As the transmission ended, Jim sank wearily on the couch. He felt emotionally and physically drained from his tension. The sight of Peter, Spock and Amanda just out of his reach had unnerved him. The phaser rifle pointed at Spock's head hadn't helped either. He looked at McCoy and Sarek and saw that they too were slow to recover. Even Sarek's normal self-possession seemed stretched to the breaking point.
"Well, at least we know they're doing ok," muttered McCoy unhappily.
"They did seem to be in good physical health, Captain," Sarek said.
"Yes, I suppose so. They looked ok on the surface. I just keep worrying how all this is going to affect Peter's mental health. Over and over I ask myself is this going to hurt him permanently. If only I could have heard his voice." Jim shook his head in frustration.
"Jim, stop worrying. When we get him home I'll go over his psyche with a fine tooth comb. I promise you the boy will be fine."
"I can't help worrying, Bones. He's so young and so vulnerable. Not being able to do anything to help Peter, Spock and Amanda has made these the longest six days of my life, Bones."
"I know, Jim. We all feel the same."
Jim visibly pulled himself together and got up from the couch. He had to put aside his worry, frustration and tension. For the sake of the hostages, he had to be Captain Kirk, commander and leader of the rescue mission; his mind had to be clear and focused. "We'd better get our people ready. Sarek, are you ready?"
"Yes, I am prepared, Captain, but I still have a concern about the time frame. Perhaps we should go over it with the crew once more before I leave for the Council chambers."
"Very well, Sarek." Jim turned to Janice Rand who had taken notes during the transmission. "Yeoman, call the team together, please."
The crew, fully armed and equipped for the assault, assembled in the living room. To Jim, they looked like a lethal guerrilla strike force, which in a sense he supposed they were.
"Ok, people. It's almost time. The Ambassador has requested we go over the timing of the strike once more. There is absolutely no room for error. Mr. Sulu please go over the full sequence of events step by step for us."
"Yes, sir." Sulu stood and began. "Lieutenant Kyle will be on the ship manning the cargo bay transporter and scanner. At the same time, Rand will be on the Council floor with the Ambassador; she will be acting as his aide, and will be in constant contact with Mr. Scott via communicator. Rand and the Ambassador will leave here in exactly 30 minutes. Dr. M'Benga and Nurse Chapel will be on the ship ready to receive the hostages as soon as they are beamed aboard. They are prepared for a full medical emergency if need be. Cedar will be in the gallery with the Admiral and report directly to him by communicator as soon as the hostages are freed. She also will be at his side acting as his aide.
In a few minutes we will beam up to the Enterprise cargo bay. It's the only place big enough to beam all of us to Alcatraz at the same time. The two teams will beam in simultaneously to the designated spot I have marked on your map; it will be at that exact minute that Ambassador Sarek begins his speech after his summations. Team I of the strike force will consist of Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Bridges, and myself. Team II: Mr. Scott and Lieutenant Riley; Lieutenant Uhura will be here at the Comm station and will monitor us at all times. As soon as we beam in to the grounds, we will disable the outside guards and all of us will make our way to the upstairs room. Mr. Scott's and Riley will go directly to the equipment. Their chief responsibility is to destroy the shields and the transporter. The rest of us will be busy trying to subdue the watching Orions.. Ambassador Sarek's speech is exactly 15 minutes which is how long we have to subdue the Orions, destroy the shields and transporter, and rescue the hostages. His speech will start as ambiguously as possible with some Orion history, their present needs, etc. to give us a little extra time to get in and subdue the Orions. We don't want the Orions to get even a hint that the Ambassador plans to vote for admission. The roll call vote will begin immediately after the Ambassador's speech and we want the hostages safely on board the ship by that time."
Sulu went on. "As soon as Mr. Scott destroys the equipment, he will signal Kyle who will then scan for and beam out the hostages. Once this is done, Kyle will let Rand know. She will then tell the Ambassador and Dizchard and she will also tell Cedar who will then inform Admiral Nogura very discretely. That way the press will get absolutely no hint of what is going on."
"We will also count on the help of the Orion, Tarz, who has probably already received his coded message from Dizchard." Here Sulu stopped and looked unhappily at his Captain.
"What is it, Mr. Sulu?" asked Jim.
"Captain," Sulu spoke hesitantly, "can we really count on the Orion?"
"Mr. Sulu, if for no other reason than it's in his own self-interest to help us, and because of Dizchard's assurances, then yes, I do think we can count on him."
"Aye, sir," said Sulu, but he still looked unhappy.
"To continue," said Sulu, "the odds are against us in hand to hand combat because we are outnumbered by three to one, but we are counting on the element of surprise and that the A. I. clerk has reported to Retz that we are completely demoralized and ready to do what he wants, and we hope to have Tarz' assistance to even up the odds a little. We will go in with phasers set on heavy stun, overwhelm and subdue the warriors and get the hostages."
"Ambassador, any comments on the sequence of events?" asked the Captain.
"No, Captain. Everything seems to be in hand." Sarek's intent gaze passed over the assembled crew. "I thank all of you in advance for attempting this difficult and dangerous mission. I commend you on your courage and loyalty to your Captain." Sarek turned to Jim, "I have a few minutes before I must leave, Captain. May I have a word with you in private?"
"What is it, Ambassador," Jim asked as he closed the library door.
"It is my most earnest wish to go with you on this mission, Captain. But as it is not possible, I only wanted to, as Amanda would say, wish you luck." As always, Sarek's voice and eyes softened when he spoke of his wife.
"Thank you, Sarek. I also wish you were coming with us. I've had many occasions to know and be grateful for that Vulcan strength," answered Jim. Looking at the austere Vulcan face, he once again wished wistfully that Vulcans shook hands.
As if divining the wish, Sarek held out his hand in the gesture of the human handshake and after a brief second of surprise, Jim grasped it warmly.
"I will leave you now, Captain. It is time."
"Goodbye, Sarek. May fortune smile on all of us."
Jim stood for a moment after Sarek left thinking about the very human gesture Sarek had made. He wondered ruefully if it was Jim's own need for reassurance that had prompted the Ambassador's hand shake or if even Vulcans need warmth and moral support now and then.
He walked back to his people in the living room and purposefully strode to the viewer and turned it on to the Council telecast. All the crew gathered around the screen to watch the proceedings. The news reporter were scurrying to and fro trying to interview delegates and the VIP's.
McCoy stood by Jim and muttered under his breath. "Vultures…all of them, poking and prying into people's lives." He was worried sick that some inkling of the kidnapping might leak out and compromise the mission. If the public became aware of what the Orions had done, others of the lunatic fringe might get similar ideas; "copycat" killers were a well-known psychological phenomenon. Terrorism was contagious. McCoy had studied Earth terrorism reports during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries very carefully. It was part of his expertise as a member of First Contact and Away Teams. It was his considered opinion that the press had contributed greatly to the spread of terrorism by their minute by minute accounts of every horrible atrocity committed by terrorists. That kind of media attention gave fanatics an even larger stage to flaunt their psychosis. He had little use and less respect for the fourth estate.
There was a sudden flurry on the Council Floor and the watching crew members saw Sarek striding past the reporters with Rand at his side. He sat in his delegate chair and the reporters surrounded him. They thrust cameras and micro-speakers into his face.
"Ambassador, sir! Will you make a statement? Ambassador Sarek, have you decided how you will cast your vote? Ambassador, has Vulcan decided how you will vote?" An aggressive Rigellian reporter pushed herself forward to ask.
"Gentle Beings, please." Sarek raised a hand for silence. "I have no comment at this time. My vote will be known to you at the proper time. If you will excuse me, I have some work I still have to do and it is difficult under these circumstances." Sarek motioned to the security guard hovering nearby and he came to stand pointedly by the reporters. Under his baleful stare, they moved off reluctantly and with poor grace to try to interview another delegate.
To the watching Kirk, Sarek appeared his usual impassive self except for the pallor in the hewn face. The holo viewer shifted as the camera swept the vast chamber and he caught a glimpse of Admiral Nogura and the fair head of Cedar by his side holding a pad and communicator. They were seated in the V.I.P. section of the Council gallery.
Under cover of the holo viewer sound, Jim leaned in and asked McCoy, "Bones, how did the crew do in the workout?"
"They did well, Jim. Their reaction time was as good as or better than the usual Red Alert drills I think their motivation had a lot to do with it." McCoy glance questioned his captain. "How was your workout, by the way? You've been off your feed and you haven't been sleeping and you haven't worked out in several days." McCoy searched Jim's face. "That kind of stress plays hell with workout efficiency."
"My timing was a little off at first, Bones and my muscles felt stiff, but after I warmed up I did fine. Sulu and I had a thorough workout. You know Sulu, he's as bad as Spock. He won't let me get away with a thing." Jim grimaced ruefully, remembering two or three good falls he'd had at the hands of his helmsman.
A sudden rise in the noise level on the screen drew their attention back the Council session floor. Then silence descended from the floor to the gallery; the session had begun.
The President of the Federation Council, a tall thin Vegan with silver hair and very pink skin, stepped up to the podium and stood before the Assembly. He banged the gavel three times. "Fellow members, this Council Session of the United Federation of Planets will come to order. There is only one agenda item today. The issue before us is consideration of the application of the planet Orion for membership in the Federation Council of Planets. Each delegate will have fifteen minutes to state their views on the issue. Members may defer to another delegate if they so choose, but no one may exceed their allotted time limit. The delegates will speak in alphabetical order. Aldebaran will speak first, Vulcan will speak last. At the end of the speeches, excluding his own, the distinguished Ambassador from Vulcan has also consented to address the Council with a summary of all the pros and cons of the admission issue. After the summation, the Ambassador will begin his own speech. After his fifteen minutes, the roll call vote will begin. The delegate from Aldeberan will now begin."
"This will take a long time, Sulu. All diplomats talk too much," said Chekov softly, watching the screen.
"I know Pavel, but we have to wait. Just relax," said Sulu.
Jim watched the screen for a while, but he was much too restless to sit for long. He rose and began to pace. McCoy always said that Jim had refined pacing to a fine art. He paced when he was worried; he paced when he was angry; he paced when he was happy; when he had to wait on a mission; and when he was in love…especially when he was in love. Now, Jim was pacing because he was at the end of his rope and because he was sick and tired of being rational and patient when his family and friends were in deadly danger.
McCoy eyed him in concern. Like Spock, he had the same thought, he looks thinner and he looks close to exploding. He needs some action. I wish Spock was here; we could do one of our routines and Jim would smile and we would all feel a little better if only for a minute. He sighed; he was frustrated and worried sick, but there was little he could do to help either himself or his captain.
Uhura glanced up from her seat on the floor and saw Jim pacing. She got up and went over to him. "Captain, may I get you some coffee?" Her soft brown eyes looked searchingly into his.
"What?" The hazel eyes looked blankly into her own.
"Would you like some coffee?" she asked again.
"Oh. No, but thanks Uhura. I couldn't swallow it right now, it would choke me."
"Jim…it'll be all right. We'll have them home very soon. It won't be long now." She took one of his hand between her own two strong ones. She would feel the tension in the hand that gripped her own so tightly, then abruptly he relaxed, patted her hands lightly, and put his arm around her and gave her a brief hug.
"I think I will have that coffee now, Nyota."
Uhura smiled radiantly. "Right away."
Jim took the coffee and swallowed two gulps and walked over to Sulu.
"Whose turn is it, Sulu?"
"Sadrao, Captain. So far opinions are about even, I think."
"Yes, Sarek expected that. That's why the Vulcan vote is so important. There are just a few more delegates. Let's get in place people."
The crew rose and got into their designated teams and into beaming position. Their faces were both tense and eager. At long last, they were going to do something!
"Kirk to Enterprise."
"Kyle here, Captain."
"We're in place, Mr. Kyle, beam us up to the cargo bay"
"Aye, Captain. Beaming up now."
Kirk's consciousness dissolved into the familiar slight nausea of the transporter effect and he found himself on board the large cargo hold of the ship with the two teams around him.
"Ok, Mr. Kyle, who's speaking now."
"Good, Ambassador Sarek is next."
The crew watched closely as the Vandican Ambassador droned on until he finally finished his speech. The Council President rose and stood before the expectant silent crowd. "It is now my distinct honor and privilege to introduce the distinguished Ambassador from Vulcan who will summarize the stated views from all the members of the Council. After, he will speak for his allotted fifteen minutes on Vulcan's position on the question."
To loud and sustained applause, Sarek of Vulcan stood and walked with measured tread to the raised podium. His dignity and calm were like a balm to Jim's bruised sprit. He watched the holo viewer avidly.
"Get ready, people," he murmured, and the crew got on the cargo transporter pads.
The applause finally died down and Sarek bowed fractionally to the President and began to speak.
"My fellow members of the United Federation of Planets Council…."
"NOW KYLE," ordered the captain, felt his consciousness dissolve.