Jim steadily refuses visitors when asked; Nyota bypasses this difficulty by ceasing to ask him, a circumstance that Jim blames on Spock for lack of a convenient target. On the fifth day after Jim's awakening, Cadet T'Prina is waiting outside Jim's closed door. Newly released from Starfleet Medical, she's impeccably correct in her red cadet dress uniform, oddly unfamiliar compared to the blue science uniform she had worn during her internship on the Enterprise; though recovered, she still shows the loss of weight from the two weeks she'd been comatose, and if he looks carefully, a new hollowness around the serious brown eyes.
"Commander," she says, getting to her feet; before she can salute, Spock waves her back to her seat. At his glance at the door, she continues, "I accompanied Ambassador Spock to visit Captain Kirk. He said there was very little likelihood of an invitation while the Captain was still confined to Medical, and that the correct approach would be to come without invitation." She pauses. "I found his arguments logical."
With a final glance at the closed door, Spock takes the seat beside her. "You look well, Cadet."
"I am well, Commander," she answers. "Torren assists me in my exercises and T'Sora has offered us her home to more easily facilitate healing until the term begins."
"It is three months until the fall semester," Spock answers. "You and Torren do not wish to return home until then?"
T'Prina's back stiffens slightly. "Torren's family does not--approve of his choice of profession and the path he intends to follow. He feels it is counterproductive to argue and will remain here."
If he had not known her so well, he would not have seen, or recognized, the brief flash of what might be guilt. "That was not their only objection."
"No." T'Prina's gaze fixes on the reception desk. "As Torren has not yet had his Time, they--wished for Torren to break his bond with me to pursue a more suitable attachment."
That, he had not anticipated. While it is not unheard-of, it is unusual for a bonded couple to separate, even before their Time, when it can be most effectively achieved. "Your families have been friends for many generations. Your bonding was planned from the time of your birth."
"They discovered that I had organized the petition to delay implementation of the exception to the Grayson Test for the colony," T'Prina answers, voice expressionless. "During the discussion that followed, they did not accept my logic, and as I am the last of my clan, I do not bring anything to Torren and his clan. They found these circumstances unacceptable."
"How did they discover it?" Even Admiral Pike had not known who was responsible.
T'Prina lifts her head, chin raising with a faint hint of defiance. "I told them."
"I see." In retrospect, Spock is not surprised; he might have projected this outcome.
"I told them that while I had withdrawn my objection before the Council, that did not change my intention to challenge it before the Elders and demand that the Colony be permitted to vote on a measure that is antithetical to all we are. I must thank you, Commander, for the subtlety of your negotiations with Ambassador Sarek. I assume you knew I would wish to pursue other avenues and assured I would have the opportunity to do so if I could not argue before the Federation."
"I anticipated you would find an alternate path to your goal, Cadet. This is the one I thought you would most likely follow."
She nods sharply, turning away. Spock waits, sensing the disorder of her thoughts.
"They asked me," she says slowly, "why I would take the side of outsiders and permit mixed blood to contaminate our people, when my family had always supported the separation of inferior species. I could not think of an answer other than the one cthia demanded of me; they did not find it acceptable."
Spock begins to question her further when the door opens; almost immediately, T'Prina rises to her feet, hands clasped formally behind her back. "Ambassador. Is Captain Kirk willing to entertain visitors?"
"Oh shut up," Jim snaps from inside. "You'll just sit there and be stoic and Vulcan until everyone feels bad for you and they cut my pudding ration again."
The Ambassador does not smile, but there's a faint sense of amusement as he steps back. "That would be a 'yes', Cadet."
Spock follows her inside, taking the chair by Jim's bed where he had left his datapad. Jim is faintly flushed and more animated than Spock has seen him since he had awakened. Sitting cross-legged on the bed, Jim is reading over a datapad with a new selection of data solids on the mattress before him. Sighing, he scowls at Spock. "Don't start. Did you all forget I'm only a few days from death?"
"Repetition can make even horror mundane," the Ambassador says as he closes the door. T'Prina stands stiffly at the foot of the bed, watching Jim as he sets aside the datapad and looks at her with narrowed eyes.
"You," he says to T'Prina, "are a pain in the ass."
"I believe you promised me a court martial, Captain Kirk," T'Prina answers. "While you are on medical leave and cannot handle the formalities personally, I believe Commander Spock can convene one at your convenience."
Jim leans back against the pillows. "What is it with Vulcans and their obsession with court martials anyway?"
Wisely, T'Prina does not answer, but she takes a careful step toward the bed, removing a datapad from the pocket of her uniform. "In that case, Captain, I have a request."
Expression turning curious, Jim leans forward, taking the datapad and glancing at the screen before stilling. Blinking at T'Prina once, he begins to read it carefully. When he looks up again, there's something on his face that Spock hasn't seen since before the Begammon station, before what they had discovered at the Colony, before once again, the most cynical parts of Jim are proved correct despite all that Admiral Pike had taught him to want to believe.
"Why?" he says finally, fingers white around the edges of the datapad.
T'Prina straightens more, as if she had been waiting for that question. "Once," she says, "I met a man who told me I could captain a starship. It seemed logical to discover if he was correct. I understand that you cannot be my advisor, as you are not a member of Starfleet Academy faculty, but you once told me a story of a man you met in a bar. When I approached him with my request, he gave his consent."
Jim nods, eyes dark.
"When he asked me that question, I told him what cthia demanded; that I wish to follow in the footsteps of two of Starfleet's greatest officers."
As if he had just awakened, Jim looks back down at the datapad, scrolling slowly through the declaration of change of track, to the recommendation letters from Admiral Pike, from Spock himself, her class schedule, pausing with a frown. "Richards has you for Command 101--yes, Spock, I know what it's actually called, don't even." Handing her back the datapad, he nods. "He's boring. Take a good book; you'll need it."
"I understand you will be teaching the introductory command course on the Enterprise," T'Prina says, tucking the datapad into her tunic.
Jim glares at Spock. "So I've been told."
"I understand you have not yet had the opportunity to prepare materials for the course. I would like to offer myself as an audience when you begin to do so."
"I'm not that great an instructor," Jim starts, warily.
T'Prina shakes her head, one hip pressing gently against the edge of Jim's bed. "Yes, you are." Glancing toward the door, she continues, "I believe we should discuss the details over the midday meal. Ambassador Spock had the foresight to ask to serve us all here, if that is acceptable, Captain Kirk."
Jim shakes his head, a smile curling up the corner of his mouth, and for a moment, Spock can see how young Jim truly is still, hidden as it has become beneath the Starfleet officer and the Enterprise Captain. "Tell Torren he can come in now," Jim says, crossing his arms over his chest in imagined disdain. "He's not like you; he has manners. He's upstairs with Sorin, isn't he?"
T'Prina nods, going to the door; as she begins to open it, Jim continues, "By the way, quick note for the future, kiddo. Torren didn't make a choice. That implies there was a possibility he would have picked anything that wasn't you. Be a little more logical, would you? Because obviously, that wasn't happening."
T'Prina stiffens, startled. "How did you--"
"I know everything. And if I don't, I find out. Go get your boyfriend--fine, bondmate, Vulcans are weird, you know that?--and tell him he can have five minutes with my codepicker so he can build you one. I've seen him drooling over it--well, as much as Vulcans drool over anything technical and shiny. He's a good engineer; I think he can figure it out. And hurry up; I'm starving."
Looking a little bemused, T'Prina leaves, shutting the door behind her. Ambassador Spock looks at Jim with a faint, private smile, and Spock thinks that perhaps, he does not resent it. "I must return to Rayiyah," he says, one hand resting on the bed near Jim's hip. "But T'Sora and I will join you and Commander Spock for dinner."
Jim scowls, glancing down at his medical scrubs with a pained expression. "Do I have a choice?"
"No, you do not." With a nod at Spock, the Ambassador leaves as well, and Spock finds himself alone with Jim. After a moment, Jim sighs, turning to look at Spock. "Okay, so I didn't see that coming, but I bet you did."
Jim's eyes narrowed. "This is that thing Vulcans do so they look inscrutable and all-knowing. I swear to God your people invented that when you met us, just because it was funny to see humans twitch." After a moment, however, he smiles, slow and mischievous.
Spock stills. "Do you need--"
Pushing the data solids away, Jim braces a hand on the edge of the bed and leans over, kissing him lightly. When he draws back with a smug smile, Spock touches his mouth. "Jim?"
"Just, you know." Jim stares narrowly at the window behind Spock. "For picking me."
Ah. Spock sets down his datapad and stands up; surprised, Jim moves over as Spock sits on the edge of the bed. Tracing a line between the psi-points on his face, he feels Jim shiver. "That would imply that there was a possibility I would have chosen anything else, t'hy'la. There was not."
Jim licks his lips, giving the door a brief, speculative glance, then one strong hand cups Spock's jaw. "I love you, you know." Before he can answer, Jim kisses him, and this time, it is neither quick nor light. "Wanna make out until they get back?" Jim breathes before swallowing his potential objection.
Spock is not sure he can remember what his objection would have been.
Spock is not surprised to find Nyota waiting for him outside of Starfleet Medical at noon the next day; Jim's sudden and inexplicable desire for a few hours of privacy to meditate wouldn't have been believable at any time. Jim had given up trying to convince Spock with a pillow tossed at his head, shouting, "Spock, get out and interact with people not in the medical profession or subject to the medical profession for a few hours. I swear I will not cry into my pillow that you don't love me anymore if you don't spend your every waking hour watching me breathe, mmkay? Go away."
"I'm the second line of defense," Nyota says, taking his arm and leading him toward the doors that open onto the main grounds. "I'm not allowed to bring you back until after dinner. Captain's orders."
"He implied as much." The second pillow had been as accurately aimed as the first had been, which Spock supposes is proof of Jim's quickly returning strength. "I am not certain--"
Nyota rolls her eyes. "Leonard is meeting him after lunch, just in case this is actually Jim's special code for intensive brooding; he can handle it. Now, there's a lecture on dialect evolution in response to cultural isolation this afternoon by Dr. Tai Nagu," she continues. "I studied linguistic drift in non-hominid species with Tai before I was accepted to Starfleet Academy and we've kept in touch."
"She has returned from Deneb?"
"She got bored on sabbatical and Starfleet jumped at the opportunity," Nyota answers. "There's a reception after the lecture we've both been invited to attend as well."
"I look forward to the introduction," Spock answers; Dr. Nagu had upset many parts of linguistic theory during her study of sentient species whose language development had evolved without a verbal component; communication was based entirely on subtle changes in physiology that could combine external color, body temperature, scent, taste, tactile contact, and physical movement. Starfleet Academy's linguistic department boasted no less than two of her former students, both of whom had studied under her for most of their academic career. "I haven't had the opportunity to review her most recent paper--"
"Don't worry," Nyota answers as they arrive at the station to wait for the next public transport into the city. Spock mentally reviews the schedule. "I brought a copy that you can review while we eat. Or--"
"You could ask me, Commander Spock."
Startled, Spock glances at Nyota long enough to see her grin, then turns his attention to Dr. Nagu, her round, unwrinkled face broken by a wide smile as she nods a greeting. The two faint scars on each cheek were given to her by the L'T:k'm, a non-hominid, ungendered species with a faint resemblance to Terran tapeworms, the traditional blue tinting bright against skin so dark it was nearly black. Each scar recognized a level of scholarship achieved; four proclaimed her as a High Scholar among the various family groups that made up the planet's population, a distinction that few even among the L'T:k'm had ever reached. Due to her frequent work among species with varying hygiene requirements that could be dramatically different from those required of a human being, she'd long adopted the habit of shaving her head; during her sabbatical on earth, however, she had permitted it to grow several inches, trimmed to emphasize her high forehead and sharp brown eyes.
"Dr. Nagu," Spock says, controlling his eagerness with some effort. "It is an honor to make your acquaintance."
"I can say the same, Commander Spock," she answers with a graceful inclination of her head. "Nyota contacted me when the Enterprise docked, and I thought this would be as good a time as any to take up Starfleet on their invitation to give a lecture."
"I look forward to your expansion of linguistic drift in olfactory communication patterns," Spock answers as the transport arrives. "Your theory is currently under review for integration into the universal communicator's core programming."
"So it is, though not with Amanda's unusual aptitude in programming non-verbal language interpretation into the core matrix," Dr. Nagu says as the transport doors close, smile fading as she shifts from Standard to formal Vulcan. "I grieve with thee, Commander Spock. She was both an invaluable colleague as well as a close personal friend for several years. Both the linguistic community and the Federation are infinitely less for her loss."
Spock nods, controlling the habitual slice of pain. "Her papers and research were given into my custody and released to all interested institutions. I would be pleased to offer you a private copy as well to assist you in your continuing research." Spock hesitates before continuing. "I also possess all of her private correspondence."
Dr. Nagu looks away for a moment. "The conditions required for my research often made saving private correspondence impossible, even that of treasured friends. I don't have the right to ask you--"
"You do not need to ask."
When Dr. Nagu looks at him again, only the brightness of her eyes betray her feelings. "Thank you, Commander."
"One does not thank logic. She spoke of you with great admiration and affection; I understand you spent two seasons as a guest lecturer at Vulcan Science Academy during my first year as an instructor at Starfleet Academy."
"Your parents invited me to live with them during my residence," Dr. Nagu answers, following the change of subject gracefully. "My Vulcan was rather rusty; your mother took care of that in the first week." Smiling, she mocks a shiver. "It was like four years of undergrad in four days. And that was before she thought I needed to improve my command of the desert clans' dialects."
"How did she acquire your instruction?" Spock asks, curious. "My mother spent six months with the clans when I was a child, but they initially were not pleased with her presence."
"The really old fashioned way: straight from the source. Five days in the desert, complete with tents in the sand, since we went during their hunting season." Her smile widens. "Bet she didn't tell you about that, did she?"
"No, she did not include that in her correspondence."
"There's a reason for that," Dr. Nagu answers, pleased. "I'll share over dinner. Nyota, honey, you should hear this too; your paper on the limits on then-current configuration of the universal translator's matrix set it off."
Appalled, Nyota looks at Spock. "You sent your mother a paper I wrote when I was a first year?"
Spock opens his mouth to reply just as the transport comes to a stop. "I believe we have arrived," he says in relief. "Nyota, Dr. Nagu--"
"Don't worry, we'll pick this up at the restaurant," Nyota answers, eyes narrowing briefly before threading her arm through Dr. Nagu's. "I really want to hear about this."
The lecture and reception pass with surprising speed, followed by an invitation by Dr. Nagu to join her and Admiral Pike for dinner, along with several of Spock's former students eager for the opportunity to meet the most revolutionary xenolinguist in Federation history. It's nearly midnight by the time Spock walks Nyota to her quarters; stiffening, he wonders how time could pass so easily without thinking of Jim.
"Don't even," Nyota says abruptly as her door opens. "Tell me you didn't have a good time."
"Right. So go see Jim, go to bed, and tell him all about it tomorrow." Crossing her arms, Nyota leans against the doorway with a slight smile. "Leonard and I are coming by for lunch, so request enough for all of us. Tomorrow evening, you and I are going with Scotty and Torren to the forum on experimental engine modeling before meeting T'Prina for dinner while Admiral Pike and Chekov update Jim on Starfleet gossip. We all get that Jim doesn't want anyone to see him while he's still under medical care; he's going to have to get over it. It's not good for either of you to isolate yourselves, or for him to use you as a barrier to normal interaction with other people, and we've let it go on long enough."
"I think you are correct," Spock answers after a moment of thought; Jim's sleeping mind murmurs contentedly in the back of his mind. "It was an enjoyable evening, Nyota."
"Thanks for coming," she says lightly, turning away. "Noon, Spock! Don't let him pretend to fall asleep again, either."
The medical center is silent as Spock lets himself in, crossing to the far doors that lead to patients who no longer require constant monitoring or are soon to be released. The first floor room is larger than the one Jim had occupied in intensive care, modeling a generic bedroom with a limited replicator to encourage Jim to continue to regain the weight he had lost.
The bed is pushed against the wall, however, and even in sleep, Jim left a space open in obvious expectation. Jim wakes briefly when Spock joins him, murmuring, "Bones said I have to start playing with the other kids more." Yawning, Jim settles against his shoulder.
"You had an enjoyable day?"
Surprised pleasure colors Jim's thoughts with the faint memories of an afternoon in the patient gardens with Dr. McCoy, Cadet T'Prina, and Torren, followed by a nap before Lieutenant Sulu and his parents, both long-time colleagues and friends of Jim's older brother, Dr. Sam Kirk, had joined him and Ambassador Spock and T'Sora for a late dinner in the hospital mess. They let me wear pants. Total highlight of my day. You?
Spock shows him an abbreviated version of the day, silently promising a more thorough description tomorrow. Nagu? Awesome. I always wanted to meet her. She knew your mom, huh?
Yes. Spock brushes back Jim's hair from his eyes, knowing Jim desperately wants a haircut, but finding the increased length oddly attractive. Perhaps she might join us for dinner this week. I understand she has agreed to a series of lectures for the next two weeks in response to the popularity of the one she conducted this evening. She has expressed her desire to make your acquaintance, if you are so inclined.
Jim hesitates, eyes slitting open, pride warring with curiosity before he nods. "Yeah," he says finally. "Just--get me a uniform? I'm not meeting Dr. Nagu in pajamas."
"You realize she is six decades your senior and prefers female partners," Spock says in amusement. "It must also be noted that you are unavailable for the foreseeable future."
Jim smirks, eyes drifting shut. Yeah, well, no harm in looking. I have a thing for linguists, you know. Settling into sleep, Jim murmurs, "Well, these days, just one of them."
Despite the close of the official inquiry into the actions of the Enterprise, Starfleet continues to call in various members of the crew for interviews almost at random. Following the information chain Lieutenant Uhura had developed for the enlisted crewmembers (though it had been created for the purpose of shortcutting the restrictions of the chain of command on Jim's order, to give junior officers and non-commissioned crew a less complicated and intimidating means of contacting their superiors), the names of the crewmen singled out and a summary of each interview are reported regularly, which Uhura organizes, summarizes, and reports to both Jim and Spock.
Dr. Valdez, after consultation with Healer Sorin and Dr. McCoy, had reluctantly agreed that Jim's condition had improved enough for him to be interviewed by Starfleet Security. To Spock's bemusement, Admiral Komack's new duties required his participation in all aspects of the questioning, where his famous lack of subtlety was employed to Jim's benefit.
The Sunseed Project that Rayiyah had developed by chance was of extreme interest to all divisions of Starfleet; after Ambassador Spock had arrived and settled himself and his wife in accommodations adjacent to Starfleet Medical, he had quickly established Vulcan authority over Rayiyah, which had done a great deal to convince Rayiyah that he was not in immediate danger of either execution or extradition to the Romulan Empire.
"Speaking of," Jim says, trying to ignore the vegetable portion of his meal entirely, "why haven't we been contacted by the Empire to return their people? Their spy network can't possibly be incompetent enough to miss this. Not like that little border skirmish was sublte."
Nyota ably removes the cherry cobbler that one of the nurses had brought him from the more extensive Academy messhall, pointing at the dish of braised asparagus and artichokes when Jim objects. "Finish that first," she says, fishing a fat cherry from the bowl and eating it when Jim scowls. "And they might have. Doesn't mean that we'd know about it."
"Official contact from the Romulan Empire is a matter of public record," Spock answers, as Jim quickly and without enjoyment tries to finish his bowl before Nyota can make significant inroads in the cobbler. "And I agree; while they might have indeed initiated private contact with Starfleet, they would not lose the opportunity that Rayiyah's presence would offer them to accuse us of either abduction--"
"Hey!" Jim says, swallowing hastily at Nyota's frown for his poor manners. "Speaking as one of the abducted--"
"--or subornation of a Romulan citizen," Spock continues as if Jim had not spoken. "They would be within their rights by the terms of our armistice to demand at least an interview with Rayiyah, which we would be required to provide, either to assure his voluntary defection or to accuse him of treason against the Empire."
"Those files we took from Rayiyah's databases might be a big motivator to shut up," Jim answers, pushing aside the empty dish and taking back his dessert. "How much has been translated so far?"
"With Rayiyah and Ambassador Spock's assistance, we have thirty percent in rough translation; the finer points could take years, but it's pretty interesting reading material as it stands. If someone tipped them off, it might be enough to keep them quiet for a while." Jim offers Nyota another cherry in appreciation. "Thanks. In any case, the Syndicate's making up for it in sheer volume; every major corporation represented on the Syndicate's board is protesting they have no idea what the Federation is talking about. All but one." Popping the cherry into her mouth, she raises her eyebrows. "Due to an unfortunate navigational error in one of their cruisers, the company headquarters and most of the city were destroyed, killing every employee of record."
Dr. McCoy looks up from reading a datapad in the corner, expression grim. "Quite a navigational error."
"Quite," Nyota answers softly. "They're also demanding the return of their ship--"
"My ship," Jim says through a mouthful of pie, pointing his spoon at Spock. "I don't care what Starfleet says; I stole it fair and square. Not that there's much of it left besides databanks and spacedust."
"What on earth would you do with a slaver ship?" Dr. McCoy demands, putting down the datapad.
"The question is, what couldn't I do with a slaver ship, and that's not much. However, I don’t want the Enterprise to get jealous, so I'm willing to let Starfleet Engineering have those databanks. God knows those transporter configurations are warp years ahead of us for mass human transport." Chasing down the last bits of cherry, Jim sets the bowl aside and surveys the room. "You know, we're all on leave, I'm critically ill, and yet we still have staff meetings. But with food. I like that development. Remind me to institute that when we ship out."
"Seconded," Dr. McCoy volunteers, standing up with a groan. "And with that, I have rounds, then a lovely evening at a very boring--"
Nyota clears her throat.
"--experimental performance by a troupe of multi-species dancers who are reinterpreting Swan Lake as a pre-Reformation Vulcan battle. Which is what happens when you major in liberal arts." Smirking at Nyota, Dr. McCoy stops at Jim's bed, giving the monitors a cursory examination. "Looking good, Jim. I'll drop by Valdez's office before I leave and see if we can break you out tomorrow."
"Yeah, no, I heard what happens to challengers at koon-ut kal-if-fee, thanks." With a nod at Spock and another smile at Nyota, Dr. McCoy leaves, shouting for a nurse before the door closes behind him.
Reluctantly, Nyota gets up from her seat at the foot of Jim's bed. "I'd better go as well. I'm supervising the update of the Enterprise communications array--"
Jim winces visibly; that never ends well, at least for the engineers when Nyota sees what they have perpetrated on her board.
"--and I want to get some work done on the universal translator matrix before dinner." Leaning a hip against the bed, Nyota gives Jim a flat look. "Speaking of, you aren't permitted to backseat repair the Enterprise after that incident with Commodore Atkins and the dilithium crystal mix-up, as you know very well, so decide where you want to take leave and I'll make the arrangements."
Jim leans back into his pillow, uncrossing his legs with a sigh. "Just because I'm on medical leave and can't do anything fun doesn't mean the rest of you have to--"
"Yeah, shut up. We're all going, so get over it." Pushing off the bed, she glances at Spock on her way to the door. "Don't forget we have dinner with Scotty and his staff tomorrow night to go over the updates to engineering, and we need to clear the rest of our personnel requests after that. I want this done before we leave; there's no way I'm working on vacation."
"Sometimes," Jim says to no one in particular, "I really wonder why you all keep me around."
"Because you're pretty," Nyota says with a smirk. "See you tomorrow, Jim."
When the door is closed behind her, Jim holds out a hand. "Give me the blueprints of the refit cycle now. If she thought to warn me off, it's got to be bad."
Resigned, Spock takes out the solid, which Jim adds to his datapad. "I am sure it is not as extensive as the unfortunate changes Commodore Atkins authorized."
"Yeah, that's what they always say." Settling himself against the pillows, Jim looks at Spock over the edge of the datapad. "You feel like beaming up and making sure they're not replacing my chair again?"
Spock glances out the window; he had hoped to verify the changes made to the ship's core memory today. "Admiral Pike had scheduled to meet with us today--"
Jim blows out a breath in frustration. "Current changes in regulations approved during the last Admiral's meeting, I remember. Which you already memorized. Just go; no reason both of us have to be bored to homicide for three hours."
"You are certain?"
Jim looks at him incredulously. "Let's remember why I'm barred from the ship again? Protect my goddamn chair." Jim grins as he picks up the datapad again and waves Spock toward the door. "Have fun for me. God knows I won't be having any."
|Dr. Melody Huang
The first faint sense of alarm is so mild that Spock almost ignores it as he attempts to make sense of the updates to the science station, as they seem to follow no known logical pattern, almost as if to discourage its use by any species possessing a developed cerebral cortex and opposable thumbs. As the distressingly enthusiastic engineer explains the benefits of the new interface, a sudden wave of sharply focused anger takes his entire attention.
"Please have your supervisor report to me with a complete explanation of the reason for these changes," Spock says, cutting the ensign off mid-sentence. "You are dismissed, Lieutenant Singh."
Ignoring the ensign's startled expression, Spock approaches Nyota at communications, currently stripped down to bare wiring and data solids. "Can we communicate with Starfleet yet?"
"Nope." To his bemusement, she seems to be grinding her teeth from her position on the floor, the new board broken down into its component parts. Looking up, she frowns at whatever she observes on his face. "Dammit, is it urgent? The board is a mess, and I don't know when I'll get it working again. Have they brought back the shuttlecraft yet?"
"No," Spock answers as Nyota gets to her feet, looking helplessly at the communications board. "Do not trouble yourself--"
Spock hesitates. "He seemed--angry."
"He's meeting with Admiral Pike, isn't he? He's getting the annual regulations lecture." Before Spock can answer, Nyota grabs a passing crewman. "Find me whoever worked on this board and tell them I want it back to how it was pre-insane refit within the hour, got it? Go."
The crewman departs with unsurprising swiftness, bypassing the turbolift for the access panel to the Jefferies tubes. Nyota closes her eyes, hands clenched into fists. "They took down the turbolifts again. Goddammit."
"You are probably correct," Spock admits; Jim's mind has settled into sleep, which is surprising, considering the excess anger. "He has fallen asleep."
"Still." Kicking the communications panel in frustration, she steps over it, surveying the partially deconstructed bridge before sighing. "Let's get out of here before I snap and order them all into the brig. If we leave now, we can check on Jim before dinner with time to make sure he eats more than cake."
"The turbolifts are down," Spock observes, gazing at the Jefferies tubes.
"I can climb," Nyota answers grimly. "Emergency transporters in auxiliary are always online. Ten levels--hmm. My best time at the Academy was fourteen minutes. Yours?"
"Eight minutes and forty six point three nine eight seconds."
Nyota raises her eyebrows in challenge. "Let's see if we can beat that."
The sleeping murmur of Jim's mind continues to occupy Spock's attention; it is illogical, but after the events of the previous weeks, Spock supposes it is natural he would be unusually sensitive to Jim's condition. As they reach the level of auxiliary control ("Ten minutes. Not too bad," Nyota remarks, pleased. "And in the dark, even. Remind me to yell at someone about emergency lights."), Nyota glances around the quiet corridors in relief. "I'm learning to love silence. This way."
It's a short walk to the emergency transporter. Nyota goes to the controls, satisfied they haven't been updated yet, then brings the system online and starts the power cycle. "One minute," she says as Spock steps onto the platform. "I was thinking about South America, or maybe Risa if we can get Valdez to approve Jim going off-planet," she says, leaning both elbows on the control panel. "Somewhere tropical. What do you think?"
"Our last leave involved a great deal of snow," Spock answers after a moment of thought. "It was--challenging."
"Right. Don't let Jim pick vacations, ever. I should have guessed." Glancing at the readings, Nyota sighs. "I always wanted to learn to--okay, what the hell?" Pulling back, she taps a sequence into the board, frown deepening. "The power drained and started cycling again."
"Let me see." Joining her, Spock pulls the diagnostic record. "The system was reset."
"Uhura to--" Nyota cuts herself off with a murmured profanity that Spock pretends not to hear. "Communications are down. All right, what the hell?"
"It is not unusual," Spock says, kneeling to remove the board access panel. "I did not think to retrieve my tool kit--:
"I did." Crouching beside him, she pulls a small leather case from her boot, unrolling it on the floor between them. "It was designed for the communication board so I could do emergency repairs on the bridge without shutting down, but it should work for the transporter board in a pinch."
"They are sufficient." Spock picks up a small cutter while studying the power relays. Jim's mind has settled into a surprisingly deep sleep, the low murmuring almost impossible to discern. "Rerouting power to--" Spock stops abruptly; Jim's presence dissolves into no more than a faint spark. "Jim."
Uhura's fingers close over his wrist, pulling the cutter away. "What?"
"He is in a coma," Spock says numbly. "I do not understand; there was no sign of cortical degradation when--"
"Right. You need me to do that?" Nyota's voice demands his attention; with an effort, Spock focuses on her face.
"No." Turning back to the open panel, Spock quickly makes the changes. "Monitor the board and tell me if the cycle completes without draining."
"I'm on it." Getting to her feet, her knee presses comfortingly against his shoulder. "Twenty percent and rising."
The cycle seems unusually slow, though Spock is aware it is his own perception of time that is skewed. At this distance, there is no way to contact Jim, and without knowledge of his condition, it would be unwise to attempt it. Despite that, it is a physical effort not to try.
"It's stable. Get on the platform. This only goes into the transporter room in the station, but we'll get an emergency beam to the Medical Center. They may have information there if they couldn't contact us here." Reaching down, she rolls up her toolkit, shoving it in her boot. "Hurry."
Spock takes his place on the platform as Nyota enters the commands, joining him just the familiar humming begins. Almost immediately, the interior of the space station forms around them, a surprised looking technician approaching the transporter pad.
"How did you--"
"You," Nyota says sharply, "find out who the hell disabled emergency transport and send them straight to Pike. Auxiliary is never disabled when there are lifesigns on board. Where's Commodore Atkins?"
"She's--that way," the technician answers faintly, pointing toward the doors. "In the command center--"
"As you were. Uhura to Communication, have any messages been received for Commander Spock?" Preceding him out the door, she listens to her communicator. "Contact Starfleet Medical and get the current status of Captain James Kirk from Dr. McCoy. Tell him to do a physical check immediately and contact us with the results. Uhura out." Pocketing her communicator, she hesitates before turning left. "No reports from Starfleet Medical," she tells him breathlessly. "He still out of it?"
"You said he was angry and then went to sleep," she says as she counts doors. "Here we are. Spock?"
Spock gives her a nod, taking a breath as she enters her code and waits for them to be given permission to enter. Within a few seconds, the doors open, permitting them entrance into the small, crowded command center of the station.
"Commander Spock, Lieutenant Uhura," Commodore Atkins says with cool dignity, looking at them with unconcealed displeasure. "Is there a problem?"
"There are several, Commodore," Spock answers. "We currently require emergency transport to the Medical Center."
"We verified that no messages have been received from Starfleet, Commander Spock," Commodore Atkins answers coolly. "Your message, Lieutenant Uhura, is being relayed to Starfleet and will be forwarded to Medical--"
"Would you permit me to contact Medical directly? The relay will take time I am not sure--"
"If there was a problem," Commodore Atkins answers, "I am sure you would have been contacted. Regulations require all messages pass through Starfleet Communications. You are welcome to wait for a response in the mess."
"Commodore," Spock answers, keeping his voice even with an effort, "despite the lack of communication, Captain Kirk's condition has deteriorated rapidly. I require--"
"Commander Spock," Commodore Atkins says with a condescending smile, "I understand you are worried due to Captain Kirk's recent injuries. If it was an emergency, I assure you, we would have been told. I'll contact you in the mess when we receive a response. Mr. Renfield, please escort the Commander and Lieutenant to the mess hall." Her smile fades as Ensign Renfield joins them. "Please take advantage of our hospitality while you wait."
Spock reaches for Nyota's wrist, aware she is dangerously close to insubordination. "I thank you, Commodore," Spock answers tonelessly. "I will be sure to mention your cooperation to Admiral Pike." Turning toward the door with Lieutenant Renfield in close proximity, Spock feels Nyota carefully forming a mental image of the condition that Commodore Atkins had been discovered in after the dilithium incident.
In retrospect, Spock rather thinks that Jim's actions were justified.
It's nearly an hour before an ensign comes for them; to Spock's surprise, they're led directly to the transporter room. "Admiral Pike authorized a direct transport to Starfleet Medical," he explains as they take their position on the pad. Commodore Atkins is unsurprisingly absent. "Energize."
Dr. McCoy, Dr. Valdez, and three members of Starfleet Security are waiting for them at the transporter pad in the Medical Center. "Jim's gone," Dr. McCoy says without preamble, falling into step with them. "We're doing a room by room search, but so far, no one remembers anything."
"Has it been established when he was taken?" Spock asks as they emerge into the reception area, where Admiral Pike and several other members of security have commandeered the main desk. "Admiral."
"Commander. I got a message canceling my meeting with Jim before I left my office." Pike looks at him grimly. "That's the last I heard from him."
Spock thinks back to the first sign of distress. "Jim first exhibited distress two hours and ten minutes ago, followed by anger one minute later. Then his mind abruptly entered fourth stage sleep," he says, aware of a lieutenant making notes beside him. "It was forty-five minutes after that that he entered a comatose state."
"That would be consistent with sedation followed by administration of a medically induced coma," Dr. McCoy offers, looking over Jim's last readings. "I'm not ruling out a traumatic brain event, but it's unlikely he'd go straight to fourth stage sleep by natural means that fast. Nothing the monitors recorded for the last two days show any kind of instability in his brain function."
"According to staff, no one saw anyone enter or leave the room after Spock left," Uhura says, taking the datapad Admiral Pike offers. "So we're talking a beam-out?"
Remembering Jim's codepicker, Spock leaves the reception area, ignoring Admiral Pike's inquiry. Studying the bed, covers shoved to the foot, Spock turns one of the monitors, finding the faint scratches of the panel being removed. Carefully, he pries it open and takes out Jim's codepicker.
When he returns, Nyota's expression crumples. "The codepicker is still in the room," Spock says, hand clenched around it. "If Jim had meant to leave--"
"He would have taken it, yeah." Admiral Pike looks at security. "Verify the shielding that blocks direct beam-out from patient rooms hasn't been tampered with. I know you checked; do it again." Turning back to Spock, Admiral Pike blows out a breath. "We verified with external security footage that Jim didn't take the window. For that matter--"
"Jim wouldn't leave without telling one of us," Nyota answers, looking up from the datapad and meeting Admiral Pike's skeptical look. Dr. McCoy nods agreement, then reaches for his communicator as it pings, turning away from the group. "We know him, Admiral. If he wanted to get out, he would have asked one of us to cover for him. And we would have."
"I'll defer to your judgment, then," Admiral Pike answers. "Chekov and Sulu are leading security in a floor by floor search; we're verifying no other patients have gone missing."
"Healer Sorin verified that all the patients from the colony are accounted for," Dr. McCoy says, closing his communicator. "He regrets he can't help us search, but he says they're extremely agitated and projecting a little strongly, so they've been moved to the fifth floor until everything calms down. The entire floor is a Faraday cage," Dr. McCoy explains to Admiral Pike. "Blocks telepathy. With the searches going on, their shields aren't holding up too well."
"Understood. Inform him we'll alert him when it's calmed down a little." The head of Starfleet campus security leans over, murmuring something that Spock can't quite hear. "Tell them Starfleet's in lockdown until I say it's not. No one in, no one out. That does include admirals; tell anyone who objects to talk to Komack and see how far they get."
"Technician Rayiyah--" Spock begins as the sense of Admiral Pike's words penetrate; he is surprised that it did not occur to him before.
"Ambassador Spock and three security officers are with him and his colleagues, and they're reporting every fifteen minutes," Admiral Pike answers, looking between them thoughtfully. "Cadet T'Prina and Torren were at the Vulcan Consulate, and Ambassador Sarek informed me that appropriate measures have been taken to protect them. And until we know more, the Enterprise senior staff are being assigned a security detail."
"We need to get caught up," Nyota says abruptly. "Is there a room nearby?"
Admiral Pike waves over his assistant. "Find them a room. Spock…" he pauses, shaking his head. "We'll find him."
"I'll get you up to speed," Dr. McCoy offers as Nyota's fingers close around Spock's wrist. Blankly, Spock follows them to the indicated room, aware of security following them. "Tell Chekov and Sulu to come in when they're done. Hey, just Evans, okay?" he hears Nyota say. "We need some privacy."
"Evans, bring your second, but that's it." Abruptly her voice drops. "Commander Spock is in shock. Clear it with Pike if you have to. Now out."
As the doors close, Spock takes a seat at the wide table, looking around; apparently, they've commandeered the first floor break room. Nyota and McCoy seat themselves on either side of him. "Any change?" Nyota asks softly as Evans circles the room, looking grim and determined by turn. "Any--"
"No. There has been no change." Spock looks up. "I believe--my judgment is impaired at this time."
"I know; that's my job." Sitting back, she motions Evans to take a seat. "Okay, anything we're missing?"
"No." Evans shifts restlessly. "I was off-duty when Dr. McCoy discovered Captain Kirk was missing and called my first team to report here immediately. Pike cleared us and we did a sweep of the entire building. I verified the shielding personally, Lieutenant. There's no way anyone could have direct beamed out of a patient room, not without making a mess of the system in the process and not without leaving something."
"Anything is possible," Spock says. "But it is unlikely, yes."
"There was a forty-five minute gap between when we sent the message and Dr. McCoy received it," Nyota says flatly. "And you said about forty-five minutes between deep sleep and when he went into a coma. He was angry before that, but up until then--"
"Jim did not exhibit any strong emotion," Spock answers, unable to make himself concentrate on anything but the thin awareness of Jim, distant and untouchable again. The conversation of his crewmates continues around him as Spock closes his eyes, trying to find his center; every time, he's brushed away, almost deliberately, his attention broken. "There was no sign of a struggle." It takes an enormous effort to say. "If he had been transported, the blankets--"
"Would have gone with him," Nyota says slowly. "They were at the foot of the bed; he got up. Someone came by and he went with them voluntarily."
"No one saw them leave," Dr. McCoy says, lifting his head from his hands, hair disordered. "Look, just trust me on this, Jim's under constant surveillance, and I do mean constant with his little trick of running outside to play when he feels like it. I set up the monitors myself; I know every damn time he leaves that room and where he goes. He didn't get his shoes or his clothes or the codepicker; he didn't think he was leaving the hospital."
Abruptly, Spock feels something change; like vertigo, the room shivers, and Spock opens his mouth, but the words lock in his throat. Blinking, he looks at Nyota, who reaches for him, brown eyes wide. "Jim."
Getting clumsily to his feet, he would have fallen if Nyota had not caught him. "Where?"
Close. He looks at the door, wondering if he can walk even those few steps. "He is--"
At the sound of raised voices outside the door, Dr. McCoy stands up, but Evans beats him, giving them all a long look that reminds them as head of security, he has every intention of assuring they don't lose another member of the Enterprise command staff--again. The door opens just as he reaches it, a frantic looking ensign who blurts out "Commander Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, he's--Captain Kirk's back."
The reception room is in a state of controlled chaos, but with Nyota and Dr. McCoy beside him, Spock is able to navigate the length of it without any clear idea of having done so. Within Jim's small room, several doctors and nurses are hovering over the no longer empty bed, and Spock catches a glimpse of Jim's face, faintly flushed and from a glance at the monitors, in normal REM sleep.
"Move it," Dr. McCoy growls, pushing through the bodies surrounding Jim by sheer will. Dr. Valdez looks up, then nods a quick permission, letting him through. Blinking, Spock hesitates, following an odd blur that seems to shimmer at the corner of his eye. Healer Sorin and a familiar woman in nurse's scrubs are approaching the main doors, their pace slow; when she stumbles, he sees Sorin catch her, one arm circling her narrow waist. As she lifts her head, Spock glimpses the thin, hollow face, pale golden skin, and a glimpse of wide, glazed blue eyes. Melody?
Sorin stops, turning slightly to look at him. For a moment, the room seems to silence around them. The man's face is impassive for a long moment, then the narrow lips quirk in a strange, unfamiliar smile.
I am impressed, Commander Spock. I see I was correct in assuring your absence. I believe I owe you and Captain Kirk a debt of gratitude. See to your bondmate for now. The rest will come in time.
"…Spock. Spock?" Nyota's voice drags him back, and Spock blinks, looking at the empty space for a moment before turning toward her. "Spock. Are you okay?"
"Yes." Looking back, Spock shakes himself, following the insistent pressure of her hand. Dr. McCoy is waiting, and Spock listens patiently as Dr. Valdez assures them that Captain Kirk is sleeping normally, that his bloodstream shows signs of a complicated solution that was used to induce a chemical coma in severely injured patients, that there are signs of new regeneration in the occipital lobe--
"Regeneration," Spock says, looking at Dr. McCoy. "Someone operated on him?"
"They went in where we did when we did Sorin's regeneration trick," Dr. McCoy says grimly. "No damage far as I can see. Looks like--" Dr. McCoy hesitates, as if he's fighting a thought that will not remain still. "It was expert, whoever did it; they knew exactly where to look and what to do."
Spock thinks of Sorin; the thought doesn't linger, almost aggressively shoved out of his mind as Dr. McCoy shows him the familiar scans. "He's been passively reading since he went into normal sleep; his psi-centers are active and all over the map. We're moving him upstairs into a Faraday room until he wakes up. Just in case."
"Yes," Spock says, giving his consent. As Dr. McCoy and Dr. Valdez begin to direct the medical staff, Spock permits Lieutenant Uhura to lead him back to Admiral Pike. "Admiral--"
"No idea," Admiral Pike says viciously, looking between three separate datapads while nervous looking security members try to be inconspicuous. "Dr. Valdez was talking to me, turned around to ask one of the nurses something, and took off for the room. Jim was just there, like he never left. Valdez said he was just entering normal sleep when they found him." Admiral Pike stops, turning to the comm. "I want every log of everything that's happened for the last four hours now. I don't care if it's logging a rat in the basement, everything's suspect and I want to see it all. Now."
"Yes, sir," the voice over the comm says nervously.
Turning back to them, Admiral Pike sighs. "This isn't over yet. I think it would be better--"
"We'll stay with Captain Kirk," Nyota says firmly. "Evans and his team can handle security."
Looking relieved, Admiral Pike nods. "I'll talk to Valdez and get that floor cleared--"
"In the room," Nyota clarifies, looking surprised. "What, do you think someone isn't going to be keeping him in sight for the foreseeable future? This is twice. There are four suites on that floor for families--we'll take one of those."
Admiral Pike looks at one of his aides. "Tell Valdez," he says, waving him toward the swarm of medical personnel. "We'll need to question you both--all of you," the Admiral says, almost apologetically. "As soon as--"
"We would prefer to do it here," Nyota answers. "At your convenience, sir," she adds belatedly. "Could you inform Cadet T'Prina and Ambassador Spock--"
"We're on it." Admiral Pike looks at Spock for a moment. "And I get the feeling if I don't give you permission to get up there, you'll be doing it without. Go."
Spock nods jerkily, unable to hide his relief; Jim's sleeping presence is beginning to exhibit stress. "Thank you, Admiral," he manages, echoed by Nyota. As they approach the turbolift, Ensign Harrison materializes behind them.
"Lieutenant Evans and two of his team are already with the Captain," he says, moving by them to activate the turbolift. "I'm supposed to make sure you two don't vanish into the ether before you can get to the room."
"At another time," Nyota says a little ruefully as Harrison lets them inside the turbolift, "that would be paranoid."
Harrison nods grimly as the doors close. "Not anymore."
It is fourteen hours before Jim awakens; blinking, he meets Spock's eyes, head dropping back on the pillow. "I am so. Tired. Of being drugged. You have no idea."
"I must admit," Spock answers softly, in respect for the other occupants of the room who are currently sleeping, "that it seems to be excessive." After a moment, Spock realizes he's staring at Jim and straightens. "Your readings are normal; you do not seem to have been injured."
"No surprise." Slowly, Jim sits up, looking around the room for a moment. "He got away, didn't he?"
Spock frowns; the strange vertigo returns, and he feels his fingers clutching at the mattress, straining through the thin material as he remembers, as clearly as if he were living the moment again, Sorin and the woman--and Melody leave the hospital. "It was Healer Sorin."
Jim nods tiredly. "Yeah." Then, "Don't call security yet."
Spock had had no intention of doing so; Healer Sorin would not have left anything to chance. There is nothing to be gained by requiring Jim to answer questions yet.
Jim hesitates, not looking at him. "Just--I need a few minutes before they start asking questions. You saw him? He was worried--as much as Sorin worries about anything, I guess. He said you were--" Jim's forehead creases in thought. "That it was harder with Vulcans, and especially with you."
Remembering how Sorin and Melody had vanished, how easily he'd forgotten that he had seen them at all, Spock has to wonder what hard must mean to him. "I saw them both," Spock answers quietly. "He was able to awaken Melody."
Jim breathes out, lying back again. "Yeah. That was pretty much the goal. At least it wasn't for nothing."
"He required your assistance."
Jim nods, eyes shutting tight. "He--he figured it out when you were able to pull me out," Jim breathes. "It was the familiarity. And he wasn't--wasn't familiar, not like she needed. But I was. At least, I am now. He used me to get her out. She recognized me after he transferred the cells." Jim shudders. "It's--it's complicated."
"You should rest," Spock says, reaching out. At the touch of his fingers, however, Jim flinches, jerking away, blue eyes wide and for the first time in all their time together, afraid; Spock stills, chest tight.
"Not you," Jim says, catching his hand before he can pull away. "Sorry, just--the last time someone came near my face, it was really unpleasant."
Through the bond, Spock can feel Jim's residual panic, and follows it to the source. After only a brief hesitation, Jim nods, and Spock finds the memory; blurry without a meld to clarify it with context, but it's enough. "He forced you to meld with him, to reach her."
Jim nods tiredly. "He said he could--could light the path or something, but I was the only one who could find her. She would know me, and I could get her out." Jim looks away. "She was unstable; she'd been there too long. When he realized--" Jim's mouth tightens, tensing, and Spock tries to pull away. "No, don't--don't go. I can do this."
"You do not have to."
Jim shakes his head. "Yeah, I do. Just--" Licking his lips, Jim tries again. "She--I don't know what to call it, but I couldn't get away. She didn't want to be alone anymore. She wanted me to stay. For a second--" Jim sucks in a breath, the monitors reflecting the abrupt increase of heart rate and blood pressure; carefully, Spock eases between Jim and the memories, feeling his consent as he dampens the remembered fear, until it's almost as if it were something that had happened to someone else entirely.
"Thanks," Jim breathes, starting to relax. "The regeneration worked on her like the other patients; she was strong. Sorin--Sorin got me away and they--" Jim shivers. "He bonded with her, to keep her here, and she let me go. I felt--she wasn't sane anymore. He didn't care. He just wanted her."
Spock nods, feeling Jim's breathing fall into rhythm with his own.
"Then he--the next thing I knew, I woke up here with you." Jim's head turns on the pillow. "You said he was an Adept and trained in the mind disciplines. I really feel like you should elaborate on what exactly that means. We walked through the reception room and I didn't even--I didn't even ask why. I didn't even wonder why no one seemed to notice, even when I walked right into one of the nurses."
Spock breathes out. "It is not something we ever speak of," Spock answers quietly. "The techniques he utilized--they are forbidden to those who do not devote their lives to pure logic. When he left Gol, he should not have been able to--"
Spock stops, letting the meaning of what Sorin had done wash over him. The Acolytes could not have known he left Gol still possessing that knowledge. Those that failed, that found the pursuit of pure logic beyond them, were never permitted to carry with them the training forbidden to Vulcans.
"Shit." Jim's fingers slip through his, tightening. "He's been fucking with us since we met him, hasn't he?"
Spock thinks of Sorin, so easily taking over the care of his brother's former bondmate without question "You did not suspect this, nor have the others, which has been to my benefit."; the regeneration technique approved so easily despite its experimental nature "My presentation to the other healers was thorough; I was able to convince them of the logic of my arguments."; that no one had ever guessed his motives for caring for Melody despite the evidence that in retrospect should have been simple for any who saw them to discover "Have to say, if it weren't Sorin, I'd wonder a little about the coincidence.". The ease in which he had insinuated himself into assisting Jim with his shields, so he could observe their bond "The study of your bond with Commander Spock during the course of instruction could help me discover a new path in assisting Melody."; their medical records released in full; adding himself as Jim's mindhealer so he would have consent to touch Jim's mind; and his guidance in assisting Spock in reaching Jim after those long days that his mind had been lost to them…
"I am always thorough, Commander."
And he thinks of Dr. McCoy "The galaxy turns on the existence of that girl as far as he's concerned."
"Yes," Spock says numbly, holding Jim's eyes. "He has."
Jim breathes out, squeezing Spock's fingers once before sitting up. "We should call Pike and get this over with." Beneath it, Spock hears the unspoken, Get us out of here, just--anywhere else. I don't care where.
Spock nods, letting go of Jim's hand and reaching for the comm. "Nyota will make arrangements immediately."
Good. As Spock opens a secure channel to Admiral Pike, Jim closes his eyes.