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Humans, Glissa thought suddenly, as she caught the first unmistakable scent of their approach. You can't live with them and you can't live without them, but by Kera and Phinda, you can certainly smell them.
The short Tellarite shift boss looked away from the viewscreen blueprint she studied, then narrowed her deepset, solid black eyes to squint into the distance. All around her, she felt the thrumming of the thin air that passed for an atmosphere within the hollowed-out S-type asteroid. It was the pulse of the machines and fellow workers remaking its interior into a living world, a home for thousands. For Glissa, there was excitement in this job of world making, and fulfillment. Which is why the unexpected scent of humans was so unsettling. With them around, she feared the excitement would soon give way to drudgery.
The Tellarite twitched her broad, porcine nose as she tasted the circulating breeze, seeking more details of the human presence she had detected. In the soft, seasonless mists of her home world, natural selection had not been inspired to evolve keen eyesight. As an adult of her species, Glissa had long since lost the ability to see past two meters with any clarity. But she could hear with an acuity that surpassed most Vulcans, and could decipher scents and airborne pheromones at a speed and rate of accuracy to challenge all but the most sensitive tricorder.
It was those other fine senses that now confirmed for her what she had feared the telltale odor of the dreadfully omnivorous humans came to her from what could only be her second-shift crew of rockriggers. Even Glissa's near-useless eyes could make out the brilliant yellow streak of the safety cable that linked the blurry figures. The cable traced a sinuous route around the wide yellow warning bands that marked the overlaps of the artificial gravity fields on the asteroid's inner surface. Spinning the rock to produce centripetal pseudo-gravity would make working inside the asteroid much easier, but until the final bracing supports were in place, the engineers didn't want to subject the shell to the additional strain. So, in the interim, the asteroid's outer surface was studded with portable artificial-gravity generators, creating both amplified and null-gravity zones within the rock. As if that crazy-quilt arrangement didn't produce enough strain on its own.
Glissa sighed and the sound she made in her barrel chest was deep and guttural like the prelude to a particularly invigorating string of invective. But there was no such joy behind her sigh. She hadn't realized that the first shift was already over, let alone that it was time for the second to begin. And the lake-support pylons for the rock's eventual basin of freshwater supply were still not in place. They hadn't even appeared on the massive cargo-transporter platform waiting empty at the edge of the work site. At the rate her division was falling behind schedule, Glissa calculated she was going to have to endure at least another tenday of overtime before she had the slightest chance of taking a few shifts off to enjoy a good wallow in the communal baths on the rec station. And from the smell of things, it was definitely going to be another tenday of working with humans.
Of course, Glissa had nothing against humans personally, but not being from one of Miracht's ambassadorial tribes, she found it disagreeable to work with them. Who wouldn't have difficulty working with beings who could never seem to tell the obvious differences between time-honored constructive insults and improper personal attacks on their parentage, and whose lack of a sense of humor was second only to the Vulcans? Still, it took all kinds to make the worlds go round and, to be fair, she knew of few Tellarites who had the appetite to administer the monstrous bureaucracies that kept the Federation functioning.
She sighed again and rippled the sensitive underpad nodes of her hoof against the viewscreen's control panel one of dozens of similar viewscreens that were mounted on light poles ringing the work site. After erasing the blueprint from the two-meter-by-one-meter display, she sniffed the air more slowly to determine which particular humans she had been cursed with this time.
The twelve approaching rockriggers were still too far away for Glissa to recognize any features other than their individual yellow safety harnesses and helmets, but she could identify most of them by their scents. Seven, thank the Moons, were Tellarites themselves client workers from the Quaker commune that had hired Interworld Construction to reform this rock into a Lagrange colony. At least half the workforce on this project were client workers providing the commune with substantial labor savings.
But of the other five workers approaching, Glissa scented, all were human, and that was unfortunate because rockrigging and humans were never a happy combination.
The task of asteroid reformation was one of the few remaining hazardous occupations within the Federation that legally could not be done more efficiently or less expensively by drone machines. If the Council ever decided to relax the Federation's prohibitions on slavery to allow true synthetic consciousnesses to control robots, then perhaps the industry itself would be transformed. But until that unlikely day, rockrigging would remain the exclusive province of two basic types of laborers: dedicated client workers who welcomed the chance to literally carve out a world with their own bare hooves, and the hardcases who signed on with Interworld because they had exhausted all other options.
As far as Glissa was concerned, the hardcase humans who worked for Interworld some fugitive, all desperate might just as well be Klingons for all the honor and diligence they exhibited. But the making of worlds was honorable work for a Tellarite, and no one had said it would ever be easy. So humans, with their unique and unfathomable mix of Vulcan logic and Andorian passion, were officially tolerated by Interworld, even if it meant that Glissa and the other shift bosses did have to watch their language.
As Glissa turned back to the viewscreen to call up current work assignments and detailed plans for the second shift, the shift-change alarm sounded from speakers in the towering lightpoles that encircled the five-hundred-meter-wide work site. She peered up at the wall of the rock four kilometers over her head, and could just make out the smeared constellations of the lightpoles surrounding the work sites on the airless half of the rock's interior as they flickered to signal shift change for those workers in environmental suits who could not use sound alarms.
Puzzled, Glissa checked her chronometer and saw that the change signals were on time. But that meant the second shift crew was also arriving on time, and in all the years Glissa had spent with Interworld, one of the few things she had learned to count on was that hardcase humans were never on time. It was almost a religion with them.
For a moment she was concerned at the break in tradition and order few things were worse to a Tellarite than an unexplained mystery. She quickly retasted the air, but there was no denying the scent of humans in the approaching workers. She sniffed again, deeply, questioningly...and then the answer came.
0 Glissa raised her hoof to the unfocused form of the human who led the team and waved. "Sam?" she growled. "Sam Jameson?"
The lead figure raised his much too long and scrawny arm to return the wave and Glissa felt a sudden thrill of hope. If Sam Jameson had been promoted to work as her second-shift team leader then there was an excellent chance that Glissa's division might make up for lost time. He had only been with the company for four tendays but had already proven himself to be a most remarkable being, human or otherwise.
"I thought I smelled the foul stink of your furless human meat!" the Tellarite blared deafeningly as Sam finally came within range of her vision.
"It's a miracle you can smell anything through the stench of that slime-encrusted skrak pelt you call fur!" Sam shouted back.
Glissa's huge nostrils flared with pleasure. Here, at last, was the exception to the rule: a cultured human who truly understood the subtle nuances of Civil Conversation. She could almost feel the hot mud of the rec station oozing up around her as she anticipated the rewards of meeting her schedule.
The Tellarite held out her hoof and Sam Jameson grasped it without hesitation, returning the proper ripple of greeting against Glissa's underpad nodes as best as any human could, considering how the creatures were crippled by the ungainly and limited manipulatory organs they called fingers. If Glissa actually stopped to think about it, it was a wonder any human could pick up a tool let alone invent one. They might as well have arms that ended with seaweed fronds.
As the second-shift crew gathered behind their team leader and began disengaging the safety cable from their harnesses, Glissa thought for a moment to come up with an appropriate statement of Civil words to convey her satisfaction that she would once again be working with Sam. She looked up at the human, nervously smoothed the fine golden fur of her beard, and hoped that her pronunciation would be correct.
"Damn it, Sam, why the hall are they punishing me by making you work my shift?"
Glissa could tell from the quick smile that crossed Sam's face that she had got something wrong. Odd that Sam's face was so easily read, though. The long, blond-brown hair and thick beard he wore certainly helped, making Sam look less like a dormant tree slug than most barefaced humans did, and much more like an intelligent being. Too bad about the puny down-turned nose though, and those human eyes, beady little green dots ringed by white like those of a week-old Tellarite corpse...they could make Glissa shudder if she stared at them too long.
But Sam looked away to the iron wall beneath his feet and leaned forward, dropping his voice to a whisper low enough that only a Tellarite could hear him.
"Hell, Glissa," Sam said gently. "You meant to say 'hell,' not 'hall.'"
Glissa nodded thoughtfully, appreciative that Sam had kept this part of their conversation private. "Which one is the underworld and which is the corridor?"
"Hell is the underworld. Humans don't get too excited about corridors. At least, not in Civil insults."
Glissa decided she would have to start making some notes if she were to keep up with Sam. "But the 'damn it'...?"
"Perfect," Sam said, still whispering. "Proper place in the sentence, good intonation, very impressive...." But then he stepped back in midsentence, looked up from the ground, and raised his voice again for all to hear. "For a beerswilling, gutbellied warthog, that is."
Glissa's cheeks ballooned out into tiny pink spheres as she snorted her delight. She wondered if Sam liked mud wallows. Perhaps he might like to be invited to join her in one. For the moment, though, there was work to do, and clever repartee and Civil Conversation must be put aside. But at least with Sam Jameson taking part, she felt sure the excitement of her job would remain. There would be time enough for friendship later.
After the shift briefing had been completed in record time thanks to the way Sam was able to reinterpret the shift's goals for the other, more typical humans on the crew the incoming chime of the cargo transporter finally sounded. It was deeper than the sound that came from most systems, since to save credits this project used only low-frequency models less power hungry but not certified for biological transport. As Glissa watched the first load of twenty-meter-long, black fiber support pylons materialize, she felt certain that her division's schedule would finally come back on line within a few shifts.
Sam Jameson didn't disappoint her. Cajoling the Tellarite client workers with appropriate Civil insults and adopting a more conciliatory tone for the humans, Sam had the crew latch antigravs to the pylons and clear the pad in record time, load after load. Glissa was still amazed at how easily the rockriggers took his orders. Perhaps his secret was that he used a subtly different approach with each individual, acknowledging that each was worthy of individual respect. Perhaps it was the way he moved among them, never shirking his turn at heavy labor the way some other shift leaders did. However he accomplished it, Glissa was impressed, and saddened, too. For whatever Sam Jameson had been before he came to Interworld, she was certain of one thing: he had not been a rockrigger.
By the time the main meal break came, a full shift's work had already been accomplished and, under Sam's direction, the crew actually seemed eager for more. For once Glissa was able to sit down to her tak and bloodrinds without feeling panic over the swiftness of time. She wished that she might share her meal break with Sam she had thought of something exceptionally vile to call him and was looking forward to an equally inventive response but she saw that he, as always, took his meal alone.
The other humans on the crew sat together, talking among themselves, occasionally glancing over at Sam where he sat against a large boulder. On the other hoof, the Tellarite client workers stood around and stared into the distance. Through one of the hundreds of visual sensors which fed images to the viewscreens in deference to the limits of Tellarite vision, Glissa observed them sampling the air with twitching noses.
Then she saw what they were waiting for. Two Tellarite pups barely out of the litter pen waddled along a safety path, guiding a small tractor wagon stacked with food trays. In actual fact, the meter-long tractor wagon guided the toddlers through the maze of gravity warning bands and the viewscreen showed that both were securely attached to the wagon by their harnesses.
The pups' mother was one of Sam's team and she welcomed her offspring proudly as they brought food to her and her fellow workers. Glissa was impressed with the seriousness of the young pups and the way they wore their commune's ceremonial red scarves, at such odds with the puffs of white fur that stood out so sweetly from their round little forms, like softly shaped clouds captured in blue overalls.
As she watched them on the screen, she heard familiar hoofsteps approaching. It was Sam.
"Are our pups as appealing to humans as they are to us?" Glissa asked, seeing that he, too, watched the young Tellarites at their work.
"The appeal of babies is universal," Sam said. "But it's such a shame those two will grow up to resemble something as ugly as you."
Glissa grunted happily and gestured to the slight rise of a digger's ridge beside her. "I have never met any human quite like you, Sam." Glissa spoke without using a Civil intonation.
Sam paused, then sat down next to her, resting his arms on his knees and swinging his safety helmet idly from his hands as he watched the pups. They had finished eating and were now wrestling furiously, tumbling over and over each other with excited squeaks and snorts. "Then I suspect you haven't met too many humans at all," Sam said.
Glissa folded her food tray shut, remembering what she had heard about what humans thought of bloodrinds. "I have met many humans here. Just none like you."
Sam shrugged but said nothing. He glanced up to check the time readout on a viewscreen. There were still a few minutes left in the break.
"Why are you here, Sam Jameson?"
For a moment, Sam's eyes changed in a way too alien for the Tellarite to understand. "Why are you here, Glissa?"
"To build new worlds," the Tellarite answered proudly.
A new expression appeared on Sam's face, and Glissa at least knew human misery when she saw it. "As if there weren't enough out there to begin with?"
Glissa didn't understand. She tried another approach. "You are not a hardcase."
The human smiled sadly at that, but still there were undercurrents to his expression that she couldn't read. "What makes you think I'm not?"
"Interworld is not known for asking too many questions of those who want to be rockriggers. The human hardcases we get seem to be those who are one step away from shipping out on the next Orion freighter." Then she peered closely at him, suddenly recalling how little sense of humor humans had. "Perhaps I should point out that I have used the term 'freighter' in a sarcastic sense, if that makes my joke more logical."
Sam looked away from her, his eyes somehow appearing to be more reflective, as if their moisture content had suddenly been elevated.
"Are you all right, Sam?"
"I'm fine," he said, and smiled again with that same gentle sadness. "You just reminded me of someone I knew...a long time ago."
"A close friend?"
"I think so. Though he might not want to admit it."
"The human hardcases we get seem not to have friends, Sam."
The human stared up at the far wall of the rock, but she felt he was looking at something else which only he could see. "On Earth, centuries ago, there was an...organization much like Interworld's rockriggers."
"They built things? Surely not worlds so long ago, but...continents perhaps?"
"It was a military organization."
"How human. No offense intended," Glissa quickly added because this was not turning out to be a Civil Conversation.
"None taken," Sam said. "It was called La Légion étrangère. It was the place to go to when there was no place else. No questions asked. They didn't even need to know a real name."
"Sometimes...that is a preferable circumstance," Glissa said as diplomatically as she was able. "Is it preferable to you?"
He turned to her and his face was unreadable. "No questions asked," he repeated.
"Too bad, Sam. You look like a being who has many answers."
He shook his head. "One answer is all it would take, Glissa. And I don't have it." He hefted his helmet to put it on. "That's why I'm here. That's why I'm a hardcase."
Glissa reached out to him, to place a soothing hoof on his shoulder. What was the answer he searched for? What possible reason could bring him here? "Sam, if there is anything that "
The asteroid shifted.
A field of pulsed gravity swept over the work site. Glissa saw the bright spots of the lightpoles undulate as local gravitational constants fluctuated wildly. She grabbed at the rock beneath her, feeling herself rise up and down as if caught in a raging surf. Gravity warning alarms erupted from a hundred speakers, echoing shrilly from the hard iron floor of the rock.
"What is it?" she growled.
Sam's strong arms pushed her down between two iron ridges. He had expertly, instinctively, hooked his feet beneath a small ridge overhang at the first ripple of motion. "Harmonic interference," he shouted over the sirens. "One of the gravity generators must have cut out and the others didn't compensate in time."
Sam looped a safety strap around a second overhang, then fed it through one of Glissa's harness clips, fastening her safely in place. "Don't worry. It's self-correcting. There'll be a couple more fluctuations as the fields spread the load but we'll be all right."
"The pups?" Glissa squealed, unable to turn her head to the viewscreen as a high-g wave slammed her to the ground.
Sam craned his neck to look over to where the client worker had been eating and the youngsters had been playing. "They're fine, they're fine. They're still hooked to the tractor wagon." He grabbed onto Glissa as a low-g wave rippled back, sending him half a meter into the air. "See? It's getting weaker."
"How do you know so much about artificial gravity fields?" the Tellarite demanded.
But before Sam could answer, the asteroid shifted again as another gravity generator failed and another, twisting the rocky shell in two directions at once. A low rumbling sound began, mixed with the shriek of tearing metal. Sam turned to the source, eyes widening like the face of the dead as he saw "The lake bed!"
Glissa grunted with a sudden and terrible knowledge. "The pylons are not in place. The lake bed cannot "
The first pressure siren wailed, drowning out the gravity warning alarms.
"No!" Sam fixed on something Glissa couldn't see.
"What is it?"
"NO!" Sam untangled himself from Glissa's harness and unhooked his feet from the rock ledge.
"The children!" As Sam leapt over Glissa and scrambled away, the wind began.
Glissa struggled to sit up. The wind could only mean the thin lake bed floor had cracked in the stress of the gravity harmonics. And there was nothing beneath it except the vacuum of space.
The Tellarite heard the screams of her work crew mix with the wild screech of disappearing air and the clamor of sirens and alarms. She slapped her hoof against the nearest viewscreen control, calling up image after image until she tapped into a sensor trained at the lake bed.
"Dear Kera," she whispered as she saw the pups trailing at the end of their safety cables, only ten meters from a ragged tear in the rock floor through which debris and white tendrils of atmosphere were sucked into nothingness. "Dear Phinda," she cried as she saw Sam Jameson, crouching against a ridge near the youngsters, attaching a second cable to an immovable outcropping of metal.
Glissa switched on the panel communicator's transmit circuits. If she could send this image to cargo control perhaps they could lock onto Sam and the pups. Surely the risk of being transported at low frequency was better than the certain death of being sucked out into space. If only the pups' cables would hold. If only Sam would stay in position.
But the cables were anchored to the small tractor wagon and the winds were pushing it closer and closer to the fissure. And no matter how little Glissa knew of the real Sam Jameson, she knew enough to know that nothing could keep him from going to the pups.
Glissa called out coordinates to cargo control as Sam pushed himself up from the safety of the ridge and moved out into the open, slowly playing out his safety line, pulled taut by the force of the gale that blew against him.
He moved across the open lake bed in the finally stabilized gravity as if he were aware of nothing but the infants, now only six meters from the opening into space. Rocks and debris flew past him. Some hit him. But he ignored their impact and the blossoms of red human blood that they brought. Glissa had never been able to completely understand much of what Sam felt, but at this moment, his intent so fixed, his concentration so powerful, she was sure that the human felt no fear.
Sam reached the slowly skidding tractor wagon. Its in-use lights were out, its power exhausted by fighting the inexorable wind. He wrapped his arms around its sensor pod, trying to stop its movement. Glissa switched sensors and brought up an image of Sam as he strained against the impossible pressure. His cable was pulled to its limit. Glissa could see his arms tremble with the force he was exerting. But the tractor still slid forward. The squealing infants still slipped toward the inescapable pull of the vacuum.
Sam's eyes blazed, and of the few human emotions Glissa could recognize, she knew it was anger that lit his eyes. Then he reached to his harness and disengaged his cable. Glissa called out to him to stop though she knew he would never hear her.
The tractor wagon bounced a meter forward on the lake bed as Sam swung around it and began crawling down the length of the youngsters' cable. He reached them as they were only three meters from the fissure. And it was widening, Glissa saw with sickened certainty. Where was cargo control?
Two meters from the fissure, Sam had both round forms in his arms. He pushed against the gale and the floor. But where was he going? And then Glissa saw his plan. There was a smaller ridge almost within reach. With an effort which she would not have thought was possible for a human, Sam pushed the pups into position against it. If they didn't move, they would be safe as long as the atmosphere lasted. But how could he keep them there when the ridge wasn't large enough for him as well?
Glissa could only moan as she saw what the human did next. He removed his harness his last hope for survival and wound it around the infants, using its straps to tie them firmly into place.
"Please, no," Glissa prayed to the twin Moons as she saw Sam's fingers desperately try to dig into the unyielding surface of the metal ridge. She prayed to the mists and the mud and all the litters of heaven but it was the heavens that were claiming the human now.
Sam slipped from the ridge. He fell toward the fissure. Toward space. Toward the stars.
And he caught himself on the opening, arms and legs braced to hold on for a few more hopeless seconds.
Glissa caused the sensor to close in on Sam's face and fill a hundred viewscreens throughout the rock so his heroism and his sacrifice would be remembered by all.
What manner of human was he? What manner of being? He had no chance yet still he struggled. And on his face, an instant from oblivion, poised above an endless fall into the absolute night of space, there was still no fear in him.
Tears streamed from Glissa's small eyes because she did not know what she witnessed. He faced the stars and death with a ferocious defiance she could not imagine. They shall name this world for you, Glissa thought. I swear it, Sam. Sam Jameson. My friend. And with that vow, the human's hands slipped for the final time.
The stars had won.
But the howl of the wind abruptly stopped as a near-deafening transporter chime overpowered the wail of the sirens and alarms.
Glissa peered closely at the viewscreen as Sam slowly rolled away from the fissure. Within it, the familiar glow of the transporter effect sparkled from the smooth metal walls. Cargo control had not transported Sam and the pups out, they had transported pressure sealant in.
Glissa tapped her hooves to her forehead in thanks to the Moons, then unhooked her harness and ran out to the lake bed to welcome Sam to his second life. But when she joined him, others had arrived before her. And she was shocked to see anger and disgust in their eyes.
The Tellarite pups, now only sobbing fitfully, were cradled by their mother and her fellow workers. The fissure had become nothing more than a long scar mounded with the hardened blue foam of pressure sealant. Sam sat slumped against the ridge that had protected the pups, his work clothes torn, blood streaming from a dozen wounds. But the humans clustered near him offered no help. They only whispered among themselves.
Glissa pushed through them and went to Sam's side.
"I'd think twice about doin' anything for 'im," one of the humans said. He was taller and heavier than Sam, and wore a punishment tattoo from a penal colony.
"What do you mean?" Glissa demanded as she knelt to cradle Sam's hands in her hooves. "He saved those pups."
"Use your eyes," a second human said. Female this time, as big as the one with the tattoo. "Didn't you see him on the viewscreens?"
"Of course," Glissa answered uncertainly.
"And you didn't recognize him? From the holos? From the updates? Before he grew the beard?"
Glissa turned to Sam. "What are they saying?"
The woman kicked a stone toward Sam. "Go ahead. Tell her what we're saying. If you've got the stomach for it."
"That's not his name, Boss," a third human said scornfully. He was shorter, rounder, more compact, from a high-g world, and he moved forward to stand before Sam and Glissa. He glared down at the wounded human and the Tellarite beside him.
"You're Kirk, aren't you?" the short human said, and Glissa's nostrils flared at the mention of that terrible name. "The one who was captain of the Enterprise, aren't you?"
Glissa stared deep into Sam's eyes. "No," she whispered. "No, not you."
But his eyes held that one answer at least.
Glissa let the human's hands slip away from her hooves.
"Murderer!" the human woman said as she kicked another stone at the wounded man's side.
"Butcher!" The short human spat on the wounded man's boots.
Glissa stood up, torn, dismayed, but knowing that her job had to come first. "That's enough!" she growled at the rockriggers. "We've still got half a shift to put in and I want you back at work now!"
They hesitated and Glissa gave them a snarl that needed no translation. Muttering among themselves, they left the lake bed.
The human she had known as Sam Jameson looked up at her as if to speak, but she raised a hoof to silence him, trying to suppress the shudder of revulsion that passed through her. This monster already had a world named after him. "There is nothing more to be said. I will have your account closed out and book your passage on the next outbound shuttle. You should...you should leave here as quickly as possible. Before too many others find out." She had to look away from him. "The company will not be able to guarantee your safety."
The human said nothing. Glissa left him to join the client workers and explain what had happened for those who didn't understand Standard. As if the name Kirk needed translation. As if the entire universe didn't know of his crimes.
While Glissa and the other Tellarites talked in low grunts and whispers, the two pups slowly approached the wounded human, watching with concern in their large black eyes as he stood up unsteadily and his blood dripped slowly to splatter on the ground.
One of the youngsters, braver than the other, stepped forward and solemnly untied his scarf. With tiny hooves, he held it out to the human, who stared at the scarf, as if uncertain about accepting it.
"Please," the young Tellarite said. "Let me help."
The human started, and as Glissa and the other Tellarites watched, he looked down into the pup's earnest eyes almost as if he were seeing someone else's face, hearing words that someone else might have said to him long ago. He spoke gently to the pup as he took the scarf and held it to his wounds. Then he turned and walked away, head upright, each step certain.
Glissa felt unexpected tears roll from her eyes as she watched him leave, for in all the worlds in all of space, she knew there was no place left for James T. Kirk to go.
Introduction, interview, and additional text copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures.
All Rights Reserved.
Star Trek® Memory Prime copyright © 1988 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Star Trek® Prime Directive copyright © 1991 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.