Title: How to Grow Wings and Fly
Email: blueberrysnail @ yahoo.com
Series: Star Trek TOS/TNG
Pairing: Kirk/Spock, Data/Yar
Betas: Blue, Ami-chan. Thank you Lenzar for the initial inspiration and reassurance.
Archive: SBS#9, ASCEM, AAK/SA. All others please ask =^-^=
Summary: The Afterlife, right after ST:Nemesis. (MAJOR Spoilers!) Kirk and Spock use a combination of faith and logic to cheer somebody up.
Disclaimer: The entire Trek universe belongs to Paramount and will not suffer much from the poking and prodding of our curious collective imaginations. We mean our beloved characters no harm and think that quite possibly they enjoy the variety ;-)
HOW TO GROW WINGS AND FLYGentle fingers of a lake that never ends wind sleekly through the mountains of Heaven, like a silver water nymph running her hands through her billowing hair. Soft and pristine sand at its shores gives way after several dozen meters to a grassy slope, the beginnings of the nearest mountain. Trees from across the galaxy preen their viridant branches in the glow of Divine Love, and the water reflects a sky of infinity.
The spirit of a man who had once, in a moment of illness, lamented that he had no beach to walk on could been seen approaching from the mountainside. He walked arm in arm with another man, a half-Vulcan, and their pace was leisurely. In life, they had been the heroic duo Kirk and Spock, three-time saviors of the planet Earth, and partners in perfect balance. Cheated from a long mortal retirement together by the mysterious energy ribbon called the Nexus, they were finally rewarded after Spock's death on Romulus with the blessing of eternal union in the pleasant hereafter. There was enough here in this infinity to satisfy both Jim's yearning for exploration and Spock's endless quest for knowledge.
"We will not be alone on the beach," observed Spock. Jim followed his friend's gaze to the shore, and saw the spirit of a woman sitting perched on a beached canoe. Her feet kicked idly at the sand as she gazed out at the water, ethereal light reflecting from her cropped blonde hair.
She heard the men approaching and turned to greet them. "Good morning, Captain; Ambassador."
"Good morning, Tasha!" said Jim warmly. Spock nodded his head gracefully.
"This lake is so beautiful, isn't it?" Tasha's gaze returned to the water. "In life I grew up in a war-zone. Even in my dreams of heaven I never imagined so much peace."
"What fighting that does exist here is only playful and athletic," agreed Spock, he himself still fairly new to this place-- even including his unique previous visit.
"Sulu's grateful for its existence," commented Kirk, still amused with his last vision of the other captain, now a glowing, grinning, fencing angel.
"I've had fun practicing martial arts with Captain Pike," shrugged Tasha, still looking away. Her face looked distracted, troubled.
"Tasha, we can go if you want to be alone," said Kirk gently. "There are other beaches, t'hy'la," he said to Spock.
"No..." She turned to face them now. "Captain...."
"Jim," corrected Kirk. "We're standing on a freshwater beach in the middle of Paradise. This is hardly a starship."
Tasha half-smiled, almost as a twitch. Then she spoke again. "Have you been watching the Enterprise-E?"
Jim nodded slowly. He now understood the reason for Tasha's moodiness. "Data was very heroic," he said. "He saved humanity."
"His sacrifice was unique," said Spock. "Only an android such as Data could have floated across the vacuum of space to reach the Scimitar once the transporters were down."
"He saved the Enterprise, too," Kirk said.
"He put the needs of the crew before his own needs," said Spock.
"That sounds disturbingly familiar," quipped Kirk, and squeezed the hand of his almost-blushing Vulcan.
"I feel so proud of him," said Tasha, movingly. "He had become so... wonderful... he tried so hard to be human, and wound up being better than all of us." She paused, and sighed. "I guess I have no right to be sad. But I'm just really feeling his loss. We were close in ways I never let anyone else be with me."
"Paradise does not seem to be a place of loss," said Spock curiously.
Tasha shook her head. "But Spock, Data-- he had no soul. I mean, he was an android, built by a human being."
"Dr. Noonien Soong, I believe," said Spock. Kirk shushed him gently.
Tasha nodded sadly. "Do you see my point? Data isn't going to come here, Data's gone. He couldn't have had a soul, because that would mean that humankind had the power to create a soul. Everything that he was, all he'd learned, his... personality-- it's all lost forever." She slumped against Jim, who had moved closer to her in order to pat her shoulder sympathetically. "I mean... I suppose I loved him, but he was just a machine. While he was alive-- I mean, while he was-- before he... blew up... at least I could watch him and know he was still thinking about me."
"He kept a hologram of you," said Spock. Tasha nodded slowly.
"Tasha," said Jim soothingly as he hugged her sideways. She put a half-effort into kicking the canoe grumpily. "Not even here does anybody completely understand what makes up the 'soul' of a person. Or any being," he added hastily. "Perhaps it's not our birthright but our experiences that form our immortal soul."
"Data was not created with a soul," said Spock. "But it is possible that as he grew as an individual, a soul was formed."
"His journey was extraordinary," said Kirk. "He may have started out as a computer, but from what I've seen of him that's certainly not what he became."
"Perhaps simply by endeavoring to improve himself and expand his own approximation of humanity, he gained whatever it is that constitutes a soul," said Spock.
Tasha blinked her eyes, disbelieving hope struggling with doubt across her face. "Where is he, then? I don't know. This all sounds right, and I can believe it, but why can't I find him?"
"He'll find you, if he's meant to be here," said Kirk. This time it was Spock that squeezed Kirk's hand.
"I wonder what an android soul looks like," mused Tasha.
"Wet," said Spock, looking past her and out at the water. Tasha and Jim looked at the Vulcan quizzically, then followed his hand gesture with their eyes.
Someone was swimming through the water in a fast crawl. His movements were mechanical but natural and graceful, his strokes mathematically beautiful. The skin of the spirit was pale and sleek, and it sparkled with droplets of water each time a bare body part surfaced. His hair was dark and glossy, and although his eyes were closed, every being on the shore knew that they were shining citrine yellow.
Tasha's mouth dropped open just a little, and she watched his swim, entranced in wonder. "It's like a miracle," she murmured. "I never..."
"It is logical," said Spock. "The soul is not part of the physical body. It is based on who, and not what, he was in life. His spirit bears no more computer chips than any one of ours bears blood."
Kirk agreed, but still felt like he was witnessing a miracle.
The swimmer came closer and closer, and Tasha found her voice. "Data!" she shouted, leaping up from her canoe and kicking her oars into the sand in excitement. She waved her arms in the air in a big X, and smiled broadly.
Data's eyes opened between strokes, and lit up when he saw Tasha. She began to run into the lake to meet him, goofily splashing water everywhere. They met where the depth was around three feet, and took each other's hands.
Kirk and Spock watched from the shore, moved. They couldn't hear what was going on, but Tasha was probably telling Data how proud she was of him. Then the two figures in the water turned to face the shore and walked back to the beach, hand in hand. Tasha was grinning like a cat who'd caught a fish.
Data's spirit seemed full of his familiar childish wonder. "Ambassador Spock!" He raised the hand Tsaha wasn't holding in a Vulcan salute.
"Lt. Commander Data." Spock bowed his head briefly and returned the gesture. "Hero of the Federation and the latest savior of humanity."
"I followed in your footsteps, sir." Data next looked to Kirk. "And Captain Kirk, I presume!"
Jim flashed him an enormous smile. "In the spirit!"
"Jim, that joke has grown tiresome..." Spock teased.
"I must admit, I am quite at a loss to explain my presence here," said Data.
"I'm sure Miss Yar can try to explain it to you," said Jim, subtly starting to lead Spock away down the beach. "Will the two of you come to dinner tonight?"
Tasha looked at Data, who nodded. "We'd love to!" she exclaimed happily.
"See you then," grinned Jim. He and Spock said goodbye and left Tasha and Data to their reunion.
"The old earth myths said that mermaids had no soul," said Kirk after minutes of pleasant, companionate silence. "Perhaps they just never had the opportunity to grow one. Data may have started out as a mermaid, but he spent his whole life trying to walk... and in this place, he can."
"Interesting metaphor," said Spock. "I also see a parallel in Terran evolutionary history. As I recall, life on your planet appeared first in the waters, and the first vertebrate animals on land were fish that had grown lungs and gained the ability to move from one small body of water to another in the dry seasons."
"Takes courage to be a mudskipper," said Jim.
They had reached a faraway point on the shore, and a rowboat sat in the water as if waiting for them. Jim climbed into the boat, and Spock pushed it away from the beach before getting in himself.
Jim leaned back into the boat and drew Spock closer to him. The Vulcan enfolded him in his arms as they drifted away from the shore.