The little band stood quietly, gazing out at the magnificent view. It was a fairly clear evening, and Chekov had estimated that they could see some twenty kilometers down Yosemite Valley. The rock beneath their feet warmed them steadily. Its glow was another reminder of the power of the natural world around them.
Quietly McCoy mused to himself. // mebbe the view's what drew Jim to this mountain. Big beautiful panorama, just like on the Enterprise. //
After a short time Sulu stepped forward and said, "I think we could begin." His yellow robes fluttered gently in the breeze, and McCoy tried not to think of the k'lin, rippling around Jim as he plunged to his needless death. Sulu had shaved his head for the occasion, and he had donned the formal priest's robes McCoy had seen in his quarters but never in use.
// never thought I'd see Sulu in this role, piloting James Kirk into the hereafter. // The doctor shook his head and tried to concentrate.
Sulu placed his palms together, bowed to the others, then turned and bowed toward the park and the panoramic view behind him. "Captain Kirk loved this place," he said mildly. "It's a good place to say goodbye."
Uhura, holding tightly to Scotty's hand, said, "I know what it's like, to lose a loved one to something you don't understand." Scotty put an arm around her and stroked her hair gently. He kissed the top of her head.
Sulu again faced the group and began to speak.
"We have assembled this evening to honor the life of James Kirk. We all knew him well, and we had the privilege of serving under his command. The news of his death was shocking, yet the manner he chose was typical of his life: his time, his place--his choice. We should admire him for that: he lived his life as he saw fit, to the best of his abilities at all times. We will all miss him.
"Although our friend was not a religious man, I've chosen a text that I think he would have appreciated. It comes from many centuries ago, from a time when exploration was still new to this planet."
Sulu cleared his throat, looked down and began to read. " 'There are five kinds of inner hindrances that must be abolished. First are sensual desires that arise from the mind, because of memory or imagination.' "
McCoy thought he could hear Spock shift his weight from one foot to the other, but he did not turn to look. Sulu's calm voice continued.
" 'The second is hatred. This is fundamental in preventing a person from obtaining enlightenment. The third hindrance is that of laziness and sleepiness. Laziness means our minds become dull; sleepiness means our senses become relaxed and unobservant.
" 'The fourth consists of remorse and recklessness, whether recklessness born of haste, or of thoughtless speech, or of careless thought. The fifth and most important is doubt. If the mind is clouded in doubt, how can it have faith in teaching, in itself?
" 'Those who wish to find personal enlightenment should get rid of these five traits. Just as the brightness of the sun may be obscured by dust or smoke or rainclouds, so the brilliant quality of our minds may be obscured by these hindrances.' "
Sulu looked up and studied the faces of his grieving friends standing before him.
"In many ways these words describe how our friend lived--he was always in pursuit of something better. It is safe to say that our friend and captain lived his life to the fullest, always striving to improve the lives of his friends and crew, to live up to the high standards expected of a starship captain. James Kirk was a fine man, and we are all the better for having known him."
Sulu nodded to McCoy, who quietly unfolded a paper from his pocket and began to speak. "I used to kid Jim about how he was always in trouble in school, for what he liked to call imagination and what I liked to call disobedience. He teased me that since I was never in trouble I had no imagination.
"I'd like to read a poem from the one time I did get into a little trouble--he was really pleased to hear about this. The poem is from an old Terran writer, a man named Byron. I think it fits the bill for our friend.So we'll go no more a-roving
Silence held them all for a moment, then Spock stepped forward. He cleared his throat awkwardly, and his colleagues cast their eyes down or to one side. Collecting his thoughts, the Vulcan began to speak. Softly, and then with more confidence.
"I regret the circumstances that have brought us to this place. I have performed this...role once already in my life. I never thought to do it twice." Spock paused.
"That our captain and friend should have chosen to end his life, rather than live it under terms he did not accept, is both a testament to the strength of his character, and a statement of the greatest loss, both for us" Spock's voice roughened for a moment, then steadied "and for him and his immediate family. I could wish that the Captain had made a different choice--" Spock stopped abruptly, and stared straight ahead while his fingers silently dug into his palms "--and yet the choice was his to make."
"Ours was the privilege of knowing this man, serving under him, learning from his compassionate treatment of others." Spock stopped for a moment. Uhura blotted away tears, and McCoy too. Then he continued.
"For myself" --another pause-- "I will say only that he taught me both boundless love" Uhura heard a sad sound from Chekov, standing behind her "and endless grief." Spock straightened himself, looked carefully at each of those present in turn. By now they could all see the tears coursing down his weathered cheeks, but his voice was rock-steady.
Spock turned his back and moved to the very edge of the precipice, raising his right arm. "Jim," he said softly, "I would have had it otherwise."
They could see he held a dark green ceramic cylinder, its end decorated in pierced-work. Now Spock raised one hand in a final Vulcan salute. He upended the jar, and the stream of ashes flowed away on the evening breeze.
He whispered in a choked voice the others could not hear, "Goodbye, t'hy'la, goodbye. Never and always touching and touched. We part, at the appointed place."
Not until the last fragment had drifted easily away did Spock lower his arms. He turned and offered the jar to McCoy with a small bow. Ignoring the puzzled look on the doctor's face, he resumed his place beside Scotty and Uhura, who was also studying him intently. Soundlessly he folded his hands back into his sleeves.
Chekov stepped forward, sniffing hard, and pulled some items from the sack at his feet. Small glasses, one for each person, and a tall bottle. "Russia's best," he said to no one in particular. He poured shots and handed them around. As one they raised the little glasses, and Pavel softly toasted, "To James T. Kirk. A true Russian at heart."
Pavel poured a second round and again toasted, "To the finest captain in the fleet."
At the third round they all said, in something like unison, "To absent friends."
Chekov's companions tossed back the vodka silently and passed their glasses back to him, and he stowed them in his bag. Sulu nodded at him and said, "To close, I would like to say that if ever there were a man who had earned his place among the stars, it was Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Long may his memory shine."
He again bowed toward his companions, hands pressed together, deeply bending from the waist. Sulu straightened, and as a group they began to move toward the beam-up point. Spock hung back a little and said, "I will remain for a time."
Uhura exchanged an abrupt look with Scotty and she moved in the direction of their Vulcan friend. The others passed silently across El Capitan's summit to the point where they'd materialized. The glimmer took them.
Spock stood looking into the sunset, hands still vanished inside the sleeves of his dark robe, toes at the edge of the deadly drop. Uhura trembled to see how close he was to the edge.
"Mr. Spock," she murmured, not wanting to startle him. He turned and regarded her.
"I would like to say...goodbye," she softly murmured. He continued to gaze at her, unsurprised.
He raised his hand, fingers divided, and she did the same. Before he could speak, she said with breaking voice, "Live long, and prosper." And she smiled at him even as the tears stood in her eyes.
Spock drew himself upright. "Commander, you are a person of rare insight. Live long and prosper." He bowed, straightened, unclipped the pointed silver pin on his collar. Gently he placed it in her palm and closed her fingers around it.
She fingered the pin and turned it over. In thin elongated script stood two lines of text. Without hesitating, Uhura translated, "It is hard to love, / It is hard not to love..."
"You know Vulcan," said a surprised Spock.
"Naturally. I'm Communications Officer."
"You never mentioned this skill."
"It never came up." Uhura laid slender fingers on her companion's arm. "Do you know the rest of the poem, Spock? 'Hardest of all, is for one loving to lose his love.' It's an extremely old Terran poem."
"Aha." He was silent for a moment. "I did not know that. It was a gift from my mother a short time ago as I was leaving Vulcan. She said I would come to understand its message." Uhura gripped his arm a little more tightly as he continued. "Perhaps I now see what she was driving at. I believe it indeed is 'hardest of all'."
"Spock, it is of course your choice. But we would prefer that you not..."
Uncharacteristically Spock interrupted her. "Commander, it is best. What is, is."
She finished his unspoken thought: "What is not, is not." Standing on tiptoe, Uhura kissed his cheek. He touched the back of two fingers to her cheekbone, wetting them in the line of tears.
Uhura turned and walked toward the beam-up point, not looking back. The pin dug sharply into her hand but she didn't ease her grip.
As she stepped up onto the granite slab, she turned and saw Spock silhouetted against the warm glow. She saluted him, and the transporter faded her away.
Spock gracefully spread his long arms out and his full sleeves floated wide. He was poised on the edge of the enormous drop, arms forming a T. He stood, motionless, regarding the pastel Terran evening around him, hearing the soft chirp of birds settling for the night, feeling the pleasant breeze on his cheeks.
From absolute stillness Spock poured himself into motion. He leapt forward in an elegant arc, seeking the empty space before him, returning his mind to the void whence it had come. //kai'gol navat, t'hy'la--Jim, I am coming//
And he smiled all the way down.