There are those who say that there is no life after death.
Klingons believe in a Stovokor for all honorable warriors, a kind of alien Valhalla. And Vulcans, in general, believe in a return to the beauty of full, pure and complete logic, secure in the company of Surak. Others believe in peace and light, a place at the table with their ancestors, or a dream, neverending, where they wander around in others' subconsciousnesses like so many extras in unknown private stage plays.
But there are many who are unsure. Atheists, agnostics and the just plain skeptical – they see this life as being it, the only one. But for the people of Mehjah'Loh, and the recently dead, including one Elizabeth Craddock, the reality was far different.
It was all of the lives of Mehjah'Loh, from all time, and not just the sentient ones, for there were the legless slime beings, and the huge hulking furred beasts who made the best game, and earlier versions of the people, back to even when they were small things, twitching with constant terror, barely out of the ooze and fighting to not become someone else's next meal.
The current – recently current, that is – people of Mehjah'Loh were all there, together. It was O'mat, it was Pavant, and Lymet and Kulnay and L'faneka, and more. The ones with the calm blood and the ones with the acidic burning blood – they were all together as they had been before, in the village.
L'faneka could, it was strange, it was as it had been at about the time she had experienced her fourth annual passage of the sun, in its inexorable journey around Mehjah'Loh.
She could see.
So she knew that she was no more, and that had to be the truth, for the pain was gone, vanished like last night's wisps of cloud. She approached Pavant.
"He is a false Buk'amah! He is lower than the legless slime things! He has killed of his own!"
"Is this true?" asked O'mat, who seemed unsure of where he was, and what his condition was.
"It is true," said L'faneka, "Will you say, or will I?" she asked Kulnay.
"I will say," Kulnay replied, "he became Chief at your, your end. And it was with the slaying of Lymet, who is of his, his house."
"Not just his house," L'faneka prompted.
O'mat looked pained. "What does this mean?"
"Of more than his house. Of his seed," Kulnay confirmed.
"Is this true?" O'mat thundered.
"It is so," Pavant said, "you were not the man you thought you were, brother," he spat out the last word in disgust and O'mat was about ready to have at him when they were interrupted by a voice.
"That hardly matters," said one of the Klingons, "show us where the acid is, and how you get it. There's nothing of value on this wretched orb except for that."
"You are not on what you call the wretched orb anymore," said another Klingon, "but I do not know where we have gone. The acid and the spoils – it all seems to matter very little right now."
"What does it mean?" asked Lymet, the child.
"I sense there is evil here," L'faneka said, "and it is feeding off all of our bad deeds, our sins. But one here is innocent." She pointed at Lymet.
"She had the burning blood, as do I," said Kulnay, "judgment may be passed this way." The men of Mehjah'Loh grabbed Pavant and a stone knife was produced. His arm was slashed, as was Lymet's. The crowd – little more than an angry mob now – exerted itself to bring the two slashes together, and burn the sin into Pavant's body for all time. There was a sound of loud hissing and popping.
"That's the acid!" yelled one of the Klingons to another, "Don't you see? We could use these as cannon fodder! With acidic blood, the shrapnel would be outstanding!"
"And don't you see," replied the one who had realized they were no longer on the planet's surface, "there is no point in shrapnel anymore, or in any of it."
Elizabeth looked away, searching for faces of anyone she knew, anyone familiar, but the sentient faces were but the people of Mehjah'Loh and the ruthless Klingons who had been plundering their pitifully barren lands.
Then there were two more.
Kirk was about to say something about the Klingons when he was interrupted.
"There are escape pods out there, the last few from the Draco," Chekhov said.
"Get them in via tractor beam," Kirk commanded. He punched communications. "Scotty! See to it that we get over anyone we can."
"Aye, sir. Scott out."
Scotty worked the Transporter, and a group of five appeared, including a young woman last seen on the Bridge – Ensign Jamie Chambers. She fainted and was brought to Sick Bay.
But the view from the Bridge's main viewer was less appealing. Escape pods are normally tough to control, and these were within a minefield, with a good half or more of the mines hidden via cloak. Chekhov did what he could to get them all in, but he could not get everyone. Two of the pods hit mines, and were vaporized on impact.
Uhura shielded her eyes from the devastation. "Message coming in from the Draco, sir."
"Message? But there's no one on there," Kirk said, "Right?"
"None on sensors," Chekhov said.
"On screen," Kirk said.
There was no figure on the screen, just blinding whiteness. "There is power, and light."
The voice was coming from not only the blinding whiteness on the Draco, but from Craddock himself in a shuttle, which was shown on a split screen, even though Uhura had not changed the image on the viewer. He seemed possessed, unable to cease speaking the words that were being fed into his brain and forced from his mouth. He seemed to be trying not to cooperate, but to no avail. A coil feature emerged on his forehead, between his eyes – a helix.
Kirk glanced at Uhura. She knew what to do, and opened a channel. "Mister Spock! Status!" she called. "Mister Spock –"
Her voice was cut off. "You will listen!" commanded the twin, synchronized voices of Craddock and the message.
And Vormarl was speaking with that voice as well, from the Bridge of the warbird and was showing the same coiled, helical mark. The screen split to three and all could watch.
And on the Furious Charge, they listened as well, for G'nahC was also speaking – a fourth part – and the coiled mark appeared there as well as the screen split into quarters.
And wherever the people of Mehjah'Loh were, they also heeded, for Pavant was, too, possession by the voice and parroting it. It was a fifth part, a vessel to transmit commands, with the self-same helical mark. They dropped their plans for rough justice and listened, and waited, but did not forget the need for justice and retribution, as the acidic blood continued to hiss and pop menacingly.
"There is a power, and light. Our needs are simple – a place to call home – and freedom. We have been trapped for far too long. Our home can have no fences and no barriers. We will destroy all in our path until we gain what we seek."
Elizabeth recognized Crewman Briggs, and went over to him. He looked at her, clad, improbably, in a diaphanous white gown. "I remember you. You're Craddock's wife; your supposed to be dead; Is this heaven?" he asked.
"I don't think so," she said, indicating the Klingons, who still looked bloodthirsty, and had briefly suspended their arguing with each other over whether they were really in Stovokor, and the people of Mehjah'Loh, who were trembling with pious fear. "I think this is the antechamber to hell."