"In almost every list pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris, is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self. [...] In perhaps the best-known example, the story of Lucifer, pride (his desire to compete with God) was what caused his fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan." (Wikipedia)
Jim Kirk was annoyed with this away mission to put it mildly. The Meriahns did not want any contact with Starfleet - that was clear. They were said to be a polite race, but suspicious of all aliens. They'd had some bad experiences, as their prime minister had explained. In a way, they had quite a lot in common with Vulcans, being touch-telepaths and allegedly unable to lie. That of course, made their being polite somewhat impossible, as Bones had pointed out. For being polite often meant disguising the truth.
Their planet was of strategic value no doubt, and they had promising dilithium deposits, but they'd said they wanted no contact with Starfleet or the Federation and therefore they should let them be.
Kirk wasn't sure if he'd made the situation even more delicate now, beaming down with McCoy and Spock, as ordered, and trying to persuade them to collaborate. However, they had been hospitable enough, although making clear that their politics of splendid isolation would not be changed. This was good enough for Kirk. For even though the Federation seemed to want an alliance with the Meriahns at all costs, he believed it was enough to see that the Klingons didn't. If we stay here for longer, we'll just earn their distrust and push them into the direction of an alliance with the Klingons, Kirk thought bitterly while looking at a statue in front of the Meriahni government's Department for Foregin Affairs. It was a statue of an old man, wearing the traditional headgear that all Meriahns, male and female wore. It looked a bit clunky, Kirk thought.
He grabbed his communicator. "Kirk to McCoy and Spock. We're done here. Meet me at the beam-out point!"
"Acknowledged, captain," came Spock's voice over the communicator. Kirk waited. McCoy was probably somewhere engaged in conversation with a Meriahn.
"Dr. McCoy, please come in!"
Bones and Spock had been looking at some exotic plants in the botanical gardens when he last saw them, going into different directions, of course, because they wouldn't agree on which plants were the most "fascinating". Kirk smiled to himself. Their constant dispute really didn't get old for them.
"Spock, is Dr. McCoy with you?"
"No, captain. He went to observe the succulents in the opposite direction of where I am."
"McCoy, come in! ... Bones, come on, we want to get out of here," Kirk was beginning to become even more annoyed.
"Captain, I will search for him," Spock said calmly into the communicator.
"Yes. The succulents, you say? I'll meet you there."
He pocketed his communicator. It wasn't like Bones to become that carried away, he thought a little worried.
The botanical gardens were only moderately interesting, they were really nothing new either to him or the doctor. However Spock had sensed that it was best to leave the captain alone for a while, this mission had not come to a satisfactory outcome. Therefore, he had taken the opportunity to observe the local flora. The doctor had wandered off into the opposite direction of himself, something that did not really surprise him, since he had been in one of his irrational, irritated moods. But, Spock admitted to himself, it was somewhat irritating to him now that the doctor should not answer his communicator.
When he arrived at the point where he'd last seen Doctor McCoy, this irritation became concern. The gravel on the path was disordered, and some plants on the side had been damaged as if from a struggle.
"Doctor McCoy, are you in need of assistance?" Spock called out and strained to listen for an answer.
He did hear something, it was a muffled sound, a whimper? He quickly turned into its direction, somewhere behind a wall of large cactus-like plants.
"Doctor?" he called again. And again he heard this sound, coming from behind the plants, that made him suddenly leap over them as fast he could.
McCoy was lying on the ground, bleeding from a scratch on his shoulder that he seemed to have suffered from falling into one of the thorned plants. It did not appear to be very serious, although the doctor was in a state that so shocked Spock that for a split second, he was unable to move. The doctor was shaking, his face showed perspiration and bright red spots under and around his left eye and chin. However, it was McCoy's expression of utter horror and desperation that was most unsettling. It could be poison, Spock hypothesised and knelt down beside the doctor, grabbing for one of his wrists to feel the pulse.
The doctor gave a soft cry of pain at the touch. "I apologise, doctor," Spock said, when he observed the torn flesh on both the doctor's wrists. It looked as if someone had tied him up and the ropes had burnt into McCoy's wrists when he had struggled against them.
"What happened? Who did this to you?" Spock asked gently, now holding a hand on the doctor's shoulder wound to stench the moderate, but still disconcerting flow of blood.
McCoy was clearly in great distress, however he was recognising Spock and trying to say something around the now almost uncontrollable sobs coming from him.
"Relax, doctor. You are safe now," Spock said, not knowing, if that was true. But he had to calm the doctor in order to understand what he was trying to say.
"C-can't. ... Please ..."
Spock suddenly wished for Kirk to be here. He was just incapable of spending the comfort the doctor needed. In an almost desperate attempt, he lifted the doctor's upper body from the ground and settled him against his chest to hold him close. It was something he'd seen humans do at such moments. He just hoped it would have a positive effect on the normally so private CMO.
"Please, doctor. You must calm down. Let me help you." He looked at McCoy's face. There was something peculiar about the red marks.
"Spock. S-sorry - I think I told him. Every - everything. He just t-took it." McCoy made a movement with his hand to touch his face and the angry red marks which suddenly represented a very familiar pattern to Spock. Before McCoy could touch them, he caught the doctor's hand with his own as if by that he could make them go away.
He had to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from swearing. The Meriahn were touch telepaths like him. It all fell into place. McCoy had been attacked, probably tied at his wrists to keep from struggling and then he was forced to mind-meld with one of the Meriahn, possibly to get to secret Starfleet information. Emotions of rage threatened to overwhelm him once again, then he suddenly saw Kirk standing in front of them, a look of horror on his face.
"Spock! What the hell happened to him?" Kirk exclaimed, kneeling down beside them and putting a hand on Bones' uninjured shoulder.
"N-no!" McCoy almost screamed, and tried to crawl under Spock's skin, twisting his uniform in one fist, while the other hand almost crushed Spock's.
Kirk pulled back his hand as if it had been burnt.
"Doctor, it is just Jim. No one will hurt you, I promise!"
Kirk watched Spock with a mixture of amazement and concern. He knew that Spock could be surprisingly sensitive and caring when it concerned Bones' well-being. But this had always been the case in situations when they had really thought they'd lose him, like when he had been tortured by the Vians, or when they'd thought he would die of xenopolycytemia.
"Spock?" Kirk was growing impatient, he needed to know what was wrong with Bones. And although he was somewhat satisfied that he was calming a little bit, he couldn't help feeling irrationally hurt by McCoy's violent reaction to his meant-to-be comforting touch.
Spock looked at him with his usual impassive expression, but he could see that it cost him a considerable amount of energy to keep it that way. "The doctor was attacked," he said simply.
"How bad is it?" Kirk was on the verge of shaking Spock until he spilled it. He eyed McCoy, whimpering in Spock's arms, but didn't dare touching him again.
"Captain, I believe the doctor was forced to meld with a Meriahn."
Kirk tried to comprehend. He knew from Spock, that a forced meld was considered the worst crime a telepath could commit. Mind rape they called it. It meant theft of a person's most private thoughts, damaging the very soul. Often resulting in ... permanent madness ... or suicide.
"Bones, I - I'm sorry."
It was all he could say at the moment and he knew it sounded lame.
But somehow it was enough. McCoy looked at him for the first time since he had arrived. His eyes were wide open, glowing with unshed tears. Kirk cringed at the sight. He had never seen Bones cry, not when he thought he was going to die of xenopolycytemia, not ... well never.
"Jim, what if I told him? Everything I know about Starfleet? I - I'm sorry. I couldn't help it. God, I just c-couldn't." He looked miserable. As if he had just realized he'd killed a thousand people by gross negligence.
Kirk shook his head. "No, Bones. You did nothing wrong."
He tentatively reached out to touch him again, fearing that he would shy away once more.
He didn't, though he stiffened a bit and coughed. Kirk thought he heard a wheezing sound coming from his lungs. He took a good look at the cut in Bones' shoulder. "What's this, Spock?"
"I think it was caused by a fall into one of the succulents. It does not seem to be too serious, but it should be treated as soon as possible. We need to get him to sickbay, captain."
Kirk nodded and took out his communicator with one hand while trying to unclench Bones' hand from clutching Spock's uniform with the other.
That gained him some attention. "Jim, didn't you hear what I said? I - I'm a traitor. I didn't mean to, I swear, I tried to fight him, but I couldn't. He broke … into me, my head, and …, he's gonna ... I don't know, he c-can ... Jim, I - please you've got to believe me ... I did t-try ...".
Kirk let his communicator fall into the dirt and grabbed Bones' hand with both of his now. As he saw the mutilated flesh on his CMO's wrists he clenched his jaws until he heard a little crack. He needed to keep control of himself and make this convincing. He had to come through to his confused and terrified friend now, or Bones would be plagued with guilt and shame for the rest of his life.
"Now, Bones, look at me!" McCoy had turned his face towards Spock's chest again. He shook his head.
"BONES!" That came out louder than he had intended it, but it had the effect he'd hoped for. Pained blue eyes met his and once more Kirk had to swallow hard after looking into those eyes full of pain, fear and shame.
"Thank you!" He smiled encouragingly. "Now, repeat after me: I ...,"
He stopped and waited for McCoy to do as he was told, but McCoy stayed silent.
"Bones, I said repeat after me!" He tried to make it sound like an order, though it was more a desperate plea.
"What?" McCoy looked confused and coughed again.
"Say it: I am ..."
"I am ..." McCoy looked at him expectantly, breathing hard.
Great, now he just had to choose his words carefully. "... not to blame."
Then quietly McCoy repeated: "... not to blame."
Right, very convincing. "There was nothing I could have done to prevent this."
"There was nothing I could do to prevent this." It was a whisper barely audible. Come on, make him believe it!
"In this kind of situation no one could have reacted differently."
"In this kind of situation no one could have reacted differently." This was becoming a sort of game now.
"Not even Jim."
"Not even …,"
He couldn't bring himself to say it.
"I mean it, Bones. Say it: Not even Jim."
Jim looked at his first officer in gratitude. Then they both looked at their friend struggling to repeat these simple five words.
"Not ... not even Jim, or ... Spock."
"That's the truth, Bones." Kirk watched him, not at all convinced that this had had any effect on his friend at all.
"That's the truth, Bones," McCoy repeated and Kirk felt his heart miss a beat.
Bones grimaced. "Sorry, not ... f-funny. I ... I know."
He closed his eyes as his breathing was becoming more laboured.
Kirk swallowed another lump in his throat and gave his friend's hand a final squeeze, before he let go and picked up his communicator once more to call the Enterprise and have them all beamed aboard. They would find and punish whoever had done this, but right now they needed to get their doctor back to safety and tended to.
"S-Spock," McCoy whispered.
"Yes, doctor?" Spock strained to hear the human, still slumped in his arms.
"I don't th-ink I can stand." It sounded embarrassed. Illogical, especially under these cirumstances, Spock decided.
"I know, doctor. Do not worry." With that he shifted him a bit, so that he could place his arm under the doctor's knees, and in one swift motion stood up to stand beside Kirk who looked at them with worry etched into his face.
"Ready?" he asked them. Spock nodded. Kirk waited patiently. "Bones?"
"No. P-lease don't - I mean -" He coughed. Then more quietly than before: "Well, I guess so ..." McCoy wouldn't look at him.
Kirk took out his communicator again. "Scotty, let the corridors to sickbay and the transporter room be cleared of all unneeded personnel! Then come to the transporter room to beam us up personally."
"Sir, is something wrong?"
"We're all right, just do as I said. Kirk out."
"We understand your concern for your CMO, Jim. But the safety of the Federation is paramount."
Admiral Westervliet had been talking to Captain Kirk for twenty minutes now. When they had arrived in the transporter room with no one there except Scotty, Kirk had instructed Spock to take care of McCoy and wait for him in sickbay.
He had needed to make a few calls. The one to Prime Minister Coltan had been pleasant in a way, for he could yell at him and vent just a little bit of anger. The Meriahn had apologised and promised to look at surveillance tapes in order to identify and arrest the bastard who had violated McCoy.
The other call to Starfleet Command hadn't been nearly as liberating. He had suspected them to be concerned about what the incident meant to the relationship Starfleet was trying to establish with Meriah. He'd even steeled himself for a conversation about a contemporary replacement for his incapacitated chief medical officer. But now this was taking a direction he hadn't expected and did not like.
"Admiral, Dr. McCoy is a physician. He did not have access to any sensitive information. At least nothing that could be a threat to the Federation."
"Really, captain?" Westervliet raised his eyebrows in an arrogant manner that made Kirk want to punch him in the face. "Jim, this is not meant to be criticism on your style of command, but the whole fleet knows that Dr. McCoy has more than once overstepped his - field of responsibility. And you know it, too."
It was true, Bones' frequent presence on the bridge was just one example. But it had never occurred to Kirk that this could mean any danger to Starfleet - or his friend. "He may have picked up an unimportant communication frequency. Maybe he even knows your date of birth, Admiral, but unintentionally. He wouldn't even remember it. And he never asked for any information that was classified." That was a lie. But Kirk hoped Westervliet wouldn't notice.
"I didn't say he snooped around deliberately, Jim. It is just that he might have picked up something involuntarily, or even unconsciously. We cannot take such a risk. Moreover another mind-meld - from an expert - is the only therapy that really promises a cure here. Why do you disapprove?"
"Because you are making it an order. You don't care about what Doctor McCoy has to say to this."
"Jim, this may concern the future of the Federation. We know the Meriahn are in contact with the Klingons. Maybe they're behind the attack. Maybe they required some specific information, something that McCoy could give them. We need to know what information the attacker stole in order to be prepared."
Kirk knew it was true. Moreover, he knew that the recommended therapy for someone who had been violated in that kind of way was another mind-meld, controlled and healing this time. But what he knew most definitely was that Bones was going to refuse. And he couldn't force him. It would be mind rape all over again. He was also sure that Spock would not agree to perform a meld against Bones' will. He really had a problem now.
“Now - you can tell your first officer to meld with McCoy, or - if you think that isn't possible, we'll send another Vulcan telepath. Maybe a therapist from the Vulcan Science Academy who has experience with this sort of thing." Westervliet was final on that.
Kirk faked a smile.
"No, Admiral. That won't be necessary. I will talk to McCoy. He will consent." No he won't, Kirk thought, but he'd rather have Spock than any of these Vulcan Science Academy people mess with his CMO's mind.
"Good. Jim, I know how you feel, but the whole Federation may depend on this."
"Yes, sir. Understood."
"Very well. Westervliet out."
As the screen went black, Kirk put his head in his hands.
It felt as if he was about to betray his best friend.
However, maybe, just maybe, McCoy would consent after all. He had been quite trusting of Spock down on the planet. Maybe he would see a meld as a chance to make him feel better?
No, he'd never liked the concept of a mind-meld even between Kirk and Spock. Now, he had been mind raped. He was hurt, he was embarrassed. Hell, he was scared to death. And he felt guilty about what happened.
Kirk closed his eyes, feeling ashamed of what his own mind was suggesting to him: Maybe I can use Bones' feelings of guilt to trick him into consenting to another meld.
There was nothing Bones feared more than harming innocent people. He'd already told Jim down on the planet that he felt guilty for what had happened. And there was a risk that whatever information that Meriahn got, could be used to harm the Federation and its citizens. He'd only have to tell Bones that he'd be able to prevent a catastrophy by giving his consent to another mind-meld, performed by Spock who would get the information that Starfleet needed to engage in damage control.
Kirk felt nauseated by this thought, however, it seemed to be his best option. At least, it was better than forcing Bones.
Reluctantly he got up and trodded to sickbay, his thoughts on a play he had once seen. Julius Ceasar, standing with a dagger in his side stammering: Et tu Brute?
Spock was sitting on a bio-bed watching McCoy sleep. Kirk knew he had been sitting there ever since he'd brought the doctor to sickbay. His uniform showed dark blotches of McCoy's blood on his chest. Bones' breathing was a little strained, though he was sleeping peacefully. An oxygen mask lay unused in his hand which he held to his chest. His wrists were bandaged, Kirk noticed.
"How is he?" he asked Spock who nodded in acknowledgement to his presence.
"He has been sedated. The thorns of the succulent plant that caused the doctor's injury to the shoulder bore a mild kind of poison. It has caused some breathing difficulty, but it's nothing serious."
"Really?" Kirk could hear the rattling noise accompanying each of McCoy's breaths increase. Spock noticed it too, but didn't move. McCoy started to cough suddenly, dropping the mask.
"Hey, Bones. Take it easy." Jim reached out, and turned him to his side in hope of making it easier for him to breathe. Spock had retrieved the mask from the floor, hesitated and then handed it to Kirk who placed it on the doctor's face, so that it could provide him with a steady flow of oxygen again.
"Captain, I'm not sure if my presence here is beneficial to the doctor's recovery."
"Why?" Kirk was alarmed. Spock had just been ordered by Westervliet to perform a mind-meld. Now if even his presence at Bones' bedside produced a problem ...
"At least, I cannot touch him."
OK. Here it comes. "What did he say to you?"
"Nothing. However, I fear I will hurt him if I do."
"The doctor had quite some difficulty breathing before. When I placed the oxygen mask on his mouth and nose, I briefly touched his face and immediately connected with his mind."
"You mean you melded?" Kirk felt nauseous again.
"Yes, unintentionally. I was so focussed on the events that I lost control. I did not mean any harm of course, but it happened nevertheless."
Kirk froze. "What did you sense?"
"No, I don't believe he realised that I had any access to his thoughts. It was too brief, nevertheless I don't think he would want me to meld with him. I shall not touch him again until I'm sure of my control over my abilities."
Kirk bit his lower lip. Spock wasn't going to like this. "Is it not true that the recommended therapy after a forced meld is yet another meld, performed by a person trained in mental techniques - to heal?"
"Yes, captain. However, it is necessary that this meld will be performed with the greatest possible caution. Right now, I believe that I am not capable of summoning the control necessary to perform such a delicate task. I believe also, that the doctor will not be ready for such kind of therapy in the near future. By the time he is, I think I will be able to perform my duty."
Duty. Spock didn't seem to be too thrilled to be the one to perform the meld. If he didn't know it better, he would say his Vulcan science officer was afraid."Spock, I agree. However, there are other circumstances that might make a meld necessary, as soon as possible."
"What circumstances, captain?"
"Yes, well... Westervliet said there is reason to believe that the Klingons have something to do with this. Starfleet Command wants to know what exact information the Meriahn stole from McCoy. He practically ordered you to perform the meld."
Spock nodded. "Captain, then you have to convince the doctor to allow me to meld with him. I will not do this if he doesn't accept."
Kirk smiled, of course not, he wouldn't hurt Bones in that way, but he would risk insubordination instead. "Spock, the thing is, if you don't do it, they will send someone from the Vulcan Science Academy."
Spock blinked and realized he disliked that thought to the same extent his captain did. "Then, I ask your permission to retreat to my quarters and meditate, in order to prepare myself."
"Bridge to Captain Kirk." It was Uhura's voice. Kirk nodded to Spock who left sickbay, a little too fast for the practiced observer, and answered the call over the intercom.
"Captain, Prime Minister Coltan for you."
"Right. Put him through to Dr. McCoy's office, Lieutenant. Kirk out."
He somehow felt awkward sitting down at his friend's desk, thinking that it looked cleaner and better organized than he would have suspected. Immediately, he felt guilty for having believed that McCoy was a bit of a slob, on the one hand because he knew that he was one of the best doctors in Starfleet, on the other hand because he realized how seldomly he had actually visited Bones in his office.
He turned on the screen and was greeted by Coltan, Prime Minister of Meriah Five who looked a bit embarrassed, something that Kirk didn't intend to smooth out for him.
"What do you want?"
"How is Dr. McCoy, captain?"
"He's been better. I hope you have found the attacker."
"Yes. We have viewed the surveillance tapes. It was Secretary Delihan. You have met him at the meeting."
"You mean your Secretary of Defense?" Kirk didn't even try to hide the accusation in his tone. Not only had one of the members of the Meriahni government assaulted his CMO, but the Secretary of Defense, who had claimed that his government was interested in staying absolutely neutral, had made an attack on Starfleet, possibly with the intention of selling information to the Klingons.
"Captain, I assure you, this happened without our knowledge."
"Where is Delihan now?"
"We don't know. We are searching for him at present."
"Are you? Well, I would like to conduct a little search myself." Kirk mentally bit his lip. He should be careful with what he said. At the moment, Coltan was surprisingly cooperative.
"Captain, I understand your worries. Please be assured that we are doing our best to find Delihan. We apologise for the incident, however we cannot allow you to conduct a search by yourself. Delihan is a Meriahn, he will be put to trial, according to Meriahni law."
"What do you know about your secretary of defense? What are his motives?"
"Delihan is not a man of great passions. He is a rational person, he never makes premature decisions, captain. I am telling you this only, because I believe he has planned this in advance."
"What do you mean, Prime Minister?"
"Captain, as you know, the Klingon Empire has been engaged in diplomatic efforts towards our world."
"You think Delihan sides with them, in spite of your politics of splendid isolation."
"We have observed that Delihan was very - impressed - by their weapons and their ideology, captain. He believed the Klingons posed a considerable threat to our world. He may have decided to do them a favor in order to avert any danger."
This is getting worse by the minute, Kirk thought. "Coltan, are you sure Delihan is still on Meriah Five?"
"Yes. Space traffic control has confirmed that no ships have left Meriah in the last 24 hours."
"Have any arrived?"
Coltan hesitated. "Captain, this is information that would normally be considered none of your business. However, since I understand your concerns - no, no alien spaceships have arrived on Meriah in the last 24 hours. Yours is the only spaceship in orbit."
I don't need your stupid space traffic control to get information like that. Kirk smiled at Coltan. "You will keep me informed?"
The prime minister seemed relieved. "Of course. You are allowed to stay in orbit of Meriah until we have more information."
"You are too kind." Kirk hoped sarcasm was a concept the prime minister wasn't too familiar with. Coltan just bowed his head and the view screen went black.
"Kirk to bridge."
"Scott here, sir."
"Scotty, check our sensor logs, I want to know if any ships or shuttles have left Meriah Five in the last, say 24 hours."
"Aye, captain. Anything else?"
Kirk chewed his lip. Scotty had been in the captain's chair for hours now, since they had beamed down to Meriah Five. He had only come down to the transporter room for a few minutes, at Kirk's request, in order to beam them up personally. When they had materialised on the platform, Spock carrying a bleeding and wheezing Bones in his arms, Scotty had looked shocked. Bones had pressed his face into Spock's shoulder pretending to be unconscious. Scotty hadn't asked any questions, he had just escorted them to the turbo lift, asked if there was anything he could do, and after Kirk had shaken his head, he had gone wordlessly to the bridge. He deserved an explanation. However, other things were more pressing, Kirk decided.
"Yes. Let our long range sensors search for starships in the vicinity."
"What kind of starships?"
"Any ships. Meriahn, Starfleet, Klingon..."
Kirk nodded, although Scotty couldn't see him. "Yes, as I said. Tholian, Romulan, whatever. I just want to know what kind of ships passed through this sector in the last 24 hours. Maybe some still are in the vicinity."
"Thanks, Scotty. Lieutenant Uhura?"
"Is it possible to find out if there was any communication between Meriah and an alien world, or ship? In the last 24 hours?"
"Other than us, captain?"
"It is possible, although it would be a violation of the diplomatic protocol."
"Thank you. I will be coming up shortly. Kirk out."
Right. Now to the nasty part. Kirk knew he had to talk to Bones now. Or maybe M'Benga first. He stood up and looked over to the bio-bed, where McCoy was sleeping.
It was empty. What the …
Kirk rushed out of the office to find Bones suddenly standing in front of him, holding a cup of water in his hands.
"Hey, Jim. I swear, I could have died of dehydration on that bio-bed, and no one would have noticed. Where the hell is everyone?"
Kirk gave him a once over. Bones was still in his torn and bloody uniform, although the cut on his shoulder had been cleaned and bandaged, as had his wrists. Other than that, he looked quite normal. The haunted look on his face was gone, and his breathing was alright.
"How do you feel?" Kirk asked carefully.
"Well, that was no answer to my question, but thank you, Jim. I feel fine, just a little headache."
He touched his temple. Kirk looked alarmed, but immediately schooled his features back to something that he hoped looked reassuring.
"Maybe you should lie down again."
"What? No, I'm okay, really. What happened?"
M'Benga had been standing at the door, quietly observing, and finally he stepped in. "Welcome back, Leonard. What do you remember?"
"Uh. I was looking at some plants in the botanical garden on Meriah Five. There was a sort of cactus I found interesting. It had these strange looking thorns, and I …," He stopped. His eyes went wide and he looked at Jim in embarrassment. Kirk braced himself.
"Sorry, Jim. I didn't touch these thorns and got myself poisoned, did I? I mean, I should know better than to poke an alien plant that looks dangerous."
Kirk didn't know if he should feel alarmed or relieved. "No, Bones, don't worry about that. Relax. It's okay. Really." Yeah right, he had used too many words to be convincing, he realized. And Bones was eyeing him with suspicion now.
"Yes. So, ... why is sickbay so deserted?" McCoy decided to change the subject, for now. It was somehow disconcerting to be all alone in sickbay. No patients, well that was all right. But no nurses? What if there was an emergency? Well, at least M'Benga was here, he had been hiding in the laboratory, and Jim had been in his office ...
"We just wanted to give you a little privacy," M'Benga said and pushed him back towards the bio-bed.
That had been quite thoughtful of them, McCoy thought. He should feel grateful, but on the other hand, it seemed to be a bit exaggerated. Unless, ...
"What did I do? Did I scream nasty, indecent things at everyone?"
"No, you didn't do anything, Bones. We just wanted to do you a favor. We know how much you hate being a patient in your own sickbay."
"What were you doing in my office?"
"What? Is this an interrogation? I was talking to Prime Minister Coltan. He wanted to know how you were."
"Oh. And - how am I?" McCoy looked at Jim, not at M'Benga who would have been able to give him a more qualified answer. There was something Jim wasn't telling him and he wanted to know what it was.
"You …," Kirk was searching for an answer. Bones had forgotten about the forced meld. He was acting like himself again, and Kirk was actually relieved to have is friend back. On the other hand, they still needed to know what Delihan had wanted. How should he tell him? He needed to confide with M'Benga, and Spock.
"Well, you ... smell, Bones."
"What?" McCoy looked down at himself and then up at Jim again. "Well, Jim, you try and get attacked by an evil plant, get poisoned and then almost die of thirst in your own sickbay, and then we'll see what happens to your body odor."
Kirk smiled at him affectionately. "Well, I suggest you take a shower, before the nurses come back, Bones."
"You think this is really funny, don't you? Well, I will go and wash myself, so as not to disturb your olfactory senses anymore, then I will put on a uniform that is more becoming of an officer. And then I want to know what really happened!"
McCoy got up and trodded towards the bathrooms, leaving Kirk and M'Benga alone.
"Do you think it's possible that he forgot everything?" Kirk had waited until he was sure McCoy was out of earshot before he addressed Dr. M'Benga.
"Captain, you know Leonard better than I do. And I know, he is a master of repression. He is used to functioning under great stress, that comes with the job, but whenever something bad happens to him, he refuses to talk about it. He just puts it somewhere to the back of his head and that is that. I believe this is what he is doing right now."
Yes, that was a good description of Bones. Kirk had known him for almost nine years now, and he still didn't know the details of his divorce and his life before he'd joined Starfleet. He never talked about it. Jim had never asked, either. He had been afraid to, actually. Afraid, that Bones would push him away and as a result wouldn't talk to him for over a week. Or that it would just bring up memories that would only hurt his friend.
"I know what you mean, but I think he really has forgotten all about the attack."
"I believe you are right. His subconsciousness is probably doing that for him. It is a common survival mechanism of the human brain and a very reasonable one, in my opinion. If there are memories that are so disturbing that it makes you unable to go on living, it is best to do away with them."
Kirk sighed. "But, you cannot delete memories from the brain completely."
"No, at least not by yourself. And that may be a problem. The memories are still there, they are just stowed away in the bottom most drawer, so to speak."
"And they may surface again."
"Yes. And when that happens, I just hope that Leonard isn't rock climbing or performing surgery on someone."
"Rock climbing?" Kirk raised his eyebrows.
"Well, you know what I mean. I just hope he isn't in a precarious situation somewhere, where losing your balance can mean death."
Although Kirk thought it was unlikely that Bones was going to be rock climbing somewhere, at least not voluntarily, he could name dozens of those precarious situations that M'Benga meant, that had ocurred for Bones only in the past three weeks.
"Doctor, I've talked to Spock. He would be willing to perform a healing mind-meld."
"I think that would be a good idea, captain. If we knew for sure that these memories will never resurface again, then of course, I wouldn't recommend it. Let sleeping dogs lie."
Kirk nodded to himself. "There is another reason why we need this mind-meld. We must know what information the attacker wanted from Bones. Now, if you say he has repressed everything and buried it somewhere to where not even he has access to, what does that mean for Spock? Can he even find that information?"
"I am not sure, sir. As you know, I have some experience with Vulcan physiology and Vulcan telepathy. I know that a mind-meld can be very exhausting for both participants. There is always the risk of overexertion that at least theoretically can result in death. At the moment I would therefore recommend to wait at least another day, until Leonard has recovered from his wounds. And Spock should prepare himself with meditation."
"He is doing that right now. The thing is: When should we tell Bones what really happened on that planet?"
"He is suspicious already, isn't he?"
"You've seen him. He didn't believe me a minute. I think he also has a right to know."
"He will, early enough. Captain, to be honest, if anything like that ever happened to me, I wouldn't want to know."
Kirk nodded again. He was somewhat thankful that M'Benga gave him an excuse to put off telling Bones, that he had been mind raped and had possibly provided the Klingons with information that could result in the destruction of the Federation, and therefore had to immediately undergo another meld in order to search for this information in the depths of his mind - a place where he'd stowed away all other unpleasant memories that he had collected during his life. He balled his hands to fists. Maybe they would be able to find the relevant information without hurting their good doctor.
"I'm on the bridge, doctor. Call me if there's a change." And with that he left sickbay.
"Mr. Scott, there is something strange about the sensor readings." Chekov had scanned the whole sector, finding nothing, really. However he had had a strange gut feeling about something, but until now, he hadn't known what it was.
Or he had, of course. First of all, Kirk had ordered the corridors to sickbay should be cleared, then Scotty had gone down to personally beam up the landing party. Neither Kirk nor Spock had come to the bridge since then, and when Mr. Scott had come back with an expression of deep worry on his face, they had all known that either Spock or Doctor McCoy had been critically injured down on that planet.
Although not the friendliest of people, the Meriahn were considered a peaceful race and the mission had not been thought about as dangerous at all. Their prime minister had invited them as guests to their capital to discuss the diplomatic relationship with the Federation once again.
Doctor McCoy had commented that that had sounded kind of unfriendly, to which Spock had pointed out, that the Meriahn were unable to lie and therefore "their polite invitation should be taken without unjustified suspicion, doctor".
Chekov recalled the whole conversation on the bridge now, it had been the usual:
"Spock, the human concept of politeness is something you don't understand. And maybe the Meriahn don't either, if they're unable to lie, then you can be sure they're unable to be polite as well."
"Are you saying that one must be a liar to be socially accepted within human society?"
Whenever these battles of wit between McCoy and Spock broke out, Chekov tended to side with McCoy, knowing at the same time that Spock had the better arguments. Spock and McCoy were like "Sense and Sensibility", to quote a famous female Russian author. Maybe McCoy's sensibility had been correct this time. Something bad had definitely happened on that planet.
"What is it, Chekov?" Scott walked over to the helm from where Chekov had been scanning the whole sector, not finding anything, which was kind of unusual in itself, and frustrating.
"Our sensors flicker, Mr. Scott!"
"Flicker?" Scotty couldn't help feeling criticized. "Well, they do that every now and then, there's always some interference, you know? They realign themselves immediately. ... Wait, you shouldn't be able to see that." Scotty was impressed. He could see these flickers, but he was the chief engineer, Ensign Chekov, however, ...
"I know, sir. But these flickers appear exactly every 242 seconds."
"What? You sure?" The sensors shouldn't be disturbed so easily, and what was more not so regularly, either.
"Yes, Mr. Scott. They usually only flicker when our impulse engines are powered up, or when we drop out of warp."
"Well, our engines are offline, we're in the stationary orbit of Meriah Five. It must be something else." Scott watched Chekov's console with interest.
"Twenty seconds, sir." Chekov announced, and then they heard the turbo lift doors open and Captain Kirk entered the bridge. He looked tired, Scotty thought and tried to interpret what Kirk's being here indicated regarding Leonard's medical condition. Spock was still missing, so this was a bad sign. However, he would have expected Spock to be here and Kirk to be with the doctor. Something was not right.
"Anything?" Kirk asked gruffly.
"Not at first glance, captain. There are no ships in the vicinity and none have left or arrived on Meriah Five in the last 24 hours. But Chekov may have discovered something."
"What is it?"
"There," Chekov pointed at his console, "in five, four, three, two, one, now!" There was an ever so slight flicker of the indicator lights for the scanners, Kirk thought. But he wasn't sure if it hadn't been his imagination only.
"Aye, that is strange, Chekov. The scanners are affected by something. I believe it does not come from the Enterprise."
"Could it be something from the planet? A power source, communication, a scanner?" Kirk asked.
"No sir, at least there's nothing I have detected," Uhura said from her station. Kirk turned to her, smiling. He had asked her to throw the diplomatic protocol out of the window, and she hadn't objected once. He asked himself if that was good or not. Right now, he needed her skills as a spy and not as a United Federation of Planets communications officer, so he guessed it was good.
However, sometimes the loyalty of his own crew scared him.
"What did you pick up from their communication channels, Lieutenant?"
"There has been no communication between Meriah Five and an alien ship or planet, as far as I can tell."
"Well, you didn't tell me to eavesdrop, captain. Nevertheless, I couldn't help hearing what was said. They are searching for Secretary of Defense Delihan. So far they haven't found him."
Kirk sat down in his chair and started chewing the inside of his cheek, trying to make sense of everything.
"Scotty, we're in a stationary orbit around Meriah Five, right?" Kirk had a suspicion, but he needed to think aloud.
"Aye. We're exactly 35,876.12 km above the planet's surface, where the forces of gravitation and rotation are balanced, so that we don't need any power to stay in orbit."
"If we were a little closer to, or a little farther away from the planet, we'd need to power up our engines to keep us from crashing onto the planet or from drifting off into space, correct?"
"Aye," Scotty followed his captain's thoughts, and he didn't like the conclusions that they had to draw, "we wouldn't have to have our engines online constantly, it would be enough to power up the impulse drive for a few seconds to give us a little boost into the right direction."
"For example every 242 seconds," Chekov concluded.
Kirk nodded. Gotcha. "Lieutenant Uhura, get Mr. Spock up here, we're looking for a cloaked ship. Possibly Klingon."
"Yes, sir." Uhura turned to her console to call Spock over the intercom, but she was thinking about Dr. McCoy. If Spock could come up to the bridge, then the doctor was probably the one who had been hurt.
The doors swooshed open again, and there he was, Dr. McCoy, coming up for probably no reason, but plain curiosity. Uhura almost made a sound of joy, but caught herself. The doctor's wrists were bandaged. So it had been him. He looked okay, though.
"Bones. What are you doing here?"
Kirk seemed ... unsure. Something that did not happen very often, Uhura noticed.
"I am looking for you."
"Come on, Jim. Something is going on, and you're not telling me."
"Not now, Bones. We have a situation here."
"Good. I can wait."
"Go back to sickbay, you're not in any condition to walk around, yet."
McCoy's eyebrows shot up. "You're a starship captain, not a doctor. I'm perfectly alright."
Kirk was not at all happy, seeing Bones standing at his usual place beside his chair, pretending he had a business being here. They just didn't have time for this right now.
"Doctor McCoy, you are on sick leave. And even if you weren't, your place is in sickbay and not on the bridge!" Kirk ordered angrily, almost shouting. Bones' presence on the bridge and his being so damned nosey all the time, would get him killed one of these days, like the proverbial cat.
Everyone on the bridge jumped at that. Kirk hardly ever got loud, and although the captain was right, it seemed unjustified to reprimand the doctor for something that was usually tolerated, even appreciated.
McCoy, however, was totally unimpressed. He just stood his ground, only raising his eyebrows a bit more.
"I MEAN IT, Bones!"
"Captain!" Spock had entered the bridge at some point. His exclamation had held the tone of a warning.
Both, McCoy and Kirk turned to see the Vulcan approaching them.
"Uh, right. Spock, we're looking for a cloaked ship in our immediate vicinity." Kirk composed himself. God, he needed to stay focussed. He decided to ignore Bones for the moment and get back to the task at hand. He explained to Spock what they had found out about the flickers on the scanners and what they suspected. Spock listened, while his eyes briefly scanned the doctor. He raised an eyebrow, then went to his station.
"Now, Jim, although I have no business being up here, as you've just pointed out in such a friendly way, I ask myself this: If there are Klingons in a cloaked ship in the orbit of Meriah Five, why do they choose to park in our immediate vicinity? Wouldn't it be better to stay on the other side of the planet, as far away from us as possible?"
They are not parking, doctor, their impulse drive is active every 242 seconds. That's how we know they're there, Spock thought, but didn't voice it. Instead: "That is curious."
Kirk looked at Scotty. "If you had to hide a cloaked ship in a planet's orbit, Mr. Scott, where would you go?"
"Well, it would depend on what I wanted to do. If I just wanted to stay hidden, I also wouldn't activate my impulse drive every 242 seconds, sir. If they'd just let it run, there wouldn't have been any disturbances for us to detect."
"Theories?" Kirk asked.
"Maybe they have a problem with their impulse engines. If the injectors are jammed, for example, they cannot let the engines run for longer than a few seconds at a time. Or they'd risk overheating," Scott speculated.
"Captain, I believe I have a theory on why they are "parking" under or above us," Spock said.
"If they beam something or someone on board, our sensors and the sensors on Meriah Five will detect it, unless they do it at the exact same time as we."
"You mean they cloaked their transporter beam, by fooling the sensors that it belonged to us?"
"Yes, captain. When the doctor, you, and I were beamed from the planet's surface, the cloaked ship could have transported something or someone up from the surface at the exact moment, without being detected."
"Delihan," Kirk concluded for himself.
"Then, why are they still here?" Uhura asked.
"Spock, can you detect where exactly they are now?"
"Negative, captain. My instruments only confirm Mr. Chekov's "flickers"."
Enough of this. Kirk had to do something, or he'd start screaming at someone again.
"Right. Mr. Scott, maximum power to the shields and weapons, Red Alert."
The crew reacted immediately, red lights flashed, everyone tensed.
"Jim, we're in orbit of a neutral planet. You even suspect their Secretary of Defense on board. You cannot blast them out of the sky!" McCoy warned.
"Watch me,“ Kirk replied dangerously, though more to himself, than to anyone else.
McCoy had a strange feeling. When Kirk had spoken that Meriahn's name, Spock had shifted his gaze to him and scrutinzed him, for the second time in - what - five minutes? He saw Delihan's face before his mind's eyes now, very close, almost too intimate. But why? He had only talked to him briefly during the meeting. It had turned out he was a doctor of medicine also, although not practising at the moment.
"Uhura, open all channels, make them hear this!"
"All frequencies open, sir."
"This is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise. You have been detected. Decloak immediately, or we will open fire."
"Secretary Delihan, you are accused of assaulting a member of the United Federation of Planets. Surrender yourself, or we will fire."
Assault? McCoy thought he remembered something from the planet. Somebody had attacked him from behind, gagging him, and tying his hands behind his back. My god, how could he have forgotten that? And why hadn't anyone told him about this?
"Captain!" Chekov exclaimed, although his captain, as everyone else on the bridge, saw the ship that was decloaking just a few meters under them. It was so close that they seemed to be able to touch it.
"Whoa, Spock, that's no Klingon Bird of Prey!" Captain Kirk seemed surprised, but not shocked.
"No sir, it's a Romulan scout, they're hailing us!" Uhura said.
"Put them through."
The screen changed to show a Romulan commander in his seat, with Delihan standing beside him, looking frightened.
"Captain Kirk, this is Commander Tamulok. You are in neutral territory. This is no violation of our treaties with the Federation."
Kirk grimaced. "I don't care. You have a criminal on board. You will surrender to us, or we will fire."
"Captain Kirk, not only your Federation, but also my government will disapprove strongly ..."
There he was, Delihan. He remembered his face. But it had been different then. Violent, and ... remorseless. It was as if an electric shock was going through him, he went rigid.
Kirk cut off Delihan's warning, and let his anger take over. "I don't care a shit about what your government, or the Federation says, Delihan. Right now, I want nothing more than to blast your cowardly ass out of the sky. You should be thankful that I give you the chance to surrender. One hour, or you will blown to pieces."
Kirk made a sign to cut off communication and the screen went back to showing the Romulan ship, close but probably also helpless.
He had wanted something. Whatever it had been, he had taken it and destroyed everything else. McCoy remembered hands on his face, pressing unrelentingly, hurting him, burning him. Heat, it had been hot, searing hot fingers had burnt into his skin, and always asking a question that he could not understand. He had fought, had tried to close his mind to the intruder, tried to recite stupid nursery rhymes he remembered from his childhood, or from singing them to his own little girl. But then suddenly Delihan had been there, too. Laughing, pointing a finger, snatching his baby-girl from him and strangling her with his bare hands. He could see her little face turning blue, her eyes bulging. Delihan had thrown her away. Like a rag doll, no like a dead fish. And he'd let it happen.
Everything went black around him, he was dimly aware of hands steadying him. Someone was saying something about a coward. Calling him a coward. He felt his knees give.
Kirk exhaled. He had seen fear on that scumbag's face, good. Suddenly he realized Spock was standing beside him, steadying Bones who looked ready to pass out. Shit. He should have made sure he didn't stay on the bridge. He stood up, took Bones from Spock, then maneuvered him into the captain's chair.
"Easy, Bones. Please, just breathe," he tried to soothe.
Icy blue eyes suddenly flashed at him.
"You! Why didn't you tell me what happened on Meriah Five?"
"I ... Bones, I wanted to."
"Really? That's why you acted so strangly. Didn't you think I had a right to know? It's my body and my damned mind!"
"I know. I really wanted to tell you. It's just ... I didn't want to see you hurt."
"Oh, so now you're all caring. You were afraid, that's all. You're just a coward."
The words came flowing out of his mouth. He seemed to have no control over them. Jim just took the verbal blow, waiting, looking at him with understanding and commiserative eyes. Somehow that made him even more furious, but he bit his lip.
"Captain, Prime Minister Coltan with an urgent call," Uhura again.
McCoy was faintly aware of being the main attraction on the bridge at the moment, well he and that Romulan scout. Bits and tatters of images flashed again before his eyes and he couldn't stop himself from being drawn into that turmoil that once had been his mind. He looked at the floor, not seeing it, but succeeding in appearing a bit calmer.
"What?" Kirk barked, standing in front of his chair, blocking Coltan's view of Bones who was trembling with his eyes fixed on the floor.
"Captain, this is Coltan. You are in Meriahni territory. We have detected the alien ship in our orbit. Secretary of Defense Delihan is on that vessel. If you destroy it, you will kill a Meriahni citizen, this could mean war between the Federation and Meriah."
"Prime Minister Coltan," Kirk said coldly, "your Secretary of Defense is a criminal. He has assaulted a citizen of the United Federation of Planets. He also collaborates with the Romulan Empire, our enemy. He has stolen and sold sensitive information, that makes him our enemy, as well. If you still insist on protecting him, we have no choice but to declare war."
Kirk knew he was overstepping his authority big time, but he suspected Delihan to listen in on their communication, and he needed to be convincing.
Coltan was full of fear when he attempted to warn Kirk: "You must not fire, captain. There will be consequences that both of us would regret." The line was cut off.
Sensitive information? What had he told him? He couldn't remember. Could it be, that there was going to be a war, just because he hadn't been able to keep some secret information to himself?
"Jim, …," he started.
"What is it, Bones?"
Spock observed Kirk's expression change from cold and unrelenting to caring and sympathetic. Emotions, in human beings, they could change so swiftly, from one extreme to the other, within only a second, Spock mused with wonder.
"Why, what ... I don't remember. What did he want from me?"
"That is what Starfleet wants to know als," Kirk said quietly, feeling sick.
"Bones, whatever it was that Delihan ... stole, it could be used to attack the Federation."
"God, Jim. I don't remember, sorry." He closed his eyes, trying to recall something.
There was only Delihan, laughing, leafing through a scrap book he had had as a boy, where he'd collected all kinds of treasures, sports cards, newspaper articles, pictures of more or less naked actresses and models, photographs, a letter he'd received from Gemma, a girl in his class and the first girl he'd ever kissed. Delihan took it apart one by one, painfully slow at first, then he spit on it and balled it all up to throw it into the fire. He tried to get it out, but the heat was too much. He hissed, when he burnt his fingers.
Somebody pushed a cup of water into his hand. Cool water, he downed it all at once in an attempt to eliminate the fire.
"Doctor, you won't be able to remember by yourself. They ordered me to help you."
It was Spock. He remembered him in the botanical gardens, saying that no one was going to hurt him.
"Who ordered you to do what?"
"Bones, you're a doctor. You know that a healing mind-meld is the recommended therapy here."
Yes, they'd all been behind some strange succulents, on the ground. He had been hurting. So much.
"Therapy?“ McCoy echoed, feeling the hands on him again, intruding, wanting access to places where they had no right to be, it was his mind, he needed to regain control. "I know, what you want. Westervliet ordered you to find out what Delihan wanted, right? Well, guess what, Jim, you're not going to get it. I have rights, you know?"
"Doctor, I'm afraid, they seem to believe that in this case, the good of the many outweighs the good of the one."
"Please, Bones. Don't make this harder than it has to be."
"Harder than ...?" He couldn't believe it. Personal rights are personal rights, you can't flush them down the toilet whenever they become a little inconvenient.
He was back on that damned planet, hurting and scared out of his wits. Jim was there making him repeat something.
"Please, Bones. It is for your own good."
Something snapped. He felt pure rage well up inside him, spilling over.
"BULLSHIT. You are a damned liar, Jim. You say, this is for my own good, but in fact you only want to satisfy Admiral Westervliet. Didn't you make me repeat that this was not my fault? Well, you lied again. If this is not my fault, then why do you want to punish me by making your first officer, that mind sucking leech, hurt me again?"
Kirk's face had lost all color. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out, except for his name. "Bones, ..."
He already regretted what he'd said, but not enough to give in. "I won't accept it," he said, looking Jim into the eyes, expecting to find anger or at least annoyance there, only he didn't.
"Okay," was all Kirk said.
Spock was hovering nearby, his face impassive, as always. McCoy waited for him to comment. Nothing. Jeez, he'd called Jim a liar and a coward, had irrationally sweared and screamed and had behaved absolutely illogically (he knew they were right, with the therapy and all), but still, both, Jim and Spock had let him win. Maybe they needed some therapy as well.
"I …," he began, not sure how he was going to finish that sentence.
It was just like in the last painful days of his marriage. They had screamed at each other, wanting to hurt, and succeeding. He'd been sorry, wanted to apologize, but there'd been no words.
Luckily Uhura interrupted: "Admiral Westervliet, sir."
"Tell him I don't have time for him right now. We're in a critical situation with some Romulans," Kirk snapped.
He was right in the middle of a fight with Jocelyn again. Only this time he didn't feel the rage he'd felt then, only guilt. He could see himself and his wife screaming at each other, watched by their daughter who was crying. Then accusing him. Why did you do this, Daddy? Why didn't you ever think about me? Didn't you love me enough?
He couldn't breathe. He felt light-headed and tried to put his head between his knees, bile was rising up, but he could swallow it again. Then he saw Delihan, only it wasn't Delihan, it was himself, with Delihan's face, tugging at Jo while Jocelyn was pulling at her from her other side. She screamed, and with a sound that he'd never forget in his life, his little girl was ripped in two. There was blood everywhere, and Delihan was laughing. He heard a terrible retching sound and other commotion around him.
Hands were on him, he wanted them to go away. There was just so much blood. He could taste bile at the back of his throat. He tried to breathe, but it resulted in a terrible cough, burning his throat.
Then, suddenly he was cold, terribly cold, and tired, before everything went dark.
He was in the turbo lift, he could hear the humming noise, it was calming. He was still cold, but cold was better than burning, or vomiting, he decided. So there was an improvement.
As opened his eyes he found himself staring at the golden Starfleet emblem on a golden background. Or yellow. He'd always wondered why they called that hideous color of the bridge crew's uniform gold. It was a dirty and ugly yellow. He wasn't vain or anything, but still he was happy that he could wear blue.
That emblem kind of looked like an arrow, he thought. A shiver went through him, an icicle, that's what it looked like, cold and sharp, and dangerous. He stopped himself; better not think of anything like that. He concentrated on the sounds around him. There was the sound of the turbo lift, the sound of the Enterprise's engines, that he normally didn't hear anymore, and there was a regular thumping against his left ear.
That was nice, regular was good, it gave him something to focus on. He tried to count the thumps, somehow thinking they were too fast, although he didn't know why. How am I supposed to know how fast they should be? In his head, he could hear himself arguing with somebody.
- "You're a doctor, are you not?"
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."
- "I must know! Tell me!"
"I don't know. It sounds alright."
- "That's not the answer to my question."
"What is your question?"
- "How can you be so dumb? I need the answer!"
"An apple in the morning - doctor's warning."
- "You're not cooperating. It's your own fault."
There was a sudden sharp pain under his right eye. He drew in a breath suddenly, more out of surprise than out of pain. The rhythm of that noise stepped up, someone was also saying something and he felt himself being shifted. Wait, what's happening?
- "I will get what I want." The other voice became louder.
"Roast apple at night - starves the doctor outright."
- "You asked for it. You derserve no better."
That voice in his head suddenly became very real, it became a dark figure standing beside him. He couldn't see its face, but saw a long, shining and very sharp looking icicle in its raised hand.
"Eat an apple going to bed - knock the doctor on the head."
He pressed his eyelids together so that he wouldn't have to see, what he knew was coming. First he felt a rush of air and then that icicle was rammed into his right eye. There was a burning pain at first, then cold. Icy cold. Somebody let out a scream.
My god - shut up!
He was moving, or rather, being moved. The light around him changed. It was quite dark now, and warm also, warmer than on the bridge or in the turbo lift. The noise to his left had stopped, he missed it and opened his eyes again to search for it. There was only very soft light in the room and he was lying on a bed. Jim was there also, sitting on the bed with him, talking to him. He could hear Jim calling him by the nickname he once had given him.
Sorry Jim, I promise to listen to you, later. I just have to sleep for a while, I think.
He closed his eyes. It would have felt all calming and nice and cosy if not for some annoying wetness that had somehow appeared on his face and made him feel cold again. He opened his eyes once more and saw Jim reaching out a hand towards his face.
He stopped breathing. No, please don't!
But Jim only wiped at the wet under his eye, and made it all better, actually.
"-lly, Bones, it is like paradise. You know, white sands and turquoise water. Always sunshine and blue skies with fluffy white clouds ... And then there are the Risan women, of course."
"Risa?" Bones rasped. What happened to my voice?
Jim smiled, one of those first class charming smiles, he usually saved for the damsel in distress, but it was directed at him.
"Yeah. Or we could go to someplace back on earth. You know, I've been to hundreds of different planets, but I've actually never been to Yosemite."
"Oh, Bones. I've heard it's wonderful. We could go camping in the wilderness. With a campfire and all, toasting marshmellows, telling stories, or singing songs or - well, just having a good time …".
"Jim, did I throw up on you?"
He is back with me. Jim almost cried in relief. "Yes, but you just returned the favor," he said gently.
"Oh, right. I remember that …," Bones' eyes were drooping again.
"Bones, stay with us." Jim took gently slapped his face, to regain his attention.
When Bones had had that ... break down, or whatever you wanted to call it, on the bridge, Spock had caught him, and held him up so that he wouldn't suffocate on his own vomit.
Kirk had only registered how very wrong everything had suddenly become, when Bones had thrown up, screamed and whimpered all at once. He hadn't been able to do anything then. Bones' own mind was torturing him, his own private nightmare, from which there was no escape for Bones and to which Jim had no access to. Even if he torpedoed that scout ship with Delihan and the Romulans on it, it wouldn't help Bones a bit. Jim hated feeling helpless, he hated it more than losing a fight, more than having to admit a defeat.
And he hated seeing Bones hurt so much. In part, he knew it was also his fault. Bones, ever the psychoanalyst, had spelled it out for him. Coward and liar. Jim was sure that McCoy had said it only because he was angry, hurting and scared, but in fact, he had been right. Of course, Kirk had been afraid of telling Bones what had happened on the planet. If he'd told him in sickbay, when he'd woken up, Bones wouldn't have had that shock of remembering on the bridge, in front of the whole bridge crew.
Then, there was still that order from Admiral Westervliet. Of course ia meld was the recommended therapy, but it could only be therapy, if the patient didn't reject the whole method, otherwise, it was a violation of personal rights, nothing less. Bones thought of it as punishment, well he couldn't blame him. Sure as hell, Starfleet didn't treat him as an innocent victim, although that's what he was. Jim had made him repeat that down on the planet and - now look how I'm treating him. I won't make him do something that he doesn't want. Kirk decided for himself.
"I am here with you, Jim. In Spock's quarters, right?" Bones said, opening his eyes again, for Jim's sake, looking at the emblem on his chest.
"That is correct, doctor." It was Spock who'd said it, Spock standing with his arms behind his back.
"Is the temperature comfortable for you?"
"It is actually, although I think normally I'd say it's hot as hell in here," he said, trying to sound sane, healthy, and content.
"You are suffering from the aftereffects of a shock, doctor. That is why you feel cold."
"Yes, thank you, Spock. I know. I am a doctor, remember?"
"Are you alright?"
Jim wasn't sure what to do next. He'd given the Romulans one hour. They still had over 30 minutes, but he needed to be on the bridge then. Bones needed help and he needed his friends, and most of all he needed time.
"Right now? Yeah. But ... I don't think I can get around this mind-meld, or can I, Spock?" he looked up at the Vulcan.
"Doctor, I'm ready when you are. At the present moment, I think you aren't, therefore, I can wait."
"But Spock, Starfleet Command ordered you!"
"Yes. I believe the correct human expression would be: To hell with Starfleet Command."
McCoy let his mouth fall open. I never thought I'd hear it. But he sobered quickly. If Spock didn't comply, then he would get in trouble. And Jim also.
"But I thought Admiral Westervliet, ..." He looked at Jim for help. But found him just nodding thoughtfully.
"Forget Westervliet, Bones. Please, just think of yourself for once," he said, smiling gently.
God, and he'd called him a coward and a liar. And he'd called Spock, what? A mind sucking leech. He had got himself mind raped and now they had to pay the price. Why had he insisted on walking in the opposite direction of Spock? He had just been in one of his stupid, irrational moods, again. If he had stayed with Spock, nothing would have happened.
"I'm sorry, I wandered off, Spock. That stupid cactus wasn't interesting at all, I was just being my usual illogical self."
He looked at some shelves in Spock's quarters, just a bit to the left of Spock's face.
"Doctor, I believe we have established that none of this was your fault. If anything, I have to apologize for persuading you on the bridge, that the Meriahns are polite and friendly people. It seems that your human instinct was better than my judgement."
There was something on the shelf that caught his attention. A skull? But not humanoid, it was some kind of cat, big cat, a lion? He suddenly remembered Spock's mother saying he'd had a pet as a kid.
"Now, Spock, ... " He suddenly forgot what he'd wanted to say. He shuddered as he saw that skull look at him with Delihan's eyes staring out of its black holes above the sharp fangs in its mouth.
He breathed in sharply. No, no, no. This is not real. Think of something else. Focus on something. Like a sound. There had been a regular sound before.
"HEY, Bones! It's alright. Nothing is here. You're okay." It was Jim again. He had pulled him up into a sitting position, with his back against the wall, and lightly slapped his face again. Why didn't he stop? He must have done something really stupid for Jim to be slapping him like this.
"Jim, I ... I'm sorry," was all he could say, before he came to his senses again. Jim wasn't hitting him. What had he been thinking?
This had to stop. He couldn't function this way.
"Quit apologizing, Bones," Jim said, letting go of Bones' face and taking his hand again, gently.
He looked unsure, hurt, scared even.
McCoy made a decision. It had to be done, whether he liked it, or not. It was the only therapy, and he couldn't go on hurting everyone around him, endangering the whole damn galaxy, only because he was afraid. He knew, Jim would never hurt him. And he knew Spock would never deliberately do anything that would terrify him like this. Ever. He trusted them both. Even though Spock had done something, ... in the past, that ... NO! STOP IT, stop it, stop it! He silently screamed at his stupid mind, concentrating on Jim's face in front of him.
This had to end. Whatever it took.
"Jim, IwantSpocktodothatmindmeldnow," he said quickly, before his mind could play him another trick, before he could think of something that would delay the decision that he just had to make,
"You don't have to, Bones. Really. I'll think of something," Jim said quickly.
"No, you don't understand. I - I just want to have some control over my thoughts again, Jim. I - I c-can't …"
He was beginning to panic, that animal's head had become alive and was now taking a leap, aiming directly for Jim's throat. He tackled Jim, trying to get him out of harm's way, only Jim didn't move. He just put his arms around him, saying something, calling him, while that thing drove its teeth into Jim's neck and shoulder.
Then, there was that sound again. Muffled and regular. He could focus on it. It was a heartbeat. Too fast to be normal, but nothing serious, he decided.
"Bones?" Jim was looking down at him.
"Yes,“ he sobered, embarrassed. Had he really believed that Spock had a flying zombie-lion skull on his shelf? He swallowed his apology, then said as calmly as he could: “I don't think I'd like to go on like this anymore. Please, Spock must do it now."
"Are you not afraid anymore?"
"I am. But I'm more afraid of what will happen if I wait any longer."
Jim nodded, then started to maneuver him into a sitting position again.
"No!" he protested, not really knowing how to explain that. Could he say that he wanted to stay cradled in Jim's arms, so that he could hear his heartbeat which was kind of reassuring?
He didn't have to. Jim just stopped in his movements and settled him back against his chest.
This was embarrassing as hell already and they hadn't even started.
Spock sat on the edge of the bed now, looking McCoy into the eyes.
"Doctor, you can be assured, my only aim is to repair damage that Delihan caused to your mind."
He just nodded. On the one side of his face he felt the fabric of Jim's uniform, on the other he waited to feel hot fingers reaching into that messed up mind of his, fingers that wanted to help, but that would cause pain nonetheless.
Only the pain never came.
Jim sat in silence as he watched Spock remove his fingers from McCoy's face and straighten himself. He didn't look tired, as Kirk would have expected, he looked confused and angry, well for a Vulcan at least. He looked a bit disordered, that's what it was. Bones was sleeping. He was actually sleeping quite peacefully, slumped in his arms.
"Spock?" Kirk prompted.
"The doctor is just resting. I believe he won't wake up for approximately another hour."
"Well, ... did it work?"
"Yes, captain. Of course, he will still have the unpleasant memories of the attack and the aftereffects, but he will have "control over his mind again," just as he wished."
Jim let Bones glide back onto the bed, then stood up to face Spock.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, captain. It was just very ... distressing to witness what Doctor McCoy went through. Secretary Delihan is not a practised telepath, that's why he caused such extensive damage. I believe that he did not do that on purpose, he was only lacking the experience, and he was desperate himself."
Kirk waited. Somehow he felt, that asking Spock about what it was that Delihan had wanted, was not appropriate at this moment.
Spock looked close to composed again when he resumed speaking. "Captain, Delihan wanted the cure for the Vulcan flu."
Kirk raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Uncertain. However, I believe he has family on that Romulan ship."
"That is highly unlikely. The Meriahn have had the politics of splendid isolation since they met alien races, they do not travel to other worlds."
"He tried to "convince" Doctor McCoy to give him the information by activating memories of his own daughter, Joanna."
Kirk looked at Spock in surprise. He didn't think that Bones had ever told Spock about his daughter. It had taken Kirk a lot of prodding and a lot of whiskey to get Bones to tell him about her. Being forced to share his memories of her with a total stranger must have been very painful for Bones.
"Why didn't he just give him the information, then? I mean, Bones would have been happy to help anyone who was suffering from a disease that he had a cure for. You know him, Spock, even if he didn't have a cure, he'd work day and night until he'd find one. Meriahn, Klingon or Romulan, it wouldn't matter. All they had to do was ask."
"As I said, captain, Secretary Delihan was untrained. Doctor McCoy couldn't possibly understand his "question". He fought him, Jim. And quite effectively, as I may say. I do not think that Delihan got what he wanted."
So your precious secrets were safe, Admiral, Kirk thought, noticing Spock was scrutinizing Bones' sleeping form.
"What is it, Spock? There's something you're not telling me." Kirk felt a bout of fear creep up inside of him. "Bones is going to be alright, isn't he?"
"Captain, I discovered something that the doctor was hiding from me, and I believe from you also, deliberately."
Kirk stared at Spock. Well, he'd figure that Bones wasn't always telling them everything, all the time. For a man who always made him talk about his problems and feelings, he was sure close-lipped when it came to himself. "Surely, it is nothing of importance, Spock? Let him have his secrets."
Spock nodded. "It is nothing that would risk the ship's safety, I believe."
"Well, then just let it rest."
Spock nodded. Kirk took one last glance at his CMO, then looked at Spock.
"Stay with him, Spock. I'll be on the bridge to solve our "situation" with the Romulans."
The bridge was quiet, but there was an atmosphere of nervous tension, something that probably had to do with that Romulan scout on the screen, or the circumstances under which he, Spock, and Bones had left the bridge.
"Doctor McCoy is alright. He is now resting in Spock's quarters," he announced and immediately thought that that had sounded a bit strange. He smiled. He'd have to tell Bones about it one day, one day when he was in a good mood, 'cause he wouldn't think it funny. But the crew needed some reassurance after that performance they had given them.
"Will he be okay, captain?" Uhura was looking at him with worry in her face.
Didn't I just say that? he asked himself, but aloud he said: "Yes, Lieutenant. He'll be his usual nosey self again soon. And I believe we'll see him on the bridge again when that happens."
He wasn't so sure about the last part, though. As the ship's doctor Bones had seen everyone of them at their worst, however, he acted strangely coy when it came to admitting to being sick himself. He probably felt terribly embarrassed by what had happened, and it was likely that he'd try to avoid meeting anyone from the bridge crew in the next weeks. He could be very persistent in his funny moods.
He felt the crew relax just a fraction. Well, now to my other friends - the Romulans.
"What about our shadow there?"
"Nothing, Captain. They've been sitting there quietly. The scans show, their impulse and warp drive to be defective, no weapons no shields," Scotty provided.
"A sitting duck," Chekov said.
Kirk nodded. "Quoting a Russian idiom again, Chekov?"
They all smiled and the tension abated just another notch.
"Captain, the Federation ship P'Jem is on its way to rendezvous with us in 1.5 hours."
P'Jem? That sounded suspiciously Vulcan. So, Westervliet did not trust him to follow his orders.
"Uhura, how much more time do they have?" He pointed at the Romulans.
"Eight minutes, sir."
"Okay. Hail them!"
The screen changed and showed the Romulan commander in his chair again, with Delihan beside him. Did they even move in the last 52 minutes? Kirk wondered.
"Captain Kirk, you are an impatient man," Tamulok said.
"Commander Tamulok, are you in need of medical assistance?" Kirk ignored the unfriendly tone of the Romulan Commander, and instead smiled at him, in a quite arrogant way, he'd have to admit, but at least he was offering them help.
"I thought you wanted to blow us to pieces," Tamulok answered.
"That was before I realized how helpless you actually are. Your crew is dying from the Vulcan flu? Well, we have the cure which we are willing to provide."
Delihan's features showed surprise, then hope. The Romulan commander didn't even raise an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Federation doctors must swear an oath, stating they will provide medical help to everyone who requires it, no matter if they're friend or foe. Did you know that, Delihan?" Kirk watched the Meriahn look at him in amazement.
"No," he whispered quietly.
"We do not require your help," Commander Tamulok said coldly.
"Good, then I was mistaken. You have ... four more minutes!"
Delihan seemed close to panic. "No, captain, wait!" he shouted.
The commander looked at Delihan in disgust, but didn't say anything.
"What do you want?"
"Captain, we do have the ... Vulcan flu on board. It has already killed a third of the crew, including our doctor. The others are either sick or here on the bridge. We have not enough hands to keep up simple maintenance, that is why we currently have no weapons, no shields and no engines. Captain, we need your help."
"Meriahn, you're not speaking for the Romulan Empire," the commander spit out at Delihan.
"No, Tamulok, I'm speaking for your crew. And for my daughter, captain."
"Yes, captain, ten years ago the Romulans made contact with our world, they were the first aliens we ever encountered. However, the government decided that our people were not ready for a discovery like that, not yet. So we kept it a secret."
"Why did you also keep it a secret from us?"
"The Romulans asked us to. They told us we were between the territories of two imperial powers, the Federation and the Klingons who waged war against each other. They said, if we gave them permission to make Meriah a strategic outpost for Romulus, allowing them to set up a listening post and functioning as a base for their spies, they'd help us to keep our independence against both, the Klingons and the Federation."
"You have commited treason, Delihan," the commander said coldly.
"It doesn't matter anymore, Tamulok, my life's forfeited. Captain, over the years, I got to know the Romulans very well, I found my wife on this very ship. We have a daughter, and both, my daughter and my wife are suffering from that disease for which we have no cure."
Kirk began to understand. The Meriahn's unusually stubborn resistance to agree to any treaties with the Federation suddenly made sense. The Romulans had probably told them all kinds of horror stories about the Federation. Romulan territory was too far away to make Meriah interesting for them, except for a good base to spy out the Klingon Empire and the Federation.
"For how long has this ship been in orbit of Meriah Five?" Kirk asked.
"They've been here for almost five years now."
Kirk started. Five years? A cloaked ship in orbit of a planet with which the Federation had been trying to establish diplomatic relationships for more than three years now? And all the time it hadn't been detected? He wondered what else it had done. It was unlikely that it hadn't been cruising through Federation or Klingon territory at some point as well.
"Why do the Romulans not send help? Or a replacement? Five years away from Romulus is a long time, isn't it?" Kirk tried to sound only mildly curious, but in fact, this was something they needed to know. How far into Federation territory do the Romulans operate? he asked himself.
Commander Tamulok quickly intervened: "Up until now, everything went perfectly."
Kirk nodded. Or maybe the Romulans were otherwise engaged. Preparing for war? Unlikely, if they were, they wouldn't leave their scout, which spied out the enemy, marooned in orbit of a far away planet like this.
"Captain, I didn't mean to hurt Doctor McCoy. Since you know all about the disease, I gather that the Imaloh plant didn't work," Delihan went on.
"What do you mean, you "didn't mean to hurt him"? What do you think tying him up and then assaulting his mind would do to him?"
"Captain, I had no choice. I've studied medicine, but couldn't find a cure. The civilians on my world don't know about the Romulans, so I couldn't ask our other doctors. I knew Doctor McCoy must have a cure, but I couldn't ask him, because then you would have found out about the Romulans and we'd violate our treaty with them. So I decided to try a mind-meld. The Imaloh plant that grows in our botanical gardens causes permanent amnesia in a Meriahn. Unfortunately, it doesn't work on humans, or McCoy wouldn't have remembered the ... meld."
"All this, and then it didn't work, did it?"
"I am untrained and didn't expect him to fight me so fiercely."
Kirk nodded. Bones had fought because he had thought that Delihan wanted something that he wasn't allowed to have.
"Next time, Delihan, you just ASK! The Federation is not an imperial power, all members keep their independence."
"Captain, I know this is no excuse, but I acted only to save my daughter. I know I will have to face charges on Meriah and I probably will never see my little girl again, but if this is the price to save her life, I'll gladly pay it. I believe your doctor would have done the same."
"That's where you're wrong, Delihan!" Kirk understood this man more and more, and although he didn't like it, he began to feel sympathy for him. However he was sure, that he was not at all like Bones. "Doctor McCoy would have done everything in his power to save your little girl if you had only asked! But if roles had been reversed, he wouldn't have commited such an abhorrent crime to save his own daughter. He is just not capable of hurting someone like that."
Delihan only bowed his head, his eyes closed.
"Commander Tamulok, we will send you the necessary information and a medical team to treat your sick. We are also willing to send and an engineering team on board your ship to help repair your engines," Kirk said.
The Romulans, the Meriahn and the Terrans raised their eyebrows in surprise.
"We expect you to turn over Secretary Delihan to the Meriahni officials, he'll face trial. And then ... we will be happy to escort your ship back to Romulan territory."
Maybe they could do a little spying themselves that way. Also the Meriahns would learn from this, maybe they'd learn to trust the Federation. At least they had learned something about the Meriahns: they could lie after all and they weren't as xenophobic as they had seemed to be. He also wondered what bad experiences they had made with alien races. Kirk was sure now, that Coltan had referred to the Romulans when he'd said that. This whole diplomatic mission had finally turned out better than he'd expected, he almost congratulated himself, but stopped. The price had been too high.
McCoy woke up because he was hot. He didn't know what he'd dreamed about, which was a good sign he thought. He opened his eyes, seeing Spock standing before the bed, his arms behind his back, studying him.
"Spock! Stop that, you're giving me the creeps!" he grumbled.
"I am merely making sure, that you are comfortable, doctor," Spock replied.
"How? By staring at me like I'm some kind of science project gone wrong?"
"I was trying to determine if you needed the temperature adjusted."
"And? What did you "determine"?"
"I am not sure. You seem to sweat. However, you were cold only a short time ago, so maybe the perspiration on your brow is just ..."
"Okay, okay, Spock! I am sweating. I should go to my quarters, where the temperature is more adequate for normal people, like me."
"That may be wise." Spock didn't move and didn't stop studying him.
"Could you specify your question?"
McCoy rolled his eyes and it made Spock strangely hap... It was agreeable, strangely so.
"I mean: Why are you looking at me like I'm a cow on roller-skates?"
"Spock! Are you enjoying this?"
"This? Really doctor, you need to be more precise when you speak. I am not a mind reader."
He only realized what he'd said after he'd said it. That he'd let himself slip that way alarmed him. He needed to get himself under control again.
McCoy sat on the edge of the bed, looking a bit rumpled, and scrunched up his face. "Are you trying to be funny? Because if you are - you aren't. And if you aren't - what, are you talking about? You know what I mean. You are looking at me, as if you wanted to ask me a question."
Spock sobered. "Yes, doctor. Indeed." He was unsure about how to pursue this. He thought he needed to, on the other hand he wasn't sure if this was going to bring up some long forgotten pain for the doctor again.
"What Spock? Did you turn into a speech-impaired robot? What is it that you want to ask me?"
"Our meld was successful," he began.
McCoy blinked. "Yes, Spock. Although, you always say it is illogical: Thank you."
Spock simply nodded. "The damage the Meriahn caused was extensive. I am sorry that you had to experience such pain, doctor."
McCoy looked at him in surprise, gratitude and ... fear. "Spock, don't. I just want to forget."
"Doctor, I discovered Delihan wasn't the only one who caused damage," he said calmly.
McCoy looked at Spock in alarm. Oh, no. Not that. I thought that I was done with that. "Spock, are you refering to that mind-meld with the bearded Spock in the mirror universe?"
"Yes, doctor. He forced you, you didn't consent. It must have been painful. Why didn't you tell me? I could have helped you then."
McCoy let his shoulders sag in defeat. "Spock, I don't know. But it wasn't anything like this. I didn't fight him all that much, and although he forced me, he was ... well it wasn't too painful."
"Why not?" Spock was curious, although he realized his question might have been too personal.
"It just wasn't. Okay? I've dealt with it, there was no danger to the ship, or my patients. You didn't even notice, did you?"
"No," he admitted, "but what about yourself? Doctor, I wasn't thinking about the ship's safety, I was thinking about you. Please know, that I am always willing to help you deal with a problem of personal nature - if I am able to."
McCoy felt a lump in his throat. "I know Spock. It's just, I'm used to dealing with problems on my own, and it works too, most of the time." He smiled a his friend. It was strange calling Spock a "friend", even in his mind, though he knew that that's what he was, one of the best he'd ever had, actually. "Does Jim know about this?"
"No. He told me to let you have your secrets."
"See? You should listen to our captain!" McCoy smiled at Spock, to convince him that he was alright. "I'll get going then. I think I could sleep for at least a week...," he said, getting off the bed and walking somewhat stiffly towards the door.
Spock looked as if he was about to escort him to his quarters, but he decided against it.
"Sleep well, doctor."
"So, Spock. Another mission accomplished," Jim said happily to his first officer on the way to the bridge.
"What exactly did we accomplish?" Spock asked.
"Well, we discovered a secret Romulan outpost. And we may have gathered some other valuable information when our engineers come back. Scotty is eager to look at their engines actually. Maybe he'll even get in a peek at their cloaking device."
"Yes, but not impossible. The P'Jem will escort them back to Romulan territory. I'm curious about how the Romulans will show us their gratitude."
"The Romulans are considered too arrogant to be grateful, captain."
"Who knows? There's a first time for everything."
"What did Prime Minister Coltan say?" They had stepped into the turbo lift.
"He apologized. Once he found out, that Delihan had said everything, he seemed very relieved. The Klingons had begun to threaten Meriah, and Coltan was in doubt if the Romulans would really stay up to their word and defend Meriah against the Klingon Empire."
"Right. So now they are looking at the Federation for help."
"And we may be drawn into a war with the Klingon Empire?"
"Why Spock, you're seeing it all so negatively. If the Klingons learn we have a treaty with Meriah they will refrain from attacking, that's all."
"Klingons seldomly refrain from attacking," Spock said, determined to make this particular mission sound not so successful as the captain suggested.
"I know what you're trying to do Spock. This mission surely wasn't one I will think about with mirth, when I'm old and grey."
They stepped onto the bridge, each taking their seats.
"What is it Spock?"
"Why did the Romulan Commander refuse your help even though it was clear to him that his ship and their problem had been discovered?"
"It was pride," Uhura speculated, actually she did not care much.
"Or prejudice," Spock provided.
"Now explain that!" Kirk prompted.
"We do not know what picture the Romulans have of the Federation. I think he couldn't believe it possible that you would actually give them a cure, with the only reason being their need for it."
"I think you have just been reading British classics again, Spock."
"Mr. Chekov claims those classics to be Russian, captain."
"Mr. Chekov claims the Vulcan Science Academy is Russian."
Chekov blushed, luckily no one saw, or so he thought.
Kirk smiled, this was nice. He just needed another crewmember on the bridge, to make it perfect.