DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Toni Cardinal-Price and is copyright (c) 1979 by Toni Cardinal-Price. This story is Rated PG. It was originally published in Plak Tow #1, 1979.
The Moon of Trius X-2
Captain's Log, Stardate: 5447.02 - En route to Starbase 4 after completion of a lengthy mapping expedition in this quadrant of space, ship's sensors have picked up a faint distress signal emanating from Trius X-2, a small, recently charted planet in this sector. Since its discovery, Trius X-2 has been the subject of a scientific expedition, sent by the Federation to study and collect data on the planet's origin. We must assume the distress signal was sent by the twenty members of that expedition, and we are now heading towards the planet at maximum warp speed.
* * *
"Mr. Spock..." James T. Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, left his command chair and walked to the computer station, manned by his alien first officer. The tall, lean Vulcan turned and raised a slanted eyebrow questioningly at his captain.
"What does the data on Trius X-2 read so far?"
The Vulcan turned back to his board and pushed a few buttons, then glanced up as the information appeared on visual. "Trius X-2 is listed as a class M planet, Captain. Atmosphere is comparable to Earth; however, year round temperatures range from about thirty degrees in daytime, to below one hundred and twenty degrees at night. No humanoid life forms exist, but numerous interesting and unusual insect and animal species do inhabit the planet. The scientific party sent by the Federation is making studies on vegetation and geological findings. They have been stationed on Trius exactly seven months and..."
"Captain!" Uhura interrupted, "I'm picking up communications from Trius X-2 now. With a ... Professor Charles Curtiss."
"Professor Curtiss is the leader of the scientific party," Spock commented to Kirk as they both faced the main viewing screen. "One of the top men in his field."
The picture on the screen sharpened to focus, and the image of a man appeared. The man was middle-aged, with piercing blue eyes and a healthy head of silver-blonde hair. His handsome features, at the moment, suggested deep concern.
"Professor Curtiss?" Kirk spoke to the image. "I'm James Kirk, commanding the Starship Enterprise. We received your distress call; what is the nature of your emergency?"
"It's a relief to see you Captain," the man on the screen returned. "Our emergency is very serious; Malorian Fever. It has already killed seven of my party and the rest of us have developed early symptoms."
Kirk glanced at Spock questioningly. "Malorian Fever? Isn't that pretty rare, Spock?"
"Quite rare, Captain. I believe there have been only twelve reported cases of the disease in the past century, and none in this quadrant of space."
"Professor Curtiss.." Kirk turned back to the viewing screen. "Are you positive about your identification of the disease?"
"Very positive, Captain Kirk! " the man returned, a hint of agitation in his voice. "I possess an expert class degree in both medical and geological sciences."
Kirk glanced again at his first officer and Spock nodded. "Professor Curtiss' diagnosis should be correct, Captain."
Kirk turned to the screen again. "I'm sorry Professor, no offense was meant, I assure you. It's just that Malorian Fever is so rare and..."
"I realize that, Captain. No offense was taken." The man straightened. "We will need injections of serum M-12 immediately, of course. There should be sufficient supply in your ship's medical stores, and we can convert the necessary chemicals down here in the planet's laboratory."
"Professor Curtiss..." Spock said suddenly. "As per Starfleet regulations, your medical laboratory should already stock the chemicals needed to synthesize serum M-12."
The man on the screen frowned slightly and regarded the Vulcan with narrowed eyes. "You're the First Officer?" he asked curtly.
Spock raised an eyebrow at the question. "Affirmative."
The man's expression remained the same, but his disapproval radiated through the bridge. "And you're Vulcan, aren't you?"
"Affirmative," Spock returned, unflinchingly.
"Professor..." Kirk cut in, his own annoyance showing. "Why doesn't your lab contain those chemicals?"
"There was an accident two weeks ago in our laboratory, Captain," Curtiss explained bluntly. "A few chemicals needed for the serum were destroyed. We are expecting a supply ship in another three weeks and were prepared to wait and restock the chemicals then. The possibility of Malorian Fever never entered our minds."
"Weren't your people inoculated against the disease before you started this expedition?" Kirk asked, confused.
"The vaccine is only good for a six month period, Captain," Spock interrupted, looking at Kirk. "The expedition has been on Trius for seven months." The Vulcan officer turned back to the screen. "Professor ... why wasn't your party revaccinated after the six month efficiency limit?"
Curtiss' eyes narrowed angrily. "There was a ... miscalculation, an oversight in the medical charts."
"A very serious oversight, Professor," Spock noted. "And that has cost the lives of seven people."
"Captain Kirk!" Curtiss returned, ignoring the Vulcan. 'We need the chemicals ... not a lot of talk about accidents and miscalculations."
"I'm aware of that, Professor. We'll be in orbit of Trius shortly and we'll beam down in approximately ... twenty minutes. A medical team will accompany me to synthesize the drug and tend to the ill. Kirk out." He watched the image fade on the screen, then began walking towards the turbolift. "Lieutenant Uhura, I'll be in sickbay ... relay all communications to me there. Mr. Spock, let's go visit Doctor McCoy. I intend to find out a little more about this ... Malorian Fever." And the two men entered the lift, the door closing behind them.
* * *
"Malorian Fever is one of the most deadly of all," Leonard McCoy explained to the two officers in the sickbay lab. "Similar to the Similean Blood Burn, but much quicker. A century ago, the fever wiped out the Malorian system in a matter of weeks. The disease attacks the blood, causing a rapid temperature rise. Eventually the blood reaches the boiling point, but by that time, the victim is dead. In the final stage, the blood solidifies and crumbles within the body."
"Not very pleasant," Kirk injected solemnly.
"The victim literally burns to death from within," Spock commented. "Serum M-12 has been effective in preventing Malorian Fever, and of the twelve cases I mentioned earlier, six were cured by the serum before the disease reached its critical stage."
Kirk nodded thoughtfully and turned back to McCoy. "What about us, Bones? When were we last injected against the disease?"
"Three months ago, on Starbase Seven," and he glanced over at Spock with a half -grin. "You remember, Jim ... Spock was nauseous for three days afterwards."
The Vulcan officer straightened and gave a small sigh. "Doctor ... *all* of your potions leave me nauseous."
"Well, if it weren't for that green blood of yours, you wouldn't have that problem!" McCoy scowled.
"Doctor, as far as my 'green blood' is concerned, I much prefer it over yours, and furthermore..."
"Gentlemen ... gentlemen ... please," Kirk cut in, a small grin on his mouth. "Spare me that quarrel..."
The Vulcan and Medical Officer continued to glare at each other for a few seconds longer, then McCoy glanced back at Kirk. "Vulcans don't get Malorian Fever, Jim," he explained. "It's the difference in their blood. But since Spock is half-Human, he has to be injected for precautionary reasons, and the serum plays havoc with his system."
"Well ... I want all crew records rechecked," Kirk instructed. "We don't want an oversight like they had on Trius. And we'll need a medical team to help care for the ill while the serum is being processed."
"Yes..." McCoy nodded. "The serum retains its effectiveness for only a few minutes after it's processed, and injection must take place within that time."
"How long will the processing take?" Kirk asked.
"Well ... it's a complicated procedure ... it'll take about six hours."
"All right then, you and Spock will come with the medical team when we beam down. I have a few questions for Professor Curtiss. Let's go."
* * *
They materialized a few yards from the three buildings that housed the science party. The planet's surface was an ugly gray, devoid of trees and only sparse thatches of vegetation showing. A cold wind whipped around them and a dampness permeated to the bone. Though it was supposedly daytime, there was a dusk that permitted very limited vision.
"Not a very pleasant place," Christine Chapel commented, voicing the majority opinion. She hugged her arms tighter around her body and shivered.
"That's an understatement, Nurse Chapel," McCoy returned, glancing around. "Well ... do we walk over there, or is Professor Curtiss supposed to meet us here?"
"He said he'd be here," Kirk answered, shivering also, as he surveyed the gloomy surroundings. Then he nodded in the direction of the buildings. "There he is ... let's go."
The seven Enterprise members walked toward the man that was approaching them.
"Captain Kirk!" Charles Curtiss extended his hand and grasped Kirk's warmly. "We appreciate your promptness in answering our distress call. If we hadn't contacted the Enterprise, well ... it would have been the end of us all."
"Professor Curtiss ... this is my First Officer, Mr. Spock ... my Medical Officer, Leonard McCoy and the members of the medical team -- Christine Chapel, Mikia Tomoko, John Kagen and Adam Zanter."
The man had nodded his head politely during the introductions, but now the cold, steel-blue eyes lingered on the Vulcan. "Mr. Spock.." he murmured, almost disapprovingly. Then suddenly he broke off and turned back to Kirk. "Well, Captain, our laboratory awaits your medical team, and time is of the essence. If you will follow me..."
The room was large, and equipped with a myriad of computers and laboratory paraphernalia. As the group entered, two men walked over in their direction and eyed them warily.
"This is Doctor Theodore Compton, and Doctor Alex Rojas of my staff," Curtiss introduced. The two men nodded curtly. "Doctor McCoy, they'll show you the equipment you and your team will need, and you can begin the processing immediately."
"Well ... we'd like to study one of the bodies first, Professor," McCoy returned. "We could learn a little more if an autopsy is performed and..."
"But, that's impossible!" Curtiss blurted out quickly, agitation in his voice. 'The dead have already been buried. Besides, Doctor Compton and I performed autopsies on them already. Perhaps you'd like to examine our charts on them?"
'Yes ... yes I would," McCoy returned, looking oddly at the man. "Professor, when did the first deaths occur?"
"One week ago, Doctor... One of our biologists; Nancy Kotan."
"I see ... and the last death?"
McCoy nodded thoughtfully. "And the rest of the colonists?"
"They're all in their quarters, resting. All show symptoms of the disease; myself included."
"I would like Lieutenant Tomoko and Lieutenant Kagen to have a look at them."
"Of course, Doctor," Curtiss replied. "Ted, Alex ... show the Lieutenants to the quarters area." The two men nodded and exited with the medical team members. "S0me of my people are pretty bad off," Curtiss said, turning back to Kirk. "A few may die before they receive the serum."
"Doctor, Lietuenant Zanter and I will begin setting up the equipment," Christine Chapel spoke up, looking at McCoy.
"Yes ... you do that, and I'll start the..."
McCoy's words were cut off as a voice called out from an adjoining McCoy room. "Here are two more, Professor," and the door opened, as the person belonging to the voice started to enter the room. "They're all ready to be..." The man halted in mid-sentence and glanced around, then turned wide-eyed, to Curtiss. "I... uh ... I didn't know we had ... visitors."
"These are the people from the Enterprise, Doctor Lang," Curtiss said quickly, introducing the landing party. 'This is our assistant botanist, Doctor Erin Lang. Doctor Lang, Doctor Compton, Doctor Rojas and I are the last four that are at least functioning, although we all have the fever symptoms. You were saying that there were two more, Erin. Not two more bodies, I hope?"
Erin Lang broke from his scrutiny of the Enterprise crew and looked back at Curtiss with open astonishment. "Y... Yes, Professor.." he returned, almost cautiously. "I've ... put them in the back room and..."
"Doctor McCoy..." Curtiss interrupted, turning to the officer. "Perhaps you'd like to examine those bodies?"
"Yes, I would."
"I shall accompany you, Doctor," Spock added, walking beside him. McCoy nodded and they both headed for the adjoining room.
"Professor Curtiss," Kirk started, watching McCoy and Spock as they exited. "I want to ask you a few questions about that 'oversight' in your medical records. As you must know, preventative inoculations are of the utmost importance in any space travel. No matter how slim the chance of contracting the disease is, regulations state that..."
"I am well aware of regulations and what they state, Captain Kirk!" Curtiss cut in sharply. "The oversight was the fault of our chief medical doctor, and he is dead. I see no reason to soil the man's career record by pursuing an investigation that would..."
"Professor ... nine people are now dead because of that 'oversight'. An investigation will have to be made."
The two men locked gazes for a long moment, until Curtiss finally nodded. "All right Kirk ... you'll have your investigation." He turned and started in the direction of the adjoining room. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to check and see which one of my party I've lost this time."
Kirk followed him and, as he entered the room, he got the feeling of something being very wrong. Two bodies were lying under sheets on diagnostic tables, and it was then that he noticed Spock standing motionless, next to one of the bodies. Kirk glanced at McCoy in bewilderment, but the doctor shook his head and made a silencing gesture. Then he went over to Curtiss and took hold of his arm. "Professor ... I'd like to talk to you for a moment..." and without giving the man a chance to protest, McCoy turned around and led him out the door.
Kirk looked back at Spock, but the Vulcan had not moved an inch. There was something in the First Officer's stance, the very stiffness of his manner, that made Kirk shiver as he drew up next to him and peered down at the bodies on the table. One form was that of a young man, and Kirk felt a pang of sorrow at the death of the youth, but it was the other body that caused Kirk to wince outwardly.
Leila Kalomi was just as beautiful in death as she had been in life. Kirk reached out and put his hand on Spock's shoulder. He could see only the Vulcan's profile as Spock remained rigid, staring straight ahead at a blank wall.
"Spock..." Kirk began awkwardly. "Spock ... I'm sorry.."
The Vulcan stiffened a little, and Kirk felt the shoulder under his hand tremble. "Yes..." Spock said finally, his deep voice uneven and strained. "The Federation has lost an extremely ... efficient botanist."
"Spock," and Kirk squeezed his friend's shoulder again. "You don't have to control it. Not with me. I know how much she meant to you."
The alien officer hesitated, then turned his head towards his captain, and the pain in the Vulcan's eyes tore at Kirk's heart.
"My friend," Kirk said gently, sympathetically, and for a moment he almost thought the Vulcan was going to break. Kirk stiffened, not knowing how he would console him, but then the sound of the door opening caused Spock to turn his eyes back to the blank wall again, as he took a deep breath.
It was McCoy who had entered and he walked next to Kirk and gave him a questioning look as he nodded in Spock's direction. Kirk shook his head sadly, his eyes registering concern.
"Spock..." he started again, "...if you'd prefer, I can have someone else beamed down and you could return to the ship..."
"That is not necessary, Captain," the First Officer replied. And when he faced the men again, he was once more the controlled, unemotional Vulcan. "I am quite able to continue here."
"Spock..." It was McCoy who started to speak, but his words were cut off by the buzzing of Kirk's communicator.
"Kirk here ... what is it, Lieutenant?"
"Captain, I'm picking up a very faint distress call from the uncharted sector of this quadrant. It's a signal being sent over and over again, in standard Federation code."
"Have you tried hailing it, Lieutenant?"
"Yes, Sir. No response."
"All right ... check with Starbase Four and get the names of the Federation ships in the quadrant."
'Sir ... I've been trying to reach Starbase Four," Uhura returned, "..but there seems to be some sort of space interference, blocking the signal. It may also be blocking my call to the distress ship."
Kirk frowned thoughtfully and watched as Curtiss entered the room. "Lieutenant Uhura ... have Mr. Chekov scan for the cause of the interference."
"Aye-aye, Sir." There was a short pause. "Captain ... sensors show extreme disturbance in the area of space the distress call is coming from. High ionization readings ... one moment, Sir ... I'm getting a stronger signal from the ship now. It identifies itself as the U.S.S. Ibn Daud."
"A transport tug," Spock interrupted quietly.
"The Ibn Daud confirms that it was caught in an ion storm," Uhura continued. "Damage to life support systems and engine power. Heavy casualties."
Kirk's frown deepened as he spoke into his communicator. "Put me through to Sulu, Lieutenant."
There was another pause. "Sulu here, Captain."
"Mr. Sulu ... compute location of the Ibn Daud and the time and speed it would take the Enterprise to reach it."
"Aye, Sir. Captain, the Ibn Daud is at heading ... 317 mark 4. We could be there in twenty-one standard hours, traveling at maximum warp speed."
"Acknowledged. Have Chekov lay in a course for the Ibn Daud. I'll beam up shortly." Kirk clicked his communicator shut and looked at Spock. "Just what we needed ... another emergency." He turned to McCoy. "Bones, I'll need you with me to help with the casualties on the Ibn Daud. Spock and the others will stay here and process the M-12 serum. Will you need any other supplies from the ship, Spock?"
"All right then..." Kirk regarded the Vulcan closely for a moment. There was something in Spock's manner that bothered Kirk, but he couldn't identify the cause. "Spock.." he said after a moment, "I could get someone else to head the landing party if you want?"
The Vulcan straightened a little and his eyes flashed a reassuring look at his captain. "Unnecessary, Sir." His voice was toneless. "I am quite all right."
Kirk half-grinned and nodded, then turned to Curtiss. "Professor, we'll return as soon as possible, however, the landing party will take care of the serum processing and the vaccinations as scheduled."
"Very well, Captain," Curtiss returned, extending his hand. "We'll see you when you get back. By that time we should have this fever licked."
"Yes ... good luck." Kirk pulled out his communicator and flipped it open. "Lieutenant Uhura ... have transporter room stand by to beam Doctor McCoy and myself aboard."
"Spock ... it shouldn't take us more than two days at the most."
"Understood, Captain," the Vulcan bowed his head slightly.
Kirk returned the gesture and lifted the communicator. "Transporter room ... energize." And the two forms of Kirk and McCoy shimmered and dissolved in a twinkling of lights.
* * *
"Mr. Spock ... the Tosaryn is ready to be added now," Christine Chapel said, as she walked up to the Vulcan and handed him the vial she carried. She gave him a warm smile which soon disappeared when there was no response from him. Of course, she hadn't really expected a response and would have been floored had she gotten one. Still ... there was always hope ... and hope was the one thing she had grown accustomed to, since meeting the Vulcan.
She moved closer and watched as Spock carefully added the chemical to the already heating mixture. Her eyes lingered on the Vulcan's smooth, strong hands, and then traveled to the profile of his face. She knew that profile by heart, and even with eyes closed she could picture the slant of the eyebrows, the fine line of his nose and lips ... and the ears ... those beautiful ears. She tilted her head and continued to stare at him, wondering if it was his alienism that attracted her to him. She had pondered that many time, even discussed that fact with a few of her closest friends on the Enterprise, and it definitely seemed to be a factor. Many of the females on the ship admitted to being attracted to Spock, and most also admitted that it was because of his half-Vulcan, half-Human mixture. To them, Spock was a mystery crying out to be solved, a challenge looking to be conquered. Even Christine thought of him in similar ways, for she had seen some of the emotion the Vulcan tried to keep hidden, and knew if she could only get him to accept that she knew ... well, perhaps he would feel safe with her and...
Christine broke away from her day-dreaming and found Spock looking at her.
"Is something wrong, Miss Chapel?"
She could feel the heat rise to her face and stammered that there was nothing wrong, then went back to her computations on her clipboard. Her hands trembled as she made a notation with the stylus, yet she cautiously stole one more glance in Spock's direction. He was bent over a microscope, every bit the efficient, non-emotional Vulcan that he tried to be, totally absorbed with his work. Christine sighed softly, then turned her attention back to her clipboard and studied the calculations and rechecked figures.
* * *
"Mr. Spock...Miss Chapel."
Charles Curtiss strode into the room, bundled in a heavy fur parka, his face reddened with the cold. "I was out taking some atmospheric readings, and thought I'd drop in and see how the processing is coming along." He moved to where Spock stood and surveyed the chemicals and vials, then looked at the alien officer. "It should be ready soon, shouldn't it?"
"In approximately two hours, Professor," Spock returned, regarding the man steadily. "Those of your expedition that are mobile will be brought here for the injections, the others will be tended to in their quarters. It is essential that the injections be given swiftly, within the five-minute efficiency limit of the serum."
"I'm aware of that, Mr. Spock!" Curtiss returned sharply. "I hold a Federation Degree in medical chemistry."
Spock's eyebrow rose at the hostile tone of the man's voice and he bowed his head slightly. "I am aware of that, Professor. No offense was intended, I assure you."
"And none was taken ... none was taken," Curtiss returned, a forced smile curving his lips. Then he turned away from the Vulcan and headed in Christine's direction.
The nurse had, been mildly shocked by the man's hostility to Spock, but she had been aware of his disapproval of the Vulcan from the moment the two had met. It was curious and yet Christine realized that prejudice still existed, and perhaps Curtiss disliked the alien simply for being different. That thought brought a familiar pang of pity for Spock, but she brushed it away and gave Curtiss a polite smile as he approached.
"Miss Chapel ... I was hoping you might like to go for a short walk with me," the man invited as he drew up beside her. "It may be cold, but Trius is at its loveliest at night, by the moon's glow ... and your presence would increase that loveliness."
The compliment took Christine aback and she flushed with pleasure. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that Spock had straightened from his microscope again, and was looking in their direction. She smiled at Curtiss regretfully. "I'm afraid we didn't beam down with any cold-weather equipment, Professor Curtiss, or else I just might take you up on that walk."
"No problem at all," Curtiss returned cheerfully. "I'll get you a coat from supply. It'll only take me a minute."
"Professor, " Spock's voice halted the man and he turned in the Vulcan's direction. "Do you think it wise to be moving about so much in your condition? You are, after all, infected by the disease. Perhaps you should be resting?"
"Not necessary, Mr. Spock. I'm still quite able to get around," Curtiss returned, his voice cool and mildly disapproving. "Besides, the serum will be done shortly, and I am in no danger." He turned back to Christine, his smile growing again. "And a walk with this charming woman would do more good than any rest. I'll go get your coat."
There was an uncomfortable silence after Curtiss left and Christine glanced over at Spock and found him studying her with open curiosity. She walked to him and handed him her clipboard. "If you need any help, I'll tell Professor Curtiss that I can't go," she said quietly, disguising the nervousness in her voice.
Spock's glance faltered and he turned back to his microscope. 'That's not necessary, Miss Chapel. All that remains to be done now is the sterilizing of the hypo-vials ... and I can attend to that myself."
The Vulcan's voice sounded cool and his words were short and clipped. Christine tilted her head in confusion. Spock seemed ... uneasy, almost upset. "Mr. Spock ... if you don't want me to go with the Professor, I'll ... "
"That is your decision, Miss Chapel," the Vulcan interrupted. "Whether you go or not is of no concern to me. I am, however, at a loss to understand why anyone would care to venture outside in sub-freezing temperatures, to observe visual effects the moon creates on a surface."
"Moons have always had a strange effect on Humans, Mr. Spock," Christine returned patiently. "We think of the moon's glow as beautiful ... peaceful ... romantic."
The Vulcan's eyebrows raised, but he did not look at her.
"I guess you wouldn't understand that," Christine continued with a small sigh, " ... not having a moon on Vulcan."
There was another uncomfortable silence, then Spock turned away from her and walked over to a computer. Christine watched in confusion, noting that the Vulcan still seemed uneasy ... or was she reading something into his reactions? It appeared Spock was concerned about her decision to walk with Curtiss. Could he possibly be feeling ... jealousy?
"You don't like Professor Curtiss, do you?" she said abruptly, boldly.
Spock straightened a little and took a deep breath before turning to look at the woman. "Those are Human emotions which I am incapable of feeling, Miss Chapel," he returned steadily. "I ... respect Professor Curtiss."
"But you don't like him ... or the thought of me walking with him," she continued stubbornly.
Again the Vulcan inhaled and let out a tolerant sigh. "Miss Chapel ... I am in command of this landing party and therefore am responsible for its safety. My only concern in regards to your walking with the Professor is that you might be injured in some way and ... "
His words were cut short as Curtiss entered the room with an armful of fur. "Here you are," he said cheerfully, helping the woman on with her full-length coat. "It's a little big ... but it'll keep you warm. After our walk, we can go over to the cafeteria and have a warm drink. All set?"
Christine looked over at Spock hesitantly, but the First Officer had turned his back to them and was at the computer. "Yes ... yes, I'm ready," she returned, bundling the coat around her and giving Curtiss a small grin. The man's smile was infectious and he took her arm. Before reaching the door, Christine glanced once more at the Vulcan and caught him watching them depart. "Don't worry, Mr. Spock," she said curtly, a pang of anger building in her. "I'm sure I'll be perfectly safe with the Professor."
And just as they exited, Christine saw the Vulcan frown with disapproval .
* * *
Spock glanced at the table chronometer once more and then continued to pace the floor. The chemicals were mixed, and the final processing stages would take another hour. He checked over the hypo-vials, counting them for the twelfth time, then moved to straighten the lab equipment on the table. That was better ... more in order.
He glanced at the chronometer again and frowned to himself. He desperately tried to shake the feeling that clung to him ... but it lingered, refusing to disperse. Order ... something was not in order here. He had felt it since beaming down to this planet ... he had even felt it on the Enterprise, when they had first made contact with Charles Curtiss. He did not fully understand the feeling, only knew that it was what Jim would term -- intuition; Human intuition. Spock gave a small sigh ... the Human half of him could be bothersome at times with the feelings he fought to repress. Intuition had no basis in logic ... indeed, the feelings he was experiencing now were far from logical. But they remained to disturb his thoughts. Something was not right ... not in order; Curtiss ... the distress call ... the fever ... the deaths ...
He stiffened as the image of the body in the adjoining room fixed itself again into his memory. He had banished her from his conscious thoughts because there had been work to do ... but now, with the waiting, came thoughts of her ... of Leila.
Her smiling face floated in the depths of his memory, the music of her laughter and the gentleness of her hands haunting him. Once, on a planet light years away, he had made love to her in a way that never would have been possible ... without the spores. The happiness of that time sent a shiver through him. Leila ... she was the closest he had ever come to fully understanding the strange emotion of love ... for even without the spores ... even without them ...
He jolted abruptly, forcing his mind back to reality. She was dead, the music and softness of her, gone forever. Gone, needlessly, on this cold, ugly planet, and he clamped his fists together as he resumed pacing. He remembered the last time he had seen her, and how she had cried against his shoulder and spoke words of love that tore through his Vulcan barrier, into his heart. And after she left, he felt more incredibly alone then ever before in his life. Seven years ago that had been ... seven years. And now, she was dead.
He glanced at the chronometer again, as his eyebrows furrowed. Christine ... she should have returned.
He looked up quickly and saw Lieutenant Mikia Tomoko approaching him, hesitantly.
"Sir, I was wondering if I might be permitted to take a short rest. Lieutenant Kagen and Lieutenant Zanter are with the patients and ... "
"Are you unwell, Lieutenant?" Spock asked, studying the oriental woman's face.
"No, Sir ... just a bit fatigued. I just thought ... if there's time before the serum is ready, that I could rest my feet for a while."
Spock glanced at the chronometer again. "Your assistance will be required in approximately forty-five minutes and ... "
"A half hour would be all that I'd need," she interrupted, hastily adding, " ... Sir."
Spock studied her again, curiously. "Are you quite sure you feel all right?"
"Very well, I will expect you to return here in forty-one minutes."
The girl smiled at him gratefully, thanked him, then left.
He was alone for a half-hour more, when the door opened again and a laughing Christine Chapel and Charles Curtiss entered the room. Spock watched as the Professor helped the nurse off with her coat and noted with curiosity, that the tension within him had lessened. He turned away from the couple and began to concentrate again on rechecking his calculations.
"Oh, Mr. Spock!"
He looked up then as Christine approached him, her face red from the cold, but her eyes shining as she broadly smiled.
"It's just beautiful out there!" she exclaimed, the excitement in her voice. "As ugly as this planet may seem during the day, that moon makes it absolutely beautiful at night."
Spock's eyebrow rose, thinking the woman's reactions illogical at first, but then, he suddenly remembered a time when he had been able to appreciate the beauty of a moon ... a cloud ... a rainbow. He shook away the image again and saw the nurse watching him, as if waiting for a reply. He glanced at the chronometer. "The serum will be completed in fourteen minutes. Perhaps you and the Professor can assist the others in transferring the mobile patients here."
The nurse's smile faded and she sighed openly as she turned back to Curtiss. But the man had held up one hand and shook his head. "There's no need for that, Mr. Spock," he informed the Vulcan. "I'll have a few of my staff help your men with those patients. There are only about three who can travel."
"Very well, Sir ... they can be brought immediately."
Curtiss nodded, then left.
* * *
The colonists were given their injections swiftly and with little trouble, then were settled back in their quarters to rest. Spock administered the last of the injections to Curtiss and then turned to Christine Chapel.
"Completed. The effects should begin reversing within the hour. Have Lieutenants Zanter and Kagen alerted for side effects and have them continue injecting pain relievers until it is no longer necessary. Professor Curtiss ..." Spock turned to the man beside him, "although you, Doctor Compton, Doctor Rojas and Doctor Lang show the least degree of the illness, complete rest is recommended. I suggest you retire along with the other colonists. There is also a chance that you may suffer a side effect from the drug; dizziness, weakness, nausea. It would be to your advantage that you rest."
"Your orders, Mr. Spock?" the man challenged, locking gazes with the Vulcan.
Spock's eyebrow rose and he shook his head. "No, Sir ... merely a cauti on."
The professor glanced over at his assistants who stood across the room and nodded for them to leave. "All right, Mr. Spock ... we'll take your advice and rest." He turned away and walked to Christine. "I want to thank you for your company tonight, Christine ... it was delightful. Perhaps we'll get a chance to spend some more time together, tomorrow." He took her hand and touched it to his lips. "Goodnight, Christine."
"G ... Goodnight, Charles." She watched as the man left, then looked down at her hand, a smile on her face. It was then that she remembered Spock's presence and she straightened and looked at him. "Will there be anything further for me to do, Mr. Spock?"
The Vulcan's dark eyes studied her for a moment, then he nodded. "Lieutenant Tomoko was supposed to report here to assist with the inoculations. She retired to her room earlier, indicating she was fatigued ... perhaps you had better check up on her."
"She will, of course, draw a reprimand for her failure to report. Most regrettable."
"I'll inform her," the nurse returned, stifling a yawn.
Spock noticed the action and added, "It has been a long day for you also, Miss Chapel. Perhaps it would be wise for you to rest a while. No doubt your walk with Professor Curtiss tired you further."
It was there again, in the Vulcan's voice, and Christine watched him in confusion. He had sounded ... almost ... annoyed. She gathered a little courage and flashed a smile. "Mr. Spock ... you really should see that moon. We have time for a short walk ... and ... "
"Perhaps some other time," he interrupted cooly, with an air of disdain. Then he turned away from her and headed back to the lab table.
Christine felt her face flush with embarrassment and anger and she muttered something under her breath, turning on one heel to leave. She stopped at the door and looked back at the Vulcan officer, but he had remained where he was, unmoving, so she gave a little sigh and left.
* * *
"Mr. Spock! Mr. Spock!" Christine ran into the room and searched until she spotted the Vulcan at the laboratory desk. "Mr. Spock!"
"What is it, nurse?"
"It's Lieutenant Tomoko. I've just been to her room and she's burning up with fever."
The Vulcan stood, his eyebrows furrowing as the concern registered on his face. "Did you take readings on her?"
"No ... I didn't have the scan with me."
Spock searched the table in front of him until he found the medical kit and headed for the door as Christine followed.
* * *
"Incredible," Spock said, passing the medical scan over the woman's form once more. He leaned back and sighed. "Miss Chapel ... are you quite positive Doctor McCoy checked everyone's records on board before we beamed down?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock. There's no way Lieutenant Tomeko's records could have been overlooked. The landing party's charts were double-checked." She watched as the Vulcan studied the readings again. "It's Malorian Fever, isn't it?"
"Yes ... and it should not be. The injections we all received on Starbase Seven three months ago should still be effective." He looked at Christine. "Another dose of the M-12 serum will have to be prepared immediately ... and I believe this time, a precautionary injection should be given to the landing party." He took a hypo-spray from the medical kit he carried, adjusted it, and pressed it against Tomoko's shoulder. 'This should enable her to rest without pain for a short while; however, she will no doubt feel discomfort before the serum is completed. I believe we should check Lieutenants Zanter and Kagen and see if they are exhibiting any signs of illness." He studied Christine then, "Have you felt any fatigue ... fever?"
"No, Mr. Spock. I'm perfectly well."
"All right ... come with me."
A small room had been set up in the building for the patients who were most ill, and as Spock and Christine entered, they immediately sensed something wrong. It was Spock who noticed the form of Adam Zanter, sprawled out on the floor. He crossed to him quickly and bent over the figure, with the medical scan out. From the corner of his eye, he saw Christine kneel beside another figure: John Kagen. After running the scan over Zanter's body, Spock grabbed the man under both arms, dragged him to a chair and placed him in it. Then he moved to where Christine knelt, passing the medical scan over Kagen's form, his eyes darkening with confusion. "Malorian Fever," he commented grimly. Then he lifted the man and moved him to another chair.
"Mr. Spock!" Christine called to him from a patient's bed and the First Officer walked to her. "This patient is dead!"
Spock passed the scan over the body and exhaled heavily. This should not have happened. The serum should be reversing the effects of the disease by now.
"It might have been too late to save this patient," Christine suggested. "I remember that she was in very critical condition."
"Perhaps ... but that does not explain why our landing party is contracting the disease." He walked back to where Lieutenant Kagen was propped in a chair and began examining the man more thoroughly. Then he moved to Zanter and finally to the dead patient, examining each. "I shall remove the body to the laboratory, while you make accommodations for Lieutenant Zanter and Kagen. I think it also wise that you transfer Lieutenant Tomoko here. Check all patients and report your readings to me as soon as possible. I will be preparing additional serum, should you require my assistance." He gathered the dead woman in his arms. "One other thing, Nurse Chapel ... when you check Professor Curtiss and his staff, make no mention as to what has transpired."
The nurse looked at him, startled. "I ... I don't understand, Mr. Spock. Professor Curtiss will want to know about the dead patient and ..."
"NO mention is to be made," Spock repeated forcefully. "That is my personal order, Miss Chapel."
"Yes, Sir," she replied, completely baffled.
Spock carried the body out of the room.
* * *
Something was wrong ... Spock knew or suspected something. But for the life of her, Christine could not figure out what. She only knew the facts, and the facts were discouraging and getting progressively worse. Of all the patients she had checked, only four had remained in stable condition. The rest had become worse. Curtiss and his staff: Rojas, Land and Compton, were the four who had not worsened ... the same four Spock had ordered her not to mention the situation to. She had doubts that a few of the critically ill patients would even survive long enough for the second dose of serum. Even so, the serum was having practically no effect at all ... and now, with three of the Enterprise party stricken ...
She entered the laboratory room carrying the chart in her arm, and stopped, wiping a stream of perspiration off her forehead. She took a deep breath and sighed wearily. She was tired and achy and for good reason; she had been on her feet continuously, running from patient to patient with little rest in between. She could only hope that the next batch of serum would be effective. She glanced around the laboratory room. The Vulcan was nowhere in sight, but the chemicals were heating in their separate vials, and all else was in order. She glanced towards the adjoining room and then started towards it.
The room was dark, and for a moment she did not even see the Vulcan standing beside the table that held the figure of the woman. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, then she could identify the woman's body. A wave of dizziness struck her and she felt a flush of ... almost jealousy. But for what? She couldn't imagine being jealous of a dead woman, who, it was only rumored the Vulcan had loved. And yet ... here he was before her, holding the lifeless hand in his, and Christine was aware of her own resentment.
"You did love her, didn't you?" the words blurted out. She saw the Vulcan jolt and turn to face her, surprise plainly readable on his face. He hastily let go of the hand he held and moved away.
"Have you completed the reading on all patients?" he inquired, his dark eyes avoiding hers.
"Yes." She handed him the clipboard. Then she added softly, "I'm sorry I interrupted you. You probably wanted to be alone with her for a while. I ... understand how you must feel, Mr. Spock."
The Vulcan stiffened but kept his eyes on the clipboard.
"I mean, the death of someone you ... care for is always a shock and.."
"Miss Kalomi was a dedicated and most efficient scientist," Spock said abruptly, still avoiding her eyes. "My ... regret over her death is only for the fact that Starfleet ... has lost such a skilled and professional member and ..."
"And you loved her," she interrupted boldly. "It's all right, Mr. Spock ... you don't have to pretend with me."
The First Officer took a deep breath and released an exasperated sigh. "I ... respected and admired Miss Kalomi. I am incapable of feelings beyond that."
The nurse continued to look at him, and finally Spock turned away and moved beside the body of Leila Kalomi once more. "I have been examining each of the bodies thoroughly, and I have found something which I find most disturbing." He reached out and turned the stiffened body on its side, and lifted the long blonde hair away from the back of the neck. Christine watched with curiosity and moved closer as Spock beckoned to her. "There," he pointed to a tiny puncture mark on the woman's neck.
Christine bent even closer and studied the mark. "It almost looks like an ... an old style hypodermic needle mark."
"Yes," Spock agreed, "and the same mark appears on each of those bodies ... in precisely the same location."
Christine stared at him in shock and moved to another body and found the same mark. She looked back at the Vulcan again. "What could these marks mean, Mr. Spock? It's certainly not coincidence."
"No ... indeed not. But I am not yet sure that these marks play a factor in these peoples' deaths."
"But you do suspect something."
"I am not certain," he returned quietly, glancing over at her. "The next batch of serum will be ready in approximately one hour."
"But, if the serum has as little effect this time as with the last batch ... ?"
"Then many of these people will die," he sighed softly. "Until another solution can be found."
"But, I don't understand, Mr. Spock," she continued. "If it is Malorian Fever, and all our readings confirm that it is, why hasn't the serum helped? Why has the landing party become infected? The only ones that seem to be improving are Professor Curtiss and his staff."
"Yes ... I know."
The tone of the Vulcan's voice was cold and even. Christine stared at him for a moment. "You don't trust Professor Curtiss, do you, Mr. Spock? You suspect him of something. But what?"
The Vulcan's dark eyes flickered for a minute, but he did not answer and instead, turned and walked back into the laboratory. "I'll accompany you back to the patients," he said, as she came up beside him. "There are a few things I wish to check out." He picked up a medical scan and hypo-spray, and then headed towards the door.
* * *
"Scanner sweep of the area shows no sign of a ship or debris, Captain." Pavel Chekov looked up from his sensor screen at Spock's station and turned to the man behind him. "Only residual ion radiation from the effects of a storm that recently occurred here."
James Kirk frowned with confusion and nodded to the young navigator. Then, he walked back to his command chair and faced Leonard McCoy who waited there.
"Well ... what's happened?" the medical doctor inquired, with a demanding tone. "A ship just doesn't up and disappear. Even destroyed, there'd be traces of debris ... something."
"Yes," Kirk returned thoughtfully. He turned to Uhura ... "Lieutenant, have you been able to contact Starbase Four yet?"
"No, Captain ... the radiation is still interfering with our communications."
"How about Trius?"
"Negative also, Captain ... the radiation."
"Never mind, never mind ..." Kirk cut off with a raised hand and then slumped down into the chair. "Keep transmitting Lieutenant. Mr. Sulu ... take us around in a wide-angle sweep once more. If we find nothing on scanners, we'll set course back to Trius."
The oriental helmsman turned and looked at him with mild surprise. "But Sir ... the distress signal."
"Mind your helm, Sulu," Kirk admonished softly, settling back. "I am well aware of the distress call, but if five sweeps of this area have produced no sign of the Ibn Daud... I'll give it one more sweep ... then we head back."
"Aye-aye, Sir," Sulu turned back to his station.
'Something's bothering you about all this, isn't it, Jim?" McCoy asked, looking at the captain curiously.
Kirk glanced back at him and shrugged. "I don't know, Bones. I've just had a funny feeling about all of this, right from the start. Curtiss ... the distress call from the Ibn Daud ... something's just not clicking right."
"The old intuition actin' up again?" the doctor grinned.
Kirk smiled back. "I guess that's it, Bones," he admitted ruefully. But suddenly the smile was gone. "I just can't stop thinking about Spock." McCoy looked at him oddly. "You talkin' about Leila Kalomi's death ... how it might have affected him?"
"Yes, that's part of it," Kirk tapped restless fingers against the arm console. "Bones ... he keeps things so bottled up inside ... and one of these days ... "
"One of these days, it'll probably kill him," McCoy finished, matter-of-factly, "unless someone gets through that thick, bull-headed Vulcan defense of his and makes him see the logic of accepting his Human half."
Kirk was not surprised by the doctor's words and heard the tone of affection in McCoy's voice. "I wonder if I should have left him there with the landing party," he said worriedly. "He looked all right ... but sometimes you just can't tell with Spock."
"He'll be fine, Jim," McCoy assured. "He's probably got everyone up and around, and the whole colony running logically and efficiently by now."
"Yes ... yes, I suppose so." And yet Kirk could not shake the growing uneasiness that encompassed him, as he sat back in his chair and watched the blackness of space on the viewing screen before him.
* * *
Spock pressed the hypo-spray against Mikia Tomoko's shoulder, passed the medical scan over her still form, then adjusted and injected the spray once more. He almost appeared to hold his breath for a moment as he stood stiffly beside the girl's bed. Then he sighed and slumped a little, and turned to Christine Chapel, who stood next to him.
"No response," he said quietly, his deep voice almost inaudible. "She's dead."
Christine stared at the figure of the young girl and felt a lump rise in her throat. She was used to death, she had seen it countless times, in countless forms, but the death of someone so young ... so vibrant. She shook her head in bewilderment, then looked at Spock. "I'll check the others, they'll all probably need pain relievers." And she turned and walked dazedly away .
Spock reached behind the neck of the dead woman and probed with sensitive fingers until he found that which he searched for. Then, pushing the woman's hair aside, he looked at the puncture mark at the base of her neck. His mind raced with speculation ... doubts ... a thousand questions; but he could not find an answer, and tightened his lips against the hidden frustration that fought to surface.
He moved, stopping by each patient and probing for the mark on all. It was baffling, annoying ... and finally, finishing his rounds, he walked back to the dead woman's bedside.
"The serum should be nearly ready." His voice was almost weary as he glanced at Christine. "I shall place Lieutenant Tomoko's body with the others and I will return shortly." He bent down and gathered the form of the frail woman in his arms, then left the room.
* * *
He carefully placed the body on a table by the others, then stood back and stared at it thoughtfully. Such a young life ... needlessly, inexplicably ended, and a shiver of regret enveloped him. Why hadn't the serum worked? Why hadn't it worked?! He rubbed a hand wearily over his face and leaned back against another table as he continued to study the bodies before him. He was perplexed, stymied and for the first time, he didn't know where to start. Logically, there had to be an answer in all of this ... but he could not reason it and found himself regretting that Jim was not there to help. He valued his captain's opinions; together they could solve the mystery that plagued him now.
The Vulcan started at the voice and looked over to the door. Charles Curtiss' eyes were scrutinizing the First Officer and Spock straightened and returned the gaze, unflinchingly.
"Professor ... you should be resting," Spock said evenly. "You will regain your strength with much more rapidity if you ... "
"That's not necessary, Mr. Spock," Curtiss interrupted, moving to one side and looking at the four bodies. "I feel much better. I see we've had more deaths ... one of them is a member of your landing party." The man walked closer to the bodies. "The young woman ... how unfortunate." "Yes." Spock drew up beside Curtiss and also looked at the bodies. "Death always is ... unfortunate, Professor."
Curtiss glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "I noticed you're preparing another batch of serum," he said, a hint of disapproval returning to his voice. "Have there been problems?"
Spock hesitated briefly, then nodded. "Yes ... a few problems, Professor." Then he reached over to Mikia Tomoko's body and lifted the dark hair. "Did you happen to notice a mark like this on the other bodies you examined?"
Curtiss bent closer for a look, then shrugged. "No ... no, I can't say that I did."
"Yet you performed complete autopsies on them?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock!" the man's reply was hostile. "Complete autopsies!"
"Then the marks, if they were present, would have been recorded?"
"That's the procedure, Vulcan! You know it as well as I!" and Curtiss moved slightly away. "Why does that mark interest you anyhow?"
Spock looked at the man warily. "The same mark appears on the necks of these four dead, and also on the necks of each colonist now infected with Malorian Fever. That includes the stricken members of the Enterprise landing party. More than coincidence, Professor." His eyebrows furrowed as he continued to study the man before him. His mind battled the suspicions he felt; he had no supporting facts, nothing to base his feelings on. He knew only that the 'intuition' the Human half of him felt, would not dispel, and he gave in to an impulse. "Professor," he began softly, looking down at the body before him. "You wouldn't know anything about these marks, would you?"
The silent dislike that radiated from the man was overwhelming as the long silence prevailed. Finally Curtiss' mouth turned up into a sly grin. "You Vulcans ... you're noted for your curiosity and cleverness. Perhaps you should have learned to control that, as well as your emotions." The man paused for a second, then continued. "You would have had to have been disposed of sooner or later, Vulcan ... and since your curiosity is alerted, now is as good a time as any," and swiftly the man reached behind him and drew a phaser from the back of his belt. "A pity really ... with your body, we could avoid unnecessary complications ... but your Vulcan blood makes you uninhabitable for us, so you must die." Then Curtiss tilted his head slightly. "You suspected something all along, didn't you?"
Spock stood stiffly as he faced the man before him, his only expression being that of curiosity. "I suspected something," he admitted, tonelessly. "However, I am at a loss to understand exactly what has occurred. I assume you are not Professor Charles Curtiss. Would it be presumptuous of me to ask who, or what you actually are?"
Curtiss smiled and chuckled as he kept the phaser leveled on the Vulcan. "No ... I guess there is no harm in your knowing. You can not stop us now, and in a moment you'll be dead. You're quite right, Mr. Spock, in your assumption that I am not Charles Curtiss. Oh, this *is* his body, and his consciousness and memories have been retained for my use, but my original form would be quite alien from this. Almost what you would classify as ... gaseous."
"Interesting," Spock commented quietly. "As your natural form, are you native to this planet?"
"Yes, we've inhabited this planet for millennia. When this expedition arrived, we had to study the strange new beings; we had been unaware that any other life forms even existed beyond ours. We were really quite naive. In our gaseous state, we could not fully comprehend your kind, yet we hungered to learn. Then there was an accident; one of the Humans, a female, was killed. It happened without the other Human's knowledge, and we were amazed to find that we could take control of the body and open its mind to the stores of knowledge within."
"You mentioned 'we'," Spock interrupted. "How many others of you are there?"
The man in front of Spock shrugged. "Countless thousands. You see, we exist in quite a different fashion than you. We can perform as a single intellect, or as many separate intelligent forces."
"Then there is more than one of you controlling Charles Curtiss' body?"
"Oh yes ... we exist together for a common purpose. In Human form, we will not be limited to this one world we have always known. There are galaxies awaiting us ... other forms for us to transfer into."
"Then you can enter the body of a deceased form, and exist indefinitely?"
"Not quite. After entering the dead female's body, we learned that we could not exist in it unless it was first prepared in a certain manner for us. We were able to extract from the female's brain, the knowledge of a process by which the preparation could be accomplished, and we could then exist without complication. You see, Vulcan ... we have taken over eleven bodies, and the rest are being prepared even now."
"Then the disease which has affected the members of this colony is not, in actuality, Malorian Fever?"
"No, Mr. Spock. But the difference is so minute, that it is virtually impossible to register."
"You say you have taken over eleven bodies?" Spock inquired.
"Yes, Rojas ... Compton, Lang, myself and ... "
"And the seven members of the colony that you reported to the Enterprise, as having succumbed to the disease," Spock finished. "I assume they are carefully hidden from view at the moment?"
"In a place not too far from here," Curtiss chuckled. "Those marks on the necks of each victim is the method by which the process is introduced into the bloodstream. The process is a serum, of course, and once a body is injected, the takeover is quite rapid. Your M-12 serum is useless against that which we inject ... because of your Vulcan blood, our serum is, in turn, useless against you. Once we take over the bodies of the Enterprise landing party, when the Enterprise returns, it will be relatively simple to board the ship and begin the takeover process there. Once the Enterprise is ours... well, there is no limit as to what we could accomplish ... where we could travel."
"And the colony members who remain on this planet?"
"They will take over the cargo ship when it makes its next call, and we will transfer from the colonists bodies to the bodies of the ship's crew. Starfleet will eventually learn of the colonists death, and chalk it up as a natural disaster ... residual effects from Malorian Fever. They will never discover the truth."
"But surely you do not register as a Human form on instrumentation?"
"In fact we do, Mr. Spock," the man grinned. "You see, even in our gaseous form we had ... limited power. In a Human body, we devised ways to use that power."
"Then the distress call from the Ibn Daud to the Enterprise was a decoy?"
"Yes ... we needed a ship to takeover ... but we could not raise suspicion. In the bodies of the Enterprise landing party, there will be none."
The Vulcan officer nodded slowly. "Fascinating. How, may I ask, will you explain my death?"
"Oh, an accident will be staged ... perhaps a chemical fire, the result of an explosion in the lab. You were efficiently doing your job and were killed. Your body will be found ... horribly burnt, I'm afraid. I believe your captain will accept the words of Nurse Chapel and the other Enterprise landing party members who witnessed the scene. Little will he suspect that we will have taken over their bodies by then." The man's hand tightened around the phaser. "I'll kill you first, then rig the explosion. It's a pity we can not exist in your body, Mr. Spock. You seem quite superior in many ways. Oh well ... no matter. Goodbye, Mr. Spock."
Spock stiffened as he waited for the expected phaser blast, feeling no fear. He regretted only that he would not be able to warn Jim and the others, and he felt extremely concerned over that. He waited and watched with awe as the man before him was encased in the sudden light of a phaser flash. He looked up as Christine Chapel entered the room, carrying the responsible weapon in her trembling hand.
"I heard the last of the conversation," she explained, walking to Spock and handing him the phaser. "I don't understand all of it, but I heard enough to know that the Professor wanted to kill you. What's all this about, Mr. Spock?"
"There is no time to explain now, Miss Chapel. I believe our immediate course of action should be to put as much distance as possible between us and this encampment."
"But the other patients ... " Christine stammered, "and Lieutenant Zanter and Kagen ... "
Spock had crossed to the sprawled figure and was feeling the neck pulse for signs of life. "It is not possible for us to take them along," he returned quietly. "They are far too ill and unable to travel. We can only try to successfully escape and contact the Enterprise, and then return to rescue them." He noticed the confused look on Christine's face. "I will explain further when the opportunity arises." He hesitated briefly, then, "It is most fortunate you appeared when you did, Miss Chapel."
It was his way of thanking her and she nodded in return. Then her face clouded as she stared at the stilled form in front of her. "Is he dead? The phaser was preset on disrupt ... "
"He is only stunned. I suspect he will regain consciousness very shortly. There will not be much time for us to get a good lead. We'll take the phasers and communicator with us. Come."
* * *
"Mr. Chekov ... estimated arrival time to orbit of Trius X-2?" James Kirk questioned, leaning forward in his command chair awaiting the reply.
"Arrival in approximately fifteen point two hours, Sir," Chekov's answer was swift and direct.
Kirk sat back with a small sigh and nodded his head. His fingers tapped nervously against his thigh.
"Is Spock still worryin' you?" Leonard McCoy asked, walking over to the command chair, a grin on his face. "C'mon Jim ... I haven't seen you so jumpy in a month of Sundays. Relax!"
Kirk glanced sideways at his friend and forced a small, unconvincing grin. Then his eyebrows furrowed. "I can't help it, Bones ... I just can't shake this feeling. Something is fishy about this whole business. I'll be glad when we get back to Trius and get the landing party on board again. I just wish we could get there sooner."
"Huh! Scotty's hittin' the roof now 'cause you've got him pushin' the ship at warp seven. Besides, Christine will kill us if we arrive too soon. I'm sure she's gonna make another play for our First Officer. Down there on assignment with him ... why it's her dream come true. Poor Christine..." the doctor chuckled. "Of all the people to be in love with, she had to go pick that stubborn Vulcan."
Kirk's grin was back and genuine now, as he looked at McCoy. "Oh, I don't know Bones..." he answered, laughing. "You know what they say; perseverance pays off."
"Yeah ... but with Spock?"
"Well ... who knows," Kirk added, his grin widening. "Spock has his moments. I bet he could be quite affectionate if he put his mind to it." Then his smile faded and his brews began to furrow again with worry. "I'll just be glad to get back there, and get them all on board." He sat back in the seat with a small sigh as nervous fingers drummed against his thigh once more.
* * *
The cold permeated their bodies as they made their way hastily along the rocky surface, stumbling every now and then over a protruding stone, unnoticed in the dark. Spock led the way, clenching his teeth and hands to ward off the numbing chill, so foreign to him. He glanced back at Christine Chapel who kept pace behind him, hugging the long fur coat around her.
They had been traveling for an hour, making good speed and putting considerable distance between themselves and the Earth colony. Spock explained briefly about the alien beings to Christine as they ran. He could not tell if they were being followed, even his superior Vulcan eyesight was almost useless in the thick dusk of the planet. He headed instinctively for the mountain range the Enterprise had charted prior to beaming down.
Spock glanced back at Christine again and slowed his pace a little. Remarkably, she had kept up the swift jog along with him, though she was no doubt exhausted. The Vulcan felt a twinge of admiration for the woman; admiration and gratitude ... she had saved his life. He forced the feelings back behind his Vulcan barrier as he continued. His foot hit a rock, and he recovered his balance hastily and turned to warn Christine. He was not in time though, and watched as she wavered and sank to the ground. He was beside her in an instant.
"Miss Chapel!... Christine ... are you all right?"
She struggled to sit up and pushed the hood away from her face with one hand. "I ... I just need ... a little rest," she huffed, looking up at him. " ... please?"
There was no answer from the Vulcan as he stared at the woman.
"I'm so tired ... " Christine continued, trying to catch her breath, "and ... I'm sweating ... My God, I'm sweating so much! I'm so hot and ..." She stopped in mid-sentence as she noticed the Vulcan's face. Spock's eyebrows were furrowed and concern was plainly visible as he looked at her. Then the meaning for his expression became suddenly clear and Christine stiffened as her eyes widened. "I have it ... don't I?" she said abruptly, tonelessly. "They've injected me already ... the process is beginning, isn't it?"
For once the Vulcan was totally readable, although he dropped his gaze as he spoke. "We cannot be certain. You are tired and have good reason to be. You are sweating from the hard run ... I should have slowed the pace. "
"My neck," she interrupted, pulling away the hood and feeling in back of her. "The mark ... it's there, isn't it?"
Spock bent forward and from the corner of her eye she saw him stiffen and heard the catch in his breath. She was at once, both frightened and warmed. She had been injected, and Spock cared.
"We should be reaching the mountain range shortly," Spock's voice broke the silence, controlled but strained. "We may be able to find a cave for shelter and light a small fire against the cold. Come." And he stood up and reached for her arm.
"No ... no, this is stupid," Christine objected, pulling her arm from his grasp. "I'm only slowing you down. It'll be worse now ... I just don't have the strength. My God ... I'm so hot!" She waved him away with her hand. "You go on, you'll make it better without me. Give me a phaser and I'll hold back any followers."
The Vulcan continued to stare at her, then reached for her arm again."I shall assist you ... it will not be much further."
"No!" Even she was surprised by the sharpness in her own voice. "You'll have a better chance alone; you can't be caught! You've got to warn Captain Kirk ... the Enterprise! Go ... please!"
Spock paid no heed and pulled the woman to her feet.
"Spock ... can't you understand?" Christine argued, trying to pull away. "You'll get caught with me along. Your only chance is to warn the captain. To take me along is ... well, it's ... illogical."
There was a flicker of something in Spock's dark eyes as he gripped the woman's arms, his gaze remaining steady. "I am not interested in your martyr's attitude, Miss Chapel. We go together," and he put his arm firmly around her and helped her to walk.
They traveled like that for a half-hour more, until Christine collapsed into unconsciousness. Spock lifted her into his arms and continued along the way, ignoring his burden and the cold that enveloped his body.
By the time they reached the side of the mountain range, he was near collapse himself, and he paused for a moment to rub feeling back into his numbed arms and legs. He could not control the shivering of his body now and had to summon strength from within to continue. Then, once again, he hoisted the woman into his arms and started the steep climb.
The cave was shallow, but it provided the shelter he searched for, and Spock carefully placed Christine's unconscious form on the ground. He could barely move his fingers to get out the magnisite nitron pellet for the fire, but with effort, he eventually succeeded, and the light bathed the once dark cave. A few startled creatures rustled about and fled in confusion, but Spock gave them little notice as he bundled the coat tightly around Christine's body, before moving closer to the light for warmth. He kept his eyes on the woman before him, almost as if he were afraid to look away; afraid the rise and fall of her chest would stop if he did.
After a long while, he reached over and began to readjust the communicator as he sat in silence.
* * *
Her body burned with the pain that engulfed her. She tried to push off the wrapping that bound her, but it kept returning with a maddening consistency, to enshroud her again. She heard a distant noise and was shocked when her consciousness returned and she realized the sound was her own weeping. She opened her eyes and it was a minute before her vision cleared. Then suddenly, he was there ... beside her ... as if he would always be, as if that were his rightful place. She felt the pressure of his fingers against her temple, heard him draw a long, low sigh. After a moment, his eyes met hers and there was concern in them ... concern for her. She reached up a burning hand and touched his cool, lean face and saw his look change to one of confusion, bewilderment ... and she smiled. Then he took her hand in his strong, sure one, and she felt comforted.
He called her name and she felt the same flutter she always felt when he spoke; the deep resonant tones of his voice always thrilling her. He was here, beside her ... holding her hand, calling her name. He cared ... he cared! She floated again in the dream with him waiting silently beside her, clutching her hand.
Her mind snapped and reality returned with startling abruptness. Her eyelids fluttered and opened, and she stared at the Vulcan's face. "Mr. Spock?"
"Yes," his voice was unsteady and he breathed a sigh of relief. His eyes studied her for a moment until finally he asked quietly, "...is there much pain?"
Christine shrugged and tried to force away the agony that consumed her. "I ... hear that there are ... worse things," she returned, trying a brave smile. "It's not that bad, Mr. Spock ... really."
She watched him nod and saw his facial muscles tighten. "I did not bring the medical kit," he said, his voice barely audible. "I regret that I have nothing to relieve your pain. I am deeply sorry, Christine."
The tenderness in his words and voice startled her, but her smile grew. He really cared! "It's all right, Mr. Spock," she assured, "and anyway ... it won't matter soon ... "
The Vulcan's grip tightened on her hand and his voice was almost desperate. "The Enterprise will be here soon; we will find a way to help you."
"How?" she interrupted, giving a small chuckle of sarcasm. "We don't even know what they injected me with. How can we stop it?" and suddenly her eyes filled with tears as the pain grew worse. "It's all so hopeless ... how can we stop them?" She felt her head spinning, and took a deep breath. "I remember now ... how it must have happened ... how I was injected. When Professor Curtiss and I went for that moonlight walk ... I remember he put his arm around me and something scratched my neck." She gave another sarcastic laugh as the tears began to stream. "He said it was his bracelet that scratched me ... his bracelet! And all because I wanted to go for a walk in the moonlight. If I hadn't gone with him..." She shook her head. "But ... every woman wants to be appreciated once in a while, Mr. Spock ... " she cried. "I wanted you to take me ... oh, why couldn't you have taken me?"
Spock's eyebrows furrowed as he watched her.
"If I hadn't gone with him ... " Christine sniffed, trying to regain her control, "I wouldn't be here like this. It was foolish of me to think you'd get ... jealous."
"Christine ... "
"And now I'll die..." she cried, closing her eyes. "I'm so foolish ... and now I'll die for it!"
"Christine..." Spock's voice faltered as he bent closer to her. "I ... I will take you ... for that walk," he said awkwardly, his eyes wincing as if he could feel her pain. "On Starbase Four ... I'll take you for that moonlight walk. Christine ... you must not die!" His voice faltered again as he lowered his head. She felt the pressure of his hands again as they gripped hers, and she blinked away her tears to look at him.
It was there, in his eyes ... all she had ever hoped to see; concern, caring ... emotion. Emotion! She reached up and pressed two fingers against his lips and saw his eyes close as he trembled beneath her touch. "I'll be all right, Spock ... " she whispered softly, a smile on her own lips, "...as long as you're here ... as long as you're here."
* * *
Spock reached out and felt the woman's forehead again, his eyes showing misery as he did. He shuddered with each moan that escaped Christine's lips, but sat silently beside her.
She needed help ... and soon. But what chance did he have to help her? Even if the Enterprise came ... even then ... could they combat the alien serum that burned within her?
She would die as Leila had and another part of himself would die along with her. There would be no warmth in the cold loneliness of his heart then ... none at all. He shuddered violently, but could not take his eyes from her face. There was an emptiness growing within him as he watched Christine and realized that he could not help her. Why hadn't he taken her for that walk? He had known at the time that it was what she had been hinting at ... but his Vulcan upbringing ... his stubborn refusal to give in to his feelings, had held him back ... Christine.
Frustration over-whelmed him and he buried his face in both hands, trembling against the rush of unaccustomed emotion. Christine ... they would not use her! He could find a way to prevent that ... that much he could do. A surge of rage pulsed through him. The aliens would not use her!
He stood up abruptly and began pacing as an idea formulated in his mind. He was confident he could prevent it ... there was something he could do after all! They would not use Christine!
"Christine.. .Christine!" He waited anxiously until the woman's eyes opened, then he gave her a small sigh. "Christine ... I will have to leave for a short while. I will leave a phaser here with you and I will light another pellet. I have fixed the communicator on a high beam frequency; it should not be perceivable by any ground sources, but the Enterprise will be able to detect it." He pulled the coat around her and then took one of her hands in his. "When Jim comes ... you must tell him what has happened. It will be up to you to let him know," he stopped as Christine's eyes widened.
"But ... but where are you going?"
"I shall divert their search ... draw them away from this direction," and he placed two fingers on her lips to stop her protests. "I will return as soon as I can ... but you must tell the captain ... warn him of the danger. Do you understand, Christine?"
The woman nodded in confusion and Spock permitted himself a slight grin. "You will be all right," he assured quietly, as he reached forward and caressed her cheek. "You will not die." And he let his fingers linger on her face for a moment longer before he drew back. He struck another pellet and then moved to the cave's entrance and hesitated as he turned once more to look at Christine. His eyes closed momentarily as he mumbled something to himself, then turned again and was gone.
He jogged along, ignoring the biting cold once again, driven now by a purpose which obscured his discomfort. He descended the rocky slope swiftly, straining for any glimpse of movement. His mind raced with plans and he carefully plotted each course of action. He would draw them away from Christine. That was what mattered most ... that they stay away from her. He turned his thoughts inward and began conditioning his mind against thinking of her. He directed his attention to his objective and continued his pace relentlessly, drawing on his Vulcan reserve for strength.
He had traveled a good distance after back-tracking from the base of the mountain, keeping alert for sounds with his sensitive ears. He was tiring and slowed his pace ... finally picking a spot to rest. He slumped to the ground and closed his eyes in meditation, remaining still for a long moment. Then suddenly, he snapped his head up, becoming aware of movement around him. Scrambling to his feet, he stood rigid, straining for the direction of the noise. After a moment, he began to jog again, then swung around when he heard a shuffling behind him. A sharp blow on the back of his head temporarily obliterated reality and sent him crashing to his knees. He shook off the darkness that clouded his eyes and struggled to his feet, striking out blindly. There was the sound of a whirr, then reality was lost once again, as he fell in the light of a phaser blast.
* * *
"Come on ... come on ... we haven't got that much time!"
Spock's consciousness returned and he woke to the voice of Charles Curtiss. His eyes opened slowly and he tried to clear his vision. There was pain throbbing through his skull and he made a concentrated effort to control it. His vision cleared and he found that he was sitting in a chair, bound at the wrists and ankles. The alien who was Charles Curtiss, stood in front of him with a metal rod, an evil grin curling his lips.
"Well ... that's more like it ... much more like it. It's about time, Vulcan," the alien moved closer. "You should have known your escape would be futile. We've too much at stake to let you ruin it now." He began to walk around the chair that held Spock. "But you are clever, I'll grant you that much. You did manage to give us a chase." The alien stopped behind Spock and gave him a poke in the back of the head with the rod, which sent fresh waves of pain through the Vulcan's skull. "That's a nasty crack you've got there, Mr. Spock," the alien commented slyly. "It really should be looked after." He continued around until he faced Spock once again. "We'll stop the pain for you ... if you'll tell us where the woman is."
Spock sighed deeply as relief flooded him and a small grin found its way to his lips. Christine was still safe, they had not found her. He had been successful. He sank back in the chair and allowed the happiness to flood him. The good feeling was abruptly ended by a sharp blow across the cheek by the metal rod. Spock felt his flesh rip and a stream of liquid flowed from the cut, down along his neck. He controlled the cry of pain that rose in his throat.
"We won't waste time with you, Vulcan," Curtiss said angrily, touching the rod tauntingly against the fresh wound. "You'd tell us where she is, sooner or later, but we're unwilling to wait," and his smile grew. "That device you sit in ... a beautiful piece of work, really. Fashioned quickly and efficiently by the genius mind that was once Theodore Compton. Those plates your hands and feet rest on send increasing volts of electricity through any unfortunate soul who happens to be sitting there. Yes ... I am really proud of this device ... it should prove interesting."
"It will be ineffective against me," Spock said quietly, his dark eyes meeting the alien's. "Vulcans have high resistance to such devices because..."
"We shall see, Vulcan!" the alien spat back at him in fury. "S o high and mighty proud ... I'll have you whimpering like a baby!"
"I think not."
The rod in the alien's hand lashed out again and cracked against Spock's temple, blurring his vision and sending forth another stream of blood.
Then the alien gave a command and the first jolt of electrical current hit the Vulcan's body. It was formidable and Spock at once turned his mind inward, to thoughts that would be useless to the aliens.
The shocks grew increasingly stronger, tingling his body in ecstatic agony, eliciting strange responses he could not bother to control. His mind was most important; he had to protect that.
"The woman ... where is she?"
The alien's voice reached him from the depths of his pain, but his mind ignored it. He was startled that the relatively crude device he sat in could produce such extreme pain, and once or twice, a moan would escape him, much to the delight of his tormentor. The voltage steadily increased, to a level finally, where he could no longer distinguish the greater power, but knew only that if it continued, his body would cease its functioning. The aliens knew it too, for in the back recesses of his mind, he heard a voice say, "Full voltage ... any more will kill him."
And the alien Curtiss' voice spat out a Terran expletive and then very suddenly, the pain was gone. The abruptness of its ending was a shock in itself, and Spock relaxed his mind and let himself lapse into the void of unconsciousness.
* * *
His body ached with a numbing pain that reached to every nerve ending, drumming, throbbing, and he had to fight the nausea that threatened to overtake him. He was lying down and was aware of a softness beneath him, a pleasant warmth surrounding him. Curiosity forced him to open his eyes, but his vision was blurred and he could distinguish only light. The effort to move was excruciating, so he remained still, straddling the realm of consciousness. A moan escaped him and then suddenly, there was coolness on his face, as someone began pressing soothingly against the pain. Curiosity again ... and he forced his eyes open once more and fought to clear his vision, and when he succeeded, his body jolted in shocked recognition.
It was Leila Kalomi who gazed back at him, her warm smile drowning any pain he felt. "Leila..."
"Shhh ... be still, my darling. Don't move," she whispered, and her voice was as musical and soft as he always remembered it as being. "Just lie there and let me help you," and her smooth, strong hands began to knead away the aches of his body. Spock struggled desperately to clear his mind and bring back reality, but the dream would not vanish, for Leila remained before him. Under the gentle ministrations of her hands, he found himself not caring if it was unreal, and let himself succumb to the fantasy.
He was no longer lying there ... but instead, in a sweet meadow on a planet light years away. She was beside him, her mouth warm and alive against his, as she patiently taught him the pleasures that Vulcan philosophy had denied. Later, they were walking hand in hand and reached her room, and there the lessons were put to test as he expressed the love he had always before controlled. In the aftertime he held her, still awed by the softness of her skin and his extreme sense of contentment as she slept in his arms. The spores ... it didn't really matter to him if they were responsible ... he had always loved her. He just hadn't been able to express it before.
His mind sought reality again, but she was still there, her hands caressing him soothingly. Competent hands ... loving hands ... helping him, relaxing him ... nursing him. Nurse's hands ... Christine!
"Christine" His eyes opened abruptly and Leila's face smiled down at him.
"It's all right darling ... we're going to help Christine ... she'll be all right. But we must find her, my love ... so we can help her. She's ill ... and you must tell me where she is so we can help her."
His brain reeled in confusion as blood rushed to his head. He trembled violently. Christine ... Christine...
"You must tell us quickly, my darling."
Flashes of memories passed before him then; Christine ... the cave ... the landing party ... Curtiss... Leila ... Leila ... Leila ...
"NO! " he reached out with one arm and pushed the woman away with all the strength he could summon. He struggled to sit up, but failed and fell back weakly into the pillow, nausea gripping his stomach as it began to rise in his throat. Leila was dead ... dead!
"Darling ... please," her hands sent shivers through him as she stroked his face again. "You're ill ... they've hurt you," her voice continued, " but you must let us help. We'll help Christine too ... but we must find her ... " He wanted desperately to believe in her. He wanted it more than anything else he could remember. But it could not be ... and bitter laughter escaped his lips, startling even him by the unaccustomed sound. He reached out and gripped Leila by the wrist, his dark eyes blazing with anger. "You tell ... tell Curtiss ... it won't work," he said weakly. "You'll never find her ... you'll never use her ..."
The look in Leila's eyes turned immediately to burning fury and it was a stranger who wrenched free of the grip Spock had on her arm. "You're a fool!" The voice was cruel and harsh as Leila Kalomi's had never been ... could never have been. "She's dead by now anyway. We *will* find her ... we will!!"
Spock shook his head slightly and gave a small, sad grin of triumph. The alien before him spoke the truth about Christine ... by now she was most likely dead. But the triumph Spock felt was because he knew he would not break now ... he would never tell them where she was. Not ever ... they would not use Christine's body the way they were using Leila's.
He watched as the alien woman buzzed the intercom, and in a few seconds, the alien who was Charles Curtiss, entered the room.
"It didn't work!" the woman said angrily, glancing in Spock's direction. "We'll have to try something else."
"We haven't much time!" the man came back nervously. "We've got to have the woman's body!"
"I know ... I know. Perhaps the electric current again?"
"It didn't work before!" Curtiss complained.
"This time we'll keep him on it longer! It's got to work!"
The two aliens approached the bed where Spock lay.
"You *are* a fool, Vulcan," the alien Curtiss growled angrily. "And you will suffer ... you *will* suffer!" Spock watched as the man drew a phaser, pointed it at him and fired.
* * *
He awoke to the shock of current, pulsating through his body and he uncontrollably gave a cry of pain before he fully regained his senses.
It was worse ... much worse somehow. Perhaps he was too weary to care any longer; perhaps because he knew the secret of Christine was locked safely away in his mind and they would not extract that knowledge from him. He no longer tried to control the pain and it became a torture he almost welcomed. The current may not kill him ... but he knew it would soon drive him to an insanity he began to wish for. The Enterprise would be safe ... and he would be free ... totally free ...
Panic!! Somewhere in the back of his mind, there was the sound of voices shouting in chaotic confusion. Strange and yet familiar sounds buzzed about him and then screams of terror pierced his brain. And suddenly ... very suddenly, it was quiet, and the jolting in his body ended as strong hands pulled him from the chair.
"Spock! Spock, are you all right? ... Oh, Jesus ... look at him ... Spock?"
Gentle fingers laid against his temple and Spock struggled to fight the dream again. Not this time ... not this time ...
'Spock ... it's all light ... everything is alright now. We found Christine ... it's all right ..."
Christine! Panic gripped him and he lashed out blindly at the person holding him. They had found Christine! They had found her! "No! ... No! ... " They would abuse her now! "Christine!!" the cry wrenched from the very soul of his being as he fought. "I did not tell them! Christine!"
"Spock ... it's all right!" The arms struggled with him, holding him down. "Bones ... Bones, do something for him ... give him something!" There was a pressure against his shoulder and a hissing sound, and Spock felt his body start to float as the pain began to dwindle. He commanded his eyelids to open and even through the blur, he could tell he was among friends ...
"Yes, Spock ... it's me. You'll be all right now, my friend."
His captain's voice was unsteady, but the arms that held him possessed all the strength in the world. He closed his eyes with exhaustion and tightened his lips in an effort to block the sob of relief that eventually escaped.
* * *
"Well ... I'll tell you this much ... I'll never doubt your intuition again," Leonard McCoy promised, giving Kirk a crooked grin, as the two men stood inside the turbo-lift. "If it hadn't been for you, we never would've gotten back to Trius in time and those aliens' plans might have worked."
"Don't sell yourself short, Bones," Kirk returned with a smile of his own. "If you hadn't found that formula to use, we still might be battling those aliens."
"Well, it was a simple formula really," the doctor returned modestly. "The computers did all the work. When Christine's body reacted favorably when the Trikium based serum was injected, it was only logical to deduce that Trikium was the key we were looking for. I just wish there was a way we could have studied those aliens."
"It was their choice to fight, Bones ... not ours. They killed enough of our people."
"Yes ... but do you think there are any more still alive down there?"
"I don't know ... but Starfleet's posting an 'off limits' to all ships, until they can work out an idea. A life force like that could become pretty dangerous if it were to side with ... let's say ... our enemies."
"Yes ... I guess so. It's a pity about the science party and Tomoko and Kagen. But at least we were in time to save Lieutenant Zanter and Christine."
"And Spock, " Kirk added.
"Yeh, well nothin' can get through that Vulcan hide of his. Jim ... you should have seen Spock's face when he came out of the sedative. He saw Christine standin' there and ... well, he looked like he couldn't believe his eyes. He didn't stop starin' at her for a full five minutes. I doubt he even heard me explain what went on down there on Trius after we found Christine."
"I guess Christine was thrilled by his reaction," Kirk chuckled, stepping out of the lift as the doors opened.
'She's in seventh-heaven, believe me," McCoy laughed. "Especially after I told her that Spock called out her name while he was under sedation."
"How is Spock otherwise, Bones?" Kirk asked, becoming serious again. "Is he fully recovered?"
"Well ... he no longer has any pain, but I think he'll remember the experience for a while. His body went through some pretty bad shocks, Jim, and though he'll probably deny it, I think it left emotional scars that only time will heal. He seemed ... sensitive when I mentioned the device they used on him. Nothing real serious though ... he's still our stubborn First Officer."
Kirk nodded and the two men walked up to the sickbay entrance.
"Nurse Chapel, I assure you, I am not hungry!"
Spock's tone of voice caused the two men to glance at each other in surprise as the door closed behind them.
"Doctor McCoy said you were to eat to regain your strength, Mr. Spock," Christine Chapel argued, her back to the two men. She set the tray she carried on a table next to Spock's bed, and then noticed McCoy and Kirk behind her. "Oh, there you are, Doctor ... Mr. Spock refuses to eat." She gave a small exasperated sigh. "Shall I prepare an intravenous feeding?"
"I'll talk to him, Christine," McCoy returned, approaching the Vulcan's bedside. "Spock ... you know this is for your own benefit. It's no use being stubborn about it."
The Vulcan's eyebrows rose considerably, but his expression remained one of annoyance. He muttered something about ... "illogical" beneath his breath and then nodded in Kirk's direction. "Captain.."
"Spock, how are you feeling?" Kirk returned, noticing that the Vulcan's eyes still held the hollow look of pain.
"Very well, Sir. I believe I am quite able to return to my duties if you would ... "
"Your duties!" McCoy exclaimed, rolling his eyes skyward. "Spock ... you won't be returnin' to your duties for at least three days, so you might as well lay back and let Christine here fatten you up a little. I believe she made some plomik soup for you."
At the mention of food, Spock straightened in the bed and took a deep breath, closing his eyes momentarily.
McCoy noted this and raised an eyebrow. "Nauseated?" he asked, concerned.
Spock waited a moment, then nodded. "Yes Doctor, as usual your medicines are having that effect on me." Then he looked back at Kirk. "Captain ... I understand that it was by your intuition, that you decided to return to Trius X-2 instead of remaining to search for the Ibn Daud."
"Yes, I just couldn't shake the feeling I had about Curtiss. We couldn't get through to Starfleet for verification of the Ibn Daud's location because of the high ionization in the area ... so I had to rely on my intuition, no matter how illogical it may be," he smiled at his First Officer. "Then when we beamed down and found Christine, she explained all that had happened. McCoy ran some information through the computers and was able to isolate a formula for us. The formula reversed the effects of the alien serum that had been injected into Christine and Adam Zanter ... but the rest of the colonists' bodies had already been taken over by the alien life force. We were able to stun the aliens long enough to inject them all ... I don't know if any of them were able to flee the bodies they inhabited or not, but our computer's data says that, while there is a possibility, it's more probable that the aliens died within the bodies they occupied." He paused and his voice became somewhat softer as he regarded the Vulcan closely. "We have all the colonists' bodies on board now and they'll be given a proper burial on Starbase Four."
Spock looked at his captain oddly for a moment, as something flickered in his dark eyes. He knew what Kirk was saying ... knew his friend had purposefully refrained from mentioning Leila's name; and Spock was grateful. She was gone now ... truly gone, and it was best to bury the memories he had, along with her. He drew a deep breath and nodded. "It is fortunate you returned when you did, Captain," he said, finally. "The aliens could have, quite possibly succeeded with their plans had they had more time."
"Yes ... very possibly," Kirk agreed. "Well ... we're just lucky that Christine held out the way she did and was able to tell us what happened." He looked over at the nurse. "She was a pretty sick girl when we found her."
"Indeed?"Spock commented curiously, also looking at her.
Christine blushed, but her face wore a wide grin. "Well ... it was really Mr. Spock who gave me the reason to hang on as long as I could. He left me the responsibility of telling you what happened, Captain ... and I couldn't shirk that duty. Besides ... I guess I'm just too stubborn to give in ... that's all."
"Well then, Mr. Spock, you'll be in fine company," McCoy chimed in, teasingly, " ... because Christine is gonna be taking personal care of you for the next few days ... and we all know how stubborn *you* can be." He turned and put his hand on the captain's shoulder. "C'mon Jim ... let's go get ourselves a meal and leave Christine to the problem of feeding Spock. Nurse Chapel ... you have my personal go-ahead to feed that thick-hided Vulcan intravenously, if necessary ... but I want some nourishment in him."
"Doctor McCoy ... I assure you I am perfectly well enough to return to my duties!" Spock objected, exasperated. Then he turned slightly pleading eyes to Kirk. "Captain ... ?"
"Sorry, Spock," Kirk returned, grinning back at him. "Doctor's orders ... l can't over-rule him," and the two men headed for the door.
Before exiting, McCoy turned and gave Spock a cheery wink, and said, "Bon appetit ... " and then left, leaving the Vulcan glaring at the closed door.
There was an uncomfortable silence which Christine finally broke, as she pushed the tray closer to the Vulcan. "Well, Mr. Spock ... what's it going to be? This or ... intravenous?"
Spock looked up at her with one eyebrow raised in mild surprise. "Miss Chapel ... I have already stated that I have no hunger and ... "
"Very well ... " she interrupted, with forced sternness. "I'll prepare the intravenous formula," and she started to take the tray away."
Spock reached out and held onto the tray, giving a small sigh as he did. "That ... will not be necessary, Miss Chapel," he said, half-heartedly. "I shall ... force myself to eat."
"Well ... good, " she smiled broadly. "It'll help you recover your strength faster, Mr. Spock. You really do need to eat." There was another period of silence as the Vulcan lay there, contemplating the bowl of soup on the tray. Finally he reached over and took a spoonful, then sat back again. Christine saw him swallow and stiffen.
"What's the matter?" she asked quickly, with despair. "I made it myself ... doesn't it taste good?"
The Vulcan took a deep breath and shook his head. "It tastes ... it tastes fine, Miss Chapel," he assured her quietly. "It's just Doctor McCoy's potions working on me again," and he slumped down into his pillow.
"Nauseous?" Christine asked sympathetically. Spock nodded and she started to walk away. "I'll get you something for it."
"No ... no, that won't be necessary, Miss Chapel," he said hastily. "It shall pass momentarily."
Christine halted and turned back to him, then checked a few of his chart readings. "Mr. Spock.." she said hesitantly, "the Captain tells me that ... down on Trius ... the aliens were trying to make you tell them where I was ... and that's why they used that device on you."
Spock straightened and nodded slightly. "Yes," he said quietly, his voice barely audible.
"And you never told them where I was ... " she continued, almost awed, " ... even though they hurt you ... tortured you ... "
"Miss Chapel," he interrupted, holding up a hand, "as commander of the landing party ... your welfare was my responsibility. My actions were..."
"Doctor McCoy said you also called out my name while you were under sedation," she cut in, her smile growing.
"Yes, well ... " the Vulcan officer swallowed uneasily and cleared his throat. "Under sedation ... one is not responsible for one's actions."
"Yes, Mr. Spock," she chuckled, her eyes sparkling. "I understand." She glanced at his chart, then prepared a hypo-spray. "Time for another dose."
The Vulcan gave a small sigh of misery as the hypo hissed against his shoulder. "No doubt this will turn my stomach as well," he complained in a mutter.
"It will make you better," she admonished, "and you do want to be better by the time we reach Starbase Four, don't you? Or have you forgotten?"
Spock's eyebrows rose in confusion. "Forgotten, Miss Chapel?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock. Back there in the cave on Trius, you said you would take me for a moonlight walk when we reach Starbase Four," she said coyly, "and there's an old saying that Vulcans never go back on their word ... or is that a myth?"
Spock frowned noticeably and squirmed down into the sheets, mumbling something under his breath. Christine watched, and then sighed heavily, her smile fading. "Well..." she said, starting towards the door. "I've got to get some supplies from the lab," and as she reached the door, she turned and looked back at the Vulcan sadly. "I guess it was a myth after all," she said somberly, turning again to leave.
"Miss Chapel ... " The Vulcan's voice halted her and she looked back at him. "Miss Chapel ... it is ... no myth. A Vulcan never goes back on his word." He straightened a little, clearing his throat almost nervously. "Besides, I have a ... scientific curiosity to find out just why Humans find a moon so ... . fascinating. Maybe, during our walk ... you could explain it to me?"
Christine stared at him for a minute, wondering if she was only imagining the trace of a grin that seemed to linger on the Vulcan's lips. Then, with a huge smile on her own face, she said, "Mr. Spock ... I'll be most happy to explain, " and she turned again, her eyes shining, and walked out the door.