Captain's Log, Stardate 3397.1
Chief Engineer Scott reporting in the absence of the captain and first officer. The landing party, consisting of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy has now been missing and out of contact for 12.5 hours. For more than eleven of those hours we have been tryin' to determine was has happened to 'em. However, our sensors are meeting an unknown resistance.
Scotty climbed to his feet from under the panel he was working on in Engineering, and hit the intercom. "Scott to bridge. Is it doin' any good, Mr. Sulu?"
"We 'are' picking up some sort of small compound beneath the surface several hundred kilometers from the beam-in site, but we still can't penetrate it. We can't even tell whether or not it's some sort of shielding that's keeping us out. We won't know whether we can beam anything or anyone in or out until we know that."
"Aye," Scotty sighed. "Well, ah suppose you'll be keepin' the con then, Mr. Sulu. Send me any new readings you've got down here, and I'll be seein' what I can do about it. Ya know where I'll be if you need me on the bridge."
Waking was as sudden as the onset of unconsciousness had been, and Spock, of course, as a Vulcan, remembered everything that had transpired before. That did not mean it was pleasant to remember, but the memories were there for the perusing just the same.
He did not open his eyes immediately, instead taking stock of any possible damage to his body. There didn't seem to be any—nothing permanent. However, his limbs felt like lead and there was a general feeling of exhaustion. It was nothing a Vulcan could not overcome easily.
When he opened his eyes there was a new problem, briefly. For a long moment his vision was not up to its usual standards, and it took that moment for the yellow shape above him to coalesce into his captain. He knew it was Jim Kirk before that happened, of course, but it was much better to be able to see clearly.
There were hands holding his shoulders, and he was still on his back. He decided immediately that he shouldn't be. It would only cause the captain and the doctor to worry if he stayed there. It was illogical, but it was the way they were and he had learned, over time, to adapt to it.
"I am quite all right," he said. It wasn't untrue; there was no pain now, which was a considerable improvement over before. When he spoke, though, he realized his throat was dry, and that and other factors caused his voice to come out weaker and more raspy than he would have preferred. Indeed, Jim frowned, and Spock cleared his throat and tried again as he started to sit up. "I am—"
That was as far as he managed before he was cut off both verbally and physically when Doctor McCoy placed his own grip on Spock's upper arm to keep him down. He was left with only his elbows under him.
"No you don't. You need to rest."
"Doctor, your concern is appreciated, but unnecessary." He held up a wrist, where the metal rings were dark. "As you can see, I am unhindered at the moment."
"That doesn't change what happened before you passed out, Spock," Jim said.
"I believe that if I were human, that term might be taken as offensive. "
"Not after what they did to you," McCoy growled. The anger was evident in his tone, but he removed his hand and allowed Spock to sit up. The Vulcan could have done so even if the doctor hadn't moved, but he had not wished to cause offense.
McCoy was the ship's chief medical officer, after all, and he deserved to be listened to—not that Spock would ever tell him such a thing.
Spock sat up, feeling the heavy drag of weakness on his body but ignoring it. The information was compartmentalized and stored away, and it was much easier to do so with that than with the pain of before. Both the captain and doctor had hands out as if to spot him, in case they were needed, but they let their arms drop when they saw they were not.
"I assure you, I am fine."
"All right, Spock," Jim sighed wearily. "But we're still no closer to getting out of here." He nodded up to the panel they had spent so many hours' work on. "They blew the circuits the minute we were back inside."
"And why, may I ask, are we back inside?"
"Because they were going to kill you if we didn't come back in here!" McCoy snapped.
Spock just looked at them, realizing now that his memories were not, in fact, as intact as he thought. He remembered the pain—that he had never felt its like—and he remembered Jim holding onto him and he remembered both of his companions shouting—Jim near enough to his sensitive Vulcan ears to be painful, but that was hardly a concern at the time—and he remembered knowing he would die if the pain as it was then did not stop. He didn't remember how he knew. He didn't remember it being said, or the threat on his life.
He didn't remember his friends acquiescing, sacrificing their chance at freedom for him, though that was apparently what had happened. Granted, if nothing had changed in their captors' original intentions they would all be free at some point anyhow, but…it still seemed like it was something he should remember. It was still a meaningful gesture—illogical, but meaningful. Spock could recognize such things, after having humans as friend for so long.
All of this went through his mind in no more than a very few seconds, and he blinked once. "Indeed."
The loss of memory clarity should not have disturbed him. In truth, considering the amount of stimulation his brain and body had been enduring at the time it was completely reasonable that his mind had not been able to accurately record every detail. He told himself the same would have been true even of a full Vulcan. The doctor had not been entirely wrong several hours ago; controlling pain as a thing of the mind was one matter, but damaging levels of negative stimulation was quite another. If it had continued then there would have been physical damage. It would have killed him.
Therefore, it was illogical for the memory insufficiency to disturb him.
But it did.
The fact that it did disturbed him further.
None of these thoughts were apparent outwardly, of course, or at least they were not meant to be. But his friends, attentive as they were, were still looking at him with concern.
It was not always as reassuring an action as they doubtless intended it to be.
It was Jim again, asking so many questions with only his name. "What of the other panel?" he asked, instead of answering.
"I don't think anything happened to it, but I don't think it'd be much help, either. They've already proven that just getting that door open isn't going to be enough to get us out of here."
He should have had an alternative to offer already. In any other circumstance he would have, but his mind was sluggish from overwork and exhaustion. "I…am sorry, captain. I do not have another solution as of yet."
Kirk just gave him the sympathetic, knowing smile that was one of his signatures. "It's all right, Mr. Spock. I don't think any of us are running on all engines at the moment."
Spock nodded a bit in acknowledgement, and he had to admit that Jim's capacity for understanding often touched him.
Still, he wanted to stand—to get to his feet and attempt to do something, because if he did that perhaps the answer would come to him, and then Kirk and McCoy would be less concerned. It made no sense to simply sit here, anyhow, as the doctor wanted him to do, when he could be up and doing something productive. Perhaps he didn't yet know what that productive activity would be, but it would never present itself if he stayed here on the floor.
Without a word he started to stand, and this time McCoy did not move to stop him even though he did not look happy about it. On the contrary he seemed as if he might try to help.
They both left him alone, however. He knew they were watching him warily, but they let him get to his feet on his own and he was thankful for the consideration.
However, he only made it halfway up before the pain began again and turned his legs immediately to jelly.
He was saved the impact of his knees with the floor when Kirk and McCoy caught his arms and lowered him more slowly. The doctor, of course, was already swearing mightily.
At least this time, Spock thought, he had not cried out. That, though, was not likely to last. The pain was not remaining constant this time. It was in the process of increasing—not exponentially, and not to levels as dangerous as when their captors had threatened to take his life, but certainly to levels worse than anything before that incident.
Then, he had thought that succeeding in opening the door would lead to freedom—to the end of the pain.
That had not happened. He had wanted it to happen. To alleviate the captain's and the doctor's worries, of course. This situation distressed them, and he did not wish to cause them distress. He regretted that they were still here, and that the ordeal was not yet over.
For Jim and McCoy's sake.
Spock focused again on control. It was becoming more difficult. He could hear Jim's voice, and the doctor, but he had to shut them out to gain enough control to keep silent. By the time he came back to the world they had pulled him to the side of their prison to let him rest against a wall—not that they had let him go.
The Vulcan jerked at the shout by his ear. "I can hear you quite well, Doctor."
"Well you couldn't a minute ago."
"I was in meditation."
"Sure, if checking out to manage pain is meditation. That's a common mental defense in humans, you know."
"I am aware…however, I am not human, and that is not what I was engaged in. It is called meditation for a reason, Doctor…it is quite different and distinct from what you term 'checking out.'"
As often as he engaged in these debates with the doctor, it was still a mystery to Spock as to why he continued to do so. They served no logical purpose, and yet he allowed them to happen often. Indeed, he encouraged them and sometimes put great effort into his responses.
If one of his human friends were to ask, he supposed he would have to tell them that the closest answer was that he enjoyed the exchanges—not in the same way they understood the word 'enjoyment,' but it would be the only adequate equivocation. And beyond that, he did not know.
However, this time it seemed as if he had misjudged the doctor's behavior. What he thought was their usual banter was not, in fact, merely that. McCoy looked rather serious now. "You don't have to defend yourself to me, Spock. I'm a doctor. I know what this is doing to you, and that you have to deal with it somehow. You have nothing to be ashamed of; we're just worried about you, is all."
If he were not distracted just now he might have marveled at the unusual emotional directness at the end of the doctor's short speech, but as it was he had no extra capacity for it.
Anyhow, was that what he had been doing? Defending himself? He had not been conscious of any such intent, yet…
Spock glanced from McCoy to Kirk, who had the more somber and somewhat distraught version of his understanding gaze in place now.
"Your assessment assumes emotion, Doctor—which I do not have."
"Whatever you want to tell yourself."
He raised an eyebrow, but when neither of them answered the gesture in good humor he let it go. They released his arms that they both still had hold of, though they did not go anywhere. They settled against the wall on either side of him, with barely enough space for comfort.
Then again, in another way perhaps it was more reassuring to have them near. It was an illogical thing to…feel, and yet Spock did.
He was not able to mull over the strange phenomenon any further. The increasing pain made it impossible to focus on little more than control.
He could not have gotten up to do anything even if there had been something to do, even if he had wanted to.
Complete control did not last long for Spock this time, despite the fact that he didn't move from his place against the wall. Soon enough he was crumpled rather than sitting upright, his brow knitted rather than not, and when the heavier breaths and pained sounds began Jim couldn't just sit there any more.
He got up and took the tricorder from Bones, but he hadn't taken more than a step toward the other panel when it sparked, too. It was still closed and all he saw was the smoke spilling from the cracks, but it was still very clear that the same thing had happened to it as to the first.
It was useless as well. Now there really WAS nothing they could do.
Jim's jaw clenched, and he saw Bones all but gaping at the second smoking panel. "How do they expect to do anything with nothing but fried circuitry?" Kirk asked in frustration.
"Use their version of transporters to get us out of here when they want us gone, I suspect; it must be worth at least temporarily sacrificing this room's functionality to keep us here for now. They must either have others, or know they can repair it once we're gone, or both."
McCoy blinked and glanced back at Spock. "Thank you…I guess." Jim, though, could see how touched Bones was by the Vulcan's comment, even if Spock didn't know it himself. Either way, Spock's only answer was a small nod.
Despite the situation Jim might have smiled if his Vulcan friend hadn't groaned after that.
All that did, of course, was fuel the captain's anger.
"How much longer must this go on!" he demanded. To his surprise, the voice actually answered.
It might have been over at this time, but he defies us with his resistance.
"His—" Jim didn't even try to reign in his response to that, and Bones was on his feet in an instant. If either of them were angry before, it was nothing compared to now.
"Have you lost your alien minds!" McCoy growled.
"It isn't defiance!" Jim shouted. "Restraint is the way of his people! So you torment him; would you take his dignity as well? It's the way he is! How can you punish him for it!"
What is, is.
"That doesn't damn well mean anything!" Bones retorted.
"Stop this!" Jim demanded again, motioning to Spock. "You've done enough to him. Just because he doesn't much show it doesn't mean he doesn't feel pain. We've learned your lesson! Stop!"
The cry was a gasp followed by other sounds, and when Jim looked down from the ceiling he'd been ranting toward Bones was already crouching at Spock's side again. It was Spock who had called to him, and the Vulcan was fighting for control again and he was losing this time.
"Captain…Doctor…I believe you are…only provoking them…please do n—" He cut off and his eyes clenched shut. Jim realized now that the bracelets were flaring in brightness again; not as bright as before, when they nearly lost Spock, but brighter than a moment ago. And even through everything at Deneva, Jim had never seen Spock curl in on himself in pain the way he was now.
"No," Jim protested in panic. "Don't do this because of us."
His plea fell on deaf ears, wherever they were.
"We're reading three life-forms in the compound now—two human, one Vulcan. It's our people all right. But we can't cut through the interference enough to beam them out. Not yet. And I think they're in trouble, Scotty. We're reading their communicator signals on the other side of the underground structure entirely. They don't have their communicators or weapons on them. Whoever has them, they're probably prisoners."
"Don't haf'ta tell me twice, Mr. Sulu. I'm way ahead of you—have more than a few ideas on how to push that transporter signal through, I do. We'll have 'em out 'a there in no time."
"I hope so, sir."
"Can't you just give him what you do have?"
"Every bit of sedative I've got on me would only make him a little groggy at this point, and that might be worse for him than better. As much as I hate to admit it, those Vulcan mind tricks of his are helping. They have from the beginning, and just because they're not working near as well now as they were before doesn't mean he doesn't need them. If he were even more tired or out of it he wouldn't be able to concentrate, and he'd be in more pain—not less."
"Bones, I can't just stand here and—"
"Do you think I can! What do you want me to do, Jim? We have no avenues of escape to explore, and we can't help him. We're even more helpless here than we were on Deneva, and I hate it just as much as you do. I didn't want it to turn out this way either."
"Then what are we supposed to do?"
"Be here for him. You're good at that." McCoy paused. "That, and…maybe if I gave him a stimulant it'd help his concentration—help him stay a little more on top of it. It'd be completely counter-intuitive if he were human, but as he likes to point out, he isn't."
Jim only nodded tiredly.
The quiet rasped called brought them out of their whispered conversation. Before they'd temporarily left him they'd pulled him carefully along the wall to the corner, where the meeting of the two walls would support him more effectively than one. He needed the extra help now to stay somewhat upright, but they knew him. They knew he would rather have it from inanimate objects than from them—or that his Vulcan dignity preferred that, anyhow. They wanted to give him as much of that as they could.
They went back to him now, and Bones was frowning before they got there. It was something specific. Jim knew that look, but he didn't know what it was until he really listened.
Rather than being simply heavier and shorter Spock's breathing had taken on a troubling hitching quality. "Breathing is…becoming somewhat difficult," the Vulcan admitted. "I do not…know what you could do…however, the two of you seem to…wish to know of any developments."
Jim settled on the ground by Spock again, nearly not remembering to leave even an inch or two of space; all he wanted to do was help, and he felt as if he wasn't doing that leaving space—not being right there, not holding him up, not offering that kind of direct help. He had to remember that being there could mean different things. It was something he had trouble adjusting to with his Vulcan first officer.
McCoy was already scanning. "Whether or not I can do anything depends on what's causing it, and with whatever exactly these things are doing on top of your Vulcan physiology hell knows whether I'd ever figure that out," he grumbled.
"I have every confidence in you, Doctor…"
Bones snorted. "Now we know this is getting to you." He let out a breath. "You probably heard every word we said over there. I can give you a stimulant and that might help with you and your Vulcan whatever-it-is. Do you want it, or not?"
"If it is the only…alternative to nothing, then I suppose I will have to agree."
"You don't have to. You know how your Vulcan magic works better than I do. Now would it help, or wouldn't it?"
"I believe that it would."
"All right then."
"What about his breathing? What else is wrong?" Jim asked as the doctor administered the stimulant.
"I'm getting around to that. I'll have to see what this does to help him, first."
It did seem to help. For a while Spock was quiet, he sat straighter. He still did not get up, but he was more in control and there seemed to be less strain. The hitching was still there, but he was breathing easier in every other way so Bones wasn't overly worried about it. He couldn't find the cause anyhow. Jim took advantage of the opportunity to worry a little less and was on his feet, pounding at walls in any attempt to find something.
He didn't find anything, but then again he hadn't expected to.
When it seemed the hypo was wearing off and Spock was having a harder time of it again he came back. He sat down. He was there. So was Bones.
Jim wondered if the hypo had been a good idea after all. They didn't have any more, and it hadn't lasted as long as they'd hoped—maybe an hour or two, when they'd hoped for several—and Spock seemed even more exhausted now. As a result he was more vocal, and Jim had to do something. He wasn't really aware he'd moved at all until he had a hand wrapped around his first offer's wrist—farther up than where the bracelet rested, of course, and damn the things.
Whether he meant it to be comforting, or a distraction, or what he didn't know; he only knew he wanted to help, and Spock didn't pull his arm away. So Jim held on.
It continued to get worse. McCoy's face pinched more and more in anger, and Jim tried to stay calm for Spock's sake, and when his first officer finally just tipped over into his shoulder Jim didn't argue. It was awkward—the Vulcan was taller than he, and heavy—but that didn't matter right now.
The only answer was a long groan and a shiver. He really didn't seem to be able to breathe very well anymore, either. The hitching was worse.
Jim swallowed. "Bones—"
McCoy shook his head at his tricorder, and his eyes were nearly wild. "They have to stop. We're losing him."
There had NEVER been a better moment for what happened then, as the golden glow of the Enterprise's transporter beams abruptly surrounded them.
Oh god, Scotty, bless you.