Wrath (Latin, ira), also known as "rage", may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Wrath, in its purest form, presents with self-destructiveness, violence, and hate that may provoke feuds that can go on for centuries. Wrath may persist long after the person who did another a grievous wrong is dead. Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways, including impatience, revenge, and vigilantism. Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest, although one can of course be wrathful for selfish reasons, such as jealousy, (closely related to the sin of envy).(Wikipedia)
Starbase Three. McCoy wandered around the medical section of the base, absently rubbing his thumb against his pinky where his ring had once been. It had been on Starbase Three where he'd given his ring to that Trill merchant, fully expecting to get it back when returning his ship to him.
Well, there had been no ship to return. Tamulok had stolen it and he, or maybe some Orion terrorist, had rigged it to let it explode in the bowels of the Columbia, killing 93 people, and injuring many more. Some of them were being treated here on the base.
"Leonard!" a familiar voice sounded from behind, and he turned, smiling joyfully.
"Jabilo," he took the hand of the black man before him, shaking it, and catching himself as he found he was checking the man's pupils.
"Long time no see," the other man greeted, blinking with each eye individually, for he had noticed McCoy's examination of his pupils.
McCoy laughed. "Right. Sorry. You look much better than the last time I saw you. Hope you're gonna be out if here soon?"
"Well, I'm hoping to join you again on your voyage home. I'm excited to see what Starfleet thought up for us as a welcome."
McCoy snorted. "I'm not."
"Because it'll involve dress-uniform?" M'Benga asked, grinning at his boss.
"Well, … what will you do after our well deserved receptions, the parades, the gala dinners, official banquets, ...?"
McCoy groaned, he didn't plan on attending any of those. Maybe he could fake an illness? He was a doctor, he knew how to be convincing with things like that. "Vacation."
"Yeah, me too. Meet my folks. But it'll be only 3 weeks until my next assignment, here on Starbase Three."
"You're staying here?" McCoy asked, surprised.
"I impressed them as a patient. Now they're giving me a chance to impress them as a doctor, as well," he chuckled, "what about you, any idea where you will be working for the next 5 years?"
McCoy hestitated. Actually, he had, but he didn't really want to talk about it now.
"I guess the captain will want to set sail for the next mission as soon as possible," M'Benga continued, noticing McCoy's reluctance to answer.
"Yes, well. He's earned himself quite a reputation. I believe Starfleet Command wants him out there again." They'd be stupid if they didn't. No one was better at galloping around the galaxy than Jim Kirk, and to keep him away from a ship, strand him somewhere behind a desk, would not only be cruel, but also a waste of resources.
"Hm. So, I guess you and Spock are also going to be out there again, soon," McCoy's assisstant CMO concluded, eyeing the other man carefully.
"What makes you think that?" he asked, startled. Why did everyone believe that he, Kirk, and Spock were joined at the hip?
"Both of you have earned that reputation with him. Starfleet knows that. And Captain Kirk knows that, too. He wouldn't want to go without you."
McCoy shrugged. "You're exaggerating. And by the way, not everyone just does what he wants."
M'Benga looked at him, puzzled for a moment. "Everything okay?"
"I'm just tired of being in space. I think staying on earth for a while would be a good thing. I used to have a family, you know? I want to be near them, again."
"I thought you had been near your family, these past five years," M'Benga said, meaning it. He knew McCoy had a daughter, an ex-wife, and probably a bunch of other relatives back on earth, but he also knew that the bond between their captain, first officer and CMO was far stronger than a bond between mere friends.
"Are you suggesting that I would consider that pointed-eared …," McCoy started, but stopped mid-sentence. Whenever he made a joke about Spock's ears or his green blood these days, he had to think about his unborn son who would have the same anatomic characteristics as Spock. And he wouldn't want him to be talked about like that. Even though Spock had brought up Joanna in that unfortunate conversation in Kirk's quarters the other day, it wasn't him McCoy was holding a grudge against, it was Jim. And even that was receding already.
"Look, Jabilo. I admit they're good friends, maybe the best I ever had, but … it is starting to become unhealthy. For all of us. It's time to move on."
M'Benga would have commented, but a Vulcan in uniform was approaching. He looked familiar, though he couldn't quite place him anywhere.
"May I help you?" he addressed him, and the Vulcan acknowledged him with the quirk of an eyebrow before turning to McCoy.
"I need to talk to Dr McCoy," he answered.
"Captain Saluk," McCoy greeted, catching himself before extending his hand, "I did not realize the P'Jem was currently docked on Starbase Three."
"She is not," Saluk answered coolly, "my first officer is in command of the P'Jem, while I conduct the investigation about the Romulan spy within my crew."
"Velal." McCoy said. He needed to say her name, she was more to him than 'a Romulan spy'.
"We have reason to believe that that's her real name."
McCoy sighed. He was surprised that Saluk had been entrusted with the investigation. He'd been Velal's, or better T'Plok's captain. He'd been fooled by her for months and he was everything but impartial. Well, … Vulcans.
He cleared his throat. "How can I help you?"
The Vulcan looked at him with a clear mixture of uncertainty and skepticism which made McCoy wonder if Spock's ever-present impassive expression was actually more Vulcan than a true Vulcan's. It was a common phenomenon among people who lived outside their usual cultural environment for a longer period of time. Also starship crews tended to follow traditions and customs more seriously than the people on their home planet. However, Saluk had always seemed very Vulcan-like to him. Of course, when he'd last seen him he had not been paying too much attention. Also, Saluk had been very enthusiastic, for a Vulcan, about that legendary planet they'd thought they'd found. It had been McCoy who had brought their attention to it. And now, as it had turned out, it was all a hoax. It must have been embarrassing, even for a Vulcan, to admit to have fallen for that. Maybe Saluk was blaming him?
After a moment, the Vulcan captain seemed to straighten his posture, as if he'd made up his mind about something, and addressed McCoy with an intense gaze:
"If you'll meet me on the observation deck at 1500 hours, doctor, I've got a message for you, from Elizabeth Tucker's cousin."
McCoy started, but with a sideways glance at M'Benga who seemed very interested in the conversation, he quickly hid his surprise. Elizabeth Tucker had been the name of the human-Vulcan infant whose stem cells the P'Jem had been prepared to deliver to McCoy. He'd wanted to use these cells that had been stored in the cryo bank for over 100 years, to create an antidote against the mutation of the Meriah virus. It had turned out to be unnecessary, though, since he'd found another sample of hybrid stem cells. They'd belonged to his own unborn son, as he had found out. McCoy unconsciosly clenched his fist. What exactly did Saluk mean by Elizabeth Tucker's cousin? Was there an actual cousin of hers still alive?
Saluk held his gaze. "What is the matter, Doctor? I've been told humans, and you especially, indulge in speaking figuratively. There are no cousins of Elizabeth Tucker."
"Then who are you talking about?" McCoy snapped.
"I hear, it's a boy ... with blue eyes." The Vulcan's dark eyes bored into him know, it almost hurt.
He couldn't breathe. Did the Vulcan allude to his and Velal's unborn son? But, how could he know about him?
Before McCoy could reply, Saluk slightly bowed his head, turned, and walked away, leaving M'Benga and McCoy standing in the corridor.
"Sometimes I think I understand Vulcan manners. I've lived with them for many months, you know? But then ..." M'Benga commented as Saluk left.
"Yes," McCoy answered absently, checking the time. He had 30 minutes until he'd have to meet Saluk. So, after another brief exchange with his colleague, he quickly excused himself, not quite managing to hide that his hands were shaking.
"Searching for a present to impress a lady, Captain Kirk?" the keeper of a jeweler's shop asked Kirk who had been strolling around the shops for a while now, keeping a look-out for a special ring.
Jim pressed his lips into a thin line. It hadn't been the first time he'd been asked that or a similar question today, and it was getting on his nerves. He wore civilian clothes, however, most people recognised him, and these shop keepers seemed to think all he could ever be interested in was some bibelot to impress a lady, or worse, to get her into bed. They'd wanted him to buy some very expensive earrings that once belonged to some Orion princess, a baroque flacon of an Andorian perfume, the Risan statue of some fertility god, or, and that had been almost insulting, a little bottle of a Betazoid lovepotion that "Will make you irresistible to the fairer sex, Captain Kirk", as if he needed it. Bones would find this extremely funny, he thought and suddenly was glad that he was not here with him. He hadn't talked to him in three days now. Well, that certainly hadn't been his fault. After the first day, Kirk had made several attempts to get in touch, to apologize, or at least to give Bones a chance to insult him further, but no, the doctor had just ignored his calls.
"Captain." Spock, who had suddenly appeared beside the shop keeper, said. He could put dozens of meanings into that one word, right now it was meant as a greeting and something else, a warning? Something definitely needed his attention, or at least Spock thought so. Kirk sighed.
"No thank you, I'm just looking around," he replied sweetly. As the shop keeper retreated with a bow, he turned towards his first officer.
He was surprised to see Spock here. The Enterprise was docked at the base for some repairs and a short break for the crew. Everyone was glad to have some spare time before their big return to Earth. Everyone but Spock, of course. Spock had insisted on staying aboard, ... on duty.
"Spock. If you have finally decided to take some time off, why are you still wearing your uniform?" Kirk asked, although he didn't really want to hear the answer. It was either that Spock was not off duty, but here on an official matter, or … well, that was probably it.
"I'm not entirely off duty, captain."
"Not entirely?" Kirk repeated, "which part of you is, and which isn't?"
Spock had turned his back towards the shops and was now leading them away into a less frequented part of the shoppimg area. "I have signed myself off duty, since I did not want my concerns to be recorded in the logbook, however, I'm not here to endulge in recreative activities."
That caught Kirk's interest. Spock was playing secret? Something was up.
"Okay, you have got my attention, Spock. What's wrong?"
"Have you seen Dr McCoy today?" Spock answered with a counter question.
Kirk sighed. "No, Spock. The last time I saw him was three days ago."
Spock nodded. "In the last three days, the doctor has made certain to avoid any encounter with me, as well."
"Why are you asking?"
"Nurse Chapel contacted me at 1600 hours. She said, she had reasonable concerns about Dr McCoy's safety."
Kirk frowned. "Why?"
"According to Miss Chapel, Captain Saluk of the P'Jem has contacted him."
"So?" Kirk found that strange. What did the Vulcan want from McCoy? But what was more, why would he pose a threat?
"Miss Chapel could not go into further details, however, she was very convincing that Captain Saluk is acting on other interests than those of the United Federation of Planets."
"Other interests, what interests? And what do you mean, she could not go into further details? What does she know about it?"
"I apologize, captain, but I gave her my word that I would not discuss this with you for more than is neccessary. Doctor McCoy is not answering his communicator."
Kirk felt irritation at his first officer well up inside him. He'd thought that especially after the Talos Four affair during their mission's first year, it had become clear to Spock that it was neither good nor neccessary to have secrets before him.
"He's probably just ignoring your call," Kirk grumbled, but took out his own communicator.
"Kirk to Enterprise."
"Uhura here, sir."
"Lieutenant, please call Dr. McCoy and have him report to sickbay immediately."
Uhura rolled her eyes. It was no secret that their captain and CMO were at odds at the moment. This was probably the reason why she had to call the doctor, instead of the captain calling McCoy directly. She felt like a kid mediating between its mom and dad in a quarrel.
"I have located the doctor's communicator signal on the observation deck," Spock said after Uhura had asked them to wait.
"Then let's go," Kirk said, leading the way, "why didn't you just go there? He's probably just brooding and refusing to answer your call."
"If he is, he's disregarding regulations."
"McCoy disregarding regulations? Unheard of," Kirk snapped, finding the turbo lifts that would take them to the observation deck.
"Uhura to Captain Kirk," the communications officer reported when they were in the lift.
"Sir, he's not answering. His communicator signal comes from the observation deck."
"Thanks lieutenant, we're already on our way," Kirk answered, and as an afterthought, he added: "why are you on your post? Did you not take some time off?"
"I came back at 1400 hours and relieved Marissa, so she could go. A starbase is not really my idea of a place to go to on shore leave, sir."
"Sorry to hear that. Did you not leave with Christine Chapel?"
"Yes. She went off to meet someone after we had lunch together. So I decided I could as well go back to my post. It's only a few days until we reach Earth, anyway."
Kirk smiled meaningfully at Spock. He'd find out about Chapel's secret one way or the other. "You're missing your station already?"
"I think I'm not the only one who'll be missing my chair on the bridge, captain."
They'd reached the observation deck. "Guess not, lieutenant. Kirk out."
As they stepped out of the lift, they looked around to search for the doctor. Most people were standing in small groups around the bar tables, talking, some were standing at the huge windows in pairs, looking out into space. A family was watching the docking maneuver of a small ship, another group of people was sitting at the bar playing some sort of card game. But they could not spot McCoy anywhere.
"Over here, captain," Spock said, leading them away to a flower tub behind a pillar. It contained an ordinary looking fern. Spock reached under it and retrieved the communicator.
"Well, there's your signal, Spock," Kirk said, taking a look around, concerned now. He'd have believed Bones not answering his or Spock's calls, but he did not believe he would throw away his communicator like that, only because he wanted to be left alone.
"So it seems, captain," Spock conceded, examining the discarded communicator.
"Wait, what's this?" Kirk asked, reaching under the plant again, retrieving a silver object.
"It's the casing of a medical device," Spock said, examining the object Kirk had handed him, "if I'm correct, it belonged to an anabolic protoplaser."
"What's it used for?" Kirk asked, only mildly impressed. He had long gotten used to the fact that his first officer was a man of great knowledge in many fields.
"It's used to repair torn veins and arteries by uniting the nerves and muscle fibers," Spock provided, turning the silver casing in his fingers, before continuing, "it works on the basis of Nieminen rays, that's why the casing is relatively strong."
"And now, it's missing." Kirk finished. Nieminen rays were harmless, but they could disturb other instruments and computers … and they could be traced over a relatively long distance, and left marks for a relatively long time. Kirk frowned. Could Bones have discarded the casing of the device he was carrying, so that they would be able to find him? If that was the case, he really was in trouble.
Kirk took out his communicator again to call Enterprise. They needed to scan the area, get a security team.
He was stopped by Spock.
"Captain. I see you have come to the same conclusion as I, that the doctor took the device to make it possible for us to trace him."
"Yes?" Kirk did not understand why Spock wanted to stop him from informing Enterprise that their good doctor was missing, but he followed Spock who had his tricorder out and was already scanning for said rays, and, finding something, lead the way away from the bar and into the docking area. In this section the smaller ships, merchant vessels, and shuttles were docked. The bigger starships, like Enterprise, were docked several decks above and on the other side of the starbase.
"It seems the doctor boarded a ship," Spock announced, "from the decay of the radiation I'd estimate, 55 minutes ago."
Boarded a ship? Why? And to where? Kirk turned around exasperatedly, flipping open his communicator, only to be halted by Spock once again.
"I suggest we not inform anyone else."
"And why, the hell, not?" Kirk was losing patience fast.
"As I hinted before, there may be people involved, as for example Captain Saluk, who have access to our communication and shiplogs that do not serve the interests of the Federation."
"Whose interests do THEY serve then, SPOCK?" Kirk shouted under his breath, in order not to catch any attention, "More Romulans?"
"Look, I don't care. One of my officers is missing. I will go and get him back."
"Of course, captain. However, it would be best if we were not detected by the one we're trying to catch."
"Bones?" Kirk was confused now.
"Captain Saluk. I believe he and the doctor are on their way to Meriah Five."
That blasted planet. Kirk cursed the day he sat foot on it for the second time in a week.
"Not the Enterprise then, and no logs. A shuttle will suffice?" he'd give up on trying to pry the truth out of Spock, for now.
"I would suggest a non-Federation vessel. One of these merchant ships …," Spock indicated the ships under them.
It was all Kirk could do to not explode. "Either you tell me NOW what you know, or we're going to take a shuttle. I'm not going to bargain with one of those shady merchants for his ship, while Bones is being kidnapped by a Vulcan double agent."
"As far as I'm informed, he's not a double agent, captain."
Kirk gave Spock a dirty look.
Spock inclined his head. "A shuttle will suffice."
McCoy fingered his communicator while he waited for the turbo lift to come. He should call Jim. This whole affair was becoming a bit too mysterious, and he could use some support, someone to consult. Jim was the only one, except for Spock, and maybe Nurse Chapel, who knew the truth about Velal and her pregnancy, and now Saluk had hinted that he knew all about it as well. However, he was still mad at Jim, and he was not quite ready to forget that. He could call Spock, but Spock would only talk about logic, and advise him to do something he didn't want to do, and then he'd tell Jim anyway. And Nurse Chapel? Well, that was unfair. It would put her in a difficult situation, and he did not want her to become involved in this. Before he could come to a decision, the turbo lift doors opened, and as they did, he looked straight into Saluk's eyes.
"Doctor." The Vulcan bowed his head slightly, staring at him.
Weird, McCoy thought, but stepped in, returning the gesture.
When the doors had closed, McCoy waited for the whirring sound of the lift as it moved upwards, but it never came. It didn't move.
"Aww, hell," he turned around, looking for the communication console. Stuck in an elevator, with a Vulcan, why did he attract so much trouble these days?
"There is no malfunction, doctor. I just wanted to talk to you in a private environment."
McCoy stopped in mid-movement, surprised. Very mysterious. He grimaced, turning towards the captain. "If you weren't a Vulcan, I'd think you were flirting with me."
"I assure you, I'm not interested in a romantic involvement with you," Saluk replied and McCoy almost laughed, but the Vulcan went on straight up: "I'm here to take you to Meriah Five."
McCoy stiffened. I should have called Jim, was his first thought. "Ah. And why would I want to go there?"
"Unfortunately,Velal has failed to create the antidote that is needed to eradicate the Meriah virus. Your expertise is needed."
McCoy did not blink. Maybe this was some sort of trick? "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Doctor," Saluk stepped closer, and McCoy fought to not flash back to Delihan forcing himself into his mind, "I belong to a group of people that operates in the interest of the Federation, but without the restraints that the Federation policy sometimes dictates."
"Now, that's an oxymoron if I ever heard one. How can you act in the Federation's interests if you're not honoring the Federation's laws?" McCoy wasn't buying it, yet.
"It is our belief, as it is yours, Captain Kirk's, and Velal's, that the virus on Meriah Five does not only enable the Meriahni people to sustain a society built on highly disputable priniciples, but also a great danger to the balance of power in this sector. If the virus falls into the hands of the Klingons, the Orions, or another enemy of the Federation, or even if it only falls into the hands of a common criminal, the consequences could be disastrous. Therefore, we have decided to support Velal in her effort to destroy it, especially since Starfleet Command stays inactive, invoking the Prime Directive."
"All I hear is "we". Who exactly is this "we"?"
"Our group operates under the name of Section 31."
"Never heard of it."
"Of course not. Secret organisations do not advertise in the monthly medical journal, doctor."
McCoy grimaced, was that Vulcan trying to be funny? "Are you telling me that you're a member of this super secret group of agents and you commanded a ship that had been infiltrated by the Romulans? That doesn't sound very professional to me."
"Not everything is as it seems to you, doctor." Saluk said, raising an eyebrow more arrogantly than Spock ever could.
McCoy was losing his patience quickly. "Now what's that supposed to mean?" he snapped, "I still don't know what you want from me."
"I assumed you were able to conclude that from the information I had given you," Saluk answered, and before McCoy could react he continued: "The antidote Velal has created does not have the desired effect, and she is in need of your expertise to succeed in her mission. I will take you to Meriah Five, so you can assist her."
"Velal is dead," McCoy answered, not only because he was not sure that the story about this Section 31 was true, but also because he thought Saluk could be a bit more polite.
"She may soon be," the Vulcan conceded, "if her mission does not succeed soon, she will be detected by the Meriahni government. They will kill her, or make her a slave. Of course that would mean the same for the fate of your unborn son."
McCoy swallowed, remembering the Prolia prison complex and the misery of the slaves he'd met there. It was one thing to leave Velal to that sort of fate. She was an agent of the Tal Shiar, she'd chosen a life full of risk. But an innocent child? His own child? However, how could he be sure Saluk was telling the truth?
"How did you get this information?"
"Not for me."
"It should be. We have our informants and we need to protect them. But you don't need to know the source of the information, you only need to know that it's true."
"And how do I know that?"
"You have to trust me."
McCoy laughed mirthlessly. "That's a bit scant, don't you think?"
"No. You must remember, I am a Vulcan. I don't lie."
"I imagine that's sort of a handicap for a secret agent," McCoy mumbled, "Just tell me, why do I have to go to Meriah personally? I could just create the antidote here, and you could give it to Velal."
"If that were possible, I would have suggested so. Bringing you to Meriah Five is necessary, since you need to be on site to investigate the reason why the antidote does not work. The number of possible factors is simply too high."
It made sense. Still, … "I can't just disappear. I'm chief medical officer of the Enterprise. Sooner or later someone will notice I'm gone."
"That is true. However, no one will know where you are, and I have made arrangements."
"Again, you do not need to know any details. We will not be followed or found. When our mission is accomplished, you will return."
"And what do I tell the people who ask me where I was?" McCoy started to think it was quite possible he'd not return.
"If you want to tell them the truth, you may do so. However, it is unlikely that anyone will believe you."
"I see," McCoy nodded, "You'll make sure of that, right?"
"We havc ways to protect ourselves."
McCoy pressed his lips together. He really should have called Jim.
It was true what Saluk had said, he did believe that this virus needed to be eliminated, if only to stop the slavery of over three quarters of the Meriahni people. Thinking that his own son could end up as one of them, broke his heart. In the last three days he had tried to come to terms with the fact that his son would never see him, would probably grow up believing humans were his enemies, and would maybe someday go into battle against the Federation. To think that he maybe would never even consciously see the sun in the sky, make friends with other children, or just know his own name, was simply something he could not endure.
"How do we travel?" he asked after a pause. He intended to do what Saluk wanted him to, namely go back to Meriah Five, a planet he had hoped to never set foot on again – twice. Still he wanted Jim to know where he was, just in case. He did not know what Saluk had planned, but he knew Jim would be looking for him, whatever pack of lies he'd be told.
"My ship is docked on deck 9."
"I'll need some equipment."
Saluk motioned to the bag at his side. "All you need is in here."
McCoy rolled his eyes. "How do you know? Let me take a look!"
He grabbed the bag from Saluk, opened it and sifted through the things. He had an idea, and hoped that he'd find what he needed.
He was lucky, and let the desired instrument glide into his pocket.
"We will now go up to the observation deck, where you will discard your communicator without attracting attention. Then we will proveed to the the docking station and get onto my ship," Saluk said, he was not paying much attention to what McCoy's hands were doing.
"Okay," McCoy nodded. He hoped Jim would be looking for him soon. The radiation would not last forever. If Jim was holding a grudge against him, this wouldn't work. Jim is quite forgiving, he thought, he's not like me.
Kirk was sitting in a conference room, looking at Admiral Westervliet's face on a monitor once again. The last time this had occured was when he'd had to report the assault on his CMO's mind. And although this time Admiral Westervliet had contacted him, and although this time, this had nothing to do with Bones, Kirk had a sick feeling when he thought about the safety of his friend.
"It seems to be inconsistent behaviour of Prime Minister Coltan, admiral. He made it clear that he does not wish the Federation to interfere with the politics of his planet. He was very displeased when … Enterprise returned to gather more information about Tamulok's whereabouts." Spock who sat beside Kirk interjected the discussion.
Kirk glanced at his first officer from the side. Starfleet Command did not know the whole story about the Prolia incident. In fact, Coltan was furious, since Kirk had lied to him about their motives to visit Delihan in prison, and then he and Bones had practically instigated a riot which the Meriahni government had put down by setting the whole complex on fire. They had been ready to accept killing two Starfleet officers with it. That Coltan would now ask for their help, and for the Enterprise specifically, seemed odd at best. To Kirk it sounded more like a trap, however, he could not quite explain this to the admiral.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures, Commander, even on Meriah Five. Coltan explained that their doctors are helpless against the spreading disease. It has already incapacitated or killed enough people to paralyze their administration, infrastructure, even food production. They need our help."
Kirk chewed on the inside of his lip. He didn't buy it for a second. Still, accepting the mission would give him the possibility to take Enterprise to Meriah Five instead of just a shuttle. When he and Spock had arrived on board, intending to take a shuttle to go after Bones and Captain Saluk, Uhura had informed Kirk that the admiral had called and expected to be contacted by him immediately.
"Sir, food production works only because of a disease. The Meriah virus controls the slaves that work in agriculture. Do you expect us to help restore this system?"
"I expect your medical team to find a cure for the current disease that's raging on Meriah Five, a disease that is killing people. You will also help the Meriahns to restore their infrastructure and a sufficient food production. You will do this according to the priniciples and beliefs of the Federation and that means you will not tolerate the enslavement of people. However, you must respect Meriahni customs. I'm not saying it will be easy Jim."
Kirk smiled grimly. "It never is, is it?"
Westervliet ignored the huff. "See it as a chance for you and your ship to shine one last time, before you return."
"I think the Enterpise and her crew have earned enough laurels to last a lifetime, admiral," Kirk answered quickly, he hated when Starfleet Command played down their missions and accomplishments. These past five years the admiralty had often expected them to risk their lives just because of an idea they'd had in a conference room. And it had been the Enterprise who had brought each of these missions to success. They'd always congratulated him afterwards, acknowledged his list of casualties with a hollow sympathy, and had left him to write the letters to parents, spouses, sons and daughters. Sometimes they'd given him or one of his officers a commendation, and then they'd come up with another assignment which Kirk had taken without voicing any concerns. He was Captain Kirk, he did not believe in capitulating before risky circumstances. Still, he'd more than once thought there should be more experienced officers at Starfleet Operations, people who actually knew how it was to be out here.
Westervliet straightened before the monitor. "No one is diminishing your or your crew's achievements. And Captain, each and every officer and crewman on your ship has taken a vow to honor the Federation's laws and priniciples, and to defend it, if necessary with his or her life. Now, I don't want to be overly dramatic, but Meriah Five is still in a strategical important location. The Klingons have not given us any reason to believe they have lost interest in it, especially since the discovery of that virus. You will understand that the dangerous potential of this virus gives us more than a bit of concern. If we can get Coltan on our side, the Federation will not only have another important member, but we'd also have control of that virus and will be able to prevent its misuse."
"I think the virus has been misused all along."
"I must remind you of the Prime Directive, captain. Meriah has lived in peace for much longer than Earth has. You won't go there to judge them, but your medical department will do its best to fight this disease. Now. your CMO has had some … unfortunate experiences with the Meriahns. Will that be a problem?"
It wouldn't be if he was here, Kirk thought, and glanced at Spock to see his first officer subtly shake is head.
"No sir. We'll all do or best," Kirk said quickly, wanting to end this conversation.
"I didn't expect anything else from you," Westervliet smiled, satisfied, "Good luck, Westervliet out."
Good luck? Kirk thought annoyed. Luck did not have anything to do with their good reputation, at least not much. When the monitor had turned black, Kirk whirled around, even more annoyed at his first officer.
"Spock. You have some explaining to do."
The Vulcan nodded almost imperceptibly and ever so slightly pressed his lips together, it was hardly visible, but to Kirk who knew this face better than his own, it was clear: Spock was squirming.
"Captain, I believe, just like you, that this could be a trap set up by Coltan."
"I don't care. What I care about is this: Who is Captain Saluk?"
Spock gave in; "As far as my information goes, Captain Saluk is the captain of the Vulcan starship P'Jem. He is also supposedly a member of an autonomous intelligence organization that operates outside of the Federation's knowledge. Their goal is to protect the worlds of the Federation, and thus their organization is similar to Starfleet Intelligence. However, they do not comply to the Prime Directive or any other Federation principle if they think it hinders their operations."
Kirk stared at the Vulcan. If such an organization existed, it would be quite unsettling. The Prime Directive and the Federation's charter existed for a reason. Still, during the past five years, he had often found the principles and laws of the Federation a bit … restricting.
"And what does Saluk want from McCoy?" Kirk had other questions of course, but he also knew his Vulcan friend had given his word to someone who probably knew more. He did not have to be a genius to guess who this someone might be. Still, right now, his task was not to expose a secret organization within the Federation, but all he wanted was to be prepared when they returned to Meriah Five, and to retrieve their CMO.
"I do not know. However, from the circumstances, I can deduce that Saluk wants Doctor McCoy to destroy the Meriah virus. It poses a great threat to the Federation."
Kirk sighed. It did, that's why he had helped Velal to escape. "And why couldn't we tell Admiral Westervliet that McCoy was missing?"
"He and the rest of Starfleet Command would have asked further questions, captain. The organization, which Saluk is a member of, is very powerful. In order to protect themselves, they would have done everything to keep their existence a secret. That includes discrediting or even murdering Doctor McCoy, you, me, or anyone else who is in their way."
"Your informant said McCoy was in danger. Do you think Saluk would kill Bones after the virus is eliminated?"
"That is difficult to say. I'm unfamiliar with the organization's customs. However, since Saluk is also a Vulcan and presumably honors Surak's teachings, I doubt he'd do anything to unnecessarily harm the doctor."
"But you cannot be certain. After all, being part of a dubious secret organization that operates outside the law seems rather un-Vulcan to me. "
"Not entirely un-Vulcan, captain. You forget that the Vulcan species has founded the Tal Shiar on Romulus, and established a society based on slavery on Meriah Five."
"But they left your homeplanet thousands of years ago and they certainly don't honor Surak. If you want to put them in relation, they are Vulcan apostates at best. Anyway, what troubles me is that Saluk might find it necessary to kill McCoy. You know Bones, he has a penchant for disgruntling pointed-ears."
"Indeed," Spock agreed, "however, I suggest we be extremely careful. Coltan is not only expecting us now, I blieve he is also deceiving us about his motives to call us."
"I agree, Spock. Still, while we were talking to Admiral Westervliet, it occurred to me, that this disease Westervliet was talking about, might actually be the cure of a disease. What if Velal has succeeded in delivering the antigen, the slaves all were cured, and now refuse to work?"
"It would certainly result in chaos for the Meriahni society, similar to what Westervliet described. However, if that were the case, I doubt Saluk would have kidnapped McCoy to elminate what has already been eliminated."
"Maybe he didn't know?"
Kirk slapped his hand on the top of the table, then pressed the comm button. "This is Kirk. Uhura, is everyone accounted for?"
"Almost. Everyone's on board again, Captain. Everyone except Doctor McCoy."
"Thank you, Lieutenant, he's here with us. Prepare to leave Starbase Three, I'll be up shortly."
With that he closed the comm line and looked at his first officer who had lifted a questioning eyebrow.
"Well, if we must keep this a secret I can't communicate over the comm line that our CMO has been abducted by an organization called Section 31, can I?"
"Won't anyone notice the doctor's absence?"
"Why? It's not unusual for him to bury himself in his work for a few days. When we arrive at Meriah Five, we'll get him back on board and no one will have noticed he was ever gone."
"What if we fail to retrieve the doctor?"
Kirk smiled and slapped Spock on the shoulder. "Be serious, Spock."
"I am." But Kirk did not hear Spock's retort, for he was out of the conference room already.
"So … how did you join Area 51?" McCoy asked, after having tapped all of Mozart's symphony in G-minor on his armrest for the fourth time. Saluk was not very communicative. In fact, they hadn't talked at all since they'd left the starbase, and that had been 3 hours ago.
"I suggest you rest, Doctor McCoy. We don't know what awaits us when we meet my contact on Meriah Five."
McCoy drew in a breath to calm himself. Spock would have started a lecture about how McCoy was confusing the secret organization Section 31 with an urban legend from the 20th century. And then he would have said something about Spock not answering the question. Spock would have replied that he could not answer the question since one could not join an urban legend, or that McCoy should learn to listen more carefully, or whatever. Anyway, it would have been a thousand per cent more entertaining to have Spock here with him than Saluk. After a brief moment in which he mentally kicked himself for missing Spock, yes Spock, he turned towards the Vulcan, somewhat relieved that the man had spoken, but then again, unnerved by what he had said.
"I am rested. I don't know about Vulcans, but we humans cannot rest ahead of time. After a while resting becomes exhausting."
"That is unfortunate," Saluk simply said and continued to remain quiet.
McCoy sighed and then wiped some fluff from the sleeve of his shirt, the armrest, and his pants, before he continued with Mozart's symphony No. 40.
"Is there a particular reason for why you are making that noise?" Saluk asked after another minute.
McCoy smiled triumphantly. This Vulcan wasn't completely without nerves. "It's just a piece of music I like," he said.
"Mozart's symphony No. 40 in G-minor, K. 550."
Never underestimate a Vulcan, McCoy thought, aloud he said: "That's right. It's a great piece of music, don't ya think?"
He turned, suprised. "That it is. I'm surprised you've picked that up. I mean, you're a Vulcan, you don't … have emotions." McCoy trailed off a bit, looking out of the window. For some reason he had suddenly lost interest in this conversation. Now, had it been Spock beside him, of course, he'd be all excited. Damn, what is it with me, that I always have to argue with Spock?
"I was quoting a critic. And I must object. We do have emotions, we only surpress them."
"Right. Because otherwise you'd be killing each other."
"That is a crude oversimplification, however, in essence, it is correct. Vulcan emotions are much stronger, Vulcan minds many times more passionate than a human's. Therefore, our emotions pose a much higher danger than yours, and must be contained. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of letting our emotions surface. It is due to the surpression of emotion that our civilization is still thriving."
"I don't know about that. The Romulans are closely related to Vulcans. They show emotions and their civilization has grown to an empire. Or the Meriahns. They're also Vulcan descendants, and have lived in peace for millennia."
"I am surprised that you would call these civilizations "thriving", doctor. However, instead of logic, they've established other principles to ensure the survival of their societies. Romulans are violent, but disciplined. They are organized in a strict hierarchy, and their totalitarian government can only keep up this discipline, because of their powerful secret service. The vast majority of the Meriahns are forced to surpress their emotions by this virus."
McCoy nodded absently. "Yes. So, once this virus is eliminated, the Meriahni people will start killing each other until their civilization has perished."
"That is a possibility," Saluk agreed coldly.
McCoy turned to him again angrily. "You're willing to just accept that?"
"The fate of the Meriahns is not my priority."
"It should be. You're about to manipulate their way of life, you should take responsibility."
"I did not invent a cure to that virus, doctor, you did. Also, I believe you find the Meriahni way of life abhorring and … inhumane. I am sure the Federation will send a peacekeeping force if Prime Minister Coltan, or the new leader of Meriah Five turns to them for help."
"And if he or she doesn't?" McCoy balled his fist. Of course he did not approve of the Meriahni system of enslaving the majority of their people. It was an unspeakable cruelty he had witnessed himself in the Prolia prison. Still, he shuddered at the thought of leaving Meriah to itself, and it certainly had not been his idea to bring the antidote to Meriah, but Jim's, Velal's, and now Section 31's. Still, ... he had created the stuff. Did that not make him responsible?
"If you consider the alternative, doctor, leaving the virus on the planet so every criminal can help him- or herself to it, you'll find that this is the better option."
"I wonder," McCoy just mumbled, then changed the subject. "Where are we going to meet your contactperson?"
"In the ruins of the Prolia prison."
McCoy started. "Why there?" He didn't like the prospect of returning to that place.
"Since the area has been abandoned, surveillance has not been re-established there. If we want to go undetected, the former Prolia prison is the best choice."
It made sense. Still McCoy did not like it, but since he did not like anything about this mission, it made no difference. So when their shuttle landed in the middle of ash and debris, he silently endured the feelings of guilt that crept up inside him. The Meriahni government had burnt the whole complex, yes. They had killed thousands of their own people, still they had done so, because he and Jim had snooped around. Had they stayed away, this place would still be intact.
"Hands up," a stooped down figure in a grey robe that melted into the background of dust and burnt material suddenly appeared before them. McCoy wondered if that was Saluk's contactperson, but he was aiming a Federation standard issue phaser at them, so it did not seem likely.
"Who are you?" Saluk asked him, unimpressed.
"I'm Zan, the next prime minister of Meriah," he pulled off the hood with one hand, revealing his gaunt face. The pointed ears seemed too big for his head, and the pale eyes looked at them a little oafishly. He looked like a child with the face of a grandfather.
"Interesting," Saluk simply commented, McCoy rolled his eyes.
Zan tried to straighten his posture with the result of almost falling over, but he caught himself in time, and after a moment of thinking, he addressed them: "You see that piece of wall there?" Zan pointed to a structure that somewhat stood out of the rest of the debris, "There's my headquarters. Go there, slowly. If you try something, I'll shoot," Zan did not wait for them to answer, but as if to prove he meant what he said, he shot at a rock to Saluk's feet, which immediately glowed in bright red and then just vanished. The phaser was obvioulsy set to kill.
"Fascinating," McCoy commented ironically with an accusing sideway glance at Saluk, as they started to slowly find their way through the rubble.
At the foot of the wall there was a relatively intact stairwell which they descended at phaser point, then opened a heavy metal door which miraculously had withstood the fire, and entered a small room that contained a table, a chair and a cupboard. A curtain hang at the back of the room, probably before an opening to another. Some instruments, a microscope, a portable incubator, a medical tricorder, and some test tubes were set up on the table, and seemed to have been in use very recently.
As they stood with their backs to the table, waiting for the Meriahn to make the next move, McCoy fingered the protoplaser in his pocket, wondering if the Nieminen rays could be detected clearly or if all that debris would refract the rays. This Zan guy did not seem too much of a threat for some reason, even though he was still holding that phaser, however, he was starting to feel even worse about this whole affair than at the beginning.
"I'm the next prime minister of Meriah," Zan brought McCoy out of his reverie. The Meriahn tried his best to stand straight, failing miserably. His back just would not cooperate, his legs were also sort of bent. It was probably a result of lifelong hard work in a stooped position, paired with malnutrition, McCoy assumed.
"Yes, you are repeating yourself," Saluk answered coldly.
"You're not surprised?" Zan aksed, disappointed.
"That you are repeating yourself? No. You seem to be a bit imbecile."
McCoy twitched. He had come to the same conclusion, however, he would never have stated it so openly in front of Zan himself. Not only was the man Saluk had called an imbecile aiming a phaser at them, but he was also probably a former slave who had flayed his body in the dilithium mine, who only recently had regained his self, finding that he had lost decades of his life. From the way he acted and talked, McCoy deduced Zan had become a slave as a child. The thought of the soul of a child suddenly waking up in the body of an old man, branded by a life of hard work and deprivation, the thought alone cut into his heart. And here, a living, breathing being who was probably experiencing just that was standing in front of him. Why could Saluk not give him the satisfaction of showing some interest, of listening to what he had to say?
Zan stamped his foot, and balled his fists. Had he forgotten he was holding a phaser? He wildly waved about with it making a noise like a cornered cat.