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) 2007 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.

THE APPLE: SEEING RED

Cheree Cargill

Stardate: 3723.8, Personal Log, First Officer Spock recording.

I am on temporary duty suspension, recovering from skin graft surgery to the extensive burns on my back. The mission to Gamma Trianguli VI was unexpectedly hazardous and I seem to have sustained an unusual number of injuries. I am still experiencing some nausea from the poisonous plant spines (or perhaps from Dr. McCoy's "remedy" ... I am unable to ascertain which), but it is the flash burn from the lightning strike that is the most serious.

My uniform protected me somewhat and the strike was not a direct one, else I would be dead, but the blast was close enough for a step leader to hit me between the shoulder blades and blister most of the skin across my back. It also melted and fused the manufactured fibers of my undershirt to my skin, which necessitated major surgery once we returned to the ship.

I find that I am also experiencing numbness in my extremities, double-vision and a slight red tinge to things I view, as well as some short-term memory loss, an extremely disturbing phenomena but which is to be expected. I do not remember much after we beamed up from the planet following the destruction of the Vaal machine. Apparently, I collapsed as I stepped off the transporter platform, the shock of my various injuries finally overwhelming my conscious control. I was rushed to sick bay and kept sedated for the next 42 hours as Dr. McCoy and Dr. M'Benga treated my burns and cultured a skin graft to replace the destroyed tissue.

I am no longer in sick bay, but am confined to quarters and ordered to rest and recuperate. Unable to read because of my vision problems and finding that audiobooks trigger headaches, I can do little else but meditate. Even this is interrupted on a regular basis by one of the doctors or by Nurse Chapel, which I find more annoying. The second time she brought me food and insisted upon checking my injuries, I commanded her to cease her ministrations and not return.

"Mr. Spock," she informed me stiffly, "as long as you are under medical care, you will comply with Dr. McCoy's orders. My orders are to monitor your healing process and supervise your daily diet. Now, if you insist on my calling either Dr. McCoy or the Captain down here to explain those orders to you, I will be happy to do so. Sir."

I acquiesced but did so grudgingly. I dislike being touched under the best of circumstances, but her touch disturbs me in a way I cannot identify. Perhaps it is the feedback from her overabundance of emotions and perhaps I cannot block them as efficiently as I usually do. In any case, the effect only adds to my agitation.

I find myself consumed with unanswered questions about the people and culture we found on Trianguli. First to be answered -- who or what was Vaal? The vast mechanism was extremely old and extremely sophisticated. Obviously the Feeders of Vaal could not have built such a machine, unless their ancestors did so in the distant past and they have long since forgotten their heritage.

And so I indulge in speculation. Who built Vaal? How long ago? What was its original purpose and how did it become what we found upon our arrival? I have formed a theory that might possibly explain Vaal's origin.

It is my belief, based upon my sensor readings, that Gamma Trianguli VI is a terraformed world, if I may use that word as a generic description. The planet's uniform temperature and its dense covering of plant life indicate to me a planet that has been artificially transformed to sustain humanoid life. The vast array of vegetation might have been necessary to rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and in turn generate a life-sustaining amount of oxygen.

I believe that Vaal was the control mechanism that was put in place to regulate the atmospheric generator and the other planetary cycles. Was it actually self-aware or simply acting from a highly sophisticated program? I prefer the latter interpretation. It did not behave as a sentient being. All of its actions can be explained by subprograms and fail-safe routines. It was programmed to sustain the terraforming complex at all costs. That was its prime function. The defenses we encountered -- the thorns, the lightning, the explosive minerals -- were all designed with one purpose: to maintain the status quo. Perhaps we were not the first "invaders" to threaten that equanimity. As Vaal demonstrated in ordering the Feeders to kill us, adaptions to the program were quite possible. Once these adaptions were in place, they did not change. All threats to Vaal's primary function had to be eliminated.

On the other side of this coin was the endless need for fuel to feed the operations of the Vaal complex. The designers had an ingenious solution to the energy question -- the same plants used to generate oxygen produced an abundance of fruit, much more than necessary for the self-propagation of the forest. There was also seasonal deadfall that would accumulate on the forest floor. This excess could be used as a biodegradable, self-renewing fuel source.

The problem now became how to transport the fuel to the intake.

Enter the Feeders of Vaal, a staff whose sole purpose was to stoke the furnaces that powered the planet machine. They were not literal furnaces, of course. That would be much too primitive to power Vaal's fuel cells, but it serves the purpose of the illustration. The Federation science and engineering team that will arrive shortly will be able to determine the operation of the Vaal mechanism and perhaps return it to a more benign operation.

The origin of the Feeders cannot be determined at the present time. That will be the task of Federation archaeologists. There are a vast number of humanoid races in this part of the Galaxy and the question of how so many can be so alike -- bipedal, bilateral symmetry, vertebrate, primate -- has been debated for centuries and that likely will continue far into the future. That the Feeders are not native to Gamma Trianguli VI is a given. There is no sign whatsoever in our readings of evolution or even much natural development on this planet. No, these people were brought here to keep Vaal operating and their physical welfare was planned for with the same detail and deliberation as was the frequency of the rain and the temperature of the air. They were tools, nothing else. Were they slaves or were they recruited for the job? No one will likely ever know, for their history has vanished unless a memory bank can be found within the Vaal complex that explains it all. Again, that is a job for the archaeologists.

What is also a given is that we have absolutely destroyed this culture. We will argue that it was necessary to destroy Vaal in order to free the ship and Starfleet will, naturally, accept that as a valid reason to so utterly flaunt the Prime Directive. The "attack" by Vaal was, of course, simply its appropriation of a readily available energy source. How many other ships has it pulled down in the distant past? In any case, we will present it as a deliberate attack. It was necessary to save the ship...

But at the price of a people? Of a culture? I find myself feeling frustrated and angry. And ashamed ... of my Human heritage and my association with Starfleet. How many other similar occurrences have I witnessed in the twenty years since I chose to leave Vulcan and pursue this path? Captain Pike was more thoughtful in his actions than Captain Kirk and less ruthless in his choices. However, I must acquiesce to the fact that he would likely have acted the same here. In a fight for survival, the Human instinct is very strong. Vulcans probably would have sacrificed the ship; Humans never would have.

I find the strong emotions I am experiencing disturbing and they threaten to upset my mastery of arie'mnu. Dr. McCoy would say that I am "seeing red" in anger. It is unacceptable. I begin the steps of meditation once again, asking my Ancestors to help me regain control of my emotions. They have helped me in the past to reconcile the conflicts and contradictions in my life. I beseech them humbly to do so once again.

As a point of mental focus, I find myself envisioning a pair of bronze-colored hands held out in welcome and offering in friendship a piece of fruit. It is an apple. A red one.

THE END