The Soul of the Stars: Chapter 2 – Avalanche

    

     Spock stirred a small fire outside his tent with a dried branch. The darkness of night brought with it the icy breath of the desert, and any extra heat, however small, was welcome. By the light of the flames, he spotted something blue peeking out from behind a rock along the cliff face he was camped beneath. If he guessed correctly, it was the edge of a skirt.

     It had been over two days since the girl with the branded arm had run away, but his keen senses continued to tell him that she had not strayed very far. Now he saw proof that his summation of the situation had been accurate as usual.

     “If a fire is to have any effect in dispelling cold,” he started, loud enough for her to hear at a distance, “then it would be advantageous for one to move in closer proximity to it.”

   Several moments passed. Then very slowly, she crept out from behind the rocks. By the glow of the flames, she looked even more thin and pale than she had upon their first meeting.

    “You won’t tell them I’m here, will you?” she pleaded in a whisper.

     “I believe I have better things to do with my time.” Eyes averted from her with decided indifference, he gestured for her to be seated across from him.

       Taking his cue, she tip-toed over to the side of the fire opposite from him and crouched there with her hands outstretched.

     He glanced over at his tin pan of dinner rations and unceremoniously pushed it towards her.

     “You don’t have to…”

     “I’m afraid I do.”

     She picked up the pan slowly and balanced it on her knees. “Thank you.”

     “Vulcans should not be thanked.”

     She tilted her head, perplexed. “Why?”

     “Because our actions are grounded in logic alone,” he explained. “We perform them automatically, not out of any emotional reaction or personal preference.”

     “Then is your form of logic a means to an end, or an end in and of itself?”

     “How very philosophical,” he remarked. “I hardly expected it of you.”

     “Philosophy means to love the truth, and to seek after it,” she defined. “Does that not make us all that way at heart?”

     “In the mind,” he corrected, touching his temple, “perhaps.”

     “Then by logic, you mean to live only according to those truths which are scientifically observable.”

      “Truth cannot be known if it cannot be observed. It is a basic principle.”

      “My grandfather…thought otherwise.”

     “Was he the one they called a mad man?”

     A dangerous sparkle had entered her eyes. “He was not mad,” she countered levelly. “He just…did not trust the people in the valley. So he kept to himself, on the mountain with me. We took care of each other.”

    “You seem to have been strongly bound to him,” he surmised.

    “He was…all I had in this world.” There was a touch of despair in that revelation that generated Spock’s curiosity.

    “What became of him?”

    The color washed out of her face, just as it had at their first meeting in the tent. “He…died.” Her hand holding the ki’haf wafer from the pan trembled slightly, but she forced herself to take a bite of the food to try and calm her nerves.

     Observing her reaction, Spock decided it would be best not to press the subject. Surely all would be revealed in due time.

    “On board the ship, there will be food more suitable for human tastes,” he stated, making an effort to change her trend of thought.

     She looked up from the wafer, and color slowly began to warm cheeks again, letting him know she was relieved at the distraction. “What kind?” she inquired curiously.

     Spock shrugged. “It is a human dominated vessel, hence the variety I have observed brought on board is oft times ludicrously varied. Your species is altogether too obsessed with individual preferences of the palate, which often leads the crew to order substances which are innutritious and extravagant.”

     “Like what?”

     “Like, for example, a dessert made of cow’s milk and sugar cane, churned with sodium and then frozen, referred to as ‘iced cream’.”

     “Oh, I have heard of ice cream,” she said wistfully, “but have never had it. What does it taste like?”

     “I most assuredly have not indulged in a taste test.”

     “But perhaps you might like it.”

     “I would most certainly not like it.”

     “But I thought you were dedicated to logic.”

     “Er…yes, and…?”

     “And there’s no way of knowing whether or not you like something unless you try it,” she finished. “Besides, I hear there are many different flavors.”

     “I have heard the same,” he confirmed. “All human developed flavors, excessively sweet and artificial as suits their general tastes to a tee.”

     “Well, maybe someone will come up with a new kind of flavor,” she suggested, holding aloft her half-eaten wafer, “something more to Vulcan tastes, like…whatever this is I’m eating.”

     He squinted at the very nutritious, very logical ki’haf wafer. “That rather sounds like a sacrilege of some sort.”    

     His retort brought a smile to her lips. She laughed – a light, pixie-like laugh – and Spock could not help but notice how much healthier she looked in comparison to her previous gaunt solemnity.

     “You do have the ability to smile then,” he commented wryly.

     She nodded, slightly embarrassed. “Do you, Mr. Spock?”

     He turned away from her. “Ability counts for little without motivation.”

     “Have you never felt joy enough?”

     “Vulcans do not feel, we think,” he emphasized.

     “Always?”

     “Always.”

     She was quiet for a long space of time, and then remarked, with something like compassion in her voice, “That sounds…very lonely.”

     He turned towards her again, intending to counteract her words. But they seemed strangely irrefutable at that moment, with her wide eyes searching the dark crevices of his inner world.

     Just then there was sound, like an internal planetary humming. The ground vibrated in response to it. Spock and the girl both jerked to their feet as it accelerated into a full-blown quake, and a tremendous cracking was heard above them. Then there came a rumbling, thundering rush. It was…the cliff.

     “Run…” he managed to order her, just as the avalanche swept down and buried him in a cloud of dust and debris. He felt a crushing, twisting weight pin down his leg, and press him against the side of the cliff. Time seemed static, unmoving, and absorbed by a breathless haze. He was still only semi-conscious when he felt small hands making an effort to dig through the debris and free him.

     “Get back,” he rasped, struggling not to cough. She ignored him altogether and kept at her digging. He heard the sound of many voices screaming in the distance, and an ear-splitting cracking noise.

    “Get back, you little fool…” His voice rose more loudly than his usual monotone demeanor, not only because of ground breaking apart, but in hopes of shattering her obstinacy.

    She stood up and gazed at the ruptured earth behind her, but then turned her eyes back to him. She was making another decision, and there was no turning back from it. And then the chasm fully gave way, beyond all recall or chance of escape.

     And still…they just stared at each other, through each other. And time was still as water unbroken by wind…  

***

       “Spock!” a gruff voice echoed from across the divide. “Can you hear me?”

     “Naturally, Dr. McCoy,” the Vulcan answered steadily, not bothering to gauge how much time had elapsed. “The chasm may be such as to prevent crossing but not hinder audibility.”

      “Don’t give me your double-talk, Spock,” McCoy exhaled in frustration, but there was another emotion riding just below the surface.

      Spock eyed him with a steely look. “Doctor, you know what must be done. It is your duty to rally the survivors and make your way to the rendezvous point. The ship will be waiting.”

      “But Spock, we can at least try…”

      “Too much time has already been wasted, and time, now more so than ever, is of the essence.”

      “Spock.” McCoy spoke his name with a haunting note ringing through it. The doctor was, after all, merely human, facing an inhuman reality.

     The Vulcan lifted his head to stare death in the face with the unflinching pride of his race. “The good of the many outweighs the good of the few; so it is, and so it has always been.” He inhaled deeply, and with a tone of utmost authority, commanded, “To your duty, Doctor.”

     McCoy stared at him, long and hard. “Must you always be so haughty about everything?”

     “I’m afraid so.”

     The doctor chuckled ruefully. “Damn it, so you must.” He lifted his hand in a brief, awkward gesture of farewell. “Goodbye, Spock.”

     The science officer nodded in acceptance, and made the traditional Vulcan salute. After staring across at each other for several seconds more, McCoy reluctantly turned away and went back to the others.                               

     “Mr. Spock,” Liva addressed him quietly.

     He turned slightly, seeming to have only just remembered that she was with him.

    “What would you suggest we do now?”

     “I’m afraid this situation does not bode well for mutual longevity. In fact, unless something quite unnatural unfolds, we shall surely perish.”

      “All the same, we must do something with ourselves in the mean time, mustn’t we?”

     “In actuality, we need not do anything with ourselves,” he countered. “The necessity of productivity must have some object. Under the current circumstances, producing is quite purposeless, for anything brought into being in this atmosphere is condemned along with us and is therefore inherently worthless.”

     She looked distressed. “Do you really believe that?”

     “I see no reason why I should not. I have already told you, it is impossible for me to see anything beyond the guidance of the strictest logic.”

     She thought on his words for a long moment. “Might logic allow you some small scientific satisfaction…even if it is without long-term purpose?”

    “Please explain.”

    “I I would think that observing the death of a planet first-hand might be of some interest to you as a scientist, regardless of whether you live to tell about it.” 

     “There is a flaw in your logic, generated by a lack of proper observational equipment.”

     “I have equipment, Mr. Spock.”

     He looked at her dubiously.

    “Well, it belonged to my grandfather, but now…I suppose it belongs to me. It’s in the shack on the mountain where we used the live. I can take you back there…if you are will?”

     “I see nothing else deserving of attention at this time,” he conceded. “Providing I am able to extricate myself from this debris, and nothing is broken to prohibit my movement, you may lead the way, Miss..?”

     “Liva Christensen,” she introduced herself, helping to dig through the pile shale again. “You may call me Liva…”

     “Yes, you would then be welcome to lead the way, Miss Christensen.”

  —

By Rosaria Marie

 

 

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