He heard someone else release a breath and turned to see Dr. Pulliam watching, her face white.
“Did he just say “Goodbye”?”
Kirk clenched his jaws. “No,” he lied quickly.
“I’ve stopped the bleeding for now, but we need to get him into the OR at once!”
Pulliam said, sounding a bit shaken. They transferred their patient to a stretcher and then rushed him to the other operating room.
Kirk followed them until he was stopped by the orderly, who looked at him apologetically and closed the door. “We’ll let you know, sir.”
When the door to the operating room, where the much too young Dr. Pulliam was fighting for his best friend’s life, closed, Jim turned on his heels, and left sickbay.
There was no use in him wearing off the floor in sickbay. But there was something he had to do. Find the one who had done this.
He briefly considered calling security, but if he called them over the intercom, he’d hear it too, and Kirk had already an idea about where to find his first officer, anyway.
He checked his phaser which was still on his belt and set it to “stun”, and then swiftly walked to the mess.
True to Kirk’s assumption, Spock was there, sitting at one of the tables, eating extremely sugary things, that Kirk had never seen Spock eat before: jelly, cake from which he’d only carved the icing, donuts with glazing, pink cotton candy and caramel apples, lay in a more or less eaten state on the table before Spock. Right now he was popping grapes into his mouth, one by one, all the while looking impassively at Uhura who was observing him with a mixture of amusement and genuine interest.
“Is this some kind of experiment, Mr. Spock?”
He just shook his head and plucked another grape from its vanicle.
“Well, I hope Dr. McCoy approves of this?” The lieutenant didn’t want to drop the subject.
“Hardly,” Spock said, looking up for a second, meeting Jim’s eyes. There was a certain coldness about Spock’s stare which made Jim’s blood freeze in his veins.
“Nyota,” he said calmly, deliberately using his communications officer’s first name to make sure to catch her attention, “you’ve got duty on the bridge.”
“Yes, sir,” she said looking at him cautiously. Then she stood up to stand behind Kirk, not going on to the bridge, but waiting for what was about to happen. She saw that the captain had drawn his phaser. Spock had resumed eating, not at all impressed by the captain’s appearance.
“Hungry?” Kirk asked him, stepping closer.
Spock just shrugged and reached to the other side of the table for a piece of cake. That’s when Kirk’s eyes caught the blood stain on Spock’s sleeve.
“What’s that?” Kirk asked, indicating the dark blotch. He tried to sound mildly curious, but in fact he felt anger building up inside him. It wasn’t Spock’s fault, get a grip on your feelings, he thought.
Spock looked at his sleeve then shrugged again. “Human blood.”
“What did you do?” Kirk tensed. Surely, Spock - it - knew it had been caught?
“Kill Dr. McCoy,” Spock said matter-of-factly looking directly at Jim. Uhura gasped behind him and went to the comm. She would call security, Kirk knew. He ground his teeth, and slowly exhaled through his nose. He had to know: “Where is my first officer?”
“Right here. He killed Dr. McCoy with a scalpel. Stabbed him right into his heart,” Spock said slowly, then convulsed for a short moment.
Kirk took another step forward. “Spock?”
“I ... killed him, Jim.” It was Spock, Kirk realized, his Spock, not that monster, looking at him with such pain in his eyes that it made Jim shudder. He’d rarely seen Spock so emotional. The last time, maybe, when Spock had thought he’d killed him on Vulcan, just before he had recognised that it was in fact, Jim, very much alive, standing before him in sickbay. The pain had briefly made room for joy, and then Spock had gotten himself under control again.
“Kill me,” he whispered, begged, but then the coldness returned to his features and he launched forward, his hands outstretched toward Kirk’s throat.
He never reached him. But collapsed from the phaser beam Kirk had fired. Jim caught him, then lowered him to the floor. Finally, the security guards arrived.
“Should I call sickbay, Captain?” Uhura asked from the door.
Kirk tentatively felt for a pulse. It was there, steady. “No,” he said, “they’ve got enough to do. We need to get him to the anti-gravitation chamber.”
“It’s the virus, Lieutenant, I can’t explain it, but Bones said, zero gravity would kill it.”
“Then Dr. McCoy is alive?”
Kirk looked at her, his eyes wide. “I hope he will be, Uhura. I really do hope so. For both of them.”
And for me, Kirk thought. He remembered the look on Spock’s face when he’d begged him to kill him. If Bones died, it would probably mean he’d lose both his closest friends, Kirk realized.
Kirk watched Spock’s body float in the confines of the narrow chamber. You can get claustrophobic in there, Kirk thought, remembering how he himself had been trapped in it, thanks to that augmented human, Khan Noonian Singh. It wasn’t one of his favourite moments.
Spock turned his head, he’d regained consiousness again, and when he turned to look at him, Kirk knew it was Spock again. The dark eyes showed an amount of remorse, grief and despair which momentarily stole Kirk’s breath. He’d never believed that Spock wasn’t capable of feeling such emotions, he’d only believed that he’d never see them displayed so clearly on his face.
He restored gravity and Spock was brought out of his emotional state the moment his body hit the bottom of the chamber. He had composed himself when Kirk helped him out of the small tube.
“Spock? Are you alright?” Kirk studied the Vulcan’s eyes. Only yesterday he would have said they were emotionless, but now he knew better. He had seen them truely emotionless, cold as ice, in the mess when Spock had said he’d stabbed McCoy right into the heart. Now, they held a certain gentleness, compassionateness? Something that before he hadn’t realized was there.
“I believe I am quite myself again, Captain,” Spock said.
“What do you remember?” he asked him carefully.
“I remember ... stabbing Doctor McCoy with a scalpel in the biochemical lab, seconds after he found a way to neutralize the pathogen.”
“You didn’t kill him, Spock. Dr. Pulliam is operating on him at the moment,” Kirk hoped he was right.
Spock closed his eyes briefly. “I am relieved to hear that, Captain. When I realized what was about to happen I tried to warn him. I told him to run, although I knew it was impossible for the doctor to escape my attack. I couldn’t summon enough control over myself.”
“Spock, don’t reproach yourself, Bones wouldn’t want that. In fact, before he passed out, he even told me not to blame you.”
Spock looked up at that. “Yes, he would do that.”
“And I don’t, Spock. That virus, it controls its host! Down on the planet, all Romulans and Vulcans were under its influence. They were phlegmatic, passive, like sloths, the only thing they did was eat extremely sugary fruit. M’Benga said the sugar probably boosted their rate of reproduction. When he tried to take a blood sample, he also was attacked.”
“By one or by all of them, Captain?”
“By one, but the others also reacted. We beamed up before they could attack us. M’Benga is also in surgery.”
“Interesting. It is possible that they communicate telepathically.”
“A telepathic, intelligent virus?” Kirk found that hard to believe, however, a lot of phenomena they had encountered were hard to believe.
“They seem to only befall Romulans and Vulcans who have telepathic abilities. The humans on the P’Jem were killed, which leads to the possible conclusion that they knew that they posed a threat to them, they obviously possess the will to survive. Also, they made me delete the logs which shows they are capable of anticipatory thinking.”
“You deleted the logs?” Kirk was surprised. Since when had Spock acted out of character? He remembered Bones asking him if he hadn’t noticed Spock being “a little off”.
“Captain, I do not remember the exact moment when I contracted that virus, nor when they started to control me. However, I believe the most probable theory would be that Mr. Scott and the engineering team who were on the Romulan ship to repair their warp and impulse drives brought the virus on board. I remember having some disturbing dreams after that event which is not very common for Vulcans. I also remember feeling threatened by Dr. McCoy, which is why I wanted to avoid him first, and when I found out he was about to discover the virus, I wanted to ...”
Spock hesitated uncharactaristically, and before he had to finish the sentence, Kirk cut him off.
“But Commander Tamulok said his crew was suffering from the Vulcan flu.”
“It is not the Vulcan flu, although it seems to be related to it. It is possible the virus mutated on their ship, or that they contracted it someplace else and mistook it for the virus that causes the Vulcan flu.”
“Delihan said it had killed a third of the crew. Now, there’s no evidence that this virus is deadly. And wouldn’t it be highly illogical to kill the host you depend on for your survival?”
“We do not know how the infection will affect the body in long term. It is possible that it will ultimately kill the host. Although this is illogical behaviour, it is similar to the behaviour of many intelligent civilizations. In earth’s 21st century, the human civilization came close to destroying the environment they needed to survive.”
“Well, we need to contain it. First, we must cure the Vuclans and the Romulans on that planet. We could shut off artificial gravity and transport them all into cargobay 1. What do you think?”
“I am uncertain if this would be permitted by the Prime Directive, Captain.”
“What, killing a virus? Really, Spock, a virus isn’t even a life form!”
“In the biochemical laboratory Dr. McCoy said he did not agree with that common doctrine. Captain, I think we also have established that it is intelligent.”
“We have also established that it is a parasite which turns its hosts into zombies and wants to kill our doctors.”
“As a means of self-preservation.”
“Why didn’t it try to communicate then, Spock? It had the means to. You said yourself you completly lost control over your actions. Hell, you almost killed Bones! Maybe you did, we don’t even know yet if he’s going to survive!”
Kirk hadn’t meant to bring that up, however, he couldn’t help himself. “Now, don’t tell me you feel bad about eliminating a disease!” he almost shouted at Spock who only looked at him with an unreadable expression on his face.
He turned away and quietly said: “Jim, I normally would say I don’t feel anything, but at this moment that wouldn’t be the truth.”
Kirk regretted his own emotional outbreak immediately. “I know, Spock. I - well, why don’t we go to sickbay. As far as I can tell, the people on the planet are in no immediate danger.”
Sickbay was a place Kirk associated with many things. Relief, and the feeling of safety whenever he woke up in it. The soft beeping of medical instruments and the distinctive antiseptic smell, could be comforting and had often given him a feeling that everything was going to be alright. It could also mean the exact opposite, worry, pain and sorrow, when he’d sat on one of the hard chairs beside a bio-bed, waiting for a badly injured crewmember to regain consciousness - or take his last breath.
There was one constant: Bones. He was a comforting presence, either making sure he himself was feeling better, giving him something for the pain, telling him to rest, assuring him he was alright. Or he would stand beside him, laying a hand on his shoulder telling him to let it go. You can’t always win. Just a few days ago, Bones had been lying on one of the bio-beds himself, which had shaken Jim more than he’d realized at that moment, but at least, he had been there.
When Spock and he entered sickbay, and Bones was nowhere to be seen, Kirk briefly felt his knees give and he reached for the nearest bio-bed for support. A few beds further, he saw M’Benga lying unconscious with his head bandaged, on artificial respiration, looking pale, despite his dark skin.
Dr. Pulliam and Dr. Taylor were standing beside the bed, now looking over to him and Spock. Dr. Pulliam’s eyes were red, as if she had been crying. This can’t be happening, Kirk thought, there had to be another explanation.
“Captain Kirk, Commander Spock!” Dr. Taylor greeted them with a tired smile.“We’ve sent Leonard to his quarters. He is resting,” he quickly provided when he saw Kirk swaying and his face lose all colour.
“Then his injuries were not serious?” Spock had briefly put his hand on Jim’s elbow to steady him, but he quickly let go. Emotions, he had them, although he didn’t like having them, and he particularly disliked the emotion he felt right now - guilt. It was illogical. He hadn’t been responsible, he’d tried to reason ever since he’d left the antigrav chamber. With not much effect.
“He lost a lot of blood. But no organs or main blood vessels were damaged. He was very lucky, actually. Had he been a Vulcan, he would have been stabbed right into the heart and he’d be dead now.”
Kirk let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and turned to look at Spock. He also seemed relieved.
“Spock, in the mess you said you stabbed him right into the heart. You probably tricked that virus into thinking its attack would be lethal.”
“I do not remember doing such a thing, Captain. However, I am glad that the Doctor is alive.”
Kirk smiled at Spock, then turned to face the doctors again.
“How is Dr. M’Benga?”
“He should make a full recovery, although his injuries were far more serious than Dr. McCoy’s,” Dr. Pulliam said. She held on to the bio-bed the doctor occupied, in order to steady herself, Kirk realized.
“We’ll know more in 24 hours, Captain.”
“Thank you,” Kirk nodded at Dr. Taylor and then, to get Dr. Pulliam’s attention, called her name.
“Dr. McCoy once told me, he thought of you as a brilliant doctor.”
“He once told me, that I’d better go back to med school until I had learnt how to set a hypo,” she said bitterly.
Kirk smiled at her. He could imagine Bones doing that. He wasn’t said to be a particularly nice boss. However, he was sure that he hadn’t meant it. “Well, I’ll make sure to tell him you can do that single handedly!”
“He apologised for it later, Captain. Still, ...”
“Captain, we’ve sent Leonard to his quarters, because he wouldn’t stop fretting over Jabilo. He should rest. Would you mind paying him a visit? Maybe give him an order to stay in bed, or something?” Dr. Taylor cut her off.
Strange, there seemed to be something else on the young doctor’s mind. However, maybe she was just exhausted.
“Yes, we’ll do that,” Kirk said, but thinking at the same time that an order would probably not achieve anything with Bones. Maybe he could get him to make a promise to stay in bed, as compensation for the scare he’d given him. Better yet, Spock could get that promise from him. Spock felt awful and guilty about what happened, and Bones knew that, of course. So he’d probably promise Spock just about anything at the moment - though he’d later regret it.
“Spock, will you accompany me to our good doctor’s quarters?”
“Yes, Captain. I will ask him to stay in bed until he has fully recovered.”
Kirk blinked. Spock had obviously come to the same conclusion, which surprised him this time, because it involved an understanding and accepting not only of Bones’ emotions, but also of his own. On the other hand Spock had already admitted of having emotions just before they’d come to sickbay.
“Great. Let’s go then!” Kirk said, leading the way to Bones’ quarters, feeling like a secret agent. His spirits were lifted again, another mission that could prove to be interesting.
He immediately felt guilty about feeling so giddy on the way to Bones, when they had entered and saw him lying on his bed, holding a padd to his chest.
He looked awful. White as the sheets, dark circles under his eyes and he was shivering slighty. He was awake but barely able to keep his eyes open when they greeted him.
“You look awful, Bones,” Kirk said as he sat down on the bed. He took the padd from Bones’ hands and handed it to Spock.
Bones snorted. “Well, no wonder, I ...” He stopped himself, looking at Spock who seemed to be engrossed into studying that padd. “I probably look much worse than I feel, thank you. How’s Jabilo?”
“Dr. Taylor said he’ll be fine.” Kirk surpressed the urge to tuck the blanket around Bones’ form. “You need another blanket? You’re shivering.”
“Yeah. That nurse piled a mountain of blankets on me, before she left. I threw most of them off. Couldn’t move.”
Kirk looked to the foot of the bed where a big pile of blankets lay. He picked one up and spread it over Bones who roled his eyes at such a fuss. “You’re not supposed to move, Bones.” Kirk’s eyes searched for Spock. He should support me, jump in at this very moment, Kirk thought. But instead he was still looking onto that padd.
“Fascinating.” Spock finally said.
“Isn’t it, Spock? I knew you’d find that interesting.” Bones said enthusiastically, gaining some strength.
“What?” Kirk was annoyed. His plan to get Bones to rest was beginning to become sabotaged by the person whom he had thought of as his greatest ally.
“Jim. A virus is an interesting biological phenomenon. It is basically speaking nothing more than a DNA string which is able to bring living cells to replicate this DNA string instead of itself. Vulcan virologists have spent a lot of time researching the origin of the Vulcan flu virus,” Bones started to lecture and then Spock joined in:
“With success, as I may add. The Vulcan Science Academy has concluded that the virus developed around the time of the Great Awakening, approximately 2000 of earth’s years ago.”
“That’s right. And it’s origin is a certain bacteria that befell an animal called Tchorka which the people on Vulcan used mainly as a meat supplier. It looks sort of like a camel.”
“Vulcans are vegetarians,” Kirk said. Though he didn’t really care. At the moment there were other things on his mind. One of them was to get Bones to shut up and rest.
“Not at that time, Captain. Before Surak taught us the way of logic, we were quite different, violent, very emotional, although technologically speaking, quite advanced and therefore on the verge of destroying ourselves.”
Spock, although I enjoy these rare occasions when you and Bones agree on something, I feel as if the two of you have teamed up against me, at the moment, he thought, but didn’t say anything.
“Right. Now, I did a little research myself and it seems that the virologists think that these bacteria in the Tchorkas sort of dissolved under the influence of a certain gas which was emmitted by generators used to produce energy at that time. This gas, in combination with the radiation of Vulcan’s sun, proved to be dangerous to other life forms as well, which is why they are not used anymore.”
“You mean under the influence of that gas and Vulcan’s sun the bacteria mutated into the virus?” Get to the point, will you?
“Not mutated. They dissolved and the only thing that survived were lose DNA strings. One of them survived as that virus which then jumped over to other hosts. The bacteria are extinct today, as are the Tchorkas by the way.”
“Unfortunately when the Tchorkas weren’t needed as a source of food anymore, they slowly died out. It is one of the few unfortunate consequences of Surak’s teachings. Another was the secession of the dissident group that later founded the Romulan Empire.”
“What does all this have to do with the virus that is controlling the Vulcans and Romulans on that planet?” Jim felt somewhat dense. He hated it when his friends became all the scientists and let himself be in the dark.
“Well, that virus is very similar to the Vulcan flu virus. But it is more complex. It is not very likely that the Vulcan flu virus mutated to produce our zombie virus. What is more likely is that this virus developed on its own but from the same source as the Vulcan flu virus.” Bones patiently explained.
“You mean from your bacteria?”
“Yes, in combination with the gas from the energy generators and radiation.”
“Fascinating. Captain, we need to search the planet for ruins and other signs of a past civilization again.”
“What? Forgive me, but I think what we need to do is save the people on the planet, and then get out of here as fast as we can! We’re in the Neutral Zone, and although there are special circumstances, this is a violation of our treaty with Romulus,” Kirk said. Actually it had just come to him that the Romulans were able to detect their presence in the Neutral Zone. Hopefully, they wouldn’t make the acquaintance with the Romulan fleet in the near future.
“Jim, what he suspects is this: When the Romulans defected from Vulcan they took their space ships and supplies into the direction of Romulus to found their own world. They would have taken some Tchorkas as well, and energy generators. So, it is possible that the same thing that happened on Vulcan, also happened in their colony, only that the virus that appeared in their colony was our zombie virus and not the Vulcan flu.”
“If that was the case, then the Romulans should know about the virus. But they didn’t. Tamulok’s crew was so sick that they couldn’t keep up maintenance of their own engines. Many of them died, too.”
“Some historians believe that the Vulcans who marched beneath the raptor’s wings, did not settle on Romulus first. There is evidence that they built up a colony on another planet which was destroyed. This colony has never been found, although archeologists have searched for it. It is said to have been a very rich and thriving colony. Many legends surround it, and the Vulcan Science Academy came to the conclusion that Vor-ka-ri is just that, a legend. Similar to your earth’s Atlantis. Now, the Romulans and Vulcans stopped here, so it is possible that this the place of the virus’ origin.”
“But, if that planet is your Vor-ka-ri, where are its inhabitants?”
“If the legends are true, the colony was completely destroyed and the survivors fled the planet to what is now Romulus.”
“Why didn’t they take the virus with them, then?”
“Space ships at that time usually did not have artificial gravity, at least not everywhere on the ship.”
“So the virus was killed on their way to Romulus, but it could have survived on the planet. A virus can befall just about anything, animals, plants, fungi even bacteria,” Bones said smiling triumphantly, but still looking as if he was about to keel over.
“That colony could hardly have been thriving,” Kirk mused, smoothing out the blankets over Bones, “those people on the planet were nothing but sloths. Slurping up these sugary fruit.”
“I’ve been thinking about that too, Jim. We ... know it is able to control its host. It is probably able to do so after it has reached a certain number within its hosts body. Maybe there’s something like swarm intelligence. The more ... the more of them there are, the more in-telligent they become.”
“Fascinating. We already know that they can communicate with each other across their different hosts, Captain. You said that all of them suddenly tried to attack you on the planet. Maybe, if there are enough of them, we will be able to communicate.”
“Spock. Are you suggesting to wait until the virus is intelligent enough to negotiate?” Kirk turned to look at Spock, then back at Bones, who was beginning to sweat.
“Jim, there’s ... still the danger th-that it can kill its host. Many - many of Tamulok’s crew were killed by it.”
“Yes. And I will not wait until that happens. We’ll beam them up into cargobay 1 and then shut off artificial gravity which should cure everyone, and Spock, I don’t want ...”
McCoy could feel himself drifting. He knew he had overexerted himself. If he were his own patient, he’d be furious right now. Black dots were dancing in front of him. Jim was discussing the Prime Directive with Spock, he realized. He used the time to rest his eyes, just for a few moments.
When he came to, he realized he wasn’t in his quarters anymore, but back in sickbay. Great! I’ll never hear the end of it, he thought, but then he fell asleep again.
Kirk was tapping his finger impatiently on the tansporter console. They had been sending the Vulcans back to their ship for the past half hour. The Romulans were yet to go and also Captain Saluk was still on board, talking with Spock about the Vulcan Atlantis.
Between beaming the parties of six back to the P’Jem, Scotty and Uhura gave Kirk a brief summary of what they had found out on the Romulan scout. Which was not much actually.
“Tamulok has deleted most of the log, Captain, or it was destroyed. The records start with our engineers coming on board their ship in orbit of Meriah Five.” Uhura said.
“Why did they stop here?”
“Well, that is also left in the dark, but we know they’ve been here before. The entry stated that they’re here again.”
“Do they have a name for that planet?” Kirk asked. He knew Spock believed this planet to be an important site for Vulcan and Romulan history. A place of myths and legends. Something like a Utopia. A Vulcan, no Romulan Utopia? Strange that Bones could get so excited about that.
Kirk swallowed. They had called for a stretcher to get Bones into sickbay again, when he had passed out. He had literally talked himself unconscious. What left a sour taste in his mouth, was that Kirk had seen it coming, and still didn’t do anything. On the other hand he was also mad at Bones for not taking better care of himself. But what just about infuriated him was, that Spock, who had been the cause of Bones’ injury in the first place, hadn’t stopped that discussion before it was too late. And then he’d never asked once about Bones’ condition, but gone all excited about that Vor-ka-ri, informed Saluk, asked the database, and what not. Bones is your friend. Now, it seems you’re not even interested if he’s going to be alright!
“..., sir?” Uhura had said something, and he hadn’t paid any attention, Kirk realized. He smiled apologetically at her. “Sorry, Lieutenant. You were saying?”
“They just said: Here. Is it true, that this planet is the ancient Vulcan Eden?”
Great. Now Uhura’s infected, too. “Eden? Well, I am not sure how Vulcans would picture “Eden”, but there was not much there, except for grass, some stones and these funny looking pink fruit.”
“Well, sir, there was something strange going on with their shields,” Scotty piped up. He was not really interested in Vulcan myths, either, Kirk could tell.
“Well, I wanted to scan their cloaking device. But I couldn’t find it. I stopped looking when I saw this strange looking generator that must have something to do with their shields.”
“Maybe an amplifier?”
“That’s what I thought at first, but it didn’t look like it belonged there at all. I could only see that it slightly changes the shield’s frequency, but I can’t imagine whatever that could be good for. I scanned the whole thing and brought loads of data with me. Can’t wait to analyse it. I’d like Spock to take a look at it, too.”
“Yes, well Spock might be interested. Maybe it is something that these Romulans found on the planet, although I can’t imagine it. There really wasn’t anything there.”
“Captain, what will we do with the Romulans?”
“Well, the mission was for the P’Jem to escort them back to their territory. I don’t see why this should be changed now.”
As if on cue, Captain Saluk appeared in the transporter room, Spock beside him, and said without further ado: “Captain, I must inform Tamulok that we are taking him and his crew to Vulcan.”
“What? We can’t make them prisoners, Saluk!” Kirk said, a little confused. Surely Saluk and Spock knew that. What would Starfleet Command say?
“We are not. We merely need to discuss the discovery of Vor-ka-ri with him. The planet is in the Neutral Zone, so neither Vulcans nor Romulans have the right to investigate it. This is not acceptable. We need to negotiate the boundaries of the Neutral Zone again, or another treaty that will allow both parties to explore Vor-kar-ri.”
“Well, you are very sure that that planet is your lost colony,” Kirk said. “We can’t just take a Romulan scout and her crew to Federation space. The Romulans could interpret that as abduction.”
“Captain, we’ve already contacted Starfleet Command. They agree, that under these circumstances Tamulok must be brought to Vulcan. If we just escort him back, we may never get the chance of negotiating,” Spock said patiently.
Kirk felt pressure building up inside him. “Oh, so you’ve contacted Starfleet Command. And why wasn’t I informed?”
“Captain Kirk, you are acting in a very emotional manner. We did not disregard your command nor did we question your authority. We simply conferred with our superiors in this matter. You do not understand the importance of our discovery for the Vulcan people.”
Kirk fumed. This arrogant son of a bitch had not once thanked them for their rescue, nor had he expressed his regret for the death of his own four human crewmen or the injury of M’Benga.
“Your discovery, Saluk? As I see it, you only discovered the taste of the pink fruit on that planet.”
“It was Doctor McCoy who drew the correct conclusions, and who brought his discoveries to my attention, Captain Saluk,” Spock explained.
“At this moment it is not important who it was that discovered Vor-ka-ri. There is enough time for awarding medals and giving honoristic speeches which you humans value so much. At present you need to inform Commander Tamulok, so that we can depart the Neutral Zone.”
Kirk balled his fists. It was true, however. He turned on his heels to the comm and ordered Tamulok to be brought to the conference room.
“I did not mean to imply that Doctor McCoy wants an award, Captain. I was only stating a fact. It is illogical to ignore the truth, even at a moment like this,” Spock said, and just for a second, it made Kirk smile.
Commander Tamulok was neither surprised nor angry when they told him about Starfleet’s plans with him and his ship. This surprised Kirk once again. He’d heard Romulans were rather passionate and other than their Vulcan relatives they were said to carry their emotions very close to the surface.
Maybe this still had something to do with that virus? But Spock and Dr. Taylor had confirmed that there was no trace of the virus left in their system. The virus could not survive for long within the human body so it was unlikely that they had contracted it once again aboard the Enterprise.
However, when this was all over, they needed to decontaminate the whole ship, just to be sure. They had done so for the P’Jem and the Romulan scout already. With no one on board this could be done easily. It was a different matter for the Enterprise. Gravity was needed to function normally, Kirk had realized, and he didn’t want to risk his engineers and bridge crew floating around when there was an emergency.
“I see you are puzzled, Captain,” Tamulok said to Kirk in the transporter room. The last of his crew had just been beamed back to his ship.
“What makes you think that?” Kirk asked, and briefly wondered if he was being “unpatriotic” just because he found the Romulan commander more congenial than the Vulcan captain.
“I can read and understand emotions better than a Vulcan, Captain. You think I should be angry with you for being deported to Vulcan along with my crew.”
“Well, you are considered to be “guests”. But you’ve actually hit the mark!”
“Yes. I consider our discovery the most important for the Romulan Empire in recent history, Captain. I’ve always been fascinated by our ancient history. Vor-ka-ri is a myth, a legend, it is a place of religious meaning to us, and it could also initiate a cautious approach towards our Vulcan cousins. Although we have our differences, we’re still of the same blood. I agree with Captain Saluk that we must find a way to be able to study the ruins.”
“Surely, you don’t need to be on Vulcan to negotiate?” Kirk was becoming suspicious. He hadn’t seen any ruins on that planet, why did Tamulok speak of them now?
“My government is not interested in myths. They will just shoot at you when they come across your ships here in the Neutral Zone. You will need a strategy for negotiations, one that I’m willing to work out with your authorities.”
“You do not match the Federation’s picture of a Romulan commander who is loyal to the Empire.”
“We may not value individuality as much as you do, but we are individuals as well. I may not be a stereotypical Romulan, but I am Romulan, and I am loyal to the Empire. I just do not agree with all its politics. My government wants to stay isolated, I hate to say it, but in my opinion this is a sign of being paranoid. We need not fear the Federation, we can outpower your fleet at anytime.”
“I’m sure you can,” Kirk smiled at him, this guy was strangely charming, he had to admit. He needed to be careful. “What about your crew? Do they agree with you?”
“My crew is loyal to the Empire. But above all, they’re loyal to me. To quote one of your human proverbs: They’re loyal to a fault.”
Kirk raised his eyebrows. A Romulan commander quoting a human proverb? Just how much did they know about the Federation? They were masters of espionage and deceit, and he was sure that this was not just another stereotype.
“Well, Commander ...,” Kirk was about to send Tamulok off with his best wishes, when suddenly the Red Alert went off and Spock requested his presence on the bridge.
“Five Romulan warbirds decloaked ahead of us, Captain. Our shields are up, but they outpower the combined weapons of the Enterprise and the P’Jem at least threefold. If they wish, they can destroy us. I suggest to negotiate.”
Great. I’ve seen it coming - again, Kirk thought bitterly, and nodded to Tamulok to follow him to the bridge.
“Status?” Kirk barked at no one in particular when he entered the bridge. The Romulan commander had followed him and was now standing behind him, staring at the screen which showed the five Romulan vessels.
“They’re hailing us, sir,” Uhura reported.
“Put them through.”
“This is Commander Valdran of the Romulan Alliance, you are violating our treaties and you are holding a Romulan vessel hostage, lower your shields and prepare to be entered,” the female Romulan commander demanded in a tone that could freeze over hell, Uhura thought. She risked a glance at Tamulok. He would explain the situation and appease her, wouldn’t he?
“This is Captain James Kirk. I assure you, our intentions are peaceful. The Romulan scout is not our hostage. Commander Tamulok is our guest,” Kirk said, taking a step to the side to let Valdran see their Romulan “guest”.
“Tamulok?” she seemed surprised, excited even, but schooled her features back to her cold and demanding expression.
“Jolan tru, Valdran. I am relieved to see you. From your being here, I gather the rebellion has gained the upper hand within the Empire?” Tamulok smiled at her in a somewhat cheesy way, Uhura observed. Moreover, she realized that Tamulok wasn’t speaking Romulan, but a language that the whole bridge personnel could understand, and he had just given them the information that there was a civil war waging in the Romulan Empire. These five warbirds were obviously a part of the rebel forces. The question was, on which side was Tamulok? And what would this mean for them?
“Jolan tru, Commander. What are you doing on the Federation ship?”
“We have formed a temporary alliance,” Tamulok said, still smiling.
Valdran frowned and held up a fist in rage. “You formed an alliance with the enemies of all Romulans! You have betrayed your people!”
“Now, Valdran, you need to control yourself. We are all traitors of the Romulan Star Empire, are we not?”
“Speak for yourself. We are the liberators of the Romulan people. We are no traitors! Lower your shields or we will open fire.”
“Please, Valdran. I will explain. Just give me a minute. ... We will lower our shields,” Tamulok turned to Uhura and made a sign to cut off communication.
Uhura looked at Kirk, who nodded his approval and then turned Tamulok around in a fit of rage. For a moment there, she’d been sure he would hit him in the face and break his nose, or something. Instead, he just clarified:
“We will not lower our shields, Tamulok, nor are we allies. Now, if you can’t bring her to back off, we will open fire.”
“You can’t. She will destroy you,” Tamulok sounded as if he was talking to a child.
“That’s what I’m counting on. Either she destroys us, or we self-destruct. We will not surrender ourselves to the enemy.”
Uhura began to feel truely uneasy now. For some reason she had thought that they would find a way out of this situation, they always had, and Kirk had never given up, even if the situation had been hopeless. She hoped her captain was bluffing, only if he did, he was damn good at it.
“Captain, Valdran is dangerous. She is the leader of the Romulan Alliance, a rebellious group that has drawn the Empire into a civil war. She thinks I’m on her side. I am not. I want her and her group dead. I know how to destroy all five warbirds and leave your ships intact. You’ve got to trust me.”
“Trust, Tamulok, is something that needs to be earned. And you have done nothing of the kind, so far.”
“I know. But there is no time. Lower your shields and tell the Vulcan ship to do the same.”
“Captain, at this point, it does not make a difference. Shields or not, Valdran is able to destroy us,” Spock said.
“If we lower our shields, they can beam aboard. And we will be entered.”
“Please, Captain. My ship has got a generator on board that modifies the shield so that it can be used as a weapon. If you place a simple phaser shot at this area,” Tamulok had walked over to Spock’s console and now pointed at an area of the map of the scout which was displayed there, “it will produce oscillations within the shields of all vessels in the vicinity, resulting in their immediate destruction.”
“Mr. Scott did find a generator that was connected to their shields, Captain,” Uhura pointed out.
Kirk turned to face Tamulok. “You would kill your own people, Commander?”
“At the moment they are greater enemies of the Empire than you are, Captain. Don’t you know the human proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend?”
“You know many human proverbs, Tamulok,” Kirk observed. He couldn’t be trusted, he was sure of that now. However, at the moment it seemed as if they both had the same interests, namely to escape these five warbirds.
“Uhura, inform the P’Jem. Code Blue. Chekov, when the P’Jem has lowered her shields do the same and then fire phasers at the given coordinates.”
“Aye, Captain,” Chekov answered. Lowering the shields while facing five Romulan warbirds was something that he’d definitely never done before, and had never thought he’d ever would do. Well, being at the helm of Starfleet’s flagship meant it never got boring. If this was the last order he’d fulfill, well then at least his life had been interesting. He watched his instruments. Bljad.
“Captain, two of the warbirds are powering up their weapons,” he said.
“What about the P’Jem’s shields?” Kirk demanded.
“Still up.” Chekov was thankful that he had his instruments to look at, and that his Captain asked him about them, although he was looking over his shoulder at the moment and could see for himself. But it gave him something to do, and the impression that he was being useful.
“Lower our shields!” Kirk gave the command, and Chekov complied automatically.
Nothing happened. Pavel resumed breathing. But then ...
“They’re firing at the P’Jem!” he shouted. Everyone could see that. Two very neatly placed shots were fired, and caused an explosion.
“The P’Jem’s shields have failed,” Chekov reported triumphantly, feeling bad immediately, but no one seemed to have noticed his misplaced emotions.
“Fire at the scout!” Kirk gave the order and Chekov heard Tamulok behind him take in a satisfied breath.
Then his world seemed to fall into slow motion. The shields of the small Romulan scout lighted up in a bright green, that seemed to ignite the other five Romulan ships which suddenly started to glow in pulsating intervals. One - two - three, each becoming more intense than the preceding pulse.
Instinctively Chekov groped for something to hold onto when with the fifth and last pulse all six Romulan ships, the warbirds and Tamulok’s ship, exploded in a massive detonation that blinded him. The Enterprise was rocked hard, alarms went off, there was shouting, and he smelled smoke and burnt flesh.
Nausea was claiming him and he realized his hands felt as if he was holding them into boiling hot water. He wanted to scream but inhaled smoke and only started coughing.
“Mr. Chekov, you’ve done it! You’ve sent these pointy eared Romulans to Vorta Vor,” he heard Kirk say.
“What else do you know about us, Captain?”
“I know that you are unscrupulous when it comes to sacrificing your own crew.”
The rest was jumbled. He coughed again, the last thing he heard was Kirk, calling him by his first name, “Come on, Pavel, keep breathing.”
This is not a good sign, he realized, and then lost consciousness.
McCoy opened his eyes just a bit, determined to hide that he was awake, but still wanting to know what was going on.
All he could see were two feet swinging apart and then together again. Someone is sitting on the bio-bed next to me, probably Jim, waiting for me to wake up so that he can give me a lecture about how I don’t follow what I preach, he thought. He didn’t quite feel up to facing Jim, and so instead of looking up, he decided to close his eyes again and feign sleeping. That’s when the swinging stopped. Damn, too late. He still closed his eyes again, maybe Jim will show some mercy.
There was a loud thud, when the boots hit the floor, and he felt a rush of air, then the mattress on his bio-bed was dented in.
“I know you’re awake!” It was Jim’s voice coming from above him.
He opened his eyes and squinted up at Jim who looked tired, but quite happy, and not at all as if he was about to start preaching. He let out a breath of relief.
The captain was smiling, his eyes sparkling. He was propping himself on the bio-bed with both hands, bending over McCoy’s face.
“Is that all you have to say?” he asked. He had planned to yell at him, holding before him that his actions had been irresponsible and that he should imagine what he’d have done if one of his patients had behaved in the way he had. But now he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. He was just happy that they’d gotten themselves out of this mess with only a few scratches. Although, that might have been an understatement.
They had just managed to leave the Neutral Zone when the warp engine failed. They had sustained quite some damage in the explosions that destroyed the Romulan ships. There had been many casualties, fortunately no one was killed, though.
Right now, they were towing the P’Jem at impulse speed towards the nearest starbase, where the two ships needed to undergo extensive repairs. Sickbay’s chief medical officer and his deputy had been seriously hurt, so they were short of medical staff to tend to the injured.
Kirk smiled inwardly, Bones will love this, but he would wait for the right moment to tell him. Right now, he made himself stare at his friend with as much reproach in his eyes as he could manage.
McCoy sighed. He needed to divert Jim’s anger to something, or someone else. “Jim, just so that I know, where I am at: Who are you most mad at - me, Spock, or yourself?” Jim was prone to feel responsible for everyone and everything, so if he didn’t already feel guilty, he probably would now. McCoy felt bad for manipulating Jim in that way, but it was pure self-defense!
“You,” Jim lied, “and I know what you’re trying to do.”
“We spend far too much time together.”
“What you did was not only irresponsible behaviour towards yourself, but also towards Enterprise’s crew. We are short of a doctor already.”
McCoy tried to sit up at that, only to find that Kirk, anticipating his movements, had already put a restraining hand on his chest.
“How’s M’Benga?” he asked.
“He’ll be alright. But it’ll take time,” Kirk answered.
“What happened? Are we still in orbit of that planet?”
“No, we’re back in Federation territory and we’ll arrive at starbase 3 in two days,” Kirk said, his hand still firm on McCoy’s chest, “We’ve had a run-in with more Romulans and suffered some damage in an explosion.”
“Casualties?” McCoy sounded worried and tried to sit up once more.
“Shh, stay where you are! No one died, but many were injured. Chekov burnt his hands and inhaled a lot of smoke when his station caught fire.”
“Jim, I’m concerned. Dr. Taylor is experienced, but Dr. Pulliam is very young. It may be too much for them to handle. You should really let me ...”
“Doctor McCoy! Your condition dictates that you rest.”
That voice! McCoy was sure he didn’t know the woman that it belonged to. The words made him suspicious. Jim wouldn’t have ... or would he?
“What? Who?” he tried to sit up once more, and once more he had to be held down.
“Bones? I’d like to introduce you to Dr. T’Plok. Saluk was kind enough to send her over as an asset to our medical staff.”
“Hello, Doctor! It’s a pleasure to meet you,” the Vulcan said, coming into his line of vision, extending her hand somewhat awkwardly.
“Wha ... you ... . Pleasure? Why that?” He was confused. Not only because suddenly there was a Vulcan doctor amongst his sickbay staff, but also because of what she’d said.
“I beg your forgiveness. Is that not an appropriate greeting amongst humans?” she looked as if she was disappointed, or maybe McCoy just imagined she did.
“Uh, no. I mean. I am sorry, doctor. I - well, thank you.”
“I have been studying human customs, Doctor McCoy. I find them fascinating, although, or maybe even because they often seem like a riddle to me. I hope I will make a good doctor for the Enterprise’s crew.”
McCoy looked at Kirk, who was somewhat dumbfounded as well. This T’Plok was not at all as he expected her to be, and he was pleased with that. “You already have, doctor.”
She nodded. Then looked at McCoy again.
“Well, Dr. T’Plok,” McCoy addressed the middle aged Vulcan, “I think I don’t need to be here any longer?”
She glanced at Kirk and then back at McCoy, before she answered: “I think you should be where you feel the most comfortable, Doctor. Although, I have the order to keep you here until you “have gotten it through your thick head, that you are not well”,” she said and then turned to Kirk who had raised an eyebrow at her, to say: “Captain, with all due respect, I believe it is best for the recovery of Doctor McCoy to let him go to his quarters and rest there.”
“Yes, Jim!” McCoy smirked. He liked her.
Kirk sighed. He’d known the Vulcan doctor would mean trouble. He just hadn’t thought of this kind of trouble, then.
“Whatever’s best. But I warn you, if I see you doing anything but resting, I will have you put in restraints!”
“Captain, to put restraints on Doctor McCoy is not only illogical but highly unethical as well. I will not ...”
Kirk held up a hand. “You’re new on the Enterprise, Doctor, or you wouldn’t say that, believe me. Now, how are the rest of the patients doing?”
“They are doing as expected,” the doctor said. “Ensign Chekov is still on artificial respiration. But he should be able to breathe on his own in the next hours. It will be quite painful though. His trachea has been damaged by the burning smoke.”
“Don’t let him wake up too early, then. It doesn’t hurt letting him sleep until the worst of the pain has passed!” McCoy said, finally succeeding in pushing himself up into a sitting position and straining to decipher the readings above Chekov’s bio-bed.
“I see what you mean, Captain,” T’Plok just said. “Doctor McCoy, now that you’re already sitting up, you should eat something. If you don’t experience any discomfort after that, I will release you to your quarters if you promise to stay in bed and rest.”
He looked at her, his sympathy for her starting to fade. “I ... promise?”
“You’ve raised your voice at the end of the sentence. Did you mean to formulate a question?”
T’Plok raised an eyebrow and looked at Kirk for help, who had turned so that she couldn’t see his face.
“A riddle,” she mumbled and turned to call for a nurse to bring some food.
McCoy was now taking a good look at his sickbay. He was in a more secluded part of it, but he could see M’Benga and Ensign Chekov, who were both unconsious, surrounded by machines. Sickbay must be full to the brink if they’d put these two in here together with him. He was glad, that Kirk had requested another doctor. Vulcan, or not, it was better than leaving all these patients to the two resident doctors on Enterprise who had been on duty since forever and were probably dead on their feet with exhaustion at the moment.
“Jim?” he asked, sounding subdued. It made Jim turn and look at him instantly, with concern etched into his face.
“What is it, Bones?”
“Well, I am sorry. Really.”
“I know, Bones. Please, don’t forget to take care of yourself. I - I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you,” Kirk looked at him with such sincere and pleading eyes, that McCoy couldn’t hold them for long.
He averted his eyes, feeling the threat of tears there. Damnit, how could he have let his captain get so close to him? He’d thought he’d learned a long time ago not to let people into his heart, it just hurt so much to lose them. He looked at his fingers in his lap picking at the blanket.
“It’s the way I am, Jim. But I will try ... for your sake.”
Kirk nodded and put a hand on what he suspected was Bones’ foot under the blanket.
“You’re not mad at Spock, are you?”
Kirk hesitated. Actually, he was. Not because he had attacked Bones, but because he hadn’t been interested in Bones’ health after he had been taken to sickbay again.
And where was he now? He had talked with Commander Tamulok about that Vulcan or Romulan utopian colony, ever since they had been sure that the Enterprise and the P’Jem would make it safely to the starbase.
“Maybe a little.”
“Jim, I think he is avoiding me, because he ... well, because he feels embarrassed. And guilty. Maybe he’s even afraid that I will blame him. Which of course, I wouldn’t. I mean, Jim, he’s half human. And he probably is experiencing some feelings now, that he has no idea of how to deal with. I think you should talk to him. Be a friend!”
The nurse came with a tray of food and placed it on a table at the side of the bed. McCoy swung his legs over the edge and took a look at it. It was as if the nurse hadn’t been sure as to what he would like. There was a variety of foods there, that resembled the evening buffet at a hotel on Risa. A very cheap hotel on Risa, he thought, after having examined the food more closely. Or maybe a roadside motel on the Klingon homeworld ... a very cheap motel.
He picked at an indefinable mass that he identified as pasta salad only after a thorough analysis.
“Ugh, that looks like it has already been eaten and digested!” he commented, then carefully dipped his spoon into the chicken soup. He was hungry, he realized.
Kirk was lost in thought. Bones was probably right. He should talk to Spock, only he still thought that Spock ought to at least come and ...
As if on cue, Spock appeared, accompanied by T’Plok. The two Vulcans studied McCoy who was focused on eating the soup. When he noticed his visitor he put down his spoon and smiled genuinly at Spock.
“Hi Spock! Good to see you!”
“Doctor McCoy! I came to see if you were following the Doctor’s orders,” he said.
“Of course I am,” he answered, his smile fading a bit.
“Doctor T’Plok doesn’t have much practical experience with humans and none with you, so I thought I might be of help.”
“What do you mean, “she’s got no experience with me”? You make it sound like I’m some obscure and exotic animal with special needs.”
“Mr. Spock told me you were the “worst patient of the entire crew of the Enterprise”, Doctor. But I believe, he has exaggerated,” T’Plok informed her patient.
“Yes, he has, Doctor,” McCoy said to her, finding an unexpected ally in her once again. She nodded and left to tend to Chekov.
“Spock! Take a chair! Have some pasta salad!” McCoy invited him.
Spock looked as if he was going to object, but then complied.
“Well, Spock? What are you doing here?” Kirk hadn’t meant to sound so biting, but he still was feeling a bit angry at his first officer.
“I came to ... ask for Doctor McCoy’s ... advice.”
McCoy almost choked on a noodle. That was unexpected!
“Yes. Doctor, the captain told me that you asked him not to blame me for the attack on you.”
“I know that I was controlled by the virus at the time I stabbed you.”
“It is illogical to blame myself, because I had no control over my actions then.”
“Correct. Highly illogical, Spock.” McCoy had an idea where this was going. And although he felt for Spock, he couldn’t stop himself from feeling some kind of triumph. Finally Spock was admitting to his human half.
“I believe my human half cannot be controlled at the moment, for I feel ... guilt.”
“Well, what do you want me to do? What you feel is human, Spock, although, it is illogical and although I’m not blaming you. Denying your human half won’t help you either. Accept it, and you’ll eventually learn to live with it,” he pushed the tray of food away. He wasn’t hungry anymore.
“I am not denying my human half, Doctor.”
“No. I am actually quite grateful for it. If it hadn’t been for my human half, you’d most certainly be dead.”
Kirk and McCoy both looked at Spock in surprise. The other Vulcans and Romulans hadn’t been able to control the virus at all. Spock had, he had attacked McCoy, but he hadn’t “finished the job”, it was possible that Spock’s human genes had prevented the virus from fully taking control.
Bones studied Spock’s face, and after a while he said simply: “Spock, I feel honoured to be your friend.”
Then he resumed eating. After a few more spoons he motioned to the bowl of pasta salad in Spock’s hand.
“You don’t have to eat that!”
Spock put it back on the tray. “I am ... relieved, Doctor. Thank you.”
“Your need to express your gratitude is ... illogical here, Spock,” he said, smiling. He had waited a long time for payback, but finally, it had come!