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 Three, published by Checkmate Press, April 1984. Checkmate Press is the property of Karen A. Bates. This story is Rated PG-13.

Christine/Christine: Part Two

Karen A. Bates


After dressing, Christine threw a cover over Sulu and went in search of Spock. She found him in his quarters, sitting behind the desk in thought. He showed no surprise at her presence in the wee hours of the morning. Christine declined his offer of a chair and perched on the edge of the desk near him instead.

"There's a plan to take over the Enterprise soon."

"I had surmised such."

"Sulu came to me tonight. My job is to kill you and make it look like death by natural causes."

An eyebrow rose. He'd wondered how his death was to be arranged, now he knew. "Have you come to warn me?"

"I don't believe in choosing the losing side." She rose to leave.

"Where is Sulu now?" How different she was from other women he'd known. So cold and efficient.

"Mr. Sulu is presently reclining on my bed in a severe state of dead," she answered calmly. "I will devise a way to dispose of the body when I return."

Despite himself, Spock was impressed. Not only efficient, but deadly as well. It was ironic, too, that Sulu should die at the hands of a woman. The Security Officer had prided himself as being a man who used women, then cast them aside. By her own admission, Christine Chapel had lured him to her bed, then killed him without hesitation or regret. His respect for her abilities rose a notch. "I assume his records will show death by natural causes."

"I suspect the official cause of death will show a heart attack. After all, he has been under a great deal of pressure lately. A laser will disguise the knife wound."

"My compliments, Doctor."

"I am honored, Captain. My apologies for disturbing you at this hour."

When the door had closed behind her, Spock relaxed again. Now that Sulu was dead, the mutiny which had been fermenting recently would fall apart. Uhura would now advance to the position of First Officer, bringing her one step closer to the Captaincy she desired. The woman was dangerous and would need close observation. Now that only one man stood in her way, instead of two, she might be more inclined to make a move against him.

He heard the rumor later of how Sulu had died of a heart attack while in the arms of his latest mistress, Dr. Chapel. Yes, Spock thought, a most resourceful woman.

Six months later

Uhura set her own duplication of the message tape for Spock aside and gave the original to a yeoman for delivery to the Captain's quarters, in spite of the late hour. Now that she'd broken the code, it was so easy to just wait until her shift's end to put it through the computer and read it. Turning in her seat, she allowed herself a single look of hatred at the empty command chair before getting back to work.

She was amazed at how oblivious he could be to what was going on. He'd never suspected her messages to the Emperor had been the catalyst to undermining the entire Vulcan rebellion against the Empire. Uhura smiled in grim satisfaction that it had been she alone who was responsible.

Vulcan's hold on the Empire was tenuous at best. If the Emperor had not been warned, the rebellion would have complete control now, instead of the present shaky position. They would never succeed if she had anything to say about it. Her contacts were still secure and with every message tape Spock received, more damage was done to the Vulcans.

Hours later, her replacement felt a shiver when he saw the gleam in her eye and the twisted smile on her face.

* * *

Spock sat back, disturbed at this new tape. Pulling back his uniform sleeve, he contemplated the tiny brand permanently burned into the skin just above the wrist. It was a beautiful symbol, the curved lines gracefully intertwined. A beautiful symbol with an ugly connotation. The mark of bastard was burned into the skin shortly after birth to designate those without pure lines of lineage.

His mother had been human, a piece of chattel Sarek owned as payment for a trading agreement. She had barely survived the birth of her son before death claimed her, but the stigma of his heritage remained for all to see. Sarek's other son, Stonn, had been born less than six months later of Sarek's legitimate wife and bore no such symbol of degradation.

He and Stonn had been reared together in the Warrior tradition, each striving to excel and earn their father's nod of approval. Only one of them had received it. At the age of sixteen, Spock had left Vulcan as the youngest member of the Caste to gain full status, to join the Imperial Fleet. The break with his father at that point was a severance never healed in the thirty years since.

Now the message had come that his father had acquired the throne of the Empire, claiming Stonn as legitimate successor and Spock as Outcast. Outcast. A word to signify his denial of existence of his other son. To Sarek, Spock was dead, a son that never existed. His name would be stricken from the records of any lineage or claim to ancestral rights. Sarek couldn't take his Warrior status away, though. The distinction of being a member was of his own achievement and could only be taken away through actions of his own. Nor could his father take away his command of the Enterprise. If Vulcan's hold were stronger, perhaps, but as it was, there was nothing Sarek could do about it.

Sarek's actions had been prompted by the threat Spock posed to Stonn as successor to the throne. There were many in the Caste who would support the elder brother over Sarek's choice. Pressure from T'Pau to instate Spock as heir was strong, too. She had never hidden her preference for one grandson over the other. Spock's record as a member of the Caste had proven many times the absence of any human taint in his blood. Sarek had seized the throne, but his mother was still an important woman with whom to reckon, because of the power she had wielded for over two hundred years as ruler of Vulcan.

There had also been an official addendum to the message stating the throne had confiscated his lands and properties, as an Outcast could not own such things. Spock felt the loss of the lands as they had been a gift from T'Pau, but the properties were unimportant.

He could still remember the day he'd acquired the single non-land possession. The fever had called him to return to the land of his fathers to take a bride. T'Pring had challenged him, saying she would not submit to being the wife of a bastard son bearing human blood. Her champion had almost won, but at the last moment Spock broke his neck with the ahn-woon and was declared victor. T'Pring realized her wish of not being the wife of Spock, instead she became his chattel without rights. She was forced to serve him in his time of need, then abandoned on Vulcan to be a mere piece of property for the rest of her life. Spock assumed Stonn had now claimed her as his own property, taking what he'd wanted that day of marriage. T'Pring had been foolish in her choice of champion. Denying both Stonn and Spock had brought her a life of misery as slave chattel.

On Vulcan the absence of a mate could only mean death at the pon farr, but Spock broke tradition, choosing his women as they were needed and discarding them when their purpose had been served. With Marlena's death, there had never been another Captain's Woman. When the next fever came, he would cope with it as he had many times in the past.

Erasure completed, the tape was spit back out again. Spock held it for a moment, then crushed it in his hand.

* * *

Spock perused the latest reports, signed them and handed the board to the yeoman. He considered the swirling planet on the viewscreen as unVulcan-like thoughts concerning his father flashed through his mind. Sarek's power was growing as one by one his opponents were methodically eradicated. In his one year as Emperor, Sarek had tightened his grip on the Empire as his predecessors had never been able to accomplish. Vulcan ruled and the Empire bowed to its wishes. All the careful planning by the Warrior Caste prior to the rebellion was being swept away by the charismatic man on the throne. His followers were fanatics, carrying out Sarek's commands, whatever the cost. Stonn had become his father's right arm, dealing personally with those who would defy the Emperor.

The newest list of oncoming personnel spoke volumes to him. Placement of three Vulcans on the Enterprise at one time meant his days were to be numbered. A recent message from a loyal member of the Caste had warned Spock that Sarek would react to the support Spock was gaining. Spock had underestimated his father's haste to kill his first born son.

At least Sulu was no longer a threat. Christine Chapel had removed the threat quite neatly, stopping the mutiny with Sulu's death. After that night in Spock's quarters nothing more had ever been said on the subject. The truth of the First Officer's death was buried forever.

His prediction of Uhura was proving correct also. Her fear of him was being replaced with hatred. She was efficient, but completely ruthless as First Officer and Security Officer. Before much longer she would have to be removed.

Turning over command, Spock left the bridge. His bodyguards fell into step behind him. Entering his quarters, he dismissed them abruptly. The peace of his quarters was what he needed right now. Placing himself in a meditative state, Spock allowed the irritation to flow from him.

Images of his youth on Vulcan played in his mind. Stonn was a perpetual thorn in his side, challenging him to prove he was truly Vulcan, while continually taunting him with Spock's half-breed heritage. The final break with his brother had come when Warrior status was given to Spock rather than Stonn.

Spock had applied himself diligently to the many years of rigorous training and instruction, pushing himself to the limits of his endurance and beyond. When others his age could go no further, Spock would try yet another time. Stonn had the blessings of his father, but Spock had the motivation of denial. The scars on his body had been earned, the mark of the Caste burned onto his chest as reward. Stonn had finally earned the same marking, but the memory of Spock attaining it years earlier burned in the younger brother's mind, as deeply as the brand on his body.

Leaving Vulcan behind him had not removed Stonn from his life. He'd felt the touch of Stonn in T'Pring's mind and knew his brother had mated with Spock's betrothed before the marriage. Such things were forbidden on Vulcan by law, but with the sanction of Sarek, a member of the ruling family, Stonn's actions were ignored. T'Pring paid for her actions when Spock denied her as wife and took her as property. Even had there been no challenge that day, Spock had had no intentions of accepting her as wife. He'd used her without melding and without mercy, then left her.

In the years that followed, Stonn's actions were revealed to him through various sources, including T'Pau. The old woman's displeasure with her son and grandson knew no bounds. Sarek's banishment of her, when claiming the throne, had weakened his position politically, but appeased his need to removed himself from beneath her thumb. Sarek's action was illogical, but none could oppose it.

The last year had been the most trying for Spock's patience. Spies, sent by Sarek, had increased, and not all of them had been Vulcan. Even one of his personal guards had betrayed him. There had been two attempts on his life in the last four months. Sarek was apparently determined to rid himself of Spock.

It puzzled Spock that Sarek had even allowed him to live or claimed him as son for so long. He wondered, not for the first time, what his mother had been like. There were no holographs or even written records of her physical appearance, or what kind of person she had been. Her life with Sarek had been brief and harsh. Vulcan was merciless to those not her own. Her son had survived by sheer determination to earn his father's respect, an achievement never realized.

After a time, the serenity from meditation overtook him and the bitter memories faded. He was no longer Spock of Vulcan, he was simply ... Spock. There was no allegiance owed to anyone.

* * *

Christine Chapel set the last of the files aside for someone to put away in the morning and stretched. Another stack of bureaucratic "ticky tacky" behind her. It was amazing just how much paperwork was required under the new regime. The only time she'd actually found pleasure in doing it was when the official form had to be completed on Sulu's death.

A portable laser filched from the sickbay after leaving Spock's quarters that night had erased the wound completely. Some quick removal of the blood stains and all signs of the act were gone. She smiled in memory of the acting performance she'd given when summoning help. A transparent gown, some tears and everyone was convinced he'd died happily in her arms. She had no regrets for her actions. He'd been deserving of death for blackmailing her and threatening Spock. The only person who could possibly miss Sulu would be Uhura. Christine smiled at the thought of the First Officer being caused pain. The animosity between the two women had begun that night and continued ever since.

Sickbay was empty as she left her office. It was no wonder, since it was four in the morning. Turning out the last of the lights, Christine detoured for coffee on the way to her quarters.

Cup in hand, she took her time, enjoying the silent hallways, uncluttered with personnel. Christine was not a social creature by nature, preferring her own company. Years of mingling with people to earn a living had made her truly appreciate her solitude. There were rare occasions when her path crossed that of Spock, but she did not seek him out.

Voices up ahead infringed on her quiet. She strained to hear what the voices were saying, but the language was unfamiliar. Ducking into a darkened side passage, she hid as five men passed her. Four armed Vulcans surrounding the Captain did not bode well. The distance to his quarters was short, but the door refused her entrance. Pulling a pin from her hair, she applied some persuasion to the electronics and moments later stood inside the room.

Searching the walls, she finally found the odd shaped panel Marlena had described while under sedation. Pressing the hidden latch, the panel moved aside, exposing the Tantalus field. The men came into view. The surroundings were unfamiliar, but from the size of things, it was probably somewhere in the lower engineering decks. She was curious as to why they had taken Spock there instead of just killing him where they had found him.

Punching the computer console, she engaged the translator. Christine didn't have to listen long to the confrontation to know what was happening. Someone named Stonn apparently wanted Spock dead and these men were to make sure his wishes were fulfilled. Focusing on one of them, she pushed the correct button, watching in amazement as he blinked out of existence. Two more met the fate of the first. Spock took advantage of the providence and killed the last one himself. Closing the panel, Christine shut everything down and left his quarters, sealing the door.

* * *

She woke abruptly, struggling to reach her knife beneath the pillow, but the hands holding her down were too strong. Realizing it was futile to struggle further, Christine lay still and waited for what would happen. Her eyes adjusted to the dim light and eventually made out the features of the man above her. At her nod, the hand was removed from her mouth and she was free to move.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, angry at herself for not hearing him enter her quarters.

"You were in my quarters earlier tonight," he remarked casually, still not moving from her side. "I came to discuss it with you."

Pulling the sheet with her, Christine sat up and leaned back against the wall."You could have knocked."

"I prefer a more direct approach. It was you that used the Tantalus Field."

"I saw them taking you and could think of no better alternative. There were four of them, and one of me with only a knife."

"How did you know of the Field?" he demanded roughly. This woman was a constant source of surprises.

"Marlena."

"I see no reason for her to have told you of its existence."

"She was under sedation just before Joanna McCoy killed her. A person under drugs can admit to many things, Spock."

His hand moved with lightning speed, clasping her throat gently. "Marlena earned her death by knowing too much and being untrustworthy." He studied her face, his Vulcan eyes seeing as clearly in the dark as if it were daylight. There was no fear in her eyes, just a sense of ... waiting ... to see what he would do. His hand closed tighter. Still no reaction. She was indeed a cold woman. Releasing her, Spock sat back.

"Have you learned what you came to find out? How did you know it was me and not someone else? What if you had been wrong?"

"Logically, there were few choices. There was also the matter of this," he replied, holding up a small object.

"Out of practice, I guess. I'm not normally so sloppy." She plucked the hairpin from his hand and laid it on the nightstand. "What now?"

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you save me?"

She chuckled softly. "Only you could ask such an obvious question."

An eyebrow climbed up his forehead. "I see."

"If you don't have any more questions, I'd really like to get same sleep. I have surgery scheduled for seven in the morning."

"I will detain you no longer."

"Wait. Answer me one question?"

"What?"

"Who is Stonn and why does he want you dead?"

"I stand between him and a clear succession to the throne."

"He is your brother." The pieces fell together. "That explains why there've been so many Vulcans transferred on board in the last several months and why they all end up dead."

He felt strangely drawn to this woman. She was unlike anyone he'd ever known. Christine had known of the Tantalus Field for over a year, yet said nothing. Like many human women, she was attracted to him, but did nothing about it. His research into her life before coming here had been very interesting. Here was a woman who had repeatedly sold her body to survive, yet had a dignity he could respect.

"I need your silence," he demanded.

"Understood. "

"You set no price?"

"I need no payment for what is freely given. I am no longer for sale."

"If I should ask for a night?" Spock stated matter of factly.

"The choice is mine."

He rose to his feet. "Good night, Dr. Chapel."

"Captain. "

* * *

The high vaulted ceiling loomed overhead, opening in several places to the sky above. Stonn saluted the door guards and strode past them without another thought. Small groups of people stood around, waiting their chance for an audience with the Emperor. The giant assembly hall was empty, but Stonn walked through it anyway, reveling in the feeling it gave him. One day this would be his.

T'Pring met him at the door of the family chambers, taking the coat as he slid it from his shoulders. The collar gleamed brightly around her neck showing her status as chattel rather than free woman.

"Stonn, I would speak with you," came the stentorian tones of his father from across the room.

Stonn dropped into the large chair opposite the mighty desk Sarek sat behind. "Yes, my Father?"

"T'Pau sends word of your activities."

The knife slid from its sheath. "I do only that which you have commanded."

"You have failed in your attempt to remove Spock, three times. You task my patience."

"My informants have sent word that an outside force interfered."

"No more excuses will be tolerated. If you cannot accomplish it, I will send someone else." Pressure from T'Pau was mounting. Had the job been done right the first time and Spock killed, T'Pau would have grieved but been powerless to continue opposing him without a successor of her own.

Instead, with each day that Spock lived, she gained support to oppose her son and deny the succession to her legitimate grandson, Stonn. Sarek had considered ridding himself of her, but she was too powerful. There were many who owed allegiance to her first and the throne second. No, the only way to thwart her was to destroy her plan at its weakest point. Spock. "While Spock lives, your right to the throne will always be threatened. Every day you delay, the more strength T'Pau will gather."

Stonn felt the familiar anger rising. All his life there had been the shadow of his older brother hanging over him. Sarek wasted no opportunity to remind his younger, and now only, son of his inadequacies. "There is another alternative."

"What is that?"

The knife he'd been fondling flew through the air, lodging in Sarek's throat. "I do not wait to gain the throne by succession, but take it now." Sarek clutched at the air, trying to reach his son, but could not. Stonn watched, dispassionately, as his father collapsed in a pool of blood upon the desk.

"The throne is mine now, as it was written by your own hand. Upon your death, it belongs to your son." He pushed the body aside to the floor and sat in the vacated chair. It was fortunate the blood had not touched any vital papers requiring his signature. He tore his attention away from the papers at the sound of rustling across the room.

"Approach," he commanded, pleased that ownership of the woman. T'Pring, had also transferred to him with his father's death. His brother's woman had been his once before, many years ago, now she would be again.

T'Pring knelt in a low subservient bow before him, waiting for whatever fate he chose. She was witness to the murder of the Emperor. Stonn was a man of less mercy than his father. T'Pring thought she'd known degradation when Spock had used and left her that one time so long ego, but this last year with Sarek had taught her the true meaning of the word. She understood now, too, why Spock's mother, Amanda, had chosen death after the birth of her child rather than continue living with him. Should Stonn choose to kill her, it would not be unwelcome.

"By law, chattel becomes the property of the closest kin."

"I am yours," she recited in proper response. The words were the same as she'd spoken when Spock had been declared Outcast and her ownership transferred to Sarek.

"As chattel, you have no rights before the law, your word means nothing. "

"I speak only in silence."

"I grant you life."

"My life is yours." How she hated the words required of her. To be less than the dirt he walked upon. "Command me."

Pointing to Sarek, Stonn said, "Clean the mess."

* * *

Christine gave her medical gear one last quick check before stepping on the transporter platform. Landing party assignments were not her favorite duty, but when the Captain himself contacted her, she had to go. Of course, two in the morning was not her idea of fun and games either, for reporting to the transporter room.

She hid her surprise when Spock walked into the room and set the controls, taking a position next to her. There were only two of them in the room, nor even a technician to man the console. The familiar whine came as the preset controls scattered their atoms and the room disappeared.

It was night time in the city, too. Softly glowing street lights lit the quiet metropolis. Buildings loomed high above them, fading into the darkened sky. "Where are we?"

"Dracos."

There was no time to respond before he set off down the street, keeping to the shadows. Christine hurried behind him, following his example of staying out of the light. Dracos. She thought it looked familiar, but hadn't been able to place it that fast. Why were they on Dracos? And only the two of them? Her own memories of Dracos were tinged with age. She'd spent several months working the streets to earn money for schooling after leaving the Outpost where she'd been born.

Memories flooded her as she traversed the streets of Dracos. Places, faces, events came to mind without invitation. Her short time on Dracos had been violent, but lucrative. The Outpost Commander had brought her here, intending to keep her as a mistress, but Christine had other ideas. She used him as a stepping stone, then left him without regret. He'd been her ticket to leave the Outpost, no more.

Spock led them through the winding streets and back alleys without hesitation, following the memorized instructions. An occasional figure would detach itself from a dark corner or hiding spot, but would take one look at the Vulcan features end slink away. Members of the ruling race were not to be confronted, if the attacker wanted to keep breathing.

Ducking into a dilapidated doorway, Spock stopped abruptly. Christine unconsciously drew her knife and dropped into a defensive crouch. It was dark in the room, but she could still sense other bodies close by.

One of the bodies stepped from the shadows and approached the two intruders. An exchange in Vulcan followed, then they were allowed to pass by and into the next room.

Christine was puzzled by all the cloak and dagger secrecy, and why he had brought her with him to this Vulcan stronghold. As they walked into the well lighted room, she spotted a prone figure on a couch. Spock nodded to her and she went to investigate. It was male, mid-thirties and badly tortured. By her equipment, he was close to death. She waited for orders.

"This man is the only link we have been able to find to the information leak on the Enterprise."

"How Joanna McCoy knew of her father's death," Christine responded immediately.

"More importantly, how the Emperor was warned of the rebellion," he said harshly. "It has taken much time and many lives to find even this link in the chain. The bloodshed of the rebellion had removed the trail for many months. This one has refused to speak."

She understood her purpose. Reaching into her kit, she pulled out the correct vial and thumbed the proper dosage. Injecting him, she monitored his responses carefully. Even a minute quantity too much could kill him in his weakened state. Nodding at last to Spock, she indicated the man was ready for interrogation. An hour later, the man collapsed and died.

As they turned to leave, there was a commotion in the outer room. Seeking a back exit, Spock pulled Christine behind him, but the way was blocked. Pulling his own knife, Spock lunged at the one nearest to him.

Christine moved into a corner to protect her back when Spock moved away. She was hard pressed to defend herself, but at last, one of the Vulcans from the outer room came to her rescue, using a weapon she'd never seen before.

There was silence in the room as the last of the attackers was felled. Three Vulcans still stood, bloody, but victorious. Christine saw a blue sleeve on the other side of the room from beneath a dead body. Scrambling across the blood soaked floor, she tugged at the lifeless form until she could get to Spock. Her medical equipment had been shattered in the fracas, but she could tell he was alive, barely.

"Damn," she muttered in frustration. Turning to the nearest Vulcan she asked him if he spoke standard.

"I will assist you in returning to the Enterprise," he answered even before she could ask. "The Caste takes care of its own." He lifted Spock from the floor and held him easily in his arms.

"Chapel to Enterprise."

"Enterprise," Uhura replied promptly.

"Notify transporter room, three to beam up."

* * *

Christine collapsed in her office chair, exhausted from the surgery on Spock. Her experience with Vulcans was limited, but at least he still lived. Sek had submitted to treatment only when Spock was out of danger and even now stood guard at the bedside in sickbay.

Her chronometer read six in the morning. Had it only been four hours since they'd left the Enterprise? Four hours, and nothing to show for it except a Captain close to death, and no more information that had been known before they'd gone down. An entire hour of interrogation under drugs and the man had divulged nothing. He knew only his tiny link in a longer process and nothing more. Both of his contacts were dead and he had no knowledge of the person actually on the ship sending the original information. He hadn't even known the source was the Enterprise until the questioning had revealed it.

Christine stood up and walked over to the mirror, pulling pins from her hair. Picking up a brush, she tugged it through the long tresses. Sek had said little other than to make it known he would be remaining on board until such time as Spock sent him away. It was her first real exposure to the Warrior Code and it surprised her. The Vulcans were a violent race, yet they protected their own with a vengeance. At least, she didn't have to worry about an assassination attempt on the Captain's life while Sek was here. His other body guard had not been member of the Caste as Sek was.

Sitting down again, Christine requested the record of communications received in the last twelve hours. Most of them were standard, nothing of particular interest. One, however, logged in at midnight, had been a personal message for the Captain, coded in Vulcan. There was no sign of it in the computer, so it was either destroyed or coded in an inaccessible file. This had to be the one Spock received giving the location of the prisoner, yet it was coded, so how did anyone know its contents? Settling in for a long stint, Christine programmed the computer for a search of all Vulcan coded messages in the last two years. The result was an impressive list all catalogued by time of logging by the Communication 's Officer who received it. Following her instincts, Christine requested the machine to cross reference the messages with the Officers on duty. Her expression hardened as a single name kept reappearing over and over. Why hadn't anyone ever noticed it before? Perhaps the search had been so intense on finding the source of outgoing coded messages that no one had paid attention to the original messages that had come into the Enterprise.

Using her privilege as Chief Medical Officer, Christine summoned Uhura's file. It was an impressive record of a woman who'd risen the hard way through the ranks to her present position as First Officer of the Enterprise. Facts on her personal life were more sketchy. She was the oldest of seven daughters, and the First Wife of a Clan marriage. She had considerable power and prestige in said position until the mysterious death of her husband and the honor of First Wife had fallen to the woman who was married to the brother assuming leadership of the Clan. Yet, it didn't explain why she would betray Spock to the former Emperor. Why was she so intent on destroying him?

Shutting the computer down, Christine wandered back through sickbay one last time to check on Spock and Sek, then lay on a nearby table for some shuteye.

* * *

Uhura waited until the doors to her quarters closed before she threw the nearest object at hand across the room in anger. He still lived! What had gone wrong? It'd been a perfect setup. The man knew nothing, but the interrogation took time, time she had used to organize a group of men who hated Vulcans to kill Spock. They had failed, dying to the last one, leaving Spock, Chapel and three others alive.

Calming herself, Uhura decided to rerun the last tape one more time, on the off chance she had mistranslated something. She was startled to find the communications memory bank in use at the moment. Whoever was using it then abruptly left. Working through her own system of filing, Uhura traced the recent activity, tracking it back to the one who'd invaded her territory.

The computer finished sifting through the data and came up with a single name. Uhura leaned back in her chair. So, the good doctor was the one. She'd underestimated the physician's abilities and perseverance. It'd been a while since Uhura had killed another woman, not since removing the one who'd held the Communications post when Uhura first arrived on the Enterprise. Removing the ceremonial dagger from its sheath on the wall, she smiled in anticipation of slitting Christine Chapel's throat, then finishing with Spock.

* * *

Stonn shifted his robes of office to make himself more comfortable. A thousand of his subjects filled the great audience hall, bowing in obeisance to his position as Emperor. In his hand was the scepter of office, at his feet knelt T'Pring, a thin chain running from her collar to the throne.

He could feel the power coursing through him, filling him with importance. Sarek's death had been announced ten days ago, a result of natural causes due to bad heart. Now that the official period of mourning was over, Stonn was free to ascend the steps and sit upon the throne. All lands and properties once owned by Spock and Sarek were now his. Never would he make the same mistake as his father and name a successor.

There was a stir as the burly Vulcans carried a sedan chair down the center concourse. Stonn gripped his scepter tighter as a momentary surge of anger ran through him. T'Pau. The chain tinkled softly as T'Pring moved slightly. Giving the chain a tug, he silenced her movements. His grandmother did not stand, but rather remained in the seat, taking away from his honor with the slight which could not be proven. Her age gave her the privilege, his knowledge of her health told him the truth.

"What seek you, T'Pau?"

"The law demands the reading of the Right of Succession."

"Do you challenge my right?" She was powerless against him now that he sat upon the throne. The succession was decided, she could do nothing to change it.

T'Pau motioned one of her attendants to read from an ornate scroll. "I, Sarek, Emperor, hereby claim my son as successor to the throne." The reader stepped back, bowing to T'Pau.

"The Right of Succession has been fulfilled."

"I do not see your name upon it," she insisted.

"You tread dangerous ground, old woman. Sarek has but one son." Stonn came to his feet. "Do not press my patience."

"Patricide cancels a claim."

"Are you accusing me of patricide?" He waved his guards closer.

"Can you prove otherwise?" she countered. The hall was silent. T'Pau knew she would have only this one chance to make the accusation public. Stonn would do everything in his power to silence her, but now that the words had been spoken, they would never be totally erased. She had accomplished what she came to do.

Stonn nodded to the Captain of the Guards. The men closed an the tiny group, completely surrounding it. With a wave of his hand, Stonn dismissed the entourage. T'Pau was physically removed from the audience hall, with her attendants.

Stonn refused to show how close the accusation had been by conducting business for several more hours.

He was relaxing in his chambers later that afternoon when the news came that T'Pau would no longer be any trouble to him.

* * *

Christine awakened after several hours of sleep, feeling considerably more refreshed than she had that morning. Sek was still standing guard over Spock, in the same position she'd left him six hours ago. Checking the overhead monitors, Christine was pleased to find all vital signs improved. Nodding to Sek, she left sickbay and headed for her own quarters to shower and refresh herself.

She felt something different the moment she stepped inside the room. Before she could react, the lights came on in a brilliant flash, blinding her. Reacting from instinct she fell to the floor in a roll, hearing the swish of a blade above her.

Uhura stepped back, annoyed that the surprise attack had failed. Feinting, she forced Christine backward toward the desk, hoping to trip her on the chair.

Christine's hands brushed the console and she flicked the recorder on before stepping away. "Commander, how nice of you to drop in."

Uhura gave a throaty laugh. "I couldn't resist the invitation, Doctor. "

Christine left her own blade sheathed for the moment. She had no particular fear of the other woman, or death. "I assume you mean to kill me, then finish the task your incompetent companions couldn't accomplish."

"That is correct."

"You disappoint me, Uhura."

"Oh?" she answered sarcastically. Uhura slashed without warning, drawing blood on Christine's forearm.

"You've managed to break Spock's message codes, warn the Empire of the rebellion, even nearly succeeded in killing him."

Uhura grinned. "What's so disappointing about that?"

"You just weren't enough woman to keep Sulu's attention for very long." Christine threw herself across the bed and came off it in a crouch, knife ready.

"You're a dead woman, Chapel."

"Sulu died right here, on this very bed."

"That doesn't surprise me. I've heard about your choices of bedmates. You're just the kind of slime Sulu would pick. What's so surprising about that?"

"Bet you hated being jilted, didn't you? Oh, but I forgot. You were still the grieving widow a year ago, so I guess it was just my overactive imagination that saw you go into his quarters all those nights. If I'm slime, what does that make you?"

"Do you think your petty insults can effect me?"

"How do you know so much about me? Let me guess..."

Uhura kicked at the knife in Christine's hand, but Christine retaliated by knocking the other from her feet with a low sweep of her leg.

"Sulu meant nothing to me. As for how I know so much about our hooker physician ... you'll just have to wonder."

"Joanna McCoy seemed rather knowledgeable on the subject, too, if I recall." Christine saw a narrowing of Uhura's eyes. "There was also something about her father being done in by some of Spock's men. How convenient it must have been for you to notify her and let her know what was happening. I'll bet it was a Vulcan that took your First Wife status away, too, wasn't it?" Christine jeered. She felt Uhura's blade sink deep into her leg, shooting flames of fire through the limb. With all her strength, Christine backhanded her with clenched fist.

Shaking her head to clear it, Uhura came unsteadily to her feet. "At least I was someone's wife, not just their entertainment for an hour."

"Do you think that makes you better than me?" Christine laughed. "You're so pathetic, it's no wonder Sulu came to me that night instead of you. He was bored to death with what he got from you." Her opponent was allowing the anger to get the better of her and Christine just kept playing on it, hoping to goad her into a foolish move.

Uhura reacted as she hoped. Twisting at the last moment, Christine caught the knife hand as it slid by and turned it back on itself, driving the blade deep into the other woman. Falling to the floor, Uhura felt disbelief even as she died.

Her leg would no longer support her and Christine fell to the floor next to the body. Tearing a strip from Uhura's uniform, she bound the wound tightly, then pulled herself over to the desk, calling sickbay just before losing consciousness.

* * *

Christine stared at the objects decorating Spock's wall as he listened to the tape of her fight with Uhura, five days ago. His wounds had fully healed and he'd been on active duty for two days. When called to his quarters this evening, she hadn't known what to expect. He'd motioned her to a chair, then played the tape.

"My compliments on your resourcefulness."

She realized he was speaking to her. Her mind had traveled far away from the present, thinking of things other than Uhura. "Thank you, Captain."

"I have received a new tape."

"Oh?" Why was he telling her?

"Sarek is dead, Stonn now rules the Empire." Her head turned away from the wall at the news. "It is public knowledge. What is not so well known is the accusation, leveled at him, of patricide."

"He killed your father," she replied slowly. "It is one thing to kill an enemy..."

He nodded agreement. "I am returning to Vulcan."

"The Enterprise?"

"Legally, Vulcan is off limits to all Imperial ships without authorization."

"I doubt Stonn would grant you such an authorization."

"We are presently en route to the legal boundary. I shall leave the ship under the commend of Scott and proceed the final leg by shuttlecraft."

"How soon?"

"Tomorrow."

She leaned back, stretching out the freshly healed leg for comfort. "Why are you telling me this?"

He leaned forward onto steepled fingers. "To see if you would care to accompany me."

"What of Sek?"

"He goes as Caste Brother."

What would be in store for her on an alien world where the man she'd accompany was considered the most dangerous threat to the throne of the Empire? Exciting! a little voice inside said. When would she ever have another chance to see the ruling planet of all imperial space? "I am honored by the invitation, Captain. I look forward to it."

He picked up the record tape again, holding it for a moment before setting it aside. A remarkable woman, this physician. She saw the motion and came to her feet. "If there is nothing else, I will leave."

He gestured to the tape. "In the alternate universe she had beauty and honor. The Other Kirk was a powerful and charismatic man who led by example, not intimidation and the Tantalus Field."

"Marlena had strong memories of him. She spoke of little else under sedation. I've often wondered what the Other Christine Chapel was like. Would she see me as her negative side or a positive side? It is difficult to picture myself as anything other than what I am."

"What is that?" he questioned.

"A woman who makes her own way and takes what she wants."

"What is it you want?"

She stood framed in the doorway. "When I have it, I'll know it."

* * *

Vulcan, land of his forefathers. Spock breathed deeply of the desert air, something he hadn't done for more than thirty years. His senses were filled with things he'd thought forgotten.

Sek led the way up the winding mountain path to the temple where Spock would meet with the Warrior Caste. Stonn didn't know he was coming. Instead of using an Imperial shuttlecraft, they'd come as passengers on a freighter. Their clothing was Vulcan, issued by the processor on the Enterprise. Only the weapons the two men wore were the original ones earned and worn by Warriors.

Christine shielded her eyes against the blinding sun and looked upward at the trail ahead. Sweat poured down her body inside the robes as she struggled to keep up with the men. Why? she asked herself for the twelfth time in five minutes. Why, am I here? She understood the need for subterfuge and disguises, but no one had said anything about climbing a mountain in the middle of the afternoon in Vulcan's desert heat...

Spock could tell from the heavy breathing that Christine was having a difficult time making the climb. Perhaps he should not have brought her, yet, other than Sek, there was no one who had proven their loyalty more than she, upon whom he could depend to defend his back. When she could go no further, she would ask for help, until then he would leave her be.

Gasping for air, Christine took the last few steps up the ridge and collapsed on the boulder at the lip of the overhang. To one side of her lay the valley, more than a mile beneath her, to the other side rose a temple carved from the very rock of the mountain. Spock and Sek said nothing as they waited for her to catch her breath. After she'd cooled a bit, Christine stood up and gestured she was ready to continue.

Spock explained as they walked to the temple, across the courtyard, that the edifice dated back several millennia and was now used solely by the Caste as a place of study and practice in the Warrior arts. She was impressed by the raw beauty of the architecture despite the ravages of time and the elements. Here was a side of Vulcan perhaps no other outworlder had ever seen. It was something Christine knew she would never fully understand or appreciate for its true meaning, but for now it was enough just to be here.

Once inside the temple, Sek stayed with her, translating as Spock addressed the gathering. Some of it was making more sense to her as he spoke. Spock could not challenge Stonn as Emperor on the basis of the Succession because of his Outcast status. The only way he could even enter the great hall would be as a member of the Caste seeking audience. He could challenge Stonn as a Warrior for Stonn's infringement of Caste laws. The Warrior Code prohibited patricide, but only a blood relative could challenge the doer of the deed, and then only if the Caste supported him in the charge. Christine found the whole thing terribly intricate, but was confident Spock knew what he was doing.

Night fell and the cloak she'd discarded earlier was now wrapped tightly around her in an effort to stay warm against the desert chill. Christine dozed lightly as the discussion continued into the early hours of morning. Sek stayed with the sleeping woman until Spock broke apart form the Warriors and came to her side, sending Sek away. Shaking her gently, he woke her and led the way out into the night air.

"Where are we going?" she asked sleepily.

"There are shelters further up the mountain where we can sleep." Christine muttered vile epithets concerning the possible ancestry of mountain climbing Vulcans as she followed him up the path. Without a moon, she depended on the touch of his cloak to guide herself in the darkness. She knew they had arrived only because he lit a small candle just inside the entrance. It was a small protected cave a mile above the temple with sehlat furs scattered on the stone floor for bedding.

Wrapping herself securely in the cloak, then covering that with a robe, Christine shivered against the cold. "I've heard the expression, 'hot as Vulcan', hasn't anyone ever been here at night?"

Spock blew out the candle and crawled in next to her dragging yet another robe over them both. "As a youth in training, we were required to survive on the mountain without shelters or fur coverings for thirty days."

"That explains everything."

"Explains what?"

"Why Vulcans have no emotions. They're frozen solid as children and never thaw out." She snuggled against him, seeking body heat.

"If you would rather, you may remain here on the mountain tomorrow when I go to face Stonn," he offered.

"And miss all the fun? Not on your life."

"And if I should ask for the night?"

"The choice is still mine?"

"Yes."

"The night is yours."

"Soon you will know why no one speaks of the 'cold of Vulcan'."

"Egotist. You're talking to a professional."

"We shall see."

* * *

T'Pring leaned back against the throne, restless in her position of pet to Stonn under public scrutiny. Every day she was forced to sit here, chained to him as if she were a sehlat, enduring the pitying stares of Outworlders as they had their audience with the Emperor. Each day she hoped he would tire of her and send her away to serve as a menial domestic, or kitchen help. Any fate would be preferable to this humiliation. Stonn seemed to derive personal satisfaction from creating new ways to make her life miserable. All because of a single day long ago when she had selected someone else as her champion, instead of him, to fight Spock. If only she had known then what her carefully plotted logic would bring her...

Not listening, as usual, T'Pring searched the crowd for anything of interest that would occupy her mind for a time against the tedium. She froze as a cloaked figure came into view, surrounded by fellow Warriors. Stonn was still talking to some Outworld ambassador, apparently unaware of his brother's arrival. T'Pring tore herself away from Spock and studied the woman behind him. Had he acquired new chattel? Surely no one would marry a half-breed bastard. The legendary Spock had finally returned home to Vulcan. She drew herself up proudly, only to be caught up short by the chain. T'Pring fervently hoped there was a similar collar around his woman's neck.

Christine had left the long cloak behind, preferring the short tunic and high boots for mobility. There was her usual knife strapped to her thigh, Uhura's dagger on her arm and yet a third hidden in her boot. A small hovercraft had brought them down the mountain late this morning, saving them a grueling journey two days in a row. Christine doubted the two men would have noticed the hardship, but she was grateful for the concession to human frailty.

The audience chamber was huge, easily holding the hundreds of subjects waiting for their turn. Compared to Spock and Sek, the Emperor Stonn was a homely man with nothing to set him apart as something special. The woman chained at his foot was another matter, however. Her beauty was visible even through the scant attire and unbound hair. Nudging Sek, Christine asked him who the woman was.

"She is T'Pring, chattel of Stonn, chattel of Sarek, chattel of Spock," Spock answered before Sek could speak. "She thought to free herself from being bound to a bastard son of a human woman, but has found one bondage is really no different than another."

Christine dropped the subject immediately and puzzled on his reply in silence. The woman had belonged to Spock originally, if she was understanding his reference correctly, then transferred to Sarek and now belonged to Stonn. She couldn't envision what it would feel like to be the property of someone. To have no rights, or freedom, to be no better than an animal... Yet, Christine could find no pity for T'Pring, for her station was of her own devising.

Warriors were scattered throughout the hall, guarding entrances and standing between Stonn's elite guards and Spock. The ambassador bowed to Stonn and backed away, grateful he was still alive and not much worse off than when he'd come. Sek and Christine turned outward, moving with Spock as he approached the throne.

Dropping his cloak, Spock stepped forward, dressed in traditional Warrior garb. A hush fell on the hall. Stonn motioned his guards forward to seize his brother, but Warriors barred their way.

"As Outcast, you have no rights or privileges."

"As a Warrior, I charge you with patricide."

"Challenge refused."

Sek stepped forward. "Challenge has been lawfully issued, as a member of the Caste, you must obey its Codes and accept."

People backed away as Stonn walked down the steps, leaving a large clear space in the center of the floor. Tossing his robes of office aside, Stonn came out to meet Spock. Brother faced brother in a meeting each knew could have but one victor. Christine and Sek moved away, taking Spock's cloak with then. Christine took up a position where she could watch T'Pring. Some inner voice told her not to trust this woman.

She recognized the weapons as those displayed on Spock's wall in his quarters. There was a clashing of metal as they met and broke away. Blows that would have crushed a human's skull were deflected and returned. Blood was drawn and dripped to the floor, making footing slippery.

Spock fought as never before, pacing himself, yet forcing Stonn to extend himself to the limit. His brother had grown soft over the years safe on Vulcan, whereas he had remained in good form struggling from day to day to survive in a savage imperial Fleet. Fighting to carve himself a place outside of Vulcan had given Spock an inner strength Stonn would never know or understand. With a single final thrust, Spock sent Stonn to join their father.

Breathing deeply, Spock climbed the stairs to the throne and sat down. Christine stood in stunned silence as the impact of his actions became real to her. With the killing of Stonn, Spock was claiming the Empire for his own. It was too bad Uhura hadn't lived to see this day.

Breaking the chain with his bare hands, Spock sent T'Pring from him. The woman crouched to the floor near Stonn's body, trying to accept that she was once again the property of Spock. Life had become one big circle for her. She was where she had begun years ago. Concealing a small knife from Stonn's sheath, T'Pring mounted the stairs. She would not placidly accept the change of ownership again.

Christine slithered up the rear of the raised platform, watching the Vulcan woman closely. When T'Pring sprang, Christine knocked her aside with the force of her entire body, feeling them both hit the floor with a solid thud. Her point was at T'Pring's throat immediately. "Your decision, Captain. She lives, or she dies."

"Give her to Sek to work in the temple the rest of her days."

Christine handed the end of the broken chain to Sek, then took her place near them at the foot of the throne. It was over now. She'd known long ago, when first arriving on the Enterprise, that Spock would rise in the ranks, but this... Without Spock as Captain of the Enterprise, there was no point in staying on her. There were many possibilities for someone of her abilities. Good surgeons were scarce, she would survive. A smile crossed her face at the sight of the new Emperor acknowledging the Warrior Caste, as Stonn never had.

* * *

She stood in the center of the imperial chambers and turned a full circle, admiring the plush furnishings. Spotting a couch, Christine stretched out and put her feet up. The day had been long and her feet, worn out from yesterday's walk, hurt. Sek and Spock were still discussing something or other, but since they were conversing in Vulcan there was no point in even pretending to pay attention.

Her curiosity getting the better of her, she pulled the soft desert boots off and went exploring. There were not many rooms, but they were all large and richly decorated. The library/officer area intrigued her with its tremendous collection of books, a rarity in this century. There was nothing of interest in Stonn's room, but T'Pring's fascinated her. It was such an incongruous mixture of opulence and severity. Rich furs covered the floors and bed, yet the chain Stonn fastened to her ankle every night to keep her from leaving lay in stark contrast.

By the time she'd finished searching every nook and cranny and returned to the main room, Sek had gone for the night. Spock loosened his robes and threw them across a chair. "I have ordered an evening meal brought here."

"I was beginning to think Vulcans never ate." Her stomach growled in agreement. One more ceremony and she would have fainted from boredom first and hunger second.

He cocked an eyebrow, but didn't reply as he finished removing his Warrior trappings, leaving a light weight pants and tunic visible. "The Enterprise will be here tomorrow."

She felt disappointment sweep over her. So soon. Two days was not nearly long enough to experience Vulcan. Yet, she was grateful for the two days she'd had. "Who will be taking your place?"

"For the moment, Commander Scott. With Uhura dead, there is no First Officer to step into my place."

"When you notify the Imperial fleet of personnel changes, put in for a new Chief Medical Officer. I'd like a transfer from the Enterprise." His reply was interrupted by the arrival of the food. By the time they were alone again, the conversation had moved on to other topics relevant to the day's events. The hour had grown quite late by the time more knocks came at the door as the servants returned for the dishes.

Christine relaxed on the couch, savoring the glass of Vulcan wine she'd retained. The color was a bit odd, but the warm rich taste made up for any visual peculiarities. Spock had declined the drink, preferring plain water. Settling back in the deep cushions of his chair, Spock brought up the Enterprise again.

"You spoke of a transfer. Why?"

She took a sip of wine. "It's time to move on to something new. Something different." She was going to miss him. The last two days together would be a time long remembered.

"I see. Do you have anything specific in mind?"

"No. A surgeon's post is not difficult to obtain, especially now that I have experience as a Chief Medical Officer of a starship on my record," she elaborated.

"Would you have remained on board if I had not left?"

A smile flitted across her face. "Do all Vulcans employ such a direct approach, or is it just something you personally do?"

"You are evading the question," he returned.

"You brought me to Vulcan to defend your back, I have done so."

"You have a typical human propensity for not giving a direct answer to any given question."

"I believe in the subtle approach. Always attack from the blind side." Christine set the glass aside.

Spock stood up and grasped her arm, bringing her to her feet. "I, on the other hand, prefer to employ what you refer to as a direct approach."

She tore free of his hold. "I make my own choices, no one forces me to do anything."

"You've chosen to leave the Enterprise. I offer you a place on Vulcan."

"If I refuse?"

"You are free to go."

"If I stay?" What would it be like to live on Vulcan?

"Human women have stayed on Vulcan as chattel in the past."

"Would you chain me at your side as T'Pring was?" she said angrily.

"It does present a possibility." He touched her neck at the base. "A collar would accent your features."

"I belong to no man."

"No Vulcan has offered a human woman more."

"To wear a chain the rest of my life, to give up my freedom? No." She sat down and began pulling her boots on. "I've sold my body. I will not sell my soul."

"Would you stay as consort?"

Christine stopped mid-motion, one boot on, the other in her hand. "Are you asking?"

"Yes."

"The choice is mine?" Would she ever understand the way his mind worked? The expression in his eyes was that of humor.

"I will abide by your decision."

"I will stay ... for a time."

"A consort is for life."

She could hear Uhura mocking her. An hour's entertainment. "If you grow tired of me, or become bored?"

"Silence. Your answer?" How could a single woman be so exasperating?

There was a long pause. "When I have it, I'll know it," she said to herself. "Yes, I'll stay," Christine answered aloud.

* * *

Christine Chapel woke with a start. What an incredible dream. Listening to Uhura's stories of her adventures in the alternate mirror universe all evening had really set her off. Imagine! Never in her wildest imagination would she have pictured herself as a prostitute, or killing someone in cold blood as the Christine in her dream had.

It was too early to rise for her shift, but sleep wasn't inviting either. Dressing, she wandered down the hallway to the rec room for a cup of coffee. Sipping it in a corner, she noticed Spock walk in. Gathering up her courage, she approached him at his table.

"Miss Chapel?"

This was crazy. She had to be out of her mind to even think of asking him. Too late now. Taking a deep breath, she asked.

"Sek?" A strange look shadowed his face. "I knew a Sek on Vulcan many years ago as a child. He died in the Kahs-wan, a wild sehlat, I believe. How do you know his name?"

"A dream." It had only been a dream...

Or was it?

END OF PART TWO