By Beverly Volker and Nancy Kippax
Art by Russell Volker, Sr.
The tall lean Earthman stepped up to the Enterprise trio who had just beamed down onto his porch.
“Welcome to the Kessler Colony, gentlemen,” he greeted them. “I’m Leon Kessler at your service!” The man’s voice was resonant and strong.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy looked at their surroundings curiously. This was a well developed, self-sustaining Earth colony on the outer fringes of the Procyon star system. Its technical name was Damion II and it had been colonized seven years ago by this man Kessler and his party of 31 men and women. But the Federation had heard no reports from them for almost six of those years, so they’d finally sent a Starship to investigate. Detecting life forms but getting no response to their transmissions, they beamed down to what seemed like the center of the colony. Their greeting unsettled Kirk.
“Mr. Kessler. I’m Captain James Kirk of the USS Enterprise. This is our Science Officer, Commander Spock, and our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Leonard McCoy.” He paused for acknowledgement, then continued. “I must say, sir, you don’t seem surprised to see us,” almost adding, as if you expected us.
Kessler nodded sadly. “It was inevitable, Captain. We knew the Federation would send someone here eventually.” He broke off and indicated the house. “Come inside out of this heat and I’ll try to answer your questions.”
They entered the house which appeared from the exterior to be a huge whitewashed wooden dwelling, faintly resembling the ancient Southern plantation homes of Earth. The interior was anything but crude. The first thing that struck one was the infinitely cooler, filtered air. The furnishings were quite modern and opulent. As they entered the room Kessler indicated as his study, a young girl tidying up looked up at them in surprise and, it seemed, alarm.
She was small, finely featured, with thick brown hair and dark eyes. After her initial shock she stood quietly observing them with keen interest. She appeared especially fascinated with the Vulcan.
Kessler finished speaking and turned to the girl. “Gentlemen, this is my sister, Lydra,” he said proudly, and introduced the trio to her. “They’re from a Starship, dear. The Federation has sent them.”
Her eyes darted from one face to another uneasily. “Hello,” she stammered in confusion. Appearing about to say something else, she caught her brother’s eye and retreated to the file case behind the desk.
Kessler sat down and indicated they do the same. “Lydra will supply you with my reports. I’ve kept them faithfully since our transmitter was destroyed in a small fire six years ago,” he said, flicking a button on his desk. A man appeared in the doorway. Tall, ruggedly muscled, with a weathered face, he was a formidable looking contrast to the luxury of the room.
“Yes, Sir?” he questioned Kessler.
”Hartley… will you bring our guests some refreshment, please.” Turning to Kirk, he explained, “We make our own fruit ale here which I’m sure you ’11 enjoy, Captain.” The tone was calm and benevolent, but Jim sensed something about this man, something he couldn’t quite put a finger on, that he distrusted.
Meanwhile, Lydra had extracted a thick folder and after a moment of indecision she handed it to Spock. Her eyes locked with his so intensely for a moment, that even Spock reacted. He could almost feel her mind reaching out for his, and it startled him. Then the moment was gone, and Spock turned his attention to the reports.
Kessler settled himself more comfortably. “As you can see, everything has gone smoothly. We are in need of nothing. Since we are a productive society, I’d prefer no interruptions in the pattern of our daily life.”
“Spock, scanning the reports, spoke up. “Captain, I note here there have been four deaths over the past six years. One of them was Todd Mason.”
Kirk rubbed his chin. “Hmnn… Regrettable. We carried news for Mason. He’d come into quite a legacy from his grandfather,” he explained to Kessler. “How did he die?”
Kessler spoke quickly. “He was killed in an explosion in the foundry almost three years ago.”
Spock looked up in surprise. “This report indicates, Mr. Kessler, that Todd Mason was the victim of an accidental drowning. And it took place five years and three months ago.”
Leon Kessler stirred uneasily and there was a pause when everyone held their breaths. The awkwardness ended when the man, Hartley, brought in a tray of drinks. Kessler coughed and cleared his throat.
“Thank you, Hartley, that will be all,” he said casually. Handing out the glasses he spoke easily to Spock. “I must have Mason confused with someone else.”
Kirk stood up. “Mr. Kessler, if you don’t Object, I’d like to contact my ship and then take a look around your colony. I shall try to be unobtrusive, but I do have a report to make.”
Kessler’s smile was frosty. “Oh, yes, Captain, I quite agree. But you will come back and join us for dinner, won’t you?” he asked politely.
Kirk smiled. “I’m sure that will be fine. Till then,” he nodded.
As they walked out into the bright sun, the Captain was thoughtful. All about them was the bustle of a productive colony, yet something seemed oddly out of place. He stood in the middle of the road, again trying to pinpoint the source of his uneasiness. He spoke to McCoy.
“Bones, do you sense anything… different here?” Kirk groped for the right words. “Anything about Kessler himself, perhaps?”
The doctor looked around him easily. “No, not really, Jim. Kinda reminds me of the Old South around here.” Kirk looked at him in amusement, and McCoy grinned, the easy comradeship of shared laughter.
“When they had slaves and masters?” Jim smiled wryly. He walked ahead of his officers and pulled out his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise… Come in, Scott,” he said. Getting Scotty’s reply, Kirk reported that they found the colonists alive and well. “But,” he added, “we’re going to stick around here for a while, just to make certain.”
“Trouble, Captain?” Scott asked.
Kirk hesitated. “No, not exactly, I just want a closer look. I’ll contact you later. Kirk out.”
The man, Hartley, slipped quietly away from his hiding place nearby and headed for the big house.
“They are suspicious, sir. They will dig and probe…”
“Is all secure?”
“On the surface, yes, but these men…”
“Yes, I see. Perhaps an accident…” .
“Understood. It would be the easiest solution.”
The trio had wandered a distance from the colony itself. Spock, taking his tricorder readings, found no abnormalities. The air was oppressively humid and still, and they had worked up a sweat climbing over the rocky terrain. Kirk didn’t know what exactly he was looking for; he’d hoped to get some perspective out here. But there was nothing to be found and he turned now to the other two.
“Let’s head back to the colony. I want to talk to some of the people before we get back to Kessler.” He started down the path, a little ahead of Spock and McCoy.
“Nothing like a walk in the woods to sharpen the appetite,” McCoy grumbled, kicking a rock out of his way.
“Doctor, even you must realize the benefits derived from… ” Spock’s reply was cut off by a rumble from somewhere above them. His comrades hadn’t picked it up, but Spock’s sharp Vulcan ears had. Looking up, he saw the landslide headed for them, and he shouted, but his warning came a fraction of a second too late. With a deafening roar, it suddenly seemed like the whole mountain descended upon them, flinging them this way and that, like helpless little toys.
As the dust cleared and clean air filtered its way back into Spock’s lungs, he sat up stiffly, gingerly testing his muscles. He felt uninjured and hearing McCoy’s coughs to his left, he made his way in that direction, over the rubble of rocks and sand.
McCoy sat up with Spock’s assistance and together they cleared what small debris they could out of the way. The doctor realized he’d lost all his equipment and Spock had too. But right now that thought was not uppermost in their minds.
“Where’ s Jim?! McCoy asked in sudden alarm.
“He was ahead of us just before the landslide,” Spock replied, scrambling in that direction quickly. He and McCoy looked around, seeing nothing at first, then Spock turned1to the right and moved a few rocks out of his way violently, to get to the body which McCoy could see now too, pinned under the main part of the landslide.
“Jim!” Spock’s voice was uneven as he bent beside the still form. McCoy reached them and put his fingers on Kirk’s neck.
“He’s alive,” he said grimly, feeling so much at a loss without his instruments. Spock had started to move away the smaller rocks, but it was a pyramid effect and for every one that Spock pulled out, three more took its place.
The Captain roused and began to cough the dust out of his lungs. He tried to sit up, but found he couldn’t move. Only then did he realize he was pinned down. His chest felt like a ball of fire and he blinked dazedly at his friends.
McCoy’s voice was ragged. “Don’t try to move, Jim. Just lie still.” The pain on McCoy’s face told Jim what he wanted to know, what he had to know; it was bad.
Spock, on his knees at Kirk’s side, was looking at him in concern, unmindful of the small trickle of green blood working it’s way down the side of his face. His superior Vulcan physiology had failed him and he felt the frustration of helplessness engulfing him. Again he tried to move one of the bigger boulders obstructing his progress but a clipped moan from Jim stopped him instantly. Their eyes met and Kirk read the confusion in Spock’s face. He felt Spock’s frustration, and tried to move his free hand toward him. It was a brief moment of weakness for Kirk, an instant when he thought: I’m going to die and I don’t want to die! and Spock understood this and reached his hand out and grasped his Captain’s fingers tightly, willing the strength to flow from him to Kirk.
McCoy came around and touched Spock’s shoulder. They got up and moved a few yards away.
“Spock, you’re going to have to go back to the colony for help,” he said softly.
Spock’s face was tight. “How bad is it, Doctor?” There would be no jokes now about McCoy’s abilities.
McCoy shook his head. “I’ve no way of telling without my instruments, but there’s got to be some internal damage — from all the signs there’s internal bleeding. All I know for’ sure is that if he doesn’t get help—and get it soon, he’ll die, Spock. Jim will die!”
Spock didn’t reply, but he flashed McCoy a piercing look, then turned back to the Captain.
As Spock knelt, Kirk spoke in a somewhat stronger voice. The initial shock had passed and the Captain was feeling his wits returning. “Spock,” he said, “give me your communicator. I can’t get to mine. I’ve got to call the ship, get a team down here…”
“Captain,” Spock cut him off, “there are no communicators. All our equipment was lost in the landslide. With your permission I’ll go back to the colony to get help from the people there.” The ramifications were obvious to Kirk, as they were to Spock. Without communications it would be some time before Scotty got suspicious enough to send down a re-con party and even if they managed to get Kirk dug out and brought back to the house, they had none of the medical facilities of the Enterprise to treat a badly injured man. And there was that other thing, Kirk thought. That uneasiness he’d sensed back there. Something about Kessler. He swallowed visibly and blinked in the glare of the sun.
“Okay, Spock,” Jim said evenly. “But be careful. We can’t be sure these people are our friends.”
Spock nodded and stood up. Needlessly he turned to McCoy. “Take care of him,” he said simply. Before he left, he took one last look at Jim Kirk, proud, strong, vital Captain of a Starship, laying here helplessly pinned down, possibly dying, and with a great effort he turned and began to descend.
“You fool!” Kessler hissed.
Hartley cowered visibly. “I tried, Sir. It was difficult…” He was interrupted by a third man, stationed at the window in this comfortable study.
“The Vulcan is approaching ‘the house now, Sir,” he informed Kessler.
“All right, we’ll deal with this one first.” He picked up a pen and began writing with a good deal of concentration. It was thus that Spock found him upon entering the study.
“Mr. Kessler… There’s been an accident,” Spock said rapidly, pausing when Kessler failed to respond or give any indication of awareness. As he opened his mouth to continue, Kessler spoke, but to Hartley, not Spock.
“Has this man been given permission to enter my chambers?” he asked.
Spock stood there, not quite comprehending; a sense of bafflement replacing his urgency. Hartley stepped up to him.
“Sorry, you’ll have to make an appointment and wait your turn, ” he said, giving Spock a slight shove.
Spock’s tone was neutral. “You don’t seem to understand. Captain Kirk has been injured in a…” Before he could finish, Kessler stood up and suddenly Spock saw it all. It had been no accident! For some unknown reason this man had caused the landslide. It was illogical, but it was true!
Kessler’s tone had changed again and it was easy and warm. “Yes, Mr. Spock, a great pity, isn’t it? But I’m afraid I can’t let you report back on our little colony here. Taylor,” he indicated the third man who had drawn his phaser, “show Mr. Spock to our ‘guest quarters.'”
Spock was shoved roughly out of the house and down a path toward a windowless brick building containing barred cubicles just big enough for a man to stand in. He tried to protest as they locked him in, telling them it was illogical to attempt this on the Federation, but he was ignored, then left alone.
Alone, to stand there and think about that man up on the mountain, possibly dying, and he was powerless to stop it. He tried the bars; they were tight. He could see no possible means of escape. He forced his mind to the unanswered questions. What was Kessler’s motive for wanting them dead? What would they have found if they’d explored further?
At that point he heard the scraping of the outer door being opened. It was the girl, Lydra, bearing a tray of food.
“It is dinnertime.” She attempted a smile.
Spock shook his head forcibly. “I do not desire sustenance!”
Her look was open and amazed. “Do not fear, Mr. Spock. It is clean. I prepared it myself.”
At first he thought she meant hygienically clean, but his puzzled look made her stammer and flush.
“Oh! I thought you knew! That is…” she broke off in confusion.
His mind was working fast now. She had backed off a few steps and he tried to reach through the bars to her, but they were too close together. “Lydra,” he said, his voice soft, coaxing, “there’s something in the food, is that it? Your brother puts what in the food?”
She spoke hesitantly. “A plant extract. I don’t know what it’s called. I don’t even know where it comes from. But it makes people passive, obedient, like slaves,” she said, her voice growing stronger. “He found out its use about a year after we came here, and with the help of a few loyal men began to administer it to the rest of the people so he could have total control!” She broke off, looking dismayed. “But, if you didn’t know this, why would he lock you up?”
“It would be easily detected and he knew we’d learn the truth,” he explained patiently. “So that’s why he didn’t want us bothering anyone,” he mused. “Has no one here attempted to resist?”
“Some have tried,” she replied tonelessly, eyes down. “They are dead.” She looked up at him sadly. “Mr. Spock, I’m sorry you had to get involved in this! I wanted so to warn you away earlier but I was afraid to!”
Spock looked at the girl, an idea dawning on him. “Lydra, there’s an injured man up on the mountain. Can you get up there with a few men and…”
She shivered. “No! I cannot interfere! I should not even be here!”
Before he could stop her, she had fled the way she came. Since she seemed the only logical chance for his freedom, he set about trying to call her back with his mind. So enrapt was he in this endeavor, that he didn’t hear the two men enter until they were at his cell. He looked up as they unlocked the door, phasers pointed at him.
“The boss wants you,” Taylor said grimly, and they led him again to the big house, to that cool, soft, deceptive room.
He had no chance to resist with those phasers trained on him. They shackled his hands behind him and pushed him into a chair. Then Kessler dismissed them with a wave of his hand.
“Leave us! “he commanded. He sat silently observing Spock for a moment, then he spoke. “You mentioned the Federation, Mr. Spock. I wanted to ease your mind on that. You and your friends met with an accident here. Regrettable, but just an occupational hazard, wouldn’t you say?”
“Kessler,” Spock replied, “it is only a matter of time before our ship sends down more men to investigate our absence. They will take the same steps we took upon arrival. They will draw the same conclusions.”
The smile Kessler gave him was chilling. “Yes, but meanwhile your Captain will be dead!” Perhaps Spock’s face gave him away, because suddenly Kessler pounced on this fact. “You would see your Captain die, Spock. Is that what you want?”
Spock was puzzled. This was no game for logic. The man was totally illogical and Spock had no guidelines for human madness.
“I do not understand what it is you want,” he replied.
Abruptly Kessler’s tone changed. “Of course, I could save your Captain. For a time, at least.” He smiled slyly. “The Federation would see I had done everything I could. A pity that he died anyway.”
Spock’s face was noncommittal but he felt a tightness inside, a feeling akin to hatred that was foreign to him. Kessler went on.
“But the important thing now is to get Captain Kirk off that mountain, isn’t it? For what would it matter if you find a way to escape if he is already dead? That is what you must logically conclude, is it not, Mr. Spock?”
Spock still did not reply.
“Well,” Kessler said, “perhaps I could still save him. For the right price.”
The Vulcan thought he understood that one. “If you mean, sir, that we make no mention in our report… ” Kessler cut him off.
“No, no,” he denied. “You cannot be bought that easily.”
“Correct. You have no way of winning and the death of my Captain would serve no purpose.”
“Does that bother you, Spock? It doesn’t bother me. After all, it’s not the winning that counts, but how you play the game,” he chuckled.
But what game we playing? Spock wondered. What are the rules with this madman? Kessler was speaking again.
“So, your ship sends down men to search for you. Well, we have ways around here of controlling a man. Perhaps you know of them.”
“I know of them,” Spock said shortly.
Kessler looked surprised, then he smiled. “Good. Well, regardless of how this all turns out, Captain Kirk is bleeding to death.”
Spock’s head was spinning from the man’s constant change of pace.
“What is it you want from me?” he asked wearily.
“I spoke of a price, Spock. A price for you Captain’s life.” Kessler stood up straight, and his eyes took on a glow. “Will you beg, Spock? For your Captain’s life, will you get down on your knees and beg?”
Spock looked at him in astonishment. It was a ghastly practical joke.
The man was totally insane. Every fiber of his Vulcan heritage rebelled against the act. “Vulcans do not beg!” he spat out.
Kessler’s chuckle was soft. “I know. That’s why it’s such a high price I place on your Captain Kirk. Is he not worth it, Spock?”
Spock repressed the emotions churning in himself and shook his head. “I cannot.”
Kessler seemed angry as he pushed the button on his desk. “We will give you a second chance, Mr. Spock, after you have a chance to think it over.”
The two men entered; one was carrying a hypospray… Spock knew what was coming and he tried to resist, but the combined strength of the two men was too much for a Vulcan with shackled hands. As the hypo pressed into his arm, the last words Spock heard were Kessler’s.
“As I said, we have ways of controlling men here, Mr. Spock.”
A wave of dizziness overtook Spock and he blacked out.
McCoy’s probing fingers made Jim wince. The doctor looked apologetically at his friend and reached up to wipe away the beads of sweat forming on Kirk’s face. His skin under McCoy’s hand was cool, even with the hot sun glaring down on them. Jim’s voice was weaker now.
“How long has it been, Bones?”
McCoy looked up at the sky, trying to read the movement of the strange sun. “Too long,” he muttered.
Kirk tried to move again and was hit by a fresh wave of pain. McCoy eased him back and standing, removed his blue tunic and rolled it into a pillow, which he placed carefully under Jim’s neck. The stark black of his shirt provided a glaring contrast to the whiteness of his dust covered face, as he bent over Kirk.
The Captain tried to speak, his voice coming out hoarse. “There must have been trouble, Bones. Spock must have… ” He broke off, unable to go on.
McCoy was torn by the inactivity. He wanted to go find out what had happened to Spock, to go bring help back, yet he couldn’t leave Jim here all alone, to lie here and die by himself.
“Take it easy, Jim.” He forced himself to smile. “Spock’s never let either one of us down before. I’d never admit it to him, but that Vulcan’s pretty handy to have around when the chips are down.”
Kirk managed to grin. “That’ s what I’ve been telling you… ” His voice trailed off as he lost consciousness again. McCoy hastily grabbed for the pulse, alarm in his eyes. It was there; faint, but still there. Rubbing his eyes, Bones peered off in the direction of the colony. If Spock didn’t get back soon, it would be too late. What was keeping him, he wondered.
As Spock’s consciousness returned, he realized he was alone again with Kessler. The man was studying him avidly. Spock felt oddly at peace here, his senses lulled into a state or amiability by the drug. Kessler was speaking, and Spock looked up passively at his voice.
“Now then, Mr. Spock, we were discussing the price of your Captain’s life.”
It all came back to Spock with a rush of emotion strange to him. With a great effort he willed his mind to clear, even physically tossing his head as though to diminish the cobwebs. His voice was low and controlled. “I am a Vulcan!”
Kessler’s voice taunted him. “And Vulcans do not beg, or so you said. Yet your Captain is dying. Right now, out in that hot sun, his life ebbs from him.”
Spock said nothing, so intent was he on freeing his mind from this foreign influence. He would do just about anything to save Kirk’s life, he thought. Just about…
“Don’t you care, Spock? Don’t you care that he’ll die, his insides smashed under the weight of those rocks?”
Illogical! The Vulcan coming through strengthened Spock. This man will not let us live. It will serve no purpose for him to save Jim.
“You can save him, Spock. I can help him. Isn’t what I ask a small price for a life?”
Spock had almost mastered it now. His sanity was restored, but his emotions were still churning.
“He’ll die, Spock, unless we help him, you and I. Our sun stays up for another four hours. Four more hours for him to lie in that hot sun with the rock’s weight on him, crushing the breath from his lungs, crushing the life from his useless body!”
Kessler’s words fell like hammers on Spock’s ears. He winced under each phrase like a blow. With tortured eyes, he looked at Kessler.
“You can help him! Why won’t you help him?!” Spock almost screamed the words.
“You must beg me, Spock. On your knees. And I’ll send the men up to get him. You can lead them. Beg, Spock. That’s all it takes.”
A quiver of revulsion ran through Spock’s nerves. He owed Kirk. his life a thousand times over. Jim had risked his career, his life, his all for him. Was that which Kessler demanded really so high a price to pay? Was pride worth a human life? That life which was so closely bound up with his that they were more than brothers. Almost without thinking about it, he was on his knees, the touch of the thick carpet soft on his legs. Carried away by the force of emotion so new to him, he looked up at Kessler without shame. Somehow this seemed so logically right all of a sudden.
“Please,” he implored. “Help me. Help the Captain. I beg of you!'” The words, once out, could not be recalled and self-revolt set in as Kessler laughed that maniacal laugh. Fully aware now, an aching sense of shame came upon Spock, who realized what he’d done!
Bones had been digging in the rubble, trying to locate some of their lost equipment. At least feeling like he was doing something, he wasn’t surprised that he was unsuccessful. A sound from Kirk brought him instantly to the Captain’s side.
“Easy, Jim. Just lie still,” he cautioned.
The sheer frustration of being unable to move around put an edge to Kirk’s voice. “Bones, did you have any luck?”
McCoy shook his head. “None. It must’ve all gone down the Cliff somewhere. It could be anywhere by now. He stood abruptly, straining his eyes down the path. “Jim!” he exclaimed. “I think someone’s coming!” He threw Kirk a look of relief and ran a few feet ahead, as a voice called out from below.
“Ahoy! Are you there?” It was Hartley, and McCoy recognized him as the man he’d met earlier in Kessler’s office. With him were two other men and Spock.
“Over here!” Bones answered.
As they reached Kirk and began clearing away the rocks, Spock hurried to his Captain’s side to see for himself that he had arrived in time.
McCoy’s voice was anxious. “Well, it sure took you long enough,” he growled, but something in the Vulcan’s blank face stopped him from saying more.
Kirk looked up at his First Officer with what little strength he had left. “Spock…” he began, and appeared about to say something else, but changed his mind. What words could one use, Kirk wondered, the dizziness engulfing him again.
Spock’s voice was controlled. “I shall assist with these rocks, Doctor. Stand by with the first-aid kit,” he ordered.
McCoy had checked it out and it seemed adequate on a short term basis. As the rocks were cleared away, he administered pressure packs and bandages to the worst of Kirk’s superficial wounds. The Captain, although weak, was conscious and obviously in pain. He tried not to show it, but as the last great boulder was lifted from him he gave in with a mighty shudder. McCoy prepared a pain-killing hypo, but Kirk waved him off.
“Bones, I don’t want… ” he began as McCoy pushed it home.
Inert now, they lifted him gently onto the stretcher and descended to the house. There wasn’t really time for words until they got him settled in a bedroom on the second floor. Then McCoy turned to Hartley.
“We’ve got to get back to our ship,” he told him grimly. “Perhaps some of our equipment could be located if… ” The man’s chuckle cut him off.
“Forget it, Doc. You three aren’t getting any help,” he sneered. When Kessler gets back you’re going for a little walk, you and the Vulcan. If you meet with an accident, that’s just too bad.” He moved to the door where the other two men stood, armed now with phasers. “Don’t try anything. As Spock will tell you, it’s useless around here.”
McCoy stared after him in disbelief , as the door was bolted on them. Then he turned to Spock in frantic horror. “What in thunder’s going on here?!” he exploded.
At that point, Jim stirred. McCoy came to his side. The Captain reflected he felt better now. Something in that hypo McCoy’d given him, no doubt. He took in the richly furnished room with clear eyes. The doctor was putting something warm and soft over him and it almost lulled him back to sleep, but he fought off the lethargy with effort. He was the Captain, after all, and the success of this mission, like all others, was his responsibility. He looked at McCoy expectantly.
Bones looked at his friend and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Welcome back, Jim,” he said softly, smiling into that inquisitive face.
Spock stepped over to them and Kirk faced him eagerly. Choosing to ignore the concern he saw on their faces, he concentrated instead on the surge of command he suddenly felt. “Your report, Spock, on our situation?” he asked.
“The landslide was no accident,” Spock explained. “Kessler intended then to kill all three of us. He could not have us inquiring too deeply into his colony.”
Kirk looked at him sharply. “Did you discover the secret he’s hiding?”
Spock replied tonelessly, his eyes fixed straight ahead. “He discovered a drug — a native plant extract — some form of extreme barbiturate, I would surmise. It makes the colonists mentally weak and submissive. He uses it to achieve total control and power.” His eyes met Kirk’s. “He is a madman, Jim. He has no intention of letting us out of here.”
Kirk’s voice took on an urgency. His head was spinning again and he had to get this out. “Spock, you’ve got to get back to the ship! Get out of here, somehow, and hide until the re-con party gets here. Someone has to… stop… this,” he trailed off, lapsing into unconsciousness again. Spock bent over his Captain in concern, and McCoy looked at him thoughtfully.
“We’ve got to get him back to the ship soon, Spock, or it’ll be too late. He needs transfusions and treatment right away,” he told him. Spock didn’t seem to be listening; he’d walked over to the window and stood staring out at the growing dusk with unblinking eyes. McCoy watched him curiously. Something about Spock was all wrong. It was apparent when he talked, in the way he stood, but the doctor couldn’t put his finger on what it was.
“I can see no logical answer, Doctor,” Spock said softly.
Bones walked over close to Spock, who stood with one hand on the windowsill. The fingers were quivering of their own volition, he noticed. What have they done to you, Spock? he wondered sadly, but this man was a Vulcan and he couldn’t say the words — not to him. McCoy’s voice, when he spoke, was gentle.
“I’ve never seen you give in so easily, Spock,” he chastised, and Spock turned to stare at him with such a wounded look that McCoy suddenly knew. What had Spock said about that drug? It made men mentally weak and submissive. That’s what the difference was! The missing element was Spock’s defeatism and lethargy! But, something more, he thought suddenly. He sensed that somehow, someway, Spock had compromised and was now fighting some inner battle with himself. The Doctor longed to reach out to him, to erase the pain in those haunted eyes, but he didn’t know how.
The air was charged with the electricity of unspoken words and thoughts as the two men, Human and Vulcan, triad to bridge the gulf between them, in a situation so totally different for them.
Spock broke it off as he crossed the room and sat down. McCoy hesitated only a moment, then he followed and stooped down by Spock’s chair.
“You heard what the Captain said, Spock. You’ve got to do something! You can’t just sit here and allow this to go on!” he snapped, trying desperately to get through the barriers Spock had put up. Jim would know, he reflected. He could reach Spock where no one else could.
The Vulcan shook his head. “We are locked in, with armed guards at the door. We have no weapons or means of communications. What would you have me do, Doctor?”
McCoy chose his words carefully. “I don’t know what they’ve done to you, Spock, and I know you won’t tell me. But you’ve got to snap out of it. This isn’t like you; you’ve got to realize
Spock looked at him thoughtfully, McCoy’s words penetrating at last. He sensed there was something wrong with his thinking processes. Perhaps he did have to take action of some sort.
Just then, the scraping of the bolt snapped them both back to the present as they turned their eyes toward the door. Lydra entered timidly, and after a moment’s hesitation she came up to Spock, her eyes brimming with tears.
“He’s going to kill you, isn’t he?” she asked frantically.
“We cannot be allowed to report what we know,” Spock answered flatly.
McCoy’s voice was gruff . “Doesn’t he realize killing us will only postpone the inevitable? It’s a senseless move!”
Lydra shook her head. “It doesn’t matter to Leon. He’s convinced himself he can handle anything.”
“The man is insane,” Spock injected.
Lydra looked at him with understanding. “I know that now,” she admitted. “If only I could help.”
“It’s too late,” Spock replied tonelessly.
“Perhaps not, perhaps there is something… ” she began.
“What could you do?” he asked in disbelief.
Her voice grew stronger. “We have a radio. It’s in a little shack not far from here. Only Leon and Hartley know of it. Even I’m not supposed to, but I do.”
While she was speaking, Spock’s face had grown intense; his eyes bored into her. Hope, for the first time, kindled in him, banishing all cobwebs, all sense of dullness from his mind. Adrenalin pumped into his veins and unchained his wits again.
“You must take me there,” he spoke urgently.
“No… ” Lydra hesitated. “I’m afraid. If Leon finds out, if… ”
Spock looked at her intensely, but his voice was composed, logical, as he felt his senses returning. He spoke reasonably.
“Lydra, you have admitted that your brother is insane. You know that forcing the colonists to be slaves is wrong. Kessler will kill my friends and I and there will be an investigation by StarFleet . The end is inevitable. To pretend it is not is illogical. But you can save our lives, perhaps the lives of more, by helping us to hasten the end.”
Lydra hesitated only a second, then she spoke resolutely. “I will bring the guards their dinner. I shall tell you when it is safe to leave.” Her eyes met Spock’s with grim determination.
She was gone for what seemed to McCoy to be an eternity, but was, in fact, a very short amount of time. He paced the room impatiently, but Spock stood quiet and controlled beside his Captain’s bed, the balm of his purposeful plan soothing the few tortured ghosts of his past actions into oblivion.
They heard Lydra’s return. She beckoned to Spock.
“The guards have eaten. They won’t stop us now,” she said. “But hurry, Leon will be returning soon.”
Lydra and Spock hurried past the guards, lulled into passiveness by the extra amount of plant extract she had put in their dinners. Spock stared at them for an instant with revulsion for what this drug could do to men if used by the wrong hands. Then he went on, out of the house and down a small path to a rickety wooden building.
She led him into the dusty gloom carefully. Lighting the area, she indicated the old communications console resting there.
“Does it work?” she asked breathlessly. “I know Leon has listened on it — that’s how he knew of your arrival.”
Spock had bent over and was working with the dials. “I believe it needs a few adjustments. Are there tools?” he asked. Together they poked around the area and came up with a toolkit. He sat down and was soon lost in concentration.
He was almost finished when suddenly, the door was flung open. Spock and Lydra looked up, startled. Her brother stood there, silhouetted against the night sky, the anger contorting his face into a grotesque mask. He pulled out a phaser and pointed it at them.
Spock stood, brushing aside a feeling of loathing for this man and what he had forced him to do. He was a Vulcan and he must deal with this logically.
Lydra was not bound by such a code. She rushed over to Kessler. “Leon, no,” she cried. “You mustn’t… ” She was flung aside roughly.
Venom in his voice, Kessler turned to her. “You too, little sister! You plot against your own flesh and blood!” he roared.
Spock made a move and the man swung back to him. “Stay where you are!” he warned.
“You cannot kill me in this manner. It would be far from accidental,” Spock reminded him.
Walking toward Spock, Kessler turned his back on the weeping Lydra, who was huddled on the floor. “Don’t count on it, Mr. Spock. You will beg me again — this time for your death — before I am through with you!” His eyes were glowing, all semblance of rationality gone from him. “You will suffer, I will make you suffer, and she will watch it!”
Lydra rose quietly and reached carefully to one side where the tools were kept. Her fingers tightened on the axe handle.
Oblivious to her, Kessler raved on. “My sister will learn as I learned that there is nothing special about Vulcans. They beg and grovel just as every other man. Men are worthless, despicable creatures. Especially men who interfere into other people’s concerns. For that you’ll pay!”
She had advanced cautiously but as she raised the axe, Kessler sensed something, perhaps a flicker on Spock’s face, and he spun, only in time to cry out as she brought the weapon down viciously.
Hysterical, Lydra swung it again and again, until Spock reached her side and forced it from her hands. She clung to him, sobbing, and he felt the weight of her as she mercifully passed out.
Laying her gently on the floor, Spock looked thoughtful for a moment, then turned resolutely back to the radio.
Striding purposefully down the corridor toward Sickbay, Spock felt the familiar comfort of the ship easing all other thoughts from his mind. He was back in his sane, logical world again and his senses responded to it. He was about to lay waste to the last nagging worry of that nightmare as he checked with McCoy on Kirk’s medical report.
The doctor looked up as Spock entered and smiled eagerly. “Glad to see you, Spock. Maybe you can help convince my patient he can’t go running up to the bridge right away!”
They both walked over to where Jim sat up in bed, looking tired, but well. Spock raised his eyebrow.
“He looks well, Doctor. Are you certain he isn’t malingering?” he asked drily.
Kirk’s eyes twinkled. “Tell him, Spock. He’s trying to keep me down here so he’ll have someone to talk to,” he protested. “Convince him I’ve got a job to do!”
Spock looked archly from one to the other. “It seems to be a most comfortable arrangement for both of you.” Sobering, he added, “It is good to see you looking better, Captain.”
Lifting his chin, Kirk gave Spock a look of triumph, putting his silent thanks to his Vulcan friend without the need for words. “What’s the report from the team on Damion, Mr. Spock?”
“The Colonists have elected to stay there and are showing no after-effects from the drug. I’ve assigned three crew members to help them set up their government and they give an excellent prognosis for success. The three men — Hartley, Taylor, and Wyman — who worked for Kessler, are in the brig and we’ll be dropping them off at Starbase Six, where they’ll await trial and deportation.”
McCoy’s voice was thoughtful. “And, there’s Lydra Kessler, down the hall being put through medical examinations, but I don’t think she’ll have to worry about standing trial. From your statement, Spock, it was clearly self-defense. What worries me is the psychic damage. She may have to undergo some rehabilitation.”
“I am sure the rehabilitation will be minimal,”Spock replied. “She exhibited signs of being a very courageous young woman, and it is reasonable to assume that she will be able to reconcile her actions and make a new start for herself. And now, Captain,” he added, turning to Kirk, “with your permission, I shall return to the bridge. In your absence there is much work that I must do.” .
Kirk looked soberly at his First Officer. “Spock,” he began, “there’s something I wanted to say… I, well, I never did get a chance to thank you. Spock, I know more happened than I’ll never
know about, but… ”
“Yes,” Spock cut him off. Embarrassed? “Captain,” he said, “I really must get back to the bridge.”
Kirk looked long at him. They would speak of what happened on that planet no more. He nodded to Spock, who turned and left Sickbay.
McCoy looked after him. “Well, Jim,” he said thoughtfully, “I’d say Spock certainly is a man who’s ‘not of that feather’.”
Kirk looked puzzled. “A man who’s not what, Bones?”
“‘Not of that Feather.’ It’s a quote from Shakespeare,” he explained. “It goes, ‘I am not… ” he trailed off as an inspiration hit him. “Look it up in the library tapes. That’ll keep you busy and I’ll be able to get some work done.” He grinned. “I’ve got better things to do, too, than playing nursemaid to convalescent Starship Captains. His eyebrow shot up testily as he left the room.
Kirk sighed and leaned back in his bed. He grinned openly at the doorway, then he pressed the button on his bedside console.
“Can I help you, dear?” came the soft, feminine, voice of the computer.
“Yes,” Kirk replied. “Library tapes on the complete works of William Shakespeare.”
Pingback: Contact 01 | Steven H. Wilson