TASHIRYA By Gamin Davis (More Visions of Future Past, 1992) TOS, K&S&f, Ch, Mc; H/C, angst (PG-13 for graphic mind-rape)
Captain’s Log, Stardate 9006.30:
We are now four days into the Enterprise’s current assignment, patrolling the Federation boundary of the Klingon Neutral Zone and I’m again reminded why so few starship Captains ever volunteer for this duty. It doesn’t take long to become monotonous, and that monotony is starting to affect many of the crew, myself included. Yet I know that, paradoxically, it’s just this kind of assignment that requires us to stay at our most alert and efficient. So far, we’re staying on top of things; everything remains quiet in and around the Neutral Zone -- too quiet. I almost find myself wishing something would happen.
Kirk made the log entry from his cabin as he dressed, though he wondered as he did so why he was in so much of a rush to get to the Bridge. He had technically overslept, since it was nearly an hour into his watch, but he had needed the sleep...and if anything significant had happened, Spock would have contacted his quarters and awakened him. Nonetheless, as he quickly finished dressing and hurried out the door, some strange sense of foreboding told him that his presence was -- or very soon would be -- required.
When Kirk stepped out of the elevator, however, all appeared to be peace and quiet on the Bridge. Spock turned toward him as he approached and a look of understanding passed between them as the Vulcan got up from the center seat to return command to Kirk; he knew the Captain never overslept unless he had lost a substantial amount of sleep over the last few days -- as Spock knew he had recently. It was, therefore, unnecessary to comment on it.
“Any developments?” Kirk asked, mainly out of habit, as he sat down.
“None so far,” Spock replied as he stepped up to his seat at his own station.
Kirk sighed, watching the main viewer in silence for a time and turning back toward Spock, found his Science Officer completely absorbed in his scanner readings. “Find something?” Kirk asked.
Spock glanced up briefly before returning his attention to his instruments. “A momentary blip… possibly a power surge, but if so, I am unable to identify its source,” he remarked.
“A power surge—”Kirk whirled back to the main viewer. “Then something is out there!” He carefully examined the starfield shown by the viewer, and it suddenly seemed that certain areas were distorted, as if he were seeing the stars through a heat haze.
Suspicious but also uncertain as to whether or not his eyes were playing tricks on him, Kirk glanced back at Spock for verification and found that he, too, was studying the viewer intently.
“Is that what I think it is?”
“If you are thinking that that might be the distortion effect produced by a cloaked Klingon ship, I would say that is a distinct possibility,” Spock opined, turning back to his instruments.
At that moment, several things happened at once. As Kirk turned back to the main viewer, a Klingon ship materialized before them. “Captain!” Sulu shouted.
“I see it.” Kirk turned back to Spock. “Spock?”
“Sensors show it as a K’tinga class cruiser, holding position some eighty thousand kilometers from us,” Spock informed him, then looked around at Kirk in puzzlement. “Most odd, Captain. They have taken no defensive action--not even raised shields.”
“Hmm.” Kirk didn’t believe for a minute that a Klingon ship would venture so close to their own Neutral Zone boundary simply to socialize with a Federation starship. As Kirk was about to ask Uhura to hail the Klingons, Spock got up from his seat and started toward Kirk, a confused expression on his face.
“Jim, the Klingons are activating—” That was all he had time to say before his body was enveloped
in the shimmering light of what Kirk recognized as a Klingon transporter beam.
“Spock!” he cried in alarm. But Spock was gone. “Sulu, go to red alert.”
“Aye, sir...red alert.”
Kirk whirled toward Uhura. “Get me ship-to-ship!”
Uhura started to comply, then looked at him again. “The Klingon ship is hailing us, Captain!” she told him in surprise.
“Intercom,” Kirk ordered, turning back toward the main viewer. The starfield disappeared, to be replaced by the image of a Klingon whom Kirk immediately recognized. The passing years hardly seemed
to have touched him.
“Presently in command of Klingon Imperial cruiser Katara. Good, Captain...you remember. Now we can dispense with the preliminaries,” Kor confirmed, seeming pleased. Whether it was Kirk’s memory, his success in abducting Spock, or something as yet unknown that was the source of his pleasure, Kirk was uncertain.
“So you’re behind this. What have you done with my First Officer?” Kirk demanded.
“Nothing--so far,” Kor replied. “Of course, I do have plans for him. He doesn’t know it, but he just volunteered to be a test subject for a certain...experiment we’re engaged in.”
“ ‘Experiment’?” Kirk repeated warily.
“With a new type of mind-sifter developed by a talented Romulan specialist we’ve employed for
just this purpose,” Kor elaborated, appearing to derive great amusement from Kirk’s reined but increasingly obvious concern for Spock. “She is sworn to produce a device which, unlike the earlier model which your Spock found so easy to resist, it will be as effective on Vulcans as it is on Humans.”
Kirk fought to keep the shock from showing on his face as Kor continued.
“Naturally, we needed a Vulcan to test it on--so imagine my pleasure when it was learned that the Enterprise had been assigned border patrol. Now we can get our test subject without even entering Federa-tion space.”
“Kor, if you think I’m going to just sit here and let you have your way with Spock's mind—”
“You have no choice,” Kor retorted, the smile disappearing from his face. “We’ll return him to you after we’re through, of course...”
“You mean whatever is left of him!” Kirk interrupted, in growing impatience.
Kor ignored him, continuing in a dangerous tone. “...and I warn you against any rescue attempts before then. You no doubt remember that I promised to have the Vulcan dissected; the idea still interests me, and I'm sure it would interest our scientists even more.” He glanced at someone Kirk could not see. “Moni-tor the Enterprise for intership transporter activity. If they try to beam anyone from their ship to ours or vice versa, I want to be notified immediately.”
Kor now turned back to Kirk, and the smile returned to his face, the smile of a predatory animal who has his prey backed into a corner. “There, Captain. As the Earth expression goes, you’re covered. I’ll contact you when we’re ready to return Spock to you. Kor out.” He had forgotten, for the moment, that animals of prey were at their most dangerous when cornered.
Shortly after his discussion with Kirk, Kor left his Bridge and went down to Medical to check on his Vulcan prisoner. Spock was being kept in an isolated section of Sickbay that had been specially equipped
in accordance with the Romulan doctor’s instructions. Personally, Kor had no use for Romulans--and this Romulan in particular--but the order to take full advantage of her special knowledge and abilities had come directly from Klingon High Command, and Kor knew that his personal feelings on the matter would have to be set aside. He had been honored with the responsibility of insuring the success of this new mind-sifter as a weapon against the Federation, and he intended to see that they did not regret entrusting him with such an important mission.
As Kor expected, he found Spock strapped into bed asleep, with the Romulan and two of his own nurses nearby, monitoring his condition. The Klingon nurses saluted as he entered; the Romulan merely looked around at him with a sullen expression on her face.
“Well, Dr. Tashirya? How is our prisoner?” Kor demanded.
“Sedated and resting comfortably at the moment,” the Romulan woman replied. “He appears to be
in excellent health, but some readings are definitely off the Vulcan norm. In other words, Commander, the subject is not a full-blooded Vulcan, and whatever results I get may not be entirely conclusive.”
Kor wasn’t about to admit to not having known this. “He blocked our earlier mind-sifter just as well as any full-blooded Vulcan, Doctor. I think he’ll do,” he countered. “And you, of all people, should be the last to complain about his...bad blood.”
The expression of barely controlled anger on Tashirya’s face in response to this was most satisfying to Kor. “Contact me when he awakens. I want to be here when you start the tests,” he told her, turning to go and leaving Tashirya fuming silently.
On the Enterprise, Kirk was briefing McCoy on what had happened to Spock and they were dis- cussing the situation as Kirk paced back and forth across the Bridge in frustration.
“Jim, we’ve got to do something!” McCoy insisted.
Kirk whirled to face him. “Don’t you think I know that, Doctor? How can I get Spock out of there without putting him in worse danger than he is now? They’re monitoring us for transporter activity.”
“Would Kor really...dissect him?” McCoy questioned.
“He has never impressed me as someone who's in the habit of making idle threats,” Kirk noted, turning to Uhura. "Contact Starfleet and advise them of our situation--tell them that I take full responsibility for any treaty violations that result from rescuing Spock.”
“Yes, sir.” Uhura moved to comply, still speaking to Kirk as she did so. “You realize, of course, that at this distance, it’s going to take at least three hours to reach our nearest base.”
Starfleet had bases near the Neutral Zone, but unfortunately, none were this close to the border in the sector they were patrolling. Kirk considered the situation for another moment, then addressed Uhura again.
“When you’re finished with that, contact Engineering and have Scotty meet me in my cabin.” Then looking toward helm/navigation and back at McCoy in turn: “Sulu, take over here--contact me immediately if you hear from Kor again, or if that ship so much as looks cockeyed at us. Bones, with me; maybe between the three of us we can come up with something.”
Two hours later, Spock finally awoke...and as his eyes focused, he realized he could not move. Before him was the countenance of an unusual-looking Romulan woman, whose dark golden hair was
pulled back in braids that apparently fastened at the back of her head. Her expression of controlled curi-osity, uncertainty, and regret told him that she took no joy in what she was about to do to him, but her manner was one of resigned determination, and Spock’s muscles tightened instinctively as he looked at
“Where am I?” he asked.
“You're a prisoner of the Klingon Empire, presently being held aboard Imperial cruiser Katara, commanded by Kor,” the blonde Romulan told him.
“Kor...” Suddenly the memories came flooding back. Spock had been standing on the Enterprise Bridge, talking to Jim, when the scene had suddenly dissolved and he had found himself in a Klingon transporter chamber. He remembered being surrounded by Klingons, this same Romulan approaching him with a hypo--then nothing.
“Why am I here?”
“I needed a Vulcan test subject for the new mind-control machine I’m working on for the Klingons, and Kor apparently chose you.”
Spock thought he detected a trace of distaste in her voice as she spoke of Kor, but chose not to comment on it, instead merely taking note of it and filing it away in a corner of his mind for future reference. As the effects of the sedative gradually passed, Spock also found himself wondering why a Romulan would be building something destined to become a weapon for the Klingons rather than something that could be used by her own people. At the moment, however, his thoughts were interrupted by the Romulan's voice as she spoke to him again.
“Kor tells me that your name is Spock and that you're second-in-command of the Federation ship Enterprise. Is this true?”
Spock got the impression that she was merely making conversation rather than digging for informa- tion, but thought it best that he remain silent, anyway.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” she continued, a strange expression of understanding in her eyes. “I gave you a complete examination while you were asleep. You’re a very interesting specimen, Spock. You’re half-Human, aren’t you?”
Spock was getting tired of the prolonged suspense and of the Romulan’s apparent attempt to treat this as a social occasion. “I do not see why that should be any concern of yours,” he retorted coolly, with controlled impatience.
Tashirya was given no time to think of a response to this, for one of the Klingon nurses returned. “Notify Commander Kor that the subject is awake and we can begin the tests as soon as he arrives,” she ordered the nurse, suddenly all-business again. As the nurse went to activate the intercom, however, and Tashirya’s eyes returned to Spock’s face, he saw again the expression of mingled regret and resignation within them.
Kor arrived a few minutes later. His eyes met Spock’s for an instant, and an expression of recognition and apprehension flitted briefly across the Vulcan’s face before he was able to suppress it.
It amused Kor, though there was no humor in the death’s-head smile he gave Spock in return. “Greetings, Spock. I see your memory matches that of your Captain. Yes, I brought you here. I regret
the suddenness of your departure, but you would hardly have accepted a formal invitation. By the way, speaking of your Captain, don’t expect any help from him. I’m afraid I’ve put him at something of a disadvantage; specifically, if he makes a single move to rescue you, he effectively donates your body
to Klingon science.”
Spock refused to allow Kor the satisfaction of seeing his reaction to the Klingon’s gloating.
Kor, meanwhile, found himself a seat a short distance away. “All right, Tashirya, get on with your demonstration. Let’s see how this device of yours works,” he ordered.
In spite of his position, Spock’s usual scientific curiosity was aroused, and found himself listening intently as Tashirya spoke. “As you know, Commander, I’ve made extensive studies of Vulcan physiology and psychology. You insist on referring to the machine as a ‘mind-sifter’, though that’s not entirely accu- rate,” she began. “A better name might be ‘mind-inverter’, since what it essentially does is turn the mind inside out. It literally exposes the mind, or rather, its contents. The subject can be made to relive any painful moment he has ever experienced, or it can be altered to be even more painful. Mental images are converted to visual and presented in this viewer, called a ‘thought-display.’ In this way, information can be extracted easily--no matter how much resistance is offered.”
“Interesting,” Kor commented. “However, I don’t have to be an expert on Vulcans to know that their resistance is so high that none of our previous mind-sifters have been able to penetrate it. Are you so certain that this ‘mind-inverter’ will be any different?”
“It was designed to be,” Tashirya returned. “You see, one thing no Vulcan can bear is having his inner thoughts and especially emotions...laid bare before strangers or enemies. He will resist--and the more he resists, the deeper the machine reaches into his mind. And, presumably, the worse the...results.”
“You’d have some idea what to expect, then.”
“Yes.” Tashirya did not elaborate. It was enough that she had to subject this Vulcan who had done nothing to harm her (enemy alien though he might be), to such torture, without also dwelling on the degree and specific nature of the suffering it would cause him.
While they talked, Spock had been surreptitiously testing the strength of the restraints binding him to the table, but his efforts proved futile; the straps were made out of some unfamiliar and exceptionally strong material, and it was clear that he was there to stay. He realized abruptly that Tashirya was watching him, but noticed also that there was nothing resembling anger or reproachfulness to her facial expression. It was more as if she wanted to say something to him--possibly words of encouragement or at least apology--but either could not find the words or was too intimidated by Kor to even search for them.
“Well?” Kor demanded. “What are you waiting for?”
Drawing a deep breath, Tashirya began. Spock watched her and the machine above his head as she pulled down something that resembled a large handlebar with an opening in it and positioned the sides so that his head was in the opening, adjusting it until the ends touched his temples and his head was held firmly between them. She then positioned the viewer so that everyone in the room (including Spock) could see the thought display, and summoned one of the nurses.
“Kara will operate the controls, except in alteration mode,” she announced. “I will monitor the bioscan and thought display. Kara, turn the machine on...start at Level One.”
Kara obeyed, and Spock was immediately aware of something forcing its way into his mind. There was the same revulsion at the forced alien mental contact that he had experienced under Kor’s mind-sifter on Organia, but nothing his mental shields could not withstand.
“Level Two,” Tashirya ordered.
“Level Two,” Kara confirmed, making the adjustment.
Spock tensed perceptibly as the ‘something’ pushed deeper into his mind, but so far his shields remained untested.
“Level Three.” Tashirya’s eyes were on the bioscan as she spoke, though so far the readings remained within normal Vulcan range.
Kara made another adjustment. “Level Three attained.”
Now the unwelcome presence within Spock’s mind began to press itself against his shields with more and more force. Spock closed his eyes to enhance his concentration as he sought to reinforce his shields, but otherwise gave no external indications of the mind-inverter’s effects.
Tashirya’s next words were for Kor’s benefit, though she kept her attention on Spock. “Normally, Level Four would be sufficient for any race without the Vulcans’ natural shielding abilities. On the other hand, even a Vulcan would be in danger of permanent damage from anything beyond Level Six,” she informed him from behind a barely-maintained mask of clinical detachment, then spoke to Kara again. “Level Four, Kara.”
The Klingon nurse complied. “Level Four attained.”
The thing in Spock’s mind continued to exert pressure against his shields, now beginning to break them down as it probed deeper and deeper. As Spock struggled to maintain the shields, the effort it was costing him began to show externally and on the bioscan; his breath began to quicken, and the readings began to fluctuate.
“Your mind-inverter seems to be working as expected,” Kor observed.
“Yes, it does,” Tashirya agreed, making it nothing more than a statement of fact.
“Why the lack of professional pride? You should be pleased.”
“I’m a physician and psychologist, not a torturer,” she retorted. “This is one of the reasons Romu- lans never take prisoners; there's always the temptation to take advantage. And besides, once the mind-inverter has proven itself, it becomes the property of the Klingon Empire and I have nothing more to do
“What you call torture we prefer to think of as a means to an end, one we’re willing to use whenever necessary,” Kor returned.
Tashirya returned her attention to Spock; his condition was unchanged, except that color was begin-ning to drain from his face. “Take it to Level Five,” she told Kara reluctantly.
“Level Five,” Kara confirmed, adjusting the necessary controls one last time.
Within Spock’s mind, the malevolent presence seemed to grow claws and fangs. It tore through his shields with such force and finality that Spock knew that his only means of protection was gone for good. Tashirya strove to ignore his increasingly obvious discomfort, hoping she was at least keeping her empathy for him from showing outwardly. It would do neither of them any good for Kor to get the idea that she had gone soft on her test subject.
“Viewer on,” she ordered abruptly, with forced harshness. “Begin search mode.”
Kara turned her attention to a different set of controls, touching one. Kor stood up, watching in fascination as images sped by in reverse on the viewer.
“Slow it down, Kara. Point seven-five,” Tashirya instructed.
Kara obeyed again, and all watched as the images slowed down enough to be seen and understood.
“Are you looking for something specific?” Kor asked.
Tashirya hid her discomfort at finding him literally looking over her shoulder. “Not at the moment,” she replied.
For the next several minutes, she divided her attention between the viewer, the bioscan, and Spock. His eyes were open now as he, too, watched the viewer through a haze of agony, realizing for the first time what was being done to him and inwardly rebelling--but helpless to stop it. Needles of pain ripped through his mind, tearing every thought and memory from deep within him and translating them into visual images to be displayed on the viewer. And somehow during the increasingly harsh and agonizing probe-and-transfer process, Spock was mentally reliving everything within him, pleasant or not, even as it appeared on the viewer.
Tashirya studied his reactions to certain images with interest and a certain sense of guilt, but was careful to keep the latter hidden. “This is almost...too easy, Commander. His mind is full of painful memo-ries.”
“So you’ll have a greater choice than you expected,” Kor snapped, fortunately too impatient to notice the telltale hesitation in her speech, and eager to see the final test of the mind-inverter’s usefulness. “Go on, choose one and do something with it. My government wants proof that this machine of yours can provide an effective threat.”
“That should be no problem,” Tashirya assured him coolly. She observed Spock again and found him trembling, his face colorless, eyes frozen open in horror, both seeing and not seeing the images on
the viewer. She looked back and forth curiously between Spock and the viewer. “Hold, Kara,” she said suddenly. The image froze. “I think we’ve found our target. Forward search, speed point two-five. Look, Commander--the dark background indicates a dream or nightmare image.”
Neither Tashirya nor Kor could have known the significance of what they discovered: Spock’s previously deeply repressed memories of his last pon farr and the Vulcan ceremony during which he had nearly killed Kirk--followed by the nightmare that had assailed him constantly for the first few weeks afterwards, a nightmare in which Kirk had not survived.
“All right, Kara, we’re going to switch,” Tashirya informed the nurse. “You monitor the bioscan while I operate the alteration controls.” They switched sides of the examination table, each taking the other’s previous position. “Now, Commander, because the subject simultaneously experiences what you see on the viewer, any changes I make there also change the subject’s memory accordingly. In this case, the removal
of a single memory fragment will change the subject's memory of his entire past from that moment on... thus.”
As Tashirya singled out Spock’s memory of the moment after they had beamed up from Vulcan and he had found out that Kirk was still alive, Spock--already in agony after having had his mind torn open and being forced to relive these memories and nightmares--finally succumbed to fear. With his sudden aware-
ness of what was about to be taken from him, Spock’s mind was plunged into chaos and desperation. He sent out a silent cry of anguish to the only person he knew capable of perceiving it.
But Tashirya and Kor heard only the first attempt Spock had made to communicate with them since before the mind-inverter had been activated, little more than a hoarse whisper: “Please, no ...do not do this...”
Kirk, meanwhile, was pacing back and forth in his cabin. “We seem to be getting nowhere fast. Neither of you like my idea, but I don’t hear you coming up with anything better.”
“What we need is a diversion--something to keep the Klingons’ attention off our transporter long enough to beam over,” Scotty decided.
“Like what?” McCoy demanded. “If we do anything that Kor chooses to take as an hostile act, Spock will surely suffer for it.”
“Exactly,” Kirk agreed. “Scotty, they’re going to be monitoring ship-to-ship transporter activity--meaning one transporting back and forth between the Enterprise and Katara. They won’t expect someone
to be transporting from a secondary origin point--like a shuttlecraft.”
“But they’ll see the shuttlecraft being launched,” Scotty pointed out.
“Not if we keep the Enterprise in their line of view and the shuttlecraft behind us,” Kirk insisted. “Once it’s launched, we have it hold at station-keeping directly aft of us.”
“It’s still risky, Jim,” McCoy told him.
“I know. But we don’t have any choice; the longer we delay, the worse Spock may be hurt.”
The looks exchanged by McCoy and Scotty indicated that they were ready to give in. “All right,” Scotty acquiesced. “Do you want me to handle the transporter?”
“Maybe you’d better. And notify the hangar deck--I want a shuttlecraft as soon as they can get one ready.”
Scotty nodded and turned to leave. It was just then that Spock’s agonized mental cry reached Kirk’s mind. Jim! Jim, please stop them ...
The thought broke off abruptly, in the midst of searing pain, and the force of it nearly floored Kirk. “Spock--!” Kirk appeared to McCoy to be in the process of collapsing, and he was at Kirk’s side instantly.
“Jim! What is it?” he asked in alarm, catching Kirk as he started to fall.
Kirk straightened slowly. “I was just...in mental contact with Spock. He’s hurt—they’ve done something terrible to his mind. I’ve got to get to him before anything worse happens.”
“So what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
Kirk met McCoy’s eyes in a momentary acknowledgment of their mutual concern for their Vulcan friend, then both headed for the door.
It had taken only moments to reprogram Spock’s memory once the memory fragment concerning Kirk’s survival of the ceremony had been deleted, but remaining oblivious to Spock’s reaction was proving to be more of a challenge to Tashirya than she had expected. Bioscan readings had settled down almost to normal and his body had become quiet again--unnaturally so--but his eyes bore an empty, haunted expres- sion, and his face was streaked with tears.
Kor, however, was quite satisfied. He normally preferred not to be present when these mind-sifter devices were being used, but he had this time been ordered to personally verify its effectiveness. He took no particular joy in what Tashirya viewed as torture, but there were times it was necessary; Command would be pleased with her mind-inverter. It was regrettable that such a formidable adversary as this Vulcan had to go through such an ordeal--and even more regrettable that he could not be allowed to return to the Enterprise alive, as he had realized since talking to Kirk.
“Most impressive, Tashirya. My report to Klingon High Command will be quite favorable.”
“I kept my part of the bargain,” she stated, doing what she considered a masterful job of hiding the growing feeling of nausea in the pit of her stomach.
“And we will keep ours--all in due time,” Kor assured her, with seeming sincerity.
Tashirya, however, didn’t trust him. “I’ll prepare Spock for his return to the Enterprise,” she told him, turning back to the machine’s controls and reaching for those that were meant to reverse the memory alterations.
“Don’t bother, Doctor. He’s not going back.”
Tashirya stared at him. “But you told his Captain—”
“I’ve reconsidered,” Kor interrupted coolly. “This wonderful device of yours will be worthless if the Federation finds out and manages to get their hands on it. I can’t take the chance that Spock might return to normal and tell all he knows about it.”
“Then what are you going to do with him?” Tashirya asked.
“Oh, eventually I’ll have to kill him, but for the time being, I think I’ll let you study the after-effects of your mind-inverter,” Kor decided.
Tashirya didn’t like his casual tone, and the fact that Kor was now planning to keep Spock here did not bode well for her. Kor, meanwhile, went to activate a desk intercom. “Security, this is Kor. Send two guards to Sickbay. The Vulcan prisoner will be taken to the Detention Area.”
“Security acknowledges. Two on the way.”
“Commander, that’s hardly necessary,” Tashirya protested. “I can take him myself. He’s in no condition to offer any resistance.”
“Standard procedure,” Kor told her flatly. While they waited for the guards, Tashirya replaced the bars holding Spock’s head in place and unstrapped him from the table. He rolled over onto his side and curled up into a fetal position; she reached instinctively but cautiously to help him up, but he pulled away from her touch. Just then, the guards arrived and Kor directed them to the table. “Take him.”
Tashirya found herself elbowed out of the way as two Klingons moved forward, grabbed Spock and pulled him roughly to his feet. However, prolonged exposure to the mind-inverter had left him so weak he could barely stand, let alone walk, and they half-dragged and half-carried him through the corridors to the Detention Area. Tashirya followed watchfully, her thoughts filled with controlled disgust.
At last they arrived in the Detention Area. Spock was taken into a cell and literally thrown to the deck--but before Tashirya could follow him inside, the two guards activated the forcefield across the door and proceeded to beat and kick the already virtually limp Vulcan.
“Stop it!” Tashirya commanded, having finally had all she could take. “Stop it before I report both
of you to Kor!” She estimated that a full five minutes went by, however, before the guards tired of their sport and went back to the door to deactivate the forcefield so she could enter, which she did slowly, now glaring at them in open anger.
“Kor does not take orders from Romulans,” one told her condescendingly. “In any case, what happens to him is no longer of any concern; he’s as good as dead.”
They assumed their posts outside the door and Tashirya started toward Spock, still shouting over
her shoulder at them. “How can I make an accurate assessment of mental after-effects when they’re in-fluenced by unrelated physical injuries? Animals! What honor do Klingons find in attacking an opponent who is incapable of fighting back?”
They ignored her, however, and Tashirya returned her attention to Spock, helping him up on to a nearby cot. Spock curled up again--or tried to--since it was now obvious that his pain was no longer strictly mental or emotional and he could not move without difficulty...and backed away from her as she sat beside him on the cot. She took out her portable bioscan and examined him briefly; he appeared to have a couple of cracked ribs and was going to be sore and bruised for the next few days, but that seemed to be the full extent of his injuries.
Once again, Tashirya tried to touch him. This time, perhaps because he was too tired and sore, Spock did not react, but she could feel his muscles stiffening again in distaste and distrust as she rested her hand gently on his forehead.
“You have nothing more to fear from me,” she said, trying to soothe him.
It was doubtful that Spock understood her words, but something about the tone of her voice had a calming effect on him; he slowly began to uncurl himself and tried to relax.
“Yes, try to sleep now.”
Perhaps in time, Tashirya thought, she might be able to prove to Spock that he could trust her, given the chance--but he had no reason to now, in his condition and after what she had already done to him, so Tashirya finally decided not to waste any more breath trying to convince him.
Scotty had beamed Kirk and McCoy directly to the room in the Klingon Sickbay where Spock had been held, but of course he was gone by the time they arrived. It seemed to take far
too long to locate him, even with the help of McCoy’s tricorder, but they finally reached the Detention Area. The sound of phaser fire brought Tashirya back to her feet, and she ran to the door of her cell, where she found the guards unconscious on the deck—and standing over them were two Humans whom she recognized immediately from the mental images Spock had revealed on the thought display viewer.
They ignored her, now intent on deactivating the force-field that still blocked the door.
“Damn—I was afraid of this,” Kirk muttered. “I’ve never seen a force-field control panel of this design before. Must’ve upgraded everything to match the new ship design.” Naturally, this was the first chance Kirk had ever had to see a K’tinga-class cruiser from the inside.
“Hurry, Jim. The Klingons could pick us up on the internal sensors any time,” McCoy
reminded him urgently.
“I know. I’m hoping I’ve bought us some time by sneaking up on them like this,” Kirk returned.
Tashirya silently watched him fumble with the controls for a few minutes, then, in obvious impatience and frustration, take out his phaser again. At this point, she finally made her presence known. “Captain, don’t. If that control panel is destroyed, Kor’s entire Security force will be alerted,” she warned him.
Kirk and McCoy stared at her, startled and distrustful. “Who the hell are you?” Kirk demanded.
Tashirya came as close as she could to the door without touching the force-field. “All you need to know right now is that I’m someone who can tell you how to deactivate the force-field,” she replied evasively.
Kirk realized abruptly that she must be the Romulan “specialist” Kor had mentioned. It occurred to him that he should not trust her, but he was rapidly running out of time and alterna- tives. “Do it,” he said finally.
“It operates on a color-code sequence, Captain. Push the red button first, then the blue one twice, then the red one twice,” she instructed him.
“Red-blue-blue-red-red,” Kirk echoed, punching it in as he said the words. Immediately, the force-field-on light around the edge of the door went out, and Kirk quickly stepped through, followed by McCoy. Again ignoring Tashirya, they hurried toward Spock, Kirk instinctively reaching his side first.
Spock, who had been lying quietly on his side and trying to rest, stared at Kirk with an increasingly worried expression on his face.
“Spock—” Kirk stopped abruptly, seeing something in the dark eyes he had never seen before. It was not a lack of recognition; quite the opposite. It was more as if the sight of Kirk was physically painful for Spock.
He turned away from the sound of Kirk’s voice, burying his face against the cot. “No… no, please… please leave me alone,” he half-whispered at last, in a muffled and agonized voice.
Alarmed and confused, Kirk whirled toward Tashirya. “What did you do to him?” he demanded.
Tashirya approached him hesitantly. “His memory has been altered, Captain—specific- ally, his memory of you,” she told him factually.
“What do you mean? How?”
She closed the distance between them. “There was a Vulcan ceremony a number of years ago during which he almost killed you—and a nightmare that tormented him for some time after- wards. Do you remember?”
Kirk nodded, his eyes blazing in anger, and only his overriding concern for Spock’s recovery kept him from strangling her then and there. “And you made him relive those memories! You damn—”
“I did more than that,” Tashirya interrupted, clearly taking no pride in what she knew she had to reveal. “I altered his memory of that time by removing from it the moment in your Sickbay when he found you alive. Now the nightmare has become real; in his mind, you are long dead and he sees you only as an apparition—a nonexistent reminder of his guilt in destroying the one thing he valued above all else.”
“My God…” Kirk was too shaken to pay any attention to the note of regret he thought he perceived in her voice and instead simply turned to McCoy. “Bones, can you verify any of that?”
McCoy was already seated beside Spock on the cot, had his medscanner out and was run- ning it around various areas of Spock’s head. “There are indications of some kind of deep shock … evidence of massive emotional and psychological trauma,” he confirmed.
Kirk looked back accusingly at Tashirya. “Is it reversible?”
She was spared having to answer by McCoy’s interruption. “Wait a minute, Jim—that’s not the end of it,” he continued, running the medscanner over the rest of Spock’s body. “There’s physical damage, too. Somebody beat the daylights out of him—two fractured ribs, minor inter- nal bleeding, and a lot of bruising on his upper body. There’s no way he’s going to leave here under his own power.”
Kirk cast another accusing look at Tashirya. “I thought you and Kor were only interested in his mind!”
“I was—that is, Kor was. Captain, I never hurt him physically—on my honor as a Romu- lan; that was the guards’ doing. I was about to see to his wounds when you arrived,” she tried to assure him.
“You’re a doctor?” There was no way Kirk could keep the incredulity out of his voice.
“Yes,” Tashirya replied. At the moment, further elaboration or explanation seemed point- less—and the Human would not have believed her if she had attempted it.
Kirk returned his gaze briefly to Spock, wondering what possible reason the Klingons might have had for physically abusing a prisoner who was already beyond the capacity of being
a threat to them; he then looked back at Tashirya and repeated the question he had asked earlier. “Can you reverse his mental condition?”
“If I could get to my mind-inverter, theoretically. But Kor won’t give me access—he wants Spock to remain as he is. He never really intended to return him to you.”
Again Kirk looked back at Spock, not really surprised but also not wanting to dwell on what Kor’s plans for the Vulcan might really be.
Spock, meanwhile, had become quiet again. As Kirk watched, McCoy tried to comfort him. “Spock…do you remember me?” the Doctor asked softly.
Spock regarded him uncertainly but nodded in response.
“Good. Now, don’t worry; we—uh, I’ll have you out of here in a minute.” McCoy hastily corrected himself in mid-sentence, realizing that, at least for the time being, they would have to assume that Spock would not recognize Kirk’s existence in his present state of mind. McCoy put away his medikit and rolled Spock carefully into a more comfortable position on his back, then rested one hand cautiously on Spock’s shoulder and the other near Spock’s face on what appar- ently passed among Klingons as a pillow—a raised but not-very-soft area at the head of the cot.
With difficulty, Spock moved a little closer to him and reached toward the hand that lay near his face, squeezing it weakly in understanding and appreciation.
Kirk activated his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise.”
Instead of being answered by Sulu, the call was automatically transferred to the Trans- porter Room. “Enterprise. Scott here.”
“Scotty, stand by—we’re going to need to get out of here fast. Have our pilot take back the shuttlecraft; we won’t be using it on the return trip because there’s not going to be enough time. And contact Dr. Chapel and tell her to have a medtable waiting in the Transporter Room.”
“Aye, Captain. Anything else?”
Kirk could see McCoy trying frantically to get his attention. “Just a minute, Scotty… yes, Doctor?”
McCoy nodded toward Tashirya. “She’s the only one who knows what she did to Spock. Don’t you think we’d better plan on taking her along?”
“You’re right; I’d almost forgotten about that.” Kirk spoke into his communicator again. “Scotty, better also have some Security people standing by. We’re going to be bringing a…
“Understood,” Scott replied.
Before Tashirya could decide how to react to this, there was suddenly a great deal of noise outside the cell. She ran to the door and found a large group of Klingons bursting through the Detention Area entrance, Kor himself among them. “It’s Kor!” she cried over her shoulder. In one motion, she grabbed Kirk’s discarded phaser and fired into the attacking Klingons, downing a number of them instantly, but Kor and one or two others rolled clear—Kor obviously heading for the cell door’s force-field controls.
Behind her, McCoy lifted Spock off the cot gently but with difficulty and carried him awkwardly as he and Kirk ran to join Tashirya. Standing almost in the doorway as Kor deacti- vated the force-field, she took aim not at him but at the desk intercom controls nearby, and as soon as the force-field was gone, fired her appropriated phaser at it, just missing Kor as he tried
to get back out of the way. Kirk yanked her clear of the smoke and sparks that rapidly began to fill the office area, back into the cell, and grabbed back his phaser as he did so.
Kor, barely able to see them now for the smoke, was in a fury. “Enjoy your moment of triumph, Captain—it will be brief! I’m not finished with Spock yet—or with you!” he told Kirk in a voice that only hinted at the real amount of anger behind it.
As the remaining Klingons surged blindly but determinedly forward and Tashirya started to draw a dagger against Kor from within her uniform, Kirk deactivated his communicator again, shouting into it urgently. “Scotty, now! Get us out of here!”
The Klingons stopped dead in their tracks as the three Federation prisoners and their Rom ulan “assistant” began to dematerialize and finally faded from sight. Those that were conscious ran out into the corridor for some needed fresh air, and Kor sent someone off to the nearest wall intercom to contact Maintenance. Kor’s First Officer appeared at his side, still coughing intermit- tently. “What of the Romulan, Commander? Do we take her back?”
Kor waited until his own coughing had subsided, now making an obvious effort to regain his composure and reveal no sign of his frustration to his subordinate. “If it were up to me, they could keep the woman and good riddance. Unfortunately, she’s the only one qualified to operate her mind-inverter without supervision, and our orders are to hold her here until the machine can be duplicated and our people trained to operate it. We’ll get her back, and the Vulcan, too. Kirk would give her back rather than risk treaty violation over a Romulan who just ‘tortured’ his second-in-command.”
Christine Chapel had learned of Spock’s abduction at the same time as McCoy, so when the call came summoning a medical team to the Transporter Room, she was ready—having alrea- dy decided to go along herself if Spock was that badly hurt. And she and McCoy had known he would be at the outset; any time a Starfleet officer, a Klingon, and a mind-sifter were brought together, it was generally a foregone conclusion that said Starfleet officer would be left with scars
--mental, if not also physical.
She and a nurse were present with a medtable, therefore, when Kirk, McCoy, Spock and a Romulan woman materialized on the platform. Her eyes immediately focused on Spock as he lay cradled in McCoy’s arms, his head on the Doctor’s shoulder, and her eyes did not leave him
as McCoy carried him over to her. “What’s happened to him?” Christine asked in alarm, helping McCoy settle the Vulcan onto the medtable.
“I’ll explain when we get to Sickbay,” McCoy returned hurriedly. “Let’s go.”
Behind them, two guards quickly disarmed Tashirya as she stepped down off the trans-porter platform, remaining then on either side of her. “Take her to the Brig, sir?” one guard asked of Kirk.
“No, we’ll need her in Sickbay. Bring her and follow me,” Kirk told them.
A few minutes later Spock was settled into a diagnostic bed in an isolated and currently unused room in Sickbay; McCoy gave him a sedative so he could immobilize Spock’s ribs before treating his other wounds. Kirk watched anxiously from across the room, out of Spock’s line of view, with Tashirya, but it was some time before McCoy felt confident enough about Spock’s
condition to leave him alone with Christine.
Finally, however, he went to join Kirk. “How is he?” Kirk asked.
“Physically, he’s going to be fine—although he’s going to have to spend the next few days on his back,” McCoy informed him. “However, mentally…” He looked at Tashirya. “I think you’d know more about that than I would.”
“I know you’re going to have to have someone watching him every minute…preferably someone he trusts,” Tashirya replied, turning her attention to Kirk. “Captain, Spock never dis- cussed his nightmare with you in any detail, did he?”
“No,” Kirk admitted reluctantly, reflecting on his own memories of Spock’s pon farr and the days immediately afterwards. “He seemed so…disturbed by it that I never had the heart to ask him to explain it in any more detail than he did. All I know is that it had something to do with the ceremony and me dying.”
Tashirya nodded in acceptance of this. “I, on the other hand, ‘saw’ all of it, since the mind-inverter displays mental images on a thought display viewer, nightmares and all—and you
should know that there’s a point in this nightmare at which Spock stabs himself,” she revealed.
Kirk was distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of this enemy alien having such intimate knowledge of Spock’s thoughts and emotions, and knew that Spock himself would have been em- barrassed by Kirk discussing them with her if he had been in his right mind, but at the moment they needed whatever input she could provide. “Doctor—” he began, then stopped and started over. “There are too many doctors around here. What’s your name?”
“Most people just call me Tashirya or Dr. Tashirya,” she returned.
“Tashirya, I think you’d better tell me about the rest of this nightmare. Under the circum- stances, I think Spock would understand why I need to know.”
Tashirya nodded reluctantly and spent the next several minutes describing to Kirk and McCoy in as much detail as possible the mental images she had seen of the nightmare which had assaulted Spock so mercilessly after he had nearly killed Kirk at Koon-ut-kal-if-fee. It had begun with Kirk’s death at his hands, then Spock had immediately resigned and presented himself for arrest. The worst part of his nightmare, however, had been that in which Spock, imprisoned in the Brig and en route to a starbase for court-martial, had withdrawn behind a wall of grief and shame, refusing to even take part in his own defense, and finally attempting to take his own life.
And occasionally, the few times when Spock had not awakened himself at that point out of sheer terror, the nightmare had continued to a rather vague conclusion: Spock, abandoned and alone, living out the remainder of his days in a remote penal colony.
Kirk and McCoy both felt sick with empathy for their friend by the time Tashirya finished her account, each calling to mind his own memories of the events surrounding their first terrible experience with pon farr. “Thank you for telling us,” Kirk murmured weakly, at last. “My God, is that what his mind sees as reality now?”
“Yes. Until and unless the mind-inverter’s effects can be reversed,” Tashirya confirmed regretfully.
Kirk regarded her curiously. “Why did you help us rescue Spock, anyway? You didn’t even try to escape when you found out we were going to take you with us.”
“Perhaps it seemed the lesser of two evils, or perhaps I’m motivated by guilt,” Tashirya reflected evasively, uncertain in her own mind about her reasons. At Kirk’s distrustful look, she added, “Captain, do you really think I would willingly allow myself to be transported from my home planet to build mental torture devices for the Klingons?”
Kirk noted the bitterness in her voice but refused to spare it any further thought. “Kling- ons and Romulans have been allies any time it suited their purposes over the last several years; everybody in the Federation knows that.”
“No such ‘alliance’ had anything to do with this incident,” Tashirya assured him coolly. “My government knows nothing about it—nor, in my case, would they be likely to care.”
Kirk decided for the moment not to ask why; instead, he asked, “Were you kidnapped, too?”
“Yes,” Tashirya replied, choosing for the time being not to elaborate, since she did not yet trust either of these Humans enough to tell them any more than that. And again, Kirk did not press her for details; there was no immediate need for the information—so far.
“We could use your help with Spock,” McCoy admitted warily, speaking for Kirk as well as himself and Christine.
“I’ll do all I can,” Tashirya promised, knowing even as she did so that they had little reason to believe her.
At that moment, they were interrupted by Sulu’s voice over the intercom. “Bridge to Sickbay.”
“Kirk here. What’s happened, Sulu?” Kirk responded.
“I think you’d better get back up here, Captain—we’ve been contacted by the Katara again. I have Kor standing by on ship-to-ship.”
When it rains, it pours, Kirk thought to himself. “All right, I’ll be right there. Kirk out.”
“He must want me back,” Tashirya told him decidedly. “The mind-inverter is useless to them without me to operate it.”
Kirk nodded understandingly. “I’ll deal with Kor. You stay here and do what you can to help Dr. McCoy.” As she and McCoy headed back toward Spock’s bed, Kirk turned to the two guards. “Keep an eye on her, but stay out of the way,” he advised.
“Understood, Captain,” they acknowledged.
And with that, Kirk turned and left for the Bridge.
“Let’s hear what Kor has to say,” Kirk said as he stepped out of the elevator and onto the Bridge. “On intercom.”
The starfield and the Klingon ship disappeared from the viewer, to be replaced by Kor’s face as he sat down in the center seat. “Captain, you have something that belongs to me. I want it back,” he told Kirk matter-of-factly, appearing to have calmed himself somewhat since Kirk’s abrupt departure.
“If you mean Tashirya, Commander, I’ll be glad to discuss her return as soon as Spock
is back to normal,” Kirk replied coolly, deciding it would be better, at least for the time being, if he did not reveal what Tashirya had told him by questioning Kor’s right of “ownership”. “Right now, we need her here.”
It was clear from the expression on Kor’s face that this was not a satisfactory arrange-ment. “Her presence won’t do you any good; the mind-inverted was specifically designed to produce permanent effects. The only way they can be nullified is by the mind-inverter itself,” he retorted, matching Kirk’s tone. I’m going to give you exactly two hours to change your mind and return Tashirya to me, Captain. After that… well, I’m sure you don’t want to provoke an incident between the Empire and your Federation.”
Kor ended the communication before Kirk could say anything, and he got up and began pacing thoughtfully around the Bridge.
“Tashirya—is that the name of the Romulan you brought back with you?” asked Sulu, who, like the rest of the Bridge crew, had not been given many details about their “guest”.
Kirk nodded silently.
“What are you going to do with her, Captain?” Uhura asked. “Give her back to Kor?”
“No, she seems too important to him,” Kirk decided. “I think the best idea is to get her
to the nearest starbase and let Starfleet Command decide what to do with her.” Kirk paused, then turned his attention toward the Helm/Navigation stations. “Sulu, keep those shields raised; Kor won’t be able to beam her over himself like he did Spock if their transporters can’t penetrate the shielding to get a fix on her coordinates.”
Sulu nodded in acknowledgment.
“Now, plot a course for the nearest starbase.”
Sulu punched up a chart on his personal viewer and examined it briefly. “That would be Starbase 28—ETA fourteen days at maximum speed.”
Kirk stopped pacing finally and started for the elevator door. “On my order, you will
lay in and execute. In the meantime, keep an eye on the Katara—let’s let Kor sweat it out for a while.”
Again standing in the doorway of the isolation room, Kirk watched in silence for a mom- ent as McCoy and Tashirya hovered over Spock, Tashirya still shadowed by the guards, until finally he was able to catch McCoy’s attention. McCoy went to join him.
“How’s he doing?” Kirk asked.
“I’ve finished treating him, but he’s going to be asleep for another hour or so,” McCoy told him.
“So far, so good. She seems genuinely remorseful and interested in helping undo what she’s done to him,” McCoy remarked thoughtfully. “Of course, I’d be able to tell you more if I’d been around her longer…”
“As it turns out, you’re going to have ample opportunity to test her sincerity,” Kirk revealed—and from the expression on McCoy’s face, it was clear that Kirk had piqued his curiosity. “Get her over here,” he directed.
McCoy left him briefly to return to Tashirya’s side, spoke a few words to her, and she followed him back toward Kirk. “You wanted to speak to me, Captain?”
Kirk nodded. “You were right—Kor wants you back; in fact, he seems willing to risk treaty violation over you. I’ve been given a deadline and an ultimatum,” he told her.
“Are you going to give me back to Kor, then?” Tashirya asked, her voice betraying nothing of the apprehension and distrust now welling up within her.
“No, I’m going to take you to Starbase 28; they’ll decide what to do with you there,”
he continued then, watching her uncertainly for a reaction. “The base is in this sector, but some distance from the border. If Kor wants you, he’ll have to chase us across the Neutral Zone and
through Federation space to get within transporter range of you.”
Tashirya simply bowed her head in acceptance of this. “I doubt his superiors would authorize such an action, even for the sake of the mind-inverter,” she opined quietly. “In any
case, he would surely have to consult them before taking such a drastic step.”
Kirk had been counting on that and was pleased to have his beliefs confirmed, though
just now Tashirya herself commanded more of his interest. “But you have no preference in the matter,” he concluded, puzzled; he had expected her to at least protest being turned over to Star- fleet Command.
“Very generous of you to ask, Captain, but no—it makes little difference to me,” Tashirya returned stiffly. “Whether I remain here or go back to Kor, I will still be a prisoner. If the choice were mine to make, however…it is said among my people that the Federation never mistreats its prisoners. I have no such assurances with the Klingons. And I did promise to help return Spock’s mind to normal.”
Kirk knew somehow that she was still keeping some part of the truth to herself, but decided any further questions could wait until they were on the way to the starbase. Instead, he went to the intercom and contacted the Bridge.
“Bridge. Sulu here.”
“This is the Captain. Sulu, lay in and execute that course change we discussed—warp five. I want to put enough distance between us and the Klingons to be long gone by the time
that two-hour deadline arrives. And have Uhura notify Starfleet Command in case they want
to arrange a rendezvous to pick up our prisoner so we can return to border patrol duty.”
At that moment, Uhura’s voice cut in. “Captain, I just received Starfleet’s answer to your first message.”
“Read it,” Kirk ordered, even though any response was now largely a moot point with Spock already rescued.
“ ‘Message received and understood. Any rescue mission approved--proceed as you think
best, but avoid if possible any actions that might be interpreted as treaty violations. Keep us ad- vised on the situation. Brad Montgomery, Admiral, Starfleet Command, Border Sector 12, Star- base 28.’ ”
“All right, Uhura, thanks. And get the one I just mentioned to Sulu out as soon as you can,” Kirk acknowledged.
“Aye, sir. Bridge out.”
Kirk shut off the intercom and looked over at McCoy. “Bones, do you need Tashirya here right now?”
“No, I suppose not—not with Spock still asleep and trying to recover from his wounds,” McCoy decided slowly.
“Good. She can get some rest, then.” Kirk motioned to the guards, indicating the Rom- ulan woman. “Take Dr. Tashirya to her cell.”
They obeyed, and Tashirya did not offer any resistance.
On the Katara, Kirk’s actions had the desired effect; the Klingons were completely taken by surprise. Kor, having gone down to Sickbay to join some of his medical staff in examining Tashirya’s mind-inverter, had been abruptly summoned back to the Bridge—and he stepped out of the elevator into what now resembled an agitated hornet’s nest. Klingon officers were frantic- ally fiddling with instruments on their control consoles or scurrying around in a sort of battle- ready anticipation that made them look like possessed ants.
Kor’s second-in-command leapt out of the throne-like center seat and snapped to atten- tion, saluting Kor as he approached. “Commander, the Enterprise has broken out of its patrol course and is heading away from the Neutral Zone!” he reported, his voice filled with indigna- tion of a tiger whose whiskers have just been pulled by a mouse.
He returned to his station and Kor sat down, whirling to his Chief Security/Operations Officer. “Lieutenant Klon, have our transporter lock onto that Romulan and beam her back now!” he ordered sharply.
“Impossible, Commander. The Federation ship still has raised shields,” Klon replied, somewhat fearfully, anticipating Kor’s response.
“Blast!” Kor slammed a fist into the arm of his chair.
“I say we go after them!” his First Officer put in immediately.
“I command here, Krev,” Kor reminded his subordinate coldly. “Following them into Federation space would be a clear treaty violation and tantamount to an act of war; only Imperial Fleet Command could authorize such a venture.” He shot a look at his Communications Officer.
“Contact them immediately and advise them of the situation.”
“At once,” the officer replied, hurrying to obey.
Krev approached Kor’s side again. “But we are Klingons! We pursue and destroy when an enemy defies us!” he protested. “Our orders—”
“It is because of our orders that I cannot indulge your eagerness,” Kor reiterated impa- tiently, turning abruptly back to the main viewer in order to hide the infuriating frustration he felt sure must be evident not only on his face but in everything he did or said.
He watched as the Enterprise receded into the distance, longing inwardly for revenge against Kirk and especially Tashirya, but deciding it would be best to keep to himself the fact that he saw no potential for glory in a war begun over a half-breed Romulan and a mind-sifter that seemed diabolical even by Klingon standards. Thus he found both curse and comfort in the know- ledge that Command would probably share the latter view.
“Kirk may be soft, but he’s no fool,” Kor reflected bitterly, but still with a sort of grudg- ing admiration, not having meant to speak the thought aloud. He clenched his fists in anger. “Black Chaos take him!”
Silence answered him, for the Bridge became abruptly quiet again; everyone knew better than to risk crossing Kor while he was in this mood. The loudest silence of all to Kor, however, was that of the Enterprise, which he continued to watch until it passed out of visual range.
The response Kirk received from Starfleet Command indicated that he would have to be responsible for transporting Tashirya to the starbase himself, since there were no other ships available for rendezvous. Fortunately, there was one expected at one of the starbases closer to the border in a neighboring sector, so they would take over border patrol until the Enterprise returned to assume it.
Four days passed while Spock's wounds continued to heal, but his mental condition remained unchanged. McCoy wanted him to recover physically before they began to concentrate on repairing whatever damage had been done to his mind, so Tashirya remained confined to the Brig. He and Christine kept a watchful eye on Spock, however, as she had recommended, though their observation of his condition was hampered by his refusal to communicate with them. He had not spoken since his return from the Katara.
Kirk, meanwhile--when he was not in Sickbay keeping tabs on Spock --spent most of his off-duty time in his quarters, trying to use the ship's computers to do some background research on Tashirya. Late into the fifth day, he was interrupted by a visit from McCoy.
"Find anything?" he asked as he entered Kirk's study.
Kirk shook his head, turning off the viewer. "Not so far. There's no reference to any Romulan with the name 'Tashirya' in any of our Intelligence files," he told McCoy, disappointed but clearly not ready to give up. "But I assume that's not your only reason for dropping by."
"No," McCoy admitted, coming closer. "I wanted to let you know that--aside from some soreness around the rib area--Spock's physical recovery is complete. I need Tashirya again. We need to make a decision on what to do with Spock...either keep him where he is, in Sickbay, strapped down if necessary, or let him return to his quarters under supervision."
"All right, I'll contact the Brig." Kirk regarded him worriedly. "What's your opinion on that?"
McCoy sighed heavily. "At the moment, I'm not even sure I have one. I've never seen anything like this...condition that Tashirya's machine has produced in Spock," he revealed. "He has withdrawn totally--not speaking, very little move- ment; Christine feeds him, I bathe him and help him change clothes. He's almost catatonic. I know he's aware of us and his surroundings, because I've seen him respond when Christine holds his hand--nothing elaborate, just something different in his eyes when he looks at her. And sometimes he squeezes her hand back."
Kirk bowed his head in frustration, furious with the unfairness of the situation. "Damn. I wish I could be with him."
"I know; so do I. But Tashirya seems convinced that Spock would never accept your presence now--and his reaction to you in that cell on the Katara seems to support that."
"Nonetheless, I think I'll go to Sickbay with you," Kirk decided, hitting his intercom button. "Kirk to Brig."
"Brig. Jacobson here."
"Bring our Romulan prisoner to the isolation room in Sickbay. Dr. McCoy and I will meet you there."
"Yes, Captain. Jacobson out."
Kirk turned off the intercom and got up. "Let's go, Bones."
McCoy followed him out wordlessly.
Tashirya was waiting in the isolation room when Kirk and McCoy arrived, but Kirk spared her only a brief glance; he was more concerned with Spock, upon whom he focused his full attention. The Vulcan still lay in bed, his head raised slightly on his pillows, Christine beside him as usual. She was holding his hand again, talking to him softly, her efforts at hiding the depth of her anxiety all too obvious. Spock appeared not to respond, but also appeared calm and somewhat attentive. Encouraged--and having had enough of watching his friend from a distance--Kirk started toward Spock's bed.
"Jim, no!" McCoy protested, going after him and trying to stop him.
Kirk pushed past him, only to encounter Tashirya. "Captain, you have to stay back. He will become violent if he sees you!" Tashirya stood in front of Kirk, refusing to give ground and effectively blocking his view of Spock--and likewise, Spock's view of him.
"Just this once--just for a minute. If he still reacts as adversely as he did before, I'll back off."
She was unprepared for the look in Kirk's eyes and the near-pleading tone of his voice. "I suppose his response to you should be checked from time to time, strictly on an experimental basis, to see if it changes," she admitted, giving in and moving aside.
Kirk approached Spock's bed slowly, Tashirya and McCoy following watchfully, and stood in concerned but apprehensive silence before the Vulcan.
Spock stared at him for a moment with the same expression of agonized comprehension in his eyes that Kirk had seen in his cell on the Katara; he closed them tightly--and with an unintelligible cry, began to flail about with his arms as if to ward off an enemy. McCoy dragged a dejected and unresisting Kirk away.
"Christine, for God's sake, restrain him!" he cried as he retreated with Kirk.
Christine was already strapping the trembling Vulcan into his bed, trying to calm him as Kirk, McCoy and Tashirya went back across the room. "Obviously, no change," Tashirya observed.
"Well, that seems to solve the problem of whether or not to keep him strapped down," McCoy decided.
"If Captain Kirk will stay out of Spock's sight, that shouldn't be necessary, as long as he's being watched carefully," Tashirya assured him.
Kirk looked at her darkly, started to say something, then thought better of it, turned away and walked out. Tashirya thought she could guess the nature of what he had intended to say from his facial expression.
"He's very protective of Spock, isn't he?"
McCoy nodded. "He comes by it naturally, Tashirya; they've been very close for a long time. Spock would be the same way if their situations were reversed," he returned quietly.
Tashirya studied Spock with renewed curiosity and empathy. "I think I begin to understand why there was such fear within him of losing his Captain," she reflected, watching as Spock seemed to relax under Christine's efforts to soothe him. "It must be ...encouraging to know that someone cares more about your welfare than their own."
At once startled and intrigued, McCoy turned to look at her, but she had moved off to Spock's bedside before the Doctor could either see her face or ask her to elaborate.
For the next few days, Kirk did not go to Sickbay at all--knowing he would be unable to resist the urge to go to Spock's side if he did. He remembered what Tashirya had told him about the nightmare and tried to resign himself to the fact that the best thing he could do for Spock was stay away from him and out of the doctors' hair. This made it no less frustrating, however, to have to stand by helplessly while Spock's mental survival lay in someone else's hands, even though McCoy kept him informed about the Vulcan's condition.
Tashirya practically lived in Sickbay, trying frantically but vainly to assist McCoy and Christine in finding some way to reclaim Spock's mind. After five days of futile testing and experimentation, McCoy was exhausted, Christine on the verge of tears and Tashirya nearly ready to give up.
Within the darkness of Spock's mind, the only reality that mattered was that Jim Kirk was dead. Only two entities occasionally penetrated that darkness: Christine, touching and holding his hand, speaking gently to him, and McCoy, trying to encourage him, his voice seeming to come from a distance or from behind a wall that Spock could not break through. Though neither brought him much solace, Spock clung silently and fiercely to his awareness of their existence, unable to reach out through the walking nightmare that imprisoned his mind--recurring visions of claws tearing things from deep within him, followed only by the renewed awareness of his loss.
Christine was standing near him with her back to him, talking to someone else. Spock tried to reach for her hand and was abruptly reminded that the straps prevented him from moving. Fighting through the haze of the nightmare, he forced himself to form a word.
She whirled toward him in surprise, her face radiating hopefulness. "Spock! You spoke! Please, say something else. Tell me what I can do for you."
"The straps...hurt," Spock told her, with difficulty. "Please...I will not hurt you. I just...want to sit up." There were tears in his eyes.
Christine shot a pleading look at McCoy, who silently nodded his permission, and she quickly removed the straps. Spock sat up cautiously, and when Christine again reached for his hand, he pulled his knees up against him, curling himself into a fetal position and drawing himself up against Christine.
"Spock--!" she began, too startled to know how to react.
Spock's body began to tremble. "You once said...you loved me. I...need to know that I still have that love. Please, if I do...just hold me."
Before his voice had faded, Christine had taken him in her arms, and Spock held onto her as if in fear of his life. Tashirya watched them enviously, reflecting on what she had learned of these three Humans who had figured so prominently in Spock's thought-images, and wondered if Christine would be embar- rassed by the dream-images Spock held within him of her. What she had seen of them was quite tame by Romulan standards and would probably be fairly innocent by Human standards--but by Vulcan standards, they were certainly scandalous: mostly having to do with holding, touching and kissing in public.
McCoy, meanwhile, went back to Spock's bedside--like Christine, suddenly full of hope that this signaled a change in the Vulcan's condition. "Spock?" he began quietly.
Spock was quiet again in Christine's arms; his eyes had been tightly closed, but now he opened them again to look at McCoy. "Doctor...you are still here, too?" he questioned.
"Yes, Spock, I'm still here."
Spock closed his eyes again, laying his head back down on Christine's shoulder. "How can you... bear to be around me...after what I have done?"
Cautiously, McCoy reached out to touch his shoulder. "You're my friend," he replied.
With one arm still around Christine, Spock reached up with his other hand to touch McCoy's. "And I have no desire to lose either of you," he assured them. "But I...cannot bear this anymore. Please--I want to die. If you...either of you... still feel for me, please...help me die."
McCoy and Christine stared at each other, stunned by the tone of complete surrender in Spock's voice. Christine just held him more tightly while McCoy looked on in silence; words seemed pointless. Again, abruptly, Spock withdrew into himself, refusing to respond to their attempts to resume conversation and direct it away from the subject of suicide. Eventually he fell asleep in Christine's arms.
"It's no good," McCoy declared in frustration, as the three of them stood around the sleeping Vulcan, grateful that he had been too distracted to be very insistent on committing suicide. "We've tried every drug, every treatment, every form of therapy for mental disorders that any of us knows, and the best it seems to have been able to do is get him back to a verbal communication level. Dammit, there must be something we've overlooked!"
Tashirya had remained silent throughout the conversation, still thinking and reflecting--and finally decided to reveal the idea that had been forming in her mind, as dangerous as it seemed. "Doctor, there may still be a way."
"Let's hear it!" McCoy prompted, wary of anything introduced at this late stage in the progression of Spock's condition, but also willing to try anything possible. "What I saw in Spock's mind seemed to indicate the presence of a mental bond with Captain Kirk," she began cautiously.
"Yes, they have a bond. It's part of what makes their friendship so special," McCoy confirmed. "But how does that help us?"
"The Captain's mind still holds the memory fragment I took from Spock. If their minds were joined long enough--"
"I'm way ahead of you," McCoy interrupted, knowing what she was suggesting and understanding why she hadn't mentioned it before. "But I think Jim should be in on this discussion. Let's continue it in my office after I contact him and he's had time to get down here."
Tashirya nodded in agreement.
Within minutes, Kirk had joined Tashirya and McCoy in the latter's office, while Christine stayed with Spock, continuing to monitor his condition. "All right, Bones, I assume I'm down here because one of you has come up with something," Kirk prompted. "Let's have it."
Tashirya stepped forward. "There's one possibility left, Captain, and it's up to you. A mind-meld with Spock might restore his memory," she revealed.
Kirk's expression conveyed understanding and concern. "But he won't even let me near him!"
Tashirya nodded. "We may have to strap him down again, but that is the least of the dangers involved."
"First, I have no assurance that it will work," Tashirya began. "Spock's present mental condition was caused by my removal of one memory fragment, and just as the mind-inverter took it away, sensing and accepting the same memory fragment within you should reverse the process and give him his memory of you back as he becomes more and more aware of your thoughts.
"If it doesn't work, which is just as possible, the result could be detrimental to both of you. Spock's mind, in its current state, could refuse to accept yours or be unable to sustain the meld--in which case, his mind would be plunged deeper into insanity and yours would become trapped within the madness of his. And even if it works, it will only restore his memory.
"The probing effect of the mind-inverter is unusually ...intrusive, because it was designed to alter its intensity according to the amount of resistance offered. It would make a Vulcan feel...violated. I'm not sure how long it will take Spock to recover from the trauma caused by that." If he ever can recover, she added silently.
"And let's not forget one other thing: I've never tried to initiate a mind-meld before," Kirk added. "I don't even know if I can."
"I assumed that, Captain. If this works as it should, Spock will take over control of the meld soon after you make contact."
Kirk nodded, satisfied, and looked at McCoy, waiting for him to offer an opinion. "Doctor?"
"It sounds to me like we could lose both of you," McCoy concluded, but I don't see that we have any choice. It's a risk for both of you or a certainty of permanent mental disability for Spock if we don't try."
"Agreed," Kirk decided. "All right, let's do it."
When they returned to the isolation room, they found Spock lying quietly in bed, still asleep, one hand still holding Christine's as she once again ran her bio- scanner over him. They went to join her, discussed what they were planning to do with her, and she persuaded them to wait until Spock woke up. In the meantime, Kirk resumed his usual position near the door while McCoy and Christine stayed at Spock's bedside and Tashirya looked on from the end of the bed. The atmosphere grew thick with tension as they waited for Spock to awaken, the silence broken only by occasional forced conversation between McCoy and Christine about Spock's condition.
Finally, however, Spock awoke, and McCoy took the Vulcan's free hand in his. Spock looked up at him, startled, but still seemed outwardly calm. "Spock," he began carefully. "I want you to listen to me... listen and try to believe me. You have a visitor, and I want you to remember, however it seems to you, that he is real."
It was not likely that his words would have any effect once Kirk appeared, but McCoy had to at least try to prepare him. Spock merely looked confused as McCoy motioned to someone out of his line of view--then Kirk appeared and began to slowly approach him. Spock's muscles stiffened perceptibly and he closed his eyes, sitting up and backing away, releasing Christine's hand, but for the moment retaining his grip on McCoy's.
"No, it cannot be...leave me alone!"
"Spock, open your eyes and look at me," Kirk urged, as he reached the Vulcan's side. McCoy released Spock's hand and moved out of the way.
Spock shook his head emphatically. "Please...I did not mean to do it," he whispered.
"Do you remember what McCoy told you?"
"Yes." Spock opened his eyes again and looked not at Kirk but at McCoy in renewed confusion.
"Do you see him, too?"
McCoy nodded, clapping Kirk briefly on the shoulder to prove his point. "He's real, Spock--he's
here and he's alive," he tried to assure Spock.
Spock started to reach toward Kirk, thinking for a fraction of a second that it might be possible just because he wanted it to be, but then the altered reality that he now knew as truth reasserted itself and the darkness of irrationality again enveloped his mind. As it did so often, the nightmare of things being torn from within him by claws returned.
"Then neither of you are real!" he cried, thinking the clawed thing must be responsible for this illusion and striking out blindly--at it, not at Kirk and McCoy.
"Bones, I think you and Dr. Chapel better get back out of the way," Kirk advised as they tried to dodge Spock's flailing arms.
McCoy nodded, looking at Christine, communicating quickly and silently, and they both backed
up toward the end of the bed to give Kirk room. Kirk caught Spock by the arms, holding him as still as he could, though the Vulcan still trembled violently.
"See, Spock? I'm real. I'm touching you. You can feel me," he told Spock.
Fear now mingled with the confusion in Spock's eyes. Could the clawed thing even simulate Jim's touch? "Jim...? No, no, I...killed you."
Kirk could see that there was only one way Spock would ever be convinced. It was time to get on with the mind-meld, as much as he dreaded the possibility that he might do more harm than good. "I'm going to prove it to you," he continued soothingly, reaching up toward Spock's face, at first simply resting his hand on his friend's cheek as he looked into the dark, terrified eyes and tried to calm him. Finally, slowly, Kirk moved his fingers into what he remembered as the mind- meld position Spock had always used.
Kirk entered Spock's mind gradually, in an effort to avoid sending the Vulcan into deeper shock or having his thoughts rejected outright. It turned out to be easier than he had expected--almost embarrassingly so. Spock's normal mental shields were gone, his thoughts and emotions open and unprotected, and Kirk immediately encountered Spock's memory of what had been done to him on the Katara.
Images of memories, thoughts, and emotions being ripped from beneath the Vulcan's usual layers of shielding, publicly displayed and examined in detail by malevolent aliens, burst upon Kirk's consciousness, along with the horror, agony and humiliation that accompanied the memory.
Spock, I'm here. Feel my thoughts, Kirk's mind told him.
From somewhere deep within, beneath layers of darkness and false images--Spock reached out to him, hesitantly touching Kirk's thoughts with great apprehension.
Jim...? It is you! But how? You are...you should be...dead, his mind-voice responded doubtfully.
Kirk's consciousness moved deeper, touching and probing gently, ever aware of his friend's vulnerability, striving to comfort Spock by allowing him to explore his Captain's thoughts freely. No, my friend. That's not really the way it was. Tashirya tampered with your memory, his mind-voice assured Spock.
Tashirya...the Romulan woman?
Apprehension changed to confusion within Spock, then horror as the memory of the clawed thing returned--for now he recalled that his memory of the clawed thing and a Romulan woman named Tashirya had merged and were now one and the same. He shrank from the memory and instead reached out for Kirk's thoughts and the small but genuine thread of hope they offered rather than retreating deeper within himself, as he would have before this mind-meld.
Then I did not kill you on Vulcan? Spock's mind questioned, not yet ready to accept what he would have taken immediately as fact in a normal meld between them.
"No," Kirk revealed the memory fragment taken from Spock's mind--his own memory-image of the moment after their beamup from the ceremony on Vulcan and Spock's announcement to McCoy and Chris- tine of his intention to resign, when he walked up behind Spock and surprised him. Once again, Spock whirled toward him and greeted him with the openly joyous smile and near-embrace that McCoy had never allowed him to forget.
Spock examined the memory carefully and curiously as something previously buried within him
was reawakened. Realization was soon followed by acceptance as he relived the memory through his own thoughts, feeling again what he had felt at the sight of the hazel eyes and lopsided grin that he had never again expected to see, and knew that Kirk's memory of his life since that fateful pon farr--not his own--was the true and factual one. Spock then continued to explore Kirk's thoughts and emotions for a time, purely for the pleasure of being able to do so.
It was the nightmare, was it not? The nightmare was real?
Yes, Spock. Tashirya made it real, Kirk's mind-voice confirmed.
Spock's mind conveyed an understanding that was accompanied by a renewed inner strength, and he was finally able to assert enough control over the mind-meld to break it himself.
The mind-meld had taken only a minute or so in real time, but when they were both released from it, Spock looked at Kirk with full comprehension in his eyes, watching in concern as his shaken friend sought to recover. With much of Spock's mind and its usual receptiveness to Kirk's thoughts clouded by nightmare memories and false images, Kirk had been forced to sustain much of the mind-meld on his own, and the effort had left him unexpectedly drained.
When he finally returned Spock's anxious gaze, the Vulcan's eyes met his briefly, then closed. At that point, he startled Kirk--as well as McCoy and Christine --by moving forward, putting his arms awk- wardly around Kirk and holding him for a time.
Watching him, Christine breathed an audible sigh of relief while McCoy chose to express his verbally: "Your memory's back to normal...thank God."
Christine took out her bioscanner and ran it carefully around various areas of Spock's head, watch- ing the screen over his bed as she did so. "It's true--some of the neurological and psychological trauma seems to have been reduced," she told McCoy eagerly. "Some areas already show signs of healing."
For the first time since returning to the isolation room, Tashirya stepped forward to join them. "The mind-meld does seem to have accomplished its purpose," she acknowledged, looking from Christine to McCoy. "His memory is as it should be, and he accepts the Captain's existence--which is as much as I would have been able to do with the mind-inverter. The mental trauma you're reading remains because his memory of exactly what the mind-inverter did to him is returning and being reinforced."
"All right, do you have any constructive suggestions as to what we can do to complete the healing process?" McCoy asked.
Tashirya shook her head. "Unfortunately, the remaining healing will have to be largely up to Spock himself. Vulcan methods of mental healing are...their own...as I'm sure you know," she pointed out. "From this point on, no drug or form of conventional treatment will do him any good. Give him rest and quiet--and your presence, if he asks for it. Otherwise, he'll have to deal with it on his own."
"You told us Kor wanted Spock permanently incapacitated," McCoy recalled. "You still don't know if he will recover, do you?"
Kirk had been holding Spock and trying to comfort him, but the sound of Tashirya's voice reminded the Vulcan that he was being a little too open in his emotional display; he abruptly released Kirk and looked embarrassed. "I am sorry..."
Kirk smiled at him. "Don't apologize. I'm glad that you recognize me as being alive again," he returned, trying to reassure Spock.
Spock regarded Kirk with veiled but obvious concern in his eyes, seeing the exhaustion still apparent in his friend's face and manner. "Are you all right?"
Kirk was beginning to wonder about that himself, for he still felt dizzy and had a strong suspicion that he was about to faint. "I'm...a little shaky, Spock, but..." Abruptly, Kirk began to fall.
"Jim!" McCoy cried in alarm, examining him as Spock caught him.
"It's all right, Doctor--a side-effect to be expected in a Human who has never initiated a mind-meld before," Tashirya informed him, glancing at Spock for confirmation.
"Quite correct," Spock responded, keeping his attention on McCoy and Kirk. McCoy, too, ignored her, looking to Spock for guidance. "My first inclination would be to give him a stimulant, but something tells me that in this case, rest would be better for him."
"Precisely, Doctor," Spock agreed. "I will see to it that he gets back to his cabin." Still partially supporting Kirk, Spock carefully started to slide out of bed only to discover, much to his embarrassment, that his legs would not support both of them.
"Whoa, Spock," McCoy cautioned, catching and supporting both of them until Spock was able to steady himself. "You're forgetting that you've been in bed for a week. You're in no condition to carry anybody else. I'll get Jim back to his cabin; you I'm releasing from Sickbay, on the condition that you let Christine go with you and follow Jim's example once you're there. You need rest as much as he does."
Something resembling disappointment flitted across Spock's face as McCoy took charge of Kirk, but he gave in, seeing the logic of the recommendation. "Very well, Doctor."
"And remember--just because I'm releasing you does not mean that I consider you fit for duty," McCoy warned.
Spock nodded in acknowledgment.
McCoy then looked toward the guards, pointing to Tashirya. "Security, take her back to the Brig."
The two guards moved forward to flank Tashirya, who turned silently and headed toward the door with them. She had expected no more; after all, she was a prisoner, and her usefulness in Sickbay had come to an end. Spock watched her go, then returned his attention to McCoy and Kirk, who was now standing normally but appeared a little disoriented.
"Bones...what's happened to me?"
"Nothing fatal, Jim. You just need some rest. Come on."
A moment later, they too were gone. Spock looked around to find Christine standing near him. "Ready to go?" she asked.
"Quite ready," Spock assured her, moving cautiously away from the bed toward the door. Christine followed as he proceeded out of Sickbay and through the corridors to his cabin, careful not to offer assist- ance unless he asked for it.
Once there, she watched from a distance as Spock entered his bedchamber and stretched out on the bed. As she turned to leave, he spoke to her. "I...hope that I did not behave too irrationally."
Christine heard the embarrassment behind the tightly controlled voice and went to his side, wanting to reassure him. "Not really," she told him, knowing it would do him no good to know that the most irration- al thing he had done was refuse to allow Kirk near him without becoming violent. "You were just hurt and frightened...but after what had been done to you, I'd hardly call that irrational." It was a clever bending of the truth, but a necessary one, Christine told herself.
Spock lay on his side, looking up at her curiously. "You were with me much of the time, then."
Christine lowered her eyes. "You seemed a little more... responsive to me, so Dr. McCoy decided that I should be the one to supervise your treatment," she explained.
When she looked back down at him, Spock regarded her with a raised eyebrow and an expression which seemed to invite her to elaborate. "You wanted me to hold you," Christine revealed, wondering if this would embarrass him now´as much as it would have in the days before his encounter with V'ger.
Spock lowered his eyes and was silent for a long time as various emotions were stirred within him
at the idea of having allowed himself such close contact with Christine. At last, he spoke again. "Did it help me?"
"It seemed to," Christine replied.
Spock looked back up at her. "Then it was...logical for you to do so, and I have no reason to object," he concluded.
It was not the response Christine had expected, though Spock gave no evidence of embarrassment, only a vague suggestion of discomfort whose exact source she could not identify. She opened her mouth to say something else, then thought better of it and decided to leave well enough alone.
Spock returned his attention to settling into a comfortable position on the bed and prepared to put himself into the customary Vulcan sleep-trance. Christine decided that the most helpful thing she could do for him was to give him some time alone. Spock fell asleep shortly after she left, but it was a troubled, eyes-closed sleep that bore no resemblance to his usual trance state.
A few hours later, Kirk awoke and decided to go check on Spock. He cut through the bathroom, entering as quietly as possible in case the Vulcan was still asleep, moving just as quietly through Spock's study, looking around as he went. The sound of music being softly played drew Kirk toward the partition and into Spock's bedchamber.
He found his friend sitting on his bed and playing his Vulcan harp, as he often did when he needed to soothe himself and bring some measure of peace to his mind. Kirk backed up behind the partition and surreptitiously stuck his head around the edge.
"Am I interrupting?"
Spock looked up and stopped playing, shaking his head. "I had rather hoped you would come over when you were awake," he admitted hesitantly. "I trust you slept well?"
Kirk entered again and went to sit beside him on the bed. "Very soundly. I guess that mind-meld wore me out," he returned, studying Spock worriedly. He still looked pale and drawn, and some nameless agony haunted the dark eyes. "What about you? You still look like hell."
Spock bowed his head, setting his harp aside. "I was not able to sleep for very long. I am finding it difficult even to meditate," he explained.
"You're having nightmares again, aren't you?" Kirk guessed.
Since the nightmares that had followed Spock's last pon farr, he had not experienced others very often--just often enough, however, for Kirk to be reminded that his Vulcan friend was far from immune to them.
"This... is worse," Spock told him in a tightly controlled voice. "The images persist, even when I
am awake: memories and emotions torn from within me...by something that seemed to have claws...ripping through--"
"I saw something of it when we mind-melded," Kirk reminded him, stopping the Vulcan by laying a hand on his arm.
Spock nodded in acceptance of this and llooked up again, knowing that Kirk had seen enough to understand what had been done to him and why he found it so painful and humiliating. Kirk's mention of the mind-meld reminded Spock of something else he needed to discuss, conveniently enabling him to change the subject without appearing too obvious.
"I notice also that you referred to the Romulan as 'Tashirya'. Are you quite certain that is her name?"
"No, all I know is that's the only name she gave us," Kirk explained, at once puzzled and curious. "Why? Do you know some reason why it shouldn't be?"
"Possibly, Captain," Spock elaborated. "'Tashirya' is a Romulan corruption of a Vulcan word in its feminine form-- 't'shir'aia', which means 'outworlder'. It seems an odd name to give one's child, assuming she was given the name at birth."
"Spock, are you sure about that?" Kirk questioned.
"I do have some knowledge of the Romulan language, since it--like so much of their culture--has
its roots in that of Vulcan," Spock assured him. "I am also familiar with the masculine form of the word, 'sishiri'...I heard it from someone almost every day of my life from the time I was old enough to understand what it meant until I left Vulcan."
Kirk's eyes met his understandingly, and Spock's eyes responded with an expression of appreciation amid the turmoil; they both knew that, though Spock had become noticeably less reluctant to discuss his childhood with Kirk since the V'ger incident, there were times when verbal reassurance from Kirk in the matter was unnecessary...and this was such a time.
The Captain's presence was all Spock needed at the moment to remind him that he had found a place for himself among people who accepted him and cared for him as he was, that he was no longer the outcast he had been on Vulcan. Kirk acknowledged this with a smile, which Spock accepted gratefully.
"That would explain why Intelligence has nothing on her under that name," Kirk decided.
Kirk got up to leave. "Well, it looks like I have some more work to do," he concluded, then turned back to look at Spock, remembering his condition and suddenly uncertain about leaving him alone. "Are you going to be all right?"
Spock nodded, not wanting Kirk to know that he had hoped he would stay a little longer.
Kirk, however, read the disappointment in the Vulcan's eyes and wished it weren't so important that he find out what else the woman who called herself 'Tashirya' might be trying to hide from them.
"Try to relax and get some sleep. And if you need me, just let me know," he told Spock as he started for the door.
Kirk returned to his cabin and once again accessed the Starfleet Intelligence files through the ship’s computer, beginning all over again, this time searching according to photo and physical description--a process considerably more tedious than searching according to name, but made easier than it could have been by the scarcity of known blonde Romulans. Several hours later, he had finally found a file containing a photo that definitely matched Tashirya’s appearance; it occurred to him that Spock might have a more-than-professional interest in his findings, and just as he was reaching to activate his intercom, his door buzzer sounded.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“Spock,” a voice replied.
“Come on in, Spock. It’s not locked,” Kirk invited.
“I do not mean to intrude,” Spock told him, entering slowly as the door swished open.
“You aren’t; I was about to contact you anyway,” Kirk assured him as the Vulcan approached his desk. “I seem to have come across some interesting information on our mysterious Romulan prisoner--something in the Command Clearance Only file,” he continued, directing Spock’s attention to the viewer.
“Command Clearance Only” was the generally accepted name for anything in Starfleet’s records that no one under the rank of Captain held a high enough security clearance to see. Under the circumstances, however, Kirk felt compelled to make an exception and allow Spock to see it also. The viewer now dis- played half a page or so of text accompanied by Tashirya’s photo, though the text actually contained little information about Tashirya herself; still, what was there was more than they had known before.
“You were right. Her real name is Aurelia Dynaean, born on the Romulan colony Devia II. Actually, most of this is about her mother. Some of it refers to another CCO file. Her father was a commander in their Imperial fleet, but her mother—”
“--was Human,” Spock finished, intrigued. “That would explain certain things, such as why she was so interested in the idea that I might be half Human.”
“It explains some things, but raises more questions than answers,” Kirk continued thoughtfully. “I think it's time I paid a visit to Miss Aurelia Dynaean and got some answers. Would you like to come along?”
Spock nodded as Kirk turned off the viewer. “Indeed, Captain. I have certain questions to ask, also,” he admitted, turning and following Kirk out.
Tashirya had been sleeping when she was rudely awakened by one of the guards raising his voice at her. “Look alive, Romulan. The Captain’s coming to question you.”
Tashirya got up slowly, stretching, ignoring the brief but colorful burst of Romulan invective that filled her thoughts as her initial reaction, and went to straighten her hair. Prison cells on Federation ships, she noted, seemed to have amenities that the Klingons would have laughed at--such as a bathroom which allowed a certain amount of privacy, and a cot with a reasonably soft pillow and covers that did not leave
her feeling as if she had slept on a concrete slab. And, of course, the hairbrush brought to her by Christine Chapel shortly after her arrival.
Just as she finished, she heard the sound of approaching footsteps and looked around to find Spock and Kirk at the door. The force-field was deactivated and they entered her cell; she left the mirror and returned to stand at attention near the cot.
“From what the guard told us, you’ve been a model prisoner,” Kirk observed. “I trust you’re being taken care of--getting enough food and sleep?”
Tashirya was startled and amused by the question, but recovered quickly as she realized that Kirk undoubtedly just wanted her to be physically and mentally prepared for whatever awaited her at Starbase 28.
“I’ve been...quite comfortable, thank you,” she returned.
“Good. Let’s get down to cases, then,” Kirk continued, assuming a business-like tone and manner. “I’ve done some checking and found out some interesting facts about you. For one thing, your name's not ‘Tashirya’.”
Tashirya stared back at Kirk, giving little evidence of the uncertainty and suspicion that began to fill her. “What gave you that idea, Captain?” she demanded, with obvious defensiveness. “Do you think I’ve lied to you because I’m Romulan?”
“If I thought that, I never would have allowed you near Spock while he was confined to Sickbay,” Kirk assured her. “Nonetheless, you have lied. Spock, fortunately, knows enough about Romulan language to inform me that ‘tashirya’ is not a proper name, and Starfleet Intelligence supplied the rest. I want the real story, and I want it now.”
“And if I don’t tell you?” Tashirya retorted, a note of challenge entering her voice as she cast an accusing look at Spock.
Before Kirk could respond, Spock cut in. “Then I will do essentially what you did to me--I will mind-meld with you and discover whatever it is you are hiding that way.”
Kirk looked at him in surprise; Tashirya saw his eyes flashing with contempt and knew it was no idle threat. Still, her eyes met his with no sign of intimidation.
“No true Vulcan would force a mind-meld, even upon a prisoner,” she reminded him.
Spock merely raised an eyebrow at her. “I doubt any true Romulan would go as far as you did to prove your worth to Klingons,” he countered coldly.
“That’s enough, Spock,” Kirk interjected, wanting to keep the confrontation from escalating further. “I’m sure she’s going to cooperate.”
He turned back to Tashirya expectantly. She lowered her eyes, deciding that defiance was not the sort of attitude that would help her now. “What do you want to know?”
“All right. I know your real name. I know you’re half Human. What about this business of Kor kidnaping you?”
Tashirya nodded, sighing in resignation. “What I tell you now, I tell you in the hope that it will help you understand why I had to expose Spock to the mind-inverter,” she began. “My homeworld, Devia II, is also the home of what you would call a rehabilitation colony--a Fleet-operated treatment center for the mentally ill. Shortly after I was assigned to the staff, I came up with a machine that I believed could be helpful in the treatment of some of the patients. The rest of the staff agreed and it was built, tested, and seemed to work as intended. As far as I know, it still does.
“Recently, one of our Klingon ‘allies’ was brought in and allowed to tour the facility as part of an exchange program--a joint venture by our government and that of the Klingons; he and his party saw my machine and reported back to Klingon High Command about it. Presumably, they believed that we would not willingly share this new piece of technology with them, because the next thing I knew, Kor had been sent to kidnap me and my mother from our home.
“Kor told me what they wanted from me--a new and improved mind-sifter that would be unaffected by mental shields such as Vulcans are capable of--and threatened to kill my mother if I didn’t cooperate. So I rebuilt my machine, this time with their required modifications, and it became the mind-inverter.” Kirk and Spock stared at each other in astonishment, Spock’s expression of emotion consisting mainly of two raised eyebrows.
“How is it that you know so much about Vulcans?” Spock asked, somewhat less harshly than he had spoken to her before.
“Originally, that was my father’s idea. It was thought that if something happened to him and we were deported, as we have expected to be for some time, and found ourselves in Federation space--I could pass as a Vulcan, if I had sufficient knowledge of their ways.”
“Why would you be deported?” Spock wanted to know.
“My mother’s presence was tolerated while my father was alive, though never entirely without distrust,” Tashirya told them. “Now she is considered an enemy alien. I suspect no action has been taken against her so far because I’ve been trying so hard to prove my worth to my people...to prove that I am Romulan, not Human. And still they call me ‘tashirya’--outworlder. I heard it so much more often than
my name that it became my name.
“Before I was transferred back to the Devia II colony, I was assigned to a ship as a medical officer—I wanted to serve in the Fleet as my father had, and wanted to earn the position without him using his influence to get it for me.” Her bitterness was controlled but noticeable. “It lasted for as long as it took my superiors to discover I was half Human.”
Some foreboding instinct prompted Kirk to say, “You have every right to refuse to answer this, because it’s personal, but I’m curious about your father. Do I take it he died in battle?”
Tashirya raised her eyes, more than happy to indulge him this time. “His service record states that
he died in the line of duty,” she returned with obvious pride. “My father was Honorius Dynaean, at the time commander of the Imperial Fleet’s flagship; he destroyed the ship to avoid capture after unsuccessully enga- ging a Federation ship in the Neutral Zone. We never knew the name of the ship or the commander who defeated him, but his death is reported as being an honorable one, in battle with a worthy opponent.”
“How long ago was this?” Kirk asked.
“Some eight to ten Earth years ago.”
Kirk and Spock exchanged looks, communicating silently. Somehow, without knowing why or how and even with the limited information they had, Kirk was sure; something that was more than intuition or instinct but less than verifiable fact told him that it was Tashirya’s father whom Kirk had fought, pursued and outwitted in and around the Neutral Zone, achieving a certain respect-born empathy for him that had not lessened when he destroyed his ship even as Kirk was trying to convince him to abandon his already badly-damaged ship for the Enterprise. Kirk turned his attention back to Tashirya, deciding that a change of subject was definitely in order.
“So you’ve endangered your mother’s life by coming with us to help Spock,” he concluded.
“I saw no reason for Spock to sacrifice his sanity for the sake of advancing Klingon science,” she returned in her usual controlled voice. “Whatever Kor’s intentions were, I never meant it to be permanent.” She paused for a moment, allowing this to sink in, then continued. “As for my mother...I have no idea what will happen to her now, but it was a necessary risk. If Kor decides he can no longer use her to make me do his bidding, she will surely die.”
Kirk hesitated, digesting all this, then asked, “Why didn’t you tell me all this in the first place?”
“We are enemies, Captain,” Tashirya remarked. “I saw no profit in telling you, and it never occurred to me that your Starfleet Intelligence would have any information on me or my family. My parents were mar ried in secret; the only Humans to know of it were within my mother’s family.” She turned to Spock. “I do not expect forgiveness, but I hope you can understand.”
Spock lowered his eyes and said nothing, by now in turmoil.
“I think, under the circumstances, that I understand,” Kirk told her. “Spock...needs some time.”
Tashirya nodded in acceptance of this, all too aware of the degree of shock and confusion in which she had left his mind. “So now you know, Captain. Does the knowledge give you satisfaction? Did either of us benefit from the revelation?”
“I consider myself enlightened,” Kirk assured her as graciously as possible. “Don’t be so cynical, Doctor. You may still be able to save your mother.” He turned toward the door. “Come on, Spock. I think we’ve heard enough.”
Spock nodded silently and followed Kirk out, leaving a puzzled Aurelia Dynaean staring after them.
Kirk, meanwhile, escorted Spock back to his cabin. “Was it really necessary to threaten her with a mind-meld?” he asked as Spock walked across the room to his bedchamber.
Spock paused, not turning toward him. “It does seem that she, in her own way, was as much a victim as I was,” he admitted, trying to keep his voice neutral.
“But you wouldn’t really have done it, would you?” Kirk persisted.
“At the time, I was prepared to do so if you gave me permission,” Spock stated, going to his bed and sitting down with a heavy sigh. “Perhaps it was my...illness that spoke; Vulcans do not approve of revenge, and Tashirya does seem to have made every effort to nullify her mind-inverter’s effects,” he reflected, his voice filled with uncertainty, looking up as Kirk approached.
“But?” Kirk prompted, aware of his friend's turmoil.
Spock hesitated for a long moment. “If I could erase from my mind the memory of...what she did to me, perhaps I could feel...sympathy for her, but I cannot,” he revealed, voice tightly controlled.
“As I told her, you need time,” Kirk reiterated. “I’ll leave you alone for a while.”
Spock stopped him as he turned to go. “If it would not be inconvenient, I would...prefer that you stay with me.” There was a faint but definite note of embarrassment in his voice.
Kirk turned back to him, sitting down slowly next to him. “All right, but I really don’t know what to do to help you.”
When Spock’s eyes met his, Kirk was astonished by the unguarded agony apparent within their brown depths, though the Vulcan’s face was otherwise calm. “I do not require that you ‘do’ anything,” he retorted, more harshly than he had intended. “I only know that I cannot sleep or meditate. It is possible, however illogical it seems, that your...presence might somehow help.”
He stretched out on the bed as Kirk sat beside him, and Kirk, wanting to do something more to comfort Spock and assure his friend that he had his support, took the Vulcan’s hand and clasped it firmly;
to his surprise, Spock squeezed it more tightly than Kirk had expected.
“My friend, you’re going to survive this, I promise you. I know it hurts—”
“It is...more than physical pain,” Spock interrupted. “You could not have felt it all during the brief time our minds were joined. There are a number of...destructive emotions at work within me, emotions I have yet to master.”
“I know that, too,” Kirk continued. “I know you feel ashamed and angry, and want Tashirya to experience the same thing she subjected you to. And all that makes you feel even more ashamed... espe-cially, I suspect, after what she told us.”
Spock closed his eyes and was silent for a time, aware that Kirk was again reading his emotions all too accurately but refusing to admit it verbally.
“Her revelations do not alter the truth, or make her actions any less unspeakable,” he returned. “Neither she nor Kor were seeking information from me; she simply allowed the mind-inverter to demon- strate its various... functions.” His voice faded along with the mask of control as he rolled over onto his side and looked up at Kirk with a naked plea for understanding in his eyes. “Jim, she...raped my mind!”
Kirk reacted in the only way he could: he took the Vulcan by the hands, pulling him back up and into his arms. Spock refused to permit himself any response, except drawing slightly closer. It was more than a little embarrassing to him that he seemed to need Kirk’s presence and consolation this badly, but it was also true that the physical contact--doubtless because of their bond and the increased awareness it always brought him at such times of his Human friend’s affection and concern for him--was like cool,
clear water on an open wound.
“My memories...everything I ever thought, felt, or did... torn from within me by some...thing which probed my mind as if with a needle...”
“Shh, I know...I know,” Kirk interjected soothingly, then added with a noticeable touch of guilt, “I didn’t exactly have permission myself for that mind-meld.”
Spock reached to squeeze his shoulder. “A mind-meld meant to heal is not an intrusion, Jim--particularly if it is performed by a friend.”
“Are you sure, Spock?”
“If you had not done it, I would still be living a nightmare, thinking I had killed you--and I am grateful,” Spock reiterated.
“Nonetheless, it's not an experience I’d care to repeat any time soon,” Kirk decided.
Spock was grateful that Kirk could not at that moment see his embarrassment at thoughts of the chaos that must have greeted him when their minds touched.
“But now we know that you can initiate a mind-meld if the need arises again; the ability may
well prove useful in the future,” he noted, making it clear that he was pleased and appreciative of Kirk’s accomplishment and the risks he had taken in attempting it. Kirk, for his part, decided that this was not
the right time to mention that the mind-meld had been Tashirya’s idea.
“There was a viewer, Jim--I could see what she and Kor were seeing. Some of the thoughts--images of things I...did not know were within me. She was... searching out my most painful memories,” Spock recalled, trying to keep his voice steady. “The last rational thought I remember having...was when I realized she was going to take away every memory I had of you and our friendship since the pon farr. My mental shields were gone, so my mind called out to yours. Not a logical action, perhaps, but the only one possible
at the time. You did perceive it, did you not?”
“Yes, I did--and knew right then that she had hurt you badly. But your mind was already lost before I could acknowledge that I...understood your message,” Kirk assured him, now rubbing Spock’s back and trying to relax muscles that were stiff with tension. “Shh, it’s all over now...”
After so obviously needing to talk, Spock fell silent, sat quietly for a time and let Kirk continue to massage his back, then decided to lie down and try to sleep again. Kirk stayed with him until he fell asleep, then got up quietly and left.
While Spock continued to alternate periods of fitful sleep with attempts at meditation, Kirk went to Sickbay to tell McCoy what they had learned about Tashirya.
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me--not after the way she’s acted since she’s been here,” McCoy concluded, then asked, “Are we going to try to help free her mother?”
Kirk sighed. “I’m planning to mention that in my report to Admiral Montgomery, along with my belief that the situation is desperate and any action should be taken immediately...but beyond that, it’s pretty much out of my hands,” he replied. “Besides, I think we have a bigger problem: do we tell her that we were responsible for her father’s suicide?”
“If it were any other Romulan, I’d say definitely not--because a Romulan’s first thoughts would be
of vengeance,” McCoy advised. “With Tashirya, I’m not sure what kind of reaction to expect. Are you a hundred percent sure that that Romulan was her father?”
“No,” Kirk admitted. “But something tells me he was--a feeling, intuition, whatever. The only way I can be really sure is to show her the part of the log record with his visual transmissions.”
“Then, if you’re asking my opinion, I wouldn’t risk it if I were you.”
“All right, opinion noted.”
“How’s Spock doing?” McCoy asked.
“Hopefully, he’s sleeping now,” Kirk returned. “When I was with him, he couldn’t meditate and wasn’t interested in trying to sleep; he just wanted to talk. So I listened.”
McCoy nodded his approval. “If that’s what he wanted, then you did the right thing. Tashirya seemed convinced that he would have to rely on his Vulcan mental techniques, but if he can’t even meditate, those abilities are probably still impaired. Besides, she doesn’t really know Spock; he may well need some- thing more. It does seem odd, under the circumstances, that she herself would forget to take into account his Human half.”
“I don’t know, Bones. In a way, she knows him better than we do,” Kirk reflected. “She is half Human, after all, and even more out of place in her world than he was on Vulcan.”
“Yes, but from what you told me, that hasn’t changed his opinion of her,” McCoy reminded him.
“Not yet. Things may be different, though, after he recovers.”
McCoy decided to keep his reservations about the possibility of Spock completely recovering to himself. From a psychological standpoint, it would be better if neither Kirk nor Spock knew that it was still quite possible that Spock would never be the same again. If neither of them were aware of the odds against the Vulcan’s recovery, maybe that would be one less thing standing in his way.
Christine Chapel listened in silence from the other side of the office, unseen by either of them, thinking her own thoughts about Tashirya and her underlying similarities to Spock--and considering the implications of Kirk’s final statement.
As the days passed and the Enterprise drew near Starbase 28, Spock remained in his quarters, coming out only occasionally to eat. Kirk still checked on him from time to time and Christine visited
once a day, just long enough to examine him so that she could monitor any changes in his condition,
but mostly Spock was left to himself. Gradually, through repeated and often exhausting effort, his mental abilities began to return close enough to normal that he was able to meditate. And for the first time, Spock was able to center his thoughts on Tashirya herself rather than what she had done to him.
He had already dealt with his humiliation and much of the horror, releasing it with difficulty but
also with gratitude in the comforting security of Kirk’s unreproachful mental and physical embrace. Now,
he realized, it was time to deal with what remained of the pain and anger he felt toward Tashirya. He had already noted similarities between her and himself.
She, too, was half Human and had a Human mother--and Romulans, with the apparent exception of Tashirya’s father, had a deep, instinctive distrust of anyone or anything even vaguely Human. She, too, was considered inferior to her own people and had been driven to seemingly futile attempts to prove herself to them.
Abruptly, Spock realized she must also know the same aching loneliness that he had kept buried deep within himself for much of his life. Could it have been any easier for Tashirya, raised as a Romulan and part of a militaristic society in which all the gentler emotions that he had learned to value were consi- dered signs of weakness? Now, finally, Spock found himself able to empathize with her. She had been forced by Kor to build the mind-inverter in the first place, and had clearly made a genuine effort to remove its effects from him--possibly at the cost of her mother’s life. Surely she had earned whatever help they could give her.
When they were within a couple of days of the starbase, Spock went to see Kirk, his mind so preoc- cupied that he simply walked through Kirk’s unlocked door without announcing himself.
“Captain—” he began, pausing in mid-speech when he saw Kirk at his desk, attention fully occupied by his computer terminal, the desk viewer, and electronic notepad that lay before him on his desk. He looked up at the sound of Spock’s voice, disgruntled at having his train of thought interrupted by the sudden intru- sion.
“Spock, next time kindly contact me before you walk in. I’m trying to finish this damn report for Admiral Montgomery.”
Spock lowered his eyes, ashamed for having assumed that Kirk was just waiting around for a visit from his First Officer. “Of course, Captain. I have no wish to interrupt.” He turned to go.
“Spock, wait.” Kirk pushed the notepad aside.
Spock turned back to him.
“I’m sorry. It’s obvious I need to take a break,” Kirk apologized. “Come on in and sit down.”
Spock obeyed hesitantly, going back to seat himself before Kirk’s desk. Kirk studied him, not having seen him since yesterday. The expression about his eyes was calm now, though he still seemed
very tired. “Dr. Chapel told me you were improving--and you are looking better. How do you feel?”
“Dr. Chapel is correct. I am...recovering,” Spock told him. “I have mastered my...emotions toward Tashirya, and came to inquire as to what your recommendations to Admiral Montgomery regarding her disposition would be.”
“See for yourself,” Kirk invited, indicating the text on the viewer. “Last paragraph.”
Spock studied it, reading part of it aloud.
“ ‘The prisoner has shown genuine remorse for her actions by cooperating fully with us, and was
in fact instrumental in Commander Spock’s recovery. In view of this, and bearing in mind that the prisoner
was herself a captive, forced to meet Kor’s demands in order to insure her mother’s safety, I recommend leniency. I also recommend consideration of the case of her mother, Alana Dynaean, still being held by Kor, for possible further and immediate action.’ ”
Spock looked at Kirk approvingly. “I was about to suggest that as a logical recommendation, since Tashirya’s mother is both Human and a prisoner of the Klingons.”
Kirk nodded. “I thought you’d feel that way eventually. Subjecting you to the mind-inverter was never Tashirya’s idea.”
Spock’s expression in response conveyed a new acceptance of it as fact.
“I’ve included your description of the mind-inverter, and McCoy’s going to make the same recom- mendations in his report,” Kirk added. “I also discussed with him the possibility of telling her the truth about her father. He doesn’t seem to think it’s a good idea.”
“I am forced to agree, Captain. It would only confuse and anger her,” Spock concurred. “To risk that when we are not even entirely certain that it was her father whom we encountered is not logical.”
“I suppose not. Still, she’s been honest with us and I’d like to return the favor,” Kirk admitted.
“I know,” Spock returned. “But I do not believe this is the right time.”
“All right, granted. Anything else?”
Spock hesitated. “Jim, do you think it would mean anything to her to know that I am not angry with her anymore?”
“It might. Would you like to see her?”
“That was my intention.”
Kirk nodded permission. “Go ahead, then.”
Spock got up to leave, raising an eyebrow uncertainly. “You are not going with me?”
Kirk mirrored his puzzled expression. He had always trusted his senior officers enough to permit them unsupervised visits with prisoners, as long as he was told beforehand of their intention to do so. Spock knew this.
Spock lowered his eyes, embarrassed but knowing he would still be uneasy and distrustful in Tashirya’s presence, despite having overcome the anger. “I...would prefer it,” he admitted. “You did say
you wanted to ‘take a break’.”
Kirk acquiesced, realizing he could not expect Spock to suddenly be completely comfortable around Tashirya alone, and got up. “All right, Spock, then let’s go.”
Tashirya was curled up on her cot--no longer in uniform, since Christine had visited recently and given her some of her own clothes to wear--when Spock and Kirk entered her cell. She got up, hastily straightening her clothing as they approached.
Kirk spoke first. “I’ll be back later this afternoon to brief you on what to expect when we get to Starbase 28. For now, I thought you’d like to know that Dr. McCoy and I will both be making reports to Admiral Montgomery. We’re recommending leniency...and will try to see that something is done about freeing your mother.”
As a Romulan, Tashirya had not expected such mercy from her captors; the fact that she had cooperated with them did not change her expectations. “I am ready to accept whatever fate your Starfleet Command assigns me, Captain,” she returned, too proud to have even allowed herself to hope that they would take an interest in her mother just because she was Human.
She had formulated her own plan to rescue her mother, to be put into action after the initial fuss and furor surrounding her arrival at the starbase had died down and she had (as she had assumed she would be) been imprisoned again...escape from the starbase’s Brig, then keep herself hidden for as long as it took her to appropriate a ship. This did not mean, however, that she would refuse help in a legitimate rescue effort if it were offered sincerely.
“Why should you--or they--help an enemy?”
“You helped us,” Kirk reminded her. “And contrary to what you may have gotten used to from the Klingons, we do try to reciprocate.”
“I’m not unappreciative,” Tashirya admitted after a moment of hesitation. “But I don’t think your efforts on my behalf will do any good.”
“We’ll see. Anyway, I think Spock wants to talk to you.”
Kirk stepped aside, retreating across the room--out of the way, but close enough for him to jump to Spock’s defense, if necessary--as Spock moved toward her. Tashirya’s manner softened as she studied him, uncertainly at first, then with a relief that she did not try to hide. His facial expression was relatively peace- ful, though his muscles stiffened as he neared her, indicating it would be sometime, if ever, before he would be able to master his discomfort in her presence.
“The damage I did to your mind seems to be healing,” she noted.
Spock nodded. “Enough for me to realize that you would not have done what you did if Kor had
not forced you. And I apologize for my earlier behavior toward you; you were quite right--I would not have forced a mind-meld with you. As I am sure you knew, I was not capable of sustaining it...and if I had been myself, I would never have made such a threat in the first place.”
Tashirya bowed her head in acceptance of his peacemaking gesture. “You were justified. And perhaps what I said was uncalled for, also.”
There followed an uncomfortable silence, which Spock refused to allow to last. “Tashirya--surely you do not wish us to continue calling you that.”
She looked up at him. “It’s been years since anyone outside my family wanted to use my given name,” Tashirya recalled. “You may call me Dr. Dynaean. I would ask you to call me Aurelia, but you would refuse.” The Romulan paused, meeting Spock’s eyes regretfully. “Spock, I wish we could have met under more pleasant circumstances.”
“As do I,” Spock admitted. “We do appear to have something in common, and I am curious as to how a Romulan copes with being half Human.”
Aurelia bowed her head again briefly before returning her eyes to Spock’s face. “Let us say that I envy you; you have friends who value your life and well-being above their own, and a woman who loves you,” she returned. “They... care about you and accept you as you are. It's not a feeling I’m familiar with.”
“I did not become familiar with it until I had been aboard the Enterprise for a number of years,” Spock told her, becoming a little more at ease. “Not until...some time after Captain Kirk took over command.”
“Your bond with him is very strong, isn’t it? No wonder your fear of losing him runs so deep,” Aurelia observed.
Spock’s manner resumed the formality of the logical front he customarily presented to strangers and almost anyone other than Kirk, McCoy, and sometimes Christine.
“My bond with the Captain is not your concern--and I must ask you to stop referring to things you could not know if you had not seen them when they were exposed by your mind-inverter,” he retorted stiffly and somewhat defensively. There was nothing that could be done about the fact that she had seen so much within him, but he could at least keep her from speaking of it.
Aurelia, too, returned to her usual coolly polite manner, withdrawing her cautious attempt to initiate friendship between them as she realized he was not yet ready for that. If he ever would be, it would be a time of his choosing, not hers. She wondered now if, under the circumstances, she should try to make friends with him at all--for though she felt strongly that he was a sort of kindred spirit, the fact that she was Romulan and he was of the Federation seemed insurmountable.
Even if they had not been political and ideological enemies, she reminded herself that it was unlike- ly Spock would ever come close enough to forgiving her for her abuse of his mind to really become friends with her. Yet a part of her continued to long for some sort of relationship with him. It seemed pointless to admit that the mind-inverter was not her only source of information on Spock’s bond with Kirk.
“I meant no harm by mentioning it,” she told him.
“I have no assurance of that,” Spock countered, unconvinced.
“I give you my word,” she reiterated.
“The word of a Romulan?”
Under other circumstances, Aurelia would have challenged this Vulcan’s obvious questioning of her honor, but for the moment, all she wanted was for him to believe her. She searched for the right words.
“The word of Tashirya…as one outworlder to another,” she returned. “And in the future--as one out- worlder to another--I will respect your wishes regarding… what I saw in your mind.”
Spock met her eyes and saw that she meant it, so he nodded in acceptance and turned to go. “If you are ready, Captain...”
“I’m right behind you,” Kirk responded, starting after him. He paused before Aurelia. “I’ll see you later.”
“Captain, I know I have no right to expect Spock to feel the same way, but I would like to be... something other than his enemy,” Aurelia revealed, blurting it out on impulse before she could stop herself. “Is there no way I can convince him of this?”
Kirk shook his head, startled but recovering quickly. “Not yet, Dr. Dynaean. Maybe after he’s fully healed.”
Aurelia watched him go in silence, infuriated with the foolishness of her admission--and with the Human blood that seemed to have been re-awakened within her since meeting Spock and his friends and now drove her to seek that which was forbidden to her.
Kirk returned to his cabin to work on his report and had been at his desk for some time before realizing that Spock had followed him back inside and was standing on the other side of his study, waiting
to be noticed. Kirk looked him over in puzzlement. “Spock?”
Spock came forward slowly. “I have concluded that occupying my mind with something other than the effects of the mind-inverter may facilitate my recovery, and therefore...would like to request permission to resume my duties.”
Kirk eyed him uncertainly. “Are you sure you’re up to that?”
It seemed to Kirk that Spock responded a little too quickly. “Well, I’m not. We’d better not take any chances. You go down to Sickbay and let Drs. McCoy and Chapel examine you. If they decide you’re fit for duty, you can go back to the Bridge.”
Spock knew from the expression on Kirk’s face that he would not be able to change the Captain’s mind, so he turned and headed for Sickbay--wondering as he did so whether the mental healing he had attained so far would be sufficient to convince McCoy and Christine to allow him to return to duty.
Kirk notified McCoy that Spock was on his way, and he and Christine were ready by the time the Vulcan arrived. Christine examined him in silence at first, carefully studying the bio-scanner display over his head.
“Spock, are you sure you feel physically and mentally able to go back on duty?” McCoy asked worriedly as Spock lay on the examination table.
“I would hardly have suggested it if I did not believe myself to be competent,” Spock returned.
“The instruments agree with him,” Christine pointed out, pleasantly surprised. “The readings are almost normal now--no more evidence of trauma, though his mental/emotional stress levels are still con- siderably up from his norm.”
“Dr. Dynaean did say he would have to heal in his own way,” McCoy recalled. “Maybe this is what she meant.”
“Yes,” Christine agreed, hiding her ambivalent reaction to the mention of Aurelia. She turned her attention from the bioscanner display to Spock himself. “Does the memory still hurt?”
Her voice was so gentle and full of concern that Spock could not condemn her for asking such a question. “It...is under control, though it still troubles me sometimes when I sleep,” he admitted, keeping
his voice neutral. “Filling my mind with other things seems to help; that is why I...have asked to be returned to duty. The Captain is willing to give permission if you and Dr. McCoy agree that I am well enough.”
Christine and McCoy exchanged indecisive looks. “I’m willing to assume that Spock knows what he’s doing,” she told him, realizing that it would have to be up to her, since Spock was technically her patient.
McCoy nodded slowly in agreement. “He does seem to be recovering steadily on his own,” he observed, then looked at Spock. “All right, I’ll certify you fit--on the condition that you stay under medical surveillance. In this case, that means one of us has to be with you on the Bridge. And the first time you show any signs of a relapse, it’s back to your quarters.”
Although embarrassment filled Spock at the idea of McCoy or Christine hovering over him as he worked, he pushed it aside, realizing their concern was justified. “Agreed,” he said.
“Which one of us do you want to go with you?” McCoy asked.
Spock hid his surprise at being given a choice and chose the one who had proven herself capable of expressing affection for him without insulting him (however good-naturedly) or intentionally making him uncomfortable.
“I understand that you had made my case Dr. Chapel’s responsibility,” he responded, deliberately keeping his facial expression unreadable.
Christine lowered her eyes, blushing for a moment before looking back up at him. When she finally did, dark Vulcan eyes searched hers for something she could not identify, and she let him see her gratitude for allowing her to do her job and take care of him.
McCoy smiled secretively at the confused emotions suddenly apparent within Spock’s eyes. “So I did. All right, then, go ahead. I’ll tell Jim.”
As Spock got up and Christine followed him out, McCoy moved to the nearest intercom and con- tacted Kirk’s cabin.
“I thought you might like to know that Spock’s on his way to the Bridge.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Bones?” Kirk questioned.
“I have some reservations, but he seems to have made a respectable amount of progress healing himself--and I sent Christine along to keep an eye on him. I think he’ll be all right,” McCoy assured him.
“If you say so. Kirk out.”
Kirk was not convinced when he turned off the intercom, but for the time being, he was willing to trust in Spock’s knowledge of himself and his own mental condition.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 9007.15:
We are now only five hours from Starbase 28. Admiral Montgomery has been briefed on our Romulan prisoner and will have a security team waiting for us when Dr. McCoy, Commander Spock,
and myself beam down with Dr. Dynaean for her hearing.
Kirk ended the log entry and turned around in his chair to check on Spock, who had been at his station all day without a break. Christine was still with him, nearby, but doing her best to keep out of his way, and her eyes met Kirk's with concern bordering on desperation. They had both been trying intermit- tently for the last couple of hours to get Spock to go back to his quarters, but the Vulcan had stubbornly continued to drive himself--as he had almost from the moment he had been pronounced fit for duty. Kirk understood that it was a form of mental healing for Spock, but enough was enough. He got up and went to join Christine at Spock’s side.
“Spock,” he said softly. “You’ve still got enough time to get some sleep before we dock. If I have
to, I’ll order you to go back to your cabin--but you need rest.”
When Spock turned to look at Kirk, his expression was calm, but exhaustion was written in every line of his face. “Unnecessary, Jim. I am...quite ready to sleep now.” He stood up weakly.
“I’ll go with you,” Christine offered, watching him move unsteadily toward the elevator door. Spock raised an eyebrow at her as she followed him into the elevator, but he did not object.
Once back in his cabin, Spock went to bed and collapsed face down on top of it. Christine stayed with him for the short time he remained awake, and Spock, though too tired to be in the mood for conver- sation, let her sit beside him on the bed as he tried to sleep. Eventually, he turned his head sideways on his pillow to face her, and the last sensation he remembered was of Christine’s touch as one hand took his and, at length, the other began to stroke his hair soothingly--though timidly, as if she expected to be reprimanded if caught--gradually lulling him into sleep.
When Spock was asleep, Christine went back to her quarters to get something before going to the Brig to see Aurelia for what would probably be the last time. Aurelia was preparing to go to bed, wearing a nightgown that Christine had brought on her last visit, examining what she could see of it in the small mirror across from her cot when Christine walked into her cell. Aurelia looked around briefly, giving no evidence of surprise, though she had not seen Christine in several days.
She could not imagine why the woman insisted on visiting her and bringing gifts, but though her warrior training told her to suspect an ulterior motive, she had been unable to find one; she theorized now that Christine--who, under other circumstances, might well have been her rival--felt some sort of kinship for her, probably in spite of herself, because they shared similar feelings for Spock.
“Dr. Chapel,” she acknowledged, turning back to the mirror and curiously fingering the lacy, emb- roidered front of the nightgown. “Do Human women really wear such things to sleep in?”
Christine approached her slowly, faintly amused as she watched Aurelia. “Usually. Do I take it Romulan women don’t?”
Aurelia turned to face her. “Not like this. Not with all this... decoration,” she explained, careful to keep the instinctive, inevitable distaste she felt out of her voice.
A gift given so freely should not be questioned or discouraged, simply accepted; it was the first thing her mother had ever taught her. She yanked herself back to the present, pushing thoughts of her mother aside with deliberate force.
“But it’s better than sleeping in my uniform,” she continued. “Do you have some purpose in being here?”
Christine nodded. “I came to say goodbye. Thought you might like to wear this at your hearing tomorrow.” She held out the dress that was folded in her arms. “It’s Vulcan.”
Aurelia unfolded it long enough to hold it up and see how it looked, then carefully folded it back
up again and placed it on the end of her cot. “Hmm--much as I would have expected. Did Spock give it to you?”
Christine felt herself blush, knowing from the level of embarrassment within her and Aurelia’s reaction that her face must have turned an obvious shade of red. “No...of course not. Why would you think that?”
Aurelia resisted the urge to respond with total honesty, remembering her promise to Spock to keep what she had seen in his mind to herself. “You said it was Vulcan,” she began carefully, “so I thought—”
“No, I got it at a starbase. They have shops that have things imported from all over the Federation,” Christine explained. “Speaking of Spock...I haven’t had a chance until now to thank you for all you did for him.”
“What I did was done to him first,” Aurelia reminded her, shaking her head.
“But after you were brought back here, you did try to help him.”
“As I told the Captain, I never meant to leave him in such a mentally ravaged state if I could help it,” Aurelia reiterated. “So I tried. But I must point out that the Captain had a significant part in it as well.”
“Nevertheless, we--I--are grateful to you,” Christine insisted.
Aurelia noticed her mid-sentence word change and paused, thinking, then looked up and met her eyes again. “I...saw the way you were with him when he was in Sickbay.”
“That--was not Spock. He would never have wanted me to hold him like that if he had been him- self,” Christine assured her.
“Hasn’t he ever allowed you to touch him when he was in his right mind?”
“Well...” Christine hesitated.
It was true that there had been times, such as had occurred in his cabin a few minutes ago, when the Vulcan had permitted her to hold his hand or touch his face, seeming to draw comfort and encouragement from the physical contact--but those incidents were few and far between. Before V’ger, they had been virtu- ally non-existent, except when Spock was sick or injured and confined to Sickbay under her care. Christine reflected that perhaps the encounter with V’ger that had changed so many things for him was also changing what he felt toward her.
“Occasionally,” she admitted.
“I thought so. Don’t be so certain that it was only illness that made him appreciate your...treatment of him.”
It was as much as Aurelia could say without giving away any of what she knew what was in Spock’s mind. As it was, she knew that Christine must know that Aurelia could not appear so insightful unless she had intimate knowledge of Spock’s thoughts--but there was nothing tthat could be done about that. If only Christine had known of the feelings Spock held toward her, buried deep within himself--his inner longing
to respond to her love, tempered by a heavy facade of logic and control...and an inner fear of responding incorrectly, hurting her, and possibly losing that love. Aurelia realized that she had no intention of telling Christine any of this, however, even if Spock had given her permission to do so.
“I haven’t seen him since you told me he had returned to duty,” she continued in an obvious effort to change the subject. “Is he still recovering?”
Christine nodded. “He seems to tire quickly, but I think he’s going to be fine.”
This pleased Aurelia, and she allowed Christine to see it. “Good night, Dr. Chapel.” Then she admitted in a carefully controlled voice, “If I never see you again...I consider it an honor to have worked with you.”
“Spock would never have come this far without your help, Dr. Dynaean. Good night,” Christine responded, turning to go.
Aurelia watched her leave, still thinking of the tenderness Christine had shown Spock in Sickbay and his response to it, again feeling the pangs of the peculiar sort of jealousy that she had never felt before coming to the Enterprise. Spock had a capacity for gentleness and affection which seemed more a strength in him than a weakness.
Whether it was a natural ability imparted to him through his Human half or something he had learned from his Human friends, Aurelia could not tell--but longed to find out, just as she wanted to know
so many other things about him, things the mind-inverter’s thought display had only hinted at. Aurelia now felt within her a growing desire to experience the gentleness she had seen Spock show toward his friends and Christine.
Back on the Klingon side of the Neutral Zone, now several hundred parsecs away, Kor had finally received further instructions from Klingon High Command. As soon as he was off-duty, he went down to
the Detention Area to see his one remaining prisoner. He arrived in time to see one of her guards slapping her.
“What is this?” Kor demanded as he entered the cell.
The guard froze, turned toward him, and saluted. “She was being insolent, Commander.”
“I was merely trying to find out about my daughter,” the silver-haired woman countered. “Where is she? What have you done with her?”
“I have done nothing,” Kor assured her, voice still reflecting the resentment that had lingered within him since the Enterprise’s escape. “It so happens that her test subject was rescued and she was taken along on the assumption that she might be able to reverse his condition. She is aboard the Federation ship Enter- prise, by now undoubtedly being taken into custody at one of their starbases.”
Alana Dynaean lowered her eyes, uncertain how to react. “If they let her live, she’ll find some way to come back for me,” she retorted.
“Command shares your confidence--so you’re going to be here for a while longer,” Kor revealed, as casually as if he were reporting a delay in the evening meal. “We will not be the ones to violate the Neutral Zone treaty, as long as your presence here insures her return.”
“She built your accursed machine for you. What more do you want of her?” the woman demanded.
“Obviously, we need her for training purposes. It may be months--possibly years--before the two
of you exhaust your usefulness to us, Lady Alana,” Kor informed her, oozing obviously forced politeness. He addressed the guard as he turned to go. “See that she is not abused. We need her alive to guarantee the Romulan’s compliance.”
“Yes, Commander,” the guard responded grudgingly.
Alana Dynaean was on her feet by then. “You wouldn’t dare keep us here for so long!”
Kor, however, was gone.
Finally the day arrived for Aurelia to leave the Enterprise. Spock came alone and in dress uniform to escort her to the Transporter Room, and evidenced some surprise at her attire.
“I had expected you to be in uniform,” he commented. “I understand it has been cleaned.”
“I’ve been in uniform during most of my incarceration,” she reminded him. “Dr. Chapel brought me this dress. I don’t suppose it has occurred to you that I might occasionally prefer civilian clothing.”
“You do seem to have considerable admiration for your father’s service in the Romulan Fleet--enough to emulate him in that,” Spock noted.
“We are a warrior race. Serving in the Fleet is considered an honor; that does not mean there are not times when I just want to be...Aurelia Dynaean,” she pointed out. “But yes, I was always proud of my father and my heritage.”
Spock raised an eyebrow at her, curious in spite of himself. “Both halves of your heritage?”
She hesitated, sighing as she reached to gather up her folded uniform. “My Human half has never been anything but a problem. Although...sometimes, especially lately, I wonder if my life would be differ- ent--or better--if I were a full-blooded Human. Is it like that with you?”
“It was at one time,” Spock recalled. “It was not until I left my own people to live among Humans that I began to appreciate that part of myself...and it was years later before I learned to accept it.”
He did not mention that there were still moments when, despite all efforts to the contrary, he found himself wishing he could be fully Human for the sake of those he cared about. Surely Jim, McCoy and Christine deserved more reciprocal friendship and appreciation than he felt capable of expressing.
“Then you’re content to be as you are,” Aurelia concluded.
“I...have learned to be. Or more correctly, am learning. It seems to be an ongoing process,” Spock responded, turning and heading for the door with Aurelia following him.
As they walked through the corridors and down to the Transporter Room, Spock again considered the ambivalent emotions he now held within himself for this woman. It would take more time than they were ever likely to spend together before he would trust her enough to open up to her about himself as easily as
he would have to Kirk, but within him now was a growing need to understand Aurelia. In many ways, it was true that no one could know an outworlder like another outworlder; if he could not give her new insights into her situation, perhaps she could give new insights to him. For the first time, he began to regret that he would not see her again after her hearing.
Kirk and McCoy were waiting in the Transporter Room when Spock and Aurelia arrived, and the four of them beamed down to Starbase 28. As they stepped off the transporter platform, they were met by three men in Security uniforms.
“Captain Kirk?” one said, stepping forward.
“That’s me,” Kirk replied.
“Security detachment to escort your prisoner to the Brig, sir. Admiral Montgomery sent us.”
Kirk nodded. “She’s all yours, Ensign.”
As Aurelia was ushered away, she glanced back over her shoulder, taking a long last look at Spock; the Vulcan’s expression was serene, and that calmness in and of itself reassured her. She knew that he was fully himself again--though somewhere in the back of her mind, a part of her wished that he could at least look as if he would miss her.
“A reception has been prepared in Administration, and the Admiral’s aide will be here shortly to guide you,” the Ensign informed him.
Aurelia was then led away and the three Enterprise men waited as patiently as possible until the aide arrived, a sandy-haired man in a uniform with lieutenant commander's stripes. He urged them to follow him to the administration level; introductions were exchanged along the way, and he hurriedly filled them in as they approached their destination, an anteroom of the Admiral’s office, now decked out in party decorations.
“We’re still waiting for the officers on the hearing board to arrive, so you may have a long wait—that’s why Admiral Montgomery thought the reception might be a good idea. He’ll join you shortly. In the meantime, make yourselves comfortable and help yourselves to the refreshments.”
The aide excused himself and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy stepped into the anteroom alone. They looked around briefly, but only Kirk went to sample the hors d'oeuvres and other food that had been set
out on each of the two long tables; Spock and McCoy seated themselves in the heavily cushioned chairs.
“What do you think they’ll do to her, Jim?” McCoy asked.
“I don’t know,” Kirk replied between bites. “I’m still hoping that the fact that she helped undo what she did to Spock will have some bearing on the board’s decision.”
“I hope they’ll do something to help her mother,” McCoy admitted, sincerely but doubtfully.
“Don’t count on it, Bones,” Kirk advised. “Upper echelon thinking still tends to go along the lines
of ‘A Romulan is a Romulan’.” He glanced over at the curiously silent Vulcan, who appeared to be deep in thought. “Don’t you have some opinion on this, Spock?”
“I hardly think my preferences in the matter would have any bearing on the outcome of the hearing,” Spock returned.
“I wouldn’t be so certain of that,” Kirk countered. “You were the one she used the mind-sifter on, after all. The board might well be interested in hearing anything you have to say.”
Spock sighed and got up, walking across the room to stand silently, hands clasped behind his back and his back to Kirk. Kirk watched him for a time, glancing worriedly at McCoy when Spock failed to either turn back to him or speak further. Neither of them had been sure that Spock was in any condition yet for a confrontation with a Starfleet Admiral over Aurelia, but Spock had insisted on coming along. It was his right, and neither Kirk nor McCoy had had the heart to refuse him. McCoy met Kirk’s eyes with an expres- sion that urged him to go find out what was bothering their friend, and Kirk quickly went after him.
“Spock?” he prompted.
“Captain, I...” Spock hesitated, confused and embarrassed by what he was feeling. “Perhaps it is only Dr. Dynaean’s... similarities to me that are exerting some undue influence over me, but...I find myself unable to want her to be punished. If I had been raised on a Romulan world, I might well have found my- self in the same situation as she; I cannot condemn her for acting out of desperation to save her mother when it is possible that I would have done the same thing.”
“There but for the grace of God go I,” Kirk reiterated, thinking of an old saying he had heard.
Spock turned toward him and regarded him with an uncertain expression. “Then you do not find my ...emotions in the matter...illogical?”
“No, Spock. I think they’re understandable.” Kirk smiled reassuringly.
Any further conversation was cut off by a new arrival, and Kirk could tell from his uniform who he must be. “Admiral Montgomery?”
“You must be Captain Kirk,” the older man responded, coming to meet Kirk.
Kirk nodded as they shook hands, then introduced the other two. “This is Spock, my second-in-command, and the man you saw taking it easy back there is my Chief Medical Officer, Leonard McCoy.”
McCoy, of course, had gotten up as soon as the Admiral had entered the room and was by now approaching them. Montgomery nodded to each of them. “Commander, Dr. McCoy...”
“Admiral,” Spock greeted him formally, muscles stiffening as Montgomery shook his hand, as they always did when he was forced into physical contact with someone unfamiliar to him.
“Pleased to meet you, Admiral,” McCoy put in, shaking Montgomery’s hand with noticeably less reluctance.
“Gentlemen, your reputations precede you,” Montgomery told them, focusing his attention on Kirk and McCoy. “I read your reports on the Romulan prisoner and her mind-control machine. If they had come from anyone else, I wouldn’t have believed it possible that you could take her side in the matter.”
“Without having had firsthand knowledge of the situation and with only our past experience with Romulans to go on, I can’t blame you,” Kirk admitted. “However, after you’ve met Dr. Dynaean and talked to her, I’m sure you’ll agree that she warrants the special consideration we’ve suggested.”
They were interrupted by the sound of an intercom beeping, and Montgomery went to answer it. “Viewer on. Montgomery speaking.”
The face of his aide appeared on the viewer. “The officers are beginning to arrive for the hearing, sir. The Lexington and Intrepid II have just docked.”
“Ah. That’ll be Captain Reynolds and Captain Satar,” Montgomery noted, mainly for the benefit of the Enterprise men. “That’s half the hearing board already.” He returned his attention to the viewer. “All right, Nelson, get yourself down there to meet them and bring them to my office. I want to brief them on the situation before they read the prisoner reports.”
“Understood, Admiral. Nelson out.”
“Viewer off,” Montgomery said then, heading for the door. “Make yourselves at home, gentlemen. You’ll be notified when we’re ready.”
The three from the Enterprise spent the next hour in the anteroom, Kirk and McCoy engaged in some forced conversation and Spock, though silent, eventually joined them in sampling the refreshments, despite the fact that he wasn’t really hungry. At length, the two newly-arrived starship captains who were among those appointed to the hearing board entered the anteroom and began talking to Kirk and Spock.
But Spock gradually began to remove himself from the conversation after talking to Satar long enough to realize that the Vulcan Captain had already formed a definite opinion of Aurelia--and of him,
too. To Satar, invading another’s mind in the way Aurelia had was unpardonable, whatever the excuse ...
and he could not understand why Spock or his friends cared what the board did to her.
Knowing it was pointless to try to explain to Satar his empathy for her as a hybrid with Human blood to contend with, Spock simply did his best to avoid Satar as time passed and the other board members arrived, eventually withdrawing entirely from the gathering, returning across the room to his previous seat in one of the large, soft chairs. Concerned, Kirk followed and watched in silence for a time as Spock steepled his fingers before him and stared through them thoughtfully.
“Captain Satar seems to be getting on your nerves,” Kirk observed.
Spock looked up at him. “I...find his attitude disquieting.” His voice and manner were tightly con- trolled. “I am only now becoming able to understand Dr. Dynaean’s actions. I am still uncertain of my emo- tions in the matter, and now Satar reminds me of what she did to me...”
“I thought you’d decided to speak in her defense if you were asked. Have you changed your mind?” Kirk asked, hoping Spock realized that it was too late for second thoughts.
“No,” Spock replied. “I seem to have achieved a degree of rapport with her, and believe she has been honest with us about her motivations.”
“But?” Kirk prompted.
“It is difficult to explain,” Spock continued. “The... memory remains with me, Jim. I suppose Satar has reminded me that...I can suppress it, but cannot remove it.”
Kirk studied the bowed head for a time, then reached down to squeeze Spock’s shoulder. “You need some time alone. I’ll try to keep Satar and the others out of your way.”
Spock nodded silently in acknowledgment, looking up at him gratefully. But Spock was given little time for meditation or reflection. Montgomery returned to the reception moments after Kirk had left, and it was scarcely half an hour later that the Admiral was contacted by his aide again--then announced to the others that everything was ready for the hearing.
The men from the Enterprise were escorted to another room, which apparently served as a court- room when the need arose, though it clearly was not designed for that purpose. Spock decided that it more closely resembled the Enterprise’s Officers’ Lounge. Montgomery and the other board members took
their places at a long table, and Nelson directed Kirk, Spock and McCoy to seats facing them from a short distance away.
As they watched, the three Security men who had met them in the Transporter Room entered and approached the board with Aurelia in tow. If Aurelia was nervous or apprehensive, she gave no sign of it. Spock saw only the same half-bitter resignation that had been evident in her manner so frequently during her imprisonment on the Enterprise.
Kirk was asked to come forward, then Montgomery began.
“Captain, I and each member of the hearing board have reviewed your report on the prisoner, as well as Dr. McCoy’s.” Having said this, Montgomery addressed Aurelia. “Dr. Dynaean, if you have anything to say in your own defense, I suggest you say it now.”
“If Captain Kirk’s report didn’t make my position clear, I know of nothing I could say to clarify it,” Aurelia returned. “Admiral, I will tell you what I told them: I am not a torturer. No Romulan of honor would be, under normal circumstances, despite what you may have heard. It’s Kor you should be worried about. He still has the mind-inverter.”
“Along with Dr. Dynaean’s mother,” Kirk added.
“Hmmm.” Montgomery spent the next few minutes exchanging speculative looks and muffled words with Satar and the other board members. Then he looked past Kirk to Spock.
“Commander Spock, approach the board.”
Spock got up and went to join Kirk and Aurelia.
“Commander, as the victim of this Romulan, you have the right to a certain amount of influence regarding her disposition. What are your preferences in the matter?”
Spock barely hesitated, remembering that Kirk had prepared him for this. “Admiral, it is my belief that Dr. Dynaean acted under duress. I also share the Captain’s position that Starfleet should authorize a rescue mission to free her mother.”
It was immediately apparent that Spock’s words startled Montgomery, as well as the other board members; it was also apparent that Montgomery was not satisfied.
“Dr. McCoy, approach the board,” he ordered.
“Doctor, you were working closely with Dr. Dynaean during Spock’s recovery,” Montgomery noted. “Is there anything you can tell this board that would convince us that she wouldn’t have tortured Spock without Kor’s threats?”
“If you’ve read our reports, you know she’s half Human--with a Human mother,” McCoy reminded him.
“Yes. An interesting fact, but it has nothing to do with my question.”
“I know. I’m getting to that,” McCoy continued. “Admiral, she worked as hard to help Spock as we did, and if she hadn’t, he wouldn’t be here now. Surely anyone, Romulan or Human, who feels that much genuine remorse doesn't have it within her to deliberately torture someone.”
There was a lull in the proceedings as Montgomery and the other board members exchanged signif- icant looks, communicating silently. “I think we’ve heard all we need to hear. The board will take a recess to make its decision,” he announced.
During the recess, Aurelia was returned to her cell, and Kirk, Spock and McCoy went back to the anteroom where the reception had been held. Most of the food had been cleared away, so Spock and McCoy seated themselves while Kirk paced. They spoke little, each thinking his own thoughts as time dragged on and each coming to the same conclusion: no amount of remorse or efforts to make amends, however sincere, could alter the fact that Aurelia was a Romulan and had mentally tortured Spock. Perhaps they had no right to expect leniency from the hearing board, despite their duly expressed sympathy for her.
Kirk still remembered all too vividly his first sight of Spock after the Vulcan’s exposure to the mind-inverter and in retrospect marveled that any of them could sympathize with her. Suddenly he found it easy to put himself in Admiral Montgomery’s place. Why would anyone who had not spent as much time with Aurelia as he, Spock and McCoy had care what happened to her or her mother--or even believe her?
Because we are not barbarians who condemn without hearing both sides of an issue, Kirk told him- self...and in spite of her warrior upbringing, neither was she. In his heart, Kirk truly believed that McCoy was right. Aurelia was meant to be a healer, not a torturer.
Finally, some hours later, they were summoned back to the courtroom.
“It is the general consensus of this board that Dr. Dynaean’s actions against Commander Spock are unconscionable and demand punishment, whatever the motivation,” Montgomery concluded, when everyone had resumed their former positions. “If it were up to me, she would spend the rest of her life in prison. How- ever—” he paused, addressing Aurelia.
“--since Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Commander Spock seem determined to champion your cause, we have taken their recommendations under advisement. This board voted to contact Starfleet Headquarters on Earth, update them on the situation and agree to abide by their decision. Their response
was as follows.”
He paused again, reading from an electronic notepad on the table in front of him.
“‘Recommendations of Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy re: the Romulan prisoner known as Dr. Dyna- ean duly noted. We consider them valid--also consider Dr. Dynaean’s mind-inverter a definite threat to Fed- eration/Starfleet personnel. No ships available at present to assign to rescue mission, but would like to dis- cuss sabotage mission with Captain Kirk. Prisoner will be paroled into his custody in exchange for assist- ance in this mission. By order of H. Nogura, Admiral, Chief of Staff, Starfleet Central Headquarters, Earth.’”
Montgomery stopped and looked at Aurelia and Kirk. “In other words, Headquarters wants that mind-inverter, and they want you two to take care of it,” he reiterated.
It was clear that he, as well as certain other board members, would have liked to see Aurelia receive the maximum penalty allowed by Federation law for her crimes and was most dissatisfied with being over- ruled in the matter.
Kirk glanced over at Aurelia and found her regarding him speculatively, then returned his attention to Montgomery, nodding in acknowledgment. “I’ll contact Nogura as soon as I get back to the Enterprise.”
Montgomery’s expression conveyed the resignation that accompanied the realization that he had taken this hearing as far as he could; the final disposition of the case had been taken out of his hands.
“Instructions from Starfleet Command are so ordered and Dr. Dynaean is hereby remanded to Captain Kirk’s custody, pending further action by Starfleet Headquarters. Hearing adjourned.”
After beaming back up, Kirk went back to his quarters to arrange a special visual relay to Starfleet Headquarters via the starbase, and while he talked to Nogura, Spock and McCoy waited on the Bridge and Aurelia waited in the Brig. It was nearly an hour and a half before Kirk returned.
“Well, Jim? What did you and Nogura decide?” McCoy asked as Kirk approached the center seat.
“You did seem to spend an inordinately long period of time in conference with him,” Spock observed, getting up from the seat as Kirk reached it.
“All in good time, gentlemen,” Kirk replied, sitting down and punching a button on the arm of the chair.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 9006.16:
The hearing is over. The case has been turned over to Admiral Nogura at Starfleet Headquarters, who has agreed to postpone any final decision regarding Dr. Dynaean until after the completion of our
next assignment--the disposal of her mind-inverter--an assignment which Dr. Dynaean has been ‘sentenced’
to help us with. The Admiral has made it clear to me that much of his final decision will be based on how
she acts during this assignment--how willingly she helps us. If it’s not clear to her, I have to see that it is
by the time we reach the Neutral Zone boundary. However, based on what I know of her so far, I don’t anticipate any problems in that area.
As Kirk switched off the recorder, he noticed Spock still standing beside him. “What about her mother?” the latter asked.
“Nogura didn’t mention her specifically, but I think we both knew that I have no intention of leaving the area without her if I can avoid it,” Kirk assured him. He studied Spock knowingly for a moment, sensing a certain concern for Aurelia that was apparent nowhere except within the dark eyes. “Permission to discuss this with Dr. Dynaean.”
“Thank you, Jim.” Spock appeared somewhat less embarrassed as he turned to go. Kirk’s eyes followed him as he went.
Two weeks passed as the Enterprise continued en route back to the Neutral Zone border. During that time, Spock visited Aurelia when off-duty--and the fact that he did so with gradually increasing frequency did not go unnoticed by Kirk and McCoy, though there arose between them a silent agreement not to ques- tion Spock unless it became necessary. At this point, surely the developing friendship between the Romulan and their First Officer could do neither any harm.
Spock now found himself in the confusing position of being drawn to Aurelia despite his lingering distrust of her; the distrust was gradually fading, however, as he learned more about her and finally allowed her to learn more about him. Christine discovered this subtle change in his feelings toward Aurelia quite by accident, since Kirk and McCoy had naturally not mentioned it to her, either.
She decided to visit Aurelia one day and found her talking to Spock--and instead of following her first instincts and leaving immediately, Christine gave in to her curiosity, taking a position just out of the cell door’s line of view, and listened in silence for a time to Spock and Aurelia’s conversation. At the moment, Aurelia was trying to get Spock to talk about his childhood, but he was still responding only with great hesitation.
“Yes, I, too, would have preferred...at one time...to devote myself to my own people. It became necessary, however, to leave Vulcan.”
“Necessary?” Aurelia echoed, despite already suspecting the reasons behind the necessity. She herself had sometimes been driven by her Human half to consider things that a full-blooded Romulan
would have considered a mortal sin...like running away, fleeing her own people. And herself.
Spock nodded, confirming her suspicions. “I believe you already know why. I endured the situation for as long as I could, even though it was worsened by a certain...lack of understanding on the part of my father,” he elaborated. “Eventually, I became convinced that I could be--more readily accepted somewhere else...and if it had to be outside Vulcan, so be it.”
“So you chose Starfleet.”
“Yes. Much to Sarek’s dismay.”
Aurelia was startled to learn that Sarek, unlike her own father, had reinforced Spock’s feelings of inferiority among his own people, even if unintentionally--and drew her own conclusions as to his reasons for objecting.
“Why Starfleet?” she asked.
“I believed I would be as out of place on Earth as I was on Vulcan, but knew that anyone from any planet in the Federation was eligible to enter Starfleet Academy...and a career in Starfleet would allow me
to closely observe both Humans and non-Human races,” Spock explained.
“You must enjoy it—you’re still in Starfleet,” Aurelia noted.
“It has been...difficult at times, but also rewarding. If not for Starfleet, I would never have met the Captain and Dr. McCoy,” Spock admitted. Their eyes met, and Spock knew that Aurelia understood the significance this held for him.
“And Dr. Chapel?” she asked challengingly, wondering if Spock would admit to Christine’s importance to him.
“Yes,” Spock replied, without knowing exactly why he had said it. Perhaps it was instinct, some previously buried and unknown emotion rooted in his Human half, that told him that Christine, too, had
a place in his life. What that place was meant to be had never been quite clear, which may have been both
the cause and result of his difficulty in accepting what he knew he felt for her.
“What is she to you--other than a woman who happens to be in love with you?”
It was now Aurelia’s turn to speak hesitantly; she knew she was probably trespassing into forbidden territory with this question, but felt compelled to ask it, nonetheless.
Spock raised an eyebrow at her, expression unreadable. “Another piece of information taken from my mind, Doctor?” he demanded.
Aurelia shook her head. “An observation. I saw the way she held you while you were recovering in Sickbay. That wasn’t all just bedside manner; I know a woman in love when I see one.”
Spock bowed his head in order to keep her from seeing the emotions he knew his eyes would reveal. “I consider her...a friend,” he told Aurelia, voice carefully controlled.
“Nothing more?” she questioned.
Spock’s expression as he looked back up at her abruptly indicated that he had revealed all he inten- ded to about his relationship with Christine, and Aurelia respected his privacy by not inquiring further.
“I suppose that’s enough. It would be for me,” she decided. “Spock, I’ve been thinking. If my mother is rescued and your Starfleet Command is willing, I would like to resettle somewhere outside Romulan space.”
“That will be dependent upon the outcome of this mission and Starfleet Command’s final decision regarding your case,” Spock pointed out, hiding his surprise behind his customary mask.
Aurelia nodded. “But if I did that, would it make any difference in the way you felt about me?”
“If you are suggesting abandoning Devia II to live among Humans as I have, I must point out that emulating me might not be—”
“I want my mother and me to have a chance for a new life...maybe a better one,” Aurelia interrupted. “I want to give my Human half a chance. If it worked for you, it might work for me.”
She paused then, her manner softening. “I just want to know if, under those circumstances--knowing
how alike we are--there could be something between us.”
“You seem to be speaking of...something more than friendship.”
“I’m speaking of the future--of the possibility of something more. I just want to know if the
possibility could exist under those circumstances.”
Spock lowered his eyes in growing discomfort. “Dr. Dynaean, you are the first woman I have
met who could truly know what it means to be half of one world and half of another, never belonging
fully to either. You...feel the emotions that I have felt, and I have a certain understanding of you beyond
that of others. But—” He paused, lifting his eyes slightly and noting the brief impression of a shape dart-
ing past the cell door as Christine, deciding she had heard enough, fled the Brig.
Spock knew it was her from the blur of dark hair and medical uniform white that failed to escape
his eyes as she ran by--and from the fleeting mental and emotional impressions emanating from her that swept through his mind and then were gone as quickly as she was. Aurelia saw her, too, and her eyes met Spock's as he turned back to her. Spock did his best to keep his expression from revealing that he had seen Christine, knowing (and secretly caring) why she had fled, but they both knew it was a useless pretense.
“I cannot theorize on any future...relationship based on conditions that do not exist and never may,” he tried to continue as if he had not been interrupted. It was certainly a bending of the truth, but Spock was still none too sure he would ever want that deep an emotional attachment to one who had done what she had done to his mind.
“Back to the present, then. I would still be content with your friendship.” There was a pleading expression behind Aurelia’s eyes as she spoke.
“It might still be difficult, but...I think I would find that agreeable,” Spock decided.
She responded with a small smile, the first Spock had ever seen her attempt. “Difficult is not impossible. It’s a start,” she concluded.
Spock nodded in agreement. “I must return to the Bridge,” he told her.
As he turned to leave, she rose and reached out to touch his hand. Spock recoiled from her touch.
“You allow her to hold you--but won’t even let me hold your hand,” Aurelia observed, bitterness returning to her voice and making it an accusation.
“I trust her,” Spock retorted just before stepping through the door.
Aurelia glared after him resentfully for a time before she was able to redirect her thoughts to something less destructive. Obviously, they weren’t friends yet.
By the time the Enterprise had reached the Neutral Zone boundary, no one but McCoy had seen anything of Christine for several days--and he had only seen her during duty hours. Her absence did not
go entirely unnoticed by Spock, who normally saw her during meals, sometimes in the Officers’ Lounge
or occasionally in the Rec Room, but was given no time to dwell on it; he had been chosen by Kirk to
assist Aurelia and the Captain in completing their mission. When they were approaching sensor range of
the Katara, Aurelia--for the first time, free of her guards and escorted only by Spock--was summoned to
a briefing on how best to dispose of her mind-inverter.
“Destroying it by phaser would take several seconds of concentrated phaser fire, seconds we may not have to spare, not to mention the attention it would attract...but we also can’t just beam it out,” she explained. “It has a force-field around it, and I’m the only one who can deactivate it. Once I do that, I think the best plan is to attach explosives, signal the Enterprise to transport it, then detonate it in space.”
Kirk glanced at Spock expectantly.
“Mr. Scott is preparing the necessary explosives right now,” Spock reported. “He assures me they will be ready when the time comes.”
“Good.” Kirk reached for the intercom button and contacted the Bridge.
“Bridge. Sulu here.”
“Just moving into sensor range, Captain. The Katara isn’t cloaked, and doesn’t seem to be aware
of us yet. Uhura’s picked up some outgoing transmissions, but they were uncoded and didn’t mention our arrival.”
“Maintain our distance...keep that ship just within sensor range, but no closer.”
“Understood. Bridge out.”
Kirk turned off the intercom and looked at Spock and Aurelia. “All right, we need to get started before Kor spots us and cloaks or raises shields. Spock, you pick up your tricorder, the phasers and com-municators, then you two go on to the Transporter Room; I’ll see if I can light a fire under Scotty and
meet you there with the explosives as soon as I can.”
As each got up to go, Spock looked at Kirk with an eyebrow raised in puzzlement. “ ‘Light a fire under—’?”
This was one of the few occasions in Kirk’s memory when he had no time to be amused by his Vulcan friend’s customary bewildered response to his use of old Terran colloquialisms. “Never mind, Spock, never mind. Let’s go.”
Fortunately, Scott had anticipated the immediacy of Kirk’s need, and within a few minutes he was on his way to the Transporter Room with what looked like a small metal box in his hands. “Lock on to the Katara’s Sickbay,” he told Chief Rand, who was manning the control console, as he went to join Spock and Aurelia on the transporter platform. “I don’t want to waste any more time than necessary.”
“Already locked on, Captain,” Janice returned, fingers flying over the controls.
When they materialized on the Katara, they were surprised to find no Klingons on hand to meet them; it was soon clear, however, that their head start was dwindling rapidly. “Several Klingons approaching from that general direction,” Spock observed, consulting his tricorder and turning toward the door of the room they were in.
“How far away?” Kirk asked, not surprised. He knew it was sheer luck that they had managed to get aboard undetected.
“Two decks above us, moving in our direction,” Spock returned. “From their lack of speed, how- ever, it is possible that they are not aware of us yet.”
Kirk nodded. “If they’re headed our way, they soon will know we’re here; we’ll have to move fast. I know where the Brig is, so I’ll go get Dr. Dynaean’s mother. You two take care of the mind-inverter.”
“Captain, I am not at all certain that undertaking such a task alone would be wise,” Spock protested, instinctively concerned for Kirk’s safety but knowing even as he spoke that the risk was unavoidable; Aure- lia could not be left alone because of her probationary status, and it was unlikely that the Klingons would allow them the extra time they would need to free Aurelia’s mother after the mind-inverter had been dis- posed of.
Kirk knew that Spock was aware of this. “Opinion noted,” he responded, eyes conveying understan- ding as he handed the explosive to Aurelia but looked at Spock. “If I’m not back here by the time you finish, don’t wait. Get yourselves back to the Enterprise. If I haven’t contacted you within a reasonable period after that, just beam me back.”
“And if Kor chooses to cloak, or raise shields?”
“I’ll think of something.” Kirk gave an elaborate shrug. “Maybe I can keep him busy enough that he won’t have time.”
“Captain—” Spock began.
“Don’t worry, Spock. I’ll be careful,” Kirk assured him. Then he turned to go.
Spock watched him until he had stepped through the door, then turned back to Aurelia. “Where is it?” he asked.
“I’ll show you.” Spock followed her through Sickbay to a door in an isolated section, where she paused as he consulted his tricorder display.
“More Klingons within,” he informed her.
“Guards, undoubtedly. I told you Kor wanted that mind-inverter kept safe--although by now he would have discovered the force-field.”
Spock nodded, setting his phaser on heavy stun. “Stay behind me. I will cover you.”
Aurelia had been meaning to speak to him about that. “Spock, I’m not a child; I know how to use
a phaser. Wouldn't you rather give me one and let me work with you rather than withhold it out of fear and make me a hindrance to you?” she demanded indignantly.
“Fear has nothing to do with it. Starfleet regulations are quite clear in such matters,” Spock returned. “Besides, it remains to be seen whether or not you will be a hindrance.”
Aurelia glanced at him sharply, but decided for the time being to leave well enough alone.
Apparently, the interior guards were considered sufficient protection, for Spock found the door unlocked. Together, they burst through it into the room, successfully startling the two guards enough so
that Spock was able to stun one before he was able to reach his own weapon. Aurelia saw the other leaping forward toward a desktop control console. “He’s going for the intercom!” she cried, rushing forward and throwing herself on top of him.
The Klingon was knocked to the deck by the force of her impact, though Aurelia did not have a great deal of weight to put behind it (being rather small by Romulan standards), and once down, she sat on him to prevent him from getting back up. Spock saw her reaching for his throat and recognized the position of her hand, noting without much surprise that she was familiar with the ancient Vulcan method of execution called tal-shaya.
“It is not necessary to kill him,” he told her.
“I suppose you’re right,” Aurelia replied, changing the position of her hand slightly and giving the Klingon a nerve pinch instead.
Spock thought the detected disappointment in her voice, but he had no time to dwell on it. With both Klingons unconscious, they turned their attention to the mind-inverter. Aurelia stood up and stepped clear
of the unconscious bodies, pulling something which Spock deduced to be a control unit of some sort from inside her belt, aiming it at the machine and punching its controls in a pre-designated sequence. It beeped once.
“The force-field is down now,” she announced.
Spock nodded. “Good. Do you require assistance with the explosives?”
“No, I think I can handle it,” Aurelia returned, already attaching the metal box to the side of her machine and flicking a switch on it. “Set. There’s a thirty-second time delay.”
As Spock activated his communicator, the door opened again and four Klingons came hurtling through it into the room. “Spock to Enterprise. The machine is ready--transport now!” he said urgently, pulling Aurelia out of the way as the mind-inverter began to dematerialize and one of the Klingons sprayed
a burst of disruptor fire across the area where she had been standing.
“Take cover, Doctor!” he directed, drawing his phaser again. The trouble with Spock’s suggestion was that there weren’t many hiding places in the room. Finally, however, Aurelia located a table and reluctantly ducked underneath it--surreptitiously grabbing a disruptor from one of the downed Klingons.
Before Spock had time to either return the Klingons’ fire or make any conscious attempt to divert their attention from Aurelia, two of them were on top of him. A scuffle followed in which Spock’s phaser was useless and in fact he did well to hold onto it--and Aurelia, unable to fire at Spock’s attackers for fear
of hurting him, targeted the other two Klingons.
Even as one collapsed, Spock had managed to drop one of the two still grappling with him with a nerve pinch, and his phaser was inadvertently activated underneath the other Klingon, firing and killing him instantly. That left one unscathed Klingon again making a mad dash for the intercom, and Spock and Aurelia saw him at the same time.
Aurelia, however, was closer, and she decided to destroy the intercom controls instead of aiming
at the Klingon. He was thrown clear by the resulting explosion, and once he had recovered, fled the room.
When it was all over, Spock and Aurelia were left standing amid the debris, smoke, sparks and unconscious Klingon bodies. They stared at each other through the dissipating smoke, triumphant but shaken, aware that their victory was momentary and incomplete but uncertain of what to do next. They finally decided that the best thing to do for the moment would be to get out of the smoke and get some fresh air; they had barely stepped through the door when Spock belatedly realized that his communicator was beeping and reached to answer it.
“This is Sulu, Mr. Spock. Sensors show the mind-inverter has detonated in space, just as we planned.”
“Understood,” Spock replied, partially relieved. “Has the Captain contacted you yet?”
“No. Should I try to reach him?” Sulu asked.
“Negative. I will deal with it here. Spock out.” With his communicator deactivated, Spock now allowed himself to focus his thoughts on Kirk and his probable danger.
“It won’t be long before more Klingons arrive,” Aurelia pointed out.
“I am quite aware of that,” Spock retorted, impatience edging his voice and belying his otherwise controlled demeanor as he reached down to pick up the tricorder he had dropped during the fighting and consulting its readout display.
“Shouldn’t we get out while we can? He told us not to wait.”
“I do not need you to remind me of the Captain’s orders,” Spock shot back. “With all the knowledge you now profess to have of my thoughts and emotions, you should know that I cannot leave until I am certain he is safe.”
Spock averted his eyes, abruptly falling silent, and Aurelia did not pursue the subject any further, since she knew that she would not be able to dissuade him. And she realized abruptly that she wanted to stay, too--just long enough to see that her mother was successfully liberated from the hands of the Klingons.
“So we wait,” she agreed quietly.
It was doubtful that Spock even heard her, for his thoughts were still with Kirk--even though he knew that, logically, he and Aurelia should have returned to the Enterprise. For the time being, they waited.
At that moment on the Katara’s Bridge, Kor’s Chief Security Officer turned to him. “Commander, Security reports alien intruders detected aboard!”
Kor nodded curtly, giving no evidence of surprise. “How many?”
“Three,” Klon replied. “From their readings, the Earther Commander, the Vulcan, and that Romu- lan.”
“How convenient,” Kor noted; he turned toward the main viewer but could see nothing.
The Enterprise was apparently keeping itself out of visual range, though he knew it must have just come within sensor range or Kirk and the other two could not have gotten aboard. Monitoring external sensors was Krev’s responsibility, but Kor decided to deal with him for his lack of vigilance later; he made no mention of it as he turned to his First Officer now.
“Krev, take a detachment and find them. I want Tashirya alive--and for the time being, the Vulcan, too.”
Krev started for the door, glancing one last time at Kor. “And Kirk?”
Kor dismissed that subject with a wave of his hand. “I would prefer him alive, but use whatever means necessary to stop him. If you can’t bring him to me alive, bring him to me dead.”
Krev saluted and left the Bridge as Kor wheeled back toward the helm/navigation station.
“Prepare to cloak on my signal,” he ordered. “I don’t know what Kirk has in mind, but just let him try to get away now!”
In the meantime, Kirk was making his way toward the Detention Area, hampered by the increas- ingly frequent diversions that were necessary to avoid the Klingons that were now everywhere. Still, Kirk managed to reach his destination without being seen or stopped, despite a couple of near-misses that had Kirk literally holding his breath until the passing Klingons were out of eyeshot; he entered the Detention Area with his phaser drawn, fully prepared (he thought) for the three Klingon guards he found inside.
They immediately assumed battle stances, and the one nearest Kirk rushed at him. Kirk was startled and momentarily unsure of the Klingon’s intent, but reacted instinctively, dodging out of the way, grabbing the Klingon by the arms as he did so and flipping him over his shoulder; the Klingon landed head-first and was knocked unconscious. By that time, the other two Klingons had left their posts and were coming toward him. Kirk already had his phaser out, however, and quickly dispatched the new attackers.
With the present obstructions out of the way, Kirk hurried off to examine the cells. Fortunately, the only currently occupied one held an elderly woman whom Kirk could only assume was Aurelia’s mother, Alana Dynaean. She was indeed Human, with long silver hair hanging straight down her back except for a single thick braid wrapped around the front of it--framing her face and bright blue eyes. She wore a floor-length robe whose original color had apparently been blue, but by now it was too stained and discolored for Kirk to be sure. She might have been anywhere from fifty to seventy-five, but walked with certainty and an air of dignity toward the cell door as Kirk approached.
Kirk was immediately struck by the inexplicable familiarity of her appearance and manner, and realized her similarity to Spock’s mother went beyond her family situation. “You must be Alana Dynaean,” he greeted her, as graciously as possible, considering their lack of time.
“Yes--but who are you?” she asked.
“No time for formal introductions now, but I’m here with your daughter. If you want to get out of here, I have to hurry,” Kirk told her. “Your guards will be waking up soon.”
“Aurelia--then you’re from the Enterprise? Is she all right?” Alana asked, anxious and excited.
“Yes, yes...as far as I know, she’s fine,” Kirk muttered, fumbling with the force field controls next to the door, unable to find the right button sequence to deactivate the field. He remembered what Aurelia had told him about the destruction of the control panel setting off a ship-wide alarm, but there seemed no way to avoid it. And the Klingons were probably already on his trail, anyway.
“Get away from the door,” he ordered, aiming his phaser at the control panel and firing.
The force-field power indicator lights around the outside of the door went off, and Kirk led Alana out of the cell, through a shower of sparks and smoke, to the relative if momentary safety of the outer office area. Then he activated his communicator.
“Kirk to Enterprise.”
“Enterprise, Sulu here.”
Kirk was angry to hear Sulu’s voice instead of Spock’s, but not especially surprised. “Spock’s not back yet?”
“No, Captain. He and Dr. Dynaean are still waiting for you in the Katara’s Sickbay.”
Kirk made a mental note to deal with Spock’s disobedience later. “All right then, just lock on to us and beam us all back now!”
“We can’t. The Katara just cloaked--Kor must be on to you.”
If he wasn’t before, he is now, Kirk thought to himself sarcastically.
“I could fire a couple of shots at them. They’d have to decloak to either raise shields or return fire,” Sulu suggested.
Kirk considered the matter. “Phasers on standby, Sulu. I have an idea of how to do that from here, but if it doesn’t work, we may need your plan as a backup. But under no circumstances are you to fire on them without my direct order. Is that clear?”
“Understood, sir. Enterprise out.”
Kirk deactivated his communicator and regarded Alana worriedly, hoping she was up to the physical activity that their escape would require.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“You’ll see. First we have to get back to Spock and your daughter. Let’s go...and stay behind me.”
Alana nodded, following him quickly out of the Detention Area.
Krev and his Security detachment had been spread out on three decks, but were now converging in some confusion in a corridor where Krev waited for an update from one of his officers, who walked before him bearing a Klingon tricorder.
“Picking up alien transmissions now,” he reported.
“Source?” Krev demanded.
“One in Sickbay and one in the Detention Area!”
“All right, split up!” Krev ordered.
They scattered again, half heading for the Detention Area, and half with Krev, heading for Sickbay. The Romulan would be there, Krev knew, undoubtedly destroying the mind-inverter or making it impossible for them to use it...and he wanted to be the one to catch her in the act and stop her. If he delivered up that prize to Kor, maybe the Commander would forget his inefficiency at the scanners in not detecting the Enter- prise in time.
Spock was by now pacing back and forth outside the small room in Sickbay. Sulu had contacted him and told him that the Klingon ship was now cloaked--which meant that Kirk and Aurelia’s mother were still somewhere aboard.
“They should have been back by now,” he observed, his voice edged with concern.
Aurelia noted it without mentioning it. “With Kor alerted, they may be having trouble. Are we just going to stand around and wait for them to be captured?”
Spock turned to look back at her, noting that she still retained the Klingon disruptor. “I observe that you now have a weapon.”
“Which I suppose you consider a defiance of Starfleet regulations. But even Starfleet personnel have the right to take a weapon from a vanquished enemy,” Aurelia retorted. “I just want to have the means to do what they want: help you complete this mission.”
Spock realized that she had proven her sincerity by not attacking him or trying to escape him during the time he had been unaware she was armed. “I will not force you to give up a weapon you have earned,” he decided finally. “You will need it; it will be my responsibility. On the condition that you willingly give it up when we return to the Enterprise.”
Aurelia nodded, bowing her head in gratitude, then looked back up at him. “What about Captain Kirk and my mother?”
Spock sighed, coming to a decision on the matter. “I assume you know the way to the Brig from here.”
“I should. I’ve made that trip often enough.”
“Then it would be better if we stayed together. Let us go, Doctor.”
Spock did not voice the feeling growing within him that Kirk might already be in trouble. He could only hope that his rapidly mounting concern was some unforeseen result of Aurelia’s tampering with his memories of Kirk--some renewed and illogically heightened fear of losing Kirk that defied the usually flaw-less emotional control he was able to exercise at such times. Yes, Spock told himself now, that must be it; Kirk was not seriously injured or dead. He would have known of it through their bond. With obvious effort, Spock reinforced his normal facade of logic and control, then started out of Sickbay with Aurelia.
Even Spock was surprised when he and Aurelia managed to traverse half the distance between the Katara’s Sickbay and the Detention Area without having to confront any approaching Klingons. Fortu-
nately, many of the ship’s corridors were interconnecting and lined with service crawl-spaces (and other sorts of nooks and cubbyholes that could be used as hiding places) that timely attention to Spock’s tricorder combined with Aurelia’s knowledge of that part of the ship to enable them to avoid the Klingons.
Abruptly they came to another intersection. As Aurelia was about to instruct Spock to take the passage to the right, they were interrupted by a commotion coming from that direction. There were the sounds of people running, heavy breathing -- and somewhat more distantly, intermittent phaser fire. Then
Kirk came barreling around the corner, phaser drawn, and Alana was behind him, moving faster than Spock would have thought possible for a woman of her apparent age. They both pulled up short at the sight of Spock and Aurelia.
As soon as Aurelia saw her mother, she abandoned her position behind Spock and went to embrace Alana.
“Mother!” she greeted her as their eyes met, then gave her a quick, sweeping visual examination. “If they’ve hurt you—”
“I’m all right,” Alana assured her, likewise looking her daughter over. “And you? The Federation people aren’t mistreating you, are they?”
“Considering their distrust, I’ve been treated very fairly.”
Kirk cut off any further conversation. “This is no time for a reunion--there are five or six Klingons behind us,” he reminded them, turning his attention to Spock. “We’re trapped here. Kor’s got the ship cloaked.”
Spock nodded. “So I was informed by Sulu. What now?”
“I’ve ordered them not to fire on us; no point in starting an incident unless it’s unavoidable. I think there’s a way to get Kor to decloak from the inside.”
“Such as?” Spock prompted.
“Such as going to the Bridge and convincing him ourselves.”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “Assuming Aurelia can guide us, I must point out that it is still unlikely we would make it that far,” he opined. “Even if we do, how had you planned to convince Kor?”
“That’s where you come in,” Kirk explained. “I seem to remember a few years ago during our mission on Omega IV, when you used telepathy to suggest signaling the Enterprise to a Yang woman. Do you think you could do that with Kor--suggesting this time that he should decloak?”
Spock lowered his eyes, embarrassed. He had hoped Kirk would not have to ask such a thing of
him during this mission. “Captain, I am...not certain that my telepathic skills are entirely reliable yet.” In response to Kirk’s startled and confused look, he added, “My mental recovery is largely complete, but my telepathic ability is likely to be...somewhat impaired for at least several more weeks.”
Kirk shot an accusing look at Aurelia. “That’s an after-effect you seem to have neglected to mention.”
Aurelia averted her eyes and her face colored slightly green in shame; it was Spock who came to her defense. “It is all right, Jim. The mind-inverter was experimental. She could not have foreseen every effect it would produce.”
Kirk nodded and reluctantly backed down. “Well, do you have any better ideas?” he demanded.
“No,” Spock admitted. “Very well, if you are willing to take the risk, I will need a diversion to keep the other Bridge personnel occupied.”
Kirk looked at Aurelia again. “I think we can handle that,” he decided.
Aurelia nodded, aware of the expression of renewed distrust which he could not keep entirely out of his eyes.
“Do you know the way?” he asked.
“I was taken there once. I remember, because Kor was furious with the men who did it; it was just after I had been brought on board, and they had thought it would profit them to present their prize to Kor in person,” Aurelia recalled. “Yes, I think I can get us there.”
“Then let’s go.”
As they headed off down the corridor with Aurelia for once in the lead, more Klingons rounded
the corner behind them. When they began firing, Kirk pushed Alana on ahead, while he and Spock--with Aurelia’s help--covered her.
“Don’t worry about the Klingons, Dr. Dynaean...just keep going!”
She gave a hurried, reluctant nod of acknowledgment.
And on they went, following Aurelia through the twisting corridors and up crawl-space ladders, avoiding the Klingons or having their approach to the Bridge detected elsewhere. Soon they appeared to have either lost or outrun the pursuing Klingons, but just then they were forced to pause for an announ- cement by Spock.
“Readings show another group of Klingons approaching, bearing four-eight, distance 472.8 meters and closing.”
“Not the same ones who were chasing us before?” Kirk questioned.
“I would say not. That group appears to have dropped out of tricorder range, presumably regrouping or awaiting further orders,” Spock theorized.
“That means that this new group is up around the next intersecting corridor,” Aurelia told them. “But at that distance, they won’t be able to see us well enough to be able to tell who we are.”
“Would they not also have tricorders?” Spock asked.
“Not necessarily,” Aurelia continued. “K’t’inga-class cruisers are designed for battle, not explora-tion. They don’t carry much of a science contingent, so related equipment--including tricorders--is also fairly scarce. They’re not prepared to deal with an attack from within their own ship.”
“So their defenses are geared toward external attacks. Hmm, hopefully that should work to our advantage,” Kirk decided.
“It seems to have so far,” Spock pointed out.
They continued on toward the intersection as Kirk became aware of something he could only assume to be an alert klaxon, and realized that it must have been going off for some time--which explained the difficulty he had been having hearing Spock and Aurelia. It suddenly struck him as silly that he had been focusing so much of his attention on getting to the Bridge and evading the Klingons that he had apparently not noticed it before, but there would be time to think about that later. First, they had to get off the ship. They slowed as they approached the intersection, and Kirk glanced at Spock for an update.
“Distance of the Klingons?”
“Still 472.8 meters. They seem to be experiencing some indecision as to which direction to take,” Spock told him.
“Which could mean they have no tricorders,” Aurelia added. “If we walk across and try not to act suspicious, they may not realize who we are until too late.”
“Spock?” Kirk prompted, wanting a second opinion.
“If they do not have tricorders, it would seem the logical approach,” Spock admitted, in a tone that indicated he had reservations but knew he was going to be overruled anyway.
Kirk drew a deep breath. “All right, then, everybody, nice and easy... No running now, just walk past them one at a time...”
So they did, almost tiptoeing, trying to watch the Klingons out of the corners of their eyes as they went--Alana first, then at carefully timed intervals, Aurelia, Kirk and Spock. However, as Kirk and Spock could tell from the harsh, seemingly loud voices that drifted towards them from the Klingons’ direction, the Klingons fully occupied in arguing among themselves and paid no attention to the two Humans, one Romu- lan, and one Vulcan as they passed quietly by.
They were well past the intersection and quite some distance down the corridor before Kirk deemed it safe to start running again. By that time, Spock had reported that someone or something had alerted the second group of Klingons to their presence and identity and they had resumed their pursuit--but by then, Kirk, Spock, Aurelia and Alana were out of firing range.
They hurried on, moving ever closer to the Bridge but constantly aware of the Klingons still follow-ing them, pausing occasionally out of necessity to let Alana -- as well as everyone else -- catch their breath. However, Kirk’s expression of concern as to whether or not she could make it was met with indignation by Alana and near-contempt by Aurelia.
“My mother is stronger than she looks,” Aurelia informed him.
“You have to be to survive on a Romulan world,” Alana added. “Don’t worry about me, Captain.
I’ll be fine.”
At last they reached a point, one deck below the Bridge, from which they had to take the elevator
the rest of the way. Getting inside proved to be no problem, but because the elevator was voice-controlled and keyed only to specific Katara crewmembers, Spock and Aurelia were forced to spend precious time rewiring the circuitry to accept manual control--and as this activity continued to gnaw away at their lead time, Kirk could feel his patience beginning to wear thin.
“How’s it coming, you two?” he asked.
“Done,” Spock announced, ignoring the irritation he perceived in Kirk’s voice as he replaced
the access panel that covered the circuitry. Abruptly the elevator began to move. Spock turned to Alana, presenting his phaser to her.
“The mind-touch will require my full attention. Are you able to use this?”
Alana nodded, examining it. “A Starfleet phaser? I think so,” she told him as she took it. It had been ages since she'd used one, and this model was more advanced, but in the days before she had known Honor- ius... well, that had been long ago and part of a life she had given up. It did not seem likely that she would be allowed to resume it now.
“Everybody get ready. Remember, we’ve got to cover ourselves and keep their attention off Spock,” Kirk reminded them. “And try not to hit any machinery. We don’t know where the controls for the cloaking device are.”
“Understood, Captain,” Aurelia responded; Alana merely nodded.
When the doors opened, it was apparent that Kor had been monitoring their progress on internal sensors, for he and several of his officers were facing them, all but Kor with their weapons drawn, as they stepped onto the Bridge. Kirk and Aurelia moved forward to protect Spock, Alana joining them just a bit more hesitantly as she tried to accustom herself to the phaser.
Kor looked at Kirk with a mixture of amusement and disappointment. “Captain, I hardly thought you would be so foolish as to do something like this. What did you hope to accomplish by a personal confrontation? Revenge, perhaps?”
Kirk hid his surprise at Kor’s failure to read his intentions any better than that. “Why not?”
“Hmm. Incredible that the Vulcan’s mental condition should matter that much to you. But then,
I’ve always thought your taste in friends left something to be desired. You, with the heart of a warrior, and that half-breed peace-mongerer...” He paused, studying Kirk with satisfaction as the Human fumed.
Spock, also, sensed that Kirk’s instincts to shield his friend’s feelings had been activated and
were barely staying under control. “Captain, I urge you to remember that our objective is not retribution,”
he intoned softly.
For the moment, Kirk remembered and held himself in check. Kor glanced past him to Aurelia.
“As for you, you treacherous—”
“You speak of treachery!” Aurelia cut in coldly. “You, who kidnapped my mother and me from our home--you accuse me of treachery? My mother is free, Kor, and I owe you nothing, least of all loyalty.”
At that point Kor lost all pretense of politeness and patience. He turned abruptly back toward Kirk and snapped, “Very well, you want personal combat; we will oblige you.”
He motioned to one of his officers, and immediately the battle was joined.
Kirk and Aurelia found themselves fighting hand-to-hand rather than using their phasers. Alana, however, realizing that she was not quite as physically adept as they were, judiciously chose to keep hers
at the ready. They were outnumbered--six Klingons, including Kor’s personal guard, against the three of them--but it did not seem to matter; their only concern was keeping the Klingons occupied.
Kor watched the blows and kicks being exchanged; his men grappled with Kirk and Aurelia, eventually flying everywhere as the Human and Romulan flipped them into the air, landing on their backs and either getting up to start all over again or being finished off by a stun blast from Alana’s phaser...and
Kor could not help noticing that Kirk made no effort to redirect his attack toward him when he had the chance. However, Kor was given no time to dwell on it long enough to be-come suspicious. Suddenly, he was aware only of a need to deactivate the cloaking device. It occurred to him that Kirk might be dissuaded from his rescue attempt by a threat to the Enterprise.
He was oblivious to Spock, now moving slowly toward him through the surrounding melee, his mind focused entirely on Kor, their eyes locked but unseeing. Kor presently moved toward the helm control console and began reaching toward the cloaking control. As he was about to touch it and decloak, a new commotion behind Spock disrupted his concentration. The original group of Klingons who had been pursuing them had just burst out of the elevator, and Kirk and Aurelia whirled to face them while Spock struggled to maintain the mind-link with Kor. However, when Kor hesitated with his finger just over the control and looked suddenly confused, Spock knew he no longer dared trust his mental control. He lunged forward, pushing Kor aside, and hit the control button himself.
“Now, Captain!” he urged, whirling and hurrying back to join Kirk and Aurelia.
Before Kirk could activate his communicator, the momentarily stymied Klingons behind him came to life again. Krev drew a dagger from his belt and threw it at Spock. Kor had shaken off the effects of Spock’s mind-touch in time to see it happen and remember that he had wanted Spock alive, but any protests he might have made died in his throat. Standing behind Spock as he was, it was too late for him to do any- thing to prevent it, even if he had still wanted to.
As if in slow motion, the dagger spiraled through the air toward Spock; Aurelia was the only one close enough to do anything about it, and there was clearly only one action to take. She interposed herself between Spock and the oncoming dagger.
“Aurelia!” Alana cried, as green blood flew everywhere.
Spock, too stunned to react verbally, simply caught her as she fell, staring at Kirk with a horrified expression in his dark eyes. Kirk, somewhat shaken himself by the unexpected turn of events, returned Spock’s gaze helplessly.
“Kirk to Enterprise. Sulu, tell McCoy we have a medical emergency--and tell Rand to beam us the hell out of here!”
The only response to this came seconds later when Kirk, Spock, Alana and the now-unconscious Aurelia began to dematerialize as Kor lunged at Kirk. He caught an armful of air instead and fell flat on
his stomach -- then picked himself up from the deck, his face contorted in anger; his officers scattered like leaves before a storm as he spewed forth a burst of Klingon invective that questioned both Kirk and Spock’s family ancestry and the personal honor of their mothers.
They had gotten away, they had taken Dr. Tashirya and her mother, and in the process succeeded in making both useless to the Klingon Empire...unless, of course, the Romulan lived, could be re-captured, and could be induced to build another mind-inverter. If not, the mission would be considered a failure and he would be blamed. But Kor thought again of the Romulan’s treachery and the trickery of Kirk and Spock that had made a mockery of him before his fellow officers and men--and was reminded that, whatever the out- come of the mission, it was his right as a Klingon to take vengeance on them.
When Aurelia woke to find herself in the Enterprise’s Sickbay, with Spock and McCoy beside her, she thought she could see Christine Chapel watching from some distance away.
“The wound is deep, but missed all her vital organs,” McCoy was saying.
“She will live, then,” Spock concluded.
“She has a good chance. However, there’s another problem,” McCoy elaborated. “She’s lost enough blood that she's going to need a transfusion. Where am I going to find a Romulan donor?”
“Romulan and Vulcan blood types are virtually identical, Doctor. It is possible that mine may be sufficiently compatible for a transfusion,” Spock returned.
McCoy nodded. “I was hoping you’d say that, but we’d better be sure. I’ve just taken a sample from her; I’ll compare and cross-match it with a sample of T-Negative blood from you.”
As Spock opened his mouth to respond, Aurelia found her voice. “Doctor...” McCoy and Spock turned to look at her in surprise. “...my blood type is ST-positive. Spock’s...should be compatible, though I did not...have time to run a blood test on him when I…had him on the Katara,” Aurelia managed, though not without difficulty. For all her efforts to the contrary, her voice remained soft, hesitant, and raspy. “Our blood would share...Human elements...but there are certain Romulan variants...”
“Shh, Dr. Dynaean. No talking. Don’t waste your strength,” McCoy urged.
Aurelia nodded as McCoy turned away to call Christine to join them. She obeyed, keeping her eyes averted from Spock.
“I’m going to the lab to do some blood tests,” McCoy told her. “She’s stable now, but I want you to keep an eye on her while I’m gone.”
“Of course, Doctor,” she replied from behind a mask of professional detachment.
When McCoy was gone, Christine turned her attention to the bioscanner screen above Aurelia’s bed, making an obvious attempt to ignore Spock and Aurelia herself. Aurelia noticed it, but had more important things on her mind.
“Spock, is my mother...?”
“We have arranged guest quarters for her. The Captain is bringing her to Sickbay right now, Spock assured her. In the meantime, I recommend that you obey Dr. McCoy’s instructions. You are in no condition to be engaging in conversation.”
This time Aurelia complied, and a silence descended over the three of them which Spock found himself spending in the observation of Christine as well as Aurelia. He remembered how Christine had overheard their conversation in Aurelia’s cell a few days before their return to the Neutral Zone boundary and studiously avoided him ever since. It seemed inconceivable to Spock that Christine could be jealous
of Aurelia, but could draw no other conclusion as he considered the matter--especially the nature of the conversation and how it must have appeared to Christine--and continued to watch Christine going about
her duties with uncharacteristically cool efficiency. Aurelia, mercifully, fell asleep immediately and was spared having to deal with it for long.
Spock’s thoughts were interrupted by Kirk's arrival with Alana. He listened in silence as Christine filled them in on Aurelia’s condition, including the necessity of a transfusion.
“Do we have enough Vulcan blood?” Kirk asked.
“Yes, if it is compatible with Dr. Dynaean’s blood.” Spock spoke at last. “We should have some sort of contingency plan, in the event that my blood is not compatible.”
“Yes, well...I’ll have to think about that one,” Kirk returned. Obviously, they could not take off on a transgalactic journey and violate Romulan space simply to find a blood donor.
Aurelia, now awake again, had enough presence of mind to realize the same thing. “Captain, you cannot go to such trouble for an enemy. If Spock’s blood ...is incompatible, I must...live or die on my own.”
Before Kirk could answer, Alana came forward. “That’s enough of that kind of talk, Aurelia. They can’t possibly consider you an enemy after what you’ve done for them.” She turned back to Kirk. “That’s true, isn’t it? You’ll tell Starfleet Command what she did?”
Kirk nodded. “Don’t worry, my report to Headquarters will be very favorable,” he promised.
Spock looked at Aurelia entreatingly. “Aurelia, please...do not talk. Try to sleep.”
She fell silent again but did not close her eyes, looking up at Spock in wonder and a certain amount of joy which she did not dare allow him to see. It was the first time she had ever heard him call her by her true name.
Spock, however, knew only that she was not trying to sleep. Perhaps she needed to be convinced. “Dr. Chapel, your assistance, please.”
“Gladly, Mr. Spock.” She appeared at Aurelia’s bedside with a hypo. “Dr. Dynaean, these are your choices: go to sleep or I’ll give you a sedative. Romulan or not, when you’re my patient, I can give you a medical order, too.”
This time Aurelia got the message, made no further attempts to speak, and soon fell asleep again.
An hour passed, during which Kirk persuaded Alana to go back to her cabin and Spock, deciding to wait for the results of the blood tests, stayed at Aurelia’s side. Christine pretended to ignore his controlled but apparent concern for the Romulan, and Spock pretended to be unaware of her inner turmoil, but finally neither could stand the silence any longer. Christine was the first to break it.
“Spock, she’s going to be all right.”
She was surprised and pleased with herself for still wanting to console him. She hated herself for what she had been feeling these past several days, but where Spock was concerned, she couldn’t help herself.
“You sound certain.” The Vulcan’s eyes were still on Aurelia’s face.
“Well, we’ve got our best people working on it.”
Spock looked up at her, saw her slight smile, and allowed his gratitude for her efforts to encourage him to show on his face. “I was beginning to wonder if you were going to speak to me at all. Have I done or said something wrong?”
Christine inwardly resented what she was sure must be feigned innocence on Spock’s part, but taking it out on him seemed pointless. “Oh no, of course not,” she returned.
“Christine, if this has something to do with Dr. Dynaean...”
At that moment, McCoy entered the room, carrying a number of small, clear, rectangular boxes which appeared to contain some green substance encased in reinforced plastic bags.
“Spock, you were right. The blood samples tested out as being compatible. How’s Dr. Dynaean?”
“She went back to sleep a little while ago,” Christine informed him.
“All right, we’ll wait until she wakes up,” McCoy decided. “Come on, Christine--help me get things set up in here.”
By the next afternoon it was all over. Alana had returned to Sickbay and stayed until she was sure the transfusion had been successful, then went back to her cabin for the first decent night’s sleep she had
had since Kor had kidnapped her. Kirk, meanwhile, had been in his cabin working on his report, leaving Spock in command on the Bridge...but when word came of the operation’s success, Spock asked and re- ceived permission to visit Aurelia for a while.
She was still asleep when Spock arrived, so he stood quietly next to her bed until she awoke. They were alone in the recovery room except for Christine, who was in and out as she made periodic checks on Aurelia and the instrumentation, bustling around Sickbay in an obvious effort to look too busy to talk to Spock. Finally, however, Aurelia awoke; she smiled when she saw Spock beside her. Spock was careful
not to permit any emotional reaction to this to show on his face.
“How do you feel?” he asked.
“Better,” she replied. Her smile faded when she saw that he appeared not to notice it.
“Dr. McCoy says you should be fully recovered in a few more days,” Spock told her.
Aurelia nodded, again giving Spock the half-wondering, half-joyous look she had given him yesterday. “You called me by my true name. You didn’t even ask my permission.”
Spock lowered his eyes. “From what you said earlier, I did not think you would object,” he
“I don’t. Now that you’ve done it, I’d...like you to call me ‘Aurelia’ from now on,” she revealed.
“As you wish. I must now notify Dr. Chapel and your mother that you are awake.” Spock turned
Christine entered unnoticed behind them, beginning a routine check of Aurelia’s bioscanner readings.
“Spock, wait,” Aurelia protested.
He stopped without turning around.
“Please stay a little longer. I want to ask you something.”
Spock turned back to her. “What is it, Aurelia?”
“Spock, please...I know this is personal, but I have to know.” Aurelia paused, watching him with guarded anxiety, but he seemed willing to hear her out. She continued slowly. “Are you bonded?”
The question took Spock by surprise and his eyebrows shot into his hairline, though his voice was emotionless as he responded. “You are correct; that is personal--too much so to be any concern of yours.”
“But we’re alike...you said so yourself. We have felt and thought the same things, even though I am Romulan and you are Vulcan; we are both half Human. We both love, hurt, and need things we cannot find within ourselves,” Aurelia reminded him. “Surely if the Federation will let us resettle and start a new life--if you’re not already bonded, it might eventually be possible for you to consider...me.” She lowered her eyes and held her breath.
Christine abandoned the bioscanner and focused her attention on Spock and Aurelia as Spock’s manner relaxed and he shook his head regretfully. “A most convincing argument, but we have discussed this before. It is no more possible now than it was then.”
Aurelia looked up, disappointed but not surprised, and let Spock see this. “You are bonded, then.”
It was no accident that Spock found himself thinking of Christine at the moment that Aurelia had broached the subject again, and she was still foremost in his thoughts as he answered. “Not formally. How- ever, as a result of... something that happened during an Enterprise mission some years ago, I do have a partial bond with Dr. Chapel.”
Aurelia leaned her head back and looked knowingly at Christine. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?” she questioned rhetorically.
Christine ignored her, almost dropping her hand-held bioscanner as she turned to stare at Spock in surprise at his admission.
Spock turned toward her then, approaching her from the opposite side of Aurelia’s bed. “And you, Dr. Chapel, have been behaving in a most illogical manner.” He reached to take her hands in his. “I believe
I know what you have been feeling, and must point out that you have no reason to be jealous of Aurelia. If
I were to choose a bondmate now... Christine, do you imagine that I would choose one who had violated my mind?”
Christine felt and looked profoundly embarrassed, and could not meet Spock’s eyes as he looked at her.
“No,” she admitted, in a voice filled with shame. “Spock, I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have felt
that way, but she…has so much in common with you, and I know what that must mean to you. I suppose it reminded me…how little we have in common, and how little reason I seem to have to expect you to…” she simply let the sentence hang.
Spock squeezed her hands once before letting go of them, then clasped his hands behind his back and turned back to Aurelia. “You claim to know Vulcan culture. Are you familiar with the philosophy of IDIC?”
Aurelia nodded, understanding not only what he was trying to tell Christine, but also now a part
of the reason he would probably never feel the same emotions toward her. IDIC was more than philosophy to Spock; to his life as one whose eternal differences were not always pleasant or of his own choosing, it
was a necessity.
“Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. You don’t have to bond with someone who is like you to have a mutually rewarding relationship.”
“Precisely.” Spock turned back to Christine. “There are qualities of value other than similarity. Kindness, for instance, and willingness to accept someone as he is, despite any perceived...shortcomings. And trustworthiness. These are qualities I consider important, Christine, and you have always shown them toward me.”
Christine bowed her head, speechless, wanting more than anything to embrace him but knowing she didn’t dare.
Aurelia knew as she watched them from the expression on Spock’s face that, somewhere within his half Vulcan and half Human heart, he had already made his choice--even if he refused to consciously ack- nowledge it. Aurelia also realized that an impenetrable barrier forever separated her from Spock because of what she had done to him. They might, given time, become friends, but he would never trust her enough to open his mind and heart to her as completely as he would to a bondmate.
She had told Spock that friendship would be enough for her, but now a part of her resented him for his apparent inability to forgive her for what she had done her best to make amends for, and Christine for so obviously having Spock’s respect and trust. Aurelia thought again of the dream-images of Christine she had seen in his mind and reminded herself that there were emotions for her which Spock kept buried within him-self, refusing to accept or acknowledge.
A ‘friend’, you call her, Aurelia thought bitterly, eyes still on Spock and Christine. You could father children by such a ‘friend’. And no doubt she would love that, the soft, simpering little...
Aurelia stopped herself abruptly, alarmed at the direction her thoughts were taking. Christine Chapel was a doctor--a colleague who had worked side-by-side with her to heal Spock and tried to be a friend to her during her imprisonment. It was now clear to her that Spock did not easily allow himself to form emotional attachments to others, so if he felt anything like love for Christine, she had undoubtedly earned it.
Spock, as if sensing Aurelia’s thoughts, turned to look uncertainly at her as Christine tried to resume her duties and finish her examination of her Romulan patient.
“I trust you can understand, Aurelia. If, as you once said, we had met under other circumstances, things might be different...but as things stand now, there is too much separating us. However, if you have not changed your mind, I would still like to be--your friend.”
Aurelia made herself sit up, moving cautiously as it was the first time she had tried to do so since her injury and return to the Enterprise. “That would still be more than I had before I met you,” she admitted, in a tone that said she still felt she could console herself with the possibility of friendship between them and not feel terribly deprived.
While Spock was still trying to think of a suitable response, someone else got into the conversation. “I think you’ll find it’s a lot better to have Spock as a friend than an enemy.”
All three looked up and around to find Kirk approaching from where he had been standing in the doorway. Spock's face tinted faintly green in embarrassment as he fought to maintain his composure.
“Captain, how long have you been there?”
Kirk smiled reassuringly as he neared Aurelia’s bedside. “Don’t worry, Spock. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Spock recovered quickly and simply nodded in acceptance; in his surprise at Kirk’s sudden appear- ance, he had momentarily forgotten that Kirk always respected his privacy and would naturally treat any such revelations with all the care and confidentiality that he knew that they deserved.
Kirk addressed Aurelia again as he reached Spock’s side. “You’ll never find a better friend, Dr. Dynaean. You saved his life,” he pointed out. “That’s not something either of us are likely to forget.”
“I consider us even; you rescued my mother,” Aurelia returned, gratitude shining behind her eyes. Kirk’s responding expression conveyed understanding and acceptance. “Do you think Starfleet Command will allow us to stay in Federation space?”
“If my report convinces Admiral Nogura, it’s possible. We’ll see.”
Aurelia had fully recovered by the time Kirk’s report reached Starfleet Headquarters. The special visual relay was once again set up through Starbase 28, and Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Christine all gathered with Aurelia and Alana in Kirk’s cabin to hear Nogura’s final verdict.
“Captain, I have just left a meeting of the Federation Council, to which I presented your report and your request that Dr. Dynaean and her mother be allowed to resettle within Federation space,” he began. “I must say that the deciding factor in the disposition of her case was your account of her selfless actions on Commander Spock’s behalf.”
He addressed Aurelia directly. “Dr. Dynaean, in view of your actions in support of the sabotage mission aboard Klingon Imperial cruiser Katara, Captain Kirk’s report of same, and especially your risking of your own life to save that of a Federation representative, I have been authorized to dismiss the charges against you and grant your request for resettlement--on the following conditions: you will renounce all allegiance to the Romulan Star Empire, and you and your mother must never return to Romulan space. Do you agree to those terms?”
“Admiral, I’m grateful for your willingness to accommodate us,” Aurelia responded, “but I cannot simply stop being a Romulan.”
“Understood, Doctor. That’s not what we’re asking; we want a guarantee that you will give up any political or ideological loyalty to the Romulan Empire. In return, you’ll be allowed to resettle on a Feder- ation colony.”
Aurelia turned to Alana. “Are you willing, Mother? It will be hard at first; I must...learn new things and try to forget others.”
Alana took Aurelia’s hands in hers. “Many things worth having are difficult at first. We’ve been prepared for this for some time, but your familiarity with your Vulcan ancestry isn’t enough. No one must question your loyalty,” she advised.
Aurelia nodded, understanding, half-turning back to Nogura as she realized she had to mention something else. “Everything we have is back on Devia II. We’ll be starting all over, with nothing but the clothes we’re wearing.”
“The Federation will help you get settled. You’ll both stay at Starbase 28 for a few days of orienta- tion, and we’ll even help arrange a position for you, Dr. Dynaean,” Nogura assured her. “I’ll also try to arrange for the Enterprise to be responsible for checking on you periodically--once a year or so.”
Aurelia sighed, releasing her mother's hands and deciding that they were both ready. “The Empire never really claimed me, no matter how hard I tried to fulfill my duties as a Romulan. I think it’s time for a new beginning, however difficult. If I have to give up trying to prove myself to my own people, so be it. It would surely be a lost cause now, anyway, after having given aid and comfort to the enemy. Very well, Admiral, we accept your terms.”
“I’ll notify Admiral Montgomery and make sure Captain Kirk gets the necessary forms for you to sign,” Nogura returned, satisfied. “Nogura out.”
A few days later, when they had arrived at Starbase 28, Spock and Christine watched as Kirk had Aurelia sign an Oath of Disavowment, a rarely-used document that Kirk had never seen before since the Federation seldom had to deal with Romulan defectors. It was basically a much wordier version of what Nogura had already discussed with Aurelia and her mother and made them agree to--that she was no longer aligned politically or militarily with any of the Federation’s enemies: specifically, the Romulan Empire.
As Aurelia finished, she handed Kirk her carefully folded uniform. “I don’t suppose I’ll be needing this anymore, Captain. I’m sure you can find some way to dispose of it.”
Kirk nodded, setting it aside for the moment and following her as she went to join Spock and Christine. “Do you...feel any different?” Spock asked curiously.
“I feel--dispossessed,” Aurelia admitted, “but I suppose it will pass.” She turned to Christine, fin- gering the collar of her dress. “Thank you for the clothes, Dr. Chapel. My mother and I appreciate it, but
are you sure you can spare them?”
“I’m sure,” Christine responded. “Goodbye, Dr. Dynaean--and good luck.”
“Goodbye,” Aurelia returned, bowing her head in gratitude.
Christine, Kirk and Spock accompanied Dr. Dynaean to the Transporter Room, where McCoy was waiting with Alana. It was Alana who came forward to greet them, focusing her attention on Kirk and Spock. “When I heard that Aurelia had been captured by a Federation ship, I didn’t know what to expect. You could have made things a lot more difficult for her than you did,” she pointed out. “I want to thank you for giving her a chance to prove herself...and you, especially, Spock, for trying to be a friend to her.”
Spock returned her gaze, thinking to himself that he had never really looked at her. Now that he was able to take the time to do so, he saw what Kirk had--the sparkling blue eyes, silver hair and a certain some- thing else about the shape of her face and the quiet strength in her manner that were so reminiscent of his own mother.
“She did earn it, Lady Alana. She saved my life...and my sanity, which I consider more important,” Spock replied.
Alana bowed her head in silent acceptance and retreated to the transporter platform.
Kirk moved to the transporter control console. “Better hurry, Dr. Dynaean—they’re waiting for you at the starbase.”
“Just a minute, Captain,” Aurelia replied as Christine handed her a small bag she had filled with extra clothes. Aurelia then went to Spock, withdrawing a sheathed dagger from within her dress and showing it to him.
“Captain Kirk mentioned that a wall of your cabin is adorned with several pieces of ancient Vulcan weaponry. This dagger was given to me by my father to be worn with my uniform, and is of the same origin. I would be honored if you would keep it as a remembrance and add it to your collection.”
Spock hesitated for so long that Aurelia began to fear he would refuse, but finally took it from her. “Thank you, Aurelia, though I must point out that I am not likely to forget you, in any case.”
“And unfortunately, first impressions last the longest,” Aurelia reflected. “Still, the dagger is yours--as a symbolic gesture of peace and surrender, I consider it appropriate. Besides...it is all I have to give.”
“I know. It will do.” Spock was already aware of the symbolism. Then he continued, “Aurelia, I hope you will find your new life among Humans as rewarding as mine has been for me.”
“Thank you. Any final words of advice?”
Spock hesitated, then said, “Do not be impatient; it may take you a long time to adjust. Humans
and their ways are very different. And one thing more: as long as they do not violate the conditions of your resettlement, your Romulan heritage should remain as much a part of you as you wish, just as your Human heritage should. Do not allow any Humans to make you believe otherwise. Those who are worthy of your trust and devotion will understand and accept your Romulan half as they accept you. I...hope you will not have to wait as long as I did to learn this.”
Aurelia managed a knowing smile. “It doesn’t seem possible now, but perhaps someday I will find
a friend like you’ve found in Captain Kirk.”
“I am still inclined to believe that he ‘found’ me,” Spock opined, glancing at Kirk. He responded with a smile of understanding, then Spock returned his attention to Aurelia. “However, it seems logical--even inevitable--that you, too, will find friendship eventually. And if you wish it...love. Somewhere at this moment, someone is undoubtedly seeking someone very much like you as a bondmate.”
Spock never smiled back, but there was something like kindness shining within the dark eyes as he looked at her, and Aurelia felt encouraged enough to offer her hand to him one last time. This time he took it, though with obvious trepidation, and allowed Aurelia to squeeze his hand before releasing hers.
“And now, I have a piece of advice for you,” she told him softly. “Don’t be a fool. Christine can give you something I can only dream of. Let her love you. Let yourself love her.”
She backed away abruptly and they parted as Spock stared at her in astonishment, mingled emotions apparent in his eyes. “Perhaps we will meet again,” she said, remembering Nogura’s promise to try to send the Enterprise to check on them.
“Perhaps we will,” Spock agreed, though he wasn't entirely sure of his emotions regarding that possibility.
Aurelia turned and went to join her mother on the transporter platform as Kirk prepared to activate the controls. She raised her hand in the Vulcan salute. “Peace and long life, Spock,” she said quietly.
Spock hesitantly returned the salute. “Live long and prosper, Aurelia.”
He had barely gotten the words out when they began to dematerialize. When they were gone, Spock stood in silence for a moment that threatened to stretch into an eternity.
Kirk was the first to break the silence. “Spock...”
“Captain, with your permission, I am going to return to my quarters. If possible, I would like to be left alone for the remainder of the afternoon,” he stated, voice resuming its usual formality.
Kirk heard something more behind the voice, however, and found it disturbing, but knew better than to force what he thought was help upon Spock when the Vulcan was convinced he needed something else.
“All right, Spock, but if you wouldn’t object, I’d like to stop by this evening and—”
Kirk stopped when he realized Spock had already left. He exchanged worried looks with McCoy and Christine. “I’m not sure that mood swing had anything to do with Dr. Dynaean’s departure,” McCoy opined.
“Neither am I,” Christine added.
“That makes three of us. Don’t worry, I’ll check on him later...whether he objects or not,” Kirk promised.
It was around 2100 that night when Kirk, not having heard from Spock since he left the Transporter Room, decided his friend had had enough time alone and went to check on him. Christine, upon hearing he was going to see Spock, requested and received permission to go with him. They rang the door buzzer repeatedly but he didn’t answer. The door was unlocked, however, so they just walked in. Kirk hesitated, looking around, and motioned Christine to wait by the door.
Then he started walking around the room. Eventually he found Spock in the near-darkness of his meditation chamber, sitting on his knees with his face buried in his hands, appearing to be in pain.
“Spock?” Kirk ventured, kneeling beside his friend. “What is it? Aurelia?”
Spock shook his head, not looking up.
“Then it must be the mind-inverter.”
This time, Spock lowered his hands and lifted his head as Kirk reached out to cautiously touch his shoulder.
“I have been meditating intermittently since I returned,” Spock explained, keeping his voice care- fully--but with obvious effort--controlled. “Suddenly...I am not certain how long ago ...my mind became filled with images of claws and needles... tearing things from within me. I suppose it is only the memories... they seem to return when I least expect them.”
Spock reached up to take hold of Kirk’s arm, allowing him to help him up and out of the chamber
to sit beside his friend on the steps. Kirk waited anxiously for him to say more.
“I did not think...that the impressions would still be so intense,” Spock continued softly after a moment. He kept his eyes averted from Kirk, but was still holding onto his arm. When Kirk carefully slipped his other arm around Spock’s shoulders, he felt tension-stiff muscles in the Vulcan’s back and arms begin to relax under Kirk’s touch.
“If...you need to talk, I’m here,” he told Spock gently, not knowing what else to do for him.
Spock was silent for a long time, during which Kirk helped him to his feet and guided him over to his bed. Spock was still moving unsteadily when he reached it and sat down. “All I want to do is make those memories stop hurting you,” Kirk reiterated, once again aching with empathy for his friend.
Spock, still trying to avoid Kirk’s gaze, raised an eyebrow at nothing in particular as he responded. “I know; I am afraid that only time will accomplish that. However, there is something that you could do for me now. You could...stay with me for a while, if possible. I--think your presence would be helpful.”
“I already told you I’d do that. Is that all?”
Spock looked up at him finally, shifting uncomfortably, clearly fighting embarrassment at his need to ask something so obviously emotionally motivated. “After you mind-melded with me--and one other time since then--you allowed me to do something that gave me...a sort of reassurance, which I needed at that moment.”
Kirk nodded silently, knowing Spock was thinking of the embrace that the Vulcan himself had initiated after the mind-meld, in what was still an unusual expression of relief and joy.
“I think, Jim, that I am again in need of...I would appreciate another such reassurance now.”
Kirk responded to the tightly controlled yet hesitant and pleading voice, turning toward Spock and drawing his friend against him. After a moment, he decided the time was right to make Spock aware of something that had been bothering him--something he believed Spock should know about, and that he should be the one to tell him.
“Spock, I think you should know that Dr. Dynaean told McCoy and me every detail of that nightmare you had after your pon farr,” he revealed.
Spock’s only noticeable reaction was a long hesitation before he spoke. “I know, Jim. I saw it in your mind. It is all right; it was necessary.” His voice was reassuring, and Kirk decided it would be best--under the circumstances--to drop the subject.
Spock curled up awkwardly against Kirk, placing his head on Kirk’s shoulder and gradually settling into a more comfortable position as he moved almost imperceptibly closer. He had not been able to explain his need for Kirk’s presence, the nearness of Kirk’s thoughts, and the peace it always brought him--nor had he revealed that he would have liked to mind-meld with him, even if only for a few seconds, but didn't trust himself yet after his difficulty with Kor. Mercifully, Kirk had not asked for an explanation; he never did. He just gave, to the best of his ability, whatever type of comfort and solace Spock needed, whenever he needed it.
Spock reminded himself that he was quite fortunate to have such a friend--all the more because
he had more than one. McCoy and Christine, too, had each tried in their own way to ease the isolation and loneliness he inevitably felt from time to time, generally succeeding simply by virtue of having made the effort. Spock felt embarrassed, honored, and grateful that they would treat him and his emotions with such care. At the same time, he concentrated on the mental impressions of emotion which he was receiving from Kirk. He could also sense that Kirk was alarmed by his friend's sudden apparent mental relapse--and some
of his remaining anger at Aurelia was again surfacing.
“Do not blame Aurelia, Jim. It was Kor's doing, not hers. I...have you and Dr. McCoy to help me heal. Aurelia must live with the guilt she feels, and has--only her mother. She had never known... such emotions as friendship or love before she met me.” He paused thoughtfully. “Hmm. How ironic. I ask you not to blame her, yet I myself can never fully forgive her... perhaps not so much for being forced to abuse my mind as for making it impossible to be what I would like us to have been to each other. I think... that I would have liked her to be a part of my life, in the same way that you and Dr. McCoy are. We could have--learned so much from each other about ourselves.”
Kirk heard the regret his voice and held him tightly. “I don’t think it was meant to be that way between the two of you, Spock.”
“Then you think it is wrong of me to want to be her friend,” Spock concluded, taken aback.
“No, of course not. I think you’re a very noble and gentle-natured Vulcan who sees himself in Aurelia and wants to help her, and I agree that she would've been able to offer insights into your situation that we can’t,” Kirk told him. “I admire your generosity and I wish I could feel the same way, considering all she’s done for us since we took her aboard...but you heard what she said in Sickbay. It’s not clear to me that she would’ve been satisfied with your friendship; from what she said, she wanted you to love her enough to bond with her. And well, I don’t think you need me to remind you that...you already have some- one who loves you, and she would be very hurt if you ‘chose’ Aurelia.” It was as much as Kirk felt he could say without becoming intrusive.
Spock fell silent again, understanding Kirk’s motivations and considering his words, remembering that day in Sickbay. Aurelia, however much she might have wished otherwise, could never be more than a friend to him. Aurelia herself had eventually come to realize this. Christine, too, was only a friend – for now -- but the difference was that he had learned to trust her with his life long before ever meeting Aurelia. He had no memory of anything he had said or done between the time Kirk and McCoy had brought him back from the Katara and the restoration of his sanity.
He remembered Christine’s subsequent description of how she had taken care of him, and he could picture it in his mind: Christine holding him in her arms, speaking softly to him as she tried to soothe him, trying to use her partial bond with him to provide him solace. Spock realized that this mental image evoked an emotion within him that was equal parts embarrassment, gratitude and longing. He honored Christine in his heart for both respecting the dignity of the Vulcan in him and giving the unconditional love needed by the Human--though whether or not this fitted the Human concept of love was still a point of confusion for Spock. Reaching a decision, Spock straightened and moved away from Kirk.
“Are you all right?” Kirk asked.
“I...need to talk to Christine,” Spock responded, getting up carefully. He stopped after turning around to find Christine standing at the edge of the partition, from which she had been watching in silence for some time. “How long have you been there?” he demanded, raising both eyebrows at her.
“I came in with Captain Kirk,” she informed him.
“And you did not think it appropriate to announce your presence?”
“Not under the circumstances. You two seemed to be doing fine on your own, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”
Spock blushed a faint yellow-green, but recovered quickly. “I...would like to talk to you, if it is convenient.”
Christine hesitated as he neared her. “I have a late shift tonight. In fact, I should be there now…”
“I see.” Spock made no effort to hide his disappointment, a fact that did not escape Christine.
“You could come with me, and we could talk while I work. Under the circumstances, I don’t think Dr. McCoy would object,” she offered.
“I do not wish to interfere with your duties,” Spock responded.
“You wouldn’t; I just have lab work tonight. I’d appreciate the company,” Christine assured him.
Spock’s eyes met hers uncertainly, but the sincerity and concern reflected in the blue eyes which met his encouraged him. “Very well.”
“Before we go, I must know something. Did you mean what you said to me in Sickbay?” she asked then, wanting to be sure she had not misinterpreted him.
That was one thing that Spock, even in his current state of mind, was sure of--and he did not hesitate in his reply. “Vulcans do not lie, Christine. I am not in the habit of saying things I do not mean, particularly regarding my own emotions.”
He did not smile, but there was a gentle appreciation sparkling within his dark eyes that seemed to invite her to touch him. Christine moved forward and embraced him, holding him for as long as she dared without risking further embarrassment for him. Spock was too uneasy to respond, but did his best to let her know that he did not object--and in fact, at that moment, seemed to need her touch.
They turned at last and headed for the cabin door. Kirk smiled after them, watching them go as he got up from the bed. He found Aurelia’s dagger lying abandoned on Spock’s night table, and he too heard again in his mind the Vulcan’s words to Christine: There are qualities of value other than similarity. Kind- ness, for instance--and willingness to accept someone as he is, despite any perceived shortcomings. And trustworthiness. Those are qualities I consider important, Christine, and you have always shown them toward me.
Kirk finally turned away from the dagger and started for his own cabin, smiling inwardly as he was reminded of something he had known for a number of years. Spock loved Christine, and there were moments when he allowed himself to express that love in his own way--whether he was willing to acknowledge that emotion and its expression or not. Kirk knew, and Spock knew he knew; Kirk knew also that it was just one more of Spock’s secrets that he would have to keep to himself.
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