trees casting long shadows.

Picard spun round and asked tensely. "Did you do this, Kirk? Where are we?"

Kirk opened one eye, smiled and opened the other eye. "My uncle's farm. When I was a boy, my brother and I used to play hide and seek in these woods."

Ashan stared around him in awe at the giant redwoods. He had never seen trees so incredibly large in his life. Somehow they made him feel insignificant. Kirk was smiling in a most paternal manner at him. "Well, we know we can do it - now to create that trail for our friend to follow."

Ashan, who had been touching the red bark of an ancient tree, turned to the two Captains. "Let me choose our next destination?"

Kirk smiled indulgently at the boy. "Knock yourself out son."

Ashan frowned and looked down at his toes, then inspiration struck and he closed his eyes. Kirk realised a fraction of a second too slow, that the boy stood alone, not touching his companions. Before he could reach for him, he was gone, leaving the two older men staring at empty space. Kirk cursed under his breath. "Damn. Kids today - they have no patience."

Picard shook his head. "Perhaps he'll be safer away from us for the moment, and we can't risk waiting for him - its time to move on."

Kirk looked as if he would argue then the fight left him and he nodded slowly. Picard held out his hand and hesitating only a moment, Kirk took it. Then they were gone.

Lien stood amidst the beauty of the Garden of Eden and saw none of it. Somehow his prisoners had escaped. He cursed himself for not anticipating this. Picard had been too weak to break out of his reality but Kirk - He was strong and focused. It would not be hard for such an individual to manipulate realities.

Lien thought fast. As a member of the continuum, he could travel through fluid time quicker than they could and he could easily follow their trail. It was only a matter of time before he caught them again and when he did... they would be sorry.

Ashan realised two things. He was alone, and this wasn't where he was supposed to be. The moment he had left Lien's reality, the nexus had taken over his subconscious mind and created this new reality for him. He had wanted to create the vision of a place he had once been as a child, a vast cornfield deep within the agricultural belt of his home continent. He remembered running into the field and discovering that the corn was twice as tall as he was. He had theorised that the cornfield would make an excellent environment to hide in and lay a false trail. After all it had taken his mother nearly five hours to find him.

Obviously this was no cornfield. Ashan had no clear memory of the first time he had met his father, at 7 standard years old, he was a toddler in Vulcan or Romulan terms. But the second time was nearly 17 standard years later. He had been a young boy of 10.

He had not understood why his mother had taken him to a friend's house to stay. It had been several days later that he had finally met the man who was his father. In retrospect, Ashan could understand why this had been necessary but at the time, he felt abandoned and had made sure the Vulcan knew about it.

The nexus had taken him to that day - his first meeting with his father. Ashan was standing on a high plateau above his mothers' house. Any moment now, Spock would emerge from the trees behind him and introduce himself. And Ashan would spit at his feet.

He felt the colour rising in his cheeks at the memory. How would his life have changed if he had not been so bitter and angry on that first day? Was it possible to heal the rift at its source? While still contemplating the possibilities, Ashan heard a twig break behind him and turned slowly.

The tall man hesitated barely a second before stepping out into the light. "Ashan? My name is Spock, I am your father."





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