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Authors: Diane Duane

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Star Trek: The Empty Chair (55 page)

BOOK: Star Trek: The Empty Chair
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The damp smell of wild olive and scrub oak around him, of sage and piñon, seemed to get stronger as the sky lightened. Jim reached the place where the rough path by the live streambed had been blocked by a fall of rocks from the steeper bank on the right. He crossed the creek, missing his footing once, splashing into the water and cussing absentmindedly at the cold of it. But just a little way beyond him, farther up the hill, was the place he had been heading for, the last thing he needed to do.

The old wild olive tree was deeply rooted in the steep hillside, just above the source of the spring that fed the creek. More bears had been at it since Jim had been here last: deep splintery clawmarks zigzagged the largest trunk where it reached out over the downfalling water. Jim paused, sniffing at a faint charred smell that hung in the damp air. Some of
the tree’s upper branches were missing, others broken over sideways, still others scorched. The tree had been hit by lightning again since he’d been here last.

One branch, though, much slenderer than the main trunk, had not been touched. Its leaves were sparse, and unlike the last time, there were no olives; this was the wrong season. But the pennon hung where he had left it. The red polymer of the pennon was unfaded, the glyphs on it still in clear contrast, getting clearer by the moment as the dawn grew slowly nearer.

Jim glanced around to find the best way up, over a few newly fallen boulders, and scrambled up onto the olive’s main trunk. Carefully he stepped out toward the branch where the pennon hung. The branch hadn’t yet broadened out enough for the polymer strips holding it in place to sink much into the branch’s rough bark, but olives are slow growers.

He pulled out his phaser and took careful aim. The first shot severed the nearer of the two strips, so that the pennon slumped down, hanging by just the remaining strip with the other top corner folded over the first couple of glyphs. But Jim didn’t need to see them to know what they said. If his memory had needed any refreshing, the memory of the pennon’s twin—now hanging as a standard outside the Senate on ch’Rihan, bearing glyphs as tall as a man—would have been more than adequate to the task.

But only one such standard was needed. That name would now be remembered and spoken again in the world that had given it birth, and in many others. Or at least the first three words of it would be.

Very quietly, Jim spoke the fourth word of it, the name not written on either pennant. One time for each of the Elements he spoke it, as was appropriate, and then one last time for the Archelement that encompassed them all, that It might know the soul that owned that name to be home again at last. And with the fifth repetition he fired once more, severing the second
fastening. The pennon fluttered down toward the water.

His final phaser blast reduced it to its component atoms well before it hit the stream. At first the thought of that name vanishing in fire one more time had troubled him, but she’d told him not to be concerned.
As you see,
he could still hear her saying,
I have come through the Fire and out the other side. From that Element, at least, I’ve nothing further to fear. The rest of my life’s problems, now that my name is written again where it is, will be made of Earth and Water and Air. That’s the destiny I’ve wrought for myself. Now, set me free of Earth—
She’d smiled at the pun.—
and get back to finding your own.

Jim stood there for a moment, looking up into the swiftly lightening sky. The stars were fading, but still he waited.

And somewhere down the watercourse, a California jay suddenly spoke up, making a noise like an extremely rusty hinge. Then it made it again, much louder.

Jim let out a breath of amusement at himself.
Hanging around here like someone waiting for a sign,
he thought,
while there are things to do. Destinies to find.

He put the phaser away and pulled out his communicator, flipped it open.

Commander Uhura.”

“I’m done here,” Jim said. “Any time you’re ready.”

“Yes, sir. Transporter room, one to beam up.”

The captain of the Starship
vanished in dazzle. A few moments later, the rising sun cresting the hillside above the gully struck through where he had been, throwing the olive’s shadow stark against the slope.

Only a few breaths after that, silent, riding the wavecrest of morning, the condor planed by over the stream—its wings bloodied by the new morning’s light—banked sideways, briefly silhouetted against the setting moon, and was gone.


Diane Duane
has been making her living writing fantasy and science fiction for more than a quarter century, and has written for
Star Trek
in more media than anyone else alive. Born in Manhattan, a descendant of the first Mayor of New York City after the Revolutionary War, she initially trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse; then, after the publication of her first book in 1979, spent some years living and writing on both coasts of the United States before relocating to County Wicklow in Ireland, where she settled down with her husband, the Belfast-born novelist and screenwriter Peter Morwood. Her work includes more than forty novels—a number of which have spent time on the
New York Times
best-seller list—and much television work, including story-editing stints on the DiC animated series
and the BBC educational series
Science Challenge,
a cowriter credit on the first-season
Star Trek: The Next Generation
episode “Where No One Has Gone Before,” and (most recently) another on the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries
Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King,
written in collaboration with her husband. When not writing, she conducts an active online life based around her weblog (
), her popular “Young Wizards” novel series (
), and her European recipe collection (
), while also stargazing, cooking, attempting to keep the cats from eating all the herbs in the garden, and trying to figure out how to make more spare time.

BOOK: Star Trek: The Empty Chair
10.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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