Nets in the Wind

NETS IN THE WIND; Pt 1 by Kelthammer "Vain the ambition of kings Who seek by trophies and dead things To leave a living name behind A weave but nets to catch the wind --John Webster Spock knows he is too late when K-3 fails to answer hailing frequencies. Uhura reports reluctantly. Sulu is just as slow to offer the idea of attack. As if in afterthought, he suggests that K-3 is hostile to the ISS ENTERPRISE. "Negative." The new captain answers sharply. "There are too many Vulcans on K-3." And Spock's words tells them all what they do not wish to know. That the campaign against the Empire is off to the worst possible beginning. McCoy watches by the captain's chair, arms folded across his chest. He always stands lightly forward, more on the balls of his feet than the heels. Possibly the least "civilized" of all the senior crew, yet the most virulent defender of humanity. The contraidiction is a neverending amazement. Kirk had made a terrific error in not taking the doctor into his confidence and trusting him. And yet Spock had been guiluty of that as well. It is enough that McCoy--and any of the officers--no longer has to hide who and what they are on this ship. K-3 normally holds hal a million beings, and has often hosted more. It stands on the cusp of three territories: Vulcan, Imperial, and First Federation. It is also a little close to the border of the Old Zone for comfort and the riches of commerce do not detract rom the possibility that the Klingons may one day strike upon the station. "Scanners picking up debris." Sulu reports mechanically. "Military hardware, sir. Difusing cloud off vapor suggests destruction of the ISS STURIK." "Noted, Mr. Sulu." Spock keeps his voice even. McCoy flicks a gaze down at the captain's left hand, and the Vulcan realizes some sort of emotion has escaped. He stills his body. "Continue scan." It only gets worse. More debris as they approach. Frequencies are dead. No distress calls. No beacons, automatic emergency pulse-waves. Have they lost the aid of the STURIK before they can even ask? Spock is aware of a warrior's rage building. His paternal fourth cousin had been captain of the STURIK. Supor and Spock had never laid eyes on each other, but the kinship lines would have been enough for the two ships to join forces. Two starships would have been far better than one. Now his next hope is to find the ISS T'YALLI before Captain Vrowl receives orders from High Command to shoot them down... McCoy clears his throat softly. Spock is shaken from thought and looks in surprise. "Do you have a comment, doctor?" His voice is sharp. MMcCoy is not exactly famous for volunteering information. "I was noticing the dome." The doctor points to the top of K-3, human-style, with his eyes. Ordinarily Spock would be amused at the superstitious refusal to point with his fingers. "Isn't the environmental control sited there on all K-series stations?" "Aye." Scott speaks up from his post. "Ah see. Magnify, Mr. Sulu..." The Helmsman complies, rowning his own puzzlement. The clearmetal dome is *gone* as surgically neat and clean as if it had been transported on a beam. McCoy sucks his breath in. "K-3 isn't decompressed, it's at least frozen solid." "Depends on how long ago this happened." Scott murmured. He looks sick from the potential loss o life they're about to face--or the tragic loss of engineering. With Scott it is hard to speculate, and best not to. "No life signs." Sulu reports. "Vulcan and Humanoid remains predominating." "Estimation, Lieutenant?" "Fifty to sixty-four thousand." Chekov shakes his head in silent disgust. "Great." McCoy says almost soundlessly. **** Corpses pile high, everywhere they look in the darkened corridors. Only emergency lamps set inside the walls burn, sullen red like embers but without heat. They wade through the dead in cold-weather geaer, the mmetallic colors of their high collars and cuffs glittering like frost. Tellarite. Andorian. Sigman. Saurians. A Medusan's Box lies opened, next to its dead human caretaker...and the first Klingon corpse. McCoy stops to examine the body as Scott takes scans. Spock can see frost has whitened the young man's beard and hair. His eyes were dug out of his skull with his own hands, gone mad when he opened the Medusan's casket. "Amazin." McCoy mutters so only Spock can hear. "I remember when some kinds in *our* Empire tried that stunt." He tucks aside his tricorder and begins to search the stiffened body. "Not sure about my Klingon'ee but I think he's from the KOREETH." He holds up the packet of papers so Spock can peer over his shoulder. "You are correct." Spock agrees. "One of the so-called "Yellow Races", and always let behind upon death as their holy custom." He looks around. "Why would there be only one dead Klingon? Surely the people would have resisted." "Tissue scans show massive stuns and frostbite while still alive." McCoy politely gave the papers to his captain and got to his feet. "I've heard about this. A single ship with an agenda and determined not to get killed too quick, will attack the enemy's enviornmental controls, plunging it into some debilitation so quickly the people have no time to react. In this case, cold. From 75 F to -30 in less than thirty seconds. They suited up and just strolled right in, while people were trying to keep their lungs from freezing." McCoy nods at another pile of death in the gloom. "Look. All the Tellarites were taken out with disruptors. They were probably doin just fine in the chill. Andorians were dead by then, I'll bet." "No doubt, as Tellarites are from a polar world." Spock admits. Of course, humans are from a polar planet, but they need acclimating. McCoy and Scott have recently taken leave on the Rigel Glacier and appear unaffected at the sensation of frost settling on their eyelashes, but Sulu and three of the guards are uncomfortable. The worst is in the recreation room of the station. No waste of phaser fire here; the Klingons used knives and bludgeoning tools. Man, woman and child, lined up in a row so novice Klingons could practice their throat-cutting. The remains are as cold as the metal floor. Blood glitters a uniform garnet under their boots. McCoy snaps a lightpen and impartially examines a dead man. Frost glitters on the open eyes, stiffens the blood-crusted hair. Spock almost envies him. The human is cool and objective, busy with searching for the pieces of this forensic puzzle. He does not feel Spock's helpless rage at the deaths of his kin. "They weren't taking any chances." The soft drawl echoes over a room devoid of life. "No dissolution by phaser. They wanted a body count." "Typical." Spock manages with tight lips. An unmanned K-33 is useless to him. He cannot shore up its defenses with just the ENTERPRISE. This had been his first, best hope for volunteers and supplies. The furthest station from High Command. And unfortunately, the closest to Klingon Space. "Why didn't they destroy the station too?" Scott asks hollowly. Sulu spits. "It's an insult, Scott. Plus, they're hoping we'll collect the dead and restock K-3 again. A few years and they'll do the same thing. Klingons are predictable that way. You can set your chrono by their behavior. Besides. THEY might want to use the station someday." "Correct." Spock murmurs. "They left the dead here in hopes of an extreme emotional reaction. Logically they have heavy weaponry waiting on the other side of the Old Zone for any captain foolish enough to rush in on a campaign of revenge." "Don't rule it out." McCoy cautions. He is still reading tricorder krypta. "Klingons actually LIKE revenge campaigns. Sorta like the ancient Aryans and their warhorse sacrifices." "Aye." Sulu mutters. "Follow a horse gone loose--in this case a Klingon warship gone amuck--picking up the dregs the ship leaves behind. No rhyme or reason to where they'll go or strike. I doubt the captain himself would know where to order his ship ten minutes beforehand." "We are against a severe foe then." Spock clasps his hands behind his back. He watches the mountains of dead distantly. Dead Vulcans everywhere his eye looks. Dead kin. The empty station screams of shattered katras attempting to find their way to their loved ones. If his shields slip he will go mad. "A Klingon generally goes upon a campaign of revenge when he has nothing to lose and family honor to gain. regain." "A disgraced Klingon." Sulu sucks his breath in, suddenly unnerved. "A Flying Dutchman." "That would be a reasonable surmise." Spock listens to his own voice, how clinical it is. He cannot allow himself to experience any of the death around him. Sulu breaks out of his fugue, shrugs and prods a woman's corpse. He decides her jewelry isn't worth it and straightens again. "Orders, sir?" "How soon can you assemble a particle bomb?" The Helmsman blinks. "Ten minutes with a phaser power pack and a tricorder." "Prepare it then. Place a shield and a delay timer in it so it willl not detonate unless from our signal." The Klingons left very little behind. Their actions said: "We killed to kill you. We needed not your food, your wealth, your medicine." The ENTERPRISE recovers the molecular bulk food storage--a windfall in many ways; manufacturing molecular chains to supply clothing and specific tools and chemicals. Scott finds a neglected storeroom and the doctor, tools and drugs in the small hospital. It will help, but Spock must find more allies. "Mr. Sulu, let it be known that you may only loot the jewelry of the dead Vulcans. I am aware Humans have varied customs over deadtheft. I do not wish a scandal. My people care not for possessions one we cease to breathe." "Handy." McCoy mutters under his breath. His voice mists before him and glitters, freezing, drifting to the frozen floor. With a light as blue as his eyes he examines a bioscanner. "Mr. Scott, can you spare some of your men? I think it would be in the best interests of my Sickbay if we stripped this one to the bone." "Aye." Scott shoulders a heavy pack and flips open his communicator. Spock watches the even efficiency of the two men. They move in unconscious harmony, always aware of each others' space. There had been a time, many years ago, when he had been in such harmony with James Kirk. But that comparison hurts, and Spock looks away, looks ahead instead of the uncertain future. *** Sulu's men recover several million in personal Vulcan objects. The Klingon contempt for all things point-eared will be their downfall, for the salable goods will help Spock's campaign. He mentions this in his scrambled comm home. By now, news of his defection must have hit Vulcan like a summer storm. He wonders what his father is thinking. He ponders again the proclamation he has drafted and sent to the Matriarchs. A logical argument against the waste of the current regime. Kirk had once said that Spock could out-Vulcan all Vulcanns. His counterpart said as much when he declared he could find a reason not to kill Halka. Possibly his logic will impress the Elders to the point they will go against long-standing policy and break aith with an ally. This is Spock's major point besides the illogic of waste. The Alliance between Human And Vulcan has suffered corruption on both sides. The Matriarchy has been a figurehead power for a thousand years, with what McCoy calls "warhawks"--male clan warriors--supposedly working with the wishes of the Mothers, but in truth, no longer consulting them or acting to their commands. If the Mothers find reason to speak up and claim the correctness of Spock's actions... ...If Spock pleases the Matriarchs, the result might very well be Civil War on his homeworld. But...for Spock to so openly follow the tenants of the Mothers...well then, it will reflect upon the *correctness* of Amanda's teachings, will it not? Spock does have an illogical desire to prove to the Galaxy that his mother was not a contaminating influence on him. And Sarek? On occasion, he is called "Sharek" in whispered conversations: "The Foolish One" for accepting the rejection of Sybok's mother and taking a human consort. Kaiidith, Spock thinks. Sarek had fulfilled his duty before Amanda came to the House of Sharien. And Spock is determined to impress his difficult father with his filial piety, if not his logic. He sincerely doubts Sarek could ever be impressed with the logic of a half-human son. *** Spock detonates the bomb personally. A tactical risk but he feels responsible. Had the ship been faster, the station would not be a floating graveyard. He stands on the top deck and feels the shudder in his bootsoles as the explosion rocks the very core of the fuel reactor in the shielded heart of K-3. The copper-iron tang of red and green blood is still in the air, metallic and decaying. He is not quite used to death the way the doctor is. A clean death by phaser or a swift knife is what he was trained to, not rot and waste. It would be easy to develop an illogical hatred of Klingons for this; but as his officers said, this was an invitation to a jihad, and he cannot pick up the gauntlet that has been thrown. He watches as the structure shivers. It will take hours for K-3 to disintegrate, and he wants to remain, make sure there will be nothing left to salvage, to either of the Empires he fights. *** Scott's men design a more unitarian and practical clothing code. Hard times are ahead and they will need warmer wear. The design is more like what was under Pike's regime. Spock examines the black short jacket and dark blue shirt that goes underneath. The left sleeve holds the rank in the form of straight gold bands; the sashes will be kept, a splash of color against the thundercloud-dark ensemble. Psychologically, even a Deltan would look fierce under this cloth. Sacrifices are from all areas. Reluctantly, Spock lowers the heat and gravity of his cabin for when he is not present. It only diverts needed power. At least he can siphon the high oxygen away. Too many hours on the Bridge and he feels disconnected from reality. A dangerous feeling. He will not keep himself in such an environment all the time. McCoy designs a thermal for Vulcans that reflects the body's heat back, and Spock adds a short cape to the ensemble. The scheme is now black, with the colors of the departments in the trim of the sleeve, cape lniing, and high collar. Against McCoy's objections, the medical staff's symbol is ostentatiously placed under the throat, Vulca-style: the cadeucces of Terra, with the Firebird of Vulcan. "Thanks awfully." McCoy snaps. "Now we all have targets on our chests!" "Not even the Empire will fire upon medical personel." Spock reminds him. "They have before." McCoy mutters uneasily. "Oh, well. Learn to duck with the rest of you laymen, I suppose." "Or run faster?" Scott smiles slightly. He rarely smiles. "I never run from snipers." McCoy quips. "I'll just die tired." Scott laughs softly, an unusual and seldom heard sound on the ship that takes years off the craggy face. It makes Sulu blink in surprise, as if he'd thought that sound beyond the dour Scotsman. "Aye, but I'm glad for th'change. It makes one nervous t'don such a bright red in my field." "This is true." McCoy laughs back, and passes a full cup across Spock to Scott. Spock feels the cool field of human hands against his auura, and underneath, a burning glow of life and light. *** It is always the dead of night in space. And now Spock watches the burning of the space station below, as chemicals react upon melting metals and durasteel windows shatter like cobwebs under intense heat against the cold vacuum. Even from here, the glow brushes against his lean face, colors his beard. He had wanted to be alone in his regret, but a soft sound, deliberately made, alerts him the doctor has arrived. He looks away ffrom the dying wreck and back into his star-lit room. The human is leaning his back against the wall, arms folded across his chest, one foot drawn up to rest flat on the room divider, McCoy's peculiar way of resting when he needs to be alert at a moment's notice. His eyes are the same dark blue of the new uniform trim, and his face is still and quiet. "They'd have used it for their own ends." He pionts out in his graveled voice, oddly musical in inflection and tone and dialect. "But I agree with you." "Agree with me on what?" Spock asks, hearing the deffensiveness in his own voice. "It's always easier to destroy than to create." McCoy says patiently. His thick eyebrows slip up, then down. "You've saved what you could." "I am caught between two enemies." Spock almost looks at the station again, but stops himself. There is no need to keep looking back. "The enemies of the Empire, and the Empire itself." "You're already too powerul to kill." McCoy answers, very quietly. "The reward for your capture is up to 75 mil now, as I recall." "And yours?" Spock does not quite mock, nor does he tease. He has offten accused McCoy of never factoring himself in any situations. McCoy simply shrugs once, a smile flits over his face. "However much its worth to them to get your physician, I guess." "It has been decided you and Scott are my Seconds." Spock reveals. "Just goes to show, even the Empire's gossips can get it wrong." McCoy grins now, quick as the licker of fire as the oxygen burns up red and yellow outside. "Is it? Spock's own voice rumbles inside his chest, vibrating the narrow rib bones. He returns to his glass and walks forward. McCoy watches without retreating, his impassive expression back. "Do you truly think they are inaccurate?"" Inches of space btween two black-clad chests, rising and falling. Blue eyes meeting sable, two men of very different worlds, but both off a very different generation from the young warhawks that siezed power after the Mutara Invasion. MMen old enough to remember there were good times, before conquest became the only desire of the soldier, before assassination became respectable, and cruelty common. Before Kodos rose to power in three quadrants, and bathed every planet inside with blood. That age hovered over them, uniting them in ways that Kirk's hard-taught, hard-edged brilliance could not understand. "Montgomery makes a good Second." McCoy murmurs from lips that barely move. "He's completely devoted to you." "And what of you, doctor?" Spock does not step closer, but his body moves forward slightly. Their auras are magnets, the fields tangible through the cloth. An electric give and take, a tension that does not soothe. "I follow your cause." The human tells him. "Not you." Spock does not smile, does not frown. He watches the yellow of K-3 melt across the square, strong face, listens to the quiet breathing in the chest. "That," he murmurs, "Is all I require." The human's seawater skin is coold against his. His scent is musky, like a predator's. McCoy revels in his carnivorous habits without apology, points out that humans of his kind would sicken on just plants. What Spock's limited Vulcan nose can detect is a sweet-saltiness, and something intriguing underneath, like the subtle burn of fire under the coolness of his surface skin. He senses surprise from the other, and a quiet acceptance. Possibly it does not occur to him to refuse a superior officer. Old habits die hard from the Empire. His lips are relaxed under Spock's, not flinching away but not giving; waiting for more signals to make his own decision on what to do. Ever cautious, Spock thinks, and almost smiles against the cool skin. The human draws his breath in as his captain takes it a step further, tugging the clasp off the cloak and letting it fall where it will to the floor. After that, the collar...after that, the sash... Olive fingers slide through thick, soft hair, touch ruddy skin. Spock is ghost-pale against the earthy colors of the human. He brushes his fingers across the lips to feel the soft breath escape, feels the coarse short body hair that shields the fast-beating heart crinkle under his palms. Thick lashes close under his touch, a tickling feathery sensation. The points of the sideburns lead to the center of the strong jawline and the beat of the pulse underneath the line of bone. Spock wants to have those open, to stare deep inside, but knows neither is ready for that. He runs his hands instead around the compact muscles of the waist, his thumbs hooking inside the waistband and pulling them together. He can feel square human hands grip his own waist in an attempt to balance, heels the press of skin through the fabric of his uniform. His cape has slipped over one shoulder, swallowing most of them up in its folds, cocooning their heat inside. He lsides underneath and behind the hanging jacket and tunic, presses his fingers in a downward line from shoulderblade to the bottom of the back. The muscles ripple like harp strings. Quick breathing, from both, McCoy keeping his mind very cool and collected, still observing, still waiting to see if this is a test. Spock enjoys the murmur of that wary mind against his own. Still waters and their depths...he reaches one hand up, the other still pressing their bodies close, lets the darkened eyes see the spread of his fingers hover between their faces. McCoy can see every line on the palm, whorl patterns and the less-pronounced webbing. The heat flows out of the olicec skin, a warm scent like baking bread permeates the VVulcan and his clothing, everything he touches. His own scent is giving way under Spock's. He hears the click in his ears as he swallows, unable to look away from that approaching hand. Spock remembers that look on a very like face from another dimension, and does nothing more than touch the skin, feeling the smooth texture and invisible hairs. His thumb goes down as his fingers spread up and the meld points are touched but not activated...yet. Then as the human waits, the fingers slip away frfom the meld position, and strok the temple, passes his ear and goes behind his head, pulling his mouth to his again. Spock suddenly feels the invigoration of the higher heat and gravity. He pulls the doctor away from the wall and to the side, lies down on top of the cool body. His beard scours the human's throat. McCOy makes his first souns, a breath and a groan. Spock pulls away their uniforms and lies down again. The doctor finally returns his embrace, large hands sliding up to rest at his shoulders. Spock wants to forget K-3. He cannot admit even to himself what a loss it is. And how many o his hopes had rested in holding that sector. Deep where he cannot hide from the truth, he knows that K-3 would have kept the Klingons from crossing the Old Zone. And now it is gone; he had to burn the field to save it. As an army rendered its own soil sterile from invaders. He tastes bitter ashes, tastes the seawater skin instead. He hears the screams of the broken structures and listens to the muffled gasps beneath him. And instead off the poisonous heat of the reactor, he feels only the cool skin on his skin. This is all he feels, and he feels it, again and again and over and over, until the nightmare exorcises itself with exhaustion. "Vulcan has allied with Sigma." Spock's voice rings in the Briefing Room. Human eyes widen. Vulcan eyes glitter in understated emotion. "Ambassador Sarek, Son of Sharien will cement the new relationship between the planets. Their lack of proximity will make it difficult for the Caesar to enact a swift retribution. It will be our task to see that Sarek reaches Sigma whole and unhurt." The news ripples across the room like wildfire. Uhura closes her eyes, her mouth slightly parted. Sulu wears a startled expression on his lean face, then dawning comprehension. After this he will have his own ship, the command Spock promised him for his own. Scott nearly forgets to stop pouring his tea and quickly sets it down. McCoy, just as quickly, lifts his sleeve from the danger zone of the spill. The doctor is smiling slightly, his face more open and relaxed than Spock has ever seen him. Years have flown from the tired eyes. The shoulders are straight again. With the Sigmans on the side of the Rebellion, the advantage of technology will be theirs. No Imperial can hope to match the skill of those (in)famous Amazons. It will give them an edge they have lost with their lesser military supplies. And perhaps that can change as well... *** They play it cautiously, riding inside the tail of the N'Kanna comet as it wends its way to the Eridani System--a trick borrowed from an old and defeated Romulan foe. Shields are at a minimum; it would take a strange ship to detect the ENTERPRISE inside a storm of frozen snow and gases. And of course the Empire is searching for a warplight vessel. Not one who is traveling at a figurative plod. An added benefit is that any spy would have trouble sending a message through the chaotic energy field. After weeks of running, striking and running again, this slow pace is absurd. The crew wavers between boredom and tension; competitions fill the gym. Spock urges contests with prizes to channel the need to fight among the soldiers in constructive ways. In his cabin the small window burns, its clear metal misted over with sticky snow and methane. The comet's light glitters through the frost, white and yellow and green. Spock watches the lean outline take in the glowing comet. After a few minutes he stands and crosses over, stopping behind the doctor. He knows what he wants, and regrets that touch-telepathy is so rare in the Galaxy. He has never asked for McCoy's permission in anything...nor has McCoy ever offered it. Long and lean arms make a cage, straight black-clad bars as the hands rest against the narrow sill of the window. "Do you wish to be alone tonight?" McCoy turns around in the circle of the Vulcan's arms. "You didn't ask last time." "I know." Blue eyes frown slightly, puzzled, searching. If asking was against Spock's character, this near-apology is even moreso. This is a Vulcan he does not understand. He is fully aware of how strong he is compared to most humans; and he never feels so strong as when he is like this. The doctor's slim body shivers under the faintest touch and his head falls back. Large square hands touch Spock's hair, feels the texture of the black, strokes downward to the nape of the neck. Spock mimics the movement. Their faces brush together, rubbing like cats. Undressing is a delight; Vulcan foreplay. He pushes the other's shirt over his shoulders and down his back, bends to touch the hard nubs with his lips. He traps the doctor inside one arm, strong enough that he can lean backwards without falling. Spock craves gentleness tonight. And McCoy responds wonderfully to the light, slow caresses. Spock feels him arch, fingers digging into his back as he reaches for breath. "Is this how it is for you?" Soft lips murmur against his chest. "Kind in your success, tense in your loss?" Spock stops; no mockery in that question, just a remainder of his past behavior. He does not know how to answer that, and so he does not. But as he tilts the human's head back to get at the throat, they both know by the silence that Spock has heard. McCoy thinks that Spock is too aware of the loneliness that binds both of them together. He is not above using it when it gets too much to handle. Spock will not permit himself to get close to anyone, even when they throw themselves at his feet for the chance. Blunt honesty is the only thing he trusts. Its one of the Galaxy's many ironies that his disinterest in the captain's bed is the very thing that got him there. A flood of warmth opens and he lets his head fall against something soft, closes his eyes to turn off that part of his mind. He can feel Spock's hands all over him, seeking the desired responses and getting them. Hot, strong hands that learned his ways quickly and well, travel everywhere. The hard mouth has learned teasing. Fingers have learned not to bruise. Arms roll him over easily and he puts his face down into the blanket. This is not about showing how vulnerable you are, he reminds himself. This is about going one on one with each other's emptiness. They use their bodies to talk about it, but sharing it (and thus dividing it) is impossible. It's enough that Spock has no desire to just take; he wants a willing (if supine) participant. Iron-strong arms wrap around his chest, pull him up and backwards. Those long fingers catch at his chest hair, the hard nubs, the hollow of the collarbone, a grip like handcuffs. The pleasure begins slowly but inevitably builds and he lets it. Spock has his head buried in his sweating neck teeth fastened on his ear, both of them nearly the same temperature now, and it just keeps building, building, Spock holding him to it, forcing fire from friction, until his head falls against the Vulcan's shoulder. Thrashing, unable to stop, feeling his throat go raw from sounds he can't control. *** Sarek is as Spock remembers: Iron-haired, erect, proud. Amanda follows three steps behind as custom, Sarek protecting his woman from any potential danger. His bodyguards are his aides and wear their weapons loosely at their sides. Spock cannot help but feel the three men are superfluous. Sarek has always been larger than life to his youngest son. "Greetings." Spock bows from the neck, Vulcan-style to his elder. "Acceptions." Sarek answers. Behind him, Amanda smiles knowingly. Off to the side, Spock can sense McCoy flicking his laser eyes from one to the other, and wonders if he is canny enough to discern the relationship. *** Sarek drinks Mountain Tea cradled inside a nest of his fingers, letting the steam warm his face. "I also have unexpected news." "Indeed?" "Sybok is also rallying a cause. Not, I think, with as much logic or wisdom." The elder man permits a sigh, an expression of frustraion. "He is influenced, partially, by the followers of Surak." Spock is a moment collecting his thoughts. His meld with McCoy's counterpart has taught him that the holy man of that doctor's universe was very different from the madman of his. No one could deny Surak was brilliant. But here, in this Galaxy, the brilliance was tainted with insanity. Not unlike, Spock thinks unhappily, Sybok himself... "Is it a dominant influence, Father?" Spock wonders. Amanda flicks him a look from her gray-blue eyes as if to say, "Ask cautiously!" Sarek sets his teabowl down. "He has compelling arguments. Our mental skills have become lax in the past century. Sybok and his people seek to return to the higher adept levels of accomplishment. If that were to happen, the Group Mind of Vulcan would be much stronger than it is now. I confess, that is the most attractive scenario of Surak's Teachings." Spock bows his head. He had pondered the Desert Sage himself as a youth--had not every young man under adolescent passions? Learning that staid, steady Sarek had also examined that path had startled Spock into re-considering the life of an aesthetic. It had taught him that rebellion was a natural part of life, both human and Vulcan. "There are also disadvantages." Spock forces himself to speak as objectively as he thinks. He steeples his fingers together--a habit anyone around Grandsire Sharien would pick up--and faces Sarek. "In the Mirrored Dimension I spoke of, Surak was a true peaceful holy man without a taint of madness. And yet, his completely peaceful philosophy split our world in two. Much of our population chose a mass exodus and became Romulans. Not because of their own free choice, but because they dared go against the Matriarchs and were exiled. The repurcussions are still felt a most bloody and wasteful way." He tries to add only imporant facts. "Lastly, our people are far too restrained under Surak. They deny their natures and stifle them. I would not like to see this happen to us." Sarek is nodding. Does Spock see approval? "I had not your proof, Spock. My arguments were similar but not as persuasive." And Sybok does not exactly respect Sarek. There was a closeness between the brothers once. But even Spock has to wonder if it will ever return. "Sybok has always been a dangerous enemy." Spock hears his Captain's Voice again. Kirk taught him, even more than Pike, how to speak with inflection. Flat and final. "Always." Sarek agrees. "His maternal grandmother was a Mystic. I believe he inherited her gifts." Everyone thinks without mentioning, the way Sybok's enemies seem to...stop being his enemies once he focuses his will on them. Begun as a child, his persuation and charisma had only grown, until Sarek had no choice but to ask him to leave. With the wisdom of his years, Spock knows now that Sarek would have risked any danger to himself, but he had known of Sybok's interest in Spock, and feared for his youngest son. Amanda's people are not inconsiderable in the psychic field; but their gifts are radically different from Vulcans. Perhaps it is the difference that saved Spock from the worst of Sybok's control. But even so, Sybok had unfortunate influence. And if it ever came down to a contest of the mind, no one could say who would win. It is not a pleasant prospect to be the father of two uniquely brilliant sons that cannot peacefully coexist. It is Sybok's nature to possess, and Spock's to be free. All fathers see something of themselves in their children; Sarek believes Sybok took too much of his confidence while Spock took an unhealthy dose of his curiosity. "Sybok has expressed a desire to meet you, after I am delivered to Sigma." Sarek resumes his tea. "Will we ferry you back to Vulcan?" Spock asks. "No, I will have transportation once I am finished." Sarek inclines his head, noting his son's filial concern. "There will be a conference of Medical Healers from Rigel and I will have sufficient ability to return to Vulcan through their ships." Spock sees Amanda stiffen her shoulders at the mention of Rigel. His parents trade looks over the low table, no words said. Spock understands that Amanda is concerned with something and just as determined that Spock not know about it. Sarek, of course, keeps his counsel. He always has. *** "It sounds dreadful." McCoy lies flat on his back on his bed, arm thrown over his eyes. Two young crewmen had settled their differences in blood today, and it had been his job to repair one, and pull the sheet over the other who was, ironically enough, the winner of the fight. Scott would reprimand the survivor later, in a way that would discourage killings. They need every crewman they have, even the foolish ones. Spock watches as the doctor wearily tugs his boots off and falls back in a recline. Death does not actually bother the human--needless death, the waste of life, that is different. "Are you actually thinking of meeting up with Sybok?" "I may have to." Spock says. His long fingers toy with the length of cloth in his hands. De'am...soft as silk, strong as steel. "You may have to?" One eye opens to look up at him as Spock sits on the edge of the bed. "Good Lord. Why would you have to? D'you think Sybok actually has something you need?" "No." Spock decides flatly. "More like, I must see for myself if he is a danger." "Hah. I coulda told you that...and I've never met the man! You got a real Camus in your family tree, Captain Sir." "I do not know this Camus." "Ancient philosopher. He touted for people to reject emotion and impulse in favor of logic and reason." "That does not sound like a bad thing." "It wasn't. It's just that...well, let's just say the presentation of his arguments fell a little flat when he lost his mind. And let me tell you, he lost it in a *big* way." "Unfortunate." Spock agrees. "That's not the half of it. One reason why he lost his mind is because he cared about reason and logic so passionately. Contraidictions can get the best of us." "Contraidictions are flaws in thinking." Spock argues. "They exist because one cannot find balance." The doctor exhales with a patient look; they've had this "debate" before, and will probably keep at it as long as they know each other. He lies unmoving as his captain twines the de'am around his wrists, holding them tight. Its a measure of how inwardly "imbalanced" Spock is, that he's acting this way tonight. It could be from the presence of his parents, the news of his brother, the stress itself of the mission...and likely all three wrapped together. But expect him to discuss it? Might as well breed a bald tribble. Spock doesn't confide in anything or anyone; he had with Kirk, but Kirk went too far and Spock had to kill him. A camraderie lost and never recovered. *** He walks down the hallway to the Bridge surrounded by his guards, but buried alone in his thoughts. Rigel. The ENTERPRISE has never had a pleasant experience with the ruling classes. Perhaps this time will be different. Sarek will be meeting with the healers, who were supposed to eschew rank and barriers. He hopes they are immune to bribery and corruption. But it is a difficult thing to hope for, almost unreasonable. Few people are immune to the ties of family, and family can be the most corrupting influence of all. The fire in his ribs shuts his nictating eyelids. The world goes gray and then dark green as he staggers against the wall. One of his men fires a phaser, and a scream rips his ears. His mind is still wondering what is happening, when everything silts to black... *** Dr. McCoy's angry face is staring down at him when his eyes open. "Christ on a crutch, Spock! Couldn't you stay out of my Sickbay for one mother-effing week? One week? Trying to save the Universe and y'can't walk across the ship without a cottonpickin' assassin playing pin the knife in the Vulcan's Heart? And while we're at it, I don't want to hear any more bilge about how superior Vulcans are--your hearts have *no* protection where they are! You need to get those suckers rerouted under the sternum! Or start wearing chain mail!" If McCoy is shouting, he must not be badly damaged. "Report." He strangles on a dry throat. "Hang on." McCoy mmutters under his breath in the obscure dialect of his home. Blurry shapes solidify in the background. Sarek is sitting on a biobed and looking from doctor to son. Amanda's white faced worry is wavering under the urge to hide a laugh. She can understand what McCoy is saying. This is more than Spock can do. "OK, Sarek's aid Soren was really an Orion infilitrate. We can presume the real Sofren is dead. He tried to kill you with Orion Sting Venom on a really ugly knife. I got to it in time, but in another fifteen minutes, you'll wish I hadn't." The doctor is grim. "Migraines are going to come and go for two hours. And they're gonna cripple you. You're officially off duty until this runs its course. OK? And on top of this, Sofren had an apparant agenda to kill Sarek and Amanda as well, but the poison bommb he set off went screwy. Amanda smelled the cyanide and got everyone out of there--by the way, you need to be *extremely* grateful to your mother. The ability to smell cyanide is limited to a sex-linked gene and is almost extinct. Scotty & I are about the only other humans on the ship who have it. I've developed a raging paranoia about almonds now. Anyway, they realized Sofren was the culprit when he was the only one not in the cabn, and Sarek sent his guards after you. Unfortunately, the Orion managed to kill *all* your guards." McCoy pauses and curses again. "Keep this up, and ain't nobody but crazed vaqueros gonna guard your back, Captain!" "Thank you, Doctor." Spock sighs. "But everyone else is well?" "Dr. McCoy ordered a shipwide sweep." Sarek stands slowly, his large hands clasped together. Spock thinks his father looks gray in the blue light. "An ensign has committed suicide and a tracer was found in her quarters." "What ensign would that be?" Spock tries to sit up. "Talliflorres. Recent recruit, possibly one of Kirk's operatives. Never did like her. Too Blue-Blood Southerner. I'll be able to tell you more when I do the necropsy." "You have not done it yet?" "No, I've been making up for nature's mistakes on the Vulcan race, sir. To wit, your misdesigned heart. Plus there's the operation on Sarek I have to prep for." Shocked, Spock lets McCoy stroll away without a word. Sarek appears chagrined to have his son's attention. "I had no idea Healer T'Har had a human counterpart." He says to Amanda. T'Har is his infamously abrasive physician. "We should set them up." Amanda agrees with a straight face. "What is "cotton-pickin?"" "People who pick that crop are of a very low station. Nowadays, mostly the mentally disadvantaged." "Father...what operation?" Amanda speaks. "Spock, your father was attending the conferene to meet with Rigellian surgeons." She lowers her eyes. "His heart." Spock is struck dumb. Sarek's heart is well known on Vulcan. It is rare for the third chamber to be defective, but he inheirited the trait from (ironically) a long ago marriage in the house to a very royal clan. Surgery is a drastic recourse to a man who has endured the limit of healing trances. His third chamber... Again, the floor is swept from Spock's world. First K-3. Then the Alliance. Now Sarek's heart. Unfortunate news, then fortunate, then unfortunate... "McCoy is familiar with only my physiology." He points out. His parents nod. "I am willing to take the risk, as is he. He claims to understand the logistics of my heart chambers and believes a simple graft over the valve will help the muscle...remember what it is supposed to do." Sarek sits down again, hands clasped inside his sleeves. "The...exposure to the cyanide...hastened the inevitable." Amanda murmurs. "We have no time." "I see." Sickbay quakes. A skull rolls off a shelf. From the back, a nurse swears. And the Red Klaxxon shreds the air. "Ship of unknown power curve." DeSalle salutes as he vacates the Command Chair. Spock almost falls into it, but fights gravity and lowers himself with dignity, his arms trembling at the rests. "Moving fast. They've scattered a trail of mines across our projected flight but they're also staying on the other side and firing at us." "Orions take no chances." Sulu growls. Spock sighs. When Talliflores and Soffren failed to update, they went to their last plan. He hopes, at least, that is the last plan. "Orions..!" Sulu curses and strikes his board with his fist, making Chekov jump. "Damn! I almost had him!" The Security Chie suddenly punches, and the stars go white before the light-dampeners save their vision. "Hah! At least that's one mine out of the way!" Spock can feel his body tightening, fighting the effect of the sting venom. He feels ill. Desperately ill. His brain is being affected. Again his powerlessness strikes him. "This is indeed tiresome." He says in his most bored voice. Startled eyes turn his way. They see a captain who is reclining in his chair with a disinterested expression. "I must be present at the Ambassador's operation. Mr. Sulu, it seems the Orions care nothing for your reputation." Sulu goes utterly rigid. "Sir?" Incredulous and icy and red with rage, his hand sinks to his dagger while Chekov stares, wide eyed. "I am not insulting you, Helmsman, merely making an observation. They are being annoying more than effective, wouldn't you agree?" He holds the other man's dark eyes with a gaze of stone. "Mr. Sulu." Spock hears his own voice, distant and controlled against the fire in his ribs. "I believe it is time for the enemy to see what you are capable of." And Sulu grins, a le-matya suddenly uncollared. Instead of going to the Command chair, he remmains at his helm, keeping his personal control off the ship. Spock's estimation grudgingly rises. "Aye, sir." The man shows his teeth. A le-matya. And once uncollared, one can only step back and watch. Inside the turbolift, Spock's iron control melts and he collapses into the arms of his last bodyguard, Sturik, who was off duty at the time of the attack. *** Sarek lies on the biobed, debility leaving him empty to his son's shaken gaze. Sarek, proud and strong, the terror of Klin in his youth, is now a hollow shell with his katra sleeping. McCoy never changes expression as the gravity wobbles. Like a sailor in the wet-navy he used to serve under, he lets his knees relax and absorb the shocks and gives. Amanda steps closer, holding herself against the walls, her eyes never leaving Sarek's pale face. Smoke curls frfom the laser surgery. Even Spock knows this is impossible. Heart surgery, transfusion, battle... Sweat stands on the square face like mist, reflecting the blue light of the surgical scope. "One more jolt like that and I'll lose both o them." Spoken with an odd calm, as if everything is out of his hands but he'll try anyway. Behind him, Soran turns his head to look at his master. Spock can see the strain on the guard's face. The Rigellian drug is taxing to Vulcans, and he may not survive his donation. If only Spock had not the venom in his body, he could be filtering for his father right now. "Increase saline." McCoy orders Chapel's aide. "And boost the sterilite. I don't want even frindly flora getting in." *** McCoy feels Spock's arms lower him back to the bed; he breathes the cloth, Spock's prairie-grass scent, and closes his eyes, waiting to stop shaking. Spock curls over him, brushing his beard between his shoulderblades. He can't think, can't move. Just breathe. Spock is still running his hands over him, silent as always. Always silent. Speech is for lovers, not officers. He's still amazed that Spock could even THINK of this right after this day. God, he's exhausted, was exhausted before the captain's hands were tugging the green-stained tunic of his chest. Spock sits in the hal-lit darkness, tugging his robe on and staring directly at the firepot. He's in a mood you can't fathom, so don't even try. "Sarek will be forced to retire soon." Spock suddenly utters what has been on his mind. He could be speaking to the firepot beast. McCoy doesn't reply at first, just keeps staring up at the ceiling lines. Like all good Vulcans, Spock has a crystal for Eridani hanging over his head. It gleams like cold ice. "He'll work as long as he can, though." McCoy offers finally. "I doubt he will be able to work more than sixty more years." Spock says darkly. McCoy chuckles softly. "It's still a long time. It'll help the rebellion." "You do not understand." Spock's voice drips contempt and (finally) it is more than the doctor can stand. "You're right, I don't." McCoy yanks his uniform on in record time, matching contempt for contempt. "Maybe I would if I wasn't so polite about your goddamn Vulcan privacy...or if you were interested in doing other things besides talk!" As Spock throws him up against the wall, McCoy has time to think, "Damn!" and prepare for a broken neck or worse but there's only a bronze-dark Vulcan face pushed against his own. "The Rebellion cannot possibly succeed, doctor. No matter what *I* will do, no matter what the Empire does, we *will* fail. *I* will fail." McCoy isn't exactly astonished at the revelation. Hasn't he thought this over constantly. "Then why do you do this?" He shoots back. "Because our Galaxy is being devoured by its own waste. Its own excesses, its greed." Spock is still green-furious. Words spit out like torpedoes. "As many lives that will be lost in this rebellion, it will not match the planets the Empire has burnt to ash." "Isn't that worth it then?" McCoy can't resist. He honestly can't resist. "I didn't think you were in it for the money." Spock--almost--strikes him. The doctor doesn't linch, has never ducked from a strike in his life. And the steady blue eyes stops the hand. "You want to be Spartakus then?" McCoy still whispers. "It's not easy, but for God's sake, don't be ashamed of it. We can't do everything. Eventually our children will take over where we left off." "I have no children." "The future isn't writ on stone, Captain-sir. You of all people should know the illogic of that." Spock does not strike him, but he turns away. And without asking permission to leave, McCoy does so. Sarek is tired but intact as they prepare to beam down. Spock stands at proper attention and gives the man his farewells. Lady Amanda waits in the hallway shadows, and her pale face makes McCoy ask quietly if she needs anything. "Peace of mind." She smiles faintly. Neither cares if the Vulcans can hear them or not; Vulcans are *supposed* to be too polite to pay attention to another's conversation, and "what ifs" can drive you crazy. Those steel-strong eyes sweep him up and down, and accept him all at once. "Sybok wants to kill Spock." She says simply. Then the moment is gone. Sarek waits, and she steps to attend. McCoy leans one foot and his back against the wall, arms folded thoughtfully as the much diminished party of Vulcans leaves the ship. At least he could keep Sarek's blood-donors alive. Why Spock thought he would be able to survive doing *that*... The Human shakes his head once, thinking of the captain. It isn't arrogance that makes him act as though he can do anything; its his horror of delegating authority to someone who might not be able to follow his orders. He catches Scotty's curious look and meets it with a wry smile. "Want a drink when this is over?" He asks. Scott smiles, nodding with his eyebrows. "Ah got some heather mead in my quarters." "Good Lord. Where'd you get that?" "Some folk of unfortunate mind think I'm vulnerable tae bribes." Scott murmurs demurely. "Oh, tsk." McCoy chuckles. Behind him, Spock is keeping tabs on their conversation, but not too closely. He knows the doctor and Engineer are blood-kin; distantly through the reckoning of a human, but to a Vulcan, the common Roane ancestor they share makes the two as close as brothers. Hence, Scotty is about the only human McCoy can interact freely with. Just as well; he doesn't call many people here friends. Being human, McCoy finds it utterly weird that Spock watches his male social circles, but ignores the female. But there's more than a gap between their cultures. It's a chasm the size of a Martian Canyon and you can break your neck trying to bridge it. Best to just accept the differences and not step on anyone's toes. At least on purpose. *** Rigel reeks. McCoy wrote that home once, back when he still had family to write to. You had the bitter cold off Tellar, with qa people as argumentative as their winds. On Andor everything was still, quiet, flat and silent, with a sibilant whisper richocheting across endless plains. Alpha Centauri steamed like the jungles of home and he'd left them sadly, half-expecting to the end to see the monkeys and herons of the swamps in the branches. But Rigel... with a rich supply of sulphurous minerals and Coal-Age deposits...the whole planet lingered in your nose no matter where you went on it. For reasons opaque to the doctor, Vulcans enjoyed it. Vulcan tents are made and styled with the desert in mind; thick, embroidered, sturdy dark cloth heated with a simple brazier. As tradition, sacred incense burns, pleasant to Spock, but he sees McCoy wrinkle his nose. To McCoy, the yellow and thick smoke smells all too much like the Stone Pine Cones the Empire burns in memory of fallen fighters. He uses that unease to keep himself wary. Spock feels as if he has almost returned home. Kissars are playing inside the massive tent, and someone rings the sextagon-framed bells softly, soothing his mind with memories. The pleasant memories, not the ugly ones. Several humans are present--Spock sees they are all dressed as concubines or butlers. Is Sybok taunting him for his parentage? Reminding him that his mother is human and fit only to s erve? Or has he divined something else? Inside it is almost black after the glare of silica-white marketsands. Like all Vulcans, Spock finds the absence of light conducive to meditation. McCoy stops as soon as he can and lets his eyes adjust. Compared to Spock, the human is nocturnal, and relies on his sight as Spock does his hearing to navigate. Sybok is in the center and above all others. He has always been a large man. His boy has filled out even more, lean muscle over thick bones, black hair under his collarbone, on his sleeve-exposed arms. A thick beard curls over his chest in the style of his grandam's Mystic Sect. His feet are bare and hornlike from travel. Through those feet, Sybok can sense the lines of power that run through all earths' like blood vessels. Spock feels like a small boy in the shadow of the giant. Sybok smiles and Spock feels the heat flow across his shields like a warm wave of sand. "Spock, it is good to see you again, Little Brother." "Indeed, Sybok." Spock inclines his head, respect to an older mman. "It has been too long.." The Holy Man beams, his hands tucked inside the sleeves of his black robe. "And you too, are rebelling against the stale order of things. It must be part of our parentage." Spock tries not to stiffen. Sybok, using the subtlety of language, has just admitted their kindship while ignoring Spock's mother. "I am certain the Praetorate would agree with you, Sybok." "Of course. Barbarians. They do have that in common with OUR Patriarchy, do they not?" Sybok's gemhard gaze floats about the macrocosm, settles on the doctor. "This is the physician who outperformed the Healers of Gol?" McCoy merely watches Sybok with polite interest. Anyone else would think he was deferring to Spock's authority and ignorant of the Vulcan language. Only Spock knows better. McCoy has no trouble playing the fool in a difficult situation. He stands between the two, a strong hot energy in Sybok and a low, subtle hum in McCoy's. The doctor's personal defenses are lifted to the peak. Something about Sybok has alerted--and alarmed--the human on an instinctive level.. "I doubt McCoy would agree with that." Spock knows that anyone who gets Sybok's attention will regret it later. "It was a matter of circumstancee and a different mode of thinking." "Aye, isn't that what crippled our people? Too much of one kind of thinking?" Sybok rises, his robe flowing down in heavy woven folds. "A new path of the mind must be taken. It is inevitable, as one must create a new way when the old one grows hazardous." Spock is aware of sweat. Eccrine warning. He senses danger in the air. Sybok's mind, powerful and strong, and easily capable of tapping into the minds of his followers, using their gifts for his own, amplifying, ine-tuning. Watching and waiting and examining his little brother with more than his eyes. The sounds of the market have blurred away; melted under the power of Sybok. The world is closing in, becoming the small, dark meeting tent. Spock counts twenty-six men and women, all devout to Sybok. "I must give you credit, First Brother." Spock moves his words like chess over the board. "It was your example after all, that inspired my lifee's course." "Oh?" Sybok grins again, teeth white and large. "It was my example that sent you to defy Sarek and go to the Empire's Fleet instead of Vulcan's?" "Quite so. As you said, there was stale thinking. I found our people far too predictable." "Aren't they?" Sybok agrees sadly, reclines slowly. He is a large sehlat sitting down in stages, spreading his robe before him. "And your decision to defect from the Fleet? It must be difficult to be a rouge, Spock. I don't envy you." "I recall you once said my willful path in life was full of thorns." Spock speaks with the Vulcan idea of humor--what a human would recognize as irony. McCoy is stone-silent as they wend through the marketplace. Spock pauses at a flower stall and buys a spray of rare hulika blooms. "What were your impressions?" He asks into the flowers, hiding his face ffrom any lipreader. "Hmph." McCoy also pauses, at a food vendor's wagon, and throws down a credit for a bag o something that steams of spice. "I had many.." He speaks ventriloquist-style, with little expression escaping. "You two are like watchin' a bear and a cat in the Colliseum. And you know how those end!" Spock looks at him. "No." McCoy sighs. "When Rome first imported New World animals over to the circus, they took a shine to the Grizzly. Big critter, ursine, about three times the size of a sehlat. And they'd it the bear against Old World predators, the tigers." The doctor shrugs. "The bear won every time. There's a lesson to be learned in that." Spock folds his arms, capturing warmmth for his hands. "What lesson would that be?" McCoy shaked his head from mside to side. "Sybok's a bear. He's huge and powerful. Thrives on being a spectacle. It doesn't bother him a bit to be watched." McCoy pauses and collects a drink. "You're the tiger." "Are you saying I would lose against Sybok?" Spock sounds stif.. McCoy grins at him. "You're missing the real point. Tigers don't fight for amusement, captain-sir. Tigers don't fight. They kill. The kill to eat, to live.. You stick a tiger in the arena and they're dead. But in their own ground, even an elephant would be scared to cross one." McCoy wordlessly hands over a paper cup of tea. "Don't fight Sybok on his own ground." He murmurs. "You'll lose and you know it. Damned if I know why you want to, but you do. Are you looking for his approval? Respect?" He shakes his head. "As we say down home, never chase a snake into a canefield." "Sound advice if it could be followed. Sybok will never be separated from his people.." "If Muhammad doesn't come to the mountain.." McCoy hums the words as if catching a scrap off song ammong the hundreds of sounds flying through the air. Spock isn't completely sure what the doctor means. "You're going back, aren't you?" "I must." Spock answers simply. He sips without speaking for a long time. "I noticed you were instantly suspicous of him." "Your mother warned me." Was all McCoy would say. *** Sybok does nothing without his followers. They do not want to leave his presence. Spock thinks carefully for a long time before he accepts Sybok's invitation. "You're crazy." McCoy says bluntly. "I could certify you mentally unfit." "I doubt that will be neccessary." Spock rises from the Fireopt Beast, his robes curling around his legs. The human glares in sudden suspicion. "What's going on?" "Sybok has promised we would meet alone.." Spock washes his hands in the Eternal Smoke. "And you believe him?" Spock pauses at the charge. For a moment the dry air is charged with electric tension. "He spoke in Vulcan. It is very difficult not to speak precisely in that language." Bizarrely, McCoy says nothing to that, but his eyebrow slides up and the blue eyes hold steady on Spock.. "What were his exact words?" Spock sighs. "We will be alone." Is that concise enough for you?" McCoy sighs too. "Fine. You're going alone." Again, he leaves the cabin without asking permission. *** "How 'bout a scan of the market?" Scott punches up the diorama. What shows is a splurge of color, sound and movement. Scott watches closely as the doctor frowns at the specs, worrying his bottom lip in thought. He's a little worried about his old friend.. They've known each other for years, and the "perogative of the captain" relationship he's in is lacking in emotional support. Still, there's always room for hope, he thinks. If there was a real problem, there'd be a big division by now. The marketplace is surprisingly large, when taken in perspective. It takes up much of the center of the geography between the Barrer Dunes and the Barren Hills--inclines, synclines, anticlines, monoclines. Beyond the sands the world is all mudstone and shale, and the riotous jungle growth in the faraway mountains. Scott thinks the people look like rainbow ants, swirling around, and only half look like they know what they're doing. Or where they're going. "Stop. What's that there?" McCoy stabs at a dour-looking knot of men and women, clothed in funeral black. "Rigellians." Scott shrugs. "Runnin' the stalls. It's a market." "I know, but...I've seen them before."" McCoy frowns. "Scott, how many men can you send on a special trip? GOOD men?" Scott is a moment replying. He isn't Sulu, and does his thinking cautiously. "Ye ken a fashing?" "Lord yes." Scott uses his fingers for drumsticks on the table. "Whut be ye thinking?" "Nothing...bloody.." McCoy leans over for his cofee.. "I'm thinking that Sybok told Spock the truth about their being alone, but he didn't tell the WHOLE truth. Spock said that Sybok's people feed Sybok's mental powers. Maybe Spock shouldn't assume that Sybok needs them close by.." "In a way they be close by. All o'em inside a twenty kilometer radius." "Mmnhmnn. Just what I was thinking. Scotty, my PSI's just about null, but I can dowse water on a hundred-mile map with no problem.. What do you think trained Adepts can do inside a tenth of that distance?" Scott's face darkens like a cloud. "I'm thinking I mimght like tae run a few tests on muh transporters." McCoy grins in the light, a bit demonically. "I like the way you think." *** Scott is a mamster at transporting. With Kyle at his side, he can do damn near anything. McCoy watches in admiration as the teaem picks o Sybok's people, three and four at a time, transporting them into a sealed cargo hold full of sleeping gas. Once they form solid, they fold up nice and neat on the floor. Three, then seven, then eleven....bit by bit, Sybok's people are taken off the chessboard. Scott and Kyle exhale at the same time as the last are taken care of. "Now what?" Scott wonders. "Keep 'em asleep, as what I say." The doctor sighs and shrugs as he steps on the platform. "Down, Scotty." "Ye sure? Alone?" Scott knows what's supposed to be happening down there, and he sure doesn't like it. McCoy lifts his hands up, ca va. "You know what to do if you don't hear from either of us by planetfall." "Aye.." Scott thumps his chest in a salute, a rare gesture to the other, very unmilitary man.. *** The doctor moves quietly through the mill o people. He sees no Vulcans anymore.. His eyes are sharp for any sign of overtly Vulcanoid Rigellian. The caste system favors the copperbloods more than the older, iron-based humanoids. Still he sees nothing. A few humans are here.. They nod and move out o his way politely, sensing his urgency.. Scott did wonderful work. There aren't even any guards at the tent. The Science Tricorder detects only two life forms inside: one pure Vulcan, one Vulcan with human elements. The readings ovverlap and dip and mmesh into each other, shift and jumble. That only happens in very close contact, and he doubts they're arm wrestling. Holding his breath, McCoy slips inside the dark tent that smells of smoky death. Sybok cannot tolerate Spock's choice in life. He fears his young brother in a way Spock cannot comprehend, cannot even begin to imagine. Buut Sarek did, and that is why he banished Spock. Spock's mind is mostly Vulcan but his human nature exists as well--a strangeness that Sybok has never been able to fully use to his advantage like he can fullbloods. Human intuition--the ability to come to a logical conclusion and summary instantaneously, without the need for conscious puzzling, is in Spock. It moves small and fast and slippery and unpredictably, before Sybok's mental traps can slam over him. Brother and bother, one sane, one quite mad, both brilliant beyond the ability of normal folk to comprehend. Without his supporters to feed upon, Sybok's mind is far more equal to Spock's. And Spock's wider range of experience, his love of the outer and inner worlds, has given him an edge over Sybok's self- absorbed, contemplative teachings. Sybok's mind is failing. The seconds pass in agony as they both realize that Spock is the mentally stronger. But Sybok has the grip on his arms, and he is the bear with the tiger. A wave of blue passes Spock's vision and he falls against the brazier, scattering dead coals over the yellow sand. McCoy has broken the grip from sheer surprise, and Sybok's face contorts with rage. "Kinslayer." He spits upon the human. "Wearlough. Oath-breaker." Words that sting, and strike with psychic force. The doctor staggers away, white faced. Sybok turns slowly, lumbering, hand lifting to the tal shaya...the back of his robes shines like dark sweat between his shoulderblades and he crumples in stages to the sand. Spock stares at the Officer's Hollowhilt Dagger at his feet. The tip is emerald wet McCoy's left hand is shaking, the same smear on his palm and fingers. "Took chance..." The human whispers, wets dry lips. "Couldn't kill him...quickly. Needed to give you time to...pull out." *** Scott doesn't wait for full acknowledgement of Spock's orders.. He just beams them up. Spock doesn't criticize him. His Vulcan dignity wonders what they mmust look like, smeared with green blood and pale to the skin. McCoy says nothing but gives the engineer a silent look laden with meaning. Spock cannot fathom it. He sees Scott nod quietly, greeing to whatever message the doctor gave him. "Return the followers to the planet." Spock speaks in a thin, drained voice. "Without their leader, they are nothing." "Will there be repurcussions?" Scott murmurs. "No." Spock says curtly. "This is a family matter, Mr. Scott, and had do...with the politics of the Empire." Not overtly, at least. In the simplest language, there were two brothers who could not share the Galaxy. Sybok could not tolerate not being the master. He wonders how he can speak to Sarek, and realizes, belatedly, that his father already knew this would happen someday. Else why would he banish his direct heir, and not his half-human son by his concubine? Realizing that his father's loyalties have been with HIM all this time creates an overload. Spock just keys his door open and they both fall inside. Relief. Spock feels every nerve in his body trembling, as if someone dragged long sharpened nails over the strings of a harp. His cabin is warm but he feels cold inside. As the door shuts, McCoy stops and lets his back fall aginst the wall, slides down to the floor with his head in his hands, a marionette without a hand to guide him. They stare at each other in dead silence as the firepot beast witnesses. What has happened has changed the course of history, everything around them, themselves. Spock has shed family blood. And McCoy has committed *murder* for the first time in his life. Not killing by combat, but sliding a knife into another man's back. Logically the sensible thing, the only way Spock could have time to pull out of Sybok's mind before the other dragged him down with him in death, but... ...but murder. All the reasons in the world changes not the facts. Sarek will have to be...must be told, Spock thinks. What his ather has feared has come true. Son has killed son. was not the son he expected, was it? "I can't stay." McCoy whispers. The wild, trapped look in his eyes is back. "I've got to leave." Spock is slow to understand. "Leave the Fleet? You will never survive." "Won't survive here either." Dazed. His mind is running in chaotic patterns, reeling around the lock of Sybok's mind. "It...doesn't matter." "It does." Spock concentrates and lifts the other to his feet, gives standing support. McCoy is looking through him, not at him. "Stop." Spock holds his hand before the blue eyes, and they still fail to focus. A bad sign. Just holding him upright, Spock can feel the angry synergy running through the slim body, confusion, chaos, dada movement. It is what Spock is feeling, only he was trained long ago to block and focus outwards. Loathing makes him ill. Something of Sybok has survived, as a serpent's venom can still poisons the man who cuts its head off. Sybok--mad, dangerous. Contaminating. The sehlat and the lematya. Mental coercion. Sybok's people deliberately have no word for rape. They say it is merely the strongest mind "guiding" the weakest. What was so strong, Spock wonders, about springing upon a sleeping mmind unawares? And yet Sybok hadn't understood humans can function beyond logic and reason. That McCoy's instincts had been whole enough to allow him the killstrike. "Hold still." Spock advises softly, and repeats himself. Slowly, McCoy nods and makes an effort to calm down. "What did he mean, oath- breaker.." "It...he got me where it hurt." McCoy hugs himself, staring athte floor. " father begged for death. And I gave it to him." "Guilt is not logical." "Good thing I'm not logical.." Sybok talking, Spock thinks. McCoy is normally not this way. He wishes for a well-trained mindhealer on board (and wishes are illogical too). Pain wracks the thin body. Spock guides him to the darkest part of the sleeping alcove and lies him out. Within moments, the human is asleep, exhausted, but hopefully beginning to heal. Spock sits and watches a long time, as if the quiet rise-fall of the short chest is a meditation tool. It occurs to him this is the first act he has performed *for* the doctor, without orders or perogativve. It is a strange feeling. This is all strange to him. Spock looks at his hands, studying the minute mapwork of skin. Strange...they are both changed, and they are both changed in their relationship. He isn't certain how he knows this, but it is true. He has never shied from the unknown in his life. He will not start now. His face clouded with thought, the captain rises to his feet and goes to his chest. Later, McCoy would be almost willing to sweat he dreamed of something very incongruous: Spock of Vulcan, sitting before the Firepot Beast as if it were a god, playing on a lyre. The End.