“Diana,” said Iris, “You have three new notifications.”
She opened her eyes. It was four in the morning. She hadn’t been asleep; there was a persistent bird outside her window that rose before dawn every day. The covers were comfortable, though, so she buried herself in the confines of warmth and cotton for a little while longer.
“Play all,” she told the system.
“First message: from Johnathan Keen, stardate 2258.9, received 23:19. Diana! Just letting you know that we’ve got the annual—”
“Delete message,” she muttered through her pillow.
“Are you sure you want to delete this message?”
“Message deleted,” Iris said. “Next message: alert keywords god and war. Risa’s Waratose Pleasure company presents Romulan sex god Martrice tomorrow night at—”
“Are you sure you want to delete—”
“Yes! I am sure!”
The recitation continued, and Diana yawned, pulling herself out of bed. The mockingbird finally stopped singing as the sun peeked over the horizon, and it flew with a flutter of white-patched wings when she stepped to the window, greeting Apollo’s chariot silently—
“Next message: alert keywords god and Apollo. Federation exploration team claims to encounter Greek god Apollo living on remote planet.”
“Iris,” Diana suddenly didn’t feel sleepy at all. “Play news report.”
The holo-table flared to life, projecting an immaculately-coiffed woman with a painted, false smile. “Federation hero and boy captain James Tiberius Kirk reports yet another amazing xeno-encounter: this time with a Greek god. The Pollux star system was presumed empty of sentient life until the Federation vessel Enterprise was seized by a giant green space hand--”
The woman made it sound ludicrous and funny, but Diana wasn’t laughing.
“--An energy projection belonging to an alien being claiming to be the last of the Greek pantheon, the god Apollo. Apollo was known as the patron god of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge. He demanded the Starfleet crew worship him as a god, and when they refused, he attempted to overpower the ship, but was thwarted by a combination of shrewd psychology and scientific intervention. After failing the alien abandoned the attempt, dispersing himself--”
“Iris, silence news report.” Diana’s head spun. Could it really…?
She yanked her PADD from its stand and activated the fingerprint security, cursing herself for having turned it off the night before. Starfleet had been both an asset and a thorn in her side since they emerged. It was for reasons like this that they were useful, covering more terrain than one person could, demigod or no, but they sure weren’t fond of sharing their information with others. Especially not freelance spacewomen who had dubious identification papers.
This, though, she was sure would be everywhere. A Greek god? On a planet ever so far away? It was so bizarre that the press would be all over it. She skimmed the news: yes, practically everywhere. Political outlets, educational networks, everywhere. They seemed to find it humorous.
“Iris,” she announced, setting aside the smaller screen, “play official visual report.”
The sound of a male news reporter filled her room. “Captain James Kirk arrived on Starbase 0931 Alpha yesterday at 0:21 and reported that there had been an encounter of interest. Recordings taken by crewmembers planet-side at the time of the incident showed that the being called itself Apollo and appeared to have knowledge of Earth and human society at the time of ancient Greece. Although the Enterprise crew witnessed the being disappear, Starfleet immediately responded by dispatching a team of historians and scientific operatives. There is still no word on whether or not this being was indeed the ‘Apollo’ of legend.”
Images flashed by, of the scientific vessel that would be investigating, the Enterprise, and the planet itself, delicate and green like Earth. She didn’t know what to think. Was this a god? Did Ares not manage to kill them all as she had been told? There had been false alarms in the past. She hoped this one was as well. Apollo certainly didn’t sound like the Apollo of the myths that she remembered.
Kirk’s image flashed across the screen, and her thoughts fragmented. “Iris, call up the biography and service record of that man. Captain James Kirk.”
“Kirk, James Tiberius. Captain of the USS Enterprise since assuming command during the Narada incident in year 2267. Service record—”
“Volume to zero.” She could read it herself, but right now she was busy staring at the man’s picture. She’d seen Kirk before, back when he took command of the Enterprise after dispatching the Narada. She’d noticed the resemblance then, but he’d been so young… it was just a fluke, was it not? She’d seen dozens of young men through the centuries who brought Steve to mind—the shade of blue in a pair of eyes, the jut of a strong jaw, the shock of sandy hair— but this one?
Diana pulled out her treasured photograph, now kept covered in silk, and brushed its protective shield away with her fingertips. She compared them, biting her lip.
Now that Kirk had grown more seasoned, matured by command, the resemblance stunned her, making her heart beat fast.
She skimmed through his service record—highly distinguished, and his personal record—much less so. He had endured a troubled youth. Only chance had led him to the position of command he now held, where he might interpose himself between the entire Earth and….
Tears abruptly blurred her vision. Perhaps… if it was Steve, somehow brought back from the afterlife… now, he could truly save the world.
“Iris, book passage for me to the starbase nearest the Pollux system.” Once she arrived, she’d charter a private vessel and investigate this incident for herself. If it truly had been Apollo on that faraway world, he might be glad to see one of his kin. And Diana herself… she had much to consider and to investigate, not least of all this dashing young captain who wore the face of Steve Trevor and had the strength in him to face down a god.
Many years ago a bat by the name of Bruce had taught her to pick computer systems like locks. The skill had fallen into disuse hundreds of years ago, but the basics of hacking in the 2000’s had evolved to become obsolete in the 2200’s. She had kept up enough to get what information she needed from semi-secure servers.
Starfleet was not a semi-secure server. It was an awful mess of offensive security bots, encrypted code, and non-Terran technology. She could barely skim the surface of their information banks. Uaually, that was what Anthony was for. He was happy to trade work for trinkets she picked up on other planets, but last time even he wasn’t able to secure what she needed without drawing unnecessary attention. Diana knew he’d be happy to try again, but she’d rather have as few people involved as possible. She would just have to make do with the picked-over remains of Apollo’s temple in person. Maybe there would be the mystical god recognition feeling that she assumed she would alert her to the presence of Ares.
At least the coordinates of Pollux IV were public.
Six weeks later, Diana found herself standing on the surface of Pollux IV, examining a lot of fairly pathetic-looking rubble. A phaser had clearly been used on the marble, calcifying it and making it prone to crumble—all that was left were shapeless heaps of half-melted stone and ash. It had, possibly, once been something like a small temple.
The structures nearby had fared better: a stone table, plinths, some random bits of statuary, several of them broken… all of it looked authentic enough (better than the planet that surrounded it. The system’s star didn’t provide enough energy for lush growth, and to her eye, the vegetation looked thin and false).
The temple proper offered little useful evidence, but the site itself intrigued her. It was positioned over several intersecting ley lines. Standing in the midst of the heaps of ash, she could feel power crackling subtly through the air, the ground… even the sky above. The ends of her hair lifted a little, responsive to the charge of planetary energy, and she took a deep breath, absorbing the sensation with gratitude. Whatever entity had chosen this site had likely been capable of drawing on the planet’s natural energies to enhance its own power.
Even in the midst of the ruin she could find no trace of personality, no sense of familiarity, no residual signature of power. She sighed with frustration. If the being who had met with Kirk and his crew here truly was the god Apollo, nothing remained of his presence now.
The Enterprise, however, was still in the close vicinity-- at least if you considered the distance in galactic terms. Diana seated herself at the low stone table, staring at the desiccated remains of fruit lying abandoned in a silver kylix. The decorations included on the rim of the basin appeared fully authentic. How would an alien being have obtained such knowledge?
Would it be self-serving to seek out the starship and ask her questions of its crew…? Under any other circumstances Diana would not have second-guessed herself. But with James Tiberius Kirk, the living image of Steve, in command of the ship….
Her cause for inquiry was just, but perhaps she should be circumspect. She had no way to know if she might be… recognized.
Diana begins her investigation
In truth, Diana couldn’t remember a time when she had opted for secrecy when other avenues of attack were viable. It was more time consuming, more difficult, and generally a little bit boring. She preferred confronting things head on. Admittedly, she had almost gotten hurt a couple of times because of it. Old habits die hard, though, so she found herself sitting across from a pretty blonde woman outside a restaurant on the Terran colony of Athens. It was in incredible place, a city of peace to rival its namesake. The stones were a pale luminous grey and the sky a light purple. It was a circumbinary planet orbiting two dwarf suns with a dozen or so other moon-like planetoids, but this was undoubtedly the most beautiful of them all. Diana had been on many planets and few had such a wide range of colors as this. She itched to explore them, catalogue every mountaintop, run her hand over the bright pink marigolds that lined the streets.
Lieutenant Palamas, former Enterprise officer, looked faintly nervous as she ordered her meal.
“I am sorry about how abrupt this was,” Diana said, offering her hand in greeting. “Thank you for meeting me on such short notice.”
Carolyn laughed, lines around her bright eyes deepening. “Oh, I had plenty of time this week. Starfleet has been quite generous with my new hours.”
According to her file, Carolyn Palamas requested transfer from the Enterprise after the Apollo mission. It did not state why, only that it was immediately approved by Captain Kirk. Carolyn’s eyes told Diana that she had been in the center of the conflict.
“Are you all right?” Diana asked. “I understand if you would prefer not to relive something traumatic.”
Carolyn shook her head, reaching for her glass of water. She didn’t take a drink. “I’m fine. I was the one who was treated like a princess the whole time, wasn’t I?”
“A confrontation with a god is never simple,” Diana said, and then cursed herself. “Whether or not he was who he said he was,” she amended.
“No,” she said quietly, “it is not.”
“I’m sure you’ve been asked this, but was he? A god?”
“Oh, he believed he was Apollo,” Carolyn affirmed, “I have no doubt of that, but he was entirely an unreliable narrator. He was quite confused and, from what I gathered, a little afraid.”
Diana’s heart lurched. Ares? Was he afraid of Ares? Despite a lack of evidence, her mind had decided for her that this Apollo was the Apollo in the legends of her people. She knew that it was hope speaking for her, but perhaps she could allow it just this once. She watched one of the suns overhead. It was a little redder than the one earth orbited, a dwarf star. The universe was so much larger than the solar system she had known most of her life. Surely the gods would have been able to leave the planet and go to another. But how?
“Afraid?” Diana pressed.
The girl nodded, pushing a stray blonde hair behind her ear. “Of being alone. He wanted so badly for us to worship him. He promised that he would love us like his children, like family. I think that’s all he really wanted. It had been so long since he had seen anyone else. He just wanted a chance to feel close to someone. I can understand that.” Her eyes stared at the swirling ice in her glass.
Diana reached forward, offering what comfort she could through a squeeze to the forearm. “Thank you, my dear. And that burn? Was that from him?”
As if she had forgotten it was there, Carolyn glanced at her shoulder. A faint pink smear of newly regenerated skin stood out next to the blue of her uniform. She shook her head.
“Not intentionally, no. He was, honestly, I’m not fibbing, he was shooting lightning from his hands at the other members of the crew. One of them brushed against me, just barely, when Mr. Scott pulled me behind a rock. I didn’t even notice until the next day.”
The hair on the back of Diana’s neck rose. Ares, too, had possessed the ability to wield lightning.
“I don’t know why I’m telling you so much.” Carolyn gave a low, nervous titter. “Perhaps because you seem to believe me… when no one else does. No one else believed Apollo was who he said! No one believed in him but me.” Her blue eyes were terribly sad, honest… vulnerable.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” Diana quoted softly.
“Yes, precisely. And he—Apollo—he said he loved me. He needed me. And I betrayed him. The captain said—” She colored and fell silent.
Diana hesitated, intrigued, wanting to hear more. “Yes?”
“He said it was my birthright as a human, my responsibility, to support the others from the Enterprise. That I must do my duty. And in a way he was right-- no one should be forced to worship another being. But in another way,” Carolyn’s eyes filled with tears. “His advice led to the destruction of something strange… rare… and very beautiful.”
“Kirk must be a very charismatic man,” Diana said slowly.
“They both were.” The tears overflowed and Diana moved to pull Carolyn against her shoulder, not caring that the woman’s mascara would smear on the shoulder of her blouse. Palamas had chosen duty in the face of love—and had chosen rightly, despite her pain. Kirk’s advice may have led to disaster for Apollo, but ultimately he had been correct. No one should be forced to worship, unwilling. No god should coerce humans to do his bidding.
“I couldn’t remain under the captain’s command after that,” Palamas sobbed.
“No, I daresay not.” Diana held her away, smiling a little. “Dry your tears, my dear. The gods were not ignorant of loyalty, or of duty—and the best among them would say you owed yours to the oaths you had sworn. Apollo chose wrongly in doing as he did.” She pulled a tissue from her pocket and offered it.
Palamas wiped at her eyes, grimacing at the remains of her makeup on the tissue. Even beneath the paint and the artifice she was a beautiful woman, as innocent in her way as Diana herself had been before war came to Themiscyra. Her pain was one Diana recognized well: loss, emptiness, self-doubt. This woman, not unlike Etta and many other women Diana had known, had been enslaved to the will of powerful men, and had done her duty as she must-- but unlike Etta, she might have the courage to break her chains and take control of her own life.
“What will you do? Will you remain in Starfleet?” Diana prompted very gently.
“I haven’t decided. My training is in antiquities, archaeology, anthropology… Starfleet seemed the best choice. But now…” she straightened, her chin firming. “I might apply to private archaeological investigations. I served on several digs before I accepted a posting aboard the Enterprise.”
“It is definitely an alternative to consider, Ms. Palamas.” Diana smiled at her, warm, and Palamas blushed.
“Call me Carolyn,” she said, her voice shy, but her eyes held Diana’s, and she reached to touch the back of Diana’s hand.
Diana smiled and turned her palm over, lacing their fingers together.
“Carolyn,” she corrected herself.
“Your accent is lovely,” Carolyn said, cheeks and neck turning a bright pink to match the flowers Diana had been admiring earlier, “but I can’t quite place it.”
“I’m from very far away,” Diana said simply.
“Mysterious of you,” Carolyn said. She caught sight of the mascara stain on Diana’s white shirt and her eyes widened in horror. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t notice!”
Diana shook her head, lips quirking at such a strong reaction. “It’s quite all right, the sonics should take it right out when I get home.”
Carolyn shook her head. “You have to go all the way back to the starbase for your ship, don’t you? Use mine. My temporary housing is only a few minutes away.”
“I didn’t bring a change of clothes,” Diana pointed out, though it was quite obvious.
“I think we’re about the same size,” Carolyn said, her eyes filled with the quiet determination that had caught Diana’s eye before. She brushed her thumb across the stain.
Diana raised her eyebrows. The woman’s touch lingered. “Maybe I can stay a while longer,” she said, and Carolyn smiled, blushing.
Later, Diana held Carolyn as they dozed, absently stroking her palm along the woman’s arm. The sensation soothed her-- she felt at peace, fully comfortable and relaxed in a way she hadn’t for a long time. She’d let herself go too long without indulging in the comfort of simple contact with another person. She’d disconnected too much from others, lulled in her solitude by how humans didn’t seem to need her very much anymore.
She’d become reluctant to abandon her reserve and feel love.
By contrast, Carolyn had been brave; she’d risked falling in love and unfortunately she’d paid the price. After centuries spent among humans, Diana knew that price all too well. Even if a relationship was good, was successful… humans faded quickly while she remained the same, then died, leaving her alone. Not only lovers, but friends, acquaintances, even enemies. Alliances formed, endured briefly, and fell apart as their members died or fought or moved on with their lives.
There were a few exceptional beings she could still call on in times of peril, if she could find them, but she was fundamentally alone.
“It’s strange,” Carolyn murmured, shifting comfortably.
“Somehow you… remind me of him. Of Apollo.”
Diana just smiled, still stroking Carolyn’s arm. Whatever comfort she could give Carolyn was good-- and she could take comfort in this, as well; neither of them need be diminished by it.
“I’m sorry.” Carolyn sounded distressed. “I didn’t mean to imply I was thinking of him while we were together—”
“It’s fine,” Diana comforted her, nuzzling closer. “We’re both lonely and sad; we both needed someone tonight.” Her thoughts flew to Steve—and to James Kirk. Palamas reminded her of <i>him,</i> if truth be told: she had made a connection for Diana between the world of the gods and the world of Starfleet.
“I’m curious about what you spoke of earlier,” Diana said softly. “What is James Kirk like?”
“He’s very strong-willed. He’s determined to ensure the right things happen for the right reasons. Even when it costs him, or others, personally.” Palamas sighed. “He thinks globally first of all. He’s hard-headed and very practical about it, but when it doesn’t conflict with what he thinks he has to do, he’s kind, as well. He’s a brilliant tactician. A humanitarian. A man of peace trained to be skilled at war.”
Diana blinked; she didn’t think of Starfleet as a military operation… but perhaps she should start, if Kirk had been trained thus.
“He’s married to the chair.” Carolyn laughed, sounding a little bitter, and turned over in Diana’s arms, lifting her chin for a kiss. “To the Enterprise. The only people who are really close to him are Mr. Spock—that’s the first officer—and Doctor McCoy. They might as well be married to their jobs, too.” She smiled a little at Diana, her eyes clear as crystal. “You’ve helped me decide I don’t want to be married to mine anymore.”
Diana brushed her lips against Carolyn’s, opening to taste her. This woman was soft, strangely innocent in the way of many people raised in the gentle conditions of modern world… but with a core of steel that came from strong-held convictions.
She was a good woman.
Diana pressed Carolyn over onto her back and trailed kisses down her soft, rose-pink throat, enjoying the warm salty taste of perspiration on her skin. It was nearly time for them to part, but there was enough time to spare to make one more memory for the road—for both of them.
Chapter by TAFKAB (orphan_account)
Fate moves Diana ever closer to meeting with James Kirk.
Holographic video was patchy this far from the center of the Federation, but Diana made do with her hand-held unit, waiting patiently for the transmission to buffer so she could watch Kirk's version of the encounter with Apollo.
“Really? That was admirable of her."
“Yes, it certainly was. She was a valuable officer.”
The camera angle changed, revealing the rest of Kirk’s formal uniform—a grey, militaristic thing with pips on the shoulder. It washed him out, the blue of his eyes looking tonelessly grey in the light. Diana thought it may have been on purpose. If it was intended to make him unattractive, it wasn’t working.
The interviewer, a federation newsperson by the name of Tildr, nodded approvingly. His news station was one that was supposed to be unbiased (which was quite false, as nothing could be called unbiased while being sponsored by the government).
“Now that we’ve gotten a better handle on the situation, thank you for that, by the way, I’d like to know a little bit more about what you thought,” he said, legs crossed and hands folded professionally in his lap.
“What I thought?” Kirk said, looking stiff. “About what?”
“The god, of course,” said the Bajoran, leaning back in his chair like whatever he heard next would really make the interview.
Kirk sighed as if he’d given this speech many a time. Diana had no doubt that he had. “Look, when you say god…it’s true that his species was undeniably more physically powerful than our own,” he started, “but that doesn’t make him a deity. Perhaps, if indeed his knowledge of early Earth culture was from experience, it wasn’t because his people created our people. If he and others had come to Earth several thousand years ago and made contact with us, with the sheep herders that occupied Greece, of course we would have considered him a higher power. We had neither the technology nor the understanding that we do now, and so we worshipped him. If he is to be considered a god, then so must the Vulcans and Denobulans.”
“You don’t believe he is a god, then?”
“No, of course not,” Kirk said, crossing his arms.
Diana frowned. She tapped the screen, freezing them just as Tildr was about to open his mouth. She had two theories as a result of the interview. One was as disappointing to her as it was expected: that Jim Kirk had no memory of gods. No memory of Ares, or Themyscira, or her. Jim Kirk was not Steve Trevor, and it was more than likely a complete coincidence that they looked and sounded so much alike. These thoughts were accompanied by a sinking feeling of disappointment that made her whole body lethargic. Fortunately, her other theory sent fire back into her blood.
Kirk said that the Vulcans would also have to be considered gods. The name was indicative of nothing, undoubtedly, as humans tended to name everything after Greek and Roman entities, but the thought wasn’t to be dismissed so easily. The Vulcans had been named so as they possessed an extremely high tolerance for heat, weapons that (at the time) seemed impossible, and that regardless of their ability to create them, they were unlikely to use them. These traits were similar to those of the god and his forges, she’d give it that. What if Kirk had been onto something? Maybe the same gods that she shared DNA with had contacted planets other than Earth.
Of course, the Narada had destroyed Vulcan, leaving even less than she’d had to go on in her study of Pollux IV. But if the Vulcans shared some of the characteristics of her own race….
Diana tapped the console, banishing the recording even though it took all her resolve not to steal a final glance at Kirk’s face. He would bear closer watching; moving at the forefront of Federation activity made him a very important individual indeed: he stood on a very thin line between humanity and… everything else, not all of which was friendly.
Many races and beings carried the same darkness she had once attributed solely to the influence of Ares.
She added “James T. Kirk,” “Enterprise,” and the two new names Palamas had provided into her news trawler: the first officer, Spock, and the doctor, McCoy.
Given the absence of any pressing concerns on Earth, it would definitely be worthwhile to investigate other cultures and races and see if she could discover definite traces of the gods’ influence upon them. She would need a ship of her own, preferably one with a powerful cloaking device… language learning resources… scanning equipment… she would begin by learning what she could from the aliens closest to Earth.
As her plans formed, Diana felt a surge of excitement that had been missing from her life for too long now.
On the Klingon home world of Kronos, Diana finally found what she had been searching for.
She wished she hadn’t.
Kronos was not an artistic, pastoral world such as Apollo’s benevolent leadership might have produced. This was a world extensively poisoned by Ares, a culture grown so obsessed with the ideal of honor that any small perceived slight could be taken as an excuse for generations of battle.
Unsatisfied with fighting amongst one another, the Klingons seemed determined to push their empire into space, desiring mastery over other races.
Maybe it was testosterone. The Klingon males certainly had it in abundance. But many of the Klingon females were equally warlike. Except for their love of war for its own sake, Klingon females were the closest thing to Amazons that Diana had experienced in a long time.
“When I was a child, I loved the idea of battle.” Diana took refuge in her ship, perched hidden against the flank of a ruined building in the Ketha Province, and recorded her thoughts for later reference. “I believed in the nobility of achieving heroism by making war in the name of good. I learned better in my first experience with violence outside the training field, when I first saw German bullets strike my countrywomen-- when I lost Antiope, my aunt and mentor, who chose to put her own body between myself and the weapons of men.” Diana sighed; even today, she felt the sting of that loss: a deep well of pain. “She understood what I did not.”
Setting aside thoughts of Themiscyra, she began again.
“My second battle taught me the greater horrors of war-- the privations it forces on the innocent, the suffering of those who are wounded in body and mind. I could make no other choice than the one I made-- to fight for my belief in love, to defend the innocent, to end-- or at least reduce-- their suffering. I was created by Zeus to be a weapon. In that time I first began to understand the paradox of my existence: I am a weapon meant to end war by making war upon it. I have come to accept this painful truth.
“Klingon culture, as it grew, did not reach the same conclusions I did, the same conclusions humanity now struggles to embrace. They continue to fight for their pleasure in the power of weapons and the skill of battlecraft, for pride and honor, for personal gain, even for entertainment when they are bored. This attitude makes them a threat to galactic peace.” She bit her lip. “I cannot say whether Ares endures-- he may still walk among us. It is all but impossible to kill a god, especially one who finds attention from mortals. But I am sure Ares once came here, and when he whispered his darkness to these people, many listened with eagerness.”
“I fear for humanity, which has only recently rejected war. Earth’s commitment to peace is new and fragile. Their commitment will be tested by the Klingon race. I do not know if it will endure; some individuals still listen to the darkness. Powerful outside agencies have tried to enforce peace-- it is, I believe, a mistake. The Organians are not omnipotent, and even if they were, one cannot eliminate darkness merely by obscuring it. The shadow will only grow deeper.” She paused. “End recording.”
Diana peeled the fake forehead ridges from her skin, wincing as they clung to pieces of hair. She ran a hand over the clean skin and sighed. Kronos’ women may be like the Amazons, but she would rather not have to suffer through the men for long periods of time. They had been very generous to her, believing that her Terran ship was the result of a conflict of which she had been the victor. It had taken her less than a day to trade it for a Klingon vessel that suited her needs: one that had all of the newest, shiniest technology. She hoped that her old ship wouldn’t be used for anything too terrible. Smuggling was all right. Attacks on federation colonies weren’t quite so. As it had little in the way of weaponry, she hoped it would be the former.
Wearing armor again had been pleasant, even though it wasn’t her own. The weight of stiff leather on her shoulders had released a tension that she had been only mildly aware of and the phaser strapped to her hip felt almost like a sword. It felt good. Maybe someday she’d return. Hopefully by then they would have become a more peaceful race. Steve had been right, though. The whispers of a god weren’t the only driving factor to do harm to others. She couldn’t miraculously cure the Klingons any more than she could cure the people of Earth. Ares’ influence could be thrown off without her help. She just had to have faith in the people for once, not the gods.
The inside of her new ship smelled like warm plastic, engine fluid, and alcohol. It was a bit chilly, but with a heater she had bought before heading back toward familiar stars, it would do her just fine. Now to put something truly remarkable to the test, something she hadn’t thought existed until she reached the end of Federation territory: a cloaking device. To think of the places she could go.
She drummed her short nails on the instrument panel, considering possibilities. Vulcan would have been her next choice, if the planet still existed. Since it did not, much archaeological and cultural evidence was likely lost. There might yet be something to learn from the Vulcan survivors, particularly the elders, but….
She took off for Federation space, scanning the news channels as she cruised. A stroke of luck: Kirk and the Enterprise were on patrol not far from New Vulcan, providing protection in case any should seek to eliminate the Vulcan colony.
Diana set course for New Vulcan. If any ship was capable of detecting her cloaked vessel, it would be Enterprise; shadowing the Federation flagship would be a good test of her security systems. She should be able to kill two birds with one stone.
She smiled a little at herself. It would give her a chance to take a closer look at James Tiberius Kirk, to see if the man bore more than a passing resemblance to Steve.
Diana was less than a week out of Vulcan when the comm summoned her to the cockpit. “There’s an eyes-only communication for you, Miss Prince.” The ship’s computer spoke in its precise feminine tones, sounding strangely disapproving.
“Your request for a visa to visit New Vulcan has been rejected per recommendation of Elder Selek,” the display scrolled text past her eyes. Grounds: Public charge. Inadequate documentation. Security and related grounds. Message ends.”
Diana’s jaw dropped. Public charge? The Vulcan government claimed she intended to become a burden on the state?
She typed furiously for a time, composing an indignant reply. I have no intention of remaining on New Vulcan for longer than a week, during which time I will conduct my business there. My documentation is a Federation Standard passport and is considered valid to grant entry to all member worlds. What exception was found? I pose no threat to your security; nor does my business.
Less than a standard hour later, a reply arrived.
Federation records cannot match you with a standard certificate of live birth. Further investigation indicates you have ties to certain vigilante organizations. I will receive you in planetary orbit, and you may discharge your business from there with my supervision. --Selek, Ambassador of New Vulcan.
Vigilante organizations? Diana sat there, her mind whirling. Was this a reference to the Justice League? That body had not convened for nearly a century and a half. How had Selek discovered these details from her past?
Very well. I will meet with you in orbit above New Vulcan, she transmitted, then sat back, irritated with the demands of bureaucracy.
Selek awaited her alone on a small diplomatic craft; he was considerably older than she had expected, but held himself with the perfect assurance of someone who was absolutely comfortable in his skin.
“Ms. Prince. Welcome aboard.” His hair was nearly white, his face lined and creased, and he wore long robes of thick fabric in neutral tones.
Diana had seen numerous Vulcans, even met several, but none of them had exuded the same aura of quiet confidence this one did. They all seemed brittle somehow, haughty, behaving as if they smelled something unpleasant, or as if the emotional nature of the humans they encountered personally offended them and they were exercising unreasonable amounts of polite forbearance not to come right out and say so.
“Mr. Selek, I don’t know what source of information you’ve accessed.” She drew herself upright; this Vulcan would not be easy to manipulate, as some humans were. He would not be distracted by her looks or her confidence. “I’m a student of anthropological antiquities, sir, and I’ve recently been intrigued by the Federation’s recent claim to have encountered one of the Greek pantheon.”
She eyed him shrewdly; his very stillness in response to the news made her internal radar light up.
“That has little or nothing to do with New Vulcan. We have no antiquities here, Ms. Prince. Our time on this planet can be measured in months.” He remained absolutely calm, but her intuition insisted he knew more than he let on.
“If it were still in existence, I would have gone to the original Vulcan planet to pursue my studies, yes. But it is not. I wish to interview Vulcan elders regarding your mythology, to see if any traces of Apollo or other Greek gods may be discovered there. To examine whatever relics-- or representations of relics-- that you have, to see if there are similarities, possibly influences from the beings who made up the pantheon-- beings like the one the Enterprise encountered on Pollux IV.”
“Fascinating.” He tilted his head, curious. “What particular interest do you have in such beings and in their possible connection to the Vulcan race, Ms. Prince?”
“I would have thought it apparent to anyone who values knowledge, Mr. Selek: academic curiosity is an end in itself.”
“Perhaps, Ms. Prince. One member of the Council of Surak does agree with you.”
She raised a brow, half in imitation of Selek himself. “Who would that be?”
“He is Sarek. When I mentioned your name, he predicted your topic of inquiry and expressed willingness to speak with you.”
“Sarek,” Diana repeated, irritation coloring her vision. “Ambassador to Earth?”
“That is correct,” Selek said neutrally.
This was why she didn’t like to do things the subtle way. Politics always got in the way.
“May I ask why not?” she said, sighing.
Selek raised an eyebrow as if to say “I just told you.”
“Please?” she said.
“I believe your ties to criminal organizations may suffice as an answer,” he said, standing. “Would you like something to drink? I set tea to brew before you arrived.”
Diana didn’t feel like tea. “I would like that, thank you,” she said.
Selek moved slowly toward a small kitchen area. She watched him go, itching to jump to the aid of an elder even if he was pissing her off. He turned around, that same eyebrow still high to the sky as if he had been expecting her to move. She hastily relaxed, but she didn’t think she conveyed innocence too well.
“There are many types of being in this galaxy, Ms. Prince,” he said, hands steady as he carried a tray. “Acting as human is indeed likely to be advantageous, proof that Starfleet and the Federation must come a long way yet before true peace is in our future.”
She clenched her jaw. She was human, at least by the allegiance she preferred to claim.
“Although I do not know your species,” he continued, setting a steaming cup of Vulcan tea in front of her. The spice cleared her sinuses as she inhaled the steam. “I do not believe you harbor any ill will. The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for the others.”
“My species is human,” Diana protested, though it fell a bit weak. The tea was hot against her tongue and her fingertips. It would have burned the tongue of any mortal, Vulcan or human alike. A small but deep reminder that she would never be like them, no matter how hard she tried. No matter how many of them she loved.
“Ms. Prince,” he said apologetically, “I do not know where Sarek acquired the information about your past, but it has been reviewed by the council. Until you provide proof of identification, you will not be allowed access to New Vulcan. There may be a time in the future that they are not so concerned with security, but they still feel the repercussions of the loss of their homeworld. You cannot hold that against them.”
“No,” she said, “I understand.”
“Perhaps I may be of some help. I am very old, as you may have noticed, and I have had much time to study pre-Surak culture,” he offered.
“You would help me?” she asked, back straightening. She imagined she looked like a child baited by sweets.
She must have been hallucinating, but she thought she saw the ghost of a smile pass over his features.
“I have spent my lifetime helping others,” Selek told her placidly. “It is a vocation reserved for those of strength and integrity.” He set out a third cup, pouring tea, then removed a communicator from his belt and spoke into it. “Ambassador Sarek, we await you.”
The distinctive swirling light and singing energy field of a transporter promptly followed. An ageing Vulcan materialized there-- apparently some decades younger than Selek.
“Ms. Prince,” he offered her the ta’al salute, which she returned politely. “It is truly fascinating to meet you.”
He and Selek regarded her with wise, inscrutable faces; she was nearly tempted to fidget.
“The tea will grow cold,” Selek commented, and Sarek seated himself formally before his cup, but did not touch it.
“In answer to your question,” he spoke calmly, “we have reason to believe that in its distant past, Vulcan was visited by one or more members of your Greek pantheon similar to the being calling himself Apollo on Pollux IV. Evidence exists in songs… ancient texts… legends. Just as the Shoshone on Earth once told of a serpent squeezing mountains in its anger and making fire flow forth-- not understanding the seismological forces that caused volcanic eruption-- our primitive Vulcan ancestors interpreted natural phenomena with metaphors and symbols, interpreting these cataclysmic events as best they could with the intellectual tools available to them. I have prepared a PADD with the available information on those legends.” He paused without extending it toward her.
“I do not believe in the sort of mystical being humans would call a ‘god,’” Sarek commented calmly. “However, that word serves as an explanation, just as the concept of ‘magic’ is an explanation, for scientifically explainable phenomena that are not yet fully understood. Those who have been called gods are aliens, possibly, or time travelers, beings with advanced technology and different biological characteristics so exotic as to seem divine in terms of power compared to natives on the planets they choose to inhabit. And yet what are all alien lifeforms but variations upon a biological theme? All races and beings differ. Some differ so much as to be impossible for even the most advanced Federation science and technology to comprehend, capable of feats no other beings can duplicate.”
Now he set the PADD on the table before her and withdrew his hand, picking up his tea. “The Council of Surak believes it is prudent to act with caution around such beings, Ms. Prince.”
“Does it?” She kept her tone light, picking up the PADD. “I’m sure your legends will be very entertaining.” She chose the final word with care, and though neither of them stirred or flickered in response, she was certain both had noted it. Despite Selek's claim that Sarek agreed with her, he seemed no more forthcoming than his companion. He merely sat in silence, observing her with his solemn dark eyes, hands folded in his lap. And yet....
Diana had met only a few Vulcans in her day, but these two made the fine hairs at the back of her neck prickle. Something about them both bothered her-- they gave her the same tingling sort of feeling that she’d entirely failed to have in response to Sir Patrick Morgan, but immediately felt when she met the Chief.
She met Sarek’s gaze for a long moment, challenging him, and he did not look away.
“Perhaps I should meet with James Kirk next,” Diana probed, seeking a reaction. Selek stirred, finally breaking the tension between them. He very nearly frowned.
“I do not see how either of you would find such an encounter profitable.” Selek's response came a fraction of a second too quickly.
“Do you not?” Diana tucked the PADD into her bag and favored him with a dazzling smile. “That’s very interesting.” She returned her attention to Sarek. “I still wish to speak with other Vulcan elders after I’ve had time to review this material you’ve given me. I confess, I am intrigued by your culture.”
“You may renew your application as you wish, but very few off-worlders are yet permitted to visit our colony,” Sarek tipped up his chin, his eyes opaque. “I have provided you with the standard literature on the subject. We are quite busy with attempts to rebuild our culture, and as such, all other concerns are given secondary importance. I hope you will not take it personally, Ms. Prince.”
“Whether such a response would be justified remains to be seen.” Diana lifted her hand in the ta’al. “Live long and prosper, ambassadors.” She lifted her comm to her lips. “Retrieve,” she said, and the automated transporter function took her away.