Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1984 by Johanna Cantor. Originally published in R&R #19, Johanna Cantor editor. Rated R.
Rebellion at Troyos
"Do you know three two-letter words for 'very, very small?'"
Vulcan ears caught the whisper and the familiar overtones of a choice morsel in the telling, but Spock gave no sign as the crewwomen straightened to wish him good morning. He returned their greetings and continued on past them. Their return to their huddle, the whispered punch line, and the smothered giggles did not bother the first officer; they meant no disrespect. Most humans underestimated his hearing. But the joke itself puzzled him.
Perhaps he had heard it out of context. The lift doors opened, and he stepped in, acknowledging the greetings of the crew on their way to their stations. They were early, too. Morale seemed excellent; the problems at the top were not percolating down, as yet. Spock decided to ride the lift once around in an informal check of crew status.
"Very, very small .... " Unbidden, his mind continued to worry the anomaly.
From the tone of voice, the joke probably had some sexual ... Very, very... Oh. Really, the human preoccupation with intercourse, its preliminaries, and...
A slight churning of the stomach warned Spock that it was not only humans. For a moment his crewscan was set aside as he calmed himself, firming all controls. Always to present a calm face to the world... There was time. He was in complete remission. (His own bodysense, as well as McCoy' s tactfully delivered assurance, told him that there was every indication that his cycle would now follow the normal rhythm.) What must be, must be, but not for years. Control.
Crew were entering and leaving the lift as it sped around the great ship. Spock acknowledged their greetings mechanically, noting that the before-shift chatter, toned down, as always, by his presence, broke out again as crew left the lift to take their posts. Yes, the crew was fine. If only he could be sure that the captain, too, was ... fine. Humans were not cyclical. They were always vulnerable to--
The lift doors opened. Spock stepped out on the Bridge and stood silent for a moment, testing the atmosphere. "Vibes," the crew called it in their latest slang. It had little to do with sound. But it was true that one could somehow sense ...
The captain was in the command chair, deep in the morning's reports. The yeoman assisting him was already almost through her agenda -- she, like the captain, must have come on duty some twenty minutes before shift. There was nothing unusual about that, or so Spock tried to tell himself. It was normal for Jim to be absorbed in the Enterprise and her workings. But he seemed so absorbed -- so wrapped up -- as though, by immersing himself in his work, Jim Kirk was shielding himself from...
Memories. Spock hurriedly supplied a neutral term. Normally inclined to name things correctly, Spock was sure that in this case the correct terms would verge on indelicacy, if not downright invasion of privacy.
The yeoman checked off the final item, stepped up the stair with a pirouette guaranteed to brighten any man's day, and sashayed toward the lift. "Good morning, Mr. Spock."
Kirk turned as Spock acknowledged. "Good morning." Jim smiled affectionately. "Sleep well?"
"Excellently, thank you. And you?"
"Like a log."
Jim's tired eyes didn't back him up. But the captain would not thank him for making an issue of it -- certainly not here. Spock smiled -- a gesture of affection he rarely permitted himself -- and crossed to his station.
Stand by, Spock, McCoy had recommended when consulted. He's blue-deviled, that's all. He'll snap out of it, don't worry. But the doctor himself was worried. "Blue-deviled" did not sound like a medical diagnosis, however human the subject; but the doctor, too, was watchful ...
The lift doors opened again; that would be Lt. Uhura. Everyone else was at station, five minutes before shift. The whispered punch line carried clearly to Spock, and he almost winced at the hoots of feminine mirth as the lift doors merrcifully closed.
Still laughing, Uhura made her way over to the captain. A dark hand rested affectionately on command braid as Uhura bent down to whisper, "Do you know three two-letter words for 'very, very small?'"
Spock turned to watch. The joke was unimportant -- it would continue traveling the lifts almost at warp, until the entire crew had had a chortle. But Jim's reaction ...
Uhura bent closer. "Is it in?"
"OUCH!" Jim's face contorted in mock pain, and he whirled to give Uhura a spank as she pirouetted up the steps. Her pirouette was even better than the yeoman's -- after all, practice ought to count for something -- and Spock sensed that Jim genuinely appreciated the view. Perhaps McCoy was right, and Jim would "snap out of it" soon. Perhaps it was just an unfortunate coincidence that months of routine had followed that disturbing matter of the dolman of Elaas. If they could get some new assignment, something to spark real interest in Jim, instead of this conscientious application to routine-
"Message from Starfleet, sir." Uhura' s voice snapped them all to attention. "Priority One."
"On the screen."
They all turned as the image of Komack formed.
The admiral wasted no time on preliminaries. "Set course for Troyos," he snapped. "I want you there yesterday; mark and move! The rest of this message is classified."
"Navigator, set course for Troyos. Give Starfleet our ETA at Warp Seven. I want the rest of the message in my quarters, Lieutenant. Mr. Spock."
Spock followed, almost cold with dismay. Just when he'd thought Jim was showing signs of recovery! Wild ideas flashed through his mind. He'dpersuade McCoy to confine Jim to Sickbay. Or maybe a sleeping... He pulled himself together to stand correctly at military ease, then followed his captain out of the lift to his quarters. The red Security light already shone on the console. Jim punched Receive.
"Kirk, the Enterprise -- and you -- are summoned back to Troyos at the request of King Troyanos and the Council, at the recommendation of Ambassador Petrie. They're facing a revolution -- a guerrilla army whose goals are to overthrow Troyanos, possibly break the alliance with Elaas, and resume hostilities with that planet. You're being sent to protect Federation interests by giving requested support and, if necessary, technical assistance to that system's legitimate government. That's to be made perfectly clear."
"Yeah," Kirk muttered sourly. "Because that legitimate government has the most legitimate dilithium mines you ever saw in your--"
"And the fragmentation of a civil war would leave the system vulnerable to Klingon influence," Spock added heavily.
Komack gave a sharp glance, as though he'd heard their comments. "What I'm about to say isn't classified, because you're not even hearing it. The Federation has no knowledge of this, and neither does Ambassador Petrie. Petrie's pretty sure that some of Queen Elaan's people are involved with the guerrillas -- as informants, if not worse. We've been given to understand that Elaan herself may be involved. There's no proof, and that's good, because we've got a lot riding on that alliance."
"A solution that impeaches Elaan will leave us no better off than before," muttered in translation. His hand went to his forehead, as though to rub a sudden pain.
"I trust I've made myself clear. You're on your own, Kirk. We'll back you in any action that's backable, but you understand the situation. Good luck. Komack out."
The image faded. Both men watched the blank screen for a moment, trying to assimilate the enormity of their task. "Well, that's just marvelous," Kirk growled. "What a plum! Why do I get the great ones? Couldn't they assign me to something easy, for a change? Like damping a nova?"
"You were successful before," Spock pointed out, in service of fact.
"Yeah. One dolman, delivered intact, FOB Troyos. And you know what that cost me!" Spock didn't dare agree. Fortunately, Jim wasn't really talking to him -- just sounding off. "And now she's probably scheming to eliminate that husband of hers and take over as ruler of both planets. What a sweetheart!"
"There is no proof."
"Ahhh, that Petrie's a sly old dog. If he's hinting, he's got something to hint about. Besides, it sounds just like the kind of thing she would pull. Damn!" Kirk sat brooding. Spock hovered, uncertain whether to comfort or encourage or perhaps just leave tactfully. "All right!" The captain snapped to. "I want a special recognizance team, Spock, fully briefed. Better make it mostly Exoanthroopology. You and I can handle tactics, if necessary."
"Yes, sir!" Spock knew his face had brightened at the decisiveness of the order; he exited rather swiftly.
Kirk looked after him affectionately, waiting until the door activated. "And that should take you at least through this morning," he remarked, "Mr. Mother Hen." Smiling, he turned to his computer terminal, punching in a formidable array of briefings and recent news tapes. There were some aspects of this assignment that the Captain had better be well briefed on. Because it looked as though the Captain was going to have some decisions to make.
* * *
Spock planned the composition of the team as he strode down the corridor. In the lift he hesitated, not liking what he must do. But it was logical; his emootional repugnance must not hold sway. "Sickbay."
It took a moment to locate McCoy. The doctor was nearly hidden by a pile of report tapes; this was an opportunity not to be missed. "Doctor, I am most concerned!" Spock exclaimed. "Surely you are finding the work of your department too much for you--"
"Go chase your tail somewhere else, if you've nothing better to do," McCoy observed the amenities cheerfully. "Remember those Caryan photi?"
"Indeed." Spock sat down.
"We've isolated that hormone."
"Indeed, Doctor!" Spock's tone .was high with praise, and McCoy chuckled with pleasure.
"We haven't tried synthesizing it yet, but -- here."
Spock studied the data. "Unquestionable. Excellent, Doctor."
McCoy grinned acknowledgment and clicked the conclusions tape in for duplication. "Something I can do for you?"
Spock hesitated, reluctance surfacing. McCoy gave him a sharp glance, then led the way to a private consultation area. "I am not your patient, Doctor." Spock sat again. "It is ... the captain." He took a moment to subdue his outrage at discussing the captain's personal affairs in this manner. McCoy waited. "We have been ordered back to Troyos. I am--"
Spock barely repressed agreement. "I am concerned. This re-exposure to--"
"And damn," McCoy agreed. They were silent for a moment.
"I believe it might be wise to ... suggest to the captain that he..." That sentence was clearly impossible. "You developed an antidote to the tears that ... so affected the captain."
"I believe it might be wise to -- "
"Yes, well, Spock ... "
What did the human have to look embarrassed about? He was the one who was forever extolling... "Yes, Doctor?"
"There was no antidote."
"Because there was no substance." Spock stared at the doctor. McCoy cleared his throat. "It affected Jim because he believed it would. I helped spook him, because I was spooked myself -- by Ol' Petrie and his conviction. But as soon as we got a chance to analyze the tears ... "
Spock's mouth quirked irrepressibly. "The men of Elaas have searched for centuries -- "
"And never found a thing. There's nothing there to find."
"And still they believe." For the moment the two scientists enjoyed the joke. Then Spock eyed the doctor with considerable respect. "Then, when you declared that you had found an antidote..."
"I had a hypo ready." McCoy gave a short laugh. "It would have made him feel rocky for the next few hours -- I was just as glad not to use it." He met Spock's look frankly. "But it would have worked -- I can almost guarantee it."
"The placebo effect. Yes." Spock frowned. "But now--"
"Now I'll tell him the truth."
Spock nodded and rose. "He may be annoyed."
"He's been annoyed before." McCoy ushered Spock out. "He'll understand once he's calmed down."
Spock nodded again. "I'll be at my station, Doctor. If--"
"Spock!" Kirk strode into Sickbay, obviously hot on an idea. "I was about to page you. Have you assigned a team yet?"
"No. I had thought Seals, Flegel, and Moore on Exoanthropology."
"But you haven't told them yet?" Spock shook his head. "Okay; good choices .. But I want Deutsch in command."
"I've been reading Breisinger's reports on the wedding and the weeks afterward. He's picked up a very interesting difference between Troyan and Elaasian cultures -- something I think we can use. Seems that on Elaas the women are warriors, like Elaan. On Troyos they've always been depowered, except as mothers. Elaan's attempts to amass power in her own right have caused quite some dissonance, especially since Troyanos has been backing her -- giving her titles and actually ceding her the authority to execute certain duties. If we beam down with an advisory team with a woman in a command position..."
"Particularly since the queen is surely aware that Klingon women are fully empowered ..." Spock contributed.
"Right. See to it, will you? I'll be up in a couple of minutes. I ... er ... couple of minutes."
"Acknowledged." Spock left quickly.
Kirk turned to the doctor a trifle sheepishly. "Ah, Bones, remember...?"
"Come over here, Jim, and sit down. I think it's time we had a little talk."
* * *
"Wow!" Yeoman Tina Ross gasped in wonder and delight as they materialized, then blushed with all the fervor of her seventeen years at the audibility of her reaction. The senior staff ignored her kindly as they stood at attention, but a smile crossed young King Troyanos's lips as he rose to greet the Federation representatives.
King and visitors stood silent for a moment, each taking the measure of the other. Spock was surprised to find himself impressed with a dignity that went considerably deeper than the jeweled robes and barbarically splendid honor guard. The king had been intensively trained; it seemed he had made use of that training.
"We are honored by your presence, Captain Kirk," he said in excellent English. "Elaan, will you stand with me?" The king stretched out a hand; the honor guard divided, clearing a path. Elaan rose from her seat at the opposite side of the dais and walked regally through their lines, assuming the position her husband had indicated at his side.
Spock looked quickly around the hall. The banqueters were divided, men on one side, women on the other, all carefully grouped by age, rank, and family, just as in Breisinger's reports. But tonight no one rose in protest or even surprise as Elaan stepped into the sphere of the king's authority. After three months, they must be getting used to it.
"Captain Kirk." Troyanos was speaking. "We believe we owe our wife's safe arrival to you and your people. We are more in your debt than we can express."
Kirk bowed. "It was our pleasure to serve Your Majesty." Kirk's voice lacked a little of the polish he usually brought to such occasions; Spock looked at him quickly. Elaan, too, shot a glance at the captain, but she stood silent. Women did not speak at court, Spock remembered; certainly not younger women.
"You came in good hour, Captain," the king continued. "We have much to disscuss. But first, we must welcome you. Elaan?"
Spock caught a flash of anger in those dangerous eyes, but Elaan bowed to her husband, then to the women of the party. Well briefed, they imitated the obeisance and followed Elaan to the women's side of the hall. The king bowed Kirk and the men of the party into seats at his table. Spock sat where indicated, resigning himself to the ear-splitting noise that was clearly about to be unleashed.
The banquet would go on for hours, of course. No society this ornate in costume could possibly be anything but grandiose in the ingestion of nourishment. Fortified by long experience, Spock relaxed, shutting the barbaric noise and movement away from all but the surface levels of awareness, using the time for calm and self-integration. The Humans were round-eyed with absorption in the dances and pageantry. Spock tuned in only to watch a gymnastic dancer, paying his own tribute to an extraordinary athlete. Then he returned to his own thoughts.
The first course was cleared, and fresh plates were distributed. Suddenly, shrill screams drew Spock back to his surroundings. He took one look, then firmly removed himself, blessing his ability to do so. Breisinger's reports had inadequately prepared them for the delicacy of lizards spitted alive, to be cooked before the guests' eyes.
Spock took a quick survey of the crew, preparing to offer support and aid. But they all managed their reactions; even Yeoman Ross restrained herself. She was perfectly white, and Spock watched her closely, but after a moment Deutsch directed her attention to one of the dancers. Ross concentrated fiercely on the dance, ignoring the servants trying to attract her attention to the platters they offered. Gradually her color returned.
Kirk, too, was watching Ross. He caught Spock's eye, and both men nodded, acknowledging their mutual recognition that they had placed Ross in a situation she couldn't yet be expected to handle. Kirk liked to bring young crew along as fast as seemed compatible with their well-being; the pliancy of youth was a quality he valued. But sometimes circumstances...
At that moment McCoy rose abruptly, murmuring an apology. A sign from the king brought a servant to the doctor's side. Spock rose and casually made his way over to offer his arm. Even well-seasoned crew could react adversely to the sight of deliberately inflicted suffering -- and small blame to them.
Fortunately, the facility was not far away. "Turn loose of me, Spock," the doctor grated. Spock complied and tactfully drew the servant aside. The man was highly agitated, plainly on the verge of calling in the royal physician. Spock soothed him patiently, all the while confirming his initial impression that this race was temperamentally, culturally, and perhaps even physiologically labile. Of course, he lacked data. For all he knew, this man's position -- or even his head -- might depend on McCoy's enjoyment of the banquet.
The object of concern stepped out. Spock went to him, gently forestalling the servant. "All right, Doctor?" McCoy nodded, but he accepted Spock's arm. "If you would prefer not to return--" Spock began.
"Oh!" the servant protested. Spock's look quieted him, but the man's expresssion melted McCoy's heart.
"Of course I'll go back," he said immediately. "Will you escort us?" It was either knowledge or a lucky guess, but it had the desired effect; the servant almost pranced back to the main hall. "Anyway," McCoy muttered, "I want to be sure Jim's okay."
"Yes." Spock quickened their pace slightly.
But as soon as they re-entered the hall, both men relaxed. The captain was fine, bending toward the king in an attitude of respectful attention. Kirk turned toward them, and both officers automatically stiffened. The look became a warning, and they were careful to maintain a casual demeanor as they resumed their seats.
"Forgive me, Your Majesty," the captain interrupted politely. "I would like to brief my officers. The king was saying--"
"I was saying," Troyanos repeated himself with no sign of impatience, "that I have decided upon a course of action which I must take unilaterally. I have discussed this with my advisors; they are divided. This leaves the decision up to me, and I have made it. But I would not have what I am about to do interpreted as despising your help. I hope -- I profoundly hope -- that my idea will make your help unnecessary. But we are most grateful for your presence."
Kirk's shrug was barely perceptible. "Your Majesty," he acknowledged. Troyanos turned away from them for a moment -- nerving himself, Spock thought. Then he rose. Instantly all noise near them ceased. Area by area, the court fell still. In the far corner, one dancer still whirled, intent on his performance. The silence reached him; he fell to his knees, head bowed.
"My friends," the king spoke quietly into the dead silence. "I call for the health."
Instantly, cheerful pandemonium broke out. Laboring servants distributed gold goblets to the men at their tables. Smaller silver cups were given to the ladies; then every cup was filled with a dark liquid. The pungent aroma assaulted Spock's nostrils, but he was used to that, too. A sip would satisfy the requirements of the toast.
On the other side of the room, from her place of honor at the first women's table, the queen mother had risen, the only person in the room who -- by virtue of her age -- outranked the king. It was her privilege to pledge the health of her adopted son. Spock rose with the rest of the company and stood respectfully as the toast was offered. He barely touched his lips to the wine; the merest lift of an eyebrow stopped the servant trying to refill his cup. Now the entire royal household would be pledged in the order tradition.
"Stop!" the young king cried out suddenly. Dead silence filled the hall again. Clan member glanced uneasily at clan member; people of low rank scanned their superiors anxiously, to be met only by blank looks of noncomprehension.
Troyanos deliberately waited until discomfiture grew unpleasant. Then he smiled, and a sigh of relief rose spontaneously from nearly a thousand throats.
"My people!" He assumed an orator's stance. Everyone sat, as if on cue. "All my people. For a thousand years and more, it has been the custom for the people of Troyos to pledge the health of the king. But times change, and with them, customs. This year begins a new reign ... a new alliance ... a new government, dedicated to justice for all who live under it. My loyal subjects! Tonight, and for all nights to corne, we, Troyanos, pledge you! My subjects: your health!" In the astonished silence, the king lifted his goblet and drained it.
It went well -- there was no question of that. Spock saw the people's reaction in the adoring eyes of the silent women as much as the stomping, shouted acclamation of the men and guards. The king flushed with pleasure, bowing in turn to each corner. Spock could not read Elaan's expression. Was she silent in observance of custom? Or was her lack of response a deliberate affront to her husband's effort? Spock sensed Jim shift uneasily. Then the king broke the look and raised a hand for silence.
"These are new times," he repeated. "Not all are content with -- " An uneasy stir went around the hall. He stopped and smiled. "Oh, this has come to our ears. Many matters come to the ears of a king." Was it accident that his gaze rested briefly on Elaan? "But this is the time for the new partnerships, and to clasp the hand held out in new trust. Hear me, my people. What is past is forever past. To each of you we extend our hand this night. He who takes it is our loyal subject from this day forward. Come to me, my people! Who takes the hand of the king?"
"I!" -- "I!" -- "I!" Dozens of voices rang out as men pressed forward ill response. But here and there a noble was keeping his seat. Gradually the crowd fell silent, staring at ... Spock gazed directly at one; the man's eyes shifted. He was not committed. If the king made the right move...
Troyanos tried. He stepped off the dais, moving toward one of the seated households. Its head studied the ground, but the young king flung out his hand. "Benta!" he pleaded.
Benta sprang to his feet. He looked the king full in the face. Then he whirled and left the hall. His household and four others followed swiftly. In the horrified silence, Troyanos bowed his head and wept.
"Your Majesty!" the head of the guards rallied swiftly. "This is no occasion for grief. Now we know our enemies. We have them!"
"Health to King Troyanos!" someone shouted, and once again voices took up the cry. The king returned to the dais and stood as a king should, receiving their homage. Then he restarted the long round, pledging the queen mother, who pledged the first minister, who pledged the second ...
The king drank correctly, but his thoughts were not on the Captain," he murmured. Kirk shifted nearer. "It will be war against my people. And I must fight -- I have no option now."
"It was a good try, Your Majesty."
"Indeed," Spock concurred. "A worthy effort."
Troyanos shrugged. "It might have worked. I think it almost did."
"Your Majesty?" The first minister leaned over to whisper urgently. "Word to your generals, I beg you!"
"Of course, Lord Canor. The council room, as soon as the health is complete." The minister hurried away, eyes shining in fierce joy as he moved from houseehold to household. Spock watched curiously as the news spread, taking with it the same joy that radiated from the minister. Truly this was a violent culture. Such eagerness for bloodshed... Spock knew an impulse to move a little closer to McCoy, as though to define a sphere of civilization.
The king, too, was watching the spread of the news. "Perhaps I spent too much time away," he confided to Kirk. "But Captain, can one rejoice in the death of one's people? Any of one's people?"
"No, Your Majesty," leader answered leader softly. "One never rejoices. But sometimes ... a few must be lost, for the greater good.'"
"Tondrowski," the king identified the quote. "I too have studied the classics of your military tradition, Captain."
"Then I respectfully suggest another maxim from the same commander," Kirk added. "'Who would lead--'"
'''Must be the best of followers'? Exactly, Captain, exactly."
The king waited until the last of the pledges had been drunk. Then he rose. At once the cheering began again. Troyanos let it sound for several minutes before raising his hand once more. "My people." He spoke gently, affectionately. "Tonight our hand is extended to you all, in trust and friendship. From this night we know our friends. We know our enemies -- and they will soon know what it is to oppose the might of Troyos!" Spock dampened his hearing hastily; the noise this time was well into the painful range.
Troyanos let it resound, not raising his hand until the uproar passed its peak. "My generals, attend me -- we must confer." Five men fairly bursting with their own importance strutted into formation. "But first, my people..." The young king stretched out both hands -- and almost disappeared into the nobles crowding to grasp them.
"He'll pull it off," Kirk whispered, watching. "If anyone can do it, he will."
"A most astute ruler," Spock whispered. If only all Federation trainees could so profit by their training.
"Captain!" The first minister was behind them, whispering in Jim's ear. "King Troyanos bids us to the council chamber! If you will graciously join the generals?"
Kirk caught Deutsch's eye. A nod transferred command; a touch to the ear ordered, "Pick up any reactions you can." The women would withdraw after the fourth course, leaving the men to drink themselves silly. This would be the Federation's first chance to get a report on the women's doings. Deutsch nodded acknowledgment, never breaking the bovine look of a woman whose thoughts were centered on the next course.
A good officer, and an excellent anthropologist, Deutsch. Spock made a mental note to get to her report as soon as she had it ready.
The captain checked in with the ship as they waited patiently for Troyanos to finish with the civilian nobles. It took some time, but finally the last noble's hand had been taken and the last pledge of loyalty acknowledged. The king joined his generals and turned once more to face the hall.
At that moment, Elaan rose. The king halted, staring, as she moved regally toward him. She still did not speak, but she stood next to the group of generals, plainly bidding to join the strategists.
Troyanos swallowed hard. "Elaan ... " he began.
"Tut, child!" The queen mother hurried across the hall to Elaan. "Women do not make war, my daughter! Come back with me at once." Scolding, she took Elaan's arms and turned her back toward the women's section. Spock found himself facing the pair; instantly he sank to one knee, like the men around him, saluting the rank of an elder.
Elaan's eyes stormed, but she allowed herself to be pushed back toward the women. She walked slowly, regal still, until she came abreast of Spock. Then she stopped and gazed down at him. "You understand Troyan customs well," she sneered.
He would not kneel to that! Spock rose abruptly, but within that second he brought his anger under control. "One never knows when knowledge of other customs will prove useful, madam," he replied smoothly.
"Come, child!" the queen mother insisted. Elaan held Spock's eyes for a moment; Spock thought he had never seen such hatred. Then she moved away.
"My generals," the king summoned. Spock returned to Kirk's side, and they moved out of the banquet hall.
A long corridor led to another section of the palace. Troyanos set a military pace, which the others quickly imitated. Something impinged on Spock -- Jim. Jim was agitated; his hand was on Spock's arm; Spock just managed not to stiffen. He turned, but in that second he realized that Jim was not seeking support; he was offering it, backing up an officer trapped into confrontation with an angry queen. Spock caught McCoy's eye. He had seen, and the two nodded their understanding of what Jim was trying to convey. Jim's hand gave a brief pressure, then dropped as the captain followed Troyanos into a lift.
The council room was already set up with large screens. Computer terminals were being wheeled into place for each participant. Spock approved the efficiency of the king's staff even as he marveled again at the anachronisms of this society. It was disquieting that a culture that had attained nuclear capability could retain such a core of barbarism. But then, this was not unusual. Vulcan was one of the few known advanced cultures where nuclear conflagration had never threatened to destroy a planet; most humanoids apparently discarded war only when its cost surrpassed the unthinkable. Indeed, many cultures continued using "limited" war as an instrument of policy, playing at murder. Not a few had gone just that micrometer too far... Spock shook his head at such illogic as he moved toward a seat next to the captain.
"Gentlemen!" Troyanos's tone was enough; automatically every man in the room activated his terminal.
" ... at midnight, precisely." Sound came in first. The screens wavered, then firmed. The image of Troyanos was speaking, but a Troyanos in military uniiform, helmeted, only the deep red of the collar distinguishing his uniform from that of the men moving in and out of what appeared to be a tent.
"What the hell?" McCoy whispered in Spock's ear.
"Troyanot," Spock explained. "You should have attended the briefing, Doctor."
"I was in surgery. Mind filling me in?"
"Twins are chosen in each generation from one of the noble households," Spock condensed quickly. "They are adopted by the then-king and reared to be the next ruler. One of them is chosen king by lot, and the other becomes his most trusted advisor."
"A king and a spare?" McCoy grinned. "What if the alternate decides--"
"A valid point. But apparently--" The captain pressed Spock's arm in warning. Spock saw that their conversation was attracting attention, and he subsided.
"Excellent, Troyanot!" Troyanos exclaimed warmly. "You have your orders. But be careful. Take no unnecessary risks!"
For a second, a gleam of mischief lit the eyes on the screen. "Benta puffs great."
"Let him! Remain in safety, Troyanot. I ... I command you!"
The face on the screen curved in an affectionate smile. "I hear, my king," acknowledged. "Don't fret, Pel. I'll stick around. Somebody's got to keep you the level."
"See that you do." Troyanos returned the smile.
"Sir!" A messenger burst into Troyanot's tent. "The rebels are forming to attack!"
"Hoppers!" Troyanot ordered. "Evacuation positions!" The officers in the tent immediately bent to their communication stations, passing the order along.
The messenger stood transfixed. "But ... sir," he stammered in dismay. Troyanot rose swiftly to clap the young man on the shoulder. "Your loyalty is noted. Return to your unit. When we have re-formed, let me see you again."
"Sir, yes, sir!" The messenger glowed with elation, then ducked out. Troyanot was smiling as he returned to the desk.
"We'll hold position for an hour or so, Brother."
"As per Phase One. Communicate when you begin to pull out." Troyanot raised his hand in the gesture of fealty. "I know," Troyanos said gently. The screen faded.
The ruler can be in two places at once," McCoy whispered. "Not a bad system."
"Troyanot is an excellent commander," Kirk commented in the same moment. "A lot of men would have raked that messenger down. He knows how to validate. Both of them do."
"Yes, sir," Spock agreed. He understood why the captain was pointing out the technique: It was one of the command skills Spock had to remind himself to use. And his efforts were often too conscientious.
"They've been well trained," McCoy seconded.
"Obviously, Doctor," Spock replied coldly, refraining from the remark that a non-Vulcan might have been tempted to add.
"Gentlemen!" Troyanos's voice vibrated with excitement as a large map appeared on the center screen. "Observe, if you please. Captain, this is the section where Benta's forces have gathered." His pointer indicated one side of what appeared to be a large delta. "Troyanot's forces are here." The pointer sketched the center of the area. "When Benta attacks, Troyanot will retreat, leaving our center vulnerable. When Benta's forces break our center, the two wings will join." The pointer sketched a circle formed by river, ocean, and the projected re-forming of Troyanot's troops. "Do you see, Captain?"
"Marathon!" Kirk breathed, staring at the map. "Marathon, by god!"
"Precisely. Would you remain for a moment?" Troyanos rose. "My generals," he began.
Spock settled to wait patiently through the speech. It was well done, but it varied little from speeches made in similar circumstances through the centuries, probably back to ages before Marathon, Spock reflected. He looked at the two Humans. They were listening avidly, clearly caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment. Spock suppressed a sigh. Killing, suffering, the waste of life and reesources. How many of the men crowding toward the battlefield tonight would be alive by this time tomorrow? And all because a few could not accept the logic of the greater good...
Kirk and McCoy rose spontaneously with the generals preparing to leave. Spock rose also, sad, but basically uninvolved. Logic could not be forced on others. She could only be demonstrated, in the hope that her beauty could sway those who allowed emotions their treacherous role. Realizing that he was slumping slightly, he straightened as the king took an affectionate leave of each man. Already the rotary-bladed aircraft they called hoppers were departing, carrying the generals to the front.
"Now, gentlemen." The king turned toward them, shedding his regality with ease. He noticed a terminal left on and walked over to click it off. Then he began to check the others. The Enterprise men followed his example; then Troyanos motioned them into an inner office. "I apologize for crowding you." He crossed to the desk and took a quick scan of its panel. "But this is the most secure room. And I do not wish to be overheard." Spock exchanged glances with the others, and they all sat down. Troyanos perched on his desk, clearly dealing man to man, not ruler to subject. "You know the plan."
Spock and Kirk both nodded. McCoy shifted unhappily, and Spock took pity on him. "Am I correct, Your Majesty, that you plan to let the opposing forces break through your ranks?" Troyanos nodded patiently. "Your forces will form a pincer movement -- the two sides joining to trap the rebels with their backs to the sea, and -- "
"That is where we really need your help," Troyanos interrupted eagerly. It was not the royal 'we,' Spock noticed. "We want to minimize the loss of life. Although," he smiled faintly, "I would not diminish the zeal of my armies by giving orders to that effect. Troyanot has hand-picked the men who will command the center. They are to break and evacuate as soon as the advance reaches their posiition. At that moment our planes will engage the enemy, harrassing the rear and destroying any naval and air units that would make evacuation impossible. Benta will surrender; there will be no choice. We will once again offer our hand to any who will take it. We believe that we can thus reunite our kingdom under our rule."
Spock thought of Benta and how the man's eyes had shifted at the king's appproach. Yes, it was possible. The captain caught his eye, soliciting his opinion. Spock nodded, as did McCoy.
"Your campaign, Your Majesty," Kirk acknowledged.
"Not quite." For the first time, Troyanos seemed uncertain. "There is one factor." Instinctively the Enterprise men drew closer. "Last month there was a theft from the storehouse of our Nuclear Commission. Here." A rapid keying brought a display to the screen marked TOP SECRET. Troyanos punched in a code, and an inventory list formed.
Spock calculated swiftly. "At least one," he concluded. "Or possibly two or three small--"
"Yes," Troyanos agreed heavily. "The material has never been traced."
"I see," Kirk began slowly.
"I cannot believe that my nobles would risk nuclear weapons!" Troyanos cried. "Especially the very people who know best what radiation could do to our world. But the material is missing. And when Benta is defeated, facing the necessity of surrender--" The king broke off, almost shuddering.
Spock was first to reach the bottom line. "That is why you need the Enterprise."
"Yes. If you can find that material, we can destroy the launch site. At worst, you can monitor launchings we might not be aware of until too late."
Kirk was nodding again. Looking at the captain, Spock guessed that Kirk had reached the same conclusion: A nuclear ace in the hole went a long way toward explaining Benta's willingness to attack a far superior force. Spock wondered if it had also occurred to Kirk that one putative ally of the rebel forces would not have the slightest hesitation about using such a weapon.
"It's not in any of our cities; we'll take our oath on that," Troyanos added.
"We'll get right on it," Kirk said crisply. "How about the battle itself? Can we help coordinate?"
"Indeed." Troyanos brightened. "Troyanot and I will reconnoiter from the air. But we would value your observations."
He reprogrammed the map of the battle area, and Kirk and Spock watched carefully as Troyanos pointed out the various elevations and landmarks of the area. McCoy grew bored and wandered away, but the technicalities lasted only a few more minutes.
"Okay." Kirk pushed his chair back and stood. "Mr. Spock. "
"Acknowledged." Automatically Spock reached for his communicator, then looked dubiously at the stone walls.
"Beamdown point," Kirk ordered. "No sense taking chances."
Spock replaced his communicator, took formal leave of the king, and left the inner room.
The war room was deserted; its colorful occupants would be on their way to the front about now. The corridor, too, was empty. Spock had to think for a moment. Then he remembered the location of the elevators and headed for them.
"Psst!" A sharp whisper stopped him. "Psst! Mr. Spock!"
"Shh!" the whisperer begged. "It is Malblain, of Elaas. I must speak with you!"
"Come out, then."
"No! It's too risky! Listen to me. Your captain is in danger. You must warn him!"
Spock took an involuntary step forward. "Explain."
"Shh! This way. Do not speak!" A figure emerged from an alcove and hurried toward the elevator. Spock followed swiftly, recognizing one of the guards who had accompanied Elaan aboard the Enterprise. At the elevator Malblain paused, as though waiting for the lift. Spock moved close, and the Elaasian held out what appeared to be a message tape. The man's hand was trembling; he dropped it and froze. Automatically Spock stooped to retrieve it, and in that instant the lift door opened. Three men leaped out, grabbing his arms and gagging his warning cry. They bundled him into the lift; then something slammed his temple. The triumphant, savage faces around him seemed to unfocus, and he lost consciousness.
He regained it in less than twenty minutes, already aware enough to repress a groan at the pain in his head. He stayed limp while he evaluated the situation. He was stretched prone, naked, arms and legs pinioned to the surface beneath him. He considered testing the bonds, but some sixth sense told him there were people around him, strangely silent, but ...
"You may rise." Spock almost stiffened at the well-remembered voice. Fear licked at chest and throat as he remembered the hatred in those fiery eyes. Innstantly he calmed himself. He would not show fear to this harpy.
Elaan spoke a few words of praise; then her voice sharpened. "Be very careful, Malblain. There must be no mark."
"Upon my life, Your Glory!" Malblain's voice had the same savage excitement. "Begin."
Spock breathed shallowly in the silence, willing his body to stay limp. It was difficult not to know where the pain would come. He felt an instrument at the anal opening. Something metal was thrust deep inside his body. There was no pain, and he puzzled over that for a moment, until a bucket of cold water hit his back. When it was repeated, he understood that they were reviving him. He gave a faint moan for verisimilitude and pulled slightly at his bonds.
"Again, Malblain," Elaan ordered. "I want him fully awake."
Spock took a moment to collect himself, realizing he was a dead man. If the rebellion succeeded, Elaan would kill him for the pleasure of it. If it failed, she would silence him to ensure her safety. The only question was how long -- and how much he must endure. More water hit, and he opened his eyes, bowing to the inevitable.
"So, Mr. Spock," Elaan sneered. He turned his head, regarding her impassively. Her eyes flared; for a moment he thought she would strike him. But her hand checked and dropped. "Malblain."
Pain sliced through Spock. His entire body convulsed with it. It stopped as suddenly, and he heard his own scream echoing. In seconds it hit again, and he almost panicked, groping for some explanation. Then Elaan, of all people, helped him. "How strong?"
"Seventy, Your Glory."
"Increase the charge."
Malblain did, but now Spock had recognized what was being done to him, and he was no longer afraid. With the next charge he made the mistake of trying to control his body. He couldn't, and another cry escaped him.
"Again," Elaan ordered, but now Spock knew what to do. He could not control his body's response; electricity acted too directly on the nervous system for the mind to intervene. Therefore, he must cede his body to them. The next assault showed him that he could. His body screamed, and that was a difficulty, because Elaan gave a triumphant laugh. Spock hated lying so passively under her eyes. He wanted to fight her, beat her down with his strength. But if he descended to that level, she could win. Deliberately he overcame his emotionalism, concentrating on shielding himself from all input. He heard Elaan's voice order another charge and knew that his body responded to its assault. But she could not touch him.
"Stop." Spock relaxed a little, willing his body to take advantage of the respite. Elaan bent close to him, the hated face inches from his own. Spock closed his eyes. "The battle plan! Tell me the battle plan." Spock did not bother to reply, preparing instead for the next shock.
Elaan waited a few minutes, alternately threatening and cajoling. Spock barely heard her. When the next shock came, he was well prepared. A few more minutes, and even his time sense disappeared. The pain did not matter. They could have the clay. He would die honorably, untouched by their sordid self-seeking.
Light-years away, Elaan's voice sounded in another command. The bonds holding him were loosened. His head was lifted, and cool water was held to his lips. Spock returned to himself with a jolt that made him groan and gulped the water greedily. Aftershocks ran through his system; his whole body shuddered violently. He didn't try to control, knowing it was hopeless. The shuddering eased, and he let his head fall back to the wet platform, blessing the chance to rest. His bonds were resecured, one by one, in different positions. They were lined with some sort of fleece -- the rebels intended to leave an unmarked body, for certain.
Spock began to consider some method of letting his captain know what had been done to him. If they electrocuted him, the heart would alert any competent diagnostician. Perhaps anal burns would be found. But there would have to be an autopsy. Probably Jim would order it -- if he didn't, the doctor would. Then they would know that he had died in the performance of his duty. That would ease their grief, and Sarek's too. Amanda ... Amanda would simply have to accept, as she had had to accept so many things. His affairs were in order. There would be no widow to grieve, no child left fatherless. He relaxed, preparing himself. It would grow difficult as his body weakened, but fatigue was the only real danger, and time was on his side. Probably the attack on Troyanot's position would begin at dawn.
Troyanot would handle the fallback efficiently. Once the final attack began and the Troyan air force had destroyed, the rebels' few planes, completing Phase Three, the information he held would be of no use.
"Is he conscious?" Elaan's voice startled him out of his quiet, but he remained impassive. "Malblain, I want him awake."
"Yes, Your Glory. A stimulant--"
"I am awake," Spock conceded, hoping to avoid being drugged. His voice croaked; he cleared his throat.
"Water," Elaan ordered, and once again his head was raised and a cup held to his lips. It was obscene to be cradled in the arms of his tormenter; Spock turned away in disgust. "Listen to me, dog!" Elaan connnanded. "Are you listening?"
Spock took a moment to guarantee calm, then turned toward her, managing an expression of impassive attention which he guessed would infuriate her. He saw his success in her face, and an emotional satisfaction sprang up. Careful. Control.
"Listen to me!" Elaan hissed, raising his head with her own hands, pulling him toward her. "I am going now. Malblain will deal with you. And you will tell him the plan!"
This time she did strike him, but he remained impassive. Let her storm. Paying attention was not worth the energy. He closed his eyes. "Listen to me! Malblain, make him listen!"
"He hears you, Your Glory," the man assured her nervously.
"All right. I am going now. To your captain." Spock stiffened, and Elaan laughed. "You'd better save yourself the pain, Vulcan. Because your captain will tell me. Soon he will tell me anything I want to know."
"I think not." Spock kept his voice steady. Jim would do his duty. Even believing himself infatuated with this woman, he had resisted her. Now he knew that she had no mysterious powers. Spock shook his head calmly.
Elaan drew back sharply. "Malblain," she ordered, and swept from the room. Spock closed his eyes again to prepare. He slowed his pulse, taking deep breaths. Malblain was talking now. He wanted Spock to betray everything -- his oath, his captain, the Federation itself. Spock did not bother to listen.
Malblain talked and talked, talking himself out of arguments. Then he sighed and reset the controls, lowering the charge. At all costs he must keep the Vulcan alive until Her Glory had completed her plans. Current on, he began to play with the controls, watching the body on the board respond, exactly as expected. He increased power, and the Vulcan writhed under his manipulations. An hour passed, then another. Spock was groaning weakly now; his skin was pale and cold to the touch. Malblainshook his head, discouraged.
The method had been chosen as much for its promise of disrupting Vulcan control as for its low traceability. But the man showed no signs of breaking. Malblain hoped fervently that Her Glory would succeed with the captain. If she managed to obtain the plan, she would be pleased that Malblain had failed. If not... Malblain shuddered. But there was nothing more to be done. He reached over and switched off the generators. Her Glory wanted the Vulcan alive for her final revenle. That was the priority now.
* * *
High above the ancient dungeon where her servant did her bidding, Elaan, Dolman of Elaas, lay still in her chaste bed. She had sent her puppy of a husband farewell wishes on his departure for the front. Now she need only wait for the pig snores from the next room. There was no hurry. The longer she waited, thinking of the man of her choice, the more powerful her weapons would grow.
He had resisted once. But that was on board his own ship, in the sight of his crew, with that damned silent figure never far from his side. Elaan spat into the darkness at the memery, then smiled, savoring her triumph. Even now the Vulcan was learning what it meant to be the enemy of the Dolman of Elaas! He would understand even better before she was through with him.
And his captain. Slave to duty? Pah! Tonight he would not resist. He would have his pleasure with her, and she with him. Then she would be off to Benta with the battle plan for sale at her price. The captain would be silent -- he would not confess that he had yielded to her powers. The Vulcan- Her lip curled. By then he too would be silent.
She must remember to reward Malblain handsomely, not so much for his current assignment as for the long. tedious search through Vulcan epic that had made so sweet a revenge possible. A dog's death... Elaan stretched, admiring her beauty in the dim light.
The snoring began. Elaan listened for a few moments. savoring her approaching triumph. How fortunate that she had insisted on her own bedroom! At the time she had done so simply to gain a point against her mother-in-law, and against the cursed Troyan custom that decreed that a wife sleep with her mother-in-law in the absence of her husband. Husband! Pah! Pigs! Dogs! Soon those snores too would be silenced forever. She, Dolman of both kingdoms, would see to that!
Silently she slipped out of bed. Her fingers groped in the depths of her jewel case and closed on a tiny jar. The scent stung her nostrils as she opened the jar; her pulse quickened. Musk of doi -- the very essence of feminine power. She spread the unguent carefully on thighs, breasts, and hands; it would be the first assault against the feeble defenses of the male. She brushed a little through the hair streaming opulently down her back. She was ready. A loose robe would do for the corridors. She opened the door.
Theoit stood waiting, nodding silently. Good. The corridors must be empty. She led the way to the guest chantbers. "Dr. McCoy sleeps in the next room," Theoit whispered. "He will sleep soundly; I have seen to that."
"Go to Malblain." Elaan watched her servant hurry down the hall, then opened the captain's door and slipped inside.
It was two hours before dawn -- the male's dreamtime.
* * *
Far underground, Malblain consulted his chronogram, his imagination following Elaan's progress. Then, sighing, he switched on the generators and went for the bucket. He'd make one more try at the Vulcan, more to pass the time than anything else. Elaan would get the plan. A woman of Elaas always got what she wanted, in the end. He sighed again as the generators warmed up.
* * *
Elaan stood watching the sleeping man, letting the sight of the desired one feed her strength. Then she stepped out of her robe and slipped into his bed. She began to stroke her beloved, whisper soft. The sleeping body responded, dreaming. Dreaming of-- "Elaan," she whispered, letting her breath caress his ears.
"Elaan," he sighed.
Sure now of his response, she shook him gently. "Wake up, my love," she throated. "Wake up." His eyes opened, and she caught him in a long, welcoming kiss, thrusting one leg under the responding flesh.
"What the hell!" Hard hands caught her head and forced her back. Elaan submitted, knowing the strength of surrender, but she rubbed her leg gently between his as she reached to smooth the scowl lines from his forehead.
"I am here, my love."
"Yes, I see you are," Kirk replied, disentangling himself.
"There is no danger, my love," Elaan soothed his fears. "The king is at the front; the household sleeps. No one will ever know."
The captain's eyes widened. He pulled away as she tried to caress him again. "What do you want?"
"You, my love. Only you." She melted against him, and he scrambled out of bed. Elaan willed her tears to gather, then moved toward him imploringly. It worked again. He reached to brush the tears away, and now he was hers. She got to her knees to embrace him, pulling him back to her.
The next second she was flat on her back, arms pinioned. "I thought I'd managed to teach you some manners, at least," the man growled. "Is this any way for a queen to behave?"
Elaan stared up, astonished into silence. The hazel eyes were as hard as the voice.
* * *
Dawn. Benta would make his attack soon. Troyanot would break ranks, luring the rebel troops into the western area. Not long after that, the pincer movement should begin. By then, his information would be useless to the rebels. Spock allowed himself the hope that they would recognize this and kill him quickly. The pain he had endured made that hope genuine.
These last shocks had put him in true difficulty. Coming with no warning, breaking in on exhausted sleep, giving him no time to prepare, Spock shuddered, hoping that the spasm would be taken for an aftershock.
His head was raised. He wanted to turn away from the odor of the nervous Elaasian, but he had to have water. A cup was held to his lips. He gulped the water, then groaned as his stomach rebelled, rejecting what his throat had to have. Malblain cursed and jumped back.
Spock's stomach insisted on voiding itself completely, but when that was done, he lay still. floating in a near-Nirvana of weakness. A genuine aftershock gripped his body and he groaned, desperate with fatigue. Longing for the end possessed him, and an idea popped into his mind. He would give Malblain part of the battle plan. in exchange for a quick death. He thought it over swiftly; yes, it was logical. Both would gain from it. "Malblain," he whispered.
The E1aasian bent over him eagerly. But in that moment, training came to Spock's rescue. He was simply too ill to think straight. Take no action in emotionalism... "No action," he whispered. Malblain drew back. discouraged.
The moments ticked by. Spock rested, benefiting from the quiet. He could not help wondering if the Enterprise might find him. He must have been missed by now. But the fact that he had not been rescued dimmed the hope. Probably he was far underground or otherwise shielded from sensor scan. There was no chance. He must remain mute, serving his oath to the Federation and to his captain. No pain or weariness of body could outweigh that. He pressed his lips tightly together to remind himself that they must remain sealed.
A door flew open, hitting the wall with a crash. Elaan swept into the room. Malblain sank to one knee, but Spock lifted his head, strengthened by a sudden surge of hatred. Emotionalism, but unquestionably it was vitalizing; he allowed it to grow. Here was the source of his pain. Not her contemptible tool, but this woman, bent on destroying him and his captain, injuring the Federation they both servedall for her own self-seeking.
Malblain was questioning her eagerly. "The battle plan? Your Glory has the plan?" Spock held his breath, apprehensive in spite of himself.
"Shut up, fool!" Elaan was raging. Spock relaxed with an audible sigh. "Shut up!" Elaan turned on him. Spock smiled at her, content. Jim had prevailed.
"But Your Glory -- "
"I said, shut up! We don't need the battle plan! The king's troops broke as soon as the attack began. They won't fight for him! The dog will be at our mercy!" She pounced on Spock, grabbing his head painfully to force him to look at her. "Did you hear that, pig? Son of a pig? It was for nothing. The king's soldiers will not fight!"
Spock closed his eyes, hoping this would be taken for discouragement. Troyanot had done even better than they'd hoped in making the fallback look like a rout. Phase Three would begin any time now.
"Malblain, I shall join Benta. Meet me when your task is complete."
"Yes, Your Glory." Spock heard the sound of switches. The generators died, and the terminal was removed.
"Is he awake? I want him awake!"
Spock opened his eyes and turned toward her. She would kill him now. But she would not see him afraid.
Elaan was holding a metal chisel. She showed it to him and smiled. "'One never knows when knowledge of other customs will prove useful,'" she quoted mockkingly. Her lip curled; then she moved down, out of his range of vision. Something cold slid into him again, and Spock braced himself, expecting the final shock. Instead, he felt a sharp pain, then another, as the chisel point punctured intestinal wall and perigoneum. Spock gasped. She couldn't possibly know...
"The death of the five cuts," Elaan confirmed his horrified guess. "The death of a dog, for a dog of a Vulcan." The instrument bit again.
"No!" Spock shouted, horror overcoming control. He fought against the bonds. "No!" Elaan's triumphant laugh as she made the final cuts increased his panic, and he screamed as she prolonged the last one.
"Malblain." The chisel was removed. But something wet was squeezed in, touching the wounds. Spock writhed, but he was conscious of puzzlement. This was not part of the death. His mind groped for explanation; Elaan supplied it. "A bacterial culture," she purred. "I am sorry to shorten it for you. But I want to be sure." She moved back, and Spock saw the horrid smile once again.
Spock shuddered, overcome by weakness and horror. He hated to betray his reaction, but there was nothing he could do. Instead, he met her eyes, letting her see what she had done to him. "It seems a pity, madam," he whispered, "that the passion you value so highly cannot be turned to constructive--"
"Pah!" She turned on her heel and stalked out. But at the door she turned for a final shot. "Your captain will never know the cause, of course. But he will learn the manner of your death. That I promise. Malblain."
She was gone. Spock closed his eyes, trying to regain control. Infection of the perigoneum - massive infection, spreading rapidly to involve the entire gonadal area, invariably fatal in prescientific days. Now antibiotics could usually control the infection. He began to shudder again. If only the Enterprise would find him! They must be searching by now. A simple injection -- any of the common antibiotics . . . He groaned.
A rope circled one wrist and was pulled tight. Then he felt the rope on his other wrist. The bonds at his elbows were loosened; his uniform was pulled onto his body. Then his arms were yanked back and secured. The leg bonds were removed; they hauled him to his feet.
The ground tilted, but Malblain and the other man caught him. They forced him out the door to a long flight of steps. Spock stumbled along, gasping in pain.
They turned a landing and forced him toward another flight. Spock moaned, and a haze of weakness closed around him. Nothing existed but the stairs, the hands, hard hold on his arms, and the pain of obeying those hands. After a long time they reached a lift. Spock slumped in the guards' hold, grateful for the rest.
They emerged in bright sunlight, and he closed his eyes against the glare. They were steering him again, and he hurried along, too weak for anything but a docility some part of him recognized as idiotic. He should fight, or scream, or sink to the ground; do something to stop them. But it took all his energy just to keep up.
They shoved him inside something and forced him down. He did scream then, but an engine roared to life. They bound him to a seat. Something clanged, and the world lifted, pressing him cruelly. Spock gave another scream; then he lost consciousness.
* * *
High above the ocean in a seat of honor in the king's own hopper, the captain fidgeted, checking his chronometer for the third time in five minutes. He didn't want to pressure Spock -- one of his defects as a commander was a tendency to lean on people already aware of the need for speed. But his dawn status check had brought him only routine. All stations had reported in and had reported normal operations. All but the most important.
"Eight a.m., planet time. He reached for his communicator. "Uhura, give me Spock."
"Er -- yes, sir." The communications officer sounded uncharacteristically tentative. "Just a moment; I'll try to locate him."
"Whaddayamean, try to locate him? Isn't he at his station?"
"No, sir. In fact, I assumed he was with you."
"Try his communicator."
"Yes, sir." Kirk waited edgily. "No response."
"Beam a Security team to his location at once. And start -- no. Beam me up on my signal." He turned to Troyanos, managing a smile. "I'm sorry, Your Majesty. I'd better get up to the ship and see if ... if the reconnaisance phase was ... er ... was ordered. If not, I'll put it through immediately."
"Captain." The king stretched out a detaining hand. "Captain, if... Forgive me. But Mr. Spock knows the entire plan. If--''
"No, sir. I can guarantee his loyalty." Kirk held the king's eyes with his own. "With my life, if necessary." Troyanos relaxed slightly, and so did Kirk. "Besides," the captain managed a grin, "if Mr.Spock were to turn renegade, he'd do it more skillfully than this. And I can guarantee that, too." He pressed the signal on his communicator. "I'll be in touch."
* * *
Spock had slipped from unconsciousness into an exhausted sleep. Pain intruded, but he managed to doze, keeping his body relaxed, regaining strength. He had placed himself now. He was in a hopper in the air somewhere over Troyos. That was the source of the noise. The sensations of lifting and flying were accurate.
For an hour, he rested, letting his system recover. Then he placed himself in deep rest until the hopper descended and landed. He brought himself back as Malblain bundled him onto the ground. He opened his eyes and looked around.
They were in a small canyon, surrounded on all sides by high cliffs. Spock understood. Malblain would leave him here while the infection did its work. But hope began to rise. There was still time. If he could climb out and make his way to some settled area...
The Elaasian spoke his name sharply. Spock turned and saw Malblain fumbling with his phaser. He rushed it; Malblain shrieked and fired. Spock didn't even feel his body fall.
* * *
Kirk's orders had turned the Bridge into a whirlwind of activity. The captain paced, enjoying the action yet profoundly worried.
"Ames to Enterprise."
Kirk leaped for his chair. "Report!"
"Sorry, sir. We found Mr. Spock's communicator. But that's all. It's on one of the lifts -- that's the motion we detected. No telling how long it's been here, just moving with the lift."
"Acknowledged. Return to the ship. Kirk out." The captain didn't allow himself to think too much about his missing officer. Not yet. With this tight an orbit, they ought to be able to locate that missing material. "Continue scan," he ordered the equally worried crew. "Just keep an eye out."
"Aye, sir." Sulu was the only one able to respond. "Mr. Spock's readings should stand out like a beacon." I hope.
Because, Kirk silently finished Sulu's unspoken thought, if he can't get in touch with us, we only have the entire damn planet to search.
* * *
Spock woke at noon to a raging thirst and a fever that told him infection was well established. He must get back to the Enterprise! He took a few minutes to gather energy, trying to clear his head and set mind firmly in control. He was only partially successful, but it would have to do. He got carefully to his feet.
His phaser lay on the ground nearby; he set his teeth and retrieved it. It was set on stun -- low force. He shook his head. Malblain should have used a higher setting. Perhaps that was the adjustment he'd been fumbling for. Careless, but then, he had never been impressed by the caliber of Elaan's retinue.
He reattached the phaser. Odd that they had left it with him. Or had they expected him to use it -- on himself? Infection of the perigoneum was legal cause for suicide under Vulcan codes. But there was still time.
He took a step and stopped abruptly. Mm. That was going to be a problem. He set his controls firmly to block the input. He would not be able to focus on that while climbing. But he must pick the best route for the attempt.
An hour later his respect for Malblain had risen; he had seldom seen less welcoming cliffs. There was only one route that seemed possible and that would involve spread-eagling a nastily narrow fissure. He breathed deeply to prepare. He had climbed worse -- with a team and proper equipment. Alone. He could only try. The odds against him were ... irrelevant. He started up the cliff face.
He calculated later that the climb out took him seven to eight hours. At the time, he lost track. Long before he reached the rim, the world had narrowed to a tight circle of pain that had room only for the next handhold. Tears streamed down his face, but there was no one to see.
He would die here. Elaan would have her victory. But he kept going. She would not win by default.
* * *
Kirk watched tensely as the computer sensors's schematic changed. Benta's attack was taking form, but Troyanot's lines were still holding. They'd better order up the --
"Muti." Troyanos's order came through the open channel on Kirk's chair. The left flank of Troyanot's lines changed shape and almost immediately the opposing forces changed, too, moving farther into the center. Good. Now they had them almost where they wanted them. If Benta failed to see the trap. .. If he didn't know the plan... But of course he didn't know the plan.
"Kyle, take a quick scan of Benta's east flank for Mr. Spock."
"Aye, aye, sir!" Kyle's hands fairly flew to comply. Moments later, he shook his head.
"All right." Troyanos's order to Vahel sounded through the intercom. Again there was a feint, and again it worked. Kirk swore with excitement and frustration.
"Request permission to scan the rebels' supply and med lines," Kyle suggested.
"Proceed." Kirk gave himself a quick scold. The captain was supposed to inspire confidence in the crew. Of course, it didn't hurt to have the reverse happen. But- "Good thinking, Kyle," he remembered to add. There. That sounded all right. But what a job! Vulcan readings or no Vulcan readings, a needle in a haystack was nothing compared to-
"Captain!" Troyanos's voice snapped him to. He studied the schematic.
"I see it." The flanks were pulling in now. The western positions were almost abandoned. He held his breath, but Troyanos saw that his eastern flank was still too close to center. He ordered Vahel to spread out, and soon the shape of the eastern lines began to change in response.
Suddenly Troyanos made his decision. "Kalka!" he ordered.
It worked like a charm. Within minutes, Troyanot's center thinned, then broke.
The dots representing Benta's forces on the schematic entered the gap, then began pouring through. Benta would see the danger any moment now, unless he was a commplete fool. But Troyanos was still one step ahead. An order sent in his planes, undeployed until now in the interests of reducing casualties. They began strafing attacks on the eastern flanks. Some of the dots on the extreme edge disappeared, and Kirk's palms began to sweat. Steady, he admonished himself.
The little dots were pouring through the center now. The schematic winked out, no longer able to distinguish one army from the other. But the orders Kirk heard on the intercom were reassuringly cogent.
"Captain!" Troyanos's voice cut through urgently. "Benta is sending a code message to the Belvan Barracks. It may--" He broke off to listen to some report, then rapidly dispatched a fighter squadron.
"Rahda?" Kirk asked.
"On scan," she replied. "It's an old airbase, deserted when the planet attained unified government. Location, the badlands, roughly 250 kilometers from the capitol." Uhura silently punched in an order, and the configurations of the Troyan fighter planes formed on the screen. "Vultures," Rahda concluded.
"War planes, long range," Kirk muttered. "Heading?" Rahda supplied it; Kirk nodded, unsurprised. "Troyanos. They're headed toward the capitol."
"Radioactive material aboard, Captain," Kyle reported from the science station. "We're tracking them," Troyanos reported. "Our squadron will intercept in three minutes."
"Roger." Kirk closed the channel. "Sulu, lock in phasers and track. Just in case."
Kirk reopened the channel. Troyanos's trap was closing now; Benta's forces were surrounded. The king would call for surrender soon, but probably not before Benta's planes were downed. He double-checked Rahda's plotting of the interception point -- still well over the sparsely populated badlands. He hoped whoever was handling those materials knew what he was doing.
Kirk leaned back, stretched, and surveyed the Bridge. A new team was on scanners, except for -- "Kyle."
"Nothing to report, sir."
"It's past your shift. Go--"
"With permission, sir-- "
"Denied." He smiled. "Nichols is fresh. Leave the Bridge."
The chief rose and moved toward the lift, feet dragging slightly. Kirk smiled again at the dejected back. Spock had saved Kyle's life -- it was the logical thing to do, of course -- in that spot of unpleasantness off Agair. Kyle would dearly love to find the Vulcan now.
Damn. Kirk rubbed his eyes wearily. Spock had been missing for nearly eighteen hours now.
"Interception," Rahda announced.
"Dog fight!" Troyanos yelled. "We got two. The third -- Hold it. Got him!"
"Nice work. Okay, I think that about--"
"Captain, there are a number of survivors from those planes," Rahda interrupted.
"We'll get 'em," Troyanos acknowledged. "Thank you. Captain, we are commenccing Phase Five. Would you honor us by accompanying us?"
"With respect, Your Majesty, I suggest it's best that the surrender be pursued as an entirely internal matter. I'll just listen in, if I may." The courtesies of the decision occupied a few more minutes. Kirk showed Troyanos none of his impatience, but one hand was describing rapid circles in the air to the Bridge staff. Within seconds, all sensors were being reprogrammed. Even Rahda, the newest crewwmember present, needed no verbal order. The captain wanted everything they had tied in to the search for Mr. Spock, and he wanted it now. Searle assigned her an area of the battlefield to scan, and she punched it in while reprogramming for life-form scan. Later she was to regret not having first widened her scan by approximately one kilometer. But as Mr. Spock himself assured her, to have done so would have been illogical.
* * *
Spock was on a broad highway, stumbling toward the distant capitol. His relief at finding the road had long since dissipated; the area seemed entirely deserted. He heard engines high overhead and saw two of the bailouts. But he barely paused, for by now nothing had meaning but the necessity to keep moving. Fever had blotted out the reason, but he knew he had to keep walking. His strength was failing; he would not have to endure much more of this. But while he could, he must continue.
Something buzzed overhead. Spock paid no attention to the noise or the silence. "Hey!"
Spock stopped with a gasp, then stumbled on. He was alone in this wasteland, auditory hallucinations notwithstanding.
"Wellfortheluvof -- !" The hopper pilot stood, arms akimbo, divided between astonishment and wrath. Forty miles from nowhere, he hadn't expected to have to offer twice. "Hey, buddy!" The figure did not react. Funny uniform -- no service the pilot recognized. But one thing sure, he wasn't going to make it, the rate he was going. Better get him in.
The pilot took off, hopped over Spock, and landed on the road ahead. He got a look at him for the first time, and his startled reflex nearly put the hopper in the air again. "Hold it," he steadied himself. "Criminy!" An alien, that was for sure. The rumors were true, then.
The alien saw him now. He halted, his face working, staring at the hopper. The pilot swung out. "Hey, buddy! Want a lift?"
"A.." The alien reeled.
"Criminy!" The pilot got to him quickly. Poor bastard was burning up. "How long you been out here, buddy?"
Spock tried to calculate how long, failed, and begged pardon. "I must -- my ship..." he managed.
"You Navy?" The syllables conveyed nothing to Spock. He shook his head and put a hand to his temple, trying to control the dizziness. "Here." The pilot pulled him gently to the hopper, got him in and into a seat. Spock groaned but managed to thank him. The pilot strapped him in, and within seconds the badlands were falling away from them. "Want some water?"
Spock understood that and gasped at the sight of the canteen held out to him. He grabbed it. "Take it slow."
"Yes. Thank you." Spock drank carefully, letting the water trickle over his tormented tongue and throat. He paused to luxuriate in the sight of the highway rushing beneath them. "Look! Two men."
"I see 'em." The hopper touched down. One man was hurt; the pilot and the other lifted him in. "You okay, buddy?" the pilot asked the other.
"I'll radio your position in."
"Right." The hopper lifted off. Spock passed the canteen to the wounded man, who gave a startled yelp at the sight of him.
"I am Spock," Spock whispered out of long habit. "First officer of the Enterprise."
"The Enterprise!" both men exclaimed; then both reached to clasp his hand. "What're you doing out here?" the wounded man asked.
"I ... " Spock shuddered violently.
"Steady," both men ordered together. "Best you don't talk too much," the pilot advised. "How 'bout more water?"
"Yeah, but how did you get out here?" the other persisted, handing Spock the canteen. "Nothin' out here but lizards."
"That is true," Spock agreed dizzily. "I was following a road. But I saw no one."
"No one to see," the wounded man rejoined. "No one out here since Belvan Base closed down." He eyed Spock, shaking his head. "Lucky for you we had to bail out. Otherwise--"
"Bailout?" Spock was having difficulty understanding. Someone here was hurting, rather badly. But that seemed to have nothing to do with the current conversation. He pressed his head against the seat, trying to calm its spinning.
"We were ordered to intercept and destroy three rebel planes," the wounded man explained. "Just three of them, way out here -- don't ask me why. We got 'em, but they got our pilot. We had to bailout, and..."
Spock barely heard. Planes in a remote area... The conclusion clicked into place and he began to chuckle at a joke so rich that his whole body shook with the effort of suppressing his laughter. Elaan had planned well. But she had not known where Benta's ace in the hole was.
"Hey!" Both men were grasping him, trying to calm them. Spock tried to pull himself together, but it was just too funny.
"I beg forgive--" he gasped, then concentrated fiercely, determined to control himself. The effort took the last of his strength.
"Hey!" the pilot yelped as the canteen dropped into his lap. He righted it swiftly, then turned to touch the limp body. The alien was barely breathing; he could find no wrist pulse at all. He grabbed for his radio. "Medunits! Medunits! Who's got a pad? Medunits! Who's got a -- c'mon, forthe1uva! I got a bad one here!"
* * *
"We are deeply concerned, Captain." Fresh from his triumph, Troyanos could still find time to worry about a missing alien. "An alert has been broadcast to all units. When Mr. Spock is located, word will be transmitted to us personally."
"Thank you, Your Majesty." Kirk pushed discouragement aside. "And congratuulations again."
"It worked perfectly," Troyanos exulted. "Thanks to your help, of course."
Kirk shook his head. "All we did was watch," he said firmly. "Tech--"
"Technical assistance." Troyanos climbed into his groundcar, laughing.
"Noted, Captain. Will you honor us by -- " Cheering sounded from the soldiers massed along the road. "That will be Troyanot!" the king exclaimed. He scrambled to the roof of his vehicle and trained his binoculars. Then he gasped and stood rooted.
"Your Majesty?" Muti asked, worried. Wordlessly, Troyanos handed the glasses down. The general looked, whistled, and passed them to Kirk. He focused them. Troyanot was standing in an open vehicle, still in his red-collared uniform. And next to him, in her Elaasian body armor, stood Elaan, regally acknowledging the cheers of the troops lining the road. Kirk blinked and looked again. There was no mistake.
Troyanos jumped into his vehicle. Kirk followed without further invitation.
"Quickly," Troyanos ordered.
The driver did his best with the horn, and the troops crowding around moved to make way. But the crowding was so close that their pace became a slow, triumphal procession. The other vehicle was in full view now. They saw Troyanot gesture an order, then stand, raising a speaker to his lips. "Troyanos!" he shouted. The amplifier sent his voice booming across the suddenly silent troops. "I escort Queen Elaan, heroine of Troyos!" Slowly the cars closed the distance. "She led the 95th into battle, completing the rout!" Troyanot boomed. "For the first time in history, our gallant troops followed their royal queen!" A hum of astonishment swept through the silent troops. "Cheers for Queen Elaan!" Troyanot boomed.
Kirk raised his voice with thousands of others, grateful that every eye was on the silent Elaan. Saw which way it was going and switched to the winning side, he growled silently. Cheers for Queen Elaan, indeed! He assumed what he hoped was an advisorly benevolence as the vehicles met. The three rulers sprang to the roofs to receive the homage of the nearly demented troops. Muti was craning his neck, crowding Kirk in his eagerness to see. Kirk stepped back, making room. Muti demurred, but Kirk smiled and motioned the Troyan to the fore. Half hidden now, he contacted the ship. No news. He sighed. "All right, Scotty," he murmured, lips nearly touching the grid. "Carry on. It looks as if I'll be here for quite a while."
* * *
Someone was groaning. The noise woke Spock; then he sensed a large hand on his shoulder. "Steady on," a gruff voice said in his ear, and the hand gave his shoulder a pat.
Spock opened his eyes and winced at a beam of light. It winked out, and after a moment someone raised his head. A canteen was held to his lips. Spock drank eagerly. "Take it slow," the deep voice warned, and Spock forced himself to stop. Then he took stock. He must have been resting for some time; he felt stronger, in spite of increased fever and pain. But he must get attention. "I must contact my ship."
The Troyan looked dubiously to the front. "All we got's a squawker. Mebbe from the ground."
"'Bout Caleppa, 'spect."
Spock looked around. He seemed to be on the floor of a large hopper, surrrounded by men on pallets. "The capitol?" he guessed eagerly. "How long?"
"Half an hour, mebbe. Should've been there an hour ago, but snafu."
Spock sighed in relief. From the capitol he could surely contact the Enterprise. He was saved. He took another long drink, then handed the canteen back. The change in position made him gasp, and he hastily begged pardon.
"Don't mind it." The hand patted him again. "Been makin' some noise myself, and I been tended. You ain't. Want some more? Water, we got." He offered the canteen again. Spock could not make himself refuse; he finished the last wonderful swallow. "That better?" Spock nodded gratefully, and the man took the canteen from him. "Pilot said you was from the Enterprise."
"Honored to meet you. You wounded? Couldn't find a wound. Looked you over."
"I ..." Spock stopped to swallow hard.
"Sick?" Spock nodded, and the man grunted in satisfaction. "That's what the medic said. Said he didn't know how to tend you. Wouldn't give you a shot, even."
"That is good -- Ai!" A sudden jolt threw everyone forward. A chorus of yelps joined Spock's; from all around him rose a croaking of curses and complaints. "Sorry," someone called from up front. "Near miss. Couldn't help it."
"What--" Spock began to ask; then he noticed the man who'd helped him was reaching awkwardly to his back. "Light!" he ordered sharply. Someone switched on a handheld light. "You are bleeding."
"Know it. Can't reach it."
Spock managed to get to his knees. He reached for his shirt, set his jaw, and got it off. "This will hurt," he warned, panting slightly at his own pain.
"Don't mind. Can you stop the bleeding? Be obliged to you."
Spock was too weak to do a proper job. But as soon as they saw how he meant to tie the shirt, two men crawled over to help. "Yeah -- Ow! Tight! Shit!" Spock took the man's arm to steady him, and the soldier looked up at him with a kind of rueful defiance. "Never got shot in the back before. Nor thought to, neither. Damn brass! We could've he1d -- Ow!"
"You were ordered to retreat?" Spock guessed.
"Never had a chance to fight! Unit split. Tried to cover my captain -- Powee!" The man slumped, breathing hard for a moment, then pulled himself together. "Say. Who all's here, anyway? Name and unit!"
Everyone stiffened to attention as best he could, and each man identified himself in turn. The soldier acknowledged each; they seemed to be largely from the 44th. The last man spoke, and silence fell. "Anybody see the captain?" the soldier asked diffidently.
"They got him," a voice from the corner said gently. "Dunno how bad. But he wasn't movin'."
"Was he alive?"
"Dunno. Went to see. That's when I got it. Say, Lt. Barat's passed out." Spock and the lieutenant made their way over. Spock heard himself moaning again with the pain of crawling, but everyone ignored that tactfully. The men who were able helped him, and he made it to the corner where the lieutenant was holding a light. A tourniquet! "How long have we been airborne?" Spock asked sharply.
"Hour, mebbe." Spock reached immediately to loosen the tourniquet. "You a medic?" the lieutenant asked, with considerable respect.
"No. But I know something of emergency procedures." He adjusted the tourrniquet. "This must be loosened every fifteen minutes, then tightened again."
"I'll do it." The man on the next pallet crawled toward them. "Show me how."
Spock complied, then examined the volunteer; a leg wound, bleeding well controlled. The man on the next pallet was bleeding significantly, however. Spock fixed that, using the shirt silently donated from a neighboring pallet. Then he began to make the rounds, crawling painfully from one pallet to the next.
It was obvious that these men were the second category of a battlefield triage -- those who could live without immediate treatment. They had been given emergency attention, a "shot," and loaded onto the hopper. It was also obvious that the trip was taking significantly longer than the medics had expected. Spock found two more cases of insufficiently arrested bleeding.
The lieutenant stayed with him, holding the torch, helping when he could, ordering those who could to help Spock with the bandages. He called each man by name, offering gruff sympathy or morale-boosting "ribbing." It was skillfully done, but after awhile Spock hardly heard him. There was a circle of light pinpointing each man's wound. He could attend to nothing else.
This man was in good condition, requiring no immediate attention. A wave of relief made Spock dizzy. Strong arms came around him, supporting him. "Anybody else need tending bad?" the lieutenant asked sharply. "This man's 'bout had it."
There was silence. Then, "Galla, get him to look at that arm."
"I'm okay. Give him a break." Spock tried to move toward Galla, but the lieutenant stopped him and moved over himself.
"I can do this. Seen you. Anybody else?" This time the silence lasted.
Spock looked across the large hopper to his pallet, but someone took his shoulders and gently urged him to a closer one. Spock managed to thank the soldier. Then he lost consciousness once more.
He woke with a jolt, stomach churning and every nerve hyperresponsive. He sat up, wrapping his arms around his knees. "Hey," a pleased voice said in his ear. "You feel better, don't ya?"
Spock turned and managed to focus on the lieutenant, seated beside his pallet.
"Got you a shot," the lieutenant confided. "Swiped it from the tray. It's working, ain't it?"
It certainly was. Spock nodded, trying to overcome his instinctive panic at the idea of an alien drug. Dry mouth, heightened reactions, slight nausea -- probably an allergic reaction; nothing serious. Unless- "How long?"
"Eh? How long we been on the ground? Hour, mebbe."
The drug must be well assimilated, then. His reaction should get no worse than this. Spock concentrated and found he could use the strength of the artificial nervous energy to control his pain. He must guard against irrationality, he reminded himself. But otherwise, if he could get to the ship now... "I must make contact with--"
"Your people been lookin' for you high and low -- bulletins allover the place. Medic called in -- the palace's sending a car. Should be here any minute."
Spock looked around for the first time. They appeared to be in a receiving area just off a landing field. Hoppers were still coming in with wounded, and looking up, he could see several in holding pattern, awaiting permission to land. "Where are we?"
"Grival." The lieutenant stood to scrutinize the unloading of a large hopper. He watched each pallet as it was carried past, then sat down, discouraged.
"Where, did you say?" Spock asked, trying to control the sensation that every nerve was curling.
"Grival. Hospital in the capitol." Suddenly the lieutenant bent forward, holding his head in his hands.
"You have not been treated!"
"Naw. I'm okay -- thanks to you. There's lots worse. Besides--" He broke off and forced himself to his feet to watch another hopper unload.
"One of the men saw him -- said he was alive. Ain't come in yet, though. Hey!" The lieutenant strode toward a pallet. Spock raised himself to watch, hoping this was the captain. "Hey, kid." The lieutenant patted the man on the shoulder.
"Lieutenant! You made it!"
"Shore." The lieutenant bent to inspect the man, then gave him another pat. "You gonna make it. too."
"You bet." The soldier was carried in, and the lieutenant came back to Spock, lowering himself painfully to the floor.
"You need not stay with me." Spock began.
"See you to the car," the soldier interrupted gruffly. Spock shook his head. then grabbed it. "Steady! Best lie down."
"No." It would be too hard to get up again. "Could you help me stand?"
"Best not--" Spock got painfully to his knees, so the soldier helped him rise, then steadied him. Spock focused, concentrated, and achieved control.
"Thank you." Something seemed unfamiliar. His arms -- covered in the maroon of a Troyan uniform. "Thank you," he repeated.
"Owe you that. More." The lieutenant turned as another hopper landed. Spock shared his anxious surveillance. The last pallet out, the hopper lifted off again. "Shit."
"There are many more to come."
"Dozens. An' a lot are still at the field stations. Could be days before--" The soldier choked and swallowed hard. "Your captain's okay." he said abruptly. "Banquet. King's table -- royal table, I should say."
Spock didn't quite understand. He gave a questioning look, and the lieutenant turned to a man on a nearby pallet. "Borrow your box a minute, buddy?"
"Sho'." The man held out a small radio. "They're still eating. Entertainment ain't begun yet. They got Benta, though. That's definite."
"Awright!" the lieutenant grunted in satisfaction. "There'll be some real entertainment tonight, if you know what I mean."
Spock was afraid he did, but he took the receiver the lieutenant was holding out to him and held it to his ear. " ... to Berlon Tarash Kumiga at the banquet itself. Come in, Kumiga." The murmur of so many voices made Spock dizzy. He must have showed it, for the lieutenant offered an arm. Spock leaned on it gratefully.
The task of picking Jim's voice out of that multitude. Illogical. He shook his head, trying to clear it.
The announcer appeared to be describing the crowd. Spock listened idly; then suddenly his attention was riveted on the receiver. " ... toward the royal tablethat's right, ladies and gentlemen, the royal table, where our glorious queen dines with the king, still wearing the armor in which she led our troops to final victory over the traitors. Our cameras are zooming in now, and our video audience can see the royal table, where our glorious king will shortly call for the health. To the queen's right sits the captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise, sent to witness today's victory. The queen speaks to the gallant captain, who looks deep into those glorious eyes as he listens. The queen's armor is composed of--"
Abruptly Spock handed the radio back. "I must get to my captain."
"Shore. The car'll be here any minute now. Why don't you come over and sit down 'til--"
Why was the man wasting time? Surely he could understand a simple sentence. "I must get to my captain," Spock repeated, enunciating each syllable with clarity.
"Yeah. I'm telling you. The palace sent a car. It'll be here--"
"I ... mus t..."
"Listen to me!" The soldier shook him; Spock gasped. "Beg pardon; fever's getting you. A car--"
"Shibath!" a voice called. The lieutenant whirled, then bounded over to a pallet just being unloaded.
"Captain! Captain!" Spock stood, watching in spite of himself, as the man reached his captain, joyfully grasping the hand held out to him. The man on the pallet winced, and instantly Shibath lowered the captain's hand, still clasping it strongly.
Spock heard the weak, "Report" and Shibath's instant response. The stretcher bearers were carrying the captain inside, but his lieutenant was walking at his side, where he belonged, one huge hand almost covering the other's shoulder. Spock nodded in approval, then turned away. He must get to his --
"Mister? Er -- excuse me -- ah -- Mr. Spock?" A man leaned out of a large, black ground vehicle. "Are you Mr. Spock?"
"I am Spock."
"I'm from the palace. King Troy--"
"My captain," Spock stated. He moved toward the vehicle. It would require bending over and climbing in. Spock took a second to firm his controls. Then he allowed the man to hand him inside. Pain leapt at him; he concentrated and conntrolled. "My captain."
"At the palace." The man climbed in on the other side and touched something. An engine roared, and Spock winced at the noise. They began to move slowly.
Spock studied the instrument panel. Trained eyes spotted gauges and examined their indicators. "This vehicle is capable of greater speed."
"Well, sure. As soon as we reach the highway." Spock waited, prepared to allow some latitude. And it was not long before the vehicle gathered speed. The road began to disappear beneath them.
"Ten minutes." Spock closed his eyes to concentrate. His captain needed him. He must summon the strength to serve.
"Here we are." Spock took a deep breath and let it out slowly, wishing he could just lie down and close his eyes. But duty remained. The door opened; he managed to get out and stand without betraying the cost. After one startled look, the palace greeter offered his arm. Spock took it.
"My captain," he ordered.
"This way." It seemed a long distance. Spock's legs threatened mutiny; he overruled them. An elevator gave him a moment's rest; then the doors opened to the noise of an excited mob. "This way." The greeter guided him around the circumference of the room. Spock approved; he had no wish to be gawked at. He must get to Jim and help him -- his mind could not supply the "how." His place was at his capptain's side; that was all he knew. Only there were a great many steps. He was reeling with pain by the time they approached the royal table.
Elaan was at one end; Spock barely saw her. Seated at the queen's right... He was, and he seemed all right. Then Spock realized that the captain was too pale, wearing the look McCoy described as, "keeping a stiff upper intestinal tract." Spock pressed toward him.
"Captain!" A pleased smile lit Troyanos's face; he rose.
Jim turned eagerly and saw his first officer. "Spock! Thank--" Suddenly his joy turned to alarm; he hurried around to Spock, hands outstretched. "Spock!"
Spock could not resist reaching for those hands, but their support made him dizzy. His captain caught him. Kirk exclaimed in alarm, feeling the heat of the fever. "I knew it!" He stepped closer, guiding Spock's arm around his shoulders, his free hand reaching for his communicator. "We've found Mr. Spock. Get McCoy back down here, on the double. Med team to the transporter. Prepare to beam up on--"
"We are distressed," someone said. Spock focused, then shut his eyes tightly.
Then he remembered there actually were two of them, and he managed to pull himself together.
"Steady. We'll have you up to the ship in--"
"Hold!"a man shouted. Spock gasped at the too-familiar voice, shrinking against his captain. The supporting arm tightened, and he managed to hold together. But fever and dizziness were swirling around him now. He could control only the small circle of sanity bounded by his captain's arm. He took a deep breath, trying to shut out Malblain's voice.
The Elaasian was haranguing the crowd. It was too much trouble to listen; the hysterical voice seemed just another pain to be borne, until he felt Jim stiffen in horror. Spock forced himself to concentrate then and realized that Malblain was describing the electrode questioning. Why? A great weariness swept over him; he pressed Jim's arm. "Let us go."
Jim stood rigid, almost unheeding. His supportive hold was tightening; Spock felt his agitation and swayed. "Steady," another voice said quietly, and Dr. McCoy was supporting him from the other side. "Steady."
"But there is more!" Malblain howled. "Much more!" He strode to the dais, exulting in the attention of the crowd. "There is a death." His voice dropped impressively; the crowd shifted nearer. "The death of the five cuts. Ancient Vulcans used it as a traitor's execution. The most painful death a Vulcan male can suffer." His voice began to rise. "I found it! But it was not my hands that inflicted those cuts! Ask me! Ask me whose hands made those wounds! Ask me whose thirst for vengeance had to be slaked! Ask me who thinks to see her faithful servant choke in the dust of the road while she sips the wines of luxury! Ask me--"
"No," Kirk whispered, in pain.
"No," Spock echoed loyally.
"What did you say?" Troyanot turned on them sharply. "Guards, silence!" he roared. Instantly the humming of voices ceased. "He says no!" Troyanot extended both arms. "Our glorious queen is exonerated! The witness clears our queen! Cheers for Queen Elaan!" Spock nearly lost consciousness at the ensuing noise. McCoy steadied him gently. "Guards!" Troyanot's voice topped the roar. Both arms leveled at Malblain. "Kill me that traitor!"
Instantly a group of guards seized the dumbfounded Elaasian and forced him to the center of the hall.
"My queen." Troyanos picked up a large golden bowl and presented it to Elaan. She tossed her head and stepped into the circle. Spock heard Malblain's voice rising hysterically once again as he begged them to wait, to give him time, to prove- A blade flashed; the voice stopped. Blood from a gaping throat was pouring into the bowl Elaan held with scornful pride. Jim made a small, sick sound, turning away a little.
Spock closed his eyes, disgust almost overcoming his control. The doctor was the first to recover; Spock sensed him supporting them both until the captain pulled himself together.
"Jim--" the doctor began.
"Yes. Right away." McCoy reached for his communicator. Spock sighed in relief, awaiting the moment of oblivion that would take him out of this place.
"Mr. Spock!" The three rulers were coming back. Spock sighed again, realizing it wasn't over yet. Troyanos came to stand directly in front of him, raising his voice for all to hear. "You must, of course, be tended," he boomed. "But in justice to our queen, we must ask you to repeat your statement. Elaan."
Elaan obeyed her husband's gesture, coming to stand directly in front of Spock. Disgust crawled in him. This was the woman who had broken his control, seen him tremble. Fury rose; he longed to tell the truth, to make her pay. He took a breath to speak, and in that instant training asserted itself once more. Take no action in absence of control... Spock hung his head in silence.
"Mr. Spock?" The ruler was waiting for something. What? Spock touched his captain's arm in mute appeal, and miraculously Jim seemed to understand.
"Malblain tortured you," he stated, prompting.
"Not Elaan. Queen Elaan was not there."
Spock knew what his captain wanted. "No."
"That part was a lie."
"You were found walking on the Belvan Road," Troyanos interrupted sharply. "How did you get there?"
"Malblain left me. To die. But soldiers . . . A search party--" Suddenly Spock remembered how funny that was. A short laugh escaped.
"Steady," Kirk and McCoy said together.
"We've got to get him to Sickbay!" McCoy exclaimed.
"Yes." Troyanos stepped back, giving them room. But Elaan stood her ground; her flashing eyes, analyzing Spock, seemed almost to dissect him. He clung to his captain, trying to turn away.
"I admire your fortitude, Mr. Spock." The cruel voice jabbed Spock with a jolt of rage. He lifted his head; suddenly he understood once more.
"When an entire system can be stabilized, individual fortitude is a small price to pay. Do you not agree, madam?"
She stared at him, silenced. After an awkward moment, Troyanos came to her. "Will you return to the table, my queen? We have an announcement to make." Gently he pushed her toward the dais; then he turned back to Spock. "Thank you." Spock managed a nod, and the king turned to McCoy. "Get him to your ship," he ordered. "Captain, will you remain? We think our announcement will interest you."
Jim hesitated. Then duty prevailed. "Bones. Take care of him."
"Right." McCoy stood in Jim's place, supporting Spock. But. Jim was gone.
"I must stay with--"
"With that fever? Forget it."
"Doctor. The captain."
"He's all right, Spock. Doesn't enjoy the Troyan idea of a floor show, but--"
McCoy studied the Vulcan, concerned at the uncharacteristic agitation. "All right. Look. M'Benga's in the transporter room, waiting with a stretcher. I'll get you up there and come back--"
"I can stand." Spock detached himself and managed to take two steps. "Signal for beam-up."
McCoy got his communicator out.
"My people." Both turned. Troyanos was beginning his announcement. "This day have twins been born!" A ripple of delighted anticipation went around the room. "Which house?" He shook his head, stalling for effect. McCoy snorted silently and pressed the signal. "Twin sons have been born to our people, but not to a house of Troyos. These children, who will be our heirs, were born on the planet of Elaas to--"
Spock's last sight of Troyos was Elaan's face, arrested in astonishment at the announcement of Elaasian heirs. He was still studying her as the hall dissolved around him.
A moment later, another pair of hands took hold of him. Getting onto the stretcher was a real difficulty, but his head remained clear enough to remember: "Dr. M'Benga! My condition is classified. No one must see your report. Especially Captain Kirk." M'Benga's eyes widened as he considered inquiring just how a doctor was supposed to keep information on the crew from the ship's captain. Then he took a scan and exclaimed at the fever. "Infection of the perigoneum," Spock supplied. "I believe you will need to debride." Then, at last, he allowed himself to let go.
"Ai!" His own exclamation at the stab of an i.v. woke Spock.
"Sorry." Tapes circled Spock's arm and were gently pulled firm. Spock could not help a sigh of relief. He begged pardon.
"No need," M'Benga reassured him. Then he sat down to confer with his patient. "Antibiotics will combat the infection, Mr. Spock. But I believe you were right. And unfortunately, blood analysis shows a significant concentration of some subbstance we are still analyzing. It--"
"Understood. Please give me five minutes to prepare."
"Acknowledged." M'Benga stood with a sigh. His patient was not going to enjoy this. And he was already exhausted. But they had to arrest that infection.
He dawdled over his equipment, scrupulously giving Spock the full requested time. Then he squared his shoulders and marched back.
Mr. Spock lay prone, relaxed, apparently asleep. M'Benga knew better. He hesitated, but then to be on the safe side, passed restraints over shoulders, torso, and lower legs. "Prepare for insertion."
M'Benga kept a wary eye on his readings as he introduced the antiseptic douche. The K-2 level did not change, but almost everything else jumped as the autonomic system reacted to this new assault. The doctor shook his head; exhaustion was not the word for it. He rechecked his scan; the infection and fever seemed insufficient to account for this near-prostration. But there wasn't a mark on him.
"What the..." M'Benga looked up. McCoy and Captain Kirk were standing in the entrance to the treatment room. McCoy hurried over and took the situation in at a glance. "It's true!" he rasped, horrified. He turned to the captain. "It's all true! Spock!"
"Please do not interrupt his concentration," M'Benga warned sharply.
But the damage was done. "Dr. McCoy," Spock whispered painfully. McCoy moved to the head of the bed. "The captain must ... not know!"
McCoy turned to look at Kirk, who stood rooted in the doorway. "You worry about your own pain," he advised gruffly. Chapel was hurrying toward the captain; that left the physician free to study the readings. The entire gonadal area ... "My god!" he breathed, looking at the K-2 level. It dropped slightly, but it was a long way from baseline. Spock's breathing was ragged. McCoy cursed himself for a clubfooted idiot and took the Vulcan's hand. He almost yelped as the other gripped hard, but he managed to make his voice reassuring. "It's working, Spock," he advised, watching infected matter swirling in the suction tube. "Just hang un. It's working."
* * *
The captain found himself sitting on an office chair outside the treatment room. "What?" he muttered, confused. He had seen McCoy whiten with the pain of Spock's grip. But that was the last.
"Steady." Christine Chapel was standing behind him, a supporting hand on each shoulder. "Steady."
Suddenly the whole thing swept over M.m again. "Dear god !" He buried his face in his hands to force back tears. Christine hugged him with strong arms; in that shelter, he could give way to grief and guilt. "She tortured him!" he groaned.
He began to sob shakily. "All the time she was -- She came to me! Tried to get to me. I was so proud of myself, I never thought!"
"That she might try for Spock, too. Damn! If I'd looked for him right away, checked to see that he was all right, I could have--"
"Shhh. You assumed that he could take care of himself. It's a logical assumption, after all."
That most favored of all words brought tears again, but after a moment the captain managed to calm down a little. "I suppose that's what he'd say." His short laugh almost turned into a sob. "Don't let go of me just yet. Okay?"
"You've got it."
Kirk took a deep breath, then another, then emerged. "Is he in a lot of pain?"
"Just now, it's pretty bad. We can't make him comfortable because he's been drugged. We've got to find out what it is. But as soon as we do, we'll be able to--"
A muffled groan sounded; both winced in sympathy. "Chris, he is going to be all right?"
"Oh, yes." The nurse gave Kirk's arm a reassuring pat. "He's loaded with antibiotics, and the kelan level is already dropping. He'll need to stay on an antibiotic drip for twenty-four hours, just to be sure. And he's badly exhausted. But once he's had some rest, he'll bounce back, just as he always--"
"Ai! I ... " Spock gasped, then caught his breath. "I beg forgiveness."
"Take it easy," McCoy's voice came gently.
The nurse crossed to peer into the treatment room, then came back to the captain. "That's it. We'll isolate the drug and find something to counteract it. Then we'll be able to make him comfortable."
"Well, not just yet." Her eyes came to Kirk's face. "For the next few minutes, I think he could probably use a friend."
"Right. Thanks, Christine." Kirk straightened his dress tunic and walked steadily into the treatment room.
McCoy moved to intercept him. "He feels like hell, Jim."
"I know. Can I ... " Kirk stopped to get a large lump out of the way. "I won't disturb him if he's resting, but ... " He swallowed again.
Spock felt he would give a year's pay to be allowed to lie still. Instead, he set his jaw and turned on his side, managing to maintain silence. He focused on his captain. His captain tried to smile, and Spock's heart sank. The captain was in difficulty; it was his first officer's duty to offer support and counsel. But his first officer was barely conscious and wished he weren't. "Captain," he whispered. Jim sat down, reaching a hand to him. Spock took it, and the logical solution clicked in. "Please remain for five minutes." He took a light, firm hold on the human's wrist, closed his eyes, and plunged his body into rest.
"Doctor!" Kirk called out, startled at the sudden drop in the indicators.
M'Benga hurried over. "He's forcing his body to rest," he explained. "The lowering of respiration rate, heart, and so forth is entirely volitional."
Kirk nodded, marveling, as always, at the Vulcan's abilities. Then, very carefully, he turned his wrist to take his first officer's hand in a comforting clasp.
McCoy stood, watching both men. Jim's face was haggard. Blaming himself, probably -- didn't he always? Spock's was peaceful -- that enforced rest would do him more good than... Damn! He was bringing himself out of it. Why so soon? Dark eyes opened, focused with some effort, then turned to the captain's face. McCoy followed the look, understanding. But Spock mustn't be worried now. He had to rest. Jim... The doctor studied the captain with a practiced eye. What Jim needed was something to do. Some way to help. If he could feel...
"Doctor. " A lab technician entered with a vial ready for i.v. insertion. McCoy took it from her with a quick word of thanks and disappeared into his office, picking up a small rack. When he came back, he carried a portable timer and a rack of hypos.
"Spock needs one of these twice a minute," he informed the captain. "If you're going to stay, could you administer them? I want to check on Ross."
"Right." Kirk picked up the first hypo and pressed it home. "Steady," he soothed Spock's involuntary flinch.
"It will counteract that drug," McCoy explained, "and help you recover, too."
"Proceed," Spock said wearily. The nervous reaction to Shibath's bootlegged "shot" had long since ceased to improve his energy level. Otherwise, he thought, he might almost have opposed this treatment.
Jim pressed another hypo home. Then he passed his arm under the pillow to lift Spock's head. "Want something to drink?"
Spock nodded eagerly, and Jim held a cup for him. Shibath had held a canteen for him. The hopper pilot, too. They were kind. Most intelligent beings were kind. For some reason, the thought brought tears. He repressed them savagely and drank. Cooled pol tea -- his favorite -- prepared for him by someone ... kind. He screwed his eyes shut.
Kirk sensed struggle and frowned in concern. He started to rub the tight neck, but hard muscles resisted. Spock pulled away. "Try to relax."
Spock did not reply. Relaxation was a danger now; he must maintain control. The captain pressed another hypo into his arm. It was working; Spock could sense the nervous irritation subsiding. A fourth hypo followed quickly; then M'Benga grunted in satisfaction. "Let's try a local." His hypo hissed at Spock's back and immediately the pain began to numb. A sigh of relief escaped; Spock hastily begged pardon.
"You have nothing to apologize for," Kirk answered. Spock turned to hide his face. Kirk reached to pat him, thought better of it, and hesitated, hand hovering. Maybe he should leave and let the man rest. But Spock had asked him to stay. "Anything I can do?"
Spock shook his head, trying to control the feeling that a wall he had been pushing against had just dissolved. Something was crowding his throat; he swallowed hard.
A door activated; they heard a faint scream. Spock started, and Jim put a hand on his arm. "It's Ross. But McCoy's with her."
"Queen Mother's idea of an honor," Jim grated. "Troyanos gave her that damn bowl -- for Benta. She made a graceful little speech and handed it over to Ross; I think she honestly thought she was giving the kid a treat. We didn't know what to expect; I let Ross take it. Next thing she knew... You saw."
He had. Abruptly Spock knew he had to get away, be by himself, firm his controls. Jim grabbed him, held him down. "Head," he croaked.
"Oh. Okay. Take it easy. We'll get a--"
Spock grabbed the diagnostic panel and got to his feet. Jim hurried to him, but he took a step, then another, then moved steadily to the door. He allowed Jim to support him -- that was permitted; but at the door of the fresher, he nodded dismissal. Jim let him go, and he walked into the shower, activating both doors behind him. He made his selection and pressed the starter firmly. The onslaught of cold water forced him to the wall. But now he had something to fight, and that was better. If pain was necessary for control, he would have pain. But he would control.
Kirk hesitated outside the fresher, wondering whether it was safe for Spock to stand alone. The sound of the water worried him; he had never known the Vulcan to choose water when sonics were available. But maybe it felt good, with that fever.
He went back to Spock's cubicle. The orderly was already doing the bed; there was plenty of tea. He fidgeted for a few minutes, then got a large towel and a robe.
The water was still running. Well, he'd be slow, in his condition. Another minute stretched past. "Spock? Spock, are you all right?" No answer. Kirk activated the doors. "Spock!" Still fully clothed, the Vulcan was bracing himself against the wall, head down. He did not look up. "Feel dizzy?" Kirk put the towel on the warmer and hurried over. "Here. Let me -- Jesus!" he exclaimed as he felt the water temperature. "For pete's sake!" He reached to the controls.
"No!" Spock gulped hard.
"Okay," Kirk said gently, understanding now. "Let it out." No response.
"Listen to me. You've got to -- Spock!" He shook him. "Commander Spock!"
That got through. Spock lifted his head, gazing at him with hurt astonishment.
"Jim--" he protested.
"I'm sorry. But I had to get through to you." He set the controls to warm the water gradually.
"Will you let go, dammit? There. That feel better?"
Tears hot as the water were falling uncontrollably. Spock dragged an arm across his face. "Here," his captain said gently. He stretched to get a large towel, draped it over Spock's head and shoulders, then pulled him into an embrace. "No one can see you," he assured him. "Let it come." A sob escaped. "Good. Now stop fighting it. Let it come."
It sounded like an order. Astonishment warred with misery; misery won. Crying on the captain's shoulder. But even humans used the expression metaphorically. It was not permitted to-
"Good. Let it out. Let it all out."
The memory of the next few minutes was definitely to be suppressed, soonest. But at last the sobs eased, then stopped. Spock had to stay as he was for a moment longer, but at last he managed to lift his head.
"Good," Kirk approved, just as if this were in fact the accomplishment Spock felt it to be. He removed the towel, and Spock lifted his face to the cascading water. The captain stepped beside him to soak the rest of his own tunic, then turned the water off. He stripped Spock's sopping uniform, easing the shirt careefully past the i.v. box, and helped him into the robe. "Can you walk?"
Spock nodded numbly. The captain activated the door. "No!" Spock recoiled.
The captain jumped but closed the door. "What's the matter? Take it easy." Spock set his jaw, reaching for control. Panicky, he could not think, could not analyze ...
"Spock, what is it? Look. We've got to get you off your feet." That sounded like an excellent idea. To lie still and not move, not hurt ... "Besides, McCoy's going to be after me with his hatchet. You know how he feels about keeping patients in bed." Spock did. "Come on." The captain reached for the switch again.
"Spock, we've got to get you in bed. Damn it, man, you're half--"
"Jim," Spock murmured a plea. Jim could see the worst of him, accept it, and still call him friend. But only Jim.
"What--" He sounded like a strangulated sheep. Spock cleared his throat and tried again. "Captain, what--" His mind groped for words.
"What?" the captain echoed. Then, very gently. "What hit you?" Spock nodded gratefully. "Anger," Kirk said simply. Spock stared at him, bewildered. "You're angry. Perfectly natural."
Spock shook his head. "Illog--"
"Not at all. She had no right to--" Spock gasped. Kirk blinked in surprise, then he remembered. "Oh, I know. I suppose I knew from the first."
"Are you all right?" Spock asked sharply.
"The bitch!" Kirk exploded, unheeding. "I don't know how you had the strength! I'd have blown the whole thing, in your place. Implicated Elaan and driven the whole system back to civil war, just for the pleasure of getting her! You--" He shook his head in admiration.
Spock hung his head, knowing how little he deserved such praise. He had acted from emotionalism, not logic. Miraculously, the result seemed to have been the same. But that did not excuse...
"Hey, come on." Jim activated the door firmly. "You'll be all right, promise. You'll sleep, and when you wake up, you'll be much more yourself. on." He pulled at Spock, hard enough to hurt. Spock bit back a groan, but seemed to clear his head a little. He allowed Jim to guide him through the door. Jim said he would be all right.
Anger? He tried to puzzle it through. It was illogical. Elaan and Malblain had been acting in their own interests. A growl rose; he suppressed it. Hmm. He was angry. Naming it was a relief; he knew how to deal with anger. He would sleep first, then calm himself, prepare for mediation. Then...
"Steady, now." They were at the bed. Spock set his jaw and climbed in. Jim helped, easing him down. The mattress felt wonderful. "There." Jim covered him, adding a comforting pat. "Feel well enough to sleep?"
"Sleep," Spock echoed longingly. He turned on his side into sleeping position. Now he need not move for several hours. It was a lovely thought. A chair scraped. Jim was sitting close. To watch him? Or did he need his friend? To learn that Elaan ... But Jim said he'd known it from the first. Spock studied his captain. The eyes were warm, the face calm as Jim smiled at him. Spock searched for that forced cheerfulness, that moodiness. He could detect nothing. But what did he know of human . .. Blue-deviled... A wave of weariness swept over him, causing a deep, gaping yawn. "I beg-- "
"It is permitted," Jim interrupted. "Go to sleep."
It sounded like an order. Spock automatically nodded acknowledgment, then decided that he must, in fact, obey. He had no strength to help now. Later, after he had slept, overcome this odd, drifting feeling, conquered his own emotionalism, then perhaps...
A door activated; Ross screamed again. Spock started awake. Jim half rose, hesitated, then sat down again. "Poor kid," he muttered. She was sobbing now -- frightened sobs, out of control, like a child's. Jim was looking over in concern.
"Go to her, Captain."
Jim frowned at him. "Sure?"
"I will sleep. Go to her."
The captain hurried away. Spock watched him. The captain was having a wet evening. But he seemed so entirely himself .
A shadow fell; Spock looked up. "Dr. McCoy," he acknowledged wearily.
"Take it easy. I'll be just a minute. Think you could get some sleep, if we left you in peace?"
Spock nodded, perhaps too emphatically. The doctor grinned and made some notes from his readings. "Fever's dropping. Feeling better?"
"Yes." Jim was speaking to Yeoman Ross now; she was calming. The two officers looked at each other and nodded.
"She'll be all right," the doctor told the first officer. Then his voice dropped. "And I think Jim's come back. Notice?"
"Who knows? Change in the weather."
"Change in the- Doctor!" Spock complained.
"Well, it's as good a reason as any. Chance to do something interesting. Chance to disabuse Elaan of certain notions, which I gather he did. Chance to do something for his crew... Important thing is, he's pulled out of it. Get some rest."
The doctor moved away. Spock put a hand to his tired brain. He would never understand humans. But he decided against worrying about it now. He must sleep. Then perhaps he would feel more himself. He willed his body to relax.
In the next room, Jim's voice had settled to a soothing murmur. He was talking about the Federation; about Starfleet; about how they tried to do the civilized thing, the humane thing; about the differences in cultures and viewpoints, and how these must be accepted in order to do good and not harm. Jim believed that so thoroughly... Spock sighed. It was still so much more the ideal than the reality. But it was an ideal worth fighting for -- suffering for, if necessary. Suddenly anger was sharp in his mind again. She had no right! That was what Jim had said. There were things that should not be done to sentient beings. The Federation stood for that, too. Barbarian!
Emotionalism. He would have to deal with this anger, control it, and teach himself to overcome it. But he would worry about it after he had slept...
Dr. McCoy sat down at his desk and programmed the Vulcan's readouts for monitoring by remote. He dictated a brief summary of Spock's condition for the medical log and added a stern, "No visitors." He would lift that as soon as the Vulcan had had some sleep. But for now, he needed peace. Fever was definitely dropping, though. The doctor went off to see if he could help with Ross, careful not to pass disturbingly close to Spock's cubicle on the way. A doctor's work was never done.
Note: I'd like to thank Annette Hall for a sympathetic copy editing of "Rebellion" -- I took many of her suggestions, and the story was certainly improved as a result. Thanks also -- and always -- to Adrienne Deutsch, and to Laura Leach, costumes mistress extraordinaire.