Spock looked down and considered the work he had finished in the shower. Where there had been a drain, there was now a very large hole big enough to put his hand and arm through to his elbow. As far as he could tell, the large and antiquated drain pipe angled into an L then straightened directly out to the Bay. He carefully cleaned the shower floor removing the debris that might cut small bare feet. He had done all he could, now he must wait until just before the vote to take the comm apart, modify it, and send out the signal. He would send the transporter coordinates out through the pipe and into the Bay, hopefully past the shields. Spock had no way of knowing if the plan would work except by its success and their rescue. Once Jim knew the coordinates, he would know their location, and he would lead the Enterprise crew to their rescue. Of that he was certain.
He wondered about the plan Jim had in mind. That there was a plan, he had no doubt. Spock sincerely hoped that his signal would be an additional help to his captain. There was nothing more that he could do.
Spock returned to the front room to join his mother and Peter. They were eating dinner and he sat with them.
"I have finished," Spock told his mother. "You and Peter must be careful in the shower; there is a large hole where the drain was. Peter, you will take care," Spock told him.
"Yes sir, I'll be careful," the child said listlessly.
Spock glanced at Peter's dinner. The boy had not eaten much; he was toying with the food on his plate and his face was pale.
Spock cast a questioning look at Amanda, but she shrugged and shook her head looking worriedly at the boy. Peter had been listless and with-drawn since after his nap; her efforts at conversation had met with total failure.
"Peter, are you well?" Spock inquired gently. "You do not seem to be hungry and that is most unlike the Peter I know." He hand reached over and lifted the small chin to look into the child's eyes.
He was startled at the power of the raw emotion that came to him though the touch; grief and fear welled up in him from the child's mind.
The hazel eyes so much like Jim's met the dark ones. "Mr. Spock, is the pain very bad? Do you feel better yet? You're not going to die are you?" Peter brought out the questions in a rush. The boy's bottom lip quivered, but he clamped his teeth over it fiercely, determined not to cry again.
"Die?" Spock allowed astonishment to cross his face. "Peter, why would you think I was going to die?" He looked at Amanda baffled. She shook her head, perplexed.
"Because…because you were hurt, just like my mom and dad were hurt, and then they died." Peter whispered.
Spock closed his eyes, suddenly understanding what the little boy was talking about. The fight with the Orion and his injury had not only frightened Peter, but it had also triggered all the grief and sadness of his parents' deaths. To Spock, the injury had been minor, to Peter it had not.
"I am not going to die, Peter." Spock spoke with absolute certainty. "An injury to a rib is a very minor one to a Vulcan. The pain was a nuisance at first because I was not prepared for the blow, but it is gone now. I will not even wear the stasis bandage tomorrow. Vulcans heal very quickly," he told the child.
"Are you sure?" asked Peter, his eyes fixed on Spock's face.
"Absolutely sure," answered Spock. "Over the years, your Uncle Jim and I have broken our ribs several times and we are none the worse for it. Correct, Mother?" He turned to Amanda, inviting her to help him convince the child.
Amanda smiled at Peter. "Absolutely correct. Mr. Spock is as healthy as the proverbial horse; I'm his mother and I should know."
Peter looked from mother to son and saw the truth on both their faces. A smile broke over his face like sunlight breaking over water. "That's good." He took a deep breath. "I'm sure relieved to know that because I was very worried," he confessed, picking up his fork, "about Mr. Spock being hurt." He looked at Spock with an expression of extreme seriousness on his face, and tried to lift one eyebrow, but succeeded only in lifting both. "You have relieved my mind considerably," he said deepening his voice in an uncanny imitation of the Vulcan.
Amanda coughed violently, dropped her fork and bent to pick it up, taking quite some time to retrieve it. When she faced Spock and Peter again, her cheeks were pink but her face composed. She kept her eyes carefully on her plate, however.
Spock's lips twitched once, but by dint of Vulcan discipline, he managed to keep his face quite still.
Peter, unaware of the mirth he had provoked, began to eat with good appetite.
Spock looking at him closely was relieved to see color back in the child's cheeks and the strain gone from his face. Three more days, he thought, and the child will be back with Jim. Hopefully, this incident will be put in the background, and Peter can once again resume a normal life. The Vulcan made a mental note to discuss the grief and the fear of loss that Peter had not resolved with Dr. McCoy. Perhaps two or three sessions of conversation with the good doctor would benefit Peter's state of mind. Jim, too, would do all he could to help the child over this unsuspected insecurity as would his grandmother.
But now, he decided, further distraction was needed. "Peter, would you set up the chess board? We have time for another lesson before your bed time. When you see your uncle Jim he will be most gratified to see the rapid progress you have made in chess. You might even want to challenge him to a game."
At the mention of a chess game with his uncle Jim, Peter grinned. That's exactly what he wanted to do, beat Uncle Jim in a chess game. He set the chess pieces carefully on the board, and then looked expectantly at Mr. Spock.
Amanda came over and stood behind Peter to watch. Spock indicated that Peter should make the first move. Peter moved king's pawn to king's four, a conventional opening move that Mr. Spock had taught him.
"Queen's pawn to queen's four," responded Spock and then addressed the bent head. "You should know, Peter, that there are two basic philosophies among chess players. One is to play to checkmate, to win; the other is to play to stalemate, thereby discovering your opponent's strengths and weaknesses. A player may accrue points with either strategy; however, when there is a stalemate, both players receive equal points. The decision about which strategy to use depends largely on the character and personality of the chess player." He watched carefully as Peter said, "queen's pawn to queen's four," then continued softly, "I will tell you a story that will illustrate the personalities and philosophical of two of history's greatest players."
Peter looked up listening attentively. "In the mid twentieth century, many countries were at odds with each other both politically as well as philosophically. Two of the countries were the United States of America and the Soviet Union. They were also extremely competitive in sports and in chess. At that time there were two brilliant chess players who represented their respective countries, Robert J. Fischer of the United States of America, and Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. Robert Fischer's chess philosophy was to play to win. He always played to Checkmate. Spassky believed in using the Stalemate strategy to discover his opponent's weaknesses and then using these weaknesses to win. Once after a very important chess tournament, both men were interviewed and asked to describe their philosophies about chess. Spassky said this, "Chess if very much like life," but Robert Fischer said, "Chess is life." So you see, Peter, the difference between these two answers not only determined the players strategies, but their philosophies of life as well."
Peter looked at Mr. Spock, a question in his eyes. "Do you mean, Mr. Spock, that the two men lived their lives the way they played their chess?"
"I mean Peter, that their philosophies determined their choice of strategies in chess as well as their personal decisions and the conduct of their lives. Many elements work to shape our lives," he explained carefully, "but some of the most important are the abilities to set goals, plan how to accomplish these goals, and make decisions, even hard decisions that may cost us pain. Do you understand what I mean, Peter?"
Peter nodded his small face thoughtful. He gazed at the chess board and he could see that in two more moves he would be in big trouble. He glanced at Spock and grinned. "Should I resign now or play even if I know I'm going to loose?"
Spock's dark eyes twinkled, "Your first big chess decision is now upon you, Peter. What do you want to do? Your philosophy of chess will determine your decision."
Peter studied the board carefully and answered thoughtfully. "I'll go ahead and play, Mr. Spock. If I play to the end, I can learn something even if I lose."
"I commend your decision, Peter."
They finished the game in silence. Then Spock analyzed the moves step by step to show Peter how to avoid making the same mistakes again.
Amanda interrupted. "Gentlemen, it's bed time for Peter. You've had a very long day, Peter, and you need to get some sleep."
Obediently, but reluctantly, Peter rose from his chair. He had really enjoyed his game with Mr. Spock. "Ugh, I hate bedtime," he said and made a fearsome face at Amanda, but then he smiled at her in repentance. "Ok I'll go. Good night, Lady Amanda," he gave her an affectionate hug which Amanda returned. They he went around to Spock to do the same, but hesitated as he faced Spock.
Spock spoke with his usual calm. "It is quite all right, Peter, a hug is not lethal to a Vulcan."
Peter put his arms around Spock's neck and hugged him tight. "Good night, Mr. Spock," he said softly into Spock's ear.
"Good night, Peter, sleep well."
Spock looked thoughtfully after the boy. "He seems to have regained his emotional equilibrium," he told his mother.
"Yes, for now. But I'm concerned about how this continued captivity will affect him," Amanda said worriedly. "Until yesterday when Peter told me, I didn't know about the death of his parents. What a tragedy for the child. He's remarkably well adjusted after such a loss, but stress is cumulative, Spock, his shock and trauma may be delayed and Peter may be more vulnerable then we realize."
"I, too, have considered the detrimental effects our captivity may have on Peter, but all we can do for him is what we are doing, Mother. After our release, I will speak to Dr. McCoy and Jim about the possibility of delayed trauma." Spock sighed. He felt an unaccustomed weariness. The weight of Peter's care as Jim would have done was a constant concern to him.
Spock spoke with apparent detachment, but Amanda could see tiny indications of stress and concern on his face. Slowly, but inexorably, Spock's growing affection for Peter was tearing away at his impassivity.
Amanda rose from her chair and laid her hand gently on her son's shoulder. "I'll think I'll go to bed now. Good night, my dear."
"Good night, Mother."
In the now empty room, Spock sat and considered the day's events. His rib was healing quickly. Retz was apparently satisfied with Spock's explanation of the incident with Lizur, Peter had been reassured, and Amanda was once more her calm and serene self. Yes, he was disquieted.
Retz had indicated that tomorrow Peter would be taken outside. Spock weighed the advantages against the possible negative effects on the boy should something go wrong. Logically, the lowering of the shield for beaming Peter in and out would significantly increase their chances of being found. Knowing Mr. Scott's obsessive thoroughness, any anomaly in the on going Enterprise sensor scan for one Vulcan and two humans, would be detected quickly. The shields were also lowered very briefly for meals. One anomaly or the other might possibly be overlooked by Mr. Scott, but not both. Yet the decision was proving difficult; very difficult. Spock was vexed with himself. Peter's safety weighed disproportionately heavy on his mind, despite the fact that logically there was very little danger to the boy. Yes, Peter would be out of his sight and beyond his protection, but only for thirty minutes. He rose abruptly and walked quietly to the bedroom. His mother's breathing assured him she was sleeping peacefully. He stood a still slim figure over the bed and looked down at the child. Peter slept peacefully, one hand tucked under the pillow. Spock reached down with long fingers and gently brushed the unruly lock of hair from his forehead. It stubbornly refused to stay and sprang back. Peter, in his sleep, slightly disturbed by the touch, opened his eyes, looked at Spock and smiled dreamily. Then his eyes closed and he turned over.
I will decide tomorrow, thought Spock, moved by an uncharacteristic impulse to postpone a difficult decision which should not have been difficult at all, and giving in to it gratefully. Tomorrow morning will be soon enough to decide.