10: JOURNEY By: M. C. Pehrson
It was not the first time since his wedding that Spock had donned a dress uniform, but on this occasion there was no pleasure in it. Standing before his bathroom mirror, he carefully parted his smooth dark hair and combed it to the side, like he had worn it through much of his childhood. No Vulcan bangs on this, of all days.
Leila would smile at his action...if she were here. But that was not possible. Regulations barred spouses from starships, so two months ago she had left with the rest of Sandoval's colonists to live the agrarian life she loved. A new world with new challenges. Subspace communication helped ease their loneliness and keep him apprised of her ongoing pregnancy, but he sorely missed the comfort of her presence today.
Exiting the bathroom, his thoughts turned to another woman of importance in his life. His mother's succinct message was still displayed on his computer screen.
"Don't let him get to you. Just remember, he's a heartless hul'a."
Spock's lips pressed into a taut smile. How like her to veil the insult in a Vulcan scientific term. A lesser person might have simply called Sarek an "asshole".
Minutes later, Spock stood between Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy as part of the honor guard to welcome a Vulcan delegation aboard. The Vulcans were the last of the diverse races that the Enterprise would be carrying to a planetoid code-named "Babel", for a conference on a disputed matter.
As the airlock was about to open, Leonard nudged him and murmured, "How's this for the Vulcan salute?" He surreptitiously raised the middle finger of his right hand.
Spock was cocking an eyebrow when the doors slid aside. Ambassador Sarek emerged, followed by a petite, stoic-faced Vulcan woman and two male aides. Kirk stepped forward to greet them and introduce his officers. Sarek pointedly ignored Spock, then held out his hand to the female in his group, two fingers extended. From far in the past, Spock remembered Sarek beckoning his mother in just such a manner. It could only mean one thing.
As the woman joined Sarek and touched her fingers to his, the ambassador said, "She who is my wife, T'Pring."
Sarek's young consort cast Spock such an icy glance, that he found even more reason to dislike her.
In view of Spock's family situation, and not wishing to annoy Ambassador Sarek, Kirk excused Spock from attending that evening's reception. Instead, Spock manned the bridge. Therefore he was in the captain's chair when sensors detected a distant vessel flying parallel to the Enterprise. Since it refused all hails, he summoned the captain, but every attempt to identify or intercept the small ship proved fruitless.
Meanwhile, arguments were breaking out at the reception, but the worst was yet to come. Much of the crew was preparing for bed when the Tellerite ambassador was found stuffed into a Jeffries tube - murdered, by all appearances. Once again, Spock called for the captain. They met at the scene and watched in silence as Leonard McCoy knelt beside Gav's body, using a medscanner.
"His neck was broken," Leonard concluded. "By an expert."
By an expert. Alerted, Spock got down and felt the victim's cervical vertebra.
Leonard continued, "From the location and nature of the break, I'd say the killer knew exactly where to apply pressure to snap the spine instantly. No blow was used, and no bruising."
"Who aboard would have that kind of knowledge?" Kirk wondered.
By now, Spock had reached his own conclusion. Rising, he said, "Vulcans. The method is called tal-shaya. It was considered a merciful form of execution in ancient times."
The captain studied him. "Mister Grayson, earlier this evening I broke up an argument between your father and Gav."
Was Kirk implying that Sarek was a murderer? Whatever else Spock thought about his biological father, Sarek was a devoted follower of Surak. "Sir, Vulcans do not approve of violence."
"Are you saying he couldn't have done this?"
Though it made Spock uncomfortable, he saw no choice but to defend the ambassador. "Given reason, he would be capable of an efficient killing. But I speak only of a defensive act, not murder."
Kirk considered a moment, then said, "Come with me. You, too, Bones."
They went straight to Sarek's quarters, where T'Pring coldly responded to the door chime, still impeccably clothed in her formalwear.
"I'm sorry to disturb you," Kirk began, "but I must speak with your husband."
"He is not here," she replied without expression. "It is his habit to meditate in private before retiring."
Footsteps sounded behind them and Sarek himself appeared, with his eyes full on Kirk. To Spock, he seemed rather tense - an unusual state for a disciplined Vulcan.
Sarek asked, "You want something of me, Captain?"
"Ambassador," Kirk replied, "the Tellerite, Gav, has been found murdered. His neck was broken in what Spock describes as ‘tal-shaya'."
Sarek's eyebrow quirked. "I trust that you have sought out a second, more educated opinion."
Spock restrained a stirring of anger and kept silent.
Ignoring the slur, Kirk asked, "Where were you in the past hour?"
Sarek visibly stiffened. "I was in private meditation. Even your second-in-command should know that is a personal matter, not to be discussed."
Spock could see Kirk working to control his own temper as the captain said, "Let's try, if we can, to set aside the feud between you and your son. A murder has -"
Kirk broke off when Sarek gasped, doubled up, and collapsed to his knees. Spock experienced not a twinge of concern as Doctor McCoy and the captain hurried over to tend to the ambassador. Standing apart, he did not offer them any assistance.
Though Spock would rather have remained on the bridge monitoring their persistent, as yet unknown follower, he accompanied the captain to sickbay. Attendance was mandatory, though Kirk had not said why.
The reason soon became apparent.
In the privacy of his office, Doctor McCoy explained, "As it turns out, Sarek's been taking benjasidrine for a heart valve problem, but now he's reached a crisis and needs surgery."
"Can it wait?" Kirk asked.
"No, and we're going to need blood. It's a rare type called T-negative, and only one other Vulcan aboard has it." His eyes settled with apology on Spock. "Sarek is willing to accept the transfusion."
Everything in Spock resisted. "As both you and the ambassador are aware, my blood has human factors."
"They can be filtered out. And since the filtering process will reduce the blood volume, I'll need more than you can safely give. But there's an experimental drug that speeds up the replacement of copper-based blood. I'd have to give it to both of you, and there are medical risks involved. Spock, for you that means bedrest and close observation." With a self-deprecating shrug he added, "Of course, the surgery itself is a risk. I've never operated on a Vulcan."
"But if you do nothing?" Kirk prompted.
"Sarek will die, so that leaves me no choice in the matter. Spock, I want you back here in two hours."
Kirk grimly nodded. Neither man seemed to notice that Spock had not given his consent. He was halfway to his quarters, deep in thought, when Leonard called him back to sickbay.
The captain had been attacked.
Though struck on the head and then stabbed, Kirk had managed to knock out his Andorian assailant and call security before collapsing. That put Spock in command. With a murder investigation underway and a potentially hostile ship in pursuit, he dared not submit himself to a disabling medical procedure. There was no longer any need for a decision.
Relieved, he stood before his stepbrother's desk and informed him, "I can offer you a standard unit of blood, and no more."
"Well, that's not enough," Leonard argued.
Spock looked down upon the doctor and sighed. "My immediate responsibility is to the ship. Our passengers' safety is, by Starfleet order, of first importance."
"Jim will be conscious soon. Until then, you can turn command over to Scotty."
"On what grounds? Command requirements do not recognize personal privilege. It is my duty - "
Flushed with anger, Leonard sprang to his feet. "Don't hand me that crap about duty! You'd just as soon see Sarek die for what he did to you and Amanda. But think, man. Do you really want that on your conscience? Do you really want to kill your own father?"
Slowly and distinctly, Spock reminded him, "David McCoy is my father...in every way that matters."
Leonard nodded. "Yes. And if it were Dad lying there, needing your help? What would you do then?"
There was no need even to think about it. Spock knew he would "move heaven and earth" and every planet in the galaxy, to save his kindly stepfather. Silently he turned and walked out of sickbay. For now, there was a prisoner to interrogate.
Spock had just showered and put on a fresh uniform when his door chime sounded.
"Come in," he said a bit wearily, for he fully expected his argumentative brother.
Instead, T'Pring entered. Spock had never in his life been alone with a Vulcan female, and this particular one was unsettling.
Fixing him with her icy gaze, she said, "Sarek is dying."
"All lives must end," he replied in a voice just as cold.
"Yes," she agreed, chin lifting arrogantly. "But you might save him if you wished to try."
"What you are asking is illogical. Duty must always come first, and with the captain injured, my duty is to this ship."
"There are others who can command this ship," she persisted. "Only you can save your father."
"Father?" Spock said bitterly. "The man sired me, nothing more."
"And is that not enough?" Moving nearer, T'Pring searched his eyes. It was as close as she might come to pleading. "Sarek gave you life, yet now you would deny him his? I ask you, if not for his sake, then mine."
Had Spock remained on Vulcan, he might have married just such a woman. Perhaps, beneath her brittle logic, there was a heart - enough of a heart to move his own.
Going over to the intercom, he thumbed the button and said, "Commander Scott, meet me on the bridge."
A red alert siren instantly awakened Spock. He had drowsed off from the side-effects of Leonard's blood-building medication. Glancing over at Kirk's bed, he found the captain fully conscious, with a direct line to Mister Scott at his fingertips. Even so, Spock felt duty-bound to get to the bridge.
Tossing back his blanket, he attempted to rise. "Captain, I..."
"Stay put," Kirk ordered.
Too nauseated to object, Spock complied, and the captain briefed him on the unfolding events. Lieutenant Uhura had picked up the alien signal again - this time, from inside the ship's brig. A search of the Andorian prisoner had revealed a transceiver imbedded in a false antenna. Surgically altered, Thelev had been placed among the ambassadors to terrorize the crew before the main attack.
And now that attack was underway. The ship rocked from the impact of a powerful weapon.
This time, Kirk threw his blanket aside.
"Oh, no you don't!" Emerging from surgery, Leonard braced himself in the doorframe as the ship lurched again. "You'll both stay in those beds, if I have to tie you hand and foot."
No restraints were required. On the captain's advice, Mister Scott employed a venerable battle tactic and "played dead". Lured into a false sense of security, the alien vessel exposed itself to a fatal shot. The crisis was over.
Six hours later, only one area of discord remained. Three patients lay in the sickbay ward; Spock, Kirk, and Sarek - whose smooth recovery from heart surgery was a testament to Leonard McCoy's medical skill. In bed, Spock divided his attention between a duty roster and an ongoing conversation across the room. As Sarek spoke with the captain, it was becoming all too clear that Vulcans did not waste any breath on gratitude.
T'Pring sat at her husband's side, eyes downcast, which in a human might have indicated some embarrassment. Nearby, Leonard stood with his arms stonily folded while, under the guise of praising Mister Scott, Sarek leveled a stream of insults at the man who had just saved his life.
"I have no regard for any officer who would abandon his post in order to avoid responsibility. Of course, there are those individuals weakened by a poor upbringing. Those who, at the first hint of danger, would gladly relinquish their position to another. It is most fortunate that, in our case, the mantle of command fell to one such as Scott..."
"Ambassador," Kirk said with a noticeable touch of impatience.
Leonard's arms dropped stiffly to his sides. Spock knew the stance. His brother had had enough, and "meant business".
"Well, Mister Ambassador," Leonard drawled in a deceptively friendly manner. "It's high time a man of your caliber has yourself a nice private room."
Sarek gravely nodded. "I would appreciate a more secluded environment."
Moving briskly, Leonard brought a grav chair to the Vulcan's bed and hustled him out the door with T'Pring in tow.
Spock sank more deeply into his pillow and sighed in relief.
"Good riddance," Kirk muttered. After a moment he said, "Spock, has your mother ever told you why she married him?"
Not for the first time, Spock wondered how a warm Earth woman could choose a man who was so unfeeling. "No, she hasn't," he finally admitted, "but I fully intend to ask."