DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Esther Lemay and is copyright (c) 1983 by Esther Lemay. This story is Rated PG.

We Are Starmet

Esther Lemay

Part I

Spock was quite pleased. Things had gone well and none of the problems he had anticipated had arisen. He had been skeptical when he heard that the research biologist he was to remain on Arcadia with for six weeks was to be Christine Chapel. They were to complete the compilation of the last necessary data before a permanent research and mining operation was established there.

A small freighter had come by two weeks before and taken the bulk of the larger ore samples, leaving them alone on the remote planet. The original personnel from the research station left at that time. They wished to get back with the samples so they could begin analysis at once. They were very excited about the possibilities. This remote, uninhabited planet, close to the border of the Klingon Empire seemed to be a veritable treasure trove. There were traces of numerous rare elements and even some dilithium. News of this could not get out until the planet could be protected from random plundering.

Now, as the two of them were trying to complete the packing of the last of their data and materials, both felt a definite sense of accomplishment and a comfortable camaraderie. He admired the quiet efficiency with which Christine worked, something he hadn't noticed before.

Spock was attired in coveralls worn when collecting dirty ore samples. He had done some that morning and had not changed yet.

Christine was quite pleased with herself. Ecstatic when she first received the news of the assignment, she soon calmed and realized she would have to use all the emotional controls she possessed. She determined to embarrass neither Spock nor herself or do anything to spoil one of the infrequent chances she ever got to spend any real length of time with Spock. Of course, they worked together on the Enterprise, but this would be different and she vowed to show Spock he was not the only one who had control of his emotions. She didn't know if she were the one most qualified for the assignment, though she had a degree in research biology, or if this were some whimsy of Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy. They loved to tease Spock, but she was going to enjoy the opportunity whatever the reason for it. She was also going to do the job to the best of her abilities.

As they worked quietly, both were startled to instant attention by the sudden slamming of the door to the small installation. A small group of Klingons raced in, weapons drawn, eyes searching the room. They saw just the two unarmed occupants and subsided, keeping their weapons at the ready. They signaled to someone still outside.

Another Klingon, obviously in command, strode into the room. He glanced at Spock then turned to Christine.

"Are there any more of you and if so where are they?"

Startled, neither Spock nor Christine replied at once. The Klingon stepped closer to Christine and slapped her. Spock moved only slightly then halted again.

"Answer me," he hissed at her.

"Violence will not be necessary. We will answer your questions," Spock stated quietly.

"Silence, Vulcan. I will get to you shortly. I know you will cooperate. You Vulcans are known for your aversion to violence, something we refer to as cowardice."

He was answered by Spock's stoic stare.

"First I will have some answers from our Starfleet representative," the Klingon said.

Spock's eyebrow rose slightly then swiftly lowered. The coverall he had worn to collect those specimens earlier had led the Klingons to believe he was not important, but Christine was wearing her uniform. Civilian researchers often worked on certain projects with Starfleet personnel.

"Now, what is your name?" he growled as he turned back to Christine.

"Chapel," she said quietly.

"Excellent, excellent. What is your job here?"

Since it wasn't a breach of any security, she told him, "I am a nurse. I'm doing medical research."

"Better and better," he purred. "I have some wounded that need medical attention badly, including my first officer. You can tend them while we make our repairs. My medical officer is dead and our sickbay destroyed."

Christine said with dignity, "I do not wish to aid our enemies."

What she really wanted, very badly, was for them to leave, and soon, as the Enterprise was expected to return for them that day. She did not wan the Klingon ship to be there as a welcoming committee.

Her hopes were immediately dashed when the Klingon smirked and said, "Perhaps you'd rather give your attention to the crew of the Federation ship we encountered. I understand they suffered quite heavy losses."

Spock, who had remained silent, stepped forward at this point to ask a question and remind the Klingon he was there. "What was the name of the ship with which you did battle?"

The Klingon turned and viciously backhanded Spock. "I told you to quiet. I will get to you in good time."

Spock's eyes were hard but his rigid control held him in check. He was mainly concerned for Christine's safety and the armed guards decided this encounter in the Klingons' favor. He would wait for a more auspicious moment, when they were not so carefully guarded or when Christine was not present. He stepped back.

The Klingon turned to confront Christine again. She was biting her lip to keep from raging at him and trying not to look at Spock.

"I am Klar," he said. "It isn't often that I get to converse with Starfleet personnel. We will have much to talk about. However, at this moment, I wish to know the name of your ship and when they are to onto return for you." She glanced at Spock and then away, and was silent. "I will have my questions answered!" Klar roared.

He turned to Spock again and said, "Since you seem so anxious to speak, perhaps you will answer me. Who are you and what ship brought for a short here?"

"I am Spock," he stated simply, but before he could go on, Christine blurted, "He is my assistant."

Klar ignored her and repeated to Spock, "What ship brought you here?"

"I am not at liberty to reply," Spock stated.

Christine broke in quickly, "I am the official Starfleet representative here."

Spock glanced quickly at her, but understood and was silent.

Klar, however, was not stupid. He was well aware that Christine was trying to distract him from Spock, but he wrongly assumed it was because Vulcans were known for their veracity and she feared his answering with the truth instead of her evasions. She just wanted to spare Spock further physical abuse. Klar was obviously not a patient man.

Klar nodded to two of the guards who moved in rapidly and knocked Spock's feet out from under him, causing him to fall heavily before he could catch himself. Christine fumed as one of them kicked him in the side as he began to rise. She heard him gasp, but no other sound. When he rose he faced Klar who was sneering at him. Klar turned rapidly and caught an expression on Christine's face that told him he had an advantage here. She regained her self control as he demanded again, "The name of your ship?"

She stared at him silently with hatred in her eyes. He smiled and nodded without even turning around. There was the sound of a scuffle and heavy breathing and again Spock fell heavily to the floor. This time he was also kicked in the side of the head. As he began to rise Christine saw the guard on Spock's right smile as he prepared to stamp his heavy boot down on Spock's hand, with which he was trying to lift himself again. Spock's head was down and he did not seem to be aware of what was about to happen. All his fingers would be crushed. With a quickness born of desperation, Christine leaped forward and screamed, "No!" as she shoved the guard away with all her might. Klar seized her and the guard, regaining his balance, stepped forward and vengefully stared at Christine, then kicked Spock in the head again. This time he fell unconscious.

Christine took a deep breath and a big gamble that the Klingons were not informed about the whereabouts of all Federation vessels.

"We're waiting for the Defiant," she raged at him. "Now does that satisfy you?"

"I'm glad to see you have decided to be reasonable," he said. "You could have spared the Vulcan a great deal of pain if you had done so sooner. What is he to you and why did you risk your life defending him?"

"I've told you, he is my research assistant. I realize that we will have to take care of your men and I will need his assistance for that. Had his hand been irreparably damaged, I might not be able to do this alone."

Klar seemed satisfied with her information and her explanation for the moment. He gave orders to have two of his wounded officers beamed to the lab since all that was left of their sickbay was a mass of twisted debris.

Christine demanded that the guards put Spock on an examining table in a partitioned area in the rear of the lab. It was standard equipment in these remote locations. That area was outfitted as a small clinic. She also asked that the guards wait at the door while she tended to him and she could compose herself.

Now that his demands were met, Klar was satisfied to humor her for the moment. He usually didn't humor anyone for very long or keep them around much after they'd served the pu rpose he had for them.

The two Klingon guards unceremoniously grabbed Spock's arms and legs and very ungently dropped him on the table, his right arm and leg dangling over the side. Christine cringed as she heard his body slam onto the table. They grinned at her as they assumed posts at the door. Klar told her to be quick about rousing Spock and getting him ready to help her with the wounded. Then he stalked out and she slumped against Spock's body and the table, grateful to be rid of them, even if only for a short time.

Gently, she lifted Spock's leg and pushed it onto the table. She grasped his hand and her iron resolve to control her emotions weakened. She held it in both her own, briefly touched it to her lips and shuddered to think what it would look like now had the guard smashed it for his sadistic pleasure. Then she smiled to remember the last time she had held his hand. She shook herself back to business and placed his arm on the table. She ran a medical scanner over him; no broken ribs, thank heavens. No concussion either. Blood glistened from a scrape on his jaw and she gently wiped it away. As she did so, Spock's eyes opened and she jumped, startled.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

He hesitated for a moment then replied, "I am."

He tried to sit up and she saw him wince slightly, but knew he would not admit to either the pain or weakness. She was reassured by her scanner readings and knew he really wasn't seriously injured.

"I must speak with you quickly, now that the Klingons have left us alone for a few moments," he said in a low voice.

"I've got a few things to tell you, too," she said.

"First," Spock said in a whisper, "we must not tell them anything about the Enterprise or when it will return for us. Perhaps they will be gone or Captain Kirk may catch them unawares when he arrives. We must try to speed their departure and, if possible, find out what other ship was involved in the battle they spoke of."

Christine interrupted him to tell him what she had done.

"I don't know how long the lie will hold up. Do they have any way to check on the Defiant?"

"I don't know,"' Spock answered thoughtfully. "Let us concentrate on the existing situation."

"I told them you were my research assistant," she said.

"An interesting deception but it may not satisfy him for too long. Soon he will inquire into my status again, more thoroughly."

"Spock, he must not find out who you really are. You will not be safe if he should find out you are a commanding officer in Starfleet."

Spock looked at her with a hint of amusement. "You must also monitor your behavior carefully. Klar mast not be able to use your emotional reactions to me as a weapon against us. If he suspects you have any feelings for me, he will use them ruthlessly."

She flushed and realized that Spock was probably not totally unconscious before and told herself that to have made the same mistake twice was ridiculous.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Spock. I swore that I wouldn't embarrass either of us this way."

"The pressure of the circumstances," he suggested softly.

She smiled then became serious again. "I understand what you are saying. Let's tend to his wounded and perhaps he'll be as anxious to be away as we to be rid of him. Let's hope the Enterprise is late."

Suddenly the door was opening and a small party of Klingons entered. Klar was with them.

"Are you through tending to the Vulcan, Miss Chapel?"

"Yes," she replied. "I am ready to carry out my part of our bargain."

Spock slid off the table and stood unobtrusively to one side. Klar's men set up another table and two patients were transported down. With the actual physical presence of the wounded, Christine's training and experience almost reflexively took over. She gestured to Spock and he stepped forward to assist her. She turned to Klar and asked that the guards remain outside at the door so they could work uninterrupted and without falling over each other in the small area. She also hoped that would give her and Spock an opportunity to talk quietly and per haps come up with a plan of escape.

* * *

Jim Kirk scribbled his name to the fuel consumption report and handed it back to the yeoman patiently waiting for it. He seemed slightly distracted, though the bridge was quiet and normal. He was restless with no reason.

He heard the whoosh of the turbolift door and turned to see McCoy striding onto the bridge.

"Well, Jim, what's new?" the doctor asked, rocking back and forth, heel to toe, his hands clasped behind his back. Kirk answered with a non-committal shrug. "How long till we reach Arcadia?"

"What's the rush, Bones?"

"I hate to admit it, but it's kind of quiet around here with Spock gone -- and don't you dare quote me. And I sure have missed Christine. I didn't realize how much I depended on her 'til she was gone for a while."

"Why don't you tell her that when she gets back?" Jim suggested.

McCoy chuckled and looked knowing. "I wonder how she and Spock managed these past weeks ... *alone*."

"Bones!" Jim reproved. "Are you suggesting that any hanky-panky went on between Spock and Christine?"

McCoy smirked and raised and lowered both eyebrows a few times. Kirk wasn't entirely successful in suppressing a chortle at the thought and both men broke into laughter.

"Actually, Jim," McCoy said, regaining a bit of his composure, "I'm sure Christine was on her best behavior. She really cares for Spock and I know as badly as she wants it to be mutual, she's realistic enough to face the truth of the situation. I actually feel a little sorry for her. Maybe the best thing she could do for herself would be to transfer off the Enterprise."

"That's her business, Bones, and you yourself admitted she's too damn good to lose. And to answer your question, if you even remember it anymore, we will enter orbit around Arcadia in 15 hours. I miss Spock, too, but don't tell him I said so or he'll be insufferable."

"Not any more than usual," McCoy chuckled.

"Dr. McCoy," Uhura interrupted from her station. "You're needed in sick bay. Ensign Chong slipped and they think his ankle is fractured."

The surgeon heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Well, duty calls." He thumped Kirk on the shoulder and turned to re-enter the turbolift. Jim shot him a good-natured look and shook his head, then directed his attention back to the main screen.

From their respective stations, the rest of the bridge crew all smiled surreptitiously at the exchange. They had been treated to very few entertaining bits of repartee since Spock had been gone.

"Captain," Uhura suddenly said, "there's something coming in over Starfleet channels. A freighter, the S.S. Santa Clara, carrying dilithium crystals, was attacked at the edge of this quadrant by a Klingon vessel. The Klingon was routed by the sudden arrival of the U.S.S. Hood, which was on patrol in that sector. The Hood sustained damage and was unable to give chase and Captain deHaas reports that the Klingons also sustained damage, possibly to their warp drive system. They were headed in our general direction, probably towards a Klingon base beyond us for repairs."

"Acknowledge, Lieutenant," Kirk answered.

Suddenly he sat forward opening his eyes wide. Arcadia was the class M planet in this area. What if the Klingons decided to stop there for emergency repairs? It was uninhabited as far as they knew. Spock and Christine could be in danger. He turned towards Scotty, who, anticipating him, said, "I'll get more speed out of her, sir."

Kirk rose and paced tensely for a few minutes then told Scotty he had the conn and he would be in sickbay if anything came up. "Set scanners at maximum range and call me if you pick up anything."

"Yes, sir," Chekov replied and went to the science station.

* * *

The two Klingons were not so badly wounded that their treatment was beyond Christine's skills. She and Spock worked well together and very soon both patients were resting comfortably under sedation to lessen their pain. Christine said that if they received prompt medical attention once they reached their destination they should both survive.

"Ironic we should be saving the lives of our enemies," she sighed.

"Miss Chapel, you must realize that Klar will be ready to depart soon. I am sure they must have completed repairs on their ship during this time. I do not wish to alarm you but surely you are aware that Klar's need for our services will soon be over. Once their immediate crisis is past, he will begin to inquire into our status again. He will also want more complete information about our ship." She hesitated then said, "Mr. Spock, perhaps he will keep his word; we have kept ours. He's got what he wanted. Maybe he will just go and leave us here."

"I do not believe that integrity is a Klingon strongpoint. We must be logical and expect them to behave in a predictable manner. The Klingons possess a formidable weapon called a mind sifter. I would not like to see either of us subjected to it. There will be a more thorough search soon and they will find my uniform."

"It was sheer luck you weren't wearing it when they arrived. Thank heavens for those last ore samples you had to take this morning. Was it only this morning..." She trailed off.

Spock stopped her meandering thoughts by ordering, "Put a few necessities together for us. I am going to try to engineer our escape. We will try to elude them until the Enterprise arrives."

"Mr. Spock, can't we try to wait here? You could be killed. We are outnumbered and you know how vicious they are. They seem to especially hate Vulcans."

Spock raised one eyebrow and commented wryly, "Miss Chapel, think how it would delight them to have as their prisoner a *Federation officer* who is a Vulcan. Do not allow the informality of the past weeks to cause you to forget that I am in commend here and you will follow my orders."

"Yes, Mr. Spock."

His firmness had its desired effect and she was all efficiency again. As she collected a medi-kit, a blanket and a few rations and made these into a small bundle, Spock said, "Go to the door and tell one of the guards that one of our patients is mumbling something you cannot understand. They will not both leave their posts and when he comes in, I will endeavor to relieve him of his weapon."

She placed the bundle of their belongings in an unobtrusive spot near the door and tapped on the plasteel surface. One of the guards slid the door open and growled at her, "What do you want?"

She replied with an effectively fearful quaver in her ice. "One of the patients seems to be asking for something or someone. I can't understand him."

He gestured to the other guard to remain at the door and followed Christine into the room, shoving her ahead of him. Spock was bending over the examining table ostensibly working with the patient. The guard grabbed his upper arm and swung him away from the table. As he bent close to the mouth of the patient, Spock quietly pivoted on one foot and effectively applied the Vulcan nerve pinch.

Christine breath ed a huge sigh of relief, but her eyes were still widely staring. She watched as Spock lifted hin off the patient and pushed him on the floor behind the examining table, relieving him of his weapon.

"Quickly now, smash some bottles and shout a few times. The other guard will be drawn to what he believes to be a struggle."

Spock stood just inside and to the right of the door. Once the Klingon was a few steps into the room, he too fell victim to Spock's nerve pinch.

"Well done, Miss Chapel." As he relieved the guard of his weapon as well, he said, "Let us try to leave this area unobserved before Klar's return."

She gathered the small bundle into her arms and quickly followed him out the door. Both stopped and visually searched the surrounding area as far as they could.

Spock would have given anything to have his tricorder, but unfortunately it was in his room along with his communicator, phaser and tell-tale uniform. There had been no need for those today. Their agenda had been to prepare all the specimens for transport and to collect those last few samples.

Since no one seemed to be in the vicinity, they hunched low and slowly worked around to the rear of the building, then ran towards the wooded area not far behind the lab building.

They reached the shelter of the trees, seemingly unobserved. Spock took the bundle from Christine's arms and handed her one of the weapons. He looked at her inquiringly.

She perceived what he meant and said, "Don't worry, Mr. Spock. I can and will use this, if necessary." Especially, she thought, before I'll let them lay their hands on him again.

He raised one eyebrow at her vehemence then gestured forward and they set off at a hurried pace.

* * *

Emergency repair operations were under way and the two wounded were being treated. Klar decided to do a little thorough searching of the small building which contained living quarters for the staff here.

There were a few small cubicles, not luxurious by any means, but adequate for so remote a location. A bed, a chair and desk, a closet and a small chest of drawers, and a small window in each. Unless the occupant chose to bring mementos or pictures, there was no ornamentation.

The nurse's quarters were neat and impersonal. Obviously she had not planned on a long stay. He was correct about a ship having to come for them, but when? He would have to get more information out of her. She was tough and cool -- except -- except, he had caught something in her

reactions to the beating the guards had inflicted on the Vulcan. Well, he would learn all he needed from her later, or there would be one dead Vulcan.

He was another mystery. Vulcans were cold, logical and efficient. They were also very strong and were not totally adverse to violence, when necessary. He had been holding back, but why?

Klar wondered if the guards he left would be aware of this and not underestimate the Vulcan because he *allowed* them to overpower him so easily. There would be a great deal to talk about when he finished here.

He stepped into Spock's room next. If Christine's was orderly and bare, his was even more so. In the closet were some more of the coveralls that scientists wore on their specimen gathering forays. He started to turn away, then reached further into the small closet. Pushed all the way to one side he caught a glint of gold, a reflection bouncing off the braid on the sleeve of Spock's uniform tunic.

Klar's breath caught in his throat as he the shirt and yanked it out. A Starfleet officer's uniform and a commander's at that! What a coup! He probed further but the closet held no more secrets. Klar ransacked the drawers and discovered Spock's phaser, tricorder and communicator, all bearing the ID plate of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

He was in an envious position. He could be the only Captain to ever bring back a Federation officer of command rank alive for the mind sifter.

He left the room rapidly, tossing the shirt in a heap on the bed. He broke into a run towards the research station, savoring the reaction of his superiors when he informed them of his prize.

As he neared the building, he slowed and gasped. Where were his guards? If they dared to leave their posts... He doubled his speed.

Klar drew his weapon and gingerly pushed open the door to the station. There was the body of one guard, just inside, on the floor. A careful look confirmed that he was alive, just unconscious. The other was soon located in his quiet corner and there were the two patients, sleeping peacefully, but no nurse and no Vulcan.

"Damn!" Klar's anger and frustration knew no bounds. To have his triumph so rudely ripped from his grasp-- If either of the guards had been awake, he might have killed him.

He collected himself quickly and called for an armed search party, then had the wounded transported back to the ship. When he inquired into the ship's status, he was told that it was repaired to the best of their abilities here. They would need additional parts to complete the repairs. They did not have warp capability and their shields were weakened. The status of the weapons could only be told with use. Their engineer doubted they could be fired too many times; their power reserves were low.

The rational thing to do would be to swallow his rage and frustration at being so easily deceived and leave for home, the safety of his ship and crew his prime concern. But Klar was anything but rational at this moment. Up to now his mission had been unsuccessful and he wanted that Vulcan! He would not lose his prize so easily. It might make up for his failure to seize the freighter and the dilithium crystals. He ordered them to maintain radio silence and rushed off after Spock and Christine.

* * *

"Sulu," Kirk ordered,"as we begin to approach Arcadia, slow to one-half impulse power. Chekov, set all scanners at maximum range, and I want to know if we pick up *anything*. I want to know if that Klingon ship is there. Uhura, monitor all channels. Spock should be on his designated frequency."

There was a chorus of "Yes, sirs."

"Wish there was something I could do, Jim," McCoy said. "Don't mind admitting I'm nervous as a cat."

"Bones, we don't know if there *is* anything to worry about. Just because the Klingon ship was reported heading this way, there's a lot of space out there. We don't know how badly they were damaged. Maybe they didn't get this far."

"Then how come you're worried? Don't bother to deny it; your friendly ship's doctor can tell, believe me."

"Okay, I admit it. I'm worried, but I'll bet the odds of the Klingons ending up at Arcadia are ... astronomical."

"Too bad Spock isn't here to compute them for you, Jim," McCoy smiled.

Softly, from Spock's station, a voice said, "39,262.18 to one."

McCoy stopped smiling and looked at Chekov, startled. So did Him Kirk.

"I put it through the computer," the Russian, stammered. "I was just trying to make a little joke."

Kirk exchanged a glance with McCoy and both burst out laughing. The rest of the bridge crew joined in and Chekov heaved a sigh of relief.

"Wait 'til I tell Spock how hard Chekov tried to take over his job, Jim," McCoy laughed. That set them off again.

Somehow Chekov didn't find that joke as funny as the others did.

"Captain, we are at maximum scanner range now," spoke up Sulu, already slowing the ship's forward motion.

Everyone sobered and applied full attention to their sensors and panels and the bridge became very quiet.

Captain Kirk sat forward in his chair, his hand supporting his chin and his forefinger moving across his upper lip. McCoy hadn't told him, but when he assumed that position it was a dead giveaway that he was worried about something.

* * *

Spock and Christine were headed towards a hilly area about two miles from the research station. Spock remembered seeing some openings in the rocks above them as they worked collecting specimens. He hoped that one might prove to be large enough to offer them temporary shelter. He maintained a pace he anticipated she could keep up with.

Klar took a dozen armed guards and they headed into the woods. He assumed they would try to find a hiding place rather than outdistance them. The Vulcan alone might have been able to, but not handicapped by the limitations of the woman, and he would be fool enough to reduce his chances of escape rather than abandon her. Weaklings and fools, he thought. That is what will ultimately result in our victory over the Federation.

As they neared the hills Spock slowed their pace a little more. He wanted Christine to have enough strength left to climb to whatever shelter he could find for them. He had to admit she had not complained or asked him to stop, even though he could see she was tiring. She had not panicked at any time during their entire ordeal and he admired her stamina and control. He had always tended to avoid her unless their work brought them together. He knew her feelings for him and did not desire to encourage them in any way, but lie had to admit her behavior was exemplary during their stay here and any misgivings he had had at first were quickly dispelled. She had maintained a rigid control over her emotions and he soon realized how skillful and intelligent she was.

The only sounds were their footsteps and her ragged breathing. Damn him, she thought. He wasn't even breathing hard. She would not allow him to see signs of weakness and vowed not to slow them down. Foremost in her mind as they ran was the thought that his danger was more acute than hers should they be recaptured.

Finally, he stopped and she gratefully sank to the ground to catch her breath. He scanned the area, looking for a possible place of concealment for them. He saw what appeared to be a fairly large opening high above them. He could not tell from there if it were. large enough or deep enough to conceal them both.

He dropped the small bundle at her side and said, "I shall attempt to reach that cleft in the rocks."

She was grateful for the chance to rest a little longer. Her legs were trembling from the unaccustomed exertion.

He began to climb slowly, by finger and toe holds, assessing her ability to follow him should this prove a likely spot.

Her breathing was starting to return to normal as she watched him inch his way up towards what she hoped was where they would spend the night. Despite her good intentions, she doubted her physical ability to go much further. At that moment, she heard a strange sound and looked around trying to see what was causing it. Then she realized it was the side of the hill Spock was climbing. It was a sort of hissing groan and it was getting louder.

Spock had heard it too and seemed to be trying to back down the hillside rapidly. He shouted to her to get away from the foot of the hill quickly. As she scrambled away clutching their meager bundle, the whole side of the hill started to come down.

Apparently what had appeared solid ground was a loosely set load of rocks with a shale covering and his weight had loosened it all. The descent of the rubble was increasing in speed and the noise grew into a roar.

She saw Spock lose his hold and begin to roll down the hillside amid the rocks. He rolled over and over and came to rest near the bottom of the hill, but fortunately off to one side and away from the path the bulk of the slide seemed to follow. He was still partially covered with debris when the slide came to an end.

She dared not scream, though it took every ounce of control she possessed not to. She ran to where he lay and began to dig hin out. Aside from being covered with dirt and grit, he seemed unharmed. She brushed his hair lightly to rid it of dirt. Then she glanced down and gasped; there was a fairly large rock that held his leg pinned to the ground.

He opened his eyes and asked hoarsely, "Are you alright?"

"Your leg..." she said, as he sat up.

Together they were able to move the rock so he could slide his leg out from under it.

"I should be able to walk. It is not broken." He stood and gingerly tested the leg. He would limp, but he could walk; he could control the pain for now.

"Hopefully," she said, "we will not have to go too much further."

Suddenly, Klar and his men were all around them, drawn to the area by the sound of the rockslide.

"You will not have to go *any* further, Miss Chapel," Klar purred. "Just *back*. To the station. I trust *you* will be able to walk that far, *Commander* Spock." The gloating tone of his voice was obvious.

Christine started to reach for her weapon, but Spock gestured for her to stop. They were hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded.

"Search them," Klar barked.

Christine was quickly relieved of her weapon and the bundle's contents were scattered wildly. Spock's weapon had been swept away by the rocks as he fell.

"Very well, let us return at once," Klar ordered. "Now I am as anxious as you once were for us to be gone before the return of your ship. I will not attempt to bind you, Commander, as I am aware of your Vulcan strength, but I warn you, any escape attempt will result in the immediate death of Miss Chapel."

"I understand you, Captain," Spock said quietly.

They headed back with one guard on each side of Christine and the rest loosely grouped around Spock. The two that he had tricked and overpowered at the station took every opportunity to push Spock along, causing him to fall once or twice when his injured leg gave way.

Christine was on the verge of screaming at them to leave him alone when Klar spoke, "You are delaying us! There will be plenty of time to enjoy the Vulcan's company on our return voyage. We will all spend many hours together."

Christine cringed at Klar's insinuations. Spock had outwitted him and he didn't seem the type to take that lightly. The guards, made to look incompetent, would not be adverse to inflicting some punishment of their own for revenge. Her control was finally beginning to crack and she did not think she could maintain her cool facade too much longer.

* * *

"Captain," Chekov said, "there is something there. Just coming into range, orbiting the planet."

"Well, it looks like despite the odds the Klingons are here," Kirk said. "Uhura, keep monitoring all frequencies. Perhaps Spock and Christine were able to elude them and are trying to contact us."

"Yes, sir."

Captain," Chekov spoke again, "I'm getting very low power readings from their ship. They may be badly damaged."

"Aye," Scotty confirmed. "They may not have warp capability."

"They're still dangerous," Kirk replied. He paused and added, "They may have Spock and Chapel. We'll have to proceed with caution. Go to red alert. If Spock were trying to reach us, we'd have picked up his signal by now. No point in calling them and alerting the Klingons to their presence if they don't already know they're there. Just keep monitoring for a message on his frequency. Ahead one quarter impulse power. Let's just ask these Klingons if they're lost."

* * *

Once on the ship, Klar had Christine and Spock put into security holding cells on opposite sides of the same corridor.

As Spock was roughly shoved into his cell, Klar tossed his uniform in after him. He had sent one of his men to retrieve it when they went out with the search party.

"Put it on," he ordered. "I want you properly attired."

The force fields were activated and they were left alone for the moment. Guards were stationed at the ends of the corridor, the same two as at the station. Klar reasoned that they would be even more on the alert and try to atone for their errors on the planet.

Spock picked up his uniform and neatly laid it on the cot in the cell. He sighed and sat down next to it, gently easing his injured leg out in front of him.

In her cell, Christine sank onto her cot totally exhausted and finally emotions she could no longer control poured out and she began to cry.

Spock heard her but, uncomfortable even with the thought of emotion, he was unable to comfort her.

Spock knew he could not allow himself to be used by the Klingons to obtain information about the Federation. In necessary, with Vulcan techniques, he could retreat into his own mind. Would it be beyond the limits the mind sifter was capable of reaching? He did not know. It was said that it could totally empty the mind. Could he go deep enough to escape its probings? Even if he did, would he ever be able to find his way out again? Whatever the consequences, he would retreat from them, when it became necessary, even if it were at the cost of his own existence. He had been ready to sacrifice his life many times before, this time he would give it another way.

Christine was another matter, though. There were no defenses she could use against the effects of the mind sifter. There was a form of mind meld that he could offer her which would establish a shield for her, but if his mind were destroyed, he could never release her. She would be just as if she were subjected to the mind sifter. He would have to discuss this with her at the first opportunity.

Christine had stopped crying and Spock heard her breathing subside into the measured cadence of sleep. He quickly stepped out of the filthy and ragged coverall and slipped into his uniform. Old habits died hard and he neatly folded the cast-off coverall and placed it on one end of the cot, then he sat down and steepled his fingers in front of him in a simple Vulcan relaxation technique.

Klar was on the bridge preparing to depart when his helmsman reported another ship on his sensors. It was at extreme range, but closing and its configuration and size were that of a Federation starship.

"Damn," Klar muttered. "Will nothing go right on this mission?"

He knew they could not outran this Federation ship, but he held a high ranking officer as his hostage and knew that they would not want any harm to come to him. I wll have to deal with their Captain, he thought. I will not be deprived of my prize.

* * *

"Uhura, open a channel to that ship. I want a word with her Captain," Jim Kirk ordered. "And put it on visual."

"Channel open, sir," she replied shortly.

"This is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Identify yourselves and explain the purpose of your presence here."

Klar smiled nastily as he said, "I am Captain Klar. I believe all I need tell you at the moment is that I now have in my security cells two of your personnel. If you don't want them harmed, you will allow us to leave here now."

There was a silence on the bridge as this news was digested. Scotty stepped down beside him, looking concerned. "Sir, d'ya think he could be lying? They could be in hiding on the planet, or..."

"Or already dead," Kirk finished for him. He felt a gut wrenching sense of loss already; the situation was not good. Too bad he couldn't cut off his emotions like Spock ... Spock ...

He told Klar, "When I see the prisoners and that they are alive and unharmed, then we will talk terms."

"Very well, Captain Kirk. I shall have them brought to the bridge shortly. However, I do not think there are any terms to discuss. I have them and unless you allow us to leave here, I will kill them--it's very simple." He abruptly ended the transmission.

He called below and ordered the guards to bring Spock and Christine to the bridge at once and to watch them carefully, especially the Vulcan.

When they arrived on the bridge, Spock had a bloody nose.

"What happened now?" exploded Klar.

"He wouldn't move fast enough, " one of the guards sneered. "We urged him along a little."

"You idiot," Klar snapped and advanced on the guard furiously. "I told you there was time for that later. He has to look well; his captain wants to see him."

The Enterprise -- it's here, Spock thought, but gave no visible sign of even having heard Klar.

His face dark with anger, the Klingon captain backhanded the guard hard then turned back to face Spock. "Wipe away that blood and stand here, both of you. We are going to re-establish contact with your ship so your Captain can see you're both well ... so far. I warn you against any attempt to speak unless I order it. Is that clear?"

* * *

On the Enterprise, Kirk was faced with a terrible dilemma. He could not allow Spock to be taken alive for the Klingons to probe his mind; it would be like giving them a computer printout on Starfleet. He, Scotty and McCoy were standing at the engineering station discussing the situation very softly.

"I can see only one way out of this, gentlemen," he said. "If I must, I will destroy their ship entirely, with Spock and Christine still aboard. I cannot allow the Klingons access to all the knowledge they possess."

"Jim," McCoy whispered fiercely, "you can't just kill them -- that's what you'd be doin'."

"Bones, if there were any other alternatives..."

"Unless they surrender them, I can't see any other way either," Scotty put in. "I'll have to agree wi' ye. But I don't like it one bit."

McCoy shook his head sorrowfully. "Poor Christine. She doesn't even have any vital information."

"You know they wouldn't believe her, Bones. Besides she does have information about this planet. Would you want to condemn her to a mindless existence?"

"No ... you're right, Jim. But it's the worst decision we ever had to make. And I mean *we*. I don't want you carryin' all the guilt. It's a mutual decision."

"Aye," said Scotty.

"Captain," Uhura spoke up. "Captain Klar says he is ready for you to see the prisoners."

Kirk settled into the command chair as the main screen the Klingon's hard face.

"Ready, Captain Kirk?" asked Klar.

"Yes," Kirk replied tersely.

Klar gestured and Spock and Christine stepped forward. Everyone on the Enterprise bridge breathed a sigh of relief. They had a few bruises and Spock seemed to limp, but they were alive and seemed unharmed.

"Spock," Kirk began.

"Captain," Klar interrupted. "You said you wished to see them and you have. You did not ask to speak to them."

"Captain," Kirk replied, "unless they speak to me and I see they are still in possession of their faculties, I still won't know if they *are* unharmed."

"Just a moment," Klar answered and the image faded.

Kirk didn't realize he was holding his breath until the image returned.

"I will allow them each to say a few words and that will be the end of it, Kirk. The time for your demands will be over and mine will begin.."

"Very well," Kirk said, swallowing his anger.

Christine stepped forward and said, "I have not been harmed in any way, Captain."

Klar gestured and she stepped back.

Spock limped forward. "I also have not--" He abruptly stopped and rapidly said, "I concur with your decision, Jim."

The image abruptly faded out.

On the Klingon ship, Klar angrily pushed Spock backwards towards the guards. Christine grabbed his arm to keep him from falling.

"Take them away," he raged. "I hope you enjoyed the last of your acts of bravado, Commander Spock. We will discuss it later, at leisure."

The guards rushed them back to the security area and shoved them both into a cell, reactivating the force field.

The moment the image faded, everyone on the bridge of the Enterprise began talking at once. The word Kirk kept hearing all around him "decision."

He raised his arm and everyone quieted at once.

"I have to tell you all what Spock has already understood. Signal this to all decks."

Uhura pushed the necessary buttons and he began to speak softly.

"The Klingons have taken Commander Spock and Lt. Chapel as prisoners. We cannot allow the Klingons to return home with them alive because they would provide the Klingons with vital knowledge they *must* not have. My only decision *must* be that if they do not surrender their prisoners, alive, I must destroy that ship and all who are aboard her. That would be a required command decision even were it I who were the hostage. Kirk out."

"Captain," Uhura and Chekov spoke almost as one. "Mr. Spock-- You can't!"

"I have no choice," he said through clenched teeth.

There was dead silence.

"Uhura, please re-establish contact with that ship. I must deliver my ultimatum to Klar."

* * *

"Mr. Spock," Christine asked, "what did you mean when you told Captain Kirk you concurred with his decision?"

"Miss Chapel, the Captain has just had to decide that in order to prevent the Klingons access to our minds, he must not allow them to leave with us ... alive."

"You mean he will destroy the entire ship with us on it?"

"It's a required command decision, an absolute, the Klingons must not learn what we know."

Her eyes went blank for a moment as she digested this disclosure. "Yes, I can see that would be his only solution. It's a hell of a decision to have to make."

She knew that he was the only one that had any information the Klingons could want. She didn't really resent dying just because he was too valuable to be allowed to fall into enemy hands. She shuddered to think of him existing mindlessly after being subjected to whatever the Klingons could devise. She was drawn back to reality by the sound of his voice.

"What were you saying?" she asked. "I wasn't paying attention."

"I said that I had to discuss something important with you. I explained what the results of being subjected to the mind sifter would be." He held up his hand to halt her interruption. "If we survive this confrontation with the Enterprise, there is a way I could protect you from its effects. There is a form of Vulcan mind meld that could provide you with a shield against it; however, if my mind is irreparably damaged, I would not be able to release you and you would be trapped behind the shield. The only difference would be that the Klingons would not have benefitted in any way from our abduction."

"Please, Mr. Spock, I don't believe I'm capable of a rational decision right now. Let me think about it."

* * *

Klar accepted the signal from the Enterprise. "Well, Captain Kirk, now that you see that I do have two of your crew as my prisoners, are we ready to talk terms?"

Kirk replied, "Here are the terms, Klar -- you will release both prisoners unharmed within the hour or I'll destroy your ship and all aboard her."

"Captain," Klar purred. "You would kill your own people? I doubt that. You are just using empty threats. *We* would do it, but you are too spineless for that sort of thing."

Kirk sat forward in his seat, his gaze rock steady. "*Try me*. You have one hour. Do not attempt to leave orbit." Straightening in dismissal, he cut the transmission. "All hands to battle stations," he ordered quietly and Uhura punched in red alert over the ship's intercom. As the klaxon sounded, Kirk told Sulu, "Be prepared for him to make a fast break out of orbit."

"Aye, sir."

The Captain cupped his chin and sat forward in the command chair again, assuming unconsciously what McCoy would have called his worry position. It was going to be a very long hour.

* * *

The Klingon bridge was in turmoil. Klar's men were not anxious to die for his advancement. The mission had deteriorated their morale and discipline. Most of them wanted nothing more than their lives and to return home. He insisted the Enterprise would not fire on them and kill their own people. It was not their way. They were too weak. His crew argued back that if the Enterprise intended to fight rather than allow them to keep their prisoners, their own ship was in no condition to withstand much more punishment.

"Let us wait and see if they are bluffing or not," Klar said. "If necessary I will agree to give up the prisoners rather than allow them to destroy us all." He was no fool; he did not want a mutiny on his hands.

* * *

When fifty-five minutes had elapsed, the Klingon ship attempted to leave orbit.

Kirk hesitated a moment then said, "Fire a warning close enough to shake them up a bit."

"Ready," said Chekov.

"Fire," Kirk ordered, then, "again."

* * *

Spock and Christine were tossed in their cell as the ship was buffeted by the two warning shots fired from the Enterprise. The second shot knocked them to the floor and Spock's nose started to bleed again as they picked themselves up. Reflexively, Christine reached up to wipe the blood away and he jerked back away from her.

"I'm sorry, you were bleeding again and I couldn't stand to see..." She looked away. "I hope it's over soon. In a way, I'm glad. I couldn't have survived watching them torture you."

"Please, Miss Chapel..." he murmured.

"I know, emotions embarrass you, but I have them, though you wouldn't have known it these past weeks. We are going to die, Mr. Spock, and I need someone, I'm only human. Just once I want to stand next to you and have you put your arms around me, just for a moment. Please, I'm very frightened." Her teeth began to chatter as she spoke. She stepped close in front of him, closed her eyes and slowly reached out and put her arms around him. He stood frozen for what seemed an eternity, then as she leaned her cheek against his chest she felt his arms go around her, some of the rigidity went out of his body and he held her close. When her trembling had stopped, he released her. She stepped away and looked up into his eyes. He returned her gaze and she said, "Thank you, I'll be alright now."

As his arms had tightened around her, Spock was surprised to feel a fierce protectiveness and a warm flush of what anyone else would immediately have recognized as desire; it took Spock a startled moment longer to identify the feeling. His eyes held hers a moment longer and his look was disconcertingly intense. Then he nodded and stepped back.

She felt something had changed, but she couldn't begin to imagine what. She slumped down on one end of the cot while he sat upright on the other, waiting.

* * *

"Captain," Klar said, a bit desperately. "Be sensible. You will be killing your own people."

"You know the answer to that," Kirk replied grimly. "Will you release my two officers?"

"You know the answer to *that*, Captain Kirk."

Looking the Klingon straight in the eye, Kirk ordered, "Mr. Chekov, lock phasers on the Klingon ship. Prepare to fire. Fire phasers, Mr. Chekov."

The deck seemed to buck slightly as the beams shot away. Keeping his face deliberately hard, Kirk watched the main screen as the phaser bolts struck home. The image from the Klingon ship flickered and klaxons sounded in the background as the enemy ship shuddered under the blast. There was general confusion on the Klingon bridge as crewmen tried to keep their footing and right the ship, the lights dimming as power was lost and one instrument panel shot sparks and shorted out.

Smoke from burning wiring wafting through the bridge and dim emergency lights gave a hellish look to Klar's face as he swung back to face Kirk, his eyes filled with anger and defeat.

"Are you ready to agree to my terms?" Kirk asked coldly.

"Yes -- yes! Before our ship is damaged any further.' Hold your fire!"

"Have my two crewmembers brought to your transporter room and transmit the co-ordinates to beam them aboard. When we have them, you may leave the area unmolested."

"How do I know you won't destroy us as soon as you have them?" Klar asked.

"You don't," Kirk replied, "but that is our way even though you can't understand that."

"We Klingons would consider that a sign of your weakness, Kirk. Yet you were willing to sacrifice your two officers; perhaps there is hope for you yet."

"Perhaps," Kirk replied tightly. He ended the transmission and rose from the command chair. "Mr. Sulu, you have the conn. Keep phasers ready until you have my signal. If they try *anything*, fire on them to hear again. Lt. Uhura, relay those coordinates to the transporter room as soon as you get them. Order a security team there, on the double, just in case they try to transport some Klingons over as a surprise. Gentlemen?"

He, McCoy and Scotty quickly entered the turbolift and headed for the main transporter room. Uhura was already giving the co-ordinates to Kyle as they entered.

Scotty took over the controls as the signal from the KLingon ship came through indicating readiness and the engineer punched in the proper settings and activated the transporter. Too slowly, it seemed, the images formed on the platform.

Scotty beamed in satisfaction. McCoy rushed forward and Christine fell into his arms, tears welling up unbidden in her eyes. Kirk paused to tell Sulu, "Signal the Klingons that they can leave, Mr. Sulu. Keep an eye on them until they are well out of range."

Then he stepped forward to where Spock was standing. He grasped his upper arms and gave him a long searching look and said, "Welcome home, Spock." Spock returned his gaze and nodded silently.

McCoy was murmuring to Christine, "It's alright now, it's all over, don't cry." He looked sternly at Spock over her shoulder and said, "It's too bad you had to go through this ordeal without any emotional comfort or support."

Spock raised an indignant eyebrow. Christine smiled and gave Spock a conspiratorial glance.

"Everyone to sick bay!" McCoy ordered. "Spock, you look terrible!"

"Is that a *medical* opinion, Doctor?"

He was still limping and McCoy couldn't help glancing sideways at him as the group, all talking at once, made its way down the corridor towards sick bay. Why had she looked at Spock with that expression? he wondered, then shook his head. Somehow Spock had gotten the best of him again without saying a single word!

Part II

The debriefing was over at last and, feeling wrung out, Christine left the main conference room and walked slowly down the corridor, on her way to her cabin. Now that this was over, really over, she was going to ask for a transfer.

She had made many friends aboard the Enterprise since the time she had decided to stay with the ship, following the ill-fated mission to Exo III to find her fiance, Roger Korby. She had come to terms with the fact that he was long dead and had put the past behind her, wondering at times if she had really loved him or had just been infatuated with his brilliant mind and his work.

She shook her head to clear it. It has been a mistake to stay aboard. She should have gone back to her nursing duties on Earth, but there was no other assignment she had really wanted at that time and the work on board the Enterprise was challenging and exciting. And, of course, there had been Mr. Spock. She had been attracted to him from the day she first saw him, even though she kept telling herself that she was in love with another man and on her wa y to join him.

The strange malady that had swept the ship as it orbitted the dying planet had loosened her tongue and made her confess her love to him. How could she have been such a fool? He had never encouraged her in any way, had even taken to avoiding her at times, and her feelings for him had become a running joke on board the ship. All loving him had ever brought her was embarrassment and heartache. She could endure no more. She must leave, be away from him.

She heard footsteps close behind her and turned to see Spock. He had apparently followed her out of the conference room. She looked inquiringly at him.

"Miss Cha ... Christine," he amended as she gave him a murderous look. "I understand that you have said you wish to transfer off the Enterprise. Is this true?"

"Yes," she said quietly.

"May I ask the reason for your requesting a transfer at this time?"

"Mr. Spock," she sighed impatiently, "do you think you could stand to hear the truth?" She paused a moment. "Would you *want* to?"

He stood silently, looking down at her, his hands clasped behind his back.

"I thought so," she flared and turned to continue on.

"Christine," he said quietly.

She turned back to him, hesitating for a moment at the expression on his face. "You already know you won't like it. Are you sure you want both of us to be unhappy? Oh, I forgot -- you won't be affected by anything I say. You nave no emotions."

"Please just tell me what your reasons are for requesting a transfer," he asked quietly.

"All right. I don't want to stay on this ship and have to look at you and think about you every day. I don't want to wonder if you'll be there when I turn around, or if it will be your voice on the intercom. And, worst of all, I don't want to spend the rest of my life fantasizing about one desperate moment when, for some unknown reason, you condescended to put your arms around me!"

It seemed as if all the emotions she had surpressed for all those weeks on Arcadia were coming to the surface now, forcefully.

He looked flushed and uncomfortable and couldn't meet her eyes.

"I can still feel that moment, frightened as I was. Do you want me as to tell you how it felt? No, I can see that you don't. I've never felt safer anywhere else. I love you -- you know that -- hell, everyone on this damn ship knows it and laughs! Is that what I will have lived for? One brief moment in your arms, forced out of you because we both thought we were going to die?" She subsided suddenly and slumped. "It's not your fault. It's mine. You can't help the way you are and I'm a fool."

He looked at her with pain in his eyes. There was a battle raging inside him, but not a muscle twitched to betray it. "I would like to try to--" he began and the intercom on the wall sounded and Uhura's voice was calling him to the bridge.

With a disgusted look, Christine swung away to continue on. With one hand he pressed the intercom button to respond and grasped her arm to detain her with the other. "Spock here," he said in his normal deep, measured tones. "On my way. Spock out."

She was stunned that he had touched her. He normally avoided any kind of physical contact. For him to initiate it was quite astounding and that alone held her so that he could continue what he was saying before the intercom had interrupted him.

"Christine," he began again. "Please allow me to discuss this with you further before you send in your transfer request."

"I don't believe it will do any good, but since it was important enough for you to touch me, how can I refuse?" she said sarcastically.

He realized that he was still holding her arm and released it at once. As if to refrain from doing it again, he clasped his hands again behind his back and straightened.

"Perhaps a workable solution can be found, one that we can both live with," he said quietly. Before, she could reply, he quickly reminded her, "I must report to the bridge. May I continue this discussion with you later?"

"Yes, all right," she said with a puzzled look in her eyes.

He nodded and headed for the turbolift and the bridge. She stood and looked after him until the turbolift doors closed and whisked him out of sight. Her brow furrowed with thought, she continued on down the corridor.

* * *

Later, alone in her room, she paced restlessly. She had eaten a quiet dinner alone and had showered., hoping it would relax her. But now, dressed in a soft robe, she walked distractedly about her dimly-lit quarters, unable to settled down.

All the pros and cons of her life on board the Enterprise were lining up for battle on opposite sides of her mind. She argued back forth with herself for the hundredth time, then put palms to the sides of her head and clenched her teeth. The waiting and indecision were driving her crazy.

The door buzzer sounded suddenly and she halted, looking uncertainly at the door. "Come," she said hesitantly and watched the door slide open.

A tall slender silhouette she would recognize anywhere stood against the light from the corridor. "May I come in?" he asked softly.

It took a moment but she was finally able to say, "Yes."

As he stepped into the room, the door whooshed closed behind him and the room darkened again. His features were indistinct in the dim light. Nothing her attire and distracted mood, he said, "Perhaps another time would be better."

"There won't be a better time," she said. "Let's just hear what you have to say and get it over with."

"May I turn a light on?" he asked.

"No," she answered almost desperately. "It's easier for me this way. Besides, it suits my mood."

The whole situation was unreal to her. *He* had actually come to her quarters. Flustered, she picked at her robe, tried to find something to do with her hands.

"Would you care to sit down and talk?" he asked solicitously, seeing how distraught she was.

"I'm too nervous to be able to just sit and talk," she said, and began pacing again. "Just go ahead and say what you came to say."

"I just wanted to reiterate the positive reasons for you to stay on the Enterprise," he said.

"Mr. Spock," she answered very calmly and softly, "I have been over and over every reason you can mention. I can show you lists I've made, like balance sheets. There is one decisive factor on that list that outweighs all the others and we both know what it is. I can't believe you came here at this time of night to make me repeat it all."

"Why did you decide *now* that this transfer was necessary?"

"When we were alone on Arcadia, I saw that we worked very well together. In the evenings we sat and talked, even if only about the work, and I felt very much at peace. Sometimes I would lie in my room and listen to you play your lyre. It made me want things I cannot have. Then on the Klingon ship, in the brig, when I was shaking with fear, you allowed me that moment in your arms. If I had never felt you hold me, I couldn't want more. If we hadn't had the intimacy of that time on Arcadia, I wouldn't feel the loss of it now. I must do something to help myself."

"I understand," he said, quietly. He still stood in front of the door, where he had been since entering the room, his hands clasped behind him, his face still in shadows.

She turned away and said, "Please leave now. I've made enough of a fool of myself for one day."

"Christine, it is not foolish to have feelings or to express them. It is part of your human nature." She did not reply, so he continued, "I agree that we did work well together on Arcadia. I admired your ability and your control."

"Yes, you would admire my *control*," she sneered at him. "Was I also logical? I know how you admire logic!"

"Your behavior was impeccable at all times. You know I have recommended a commendation--"

She interrupted him, her voice rising a little. "Logical, commendable-- Your kind of terms! I don't want to be any of those things. I want to be..."

Wordlessly, she strode towards him, reached up suddenly, putting her arms around his neck and pulled him down towards her, kissing him firmly. Startled, his arms finally emerged from behind his back and he pushed her away. She gave him a look of scorn and wrenched free, turning away.

"Just get out now," she said. "You probably want to run."

She heard the lock on her door click and did not hear him come up behind her until she felt his hands on her shoulders turning her toward him. Tears were running down her face and her cheeks were aflame with embarrassment and emotion. He gently wiped away her tears while she tried to decipher the look on his face. He had looked at her that way in the Klingon brig, unsettling her. With a start she realized that he had worn that same strange expression long ago in his cabin when he had been so ill and she went to bring him news of their course change for Vulcan.

Suddenly, he tilted his head and brought his lips down on hers and she was beyond thought, her body awash with emotion. His arms went around her and pulled her against him. His body, warmer than hers normally, was like a pillar of fire. She became aware of the heat of his hands on her arms as he slipped the robe off her shoulders and it slid down to form a small puddle at her feet. She was sure that his hands were so hot they were leaving marks wherever he touched her, branding her as his. As she felt that her legs would hold her no longer, he swept her up in his arms and carried her to the bed. She watched as he swiftly disrobed, her heart pounding so hard the room seemed to shake. She hated having to let go of him to remove his uniform, as if once she let go he would be gone. Her arms reached up for him as he came to lie down beside her. As she ran her hands over his broad shoulders and their bodies touched, she felt consumed as if by a flame.

She awoke and sat upright suddenly, looking at the empty space next to her, and reached out hesitantly to touch the sheets. They were cold.

She looked around the room, then jumped up and went into the sitting area. Nothing, nothing to show that he had ever been there. She must be going mad ...

She shook her head and looked at the chrono. It was late. She showered and dressed and tried to compose herself. She reported to sickbay as usual. Thankfully she immersed herself in her work so she wouldn't have to think. If she thought, she'd go mad because what she thought had happened *couldn't* have and if she kept thinking it did ...

She was recording some research results, totally absorbed, concentrating through sheer willpower. She hadn't heard a sound for some time yet suddenly she sensed someone behind her. She sat up straighter and went rigid, afraid to turn around. He stepped closer and spoke her name. She stood up and turned to face him, desperately searching his face for some sign. All she saw was his usual pleasant, non-committal expression.

"Are you all right?" he asked softly.

"I don't know," she replied. "I think I need that transfer worse than I thought. I'm having hallucinations."

"Christine, you were not hallucinating. I had to report to the bridge early this morning."

She stared at him wordlessly.

"We must talk. Certain things must be resolved. May I come to see you again tonight?"

She nodded distractedly and before she could compose her thoughts to ask any questions, he had turned and was gone.

Somehow, she managed to do her work for the rest of the day, although she couldn't have told anyone how. She ate something for dinner and couldn't remember what. She went back to her cabin to wait for him and, when she thought she would go crazy, she heard him at the door.

He entered and found the room dimly lit again, everything with a shadowy, dream-like quality. She stepped close to him and looked into his eyes. There was something almost tangible in the air between them. Like a magnet, he drew her and she seemed to sway towards him and fell against him with a gasp. Again she felt the softness of his shirt against her cheek. If she closed her eyes, she'd be back in the Klingon brig. He held her at arms length and then bent again to kiss her. As the kiss ended, she stumbled back away from him, trembling.

"I think we had better talk now," she stammered.

"Yes," he answered in a deep, hoarse voice.

She was startled to see he was as shaken as she was. Then he began to speak softly and she could see he was back in control.

"We must talk now, for your sake as well as mine," he said.

They sat opposite each other and he began to speak. "You met my parents when they were on board the Enterprise. You're very like my mother. You have the same control and air of dignity and intelligence. I know you are not naive enough to believe that the facade of distance between them was anything more than just that ... a facade!"

He paused to give her time to absorb what he was saying. Then he continued, "Logically, I would eventually have to select a wife. When that strange disease caused you to reveal your feelings for me, I was unable to respond. I was bound by a pledge made by my parents when I was a child. We do not choose our mates; it is done in the ancient way on Vulcan. T'Pring's challenge freed me from that pledge and gave me the opportunity to select my own mate. When the pon farr comes upon me again, I must be bonded, but there is time for that. You demonstrated many admirable qualities on Arcadia--"

She burst into laughter in the middle of his little recitation. He looked at her with a pained expression. "I don't give a damn about your logical reasoning! *I love you!*"

"Please, hear me out. Do you remember the public behavior of my parents? Do you think you could emulate it? For the rest of your life? Never be demonstrably emotional or affectionate in public?"

She laughed again and said, "Mr. Spock, in case you aren't aware of it, that's exactly what I've been doing for the past three years."

"I have not been entirely unaware of you or your behavior. Occasionally, my human half asserts itself."

"It certainly did last night," she smiled, then asked, "What exactly are we talking about here?"

"On Vulcan we would be bonded to each other. It has the same significance as your marriage ceremony."

"Are you asking me to ... to marry you?"

"I had thought to wait until our assigned time on the Enterprise was over. It was a more logical approach. We were both going to be on board for five years."

"Then, why ... ? Oh, I see-- My transfer request. I forced you to act now."

"Actually, you did not *force* me to do anything. I have desired to do everything that I have done. I am in complete control..."

This time more sure of herself, she stood and approached him. She stopped just inches from him and moved as if to kiss him. He bent to her and she swayed away. He stopped with a puzzled look and she teased him again, until he grasped her and bent to kiss her. Only then did her arms go around him. As their lips parted, she abruptly stepped back. His eyes seemed unfocused as he stepped forward to follow her, his hands trembling as he reached out for her.

"In control of your emotions, are you?" she gasped.

"Yes," he answered in a deep, hoarse voice as before.

She smiled and stepped back into his arms again because she had made her point and because nothing in the universe could have kept her out of them.

Part III

Spock and Christine had mutually agreed to keep their bonding between themselves until a propitious moment arose to announce it. Each was able to adhere to their normal schedule. The only inconvenience required some cabin hopping at odd hours.

Christine was so happy she almost glowed, but there was nothing McCoy could put his finger on as the cause. He was obvious in his gentle probing, but Christine revealed nothing. She just smiled a lot.

Spock was Spock! Only Kirk, who knew him better than anyone, that Spock was different in an indefinable way. He seemed the tiniest bit less ramrod stiff. No one else would even be aware of it. He seemed less intense and to welcome the chance to utilize his off duty hours for personal matters instead of lingering on the bridge. He even turned down a few games of chess.

Scott thought he was his usual self, checking out the computers, especially the ones that synthesized costumes and supplies used on undercover missions. Spock felt about his computers the way Scott felt about his engines.

A few weeks later, what seemed an auspicious moment arrived. Captain Kirk decided to have a small dinner party. It was a good excuse for good friends to come together and enjoy each other's company in a relaxed atmosphere, not a common occurrence on a starship.

Kirk had invited the bridge crew. He spent most of his waking hours with them and felt they were his friends as well as shipmates. His guest list also included Scotty and Dr. McCoy.

Later that day Spock and Jim's paths crossed in a corridor. "May I speak to you a moment, Jim?" Spock assumed his usual hands behind back stance and cleared his throat, seeming hesitant to continue.

Jim prodded him with, "What is it, Spock?"

"May I bring a guest to your dinner this evening?" he finally asked.

Jim was able to read Spock so well now, he knew he wasn't to ask at this time who the guest was, just answer in the affirmative or the negative. "Of course, Mr. Spock. I'll be looking forward to it. See you both this evening."

Spock knew Christine was working alone in the lab and he went directly there. He explained all that had transpired and that he felt it was an opportune moment to make their announcement to all their friends at once and in a social situation where the mood and setting would be right. She was ecstatic. If she had to keep her secret much longer, she'd burst; besides, McCoy's probings were getting more insistent.

"Christine, I would like for us to leave from my quarters if that is convenient for you. I would like to give you something at that time."

"A gift for me! What is it?"

With the barest hint of a smile, he said, "I prefer not to reveal that until this evening."

Since they were alone, she felt free to caress his face and give him a kiss. "It will be the first gift you've ever given me."

"I'll meet you at 1800 hours and we can go directly to the dining room." He still was awkward about casual demonstrations of affection.

She smiled at him, understanding. "I'll be on time."

* * *

When she got off duty, Christine collected what she needed for that evening and went to Spock's cabin. She would have time to shower and dress before he arrived. She was dying of curiosity as to exactly what he had for her. She had a small surprise of her own for him. On a shore leave she barely remembered on some R&R planet, she had made a purchase that had haunted her ever since as frivolous. It was a dress made of a fabric which had captivated her, totally unique and the loveliest she had ever seen. However, the dress was provocatively styled, with a neckline so daring she had never thought of wearing it. Tonight was going to be one of the most special occasions in her life, she would dare it. She smiled broadly to herself imagining Spock's face when he saw her in it. She knew how proper and circumspect Vulcans were.

She showered, styled her hair and put on make up before dressing. She chose a heady, sensual scent, but applied it very sparingly. Spock's olfactory senses were just as sensitive as his others and she didn't want to overwhelm him with fragrance.

She carefully took out the dress and it cascaded from her hands to the floor. It was so light it didn't seem real. She slipped it on and went to the mirror. The dress could have been made to her measurements; it clung in just the right places and yet was not overly revealing. It wasn't sheer, but suggested subtly that it was. It seemed impregnated with crushed opals, or some other luminescent gem and seemed to shimmer every color of the rainbow each time she moved. The fabric seemed to have a life of its own. The neckline was very daring, just barely clinging to her breasts. She thought if she bent over or raised her arms, she'd be topless. However, through all these experimental moves the dress remained firmly in place. It felt so light and airy, if she didn't see it, she would have felt she had nothing on. She felt she had never looked better, and adjusted her hairstyle to one a little more whispy.

As she was putting the last touches to her hair, she heard the door and turned to face Spock as he entered, his eyes seeking her. He stood as if transfixed as she slowly turned in a full circle for him.

His eyes swept over her, admiring and possessive. He took in every detail, lingering on her practically bare breasts and she felt a warm flush creep up to her hairline. She could tell by the level of elevation of his eyebrows and the fact that he was at a loss for words that the dress was having the effect she intended. She couldn't keep a tiny smile from her lips as she watched him struggle to maintain his composure.

"Just give me a few moments,.' he murmured and quickly turned to attend to his toilette. Almost as a counterpoint to her raiment, Spock stood before her a short while later in a somber yet elegant Vulcan costume. A black capelike tunic transformed him into an exciting, slightly alien figure and she admired the effect.

"I'm ready," she whispered, "and so nervous my knees are shaking..."

"There is something I wish to give you before we go." He extended his right hand and there was a tiny object in his palm. She gently lifted it. It was a finely wrought gold band with the IDIC symbol engraved all around it, with a tiny diamond in each one. Then she saw why he hadn't simply placed it on her finger; inside were engraved some Vulcan symbols. She looked up at him and saw him watching her. "What does it say?" she whispered brokenly.

"Never and always, touching and touched," he said, gazing into her eyes. She recognized the words they had exchanged in the Vulcan bonding ritual. Then he took the ring from her shaking hands and slipped it onto her finger. A perfect fit!

Tears were running down her face and he smiled gently at her. "I assume this demonstrates how happy you are." He reached out and, in a gesture that seemed casual, he wiped some tears that had fallen on her breast, causing her to draw her breath in sharply. Then she leaned forward and kissed him.

"The Captain is expecting us," he said after a few moments. She smiled and turned to the mirror and made a few repairs, then they left.

* * *

Everyone had dressed for dinner to enhance the effect of a special occasion. Uhura had chosen a lovely wine colored, softly clinging long dress and the men were all in dress uniforms, even McCoy, who usually complained bitterly whenever he had to wear one.

Jim had decided not to mention that Spock was bringing a guest so as to avoid wild speculation. He was sure taking his time arriving. Everyone else was already present and Jim was terribly curious.

At last the door slid open and there stood Spock. Everyone naturally turned at the sound of the door and he held their eyes since he did not immediately enter and was strangely attired.

As conversation came to a curious halt, he looked at the Captain and seemed to speak directly to him. "I can think of no better time or place to make this announcement." In a gesture familiar to those who met his parents when they were on board the Enterprise, he extended the index and middle fingers of his right hand towards the doorway and said, "My wife, attend."

Christine stepped forward to place her two fingers on his. They made an impressive pair, he tall, dark and satanically sensual in that dramatic Vulcan garb, and she so pale, blonde and ethereal in that startling dress.

They all recovered their voices at once. Pandemonium broke loose and they were mobbed.

Jim was pumping Spock's hand and grinning from ear to ear. Sulu and Chekov were right behind Kirk. McCoy and Uhura had run to Christine and were babbling congratulations and questions too fast to expect answers. Scotty just beamed at them both.

McCoy shouted over to Spock, "May I kiss the bride? It's an old Earth custom, Spock."

"Yes, I am aware of it, Doctor, and of course you may."

McCoy threw his arms around Christine, hugged her and gave her a big kiss. Scotty said he didn't want to be left out; he gave her a less exuberant hug and a peck on the cheek. Sulu and Chekov followed suit. Jim stepped in front of her and his eyes swept over her carefully and lingered, just momentarily, on that decolletage and then leaned forward and gently kissed her lips. He looked over at Spock and then back at her and said, "Spock, you're a lucky man."

All of a sudden, Uhura spoke up. She had been so quiet she seemed almost forgotten. "Hey, I want equal time. It is also an old Earth custom to kiss the groom."

They all watched silently as she purposefully approached Spock. His eyebrows were almost into his hairline, but he stood his ground, as the situation left him no choice. Uhura stepped close to him, stood on tiptoe and put her arms around his neck and gave him a fairly lengthy congratulatory kiss. She stepped back and gave him a warm smile and said, "I always wondered what it would be like to kiss you."

His eyebrows seemed to have a life of their own, but his eyes held hers before she turned to Christine, who was trying to hide a smile.

Jim couldn't resist asking, "Well, what *was* it like?"

"Fascinating," she purred and turned to glance over at Spock again.

Everyone laughed good-naturedly and McCoy shot Spock a very speculative glance. Uhura admired Christine's ring and that dress drew frequent admiring glances from the men. Scotty drew Spock aside and smiled at him and said, "Laddie, I see you've put the synthesizer to good use."

"It's a matter of programming the proper information..." He stopped, realizing that Scott was the only one who was aware of where the ring had come from. "Thank you, Mr. Scott."

Later, during dinner, McCoy's curiosity got the best of him and I asked, "What finally got you to ask Christine to marry you?"

He gazed calmly at Dr. McCoy and said, "It was based on logic, as is everything I do, Doctor."

There was a dismayed silence and Christine stared down at her lap. She knew better and hated to see Spock put on the spot. Jim tried to change the subject, but Spock was continuing. He outlined many reasons why they were suited, common work interests, and, both being in Starfleet, they could continue to be together. Finally he said that he knew Christine loved him and would say yes were he to ask her.

McCoy was sorry he had asked. As he was about to pounce an Spock, he noticed him staring at Christine. She felt Spock's eyes on her -- she always knew when he was looking at her -- and looked up to meet them. He concluded by saying, "If one is allowed the luxury of choice, is it not also logical to choose the one for whom you feel very deep respect and affection?"

Jim said, "I've never heard a better definition of love."

Christine was still looking into his eyes and she leaned forward and, to his dismay, clasped his hand in both her own and gave him an adoring look. He endured her caress for a moment and then gently withdrew his hand. He fidgeted slightly, the uncomfortable center of attention.

"I'm sorry, Spock, I know I promised not to do that, but you never warned me you were going to choose a public place to tell me you love me for the first time."

There were smiles around the table and Spock, with a mischievous glint in his eyes, said, "Perhaps you are more like my mother than I imagined.