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Chapter eight

When the sky turns black with thunder

And you're adrift out on the sea

When the sun stops shining on you

And the night's eternity

Call on me, call on me….


Spock refused to acknowledge McCoy's parting shot. His eidetic memory retained the details of the descent to the dining hall they had made from his room earlier. All he had to do was reverse the journey in his mind.

His initial progress commenced slowly as he counted each step, his tread deliberate and his pace calculated. With fingers trailing the wall at waist height, the way McCoy had taught him, he found an elevator out of the array available in the reception lobby. He entered it without any problem despite McCoy's fabricated ill will. As the doors shut behind him he slumped against the wall and closed his burning eyes able to relax his guard for the first time that evening. He needed to rest. A pulse throbbed in his temple, heavy and intense, as pain spiralled across his forehead. Fatigue dragged at his limbs. The lethargy made it difficult to concentrate. Voice flat with exhaustion, he gave an order to the elevator which whisked him swiftly upwards with the speed of an accelerating rocket.

Castle Cloud, as McCoy had affirmed was, indeed, a small town. Within the confines of its perimeter walls, it contained a shopping mall, two, small, automated factories, a processing plant and a hospital as well as living quarters for Ryhanen's staff and the few colonists who made their homes there. Spock's room was located along with Kirk's and McCoy's, in the hotel complex, which also housed a casino, several restaurants, a professional sized swimming pool, health spa, sports hall, and the latest interactive holography theatre.

The elevator accessed onto level eighteen, a broad corridor with a number of doors leading to other guest chambers. Tubs of growing plants stood here and there along either side of the hallway, obstacles that Spock knew of from his earlier outward journey. He stared sightlessly into the distance as he took the first step, his hand brushing against lush foliage as he passed. It took thirty steps to reach the first intersection on his left that he required to reach his room. He moved cautiously down the centre of the corridor waiting to feel the tiny draft of cooler air on his cheek that warned of the junction.

It never occurred. Confused, his inner serenity dented, he continued for another five paces before coming to a perplexed halt. Counting steps, he realised belatedly, only worked if the strides were exactly the same distance each time. Disposition, tiredness, or lack of self-assurance all affected the way of walking. Earlier, Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy had accompanied him. Spock had felt confident in their presence, aware that he could come to little harm while they were with him. Now, he lacked that certainty, knew only the embarrassment of imprecision and doubt. He clenched his hands into fists by his side. Pain throbbed behind his eyes as he struggled for equanimity. Another tentative step and his innate spatial sense alerted him to something ambiguous a few feet distant.

Spock fought against the sudden flare of irritation, frustrated by his continuing lack of ability. Head tilted he reached out. His fingers floundered at the vacant air but found only empty space. He clapped his palms together. But though he listened vigilantly to the returning echoes he still failed to interpret what the signals told him.

It was only the thought of McCoy's 'I told you so,' that urged him into movement once more. He had to regain his room, find the calmness that was so obviously absent, and try to come to terms with his loss of sight. Either that or ultimately admit defeat and allow the doctor to smother him in cotton wadding for the reminder of his stay. An untenable idea, one he could never countenance and keep his self-esteem intact.

However, he soon found out that he had to consider far more than the counting of steps and length of his stride. What happened next came as a total surprise. Between one step and the next, the floor disappeared, and he toppled forward into empty space.

Prominent and well lit, any sighted being could not have failed to see the stairway, but it caught Spock completely off guard.

Thrown into disarray, his feet slipped out from beneath him and he pitched heavily down the short flight, striking the base of his spine on the edge of a step before he sprawled with startling force on hands and knees. He heard the ominous crack of his left wrist as it took most of the impact.

Cradling the injured appendage in his other hand, Spock immediately sat back on his haunches. Throat tight, breathing in short, shallow gasps, delayed reaction had his heart hammering against his side, the nape of his neck damp with sweat as he tried to come to terms with the sudden fear. A distressed inner voice cried out in dismay. This is illogical there must be another way. These limitations are appalling. How can I continue in this fashion?

Hunched over his knees, embracing the ill-treated and most probably broken wrist against his chest, he battled to contain his rage and humiliation. His imagination provided him with an image of what a ridiculous sight he must have posed as he sightlessly flailed the air before he somersaulted head first so ignominiously down the stairs. Finally, he leaned back on his heels, shuddering as he pulled in several deep, purging breaths. Using the wall beside him as a support, he waited an instant longer until his equilibrium returned and he managed to get onto his feet.

Half expecting the floor to part and swallow him whole at any moment, he ascended the stairs somewhat slower than his preceding journey down, tapping the riser of each step with the toe of his boot until he stood on the upper level once more. There was a wretched, frayed dignity in the way he straightened his shoulders, and lifted his chin in proud disdain at the pain emanating from his aching spine and rapidly swelling wrist, squashing the residual trembling of his hands as he took a further hesitant step in what he hoped was the correct direction.

Nevertheless, after wandering level eighteen for what seemed an interminable time but which his inner chronometer assured him was only fifteen point five three minutes, he came to the inevitable conclusion that he had blundered even more significantly than he had at first appreciated. He could not locate the intersection he needed because, he deduced finally, it existed on the opposite side of the hotel complex. In his urgency to show Doctor McCoy that he could survive on his own terms, he had patently entered the wrong elevator in the lobby. His obstinate Vulcan pride had without doubt contributed to his present bewildered state.

Spock sighed, concerned by his own intransigence. He knew that Doctor McCoy's anxiety for him went with the territory of chief surgeon and that the crustiness increased in direct proportion to McCoy's apprehension and worry. Spock could not deny that McCoy cared for him - just as the Captain did. The doctor wanted only to safeguard Spock's health and welfare, yet it had proved impossible so far for him to admit that he needed assistance. It felt infinitely more comfortable to continue to provoke the doctor whenever the opportunity arose. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately in this instance, McCoy's innate gruffness had prevailed over his compassionate soul. If pushed hard enough, he still tended to rise to the bait.

Spock rubbed his intact hand across his aching brow as he retraced his steps once more to the staircase, sagging against the wall at the top of the stairs as a strange prickling sensation unexpectedly started up somewhere inside his head It challenged the pain that thumped just behind his eyes. Spock tensed. He recognised that the unnatural tingling originated from the damaged senceiver implanted within his brain. He winced as his headache abruptly intensified, shuddering as tremors shook his lean frame. Had the senceiver somehow become active again?

He stared into the darkness, mind cleared of conscious thought, as he waited for the implant to create its imagery. An instant later, he perceived a ghostly resonance. It cried out his name, a voice he might have recognised if not for the pain thundering along his nerves.

Spock! Come for me. Spock, set me free! Spock!

"Who is there?" He turned on his heel, wheeling around in an 180 degree arc; but the astonishing reverberation lasted only an instant before fading again, leaving him shaken and taken aback. His heart beat fast and thick against his side; he heard as well as felt its demented throb.

Troubled by the incident, he recalled that hallucinations were a symptom of the Koreoretnal condition, and the apprehension at anyone observing him in such a revealing state spurred him into movement once more.

The easiest route to his room would have meant returning to the lobby which increased the probability of someone catching sight of him. He therefore elected to take the long way round, a trip fraught with unknown danger but which would enable him to remain undiscovered. Before the onset of his illness he had studied, as a matter of course, everything recorded about the planet Sassandran and Ser Ryhanen Hekmatyer, including the plans of Castle Cloud. Now he knew his true location he could find his way. All he needed was to trust in his own ability, the hardest and most important lesson he had to learn.

Yet, after his most recent mishap it brought home the fact that he might, indeed, warrant the joint anxiety of Captain kirk and Doctor McCoy. Had his vanity blinded his judgement as the Koreoretnal Syndrome had blinded his sight? Could the disability really be insurmountable? If he truly had to rely on the sympathy of others in order to survive it did not bode well for his future or his pride. He had to recover the middle ground, one where his blindness assumed the proper perspective.

Over the years of his service aboard her, the Enterprise had become more than just a Starfleet vessel to him as Captain Kirk had become far more than his senior officer. The ship was his home and he counted Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy as two of his closest friends. They accepted him unequivocally, in a way that no one else ever had. He had no desire for that to end; certainly not in this manner, yet he could not deny that his career in Starfleet was over. He had to make a new life for himself. That new life had to start by knowing what he could achieve by his own endeavours. Finding his own room in this unfamiliar and alien environment was his beginning. There could be no guiding hand on his elbow, no words of direction, no sympathetic presence ready to pick him up when he fell. He had to rely on his own senses, use his own judgement, and realise his own goals. It was not an easy path, but in this, he could not permit himself to founder. Kaiidth. At least he had to try.


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