Jim was trying to get to Spock and Peter; there was an earth quake and the ground was opening beneath his feet. Buildings were falling and they were in terrible danger. The trembling was getting worse and he couldn't find them. He gritted his teeth in frustration and rage. He felt his whole body shuddering as he woke suddenly from deep sleep to see Sarek shaking him. He bolted upright. "What is it? What happened?" he asked alarmed.
"It has been four hours, Captain. You asked me to wake you," Sarek spoke softly.
"Oh yes, thank you, Sarek." Jim ran a hand down his face. "I was dreaming of Spock and Peter. I couldn't find them," he told Sarek helplessly, still a little dazed from the nightmare. There was fear in his eyes as he looked at the Vulcan.
"We will find them, Captain." Sarek spoke with absolute certainty.
Jim looked at the calm austere face and nodded, oddly comforted by the bedrock strength and sureness behind the words. He still felt a little groggy from the drug McCoy had given him, and stood up a little unsteadily. He looked down at himself with distaste He was still in his party clothes although the rest of his crew had changed long go into their uniforms.
"I need a quick shower and a change of clothes; I'll be right with you." He noticed that Sarek had already changed.
"Captain, Ensign Bridges has returned with Cedar Adams. She has much to tell us, but it is nothing that cannot wait for ten minutes."
Jim hurried off to the bathroom. He felt rested after his nap and he hoped desperately that Ensign Bridges had provided them with the break they needed. Cedar Adams might have some answers. Two days, he thought, and four to go. Something has to break soon, or I will. I wonder if Chekov and Sulu have come up with anything. This girl, what kind of person is she? Will she be able to tell us something, anything to help us?
He stepped out of the shower and slipped on his tenne tunic, black pants and boots. Command gold, I can never escape it, he thought bitterly. Even now, especially now, I must be Captain Kirk.
Quickly, he went into the living room to find Sarek, McCoy, Uhura, and Ensign Bridges waiting with a young woman.
Uhura stood as he entered. "Sir, this is Cedar Adams."
Jim held out his hand, "I'm James Kirk, please sit down, Miss Adams. It's very kind of you to come to us. I hope you can help us. I'm sure you've been briefed on the situation," he looked inquiringly at her.
"Yes, Captain. Marie has told me about the kidnapping. I'm so sorry." She looked with compassion at Jim. "Captain Kirk, it's impossible for me to believe that Tarz has anything to do with this. In fact, as I told Marie, it's ridiculous to suppose he could ever do such a horrible thing. He's not a terrorist, nor a fanatic. I know him very well. We lived together for eight months and he's an educated, caring, and gentle person. He had no choice about entering Orion military service; it's compulsory on his planet, but when he was injured he welcomed the opportunity to leave the Warrior Army and get on with his studies. Officially, he's still in the army, but he's on restricted duty because of his injury which was severe." She spoke calmly and with obvious sincerity.
"Perhaps he was recruited by this group and succumbed to their fanaticism, Miss Adams," Sarek suggested.
Cedar shook her head vehemently. "No sir, he was going home for a brief time to complete his tour of duty, and visit with his parents, but he was coming back. He wants to finish his studies in agriculture research. His planet desperately needs that kind of research." "Also," she added, "Tarz believes deeply in the philosophy of the Federation. He often voiced the opinion that Orion would not survive unless it joined with the Federation."
Cedar looked at the group. "Something in all this is not right, Captain. Believe me, Tarz is not a terrorist or a kidnapper," she told him.
Jim studied the girl. It was obvious that her belief in the Orion was deep and unshaken by what she was told. But trust had been betrayed before and love could impair judgment. He continued his probing, looking for a crack in her certainty.
"Where did Tarz like to go when he was here? While he was recuperating from his injuries, what kind of things did he enjoy doing? Did the two of you ever stay here in San Francisco?" asked Jim.
"At the time, I lived here in San Francisco and we spent a lot of time walking. Tarz liked to walk; it was good exercise for his leg and arm…" she paused. "The doctors wanted to regenerate his leg," she added softly. "Tarz wouldn't let them, so he exercised a lot of the time. Also, his planet is a warm and arid place, not green at all, and he enjoyed the weather here."
Her grey eyes were pensive as her gaze rested on Jim. "I remember that we often went to the parks. Tarz loved all the parks, Golden Gate Park, Alcatraz Children's Park, The Zoo, we went to all of them several times; we would take a picnic lunch and spend our afternoons and evenings there if it wasn't too cold. Tarz also went to the Academy Library pretty often; he was doing research there. We would seldom go outside the city; we both liked it here so much."
She sat poised and sure of herself. Confident that she would convince them about her friend.
Jim felt frustration rising in him again. My God, he thought, is there nothing to gain from talking with this girl? "Think, Cedar," he told her brusquely. "Is there anything else you can remember? It's very important that you tell us every thing. Do you remember if Tarz ever mentioned a man called Retz?"
For the first time, Cedar Adams lost her composure. He face paled and she turned to Marie, her grey eyes accusing. "You never said Retz was involved." Her voice shook. "He's a terrible, ruthless man, Captain. Tarz hated him. He told me that Retz would destroy Orion with his fanaticism and hatred of the Federation unless he was stopped somehow. If he's the one who planned all this, then I'm sorrier then I can say for all of you and your hostage family. They're in terrible danger." Her eyes filled with sudden tears. "Tarz couldn't be involved with that man, it's impossible. Retz, he's… he's a beast!" Tears rolled down her face unheeded.
McCoy, who could never stand to see anyone cry, stood by and patted her shoulder consolingly. Sorry as he was for her though, he could offer her no real comfort. Tarz was involved with Retz, and there was no doubt about that.
Cedar buried her face in her hands. Everyone looked at each other helpless, until, moved by her obvious distress, the always compassionate Uhura went to sit by her and put her strong arms around the girl.
The Captain looked at her compassionately, "I'm very sorry, Cedar, but there is no doubt about the involvement between Retz and Tarz. The question, we have to ask though, is why?" He paced restlessly and then looked at Sarek.
Sarek nodded in understanding. "This is not as it should be, Captain. We have to ask ourselves, why would a man change his philosophy, his beliefs, and his behavior in so radical and so sudden a manner?"
"Is it possible he's being coerced in someway?' asked Jim. "Or threatened somehow? Maybe he's acting under duress." He was thinking furiously; there was something here that they were all missing, but somehow it eluded his grasp.
"You mean," drawled McCoy," it could be somethin' like what my grand daddy used to say? That once you've got them by their balls their hearts and minds will follow?"
They all looked at him blankly. "For Pete's sake! Don't you people speak Georgian? What I mean is do they have him cooperatin' against his will because they have somethin' on him." He looked at the ceiling and rolled his eyes in despair at their obtuseness.
"I don't think so, Bones," Jim eyed him thoughtfully. "It doesn't seem right. His were not the action of a man who is acting under duress, or coercion. He seemed very willing to do as ordered."
"Well," interrupted Cedar furious at all of them, her grey eyes stormy and still damp with tears. "I don't care what you say, any of you. Tarz would never coöperate with a man like Retz. He just wouldn't; I know him and you don't, and I know that there is no way he would do something like that."
Uhura's board beeped loudly in the silence that followed Cedar's declaration and she rose from the girl's side and went to her station.
"Yes, yes, calm down, Chekov. You're where? Yes, I'll tell the Captain right away. Report back as soon as you can."
She turned to the Captain, her beautiful Bantu face bewildered. "Sir, that was Chekov. He and Sulu are in an air cab being driven around by a mad man following the Orion Ambassador all over town. He says he is sure Dizchard has not spotted them, but is simply trying to make sure no one is following him. Sulu thinks he is probably going to meet someone. They will call back in an hour." She paused, looked uncertainly at Jim and cleared her throat. "He was praying in Russian, sir."
For the first time since the kidnapping, Jim's face lightened and he grinned. "That must be some driver," he said admiringly, "if he can scare our stalwart navigator." The brief smile faded. "I wonder who the Exalted is meeting and why he's taking such pains to avoid being followed?"
Uhura's board beeped again. She answered quietly. "Yes, Lieutenant Uhura here. Yes, he's right here. Please hold on while I put him on." She turned to Sarek. "It's Retz, Ambassador; he wants to speak with you. I wonder how he managed to get us instead of you, Ambassador?"
"I gave the communication code to him, Lieutenant. I felt it necessary to ensure that he could communicate with the Captain as well as myself at any time."
"Put it on audio, Uhura. Everyone be very quiet." He nodded to Uhura and then Sarek, who walked over to Uhura's station.
"This is Ambassador Sarek."
"We have considered your request, Ambassador, and it will be honored. Two hours before the Council vote, you will see and hear a transmission from your wife and son. You may ask questions to verify that it is not a vid of some sort, but they must be questions that in no way would show the whereabouts of the hostages. No tricks, Ambassador."
"And the child?"
"He will be present; however, he will not be allowed to speak to anyone."
"Very well," said Sarek, looking at Jim's tense face. We will be prepared for the transmission."
"Remember, Ambassador, what the consequences will be if the vote is for admission," Retz warned.
"Vulcans forget nothing," Sarek said coldly. "I know exactly what will happen if the vote is not to your liking."
"We will speak again, Ambassador." The transmission was, as always, abruptly cut off.
Uhura looked at Jim and answered his unspoken question. "The signal is still diffused, but the augmented tracer I rigged up may yield something new on the computer."
"Get on it right away, Uhura." Jim ordered.
"Kirk," Sarek's voice was colorless. "Our time is running out. We must find them and soon. This man will do exactly what he threatens.
McCoy burst out. "Hell, Sarek, just vote the way he wants you to, then when they're released you can meet with the Council and explain to the members exactly what happened and vote again. They all have families, loved ones, they'll understand."
Sarek looked at him, weariness clear in the dark eyes. "Dr. McCoy, I know that it is your concern and anxiety that prompts such a suggestion, but you must realize that the consequences are unacceptable. If I were to make such a decision, it would soon become known though out the galaxy that Council members could be blackmailed or coerced. The Council's function would be nullified and our usefulness would come to an end. It would be an expedient decision, but immoral in the extreme. We do not, I'm sorry to say, have the luxury of personal privilege."
"Personal privilege be damned!" McCoy was livid. "All I care about is getting Spock, Peter, and Amanda back. Tell him, Jim," he pleaded. "They're what's important."
"I can't tell him, Bones." Jim's answer was bleak. "Sarek is right. Our duty to the Federation comes first; we can't do anything else but what we're already doing, trying to find them. In your heart you know that as well as I do."
Leonard McCoy looking at Jim's strained face felt deep remorse. He was also humbled and ashamed. He remembered the many times when Jim's duty had vied with his personal preference and need on the Enterprise. Duty had always come first. Men like Sarek, Spock, and Jim had a concept of honor and duty that transcended personal wishes, desires, loves and needs, or even their own lives or the lives of those they loved. Jim wouldn't be swayed from the course his conscience dictated that he must follow. Lesser mortals like Bones McCoy might bow to expediency, but these men would not, could not do so.
"I'm sorry, Jim," McCoy muttered. "You're right, of course, we can't do anything else." He laid a remorseful hand on Jim's shoulder and felt the tense muscles relax just a little.
Uhura came back into the room. The sight of the Captain's face clutched at her heart; he looked so dispirited and ejected, so weary and depressed. Time for a little diversion, she thought.
"Captain," she said, her soft voice sounded mischievous. "Admiral Nogura wants an update on the situation. He called while you were asleep, but I didn't think I should wake you up just for that." He dark eyes twinkled at Jim. "I told him you would call back later."
"Uhura," Jim exclaimed in mock horror. "Do you mean to tell me that you kept the Admiral of all of Star Fleet waiting all this time?"
"Aye, sir. I did. Do you think I deserve a reprimand?" she asked demurely.
The two exchanged a glance of perfect understanding. Jim Kirk and Uhura shared unanimity in their opinion of the top brass in Star Fleet. Desk jockeys, paper pushers, most of them.
"Not from me, you don't. But I don't know if I can protect you from the Wrath of Nogura," he added deadpan. "Well," he sighed, "might as well get it over with; get the Admiral on the horn, Uhura, and I'll bring him up to speed."
"Yes, sir." Uhura received an approving pat from McCoy on her way out, and a wink from the blue eyes. The little by play had worked. Jim was looking a little less drawn.
The captain's conversation with Nogura was brief. Jim brought him up to date on every salient point and repeated Retz' conversation with Sarek.
"All right, Captain, we're still keeping the lid on the story and nothing has leaked yet. Keep me informed." Nogura paused, "Jim, we're with you all the way on this one, good luck."
Jim's 'Thank you, Admiral' was suddenly interrupted by a tortured gasp from Sarek. He turned to see the Vulcan, his face ashen, lurch and stagger to the sofa. Had the doctor not steadied him, the Ambassador would have fallen to the floor.
"Kirk, something is wrong, Amanda is in distress; something has gone very wrong!" Sarek's voice was hoarse with strain