The Road Not Taken (Star Trek: TOS story)

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K/S Fanfiction
Title: The Road Not Taken
Author(s): Brianna Falken
Date(s): print zine-(2004);The K/S Archive-(08/2012)
Length: print zine-30 pages;The K/S Archive-17,079 words
Genre: slash
Fandom: Star Trek: The Original Series
External Links: The Kirk/Spock Fanfiction Archive

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The Road Not Taken is a Kirk/Spock story by Brianna Falken.

It was published in the print zine First Time #58 (2004)

Summary

From the Author's story summary: “After his argument with McCoy while in Kirkʼs cabin, Spock orders the Enterprise out of Tholian space, sacrificing his captainʼs life for the ship.”

Reactions and Reviews

I know Brianna used to say: darn, I can only write plot-driven, technicolor extravaganzas, and I admire those who write close-in, poignantly emotional POVs. Well, it seems she’s found that particular voice she was wanting to write in, without sacrificing her talent for imaginative plots.

I love this heart-wrenchingly lonely Spock. This is after Kirk’s death in Tholian space—they didn’t get him back. We learn that Spock left after the five-year mission, but when Earth was later attacked, he re-joined Starfleet as a captain. Actually, you have to pay attention in this story because of messing with time, and an alternate universe of a sort—it can get confusing. Mostly I got it all, between the current time frame and the flashbacks, except for one thing, which I’ll get to in a bit. I love when we learn that Kirk had left a personal tape for Spock, telling of his love. This is gorgeous, Kirk’s words...and Spock’s heartbreak. We learn more of Spock’s sad years without Kirk, of his second pon farr, with a hateful Vulcan wife. Their current mission is to Helios, a supposed peace conference that Klingons are going to sabotage. This is what I didn’t get until later, that this was the Guardian of Forever planet. Did that planet even have a name? It was “Helios”? Or does Helios have nothing to do with the ship going to the GOF planet? It is really cool, though, the Guardian showing what should have been, had Kirk lived. Of course there is Spock’s dilemma about messing with what has already been...but was it really what “should have been”? I also didn’t get it, when Spock does jump through...and dies in flames. I didn’t care that I didn’t get it, though. Time-travel and creating different time-lines is difficult and open to interpretation.

So then it seems we begin at the beginning again, that reality is happening again but as it “should” have been. The Tholian incident still happens, but they get Kirk back. It’s a very satisfying ending. Spock’s sense of deja vu was done nicely; and he listens to his inner voice and reveals himself to Kirk, and vice-versa. I love the meld, though short and sweet. And a short kiss...and red alert. But finally, their first coming together is beautiful. And definitely absolutely hot sex. Plus, the very ending was so nice, with Spock’s vague remembrance of what might have been. But now, says the Guardian, all is as it should be. Indeed it is.[1]
What a fabulous story! This author took a break from writing K/S for a while, but returned with a vengeance, writing this wonderful story, and the equally marvelous “Debt of Honor” in Beyond Dreams 7, plus the fun (and very hot!) “Shore Leave Epilogue” entered in the KiScon story contest.

Brianna has such a great idea in “The Road Not Taken”. The story opens as Spock and McCoy, believing Kirk to be dead in Tholian space, are listening to the message tape with Kirk’s last words. In this alternative version of the events in the episode, Spock decides he should follow Kirk’s advice and listen to McCoy. Logically, since Kirk is dead, Spock should do what McCoy wants—save the “Enterprise” by leaving the area. Seven years later we learn the consequences of that action. There was no Kirk to command the “Enterprise” during the V’Ger probe, so the “Enterprise” was lost with all aboard. Sulu, Chekhov, Uhura, Scott—all are dead. The probe neutralized Earth’s defenses before it left, and the Klingons took advantage of this. They attacked Earth and destroyed half the planet, launching a war that is still ongoing, and that the Federation is losing badly. Spock lost his parents when they were killed in a peace conference held on Babel. Without Kirk‘s influence, McCoy was constantly in conflict with Spock and finally McCoy resigned, drowned his sorrows in alcohol and finally killed himself. It is a totally bleak world Spock lives in now, one made even worse by him finding out after Kirk’s death that Kirk loved him, and realizing that he was in love with Kirk. The war with the Klingons is going very badly. Spock and his ship the S’Kan‘dari are sent on a mission to protect the Guardian of Forever, and to destroy the Guardian, if necessary, to prevent the Klingons from capturing the artifact. Spock learns from the Guardian that Kirk was a focal point in time, and Spock was meant to save him and didn’t. Spock is stunned: “My life and all I know is in ruins because James Kirk died?”

The pivotal moment in Spock’s life had been after Kirk married two male crew members, and then asked Spock how Vulcans view same sex relationships. Spock had given him the proper, logical Vulcan reply—to his everlasting regret. If he could relive those moments, what might happen afterwards, and how would it affect his decision in Tholian space? I just loved this story. Brianna always manages to come up with such interesting ideas for plots, and this is one of my favorites. She describes Spock’s current life so vividly that it’s almost painful to read, and to imagine Spock enduring this kind of barren existence. I liked how Spock had requested some members of the “Enterprise’s” former crew to serve on the “S’Kan’dari”, such as M’Benga, Kevin Riley, Giotto, Charlene Masters, Garrovick, and Kyle. All personally requested by Spock, because they represented home for him. “Not Vulcan. Vulcan had never been home to Spock. It had taken him many years to realize that fact. Home to Spock had always been the “Enterprise”. And James Kirk.” Another poignant part is describing Spock’s appearance, and how he has prematurely aged due to the events of the past 7 years. I also liked the Vulcan Shalai Tai, similar to our déjà vu. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Brianna Falken story without a sizzling hot love scene, and she has definitely not lost her touch! I certainly missed this author’s stories in the past few years, and am very glad she’s back. [2]
Oh, I enjoyed this story. In just thirty pages, Brianna takes you on a voyage full of angst, punishment bravery, and redemption and leads you to a conclusion that satisfies you down to the depths of your soul.

Kirk wishes to start a more intimate relationship with Spock. Although the Vulcan feels the attraction, the pull between them, a homosexual love affair has no place in his planet’s dogma. Then the captain is stranded in Tholian space leaving Spock on the cusp of the biggest decision of his life. Should he stay or go? McCoy tells him to save Kirk’s ship and crew since Jim’s life has already been forfeited. The voices of Vulcan, the logic he has tried to live his life by, all tell Spock to leave while he still can. Only his uncertain, often denied human heart tells him otherwise. Used to renouncing that still small voice that lives inside him, Spock takes the ship out of danger. And in doing so changes the course of the galaxy. From this point Spock’s life begins to unravel. All he knew, all he loved are lost: parents, McCoy, other shipmates, the “Enterprise” itself. There is a disastrous joining with a Vulcan woman, and intergalactic war in which billions die. And finally Spock faces the truth; he loved Jim Kirk with all his heart. But of course one cannot go back and change the mistakes of the past...or can one? I loved the plot of this story, rooted so firmly as it is in sci-fi tradition. So many stories have been written using the premise of the single, seemingly trivial mistake that changes the entire course of the future. So this is not only a great story, it’s also good mainstream science fiction. I also admire how Brianna uses dialog instead of narrative to set up the back-story of this complicated series of events. It is masterfully done. In one tight scene, she lets us in on all previous events since Kirk’s death and takes us right up to the present time. Without it being forced. Without excess melodramatics or verbiage. By the time you get to the end of the story, you’ve been emotionally taken through the wringer. My heart broke for Spock. I was empathizing with him so hard it hurt. It’s not giving away anything—if you know Brianna’s writing you know this already—to say that Kirk and Spock find their way back to each other and to a love that heals the universe.

“The Road Not Taken” is my kind of story. [3]
“The Road Not Taken” by Brianna Falken is a thirty page story in First Time 58, and it is the final story in the zine. However, I read it first as Brianna is one of my favorite writers, and I knew it would be good. Plus I had just read one of her stories in another zine the day before and loved it so I was thinking of her. She is definitely one of my favorite current writers. I think I have liked everything that she has written.

I loved this story. It is very different in that the first part of it is very tragic and brings tears to my eyes. I would have been worried if this story would have been in a zine which doesn't guarantee every story has a happy ending. And in a way that took some of the suspense out of it, knowing that everything would be okay in the end. You know from the title that basically this story is going to be a variation of something that happened. The story basically starts about the time of “The Tholian Web.” And in this variation, Kirk is not recovered. And this starts a change of events that is downright heartbreaking. I won't go into a lot of plot detail but Spock regrets many things and among them is the fact that Kirk and he were never lovers. The dialogue in this is very good. There are some details that are quite distinct and make this story extremely original. This is from Spock's viewpoint and you get a very melancholy feeling to the beginning of the story—a melancholy that only lifts when he is basking in Kirk's eyes and presence. I do have two slight quibbles. Kirk having hazel eyes can have either golden tinged brown eyes or green tinged brown eyes. And it is indeed humanly possible for one person to have both, depending on the light and other circumstances. But it is a pet peeve of mine when in ONE story the author makes the eyes golden in some instances and green in others. And basically Kirk's eyes are golden brown in this story (and they are mentioned a lot) except for two instances when I noticed they are green. Perhaps they are also green in more than two cases and I missed them, but when I did notice it twice just briefly I was jarred from the flow of the story. I know that's picky. This story is totally superb, and I shouldn't even mention the eye color, except that it is something that bugs me and other writers do it as well. And since I am being picky, there is also one English error I noticed. And I think that is probably a spell-check error. “Cum” is used once when it's supposed to be “come.” At least, I do believe in American English that when men ejaculate it is spelled come. "Come" is the verb, and "cum" is the noun. But I know some British people will argue with this. And I have seen them used interchangeably, and it always bothers me. And since I have written the above paragraph, I have talked with some people and they say that the words can be used interchangeably. Well, that may be, but I still don't like it when men cum. And I also just saw that in the subtitles to a movie I was watching recently, Garden State which is a movie I do recommend. And, no, it is not a foreign film. It just has some brief subtitling. Back to the story now... Brianna has given this Spock a tragic life in the first part of the story. You just ache for him. And also for McCoy, among other people. Just a few details here and there about everyone make you live a whole new bleak version of Star Trek. Almost everyone is doomed. And the story builds up to a point where nearly all life as we know it in Star Trek is going to be changed forever. This story revolves around seemingly unimportant events/actions or conversations becoming important later on. Much like in real life. Every word counts in this story. And it is very interesting indeed how much will hinge on just one word, and that one word is “Officially.” And since this is a zine which insists on happy endings, you know that somehow Spock will manage to rectify the terrible life he had been leading. And he does get the chance. I do like Brianna's descriptive style. I don't want to ruin it for you but just to give one example of her distinct writing, I will at randomly pull out this: "Spock could barely contain himself. Unbearable pleasure consumed him. He released Kirk's hands to fondle the delicate human scrotal sac, relishing the ensuing moans and entreaties." I like the mix of slightly purple prose and specific anatomical description. And I did not mean purple prose as derogatory. All slash is slightly purple in my opinion or otherwise there would be nothing to distinguish it from flat gay porn in some men's magazines.

Anyway, I love this story, and I think this story should be a contender for next year's awards. The problem for me though will be deciding whether I like this story better than I liked Brianna's "Debt of Honor" in Beyond Dreams 7. It's a tough decision. I really, really do like Brianna's stories. She is one of the authors I am always happy to see listed in the contents of a zine. And quite often, her story will be the first one I pick to read in a zine. [4]
The one thing that struck me after reading this amazing story was how it dealt with what for me is a significant aspect of the Kirk/Spock relationship, an aspect which has seldom been addressed in as brilliant and moving way as it is here. To explain, while in the days of TOS it was clear Kirk and Spock loved each other, there was a distinct imbalance in how much each needed the other. For Kirk, whose main concern and focus was his ship, what he really needed was a good first officer and science officer, which right from the beginning is exactly what he got from Spock. It's hard to believe if there was an incompetent crewman filling either of those posts, Kirk wouldn't have him transferred off the ship (or at least demoted) as soon as possible, regardless of his personal feelings for the man. The fact that Kirk ends up with Spock, who is not only a good first officer, but the best in the fleet, only serves to enhance their relationship to the point where (as we K/Srs like to believe) it becomes physical. Still, as seen in several episodes of TOS, Kirk, when forced to choose between Spock and the “Enterprise”, always chooses the “Enterprise”. It is a painful sacrifice, but it is one he can make because his need to keep his ship and crew safe is greater than his need for Spock.

When it comes to Spock, however, as his relationship with his captain both personal and professional grows, so does his need for Kirk. The human soon becomes the center of the Vulcan's universe, so much so that in several episodes of TOS, when Spock must decide to abandon Kirk for the good of the ship, he finds it nearly impossible to do so. One could not help but wonder what would happen to Spock if and when the time ever came where he would have to make that ultimate sacrifice of his beloved human for the safety of the ship and crew. It is this question that “The Road Not Taken” attempts to answer. The story begins as an alternate ending to the episode "The Tholian Web". This time there is no last minute rescue for Kirk and with his captain dead, Spock is left only with memories of lost opportunities and shattered dreams. With no desire to remain on the “Enterprise” or even in Starfleet, he returns to Vulcan. Yet even there he can find no peace and after a disastrous Pon Farr coupled with an even more disastrous bonding, he is almost relieved when Earth is attacked and his commission reinstated. He soon finds himself in command of a warship as the Federation fights a losing battle against the Klingons. While Spock performs his duties admirably, he is a mere shell of a man, finding no joy or sense of accomplishment in his command. He does not even have the comfort of old friends to see him through, for McCoy and the rest of the “Enterprise” crew have also met their own tragic ends. He is truly alone now, unloved and untouched, with logic and duty his only companions and "how he missed it...the warmth and the sharing and the friendship. But most of all, Spock missed the love he could have had. Logic was a poor companion for a lonely soul. No one touched him anymore". It is only after a chance encounter with a being from his past that Spock realizes the emptiness that defines his existence was never meant to be and he is given the opportunity to correct the one mistake he made which led to the misery his life has become. At first he is hesitant to do so, but soon realizes "What could be worse than the world in which he found himself? Death was an agreeable price for even a remote possibility of changing the past seven years".

A beautiful, heart-tugging tale of love lost and regained from one incredibly talented author. This is one you don't want to miss. [5]
This might be my favorite ―what if story. That is...what if some detail of an episode was changed in some way? In this case the episode is ―The Tholian Web. There is a point when Spock is faced with a devastating choice. Should he take the “Enterprise” out of Tholian space, or should he wait until the next time of interphase and perhaps be able to rescue his stranded captain? Should he save Jim‘s ship and crew (which we know the captain would urge him to do) or should he gamble that he can save Jim‘s life? In Brianna‘s story he makes the wrong choice. He walks down the wrong road, and yields to McCoy‘s urging and Jim‘s wishes.

The rest of the story plays out the ramifications of Spock‘s choice. One by one we watch the dominos of Spock‘s life fall, and the consequences are horrendous. Friends, family, even the Federation itself, pay the price for Spock‘s actions. Brianna is such a good writer that she gives the events that follow an inevitability that is relentless. I love how she brings in several episodes and even the first Star Trek movie. This is 'edge of your seat' writing and a guaranteed great read.

Look for it soon on the K/S archive. [6]
“The Road Not Taken” by Brianna Falken was published in First Time 58 and revolves around the episode "The Tholian Web". It is one of those stories one can't forget, I dare say not ever. The plot is as adventurous as it is touching; the writing is as exciting as it is moving.

I cried heavily when I read the scene I choose to quote; I'll always remember the exact place and time of it. Also, I reread part two like 5 times already, simply because it's so wonderful and fills me with even more love for Kirk and Spock every single time. I assume that every KSP reader has read the story already but I simply could not not dedicate a picture to it. And maybe the one or another will feel like rereading it, like meeting up with a beloved friend not seen for a long time.

For those who indeed don't know “The Road Not Taken” yet but do have the zine: What you're still doing here? Go and read! [7]
This is an uncommonly excellent piece of K/S literature. I’m not talking about technically correct— which it definitely was—but emotionally electrifying. As this opens Kirk has been dead for seven years, lost in Tholian space, and the course of history is tragically different than we know it.

Brianna’s depiction of Spock is outstanding. Very sad and almost too believable. His walk through the ship to “put her to bed” is something I can readily see him doing. The loneliness that nearly overcomes him is palpable. To make it even worse, we learn Spock’s last conversation with his friend is one he deeply regrets and which causes him untold pain. My heart contracts as I read of him watching the light fade from Kirk’s eyes because of his thoughtless words. And, oh, when it’s revealed that in deference to his Vulcan beliefs no one has touched him during those interminable seven years—devastating. The memory of those unhesitating pats and small caresses from Kirk are terribly bittersweet. I couldn’t even see to finish the part where Spock plays back Kirk’s personal message to him—opened in the event of his death. Tears flooded my eyes. I wanted to scream aloud as Kirk confessed his overwhelming love for Spock. I wanted to shout, “No, No, NO!” It doesn’t help that I fantasize theirs to be the greatest love of all time, and now I must face the alternate reality that it was never to be. The plot of that alternate timeline is very well done. The great war, the loss of so many of Kirk’s old crew, the near devastation of planet Earth. Spock’s sterile life and crushing responsibilities. Clearly all these possibilities were very well thought out.

Spock visiting the Guardian of Forever could have been a predictable plot device, but the way it was handled made all the difference. He was there to destroy the planet of the Guardian and it was only at the last possible moment that he allowed desperation to drive him to leap frantically into the past...and his future. Repeating the sequences that took place at the beginning of the story was gifted and brought us full circle. But what on earth can I say about the new future—the unprecedented second chance? This is one of the finest passionate encounters I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot. Was it the buildup? Partly. But their love is exquisitely expressed, their passion inextinguishable, their devotion inescapable. Every touch that Spock never hoped to experience, every tender kiss and searing swipe of tongue is awesome.

This story was my very special treat on the eve of K/S Day. It couldn’t have been more perfect. [8]
I’ve read a lot of novels over the past few months and years – novels written by authors who make a living with their words. Never once has one of those novels touched me in the way “The Road Not Taken” touches me. We all know those moments in our lives where, if we could but go back a day, a year, or a second, that we would give almost anything to change. Such is the moment that has haunted Spock for seven long, agonizingly lonely years. Seven years in which, he admits within his meager soul, no one has touched him.

The pivotal moment in this case took place during one of my very favorite episodes: “The Tholian Web”. The anguish is tangible in this aired episode but it’s alleviated by Spock’s decision to remain in Tholian space, risking the ship and crew, to make a last attempt to retrieve Kirk. His success is a matter of canon. But what if he’d taken McCoy’s advice and turned the ship away, leaving Kirk marooned in an interphase rift? What if he had realized too late what this golden human meant to him and what if abandoning Kirk drastically changed the history of the universe? Ms. Falken leaves no emotion untouched as she explains how everything has changed. How Spock commands a ship that holds no meaning for him, that he walks her corridors as memories of walking the halls of the “Enterprise” with Kirk slowly shred his will to co-exist with the loneliness. We walk along with him as he surveys his ship for what he believes will be the final time because a battle looms on the horizon, a final conflict in a war that has ripped across the galaxy since the Enterprise and her crew were lost while battling V’Ger, leaving the Federation open to ruthless Klingon attacks. As he looks at the dull gray door to engineering, in his mind’s eye he sees the bright colors of the “Enterprise”, and Scott muttering over his bairns. As he makes his rounds he says a final goodbye to all those he knew on the great ship he called home, acknowledging they were the only people who ever called him friend. The war is going badly, with the Federation facing defeat. Not willing to allow the Guardian planet to fall into Klingon hands, Spock’s ship is charged with its ultimate destruction. Now Spock faces yet another fork in life’s road. Does he dare risk altering history by stepping through the guardian in a last desperate attempt to regain the life and love he has lost?

If you haven’t yet indulged in “The Road Not Taken”, read it and see. If you have, I urge you to indulge yourself in this angst-ridden tale again. Like me, you will find it never grows old. [9]

References

  1. The K/S Press # 93 06/2004
  2. The K/S Press #93 06/2004
  3. The K/S Press # 96 09/2004
  4. The K/S Press # 97 10/2004
  5. The K/S Press # 99 12/2004
  6. The K/S Press #176 05/2011
  7. The K/S Press #185 02/2012
  8. The K/S Press #103 04/2005
  9. The K/S Press#200 (09/2013)