“Time we don’t have,” Kirk mumbled.
“Why don’t you inject people with the attenuated version of the virus you injected yourself with, to make their own immune systems create antibodies?” Lena asked, feeling a bit stupid.
“That would not help people who are already infected,” McCoy turned towards her, “on the contrary, it would worsen their condition. When I injected myself with that attenuated version of the virus, I had been on the planet for only a very short period of time, not enough to already be infected.”
“That virus you injected yourself with, was not as attenuated as you had hoped, Bones. You were showing symptoms..”
“I know. We were pretty damned lucky it worked,” McCoy chewed the inside of his lip, “You see, Mrs Tarses, this virus is quite aggressive. The immune system of a person who becomes infected the normal way, by the natural spread of the natural, unattenuated form of the virus, will produce antibodies immediately. However, it cannot cope with the onslaught of this virus, in other words it cannot form its own antibodies fast enough, and the person sooner or later becomes sick. If we innoculate that person with the same attenuated virus I injected myself with, the immune system will be overtaxed even more, and the person will show symptoms even faster than without the innoculation, especially since we know it is still quite aggressive. What we need is a serum that already contains antibodies, and efficient antibodies, not these inactive, lazy buggers,” McCoy snapped his fingers against one of the vials on the table.
“How long before we’ll start showing symptoms, Bones?” Kirk knew that Spock and himself must have become infected by now. It had been 8 hours since they’d arrived in the village.
“Well, considering the time it took for me to show symptoms with the drugs I took to accelerate the process, I’d say you have another 36, maybe 42 hours.”
“Then we have to act quickly. The longer Tamulok is out there, the more time he has to plan his escape.”
“And in 36 to 40 hours he’ll have the opportunity to control us through this virus,” Spock finished for Kirk.
“Wait a minute,” Lena interjected, still feeling somewhat dumb, “if this virus is so dangerous, why aren’t I infected? Or Brent? And are you saying that everyone else in this village is now controlled by my husband? If that’s the case, then why hasn’t anyone tried to set my house on fire or something?”
They all looked at her, curiously. “Well, Bones?” Kirk addressed the doctor, waiting for an explanation. Maybe her question hadn’t been so stupid after all.
“I’ve been thinking about that. First of all, I think this mutation hasn’t happened too long ago. Only few of the villagers were infected when I examined them. Brent may simply not have had any contact with the virus, … up until now. Also that may be the reason why none of the people that Tamulok could control has tried to harm us. I mean, none of the sick are alone. Their families take care of them, and they’d keep them in bed, wouldn’t they? Also, we think Tamulok cannot control humans to the extent he can control other telepaths. As to why Mrs. Tarses is not infected, I have a theory: so far all the sick patients are male. That may be a coincidence, but I think it is likely that it is not.”
“So women are immune?”
“Or the incubation period just takes longer in the female body. As I said, I have to do some more tests.”
Kirk sighed. “Right. You do that, but hurry, Bones. The Enterprise is stationed in orbit. They have the order to prevent any ships from entering orbit of Fvillhail Three. We don’t want Tamulok to be beamed away by some of his Orion friends, or whomever else. Also, he can’t leave the planet on a ship, without Enterprise detecting him. However, the longer he stays on the lose, the more uncomfortable I become. We need to find him.”
“I take it then, Mr Scott wasn’t able to modify the scanners?” Spock addressed Kirk.
“No, the minerals in the soil still make it impossible for Enterprise to locate him. I begin to think Tamulok picked this particular planet for his secret retreat with quite some care.”
“That was to be expected. He is a member of the Romluan Tal Shiar. ”
“Thanks for reminding me, Spock. I almost forgot,” Kirk’s sarcastic reply wasn’t completely humorless, however, Lena could tell that Kirk was tired. He handed the spare phaser over to the science officer, and turned to the doctor who was scrutinizing him. “You need anything, Bones?”
“Yes, ...” Bones started, but then he hesitated.
Kirk waited, as Bones just stared at him.
“And what do you need?” Kirk asked, annoyed.
“I … Jim, are you going to go after Tamulok?”
“That was the plan. So, … what do you need?”
McCoy calculated carefully. He’d meant to ask for Spock’s assisstance, but that would mean Kirk would have to go after Tamulok alone, and he didn’t like that thought. However, even though Spock didn’t have any medical education, that scientific, logical, Vulcan brain of his would be an incredible asset, and it was vital that they find a solution to their problem as soon as possible.
Surprisingly, Bones was saved the decision by the chirping of Kirk’s communicator.
He took it out with a frown at McCoy. “Kirk here.”
“This is Scott, captain. We’re detecting ships leaving the surface of the planet.”
Kirk inhaled sharply. “Hail them! Tell them that if they leave orbit, they’re going to be fired at!”
“We did, ...” There was a pause, and Kirk heard Chekov report something to which Scotty replied with a curse.
“Mr Scott, report!” Kirk barked into his communicator.
“Sir, more and more ships are leaving the surface. We’re now counting sixty … sixty-seven. They don’t respond to our hails.”
Jim was outside, probably pacing the parameters like a caged animal, fuming at the fresh escape of Tamulok. A part of McCoy admired that Romulan for his resourcefulness and audacity. When sixty-seven ships had left the surface of Fvillhail Three, at the same time and quite unexpectedly, Enterprise had been simply unable to keep track of the sheer mass of vessels. The Romulan commander had used the anchovy trick: maximize your chances of survival by descending into a massive swarm. And although Kirk had pointed out that sixty-seven tiny ships could hardly be called a “massive swarm”, McCoy did not blame Scotty. He had tried everything, from disabling the ships’ engines with Enterprise’s phasers, over capturing them in the tractor beam, to beaming whole ships directly into the cargo bays, and still Tamulok had managed to escape.
McCoy heard the sound of someone chopping wood. Jim had to blow off steam, he knew, and technically, there was nothing he had against that. Usually Kirk was quick in pulling himself together after a partial setback. His mind would start plotting a new plan almost immediately. In his experience, Captain Kirk always had a plan B, C or H, however, at the moment Kirk was stranded in an aggricultural colony and not sitting in the captain’s chair of his beloved ship. They could not beam aboard the Enterprise, because of this damn virus. McCoy had seen it in Kirk’s face that he had been tempted to disregard regulations and have them all beamed aboard anyway. So, McCoy had pulled the emergency break then, reminding Kirk: “I’m fairly sure I can find a cure, but I don’t know how long it’ll take. And, although extremely improbable, I can err.” And it was true, he had to admit grudgingly. Why would these antibodies not work outside of his own bloodstream?
Jim had given in, ordered Scotty to seal and isolate the cargo bays, and pursue the vessels to maybe, just maybe, catch Tamulok anyway. Then he’d left wordlessly, leaving McCoy and Spock to do more research on this virus. He must be frustrated as hell. Emotions of rage, anger, guilt, helplessness and whatnot where probably battling inside him, McCoy imagined. He needed to vent those, yes. And he needed someone to help him focus again. The thing was, he had other things to do right now. “Spock, why don’t you go outside and see if you can help Jim?” McCoy asked, addressing the Vulcan who was bent over some new tricorder readings.
“Because I don’t think we’re in any immediate need for firewood,” Spock answered.
“My god Spock. Do you always have to take everything I say literally?” he yelled, at him, his own frustration at their situation spilling over.
“Why do you not say what you mean, Doctor? It would simplify our communication immensely.”
McCoy breathed audibly, pulling himself together. When he started speaking, his voice became more quiet and restrained with each word: “SPOCK, I suggest you go outside and talk to Jim to help him focus his attention back on our problem.”
“Our most immediate problem, Doctor, is this virus. We do not know for sure if Tamulok escaped this planet. Have you considered the possibility that he has created a distraction to make us believe he has left Fvillhail Three?”
McCoy frowned. “No. But if that’s the case, then I don’t see why you say this virus is our only problem. If you think Tamulok’s still here, why, shouldn’t you be searching for him?”
“I did not say the virus was our only problem Doctor. If Tamulok is still on this planet, we have to capture him, yes. However, I would be an illogical choice to go after him at this time. Must I remind you that I am a half-Vulcan, and quite susceptible for Tamulok’s telepathic manipulation through this virus?”
McCoy swallowed. How could he have forgotten that? “Are you feeling any symptoms of mind manipulation?” he asked, immediately concerned.
“I cannot tell for certain, Doctor. At present I feel quite tired which could be a result of the continued lack of sleep and meditation I experienced over the last couple of days. I also feel the beginning of a cold which could hint towards an infection with the mutated form of the Meriah virus, or an infection with the common cold.”
McCoy was up and scanning Spock with his medical tricorder even before he answered. “Why didn’t you say anything before? You haven’t slept properly in … how long?”
“I don’t require as much rest as humans do.”
“That was no answer to my … damn!” McCoy cursed, as he saw the readings.
“Spock, the infection has accelerated inside your system. No wonder you’re feeling sick. You should lie down!” he grabbed Spock’s forearms and pushed him towards the second bed in the room, since Brent was still occupying the other one.
Spock didn’t resist which made McCoy worry even more. As he had sat him down, he turned to grab a hypo from the table, but was stopped by Spock’s hand on his.
“Doctor. You have got to incapacitate me.”
McCoy looked at him in shock, but nodded. “I will Spock, don’t worry.”
“This is important, Doctor. You do remember what happened the last time I got infected with the original form of this virus.”
McCoy nodded, gently grinning down at Spock: “You proved that your knowledge of the human anatomy is pretty lousy.”
“I stabbed you with your own scalpel.”
“Where the Vulcan heart is,” McCoy smiled, nodding his thanks to Lena who turned to get the captain. “Really, Spock, how could you have confused me, of all people, for a Vulcan?”
“I must have made the mistake of taking one of your statements literally again,” Spock said, watching as McCoy turned to retrieve the hypo from the table.
“What’s that?” the doctor asked distractedly, already setting the hypo.
“I remember you saying once, you had your heart in the right place.”
McCoy stopped dumbfounded, searching Spock’s face, which was paler than only a minute before, he thought, but maybe he was imagining things. “Spock, you’re trying to be funny again.”
“Did I fail?”
The question surprised McCoy. It was un-Spock-like. However, maybe it was just an attempt to lighten up the mood, or was it … not Spock who was speaking?
“Yes,” he said, guarding himself, and watching Spock’s eyes. He remembered the blank, cold stare of them just the moment before Spock had sunk the scalpel into his side. It wasn’t in them now, or was it?
“What happened?” Kirk asked as he came barging in, Lena on his heels.
McCoy turned slightly to acknowledge him, never quite letting Spock out of his eyes.
“Captain, as I am starting to feel the symptoms of the virus, I have asked Doctor McCoy to sedate me,” Spock turned calmly towards his captain.
“What? Why does this happen so soon?” Kirk angrily addressed McCoy who unconsciously took a step away from the captain, as Spock observed. It was a sure sign that the doctor was experiencing feelings of guilt.
“Uh, yes, Jim. It seems his immune system is weaker than usual, because of a lack of sleep and meditation in the last couple of days.”
“And you happened to oversee that?” Kirk wouldn’t let it go, even as he turned his attention towards Spock.
“Captain, it is not Doctor McCoy’s fault that I am sick. I should have informed him that I was not able to find the usual amount of rest and therefore was not in my usual physical condition, before we beamed down to this planet. As I have said to the doctor, we cannot be completely sure that Tamulok has left Fvillhail Three, or that he was the only one here who is able to control the infected. Since I pose a threat to you, I suggest you waste no more time and render me unconscious until Doctor McCoy has found a cure.”
That was Spock speaking, McCoy was fairly sure. He looked questioningly at Kirk who not only was without his ship right now, but would also be forced to go without that genius first officer of his, waiting for his signal to go ahead and hypo Spock into unconsciousness.
“As CMO it is his responsibility to be always informed of the medical status of the crew, and especially the command crew,” Kirk all but shouted, and McCoy wasn’t sure whether it was directed at himself or at Spock, but he cringed in reaction which wasn’t lost to Spock who looked up at Kirk as cold and calm as ever.
McCoy knew Kirk’s rare bouts of wrath could be intense, but they were almost always quick and fleeting. Usually he wasn’t fazed when they were directed at him. The only exception was, when they were justified, as for example when he’d accidentally and completely unnecessarily blinded Spock in an overhasty attempt to kill that parasite that had caused the death of millions on Deneva, including Jim’s brother and sister-in-law. Thankfully, Spock’s blindness had turned out to be only temporary.
Spock started to lecture: “We are wasting time and energy, Captain. However, I believe I am obliged to remind you, that the good doctor was preoccupied with repeatingly informing you about your own medical status resulting from a complicated brain surgery just a few days ago. And you repeatedly ignored him which can be seen as a violation of Starfleet regulations on your behalf. Also, Doctor McCoy himself is under a tremendous amount of emotional as well as physical stress resulting from an understaffed medical department which he has to compensate for, an imprisonment on Meriah Five, an involvement in a situation with two Romulan Tal Shiar agents, and much more of which you as the captain of the Enterprise should be aware of.”
McCoy snorted. “Well, Jim what are you waiting for? Do I now have the permission to sedate him?”
Kirk’s eyebrows had drawn together in a dark frown as he stared at Spock, seemingly unaware of McCoy.
“As chief medical officer, Doctor McCoy does not have to wait for permission to sedate me,” Spock said awkwardly, for even though he must have meant it as a reminder for McCoy, he still looked at Kirk.
“By all gods. I’m right here! And I know that,” McCoy replied looking from Spock to Kirk to Spock to Kirk. “Jim?”
Kirk exhaled and deflated somewhat. “I know. I apologise,” Kirk said looking at Spock, still ignoring McCoy.
“Apologizing to me is unnecessary, Captain,” the Vulcan replied, more gently than before, but still not completely reconciled, or he would have called Kirk by his first name, as McCoy realized, “Especially considering that you did nothing that could have offended me, that is, of course, assuming that I could be offended.”
“Right,” Kirk seemed confused there for a second, something that McCoy could completely understand.
“Doctor McCoy, on the other hand, who now really is our only chance to defeat this virus, does not deserve your illogical and misguided wrath. Especially when one is considering that since he has set foot on this planet, he has further suffered from a phaser shot wound, an infection ...”
“The phaser burn!” McCoy suddenly exclaimed, making the two other officers finally acknowledge his existence again, turning towards him which was a tremendous relief to the doctor. Although they had been talking about him quite alot, they had curiously treated him as if he were an invisible ghost.
“Bones?” Kirk was first to speak, as McCoy had already turned back to the small make-shift laboratory on Lena Tarses’ kitchen table.
“That burn on my shoulder. It could be the factor that we were looking for,” he explained curtly, already typing something into the tricorder.
“Different types of interleukines are emitted by the human helper CD4+ T lymphocytes when the immune system is subjected to a potential threat, as, for example, a burn,” Spock provided for Kirk who looked as if he was in need of an explanation.
“As usual, Spock, I’m impressed by your medical knowledge,” McCoy mumbled from behind the delicate composition of vials, test tubes and metal frames on the table, “However, not all interleukines are produced by your helper CD-thingies,” he looked up smiling in triumph at both, Kirk and Spock who were waiting for him to continue. “Of course, that’s why I’m the physician and you’re the Vulcan, sorry half-Vulcan.” He turned away again, his mind occupied by something more important than Spock’s smart comments.
Kirk and Spock exchanged a look.
“You are certainly not using the medical jargon that one would expect of a physician, doctor,” Spock commented. Kirk put a restraining hand on his shoulder. “Leave him be, Spock. He’s best not disturbed right now, or something’s going to explode.”
“I hear you, Jim. I’m still here, you know? Have been all this time.”
Kirk smirked at Lena who snorted at him in reaction. “Fortune favors fools, Captain,” she said sharply.
“How could you choose yourself with a serious head injury that had just started to heal, a sleep deprived half-Vulcan who was more prone to fall ill from this virus you expected my husband to possess than any human, and Doctor McCoy who was not only physically and mentally exhausted and therefore most unfit for such a mission - how could you choose these people to make up this landing party? Your ship probably has 400 people that were more fit for this mission than the three of you.”
Kirk wasn’t fazed by her criticism, but his smirk softened a bit. “Well, Mrs Tarses, all you’ve said is true. However, you’re forgetting something.”
She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of asking him what it was. She already knew anyway.
“Your secret weapon.”
He smiled at her. “You got it.”
“Captain, even though it seems Doctor McCoy might find a cure to this virus yet, ...” Spock started, but was interrupted by a sudden curse from the doctor.
“Bones?” Jim repeated his careful prompt from earlier.
McCoy looked up, “I … I think I really have it, Jim. The antibodies together with this particular interleukin act as a potent antiviral drug for this mutation of the Meriah virus. Give me an hour and we should have enough to cure this whole village. Another day, and we have enough for the whole planet.”
“That sounds like good news?” Kirk asked cautiously.
“Yes, but … it will not work on Romulans, or Vulcans.”
“I am, as you’re so fond of pointing out, half-Vulcan, Doctor. Even though the interleukin should be rejected by a full Vulcan, I will tolerate it.”
“Not this particular type. You’d have to produce your own interleukin which means, theoretically, we’d have to subject you to a similar injury as I was, conicidentally, but luckily, as I my add, subjected to.”
“Well, what’s the problem?” Kirk asked, frowning, not sure what all this fuss was about.
“I am guessing that the doctor found out that at this point, my immune system is not capable of producing the required amount of interleukin due to its preoccupation with the virus,” Spock explained.
“You are guessing, Spock?” McCoy repeated, “You are sick. Well, the thing is, Jim, Spock’s immune system was weak to begin with, now, it is fighting an infection in addition. At this point it simply cannot produce the interleukin that is needed.”
“So, what you need is Vulcan interleukin?”
“Vulcans don’t produce interleukin, their immune system works totally differently. If they’re injected with human interleukin, it would cause an immune reaction, similar to an anaphylactic shock. Half-Vulcans, like Spock, and I suspect also half-Romulans like Louis Tarses, will also reject this particular human interleukin, however, their immune systems work differently than that of a pure Vulcan. They are able to produce interleukin their Vulcan, respective Romulan halves don’t reject. So, if we’d be able to produce it, I believe we’d be able to create a drug against this virus, for Romulans, and Vulcans, too. With some modifications we could even be a able to create a drug against the original Meriah virus.”
“So, all you need, is a healthy Vulcan-Human hybrid?” Kirk asked, thinking that all of this didn’t sound too bad. There was a possibility to create a drug that was able to cure everyone from this terrible virus. Who knew how many people had already been infected on this planet, and on other planets, considering some thirty-some ships had left Fvillhail Three unhindered, including Tamulok.
“Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But, Spock, how many other Vulcan-Human or Romulan-Human hybrids do you know?” McCoy addressed Spock who hadn’t shown any kind of reaction so far.
“Spock?” Kirk’s hand came down on his shoulder. He shook him, Spock only blinked. “Spock! Snap out of it!”
Spock shuddered visibly, “Captain, I believe it has started.”
Kirk got to his knees to look Spock evenly into the eyes. “Spock, are you sensing Tamulok?”
McCoy felt his blood run cold, as he recognised the look in Spock’s eyes. It was the look of the Meriah slaves in the Prolia prison complex.
“Jim, …,” he cautioned, holding up the hypo he’d prepared before.
Kirk held up a hand, “Spock?”
“Captain, I feel ... like I’m drowning.”
Kirk heard a sharp intake of breath from McCoy.
“Captain, please. You need to … sedate me.”
Kirk nodded to McCoy, who pressed the hypo to Spock’s neck. “’Til then, Spock.”
As Spock sagged onto the bed, unconscious, Kirk stared back at McCoy. “Surely, Bones, Spock can’t be the only half-Vulcan in the universe?”
“We need to contact the Vulcan Science Academy.”
“I always knew Spock was quite unique, and to tell you the truth, I was very thankful for that. Can you imagine a universe with hundreds or even only dozens of Spocks?” McCoy addressed his head nurse, trying, desperately, to find something funny in the situation.
“It certainly wouldn’t be the worst of all possible universes,” she answered refusing to share her CO’s amusement at his own lame joke. Spock was unconsious, still and pale, waiting patiently for the medical staff to help, to find a cure, or at least another human-Vulcan hybrid who would be the key to developing an antidote to that virus that had infected their half-Vulcan first officer.
“Aww, Christine, he’s a Vulcan! He’ll never reciprocate your feelings,” McCoy grumbled, annoyed with her for not sharing a laugh, annoyed with himself for making that joke in the first place, and most of all, annoyed with this whole situation.
It all had sounded so easy, they only had to find a healthy Vulcan-human, or just some healthy Vulcan-human stem cells and he’d be able to create the antidote they needed to help Spock, and Louis Tarses who was occupying another bed in sickbay. Kirk had them all beamed aboard Enterprise, when the half-Romulan had managed to escape the quarantine area on Enterprise, and thus spread the virus all over the ship. It posed no threat to other humans, since McCoy had brewed up an effective vaccine against this new form of the Meriah virus, but the ship would have to undergo some serious decontamination before they could risk docking at a spacestation, or having someone of the crew beam planetside again. Also, Velal, the Romulan woman currently resident of the brig was in danger of becoming infected. He was worried about her. Even though their “affair” had been a biological necessity, and hadn’t been born out of mutual feelings of love or affection for one another, he had difficulties in seperating the sexual encounter from an emotional attachment. He felt stupid for it, and embarrassed. Very briefly, he had considered talking about it with Jim, but then dismissed the thought immediately, remembering that Jim frequently had affairs with women whom he only used for his purposes. He’d probably laugh about him, call him an immature, emotional softy who couldn’t keep his emotions in check.
“Who do you think you are, doctor?” Chapel suddenly yelled at him, and for a second McCoy cringed at her tone, “I know for a fact that Spock is compassionate, empathic, warm and loyal to a fault to all he considers to be his friends. You, of all people, should know the first thing about it. Why do you always insist on loathing him?”
“That’s enough, Nurse,” the doctor answered firmly, pulling himself together. He didn’t loathe Spock, everyone knew that.
She just snorted and then turned her back to leave for the storage room.
“Females,” he mumbled to Spock’s unconscious form when she was out of sight, “they’re dangerous.”
A loud clink came from the storage room, as if someone had dropped something.
McCoy was about to make a remark about female nosiness and the impoliteness of eavesdropping, when the comm sounded.
“Uhura to Dr. McCoy.”
He was waiting for an important call from Vulcan.
“Sir, the Vulcan Science Academy has found a sample of stem cells from a human-Vulcan female, that was collected by a Denobulan doctor about 110 years ago, and has been stored at the Interspecies Medical Cryobank on Tiburon.”
“A hundred and ten years? You mean, that’s the best they can do?”
“They went through a lot of trouble to find even that, doctor. Apparently, there’s no other human-Vulcan out there, at least none that is registered.”
“How and when are we able to get it?”
“Captain Saluk and the P’Jem are on their way to rendezvous with us in 47 hours. They’ll transport the sample to Enterprise, then.”
“Captain Saluk and the P’Jem, eh? Well, … I’m looking forward to that,” McCoy tried to recall the Vulcan captain. As far as he remembered, Saluk had been somewhat impressed by their, McCoy’s and Spock’s, discovery of Vor-Ka-Ri, a planet from Vulcan mythology that had turned out to be a Romulan farce.
“I hope the sample is still usable. A hundred and ten years seems an awful long time, even in cryostasis. What do they know about the donor?”
“I’ll send the information I have to your computer, doctor. Anything else?”
McCoy watched the biosigns at the head of Spock’s bed. Nothing to be worried about, but he still felt uneasy.
“Is the captain there?”
“No, he’s still in the brig with Velal.”
He perked up at that. What was Jim doing there? He had told him that they were all potential carriers of this virus, and Velal was currently very much in danger of becoming the next one to be infected.
“Do you want me to inform you when he’s back?”
“Yes, thank you, Uhura. I’ll be here,” he said, trying to sound as casual as he could.
“Alright. Uhura out.”
As McCoy turned away from the intercom, he saw Christine trying to sneak by him with a medkit and a bulk of other supplies under her arm.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“A minor emergency,” she mumbled, already rushing past him.
He caught her by the shoulder.
“Minor? Then why are you carrying half of sickbay with you?” He caught a glimpse of the bag she had clutched in front of her. A gynecological kit.
“I want to be prepared,” she said evenly.
“For what? Delivery of septuplets? What kind of emergency is this?”
“Ensign Roma is experiencing some nausea. She thinks she might be pregnant. As I said, I want to be prepared.” With that Christine pulled away from him and was out of sickbay a second later, leaving McCoy to stay behind somewhat puzzled.
In case of minor gynecological problems like menstrual cramps and such, he usually let his nurse tend to the patients, since the young women felt more at ease with her, so this was nothing new. Still, something bothered him. Who was this Ensign Roma anyway? Must be somebody new. He made a note to look her up, but first he had to look at the data Uhura had sent to his computer.
It had been ages since he’d last been on the bridge. He’d sat in the captain’s chair then, trying not to throw up from the horrific and swirling images in his head, while Jim had shielded him from the view of Delihan and Commander Tamulok, throwing insults at them, and threatening to start an interplanetary war. In the end he had vomited anyway, just before he’d fainted. Definetely not one of his best moments.
Now, the situation was different. Delihan was dead and Tamulok had disappeared. Kirk was sitting in the captain’s chair, and Spock was the one the bridge crew was worrying about. When was the last time everything had been normal? He couldn’t remember.
“Bones!” he was greeted by a slightly smiling Kirk.
“Hello Jim,” he greeted back, and acknowledged Chekov, Sulu and Uhura who briefly turned to nod at him with a small smile.
“It’s why I came here. He’s stable for now, but it seems I can’t use those stem cells we’re going to recieve from the P’Jem to produce the vaccine.”
Kirk glanced at some readings on the arm of his chair before returning his attention to his CMO. “Why not?”
“Well, the donor was a half-Vulcan, half-human binary clone who died as an infant from a genetic deficiency. I’ll have to do some more research when we get the sample, but it hardly is an ideal ...”
“Captain!” Chekov who was sitting at Spock’s station interrupted him.
“Mr Chekov?” Kirk turned his chair to him.
“We are approaching the nebula. For the next 15 minutes, the radiation will disturb our sensors.”
“Thanks for the warning, Mr Chekov. We don’t expect it to be a problem, or do we?” Kirk smiled at the young navigator who was sitting in Spock’s chair somewhat uncomfortably. He’d suggested to circumvent the nebula at first, but the captain had insisted they needed to meet the P’Jem as soon as possible. So now, they were going to go straight through it, not the best idea the captain had ever had, Chekov thought, but he hadn’t protested any further. For all he knew, Spock’s life depended on it, even though the doctor did not seem to be too concerned about him. At least time didn’t seem to be as essential as the captain had made him believe.
“No, captain. The nebula was explored and cartographed by the Intrepid only 61 days ago. No disturbances showed up. However, our sensors won’t be able to pick up any obstacles, other ships, or ...”
“You’ve still got eyes, don’t you?” Kirk cut him off.
“Aye, sir,” Chekov just said, thinking, however, that Sulu who was piloting the ship needed good eyes more than he did right now. What if an enemy ship was hiding in the nebula? More Romulans? Or Orions?
“Jim, you think it’s a good …,” McCoy started, but couldn’t finish when suddenly a jolt went through the ship and the engines failed.
Not again! McCoy thought, and by the groans coming from his fellow officers he judged they all thought the same.
“Bridge to engineering,” Kirk said cheerily into the comm in the armrest of his chair.
“I don’t know, sir,” Scotty replied exasperatedly, already having anticipated his captain’s call, “We seem to have a power failure. Partial. This time. I don’t know why, I wish ...”
“Okay, Scotty, don’t fret. It happens to the best. Do we still have our weapons?”
“Och, uh. Aye. Weapons, shields, just the damn engines have gone.”
“Right. Now, Scotty. You need to fix the engines so we can get out of here. So disable all systems except the instruments on the bridge, lifesupport, and weapons.”
“Safety procedures. Or do you want to crawl in the bowels of the ship with all systems running?”
“Well, we’ve done it a million times before, captain. We’ve just got to be careful.”
“Mr Scott,” Kirk returned sharply, “we’ll do this by the book, understood? I’m not risking the lives of my engineering staff when it is not completely necessary to do so. So, disable all systems, but the weapons, lifesupport and bridge instruments.”
“Aye, sir. I will disable the shields then?” Mr Scott asked, unsure if he’d understood correctly.
“You heard me.”
There was a moment of silence before the lights dimmed and it became unusually quiet. McCoy was unsure if it was because everyone seemed to hold his breath or because of most of the running systems, including the shields, had been disabled at Kirk’s command.
“Captain,” Chekov said, “someone opened the hangar doors.”
“Oh?” was Kirk’s reply.
“Sir, shuttlecraft Copernicus is leaving the hangar,” Sulu reported from his position at the helm.
“The Copernicus you say?” Kirk said, not sounding surprised at all, “Lieutenant Uhura, hail her.”
“Ship to ship communication has been disabled, captain.”
“Wait, I may be able to …,” she pressed a few buttons and was able to bypass, “You may speak now, sir.”
Kirk raised surprised eyebrows, then smiled at her appreciatively. “Uh, Copernicus, this is Captain Kirk. You have no permission to leave the ship.”
There was a moment of silence before a reply came:
“Enterprise, this is Velal of the Romulan Tal Shiar. I thank you for the ride so far, but I’ve decided to leave before it’s getting too uncomfortable for me.”
McCoy drew in a sharp breath. Was Velal responsible for the power failure? He was impressed. Part of him wanted her to escape, being a captive of Starfleet’s secret service for the rest of one’s life couldn’t be fun.
“Velal! I … order you to return,” Kirk shouted, earning himself a confused look from his CMO. Very creative, Jim.
“Order all you want, captain. I’ve sabotaged your ship, you can’t do anything to stop me,” she said.
Well, that wasn’t true, McCoy realized with worry, they could still shoot at her. And Jim probably would, he wouldn’t risk her escaping, or would he?
“Velal!” McCoy addressed her, not really knowing why he wanted to speak to her, or what he should say, “Uh ..., Tamulok may be out there. You must be careful.”
There was a pause before Velal answered: “Goodbye. I’ll keep you in good memory. … Velal out.”
Then the line was cut off.
“Lieutenant?” Kirk turned towards Uhura with questioning eyes.
“Uhm, I’m not sure I can do anything, captain.”
“Sir, there’s a small vessel 5 km away, on three o’ clock,” Sulu informed them excitedly.
Kirk slid to the edge of his seat. “I see it, Mr Sulu. Could it be one of those vessels that left the surface of Fvillhail Three?”
“Could be, sir. Though we can’t be sure without the senors,” Chekov provided, beginning to suspect that Kirk had insisted on passing through the nebula for other reasons than wanting to take a shortcut.
“Sir, I … Wait, I’m getting something, ...”
She frantically pressed some buttons and after some static they could hear the voice of Commander Tamulok: “... thought it possible you’d betray your own people, Velal."
"You’re the traitor, Tamulok. And the Tal Shiar wants you dead.”
"YOU DARE CALL ME A TRAITOR? I didn’t commit ADULTERY with a human NAKED MOLE RAT!”
McCoy felt his hand grip the armrest of Kirk’s chair.
“Mr Sulu, aim photon torpedoes on Tamulok’s ship!” Kirk hissed, dangerously quiet.
“I can’t get a lock, because of the radiation,” Sulu said, while his hands still flew over the console.
Kirk was up from his chair, striding over to him. “Aim manually!”
“Aye, sir,” Sulu said with a mixture between a frown and a smile on his face. Firing photon torpedoes from the hip was something he’d never done before.
"He’s got more backbone than you ever had, Tamulok.”
Kirk checked Sulu’s aim from over his shoulder.
"You enjoyed it? Well, I’ll ...”
“Fire!” Kirk shouted to shut the Romulan up once and for all.
And Tamulok never did finish his sentence.
They all heard the sound of a torpedo being fired from Enterprise, and a millisecond later, an explosion was seen on the screen, right where Tamulok’s ship had been.
There was silence on the bridge. It was a success for Starfleet, yes, but it had happened so … unexpectedly.
“Uhura, the Copernicus?” Kirk was the first to speak, as he slowly returned to his seat.
“I think she’s able to hear you,” she answered.
“Captain Kirk to Copernicus, Tamulok’s ship has been destroyed. Return to Enterprise immediately.”
Kirk felt McCoy shift nervously beside him, and spared him glance. Intent blue eyes wanted him to understand a message, but he averted his gaze quickly.
“Kirk to Velal,” he said again, a bit louder, “if you don’t return our shuttlecraft we’re forced to destroy it.”
“This is Velal. Congratulations, captain. In the name of the Romulan Tal Shiar, I thank you for eliminating a dangerous enemy to both our empires.”
“Now return to Enterprise,” Kirk repeated.
“Captain,” Velal said slowly, in a lecturing tone, “You don’t seriously believe I will return to your ship to be handed over to the Federation and spend the rest of my life in prison?”
“I do. Or you will be destroyed,” Kirk answered.
“Listen to him, Velal, he means it!” McCoy shouted and earned himself an annoyed stare from his captain.
“We’ll see each other around,” the Romulan said over the comm and they could see the shuttle engines being powered up.
“What about those engines, Scotty?” Kirk called his engineeer.
“Sorry, captain. But doing it “by the book” means taking more time. Another two or three hours, maybe?”
“Jim, you can’t …,” McCoy’s voice implored from beside him.
“She’s preparing to go to warp, captain,” Sulu interrupted, knowing the signs.
“Sulu,” Kirk was up from his chair once more, “aim phasers on engines.”
Sulu had dreaded the order. It was tricky to disable a ship’s engine without causing further damgage with working sensors, but doing so manually was a totally different matter.
“I’ll do my best,” he replied.
He pressed the button, and at the same moment Enterprise’s phasers shot out from under them aiming towards the Copernicus. A lightning, followed by a massive explosion, one that was much bigger than the one that had destroyed Tamulok’s ship, was seen, and the bridgepersonnel had to shield their eyes in order not to be blinded by the harsh light. It took them several long seconds to be able to see again, seconds in which nobody said a word.
Sulu was the first to speak, to report what everyone already knew:
“Shuttlecraft Copernicus has been destroyed.”
Kirk sighed. “I’ll be in sickbay,” he mumbled in Uhura’s direction, got up from his chair, and briefly touched Bones’ elbow, before he left for the turbolift. McCoy followed, slowly.
When the doors had closed, Kirk turned towards his CMO, a troubled expression on his face.
“Jim!” McCoy interrupted, “I don’t know if you heard me correctly, but we’re going to need another sample!”
Kirk frowned. McCoy was in his element, in full blown doctor’s mode. He tended to distract himself by burrying himself in his work. He actually functioned best under stress.
“I heard you Bones. But, about Velal, …,” he tried again.
“Jim! I won’t use stem cells of a genetically deficient binary cloned girl who’s been dead for 110 years! For all we know, it could be Spock’s death. I refuse to believe there are no other living half- Vulcans out there!”
Kirk bit his lower lip. Bones was fully concentrated on finding a vaccine to that virus right now, and he probably should not distract him now. He’d learn soon enough.
“Did Spock never donate stem cells himself?” he asked, having made a decision.
They stepped out of the turbolift.
“No. An oversight, I must admit. Especially considering just how rare they are.”
“Don’t worry, Bones. I’m sure you’ll find something,” Kirk said, greeting Nurse Chapel with a polite nod as they entered sickbay.
She stood at the entrance, as if she’d been expecting them, holding a container.
“Nurse?” McCoy prompted.
She glanced at Kirk, before she spoke: “Doctor, I’ve found a sample of human-Romulan stem cells in our own cryobank. It was deposited there by Doctor Piper six years ago.” With that she handed him the container.
McCoy frowned. “I checked the databanks myself. Nothing was there.”
“Yes, it was listed under a wrong entry,” she paused, “embryonic stem cells.”
“Embryonic?” he reached out to take the container, studying it. Why had it been listed under a wrong entry? He’d heard his predessor, Dr. Piper, had been a thorough, and very professional stickler for order in his sickbay. And how had Chapel found the sample?
“Can you use that?” Kirk asked, pulling him out of his thoughts.
“Uh, I’ll have to check the sample. How did Piper get it his hands on it?”
“The Doxia four incident?” Kirk asked, and Chapel nodded, somewhat reluctantly.
“Yes. There was a pregnant woman among the survivors. Dr Piper couldn’t save her, or the baby. I remembered, and looked for the sample specifically.”
McCoy shrugged. “Well, I’ve got work to do,” he started for his laboratory, when Kirk held him back by the shoulder.
“Bones, when you’re finished with this, ...”
“I’ll let you now when Spock’s awake.”
“No. I mean, of course. But I need to talk to you. At 1900 hours in my quarters?”
McCoy just shrugged, already turning away. “Sure.”
At exactly 1900 hours the door chime to Kirk’s quarters sounded. He hadn’t looked forward to this, he had to admit. And yet, he felt it was happening too late.
As the door opened, it revealed McCoy standing in the hallway, at attention. Kirk’s heart sank.
“Hello Bones,” he greeted, reaching out to pull him into his quarters by his arm. Normally, Bones didn’t need an invitation to come in, or make himself comfortable in his quarters, but now, he just stood there stiffly, in the middle of the room, not blinking an eye.
“Please, sit down!”
“I’d rather stand, captain,” McCoy said, looking Kirk into the face coldly.
Kirk opted to stand also. “How’s Spock?” he started, already knowing the answer. Chapel had informed him that the vaccine had worked, and Spock had woken up an hour ago, showing no signs of problems. Kirk hadn’t moved then. He needed to talk to Bones alone, before he explained everything to Spock who would be demanding a report. He wondered how much Bones had filled him in, how much Bones actually knew.
“Resting. He’ll be fit for duty by tomorrow. ’Til then he should be kept under observation in sickbay, captain.”
Kirk sighed. The rank he was so proud of always stung when it was used by his friend Bones to address him.
“Physically alright as well, psychologically it’s a different matter. He’s confused, doesn’t know where he is, hasn’t been himself for years now.”
“We should be back at Fvillhail Three in a few hours. I’m sure Lena Tarses will be very grateful.”
“You made her a widow.”
“Grateful to you,” Kirk clarified.
“Is that all?”
“Bones. I’m sorry. Please, I really am.”
McCoy’s eyes flashed with anger. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It was one of Velal’s conditions. She knew Tamulok was still near and following us, wanting to take revenge on her. But she said, she would not help us catch Tamulok, if I told you that ...”
“She was pregnant with my son?”
There was a pause. “Son?” Kirk whispered, realizing how much this was hurting his friend.
“What? I’m a doctor. Didn’t you think I’d thouroughly check the sample that so miraculously turned up in my sickbay? Do you think I’m totally stupid? I only had to count 2 and 2 together. I really did not need to check the DNA before I knew that half of it was identical to mine. Chapel broke into tears, telling me she’d had strict orders from you not to tell me anything.”
“Velal insisted, Bones. We needed to catch Tamulok. And I could understand her. It would have unnecessarily hurt you ...”
"Hurt me? Do you honestly think that this is any better? Knowing that Velal and my son were killed by y..,” he stopped himself in time.
Kirk released a breath.
“Velal’s not dead, Bones,” he said, sitting down and hoping Bones would follow his example.
He didn’t. “She isn’t? But the shuttle, we all saw it explode!”
“We all saw an explosion,” Kirk reminded him, “an unsually big and bright explosion. It was a trick, Bones. A plan to enable her to escape, without Starfleet Intelligence wanting to search the whole galaxy for her afterwards. Our sensors weren’t working in the nebula, so we only had to create a visual distraction long enough for her to go to warp and escape.”
“And you couldn’t have told me that either? You let me think she was dead, and later ...”
“I wanted to, Bones, in the turbolift. But you wouldn’t let me.”
McCoy’s shoulders sagged a little, he still didn’t make any efforts to sit down, though. “The baby is alright?”
“Yes. Velal extracted the sample herself. Tough woman, she is, Bones. Chapel assissted her, and was totally in disagreement with all of this, but she confirmed the embryo wasn’t harmed by the procedure.”
McCoy just stood there, staring into the direction of Kirk’s shelves that were cluttered with memorabilia.
“Neither the equipment nor Nurse Chapel’s expertise are enough to be sure. Even you must know that.”
“Velal was sure, Bones. And she served as a doctor on a Vulcan ship. She does not want to harm the baby any more than you do.”
“And you thought it okay for her to disappear like that without telling me? Where is she going? Back to Romulus? Will I meet my son in battle one day, a young Romulan legionnaire sitting at the helm of a Romulan Warbird, or on a planet near the neutral zone, holding a disruptor in my face?”
Kirk had also thought about that. What would happen to Velal’s child when she went back to Romulus? Would he grow up, learning to think of his father and the rest of the human race as enemies? He doubted it. Velal had collaborated with them. And she’d definitely felt something for Bones. However, the Romulan society would not share this sympathy. He was sure the boy would not have an easy life growing up as a half-breed on Romulus. But maybe he and his mother would be able to change their way of thinking just a bit. Who knew?
“Would you rather he grew up in a Starfleet prison camp?” Kirk said defensively.
It was the wrong thing to say.
McCoy kicked at the chair he’d refused to acknowledge all this time, and it almost toppled over.
“I’d rather he grew up knowing his father was not a dirty naked mole rat, an enemy, a rapist.”
“Bones ...” Kirk was up, startled by McCoy’s violent outbreak against his furniture, holding out the palms of his hands, “Velal would not ...”
“No? How do you know? Won’t she think it’s best for him, just like she thought it was best for me to not know about his existence at all? Growing up half-human in a Romulan society, how do you think that is? I know Spock didn’t have an easy childhood, still has problems with his two halves, and he’s got two parents who watched out for him. He grew up on Vulcan with people who believe in IDIC. On Romulus, they’ll resent hybrids, especially half-humans.”
“Velal’s a Tal Shiar agent. She’s in a high position, and she’ll be able to protect her child.”
“You don’t understand, do you? He’s not only her child. What a greedy thing to do from her,” McCoy whispered to something on Kirk’s shelf, “he’ll have her ears, but my eyes.”
Kirk groaned. “God, Bones. You’re only hurting yourself with ...”
“I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” McCoy turned towards him, speaking very quietly, now. “You’ll never understand. You’re happy with the fact that your own son is growing up without knowing you even exist. That way there’s no trouble for you, nothing to get in the way of your career.”
McCoy couldn’t have hurt him worse had he rammed a red hot poker into his right eye. He blanched, shocked and hurt by McCoy’s words. Bones had meant to hurt him, but didn’t really mean what he’d said, a logical voice at the back of his head told him, but it didn’t stop him from getting up from his chair in a rush, launching himself towards his CMO furiously, hollering: “That’s enough! You have no right t...”
The door chime sounded innocently, stopping him, bringing him back to reality. McCoy was still standing at the spot he had been standing on since he’d entered. Kirk had to give him credit for it. Fearless as ever, and fuming himself. He looked about ready to take a swing at him.
Kirk took a step back, clenching his fists. Had he really been ready to punch Bones in the face?
“Come,” he said, and they both turned to see who it was.
“Good evening, captain, doctor,” Spock said, politely standing at the door.
“Spock! What part of “Stay in sickbay for observation” didn’t you understand?” McCoy addressed the Vulcan.
“I understood, doctor. However, I decided to disregard your advice in order to come here. Judging from the noise I’ve just heard through the closed door, I believe it was ... a good idea.”
They both stared at Spock for a moment. Then made room for him to enter.
When the door had closed, Spock briefly took in the chair, standing at an odd angle in the middle of the room, and straightened it out immediately.
“Spock! Now you know how I feel, when the two of you are at it,” Kirk said, smiling slighty, winking at McCoy.
"Feel, captain?” Spock returned.
“You know what I mean. … You alright?”
“A bit nauseous, as always when the doctor’s potions are involved.”
The comment was meant to make McCoy react, but wasn’t successful.
Kirk and Spock exchanged a look.
“Mr Spock, how much do you know about … our current situation?” Kirk ventured. Spock was smart, he’d probably figured out the whole scenario already, which would be the reason why he was here now. That Vulcan was more empathic than he let on.
“Ms Chapel filled me in. I understand you managed to eliminate Commander Tamulok with the help of Velal who is on her way to Meriah Five in our shuttlecraft.”
McCoy turned to Spock abruptly. “What? Why Meriah?”
“I believe to eliminate this virus once and for all,” Spock replied.
At McCoy’s questioning look, Kirk nodded.
“Chapel pulled the formula for the vaccine from your computer while you were on your way to the bridge. She gave it to Velal and showed her off to the shuttlebay.”
“A well-thought-out plan, captain,” Spock complimented, “although this virus has proved to be not only a cruel, inhumane instrument to oppress the largest part of the Meriahni people, but also a dangerous threat towards the Romulan and the Vulcan governments, the Federation would never have approved of a mission to annihiliate it.”
“The Prime Directive, Spock. It’s a principle that’s become unhandy on several occasions,” Kirk nodded.
“But it’s still the core principle of the Federation. The Romulan Empire, however, does not honour the Prime Directive, nor does the Tal Shiar.”
“A deity has nothing to do with that, captain. The Romulans are a ruthless race, only concerned for … ”
“Spock!” McCoy interrupted him, “Did you mean to say, Velal is out there, trying to smuggle the vaccine to Meriah to completely eradicate that virus?”
“Yes, doctor. She has your formula and everything she needs to create enough serum to produce a vaccine. She can easily place it in the water, the air, or some other element that is consumed by everyone on the planet.”
“Everything she needs,” McCoy snorted, “You mean, including a half-Romulan, half-Human embryo.”
“It is the key element to ensure success, yes, doctor. It also helped me, and Louis Tarses.”
“He’s not an it! And not a key-element to anything,” McCoy shouted at the Vulcan, but it was Kirk he was mad at, as he suddenly remembered.
He’d almost had Kirk so far that he would have hit him in the face. And McCoy would have hit back, with pleasure. In the end he would have ended up looking worse than Kirk, he was sure, but it would have been worth the pain.
“Bones, I know you’re mad at me …,” Kirk started.
“Forget it,” McCoy spit out, “It’s not your fault. You don’t understand.”
“Do you really think that of me?”
McCoy felt his anger recede, just a notch. But the truth was, to find out he would have another child, another that he had no chance of ever seeing grow up, one that would never even be able to talk to him, one that would probably believe that he was an evil person, an enemy, had hurt him so deeply that he had wanted to scream, smash something, hit his own head against a wall. His life seemed to be a total failure to him, and it was easier to blame someone else than to admit it was his own fault.
“Didn’t you leave David with Carol? Promised her to not interfere? And you were happy to do so,” he said, knowing it was unfair, knowing he was hurting his friend, and knowing he would once again hate himself for it later.
Kirk had himself under control this time, as he answered: “Yes, yes, and no. And you know that.”
“It’s what you said.”
“What do you mean?” Kirk raised his voice again.
Spock stepped in the way. “Doctor, didn’t you choose to leave your daughter behind on earth, to stay out of her life, and retreat, as far away from her as possible, into space?”
Kirk looked at Spock in shock. Damn his arrogant logic.
Bones stood still, staring at them. Then, without a word, he turned around, leaving.
“Bones!” Kirk shouted after him, but it was too late. Some crewmen were rounding the corner and already started gaping at them. Kirk pushed Spock inside his quarters again, and let the doors close.
“That was a great help, Spock!” Kirk turned to his first officer in anger.
“I’m afraid, it wasn’t,” Spock inclined his head, “I’m not … very well trained in these affairs. They’re more … the doctor’s field.”
Kirk sagged against the wall. There seemed to have been taken a chink out of his “secret weapon”.
“That would not help people who are already infected,” McCoy turned towards her, “on the contrary, it would worsen their condition. When I injected myself with that attenuated version of the virus, I had been on the planet for only a very short period of time, not enough to already be infected.”
“That virus you injected yourself with, was not as attenuated as you had hoped, Bones. You were showing symptoms..”