DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Toni Cardinal-Price and is copyright (c) 1981 by Toni Cardinal-Price. This story is Rated PG. It was originally published in Alpha Continuum #3, 1981.
"Captain, I wish to request a short leave on my home planet Vulcan. On our present course, we can divert there with a loss of but..."
Spock's words faded to a drone in the background as James Kirk's insides constricted with fear. The blood rushed to his head as he stared open-mouthed at the Vulcan officer before him. Pressing firmly on the intercom panel on his desk, he demanded, "Bones, get to my quarters right away!"
Then, slumping back and looking again at Spock, he said, "All right, Spock ... don't worry. We'll get you to Vulcan. The cargo shipment on Starbase 20 can wait. I'll inform Starfleet and..."
"Captain, I believe you may have..."
"It's all right, Spock," Kirk returned, his eyes narrowing with sympathy. "You don't have to explain. Bones will take you down to Sickbay and sedate you. I'll inform Vulcan of your problem and..."
"Captain," Spock interrupted, a bit more firmly. "You have misunderstood my request. I simply said that I would like to take a leave of absence on Vulcan. I did not say the need was imperative."
Kirk's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Then you're not..."
"Entering pon farr?" Spock completed the sentence for him. "No, Jim, I am not."
Kirk slumped with relief and a grin formed on his lips. He opened his mouth to comment, but was interrupted as McCoy rushed into the room. "What is it, Jim?" the medical officer demanded, flashing a concerned look at the Vulcan beside him. "What's the emergency?"
"False alarm," Kirk returned, chuckling in his throat. "It was my fault. Spock asked for a leave on Vulcan, and I jumped to conclusions."
"A leave on Vulcan?" McCoy repeated, looking at Spock suspiciously. "Why do you want a leave on Vulcan?"
Spock's eyebrow rose slightly and he gave a small sigh. "It is my home planet, Doctor. I have not visited there for well over five years. I simply thought..."
"You're gettin' sentimental, aren't you?" McCoy said suddenly, his face breaking into a huge grin. "Jim, I believe our First Officer's goin' soft on us. I bet he misses his family. I bet he's homesick."
Spock looked coldly at McCoy and turned his glance back to Kirk, who was trying to smother a grin. "Vulcans do not get 'homesick', Doctor," he said stonily, keeping his eyes on Kirk. "Captain, the diversion to Vulcan would cost the ship but two hours' travel time."
"Yes, Mr. Spock, I'm aware of that," Kirk returned, smiling mischievously. "But I would like to know your reason for requesting leave."
For a moment, Spock looked startled -- it was not required that he give his reasons. Then he realized that his captain was caught up in the teasing with McCoy and he sighed again. "I am... requesting leave..." he began, a trace of uneasiness in his voice, "... because there is a certain event within my family in two days, which I wish to be present for."
"An event?" Kirk echoed. "What kind of event?"
Spock glanced sideways at McCoy and took another deep breath. "It is... my mother's birthday, Captain."
Expecting a barrage of teasing, Spock was a bit startled when McCoy reacted with pleasure. "Amanda's birthday?" the doctor repeated. "Well, well, how about that?"
"Since we are already on a course which will take us relatively close to Vulcan," Spock continued, "I simply thought that..."
"All right, Spock -- permission granted," Kirk chuckled, interrupting him. "I'll have Chekov adjust the course."
"Thank you, Captain."
"Amanda's birthday... " McCoy mumbled again. "I kinda wish I could say happy birthday to her myself."
Spock looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "Would you care to accompany me, Doctor?" he asked abruptly.
McCoy flashed a startled look at him. "Accompany you? To Vulcan?" When Spock nodded, McCoy's surprise doubled. "Well, I... uh... no, no... I don't want to interfere, Spock. It's a family thing and--"
"It would not be 'interference', Doctor. I have invited you. Vulcans do not celebrate birthdays; however, my father and I bow to certain Earth customs out of respect for my mother. I believe it may ... please my mother to have another member of her own race present at this occasion."
"Well... I..." McCoy glanced at Kirk for an opinion, but the captain merely shrugged, still smiling. "Well ... I'll let you know, Spock. I may be needed here, and..."
"You won't be needed, Bones," Kirk said. "The cargo pickup and transfer would only take a day at the most."
McCoy looked at him and back to Spock. "Well ... I'll let you know in a while, Spock. I have to take care of some things first."
"Very well, Doctor," the Vulcan returned. "I'll get back to my station now. If you gentlemen will excuse me?"
Kirk nodded and watched as his First Officer exited. He turned, questioning, to McCoy. "What's the matter, Bones? You seen nervous at the prospect of going with Spock."
McCoy frowned as he walked over and took a seat opposite Kirk. "I guess I am," he admitted, after a moment. "I don't know how I'll feel being in the house with Spock and Sarek. I mean ... I can tease Spock and get away with it. But I don't want to say anything out of line to the Ambassador."
"I'm sure you wouldn't," Kirk grinned.
"And I don't know if I could take being in a house with all that ... non-emotion."
"It's only for a day or two at the most, Bones," Kirk reminded him. "And Amanda will be there."
The doctor's eyebrows quirked in consideration of that thought. Then he nodded. "Yeah, I guess you're right. Besides, Amanda probably would like some 'emotional' company to help her celebrate. I'll think it over... maybe I'll go."
* * *
Two days later, Leonard McCoy stood on the transporter platform, looking almost uneasily at the First Officer beside him.
"Have you given the co-ordinates to Scotty?" Kirk was asking Spock, as they stood ready to bid each other farewell.
"Yes," Spock replied, nodding. "We will not be beaming directly to ShiKahr, but rather to Ta-ham'n, a larger city to the east. I have an ... an errand I must tend to there."
"I see," Kirk returned. "We'll be leaving orbit as soon as you're beamed down. Will you be able to find transportation to ShiKahr?"
"Yes, Captain," Spock assured him, "I will enlist the service of an aircar for our travel."
"Good, good." Kirk stepped back and nodded to the two. "Have a good visit, then. We'll see you in about ... forty hours." He grinned. "Spock, give my best to your mother and father. Bones... take care of our First Officer, will you?"
The doctor's eyebrows rose as he broke into a smile. "I sure will, Jim," he nodded. "I sure will."
* * *
The two Enterprise officers materialized in a small room used specifically for transporter functions. As they stepped off the platform, Spock turned to McCoy. "Doctor, you may prefer to remain here until I have completed my errand. The temperature outside is most likely to be over one hundred and five degrees, and the thin air may be uncomfortable for you. This room has been constructed specifically for human use. You will no doubt find it comfortable."
"I see," McCoy nodded. "Well... to tell you the truth, Spock, I think I could stand the heat for a short while. I'm kinda interested in lookin' around. I've never seen a Vulcan city."
Spock straightened a little and bowed his head slightly. "Very well, Doctor. The errand will not take too long." He turned and started for the exit, McCoy keeping pace beside him.
Ta-ham'n was a typical Vulcan city; geometric buildings, roads lined with vegetation of yellow and brown, large pathways landscaped flawlessly. But McCoy, unused to such cities, found himself impressed by the serene beauty of it.
As they continued down the pathway, McCoy became aware of the stress the heat and thin air placed on his body. By the time Spock halted in front of a small store, McCoy was out of breath and sweating profusely.
"In here, Doctor." Spock pointed to his left. The two men entered the store and were greeted by the smell of incense and the tinkling of wind-chimes. McCoy stood for a moment, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness of the room, then joined Spock as he moved to a display counter.
Inside the counter was an assortment of impressive gems. McCoy raised an eyebrow when he realized the value of the jewels. He whistled softly and glanced at Spock.
"Pretty expensive collection there. And it's not even guarded."
"Crime is practically non-existent on Vulcan, Doctor." Spock cast a sidelong glance at his companion. "When it does occur, it is usually perpetrated by outworlders."
McCoy scowled and looked back at the jewels. "Why did we come here anyway, Spock?"
The Vulcan officer inspected the gems before him. "I thought perhaps ... that my mother might be ... pleased, to receive a small token in honor of this day."
"A present!" McCoy beamed. "Isn't that rather sentimental of you, Spock?"
Spock's eyebrows rose, but he ignored the remark and reached into the case. He picked up two of the jewels, one amber-hued, the other turquoise. "Your opinion, Doctor?" he said after a moment, holding out the gems for McCoy to see. "Which do you think my mother would prefer?"
McCoy's smile widened as he enjoyed Spock's uncertainty. "Well," he said finally, "I think the amber would be nice, Spock. It'd compliment her eyes."
Spock considered that, frowning slightly. "Perhaps. However, I believe she would prefer the turquoise gem." He continued to study the stones contemplatively. Finally, he motioned the store's owner to approach.
"I will take both of these," he said, handing them to the man. "Can they be fashioned into amulets?"
"Of course," the elder Vulcan whispered. "It will be but a moment. Please seat yourselves." He disappeared into an adjoining room.
Spock motioned McCoy to a group of chairs in a dark corner. As they sat, McCoy asked, "Isn't that rather extravagant of you, Spock? Those jewels are pretty expensive. Buying both of them will probably set you back."
Spock glanced at him oddly. "Set me back, Doctor?"
"Yes, you know ... can you afford it?"
"Yes, Doctor," Spock assured him, a tiny smile playing at the corners of his lips. "Money has little meaning for me -- except for..."
"Except for the pleasure it can bring others, ah, Spock?" McCoy completed, the teasing twinkle back in his eyes. "I'm sure your mother will be thrilled with your gift."
Spock nodded absently and stood up as the owner of the shop reappeared. McCoy watched from where he sat as Spock concluded his business with the man, then stood and followed the Vulcan officer out the door.
* * *
Two hours later, they sat in a small aircar, skimming silently across the surface of the desert separating Ta-ham'n from ShiKahr. Spock worked the controls skillfully as McCoy observed the scenery with silent awe.
They had rented the aircar from an establishment in Ta-ham'n; within an hour it would have them in ShiKahr. As McCoy looked over at Spock, he almost thought he saw a flicker of excitement in the alien's dark eyes. He grinned.
"Guess you can't wait to see your parents again, Spock," he teased. "After all, it's been five years." Spock's eyebrows rose as he glanced at McCoy, but he said nothing.
"What time do they expect us there?" the doctor asked.
"They do not expect us," Spock answered tonelessly, shifting slightly in his seat. "I thought, perhaps ... my mother might be pleased by an ... unexpected visit."
McCoy chuckled then, shaking his head. "Spock, you will never cease to amaze me! First the present -- now a surprise visit..."
"I see nothing unusual about my course of action, Doctor," Spock returned quietly. "It is merely out of consideration that I--" The Vulcan's words cut off abruptly as his attention snapped sharply back to the control panel of the aircar. There was a mild jolt and McCoy watched the Vulcan's long fingers press a few buttons and adjust the directional levers.
"What's wrong?" he asked finally, seeing Spock's furrowed brow.
"Unknown, Doctor. For a moment, the instruments appeared to--" Another jolt halted his words as his hands flew to the levers once more.
"What's the matter?" McCoy demanded, grasping the arms of his seat as the aircar lurched. Spock ignored him and reached for the transmitter.
"This is Spock," he said into the small device, as sparks began to fly from the panel. "Aircar out of control. Position is... one hundred fifteen point two degrees west of Ta-ham'n, en route to ShiKahr. I have one passenger -- human. Immediate rescue procedure imperative." Then, as the car dropped sharply, Spock spared a glance for McCoy.
"Secure yourself, Doctor," he ordered. "I shall try to land as gently as possible, however--"
His words were lost as the aircar hit the dry surface of the Vulcan desert and bounced wildly. Spock fought the controls, but the car hit again, then again, and tumbled over and over until it crashed to an explosive halt.
* * *
Spock was the first to regain consciousness. He became abruptly alert, alarmed by his extreme weakness. Pulling himself away from the twisted metal surrounding him, he glanced down and felt an instinctive tightening of stomach muscles. His left leg was mangled badly; blood flowed freely and flesh and bone had been pierced by a sharp chunk of metal. He steeled his mind against waves of pain and ripped a long piece of cloth from the bottom of his shirt. Fashioning a tourniquet around his upper thigh, he tightened it until the flow of blood slowed. Then, taking a deep breath and summoning his strength, he looked around for McCoy.
He found the doctor crumpled between two seats that had been thrown clear from the wreckage of the aircar. Crawling painfully, dragging his injured leg, Spock drew up beside the doctor and reached out to feel for a pulse. It was weak, but steady, and Spock inspected McCoy's body as best he could for injuries. The doctor seemed to have escaped major damage, but a deep, bleeding cut on his forehead caused Spock to tighten his lips with concern.
Very gently, he pried McCoy from the twisted metal and laid him in a comfortable position on the desert sand. Glancing around for the emergency medical kit, Spock found only fragments among the wreckage. Swiftly and carefully, he tore more of his uniform shirt and used it to crudely bandage McCoy's forehead. Then he sat back, watching the doctor for signs of consciousness.
It was many long minutes before McCoy stirred and Spock was beside him in a flash, calling his name anxiously. The doctor's head moved to one side as his eyes opened, squinting at the blaring sun. "Spock?" he whispered weakly. "What in the name..."
"Do not try to move, Doctor," Spock instructed him. "And I would advise you to contain your speech. We've crashed, and you are injured, though I believe not severely. I notified Vulcan Central before the crash, so rescue should not be long in coming."
McCoy nodded and looked more closely at Spock. "How 'bout you, Spock? Are you all right?"
"Yes. I sustained only minor injuries," the Vulcan lied, moving his hand to shield his leg from the doctor.
But McCoy had seen the gesture and his brow furrowed. "Let me see," he said, pointing to Spock's leg.
"It is nothing," Spock returned stiffly, keeping his arm where it blocked McCoy's view.
"Blast it, Spock! I said let me see!" McCoy shouted.
The Vulcan took a deep breath and moved his hand away from his thigh. McCoy flinched at the sight of the wound. He turned angry eyes upon Spock. "Nuthin', huh?" he spouted. "We'll have to get that metal out and you'll..." He stopped, still trying to sit up, and touched his forehead as a wave of pain struck him.
"You must remain still, Doctor," Spock insisted. "If you overexert yourself, the heat of the Vulcan sun and the thin air will drain your strength. Help will be arriving shortly. I shall remove the embedded metal myself, and will contain the flow of blood."
"Spock, you can't do all that yourself," McCoy objected, "just get me the medical kit and--"
"The medical kit was destroyed in the crash. You are far too weak, in any case, to attempt the procedure." Spock looked down at his wounded leg and pressed his lips together. With an inward grunt, he tightened the cloth tourniquet around his thigh.
"Pull it out as cleanly as possible," McCoy directed, watching from where he lay. "Try not to tear anything that's undamaged."
Spock raised one eyebrow at the doctor and resisted the urge to comment. Instead, he looked at his leg again and very carefully wrapped his fingers around the sharp metal piercing the flesh. His hands trembled for a short moment; then he tightened his grip.
"Easy, Spock." McCoy said softly, watching the grimace of pain cross the Vulcan's face. "Just take it nice an' easy."
With a deep breath for control, Spock pulled on the embedded metal, and it slid away from the ragged flesh. A cry of pain escaped Spock's lips, and he lay back, flat on the sand, as a wave of weakness encompassed him.
"Spock, you've got to concentrate on stopping the blood flow!" McCoy's voice prodded from the background. "Now, Spock -- before you get too weak!"
Spock nodded and drew his brows together in concentration. McCoy watched the Vulcan closely from where he lay and gave a sigh of relief when he saw the flow of green from Spock's thigh begin to subside. The doctor remained silent as he continued to observe the Vulcan. Spock's eyes were tightly shut, his hands clenched into fists at his side. He was obviously in pain, but McCoy dared not speak for fear of breaking the Vulcan's concentration.
The sun beat down mercilessly, and McCoy -- not for the first time in his life -- cursed the planet's heat. A wave of dizziness struck him and he realized that he was weaker than he had thought. He closed his eyes against the blazing glare and felt himself sink slowly into unconsciousness.
* * *
Spock opened his eyes slowly, glancing around in alarm. He realized that he had been so deeply enmeshed in concentration against his pain that he had lost track of time. With confusion, he reasoned from the movement of the sun overhead that at least four hours had passed since the crash -- yet no search party had reached them. That filled him with real concern; with a great effort, he pushed himself into a sitting position and looked over at McCoy. The doctor lay limp and still, his clothing soaked with perspiration.
Spock looked down at his own leg then, taking a deep breath. His pants were matted against his skin with a thick crust of dried blood. He peeled the cloth away carefully, inspecting the open gash on his thigh. He had succeeded in slowing the blood flow until only a slow trickle of green oozed from the wound. But he hadn't placed himself in the healing trance -- he wanted to wait until they were rescued before attempting that.
Looking over at the doctor again, Spock could see that the Vulcan sun was taking its toll of him. McCoy's lips were cracked and dry and his face was beginning to show signs of blistering. McCoy would need water soon and shelter from the heat. Scanning the desert horizon, Spock leaned back and sighed heavily.
There was no logical reason for rescue operations to be taking so long. Vulcan Central had the finest available scanning devices. In his message, he had specifically mentioned his human passenger -- so rescue should have been especially swift.
Then a twinge of alarm hit the Vulcan as he considered that perhaps his message hadn't been heard. If not, then there was no hope for McCoy. Silently, Spock admonished himself for not forewarning his parents of their visit. If he had, they would have been expected to arrive at a certain time -- and when they were overdue, the authorities would have been alerted.
A wave of weakness struck Spock as he shifted position. He looked down at his wounded leg once more. It was imperative that he begin self-healing soon. In his state, if he were to lose consciousness, he would be helpless. With too much blood lost, he would be overly weak, unable to self-heal, and would gradually bleed to death.
Glancing back at McCoy then, Spock tightened his lips in frustration. He did not want to initiate the trance until he was sure McCoy was safe. Clenching his teeth against the numbing pain in his thigh, he lay back against the warmth of the sand. He would continue to contain the blood flow as long as possible. He pleaded silently that Air Rescue would have heard his message.
* * *
"This one is alive, Sekan!"
"Bring him around, then. And check the other!"
The mumble of deep voices roused Spock from his concentration. Before he could collect himself, he was dragged roughly to his feet. He cried out involuntarily as pain lanced through his leg, and his eyes shot open in startled response. In front of him stood a Vulcan of massive build, dressed in a style that made Spock's eyes widen with curiosity.
"So, he lives." The huge man before him spoke. "But for how long? He bleeds -- his injury is severe."
"Should I kill him then, Sekan?" the Vulcan holding Spock asked.
"Yes. He does not appear to be of use to us, and--"
"Sekan! Quickly!" A voice caused the huge Vulcan to turn and the hands that held Spock abruptly released him. Spock bit back a cry of pain as he crumpled to the ground and forced himself into a sitting position. He waited for his vision to clear as he looked in the direction where McCoy lay.
Surrounding the unconscious doctor were six Vulcans of uncommonly stocky build. They stood or knelt over McCoy, chattering in a dialect that Spock had recognized as Ancient Vulcan. With surprise, Spock noticed that their manner of dress was also ancient. And they carried weapons!
"A mutant," he heard one of the Vulcans say. "One like I have never seen!"
"Look! He bleeds a strange color!" another exclaimed.
Spock listened to the conversation with awe, his mind racing. Vulcans with weapons! And they didn't recognize McCoy as a human. Spock shook his head in confusion, then jerked when he felt a sharp object touch his shoulder.
A Vulcan female was kneeling beside him, her wide eyes regarding him with curiosity and distrust. The blade of the razor-sharp dagger she held pierced the first layer of skin on his arm as she held it against him.
"What Clan are you from?" she demanded in the ancient dialect.
Spock's eyebrows furrowed as he regarded the woman with blatant astonishment. "I... I do not understand," he returned in the same tongue.
The dagger in her hand pushed half an inch deeper into his arm and a tiny trickle of green blood appeared. "What Clan?" she repeated, her dark eyes blazing.
Stunned by the woman's violence, Spock could think of but one logical reply. "I am from ShiKahr."
The woman's eyebrows rose in surprise, but the dagger remained in position. "How were you injured?" she snapped.
"Aircar," Spock replied, fighting a wave of dizziness. "The engine malfunctiened and the wreckage..."
His words trailed off as he looked around in shock. There was no sign of the wreckage anywhere. As far as he could see there was only barren desert.
The dizziness engulfed Spock again and he felt himself sliding into unconsciousness. The woman put a firm arm around his shoulders and kept him sitting until the dizziness passed. Looking down at his leg, Spock saw that blood was flowing freely again and an instinctive alarm tightened inside him. When he looked back to the Vulcan woman, he found that she was watching him curiously.
"T'Aka!" A voice called to the woman from the group of Vulcans surrounding McCoy. "Come see this mutant before we slay it!"
The woman left Spock hastily and ran to the others.
Spock watched her retreat as his mind whirled with questions. Illogical as it seemed to him, there was only one conclusion he could reach. The Vulcans before him were barbaric in nature; their language and dress, long obsolete. Somehow, by a means he could not decipher, he and McCoy had been thrown back through Vulcan's history ... into ancient times. A knot of unaccustomed fear tightened in him as he realized the meaning of that and he glanced over hastily at the Vulcans who surrounded McCoy.
He saw one of them raise a lance.
"Wait!" he cried out, summoning strength over his pain. He struggled and, incredibly, stood, resting his weight on his good leg. His mind raced for the right words to say. "The mutant is of value to my people. My Clan will pay well for his return ... and for mine."
The Vulcan who had first faced Spock walked back to him now. "And what is your Clan?" he demanded.
"He comes from ShiKahr," the Vulcan female spoke up, moving next to the huge male.
"ShiKahr?" the man repeated. "There is much wealth in ShiKahr. What is your name?"
"I am Spock. My father's Clan is a powerful one -- and wealthy. They would ... appreciate my safe return."
"No doubt they would. I am Sekan, leader of the Clan Ta-ham'n. Why is this mutant of value to you?"
"He is ... a healer," Spock returned, a wave of pain piercing his leg. He swayed unsteadily.
"A healer!" Sekan laughed. "He is barely alive himself, and you call him a healer?"
"He is more fragile than we are," Spock explained, fighting the weakness that threatened to overtake him. "He needs water and must be kept out of the sun." Seeing Sekan's face wrinkle with doubt, he repeated, "My father will pay you handsomely for our safe return."
"So you have said." Sekan pondered, his dark eyes scrutinizing Spock.
Spock stood there silently until a wave of dizziness finally drove him to his knees. A small gasp of pain escaped him as agony wrenched through his thigh.
"He needs T'Ena to heal him," the woman said, moving quickly to Spock's side. "If his father is of ShiKahr Clan, he could be worth much to us, Sekan. It would be unwise to let him and the mutant die. We must take them back to our camp."
There was a moment of silence. Then Sekan nodded. "Agreed. Stryll, you take the mutant. Selef, carry the one called Spock."
"Sekan," T'Aka objected, "he bleeds badly, and is too weak to contain the flow. We must bind up his leg."
Sekan frowned. "Very well -- but be swift about it, T'Aka. I will waste no more time here."
She nodded as she moved to where Spock knelt. "Lie down," she instructed, placing her hands on Spock's shoulders and pushing him gently back against the sand. "I will bandage your injury. You must disregard the pain. Once we are back at our camp, our healer will help you."
Spock nodded and closed his eyes as he felt the pressure of her hands begin to bind his leg. He turned his mind inward, in an attempt to control the pain, but after a moment he felt the first wave of unconsciousness begin to enfold him. Very slowly, he slipped into the dark void.
* * *
He awoke to darkness and to a pressure on his leg which sent his mind screaming with pain. A mumbled voice brought him abruptly alert.
"He wakes, T'Ena."
"Leave us, then. Tend the mutant."
Spock fought to clear his vision and focused on the woman who had just spoken. Her image became clear with startling suddenness and Spock stiffened. "Mother!" he said hoarsely, trying to push himself up.
Strong arms clamped on his shoulders and pushed him back. "I am T'Ena," the woman before him said. "I am a healer. You must remain very still."
Spock sank back into the folds of a soft quilt and studied the woman's face intently. It wasn't Amanda, as he had first believed, but the resemblance was astonishing. The women before him, however, was definitely a Vulcan, and her dark eyes watched him with concern.
"I have halted the bleeding temporarily," she told him. "But you must place yourself in the healing trance before it is too late."
She reached down and touched his bandaged leg. "The wound was most serious. Much blood was lost, and there is still a chance you may not survive it."
Spock shook his head weakly, unable to tear his eyes from the woman's face. "My friend..." he said finally. "How is he?"
"The mutant? He shall live. His wound is not serious." Her eyes narrowed. "He is like no other mutant I have ever seen. He has many differences. Even you are different than us ... not in obvious ways, but there are subtle differences I found while I was containing your blood flow. Are all these of the ShiKahr Clan like you?"
Spock shook his head, remaining silent.
"I see," the healer replied. However, her eyes watched him suspiciously. "This manner of dress you wear -- I have seen the Clan of ShiKahr on occasion and none dress as strangely as you."
His glance faltered for a moment before he said, "It is a new manner of dress my Clan has adopted."
Looking away from her again, he began studying his surroundings. They were in a hut-like dwelling, and as Spock looked closer he saw that the walls and ceiling were made of a mixture of sand and plant sap. It was a hut typical of ancient Vulcan. In one corner of the room, he saw McCoy being tended by the woman who had been among their captors.
"The mutant needs water much more frequently than we," Spock said, looking back to the healer. "His skin must be kept cool, and he must--"
"He will be taken care of, Spock of ShiKahr," T'Ena interrupted. "You would be wise to think of your own health and place yourself in the healing trance."
Spock leaned back, but shook his head. "I will wait until I can be sure that my fri... that the mutant will be all right."
T'Ena looked at him with disapproval. "Do not wait too long. Your life is not worth that of a mutant." She stood. "T'Aka will tend you. I will return if you wish my assistance." She turned and left the hut.
The woman who had been with McCoy approached Spock. "You are a fool not to self-heal," she admonished. "You place your life in great danger."
Spock disregarded her. He craned his neck to look at McCoy.
"I am T'Aka," the woman said abruptly, moving to block his line of vision. "I am daughter to Stakr and T'Krn -- both great warriors."
He glanced at her only briefly, then grabbed for a hand-hold on the wall closest to him. He struggled to stand.
"Are you mad?" T'Aka exclaimed, reaching out to help him steady himself. "You invite death! T'Ena instructed you to remain still!"
Spock said nothing. With her help, he limped to where McCoy lay. Carefully, he sat down beside the doctor and reached out to find a pulse.
"A hideous creature," T'Aka commented, looking at the unconscious human. "He should have been killed at birth."
Spock glared at her "Why?" he said, irritated. "Because he is different? Is that a reason to slay a man? He has qualities far more valuable than yours or mine. Would you waste such a being, just because his appearance is not the same as your own?"
There was a brief silence as T'Aka stared at Spock. Then she shrugged. "You are a fool -- and a wise man," she said quietly. "Dangerous traits for a man in these surroundings, Spock of ShiKahr. It would be wise if you held your tongue around Sekan. He feels threatened by men like you."
Spock looked at her oddly before turning his attention back to McCoy. He was startled that he had allowed the woman's ignorance to anger him so, and he took a took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.
McCoy's pulse was good. Spock inspected the bandage around his head wound. "I would like fresh water brought to him," he ordered. "As cool as possible."
T'Aka looked at him warily before nodding. "I shall bring nourishment for you also," she said, standing. "It would be a pity for you to die, for you have qualities of your own worth admiration." She turned then and left the hut.
Spock puzzled over her words for a moment. Then he put his hand on the doctor's shoulder and shook it. "McCoy! McCoy!"
The doctor's eyelids fluttered and opened. He stared blankly at Spock and furrowed his brow in confusion. "Spock?" he asked hoarsely.
"Yes, doctor. You will be comfortable if you remain still. I will have water for you in a moment."
McCoy nodded. His eyes narrowed as he studied his surroundings. "Spock... what is this place? Where are we?"
"We are on Vulcan, Doctor. However, our crash has created a -- a condition which is beyond my comprehension. Somehow we have been ... transported to Vulcan's past. We have been captured by a clan of Vulcans from the city of Ta-ham'n."
McCoy stared at him incredulously. "Wait a minute, Spock. What do you mean, we're back in Vulcan's past?"
"I mean exactly that, Doctor. These Vulcans are barbaric -- perhaps ancient ancestors of mine."
"Then -- how do we get back to our own time?"
Spock looked away. "I do not know yet ... I have not had time to study the situation." He turned back to McCoy, wincing as he shifted position. He closed his eyes against a wave of dizziness and felt strong arms steadying him.
When he opened his eyes, he found McCoy sitting up and supporting him. "What about that leg of yours?" the doctor demanded.
Spock drew a deep breath, straightening up. "They called a Vulcan healer to stop the blood flow when I was unable to do so myself."
"And did he heal it?"
"No, doctor -- that ability is beyond any healer. I must attempt that myself, when there is sufficient time."
"Time!" the doctor bellowed. "You'd better start healing it now! You look terrible, Spock -- how much blood did you lose?"
"A considerable amount," Spock admitted, lowering his head to his arms as another assault of weakness struck.
"C'mon, Spock, lie down. Start the healing."
"No... not yet," Spock objected. "There are many things I must be certain of, before I attempt that. First. I must tell you, Doctor: this Clan thinks we are members of a rival clan from ShiKahr. They think my father is a powerful member of that clan, who will pay handsomely for our return."
He looked at McCoy more closely. "Doctor ... they consider you to be a mutant."
"A mutant?" McCoy exclaimed.
"Yes. In this time period, Vulcans had no contact with alien races. They believed themselves the only intelligent race in existence. The one logical way to pass you off to them was by naming you a mutant -- such were not uncommon in ancient Vulcan."
"I see." McCoy frowned. "Well... as soon as you can heal that wound, we'll have to make some kind of escape."
"That may not be an easy task, Doctor. Most certainly we will be heavily guarded, and--" He stopped abruptly as T'Aka entered the hut, carrying a small urn. She looked them both over with suspicious eyes as she moved to where they sat.
She knelt beside Spock and held the urn out to him. "Here is the water you wanted," she said, glancing at McCoy. "The mutant looks nearly recovered."
"He is weak still and requires rest," Spock replied, handing the urn to McCoy. The doctor took it eagerly and drank his fill, finally pouring some into his hands and bathing his face.
"Drink only what is needed, Doctor," Spock cautioned in English. "Water is not plentiful on my planet."
"You speak a strange language to this mutant," T'Aka said suddenly. "Why?"
"It is a -- a custom of my people," Spock lied. "The mutant cannot answer in the common language."
"Indeed?" she returned, her dark eyes glued to McCoy. After a tense moment, she turned to Spock and placed a hand on his arm. "I prepare food for you -- a fresh kill from this morning's hunt."
Spock recoiled inwardly at the thought of consuming animal flesh, but remembered well that ancient Vulcans had been meat eaters and ferocious hunters. "I cannot consume the flesh of an animal," he told her hesitantly. "By my own preference, I dine on roots and vegetables. The mutant, however, would benefit from your offer of meat."
T'Aka's eyes narrowed as she watched the Vulcan. "You should not worry for the mutant," she admonished. "It is you who are in need of strength and food."
Her hand moved up his arm and touched his face lightly. Her dark eyes peered deeply into his own. After a moment, she pulled away and stood. "But I will gather the food you request."
Watching her quizzically until she left the hut, Spock finally dropped his head back into his arms and let his weariness envelope him.
"Spock -- this is stupid," McCoy said sharply. "Put yourself into the healing trance now, before it's too late." He gripped the sagging shoulders and pushed until Spock lay down. Inspecting Spock's bandaged thigh, he found a faint tinge of green seeping through the white cloth. "You're beginning to bleed again, Spock. You've got to begin healing!"
"No, Doctor," Spock protested, opening his eyes. "The healing process would take a good part of a day -- perhaps longer. I must establish some sort of agreement with these people and be assured that you will not be harmed while I was in the trance."
He held up a hand to halt McCoy's protests. "You must understand, Doctor -- these Vulcans are irrational -- barbaric. They would not hesitate to enter your mind with a meld. If they were to do that, they would also find out the truth about our origins and discover that we are of no value to them. We would both be killed."
His eyes closed again, and his facial muscles tightened with pain. "No... I cannot place myself in a trance. Not yet. I will direct T'Aka to bring the healer. She will attempt to halt the blood flow again." He sighed wearily.
"Damnit! If only I had my medical kit!" McCoy cursed. He looked at the Vulcan sullenly. "I'm sorry, Spock. I wish I could help you... at least give you something for the pain..."
"There is no need for you to apologize, Doctor," Spock assured him, though his eyes remained closed. "I understand your desire to help me, and your intentions are... appreciated."
McCoy glanced at him and sat back. "Well... at least if you get some food into you, you'll get back some strength." He gestured towards the hut's entrance. "That Vulcan woman... she kinda had her eye on you, Spock. I think she likes you."
Spock's eyes opened as he raised an eyebrow in McCoy's direction. "Believe me, Doctor -- she would just as soon slice my throat open. Please remember that ancient Vulcans were extremely treacherous."
"Yes... I'll remember that, Mr. Spock," McCoy grinned, teasing.
Spock nodded. "I'm sure you will, Doctor. I'm also sure you will continue to remind me of that fact in the future."
"Now, Spock..." McCoy chuckled innocently. "You don't think I'd rub it in, do you?"
"That is exactly what I think."
The doctor laughed loudly. "Well... I've got to admit, it is strange, seeing emotional Vulcans -- for once."
"Indeed, Doctor," Spock agreed. "I find it most... disquieting."
McCoy grinned, then turned his head toward the door as T'Aka entered carrying two bowls. Looking at the doctor with disgust, she handed one bowl to him, and knelt next to Spock.
"I have prepared vegetables for you to eat," she said, placing the bowl on the dirt floor. Her brows contracted as she pulled aside Spock's torn pant leg to look at the bandage. Seeing the growing stain, she said, "I will get T'Ena," and left hurriedly.
Spock merely nodded, closing his eyes once more in an effort to control the pain. Suddenly, without warning, he felt unconsciousness begin to overtake him. After a moment's panic, he surrendered to the void.
* * *
There was a pressure in his head, a power drawing on his mind. For a moment, he felt himself floating in a realm bordering non-existence. Then a surge of power flooded his body and knowledge came to him. He panicked, his eyes blinking open, and cried, "NO!"
T'Ena's fingers remained on his temples as she looked at him. "I care not who or what you are, Spock," she said evenly. "I merely attempt to heal. Do not fight the meld I must establish."
"No..." Spock protested again, weakly.
"If I do not continue this meld, I shall be unable to curtail the flow of blood," T'Ena replied. "You will die, Spock. Will that profit your situation, or help your friend?"
Spock's eyes narrowed sharply.
"Yes... I have seen something of what is in your mind," T'Ena admitted. "But my concern is for your survival. You must let me help."
Spock's face was drawn into a grimace of pain as he finally nodded. T'Ena positioned her long fingers on his face and Spock reluctantly opened his mind to her.
McCoy watched the two Vulcans from across the room. After a few minutes, he saw the Vulcan woman withdraw her hands from Spock's face. Spock's eyes opened.
McCoy moved to the First Officer. "Spock?.... Are you all right? Spock!"
"Yes ... yes, I am ... stronger, Doctor," Spock whispered. "T'Ena has stopped the blood flow again."
McCoy watched as the healer began to redress Spock's leg with clean bandages. He winced when he saw the open wound. "You've got to self-heal now, Spock! Your leg is getting worse and you've lost too much blood as it is. I doubt even the healer could save you if you started bleeding again."
"I know, Doctor," Spock agreed solemnly. "However, I must have some nourishment, for strength ,before I place myself in a trance." He looked at T'Ena as she fixed his leg. "I must also speak with her."
"Well... that other female took away her vegetables," McCoy informed him. "I was thinking, maybe they could be made into a soup for you. It'd give you strength."
"Yes," Spock agreed. "I shall instruct T'Ena to prepare it."
"You know... I almost fell over when she came into the hut," McCoy commented, nodding to the healer. "She's a ringer for Amanda."
"The resemblance was startling to me, also. We can only hope she possesses my mother's understanding."
McCoy looked at him curiously. "Why?"
Spock's eyes grew troubled. "When she contained the blood flow this time, it was necessary for her to have full control over my mind. She knows who we are, Doctor -- and where we are from."
McCoy's eyebrows shot up.
"She does not understand completely," Spock continued, "but she knows we are not what we claim to be. If she does not keep this knowledge confidential... if Sekan finds out that we are of no value to him, we will most certainly be killed."
McCoy frowned and looked at T'Ena. "Then I guess it's all up to her."
Spock nodded and struggled to sit up a little. "T'Ena," he called, switching back to the antique dialect. "Perhaps those vegetables I asked T'Aka to bring might be made into a broth. It would give me the strength I need for healing..."
"T'Aka prepares such a broth for you now, by my order," T'Ena interrupted. "Then you must place yourself in the trance, Spock."
"I shall," Spock assured her, but his eyes darkened. "T'Ena, what you know of my friend and me now -- you know we are men of peace. Will you keep this confidence for us?"
The woman's gaze held his for a long moment. "What a healer learns through a mind-meld is always held secret," she said at last. "I do not understand how you have been brought here... but I do not fear you, and you pose no threat to my people."
She glanced toward the hut's door and lowered her voice. "But beware T'Aka and Sekan. They would enter your mind uninvited -- and you would be dead men. I will remain with you while you are in trance, Spock, and will prevent them from gaining access to your mind while you are vulnerable. Once healed, you must keep a rigid barrier between you and them."
"Understood, T'Ena," Spock returned. Then he looked to McCoy.
"I will tell them that it would be dangerous to enter his mind," T'Ena said. "Because he is a mutant -- or they think he is -- they will believe me."
Spock nodded. "You do me a service I can never repay. T'Ena, my gratitude to you is unbounding."
T'Ena bowed her head slightly as a tiny smile touched her lips. "I have a great desire to see peace come to all our people, Spock. The knowledge that this will someday be the situation is payment enough."
Spock's eyebrows rose as he returned her smile.
T'Aka entered the hut then, carrying a steaming bowl. She moved directly to Spock and sat down beside him. "I am glad T'Ena was able to save you," she said to him. "Eat now -- then you must heal."
Spock nodded, accepting the bowl from her. He took long sips of the hot liquid. When the bowl was empty, he lay back and shut his eyes. "T'Ena? I am ready."
The healer moved next to him and McCoy watched as Spock grew rigid in his trance. T'Ena's long fingers lay lightly on his temples.
They remained like that for hours. Neither moved -- they barely breathed. McCoy observed them with awe, and T'Aka sat in a corner, her eyes never leaving Spock's face.
It was when Spock was in his seventh hour of trance that the hut door crashed open and Sekan entered. T'Aka scrambled to her feet, her eyes wide, and McCoy watched as the huge Vulcan approached her. He spoke to her in a loud voice, but McCoy understood nothing of their conversation. It was clear, though, that the two were arguing.
Abruptly T'Ena shouted at Sekan and he pushed her aside roughly. Then he knelt next to Spock, spreading his clumsy fingers and placing them on the tranced man's face.
Alarm bells buzzed in McCoy's brain. He flung himself at the larger Vulcan, tearing Sekan's hands from Spock's head. Sekan gave him a single startled look before landing a backhanded blow on the doctor's jaw that sent McCoy sprawling to the floor. He heard T'Ena shout once more. When his head cleared, he saw that Spock's eyes were open.
The two Vulcan men glared at each other defiantly. Finally Sekan stood and stormed angrily out of the room.
"Are you all right?" McCoy asked, stumbling to Spock's side.
He nodded and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he said, "You've been injured, Doctor."
McCoy dabbed his sleeve to his mouth and wiped away blood. He shrugged. "I'll be okay. How about you, Spock?"
"I am better. However, I was unable to complete the healing process. Sekan's intrusion broke my concentration."
"I'll take a look at your leg, then," McCoy said, pulling at the bandages carefully. T'Ena moved beside Spock, and T'Aka watched from the corner as the last of the cloth was unraveled. The gash along the leg was only half-healed.
"Well, it is better. Still a nasty wound, though."
"However. I believe I shall have no further trouble with excessive bleeding," Spock answered. His brows furrowed. "And I dare not place myself in the trance again."
"This Sekan fella," McCoy began. "He was tryin' to meld with your mind, wasn't he?"
"Yes, doctor. It is most important that he does not accomplish that. I cannot release the barriers I have erected now; it would be too dangerous."
McCoy nodded grimly. He looked up and smiled at T'Ena as she handed him fresh bandages for Spock's leg, and began to bind up the wound again.
"Sekan seems most determined to find the secrets of your mind," T'Aka said, approaching Spock.
"So it would seem." he returned. His eyes watched her stonily.
"T'Aka, leave us now," T'Ena ordered. "He must rest again, to regain his full strength."
T'Aka looked at the healer angrily, but nodded and left the hut.
As soon as she was gone, Spock's troubled glance turned to T'Ena. "It would be wise of you to take caution when T'Aka is near," she said. "Though she is not legally bonded to Sekan, she is his woman. He wants no other."
T'Ena's lips pursed in concentration. "You interest her ... and that could be dangerous for you."
"I shall take caution, T'Ena," Spock said quietly. "Once again, my gratitude for your help."
A smile crossed the woman's lips. "I shall leave you, also -- you must rest." She gestured in McCoy's direction. "This friend of yours seems to know much about healing. You will not require my assistance now."
She stood up, "I shall return in the morning."
Spock watched her leave and laid his head back, sighing wearily, as McCoy finished bandaging his leg. "Doctor..." he said, after a moment. "I... appreciate your intervention when Sekan attempted to meld with me." He hesitated and continued, "However, you could have been seriously injured."
"Yes... I could've," McCoy agreed. "But I wasn't, he grinned, "and it was either attack Sekan, or let him... attack you. I really didn't have much of a choice, Spock."
Nodding slowly, Spock said, "I admit that I, too, see no alternative other than the one you chose." His eyebrows furrowed.
"I am appalled by the disregard Sekan has of one's personal thoughts. It is most distressing for me to see, firsthand, how barbaric my ancestors truly were."
"Well, we all have skeletons in our closet, Spock," McCoy assured him.
Spock's eyebrows flew into his hairline. "Skeletons?" he whispered, awed.
"An old Earth expression," McCoy explained, chuckling. "Never mind... I didn't expect you to understand."
Spock's sigh held a hint of consternation. After a moment, he said, "You look fatigued, Doctor."
McCoy nodded, stifling a yawn. "I am, a little," he admitted. His expression grew suddenly grin. "Spock... how are we gonna get back to our own time?"
The Vulcan officer took a breath and stared at the dirt floor. "I do not yet know, Doctor," he confessed. "Our transferral to this time period defies logical explanation. However, I think our only chance -- if there is indeed a chance -- would be to return to the area of the accident and proceed from there."
"It seems about hopeless," McCoy muttered.
"Perhaps. In any case, I shall need data to determine if we may yet succeed in escaping this age." His eyes darkened. "If not... then we will be stranded in this time period."
He pulled himself unsteadily to his feet, holding up a hand as McCoy started to protest. "I must exercise, Doctor, if I am to have full use of this leg. We may be forced to make our escape soon, and I must be prepared." He began to limp slowly around the confines of the hut, testing the stamina of. the injured limb.
McCoy watched disapprovingly for a few minutes. Then he said, "Y'know, Spock... I'm kinda gettin' the feeling of how it must be for you, on the Enterprise. An alien among humans. I mean... here I am, the only human among Vulcans, and it's, well... it's kinda discomforting."
Spock stopped his pacing, and looked at McCoy quizzically.
"You know what I mean," the doctor continued. "The roles are sorta ... reversed. I can see, now, how it must be for you sometimes." A rueful grin of sympathy touched his lips. "It's not easy being an alien, is it, Spock?"
Spock's eyes looked away from the doctor then. He said quietly, "No, Doctor... it is not. But I am content with my life aboard the Enterprise."
"Yeah, but... doesn't it get lonely, sometimes?" McCoy pressed him.
Spock paused and nodded reluctantly. "Sometimes," he admitted. Walking back to the corner, he slumped into a sitting position and rubbed his thigh to rid himself of the ache throbbing through it.
"Spock..." McCoy said, breaking the silence again, "you know that... well... when I tease you, it's... it's really all in fun. It's never meant to hurt you."
He looked at the doctor, a glitter of amusement in his eyes. "I know, Doctor," Spock said.
McCoy grinned as he laid back and closed his eyes. "Goodnight, Spock," he said softly.
"Goodnight, Doctor." the Vulcan returned, the hint of a smile lurking an his lips. After a moment, he, too, closed his eyes and settled back.
* * *
A faint sound awoke him with a start. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he found T'Aka kneeling next to him, a tiny smile on her face.
"What do you want?" Spock asked.
"I have come to make you an offer," the woman whispered, moving closer. "Sekan sends his men tomorrow to ShiKahr. They will demand ransom from your father."
Spock stiffened. He sat up slowly.
"They will be three days traveling," T'Aka continued. "Time enough for you and the mutant to escape -- with my help."
He looked at her suspiciously. "Why do you offer your help?"
T'Aka's smile widened as she reached out and touched his arm. "It is said that ShiKahr holds great wealth." Her hand traveled up his arm. "And you interest me. I will help you reach ShiKahr -- if you take me as your wife."
Spock's eyebrows moved upward in surprise. "Are you not Sekan's woman?"
"I have been his woman, but we are not yet bonded legally as mates," T'Aka explained, her hand brushing his neck as she pressed herself closer. "But the madness is beginning to burn within him even now... it will be only a short time before he wishes me to bond."
Her lips pressed against his neck for a moment, then she drew back. "I wish to be yours -- not his."
Spock stared at her, frowning. She was alluring, her closeness discomforting. He moved away from her slightly. "How could you help us escape?"
She smiled evilly, her hand tracing the thin lines of his face. "There are many in this camp who would listen to my word over Sekan's. I would promise them wealth out of ShiKahr, and they would aid our escape."
Her smile widened. "If you wish it, Spock... I will kill Sekan as he sleeps."
Appalled by her suggestion, Spock shook his head. "That would not be necessary."
"Then you accept my proposal?" T'Aka whispered, her finger tracing the outline of his ear.
"I did not say that," he returned, shifting uncomfortably.
Pressing herself against the length of his body, she said softly, "Join with me, Spock. I will please you well." Her fingers brushed against his temples, lingering there. "Share your mind with me," she said, her breath quickening. "I wish to be yours."
Caught up by the rush of desire that suddenly flooded him, it was a few seconds before Spock felt her thoughts like tiny tendrils begin to probe his mind. Startled, he grabbed her wrists and pushed her fingers away from him.
Her dark eyes flickered in anger for a second before her smile returned. "Let me join with you," she coaxed, her hand reaching out.
"NO!" Spock said firmly, tightening his hold on her wrist.
T'Aka pulled away, her eyes blazing. "You refuse me?" she asked incredulously.
"Yes," he returned, turning his face away, appalled by her deviousness.
She scrambled to her feet and stood over him, panting furiously. "This night you shall regret, Spock of ShiKahr. I do not offer myself to many men -- and none refuse me. You are a fool not to accept my proposal... and you will regret it!"
She stormed out of the hut.
"Now what was that all about?" McCoy's voice floated out of the darkness after T'Aka had gone.
Spock looked after her with troubled eyes and slumped against the wall. "I may just have spoiled our chances for escape, Doctor," he mumbled, almost inaudibly.
McCoy stared at the Vulcan, and moved toward him. "What do you mean?"
Spock kept his eyes averted from McCoy's. His thigh had begun to ache again, and he rubbed it. "T'Aka came to offer us a chance to escape," he said quietly. "She wanted to meld with me... to become my... property."
Spock's eyes darted to the doctor for a moment before he looked away again. "I could not accept that, Doctor. If she were permitted to enter my mind, she would learn the truth. T'Aka wants the wealth and power of a ShiKahr Clansman. Discovering that I possessed neither, she would return to Sekan."
He sighed heavily and added, "Although I believe she shall do that in any case, now."
"I... rejected her. Apparently, that has never happened before. She was quite... agitated."
"Uh-oh," McCoy said. "Hell hath no fury..."
"I beg your pardon, Doctor'"
"Never mind," McCoy said, somberly. "Couldn't you have... well... placated her for a while? At least long enough for her to help us escape?"
A small frown creased the Vulcan's lips. "You do not understand, Doctor. A physical joining, for a Vulcan, must be accompanied by mind-link. To do otherwise is--" He paused and shuddered "-- perversion. She would refuse to join without mental contact."
McCoy nodded, looking closely at Spock "Here let me do that," he ordered, moving beside him and putting his hands on the Vulcan's injured leg. He began to massage the muscles cramped with painful tension. Spock leaned back and sighed gratefully. "Still painful?" McCoy inquired.
Spock hesitated, but agreed. "Inactivity causes the muscles to tighten. I must exercise it more often." He rested, summoning his depleted reserves, as McCoy continued his ministrations.
"Doctor?" he asked, after a moment. "Are you able to travel?"
McCoy looked at him, puzzled, and touched the bandage on his own forehead. "What -- this? It's nothing, Spock -- not even painful. Sure, I can travel."
Spock nodded contemplatively, steepling his fingers. "Very well. Our attempt at escape will have to be soon -- within two days, at any rate."
"T'Aka informed me that Sekan will send out some men in the morning to take word of our capture to ShiKahr. We cannot be here when they return with the news that we are not of the ShiKahr clan."
"I see." McCoy frowned. He looked at Spock's leg and shook his head. "Spock, you can't travel on this leg of yours. The wound is still very bad."
"Doctor, there is no choice. I will have to travel." He squirmed a little as pain twitched through his thigh. "Perhaps a small splint of sorts could be fashioned to keep the pressure off my injured leg."
"I don't know, Spock," McCoy mumbled, continuing to massage the Vulcan's leg. Then he sat back and rubbed a hand wearily over his face.
"I suggest you continue to rest, Doctor," Spock said, noticing McCoy's gesture. "We will need all our strength when the time for escape comes." He, too, slumped back, closing his eyes.
After a long while, Spock opened his eyes. McCoy was fast asleep. Sitting up and clasping his hands in a position of meditation, Spock spent the rest of the night deep in thought.
* * *
It was approaching dawn and light was beginning to filter through the cracks in the walls, when the door burst open and T'Ena entered. Her eyes were wide with fright and she moved quickly to Spock's side.
"What is it?" Spock asking, breaking out of his meditative trance.
"Was T'Aka here last night?" she demanded quietly.
"Why did she come?"
"She... she offered me help in escaping," he answered. "She wanted me to bond with her, and take her as my property."
T'Ena sat back and bit her lip, her eyes troubled. "Sekan is in blood fever and demands T'Aka bond with him. She refused -- and named you her champion."
Spock stiffened. He stared at the floor as he said quietly, "I will refuse the challenge, of course."
"You cannot," she told him, miserably. "T'Aka claims you bedded her last night. If you refuse the challenge, Sekan has the right to probe your mind for proof of T'Aka's words. And if he probes your mind and discovers..."
Spock slumped against the wall, his facial muscles drawn. "Either way is certain death," he said tonelessly. "Because of my unhealed wound, Sekan would far outmatch me in a contest. But if he enters my mind he will learn the truth."
He sighed and glanced over at McCoy, who was only now beginning to rouse from sleep. Then he extracted a small object from a compartment in his belt. "My friend will need your help, T'Ena, if he is to have any chance for escape. I beg this favor from you..."
He held out his hand. In his palm was the turquoise amulet he had meant to give Amanda. "This is all I have to offer for payment."
Her eyes widened as she turned away from him. "I do not require payment from you, Spock," she said sharply, but her voice was muffled.
He lowered his hand, reaching out to touch her arm gently. "I did not mean to offend. But... perhaps the amulet can buy you cooperation from others."
T'Ena's eyes glistened with wetness as she turned back to him then. Silently she held out her hand and Spock placed the amulet in her palm.
"If my friend can be taken to the point where we were found, there may be a chance he can discover how to get back to our own time. If not, he will be stranded here. Take him to ShiKahr, if that happens -- see if they will accept another healer there. If not... if he is to die," he paused to look back to McCoy. "... then I must rely on you to make his death quick -- and painless."
She lowered her head and nodded. "All you ask of me shall be done," she whispered, reaching out to touch his cheek lightly. "Your death will bring me much grief, Spock. I admire you more than any other Vulcan I have known."
Two fingers touched his temple and her thoughts caressed his mind for a brief second. Then she stood and looked down at him.
"May you have peace, my son." A tear trickled down her cheek.
Spock watched her, once again moved by her resemblance to Amanda -- and by her use of the word "son". A faint smile of gratitude remained on his lips even after she had gone.
"What's the matter now, Spock?" McCoy wiped the sleep from his eyes as he sat up.
"Nothing, Doctor -- this does not concern you," he lied. He reached for a pile of cloth and began binding his already bandaged leg.
"What're you doin', then?" the doctor demanded.
The Vulcan looked at him and frowned. "Doctor... I want you to remember: whatever happens, you are to trust T'Ena. She will help you as much as possible." He considered saying more, but finally started to work on his leg again.
"Spock -- what in blue blazes is goin' on!" McCoy demanded, grabbing his arm. Before he could respond, the hut door opened and T'Aka entered, flanked by two guards. She stood before Spock and smiled triumphantly, her eyes ablaze.
"You will soon suffer the result of your foolishness, Spock of ShiKahr," she taunted.
Spock struggled to his feet as the guards moved in. One held out a long purple sash. Spock accepted it, removing his shirt before wrapping the cloth around his waist.
McCoy was still demanding to be told what was happening. But Spock, his eyes fixed on T'Aka, did not hear him. The guards directed them forward, and they left the hut and stood under the blinding Vulcan sun.
They were led for a short distance to a place that struck McCoy with a chilling fear. Huge slabs of stone, towering monoliths, stood in the pink Vulcan dawn. Alien gongs and firepits lined the clearing between the stones. The familiarity of the scene made McCoy look questioningly at Spock.
"T'Aka has named me her champion," the Vulcan said tonelessly, answering the unasked question. "Sekan is in blood fever. We will battle -- to the death."
"Spock, are you crazy? You can't fight Sekan! Not with that leg of yours -- you can barely stand!"
"There is no choice," Spock replied. His dark eyes were concerned as he looked at the doctor. "Remember what I have said... whatever happens, place your trust in T'Ena."
Then he turned back as the sound of bells broke the silence of the morning.
McCoy watched with fascination and growing horror as the scene unfolded. The procession was almost identical to the one he had witnessed at Spock's ceremony years before -- the faces were different, but the procedures were the same. A sedan was carried into the clearing. Seated on the top was an old man, his face harsh with the lines of age. His body was adorned with trinkets of elaborately sculpted metal. As the chair was lowered, a tall Vulcan male approached it. McCoy could see that it was Sekan. The look in the powerful Vulcan's eyes made him shudder. Sekan was already deep in plak-tow.
As if in some horrible dream, McCoy watched as T'Aka approached and rang one of the huge gongs. Beside him, he heard Spock's breath catch for, a second. He turned, and found Spock's eyes on him.
"No matter what transpires Doctor, do not interfere," Spock said firmly. "It is your only chance for life."
"But what about you?" McCoy objected, but Spock reached out and gripped his arm.
"Do not concern yourself with me, Doctor. It is important only that you do not interfere. Remember that."
McCoy saw the pleading in the dark eyes. Reluctantly, he nodded.
Spock approached the ancient leader and saluted him, accepting the challenge. He could see T'Aka, smiling, out of the comer of his eye. He ignored her, turned, and looked straight into the fevered eyes of Sekan.
The huge man stood deep in plak-tow, his eyes glassy. The muscles in his forearms stood out as if carved from stone. In his logical mind, Spock calculated his chances against him. The odds were not favorable.
A heavy object forced into his hands roused Spock from his thoughts. The lirpa gleamed menacingly in the sunlight.
The command was given. The battle began.
Spock dodged Sekan's first slash easily, dancing out of the path of the razor-sharp blade, butting away the cudgel end of the weapon with his own. He drew back, preparing for the next attack. With unbelievable quickness, Sekan struck out again with the blade of the lirpa. Spock parried and managed to connect on Sekan's forearm with his cudgel. The larger man staggered, regained his balance, and charged once more.
Holding his position until the last second, Spock jerked aside and brought the cudgel smashing against Sekan's back. The huge man fell heavily on the ground, rolling onto his back. Seeing an opening, Spock approached him with his lirpa raised.
With lightning speed, Sekan struck out with one foot, hitting Spock's wounded thigh with all his might. Crying out in pain, Spock staggered backwards and fell, agony wrenching through every nerve in his body. He fought to clear his vision through the blurring pain, and instinctively raised the weapon again as Sekan approached. Using his last strength, Spock pushed him away and stumbled to his feet. A wave of dizziness enveloped him; glancing down at his thigh, he saw green staining the bandage and spreading swiftly. Taking a deep breath, Spock looked back to Sekan -- who lunged again.
The fight was long and furious, and for a while it looked like an even match. Then, weak from loss of blood through the re-opened wound, Spock began to falter, slowing into mere defensiveness. A strong blow with the cudgel end of the lirpa sent him sprawling over again, and his own weapon jolted from his grasp.
He heard McCoy call his name from across the clearing. Weakly, he held up a hand in restraint. Then he saw that T'Ena was restraining the horrified doctor, though her own face was pale and wet. He sighed gratefully -- and heard Sekan approach.
The big Vulcan towered over him. Slowly, he raised his weapon pointing the razored edge downwards. Too weak to attempt any further defense, Spock closed his eyes in defeat as Sekan brought the lirpa down with a vicious thrust.
An instant of agonizing pain -- Spock cried out as the blade split his sternum, cut through tendons, muscles, arteries, severed his backbone and imbedded itself beneath him in the hard ground. Faintly, he heard his name being called once more before blackness overwhelmed him and reality ended.
* * *
The voice was back, soft and familiar. A cool dampness on his forehead roused him to open his eyes.
"Thank God," the voice whispered.
Struggling to clear his sight, Spock stiffened in shock. Amanda stood over him. Her eyes were wrinkled with concern but her lips were smiling.
"Spock," she repeated, reaching to stroke his face with the wet cloth.
Spock continued to gaze at her in confusion until another face moved into his line of vision.
Sarek. "You were seriously injured, Spock," his father explained softly. "Your mind suffered many delusions during your recovery." Spock's brows lifted as Sarek continued. "I melded with you to help your regain strength, and I saw some of what your mind invented."
The lines of the older Vulcan's face softened. "It is good to have you recovered, my son. For a while we were not sure you would survive."
"How long?" Spock stammered, still somewhat stunned.
"Four days," a familiar voice called from across the room. Spock turned to see James Kirk and McCoy watching him.
"Captain!" Spock said in surprise. "And Dr. McCoy -- were you injured in the crash?"
"Not badly, Spock," the doctor assured him, running a medical scanner over the Vulcan officer. "Mild concussion, case of sunstroke, nothing serious. It was lucky that the Air Rescue came along when they did, though."
"Then Air Rescue did..."
"Yup, we were both unconscious, but they found us and brought us back here." McCoy ran the scanner over the wounded leg again. "That cut's comin' along just fine, Spock. It was pretty deep... your father helped you initiate the healing trance."
"What's the matter, Spock?" Kirk asked him. "You look -- confused."
"It is... nothing, Jim." Spock took a deep breath to dispel his confusion. "I am just... grateful... to be back."
"Back?" Kirk grinned, but he was plainly puzzled. "Back from where?"
"From the chronological delusions of his mind," Sarek interrupted. He almost smiled as he looked at his son. "It is very gratifying to have you back, my son."
Spock returned the affection of his gaze and struggled to sit up.
"Oh, no, you're not going anywhere," his mother chided, gently pushing him back. "Your captain said there's no hurry, so you'll just lie here and rest."
"That's right, Spock," Kirk agreed. "We've got extra travel time, and nothing important has come in from Starfleet Command. You just worry about recuperating."
"Never mind," Amanda said, sponging his forehead again. "You're to listen to your captain -- and your mother!"
Spock's eyebrow quirked, but he relaxed and submitted silently to her pampering. It was only then that he spotted the amber necklace she wore. He reached out and touched it gently.
"Oh... I almost forgot!" Amanda's smile widened. "It's a beautiful amulet, Spock! So thoughtful of you to remember my birthday. I only wish it could have been a happier occasion for you."
She paused and her eyes twinkled. "And it was very... human of you to try and surprise me."
Spock looked at her, startled. With mock indignation, he said, "Mother!"
Laughing, Amanda patted his head. "I did save you a piece of cake -- to celebrate your recovery. I'll go get it now."
"A very beautiful gem," Sarek said, as she left the room. "I believe your mother was well pleased with your gift."
"They found it on you, after the Air Rescue brought us here," McCoy intervened. "I told Amanda it was your present to her. You know, Spock, it's a funny thing -- the rescue team went back and combed the crash area, but they couldn't find the other amulet you bought. The turquoise one."
Spock's eyes darted to the doctor. In the recesses of his mind, he recalled handing the gem to T'Ena. It had seemed so real... so...
No. It was impossible.
"Here you are!" Amanda handed him a plateful of cake. She stroked his hair, tousled it playfully. "My best present is having you well again, Spock."
Shrinking into his pillow in embarrassment, Spock saw the affection flooding the faces around him. Gradually, he relaxed. "You know, Doctor, I believe you were right."
"Huh?" McCoy asked. "Whaddaya mean?"
"The amber amulet..." Spock said, looking fondly at his mother. "It does compliment her eyes. He raised a forkful of cake to his mouth.