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Prologue

    A plain white ceiling was a curious thing to have as one’s final sight.

    When he had given time to thoughts of death, Spock had imagined that his last sight would be the flash of phaser fire or explosion, an alien landscape or a raging, unstoppable beast of an unknown world. At best, he had hoped for the vision to be the red walls of his own room or the Vulcan sky, enclosing him peaceably after a long life. He had not expected the end of his life to come in a cold, sterile room, unaccompanied by anyone he could call friend, and in perfect knowledge of how and when the final moment would come.

The executioner looked no different to any of the other men who had been gathered in the room until just a few minutes ago. He wore no special clothing, his face was not masked. He was, ironically, a doctor, trained in the skills of healing injuries and saving lives.

He looked down at Spock with an odd degree of pity in his eyes.

‘Are there any rituals special to your people before death?’ he asked sombrely.

    Spock considered. He did not imagine that a request to transfer his katra would be an acceptable ritual.

    ‘None that are possible here,’ he said finally.

    ‘Are you prepared for your end?’

    Spock looked about the tiny room he was lying in. It was bleak and colourless, the only furniture being the gurney to which he was strapped and a sidetable containing certain medical equipment. One wall had a slightly different texture. It was a one-way window, and he knew that behind it, watching, were ranks of Malkerian officials.

    He lay still, letting himself become aware of his body’s vitality, feeling the pulse of blood in his veins, the slight movements in his gut, the beating of his heart. Slowly he began to withdraw himself from those sensations, telling himself that physicality was of no concern. Finally he said,

    ‘Proceed.’

    He surprised himself with the shakiness of his voice. He heard the executioner intone solemnly, ‘We have found the prisoner to be sound of body and mind, and prepared for death. He has been convicted of murder, and he will suffer the just punishment. On Cycle 53 of the fourth month of the Sun he has been doomed to perish. It is that time.’

    Spock stared at the ceiling above him. He felt the cold tip of a hypo touching his neck. He heard the slight hiss as it released the prescribed dose into his skin. Possibly the slight sting of the injection would be the last thing he would feel.

    But no. He could feel the chemical in his bloodstream. He began to feel nauseous. His vision started to constrict into a tunnel of blackness. It was getting harder to breathe, and he tried not to fight it. But the thought came unbidden in to his mind, that he would never see Jim again, and suddenly he *was* fighting it, struggling to breathe against a paralysis that he was helpless to resist. But then his mind succumbed to dizziness, and then, to nothing…

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