Dizchard, Exalted of Orion, awoke with the familiar leaden feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had slept fitfully, his sleep troubled by specters of fear for the hostages, Tarz' safety, and the future of Orion within the Federation. He felt as if it had been several years since he'd last gotten a good night's sleep. It would probably seem like several more before he actually did.
Today was the third day. The Council would meet day after tomorrow. The leaden feeling deepened in his stomach.
He reached for the hotel comm to order breakfast. Coffee first, he decided. He had developed an appreciation for the human beverage…a mild stimulant, yet strangely soothing and warming to the body. It seemed to have the same effect on the Orion nervous system as it did in the human one. Breakfast and then a meeting with the Orion delegates. He would set up another meeting with Tarz for tomorrow; time was running out for the hostages. Day after tomorrow, he thought again, dread seeping into his bones. The fate of many hung on the Vulcan's vote. He detested for any situation to be out of his control, and yet here he was in the unprecedented circumstances of having three events completely out of his control; the life or death of the hostages, Tarz' safety, and Sarek's vote.
The hotel lobby clerk buzzed him, interrupting his dark brooding. A personal message for the Ambassador was on its way up, quite urgent, soothed the clerk, conscious of the Exalted's dark expression on the viewer.
Dizchard waited impatiently for the message and the coffee. They arrived together and Dizchard took a gulp of the hot beverage as he read the message.
To: Ravek Dizchard, Ambassador, Exalted of Orion
From: Heihachiro Nogura, Admiral of the Fleet, S.F.C.
Re: Federation Business
Request your presence at briefing, 0800 hours. Stardate 5312.5
Location: Command Post
Urgent you comply. Star Fleet shuttle and driver at your disposal to escort you to briefing.
(Signed) Nogura, Heihachiro, Admiral of the Fleet
Star Fleet Command
Dizchard cursed long and fluently in all the languages he knew. The last thing he wanted was to face James Kirk or Sarek of Vulcan again. Well, there was no help for it. It was an order politely couched as a request. Nogura had really left him no choice other then a deliberate insulting No to the Admiral and to Star Fleet. This Dizchard knew would be the death knell for Orion chances to join the Federation. He had better compose himself and put the best face on it that he could before he reported to the other delegates. He message to Tarz would have to wait.
James Kirk awoke when the dappled sunlight from the window hit his face. As he opened his eyes, it was 0600 and he felt surprise. He had not expected to sleep through the night, but his sleep had been restful and dreamless. Maybe there is something in that milk and rum nightcap Bones gave me, he thought. Better not tell him though, or I'll be drinking that stuff for the rest of my command.
Throwing a robe over his pajamas, he walked out into the silent living room Bones was on the couch sound asleep, mouth open, snoring in syncopated rhythm. In between the snores Jim could hear Uhura's humming softly in the kitchen. He shivered as his bare feet touched the chilly floor and stood silently at the kitchen entrance watching Uhura.
She looked up and smiled her radiant smile at him. He looks better, she thought. The strain is gone from his face and he looks rested. Uhura, along with all the command crew, and most especially Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy shared a fierce protectiveness for their captain. They knew that many times Jim Kirk had unhesitatingly put his life on the line for them; in return his crew gave him unstinting loyalty and deep devotion. Simply put, they loved their captain and would follow him, as Bones put it, into the heart of a super nova without a second thought.
"Good morning, Jim. I was just getting some breakfast. Would you like some?"
"Thanks Nyota, whatever you're having is fine with me. Have you had coffee yet?"
"Just one cup, but I'll take another."
Jim poured out the two cups, handed one to Uhura and sat down at the table. "Cedar still asleep?"
Uhura nodded. She placed a plate of eggs and sausage in front of him and sat down with her own. Jim drank his coffee and there was silence for a few minutes. Uhura glanced at Jim to see a somber expression on his face, and his plate of food untouched.
"What is it Jim?" She placed her warm hand over his.
Jim turned his own and grasped her fingers tightly. "I have to call my mother this morning and tell her about Peter. I should have done it immediately, but I just didn't have the heart to do it, I couldn't do it, so I put it off. I know that was wrong, but this will be such a terrible shock for her."
"Also," he added softly, "I was hoping that…"
"That we would have them back by now," Uhura finished compassionately. "Jim, at least today you can tell her that day after tomorrow Peter will be back here with you, and that we know they're safe; that will count for a lot with your mother."
"Yes, you're right, it will, but she's been through so much, Nyota."
Jim patted the comforting hand gratefully. "Thanks, Uhura." He stood up and squared his shoulders." I'll be in the library, Nyota. I don't want any interruptions for a short while, ok?"
"All right, Jim. I'll see to it, no one will disturb you."
He walked out and she heard the library door shut firmly behind him, then she became aware of a deep silence. McCoy had stopped snoring. She went into the living room to find him sitting bleary eyed on the couch, gazing unseeing at the wall.
"Coffee?" she asked helpfully.
McCoy grunted an affirmative.
Uhura put the hot mug into his unresisting hand and he drank thankfully taking large gulps of the steaming black liquid.
Reality settled slowly around McCoy as the warmth seeped through his body. "Thanks Uhura, I needed that. It's so good I just may give up my bachelor status just for your coffee, darlin'. He stretched. "I feel like hell, this couch is full of lumps. They can send people across the galaxy, but they can't get rid of lumpy mattresses," he grumbled and looked around. "Where's Jim?"
"He's in the library, talking to his mother."
Realization dawned on McCoy's face. "Damn, Winona's goin' to take this hard; her only grandchild and she's crazy about the kid." He rose stiffly. "Well, I better get in there."
"Wait, Leonard. Jim said no interruptions," she told him. " I promised him."
"Oh. Hell," he sighed, and sat down again. "Jim always wants to do the toughest ones alone."
They waited silently, watching the library door until at last it opened and Jim came out. He face was as pale and drawn as it had been the night of the kidnapping, his hair tousled from running his fingers thought it. He came and stood wordless by the couch until McCoy, tilting his head back asked, "Jim, how is she? How'd she take the news?"
"Bones," Jim paused, his eyes were full of misery and hazy with unshed tears. "First my dad, then Sam and Aurelan, and now Peter, and her first concern was for me. She's worried about me, for God's sake." He swallowed painfully.
McCoy cleared his own suddenly constricted throat.
"That's the way mothers are, Jim. Bless them all," he said softly.
"She wants to come right away, but I talked her out of it for a couple of days at least. She has to make arrangements with Frank Thompson, the guy who helps her with the farm, to come take care of the animals. And what good would it do her to be sitting here waiting and worrying? I can do that for both of us," he said bitterly. "When we get Peter back she'll be here to spend the rest of my leave with us."
"I think that's a very good idea, Jim. Peter will definitely need his family around him for security and support after he's released."
"Bones….how much do you think this will affect Peter? It's so soon after Sam's and Aurelan's deaths. What will it do to Peter? He's still such a little boy," the hazel eyes looked bleakly at McCoy.
"Medically, it's hard to say, Jim. I'll give him a good psychological goin' over as soon as I can. It's not gonna be good for him that's for sure, but I'm pretty sure he'll be all right in the long run. He's well-adjusted, he's intelligent, he's young and resilient, and he has you and Winona to help him get over it."
'And he has Spock and Amanda now. I know they'll help Peter all they can."
McCoy looked doubtful. "I won't argue with you about Amanda, she's a mom after all, but I don't know how much emotional support Peter'll get from Spock. He's about as comforting as a thermo-concrete block."
"Leonard!" Uhura protested.
"Stow it, Bones!" Jim responded angrily. "Spock's not here to defend himself, and you just remember all the times we've all depended on Spock…he never let any of us down, not ever!"
"Ok, Ok, forget I said anything," said McCoy, but he was satisfied with Jim's reaction. The misery was gone from Jim's eyes replaced by a glint of anger. The fact that the anger was directed at him bothered McCoy not at all.
Uhura's board flashed. She hurried to answer it and returned looking pleased.
"Captain, Chekov relieved Marie and he reports that Dizchard received Admiral Nogura's message to attend the briefing. It seems he didn't take it well at all, cursed up a storm," Chekov said. She smiled. "Also Sulu reports that all's quiet on Alcatraz. The same three shuttles are still parked there. He and Riley are taking turns on recon to avoid suspicion and they've rented different shuttles for today. Traffic is pretty heavy, so there shouldn't be any suspicion about their fly overs."
"Good, tell them to stay on top of things. I don't want anything to go wrong at this point," said Jim.
McCoy went to answer the door chime and Cedar came out of the guest bedroom. "Good morning," she said. She looked small and lost in McCoy's borrowed pajamas. "Any news?" she asked Jim.
"Morning, Cedar. No there's no news," Jim answered. "Are you hungry? Coffee?"
She shook her head, her fine hair feathering around her small face. "I'll get some later." She looked down at herself ruefully. "Captain Kirk, I'll be needing some clothes. I only brought what I had on, and I can't keep wearing borrowed things, especially if I look like this in them," she smiled. "Nyota's clothes don't fit me at all, or obviously Dr. McCoy's."
Jim glanced at her and suppressed a smile. She looked like a small waif in McCoy's pajamas. "Yes, of course you do. Give Uhura your size and we'll get some things from the Enterprise for you." Jim gave her his most dazzling smile. "We really appreciate your coöperation, Cedar. It would be a lot more difficult for us if you weren't here."
She blinked under the power of his smile. "I'm glad to do anything to help, Captain. Also, to be perfectly frank, I'm staying because I'm so worried about Tarz. Do you think he'll be all right?"
"If he's careful and Retz doesn't get suspicious he'll be fine."
"Perhaps Dizchard will have some further news about the young man," said Sarek, coming in with McCoy. "We can also ask what his role will be during the rescue operation."
Jim's eyes narrowed. "I'm still not sure that including both men in our plans is a good idea."
"Captain, logically they must be included. We need their knowledge and cooperation."
"Yes, I know, Sarek, but I don't like it."
"We are of like mind in that, Captain."
Jim glanced at Sarek. Had the Ambassador made a small joke? No, of course not, he thought. Vulcans, he had been reliably informed on several occasions, do not make jokes, not even small ones. However, remembering several suspicious comments from Spock down through the years, Jim had always had his doubts. And Spock always got that same bland and too innocent look on his face. Jim set the thought aside for further study now that he had another Vulcan to observe.
"Sarek, would you like some breakfast?"
"Later, thank you, Captain. However I will have some coffee now. Your San Francisco climate is cold for Vulcans. When Amanda and I are here, she always makes coffee for me in the morning to as she puts it, 'warm us up.' " His face softened as he spoke about his wife.
"Which reminds me, Jim did you eat?" asked the doctor. "You haven't had a decent meal in days."
"Un…no I haven't yet, Bones, but I will. I'm just not very hungry."
Kirk's communicator beeped.
"Scott here, Captain."
"Yes, Scotty, what is it?"
"Sir, 'tis the shields at that Park. They've been lowered and raised twice now. Once verrry briefly, then again a mite longer. I managed to get life form readings," he paused, "two humans and one Vulcan."
"Scotty, that's wonderful!"
"Aye, sir that it is. I also have exact coördinates now, but we don't want to attempt a beam out. What if the shields should go up while we were attempting it? T'would be verry dangerous sir, verry dangerous indeed. I would na' like to chance it."
Jim shuddered at the thought. "Don't even think of it, Scotty. No, we'll just go with the rescue operation as planned."
"Aye sir. Also, Captain, I've been monitoring the rest of the complex and the goings in and out. I get Orion life form readings and so far I have eight distinct Orion gentlemen going in and out of the Park. There may be more that haven't come out yet, though."
"That tallies with Sulu's reconnaissance reports, Scotty. Keep me posted and don't forget the briefing in an hour."
"Aye sir, I'll be there. Scott out."
Jim turned to the waiting group. Peter's stressed and worried Uncle Jim had been put aside for now and Captain James T. Kirk had taken over. "Uhura, we need to set up in here for the briefing. There will be Ambassador Dizchard, Admiral Nogura, the Parks man, Dr. McCoy, Sarek, Scotty, Kyle, Sulu, Chekov, Chapel, Riley, Rand, you and I. I also need a holo projector, pads for everyone, and hard copies of the Federation Council's agenda down to the minute. Sarek, could you help us with that?"
Uhura looked up from her pad and tapped her teeth with her stylus. "I better see about extra coffee and food, the briefing may be lengthy."
"I'll take care of that for you, if I may, Uhura," said Cedar. "I don't want to sit around while everyone else works."
"Great, thanks Cedar. I'll get started on the rest of the preparations. Captain, Janice Rand will cover for me on communications for short while," she told him.
"Captain," Sarek said, "the agenda for the Council vote is at best tentative. Diplomats, I fear, are notorious for not adhering to their allotted speech times."
"Yes, well, we'll just have to do the best we can. As Spock once told me, 'diplomacy seems to prolong crisis, not end them', and this particular crisis will be no exception."
Sarek wisely remained silent. He could see that the Captain was in no mood to listen to the merits of diplomacy or of diplomats in general. It was true that not all members of the Federation Council were as logical and rational as Vulcans, (Andorians and Iotians came to mind), but, diplomacy was the best available alternative to more unpleasant methods of settling disputes. And even Vulcans might be forgiven for a lapse of logic into irritation with such representatives as those of Troyius, for example. He must remember to tell Spock about the time the Troyan Ambassador had been smitten with Amanda. The Ambassador had offered Sarek three beautiful and wealthy women of his choice in exchange for Amanda. All of Sarek's diplomatic skills had been called forth in refusing such a munificent gift without giving offense. Amanda had been greatly amused and had, on several occasions since, reminded Sarek (at strategic moments) that it was on record that she was worth the equivalent of at least three beautiful rich women.
Sarek's musings were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Admiral Castillo and his aide Commander Aarons.
"Ambassador, Captain, good morning. We bring good news. We've found the intelligence leak. It was traced to an AI clerk who has access to medium level security information. Yesterday, we discovered that this man has deposited large sums of credits into his bank account. It was paid through two intermediary banks which we traced back to Orion."
"Good work," McCoy said.
"That's great news, Admiral," said Jim. "But he hasn't been alerted I hope?"
"Certainly not. We have been very discreet," said Commander Aarons.
"Good, we might make use of that clerk. It might be a good idea to plant some fictitious Intel for the Orions. We'll have to see, but it's always good to have a card up our sleeves if we need one."
"When this is over, we'll court marshal him for treason, and send him off to a penal colony for the rest of his life."
"We also have another slight problem developing," added Aarons. "The press people have been nosing around. So far there have been no leaks, but I don't know how much longer Admiral Nogura can keep the lid on the story. Right now all they're interested in is how the Council delegates will vote, but that may change at any minute."
"Indeed, that would be a most serious development," said Sarek. "We do not want to complicate an already serious and delicate situation with random factors whose outcomes are unpredictable."
"Then, gentlemen, let's all hope that Admiral Nogura's formidable power extends to the fourth estate," said Jim.
The Admiral and Aaron left, and the time until the briefing passed relentlessly slow. Tempers were a little short, people were busy and preoccupied and again Jim did not eat. He had not eaten lunch or dinner yesterday, nor breakfast this morning. Cedar noticed that McCoy looked concerned as he glanced at his Captain and the untouched food on his plate and Sarek too, looked grave as he saw McCoy looking at the Captain.
Sarek realized that the rescue operation hinged on Captain Kirk, yet he like McCoy was aware that to say anything to Kirk about his health and well-being would cause anger and further stress to the already tense young captain. I wonder how often Spock must bite his tongue with this volatile human, thought Sarek. And further, how does he handle a difficult situation when logic obviously will not server?
Jim lifted abstracted eyes to Sarek. "Yes, Sarek?"
"The food is not to your liking?" asked Sarek pointing to the untouched plate.
"What? Oh….yes, it's fine, just fine," said Jim looking slightly puzzled.
"Since you have not eaten, I thought perhaps you would prefer another dish. I am certain we can offer you something that will appeal to your palate," he said. "It's not logical to refuse food that one needs for continued health and energy just before a difficult task."
Jim looked at Sarek, then at McCoy, then at his plate and immediately understood. He grinned sheepishly. "Ok, ok, I'll eat all ready. Sheesh, will you both stop worrying about me."
"Vulcans do not worry," and "I'm not worried," said Sarek and McCoy in unison.
'Oh sure, where have I heard that before," snorted Jim. But he began to eat and McCoy flashed Sarek a small smile of thanks which Sarek acknowledged with a faint inclination of the head. Sarek was surprised at the sense of accomplishment that he felt. It was as great as if he had bested a recalcitrant Federation member in Council debate.