They are not parking, doctor, their impulse drive is active every 242 seconds. That’s how we know they’re there, Spock thought, but didn’t voice it. Instead: “That is curious.”
Kirk looked at Scotty. “If you had to hide a cloaked ship in a planet’s orbit, Mr. Scott, where would you go?”
“Well, it would depend on what I wanted to do. If I just wanted to stay hidden, I also wouldn’t activate my impulse drive every 242 seconds, sir. If they’d just let it run, there wouldn’t have been any disturbances for us to detect.”
“Theories?” Kirk asked.
“Maybe they have a problem with their impulse engines. If the injectors are jammed, for example, they cannot let the engines run for longer than a few seconds at a time. Or they’d risk overheating,” Scott speculated.
“Captain, I believe I have a theory on why they are “parking” under or above us,” Spock said.
“If they beam something or someone on board, our sensors and the sensors on Meriah Five will detect it, unless they do it at the exact same time as we.”
“You mean they cloaked their transporter beam, by fooling the sensors that it belonged to us?”
“Yes, captain. When the doctor, you, and I were beamed from the planet’s surface, the cloaked ship could have transported something or someone up from the surface at the exact moment, without being detected.”
“Delihan,” Kirk concluded for himself.
“Then, why are they still here?” Uhura asked.
“Spock, can you detect where exactly they are now?”
“Negative, captain. My instruments only confirm Mr. Chekov’s “flickers”.”
Enough of this. Kirk had to do something, or he’d start screaming at someone again.
“Right. Mr. Scott, maximum power to the shields and weapons, Red Alert.”
The crew reacted immediately, red lights flashed, everyone tensed.
“Jim, we’re in orbit of a neutral planet. You even suspect their Secretary of Defense on board. You cannot blast them out of the sky!” McCoy warned.
“Watch me,“ Kirk replied dangerously, though more to himself, than to anyone else.
McCoy had a strange feeling. When Kirk had spoken that Meriahn’s name, Spock had shifted his gaze to him and scrutinzed him, for the second time in - what - five minutes? He saw Delihan’s face before his mind’s eyes now, very close, almost too intimate. But why? He had only talked to him briefly during the meeting. It had turned out he was a doctor of medicine also, although not practising at the moment.
“Uhura, open all channels, make them hear this!”
“All frequencies open, sir.”
“This is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise. You have been detected. Decloak immediately, or we will open fire.”
“Secretary Delihan, you are accused of assaulting a member of the United Federation of Planets. Surrender yourself, or we will fire.”
Assault? McCoy thought he remembered something from the planet. Somebody had attacked him from behind, gagging him, and tying his hands behind his back. My god, how could he have forgotten that? And why hadn’t anyone told him about this?
“Captain!” Chekov exclaimed, although his captain, as everyone else on the bridge, saw the ship that was decloaking just a few meters under them. It was so close that they seemed to be able to touch it.
“Whoa, Spock, that’s no Klingon Bird of Prey!” Captain Kirk seemed surprised, but not shocked.
“No sir, it’s a Romulan scout, they’re hailing us!” Uhura said.
“Put them through.”
The screen changed to show a Romulan commander in his seat, with Delihan standing beside him, looking frightened.
“Captain Kirk, this is Commander Tamulok. You are in neutral territory. This is no violation of our treaties with the Federation.”
Kirk grimaced. “I don’t care. You have a criminal on board. You will surrender to us, or we will fire.”
“Captain Kirk, not only your Federation, but also my government will disapprove strongly ...”
There he was, Delihan. He remembered his face. But it had been different then. Violent, and ... remorseless. It was as if an electric shock was going through him, he went rigid.
Kirk cut off Delihan’s warning, and let his anger take over. “I don’t care a shit about what your government, or the Federation says, Delihan. Right now, I want nothing more than to blast your cowardly ass out of the sky. You should be thankful that I give you the chance to surrender. One hour, or you will blown to pieces.”
Kirk made a sign to cut off communication and the screen went back to showing the Romulan ship, close but probably also helpless.
He had wanted something. Whatever it had been, he had taken it and destroyed everything else. McCoy remembered hands on his face, pressing unrelentingly, hurting him, burning him. Heat, it had been hot, searing hot fingers had burnt into his skin, and always asking a question that he could not understand. He had fought, had tried to close his mind to the intruder, tried to recite stupid nursery rhymes he remembered from his childhood, or from singing them to his own little girl. But then suddenly Delihan had been there, too. Laughing, pointing a finger, snatching his baby-girl from him and strangling her with his bare hands. He could see her little face turning blue, her eyes bulging. Delihan had thrown her away. Like a rag doll, no like a dead fish. And he’d let it happen.
Everything went black around him, he was dimly aware of hands steadying him. Someone was saying something about a coward. Calling him a coward. He felt his knees give.
Kirk exhaled. He had seen fear on that scumbag’s face, good. Suddenly he realized Spock was standing beside him, steadying Bones who looked ready to pass out. Shit. He should have made sure he didn’t stay on the bridge. He stood up, took Bones from Spock, then maneuvered him into the captain’s chair.
“Easy, Bones. Please, just breathe,” he tried to soothe.
Icy blue eyes suddenly flashed at him.
“You! Why didn’t you tell me what happened on Meriah Five?”
“I ... Bones, I wanted to.”
“Really? That’s why you acted so strangly. Didn’t you think I had a right to know? It’s my body and my damned mind!”
“I know. I really wanted to tell you. It’s just ... I didn’t want to see you hurt.”
“Oh, so now you’re all caring. You were afraid, that’s all. You’re just a coward.”
The words came flowing out of his mouth. He seemed to have no control over them. Jim just took the verbal blow, waiting, looking at him with understanding and commiserative eyes. Somehow that made him even more furious, but he bit his lip.
“Captain, Prime Minister Coltan with an urgent call,” Uhura again.
McCoy was faintly aware of being the main attraction on the bridge at the moment, well he and that Romulan scout. Bits and tatters of images flashed again before his eyes and he couldn’t stop himself from being drawn into that turmoil that once had been his mind. He looked at the floor, not seeing it, but succeeding in appearing a bit calmer.
“What?” Kirk barked, standing in front of his chair, blocking Coltan’s view of Bones who was trembling with his eyes fixed on the floor.
“Captain, this is Coltan. You are in Meriahni territory. We have detected the alien ship in our orbit. Secretary of Defense Delihan is on that vessel. If you destroy it, you will kill a Meriahni citizen, this could mean war between the Federation and Meriah.”
“Prime Minister Coltan,” Kirk said coldly, “your Secretary of Defense is a criminal. He has assaulted a citizen of the United Federation of Planets. He also collaborates with the Romulan Empire, our enemy. He has stolen and sold sensitive information, that makes him our enemy, as well. If you still insist on protecting him, we have no choice but to declare war.”
Kirk knew he was overstepping his authority big time, but he suspected Delihan to listen in on their communication, and he needed to be convincing.
Coltan was full of fear when he attempted to warn Kirk: “You must not fire, captain. There will be consequences that both of us would regret.” The line was cut off.
Sensitive information? What had he told him? He couldn’t remember. Could it be, that there was going to be a war, just because he hadn’t been able to keep some secret information to himself?
“Jim, …,” he started.
“What is it, Bones?”
Spock observed Kirk’s expression change from cold and unrelenting to caring and sympathetic. Emotions, in human beings, they could change so swiftly, from one extreme to the other, within only a second, Spock mused with wonder.
“Why, what ... I don’t remember. What did he want from me?”
“That is what Starfleet wants to know als,” Kirk said quietly, feeling sick.
“Bones, whatever it was that Delihan ... stole, it could be used to attack the Federation.”
“God, Jim. I don’t remember, sorry.” He closed his eyes, trying to recall something.
There was only Delihan, laughing, leafing through a scrap book he had had as a boy, where he’d collected all kinds of treasures, sports cards, newspaper articles, pictures of more or less naked actresses and models, photographs, a letter he’d received from Gemma, a girl in his class and the first girl he’d ever kissed. Delihan took it apart one by one, painfully slow at first, then he spit on it and balled it all up to throw it into the fire. He tried to get it out, but the heat was too much. He hissed, when he burnt his fingers.
Somebody pushed a cup of water into his hand. Cool water, he downed it all at once in an attempt to eliminate the fire.
“Doctor, you won’t be able to remember by yourself. They ordered me to help you.”
It was Spock. He remembered him in the botanical gardens, saying that no one was going to hurt him.
"Who ordered you to do what?”
“Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that a healing mind-meld is the recommended therapy here.”
Yes, they’d all been behind some strange succulents, on the ground. He had been hurting. So much.
“Therapy?“ McCoy echoed, feeling the hands on him again, intruding, wanting access to places where they had no right to be, it was his mind, he needed to regain control. “I know, what you want. Westervliet ordered you to find out what Delihan wanted, right? Well, guess what, Jim, you’re not going to get it. I have rights, you know?”
“Doctor, I’m afraid, they seem to believe that in this case, the good of the many outweighs the good of the one.”
“Please, Bones. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
“Harder than ...?” He couldn’t believe it. Personal rights are personal rights, you can’t flush them down the toilet whenever they become a little inconvenient.
He was back on that damned planet, hurting and scared out of his wits. Jim was there making him repeat something.
“Please, Bones. It is for your own good.”
Something snapped. He felt pure rage well up inside him, spilling over.
“BULLSHIT. You are a damned liar, Jim. You say, this is for my own good, but in fact you only want to satisfy Admiral Westervliet. Didn’t you make me repeat that this was not my fault? Well, you lied again. If this is not my fault, then why do you want to punish me by making your first officer, that mind sucking leech, hurt me again?”
Kirk’s face had lost all color. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out, except for his name. “Bones, ...”
He already regretted what he’d said, but not enough to give in. “I won’t accept it,” he said, looking Jim into the eyes, expecting to find anger or at least annoyance there, only he didn’t.
“Okay,” was all Kirk said.
Spock was hovering nearby, his face impassive, as always. McCoy waited for him to comment. Nothing. Jeez, he’d called Jim a liar and a coward, had irrationally sweared and screamed and had behaved absolutely illogically (he knew they were right, with the therapy and all), but still, both, Jim and Spock had let him win. Maybe they needed some therapy as well.
“I …,” he began, not sure how he was going to finish that sentence.
It was just like in the last painful days of his marriage. They had screamed at each other, wanting to hurt, and succeeding. He’d been sorry, wanted to apologize, but there’d been no words.
Luckily Uhura interrupted: “Admiral Westervliet, sir.”
“Tell him I don’t have time for him right now. We’re in a critical situation with some Romulans,” Kirk snapped.
He was right in the middle of a fight with Jocelyn again. Only this time he didn’t feel the rage he’d felt then, only guilt. He could see himself and his wife screaming at each other, watched by their daughter who was crying. Then accusing him. Why did you do this, Daddy? Why didn’t you ever think about me? Didn’t you love me enough?
He couldn’t breathe. He felt light-headed and tried to put his head between his knees, bile was rising up, but he could swallow it again. Then he saw Delihan, only it wasn’t Delihan, it was himself, with Delihan’s face, tugging at Jo while Jocelyn was pulling at her from her other side. She screamed, and with a sound that he’d never forget in his life, his little girl was ripped in two. There was blood everywhere, and Delihan was laughing. He heard a terrible retching sound and other commotion around him.
Hands were on him, he wanted them to go away. There was just so much blood. He could taste bile at the back of his throat. He tried to breathe, but it resulted in a terrible cough, burning his throat.
Then, suddenly he was cold, terribly cold, and tired, before everything went dark.
He was in the turbo lift, he could hear the humming noise, it was calming. He was still cold, but cold was better than burning, or vomiting, he decided. So there was an improvement.
As opened his eyes he found himself staring at the golden Starfleet emblem on a golden background. Or yellow. He’d always wondered why they called that hideous color of the bridge crew’s uniform gold. It was a dirty and ugly yellow. He wasn’t vain or anything, but still he was happy that he could wear blue.
That emblem kind of looked like an arrow, he thought. A shiver went through him, an icicle, that’s what it looked like, cold and sharp, and dangerous. He stopped himself; better not think of anything like that. He concentrated on the sounds around him. There was the sound of the turbo lift, the sound of the Enterprise’s engines, that he normally didn’t hear anymore, and there was a regular thumping against his left ear.
That was nice, regular was good, it gave him something to focus on. He tried to count the thumps, somehow thinking they were too fast, although he didn’t know why. How am I supposed to know how fast they should be? In his head, he could hear himself arguing with somebody.
- ”You’re a doctor, are you not?”
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
- “I must know! Tell me!”
"I don’t know. It sounds alright.”
- “That’s not the answer to my question.”
"What is your question?”
- “How can you be so dumb? I need the answer!”
"An apple in the morning - doctor’s warning.”
- “You’re not cooperating. It’s your own fault.”
There was a sudden sharp pain under his right eye. He drew in a breath suddenly, more out of surprise than out of pain. The rhythm of that noise stepped up, someone was also saying something and he felt himself being shifted. Wait, what’s happening?
- “I will get what I want.” The other voice became louder.
"Roast apple at night - starves the doctor outright.”
- “You asked for it. You derserve no better.”
That voice in his head suddenly became very real, it became a dark figure standing beside him. He couldn’t see its face, but saw a long, shining and very sharp looking icicle in its raised hand.
"Eat an apple going to bed - knock the doctor on the head.”
He pressed his eyelids together so that he wouldn’t have to see, what he knew was coming. First he felt a rush of air and then that icicle was rammed into his right eye. There was a burning pain at first, then cold. Icy cold. Somebody let out a scream.
My god - shut up!
He was moving, or rather, being moved. The light around him changed. It was quite dark now, and warm also, warmer than on the bridge or in the turbo lift. The noise to his left had stopped, he missed it and opened his eyes again to search for it. There was only very soft light in the room and he was lying on a bed. Jim was there also, sitting on the bed with him, talking to him. He could hear Jim calling him by the nickname he once had given him.
Sorry Jim, I promise to listen to you, later. I just have to sleep for a while, I think.
He closed his eyes. It would have felt all calming and nice and cosy if not for some annoying wetness that had somehow appeared on his face and made him feel cold again. He opened his eyes once more and saw Jim reaching out a hand towards his face.
He stopped breathing. No, please don’t!
But Jim only wiped at the wet under his eye, and made it all better, actually.
“-lly, Bones, it is like paradise. You know, white sands and turquoise water. Always sunshine and blue skies with fluffy white clouds ... And then there are the Risan women, of course.”
“Risa?” Bones rasped. What happened to my voice?
Jim smiled, one of those first class charming smiles, he usually saved for the damsel in distress, but it was directed at him.
“Yeah. Or we could go to someplace back on earth. You know, I’ve been to hundreds of different planets, but I’ve actually never been to Yosemite.”
“Oh, Bones. I’ve heard it’s wonderful. We could go camping in the wilderness. With a campfire and all, toasting marshmellows, telling stories, or singing songs or - well, just having a good time …“.
“Jim, did I throw up on you?”
He is back with me. Jim almost cried in relief. “Yes, but you just returned the favor,” he said gently.
“Oh, right. I remember that …,” Bones’ eyes were drooping again.
“Bones, stay with us.” Jim took gently slapped his face, to regain his attention.
When Bones had had that ... break down, or whatever you wanted to call it, on the bridge, Spock had caught him, and held him up so that he wouldn’t suffocate on his own vomit.
Kirk had only registered how very wrong everything had suddenly become, when Bones had thrown up, screamed and whimpered all at once. He hadn’t been able to do anything then. Bones’ own mind was torturing him, his own private nightmare, from which there was no escape for Bones and to which Jim had no access to. Even if he torpedoed that scout ship with Delihan and the Romulans on it, it wouldn’t help Bones a bit. Jim hated feeling helpless, he hated it more than losing a fight, more than having to admit a defeat.
And he hated seeing Bones hurt so much. In part, he knew it was also his fault. Bones, ever the psychoanalyst, had spelled it out for him. Coward and liar. Jim was sure that McCoy had said it only because he was angry, hurting and scared, but in fact, he had been right. Of course, Kirk had been afraid of telling Bones what had happened on the planet. If he’d told him in sickbay, when he’d woken up, Bones wouldn’t have had that shock of remembering on the bridge, in front of the whole bridge crew.
Then, there was still that order from Admiral Westervliet. Of course ia meld was the recommended therapy, but it could only be therapy, if the patient didn’t reject the whole method, otherwise, it was a violation of personal rights, nothing less. Bones thought of it as punishment, well he couldn’t blame him. Sure as hell, Starfleet didn’t treat him as an innocent victim, although that’s what he was. Jim had made him repeat that down on the planet and - now look how I’m treating him. I won’t make him do something that he doesn’t want. Kirk decided for himself.
“I am here with you, Jim. In Spock’s quarters, right?” Bones said, opening his eyes again, for Jim’s sake, looking at the emblem on his chest.
“That is correct, doctor.” It was Spock who’d said it, Spock standing with his arms behind his back.
“Is the temperature comfortable for you?”
“It is actually, although I think normally I’d say it’s hot as hell in here," he said, trying to sound sane, healthy, and content.
“You are suffering from the aftereffects of a shock, doctor. That is why you feel cold.”
“Yes, thank you, Spock. I know. I am a doctor, remember?”
“Are you alright?”
Jim wasn’t sure what to do next. He’d given the Romulans one hour. They still had over 30 minutes, but he needed to be on the bridge then. Bones needed help and he needed his friends, and most of all he needed time.
“Right now? Yeah. But ... I don’t think I can get around this mind-meld, or can I, Spock?” he looked up at the Vulcan.
“Doctor, I’m ready when you are. At the present moment, I think you aren’t, therefore, I can wait.”
“But Spock, Starfleet Command ordered you!”
“Yes. I believe the correct human expression would be: To hell with Starfleet Command.”
McCoy let his mouth fall open. I never thought I’d hear it. But he sobered quickly. If Spock didn’t comply, then he would get in trouble. And Jim also.
“But I thought Admiral Westervliet, ...” He looked at Jim for help. But found him just nodding thoughtfully.
“Forget Westervliet, Bones. Please, just think of yourself for once,” he said, smiling gently.
God, and he’d called him a coward and a liar. And he’d called Spock, what? A mind sucking leech. He had got himself mind raped and now they had to pay the price. Why had he insisted on walking in the opposite direction of Spock? He had just been in one of his stupid, irrational moods, again. If he had stayed with Spock, nothing would have happened.
“I’m sorry, I wandered off, Spock. That stupid cactus wasn’t interesting at all, I was just being my usual illogical self.”
He looked at some shelves in Spock’s quarters, just a bit to the left of Spock’s face.
“Doctor, I believe we have established that none of this was your fault. If anything, I have to apologize for persuading you on the bridge, that the Meriahns are polite and friendly people. It seems that your human instinct was better than my judgement.”
There was something on the shelf that caught his attention. A skull? But not humanoid, it was some kind of cat, big cat, a lion? He suddenly remembered Spock’s mother saying he’d had a pet as a kid.
“Now, Spock, ... ” He suddenly forgot what he’d wanted to say. He shuddered as he saw that skull look at him with Delihan’s eyes staring out of its black holes above the sharp fangs in its mouth.
He breathed in sharply. No, no, no. This is not real. Think of something else. Focus on something. Like a sound. There had been a regular sound before.
“HEY, Bones! It’s alright. Nothing is here. You’re okay.” It was Jim again. He had pulled him up into a sitting position, with his back against the wall, and lightly slapped his face again. Why didn’t he stop? He must have done something really stupid for Jim to be slapping him like this.
“Jim, I ... I’m sorry,” was all he could say, before he came to his senses again. Jim wasn’t hitting him. What had he been thinking?
This had to stop. He couldn’t function this way.
“Quit apologizing, Bones,” Jim said, letting go of Bones’ face and taking his hand again, gently.
He looked unsure, hurt, scared even.
McCoy made a decision. It had to be done, whether he liked it, or not. It was the only therapy, and he couldn’t go on hurting everyone around him, endangering the whole damn galaxy, only because he was afraid. He knew, Jim would never hurt him. And he knew Spock would never deliberately do anything that would terrify him like this. Ever. He trusted them both. Even though Spock had done something, ... in the past, that ... NO! STOP IT, stop it, stop it! He silently screamed at his stupid mind, concentrating on Jim’s face in front of him.
This had to end. Whatever it took.
“Jim, IwantSpocktodothatmindmeldnow,” he said quickly, before his mind could play him another trick, before he could think of something that would delay the decision that he just had to make,
“You don’t have to, Bones. Really. I’ll think of something,” Jim said quickly.
“No, you don’t understand. I - I just want to have some control over my thoughts again, Jim. I - I c-can’t …”
He was beginning to panic, that animal’s head had become alive and was now taking a leap, aiming directly for Jim’s throat. He tackled Jim, trying to get him out of harm’s way, only Jim didn’t move. He just put his arms around him, saying something, calling him, while that thing drove its teeth into Jim’s neck and shoulder.
Then, there was that sound again. Muffled and regular. He could focus on it. It was a heartbeat. Too fast to be normal, but nothing serious, he decided.
“Bones?” Jim was looking down at him.
“Yes,“ he sobered, embarrassed. Had he really believed that Spock had a flying zombie-lion skull on his shelf? He swallowed his apology, then said as calmly as he could: “I don’t think I’d like to go on like this anymore. Please, Spock must do it now.”
“Are you not afraid anymore?”
“I am. But I’m more afraid of what will happen if I wait any longer.”
Jim nodded, then started to maneuver him into a sitting position again.
“No!” he protested, not really knowing how to explain that. Could he say that he wanted to stay cradled in Jim’s arms, so that he could hear his heartbeat which was kind of reassuring?
He didn’t have to. Jim just stopped in his movements and settled him back against his chest.
This was embarrassing as hell already and they hadn’t even started.
Spock sat on the edge of the bed now, looking McCoy into the eyes.
“Doctor, you can be assured, my only aim is to repair damage that Delihan caused to your mind.”
He just nodded. On the one side of his face he felt the fabric of Jim’s uniform, on the other he waited to feel hot fingers reaching into that messed up mind of his, fingers that wanted to help, but that would cause pain nonetheless.
Only the pain never came.
Jim sat in silence as he watched Spock remove his fingers from McCoy’s face and straighten himself. He didn’t look tired, as Kirk would have expected, he looked confused and angry, well for a Vulcan at least. He looked a bit disordered, that’s what it was. Bones was sleeping. He was actually sleeping quite peacefully, slumped in his arms.
“Spock?” Kirk prompted.
“The doctor is just resting. I believe he won’t wake up for approximately another hour.”
“Well, ... did it work?”
“Yes, captain. Of course, he will still have the unpleasant memories of the attack and the aftereffects, but he will have “control over his mind again,” just as he wished.”
Jim let Bones glide back onto the bed, then stood up to face Spock.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, captain. It was just very ... distressing to witness what Doctor McCoy went through. Secretary Delihan is not a practised telepath, that’s why he caused such extensive damage. I believe that he did not do that on purpose, he was only lacking the experience, and he was desperate himself.”
Kirk waited. Somehow he felt, that asking Spock about what it was that Delihan had wanted, was not appropriate at this moment.
Spock looked close to composed again when he resumed speaking. “Captain, Delihan wanted the cure for the Vulcan flu.”
Kirk raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Uncertain. However, I believe he has family on that Romulan ship.”
“That is highly unlikely. The Meriahn have had the politics of splendid isolation since they met alien races, they do not travel to other worlds.”
“He tried to “convince” Doctor McCoy to give him the information by activating memories of his own daughter, Joanna.”
Kirk looked at Spock in surprise. He didn’t think that Bones had ever told Spock about his daughter. It had taken Kirk a lot of prodding and a lot of whiskey to get Bones to tell him about her. Being forced to share his memories of her with a total stranger must have been very painful for Bones.
“Why didn’t he just give him the information, then? I mean, Bones would have been happy to help anyone who was suffering from a disease that he had a cure for. You know him, Spock, even if he didn’t have a cure, he’d work day and night until he’d find one. Meriahn, Klingon or Romulan, it wouldn’t matter. All they had to do was ask.”
“As I said, captain, Secretary Delihan was untrained. Doctor McCoy couldn’t possibly understand his “question”. He fought him, Jim. And quite effectively, as I may say. I do not think that Delihan got what he wanted.”
So your precious secrets were safe, Admiral, Kirk thought, noticing Spock was scrutinizing Bones’ sleeping form.
“What is it, Spock? There’s something you’re not telling me.” Kirk felt a bout of fear creep up inside of him. “Bones is going to be alright, isn’t he?”
“Captain, I discovered something that the doctor was hiding from me, and I believe from you also, deliberately.”
Kirk stared at Spock. Well, he’d figure that Bones wasn’t always telling them everything, all the time. For a man who always made him talk about his problems and feelings, he was sure close-lipped when it came to himself. “Surely, it is nothing of importance, Spock? Let him have his secrets.”
Spock nodded. “It is nothing that would risk the ship’s safety, I believe.”
“Well, then just let it rest.”
Spock nodded. Kirk took one last glance at his CMO, then looked at Spock.
“Stay with him, Spock. I’ll be on the bridge to solve our “situation” with the Romulans.”
The bridge was quiet, but there was an atmosphere of nervous tension, something that probably had to do with that Romulan scout on the screen, or the circumstances under which he, Spock, and Bones had left the bridge.
“Doctor McCoy is alright. He is now resting in Spock’s quarters,” he announced and immediately thought that that had sounded a bit strange. He smiled. He’d have to tell Bones about it one day, one day when he was in a good mood, ’cause he wouldn’t think it funny. But the crew needed some reassurance after that performance they had given them.
“Will he be okay, captain?” Uhura was looking at him with worry in her face.
Didn’t I just say that? he asked himself, but aloud he said: “Yes, Lieutenant. He’ll be his usual nosey self again soon. And I believe we’ll see him on the bridge again when that happens.”
He wasn’t so sure about the last part, though. As the ship’s doctor Bones had seen everyone of them at their worst, however, he acted strangely coy when it came to admitting to being sick himself. He probably felt terribly embarrassed by what had happened, and it was likely that he’d try to avoid meeting anyone from the bridge crew in the next weeks. He could be very persistent in his funny moods.
He felt the crew relax just a fraction. Well, now to my other friends - the Romulans.
“What about our shadow there?”
“Nothing, Captain. They’ve been sitting there quietly. The scans show, their impulse and warp drive to be defective, no weapons no shields,” Scotty provided.
“A sitting duck,” Chekov said.
Kirk nodded. “Quoting a Russian idiom again, Chekov?”
They all smiled and the tension abated just another notch.
“Captain, the Federation ship P’Jem is on its way to rendezvous with us in 1.5 hours.”
P’Jem? That sounded suspiciously Vulcan. So, Westervliet did not trust him to follow his orders.
“Uhura, how much more time do they have?” He pointed at the Romulans.
“Eight minutes, sir.”
“Okay. Hail them!”
The screen changed and showed the Romulan commander in his chair again, with Delihan beside him. Did they even move in the last 52 minutes? Kirk wondered.
“Captain Kirk, you are an impatient man,” Tamulok said.
“Commander Tamulok, are you in need of medical assistance?” Kirk ignored the unfriendly tone of the Romulan Commander, and instead smiled at him, in a quite arrogant way, he’d have to admit, but at least he was offering them help.
“I thought you wanted to blow us to pieces,” Tamulok answered.
“That was before I realized how helpless you actually are. Your crew is dying from the Vulcan flu? Well, we have the cure which we are willing to provide.”
Delihan’s features showed surprise, then hope. The Romulan commander didn’t even raise an eyebrow. “Why?”
“Federation doctors must swear an oath, stating they will provide medical help to everyone who requires it, no matter if they’re friend or foe. Did you know that, Delihan?” Kirk watched the Meriahn look at him in amazement.
“No,” he whispered quietly.
“We do not require your help,” Commander Tamulok said coldly.
“Good, then I was mistaken. You have ... four more minutes!”
Delihan seemed close to panic. “No, captain, wait!” he shouted.
The commander looked at Delihan in disgust, but didn’t say anything.
“What do you want?”
“Captain, we do have the ... Vulcan flu on board. It has already killed a third of the crew, including our doctor. The others are either sick or here on the bridge. We have not enough hands to keep up simple maintenance, that is why we currently have no weapons, no shields and no engines. Captain, we need your help.”
“Meriahn, you’re not speaking for the Romulan Empire,” the commander spit out at Delihan.
“No, Tamulok, I’m speaking for your crew. And for my daughter, captain.”
“Yes, captain, ten years ago the Romulans made contact with our world, they were the first aliens we ever encountered. However, the government decided that our people were not ready for a discovery like that, not yet. So we kept it a secret.”
“Why did you also keep it a secret from us?”
“The Romulans asked us to. They told us we were between the territories of two imperial powers, the Federation and the Klingons who waged war against each other. They said, if we gave them permission to make Meriah a strategic outpost for Romulus, allowing them to set up a listening post and functioning as a base for their spies, they’d help us to keep our independence against both, the Klingons and the Federation.”
“You have commited treason, Delihan,” the commander said coldly.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, Tamulok, my life’s forfeited. Captain, over the years, I got to know the Romulans very well, I found my wife on this very ship. We have a daughter, and both, my daughter and my wife are suffering from that disease for which we have no cure.”
Kirk began to understand. The Meriahn’s unusually stubborn resistance to agree to any treaties with the Federation suddenly made sense. The Romulans had probably told them all kinds of horror stories about the Federation. Romulan territory was too far away to make Meriah interesting for them, except for a good base to spy out the Klingon Empire and the Federation.
“For how long has this ship been in orbit of Meriah Five?” Kirk asked.
“They’ve been here for almost five years now.”
Kirk started. Five years? A cloaked ship in orbit of a planet with which the Federation had been trying to establish diplomatic relationships for more than three years now? And all the time it hadn’t been detected? He wondered what else it had done. It was unlikely that it hadn’t been cruising through Federation or Klingon territory at some point as well.
“Why do the Romulans not send help? Or a replacement? Five years away from Romulus is a long time, isn’t it?” Kirk tried to sound only mildly curious, but in fact, this was something they needed to know. How far into Federation territory do the Romulans operate? he asked himself.
Commander Tamulok quickly intervened: “Up until now, everything went perfectly.”
Kirk nodded. Or maybe the Romulans were otherwise engaged. Preparing for war? Unlikely, if they were, they wouldn’t leave their scout, which spied out the enemy, marooned in orbit of a far away planet like this.
“Captain, I didn’t mean to hurt Doctor McCoy. Since you know all about the disease, I gather that the Imaloh plant didn’t work,” Delihan went on.
“What do you mean, you “didn’t mean to hurt him”? What do you think tying him up and then assaulting his mind would do to him?”
“Captain, I had no choice. I’ve studied medicine, but couldn’t find a cure. The civilians on my world don’t know about the Romulans, so I couldn’t ask our other doctors. I knew Doctor McCoy must have a cure, but I couldn’t ask him, because then you would have found out about the Romulans and we’d violate our treaty with them. So I decided to try a mind-meld. The Imaloh plant that grows in our botanical gardens causes permanent amnesia in a Meriahn. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work on humans, or McCoy wouldn’t have remembered the ... meld.”
“All this, and then it didn’t work, did it?”
“I am untrained and didn’t expect him to fight me so fiercely.”
Kirk nodded. Bones had fought because he had thought that Delihan wanted something that he wasn’t allowed to have.
“Next time, Delihan, you just ASK! The Federation is not an imperial power, all members keep their independence.”
“Captain, I know this is no excuse, but I acted only to save my daughter. I know I will have to face charges on Meriah and I probably will never see my little girl again, but if this is the price to save her life, I’ll gladly pay it. I believe your doctor would have done the same.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Delihan!” Kirk understood this man more and more, and although he didn’t like it, he began to feel sympathy for him. However he was sure, that he was not at all like Bones. “Doctor McCoy would have done everything in his power to save your little girl if you had only asked! But if roles had been reversed, he wouldn’t have commited such an abhorrent crime to save his own daughter. He is just not capable of hurting someone like that.”
Delihan only bowed his head, his eyes closed.
“Commander Tamulok, we will send you the necessary information and a medical team to treat your sick. We are also willing to send and an engineering team on board your ship to help repair your engines,” Kirk said.
The Romulans, the Meriahn and the Terrans raised their eyebrows in surprise.
“We expect you to turn over Secretary Delihan to the Meriahni officials, he’ll face trial. And then ... we will be happy to escort your ship back to Romulan territory.”
Maybe they could do a little spying themselves that way. Also the Meriahns would learn from this, maybe they’d learn to trust the Federation. At least they had learned something about the Meriahns: they could lie after all and they weren’t as xenophobic as they had seemed to be. He also wondered what bad experiences they had made with alien races. Kirk was sure now, that Coltan had referred to the Romulans when he’d said that. This whole diplomatic mission had finally turned out better than he’d expected, he almost congratulated himself, but stopped. The price had been too high.
McCoy woke up because he was hot. He didn’t know what he’d dreamed about, which was a good sign he thought. He opened his eyes, seeing Spock standing before the bed, his arms behind his back, studying him.
“Spock! Stop that, you’re giving me the creeps!” he grumbled.
“I am merely making sure, that you are comfortable, doctor,” Spock replied.
“How? By staring at me like I’m some kind of science project gone wrong?”
“I was trying to determine if you needed the temperature adjusted.”
“And? What did you “determine”?”
“I am not sure. You seem to sweat. However, you were cold only a short time ago, so maybe the perspiration on your brow is just ...”
“Okay, okay, Spock! I am sweating. I should go to my quarters, where the temperature is more adequate for normal people, like me.”
“That may be wise.” Spock didn’t move and didn’t stop studying him.
“Could you specify your question?”
McCoy rolled his eyes and it made Spock strangely hap... It was agreeable, strangely so.
“I mean: Why are you looking at me like I’m a cow on roller-skates?”
“Spock! Are you enjoying this?”
“This? Really doctor, you need to be more precise when you speak. I am not a mind reader.”
He only realized what he’d said after he’d said it. That he’d let himself slip that way alarmed him. He needed to get himself under control again.
McCoy sat on the edge of the bed, looking a bit rumpled, and scrunched up his face. “Are you trying to be funny? Because if you are - you aren’t. And if you aren’t - what, are you talking about? You know what I mean. You are looking at me, as if you wanted to ask me a question.”
Spock sobered. “Yes, doctor. Indeed.” He was unsure about how to pursue this. He thought he needed to, on the other hand he wasn’t sure if this was going to bring up some long forgotten pain for the doctor again.
"What Spock? Did you turn into a speech-impaired robot? What is it that you want to ask me?”
“Our meld was successful,” he began.
McCoy blinked. “Yes, Spock. Although, you always say it is illogical: Thank you.”
Spock simply nodded. “The damage the Meriahn caused was extensive. I am sorry that you had to experience such pain, doctor.”
McCoy looked at him in surprise, gratitude and ... fear. “Spock, don’t. I just want to forget.”
“Doctor, I discovered Delihan wasn’t the only one who caused damage,” he said calmly.
McCoy looked at Spock in alarm. Oh, no. Not that. I thought that I was done with that. “Spock, are you refering to that mind-meld with the bearded Spock in the mirror universe?”
“Yes, doctor. He forced you, you didn’t consent. It must have been painful. Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped you then.”
McCoy let his shoulders sag in defeat. “Spock, I don’t know. But it wasn’t anything like this. I didn’t fight him all that much, and although he forced me, he was ... well it wasn’t too painful.”
“Why not?” Spock was curious, although he realized his question might have been too personal.
“It just wasn’t. Okay? I’ve dealt with it, there was no danger to the ship, or my patients. You didn’t even notice, did you?”
“No,” he admitted, “but what about yourself? Doctor, I wasn’t thinking about the ship’s safety, I was thinking about you. Please know, that I am always willing to help you deal with a problem of personal nature - if I am able to.”
McCoy felt a lump in his throat. “I know Spock. It’s just, I’m used to dealing with problems on my own, and it works too, most of the time.” He smiled a his friend. It was strange calling Spock a “friend”, even in his mind, though he knew that that’s what he was, one of the best he’d ever had, actually. “Does Jim know about this?”
“No. He told me to let you have your secrets.”
“See? You should listen to our captain!” McCoy smiled at Spock, to convince him that he was alright. “I’ll get going then. I think I could sleep for at least a week...,” he said, getting off the bed and walking somewhat stiffly towards the door.
Spock looked as if he was about to escort him to his quarters, but he decided against it.
“Sleep well, doctor.”
“So, Spock. Another mission accomplished,” Jim said happily to his first officer on the way to the bridge.
“What exactly did we accomplish?” Spock asked.
“Well, we discovered a secret Romulan outpost. And we may have gathered some other valuable information when our engineers come back. Scotty is eager to look at their engines actually. Maybe he’ll even get in a peek at their cloaking device.”
“Yes, but not impossible. The P’Jem will escort them back to Romulan territory. I’m curious about how the Romulans will show us their gratitude.”
“The Romulans are considered too arrogant to be grateful, captain.”
“Who knows? There’s a first time for everything.”
“What did Prime Minister Coltan say?” They had stepped into the turbo lift.
“He apologized. Once he found out, that Delihan had said everything, he seemed very relieved. The Klingons had begun to threaten Meriah, and Coltan was in doubt if the Romulans would really stay up to their word and defend Meriah against the Klingon Empire.”
“Right. So now they are looking at the Federation for help.”
“And we may be drawn into a war with the Klingon Empire?”
“Why Spock, you’re seeing it all so negatively. If the Klingons learn we have a treaty with Meriah they will refrain from attacking, that’s all.”
“Klingons seldomly refrain from attacking,” Spock said, determined to make this particular mission sound not so successful as the captain suggested.
“I know what you’re trying to do Spock. This mission surely wasn’t one I will think about with mirth, when I’m old and grey.”
They stepped onto the bridge, each taking their seats.
“What is it Spock?”
“Why did the Romulan Commander refuse your help even though it was clear to him that his ship and their problem had been discovered?”
“It was pride,” Uhura speculated, actually she did not care much.
“Or prejudice,” Spock provided.
“Now explain that!” Kirk prompted.
“We do not know what picture the Romulans have of the Federation. I think he couldn’t believe it possible that you would actually give them a cure, with the only reason being their need for it.”
“I think you have just been reading British classics again, Spock.”
“Mr. Chekov claims those classics to be Russian, captain.”
“Mr. Chekov claims the Vulcan Science Academy is Russian.”
Chekov blushed, luckily no one saw, or so he thought.
Kirk smiled, this was nice. He just needed another crewmember on the bridge, to make it perfect.