The second story of my "To Hell and Back" series. After Spock returns from Kolinahr, an unprincipled scientist with a grudge against him seeks revenge through an unusual invention.
Image courtesy of TrekCore.
Original Series Characters:
Kirk, James T., McCoy, Leonard (Bones), Spock
To Hell and Back
25 Sep 2015 Updated:
25 Sep 2015
This story follows "Halfway to Hell".
1. Chapter 1 by M C Pehrson
2. Chapter 2 by M C Pehrson
3. Chapter 3 by M C Pehrson
4. Chapter 4 by M C Pehrson
5. Chapter 5 by M C Pehrson
WEDNESDAY'S CHILD By: M. C. Pehrson
He was late. Striding down the starship corridor, Spock hoped no one would question his tardy arrival at the reception. Any direct query would indeed be awkward. He had no intention of discussing the circumstances that had detained him-that "most urgent" communication relayed to his cabin terminal. The missive's obscene and physically impossible suggestion had so startled him that he had inadvertently upset a cup, spattering his uniform with Vulcan tea. Though he had hurriedly secured another dress uniform, he still missed beaming down to Helexia with Admiral Kirk and the other senior officers of the Enterprise.
Arriving at the transporter room, Spock stepped alone onto the platform. With a distracted nod to the duty officer, he centered himself on one of six discs spaced evenly over the floor. A swirl of motion and sound enveloped him...and with the first tingle of transport, his thoughts shifted from the anonymous insult to the night's guest of honor, D. B. Wren. It was his hope to engage the scientist in a few moments of private discussion regarding her controversial...
The light glittered away to nothingness, the transporter hum faded to utter silence. Yet instead of a brief mental shutdown, Spock felt himself splintered in a million directions, a cell by cell shredding in the ruthless maw of a machine gone mad. From the darkest depths of terror, he screamed, but there was no mouth...or perhaps too many mouths...
Then abruptly his sense of hearing returned, along with an agonizing blaze of light. Clutching his head, he staggered and fell full length on a hard surface.
Before his recent return from Kolinahr, he had witnessed a transporter accident on Vulcan and helped cart away the hideously misshapen heaps of flesh. Ever since, the unpleasant memory of that experience had followed him onto every transporter platform. And now, as he sensed a crowd gathering and felt the weight of their emotions pressing in on him, he saw again those dead, twisted remnants...and wondered at his own condition.
"Spock!" came Kirk's voice, nearby. Then, "Let the doctor through!"
Hands took hold of his body and turned him face-up. Fluently cursing transporters, Doctor McCoy drew out a medscanner and began passing the cylindrical instrument in broad sweeps. Slowly Spock regained his composure, but though he found his limbs intact, a vague sense of displacement lingered.
McCoy's blue eyes widened as he checked the scanner's readings. "Well," he said in puzzlement, "other than slightly elevated blood pressure and a galloping heartbeat, you seem to be in one piece, Spock."
Kirk stood up and politely dispersed the onlookers.
"I feel rather foolish," Spock admitted, rising shakily to a sitting position, "but something peculiar happened during transport-something difficult to describe."
"That was one helluva rough landing," Kirk said. "I'm ordering a thorough check on the ship's transporter system...and your system, Mister Spock."
McCoy roundly agreed. "Spock, despite what this scanner says, I don't like the look of you. I'm taking you straight to sickbay."
Kirk spoke into his wrist communicator and made arrangements for a shuttlecraft. Spock was on his feet now, half-supported by McCoy, and for once gratefully accepting the doctor's help. Nausea washed through him in dizzying, ice-cold waves. Breaking into chills, he sank onto a nearby bench and doubled over.
The transporter unit was located in a corner of the reception hall, and a few curious partygoers remained nearby, watching him. Standing slightly apart, one strikingly beautiful woman stared with particular interest. When Spock caught her looking, she turned suddenly and vanished among the other guests.
"Was that not...?" he managed to ask.
"The illustrious D. B. Wren," McCoy finished for him.
She wore her long red hair in thick coils, plaited about her head in a simple fashion. It was a no-nonsense style, highly practical but extremely flattering to her classical good looks. Dorian knew the unsettling effect that her creamy skin and emerald eyes had on the males of many species. At times, her beauty had actually been a handicap in her chosen field. There were still those who expected serious female physicists to be dowdy, and the men a bit paunchy and boring, as if physicists were somehow born into middle age. Well, she did not fit the stereotype, and neither did S'chn T'gai Spock. The Starfleet halfling was anything but dull. Perhaps that was why she had so valued his opinion of her work, and why those acerbic comments in the Federation Journal of Science had stung so. And perhaps that was why she had chosen such harsh revenge.
The reception dragged endlessly, but at last it was over. Returning home, she hurried to her bedroom and swung open a closet door. Back behind the clothes, another door led to a secret basement laboratory. As she darted through the doors and secured them behind her, the full impact of what she was about to do struck hard. For a moment she stood staring down at the focusing center which filled one third of the floor space. She was tempted to abort the experiment until her eyes drifted to the living area so painstakingly prepared-the transparent security partitions enclosing a sparsely-furnished bedroom and lavatory.
Purposefully, she walked downstairs to the receiving chamber and spoke into her log. "Wednesday, Stardate 7652.9. The experiment is underway." She began throwing switches on the main control panel. "Denounce my methods?" she muttered. "I'll show you, Mister High-and-Mighty..."
A throbbing hum built within the equipment. As she watched anxiously, the receiving chamber began to glow.
...And all of a sudden, light stabbed his eyes. Lying on the floor, he blinked and curled up, overwhelmed by a bewildering rush of sensations, empty and shivering...
Dorian stared fixedly into the chamber, both repelled and fascinated by the pathetic issue of her experiment. His hair was not the dark color she had expected, but palest gold. And she glimpsed blue eyes as the creature's gasps of discomfort slowly built to a full-throated, annoying howl, bringing her back to the day-to-day realities that she had planned for so carefully.
Her experiment was a mixed success.
"Happy birthday," she said with a disdainful curl of her lip. "Happy birthday, Tobias."
Clothed in a tan jumpsuit, he timidly walked to a see-through wall and looked out into the darkened basement. The silent black area was like a yawning mouth waiting to devour him, and he soon returned to the comforting light beside his bed. With nothing to do, he lay down and his eyes drooped sleepily.
He jolted awake and found that he was no longer alone. Though the woman's visits were seldom pleasant, he was relieved to find her smirking at him from beyond the barrier.
"Bored?" she asked. "Go ahead, tell me all about my flawed theories."
Though he clearly understood the language, he did not know anything about her "flawed theories".
"Come on," she taunted. "You're so damn smart, remember?"
Before now, he had always shrunk from her, but today he stubbornly set his jaw and flung back, "Stop it!"
Her green eyes widened, then one brow arched in amusement. "Well, well. A small seed of defiance." Coolly she turned her back on him and walked toward the lonely distance.
Panic-stricken, he leaped up and cried, "No! Please don't leave me! I'll be good!"
Goodness. That was, in fact, Spock's greatest besetting fault. An overly compassionate outlook narrowed his great mind and stunted what little imagination he possessed.
Sometimes, in fair-haired Tobias, Dorian caught a glimmer of that same moral sensitivity and was both charmed and annoyed by it. At such moments, she never knew quite how to react. Just now, he was standing beside his neatly made bed, in the middle of his freshly straightened room, smiling with almost palpable pride and affection. He reminded her of a clumsy, overgrown puppy-an undeveloped mind inside a man's body, his own tragedy lost on him.
Feeling sudden pity, she crossed the room and touched his smooth-shaven cheek. "It looks so nice, Toby. You did such a fine job that I'll allow you some extra time on your padd."
Blue eyes brimming with gratitude, he caught hold of her with startling strength. It was not the first time he had done this, and she found the nearness of his body-and his mind-rather intriguing. Tobias was from a race of touch telepaths. Though not schooled in Vulcan mental techniques, he was clearly able to initiate a primordial level of contact.
His right hand touched the small of her back, then slipped lower. Though tempted to respond, Dorian stood quite still, neither encouraging nor rebuffing his familiarity. She had been considering this aspect of their relationship for weeks, but so far had kept to the role of observer. Not out of any sense of morality, for she was anything but a moralist. She knew, however, that once the sexual barrier was crossed, their relationship would change for all time. Yet she was clearly the master here, and the scientist. The decision was hers alone, and suddenly she felt ready for a new stage of experimentation. Very gently she disengaged herself from Tobias and guided him to the bed.
It was a delicious irony. Spock boasted a superb education from some of the finest schools in the galaxy, and an enviable career in Starfleet. He patterned his life after the stoic Vulcans, his father's people. He avoided wine, women, and high emotion.
Meanwhile, his double lived ignorant of all but the fundamental niceties of civilization. He idled away his days in a windowless basement. He laughed easily, loved to eat, and under Dorian's tutelage soon developed a passion for sex play. Before long she was spending a portion of each day in his bed, enjoying his handsome, willing body in the name of research.
For his part, Tobias liked the changes. Feelings that had left him tense and confused now found their release with Dorian, and though he did not understand why this had come about, he never thought to question it. Dorian knew the right and the wrong of things, and obviously she approved of the touching that both pleasured his body and made her thoughts mingle with his own.
Her every arrival filled him with relief and expectation. Each day she glided out of the basement gloom into the bright nest of his room, fed and warmed him, then disappeared. And with every parting came a sickening fear that he would never see her again. Each time, he stood at the partition tracking her slim shape as she moved through the stretch of darkness to the faintly lit stairway in the corner. Though he longed to call after her, he kept his fearful silence. There was no following into that other part of her life, to that dangerous place on the outside.
Yet how dangerous could it truly be? Dorian always returned safely, and her continued success set Tobias thinking. If she could come and go unharmed, why couldn't he? Perhaps if he escaped this room, he could go beyond the darkness and follow her everywhere. Then he would never again be alone.
One particularly desolate day, he stood at the partition door, studying it. Before him, the basement lay black and uninviting. His heart's nervous thudding seemed to echo in his ears as he attempted to focus on the task at hand. One of the thoughts he had gleaned from Dorian involved this very door, and now, in his mind's eyes, he saw it clearly. A hidden trigger. In a moment his fingers found the precise spot, and the door swung open.
He could feel the basement shadows creeping toward him, prickling his skin with cold terror, and even the light in his room seemed small and threatened. Panicking, he ran up the basement steps and yanked hard on the door handle. With a sound of splintering wood it burst open, revealing a small closet full of clothes. Impossible! Certain that there was an exit, he groped about, found another locked door, and slammed his shoulder into it. Once, twice, and it gave way. Unable to stop his forward motion, he fell headlong into a blaze of vibrant color. For a moment he lay perfectly still. But then, like a starving child stumbling upon a feast, he sat up and stared in slack-jawed wonder at the marvels surrounding him. Walls alive with garlands of rosy blossoms and green leaves. Polished wooden furniture aswirl with strange, beautiful patterns. A huge bed with a red cover that looked downy and inviting. And soft beneath him, spreading in every direction, a marvelous cream carpeting.
Running his fingers through the carpet's pile, he smiled, content just to sit there drinking in the unspeakable beauty. There was nothing dangerous here. Gentle, soothing sounds pulsed from behind a wall of filmy white drapes that billowed gracefully in a fragrant air current. Curious, he rose and cautiously pulled one drape aside.
His astonished cry sailed out the window. Only his eyes moved, darting about in their eagerness to see everything at once-sky, clouds, ocean, shore, birds-for until now, he had only glimpsed them on the screen of his padd.
Dropping the curtain, he whirled guiltily. One look at Dorian's angry face sent his hopes crashing. She was not happy to see that he had escaped the darkness and found his way here.
"Tobias!" She glanced with displeasure from the forced basement doors, to his cringing figure. "What have you done?"
"I...I came out," he answered in a small, hesitant voice.
"I did not give you permission!" Striding over, she shoved him toward the gloomy doorways. "Get back in your room!" He balked. "Get down there now!" she yelled, slapping the side of his head.
Tobias rushed down the steps. With the hated shadows nipping at his heels, he ran all the way to his room. He could hear Dorian's footsteps coming after him. There was no memory for this, no way to react but with anguished tears and a bewildered scrambling for cover. Hitting the hard floor, he dove under his bed and huddled there in the dark space. Dorian's shoes came into view.
"Don't ever do that again!" she warned furiously. "Never-do you hear me?"
That night there was no dinner. From under his bed, he heard the sound of a workman repairing the damaged doors. When at last he slept, his fitful dreams were black and frightening, full of angry voice and stinging blows. In the morning Dorian came and peered underneath the bed, but he pressed against the wall and refused to come out.
"It's alright," she coaxed in a forgiving tone. "I'm not going to hurt you. See?" She showed him a tray of food. "I brought your favorite breakfast."
He was very hungry. Gathering his courage, he cautiously crawled out and sat at the small table in his room.
"You simply have to learn," she explained, putting the food before him. "You can't leave whenever you feel like it. You belong down here. This is your world."
Struggling to understand, Tobias took a bite while Dorian began to stroke his stiff shoulders.
"But I don't like it here," he dared to say.
Dorian sighed. Yet as she continued the massage, he sensed kindly thoughts from her and began to relax.
Bending over him, she kissed one pointed ear tip and whispered, "Maybe, just maybe, if you're very good, I'll bring you upstairs again. For a visit."
Tobias flashed her an ecstatic smile. "Oh, please! I'll do anything you say!"
"Yes, you will," Dorian said with a touch of irony. Then her hand slid under his collar, to his chest, and the evening's pain dimmed under her fondling.
Dorian acknowledged it to herself: she was the worst kind of fool. Somewhere along the line, Tobias had ceased being The Experiment, or even an instrument of revenge. She couldn't really blame their sexual relationship for this; she had seen it coming long before that first caress. Since the thrilling moment of his "birth", Tobias had steadily grown from a pathetic joke into a person, while Dorian's feelings grew right along with him.
Her emotional involvement made it increasingly difficult to deny Tobias anything. Now, many an evening she allowed him upstairs, where he sat near her, devouring online education from his padd. With his growing intellect, there might soon come a day when he would turn to her and ask, "Who am I?" There might come a day when he discovered the answer for himself.
Lately he had shown an annoying fascination with philosophy. It had not taken him long to discover men and women whose thinking was in conflict with hers-promoters of "spiritual values" who viewed life very differently, but promised an interior peace that he felt he was lacking.
"Don't believe everything you read," she told him with her typical cynicism in such matters. "This life is all there is. You have to reach out and grab what you want."
Still he persisted, and tonight his questions kept coming as they sat side by side on a sofa.
Looking up from his padd once more, he asked, "Are we married?"
She laughed uneasily. "Of course not."
His pale slanted brows drew together in a frown. "In the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as many other religious faiths, sexual intercourse outside of marriage is considered...a sin."
"What deep thoughts," Dorian said with sarcasm. She rose abruptly. "Enough for now. Time for you to go downstairs."
When he ignored her, she reached out and snatched the padd from his hands.
"I wasn't finished!" he protested.
Dorian looked coolly down at him. Sometimes Tobias reminded her of a moody adolescent, and she in no way encouraged these rebellious flashes of temper. "I said enough," she repeated firmly. "It's late."
She could see the anger smoldering in his steely blue eyes, could see his muscles tighten. Then he was on his feet, with a four inch advantage, reaching for the coveted padd.
"Stop it!" she said through her teeth.
Tobias swiftly snatched the padd away. Though Dorian felt like striking him, she kept her arms at her sides and spoke with deliberate calm. "You're so interested in morality; well, what do your precious religions teach about obedience? Using a padd is a privilege. If you insist on challenging me, you will lose that privilege."
Rather than back down, he cunningly confronted her with her own words. "Did you not say that we should grab what we want? But it seems that such a philosophy promotes conflict."
"Clever brat," she seethed. "Hand it over. Now."
She watched his lean fingers tighten on the padd until it broke in his viselike grip.
"Very well," she said in a taut voice. "I have no intention of replacing it any time soon, so you've only punished yourself."
At that, he hurled the ruined padd across the room. Glaring at her, he seemed about to speak when his face went blank and a strange spasm passed through his body, dropping him to the floor.
Dorian fell to her knees beside him. "Tobias...Toby! What's wrong?"
His eyes slowly opened. "I...feel weak," he said, but managed to sit up.
She fetched a medical tricorder and passed it over his body. Looking worriedly at the inconclusive readings, she told him, "Better get to bed." And this time there was no argument.
But after Tobias followed her to her bedroom, he went straight to a window. Outside, the night was black. Lately when he concentrated, some of the darkness seemed to dissipate and he could walk with confidence, even down in the basement. Now, taking slow deep breaths, he thought hard about seeing, and something happened inside his head, something wonderful, and the world outside brightened a little for him. He could see the surf foaming over the beach, where a couple was strolling hand in hand.
Dorian had promised to take him out there someday. Always someday. But in view of his defiance, that was not likely to happen. What if she banished him downstairs forever? Never to feel the sand under his feet, never to touch a wave...
Expecting to be locked in, he slowly turned and walked through the closet doors, but for once Dorian did not even shut them.
"If you feel sick," she said, "just call me."
Early next morning, Dorian went down to check on Tobias and found his bed neatly made and the basement empty. Quickly she searched the entire house and gardens, twice over. Fighting panic, she cancelled her classes at the university and went racing along the shore in her beach skimmer.
Tobias was fascinated with the ocean. He might have wandered into the lavender surf, and perhaps deeper water. What if he had drowned?
Let her explain that to the authorities. Let her explain that to herself.
All through the day she wandered, every clump of sea grass looking like a dead body. When Helex sank into the purple sea, she went back to her house. After conducting one final indoor search for Tobias, she dropped onto the sofa, bone-weary and discouraged.
Tears were welling when the comset at her elbow chimed with a pulsing tone. Its small screen showed the worried round face of the local constable.
"Doctor Wren," he said, obviously relieved to find her at home. "Can you come down to the station?"
Dorian's hands were shaking so badly that Tobias helped her slide the entry card into her front door. Neither of them had spoken a word during the brief trip home from the police station. But now, safely inside the house, Tobias quietly looked at her and asked, "Who is Spock? Why did they call me Spock?"
She had been expecting the question. "I don't know," she easily lied. "The result of your identity tests probably came out very similar to his, that's all."
He frowned. "I kept telling them that my name is Tobias and I live with you-with Dorian-but they wanted more information. They wanted something called surnames. I've seen those in my studies, but I never knew that you had one. Then, when I picked you out of some pictures, they said that you're Dorian Wren. Is that really my surname, too, like you told them? Am I Tobias Wren?"
"Yes, that's right," Dorian replied, her voice soft and convincing. "Come into the kitchen. I haven't eaten all day, and you must be hungry, too."
As they sat at the table finishing their sandwiches, Tobias suddenly said, "If my name is Wren, are we somehow related? Please explain. And also why I...I have no memories."
Annoyed by his persistence, Dorian abruptly stood. "Because you're stupid, that's why! Haven't you caused enough trouble for one day? Now be quiet and go to bed."
They walked together as far as her bedroom, and she went in for a hot bath. Coming out later, Dorian found him fast asleep in her bed, and with a stirring of remorse decided to permit it. He was home. He was safe. And just now, nothing else really mattered. Climbing in beside him, she lay thinking about the odd stares she drew from the constable, and the probing questions that she sidestepped with studied poise.
"Am I being charged with a crime?" she had asked. "Is Tobias?"
"Well...no," came the slow admission. "But he wouldn't properly identify himself for a patrol officer. His behavior was rather suspicious."
"Do you always harass people strolling along the beach?" she had pressed.
"We often question loitering strangers, Doctor Wren, particularly in the dark of night. Whoever this fellow is, you'd better advise him to quit being so damn evasive with authorities-presuming, as you say, he has nothing to hide."
Tobias had sat through the whole degrading process, never once speaking, eyed focused on the hands in his lap. Dorian had let the fool of a constable draw his own conclusions about Toby's clouded identity. Anything, just to be out of there.
Perhaps the shock was just setting in...for both of them. But warmed by the pleasure of his nearness, she finally relaxed and closed her eyes.
Dorian woke to find daylight peeking through the windows and Tobias sound asleep beside her. Quietly she rose and went into the bathroom to prepare for work. When she came out he had his back to her, one hand tightly gripping the blankets. So he was awake now...and probably pouting about yesterday.
Firmly she said, "After we eat breakfast, you'll get down in that basement and stay there until I come home."
He rolled over and looked at her. "Dorian, I'm not hungry. I...I ache inside."
Alarmed, she hurried to the bed and felt his flushed cheeks, his burning hands. She thought at once of his strange collapse, but could only hope that it had no connection to this present malady. Forcing a smile, she brushed the fine blond hair from his forehead and said, "Alright, then. Stay put. You must have picked up a virus when you were out." And she brought him something to reduce the fever.
But by the time she got home from the university, he was worse. Dorian scanned him with a medical tricorder and was horrified at the results. This was no infection. A flaw in the duplication process was causing a cascade effect. Every system in his body was starting to shut down.
Sinking into a chair, she covered her face and wept. She had been so bent on having the perfect revenge. How could this have happened? Oh, why had she ever let herself love him?
Spock's face drained of color as he reached behind him for a briefing room chair and settled into it. How many times these past months had he felt as if a part of him were missing? Over and over again, he had traced the trying sensation to the transporter mishap. And now, all at once, he knew why.
Standing nearby, Kirk said, "I've already ordered a change in course." Looking ill-at-ease, he added, "And Spock...I want to apologize for what I said last night..."
Of all the inopportune times. Spock cleared his throat and said, "There really is no need. Now if you will excuse me, Admiral."
Not waiting for a response, he rose and headed for the privacy of his quarters, for he was in great need of meditation. Dorian Wren. Dorian B. Wren. In his mind's eye, he saw a slender red-haired woman staring at him near a transporter. He had lost his chance then to speak with her and explain why he so strongly opposed her unprincipled brand of scientific research. Since that night he had scarcely given the maverick scientist another thought, but apparently D. B. Wren had not forgotten him.
Spock entered a cabin all but devoid of personal touches. Other than an attunement flame and a potted African violet-the latter a gift from Lieutenant Commander Uhura-everything looked the same as on the wrenching day Chekov welcomed him aboard the Enterprise, back among the human friendships he had relinquished forever. All the way from Vulcan, V'Ger had called to him. But it was the needful cry of an emotional consciousness that brought Spock to the Enterprise bridge, face to face with James T. Kirk for the first time in three years. And only last night, with the V'Ger crisis well behind them, had he dared open himself to the unspoken matter between the two of them. The matter of his catastrophic pon farr.
They had been sharing a game of chess when Spock broke the companionable silence to speak of his own boorish behavior toward the chess master Hotaka. What began in the master's humble cottage on Mason's Resolve had ended only in the harsh mountains of Gol-if it had ever truly ended. But the mere mention of Hotaka had sent Kirk into a startling tirade.
"You won't let me forget, will you? ‘Lock me away', you said. Well, if I had, you'd be a dead man!"
Gathering himself, Spock had assured him, "It was not my intention to reproach you." And quite logically he added, "Had you locked me away, Ensign Orella would have been spared grave mental and physical trauma. She might well have died from my...advances."
"But she didn't. She's been off serving aboard the Exeter while you licked your wounds and shut everyone out of your life."
The words had made Spock's abrupt departure from the Enterprise seem so selfish and indefensible that his temper stirred. "Licked my wounds? I realize that you cannot fully understand the venerable Kolinahr discipline, but I would appreciate some respect for my Vulcan culture."
"Your Vulcan culture! Dammit, Spock what about your human culture? Have you already forgotten about that?"
No, Spock had not forgotten. His hands trembled as he turned from those troubling memories to don a black meditation robe. There were limits to even a Vulcan's strength, and since V'Ger that human, feeling part of him had indeed grown freer.
It was a quiet group that materialized in the Helexian night. As the transporter's ringing faded, a chilly sea breeze nipped at three grim faces. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy found themselves on the outskirts of Theraxis, a city awash in moonlight. Pale stone buildings clustered a nearby ocean shore where wave upon wave of surf gently curled onto the sand.
In the dark, Kirk gave Spock's shoulder a reassuring touch, hoping to convey his regret over the ugly confrontation in his cabin. Nodding slightly, Spock drew away and led them along a winding road. The homes they passed were modest, but beautifully designed, with clean elegant lines. Gateways and lintels proudly displayed family names, many of which were well-known. Edgar J. Phillips, biographer...Saeed Kahn, exobiologist...Ramona Vincelli, novelist.
With his keen night vision, Spock easily found the porch inscribed "D. B. Wren". A single light shone in welcome as the three men walked up to the door. Kirk rang the bell.
Dorian's stomach twisted into a painful knot as she opened the door to three stone-hard, accusing faces. Her eyes settled on Spock as she quickly gauged the differences and similarities between him and her own Tobias. How much older Spock seemed, full of a maturity and inner strength that his replicate lacked. Labelling it arrogance, she motioned her guests into the living room.
"Thank-you for coming," she said stiffly. She had decided against apologizing and did not expect any forgiveness. What was done, was done, and the scientist in her could summon no remorse for the experiment. Her only regret was for the failure that had led to Toby's current condition. The local doctors had said there was no hope. Could Starfleet medicine find a way to save him? Could Spock? How she hated that pompous know-it-all-but what choice did she have? For the sake of Tobias, she would risk her career and even deal with the devil himself.
Now Spock's deep, terribly controlled voice broke the silence. "Where is he?"
"Downstairs...in a bio-bed," she replied, struggling to contain her antagonism.
Holding a medi-kit, Doctor McCoy stepped forward. "The test results that you sent me aren't promising...but I'll take a look at him."
"Yes, please. Do what you can," Dorian said, her green eyes bright with unshed tears.
In other circumstances, her striking appearance and vulnerable manner might have aroused some male sympathy, but all three men remained untouched as she led them through the back of a bedroom closet, down into a basement.
Spock paused at the foot of the stairs to observe the unfamiliar array of equipment amid the patchwork of shadows, and surmised that this was the "birthing room". Then a low moan drew his attention, making "death chamber" seem more applicable. Steeling himself, he followed the others inside a transparent enclosure.
There in a bed lay his fair-haired double.
Spock felt a sympathetic pain seeping into his consciousness, and reinforced his mental barriers. There was an intensification of that hollow feeling, as if this other were a missing part of him. And now this part was dying.
Though McCoy soon verified that fact with a medical tricorder, Spock wondered if there might still be an option. Perhaps, through a Vulcan mental technique, he could attempt to regulate the failing biological systems. Suddenly it seemed vitally important that he make every effort to save him.
Gazing down at his eerie counterpart, he said, "Please leave us."
McCoy cast him a sharp glance. "Whatever for? The man is doomed."
"I wish to be alone with him," Spock said firmly. "Ten minutes, Admiral."
After a moment of thought, Kirk gave his consent.
Alone, Spock reached down and gently touched the face of Tobias. Blue eyes slowly opened, dull with pain, but unsurprised to see him. Perhaps he, too, had experienced a hollow feeling.
"Be at ease," Spock told him. "I will try to help you."
There was no time to hesitate as the patient's eyes closed and his breathing became irregular. Spock sat down beside him on the bed. Scarcely preparing, he arranged his fingertips over the Vulcan psi-points and entered the failing mind. Raw emotion swept through him, accompanied by an unexpected cascade of sexual images. Clearly Dorian had been his replicate's mistress in every sense of the word...but who was he to judge? In the throes of pon farr, he had abused a fellow officer so severely that she barely survived. But there was no time for self-recrimination as Tobias suffered a seizure, causing the link between them to abruptly intensify. Taken by surprise, Spock lurched to his feet, wincing from a sharp jolt of cranial pain. He staggered a step, steadying himself against a bedside table while attempting to clear his mind.
Kirk was worried, and it took every scrap of his self-control to keep from charging into the basement. Pacing Dorian Wren's living room, he said, "Spock's been down there fifteen minutes."
An equally nervous McCoy rose from a sofa and said, "I don't like this, Jim. Something tells me..." He broke off at the sound of approaching footsteps. Kirk came to an abrupt halt. Spock entered from the hall, his face a cold, brittle mask.
Dorian jumped anxiously from her chair. "How is he? Could you help him?"
The Vulcan looked upon her with icy contempt. "What you began, is now finished. His suffering is at an end."
"You mean he's dead?" McCoy asked with some surprise.
"Yes," Spock replied, his attention hard on the woman.
Dorian flinched, and fighting back tears of grief, crumpled into her chair.
Without a word, McCoy took up his medical kit and brushed past Spock. Dorian had lost her struggle for control and was crying softly, but Kirk's concern was for his first officer and friend. The Vulcan looked deathly pale, all but choking on repressed emotions.
"Spock, come outside," he urged.
A moment later they stepped off the porch, into the refreshing night air. Helexia's single moon, twice the size of Earth's Luna, cast the landscaped yard in a pale amber glow.
"What happened in there?" Kirk asked.
Spock eyes were on the moon, his sigh all but lost in the restless sound of the surf. "I...I thought perhaps I could save him."
"Bones said no one could," Kirk pointed out.
There was silence.
A stray cloud passed over the moon, briefly dimming the scene before the front door banged and Doctor McCoy strode toward them with a frown of displeasure. "What's the idea, leaving me alone with that harpy?" He feigned a shiver. "This whole thing gives me the willies. That replicate...so much like Spock...but the poor soul never had a chance."
In an acerbic tone, Spock questioned, "Are you so sure he had a soul, Doctor?"
McCoy met the Vulcan's gaze, never once blinking as he said, "Regardless of what you might think, Tobias was as much a person as any of us." Then turning his back on him, he addressed Kirk. "I need to get aboard ship and file an official death report."
Nodding, Kirk raised his wrist communicator, then paused to say, "Another case of technology gone mad, but one thing is certain. The Federation Science Board will want to investigate Wren's little invention, so she won't be tapping any transporters for a while. Let's get out of here."
As the transport beams wove sparkling patterns around them, all three men experienced a nervous flutter in the pit of their stomachs.
Next in the series, "Into the Shadows".
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