Jim Kirk paced. Uhura sitting glued to the comm station counted in her head. One, two, three, four, turn; one, two, three, four, turn. I will stay calm, she told her self. I will not scream. She glared at her captain's back. Jim had been pacing relentlessly in front of her for what seemed like hours. It was driving her mad! She opened her mouth to protest, but looking up at his face, she closed it again. He looked terrible; pale, his face drawn, his eyes blood-shot.
McCoy came in and he, too, examined Kirk's face. "Jim, you need to get some rest." McCoy had slept a couple of hours as had Uhura. "Let me give you somethin'. It's 0800; you've been up for twenty-four hours straight."
Nogura had left long ago to his home. Before he left he gave Kirk what he called 'discretionary powers' to do whatever was necessary to get the hostages back. The Admiral had bowed to the logic of the situation; Kirk had the ship, the staff, and the experience to deal with this kind of crisis better than anyone else, including himself.
Jim shook his head impatiently. "Later Bones, after the preliminary reports come in." His eyes felt gritty, but he was not tired.
A signal flashed on Uhura's board. She answered instantly. "Yes, yes, you're sure? Yes, I have the spelling. O.K. Chu, I owe you one."
She turned to the captain. "Sir, that was Science Specialist Chu, the one who understands a little of the archaic Orion dialect. He said that after he and Sarek had transcribed everything they understood of the conversations between the Orions, he went home to get some sleep. He just woke up and remembered that one of them addressed the man with the hoarse voice, as Retz…he thinks the spelling is R e t z."
"Good news, Uhura. Let's see what the ship's computer can find on an Orion named Retz. It's somewhere to start at least."
Sarek come in behind them. He, like Jim, had been up all night. "Captain, it is time for my scheduled meeting with the Orion delegation. Admiral Nogura has decided that he also wishes to be present during the meeting. Perhaps one of the three delegates will be able to add to our fund of information about these men. Nogura and I agree that Orion military intelligence or their Security Officers should have dossiers on some of the dissidents." Sarek too, looked tired and drawn, although his Vulcan stamina would drive him on after the rest of them were ready to drop.
"We can only hope," said Jim. "Sarek, we have a bit of good news, we think we have the name of the leader, it's Retz. The spelling is R e t z. Lieutenant Chu gave us the information a few minutes ago. See if the name is known to any of the delegates. Maybe we'll get lucky. You have your communicator?"
"We have no way of knowing how they will contact you, Sarek. If the call from the Orions comes through your communicator, Lieutenant Uhura has now linked your communicator to her board so she can monitor your call and we can hear it and hopefully trace it. Thanks to the spy at Fleet, I feel sure they have your secure contact information and I think the call will come in that way."
"Captain, this meeting with the Orion Ambassador and delegates may yield nothing." Sarek warned. "However, if they know anything, I believe they will coöperate if for no other reason then to try to sway my vote to their side. Orions are not known for their cooperative natures," Sarek added dryly. "However, they are a pragmatic people." "Also," he continued, "for the moment, all three hostages are safe, which does buy us some time."
Kirk stared at the Vulcan. "How do you know that?"
"You forget Captain, Amanda and I are bonded. The marriage bond is quite strong, and if she or Spock or Peter were in distress or in any physical pain, I would know. And she would be most distressed if either Spock or Peter were injured or separated from her," Sarek explained.
McCoy pounced on Sarek. "Do you mean you can read her mind?"
"No, doctor, there is no 'thought' exchange between us. There is only the sense of union and presence that all Vulcans share when they bond at marriage. Since Amanda is not a telepath, the bond cannot lead me to her nor can she tell me where they are. The bond can only tell me that they are well for the present. It will also tell me when things are not well," Sarek added, answering their unspoken question.
Jim sighed. At least that knowledge eased his worry a little. He realized too, that if something had happened to Spock he would know somehow. Duty, danger and friendship had linked their minds on several occasions. The mind meld had saved his life and the lives of his crew, had brought solace and comfort, and had also broken them out of jail a time or two. Because of the meld his friendship and rapport with Spock transcended normal human limits. Across time and space somehow he would know, through the link, if Spock were dead or injured.
"I will leave you now, Captain," said Sarek. "I will be in my office at Council headquarters." The silvery whine of the transporter took him.
Jim's communicator beeped. "Kirk here."
"Sir, Scott here. We're ready to begin sensor scan."
"All right, Scotty, 360 degrees, one degree at a time. And Scotty…"
"Look for what's not there, as well as what is there, understood?"
"Aye, sir! Understood."
"I want a report every two hours, Scotty."
"Yes, sir. Scott out."
"Jim, what do you mean, 'what's not there?'"asked McCoy.
"Bones, the Orions may have a screening device or dampening field of some sort activated. The maximum distance for even the most advanced transporter range is 25,764 kilometers. That means that they're probably being held somewhere within that radius. Scotty will scan every square inch for any sign of a sensor anomaly. We know they haven't left Earth, so this our best bet for now. It's a very slow process, but we may get lucky."
"Jim," McCoy paused, searching for the right words to say it, then went on, there were no right words. "You know there is a chance that we won't find them before the deadline."
"I'll find them." Jim Kirk's voice was fierce. There was no doubt in him. Nothing would stop him. He knew he would find them, because he must.
McCoy shook his head. He recognized that stubbornness in his Captain that would carry him through until he found Peter, Spock and Amanda. It was as if by the very force of his will, by the determination of his very need to do so, the universe would bend to Jim Kirk's will, would obey his commands. That dynamic quality of Jim's mind which Spock had sensed many times in the mind meld would admit no obstacle, no defeat.
"Sir," Uhura's voice was urgent. "It's the Orion calling Sarek."
"Quick Uhura put it on audio. See if you can get a trace on it while he's speaking to Sarek."
The Orion's hoarse harsh voice resounded through the room as Uhura's quick fingers complied. "Am I speaking to Sarek of Vulcan?"
Immediately through Uhura's communication relay, they heard Sarek's voice responding. "This is Sarek speaking." The Ambassador's voice sounded measured and calm.
"Ambassador, your instructions are these: In five days the General Assembly of the United Federation of Planets will meet. The question before them and more importantly, before you, is the admission of Orion to the Council. You will be asked to speak to the question. You will speak of your deep doubts about the wisdom of Orion admission and state all your logical reasons for these doubts. The weight of your logic will be such that the other members of the Council cannot but agree with your reasons. We know that Vulcan, and you, as the Vulcan Ambassador, wield an inordinate amount of power and influence on the Council floor, so when your negative vote is cast, the other delegates will vote as you do." The guttural voice continued. "If your vote is affirmative, then your wife, your son, and the child will die. Their bodies will be deposited at the door of the Vulcan embassy immediately after the vote."
Sarek's voice deeper and calmer than ever, poised a question. "What if I should abstain?"
Listening, Jim broke out in a sweat. He looked at McCoy's set face. They both knew what the answer would be.
"Abstention is not acceptable. The defeat of the proposition must be so overwhelming that Orion will not try for admission again. Do you understand what you must do, Ambassador?"
"Yes, I understand. However, I, too, need something before I cast my vote. I must know that my wife, my son, and the boy are alive and well. I must see and hear them. On this issue I will not negotiate."
There was a second of silence. "We will confer and inform you of our decision." The Orion abruptly broke the communication.
"Uhura?" Jim asked urgently.
"Sir, I was only able to trace it to a general location. They are using some sort of diffusion signal to avoid a trace. I can tell you it came from the greater San Francisco Metroplex general vicinity, but that's all I can tell you. It's an enormous area."
"Sarek, did you hear that?" asked Jim."
"Yes, Captain Kirk. I heard and understand the difficulty." "Captain," he added, "at our meeting, the Orion Ambassador had much to tell us and has indicated a desire to help us. We will come to you in a few minutes. Sarek out."
Kirk opened his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise."
"Yes, Captain, Scott here."
"Scotty, the trace was localized in the greater San Francisco general area. Concentrate the sensor scan in the area. We have no way of knowing if the hostages are in the same place as the Orions, but it's a start. Sarek is bringing the Orion Ambassador here to talk with us. If there are any more developments, I'll let you know immediately."
"Aye, sir. But I dinna' trust those Orion gentlemen at all." Scott's voice reflected his doubts about the proceedings.
"I don't either, Scotty," Jim said. "But it's the only game in town. Kirk out."
He turned to see Dr. McCoy running a medical scanner over him.
"Bones...," he protested.
"Jim, that's a very high stress reading," McCoy said. "You haven't slept, you haven't eaten, you look like hell." He loaded the hypo and pressed it against Jim's arm.
"What the hell's in that, Bones, I have to stay alert for this meeting," Jim snapped irritably.
"Just relax and let your good ole' country doctor fix you up. It's vitamins, a mild stimulant, and a stress neutralizer. You're going to interview an Orion, remember? That won't be easy."
"All right, Bones, but I wish you'd stop hovering over me like a mother hen," Jim stretched his neck and back muscles slowly. He could feel the tension ease as the drugs did their work. He would pay for it later, but for now at least he would be at his best for the Orion meeting. He turned and went into the peace and quiet of the library to wait.
The door chime rang softly. McCoy went to answer it knowing it would be Sarek, Nogura and the Orions. I have my doubts abut this meeting, he thought. Jim's temper is awfully short and I hope this guy doesn't blow Jim's fuse.
He let Sarek and Nogura in and took a swift look at the Orion as he came in behind Sarek. The Orion Ambassador was short and stocky, with powerful arms and shoulders and a massive neck and head. His face was broad, his nose lean and hawk-like, his jaw pugnacious. But what caught and held McCoy's attention, were his eyes. As the light from the bay window lit the Orion's face, McCoy saw that they were large and thickly lashed, quite beautiful and luminous, set deeply in his face and of a brilliant blue color, icy and cold, but in their depth, like in a star sapphire, a kind of fire smoldered there; eyes that could beguile or seduce with their beauty, yet fierce. It was disconcerting to see those brilliant blue eyes set in the pale green face.
"My name is McCoy. Captain Kirk is waiting for you in the library. Please come this way." He led them past the curious eyes of the command crew, and into the library and closed the door.
Jim stood as Sarek, Nogura and the Orion entered. He glanced at Sarek and Nogura, but their faces told him nothing.
"Kirk, this is Ambassador Dizchard, Exalted of Orion, the head of the delegation. He will speak with us. Dizchard, this is Captain James Kirk. It is his nephew who was kidnapped along with my wife and son." Sarek's face looked more drawn than ever, but his bearing was straight and his voice as measured and calm as always. Dizchard and Kirk looked at each warily for a long minute.
McCoy had always prided himself as being a very good psychologist, reader of character and body language. It was a skill that helped make him into the excellent CMO that he was on the Enterprise. To the watching McCoy, it was obvious that these two men were of like character; born to command others, makers of tough sometimes impossible decisions, each with their own code of honor to live by and uphold. But while Jim's command decisions were always tempered by rigorous soul-searching and compassion, in Dizchard, McCoy could detect only ruthless determination and arrogance. This man would make decisions and cut his losses without a second thought.
"Please sit down, Exalted Dizchard. We have much to discuss," Jim said. "I hope that you and your people will be able to help us.'