DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 1974 by Cheree Cargill. Originally printed in TAL-SHAYA #2, (c) 1974 by Cheree Cargill. Rated PG.



Charisma

Cheree Townsend Cargill



"What's her bearing?" Captain James Kirk asked from the command chair.

Lieutenant Sulu checked the multiple figures on the helm and answered, "Bearing seven mark zero seven, sir. Range eight zero mark two three."

"Any response, Lieutenant?"

Lieutenant Uhura was busy at her commboard, "All frequencies open, sir. I get no reply whatsoever."

Kirk looked over his right shoulder to the science station. "Spock?"

Commander Spock, the half-Vulcan first officer, swung his chair around to face Kirk, his face perplexed. "Most confusing, Captain. Apparently, she is drifting. Sensors show that her warp and impulse engines are dead but not inoperative. They are simply shut down. All life-support systems are operating perfectly, yet I pick up only one life-force aboard. I've never seen a reading like it before, sir, but it is definitely not Klingon."

"Hmmm." Kirk rubbed his chin, staring at the main viewing screen. There, against a backdrop of stars, floated an apparently lifeless Klingon battle cruiser. What had happened to her and why she was deep into Federation territory at the risk of interstellar war were the answers Kirk sought. He turned to Uhura. "Still no reply?"

"No, sir."

"Spock?"

"Insufficient data."

"Let's go get some answers then," said Kirk, rising. "Transporter room, stand by to beam. Lt. Uhura, cancel red alert and signal yellow. And inform that entity that we are prepared to beam it aboard. Four guards to the transporter room on the double. Mr. Spock, if you please." Kirk was already headed for the elevator, his first officer following dutifully behind.

* * *

As they entered the transporter room, Kirk said, "Energize."

Kyle, the transporter chief, activated the device and pushed the levers into the proper positions. All eyes turned to the platform as the blob of glittering golden diamonds began to form a lithe figure. As materialization completed, the men drew their breaths and Kyle had to clutch the panel for support. Standing on the platform was the most beautiful woman any of them had ever seen. She stood motionless, her eyes closed, dressed in a long gossamer-like fabric that revealed as much as it hide Her shoulder-length hair was blacker than space and flipped gently under. In the soft light, her skin seemed powdered with gold dust and twinkled maddeningly.

Then, slowly, her eyes opened. They were depthlessly, dizzily, enchantingly blue. Regally, she looked at one of the security guards, those eyes half-veiled by her thick lashes, and the tips of her rose-petal mouth lifted in a smile. He gave a huge blissful sigh and fainted.

Kirk sprang alert. "What did you do to him?" he demanded as Spock and one of the other guards examined the man.

The woman turned her gaze on Kirk and stepped toward him. "Captain Kirk, I believe," she said in a voice that whispered of dew on roses, and long sweet nights together, and the wind sighing mournfully in the trees.

For a moment, Kirk forgot what he had asked her, then fought to remain in control, "What did you do to him!"

"Nothing, Captain." This time the ocean in moonlight sprang to mind. "He is happy."

Kirk was not. "Adamson! Bester! Take him to sick bay." The guards stood motionless, enchanted by the woman. "Move!!" That broke the spell; the guards blinked, picked up their comrade and carried him out.

"Who are you?" Kirk wanted to know.

"My name is not important." Suddenly, it seemed to Kirk that the transporter room smelled unusually clean, like the air after a rain. "You may call me Charisma."

"What were you doing aboard that Klingon ship and how do you know my name?"

"I have seen your thoughts and the essence of your being. I know not 'Klingon'. I know only 'Kirk'."

Kirk hardly heard her. Those eyes engulfed him and he became lost in their azure depths. He was swimming in crystal pools; he was soaring above the clouds; he was--

Spock laid a hand on his shoulder and shook him, his voice worried. "Captain!"

Kirk come out of it. "Yes, Mr. Spock, thank you. Please escort Miss ... Charisma down to sick bay for a full medical report from Dr. McCoy. Then bring her to my office for questioning. Madame, you will consider yourself under house arrest until we clear this mystery up."

Spock said, "Yes, sir. Miss?" Charisma accompanied the first officer through the door and down the corridor. It was only then that Kirk found that his heart was racing.

* * *

Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy was suffering from an acute hangover acquired by too much Saurian brandy the night before, during a hot poker game with Chief Engineer Scott. To top it off, Scotty bad beaten him out of over forty credits.

However, when Charisma glided in ahead of Spock, McCoy forgot about his headache altogether. Instantly, he became the legendary "Southern gentleman."

"Well, I do declare!" he smiled, coming to greet them. "Spock, you rascal, where did you get this purty lil' lady?"

Spock, of course, would not have recognized charm if it had hit him in the face. Soberly, he answered, "The Captain wishes a full medical report immediately."

"Certainly. Ma'am, if you please." The surgeon motioned the way to the examination table.

Charisma smiled fetchingly., dimpled like Scarlett O'Hara, and asked sweetly, "Why, Doctor, what are you going to do to me?" McCoy would testified under oath that he smelled magnolias.

"... uh ... just take your readings..." McCoy kept grinning like a moon-struck pup and stared wistfully at the girl.

At length, she inquired, "Doctor?" There were warm, lazy days on Southern plantations in her voice.

McCoy seemed to snap out of it a little and conducted her to the examination table. Nurse Christine Chapel entered, glanced in their direction and went over to Spock.

"Where did she come from, Mr. Spock?" Christine asked, not the least bit impressed.

"We picked her up from the Klingon ship," the first officer answered, his arms folded.

"But who is she?"

"That, lieutenant, is what we are endeavoring to discover."

Charisma hadn't gotten within three feet of the body function panel when the thing went electronically insane. Spock raised one eyebrow appraisingly. McCoy stared at the panel, totally flabbergasted. "Now, how in the sam hill--" he began.

Charisma glanced at the board and immediately it quieted. Spock's other eyebrow slowly rose to join its rate. The woman smiled, "Those are my normal readings, Doctor. Do not be alarmed."

Alarm was the last thing on McCoy's mind. Spock was waiting, his face slightly disapproving but impassive. "Are you through, Doctor?"

"Eh?" The surgeon looked dreamily around then realized to whom he was speaking. "Oh, yes, quite. She's medically sound."

"The Captain wished a full report," Spock reminded him.

"He'll get a full report!"

"Thank you," Spock said dryly. "Miss? Come with me, please."

"Of course," Charisma smiled sweetly at McCoy and accompanied Spock out.

As soon as the door had closed, the doctor saw that Christine was looking at him curiously and his headache came back like the blow of a sledgehammer. "Well?" he, snapped, wincing at the sound of his own voice. "What do you want?"

Christine looked offended. "Nothing at all, sir."

McCoy clutched his pounding skull. "Well, make yourself useful and get me something for my head."

* * *

Spock escorted Charisma from sickbay, trying to keep his eyes from her. Although by nature his defenses were impregnable, he could feel a very faint light-headedness in her presence that was quite indescribable.

Ensign Philip Vandenberg stepped out of the medical lab as they passed and thought abruptly of some business he had forgotten to take up with the first officer.

"Mr. Spock!" he called, hurrying to catch them. Simultaneously, Spock and Charisma turned, he looking inquiring, she quite taken aback. Then her features settled into a determined frown.

Vandenberg halted in his tracks and a look of sheer terror covered his face. Then, with a wild scream, he fell to tin deck, clawing frantically at the air above him and pleading desperately, "Get it off me! Get it off!"

Spock started forward immediately and reached Vandenberg at the same time as did several other crewmen. Three, together with Spock, tried to hold the frantically struggling man. "For God's sake!" he screamed. "Get it off me!!"

Somehow, Dr. McCoy was there, giving the hysterical Vandenberg a shot. After a moment, he relaxed, unconscious. "What happened?" the doctor demanded of Spock.

Quite bewildered, the first officer could only shake his head. "I don't know. Charisma and I were walking down the corridor when Vandenburg called my name. I turned and then he fell to the deck, screaming for someone to 'get it off' him."

Before McCoy could reply., the young crewman standing nearby grabbed the doctor's arm and gasped, "Doc! L-look at him."

All present fell back, horrified. Vandenburg's throat was ripped wide open and gushing blood.

* * *

Vandenburg was still alive, but just barely so. It had taken all of McCoy's skill plus the physio-stimulator to keep the spark of life in the crewman from dying out altogether. Now, in McCoy's office, Kirk paced from one side of the room to the other, not looking happy. The surgeon sat on the edge of the desk, looking the same. Spock hovered in the background.

"Why, Bones?' Kirk finally demanded. "Why did one of my crewmen suddenly go into a raging fit and come out of it with his throat torn open?"

The doctor sighed, annoyed. "Jim, if I knew I wouldn't be sitting here doing nothing." He looked up at the Captain. "I'm sorry, Jim, but this thing has me upset, too. I've done everything I can for that boy. He's got both feet in the grave right now. All I have to do is turn off that physio-stimulator and pow! That's all for him."

"Afraid of that," Kirk mumbled, starting to pace again.

Spock commented softly, almost to himself, "He'll never be able to tell."

"He's right," Kirk agreed.

"He has an annoying habit of being right," McCoy grumbled.

Kirk was silent then looked thoughtful and said in a speculative manner. "Spock--"

"No, Captain," Spock broke in, anticipating him. "It would be too dangerous. It could kill him."

"Weren't you listening, Spock?" McCoy spoke up as he caught onto Kirk's plan. "There's nothing more I can do for him. Blast medicine, anyway! Refusing to let a man die in peace!"

The Vulcan looked unhappy. "Gentlemen, I see what you are getting at and I am, quite frankly, against it."

"We have to know, Spock," the doctor said, then smiled wryly, "Besides it's the human thing to do."

Spock looked quite indignant and replied cooly, "Doctor, this is no time to air your petty insults."

McCoy nodded and sobered. "This may be the only way."

Spock looked dubious, then sighed and said, "Very well. When do we begin?"

* * *

Kirk, McCoy, and Christine waited in respectful silence, all a little awed by Spock's ability. Vandenburg lay on a table before him, unconscious.

Slowly, the first officer circled the table, rubbing his hands together in an easy, methodical manner, blocking out the material world around him. Then, carefully and with deliberate patience, he placed his fingertips on the other man's face. His eyes closed tightly, Spock concentrated on the duel-ego being formed, his brow furrowing. "My mind to your mind," he whispered. "My thoughts to your thoughts. Our minds are merging ... our minds are one." He opened blank, unseeing eyes and, when he spoke, it was almost in a monotone. "We were attacked, but by what? What did we see? Show me." He was silent, then, abruptly, he closed his eyes and his whole body jerked. "Evil..." he said in a strained voice. "She..." His features contorted. "She... No! The evil... the claws..." Fear clouded his face and he began to shake his head, his breathing deep. "No, I am stronger than you. You cannot come--" For one breathless instant, Spock was silent, then he cried out as if in great pain and stumbled back against the wall, his arms up in front of his face. "Keep it away! Please keep it away from me!" he cried.

The next minute was hectic. While Kirk rushed to his friend, McCoy and Christine worked over Vandenburg who had tensed and showed all the symptoms of being in the final throes of death. He shuddered violently and then relaxed. The needles on the body function panel all fell quietly to zero. McCoy left him without a second thought.

Kirk was shaking his first officer. "Spock! Snap out of it, Spock!"

Spock only screamed and fought harder. "Get if off! Get it off!!"

"Nurse! Hurry!" McCoy snapped, trying with Kirk to hold the frantically struggling first office. After a moment, the two men succeeded in dragging him down onto one of the beds, no easy task as he was physically stronger than both of them.

Christine had the hypo ready and pressed it against Spock's shoulder. Almost immediately he quieted, his lips barely moving with soundless words. After a minute, that stopped, too.

* * *

Some time later, Spock woke up, dazed and drowsy, his mind still aching from the violent mind-link. As his mind cleared slowly, he was able to take stock of his surroundings. He seemed to be in one piece. Sitting up, he looked at the body function panel over the bed. All readings were normal; the dolorimeter wavered a little higher than usual, but that was to be expected.

So much for that. Spock started to get out of bed and was immediately struck by a wave of dizziness. When his vision stopped swimming, he picked up one of the boots standing sentry by the bed and put it on. He was in the process of donning the other when Christine happened to walk in. Properly alarmed, she cried, "Mr. Spock! You're in no condition to get up!"

"I am perfectly well, Miss Chapel," he answered, rising. "Where is Captain Kirk?"

Christine refused to answer, but walked determinedly to the intercom and punched the button. "Dr. McCoy?"

"Yes?" McCoy's voice answered, after a few seconds.

"Mr. Spock is up walking around, sir," the surgeon's aide reported, looking Spock squarely in the eye. "He refuses to go back to bed."

"Spock, can you hear me?"

"Perfectly," Spock answered, returning the nurse's gaze calmly. "I am not deaf."

"All right then -- now hear this! Get your tail back in that cotton- pickin' bed before I come down there and put you in it!" McCoy's voice bore vehement finality, but Spock ignored it.

"Where is the Captain?" he asked.

"Right here, Spock," Kirk's voice said from a distance.

"I feel like talking now, Captain."

"Good. We'll be right down. Kirk out."

* * *

In the end, Kirk deemed it necessary that all department heads hear Spock's story, so a meeting was called in the briefing room. The first officer sat with his hands folded before him and said quietly:

"At first, when I mind-linked with Vandenburg, I got only confusion and the feeling that his mind was fighting me. His thoughts were incoherent and I kept getting flashes of what appeared to be evil. The further I went into his mind, the heavier the feeling became. And then I saw what had attacked him. Charisma in her true form." Spock paused again and his gaze went from face to face around the table. "I cannot warn you enough about her. She is not in the least human; she is an alien life-form out to destroy us all."

At once everyone began to argue, some rising to their feet. Kirk was one, pounding the table and commanding silence. He got it.

"I believe that what Mr. Spock says is true," he stated, still standing. "I know we have all felt her undeniable charm, but Vandenburg is dead!"

A shocked murmur went around the table.

"Something killed him and I believe that Mr. Spock has the answer -- or at least part of it. I think that Charisma is using her talents to camouflage herself from us. When we look at her, ve see what we want to see. Perhaps Vandenburg saw her true form and, therefore, she had to eliminate him for it. Spock glimpsed her from his mind and knows what to expect, but even he is in danger."

"Even more so," McCoy said. "He knows what she looks like. What's to keep her from killing him as well?"

"Everything within my power," Spock said, raising an eyebrow in earnest.

The human officers smiled, but the weapons officer asked, "What are we going to do, Captain?"

"I'm open for suggestions."

There were not many and all were either impractical or questionable. Finally it was decided to double security and to keep an eye on their guest in order to confine her immediately should occasion arise. Finally Kirk asked, "Any further questions?" There were none. "All right then -- dismissed."

All filed out save Spock and the Captain. "Sir," said the first officer. "I am still not feeling well. With your permission, sir, I'd like to be relieved of my post for the rest of this watch."

Kirk smiled sympathetically. "Certainly, Spock. Take your regular off-duty time, as well."

"Thank you, sir," Spock said went out. Kirk sat down tiredly.

* * *

Spock opened his eyes slowly, aware that he was not alone. He did not remember lying down on his bunk and dozing off, but obviously he had. As he grew more awake, the presence of someone became acute.

Rolling over onto his back, he blinked lazily toward the door then bolted erect. A soft, lovely feminine shape was standing in the doorway, motionless. He clambered to his feet and tried to sound stern. "What are you doing here?"

Charisma glided forward, her movement suggesting desert sands shirting on a hot Vulcan night. "I wanted to see you," she said in a voice that whispered of coppery waves washing ashore on a lonely beach.

Her very Vulcanness was overwhelming but he fought it. "No!" He backed away, trying to keep her at least at arm's length. "I know your true form."

"I must know yours." Wind whispered through delicate hand-carved wind-chimes.

He backed into the wall and sank back into the red velvet curtains. Charisma came toward him, her fragile hand outstretched. "Never and always... touching and touched?"

"How do you know that?" Spock demanded. "It is from the Koon-ut -- stay away from me!" She vas very close to him now and the fragrance of it "raindolls" blooming after the sparse rains of winter made him giddy.

"I will make you happy," she whispered. A flock of silver dawn-birds rustled quietly into the sunrise. How did she know about "raindolls" and silver birds? he wondered desperately.

Trapped against the wall, he could not escape her but still attempted to shrink away when she moved against him. He refused to look into those depthless blue eyes, to accept the calm. Charisma trailed her fingertips down his cheek, barely touching his skin but leaving a tingling exciting sensation.

Spock was in agony, his eyes closed, almost weeping. He was doing his best to stifle the unbidden emotion he felt building deep inside him. Charisma was making matters worse, for she was rubbing her velvet cheek against his, increasing the excitement and whispering:

"I see a small boy, standing on a terrace and watching a flock of flying birds. I can see him walking among white flowers ... but he is sad. Now I see a man, still walking among the flowers. He is lonely, yet he hides it. Why, Spock? Can't he accept love?"

"No ... you mustn't," he whispered back.. in anguish. "I know what you are!"

Charisma pulled away just a little and took his face in her hands, caressing it. This time he did not -- could not -- look away and found himself sinking into deep sapphire pools of liquid. In them he saw all his loneliness and rigid control swirl and soften and dissolve. Her eyes held him in their magnetic grasp, pulling him in, farther and farther. He blinked once, trying to block them out, but they engulfed him, grew larger than possible, pulling him in. The cabin around him disappeared, the ship gave way to stars. Charisma was his ship now.

Suddenly they were floating in free-fall together, the stars and nebulae above them and below them and all around them. He was laughing and she held his hands, tumbling over and over with him, neither breathing and neither caring. They were beyond that now. They were alone in a universe they had created but neither cared because she was in his arms, offering silent psalms to the stars. But then he silenced her singing with a warm, fervent kiss, and when they parted, she sang psalms to him.

* * *

It was nearly four hours after the exec-meeting when Kirk decided to go up to the bridge. Nothing imperative, just a little routine check.

Everything seemed normal as the Captain sank down into the command chair, signing reports that were brought to him. After that, he gazed around the bridge, determine who was off- and on-duty. Chekov and Sulu were exchanging wise-cracks at the helm; Uhura was humming over her comm-board. Spock and Scotty were both absent but both were off-duty now. Scotty was no doubt down in engineering mooning over his warp engines. Scotty was madly in love with starship machinery.

Kirk completed his reconnoitering and his gaze came to rest on the main viewing screen. Same old stars, old nebulae, same old--"

Kirk bolted to his feet. "Sulu! We're off-course!"

To his amazement, both Sulu and Chekov turned and looked at him curiously. "Sir?" asked the helmsman. "We're on-course, Captain. Heading one three one mark oh, as ordered."

"I didn't order that heading," Kirk snapped.

"Er, no, sir," Sulu answered. "Mr. Spock did."

"What?"

"Yes, sir. About an hour ago, sir. He called up here and ordered course change. We're bound for Earth."

"Well, change back to our original heading -- Star Base 14."

"Aye, sir." The two men turned back to the helm.

"Mr. Spock!" Kirk called into the intercom. There was no answer.

Sulu leaned down to adjust the instruments. Nothing whatsoever happened; the Enterprise kept her beautiful nose pointed toward a very distant yellow star. Sulu tried again with the same results. "Captain, helm won't respond."

"Manual override," said Kirk.

Sulu tried, but the ship steadfastly refused to alter her destination. "No good, Captain," the helmsman reported.

The Captain punched the intercom button on the arm of the chair. "Engineering!"

"Aye, Captain?" answered Scotty.

"Helm won't respond. Can you do something down there?"

"I doubt seriously if that would work, Captain," Spock's voice cut in. He sounded oddly amused by the whole thing.

"Spock! Where are you? Report to the bridge on the double!" Kirk said.

"The bridge is such a dull place," Spock answered. "I find auxiliary control much more interesting, don't you?"

Kirk was trembling with anger, "Commander, have you locked this ship on a heading for Earth?"

"Why, Jim! So formal? And after all we've been throu--"

"Spock, answer me!"

The first officer chuckled pleasantly. "Now, now, Jim. Temper, temper. That's better. Of course, we're headed for Earth. Charisma wanted to see it."

"Commander, release this ship immediately and turn yourself in!"

Spock laughed for several minutes, while Kirk grew redder and redder. At last, when he could talk again, Spock reproved him gently, "Really, Jim. You know me better than that!"

"Chekov," Kirk said, "lock the computer into the helm--"

"I don't believe I would do that," Spock mused.

Kirk was instantly apprehensive. "Why?" he demanded. There was no answer. "Spock, why? What have you done with the computer? Spock!"

There was another chuckle from the intercom. "Well, Jim, if you insist on knowing--"

"I insist. What have you done?"

"Well, I wouldn't try to use the computer for navigation because I've already ... you might say ... enlisted the computer's help. I locked in the co-ordinates for Earth and keyed the computer to respond only to my voice using the proper release code. If you try to change course, I'm afraid that -- well, let's just say that Star Fleet might not take kindly to your destroying one of their fifty billion credit starships." He laughed to himself and switched off.

Kirk dug his nails deep into the arm pads of the chair, trembling with suppressed anger. The Enterprise was homeward bound and nothing vas going to stop her.

* * *

Kirk called another meeting in the briefing room. Spock, of course, was absent. The Captain said, "Scotty, it is imperative that we get this ship off this heading. Is there anyway to override auxiliary?"

"Aye, Captain," the engineer answered. "But not wi' the computer locked in. Like Mr. Spock said -- if we try t' change course ... force-feed coordinates ... the ship'll blow up."

"Any way to unlock the computer?"

"Aye -- wi' the voice code."

"And Spock's the voice code," Kirk sighed, cursing his too-efficient first officer.

"Jim, are you sure you realize the full scope of this thing?" asked McCoy.

"I do. Unless we get off this heading, we have three choices. One -- run headlong into Earth, thereby causing untold damage and the loss of countless lives. Two -- we blow up the ship ourselves to prevennt the first." Kirk looked around the table.

"Or, three -- w get Spock out of the control room," said McCoy.

"Aye," seconded Scotty.

"My thoughts exactly," Kirk replied quietly. "The question, ladies and gentlemen, is how?"

"Well, we could burn through the bulkhead," mused Scotty. "Flip the relay..."

"Then there's the question of Spock's sanity," said the doctor. "This is certainly not a normal act for him. He could be very dangerous in his condition ... whatever that may be. He could be very dangerous in his condition ... whatever that may be." He arose. "Let me get a med-team and I'll met you there."

"Gentlemen," said Kirk. "You heard him."

* * *

In the auxiliary control room, Charisma snuggled under Spock's chin while he held her. He was still quite euphoric, but some of the tinsel and glimmer had gone out of the universe. Her rapport with him had turned to more mundane things. She asked and he supplied answers, automatically. But the link was two way and he was able to feel images and impressions that her mind produced. They were meaningless to him at present. A tiny spark of worry began to grow in the back of his mind.

Charisma, herself, was quite happy. Her black hair was shining like the coat of some jungle cat and she made a sound deep in her throat, halfway between a hum and a purr.

Abruptly, the spell was broken, for Charisma spun on the door, crying, "No! No!"

Spock was suddenly awake, fully awake, for the first time since she had come to his cabin. Her spell had slipped. He shook his head to clear it. What was he doing here? He'd been in his cabin, sleeping, and then--

But Spock did not see the bewitching young woman of a moment before and suddenly he understood the look of terror on Vandenberg's face. He had to get out of this room! He had to get away from her! Groping, almost blindly, he found the door switch and pressed it.

Kirk's security force was preparing to burn a hole in the door when it suddenly snapped open. Phasers drawn, they rushed in to find a snarling, spitting, cat-like animal rearing above them. Black fur bristled over the blocky body and the long sinewy tale whipped about fretfully.

Behind the creature, huddled against the control panel, Spock cried, "It's Charisma!"

With blinding speed, the creature whirled, knocking Spock off his feet with one powerful blow from its outstretched paw, the steel-tipped claws ripping his cheek open. He had hardly hit the deck when the creature slammed into him, laying his shoulder open to the bone.

Spock's pained scream joined the snarling of the cat. The security force had held their fire, fearful of hitting the first officer, but now Kirk flung his phaser at the creature with all his might. The weapon glanced off the broad back.

At once, the animal whirled around to face its attacker and the men fired -- point three kill, as high as a phaser would go. "Charisma" disappeared in a flash of light.

Spock lay in a spreading pool of his own blood, coughing violently and gasping for breath. Kirk and McCoy reached him at the same time. The doctor immediately gave him a shot to ease the pain, then rose, calling over his shoulder, "In the name of free space, get that stuff in here!"

The medical team was already pulling a table into the room, while a quite distraught Christine Chapel followed with an oxygen mask. Spock's pain seemed to have eased a little so Kirk, McCoy and the orderlies lifted him onto the table. This brought a fresh grimace of pain and Spock began to gasp desperately for breath. Christine placed the oxygen ask over his nose and mouth and turned on a thin flow. He began to breathe in short, painful gasps, then lost consciousness.

Meanwhile, McCoy had ripped the first officer's shirt open from the injured shoulder across his chest and had cut the neckband, pulling it away so that Spock could breathe easier. After quickly pulling the wound together and securing it with strips of pressure-backing, the doctor nodded and said, "Surgery." Quickly, efficiently, the med-team wheeled the first officer out.

McCoy took the towel a nurse handed him and, wiping the dark green blood from his hands, started hurriedly after the med-team. Kirk looked lost and caught his arm. "Bones?"

The doctor returned his gaze, his blue eyes coldly professional, then a cloud of worry crept into them. "Pray, Jim," he said earnestly. "Pray!" And he was gone, too.

* * *

McCoy did not look happy as he left surgery. Kirk rose to met him, his whole face a question, but the doctor shook his head grimy and said, "I don't think Spock's going to make it." He motioned Kirk into his office where he stripped off his gloves and sat down at his desk.

"He's got four broken ribs, a punctured lung, the muscles and the blood vessels in his shoulder are torn almost beyond repair, and he's lost a lot of blood. And that's where we're hung up. You see, Jim, Spock's got very rare blood, even for a Vulcan. We just haven't got enough to keep him alive for more'n a few hours."

"Is he awake?'' Kirk asked.

"I'd rather you didn't talk to him," McCoy answered. "He's very weak."

"Bones, I value Spock's life as much ... maybe more...than you do," the Captain said softly. "But we have to have that voice code even if it kills him." McCoy looked dubious but Kirk said with obvious sincerity, "Bones, you know as well as I do what Spock means to me, personally as well as professionally. He's my best friend. I wouldn't do this if it weren't absolutely necessary."

The doctor nodded and answered, "I know, Jim. I guess that Spock would say that it's logical to sacrifice him to save the crew of this ship or the billions of our solar system."

He lead the way into the recovery room. Spock lay very still on one of the beds, the right side of his face and his right shoulder swathed in bandages, a tube taped to his left arm feeding him one of their few bottles of Vulcan T-negative blood.

McCoy leaned over him and asked softly, "Spock? Can you hear me?"

The first officer moved his head in McCoy's direction and opened his eyes weakly. Kirk moved over by the bed.

"Hello, Spock," he said. "I hate to put you through this so soon but I'm afraid it's got priority right now. Even over your life. Do you understand?'' Spock barely moved his head in assent. "All right, try to remember the code you gave the computer. Try to answer."

Spock closed his eyes and his brows came together fractionally as he tried to think. "Yes," he said finally in a hoarse whisper, all he could muster. "Heading ... Earth ... can't take her--" He looked alarmed and tried to rise. "Got to stop--" His face contorted with pain and he fell back. The dolorimeter rose immediately. McCoy hastily gave him a shot and they waited until the reading fell again.

"Don't try to get up, Spock," the surgeon said. "Now, do you remember the code?" The first officer nodded.

Kirk switched on the viewer beside the bed. "Lt. Uhura?"

"Yes, Captain?" she answered, appearing on the screen.

"Tie in the computer."

"Yes, sir. Computer tied in, sir."

"Computer," said Kirk.

"Working," answered the shrill female monotone.

The Captain looked down at his friend and said, "Okay, Spock. Now or never."

Spock mustered all his strength and said, "Computer, lock on and copy. This is Commander Spock."

"Verified."

"Voice print -- juno iceberg zebra three. Release."

"Verified. Now turning ship over to helm."

Spock was thoroughly exhausted and lay back wearily, his eyes closed. "Thank you, Lieutenant," Kirk said and switched off the viewer. He motioned McCoy over, saying softly, "Isn't there anything you can do for him, Bones?"

Grimly, the doctor shook his head. "Not a damn thing. I've always dreaded the day when his life might depend on my actions and I couldn't do one God blessed thing for him. I'm sorry, Jim, but I am a human doctor, not a Vulcan doctor."

Kirk's face slowly took on an enlightened look. "Bones, we may save him, yet!" He quickly crossed to the intercom. "Chekov, how long would it take us to reach Vulcan at top warp speed?"

"One moment, Captain, while I check," said the navigator. After a few seconds, he answered, "Fife hours, thirty-seven minutes, sir."

"Bones, do you think you can keep him alive that long?"

McCoy's features now mirrored the Captain's eagerness. "I can sure as heck try!" he declared.

Kirk turned to the intercom. "Mr. Chekov, lay in a course for Vulcan, warp eight."

"Aye, sir. Turning on new heading now."

The Enterprise took one last, wistful look at her home star, now brighter than the rest, and banked starboard on her new course.

* * *

After a sick leave of twenty weeks on his home planet, Spock reported back, refreshed, rested, and quite his old self. Thanks to the advanced dermosurgical techniques there, not even scars marred his face.

He received a hearty welcome from the senior officers in the transporter room and later, he and Kirk retired to the rec-room for coffee and conversation. There, Spock returned the various crewmembers' greetings with equal vigor. It was plain that Spock was happy to be back.

"Spock, do you realize that was the first leave you have taken in nearly two years?" Kirk asked him when they had managed to elude the rest of the crew.

"Indeed, Captain," Spock replied, "And I must admit that I enjoyed it."

Kirk laughed then sobered a little and remarked, "I have never fully understood all that business with Charisma, even though your report was quite detailed."

"Which part, sir?"

''During the time she possessed you. In that right? Possessed?"

"Adequately put, Captain," the first officer said, his arms crossed. "You, yourself, have seen how she used her power to control others' minds." Kirk nodded. "At any rate, after I was in her power', she told me that she wanted to see Earth ... Star Fleet Headquarters. At the tire, of course, I did not see the logic of her choice, but later in the auxiliary control room, her ... spell slipped and I was able to deduce the situation.

"She was an agent from the planet Algol 7, on the other side of Klingon territory, or so she explained. It seems that the Klingons were pushing out in that direction and the Algols were not too pleased with the prospect of Klingon rule. They sent Charisma as a scout and saboteur. She took over the Klingon ship that she had captured."

"Did she tell you all this?" Kirk asked, surprised.

"Oh, no, by no means, Captain. While she had me in her power, we had a ... rapport. It was very similar to the Vulcan mind-meld, but much more subtle. There was no need to touch the subject. Her mind did not project thoughts but I was able to pick up impressions." He look apologetic. "I was not able to pick up very much. Part of what I am telling you is simply the result of logical deduction."

"But that doesn't explain why we picked up only her life force from that Klingon ship. Did she kill them?"

"In a sense. You saw how thoroughly we were under her spell. The Klingons gave in, as well. They, however, saw a Klingon female. In effect, she asked them to commit suicide. Most of them did but there were still enough alive to give her a fight. When they found that they were losing their battle, they shut down their engines then killed themselves to thwart her that way. We picked her up a few days later."

"That leaves a lot unexplained."

Spock raised his eyebrows and shrugged. "It does, sir, but I have answered your questions to the best of my ability. I am afraid that her attack on me was somewhat of a traumatic experience, even with my level of control and training. I simply cannot remember some things."

Kirk look reminiscent. "She was so beautiful," he said softly. "It's hard to believe that she was so evil."

"I do not believe she was, Captain," Spock said. "The ideas of good and evil are very abstract concepts, almost completely anthropologic. I do not believe that the Algols have such concepts. Charisma was merely an agent on a mission for her government."

Kirk straightened and looked at his friend. "Well, you may be pulling for her, Mr. Spock, but I, for one, am pretty darn glad that we won this ballgame."

Spock looked up, startled, then told his friend with sincerity, both eyebrows up, "Captain, I assure you -- I am in complete agreement!"

Kirk looked startled, too, then laughed. "Come on, Spock. We've got a lot of work to do." The two men drained their cups and left the rec room together.



THE END