Greed is an excessive desire to possess wealth, goods, or abstract things of value with the intention to keep it for one's self. Greed is inappropriate expectation. However, greed is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of wealth, status, and power. (Wikipedia)
His world was made up of a cacophony of sensations. Sensations he couldn't make any sense of. He had no idea where he was, there were blurs of color all around him, mostly green with blotches of brown and yellow, also some blue, but he couldn't make out any shapes. As he tried to move his head, white pain exploded behind is eyes, sharp and blinding. There was also a red pain in his shoulder, emanating into his side, his hand and fingers. Odd, since when did pain have color? He held onto that thought as he concentrated on not throwing up. Clenching his jaws, he heard a pressed hiss of air, and felt a brief triumph as he identified it as his breath, travelling through his flared nostrils. The white flash disappeared and the screaming red faded into a dirty, but manageable brown.
"S'alright, Bones, don't move, just close your eyes," he heard someone say, and he briefly wondered who that guy was and who he was talking to.
The pain retreated somewhere to the background, but he still could feel it lurking, watching him, ready to sink its teeth back into him. He tasted salty sweat on his lips, it was hard to breathe. The air was humid, just like it always was near the lake on a summer night.
He tried to clear his throat, to ease his still strained breathing, when again that all consuming pain latched onto him, filling his vision with garish colors again. There was a noise ... voices, but they sounded muffled, as if he heard them from under water. Maybe that was it? The lake near his parents' house? Had he fallen into it and was he drowning?
No, he could feel air filling his lungs, even if it was not near enough, he was still breathing, or wasn't he? He felt his heart hammering against his ribbcage and in his throat as panic overcame him. He'd been wrong, there was no air! He tried to free himself from something that was clutching him, holding him down, only to be rewarded by that crushing pain again.
"... got to stop moving! You'll only hurt yourself!"
He could make out the words of someone in obvious anger and found he was not under water at all. A person was holding him from behind, his arms around his chest in a vice grip, making his breathing difficult, immobilizing him, totally. Maybe that bastard had even broken some of his ribs, he thought, that would explain the pain.
It suddenly came all back to him in a flash: the biology project about bees, Gemma, the walk around the lake, and Brad King and his gang.
They were doing a number on him right now, cracking his ribs, breaking his nose, giving him a concussion. He would break Brad's fingers while deflecting a blow with his foot, but in the end, they'd all survive. He felt a bit of relief when he found his brain at least partially to be functioning again, although something didn't quite feel right, however, he couldn't possibly say what it was that confused him. And he couldn't breathe, dammit.
He clawed at the arms restraining him, and for a second was able to ignore the flaring pain in his shoulder. If that guy didn't losen his grip, he'd suffocate! There was no air, and it was so damned hot that the sweat was soaking through his clothes. To be pressed tightly against someone's chest, didn't help at all.
"Stop! … You're … drowning me!" he shouted as loud as he could, immediately wondering, why he'd chosen those words, he'd just established he wasn't in the water. However, he supposed the general message he wanted to convey would get through anyway. He also knew it didn't matter what he said, that asshole wasn't going to let go of him before he passed out.
He definitely did not expect what followed. The arms around him loosened, just like that. And as he was once again trying to keep himself from throwing up, something cold was gently pressed to the side of his face. It was a wet cloth, he realized, as it slowly wiped the sticky, salty sweat away from his face and lips, and then moved to his neck and shoulder which hurt, although he could feel the touches were feathery light, meant to be soothing, and somehow that was enough to make them comforting despite the pain.
He drew small, shaky breaths, ridiculously shallow, but at least they were regular, at least they were there. The bully had turned into a lifeguard, a buoy that kept him above water, kept him afloat with infinite gentleness. Oh, the power of words! All I had to do was ask him to stop.
After a few minutes of listening to his own breaths, he started to take stock of his surroundings once more. He was sitting on something soft, a couch, or a mattress, and was still leaning against the guy who had tried to suffocate him just a minute ago and who was talking in a gentle murmur somewhere to his left ear. Before he could actually focus on the words, he drifted off into sleep.
Kirk stopped talking as he felt Bones had drifted off again, and focused his eyes on the woman across the room who was watching them with a mixture of contempt and empathy, phaser in hand and aiming at them.
"It's getting worse," she said, when his eyes met hers.
"The phaser wound doesn't help," he replied, giving her an accusing look, "but it'll work, you'll see."
She averted her eyes. "I didn't approve of that."
"You mean you didn't approve of Tamulok shooting an unarmed, feverish doctor who is risking his life to help the people who hold us hostage?"
"No," she shouted back at him.
"Your husband does a lot you don't approve of, doesn't he?" he asked, giving her a smile.
She stood angrily, taking a step towards Kirk who was sitting on the bed behind McCoy, carefully holding the sleeping or unconscious doctor in his arms. He had been holding him upright against his chest to ease his breathing, and to keep him from hurting himself any further for hours now. His back and arms must hurt from sitting in this one position for too long, she reckoned, but he'd never even grimaced.
As she came to a stop in front of the bed, steaming with anger, her left fist clenched, her right hand tightly gripping the phaser, she noticed the captain was slowly stroking the knuckles of the doctor's hand with his thumb, holding it in a position clutched to his chest that would put no strain on the ugly shoulder wound. It was a simple gesture, but it brought a lump into her throat, around which she could not speak for the fraction of a second. The captain was not a bad guy, she could feel it, however, he was too cocky, to bold, an arrogant son of a bitch. She breathed.
"Tarses. My husband's name is Tarses, as I've told you. He is a Vulcan merchant. I don't know if your Romulan spy even exists, but he is not my husband. You are wrong."
"Tarses, ey? Well, what's in a name?"
She exhaled slowly. "Fvillhail Three is far away from Earth. We struggle, Captain. Life is difficult, but we chose to live here, because we seek simplicity and … independence. We eat what we grow, we help our neighbours, and expect help from them. We govern ourselves, we don't have and don't want much contact with the Federation. What would a spy want from us?"
Kirk sighed, he had expected Tamulok's wife to be different, not so skeptical towards them, not so faithful to her husband. The guy had been away from her and their child for most of their marriage, why was she so vehemently defending him?
"Yes, Earth is far away, isn't it?" he decided on a different approach.
She shrugged, bending to take the wet cloth from where Kirk had let it fall onto the bed. Then she went to the sink to rinse it, depositing her phaser to the side. With McCoy in Kirk's arms, the captain was near immobilized, he was no threat.
"However, you haven't left Earth behind, have you?" Kirk asked, following her with his eyes.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you cherish Earth culture, art, literature."
She turned around, holding the cleaned cloth in her hands, watching him with an amused look on her face. "Look around, Captain! Does this place look like a temple of art and literature to you? There's no room to swing a cat!"
He chuckled. "Yeah. But, I bet you have your copies of Shakespeare lying around somewhere on a PADD. Or do you even have printed versions?"
"Shakespeare?" she grabbed the phaser, and walked over to the bed again, handing Kirk the folded cloth which he took, and gently placed on McCoy's brow.
"Yes. Titus Andronicus, one of the lesser known plays."
She stared at him, surprised, and Kirk silently congratulated himself for having looked up that particular quote Tamulok had used to threaten him some weeks ago. Maybe his human wife was the reason why the Romulan was so familiar with human idioms and Earth's classics.
"It's Tamulok's favourite play. I bet you also have a copy of Ovid lying around."
"Right. And some episodes of "The Simpsons". I'm sure you watched them with your husband," he said, remembering more of Tamulok's use of allusions and quotes from Earth's classics.
Watching him, she stepped back to take position on the chair by the table where she had been sitting, phaser in hand, for the last four hours or so.
"Tarses is a Vulcan merchant," she repeated quietly.
Kirk shifted slightly, feeling kinks in his back. How could he complain though? He wasn't the one with the phaser wound in his shoulder. He didn't have an overstimulated immune system forming antibodies against that damned virus. He wasn't the one whom Tamulok was trying to manipulate, to "drown" with his sheer power of mind. Bones had always hated these mind-tricks, but Kirk had found them quite fascinating at times. Vulcan mythology was something he would have to spend more time on studying, he decided.
"Did your husband ever tell you about Surak, the most important Vulcan philosopher?" he asked her.
"He did not speak much about his culture."
It did not surprise him. He was Romulan, what would he know about Surak?
"Did that not seem strange to you? Especially considering that he practically soaked up what you taught him about Earth's culture."
"He was not very fond of Vulcan. That's why he chose his profession. He liked to travel, meet other people, other cultures."
A Vulcan who was "not very fond" of his own culture. Now, there was an image, Bones would enjoy exploring. "What goods does he trade?" he asked.
"Just … goods. I don't know. He became interested in a mineral we find in the south, but haven't found any real use for, except, maybe for jewellery. He took samples from it some months ago. He said he'd found some people who were very interested in it."
Kirk's mind perked up at that. A very rare mineral called Vorka was what the Meriahns used to telepathically control their slaves. Maybe Tamulok had found some of that mineral on this planet?
"When did your son become sick?" Kirk changed the subject, or he didn't, only to her it seemed so.
She swallowed as she thought about her son who was now with her husband, God only knew where. He was sixteen, physically quite well, except for that newly developed slight cold, but mentally he was helpless. She hadn't known what was going on in his head for years. As painful as it had been, she had somehow gotten used to it, used to seeing her son, of touching him, not knowing if he recognised her, or if he was feeling pain, if he was content, or screaming inside his head at her to help him.
But when he'd started talking again a few days ago, all the pain of the past years had come back. He wouldn't tell her what he felt, wouldn't tell her what had happened, couldn't recall anything that she and the doctors and psychologists she'd taken him to had done with him in the past years. He only remembered his father, and said he wanted to be with him. But he'd said it in a detached kind of way, that she had doubted him.
How could she? Her son was talking for the first time in roughly 2 years, asking her for something, telling her his wishes, how could she say 'no' to him?
"Louis got sick two years ago," she remembered, "he started having strange dreams at first. Then he became more and more quiet, didn't talk or move much anymore, except when he was hungry. Our doctor said it was a form of autism. But I never quite believed him. Since when does autism break out so suddenly? The doctor said it could have something to do with his genes. Half Vulcan, half human, no one really knows what this mix of genes can cause in an individual, but still, it was so painful to watch my own son withdraw completely into himself."
Kirk nodded, "Did he get sick during or after a visit from your husband?"
She looked sharply at him, drawing her eyebrows together. Kirk was still not moving, holding the doctor's hand tightly against his chest, keeping him still. A rattling sound was coming from him. Congestion. As the doctor began to cough, Kirk shifted him forward so that he could lightly pat him on the back between his shoulder blades.
McCoy's eyes flew open, looked around confusedly, helplessly, his free hand groped at the air in front of him. A gurgling sound, an angry shout that mixed with a cough and a pained groan came from him.
"Bones, don't. You're okay. You're safe. Keep breathing. C'mon," he said quietly, patiently, as he'd done so many times before.
The doctor kept struggling weakly, but persistently, hurting himself more while doing so, but not making the connection. "Water! I'm drowning," he slurred, and she asked herself again, what images the doctor was seeing in his mind, why had they always something to do with water and drowning?
"Bones, we're sitting on a bed. There's no water here, you're breathing air, aren't you?" Kirk asked calmly, reasoning with him, but knowing the same time, it was probably useless. Yet, he always tried.
The doctor stopped moving for a while, confused. Then pushed at the air again. "He's trying to push me under," he whispered.
"I know," Kirk said gently, stroking his hair, "I'm here to keep you up. He won't win, trust me."
It calmed McCoy, and after a while, his eyes closed again.
She hadn't expected this. McCoy was far worse than any of the other patients. Sure, the phaser burn had been added on top of the infection, however, there was something else. This confused look, it didn't seem to be normal, even with a fever. It reminded her of the time when her son's dreams had started. She had held him at night, reassured him, dried his tears. Louis had never told her what he'd seen.
"What is he seeing?" she asked.
"I don't know. But I have a suspicion," Kirk said still looking down at his friend. Then he shifted his attention back to her, "so, your husband was here when your son got sick, wasn't he?"
She nodded. Her husband had told her she was being a mother hen. He had laughed about the dreams, had even complained that his son's antics at night were keeping him from his sleep. It seemed cold and heartless to her now. But for some reason it hadn't then.
"He said he would come back with a cure. … And he did, obviously."
Kirk snorted. "As I've tried to tell you before, he infected his own son with that virus. He did not cure him, he only controls him to say what he wants him to say. He can control his every move, every word. Your son is sleeping, unable to wake up, unable to do anything except eating extremely sugary things."
She stood up angrily again, pointing her phaser at the Starfleet captain. "Why would he infect his own son with a virus? What does he have to gain by that?"
"Isn't it obvious? With the help of that virus he can control just about anyone on Romulus or Vulcan. He could have access to almost unlimited power. Don't you think he'd find that attractive?"
"Even if you're right, why would he have to infect his own son?" she repeated.
"As a vessel for that virus. He needs a living host to keep the virus alive, so that he can transport it back to Romulus."
She stared at him. It couldn't be. She just couldn't have married a Romulan terrorist without ever suspecting anything. "Then why hasn't he gone back to Romulus? What's he still doing here?"
Kirk sighed, frustrated. The reasons they had found Tamulok here on the planet were diverse. It may have been that, as Velal had suspected, Tamulok still had had to pay his Orion accomplices. Maybe he even wanted to say goodbye to his wife. But most of all it must have had something to do with what they'd discovered, when they'd arrived in the small village. Some people were suffering from a sickness, Legian fever, as the symptoms had suggested, a sickness that wasn't uncommon among the people of rural areas like these, mostly harmless, though painful.
When McCoy had examined the patients, however, he'd found a different virus. The cause had been genetic shift. The Legian virus had exchanged genetic sequences with another virus, inside a living host, probably Tamulok's son, Louis, who was half human and half Romulan and whom Tamulok had infected with the virus from Meriah two years ago, maybe as a backup plan, should his crew whom he had infected too, get lost, or die.
So, now they had to deal with a mutation of the Meriah virus, that not only caused the symptoms of the fever, while still having its abilities to enhance receptivness for telepathic control in its hosts, but that also befell humans beside Romulans and Vulcans. McCoy had been sure of this. They still had to find out to what extend a human could be controlled through it, since humans did not have telepathic abilities. However, Spock had suspected that through the virus, humans could be manipulated into doing something, they normally wouldn't do. Vote for someone they normally wouldn't vote for. Keep quiet when they'd normally protest. Stay at home, when they'd normally take action. He did not want to imagine what kind of power Tamulok could gain with it.
So far, only few people in the village were infected with the new virus, and Tamulok wanted to explore it further, no doubt about that. He had smelled the chance to not only control Romulans and Vulcans, but also humans, and he'd become greedy.
"He's spotted an opportunity."
"You're imagining things. We're just a far away colony. No one ever was interested in us. It's absurd to think that we're suddenly at the center of an interplanetary crisis, with my husband the villain who wants to dominate the universe."
Kirk nodded. The whole story did sound somewhat unbelievable, he had to admit. Still, he couldn't believe that she never saw any signs that her husband wasn't the harmless merchant he wanted to make her believe. "Have you ever met his Orion accomplices?"
She shrugged. "Fleetingly. He said they would be giving me a headache."
He shook his head. "Didn't it worry you that he had connections to the Orion Syndicate?"
"He's a merchant. He has connections to all sorts of people."
Kirk sighed again. "Right. You won't be convinced by anything I say. In a way, Mrs Tarses, that's admirable. You're a good, loyal wife, but for reasons I cannot comprehend. Your husband never tells you anything about his past. Or has he talked about his family, has he introduced you to his parents? Did you see where he grew up? Has he told you any details about where he is, what his doing, and whom he meets when he disappears for months, even years in a row? Has he given you an explanation about what kind of illness your son is suffering from, and where he has found the "cure"? Has he been here to support you when you were all alone, not knowing what was going on with him? Where was he when you were running from doctor to psychologist to doctor with your child?"
She opened her mouth to yell at him, when another violent cough tortured the doctor's body, and he started to literally grasp for air with his hand, moaning, pleading: "Don't let me drown."
Kirk stroked the doctor's hair, tucking in his head under his chin. "Bones, Bones. You're not drowning. You're in a house, sitting on a bed. Look, there's a flower in a pot to your left." He turned his friend's head, hoping he would reckognise some of his surroundings now. Surely, it was past time for him to come out of this fever?
"No, air!" he heard him whisper, choking.
He continued to stroke the wet, sweaty hair from his brow, lightly blowing some strands away from behind his ear, too. "There's plenty of air, Bones. Just breathe, I know it's difficult, you still got congestion in your lungs, but you won't drown. You won't suffocate."
"How, do you know? You're not a doctor," came the irritated reply that brought a relieved smile to the captain's face.
"No, but you told me what to expect, before you pulled this stunt, remember?"
"No. … God, I feel awful," he groaned.
"Jim, I think he was … he knows. He's trying to … drown me,"
"You're not going under, I'm holding you up, relax, Bones," he soothed once more.
"Relax? I was shot!" the doctor complained through clenched teeth.
"I know, I was there," he whispered.
"Jim, where's Spock?"
"He'll be back."
"Back from where?"
"From where he is. Bones, relax, everything's fine. Except of course, that you have a phaser wound in your shoulder and your immune system is raging inside your bloodstream, fighting a biological weapon."
"I'm … Jim, don't … I ..." He coughed again, violently, sagging back against Kirk as he'd finished, passing out from the pain and exhaustion.
Kirk sighed in frustration and tried to remember why he had agreed on Bones' plan.
"How many Vulcans do you know?" she asked, suddenly surprising him with the question, and pulling him out of his thoughts. She was watching him intently. What was it that she saw?
"One of my best friends is a half Vulcan," he answered, shrugging slightly, careful not to jostle Bones.
"Spock is a half Vulcan?"
He nodded. And she sat down on the floor in front of the bed, putting the phaser down behind her.
"All I ever wanted was to be happy. When I met Tarses, I thought he made me happy. When Louis was born, my priorities shifted. I wanted him to be happy, above all. But it was difficult. I felt he was always … struggling. I don't know, first I thought it was the other kids, who picked on him, because he was different. But when he got sick, I thought, maybe it was really an inner conflict. Biology."
He looked at her, thinking.
"Captain," she started, "your best friend, Spock, is he …?"
He waited. "Yes?"
"Is he happy?"
Kirk was stunned for a moment. Was Spock happy? It was a question he couldn't answer and he could just imagine what Spock would say, how it was an illogical question, how being happy or unhappy was an emotion, and therefore for him, as a Vulcan, it was not only impossible to answer, but also irrelevant. Still, he could understand the woman's question. Her son was half human, too, with pointy ears, and from what he'd gathered so far, he hadn't had a very happy childhood.
He didn't know much about Spock's childhood, he had to admit to himself. But he had been growing up on Vulcan, among rational, logical people, not suspicious, envious, emotional humans who were prone to xenophobia. However, there must have been a reason why Spock had chosen to spend his life mostly among humans, even though he denied almost everything that was human within himself. Bones had spent the last five years pointing that out to anyone who would listen, and anyone who would not listen, especially Spock himself. At first, Kirk had been worried that Spock would become upset, would interpret Bones' well-meaning psycho-analysis, good-humored and sometimes not so good-humored teasing as racist insults. But over time he'd found out, that Spock actually enjoyed the doctor's verbal affronts, not that he'd ever admit it, of course.
"Well," he started, trying to find an answer, "he's got good friends who love him and whom he loves in return." At least that was true, and what else was happiness?
"I can imagine," she said, looking back at Kirk, her expression softening.
Kirk saw his chances of winning the woman's trust were rising. But he had to be careful. He was still very aware of his own phaser, that was in her possession at the moment, and most of the time pointed at him, even though she was becoming lax with it. He was sure he could take it from her in one of her unguarded moments, but was that wise? Maybe he could gain more by winning her heart.
Spock was still out there, if he had found and captured Tamulok, they would need some support in this village, so that they could administer the vaccine to everyone. Not all of the villagers were trusting them. If Tamulok was still loose on the other hand, he'd have to do everything to get him. They could explain later. However, it would mean he'd have to leave Bones which he didn't want to do. He wasn't in any immediate danger, though, as Bones had assured him himself, just before he'd given himself that hypo with the virus in it.
He sighed. Spock, what's taking you so long?
"Are you hungry?" she asked him, after a while of just sitting on the floor, watching.
He was. So, why not replenish his energy, when given the opportunity? "Yes. Thank ..."
He was interrupted by a violent rapping at the door. She stood, startled, raising the phaser again, aiming at the door. "Who's there?"
"Brent," came the reply through the door, "I have news, ... and a captive."
Kirk swallowed as dread and frustration formed in his gut. Brent was a guy they had met on their first encounter with the villagers. He hadn't been the most friendly, said he hated Starfleet officers. And Vulcans.
As she opened the door, Brent, a mid forty year old man with a boxer's face and a butcher's figure walked in, pushing a half Vulcan into the room, threatening him with a phaser. A Starfleet issue phaser, as Kirk recognised immediately.
"Spock!" he exclaimed sourly, "Had any success?"
Spock briefly scanned the room and the middle-aged woman with Kirk's phaser, before his eyes settled on his captain who was sitting on a bed, an injured, feverish McCoy slumped in his arms.
"I've found Mr. Brent, Captain," he said calmly, "What about you and the doctor?"
Kirk grimaced, but said nothing.
"What is it, Brent? Did you find Louis?" Lena Tarses asked, worried.
Maybe now was a good time to overwhelm her and get ahold of that phaser, Kirk thought, however Bones was somehow limiting his mobility. And that Brent guy was there, too. Brent, with Spock's phaser.
"You get over there, too!" Brent shouted at Spock, indicating the bed that was occupied by Kirk and McCoy.
Spock went over to stand beside them.
"Sit!" the man demanded, shoving the phaser into Spock's direction for emphasis. When Spock sat down on the floor with his back leaning against the bed, Brent slightly turned towards Lena, meaning to be confidential, but the room was too small to get any privacy.
"He was following Tarses and your son. I followed him. When he pulled a phaser at your husband, I knocked him out."
Kirk groaned under his breath. "You didn't notice he was following you?" he hissed.
"Obviously not, Captain," Spock replied, calmly.
"He couldn't," Brent turned towards them with pride, "I'm good at moving silently. Your Starfleet training is nothing against the training we receive growing up as close to nature as we do here. A Rigelian rabbit wouldn't have heard me."
"An inapt comparison. A Rigelian rabbit's hearing is inferior to my Vulcan hearing," Spock commented, raising an eyebrow.
For once, Spock's smart-ass attitude infuriated Kirk. "Well, why didn't you hear him then, Spock?"
The Vulcan wasn't affected by Kirk's tone. "I believe the reason was Mr Brent's superior training in moving silently."
"Are you telling me, that the years and years of training at the Academy, your experience as Starfleet's "best" first officer, and your superior Vulcan ears are all nothing compared to "growing up close to nature"?"
"No. But Mr Brent is exceptionally good at moving silently," Spock answered and went on after a small pause: "I also may have been … distracted."
"Distracted? Spock! You can't …," Kirk knew he was being unfair, he was just frustrated as hell, that Tamulok had escaped yet again. But before he could stop himself, someone else did.
"STOP IT!" Bones shouted, and it did have the desired effect, for Kirk stopped mid-sentence, surprised by Bones' sudden interest in their conversation.
"Jim, stop yelling at Spock, it wasn't as if he let himself be captured on purpose! He's only human!"
There was a pause that showed Kirk that Spock was as surprised by McCoy's intervention as he had been himself. A moment had passed when he could hear Spock taking a breath to give the doctor the expected reply, and Bones continued: "Don't say it, Spock! Or I swear, I'm gonna throw up on you!"
"That would be unpleasant," Spock quietly commented, but said nothing further.
Brent watched the brief exchange between the three Starfleet men. More was said than the actual words, he suspected, and didn't like it. If they thought they could outsmart him, they were wrong.
"Well, well, if you aren't the Three Musketeers!" he sneered.
"More like the Three Stooges," McCoy mumbled, and pushed himself away from Jim, settling against the wall, almost toppling over the potted plant to his right, grimacing in reaction to the pain in his shoulder.
"Stooges, Doctor?" Spock asked, quirking an eyebrow.
"Moe, Larry, and Curly, Spock. You should look them up!"
"Well, we all managed to loose our phasers," Jim mumbled.
"Even you, Jim! Bad day?"
The doctor was rather crotchety, Lena observed, but he was annoyed with his captain, not with her or Brent, even though it was them who pointed a phaser at the three right now. Hell, her son had shot him, something she still couldn't quite believe, although she had seen it herself. Could it be true what the captain had said? That her husband was somehow controlling her son? Had it been in fact him who had tried to kill the doctor?
"Well, I was distracted while holding your head over a bucket as you lost your breakfast. Which reminds me: Mrs Tarses, didn't you say something about food?" Kirk addressed her again, smiling charmingly.
"Is food all you can ever think about?"
"Nutrient intake is a good idea, Doctor, especially for you, since you're behaving rather indignantly, which is a sign of hypoglycemia, as you should know."
"I'll show you indignantly, you green-blooded hobgoblin."
"It is also a sign, that he's feeling better, as you should know, Spock. Or aren't you, Bones?" Kirk interrupted, still smiling, And had he just winked at her?
"No. I mean, I am feeling better. I guess we can start synthesizing that vaccine soon. But really, Jim, I was raised in Georgia. I know how to behave."
"Interesting. I admit I've never been to the southern regions of the United States, but if your manners are an example of that famous "southern hospitality", I begin to doubt that I'd, as you would call it, enjoy myself there."
"Ha!" McCoy snorted, turning towards Lena, as if he wanted to speak confidentially to her: "He couldn't enjoy himself if his life depended on it."
She didn't know how to react. The whole situation was quite bizarre. Here she was, Lena Tarses, pointing a phaser at three high Starfleet officers who were sitting on her bed, bickering with each other without being much intimidated by her or Brent who also looked quite dumbfounded at the moment. Kirk was even flirting with her, and the doctor, although he had a phaser wound in his shoulder and a strange virus in his system, was arguing with the Vulcan science officer about manners.
"Stop it!" Brent interrupted. And they all turned towards him for a second. He wasn't the smartest guy, and although mostly harmless, she knew he could become dangerous when he felt cornered.
"Brent, where were Tarses and Louis going?" Lena inquired, looking from him to Spock and back again.
"It seemed they were headed towards the river," Spock replied.
"Lloyd's Canyon," Brent finally nodded in agreement, "maybe Tarses wanted to take the boy fishing?"
"Improbable. They weren't carrying any fishing equipment," Spock said.
"He has a small hut on the river, where he keeps stuff," Lena explained, "Louis said his father was going to take him out on a trip."
"And you believed that?" McCoy asked her.
Lena felt a bout of anger inside her again. "Why would he lie?"
"Because your husband's a Romulan Tal Shiar agent, Mrs Tarses. He wants to use your son as a living weapon to gain power," Kirk repeated once again.
"Tarses, a Romulan?" Brent laughed out and aimed his phaser at Kirk, "I've known him all my life, he's a pointed-eared bastard, but no Romulan. And his son is a useless tard."
Lena cringed, but said nothing.
"You could hardly have known Tarses, as you call him, all your life," Spock pointed out, "or how old are you?"
"That's none of your business, you green-blooded orc." Brent spit at Spock, now threatening him with his phaser.
"Now, people like him really annoy me," McCoy said pointing at Brent and giving Kirk a strange look.
Kirk grinned, "Why's that, Bones?" he asked innocently.
"Because," he intonated as if that was the answer, then after a short pause he went on: "That man is an irascible, xenophobic idiot."
Brent briefly got distracted, turning towards McCoy who in his opinion had called the Vulcan politically incorrect names himself just a minute before, when a split second later Kirk and Spock were suddenly standing in front of him, an arm's length away, about to jump at him. Fortunately for Brent, they were stopped by Lena who fired her phaser at the plant to the right of McCoy's head. It briefly glowed, then disappeared completely. The phaser was set to kill.
"Stop it, or I'll make you!" she shouted, making all of them freeze.
Spock and Kirk looked at each other, exchanging a silent message, then reluctantly sat down again, defeated.
McCoy looked in amazement at the spot where the plant had been just a moment before. "Good shot!" he commented, shifting in his place, grimacing when the pain from the phaser wound in his shoulder hit him again.
"I'm sorry my son shot you," Lena said, her voice quiet, "he … only wanted to spend time with his father."
"He didn't shoot me, ma'am. It was his father. Your son is sleeping, and has been ever since he got infected."
"They say he's an autist."
"Poppycock! He wasn't born that way, was he?"
"No, he wasn't. But his Vulcan genes ..."
"What about them?" McCoy stopped her, then pointed at Spock who was again sitting on the floor with his back leaning against the bed. "Mr. Spock over there is the living example that Vulcan-Human hybrids are just as happy as you and me."
"You just said he couldn't enjoy himself if his life depended on it."
"Although your observation is correct, Mrs Tarses, the words are just an example of Doctor McCoy's unfitting and often confusing illustrative language. I've come to master it, however, and therefore can translate it for you. What he meant is that a genome of mixed origin, like mine which is half Human and half Vulcan, does not cause any physical or mental deficiencies," Spock addressed her, his face as straight as ever, though he must be joking, or not?
"That's true, ma'am, although Spock won't master my artistic language if he'll live to be a hundred," McCoy said, slightly smiling.
"A hundred? That's no age for a Vulcan. You should know that, Bones," Kirk interfered. He seemed to be enjoying himself, Lena observed. "Also, the boy's not half Vulcan, he's half Romulan." he stressed the last word, looking up at Lena again.
"Sometimes you're as nitpicky as your first officer, Jim. Romulan, Vulcan, ... biologically there's not much of a difference."
"I said stop it!" Brent shouted again. And they looked at him expectantly once again.
"Well, Brent, what do you intend to do with us now?" Kirk asked.
Brent breathed a few times before he answered: "You will stay here, until Tarses comes back."
"Well, I hope he does come back," Kirk mumbled to himself, and he really did. If Tamulok escaped once more, he'd go crazy. The Enterprise was in orbit, so even if Tamulok had a shuttle or a small ship hidden somewhere, he couldn't leave the planet without being detected. Sooner or later, they'd catch him. After McCoy had found out that there was a new, mutated version of the Meriah virus in the village, Kirk had given Scotty the order to refrain from sending down any more personnel. If this virus was as dangerous as they thought, it was necessary to stop its spreading under all circumstances.
"Until then," McCoy brought Kirk out of his musings, "I can already start working on a vaccine. That virus mutated, and if I'm correct, it can no longer be eliminated by zero gravity. However, the sooner we get this vaccine, the more likely it is that we can stop the spreading of the disease."
As he started moving off the bed, Brent stepped from one foot to the other, nervously gripped his phaser, and looked at Lena, not knowing how to react.
"Really, Mr Brent, I can't even move my right arm, you're not going to shoot an invalid, are you?" McCoy grumbled at him and got to his feet. Lena moved over to steady him, and for a moment she feared the doctor, or Spock, or Kirk, could use the situation to try something, but nothing happened. McCoy only moved over to the kitchen table where he had earlier deposited some of his instruments and started working, oblivious to the angry stares Brent was giving him.
"You think that's a good idea?" Brent asked Lena, indicating McCoy who had drawn some blood from his neck and was now placing it in a vial that was part of a medical apparatus.
"The disease is spreading among the villagers. If he can help us, it would be stupid to hinder him," Lena said, stepping back so she could keep an eye on McCoy as well as Kirk and Spock.
"What if he's building a bomb, or something?"
"A bomb? You know, I'm not McGyver, Mr Brent," McCoy snapped.
Lena laughed into herself, she didn't really know why she trusted McCoy, but she did. Also Kirk and Spock didn't really seem a threat to her. However, they wanted her husband, and wasn't it her duty as a wife to protect him? And her son?
"How would a bomb help them, Brent? They're in the same room as we are. Also, he's a Starfleet doctor, and as such he has sworn an oath to do no harm," she tried to calm.
"Oh, and what does that stupid oath mean to him? You don't know that!"
"I assure you Mr Brent, in spite of Doctor McCoy's irrational personality, to my knowledge, there is no other doctor in Starfleet or elsewhere who honours the oath of doing no harm more seriously than him," Spock said evenly.
"Oh yeah?" Brent snorted, "Says who?"
"Says a Vulcan whose penchant of always telling the truth is a real pain in the ass at times," McCoy replied, not looking up from his work.
"Both is true," Kirk replied to the confused look Brent was giving him, with a grin.
"You find my devotion to the truth is a "pain in the ass", Captain?" Spock asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Well, at times, Mr Spock. Maybe it is a human weakness that we sometimes, on rare occasions, want to be lied to."
"It's called politeness," McCoy agreed.
"On the other hand, Spock, only real friends tell you when your face is dirty," Kirk shrugged, observing Bones closely and then giving Spock a meaningful look.
"Your face is relatively clean, Captain," Spock answered to a question Kirk had never asked, and it made Kirk smile, "But you and the doctor could both use a shower." he continued after a pause, holding Kirk's stare.
"Would you stop talking!" Brent sounded exasperated.
"I've got it!" McCoy suddenly said, holding up his hypo in triumph. "This should immunize us all. Well, I'm already immune, of course. But it should work on humans as well as half humans."
Kirk and Spock exchanged a look, then Kirk looked at the doctor again, his eyes boring into him. "Great, Bones. What are you waiting for?"
"Right," McCoy did a step towards Lena, but she retreated from his approach, "How about I give Jim and Spock the first shot?"
Lena nodded in agreement, and as she saw McCoy gave first Spock and then Kirk the hypo, she agreed on getting the third dose.
"It will not put us in a similar state you were in, will it?" she asked, realizing it was a bit too late to ask that, since she'd already received the hypo.
"No, no. The nausea, fever, and congestion where mostly symptoms caused by the immune stimulant. Also, you didn't get anything of the virus, only the antibodies. You shouldn't feel anything," he reassured her. Then stepped over to Brent, the last person who hadn't been innoculated.
"No!" he shook his head vehemently, "You're not giving me that hypo!"
"Why? I gave it to everyone else."
"Because it's unnecessary. But if you insist," he raised the hypo to his neck and injected himself with the contents without further ado. As he let his arm sink again, he addressed Brent who was still aiming at Spock once more: "Ready?"
"You're just trying to knock me out!"
"Oh, please! Stop being so paranoid. As I said, I gave it to everyone else," McCoy rolled his eyes, then rested them briefly on Spock's intent stare.
Brent looked at Lena who only shrugged.
"If my hypo knocks you out, you can shoot Spock," McCoy grinned, and raised his arm slowly, placing the hypo against Brent's neck.
The same instant Lena heard the hiss of the hypo going off, Kirk was up from the bed, and twisted the phaser away from her with one hand, while the other turned her around against him. She lost her orientation only for a split second, but when she came to herself again, she saw Spock lowering an unconscious Brent to the ground while pulling the phaser from him.
"W-hat?" she stuttered, shorttaken.
"The fifth dose was a sedative. He'll be fine. Don't worry," McCoy tried to assure her.
She pulled away from Kirk who simply let her go. Surprised, she scrutinized Kirk, then Spock, then McCoy, then Kirk again. "How did you …?" she didn't finish the sentence, just made a gesture that embraced this whole mess.
"Oh, I'd be a fool to explain my secret weapon to you," Kirk said, smiling.
She had been blindsided by these three Starfleet officers. The captain with that charming smile, his hazel eyes and that vibrant energy that seemed to eminate from every fibre of his body, even when he was sitting absolutely still on her bed, had tried to convince her for almost a full day now that her own husband was an evil Romulan spy. He'd tried rational, persuading, ensnaring, smiling, calm, angry, and consoling. He had given her proof that he knew her husband quite well, knew his mannerisms, his way to talk, his favourite Shakespeare play, and told her a story about a virus, a distant planet, a scheme her husband was plotting to take over the whole damn universe.
She hadn't believed him, hadn't wanted to believe him. Not because she was madly in love with Tarses, not because she couldn't, by any stretch of the imagination, think the captain could be correct, but because it angered her that he honestly believed he knew her own husband better than she did. It angered her that he seemed to think she would forget seventeen years of marriage, of loyalty "in good times and bad" the moment "Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise" appears on her doorstep. Yes, her marriage hadn't exactly been what one would call "happy", but which marriage actually is? She had refused to admit to herself that she had been cheated by the man she had enthusiastically married as a young, naive girl. Not cheated in the way wives were usually cheated by their husbands, but cheated in a way that made her seem even more naive and stupid.
And she had been thinking about Louis. Tarses had never been the picture-perfect example of a father, but he had also never been cruel, violent or completely uninterested. Louis had spoken, for the first time since her husband had last left them. He had always adored his father, it made sense he would react to him. If she let these men arrest Tarses, what would that make her in her son's eyes?
So, she had let the captain talk until he was blue in the face.
The Vulcan, Spock, had quickly accepted that she was not open for any arguments, and had left the persuading to the captain, to go outside The doctor had been busy with that virus. And to admit, she was grateful he was here. That strange new virus was scaring her too, people started behaving strangely. Being this far away from Earth, or Vulcan, or Andoria, or any other of the so-called "civilized" planets gave you independence, yes, but it also meant you were on your own, always a bit behind the latest technologies. Of course they also had doctors, but she suspected they weren't quite up to date. And they seldomly came to their little village.
McCoy had set up a small laboratory on her kitchen table, and had complained several times that it wasn't as sophisticated as the lab on board their ship, although for her, it seemed to be more modern than anything she'd ever seen on her own planet. McCoy had strongly argued against beaming back aboard the ship, however, as they'd all been exposed to the virus. He'd placed them under quarantine until he would have found a cure.
When Louis had suddenly shot the doctor with the phaser that he had carelessly left on the tabletop as he worked, she hadn't thought a second before grabbing the captain's phaser from his belt, to aim it at the captain, before the captain could aim it at her son. It had been surprisingly easy, and she could tell Kirk was a bit embarrassed about it. It had brought her some kind of satisfaction. at first. You're not so smart after all, are you, Captain James T. Kirk?
Louis had fled and she hadn't known what to do. Her son had shot a Starfleet officer, not killing him, thank God, but he had shot him. As she knew Starfleet, they'd bring up charges against him and fast too, even though both, Kirk and McCoy, seemed to be of the opinion that her son had not been in control of himself and that her husband had somehow manipulated him into doing it. She'd been confused, her instincts had told her to protect her son, and so she had ended up pointing a phaser at a captain and lieutenant commander of Starfleet, while trying to clear her thoughts. When Brent and the Vulcan commander had appeared, the situation had become even more complicated. She didn't like Brent, he was an irascible, xenophobic idiot as McCoy had described him, but he was also a fellow villager. It was all about loyalty again. She knew they all were said to be extremely stubborn and suspicious of strangers. She'd always thought she was an exception, she had after all, married a stranger. But in the end, maybe she wasn't as open-minded as she'd always thought herself to be.
When she had vaporized her poor houseplant, she had immediately been horrified by her own action. She'd only shot out of an irrational, even childish, notion on her part, she had to admit to herself. She had wanted to show this brash Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise (really, could he have introduced himself with more words?) that he just couldn't do whatever he wanted. This was her house, her husband, her damn planet. But she wouldn't have used the weapon against any of the three. In the end, when Kirk had twisted the phaser away from her, it had been sort of a relief.
"Spock, would you stop playing nurse on me, be a good science officer and turn your attention towards the task at hand?" McCoy impatiently addressed the Vulcan who was using the dermal regenerator that had been beamed down at the captain's request, together with more medical equipment, on the doctor's injured shoulder.
Kirk was still speaking into his communicator a few feet away, He had the two phasers securely placed in his belt and other hand. There was no way she'd get ahold of one of them again. She also wouldn't try, as she'd assured Kirk, though she could tell that she hadn't convinced him completely. Brent was now lying on the bed, snoring peacefully. He'd be out for several more hours, as McCoy had informed them.
"I am paying all my attention to the task at hand, Doctor. And I am surprised that as a physician, you don't know that a wound like this must be treated effectively to not become infected."
"I'm touched by your concern for my well-being, Spock," McCoy grinned, sparing a glance at the Vulcan before returning his attention to the tricorder readings again. "But time is really of essence here."
"My concern for your health is solely based on the fact that you are, unfortunately, the only expert on virology who is present at the moment. If you stop functioning because of an infection resulting from neglecting to properly treat this phaser burn, it will prove difficult for the captain and me to be able to return to Enterprise in the near future."
She shook her head, catching Kirk's eye who was also watching them, dividing his attention between his conversation with the ship, Lena Tarses, and the conversation going on between his two officers.
He shrugged at her, smiling slightly. I'd be a fool to explain my secret weapon to you, the captain had said with that cocky grin of his. Well, he didn't need to explain, she already had an idea.
"I see. Well, if I'm not hallucinating, you just confessed that I'm better qualified than you are, which at least gives me some kind of satisfaction," McCoy continued, not taking his eyes off the tricorder.
"I've repeatedly observed that the things you take satisfaction from are rather plain, if not to say primitive, Doctor," Spock answered without missing a beat, and without stopping in his task.
McCoy snorted. "I take joy in the little things, Spock. That's why I'm such a cheerful soul."
Spock put the dermal regenerator away as he finished sealing the wound, then pulled down and straightened out what was left of the sleeve and shirt of the doctor's uniform, in a hopeless, futile attempt.
"Fascinating. Your self-perception seems to be quite distorted there, Doctor, as large parts of the crew seem to be of the opinion that you are "a grumpy old crank"."
Kirk surpressed another grin, and slightly turned away to concentrate on his conversation with his ship's acting captain. She also felt a smile spreading on her lips, warming places in her heart she'd long forgotten where even there.
McCoy looked at Spock with a frown. "Old? Really, there's no need to become offensive."
"Doctor, I am a Vulcan. I don't know how to be offensive, I merely state facts. And what you take as an insult from my part was a quote by a crewmember."
"By who exactly?"
"I don't believe he would want me to reveal his name to you."
"So it was a he? Well, of course it was, since the gentle sex has always had a thing for me."
Kirk had pocketed his communicator and paused, watching his two officers argue for a second. His features and posture changed, relaxed. As he stood there, observing the Vulcan and the doctor exchanging their sharp, but still friendly jibes, his face smoothed, his shoulders sagged, his back straightened and suddenly he seemed ten years younger than just a minute before. It was like he was recharging his batteries, drawing energy from the strange dynamic going on between the other two. His secret weapon, Lena mused, as she focused her attention back on the conversation going on between them.
Spock almost rolled his eyes, almost, but he caught himself in time. "Doctor, didn't you just point out that time was of essence? I suggest we ..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" McCoy interjected, grinning from one ear to the other, for he felt he'd won an argument. "Lets's start. But, just for the record, you started this pointless discussion."
"I did not."
Kirk moved from his position and strode towards them decidedly, bouncing slightly on his toes. "Gentlemen, even if we never know who started it, it sadly almost always is the same person who ends it: me."
"That's not true, Jim," McCoy looked at him guiltily, oblivious to the comfort the captain had actually taken from listening to his exchange with the Vulcan.
"While you were talking to Mr Scott, the doctor and I were merely preparing ourselves to continue with the research on this virus," Spock said. And it wasn't a lie, as Kirk firmly believed. This bickering was some kind of ritual between the two, like checking the control lights before leaving a space dock. It told them that everything was working within normal parameters. What they maybe did not realize was that it was also immensely comforting to him, especially since they hadn't done this in a while. And he'd truly missed it during the past weeks, he suddenly realized. Even though their situation wasn't really the best - Tamulok was still on the run, and they were currently not able to return to Enterprise due to a mutation of that blasted Meriah virus that apparently could befall humans now - he suddenly felt better than he had in a long time.
"How close to a vaccine are we, Bones?" he asked, getting down to business again.
McCoy frowned at the readings on the tricorder again. "Not as close as I hoped we were."
"I thought you already had it?" Lena asked curiously.
"No. What I injected us with was a saline solution, except Mr Brent, of course. Creating an innoculation that will work on everyone, without causing serious side-effects usually takes longer than a few minutes."
"What's the problem?" Kirk asked. Of course, he knew that synthesizing antibodies for a vaccine to a completely new virus could take months, even years or, in some cases, decades, but Bones had done nothing short of medical magic on many occasions before. And the antibodies already existed, inside Bones' own bloodstream. As far as he knew, that always was the hardest problem.
"Well," McCoy turned his attention back to the various vials and test tubes on the table, "the antibodies I synthesized are not acting as potently in the test tube as they did in my body."
"The concentration could be too low," Spock speculated, for the first time really focusing his attention on the virus problem.
"No. It's already 200 times higher than it was in my bloodstream," McCoy shook his head.
"Then there must be a synergy between the antibodies and something else from your bloodstream. Hormones? Enzymes?"
"That's what I also suspect. But it could be a million different things, Spock, to find that one factor could take months, even years."