DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1976 by Johanna Cantor. This story is Rated PG. Originally published in Warped Space #15.
A Matter of Trust
"My commendations, Captain Kirk. You and your crew seem to have done an excellent job against that Romulan."
"Thank you, sir."
"Is Mr. Spock there?"
"I ordered him to Sickbay, but I'll check with my medical officer. Sickbay."
"Aye, aye, sir," Lt. Palmer acknowledged, opening a channel.
"Bones, is Spock there?"
"He certainly is."
"Can he talk?"
"Bones, it's important. It's Admiral--"
"Jim, the man's throwing up his bootheels. Whatever it is, it'll have to wait until his innards settle. McCoy out."
Kirk looked up, mentally wording a less graphic phrasing, then froze as he realized the channel to Starbase had remained open.
"Tell Mr. Spock I hope he feels better soon. Hornbill out."
"Yes, sir." Kirk shot a glance at Palmer's scarlet neck, but refrained from any comment. Uhura's relief wouldn't hear the last of this for months; that was punishment enough. "Mr. Sulu, helm on automatic and leave the Bridge. Mr. Kyle will be O.C. I'll be in Sickbay."
* * *
Spock hovered on the edge of consciousness, aware at first of an uncomfortably low body temperature. Slowly he came to the realization that he was in Sickbay -- whose noises and smells were unique - and that he was very weak. Memory returned -- trying to block the sudden rupture in the patched coolant duct, then incapacitation. He remembered clinging to the Captain's hand like a -- lifeline, and grunting involuntarily as cramps hit him without warning. The memory was embarrassing. He had apologized then, but Kirk had just held his hand tighter and said, "It is permitted." His Captain's grave intonation of the Vulcan Seal of Etiquette had tickled Spock under the circumstances, and he had laughed. Spock turned to cover his face.
"Doctor." The speaker was Christine Chapel, and she was a problem Spock felt wholly unequal to dealing with. He remained motionless until he heard McCoy say, "All right, Nurse," and heard the faint rustle of a woman moving away. Then he removed his hand and opened his eyes. The Doctor was checking readings and making notations. Spock was silent; he had learned the hard way that human doctors resented being questioned for information Vulcan doctors would automatically impart. He reviewed the chemical composition of coolant and the gas poisoning's symptoms; by now his blood count should be the crucial indicator. He was just wondering if it would be worth asking when the Doctor spoke.
"You're lucky to be alive, Mr. Spock." Really, these human generalities. What he wanted were the facts of his condition. But the Doctor continued, "Your condition is satisfactory under the circumstances; however, your blood count is less than three-fourths normal. Can you do anything to bring it up?"
"Okay. Let me know if we can do anything to help, or make you more comfortable."
"Doctor." The sound was barely audible, and Spock realized he would have to concentrate on putting more force behind his voice. But McCoy waited patiently. "Doctor, will I be invalided out?"
"I can't answer that with the data I have. A lot will depend on your progress in the next twenty-four hours. I'll keep you posted."
Spock nodded and closed his eyes to concentrate.
* * *
"Well, Nurse, you can take the reserve off that refrigerated drawer. Mr. Spock won't be needing it."
"Yes, Doctor." There was a slight tremor in Chapel's voice, which made Spock glad he hadn't opened his eyes. He waited hopefully for her to rustle away so he could question the Doctor, but instead, it was the man who left. Spock felt himself lifted by antigravs, then stripped and bathed. The water was pleasantly warm, but he stayed doggo. He still had not conquered his emotions concerning this woman, and he had no idea what to do about hers. She worked swiftly and silently and soon he was rejacketed and back in a fresh bed. The clean sheets felt good, but now he was cold again, and this made him realize that he had been here for over three solar days. He calculated swiftly. The robot mechanism would keep his photi for only a few more hours. Could he ask Bio to take them? Or would that be construed as a request for a personal favor? He decided not to risk it and turned his thoughts to T'Pav's Third Meditation for consolation. But then he rebelled: the photi were living things.
Chapel jumped as his eyes snapped open, but swiftly got herself under control. Spock waited until the mask was complete. "Nurse, in my quarters there is a breeding pair of photi-- "
"Oh, your aquarium? Sulu said to tell you he thought it was best not to move them, but he'll look in on them twice a day. Uhura took your plants to Botany; they'll take care of them until you're better."
Spock froze to handle his unseemly response. Chapel smiled at him, but then, blessedly, left.
"Feeling better?" Spock turned his head to focus on Stiles. "Oh, lousy, huh?"
"No. Better. You?"
"I'm better. Listen, Mr. Spock, I really do want to apologize-- "
Emotion again. Humans, yammering at people. Spock waved a hand apologetically and turned over. Unfortunately, that brought Chapel back to him and she began to rub his back. It was part of her job, he reminded himself, but the rubbing was all wrong. He remained rigid until she finally went away.
Two periods passed. Spock heard Chapel approach him every half hour, but each time, to his relief, she moved away again. The frequency of her checks worried him; he could not know that his near-immobility was new and frightening in her experience. He found it difficult to block the sounds and smells of Sickbay, and he could not help calculating how long it might be before he could return to privacy.
Chapel rustled over, and a new scent masked the Sickbay smells. Opening his eyes, he was just able to see a ptot'l plant on the bed-table. He was lifted, then set down again on a thermal pad. "It's on medium," Chapel said. "You can turn it down if you're too warm." Then she began to massage his back again, and this time she slowly ran her fingertips down the long neck and shoulder muscles.
Automatically, Spock's thoughts turned to the relaxation exercises every Vulcan child learns. When she had finished, he located the thermal control and moved the indicator to "high." "Thank you," he said tentatively.
"It's my duty to make you comfortable, Commander," she said in her most professional tone. Reassured, Spock fell asleep.
* * *
"And how is Mr. Spock?"
The Captain's voice speaking his name brought Spock to semi-wakefulness.
"He's a lot better, Jim. The main thing for him now is rest, and I think we've learned how to help him."
"Good. Let me know when he's awake."
At that, Spock opened his eyes and tried to turn over. Cold hands took his shoulders, helping him turn and settling him back; Spock focused on his Captain's face and murmured a thank you.
"How do you feel?"
"Better, sir." He made his voice steady.
"Good." The Captain, in his turn, made his voice more formal. "Commander, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you are to be decorated for conspicuous bravery under fire. Admiral Hornbill will make the presentation as soon as Dr. McCoy gives his permission." He held out his hand. "Congratulations, Mr. Spock."
"Thank you, sir." Spock took the hand rather awkwardly. The clasp sparked a memory that still embarrassed him, and he withdrew his hand and turned away. Kirk let go, but he could not leave it so impersonally.
"Are they treating you well, Spock?"
"Indeed, Captain. They have been most kind."
"Good. You rest, and get well. That's an order."
A highly illogical one, Spock thought. Then he saw the twinkle, and realized he was being teased. He could not respond in kind, but acknowledged gravely. The Captain smiled at him and left; and Spock settled back into the warmth.
* * *
"But Mr. Spock, the Admiral won't be able to see you, only hear you."
"Nevertheless, Nurse, I shall sit up."
To Spock's annoyance, since he regarded the matter as quite settled, Chapel continued to argue the point until McCoy arrived and told her to let him be. Spock straightened, still self-conscious about the hospital jacket, but ridiculously proud of his ability to sit up.
"'The Admiral will be on ship-wide," Chapel told him excitedly. "The whole crew will be watching!" Fortunately, there was no time for a reply before the screen was activated.
"Good morning, Mr. Spock. I hope your innards have settled."
"Sir?" The expression was new to Spock. But before he could puzzle it out the Admiral began the formal presentation. Spock listened gravely, thanked him, then disclaimed and asked that the award go to his kinsystem, as was proper. The Admiral acknowledged and signed off.
"Well, that's that," the Doctor said heartily. "Congratulations, Mr. Spock." Then he was out the door at an unaccustomed rate of speed.
"Yes, congratulations, Mr. Spock."
"Thank you, Nurse. Nurse Chapel, may I ask the meaning of the extraordinary expression the Admiral used?"
"I really couldn't tell you, Mr. Spock." Chapel lowered the bed, firmly quelling his automatic protest. "Now, you are to sleep. Do you require a sedative?"
"Go to sleep." She left and Spock settled back. Chapel would return to check on him and insist on administering a sedative soon, so he willed himself to sleep in spite of the niggling question.
* * *
The question continued to bother him for the next few days. He asked Stiles, the other medicos, and the Captain. None of them knew, they said, but the tremor which tended to enter their voices as they replied renewed Spock's curiosity each time.
Meanwhile, his strength was returning, spurred by McCoy's assurance that he would recover completely. As soon as he was allowed, he self-imposed a routine of constitutionals. They exhausted him, but McCoy assured him that the exhaustion would pass as he grew stronger.
Four days out of Starbase, he was allowed four hours up. To his surprise, the Captain appeared as he was preparing to leave Sickbay -- so happy that he chided himself -- and escorted him to Recreation Room C. There he found the entire senior staff eager to welcome him back. He responded as well as he could, and was relieved -- absurdly -- that they seemed satisfied with his reactions. The Captain had been watching him carefully, and he took his arm and made him sit down with Uhura and Sulu. Their company was restful -- with colleagues of such long standing he did not have to make conversation. They told him the ship's news -- mostly personnel gossip, since the Enterprise was merely en route from the Neutral Zone to Starbase 5, and a companionable silence fell.
McCoy bustled in and grabbed a drink and a girl. Reminded, Spock turned to his primary reference source on Earth customs.
"Lt. Uhura, no one has yet been able to explain to me the meaning of the expression Admiral Hornbill used: 'I hope your innards are settled.' Can you--"
"Can't you figure it out etymologically, sir?"
"If it means what it would seem to mean, I fail to understand why the Admiral said it to me and furthermore, why everyone I have asked, including you and Lt. Sulu, seems to think it amusing."
Silence had fallen all over the rec room. Spock sensed Uhura framing a denial, so he caught her eye and raised an eyebrow. Sheepishly, she explained McCoy's comment and Palmer's error, and everyone waited in some trepidation for Spock's response.
"I see," he said quietly. "Not quite how I would have chosen to figure in the Captain's report, Doctor." Spock rose with Sulu's gentle help and moved, unaided, to the door. Its closing was not quite quick enough to cut off the roar of delighted laughter. Spock raised an eyebrow again, this time for his own benefit, but the laughter sounded good.
He went to his quarters and immediately set to work, disturbed by the piles of uncategorized tapes that had accumulated. Chapel found him still hard at it, but as soon as she broke his concentration, he had to admit that his time up had tired him. He had to accept her help back to Sickbay, but to his relief, no one made much of a fuss. "You will find that you still fatigue easily for a while, Spock," McCoy explained. "It's not likely to be serious. Just rest whenever you need to."
Now Spock moved freely around the ship. He did not quite realize what a hero he had become, but he did notice the increased warmth and watchful care of the crew. Since he was almost wholly inexperienced in recognizing fatigue cues, he had to be helped back to Sickbay more than once. But no one fussed, and the bonds that linked the Vulcan to his alien colleagues had strengthened considerably by the time they reached Starbase.
* * *
"I assure you, Nurse, there is no need whatsoever for you to remain on board. I will do quite well in the base hospital until the shuttle arrives." Spock switched on an earphone to end the matter. In fact, he was not in the least anxious to be cared for by strange aliens at the noisy hospital but he could not let Chapel do him such a service. He concentrated on the concerto, shutting the nurse out so completely that she had to touch his shoulder.
"A message from the Bridge, Mr. Spock."
"Mr. Spock, I've just received a request from Admiral Hornbill. He wants the two of us to meet him in his office as soon as possible. Do you feel well enough?"
"Then would you meet me in the Transporter Room?"
"I'm glad you could come, Mr. Spock. I'm counting on your gentlemen to mediate what's beginning to look like a Class One mess. Here, sit down."
They waited patiently.
"I can only give you the facts as I have them. Five solar days ago, the Excalibur made port here and beamed one of her officers, Lt. Stin, directly down to the base hospital. He had refused medical treatment on board with such vehemence that their doctor, who has little experience with Vulcans, thought it best to bring him to Starbase. When Stin was put in the hospital he immediately attempted suicide, and thereafter required heavy medication and restraints. He still refused treatment, and demanded to see one of his countrymen. He raised such a fuss when approached, even with simple diagnostic equipment, that it was judged best, in his own interests, to leave him alone until he had seen another Vulcan. Svev, of the Embassy staff, was called, and came over immediately. He spoke with Lt. Stin for about ten minutes, and then killed him."
"I know it sounds incredible, Kirk. But according to the charge nurse, Stin turned his back on Svev, and Svev just reached over and snapped something and Stin was dead. By the time base security got there, Svev had untied the body and carried it into the turbolift. It was hours before he was located, in the Embassy, incommunicado. By that time Stin's C.O., Tallchief, had beamed down. He demanded an autopsy, and we were informed that the remains had been cremated. When Tallchief insisted he'd press a murder charge, the Embassy countered with a demand that Tallchief be court-martialed for criminal negligence resulting in the death of a fellow officer. They said specifications would follow, but so far we haven't heard from them again.
"Well, as I said, it's a sweet mess. And neither side will talk to the other; you two are known to work well together. Will you interview the parties, get the facts, and see if you can clarify what happened and what should be done now?"
Spock was wooden. Kirk shot a swift glance at his First Officer, asked the Admiral for time to confer, and helped Spock to his feet. Spock allowed Kirk to support him, simply moving obediently while he turned his attention to calming his suppressed agitation. By the time he returned to the present circumstances, Kirk had him in bed at the base hospital. "You're not well enough for this," he said. "I'll tell the Admiral you're still--"
"No, sir. I will be all right."
"Sure? Okay. Shall we interview the parties separately?"
"Yes, I think that would be best."
"All right. I'll try to get ahold of Tallchief. And Spock, I want you to rest first. That's an order."
Spock met with the Embassy chief the next morning. The facts were as he had surmised and he did not even trouble to interview Svev. It was gratifying to have his quick deductions confirmed, but there was a cold lump in his stomach. When he met with Kirk, he was instantly ordered into bed.
"I am all right, sir," he said, lying back obediently. "What have you found out?"
"Tallchief says that Stin began to act oddly about two weeks ago. His superior, Lieutenant Commander Jato, questioned him, and Stin invalided himself off duty. He had been due for a leave next month, and he asked if that could be moved up. Jato arranged it, but before they could rendezvous with the shuttle they were diverted to get a serum shipment to Berengaria. When Stin learned of the diversion, he reacted so strongly that Jato began to watch him, and caught him writing a suicide note. Stin insisted that only a home leave could help him, so Jato discussed the problem with Tallchief. Tallchief told Stin they would take him to Vulcan as soon as the serum had been delivered. But at Berengaria, they were reassigned. Jato and Tallchief talked it over with the doctor, and they agreed to complete their mission and divert to here to let Stin ashore where there is a Vulcan Embassy."
"But according te the Embassy chief, Stin did not know that they were not taking him home until he was beamed down to the base hospital."
"Yes. Tallchief said they didn't tell him of the change in plan because he'd been so irrational - they were afraid of a suicide attempt."
"They lied to him."
"Well, yes, If you insist on putting it that way."
"I do not understand what other way-- "
"Spock, they reasoned that medical personnel familiar with Vulcans would be able to help him. They were horribly shocked when Svev just killed him after all their efforts."
"I see. You mean to say that they meant well?"
"Yes. What have you found out?"
"Stin was ill, and increasingly suffering, from a malady that would have caused his death. When he realized he could not reach Vulcan in time to be healed, he required Svev to kill him. Svev simply did what any Vulcan is morally bound to do under such circumstances. In our law, such a killing is not murder."
"Captain, that is something you must not ask. Discussion is not permitted."
The rebuff was so comprehensive and so unexpected that Kirk almost exploded. Spock kept silent, waiting for the Captain to regain his control. And characteristically, once calmer, Kirk respected the prohibition and wasted no time trying to move the immovable. "Then it will be difficult to press a court-martial," he observed quietly.
"Captain, Stin could have been saved over a week of agony had his Captain told him the truth."
"And allowed him to commit suicide?"
"Certainly. As it was, his suffering was merely prolonged to no purpose."
"What if they had gotten him to Vulcan?"
"Then he might have been saved."
"But-- " Kirk stopped in frustration. Spock waited again, not unsympathetically. "Will the Embassy press for a court-martial?"
"Not unless Svev is brought to trial."
"I see. You say he is not indictable under Vulcan law?"
"Social Code Section 75, Number 4."
"All right. Are you ready to report?"
"Yes, sir." Together the two officers drafted and dictated a report to Admiral Hornbill. Then Spock lay back to compose himself. Kirk paced back and forth, still quite upset. Spock studied him covertly.
"Are you on duty now, sir?"
"Not unless I get a reply from Hornbill."
"Then would you like a drink?" He activated a servitor without waiting for the answer, then waited patiently for the Captain's choice.
"Spock? Oh, hello, Jim."
"Hello, Bones. Why, hello, Dr. Piper."
Spock watched the humans exchange greetings. The two doctors looked just as harassed as the Captain, and he quietly tripled the order before greeting the men in his turn.
"Mr. Spock," Piper said, "I'm up against a problem, and Len suggested you might help."
"Dr. Piper, Mr. Spock is invalided--"
"I am all right, Captain. It is an honor to serve, if I can." Spock saw McCoy give Kirk a quick nod, and asked, "What is the problem?"
"I have a Vulcan kid up in Pediatrics with a tumor that's going to destroy the optic nerves if it isn't excised soon. The boy's guardian is refusing permission for the operation. She wants to take the child to Vulcan. But the journey, and the loss of time, are definitely contra-indicative."
"Why does the guardian refuse permission?"
"Because, Mr. Spock, I don't think she cares about the child at all. She just wants to make that shuttle. And maybe she's afraid she'll be criticized for allowing the boy to be treated here if anything goes wrong. But the upshot is, she'd rather see him go blind than--"
"That seems most unlikely, Dr. Piper," Spock interrupted coldly, and Kirk and McCoy looked at him in surprise. "Who is the boy's guardian?"
"Her name is T'Nan or T`'Nab -- something like that."
"What is her full name?"
"Hell, Spock, I can't remember these nonsense syllables! Oh, well, if it matters, I have her ID photostated." Spock waited in silence to Piper's annoyance as he rummaged through a long record form. "Here it is. Now, what do you suppose she means?"
Spock was studying the intricate signature. "Ah, T'Nab of the Pii. I would guess, Doctor, that she means precisely what she says. Even among us she has a reputation for stubbornness."
Kirk intervened to forestall Piper. "Would a Vulcan doctor's opinion help?"
"There's none in the facility qualified in pediatrics. Furthermore, I'm not accustomed to submitting my diagnoses--"
"Doctor." Kirk used his command tone and Piper subsided, to Spock's relief. "I will talk to T'Nab," he promised. "But, I may not be able to help."
Spock activated a viewscreen and placed the call. Piper downed his drink and moved to order another.
"Your input might be helpful, Dr. Piper."
"It always takes the old battleaxe 15 minutes to put herself on. I--" Piper trailed off as the screen lit. Spock stood and bowed. T'Nab returned the bow, and the Vulcans exchanged formal greetings. She studied her viewscreen.
"You are your father's son, Spock," she observed.
"I thank you, Madam. However, I am also my mother's son."
She stiffened. "You present an argument, Spock?"
"No. I have been informed of Snov's condition. It occurred to me that you might need the services of a mediator. If I can be of service, I offer myself in this role. If I cannot, I apologize for disturbing you."
"Would you visit me later?"
"I would be honored." The two Vulcans bowed again and the screen faded.
"Now, isn't that just like her? Why should he go gallivanting--"
"It is etiquette, Doctor Piper." Spock's tone held an edge that made Kirk look at him in surprise. "Dr. McCoy, would you review Snov's records before this afternoon?"
"Certainly." McCoy spoke quickly to cut Piper's objection off. "May I use your facilities, Doctor?"
Professional etiquette made only one answer possible. "Of course, Doctor." Kirk watched them as they left, then turned to his First Officer.
"Why do you want McCoy to review Piper's findings? Piper's a competent doctor."
"Yes. sir. But his contempt for us and our ways is so blatant that it is little wonder that T'Nab cannot trust him." Spock lay back and closed his eyes wearily, and Kirk left without comment.
That afternoon they were greeted formally by T'Nab and served refreshment, as etiquette required. Piper took one sip and snorted. Spock noted Kirk's glare at Piper, but politely ignored the byplay as he explained to T'Nab that Dr. McCoy had reviewed the case.
"Yes, and I'm afraid there's no doubt about it," McCoy picked up. "Every moment of delay now is endangering the boy's sight, and even his life."
"Just as I told you two days ago, T'Nab," Piper interposed.
"T'Nab, do you care at all for that child?"
"Such a question is irrel--"
"You say you're responsible for him."
"But if he means anything to you-- "
"Dr. Piper. Such questions are highly inappropriate, and even counterproductive," Spock interrupted sternly. "T'Nab is responsible for the child. That includes care for his well-being. The decision must be hers."
T'Nab turned away for a moment. Then she said, "Spock, have you also reviewed the findings?"
"Yes. I agree with Dr. McCoy. Furthermore, I can assure you that he is trustworthy."
McCoy's blush surprised the Vulcan, who had simply stated a fact. Spock noted that the doctor also looked surprised, but filed that for future reference as he awaited T'Nab's reply.
"One question, please. What is your estimation of the possibility of success, Doctor?"
"You'll just have to take my-- "
"There are many variables. However, I would estimate approximately a 75% chance if the operation takes place immediately. Delay would diminish that percentage by approximately--"
"Thank you, Doctor. Dr. Piper, you may operate." T'Nab imprinted the form Piper extended, and bowed as he left. The Enterprise men rose.
"May we escort you to the hospital?" Kirk asked.
"I thank you."
Late that evening McCoy looked in on Spock and found him awake. "Well, the boy's down in post-op. Condition stable."
"Thank you, Doctor."
"You're off on the shuttle tomorrow?"
"Well, rest up."
"I shall. Thank you for your care."
McCoy paused fractionally, then said, "Just part of our regular service. I'll see you in three weeks. Good night."
"Good night, Doctor." Spock quickly snapped off the lights; the floor nurse was a female edition of Piper and he didn't wish to be visited by her again. "Humans," he thought, appending a Vulcan adjective. "However," he reminded himself, "it is only logical to concede that there are other kinds." He lay back and composed himself for sleep.