"Hawkeye," said Father Mulcahy, "what's going to happen to the Enterprise?"
"She's to be decommissioned." Hawkeye said shortly. He paced across the living room of his home in San Francisco, trying to move slowly enough so that it wasn't obvious he was running away from that idea.
"Will we get another ship?" Klinger asked.
The "we" warmed Hawkeye up a little bit. "I can't get an answer," he said. "Potter's up to his brass in the galactic conference."
"And Dr. Houlihan?" Tharlss whispered.
"Doped to the gills," Hawkeye said. "They say it's stress. She promised to stay put. We'll see ..." The door chimed. "Ah, Mr. Hunnicutt." Hawkeye called to the door, "Come."
It was not B.J. who had rung the chime. It was a tall figure in Vulcan robes. Hawkeye had enough time to recognize the stylings of a high-ranking member of the Vulcan Diplomatic Corps, as the figure stepped into the room and removed the hood whose shadow was obscuring its face.
"Srank!" said Hawkeye. None of them had seen Srank since his mind meld with V'ger, but Hawkeye had known and been impressed that he had gotten into the VDC. "I didn't know you were on Earth."
"I would speak with you alone, Pierce." Thus did Srank diplomatically request Hawkeye's attention and invite himself in, standing aloof from the others - his former shipmates - and glaring at Hawkeye with most unVulcan impatience.
To his own surprise, Hawkeye didn't meet the anger with anger. He looked over to his friends and asked them, with an apologetic shrug and a nod of his head, to leave them; while he tried to figure out why he wasn't angry. Tharlss and Klinger were certainly annoyed, and even Father Mulcahy looked a little put out; but they made quiet farewells and left.
"Srank," said Hawkeye, once they were alone. "You know I would have come to Vulcan if I could -"
"Spare me your human platitudes, Pierce," erupted Srank. "I've spoken to your government and seen the Genesis data and your report."
"Then you know how well Radar met his death."
"Why did you leave him on Genesis?" Srank demanded.
Hawkeye saw what was different now. It was a subtle difference, and Hawkeye wasn't sure how he'd picked it up before - but Srank was angry on someone else's behalf than his own.
"Walter trusted you," Srank continued, "and you denied him his future!"
"Future?" Maybe Srank wasn't any more rooted in reality these days after all. "What future?"
"Only his body was in death, Pierce! And you were the last one to be with him."
"Then you must know that you should have come with him to Vulcan."
"Because he asked you to!" Srank insisted. "He trusted you. With his very essence, with everything that's not of the body. He asked you to bring him to us - and bring what he gave you, his katra -" Srank used a Vulcan word Hawkeye didn't know. "- his living spirit."
"Srank, you know what Radar meant to me. I'd've given my life for his if I could've." Hawkeye had thought he was getting over the hurt. But now he crossed the room and put down the drink he was still holding, running again. Srank saw something in the motion, Hawkeye guessed, because his anger seemed suddenly to be tempered with confusion. "You can believe me when I say that he didn't ask anything of me."
"He would not have spoken of it openly!"
"Well then, how -"
"Pierce, I must have your thoughts," Srank said abruptly. "May I join your mind?"
The Vulcan mind meld. It wasn't always pleasant. But there was some lack of communication here, between Hawkeye and Srank, some level of assumption that they weren't meeting, perhaps cultural. A mind meld might be the quickest way to cut through to it. "All right."
Hawkeye sat on the couch and Srank on the ottoman. Srank took a moment to prepare himself, and Hawkeye calmed himself as well as he could. They sat forward and met each other's eyes, and Srank reached with his right hand to Hawkeye's face. At his touch Hawkeye felt the mental contact, not unfamiliar from previous experiences with Srank or Radar.
Then he was back in the engine room. Except for the funeral and Potter's inspection he'd avoided the engine room since then, at least in body. But now, in his mind, it was then again.
"He told you not to be sad." Srank's voice came from far away, less real than the memories he was reliving.
"Yes." No. It couldn't be happening again. It wasn't really happening again, of course. But it was.
"'After all, I learned ...'"
"From the best." Stop it. Don't let it happen again.
"'Live long and prosper.'"
"No." Give my life that it never happened. Give anything.
Then it was over, and he was looking at Srank. All Srank's anger was gone, replaced with sorrow and apology. "Forgive me," he said. "It is not here. I had thought he had mind-melded with you. It is the Vulcan way, when the body's death is near."
"We were separated," said Hawkeye quietly. "He couldn't touch me." He couldn't meet Srank's eyes. Somehow it was worse, now that Srank was someone who understood, than it would have been before V'Ger. But somehow it was better too.
"Then everything he knew," said Srank, "everything he was ... is lost." Srank rose, and walked to the door. Failing, in his grief, to realize what he had just done.
He had just given new information to a starship captain.
"Wait," said Hawkeye, raising his hand. "Wait a minute, Srank."
Srank turned at the door.
"If it was that important," said Hawkeye, the power back in his voice, "Radar would have found a way. He would have found a way!"
Hawkeye turned and looked at Srank. "What if he melded with someone else?"
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