Spock sat with Peter at the chess board. They were on their third lesson and Spock was very satisfied with the child's progress. Peter seemed to have a natural ability for chess. Spock had not had to repeat any instructions and they had now progressed to opening strategy moves.
"It is not sufficient to know chess pieces moves and their variations, Peter," he explained. "You must also study your opponent and decide how best to counter attack the particular strategy your opponent uses. Then you plan your own strategy accordingly. Chess is primarily a game of strategy as well as a game of logic'
Peter nodded. "When I get home, I'll practice with the computer," he told Mr. Spock.
"That would be quite helpful for practice. However, your Uncle Jim does not like to play with the computer," Spock told Peter.
"Why not, Mr. Spock? Is it because he can't ever beat the computer?"
A slight twinkle appeared in Spock's eyes. Peter knew his Uncle Jim quite well, it seemed. "I think that is one of the reasons, but I believe the chief one is because the computer is 'too logical' for your Uncle Jim. He cannot develop strategies based on what he calls hunches when he plays with the computer. As your Uncle Jim says, 'you can't psyche out a machine.'"
"Who does he play with besides you, Mr. Spock?"
"Occasionally he plays with Dr. McCoy, and with Lieutenant Uhura and a few others. Periodically, we set up tournaments on board ship. Of course we play 3D chess usually. When you have mastered play on the standard chess board, we can proceed to 3D chess. I will be pleased to instruct you, Peter."
Spock observed the small bent head. The child appeared relaxed and there was no apparent anxiety or apprehension about their continued activity. The adaptability and resiliency of humans never ceased to fascinate him. However, it would be well to remember that Peter was a young child, a human child who had in the not too distant past, gone through great sorrow and bereavement. It would not do to take his apparent adjustment for granted or to forget the fragility of the human psyche under great stress. Spock felt that Peter's relaxed state was tied with his and his mother's presence, two adults who represented security and protection for him. To the best of his ability, he would keep the child's faith and trust in him intact.
Amanda sat apart and watched Spock watch Peter. She smiled to herself. I wonder how Spock will reconcile his growing affection for Peter with his logical stance, she thought amused. There was no logic that explained the almost instant rapport that had sprung up between these two. Yet, she knew that Spock would have to, at least outwardly, find a rationalization for his growing affection for the little boy.
Amanda was a pretty fair psychologist. You could not be a human and live with a Vulcan for almost forty years and not acquire some psychological expertise. While she and Sarek had been on board the Enterprise on the journey to Babel, she had watched her son, she had listened, and she had learned much about how Spock made his way among the humans on the ship. She had been pleased to see the affection and respect the command crew, and indeed the rest of the crew, had for her son. But even more, she had been happy to see that Spock, too, cared deeply for those few he called friends, and most especially for James Kirk.
Amanda had carefully observed the dynamics of his friendship with Kirk. Spock's devotion and loyalty to his captain had come through his reserve again and again. She also began to notice that the verbal sparring with the doctor had obviously been a game devised by the two to express their mutual affection without losing face. Yet, it had also been obvious to Amanda that Spock was not yet at ease with the duality of his Vulcan-Human nature. The human part of him was not yet fully accepted and valued by the Vulcan Spock. Amanda hoped that this acceptance would come in time….that Spock would learn, through these human friends who loved him, that feelings were just as valuable as logic, and that he was a rightful heir to both these gifts.
Spock had entered Star Fleet at sixteen, as a cadet, and against his father's wishes. Star Fleet had become his home and then some how, when Jim Kirk had assumed command of the Enterprise, and when had made Spock his First Officer, he had also managed to batter down the Vulcan wall Spock had erected around himself. Amanda realized that it was almost against Spock's will that he had allowed first Jim and then McCoy into his life. Jim Kirk's charm, his charisma, his brilliance, his total acceptance of Spock, his blithe assurance that they would become friends, had accomplished the impossible. Amanda and now Sarek too, realized that no where else could the uniqueness that was Spock and the multiplicity of his talents be better utilized. Spock had taken that first step into Star Fleet alone and unaided, Amanda hoped he would take the next step into self acceptance with his family and his friends at his side.
Her musings were interrupted by a transporter whine. Spock and Peter looked up from the chess board to see an Orion appear in the middle of the room. This Orion was not masked and a warning clamored suddenly in Spock's mind. He stood slowly to face the man, his stance relaxed and alert. Amanda moved slowly and cautiously to stand by Peter; she put her hands reassuringly on the child's shoulders.
Spock and the Orion eyed each other in silence for a long moment. The Orion was the first to break the silence.
"I am to take the boy outside for his exercise,' he informed Spock.
"You are not one the two men with whom I have spoken previously." Spock eyed him warily.
"They have other tasks to perform, and I have been ordered to do this one. Its woman's work," he snarled angrily. "It's not worthy of one who has attained warrior status."
Spock observed him and saw that he was quite young and he looked tough. He was powerfully built and well muscled and it was obvious that he considered the task of guarding Peter as beneath his dignity. It was also obvious that he was very angry about the chore given to him.
"We will wait until the others return to let the boy go outside since it appears that you do not wish to attend to him," Spock said. "The other Orion with whom I spoke seemed willing to undertake the task of guarding the boy while he is outside."
"That one is not a warrior; he has been too much in the company of humans. He had even studied with them here on Earth." His disgust for such erratic behavior in an Orion warrior was obvious.
Amanda's hand tightened on Peter's shoulders. "The boy will not go with you. We can wait until other man returns." She did not release her grasp from Peter's shoulders.
The Orion flushed angrily, green staining his high cheekbones. He faced Amanda belligerently. "I have been given this task to perform and I will do it. You have no say in this matter, woman. The child will go with me. Stand aside."
"No," Amanda told him clearly.
The man reached out to grab Peter roughly, but it never touched the child, Amanda suddenly raised her hand and slapped him, hard. He stepped back startled, then growled, an ugly feral sound and reached out roughly for Amanda's face. Before he could even touch her, however, he was lifted and thrown bodily across the room against the wall. The warrior landed with a resounding thud as his head hit the thermo-concrete wall. He threw a shocked glance at Spock and rolled up almost immediately to charge at Spock. Spock side-stepped quickly out of his way, but with a savage roar, the Orion swung wildly at him. Spock leaped back and raised an arm to block the vicious blow.
"Mother, take Peter into the other room out of the way," he ordered, keeping an eye on the furious man.
Amanda grabbed Peter and obeyed.
The Orion was bent on fighting with all the killing force of his warrior race. Spock was mainly concerned with keeping out of his way until he could use the Vulcan nerve pinch. The warrior began circling him like an animal intent on its prey. Suddenly, he grabbed a chair and threw it straight at Spock. Spock raised an arm and deflected it easily, but as the chair bounced on the floor, the enraged Orion threw himself at Spock's rib cage and tackled him. Spock rolled instinctively in the other direction, but it was not fast enough. He felt a rib crack as the hard head of the Orion hit him with a tremendous impact. The Vulcan grunted in pain grabbed at his opponent and was finally able to get a grip on the man's shoulder and press hard. Instantly the warrior's knees buckled and he fell hard to the floor unconscious. Spock staggered slowly to his feet, breathing hard, nursing his rib cage with one arm.
"Spock, Spock, are you all right? Are you hurt?" Amanda's gentle hands guided him to a chair and sat him down. She carefully wiped a little trickle of green blood from a scratch on his face with her soft tunic, and with trembling fingers smoothed down his dark bangs.
Spock permitted the gesture, knowing it to be a balm for her concern, then captured her hand in his and pressed it reassuringly. The turmoil of fear and anger that she was valiantly trying to suppress became his with the touch and he tried again to reassure her.
"Mother, I'm all right." He kept his hand around hers a moment longer. "That was a very foolhardy thing to do, he could have seriously injured you."
"I know, Spock, I'm sorry, but I couldn't let him touch Peter, you know that."
Spock sighed. "I know, but it is not prudent to slap an angry Orion. He is very strong, I believe he broke one of my ribs," he added ruefully.
"Let me see, Spock."
Spock lifted his tunic and black undershirt and ran his hand down his rib cage and grimaced as his fingers came in contact with the cracked rib. Already, a dark green bruise was appearing on his right side, and the area was very tender. Spock considered his injury and judged that he could not afford the time spent on a healing trance right now; instead it must be taped to avoid a punctured lung or worse.
"Mother, we must tie up the Orion before he regains consciousness. I am afraid he will be most unhappy when he awakens, and I do not want another altercation with him."
"Peter, please get something from the clothing box with which to tie up our guest," Spock told him.
"Mother, are you really all right?" Spock glanced at his mother, noticing her pallor for the first time.
"Yes, dear, I'm fine now. But Peter and I were very frightened. That man was like a mad bull; I was afraid he was going to kill you."
"Yes, he was most irate," Spock said in a vast understatement. "I did not wish to injure him, but I fear my caution cost me the broken rib."
He took the cloth Peter handed him, tore it in strips, knelt by the Orion, and tied his hands securely behind his back and then tied his ankles. When he was satisfied with the knots, he rose carefully mindful of his rib, and looked at his mother.
"Now you will have to tape my rib cage, Mother. Perhaps a piece of the bed sheet will do," he suggested.
Amanda hurriedly stripped her bed, and tore the bed sheet into wide strips. She carefully helped Spock take off his tunic and undershirt and gently probed the bruised area on the lean frame. The bruise was now dark green and angry looking, but it had not spread.
"Peter, you hold the end of this strip against Spock's back and I'll wind it tightly around him."
Peter nodded. He no longer felt as frightened, but he was still very concerned about Mr. Spock's injury. He stood very still, gently patting Mr. Spock's shoulder to comfort him just as his mother had always done to him when he hurt himself. Spock reached up and put his hand over the small patting fingers.
"I am fine, Peter. There is no need for concern, my rib will heal quickly." He spoke quietly as he reassured the little boy.
Amada finished her ministrations and surveyed her handiwork dubiously. "Is it too tight, Spock?"
"No, it feels fine; if it's at all possible I will engage in a light healing trance later on to hasten the process. For now, we will sit here and wait for the Orion to regain consciousness. I do not think it will be long."
Amanda began to pace nervously. "Spock, I'm sure your father is now aware that something happened I was frightened for you, and I'm afraid I projected my distress thought the link." Amanda's eyes were anxious as they looked at her son. "He will know that something bad happened to one of us."
Spock, picturing his father's carefully suppressed anxiety, which of course Jim would know about too, tried to calm his nervous mother. "It really could not be helped, Mother. Now you must try to reassure Father by projecting calmness."
"Yes, of course you're right, my son. Sarek will soon realize that everything is fine."
They sat waiting for the Orion to regain consciousness. Peter was restless and wiggled in his chair. For the first time since the kidnapping he realized what the Orions were really like. Now he knew that they could hurt all three of them or maybe even kill them. He looked quickly at Mr. Spock and was relieved all over again to see he was all right. Peter felt ashamed that he felt like crying and that he wanted to see his Uncle Jim with a desperate longing. Most of all, he wanted to go home and crawl in his grandmother's lap like a little baby and cry his eyes out. He told himself that boys who wanted to attend Star Fleet Academy had to be brave and not cry. He blinked rapidly as he desperately tried to hold the frightened tears back.
Spock glanced at Peter's pale, set little face and without difficulty read the turmoil there. If Jim were here he would know exactly what to do for the child. I must try to do as well as Jim, Spock thought.
"Peter, come here," he said softly.
The child rose slowly and reluctantly from his chair, and came to stand by Spock.
Spock reached gently for the boy and drew him into the circle of his arm as he had seen Jim do. He bent his head and whispered softly in Peter's ear, and with a sob the child turned, burrowed into Spock's shoulder and cried softly, his arms tight around Spock's neck.
Instinctively, Spock tightened his arm and gently began to pat Peter on the back. He found the action strangely soothing, while at the same time, dispassionately, he knew it to be a totally illogical act. He turned his head, met his mother's eyes and found in them complete understanding.
The Orion groaned and began to regain consciousness. He struggled violently against his bonds, but the knots held. He rolled over and his furious eyes met Spock's.
"Untie me or you will die, Vulcan."
Spock raised a disdainful eyebrow and directed a mild glance at him. "I will not untie you, and I sincerely doubt that we will die. I do not think your superiors will be pleased with the way you have handled this simple assignment," he went on calmly. "I propose to sit here and wait for their return and give them a complete report of your ineptitude."
For the first time, he saw fear on the young warrior's face.
Peter had stopped crying and turning within the circle of Spock's arm, looked curiously at the Orion. Amanda, too, looked at him.
With three pair of eyes staring at him, the young warrior closed his eyes and slumped defeated against the wall to await his fate at the hands of his superiors.