DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Karen A. Bates and is reprinted from Nuages One, published by Checkmate Press, April 1983. Checkmate Press is the property of Karen A. Bates. This story is Rated PG.


Karen A. Bates

** I **

"You filthy traitor!" James Kirk screamed, as he lunged off the transporter platform. He stopped in mid-stride at the sight of Marlena's raised phaser. "I'll have you both court martialed for this." A sly look crept over his face. "What is it you want, Spock? Money, power..." The tones were buttery. "Marlena?"

"Mr. Scott, you are needed in engineering. Miss Uhura, report to the bridge." Spock gave the commands easily, never taking his eyes from the Captain's face. "Lt. Moreau, take Dr. McCoy to sickbay and wait there for me." Within moments the room had emptied, leaving only the two men.

"All right, Spock, what now?" With an air of assured confidence, Kirk briefly turned his back on the Vulcan, thereby proving to himself he had nothing to fear. "Is this your loyalty ... stabbing me in the back the first chance you get? You've wanted my ship all along, haven't you?" The words were spat out like rifle fire. "Well, it won't work. I'll have you strung up by your ears and hanged for mutiny first."

"I think not."

Kirk blinked in surprise at the dark tone of Spock's voice calling his bluff. With a quick feint, Kirk dove for the door, only to the caught up short in a vice-like grip. The struggle was brief, but deadly, and the human's form lay huddled on the floor. With a clinical detachment he didn't really feel, Spock gathered the still form into his arms and held it a moment before arranging it carefully on the transporter pad. It would be easy enough to explain a transporter malfunction while still in the grips of an ion storm. Setting the controls for wide dispersal, there was but a second's hesitation before he completed the task. The new Captain stared at the now-empty disk, then turned on his heel and strode from the room.

* * *

There was hatred in Uhura's eyes as she watched the Vulcan's lean body cross the bridge to settle in his newly-earned chair. The Empire High Command had accepted Spock's explanation of Kirk's demise, somewhat relieved to be rid of the threat he had posed while still alive. With negligent fingers, she adjusted her ear receiver and related the message of an oncoming crewmember.

"Transporter room reports departure of Dr. McCoy and arrival of new Chief Medical, Dr. Chapel."

"Have Dr. Chapel meet me in the briefing room immediately, Lieutenant. Mr. Sulu, take us out of orbit, warp factor one." Uhura felt a shiver run down her spine when the cool brown eyes raked her over as he passed by.

With his ever-present bodyguards, Spock made his way down the corridors, secure in the knowledge that all the remaining members of Kirk's faction had been fastidiously eliminated, one by one, over the past month. With McCoy transferred from the Enterprise at last, all the reminders of his deed were gone. Spock felt no regrets for his actions; Kirk had been an arrogant, blustering egotist, well deserving of his end.

As the briefing room's doors parted, the Captain's attention was garnered by the tall, slim woman waiting for him. Her impressive credentials had not prepared him for this meeting. The smoky blue eyes that met his belied the core of hardened steel that had made it possible for her to succeed within the confines of the ruthless Medical Corps. Intimidation had kept McCoy in line, but Spock doubted such an approach would be as successful with this new physician.

Dr. Christine Chapel stood unflinching beneath the cold glare of her new Captain. At last, she had come face to face with the man considered a legend in his own time. A warrior trained in the harsh disciplines of Vulcan tradition and feared as such, yet respected for the intellectual pursuits that had made him one of the greatest academicians in the Empire. She knew him peripherally from studying many of his dissertations; now on board the Enterprise, she would find a way to know the rest of him.

* * *

"I'm Lt. Marlena Moreau, the Captain's Woman." The words so freely spoken had no visible effect on Chapel as she administered the routine physical examination. Everyone knew Spock had kept the previous Captain's Woman for himself, even Christine had heard the name in the few days she'd been on board, but this was her first encounter.

"Congratulations, I should have recognized you from the way you walk." With a practiced hand, Christine tilted the table back into place with a jarring thud.

Something in the doctor's carefully controlled manner told Marlena that here was possible competition. "I'll get you for that," she snarled as she came to her feet.

Christine shrugged. "Try it. Just remember, Lieutenant," the title was dipped in sarcasm, "this is my sickbay. How you earn your keep is your problem."

Seeing no way to score an immediate victory, Marlena made her exit with as much dignity as she could muster.

Captain's Woman, indeed! Trollop. With Marlena's file in hand, Christine settled into her office for a bit of research.

* * *

Spock heaved a small internal sigh as he perused the latest assignment lists dispatched by the High Command. The number of spies assigned to the starships was increasing dramatically. The Emperor was apparently worried over the loyalty of the dozen men who commanded the greatest ships in the Empire. Should the Captains ever choose to conspire, nothing at the Command's disposal could effectively stop them. Little could be done immediately to circumvent the inconvenience caused by the surreptitious messengers, but in a few weeks certain individuals could be 'accidently' assigned to known situations of a lethal quality. In the meantime, however, the Captain of the Enterprise would have to be careful.

The door to his quarters sounded, then opened, as Marlena entered the Vulcan's sanctuary. With a quiet tread, she crossed the spartan room and seated herself on the edge of the bed, some distance away. Spock ignored her presence entirely as he finished the last of the official communiques. Completed, he entered them under his personal code and turned his attention to her.

Here was a real and immediate problem at hand. This one woman had information that could persuade the Command instantly, should they ever get an inkling of what had happened during the ion storm only a short month ago. So far, Marlena had proven loyal to him, but she was human, a woman, and caution tempered his every move. McCoy had already been removed by one of Spock's kinsmen and was no longer a threat. Scott was not politically motivated, preferring rather the company of his engines and a good bottle of scotch. Uhura was ambitious, striving for the First Officer position and perhaps an eventual Captaincy, but her fear of Spock overrode all else, thus ensuring her silence. No, the only weak link at this point was Marlena. She had switched sides once before, she could easily do so again. It annoyed him to have a 'Woman,' but what better place could he put her to keep an eye on her?

"I don't trust that new doctor, Captain," Marlena said silkily, interrupting his reflections. Spock answered her with an unraised eyebrow. When she'd left Kirk for him, one the habits retained was that of reporting, something James Kirk had required of all his Women. There was little Marlena could divulge that he would not already know from his other sources, but he endured the sessions to keep a finger on the pulse of this female he didn't trust. "She's dangerous."


"It's not anything I can identify, but there's something in her attitude that makes me think she's been planted here." Her leg swung in a random pattern alongside the bed as she waited for his reaction. This Captain was different from the last two she'd served. There were no jealousies, no weaknesses she could exploit to insure her position of power and prestige. He had kept her as his own, allowing her the use of the title 'Captain's Woman,' but there was a barrier between them that could not be breached by any of the methods she knew. What she really wanted, though, was to leave the Enterprise. Marlena had made far too many enemies to exist in this hothouse environment any longer. Her request for transfer at the Starbase had been conveniently lost before reaching Spock's desk and his sardonic expression when she'd broached the subject told her the effort had been a futile one. Lt. Moreau was beginning to hate this man almost as much as she feared him.

In a fluid motion, Spock came to his feet, dismissing the entire subject as trivial. Marlena tensed slightly, then forced herself to relax under his gaze. He left the cabin abruptly, leaving her alone to ponder what few alternatives were left to her. Her hand unconsciously smoothed the bed cover beneath it, swirling in circular motions as her thoughts chased each other in similar patterns. It would be so easy to walk over to the Tantalus Field hidden in the wall and press the right buttons. In an instant there would be no more Spock, she could even dispose of all of his bodyguards right in front of his eyes making him realize the fate in store for him before it actually happened.

Jim Kirk had used the Field often since obtaining it that day long ago. Marlena had offered to kill Spock once before, using it while the other Kirk from the parallel universe had been here, but he had stopped her. What had the other Kirk seen in the ruthless and calculating First Officer? Hard as she tried, Marlena could uncover no aspects of her present Captain that were deserving of those kinds of feelings.

The cover slid upward exposing the blank screen. Marlena quickly flipped the unit on and located Spock on the way to the bridge. His bodyguards were close behind, shielding him from possible attack. She chuckled at the thought of the big burly Vulcans protecting Spock from her using the field. So simple, just the touch of a button and no more Spock. She shut the panel again. The situation was not critical yet, and it amused her to think that she had the fate of her Captain in the palm of her hand. One day soon, though, things would change.

* * *

Christine retired to her quarters after a long and exhausting day, releasing her long brown hair from its confinement and donning a loose robe. At least most of the routine work, such as physicals, was behind her, and she could look forward to easier days ahead. The cabin's previous tenant had been somewhat slovenly, but the yeoman assigned to her had been diligent and now the place was clean. Records left on, and by, McCoy showed him to be little changed from the man under whom she'd served eight years ago on an obscure planet in the Alten 3 system. Her memories were corroborated by the condition of her cabin.

A heavy drinker, McCoy had botched more than one piece of surgery, but wealth and political connections had lifted him from the mire of Alten and onto a Starship. The very thought of him resurrected the memory of smelling his overpowering breath each morning as she assisted in surgery. It was doubtful anyone would particularly miss him from the Enterprise.

Curling up in her desk chair, Christine slipped the tapes from her lab coat pocket hanging on the chair back and set them on the desk surface. It was against regulations to remove restricted materials from the confines of sickbay, but Christine was a strong believer in breaking rules that did not fit her needs.

Most of the tape on Spock was typical: rank, commendations, successful completions of Empire subjugation orders, etc. What she was seeking appeared at the end of the tape under personal data. This section was succinct and to the point: age 45. Bastard son of Sarek, one of the major members of the ruling house of Vulcan. Mother was part of human chattel traded to Vulcan in exchange for trading agreement. Trained in warrior tradition before joining the Empire. No legal wife or concubine. No heirs claimed under law.

So far, so good. Christine dropped the other tape in, looking for information on Vulcans as a race. Her findings were as sparse as those on Spock: they were a martial race joined under a single ruling house. Those trained in the Tradition were considered the deadliest opponents in the galaxy. Women were subservient within the culture, with the exception of the ruling house. No information available on the rearing of children or personal interactions between adults. All violence was accomplished under the dictates of logic.

It wasn't much, but it was all that was available to her. Marlena's file had been easy to read through and discard. Lt. Moreau had risen to her rank by moving from one Captain to another, aboard this ship or that. Her significance was minor in Christine's view and it puzzled her why Spock would keep such a person as his Woman. What Marlena was even doing in the service was a mystery. She came from wealthy trader parents, educated in the finest schools, then enrolled at the Academy with a large donation by her parents as a bribe for her entrance.

Quite a bit different start from her own, Christine mused. She'd been born on a military outpost established as part of the buffer zone between the Romulan Federacy and the Empire. Life was difficult for an orphan left in the care of the government, but Christine had learned the ways of the street quickly and survived any way she could. She was only sixteen, but the commander of the Outpost was an easy mark for seduction and it wasn't long before she found herself off the Outpost and on a Starbase. From that point on, her beauty put her in a high-price market, and her intelligence kept her in school It was expensive to pay the entrance bribe to Medical School, but she did it, and several years later graduated at the top of her class.

Thereafter followed years of Empire service on various Starbases, Outposts and small ships. The knife strapped her thigh had been useful more than once in the backwater planets the Empire had sent her. Her appointment to the Enterprise as Chief Medical Officer had been earned the hard way, by blood and sweat, not the easy route people like McCoy had. Christine Chapel was a determined woman, hardened by years spent rising through the Corps. Only the strongest survived in the Empire ... it was a game with no rules, and no holds barred.

Christine smiled at the memory of Marlena's threat. Moreau had Spock at the moment, but the game had barely begun. In a short time, Marlena would be gone and the pursuit begun in earnest. Spock had the intelligence, the ability, and the power to rise even further than the Captaincy. Nothing was going to stand in the way of the power Christine could gain by rising with him.

* * *

Occasionally, Uhura liked to work the graveyard shift, as opposed to the usual daytime post she held. Few people were on the bridge and a great deal could be accomplished that otherwise would the impossible due to the high influx of communications at peak hours. Tonight was no exception. Right on schedule, a private message tape came for Spock. For the last six months, Uhura had been making a point of taking the shift in order to intercept them. Finding out about them had been quite by accident, but she hadn't made it to her present position by ignoring opportunities. Since the message was in Vulcan code, there was no seal on the tape, and it was just a matter of seconds for her to duplicate it before sending it to the Captain.

Captain. He didn't deserve the title or the position. A killer from a race of killers. Spock had murdered Kirk just as surely as one of his kinsmen had murdered her husband a year ago. There had been no particular love lost between Kirk and Uhura, but she still preferred him in the Captain's chair over the Vulcan. It wasn't difficult to determine Kirk's fate after their return from the alternate universe. Spock had been alone in that transporter room with the Captain, and only Spock had come out of it later.

It was just after he'd assumed the Captaincy that the message tapes began coming. So far she'd been unable to break the code, but it was strictly a matter of time before she did.

* * *

Spock listened to the newest tape, memorized it as it played, then destroyed all evidence of its existence. His eyes fell on Marlena sound asleep across the room, one arm gracefully thrown over the pillow on his side of the bed. Each day it was more dangerous for her to be alive. He couldn't transfer her on the chance she would take the knowledge elsewhere, but neither had there been a chance to kill her so it would look like an accident. Timing was becoming critical, one wrong move could tip the balance irrevocably.

The Mirror universe Jim Kirk had been persuasive in his arguments for Spock to overthrow the Empire and chart a new course for its people, never knowing how close he had been to the truth. Rapid expansion of the frontier regions of space had stretched the capabilities of the Emperor to the limit. Slave planets far outnumbered free ones and the necessary manpower needed to maintain so many had thinned military ranks to the bare minimum. Corruption and graft exceeded the amounts that reached the Treasury, raising the mandatory payments from the slave planets accordingly. Revolt was imminent. The Emperor knew it and could only depend on the loyalty of his Starship Captains to see the attempt failed. If Spock succeeded, the Emperor was going to be surprised.

The Vulcan Warrior Code was strict and binding. It was never to be broken, even on the pain of death. Several years and much planning had gone into the effort. Members of the Tradition had been placed on every Starship and within the Emperor's court under the guises of bodyguards, scientist, officers, any position that would be acceptably and unsuspected. When it came time, they would move as a unit and take control of the strategic points of power.

Kirk had forced Spock to move earlier than anticipated in his assumption of the Enterprise. The presence of the Tantalus Field had placed the entire revolt in jeopardy, for with it, Kirk could have destroyed Spock or anyone else and made everything collapse from within. It was fortuitous the Mirror Kirk had told Spock of the Field before the Empire Kirk could use it again. Marlena was the only catch. She knew too much and was totally untrustworthy.

* * *

Uhura smiled as the computer digested the new material she'd fed it and was spitting back information that was comprehensible. The most recent tape was two weeks old, but at least she'd finally broken the code and could read the message. With information like this, Uhura was certain the Emperor would reward her well for serving up Spock's head on the proverbial platter. Apparently everything was not quite prepared, so it would be better if she waited momentarily in order to make the coup more effective. Uhura was certain Spock would pay for the murder of her husband ... eventually ... and if there was one thing Uhura had, it was patience.

** II **

"Assuming standard orbit, Captain," Sulu reported to Spock without turning around.

"Lieutenant Uhura, have Dr. Chapel, Lt. Moreau, Ens. Roberts, and a security team report to the transporter room." Spock ignored the disappointment in Uhura's eyes when it became obvious he wasn't planning to accompany the landing party. Tension was high on the Enterprise and it was far too dangerous to jeopardize his position by being absent for any length of time. He was certain Sulu, Uhura and Chekov would like nothing better than to advance up the chain of command -- provided they could find a convenient method of disposing of him first. Today, like any other day, Spock was not of an inclination to grant them their wish.

Captain Spock leaned back in the cushy chair and perused the rotating planet on the screen. Rynada, one of the many slave planets under the jurisdiction of the Empire. Her principle export: jewels from the Rynaden Mines under the control for the last twenty years of Governor/Dictator Jurgen Donast. There had been method in his choice of the landing party scheduled to conduct an annual inspection of the mine's operations and physical examination updates. Bribery on the part of slave planet officials was the norm and Rynada was no exception, however, it also had a record of not always returning the same number of individuals in the landing party as beamed down. Terminal 'accidents' seemed to occur with greater frequency on some planets than others. Sending Moreau to the surface to run a check on the Mining records would create a possible situation that might prove fatal and thus remove her from the danger she posed to him. The choice of Chapel was to find out how well she could endure stress. She'd proven herself on board in the last seven months, now it was time to see what she could accomplish while in command, rather than just being a member of the landing party.

Christine felt nothing but disgust for the obese slob behind the desk that controlled the Rynaden Mines. She could see the gleam of lust in his eyes as he perused the three women in the landing party.

"I am Dr. Chapel," she introduced herself from a distance, preferring to get no closer to him than necessary.

He smiled widely, rubbing his hands together in glee. "Time for the annual inspection of the mines and personnel, I gather." She winced at the inanity of the remark. The man clearly knew why they were here. "I'm completely at your disposal," Donast continued smoothly. Each year the Emperor sent a starship for the inspection, and each year he'd managed to pay the landing party and receive the required marks for continued operation. This time would be no exception. Women were the easiest to bribe.

"Lt. Moreau will inspect your records, Ensign Roberts will assist me in giving physicals. The security team will remain here with you as liaison. I trust this arrangement will be satisfactory?" Actually, Christine couldn't have cared less whether Donast approved or not.

"But, of course, Dr. Chapel," he agreed generously, already planning on the removal of the security men by 'accidental' means. The jewels mined on Rynada were some of the finest in the galaxy and the number he pocketed every year far outweighed the risk of removing two of the Emperor's men. Cutthroat techniques were the only way to survive.

As they walked the long corridors, Christine tried to shut out Donast's voice as he explained the system. " ... as you know, Rynada produces the finest gems available on the free market. Our production levels far exceed those of competitors. Our slave population fluctuates between twenty five hundred and three thousand, depending on the season."

Donast was impressed with Chapel. Her attitude of total disinterest was a challenge he couldn't resist. Roberts would be no problem and Moreau had the look of a kept woman, but the physician was another story. It was going to require a great deal of persuasion to convince her to change the report to one of favorable qualitites. At least her ship was out of range temporarily. The emergency call from her Captain explaining the magnetic storm interference had been timely. Much could be accomplished in a few days.

"Damnable busy work," Moreau cursed to herself. "Why do I have to sit here and wade through all this garbage by hand when it could be shunted through the system on board in a matter of hours?" What was the point of it anyway? Donast was as crooked as anyone else in control of a slave planet, why the bother?

Moreau knew the answer. It had very little to do with Donast. Spock was the one who had ordered her here. Since obtaining the Captaincy, he had withdrawn daily further and further away from her, placing an impassable barrier between them. She had been the one to tell him of the Tantalus Field, prompted, of course, by the Other Kirk, but the fact still remained, if not for her, Spock would still be ignorant of it. He didn't trust her, obviously, keeping her near him under the guise of being his Woman, but it irritated Marlena greatly to be treated this way. In the last seven months he had shuttled her from one planet assignment to another, under this pretext or that, presumably hoping that one time she wouldn't return.

Marlena threw the stack of tapes across the room in vexation. This was the last time, the final straw, to be sent here to Rynada on the excuse of copying records. Spock apparently thought she would never dare to use the Field herself, but he was wrong -- and it was going to be his last mistake when she returned to the ship. Enough was enough and she had experienced more than enough.

After a long day, Marlena shut the door of the record room behind her and set out for the quarters reserved for the landing party. Linda Roberts was already there in the room they shared, relaxing in front of the large screen, engrossed in a nondescript film of some sort. Marlena threw her a look of contempt and headed for the shower. Of Chapel there was no sign, but that was just fine with Marlena. Being on the same ship was near enough proximity to the woman, but sharing a room with her was abominable.

Feeling refreshed, she stepped back into the large central room, slipping into a robe instead of her uniform and leaving the towel wrapped around her head. Roberts had apparently become bored and left during her absence, leaving the place all to Marlena.

"Good riddance! Now I can at least have some peace and quiet."

"Gee, I hate to disappoint you," came a voice from behind her. Christine stood just inside the doorway, arms crossed, leaning against the wall.

"I'll bet." Whipping the towel from her hair, Marlena set about vigorously drying it, eschewing Christine's presence entirely.

"Of course, I realize this is a step down from your usual quarters, but I'm sure that with a great deal of effort and forbearance, you can probably get by for a couple days," Christine remarked sardonically.

"Jealousy will get you nowhere," Marlena returned sarcastically.

"My, my, but we think highly of ourself, don't we? Too bad nobody else's opinion matches yours."

Marlena turned on her heel and stalked from the room, stopping at her bedroom door. "Excuse me, Dr. Chapel. I'd stay and chat, but I really do have better things to do with my time than waste it on you."

"I'm sure there'll be enough mirrors in the room to keep even you happy. Good night." The smile on Christine's lips faded the moment Marlena shut the door. Of all people to have to endure, why did Spock have to assign Moreau?

Stepping into the shower, Christine let the water wash away the dirt and grime of the day. Rynada was advanced, but had somehow neglected to install sonic showers. Christine didn't mind though, because the warm caress of the liquid brought back memories of another time and place.

It was better than working the streets, but being on the elite list available for high-paying clients wasn't always what it was reputed to be either. Night after night she would have to dress up and be charming to whomever Adele had assigned her. The lines whispered in her ear became repetitious and the smile on her face was pasted on in the evening, then wiped off the next morning. After a time, it became a ritual to walk through her front door and head straight for the shower, letting the water wash away the previous night.

A knock on the bathroom door brought Christine back to the present. "Who is it?" Never a moment's peace.


Christine opened the door a crack and peered out at the young woman. "What is it that it can't wait?"

"It's the security team. They're missing."

"Missing?" Disbelief tinged her voice.

"I've looked everywhere. They've just vanished."

"Nobody just disappears, Roberts. Give me a minute I'll be right out."

A short time later, Christine found herself agreeing with Roberts that the two men were indeed among the missing. Steeling herself to the inevitable, Christine sent Roberts back to the room and went in search of Donast. The knock on his door was answered immediately.

Donast stood framed in the doorway looking her over thoroughly, taking in the still damp hair and determined expression on her face. "May I help you, Miss Chapel? Is there something wrong?" He allowed a touch of concern to inflect his voice, giving the proper attitude of servitude.

"I am unable to locate my security team. Perhaps you could initiate a search for them."

"By all means! Why don't you step inside here while I contact my men?" he invited graciously.

Unable to come up with an appropriate excuse to refuse, Christine entered the plush quarters of Rynada's Governor/Dictator. She looked the room over carefully, storing away the contents in her memory, as Donast contacted someone on a closed circuit-receiving the answer in like manner.

"I'm sorry to report the loss of your two security men, Doctor," Donast explained smoothly. "It seems they were caught in a fracas between a group of renegade slaves, and a security patrol. Most unfortunate occurrence. Such things happen frequently. I'll do my best to see there are no repeats of this kind of incident while you are my guests."

She wasn't fooled a moment by the man's convincing suavity. "I see."

"I'm sorry you weren't notified sooner, but as you know, we're terribly understaffed here..." He spread his hands in supplication.

"Good night." Christine allowed her fury to surface during the walk back to her quarters. The Rynaden Mines were little more than tightly-run prison complexes. There had been no evidence of manpower shortage, and the odds of `renegade' slaves running rampant were next to impossible. Donast had wanted the men out of the way. Period. Prior reports on the planet had been glowing with praise. Christine did a quick tabulation in her head of how many credits were involved to grease the palms that submitted those reports.

By the time she was back in the room, Christine had made a rough outline of the situation, and taken stock of her alternatives. Donast had been controlling Rynada for twenty years -- longer than the present Emperor had been on the throne. Yearly siphoning of planetary revenues, in addition to the smuggling of jewels (she assumed), had made him a wealthy and powerful man waiting out his retirement. Only such a secure man would dare to dispose of two military men in the service of the Empire. The remaining question was ... why? What possible gain could it bring him to kill them? Could it have been intended as a threat of other possible repercussions, should she submit an unsatisfactory report on Rynada? It certainly proved one thing, though. From here on, she was going to have to be even more careful. The Enterprise was too far away and completely out of reach for the next two days.

* * *

"Official Log, Stardate 299.4. Christine Chapel recording:

"Tonight is the evening of the second day on Rynada. The Enterprise is due back tomorrow hopefully, barring any unforeseen difficulties with the magnetic storm. Personnel physicals have been completed and Lt. Moreau has finished compiling records ... "

Christine turned away from recording at the sound of running feet.

"Dr. Chapel ... " Roberts puffed, "come quick ... there's been an accident." She leaned back against the wall to catch her breath. Why couldn't an efficient intercom system be hooked up to the quarters reserved for guests?

In moments, Christine had thrown her kit over her arm and was speeding along behind Roberts. Rather than taking the corridor leading to the executive wing where they'd been spending all their time, Roberts ducked down the corridor down leading to the mines.

A cluster of security guards was gathered near the elevator shaft which dropped to the subterranean pits below. They parted at Christine's arrival, showing the object of their attention.

The first thing Christine noticed was the lack of a knife anywhere near Marlena. Her clothes were in shreds and bruises covered her body from the brutal treatment received. Readings were weak, but Marlena was still alive. Ordering several of the men standing around to carry her back to the shared quarters, Christine dispersed the group, including Roberts, leaving only herself and Donast.

"You have exactly thirty seconds to explain this, Mr. Donast, before I go treat Moreau further." Her temper was barely in check over this latest incident. First it was the guards, then missing records, now this attack on Moreau.

Donast adjusted his insignia of office before answering her. His estimation of Christine had been correct; she had a fighting spirit that wouldn't bend easily. "I don't have any answers for you at the moment. My men discovered her just a short while ago. Your Ensign Roberts was nearby and offered to get you. I assure you, I will look into this incident personally, and punish the person or persons involved."

"How reassuring." It was apparent there was nothing to be gained form Donast at the present, and Moreau was in need of further medical attention. "I will see you in the morning."

* * *

It was late, and Christine was tired, so she ignored the mumbling that came from her patient at first. After a while, though, the words 'Spock' and 'Tantalus' kept recurring. Flipping a switch on her medical recorder, Christine set it by Marlena's head to catch whatever else was said. Selecting the proper dosage, Christine injected Marlena, putting her further under and totally cooperative. Many questions later and a full spool of tape, Christine broke off the inquiries and shut the machine down.

* * *

Morning came early, but Christine was still awake and intently going over the tape made the previous evening by Marlena. It answered many of the questions she'd been asking herself since coming on board -- the most important of which was -- why did Spock keep Marlena as his Woman? Christine wasn't sure if the discovery of the Tantalus Field in Spock's quarters was the most important, or the existence of an alternate universe that mirrored her own.

What would her counterpart be like in a life ruled by a Federation instead of an Empire? Had their lives been similar or totally opposite? Was her relationship with the various people in her life the same? What of the Mirror Spock? It was hard for her to picture anything different than the man she knew here in the Empire universe. Marlena had apparently been impressed with the Other Kirk, so much so that she had offered to murder Spock for him, utilizing the Tantalus Field.

Reminded abruptly of her patient, Christine sedated her again, then decided to take a walk, leaving Roberts behind to watch over Moreau till her return.

Because of the hour, the corridors near the living areas were vacant. It wasn't until she reached the maze of intersecting passages going to the mining pits did she encounter other people. No one impeded her as she took the shaft corridor instead of the executive wing passageway. A couple of security men entered the elevator shaft as she did, but neither paid her any particular attention as they punched in location coordinates.

Her exit from the elevator, however, was barred at their first stop. The guard placed an arm in front of her until the doors again closed. "Primary levels are restricted to all but essential personnel. Visitors are permitted only on the viewing level three grades down." The machine ground to a halt and the guard allowed her to step out of last.

Everything was deserted and Christine wandered through the rooms obviously set up for visiting dignitaries with displays and presentations concerning Rynada, but she was unsatisfied and struck out on her own through the restricted doorways. Most led to sealed doors, but one opened onto a grilled staircase that wound upward through the solid rock. Climbing, Christine eventually came onto a network of catwalks suspended above the mining pits below. Cavern after cavern was connected by the grilled walkway, allowing the viewer access to each of the pits.

Time passed quickly as she wandered from pit to pit, observing the various slaves working away under the watchful gaze of armed guards and security systems. Most slave colonies consisted of the planet natives, but mining complexes were different as a rule. They had become receptacles for political prisoners, bartered slaves, and anyone else various governments decided to send there. Nearly every race was represented, reduced to a common level of sheer survival by the heavy manacles and back-breaking labor.

"Fascinating, isn't it?"

She spun around at the sound of Donast's voice, irritated that he had been able to sneak up on her. Christine honored his observation with silence.

"The mine operates around the clock constantly. They tried mechanizing the mines shortly after they opened them, but nothing worked as well as manual labor to perform actual ming duties."

"If you'll excuse me..."

Donast moved closer to her, placing one hand on the railing beside her. "You realize, of course, that this area is restricted, Dr. Chapel, or shall I call you, Christine?"

"I'll leave immediately," she offered, acquiescence absent in her voice.

"There's no rush. My men have had you under surveillance since you left your quarters."

"For what reason?" It annoyed her that she had underestimated the facilities of the mine security system. Was her room monitored also? Did Donast share her knowledge?

"Standard procedure. Don't worry. I've ordered the surveillance stopped while I'm here with you."

"Wonderful," she dead panned.

He ignored her tone of voice and continued speaking. "I had these catwalks built a few years ago in order to get a better view of the pits and increase security measures by aerial inspections. Any trouble by the slaves can immediately be eliminated by a few marksmen up here. I used to spend hours up here, just watching. Don't get much of a chance anymore, too busy, I guess," he explained wistfully.

"What a shame." Christine edged away, preparing to leave.

Donast shifted quickly to the other side of her. "Too bad about Marlena last night, but it goes to prove how dangerous it can be around here. Much too dangerous for a beautiful woman like you to be walking around alone."

"I appreciate your concern. It is getting late and I need to complete a few things before the Enterprise returns to pick us up."

"There's lots of time, Christine. Besides, my men will notify us when your ship arrives. Why don't you join me for a drink in the meantime?" He stroked her arm gently and she shuddered at the feel of the oily hand.

Christine hesitated a moment, weighting her alternatives. Could he have been telling the truth that the monitoring system was shut down temporarily here on the catwalks? Or was he just setting her up for a fall like the rest of the landing party?

Taking her silence as an affirmative answer, Donast leaned over to kiss her, taking in her fragrance and the soft feel of her skin beneath his fingers.

"Touch me again, and I'll take great pleasure in carving you into tiny pieces," she whispered into his ear, barely pressing the point of her blade into his oversized belly.

He breathed deeply, lost in his own thoughts, disregarding the words. "I want you, Christine." The point jabbed him this time, at last catching his attention fully.

"Back off, Donast. I meant what I said about taking pleasure in slicing you into ribbons. I didn't waste my time in medical school, and you'll be pleased to know I was ranked at the top of my class in 'surgery'." She chuckled to herself at the tiny beads of sweat on his brow as he considered the threat.

"You wouldn't dare!"

She smiled viciously this time. "Try me."

"One word from me and every guard in the place will come down on you," he hissed. It was an idle threat on his part since he'd ordered everyone away in hopes of some privacy in order to seduce her.

"I don't think so. They're quite a ways away. Can they run faster than my hand can move?" He blinked at the incongruous combination of smile and cold eyes. "I think you cleared the area and shut down surveillance in order to assure yourself privacy. No guard in his right mind is going to cross that order until it's rescinded." His eyes were glued to the knife pressing in deeply through his finery. "I have a better idea. Why don't you take off your clothes and throw them over the railing so I can have a head start on you getting off the catwalks?" Christine knew her time on Rynada had run out and it was going to be a matter of survival to last until the Enterprise returned.

Donast balked at the suggestion, but the thin trickle of blood drawn by the razor sharp knife convinced him to reconsider his alternatives. There was a chance he could overpower her, but the catwalks were not that sturdy and the possibility of one or both of them falling to the pits below was very great. Besides, she handled the knife with an expertise that alarmed even him. Her ship would not be back for a while, so time was on his side. He weighed the options and decided the odds were in his favor in the long run. She would pay for this indignation and he would take great pleasure in exacting the debt. With exaggerated movements, Donast removed each item of clothing, making a show of tossing it over the railing.

"One more thing, Donast. Climb over the railing."

"What!" She was mad, he decided, and his desire for vengeance moved up a notch.

"Climb over the railing so your body is on the far side with your feet sticking through toward me." She emphasized her command by drawing more blood. "Move!"

The railing creaked and swayed as he maneuvered his heavy body into the position demanded. She'd saved his shirt from being thrown over and used it now by ripping it into strips, ordering him to tie his own feet, then she tied his hands together, all on her side of the railing. Christine was careful to always keeping clear of his reach. The next thing she did was order him to loop his hands through his legs so they weren't free enough to hinder her motions. Considering his bulk, it was amazing he was able to accomplish it. The last thing she did was gag him before taking off down the catwalk, running for the door that would give her access to the rest of the complex.

* * *

The guards gave her no problems as she wended her way back to the surface levels, proving Donast had been truthful in his claims of shutting down the surveillance temporarily. Her walk back to the quarters was brisk, but no so extreme as to draw attention. Inside her quarters were the communicator and hand phaser that could buy her time until the Enterprise showed up.

Once inside her quarters, she headed straight to her belongings, searching for the necessary equipment. Clothes flew every direction as the quest became an obsession.

"Looking for something, Chapel?"

Christine turned to find Roberts standing casually in the doorway, phaser lying in an outstretched palm. "What is the meaning of this?" Christine demanded. "Hand over my phaser immediately and contact the ship. See if she's in range yet."

"She's in range. Has been for several minutes now. I told them I had a couple of things to complete before beaming up with the reports." The phaser shifted to a firing position. "Don't come any closer."

"Where's Moreau?" In reality, Christine wasn't interested, but she needed to buy time to find out what was happening and to stop it before it was too late.

"Seems the Lieutenant met with an accident near one of the mining shafts last night. I tried to recover the body, but there just wasn't enough left of it after being caught in the machinery."

"I assume you mean you killed her in my absence."

"I guess you could put it that way. Sort of like what's going to happen to you." Gone was the eager-to-please Ensign and in her place was an assured woman holding a phaser with a steady hand.

"Care to explain all this?" If the Enterprise was in orbit and contacted once already, they wouldn't wait long before another contact was made.

"It's really quite simple. I agreed to write a favorable report on Rynada and, in exchange, Donast is giving me a free hand in disposing of the rest of the landing party. All deaths occur quite by accident, of course."

"Why?" Christine inched her way toward the nearby desk top, keeping Roberts occupied with questions.

"Several reasons. Mostly revenge."

"On whom?"

"Several people. You just happen to be at the top of the list."

"I see. How lucky I am. Why don't you indulge me a minute before firing that phaser, and tell me about it?" Her hand brushed the side of the desk and moved upward slowly toward the tape container resting there.

"My name isn't Roberts, it's McCoy. Joanna McCoy to be exact."

"Leonard McCoy's daughter? I'd heard he'd been busy in his younger days," Christine observed. "So?"

"We were very close. He was forced to resign from the Enterprise and later murdered." Joanna's eyes grew misty at the memory. "Spock had him killed so you could take his place."

"You're crazy! I'd never seen Spock before boarding."

"You're lying! You've always resented my father, right from the time you worked under him at Alten. He had everything you wanted. Power, money, rank. A no good, stinking, streetwalker is all you are. You couldn't best him honestly, so you had Spock do away with him so you could take his position as Chief Medical Officer." The phaser quivered with her anger. "You always did sleep your way to the top."

"So you figured on doing away with the entire landing party to cover your real motive, and come out as a hero by surviving the ordeal and bringing the records back safely." Christine nodded her head, distracting Joanna from what her hands were doing. "Donast paid you to make sure the missing records on his activities disappeared, too, didn't he?"

"Of course."

There was a buzz at the door, distracting Roberts, and Christine reacted instantly, grabbing the tape container and flinging it at Joanna. The beam from the phaser just missed her, but Christine didn't wait for another. She threw her entire weight onto Joanna, taking her to the floor, knocking the air out of her. The buzzing was replaced by pounding as the mine security men demanded entrance. Grabbing the communicator from Joanna's belt, Christine punched the emergency signal while reaching for her medical kit. Her fingers clutched it just as the transporter beam dissolved the room around them.

* * *

"My compliments on handling the situation, Dr. Chapel."

"Thank you, Captain." Christine gracefully moved from behind her desk where Spock had found her working and approached him. "I apologize for the loss of Lt. Moreau. Her original injuries sustained in the attack were not that severe, but I left Roberts ... I mean McCoy with her while I was gone for a time."

"She has already signed a full confession and is waiting for judgment by the Emperor's tribunal." The Captain didn't bother to mention that Sulu had conducted the interrogation leading to the confession.

Spock found himself impressed with the physician and how she'd completed the mission despite various difficulties. Donast had registered official complaints toward her, but the records recovered from the tapes in her kit would be sufficient to put him inside his own mining colony for the rest of his life. The tribunal always dealt harshly with those who dared plunder the Empire and were caught, which would eliminate Joanna McCoy from the scene. He would have to contact the men responsible for McCoy's death and discover how she knew he'd been behind it.

The best result from the mission was the demise of Marlena Moreau in such a neat and easily explainable fashion. With her gone, the threat of the Field's exposure had been reduced to zero. That alone made this violation of his customary aloofness acceptable to him. It was too bad Chapel was a human woman, she had the qualities prized by members of the Tradition in a female.

"I must return to the bridge."

"Of course. Good night, Captain." After his departure, Christine sat down and leaned back in her chair. So, the Captain had deigned to speak to her personally. She smiled in satisfaction. Now that Marlena was gone, nothing stood in her way any longer. "Thank you, Joanna McCoy. Unlike your father, you, at least, accomplished something of value."

* * *

Spock listened to the new tape intently, then crumpled it in his fist. The time had come. Everything was in readiness to overthrow the Empire. It was his decision to choose the exact moment.

Uhura just smiled as she sent the coded message to the Emperor.

** III **

The revolution spread like wildfire through the galaxy and a bloodbath followed in its wake. Millions died in the first few days alone. The Emperor and his house were executed publically and the installation of the new leadership was officially declared. Mutiny had erupted on one of the starships against the Vulcan takeover, but it was quelled permanently, and as a demonstration to others that might try the same, the new Captain elected to destroy the ship himself and all aboard.

* * *

Spock surveyed the latest reports in the solitude of his cabin. The Other Kirk had been correct in his surmise that the Empire was ripe for a change. What he hadn't foreseen was the endless violence that seemed to find no end or true release. It should not have been this way. Something had gone wrong from the beginning. It was as though the Emperor had been prepared in advance, twisting the carefully laid plans into worthless nothings. Detection of the plans should have been impossible, but someone had done it and warned the Emperor, nearly destroying the revolution before it ever started. He didn't know yet where the leak had occurred, but before long he would, and the payment exacted on the guilty party would be steep.

* * *

Christine grabbed a quick cup of tea before heading back to the sickbay. Ever since Spock fired the first in a series of attacks on Empire strongholds, casualties had been mounting by the day. Order was gradually being restored, according to the reports, but she could find no evidence of it on board the Enterprise. At least she'd been correct in her estimation of Spock's abilities and potential. If only the planets being brought into line with the new regime would understand the same thing and realize the futility of resistence, it would make her life and job a great deal easier.

By the time she was able to leave sickbay late that night, Christine was drained and totally exhausted. She was surprised to find Sulu standing by the doorway to her quarters, blocking her entrance.

"Well, hello there, Dr. Chapel." The scar on his face made his smile more of a leer. He unfolded his arms and gestured for her to proceed him into her quarters.

Christine stopped, startled by the turn of events. What was Sulu doing here? As Chief of Security, his path rarely crossed with hers. Much as she disliked the thought, Christine invited him into her quarters, aware of the power he wielded on the ship. For the time being, she would play along with his game. Whatever it was.

"Is there something you wish to see me about, Mr. Sulu?" She rested her frame on the corner of the desk as he wandered about the room, taking in the paucity of personal effects she had scattered about the area.

"You are an attractive woman, Chapel," he started. "According to my research that seems to be the one thing on which you've always capitalized to get where you are today."

She stiffened at his words. Sulu was not the type of man to simply drop by to pass the time of day. It was obvious he wanted something and was laying his cards out, one at a time.

"In fact, I seem to recall an incident of several years ago on Deena Six during one of your assignments where the rather inexplicable death of a high official took place." Sulu stopped pacing a moment to smile once more. "My sources tell me he died in your arms that night, not to mention the large sum of credits placed in an account under your name the following morning."

"I suggest you get better sources. Ones that tell facts accurately."

"Rumor is, the death was not accidental, as you listed on the official report, but was really a political assassination by you for an enormous payoff."

"My report was accurate."

Sulu continued as if she'd never interrupted. "Now it seems that due to the upheaval of governmental proceedings on Deena Six, the dead man's son has taken control and put a price on your head for crimes against the State."

"That's ridiculous!"

"Is it? Perhaps we should contact Deena Six and see how you're received. If I were you, though, I'd only pack enough for a one-way trip."

As tired as she was, the threat of blackmail could not be mistaken. It didn't matter whether it was true or not; because of the massive changes in planetary governments, anything was possible. If Sulu wanted to make a deal with Deena Six to trade her for something, or even nothing, he could do it. She needed time. "What do you want, Sulu?"

He was pleased by her capitulation. "I want the Enterprise and you're my only way to get it."

It wasn't what she was expecting. "I don't follow. My only function is Chief Medical Officer, what good will that do you?"

"There's no way to get to Spock because of his bodyguards. I need you to kill him for me." Sulu watched her reaction carefully. If there was the slightest sign that she would betray him, he would kill her instantly. Her expression never altered as she absorbed his order.

"How much time do I have?"

"By tomorrow."

"What about his bodyguards?" she argued. "They won't rest till they have avenged his death."

"Who will they kill if you make his death look like natural causes?"

"I'll do my best," she replied steadily.

Sulu cupped her chin in his hand. "I'm so glad you're being reasonable. It would be a pity to have to kill you, too."

Her mind raced, looking for options. She needed more information. "How are you going to take over this entire ship by yourself?" Christine gently caressed his ribs, allowing her hands to travel freely when no objection was raised to the motion.

"You worry about things that don't concern you. The only thing you need to handle is getting Spock out of the way."

"There's nothing else I can do?" Her fingers snaked their way up to his ears and into his hair.

"Not for the ship," he answered, with a feral gleam in his eye.

Christine tipped her head coyly to the side. "Not even for you?"

"Always for me." He kissed her hungrily, pleased with his conquest and a warm body for the hour. Her response was that of the true professional she'd been and he allowed a momentary lapse of mind over body at the sheer pleasure she evoked.

She felt that instant of control loss and took advantage of it. Reaching beneath her head, Christine found her hidden knife placed under the pillow by habit. It had been so easy to lure him to her bed, to seduce him with the pleasures he craved. Before he could react, she plunged it to the hilt into his back.

Sulu had never felt such pain. She'd stabbed him! "Why?" he gasped, even as her features began swimming before his eyes.

"Nobody blackmails me. Besides, given a choice, I'll take Spock over you any day." She watched, detached, as he expired, then shoved the blood soaked body off and away from her and went to the shower.