Spock sat with uncharacteristic tenseness at the table with his mother beside him. Tarz had just taken Peter outside and the half hour loomed before them. Amanda too, sat still and silent waiting for the time to crawl by. Neither mother nor son felt much like conversation.
Spock knew his mother disapproved of his decision to let Peter go outside, but this morning he had decided that the risk was small and the benefit large. That his decision was a logical one did not seem to ease the concern (he did not say worry; Vulcans do not worry) he felt nor did it make the waiting easier. His mother had not voiced her disapproval out loud, she was far too tactful and disciplined to burden him with that, but Spock could sense her concern for Peter and her impatience to have him back by her side.
"What time is it now, Spock?" she asked.
Spock suppressed a sigh, and answered patiently. "It is four minutes later than when you last asked me, Mother. Peter will be outside for 18 more minutes."
With a visible effort, Amanda shifted her thoughts from the time and Peter and she rose to walk around the table.
"I'll be very happy to see and speak with your father. I'm sure he and Captain Kirk have already decided on the questions they will ask us."
With her eyes on the comm, Amanda asked softly, "Will you be able to give them any clues about where we are?"
"Knowing Jim, I would say that by now he knows our whereabouts and further more that he already has a plan for our rescue." Spock spoke almost inaudibly, his eyes also on the comm.
Amanda looked surprised. "Do you really think so Spock? James Kirk would have to be a magician to get us out of here."
"Not a magician, Mother, but a formidable and intuitive tactician. He and Father will be looking for any weakness that the telecast might show them about the Orions. So far, I have not found any," he added thoughtfully, "unless you consider the altercation with Lizur; that certainly was not planned, and Retz was very angry about it."
Amanda nodded, and then asked, "I wonder what happened to that young man?"
"It is probably just as well not to ask, Mother. I do not think you would like to know the answer," Spock responded dryly. "I imagine he suffered severe punishment. Retz does not seem like that type of man who suffers fools lightly."
Amanda continued her nervous pacing. She was determined not to ask Spock for the time again. To distract herself she thought back to Spock's childhood. She had never been an overprotective parent. On the one hand, because Sarek would have chided her for being illogical, and on the other hand, because Vulcan children are trained from a very early age to be self-sufficient. By the age of seven Vulcan children know how to survive the rigors of the Vulcan desert alone and Spock had completed his kahs- whan successfully. By the time Spock left home at the age of sixteen, he was completely trained in all the survival and martial arts skills. With Peter, the situation was very different. She felt a strong sense of responsibility for him because of the trauma the little boy had been through. He was particularly vulnerable at this point in his young life. Amanda found herself feeling fiercely protective of this child who had lost so much, but who remained steadfast in his affections even with the fear of more loss staring him in the face.
"Five more minutes, Mother," said Spock into the silence.
Amanda looked at him gratefully; he had known she didn't want to ask again.
The five minutes passed in an oppressive and absolute silence, and then the silver whine of the transporter suddenly materialized Peter in front of them.
"Peter, did it go well?" Spock spoke calmly, not betraying his relief by so much of a twitch of an eyebrow.
"Peter, are you all right? What happened, dear?" Amanda asked anxiously.
"I'm ok," said Peter. "I ran around for a little while, then me and Tarz threw a ball around for a few minutes and I showed him how to play baseball. They don't have baseball on Orion, but they have other kinds of ball games. Tarz liked what I showed him about base-ball. Gosh it felt good go outside." "You know," he added, "he's a pretty nice guy. He told me not to worry, that we're going home pretty soon."
Amanda and Spock looked at each other.
"Did he say anything else, Peter?" asked Spock.
"No sir. I asked him how he knew that we'd be going home soon, and he said he just knew. That Mr. Sarek would do the right thing tomorrow. What is the right thing, Mr. Spock? What is Mr. Sarek going to do?"
"Tomorrow is the Federation Council vote, Peter. The Council members will vote either for or against admission of Orion to the Council. These Orions want my father to vote against admission of Orion to the Council. Many other members would follow Sarek's lead and vote as my father does. Tarz was referring to that when he said my father would do the right thing."
"How do they know how Mr. Sarek will vote?" Mr. Spock?"
"That I do not know, Peter."
At that moment the comm came on and Retz' voice boomed loudly in the small room.
"Mr. Spock, Lady Amanda, I trust you were both satisfied with the boy's outing?"
"The results seem to be satisfactory," said Spock, looking closely at the new color in Peter's cheeks. "The boy seems to have obtained some benefit from the fresh sea air."
"I am gratified that you are please, Mr. Spock," Retz said dryly.
"I wish to tell you that arrangements will begin shortly for the telecast with the Ambassador. Precautions will be taken to insure that Star Fleet is not able to trace the transmission and discover your location. Their technology is sophisticated, but I can assure that ours is superior."
"Doubtful, thought Spock. You do not have Lieutenant Uhura and Mr. Scott to get around your technology. "I have no doubt that you and your warriors will do your usual efficient job with the transmission and that Star Fleet will no doubt try their utmost to trace our location. It is expected. After all, I am a highly trained and experienced officer and no doubt they wish to insure that their long-term investment in me is not foolishly squandered by my premature death."
Retz cast a suspicious glance at Spock's impassive face, but saw nothing there to cause comment. The Vulcan's calm face told him nothing.
Retz looked at Amanda. "Lady Amanda, I wish to remind you that the child must remain absolutely quiet during the transmission. Also, there can't be any overt or covert attempt on your part to pass along any information to your husband."
"I would not be so foolish as to put either my son's life or the child's life in danger," Amanda told him contemptuously.
Retz looked at her angry face, but said nothing more. His gaze strayed to Peter and he smiled showing his teeth. "See that the boy understands. I would not want there to be a mistake during the transmission."
Retz turned back to Spock. "In a few minutes someone will come to set up the room. I will take my leave of you now."
Almost immediately the whine of the transporter materialized an Orion in the center of the room. It was Tarz wearing the same black clothing and his mask that he had worn during the kidnapping. He carried a lethal looking knife at his belt and his phaser hung ominously from his useless left arm.
Moving silently Tarz began to set up the room for the transmission, removing the table and the other items from the camera angle. He placed three chairs in front of the monitor and looked around carefully. There was nothing to see but the three chairs. To Sarek and Jim who would be watching, the room would look like a sterile empty white room with no identifying objects.
"You will all be seated now. The transmission will begin shortly. The child will sit in the middle chair."
As the hostages sat down, Tarz took his place behind Spock and unhooked the phaser rifle from his shoulder. The rifle was aimed ever so casually to the side of Spock's head.
So, thought Spock. It will also be a war of nerves. Sarek and Jim were to be spared nothing. He saw his mother's frightened eyes glance just once at him then determinedly she looked away. Then he felt Peter's small hand creep into his lap. Spock took the child's ice-cold fingers into his own warm hand. He could feel the tremors going through the little boy's body.
Despite the rigid restraint Spock had imposed on himself, he felt rage rise in him at the toll this was taking on Peter. He clenched his teeth with the effort that control cost him and managed to speak with his usual calm.
"Peter, there is no need to be frightened. This will be a routine transmission just like the ones that you and your grandmother make to your Uncle Jim from Iowa to the Enterprise. The only thing I want you to remember is that you are to be absolutely quiet during the transmission. No matter how badly you want to say something to your Uncle Jim, do not say a single word. Do you understand?"
Peter nodded mutely and Spock felt the tumult of fear and anxiety pouring into his mind from Peter's fades a little. He glanced over at his mother and she gave him a small smile of reassurance.
Suddenly the monitor came on and there were Sarek and Jim with Dr. McCoy standing behind them.
There was a moment of electric silence as they took in the sight of each other…and the sight of Tarz with the rifle. It was several seconds before McCoy found his voice, and when he spoke he sounded hoarse with strain. "Spock, are you all right? Is everyone ok?"
"Yes, Doctor, we are well."
McCoy's keen blue eyes took on that clinical look Spock knew so well from his own sick bay experiences as he looked in turn at each of them. "They look ok," he muttered to Jim. "But dammit how the hell can I really tell without examinin' them." He placed an encouraging hand on Jim's tense shoulder. "Go ahead, Jim. Talk to them."
Spock saw Jim swallow convulsively and then heard him clear his throat. "My God, Spock, how are you? Is Peter all right? Have they hurt you in any way?" His voice was tight with the anxiety he was trying to hide.
Spock looked at his captain and saw immediately the toll that the last few days had taken on him. Jim's face looked drawn and pale and he was obviously thinner.
"Captain…Jim…we are all well as you can see. Although our captivity has not been pleasant, we have been well treated. Our food supply has been adequate and we are provided with some amenities. Peter is in good health and has conducted himself in a way that any parent would find admirable." Spock felt the child twitch beside him and pressed the small hand warningly.
Spock forced himself to look impassively into the anguished eyes of his friend. "Jim we really are well. There is no need for concern."
Sarek looked closely at his wife's face and found traces of stress and fatigue in the delicate bone structure. His sense of relief at seeing her was so profound, that at first he could not speak.
Across the distance their eyes met.
"Sarek, my dear. Are you well? I've been so worried about you. Have you been taking care of yourself? It hasn't been that long since your surgery and I don't want you to over tax yourself. I hope Dr. McCoy is keeping a close eye on you. Any type of stress is bad for you and will delay your full recovery." Amanda's words came rapidly, a sure sign she was nervous in spite of her apparent composure.
"My wife, it is gratifying to know of your concern for me, but at the moment it is your health and well-being that is in question." Sarek's body language was more relaxed now, for it was obvious that Amanda was herself in spite of her ordeal.
Amanda smiled at her husband. "We are all as well as can expected under the circumstances. Six days of being cooped up is not pleasant, but we have tried to keep busy."
She looked at Jim Kirk. "Captain, Peter has kept up with all his school assignments with my help and he is getting very proficient in chess. He wants to challenge you to a game as soon as we leave this place. And as you can see, Peter is looking very well: he has eaten well and is getting some exercise."
Jim looked hungrily at the child, and then he nodded his thanks to Amanda for her words of reassurance. Peter's eyes met his uncle's and he grinned at him. The sight of that smile seemed to relieve Jim's anxiety even more than Amanda's word and Spock saw him unclench his fists.
"Captain," as he spoke the word, Spock sensed rather than saw the phaser rifle move to point directly to the back of his head. He saw alarm leap into McCoy's eyes, and Jim's face pale visibly under his tan. His father's lips twitched once uncontrollably.
Spock's gaze never faltered from Jim's face. "Captain, are there any questions you would like to ask me to verify the authenticity of this transmission?"
Jim tore his eyes from the rifle with a visible effort and looked at his First Officer. "Yes, Spock, there are. But is that rifle really necessary?" he asked angrily, his anxiety getting the best of his temper.
Retz' disembodied voice answered from somewhere. "Yes, Captain. It is necessary. Ask your questions, time grows short."
Jim looked over at Sarek who nodded. "Very well." The captain drew in a deep breath. "Spock, who won our last chess match?"
"What did Lieutenant Uhura buy during her last shore leave?"
"She bought a small hand-made harp made by natives of the planet Areites, which she then presented to me as a gift."
"What is the name of Dr. McCoy's daughter?"
"Her name is Joanna."
Jim turned to Sarek. "Ambassador, it's your turn."
Sarek looked at his wife. "Amanda, what was the color of the gown you wore to the Vulcan Science Academy Graduation ceremonies?"
"It was violet with gold bands around the sleeves and hem."
"When was the last time you visited Earth?"
"It was at the last general session of the Federation Council when I came with you for a few days of shopping."
Sarek turned to his son. "My son, when was the last time you were on Vulcan?"
"The Captain and I spent ten days with you and mother less than one solar year ago."
"What was the name of the pet you had as a child?"
The name of my pet sehlat was Ee-chiya."
Sarek turned to Jim. "I am satisfied that this is a genuine live transmission, Captain. Are you?"
"Yes, I'm satisfied. Do you hear Retz? We're satisfied. What happens now?"
The disembodied voice of Retz echoed loudly in the room. "Now that you are satisfied and know we have kept our part of the bargain, it is up to the Ambassador to do the rest. We will be watching the proceedings very carefully. As soon as the Assembly votes the captives will either be released immediately or…well, you know the alternative. The Council will meet in an hour. Say your goodbyes gentlemen, your time together has come to an end."
McCoy scowled into the camera. "This is barbaric. As a doctor I must protest your treatment of these people. Who knows what effect this ordeal will have later on, especially to the child? And let me tell you, if this is an example of how Orion's behave, we sure don't want you in the Federation."
"Bones!" Jim protested fiercely, "Shut up!"
"No, Captain, let him speak. It seems that we are in perfect agreement. We certainly do not want to be a part of your Federation." There was amusement in Retz' harsh voice. "Nor do we want to belong to a decadent and dissolute collection of planets that are so fearful of war that they must join together to feel secure. You interest me, Doctor, what else do you have to say?"
"The doctor has nothing more to say," said Sarek. "This conversation will avail us nothing. It is what happens on the Council floor that is important and I must be there in precisely 47 minutes."
"Very well, Ambassador, if that is your wish. We will stop this most interesting discussion and wait for your vote."
Retz' voice carried a smile as he said, "Another time perhaps, Doctor, we can continue our conversation."
"In a pig's eye," muttered McCoy to Jim.
"My son, my wife, I must take my leave of you now," said Sarek. It will not be long before you are released. Goodbye Amanda, Spock. My son, take care of your mother and the child."
"Take care of Peter for me."
"Yes sir, you know I will do so to the best of my abilities."
'And Spock…I…you…take care of yourself, too."
"I will try to do that also, Captain."
Captain and First Officer exchanged a long look of communication before Retz terminated the transmission.
Spock stood abruptly and released Peter's hand. "I assume that now we must wait for the Council to meet," he turned to Tarz.
"Yes, in less than four hours the voting will begin and you can be assured that Retz will honor his word to the Ambassador and you will be released unharmed."
As he spoke to Spock, Tarz looked at his prisoners curiously. Really, these humans were amazingly resilient creatures. They seemed unconcerned about their possible fate. He felt that his own resiliency was in question at the moment. His sacred charge from Dizchard to keep the hostages alive was weighing heavily upon him and he wanted more than anything to leave this room and see if a coded message had come to him from The Exalted. He had sworn to give his life if necessary for the safety of the hostages, but everything in him rebelled against such a fate. He had made plans for his future life; he had much to strive for and to do for himself and his people.
Tarz had often thought of the irony that had brought him to this end. He must defend and protect people who at one time had been his bitter enemies. Indeed, it had been humans that had both cost him the use of his arm and leg, and yet paradoxically had worked unceasingly so that he might regain full use of his limbs. Who could understand such people?
He remembered Cedar's gentleness, her unflagging kindness to him, an alien alone in a strange hospital, her eagerness to learn all she could about his culture and family. She was horrified to find out that Orion women were often sold into slavery and how their strange green beauty brought a high price in some illegal markets. Cedar had cried when he told her his own mother had been a slave in his father's house and how she was sold when he was ten years old. He had never seen his mother again. Tarz shook off his introspection and weariness impatiently. There was still a lot he had to do and he must not give in to his exhaustion and depression.
"I will leave you now; we will meet again after the vote. Try not to worry." He touched a button on his communicator and transported out.
Spock and Amanda looked at each other. "Now we just have to wait, Spock."
Spock nodded. "It would seem so, Mother. Peter, I believe you have some school work to do for my mother."
With Peter occupied, Spock took his mother aside and said softly. "I will set up the transmitter as soon as they send in our lunch and the Council is in session. Then I can be certain the warriors are occupied watching the proceedings. If we are not rescued by the time the voting takes place, the discovery of the transmitter becomes unimportant."
Spock paused, weighing his next words carefully. He was uncertain how his mother would react to what he had to say.
"Mother, if rescue does not come and the Orions decide to kill us, they will probably lower the shields to get us out quickly since I doubt they will do it here. I will try to create a diversion and I want you to take Peter and run. If it's necessary take to the water and swim. I am not sanguine about your chances to get away, but it is certainly better than waiting to be killed."
Amanda looked at her son. "Spock if you think for one minute that Peter and I are going to run and leave you here alone, you are very much mistaken." She lifted her chin in that definite way Spock remembered so well from his childhood. As a boy he had come to recognize it as a signal that she had come to an important decision and would not be swayed from her course. Even Sarek had learned that he could not budge her then. When it was necessary, Amanda could be as stubborn as any Vulcan.
"You will not change my mind, Spock."
"Mother, you are being extremely illogical," Spock said, exasperated.
"Perhaps so," Amanda agreed serenely. "But that's the way it will be."
"My primary responsibility both as a Star Fleet Officer and as your son is to protect you and Peter. I am endeavoring to do so but you are not cooperating."
"Spock, just how do you think I could face your father and James Kirk, as well as live with myself, if I did what you suggest? How do you think such a decision would affect Peter? No my son, we will get through this together or not at all."
"Father would agree with me and so would Jim.
"Perhaps so, if it were their own lives that they were risking, but I know that neither of them would leave you behind to save themselves. Isn't that so?"
Mutely Spock looked at his mother and could only nod a reluctant agreement. For one of the few times in his life he had been out flanked in an argument and he felt helpless. He didn't much like the feeling.