The soft blue lights in the hospital corridor were meant to calm the afflicted, but to Regent Aiden it gave the deathly cold appearance of a morgue. This was the fifth hospital he had visited today with many more on the agenda. Perhaps it helped the wounded to see their leader, but he found the duty to be an emotional and physical drain.
The death toll had risen steadily for several days as the severely wounded failed to make a recovery. He was lucky not to have lost any family members, but friends and colleagues lay among the lost. Some were so badly crushed, their identities might never be known. He sped up his pace, hoping he could finish these tours before his own fragile psyche broke under the strain.
As he turned the corner to a treatment room, he willed his face to calm assurance. Nurses and patients both looked up with recognition and he tried to spend a few moments with each of them. This was one of the wards with the less seriously injured, yet he could see wounds both physical and psychological that would take a long time to heal.
As he spoke of hope and gave assurances of safety, he thought of the destruction and the mystery that still surrounded it. Were the colonists capable of such a thing? They had lost people as well but it wasn’t unheard of for fanatics to sacrifice their own. He had a fleeting thought that the Enterprise crew might be involved, but they had provided much help in the aftermath and their concern seemed genuine.
He turned at the sound of his name and saw his assistant approaching rapidly. When anyone in government moved quickly, something was usually amiss. He steeled his senses to accept any news the man was about to deliver.
“Regent,” the man said when he was close enough for quiet conversation, “there is an urgent communication for you. I have set up a secure link in an office nearby.”
He followed his assistant to a quiet room around the corner. When he had sealed the door, he activated a computer on the desk in the corner. Regent Aiden sat and waited for the transmission to begin.
The face that appeared on the screen was neither Derilian or either of the colonists, or even one of the Federation members. The being appeared to be male with a sharply angled face and hair that grew down from his chin. His eyes were bright green like the sea, with narrow horizontal pupils that stretched from one corner to the other. He had no external ears and his head was bare of any hair or fur. Flat on top of his head were hard ridges resembling horns that flared backwards beyond his skull for some distance. His thick skin was a sickly gray hue that reminded Aiden of the unfortunate victims in the morgue, and he could see long pointed claws on the hands that rested on the table in front of him.
“General Taln,” the Regent said tightly. “I did not expect you for some time yet.”
The being impatiently tapped the table with his long claws as he waited for the transmissions’ automatic translation. His eyes grew more narrow still as he peered into the screen.
“The trausium shipment is late,” he hissed. “Or have you forgotten our bargain?”
Aiden bowed his head a moment if only to remove the disturbing vision of the alien from his sight.
“There has been an incident,” he said carefully, and stared at the screen again with sudden dread. “Perhaps you know of it?”
The alien stared back at him but it was impossible to read anything in the hard face. “I know nothing of your internal affairs,” he said impatiently. “I come only for the goods promised to us.”
Aiden stared at the screen. It was true that the aliens had limited sensor capability, at least from space. They had learned about Derilia the old fashioned way, by landing on it. Aiden had welcomed them first as friends but it was clear from the beginning that simple trade agreements would not satisfy them. What they lacked in sensors they made up for with crude but deadly weapons that could lay half the world waste in only a few minutes. General Taln had demonstrated these on an uninhabited island that once existed in the western sea.
“The disaster we have suffered has slowed production of the trausium,” he explained. “The delay of your shipment is unavoidable.”
The general narrowed his eyes again. “Any further delays will not be tolerated,” he hissed. “Be ready by the setting of your sun, no later.” He cut the transmission before Aiden could reply.
The regent rubbed at his face with both hands and turned to his assistant. “Do we have enough trausium prepared?” he asked.
“We do not,” the man replied, “nor can we do so by the end of this day.” He looked hard at his superior. “Perhaps Taini could...”
“No,” Aiden said firmly as he stood again. “The Wramuth have yet to discover the populations on our moons and I will not lead them there.” He rubbed at his face again and took a deep breath.
“Come,” he said. “We must discover a way to prevent further disaster.”
They left the hospital by the back way, hurrying unseen to a secure government facility outside the city.
McCoy was hot and tired from assisting with medical needs on the planet for the last few hours, but he was determined to check in on Spock before getting some much needed sleep.
The medical ward was dimmed for night cycle and the quiet beeps of the machinery was unobtrusive. He quietly made his way into recovery in case Spock was sleeping .
As he entered, Spock quickly turned his tear stained face to the side, unable to truly hide while bound to the bed. The doctor checked the readings and gently patted Spock’s shoulder.
“Come on, Spock,” he said quietly. “We shared a consciousness, remember? What’s a few tears between friends?”
Spock remained silent except for the quiet sobs he tried to hide. McCoy patted his shoulder again and sat down in the chair beside him.
“I’m a pretty good listener if you want to talk,” he said, pausing for an answer. When none was forthcoming, he sat back in the chair and sighed.
“Well then,” he said, “I guess I’ll have to do all the talking.” He studied the back of Spock’s head as he wondered what it must be like to suffer a loss of all control, and to be conscious of the loss. He had no frame of reference to empathize with his friend, nor any sage advice to help him through the ordeal. Maybe just a friendly presence would help anyway.
“So I think we’ve finished the rescue operation on Derilia,” he began, “the wounded are being cared for; I’m helping with that. We lost four hundred and sixty five, Minister Khrelav among them.” He paused, wondering if this was too dark a topic, but decided to continue anyway. “Well, we don’t have any leads on the collapse, but Saavik has a theory about that.”
A sudden spike in heart rate and an intake of breath at Saavik’s name indicated that he was at least listening. “She’s been here every day to see you,” he continued, watching the readings jump again. “I know you can’t feel her touch right now, and frankly that’s breaking her heart, but...well Sarek thinks it’s best...”
Spock turned his head to face the doctor, tears pooling in the dark eyes that had suddenly turned angry. “My father prevents her?” he growled. “What gives him the right?”
“He’s worried about you,” McCoy said. “He believes her presence would cause you more pain.”
Spock stared at him, tears flowing from his eyes unchecked, and suddenly struggled against the restraints. The bio readings beeped multiple warnings.
“Now don’t do that,” McCoy scolded as he got up to hold Spock still. “Your father doesn’t want to hurt you, Spock, though I know you can’t understand that right now.”
Slowly Spock stopped struggling, though he gripped the sides of the bed with his hands. He cried with such a sound of pure agony that McCoy was tempted to sedate him. Carefully he released his hold and went to get a wet towel to wipe Spock’s face.
“It’s ok,” he said gently. “She hasn’t left you, I promise. And in nine more months or so, she’s going to give you a beautiful baby.”
The reading stopped rising at least. The doctor continued to dab at his face and smooth down his tousled hair. “Your legs are healing well,” he said, “though I don’t think you’ll be dancing any time soon.”
McCoy paused in his efforts and looked in the dark eyes that showed such a depth of emotions that he wasn’t sure he, as a human, had the ability to feel. He wondered if ancient Vulcans even had a pon farr, before their adherence to logic made it necessary. It was a cruel biological joke anyway, to cause such a proud race so much personal shame.
Spock stared back at him, not angry anymore, but looking very lost and alone. McCoy was reminded of the confusing merging of their two minds, but the equally confusing moment when Spock’s katra was removed from him. How much more distressing would it be when the permanent marital meld ceased to speak? He didn’t want to think about such aloneness.
He put the towel down and laid his hand on Spock’s shoulder.
“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” he said. “But I’m going to let your arms free. Now you’ve got to promise not to get up or release your legs. Believe me, you can’t walk yet.”
He paused as he searched Spock’s face for some answer but Spock only looked at him silently. With a deep breath the doctor released the straps on his arms.
Spock lay still a moment, his eyes closing and his hands releasing their hold on the bed. Slowly he stretched his arms forward and sighed at the partial freedom. He opened his eyes and gazed at the doctor a long time.
“Thank you,” he said hoarsely.
“Don’t let me regret it,” McCoy answered with a small smile as he patted Spock’s shoulder again. The bed’s readout had stopped beeping and some of the indicators had even begun to lower. McCoy sat back in the chair and watched Spock flexing his stiff arms.
“So do you want a boy or a girl?” he asked.
Spock looked at him, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth though the occasional tear still formed rivulets on his cheeks.
“Either is equally desirable,” he choked on a voice made hoarse by days of unchecked screaming. McCoy got up to get him a drink of water. He raised the bed to a sitting position before handing him the cup. Spock drank thirstily.
“You know I can’t wait to see you trying to reason with children,” McCoy mused.
Spock handed the cup back and looked up at the doctor. “Vulcan children are quite logical,” he said haltingly.
“Really?” McCoy snorted. “I’d like to see that!” He checked the readouts again and gave Spock a long look. ”You know, I think you’re going to beat this thing!” He peered at him a moment longer. “Maybe you’d like some visitors tomorrow?”
But Spock suddenly bowed his head as the tears began to flow unchecked again. McCoy gripped his arm and tried to comfort the Vulcan with his inadequate human understanding.
“Hey,” he said, “you’ve got to let it all out. It’s the only way to end this, I think.”
Spock leaned into the offered shoulder as uncontrolled sobs shook his body. McCoy held him tight so he wouldn’t fall, and wondered how Vulcans could possibly control such volatile emotions. A seven year cycle didn’t seem adequate to deal with such intense feelings. Quietly he asked the computer to dim the lights further to at least give Spock the privacy of darkness, and held his friend as he fought to preserve his sanity.