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Alternate Enterprise

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PROLOG

....."DO IT, DO IT, DO IT." ordered the Captain.  Alarms sounded around the bridge of the Enterprise, the vibration from the straining engines passing through the hull of the ship. 

At his post, Spock observed the tableau - the Captain, seated in his chair; determined, unafraid.  Sulu and Chekov, resolute and facing the viewscreen.  Ancilliary staff, wide eyed, feverishly working at their posts.  Uhura, her mouth open yet holding her breath, a familiar pinch of concern a her brow. 

Then it came, a jolt.  A sucking gravity passed down through Spock's body, G force pulling him into his chair.  A searing white pulse of light flooded through the viewscreen as the jetisoned core exploded, casting the crew around him into high relief.  Instinctively, briefly, Spock closed his eyes against the glaring white. His mind automatically calculated:

And now the shock wave. 

It struck.  All sound around him became a thin strip of high frequency, voices disappearing, alarms distancing themselves.  Spock, eyes still shut against the glaring white energy of the jetisoned core, noticed his own physical sense of presence increase. 

I am.  

In that brief instant he had returned to a place inside himself he had not been since his childhood.  Abruptly his mind was dragged into the present as a searing pain scraped across the surface of his body.

Energy.

______________

The emergency alarms were the first thing Spock registered as he regained consciousness.  The second thing, that he was laying face down on the deck of the bridge not far from his post.  He picked himself up favouring his right shoulder.  He touched his temple.  Blood. 

The bridge was darkness punctuated by the on/off red from the emergency lights.  Power conduits sparked and cracked from various work stations, readout screens flickered and jigged intermittently.  The dead main view screen was a black rectangle reflecting a ghostly empty version of the bridge.  Spock stood silently and observed.

Alone.

A stillness gripped him.  In that moment his mind registered a rising sensation through the core of his body.  Emotion.

 

The crew.  Jim.

Spock's mind snapped into action forcing his body to move.  Shaky legs carried him back to his console where he slumped into the chair.  Immediately he turned the emergency alarms to mute and surveyed the panel in front of him.  Readouts flickered:

 

main power : offline
auxilliary power : offline
back up systems : failing
hull breach : engineering
general hull integrity : minimal/moderate
radiation leak : C Deck
ships complement : information not available
communications : offline
shields : offline
inertia dampners : offline
internal ship sensors : offline
external ship sensors : offline

Spock absorbed the information in front of him and assessed the implications.  He needed to stabilise the power immediately.  Securring his console Spock rose from his chair noting the pain in his body from the wound at his temple and damaged right shoulder.  Mentally he pushed back the sensations of his nervous system, blocking out his pain.  Focusing as best he could through his concussion and disorientation, he walked towards the engineering console on the opposite side of the bridge.   

 

Sliding into the First Engineer's chair, Spock surveyed the console readouts through blurred vision.  Leaning forward he touched a series of commands into the panel's instruction interface in an attempt to reroute power and stabilise the back up systems.  

 

BACK UP POWER SYSTEMS: ACCESSING : REROUTE COMMAND COMPLETE : POWER RESTORED 

In a measured gesture, Spock's fingers tapped twice on the auxilliary power system control:  

 

NOT AVAILABLE  MAIN ENGINEERING ACCESS ONLY

Slowly, Spock sat back in the chair, a gripping pressure in the wound at his temple.  He focused his breath and leant forward over the console, tapping a command:

 

MAIN POWER SYSTEMS: ACCESSING:
NOT AVAILABLE  MAIN ENGINEERING ACCESS ONLY

REROUTE COMMAND:  AUXILLIARY SYSTEM OVERRIDE:
AUXILLIARY SYSTEM OVERRIDE UNAVAILABLE:  COMMAND FUNCTIONS UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME FROM BRIDGE CONTROL:
MAIN ENGINEERING ACCESS ONLY

Spock closed his eyes and sat back.  He had no option but to go to main engineering to bring the ship's power back online.  His mind noticed the pain at his temple again, strong this time, stronger than before:

 

I need medical attention.

Pushing himself up from the chair, Spock turned carefully away from the engineering console and using the gangrail to support himself, made his way back across the silent bridge to his own console.  Sitting down at his post, his fingers tapped across its surface:

 

COMMUNICATIONS: ACCESSING : COMPLETE
EMERGENCY TRANSFER OF COMMANDS TO FIRST OFFICER: COMPLETE

EMERGENCY SECURE SUBSPACE HAILING FREQUENCY:  OPEN
SEND: DISTRESS SIGNAL: USS ENTERPRISE TO STARFLEET HQ
INITIALISE DISTRESS BEACON: AUTOMATED SIGNAL : ENGAGE

NEW
COMMUNICATIONS: ACCESSING: COMPLETE
OPEN ALL HAILING FREQUENCIES: UNAVAILABLE AT THIS TIME : STANDARD COMMUNICATIONS ARRAY OFFLINE

NEW 
RUN DIAGNOSTIC ON STANDARD COMMUNICATIONS ARRAY: WORKING : TIME TO COMPLETE 3HRS 29MINS

Spock looked at the time readout on the display in front of him.  3 hours and 29 minutes before he could send a message to anyone in his immediate vicinity. He knew he also had to get to engineering.  His gaze went to the turbolift on his right.  Without main power or auxilliary systems he would have to climb down the turbo lift shaft and crawl through an inspection tube to get access to the next deck.  From there he could walk to medical, get a hypospray to stave of the effects of his concussion and then unimpeded, go directly to main engineering. 

 

Drawing in his breath, Spock focused his mind, pushing back the pain he felt.  The silence on the bridge amplified.  Ready, he stood up and made his way to the turbolift, pushing the emergency door release and prising the doors open with his hands. He stared down into the lift shaft:

 

3 hours and 26 minutes.... .

.........

D deck was empty.  Emergency lights flashed on/off, turning the silent corridor from twilight to red.  Low down near the floor, a carbonite grille from an inspection tube popped its seals and clattered onto the floor.  Spock emerged, wriggling his body out of the confines of the tube and collapsed unceremoniously onto the floor of the deck.  Propping himself up with his back against the wall, he pushed himself to his feet wincing at the pain in his shoulder as he straightened his body.  The climb down the turbolift shaft had tested only to prove it was not broken.  He touched the wound at his temple.  The blood had congealed but the pain was acute. 

Turning towards Medical, Spock began a steady pace keeping close to the wall of the corridor for support. His nervous system screamed in protest and he paused briefly to focus his mind, pushing back the acknowledgement of pain before taking another step forward. 

 I have suffered nothing but a contusion to my shoulder and my head.  Something is wrong.  I should not be experiencing this amount of pain and disorientation.


Spock held no expectation that anyone would be in Medical to welcome him, even as he pressed the emergency door override.  The door shuddered open and he stepped into an eerily silent room. 

 Making his way to one of the med beds, Spock picked up a medical tricorder and quickly scanned himself. The readout confirmed his suspicions, nothing more than bruising at his shoulder.  The wound at his temple was a little more serious, a fracture to the pariatal bone. But the pain? His whole body ached with it. 

There is something else wrong with me.

Walking toward the nurses station, Spock grabbed a hypospray and selected a suitable cartridge.  Loading the hypo, he pressed it to his arm and administered the dose of neuro-suppressant. The effect was immediate.  Turning, he picked up an emergency medkit and emptied most of its contents.  He repacked it, diligently, selecting what he needed for his own personally unique needs and shouldered the bag.  A full body scan would have to wait.  He had to get to engineering and bring the main power back online.

Unimpaired for that moment, Spock left Medical with a resolute stride.  He did not bother closing the door.

..........

Spock stood in the middle of the ships engine room.  There was a gentle hum emanating from the backup units below him, a breeze from the main air distribution units flowed down over him.  They were the first familiar sounds and sensations he had experienced in almost an hour. 

Moving slowly, his footsteps echoing off the carbonite grille, Spock made his way down past the egg-shaped matter inducers towards the enormous vertical shaft of the warp drive containment unit.  Pale blue light pulsed in three second intervals up through the warp drive, a perpetual ripple of light disappearing high overhead into the darkness.  Spock frowned. 

I distinctly remember the core had detonated.  How is warp drive online?

Continuing down towards the Chief Engineer’s console, a quietus settled in Spock’s chest.  A silent, suppressing quality entered his mind. Logic. He had heard the command given by the Captain to eject the core, it rebounded in his memory even now.  DO IT, DO IT, DO IT”. He had experienced the detonation.  He had felt it.  And yet, the warp drive was online. 

A smell of sphalerite from burning conduits pervaded the air as Spock reached the Chief Engineer’s post.  He tapped the surface of the console, reading the recent entries. 

There is no record of the core being jettisoned. 

Fingers moving quickly, Spock accessed the engineering files he needed for main and auxiliary power systems.  Error messages flooded the screen in front of him.  He quickly initiated a diagnostic command to correct the problems.

LEVEL ONE DIAGNOSTIC INITIATED:  WORKING

TIME TO COMPLETION:  2HRS 17MINS


Spock coughed, the sphalerite fumes irritating his throat.  Studiously, he checked through the remainder of the engineering systems via the console and located the damaged hull area.  He made a swift assessment.  Picking up an engineering tricorder he left the console and made his way down towards the hull breach.

The breach was easy to find.  A gentle buzzing from the emergency force fields increased as Spock made his way down to the bottom of the engineering deck via a flight of steps.  Cautiously, he began scanning the immediate area, watching the readings carefully as he made a full 360° turn.  The force fields were holding well, for now.

With measured steps echoing softly on the carbonite grille under him, Spock moved towards the hull breach.  Through it, he could see undulating waves and rainbows folding and collapsing in on themselves, an ocean of colour that broke occasionally to reveal darkness and stars beyond. 

An energy field

 

...................

Leaving the force fields and the breach behind, Spock made a conscientious inspection of the engineering deck.  In the red gloom of the emergency lights, it took him nearly an hour to make his way from console to console, checking and correcting any faults.  Satisfied, he returned to the Chief Engineer’s console noting that the sphalerite fumes had dissipated.  The level one diagnostic he had initiated had less than 6 minutes to run. 

Using the time he had, Spock reached into the emergency medkit he had carried with him from Medical and took out the tricorder.  Despite the neuro-suppressant he had given himself earlier, the pain from the wound at his temple had returned threefold and the bruising on his right shoulder was becoming difficult to ignore, even with his Vulcan training.  He scanned himself. 

My condition is worsening.  I need to go back to Medical and take a full scan.

Spock put the tricorder back into the medkit and took out the hypo loading it with a fresh cartridge of neuro-suppressant. He administered the dose into his arm feeling any pain subside instantly. 

I need to remain focused. 

The readout on the console in front of him counted down.  2 minutes remaining.  Spock waited patiently.  1 minute remaining.  He relaxed his body, easing muscles in his back and shoulders. 30 seconds. He breathed deeply experiencing a mild disorientation. 15 seconds.  The console blipped into life.

LEVEL ONE DIGNOSTIC: COMPLETE
MAIN POWER :  AVAILABLE ON : COMMAND
AUXILIARY SYSTEMS : AVAILABLE ON : COMMAND
ALL OTHER SYSTEMS : AVAILABLE ON : COMMAND

Spock stared impassively at the console.  Tapping to confirm the commands, he brought each of the ship systems back online, one at a time.  As he initiated the auxiliary power he heard the matter/anti-matter conducers behind him hum into life.  Finally, he tapped the command to bring main power to the ship back on line. 

Engineering burst into life.  Spock watched the artificial horizon display in front of him begin to move as the inertia dampners brought the ship to a relative gyroscopic level. When the reading reached equilibrium, a familiar vibration accompanied a deep chord as the impulse engines ignited.  With that, a subtle change in the air quality indicated to Spock that the life support systems were clearing toxins and fumes from the deck.

Tapping a final command into the console, Spock transferred the engineering controls back to the bridge.  Giving no more than a cursory glance around him, he shouldered the medkit and strode towards the nearest turbolift.  Entering, he pressed the tab marked BRIDGE and watched the doors close on the empty engineering deck.

Spock’s arduous journey down to engineering, on foot, took effortless moments up to the bridge, courtesy of the turbolift.  The doors opened promptly.  Spock stepped out onto the bridge, hesitating.  A moment of disorientation, induced by the movement of the turbolift, gripped him. 

I will control my pain.  There is no pain.  There is no pain.  I will remain focused.  My mind….

Spock let a controlled breath leave his body before taking measured steps to his console.  Dropping the medkit to the floor, he deliberately examined each of the readouts.  The engineering controls had been successfully transferred.  The communications diagnostic was completed. No faults showing.  He immediately initiated a command:

 ALL HAIL :  ALL FREQUENCIES
TRANSMIT :  FRIENDSHIP MESSAGES IN ALL  KNOWN LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS
THIS IS THE USS ENTERPRISE : REQUEST : IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE
PLEASE RESPOND

Spock left the message on repeat and activated the ship’s main comm. channel ensuring that, should he receive a response, it would announce anywhere on the ship.  His next priorities were the shields and helm control.  Suppressing a wave of nauseating discomfort, he stepped away from his post and steadily made his way to Lieutenant Sulu’s vacant console. A swift assessment revealed no errors.  The ship was at station-keeping.  Spock secured the controls. 

Ensign Chekov’s console provided much the same information.  All tactical readouts showed no errors.  However, despite several attempts, Spock was unable to raise the shields as desired.  He initiated a scan.  The result was inconclusive, an unknown energy source outside the ship.  It would have to wait, he was at the limit of his control over the pain in his body.  He needed to get to Medical, and fast. 

I am no longer able to perform my duties adequately. 

Lurching towards the Captain’s chair, Spock resolved to leave the bridge and go to Medical.  The unanswered question that his logic stated took priority was:

What has happened to me

Spock staggered out of the turbolift onto D deck, heading in the direction of Medical.  Pain coursed through his body.  The neuro-suppressant he had administered was doing little to combat the effects of his injuries.  His Vulcan abilities to control and ignore pain, stretched to breaking point. 

Leaning against the wall of the corridor for support, Spock continued to take agonising steps towards Medical.  A wave of nauseating discomfort washed over him making his vision swim, blurring the corridor temporarily to darkness, then back again. 

I must keep going.  I cannot give up.

Spock took one more step.  A fuzzy, dark sensation sucked away the last conscious image of the corridor in front him as his slid down the wall.  Unconscious, he lay on the floor of the empty deck in a crumpled heap.

 

………….

 

In greying twilight, a plain, carved stone veranda overlooked an empty desert.  In the distance, sharp mountain peaks stretched towards the evening sky overhead.  A meteor shower was in progress, streaking the sky with thin lines of light as traces of comet debris burned in the planet’s atmosphere. 

A young boy - half Vulcan, half Human - aged about four, stood silently on the veranda looking up at the sky.  He was dressed conservatively in dark silk, an embroidered belt around his waist.  In his hands, he held a small travel bag.  A warm breeze from the desert stirred the dust at his feet. 

Turning, he walked to the edge of the veranda, throwing the travel bag over the top of the stone balustrade and proceeded to climb.  Perched precariously on top of the balustrade, he swung his little legs over the side.  The drop below him was not far, yet he hesitated.  His gaze travelled up to the sky and followed the cascading trails from the meteor shower as they disappeared behind the mountains beyond. 

An expression of determination crept into the young boy’s face.  Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself off the balustrade and dropped to the ground below.  He landed safely, bracing his fall with his hands against the hard packed dust.  Quickly, he stood up, brushing sand from his hands and retrieved the travel bag, awkwardly slinging it over his shoulder.  Setting his sights on the distant mountain range, he began to walk. 

“Spock, where are you going?”  The question rang out across the silent desert.  The unemotional voice was unmistakably that of his father. Having stopped dead, the young Spock turned slowly and looked back at the veranda.  His father was standing at its edge, an impassive expression clearly visible on his face.

Spock hesitated, unsure of what to say.  His young mind selected what he felt was the most appropriate answer.  “I’m going for a walk.”

Spock watched as his father’s head dipped slightly, a familiar precursor to another question and an indicator the answer had made matters worse.

“Where do you propose to walk to?” asked his father.

Spock felt a rising discomfort.  If he did not answer his father fully, he would have to endure more questions.  He did not want to do or experience either.  He had his reasons to withhold information from his father, but equally he could not lie.  Bowing his head, he made a decision. Honesty would have to do.

“The stars are falling.  I was going to go and get one and give it to Mother.  She is sad and I thought that if she had a star that it would…um, sorry, I mean correction…that she would not be sad…any more.”

Spock fell silent, keeping his head bowed.  The breeze coming in from the desert was strengthening and pushed against his back.  The light of early evening was at last beginning to fade to a full darkness of night.  Finally, his father spoke after what seemed an eternity of silence.

“You have set yourself an impossible task.  What you propose cannot be achieved.  Your mother will be happy again, in time.  It is the nature of Humans to be emotional.  Surely, you understand this.”

Automatic lights on the veranda began to glow faintly casting a yellow glow out onto the desert floor.  Looking up at his father silhouetted in the darkness, Spock experienced an upsurge of emotion in his chest. 

“Come back into the house, Spock,” said his father.  The tone was measured, unemotional. 

Spock obeyed and dutifully walked back towards the veranda, the travel bag flapping at his side.  As he reached it, his father leant over the edge of the balustrade.  Spock felt strong hands wrap around his tiny ribcage as he was lifted, effortlessly, into the air.  His father placed him down gently.

Standing in front of his father, Spock experienced tight pressure of emotion forcing its way to the surface.  He looked up to find his father’s impassive face watching him closely.  A deep void then opened up inside Spock’s soul and he felt a pain rip through his chest as emotion spilled over.  His eyes filled with tears.  “I do not understand," he whispered.

“You cannot walk to the stars, Spock,” replied his father before turning and walking away, disappearing from the veranda into the darkness of the house beyond.

Spock stood alone on the veranda and hidden by the evening, cried. 

 

.... End of part one of Alternate Enterprise....

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED RESPONSE :
REQUEST IMMEDIATE ASSISTANCE : PLEASE RESPOND

LOG : AUTOMATED RESPONSE : COUNT : 436


OPEN LOG : 43221.9

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED COMMUNICATION ARRAY :
DISTRESS HAIL : ACKNOWLEDGED

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED PROXIMITY ALARM :
ENGAGED

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED SENSORS :
ENGAGED

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED SENSORS :
UNKNOWN VESSEL APPROACHING

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED DEFENCE MECHANISMS :
UNABLE TO ENGAGE : SHIELDS DOWN

USS ENTERPRISE : AUTOMATED LOG ACCESS :
UNIDENTIFIED VESSEL :
BEARING : 3.3 MARK 45.3 STARBOARD

CLOSE LOG

................

It was several moments before Spock realised he had regained consciousness.  As he lay flat on his back on the floor of D deck, pain flooded his senses once more.  Rolling over onto his left side, he slowly pushed himself up onto his knees.  Reaching out, he steadied himself with one hand against the wall of the corridor.  His vision swam.

 I must get up.  I must get to Medical.

 With a monumental effort, even by Vulcan standards, Spock rose to his feet keeping his head as low as possible. He knew he could not afford to lose consciousness again and moved as slowly, yet as quickly, as he dared.  Advancing tentatively, he slid, staggered and crawled the remainder of the deck towards Medical.

 The door to Medical slowly came into view as Spock moved along the curved deck.  It was still open from his previous visit, the emergency override remained engaged.  Spock lurched through the opening falling on his hands and knees, his vision reeling.  Empty medbeds lined the walls, their overhead monitors on standby.

 Spock gathered the last of his strength and crawled towards the nearest bed.  Dragging himself up onto its surface, the bed’s overhead monitor pipped into life displaying the readings of its new patient.  Details and results appeared on a main display not far from the bed. Spock turned his head and watched the display patiently through blurred vision. 

 PATIENT IDENTIFIED : VULCAN/HUMAN 50/50
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS : WORKING : COMPARING RECORDS
PATIENT IDENTIFICATION : COMPLETE : COMMANDER SPOCK

 FULL BIO SCAN : INITIATED : WORKING
SKELETAL : PARIATAL BONE INJURY : FRACTURE : MODERATE
SKELETAL : RHS CLAVICAL : FRACTURE : MINOR
SKELETAL : RHS 2ND RIB : FRACTURE : MINOR
SKELETAL : SHOULDER JOINT : COMPACTION : TISSUE DAMAGE

TISSUES : MUSCLE RHS PECTORALIS MAJOR : TEAR : MINOR
TISSUES : MUSCLE RHS TRAPEZIUS : TEAR : MINOR
TISSUES : MUSCLE RHS DELTOID : TEAR : MINOR

SYSTEM : ORGANS : NORMAL
SYSTEM : CIRCULATORY : NORMAL
SYSTEM : LYMPHATIC : NORMAL
SYSTEM : NERVOUS : ABNORMAL

DNA AND MOLECULAR COMPARISON:
UNKNOWN ELEMENT DETECTED

UNABLE TO IDENTIFY : NO RECORD ON FILE

PATIENT SYNOPSIS : NOT COMMANDER SPOCK

Spock stared at the final readout on the display, absorbing the information and its implications. 

If I am not Commander Spock, then who, or what, am I? There must be a cause.  I must find it.  

Spock’s mind began to assemble information.  Firstly, the priority, was to attend to his pain.  The underlying reason for it he would investigate.  However, he knew he was unable to perform any other task without first being free of pain.  His logic lead him to a decision.

Raising himself from the bed, Spock swung his legs over the side, fighting a wave of nausea and disorientation.  Stepping down, he slowly made his way to the nurses station and picked up a hypo.  Carefully selecting a cartridge he administered an overdose of neuro-suppressant, and waited. 

Spock calculated the duration for the drug to take hold.  The effect was gradual, significantly delayed.  He considered a possibility.  What he had just done was highly likely to inflict serious damage to his nervous system in normal circumstances.  The delay, indicated a underlying reason why the effects of the drug were being inhibited.

The pain I am experiencing cannot be from my injuries, they are minor and not capable of causing me this much discomfort.   The only logical alternative which presents itself is that, in some way, this pain and my disorientation is connected to the presence of the unknown element.     

Spock turned to look at the results on the main display screen.  The UNKNOWN ELEMENT readout flashed on and off.  He took a moment, focused his Vulcan mind on suppressing the remnants of pain he was experiencing, and began to investigate.

Walking away from the nurses station he arrived at the main display and began tapping instructions into the console.  A mild wave of disorientation coursed through his body accompanied by rising nausea.

 A reaction to the neuro-suppressant.  I will focus my mind.

Spock firstly displayed a detailed readout of the unknown element.  A three dimensional image appeared on the console in front of him.  A figure shaped like a pair of threes written back to back 3Ɛ. 

There is something familiar about this image.  I have seen this before.

Spock accessed the ship’s main computer records via the medical console.  He methodically entered commands and began a process of comparing the ship’s records to the unknown element.  The readout skipped quickly through thousands of files.  Spock waited patiently, monitoring his own internal senses as they followed the effects of the neuro-suppressant.  For the moment, it was working. 

The console blipped.  It had found an answer.  Spock gazed unemotionally at the display.  

An incomplete red matter structure

A quietus settled over Spock.  Logic.  He let his gaze fall to the medical console in front of him and reviewed the display.  The ship’s main computer had located a match for the unknown element presently in his body, but not answered the question his Vulcan mind was now asking.

How do I have an incomplete red matter structure in my body?


Spock brought his attention to the bio scan results.  Tapping instructions into the console, he uploaded the new found information from the ship’s main computers into the medical records.  The display results updated in front of him.  His DNA structure appeared on the console. 

Studying the DNA structure closely, Spock’s mind began to assemble pieces of information. 

The Romulan ship.  The ship from the Vulcan Science Academy.  The collision course with the Romulan ship.  Mr Scott’s transport. Destruction of the ship from the Vulcan Science Academy.  Red matter implosion.  Singularity.  Event horizon.  Enterprise warp drive engaged.  Gravity well.  Jettison of the core by Mr Scott.  Detonation of the core.  Impact of the energy wave.   Me, here, aboard the Enterprise.  Alone.  Injured.  Core intact.  Hull breach in engineering.

Spock stood motionless in Medical as his mind examined the series of events.  Muscles twitched slightly at the corners of his eyes.  Logic identified a common denominator and produced a possibility for investigation. 

Mr Scott.  

Turning away from the console, Spock made his way back to the nurses station.  He recalled, in his haste to reach Medical, he had left the medkit he had been carrying on the bridge.  He quickly reached for another, emptied its contents and packed enough neuro-suppressant to keep an average man sedated for a week.  Grabbing another medical tricorder, he stuffed it into the medkit and shouldered the bag.

With an all but cursory glance back at the main display and the UNKNOWN ELEMENT readout, Spock left Medical.  As he passed through the door, he released the emergency lock and the mechanism hushed close behind him.  Striking a steady pace, he walked the length of D deck towards a turbolift at the far end.  The doors automatically opened at his approach and he stepped inside, pressing the tab marked TRANSPORTER ROOM 1. 

Spock stood in quiet contemplation as the turbolift rushed him to his destination.  A mild nausea was ever present with him, yet any pain was effectively pushed to the corner of his mind. 

A few moments later the door to the turbolift opened and Spock stepped out, turning immediately right towards the main transporter room. Entering, he made his way to the console and sat down.  He paused, his mind reflecting on the moment he beamed into the room with the Captain.  His gaze travelled towards the energising pad.  Empty.

Bringing his attention back to the console in front of him, Spock began to access the records for that last transport.  If his logic had indeed identified the correct denominator, he would find evidence inside the transport log.  He watched patiently as details of the Captain’s transport scrolled across the display in front of him.  He followed each of the processes intently as they skipped through in order : trajectory, compensation, alignment, matter gain, pattern buffer, beam gain….

Spock accessed his own transport record and entered a command into the console, effectively cross-checking his own log against that of the Captains.  In the back of his mind, he heard the Chief Engineer’s words echo softly…  ..ha-ha! I’ve never beamed two people from two separate locations onto one pad before!”

An all too familiar stillness settled in the centre of Spock’s mind.  Logic.  Tapping his fingers across the console, he returned the readout to the point at which the transport of both he and the Captain had been initialised.  Eyes fixed, he examined each of the stages again. 

There it is.  Mr Scott what have you done.

Spock paused the readout with a tap of his finger and sat back against the chair.  His hands came together, fingers forming a peak of a contemplative pyramid which he held against his lips.   Staring into an oblivion of logic, he remained unblinking for several minutes.  A slow, not altogether pleasant, realisation began to grow.

A deep breath signalled the end of Spock’s reverie as his attention moved from inside his mind back out into the present and towards the display in front of him.   His thoughts analysed the data.

In order to bring Spock, Captain Kirk and Captain Pike, simultaneously aboard the Enterprise, the records showed Mr Scott had released the safety parameters set on the transporter array.  Although this act alone had permitted Mr Scott to widen the transport beam enough to capture the patterns for all three individuals it had, inadvertently, included everything else.  The Enterprise, the Romulan vessel, the ship from the Vulcan Science Academy and all space inside the scope of the beam.

By using the records in the transporter pattern buffer, Mr Scott had ‘selected’ which objects inside the scope of the beam he wanted to energise and materialise on the transporter pad, omitting everything else.   

At the point that Spock’s body was being energised ready to transport, he effectively was ‘in phase’ as the Vulcan Science Academy ship impacted into that of the Romulan vessel.  The red matter containment unit collapsed at that point, releasing red matter particles.  The transport process itself had resulted in splicing part of a red matter structure into the very fabric of Spock’s body.  A molecular cohesion.

Mr Scott’s momentary inspired act had effectively produced a potentially catastrophic result.  Spock accessed the pattern buffer to confirm his suspicions.  The readout displayed in front of him.   A new file and record had been created.  He recalled the PATIENT SYNOPSIS readout in Medical : NOT COMMANDER SPOCK.

I am Spock.  I am not Spock

....................

Spock sat motionless in front of the transporter console.  He was deep in thought, his mind examining and re-examining the possibilities of the new found information.  If the incomplete red matter structure was intrinsically embedded in his body at a molecular level, there was little, if any, possibility of removing it.  To do that, he would need to go back to the very point of Mr Scott’s transport in order to rectify the outcome of that event. 

Spock’s mind moved position and looked at his problem from another perspective.  Since he had first regained consciousness on the bridge, the basic fabric of time and proceeding events established him alone aboard the Enterprise.  He applied logic to those circumstances. 

There must be an answer that would explain both his sole presence aboard the ship and in turn, the ship’s very existence.  During his investigation of engineering he had found the core was still intact, the warp drive complete and working, even though his own memory of events with the Romulan ship informed him otherwise.

Spock’s mind moved in again.  As he, and the ship, were in the present, there had to be some connection.  Sliding from his chair, he stood up and grabbed a nearby engineering tricorder.  Walking over to a bulkhead, he began to take readings, looking for anything that resembled any trace of red matter particles.  The results of the scan were negative. 

Returning to the engineering console, Spock began to muse once more.   If he alone was affected by the incomplete red matter structure, then there had to be some other explanation for the presence of an Enterprise with its core intact.   Unconsciously, he turned the engineering tricorder towards him and initiated a scan.  The results were alarming, immediately snapping his mind into focus. 

I am losing molecular cohesion?

Spock’s mind worked furiously for a brief moment until a logical calm settled once more upon him.  He realised he had found the underlying reason for the extreme levels of pain he was experiencing throughout his body.

I am dying.

Logic stated the fact bluntly.  Spock experienced a sense of detachment and examined the tricorder readings again as if he would some inanimate object.  The information formed another avenue of investigation for the conundrum building in his mind.    

Turning his attention to the engineering console, Spock effected a series of commands.  He transferred all the information from the transporter records into the ship’s main computer under a new file NOT COMMANDER SPOCK .  Dropping the engineering tricorder with its results into the medkit bag at his side, Spock abruptly left the transporter room heading quickly towards the turbolift. 

Doing his best to ignore and manage his disorientation with his Vulcan abilities, Spock entered the turbolift and pressed the tab marked SCIENCE LAB.  His mind, settled in its calm, methodical comfort zone, proceeded to analyse possibilities and their outcomes.  The turbolift doors opened and a determined Spock stepped out, striding down the deck towards his destination.  Pain was beginning to hammer through his body once more.

Spock entered the science lab at a brisk pace and immediately headed towards the main display and its console.  Placing the medkit beside him, he sat down and initiated a series of commands, his fingers tapping lightly and efficiently across the surface of the console. Transferring the data files of his bioscan from Medical, he accessed the file NOT COMMANDER SPOCK created earlier in the transporter room.

Reaching down into the medkit, Spock retrieved the engineering tricorder and a hypo.  Proceeding to upload the scan information from the tricorder into the console, he swiftly entered a series of commands building a unique comparative programme to analyse the three sets of results. 

In the few minutes while he waited for the ship’s main computer to produce an answer, Spock loaded the hypo and administered another potentially lethal overdose of neuro-suppressant into his arm.  He caught his breath as nausea flooded through him.  Pain receded slowly.

The console blipped.  The comparative programme had worked and a three dimensional figure appeared on the main display.  Spock critically analysed the image and its implications.  It showed the incomplete red matter structure’s inherent instability and the effect it was having on his body.  His body was disintegrating at a sub-atomic level. 

Spock accessed the ship’s main computer, searching through the tactical records of the encounter with the Romulan and Vulcan Science Academy ships.  What he hoped he was looking for, he found.  

Thank you Mr Chekov.

With a quick tap of his fingers, Spock accessed a file called TACTICAL SCHEMATIC VULCAN SHIP and stream of information flooded across the main display in front of him.  During the conflict, Mr Chekov had managed to take and record a complete analysis of the Vulcan Science Academy ship, including readouts from the containment unit housing the red matter.  Although undetailed, they gave Spock enough information to begin to formulate a possible solution to his predicament.

Spock assessed and reassessed his position.  His mind fixed on a single premise.  In order to stabilise the deterioration in his body, he would have to construct a containment unit, similar to that aboard the Vulcan Science Academy ship.  It would need to be small, mobile and attach to his body in some fashion.  

Sitting motionless in the science lab for some time, Spock formulated his plan watching it take shape in his mind.  He calculated the amount of work he would need to do and the materials he needed to replicate in order to achieve his aim.  Tapping the console lightly in front of him, requesting an estimation of the time he had left to live.

14 hours, 9 minutes and 12 seconds and counting.

Spock calculated.  It would take him 15 hours and 22 minutes and 2 seconds to construct his personal containment field.

..................

With the aid of copious and lethal amounts of neuro-suppressant, Spock worked continuously for over 13 hours without pause, building a containment device that, he hoped, would stabilise the incomplete red matter structure in his body. 

The science lab had become a workshop.  Multiple schematics displayed on every console detailing the finite complexity of the task at hand.  Several simulations were running on the main display screen, each showing different parts of the containment device at various stages of completion.  Error messages flashed on every console.

Spock sat alone at one of the workstations turning a small device over and over in his hands.   He was close to a solution, his logic assured him of it though he needed one of the simulations to complete successfully.  There were too many variable outcomes, too many calculations, too little time, too much pain in his body for him to think clearly. 

Sitting back in the chair, Spock let the device he had created fall into his lap.  Closing his eyes, he focused on the searing pain and slipped into a light meditation.  Little by little he did his best to repair the barrier in his mind against the ravages of the pain in his body.  He could sense the saturation of the neuro-suppressant in his system and realised he dared not take another dose. 

Opening his eyes, Spock let his gaze travel to the time readout on the main display.  13 hours, 58 minutes and 19 seconds.  The console underneath blipped and an error message on one of the simulations changed.  Through a haze of exhaustion, drugs and pain, it took several seconds for the answer to register in Spock’s mind.

COMPLETE    

An almost stupefied Spock let his gaze return to the device in his lap.  Slowly he picked it up, his arms and hands moving sluggishly.  It was time.  

Standing, swaying under the effects of the overdose of neuro-suppressant, Spock staggered out of the science lab.  Under a rolling gait, he made his way down the length of the deck towards the turbolift.  Once inside, he leant against the tab marked MEDICAL and stood facing the wall of the turbolift, his forehead pressed against the cool carbonite. 

The turbolift arrived at its destination and the doors opened.  With his eyes half closed, Spock sedately wobbled his way back into Medical.  Arriving at the nurses station like a drunk at a bar, he picked up a hypo and with numb fingers, fumbling, trying to load it with a large dose of neutraliser.  

Lowering himself slowly to the floor, his legs outstretched in front of him, Spock wrapped the device around his left wrist like a bracelet. Placing the hypo against his arm he administered the neutraliser and simultaneously snapped the lock shut on the device.  He closed his eyes, letting his head sag.

Spock sensed the neutraliser coursing its way through his body, clearing the neuro-suppressant and its accompanying nausea began to subside slowly.  Replacing it was the pain from the injuries he had sustained on the bridge, an all too familiar ache in his right shoulder and acute pain at his temple.  His mind followed the diminishing path of the excruciating pain caused by the incomplete red matter structure.  It subsided slowly.  The containment device was a success.

Spock opened his eyes and raised his head.  He was exhausted.  He could still feel traces of neuro-suppressant in his system and crawled his way to his feet.  Loading the hypo once more, he administered a final dose of neutraliser.  Grabbing a medical tricorder he scanned himself.  Some nervous system damage registered on the display.

Irrevocable, to be expected.

Looking down at the device around his left wrist, Spock studied it for several moments.  He knew he would never be able to take it off.  In time, he would be able to fashion a more efficient model, perhaps one that could be surgically embedded into his body, but for now, this would serve. 

Leaning against the nurses station for support, Spock began to evaluate his position.  There remained outstanding questions as to his presence aboard the Enterprise.  In fact, why there was an Enterprise at all.  He recalled his engineering tricorder scans of the hull showed no trace of the incomplete red matter structure.  There was some other reason.  There were numerous possibilities to be investigated.

Spock closed his eyes.  He was exhausted.  He considered, momentarily, taking a stimulant to keep him awake in order for him to continue his investigations. 

How long since I last slept. 

Barring his moment of unconsciousness on D deck, the duration for which he had no idea, Spock calculated.

Approximately 76 hours 11 minutes

Spock opened his eyes.  The UNKNOWN ELEMENT readout on the main display opposite stared back at him.  His logic told him he needed to rest, to take a stimulant after the damage inflicted on him by the neuro-suppressant would be foolish at best.  Two to three hours of deep meditative sleep would ensure optimum performance. 

Resolving his immediate dilemma, Spock pushed himself away from the nurses station, heading towards his private quarters.  As he passed through the doors into the corridor beyond he cast a cursory glance at the main display readout.

NOT COMMANDER SPOCK

I am Spock.

The doors closed behind him and a few moments later, the motion sensors turned off the lights.

.................

Spock left Medical heading towards the turbolift, the containment device strapped securely to his left wrist.  The molecular degradation in his body had stabilised, all that was left was pain from his other injuries and exhaustion. Entering the turbolift, he pressed the tab for the officers quarters and leant back against the cool, smooth carbonite interior. 

Moments later the doors opened and Spock headed towards his private quarters at a sedate walk.  He noted the silence of the deck was not that unusual, it was not known to be busy normally.  However, the ever present knowledge that he was indeed, totally alone on the Enterprise appeared to amplify this effect.

Reaching his quarters, the door opened and stepped inside.  Light sensors flicked on low-lights around the room, casting gentle shadows between the minimal furnishings.  Spock slumped down onto one of the plain, standard issue chairs and proceeded to take of his boots. He paused, closing his eyes. 

The familiar smell of the room, a mixture of Vulcan incense and Enterprise, had a soothing effect.  With his eyes still closed, Spock removed his shirt and vest slowly easing them over his head, attempting to ignore his complaining shoulder injury.  Focusing his mind and his breath, he opened his eyes and stood up. 

Spock made his way to the washroom where a bright light automatically greeted him.  Leaning on the washbasin, he stared at his reflection in the mirror evaluating the visual evidence of his injuries. 

The wound at his temple was marked by a plump, dark, angry bruise that ran up under his hairline and down to the peak of his eyebrow.  At his right shoulder, a mixture of patchy bruising ran down across the collarbone and onto his chest, darkening over the beginnings of his ribcage.  He turned his body to see around the side of his right arm and onto his back, following the path of bruising until it disappeared just as it reached his shoulder blade. 

Spock’s gaze transferred to the containment device on his left wrist.  He was experiencing a mild compulsion to bathe, to be clean of the events he had experienced, yet he dared not risk the device in a sonic shower.  He had not run a simulation through the ship’s main computer to test the effects.  Abruptly, he turned on the water and filled the basin in front of him, noting he had not tested the device for the effects of water immersion either.

Stripping himself of the remainder of his uniform, Spock methodically proceeded to wash, analysing an underlying sense of restraint he was experiencing by the mere presence of the containment device on his wrist.   He contemplated the matter for some time before pushing it into a hidden place deep within his consciousness. 

Completing his ablutions, Spock strode naked from the bright washroom into the half light of his quarters.  At the end of the bed stood a darkwood cassone, carved and intricately decorated with Vulcan signs and images.  Spock ran his fingers across the top, the familiar nature of the object offering a strange quiet reassurance.  He lifted the lid, took out a mesaline robe and donned it, tying it loosely about his waist.  The twilled silk fabric brushed against his skin, covering the length of his body to the floor like a warm whisper.

Spock moved quietly around his quarters, collecting a moxa and incense burner, before returning to his bed to sit down.  Loosening the robe across his right shoulder, he lit the moxa and permitted to burn for several seconds before holding it close to the bruising across his chest.  The heat drew against his skin, lifting the bruising still further to the surface, its warmth penetrating down into the damaged bones and muscles.

Nearly an hour passed until the moxa finally burned itself out.  Considerably eased, Spock sat on the edge of the bed and lit a Vulcan hypnic, dropping it into the incense burner at his feet.  A sweet, heavily spiced aroma drifted through the room as the sleep inducing drug smouldered slowly in the burner.  Spock lay down on his bed, closing his eyes and breathing in deeply on the hypnic to aid his meditation sleep.  

A heavy sensation passed through Spock’s body and he fell into darkness….

………….

It was early morning on Vulcan, the relative cool of the evening already beginning to evaporate.  Escorted by his father, a young Spock walked through cloisters towards an audience chamber in the Vulcan Academy.  Entering, they made their way down through an empty theatre of carved stone seats to the circular floor below, where an aged Vulcan stood waiting.

Spock watched as his father offered a traditional greeting to the aged Vulcan before speaking.  “It is time for my son to be evaluated.” Turning to his son, he spoke again.  “This is Seruk. ”  With that, Spock watched his father turn and leave the chamber.  Spock returned his gaze to the aged Vulcan who was watching him impassively.

 "What is your age?” asked Seruk, his tone even and cold, echoed around the chamber.

 “Four,” whispered Spock in reply, noting his own voice tremor.

 “Consider,” stated Seruk abruptly, and proceeded to deliver a conundrum adding, “remain here, in this chamber.  I shall return for your answer.”   After a moments pause, the aged Seruk walked steadily to the foot of the staircase and slowly exited the chamber.

Many hours passed as Spock considered the conundrum.  Eventually, he sat on the floor in the centre of the chamber watching the shadows of the day shorten and begin to lengthen.  His young mind turned the aged Seruk’s words over and over.  “There is no life?”  He concluded, he did not understand.  He realised, he would never be leaving the chamber.  

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Spock drifted slowly from a dream.  Vague images of an aged Vulcan asking him questions disappeared to be replaced by a pervading sense something was not quite right. 

Spock opened his eyes.  He had expected to see his private quarters, and yet the cold hard sensation under his body, coupled with a view of strange surroundings informed him otherwise.  He was no longer aboard the Enterprise.

Spock sat up.  He could feel the presence of his injuries, his damaged shoulder, the wound at his temple.  Looking down his body, he found he was still dressed in all but the mesaline robe he had donned after washing.  The containment device was on his left wrist.  Yet looking around him, the Enterprise, his private quarters were gone, replaced by opaque, smooth, continuously curving surfaces that arched overhead casting a low, radiant light.

Spock stood, noting no sound of his movements reflected from any of the surfaces around him.  He took several dampened steps and reached out a hand to touch one of the walls of his new environment.  It was warm, with a strange velvety texture under his fingertips.   The pearlescent surface shimmered and glowed.

I am in a vessel of some kind.

Without a tricorder, Spock assessed his surroundings as best he could with his own senses.  Straining his hearing, he stood motionless for several moments, stilling his breath so that it would not interfere in him detecting even the slightest noise.  He heard nothing.  He breathed deeply attempting to identify anything familiar in the air.  Apart from the familiar aroma of Vulcan incense from his own clothing, the only other smell he could detect was faint at best.  It was something putrid.  

A quietus settled over Spock.  Logic.  He cast his gaze around him, slowly evaluating his situation.  His eyes travelled, noting smooth ridges in the curving surfaces around him and the distances between them.  A thought emerged in his mind.

A structure similar to that of a mollusc.  I am in a labyrinth.  I am not alone.

Kneeling down, Spock grabbed the hem of his robe and with the help of his teeth, began to tear the fine silk material into strips.  With a substantial handful, he laid two of the strips onto the floor in front of him in an X before laying another two beside it in the shape of an arrow pointing forward. 

Rising to his feet, Spock embarked on a methodical exploration, leaving his X behind him.  Under no illusion that he was entirely alone and with his senses heightened, he continued to make his way through the alien curving structure, leaving additional arrows to mark his progress as he passed from one curving avenue into another. 

Relying on no more than his own internal sense of direction, Spock journeyed from one chamber to the next for what he calculated was more than an hour.  It was silent, eerie progress, with the putrid aroma he had detected earlier growing stronger with every step he took. He noted the smooth ridges in the structure around him had begun to appear closer together, the vault over his head lowering slightly.  As the iridescent light began to fade, Spock realised he was approaching the centre of whatever he had found himself in.

Spock lifted his arm and held the sleeve of his robe over his mouth and nose.  The putrid scent had intensified and he paused his advance, gripped suddenly by an involuntary reflex he gagged and choked.  Determined to investigate, he proceeded carefully towards the curved chamber ahead of him, stopping short of entering.

An overpowering stench filled the chamber.  For the first time during the journey through the strange environment, Spock was faced with a complete circular chamber with no other exit or entrance apart from the threshold of the one he now stood on.  Peering into the gloom, he examined the uneven floor in front of him.  Strange angled shapes protruded haphazardly over the entire area floating in pool of dark liquid. 

Spock knelt down in the entrance to the chamber and reached out his hand towards one of the shapes.  It was clammy, cool and sticky. He withdrew his hand quickly wiping the residue onto his robe.  A fascination gripped him and he continued to observe the peculiar structure in front of him, his gaze drifting from one curious shape to the next. 

As his eyes followed the shadows of the heap in front of him to where he crouched at the foot of the chamber entrance, his eyes fixed suddenly on a familiar shape.  A primitive reaction stirred deep inside him, involuntarily raising what little fine human hair he had on his body, fixing the muscles in his body to flighty readiness.  

Mildly noting his reaction, Spock stared into the gloom at the shape he had recognised, forcing his mind to evaluate its implication, considering his position in a calm, methodical fashion. 

Dead bodies.

Spock turned his attention back towards the path that had led him to the central chamber.  Rising to his feet, he retreated away from the pile of dead carcasses, resolving to relocate his X.  As he walked, following his silk strip markers, his mind turned to the curved structure around him and reaching out, he touched the warm surface again.  The shape of an unpleasant possibility had formed in his mind.

This is a living vessel.  I am prey.

.............

Spock walked slowly through the avenues and chambers of the alien vessel.  He continued retracing his steps, following his markers, leaving the putrid chamber and its decomposing heap behind him.  Every movement he made was accompanied by a heightened sense of awareness, his hearing and his muscles ready to detect and react to anything he may encounter.  

As he walked through the deadened silence, he re-evaluated his position. 

I am not aboard the Enterprise, that fact is evident.  It would be logical to assume I have been transported here, therefore, there must be a way to return to the Enterprise.  I must find it

Spock mused as his steady pace took him through another chamber.

This appears to be a living vessel.  The bodies are being slowly digested.  It would follow that I also, am to be digested at some point.  I have yet to encounter who or what proposes that end for me.  No doubt I will meet them.

Spock looked down at his tattered robe flapping around his calves.

I am unarmed and it is likely the inevitable encounter will be hostile

As he continued retracing his steps, his markers clearly guiding him, Spock felt a tug in mind.  Something, a fact, eluded him.  He paused momentarily, focusing upon it.

If I am in a vessel, why did the Enterprise automated system not alert me to the fact of its proximity?  

Spock quickly searched through the possibilities his private question posed.  

A cloaking device, perhaps.  Or, in my moment of unconsciousness on D deck an alert was made. 

Spock proceeded to ruminate on his predicament.  Lack of information, possible error at having not checked the ship’s log after he regained consciousness, his choice to rest instead of take a stimulant.  Quietly, he berated himself.  He had indeed made an error. 

Following his markers he proceeded quietly into a large avenue.  On the floor ahead of him lay his X, his starting point.  Spock halted abruptly.  Standing near to his X was the figure of an old man, pale skinned, white eyed, with long hair reaching to the floor.  He was dressed in a simple manta, the coarse cloth a strange contrast to the smooth surrounding walls.   In one of his hands he held a twisted caduceus that reached to the floor, appearing to lean on it for support.

Spock held up his hand in a traditional Vulcan salute.  “Greetings.  I am Spock,” he said. 

“I am Aesculapius,” croaked the old man in return.  His voice grating, held an undertone of amusement that did not go unnoticed by Spock.  

“May I enquire as to why you have brought me aboard your vessel,” asked Spock promptly, every fibre in his body singing to him of danger.

“You are a curious one aren’t you,” replied Aesculapius.  He bared his teeth in a not altogether friendly manner, his skin crinkling across protruding facial bones.  “Wandering around, looking about were you?”  He gestured to the X on the floor.

“You did not answer my question,” replied Spock immediately, holding his position in the avenue, every muscle in his body poised. 

“Your question is not important,” replied Aesculapius with an amused expression.  “What you should be asking is what I am going to do with you now that you are here.”  

Spock tilted his head.  “Return me to my vessel immediately,” he stated, a tone of command entering his voice.

“No,” replied Aesculapius quietly, still amused.  “No, that is not going to happen.”

“Then I can only assume your intention is hostile,” stated Spock, recalling the evidence of the decomposing bodies he had found in the central chamber.

“Oh no, my intention is to play,” replied Aesculapius, grinning eagerly, his eyes fixed on Spock.

“Play?” asked Spock, frowning slightly.  “You propose a game?”

“Yes,” replied Aesculapius.  “Now be a good sport and take off that thing you have on your wrist and we will begin.”

Spock looked briefly towards the containment device on his wrist before returning his focus to the old man in front of him.

“No,” stated Spock quietly.

Aesculapius’ grinning face fixed into a hard visage.  “Take it off,” he hissed.

“No,” replied Spock, slowly taking a back step.

At Spock’s words, Aesculapius lurched forward with unexpected speed, lifting the caduceus and pointing it directly at Spock.  An energy bolt struck Spock centrally in the chest, hurling backwards down the avenue.  He struck the smooth curve of the wall and slumped to the floor unconscious. 

………

Spock was on the bridge of the Enterprise sat in the command chair, the ship at warp.  All around him, crew attended their positions.  

He rose from the command chair and walked towards one of the turbolifts.  

The doors opened to reveal the Captain and Dr McCoy.  They broke their conversation mid sentence, quickly looking towards Spock.  It was the Dr who spoke.

“My God Spock!” he cried.  “You’ve finally managed to surprise me!”   

Spock looked down and realised he was naked

 

...................

Spock regained consciousness gradually, his body aching from the energy bolt Aesculapius had discharged from the caduceus.  Slumped against one of the smooth walls of the alien vessel, Spock lifted his head.  His expectation of finding Aesculapius being present was replaced by surprise.  Sat opposite him, crouched low on the floor, was a small child. 

Spock adjusted his position, sitting more upright, stretching, his body complaining and aching from the energy discharge.  He studied the small child opposite him.  She, he was sure, bore a striking resemblance to Aesculapius, fair skinned, pale eyes and yet he detected none of the malevolence in her as he had done whilst in the presence of Aesculapius.

Spock watched as she regarded him with patient eyes.  “Greetings.  I am Spock,” he said.

“I know,” she immediately replied, her voice soft and sing-song.  “I was watching you and Aesculapius talk.”

Spock adjusted his tattered robe, conscious suddenly of its disarray and his nudity.  “Do you intend hostility towards me also?” he asked, his voice calm and steady.

“No,” she replied simply, tilting her head from side to side as if evaluating the Vulcan. 

Spock was studying the small form in front of him with equal curiosity.  Casting a cursory glance about him, he continued to question her. “There are several queries, would you be prepared to answer them?”

Pale eyes returned a steady gaze.  “Ask whatever you want to,” the small voiced girl replied.

“What is your name?” asked Spock

“Holda,” she replied, “and to answer your next question before you ask it.  Aesculapius rests, he tires easily.”

Spock nodded slowly.  “I would like to return to my vessel.  Could you tell me how I may achieve this.”

Holda smiled in a wide, friendly smile.  “I was hoping you would ask,” she said, “I brought you here, I can take you back.”

“Really?” asked Spock, a little sceptical at the answer. He proceeded to test the offer he had been given. “Please do so immediately, I would like to return to my vessel.”

Holda shook her head.  “No, that would make Aesculapius angry and I’m not able to without his permission.”  She paused, staring at her bare feet and Spock detected there was information withheld from the context of her answer.  Emboldened he proceeded to question her.

“Why would suggest that you would be able to return me to my vessel, if in fact, you were not free to do so?”  His question hung in the air unanswered for several moments.  Holda fidgeted, rocking back and forth on the heels and toes of her feet.  Eventually, she spoke.

“I am affined to Aesculapius.  Joined.  I cannot do as you ask because of it.  I could do as you ask, if, I were not.”  Holda fixed Spock with a pale determined gaze.  She had ceased moving and appeared to be waiting expectantly.

Spock evaluated Holda’s words.  “What are you suggesting?” he asked slowly, his logic having already provided him with a possibility that he realised could soon be confirmed.

“I suggest, that we help each other,” whispered Holda.  “Others before you, have not left this place.  Aesculapius has hunted them, played with them, hurt them, healed their wounds, only to hunt them again and again.  He continues until he tires of them, then he consumes them.”

She paused and Spock noticed an eagerness enter her expression.  She continued with her explanation, a whispered urgency to her words.  “But you’re not quite like the others I have brought here for him.  Aesculapius cannot feed on you, yet, because of that.” 

Holda pointed to the containment device on Spock wrist and leant forward, tentatively stretching out her fingers towards his hand.  As they drew close, barely a fraction from actually touching his skin, a shimmer of energy passed over him.  Spock’s eyebrows raised in mild realisation.

The containment device acts as a shield around me.

Curiosity gripped Spock and he looked directly at Holda.  “What do you propose?” he asked.

Holda stood, a strangely adult expression passing across her face.  “My race possess many abilities, Spock,” she said, her form shifting immediately, gaining height and changing until it identically resembled Spock.  When she spoke however, he voice remained the same. “We possess the ability of illusion, invisibility and,” her form changed back as she spoke, “the ability of translocation.”  Holda immediately disappeared only to reappear at the other side of the chamber. 

“I propose, that in exchange for returning you to your vessel, that I take your place,” quickly she disappeared and reappeared in directly in front of Spock and crouched down.  “I propose, that Aesculapius hunts me and when the time is right, when he is himself exhausted, that you release me from my joining.”

Spock held Holda’s intense gaze with his own.

“I propose,” she continued, “that you kill him.”

Spock experienced a shift, strange movement within his mind......... I am... I am... I am here now. I am Spock. 

I remain seated, my legs crossed neatly in front of me, my hands folded in my lap.  I observe Holda with curiosity mingled with caution.  Her previous childlike demeanour replaced by fervour I can only ascribe to a state of desperation.  Indeed, I suspect a madness.

Crouching in front of me, her pale countenance tremors with expectation at my reply.  I consider for several long moments her offer.  To take a life to save my own and that of hers.  I regard her with a calm expression, revealing none of my inner disquiet over this proposal. 

As Aesculapius himself, is no where to be seen, I consider the possibility that Holda is indeed Aesculapius.  Furthermore, that this meeting is indeed part of the ‘play’ that he informed me was his intention before striking me unconscious.  The proof I require would only come from participation.  It is inevitable that I have little choice but to engage in this deadly arrangement.  The truth will reveal itself in due course.

“I agree to your terms, Holda.” My response is met with a visible relief reflected throughout her body.  Her shoulders relax and she sighs, long and slow, closing her eyes.  

“Thank you,” she whispers.  “Thank you.  Together we will be free.”

“May I ask a personal query.” I am indeed curious.  She opens her eyes, inclining her head. “Of course, anything,” she replies.  Her voice has returned to a semblance of youth, yet I do not believe her to be a child, despite the size of her frame.  “What is your species?” I enquire.  She reclines onto the heels of her feet, wrapping her arms around her knees.

 "We are known as Holda.  I am Holda.” She replies.  

I consider her response as implying a collective.  “Do any others of your species remain alive?”  She shrugs her shoulders in response to my query. 

“I am alone here.  What has become of the remainder of my species I do not know.  I have been here…”  She does not complete her sentence, her attention drifting to reverie.  Her eyes fix upon an inner horizon, no doubt a vision of the horrors she has previously witnessed.

Holda returns to the present, a deep sigh escaping her lips.  “It will soon be time, Aesculapius will have prepared himself.  Together, you and I, will become free.”  A weak smile touches her narrow mouth, yet her pale eyes reflect no pleasure.

“Perhaps,” I reply.  I am acutely aware I possess no weapon with which to assault Aesculapius.  My only course of action will be to engage him physically, yet I am unaware of the level of his own prowess.  Our previous encounter proved him possessed of a weapon capable of rendering me unconscious.  Should Holda’s proposal to act as a decoy prove successful in drawing his attention, the fact remains he is armed, I am not. 

Whilst the incomplete red matter structure in my body remains stabilised by the containment device I now wear on my wrist, the full effects of its ability to act as a shield to Aesculapius’ weapon remains to be seen.  At a distance, I have already been rendered unconscious by the weapon, a closer discharge may prove fatal, or indeed damage the containment device irrevocably.  My death would be inevitable in either case.

“Holda, would you deem Aesculapius strong, physically.  What weakness does he possess, if any.”  I am acutely aware that strength is relative, however, any weakness in my intended foe would be an advantage I could utilise.  My query illicits an impassioned response I find surprising.

“He is weak, old, lived past his time,” replies Holda, baring tiny pointed teeth. “His purpose is only to sustain a life that is already over.  He refuses to submit to the natural order.”

I regard her vehement answer as alluding to a deeper explanation as to her previously described ‘affinement’ to Aesculapius.  I am intrigued and indeed, curious.  No doubt her forced complicity in obtaining individuals to fulfil the Aesculapius desires to hunt, kill and consume contributes as a source of her detesting.

I reflect on the impending confrontation.  I find myself considering the ancient Vulcan practices of the hunt during a time before enlightenment to logic.  Here, aboard this living alien vessel, Holda will be my ‘stu-Ka’ree’ - a native guide in the chase. 

If  I am to be successful in my attempt to free both myself and Holda, I will be forced to forego ‘eta’ the preferred rendering to unconsciousness by nerve paralysis and instead use ‘talu shaya’ – the severing of the central nerve, snapping the neck and rendering immediate death.  I have never before performed this act, yet comprehend completely the necessary positions and strength required. 

I find myself observing my hands as they rest quietly in my lap.  By touching Aesculapius I will no doubt experience a telepathic connection, to what extent that will be in consideration of the containment device’s shield effect, I do not know. *

There is every possibility that I could become overwhelmed by his own state in that moment, experiencing his shock, anger no doubt, at my ambush.  Indeed, should he prove physically stronger than Holda’s assessment, I could find myself requiring to enforce a successful outcome by employing ‘kae’at k’lasa’ – a deliberate and aggressive trespass of the mind.  I have equally never performed this act, comprehending it as distasteful, possessing qualities akin to that of physical rape. In doing so, it is more than likely I would experience his ‘katra’ – the very essence of him in the moment of his death.

Holda sits patiently in front of me, her arms wrapped protectively around her, rocking gently as it to provide herself with comfort.  I look past her, casting a cursory glance about the empty chamber and into the vacant labyrinthine avenues beyond. 

“When will the hunt commence,” I enquire, my throat I note is tight, the words difficult to speak, an involuntary and outwardly uncharacteristic reflection of my thoughts.  She lifts her head, regarding me with pale eyes I can only ascribe as possessing sadness. 

“It is time,” she replies, standing and transforming into a complete replica of me in every detail, a bruise at her temple, a silk robe torn at the bottom, the containment device wrapped around her left wrist.  Yet when she speaks, her voice is her own.  “Stay close.”

“I shall,” I reply, rising to my feet with fluid ease, breathing deeply, my heart and my mind retreating into calm.  The objective before me, clear.

“I am afraid,” she whispers.

I nod. “No doubt you will perform admirably.”  My words, I am aware, are of little comfort.

“I will lure him towards you,” she replies, gesturing a directive path towards the avenues beyond.  “Wait here, until then, then follow closely. He rarely uses his weapon in the hunt, it requires too much of his energy, and is too easy kill.  He prefers other ways.  If he does use it against me strike then, otherwise, follow, wait, wait until I have exhausted him.” 

As she finishes speaking, she vanishes from my sight, my response is to an empty chamber.

“Understood.”

................

I am alone.  Waiting.  The silence of this alien vessel with its walls curving smoothly, the emptiness of the avenues beyond this vacant chamber I now stand within, achieve only to heighten a sense of my own perception.

Somewhere beyond my sight and my hearing, Holda, if she truly is to be trusted, engages Aesculapius.  I am acutely aware there is every possibility she is part of the proposed ‘game’ Aesculapius originally declared intention to ‘play’ with me.  The only proof I will have of Holda’s integrity, will be when she returns as proposed, leading Aesculapius to me. 

I consider confrontation, in any form, inevitable.  Whether I were to directly confront Aesculapius, life against life, does not alter my situation.  Holda’s offer to return me to the Enterprise, in return for freeing her of her affinement with Aesculapius, is merely exchange, nothing more.  The fact remains, the continuation of my life, in this place, is in my hands alone.

An intriguing concept.  When does one’s own life outweigh the life of another? 

As I stand in wait for Aesculapius, I find my mind drawn to questions that have no answers.  To kill is illogical.  If I am to commit this act, am I no different from Aesculapius himself.  Does he not desire to live, to continue a life, albeit by definition so different to that of my own.  I observe the containment device on my wrist, its presence alone posing the question; did I not endeavour to sustain my own life?

I breath deeply, relaxing the muscles in my body, sensing the ache in my shoulder from an injury yet healed.  I am acutely aware of my being in this moment.  It is a curious experience.  It stirs echoes of a memory within me, my mother standing in front of me at the entrance to the Tantric Arc on Vulcan, the planet dissolving before our eyes. 

My breath catches and I return my focus to the present, enforcing control over my body.  My mind turns, exploring other possibilities.  Does Aesculapius possess no redemptive quality, no conscience, no reason, no willingness to negotiate?  The Enterprise would be able to furnish his need for sustenance and nourishment, were he in agreement to this term.  

Standing, waiting, I consider my impending encounter as possessing an opportunity to explore a peaceful resolution in light of my most recent contemplation.  If I were able to subdue Aesculapius, I would be able to propose this.  If he agreed, it would be only a matter of trustworthiness, a chance I am willing to afford him, were he to acknowledge this by ordering Holda to return me to the Enterprise. 

Flexing my arms, loosening any tension, I reflect upon my agreement with Holda.  Perhaps, if Aesculapius agreed to release me, there may be opportunity to negotiate a release for Holda.  If he needs for nourishment were met, there would be no cause to continue to incarcerate her. 

A flick of movement, glimpsed through an adjoining avenue ahead of me, breaks my reverie.  The dampening effect of the interior of this vessel offers no advance indication of the impending approach.  I catch, yet again, a glimpse of movement, this time to my left at a distance I estimate to be 35.2 meters. 

My mind calms my breath, eases the muscles in my body, slows my heart that it beats steadily.  I am calculated anticipation in this moment, observing the brief movements of what I now believe to be Holda, running through the avenues beyond the chamber I presently occupy.

I observe the path of the deadly pursuit as it moves steadily from my left to my right, circling me, Holda not doubt shifting the direction of the chase.  I loose sight of it.  No doubt, she leads Aesculapius on, drawing him to me, perhaps into this very chamber, or near.  I can hear nothing.

Movement, closer this time, to my left again.  Holda, is clearly visible this time, looking directly at me in visage of myself.  I admit, I am considerably troubled by her appearance and the idea of what she has endured thus far.  The robe is shredded down her right side, the sleeve hanging loose and dragging on the floor.  Her body bears several deep lacerations from which she bleeds, blue, not my own colour, but Aesculapius no doubt, is unaware of this fact.  What appear to be deep bite marks ring her throat.

I find it curious, observing myself and yet not myself.  I am acutely aware of the unspoken exchange that takes place as we observe each other.  Faced with Holda’s present condition, I am now without doubt that Aesculapius is unlikely to negotiate.  It is a possibility that she observes my residual unwillingness to kill in this moment.  Her eyes however are stoic, reflecting pain and yet determination.  My suspicions as to her integrity, I find, no longer remain.

It takes no longer than 1.45 seconds for us to observe each other and make our exchange.  I afford her the slightest nod, imparting complete acquiescence to our agreement, before she breaks visual contact and I sight, for the first time Aesculapius engaged in his pursuit.

I judge him to be surprisingly swift, passing through the adjoining avenue almost a quickly, if not marginally quicker than Holda.  Whether Holda’s lack of speed is deliberate on her part, I do not know.  Yet again, I find myself considering my own physical state, the damage to my shoulder, the wound at my temple.  Will my strength be sufficient to overpower him?  And what of the containment device, even my robe.  Potential impediments all.  

A quietus settles over me.  Logic.  Aesculapius can be afforded no additional advantages.  I remove my robe, placing it neatly on the floor beside me, to stand naked.  As I do so, I observe Holda, clutching her abdomen, stumbling, retreating slowly into the adjoining chamber. She is severely injured, her blue blood flowing freely from the fresh wound.

It is, without doubt, time for me to act. 

...........

I stand naked, pressed against the curved wall of the alien vessel, patient, calm, committed to a course of action that is, undoubtedly, inevitable.  In the adjoining chamber I observe Holda in an illusion of myself.  She lies prone on the floor, her hands clutched to her wounded abdomen, stemming freely flowing blood that pools around her, soaking into the shredded robe.

From my silent, unmoving, vantage point, I perceive the direction of her gaze shift, briefly acknowledging my own, before transferring down the length of her body, fixing on an unseen presence.  Her eyes widen, no doubt at the approach of Aesculapius, the thin line of her mouth pressed tight in unspoken defiance. 

I remove the final advantage I possess, delicately unlocking the containment device at my wrist and placing it on top of my discarded robe. I calculate it will take less than 3 minutes and 14 seconds before I begin to experience pain as a result of the destabilising effects of the incomplete red matter structure in my hybrid system. 

However, it is necessary and logical.  Its shielding effects that have protected me against direct attack up until this point, could hamper my ability to overpower Aesculapius.  Should my strength prove insufficient to successfully deliver ‘talu shaya’, the killing blow, I will require unimpeded ability to affect a subduing mind meld.   The ‘kae’at k’lasa’; I consider such a violent act, as requiring unconscionable qualities that I do not believe I possess.

I retreat, my bare feet treading softly on the smooth floor until I arrive at the far entrance to the chamber I occupy.  I estimate my position is relatively parallel to that of Aesculapius’ presently obscured approach toward Holda in the chamber beyond.  As I observe calmly, the direction of her attention indicates he is close to her and briefly I glimpse his hand, reaching for her.

I slip silently into the avenue beyond, grateful for the dampening effects of the vessel around me; any sound I make in my approach, absorbed, until the final moment.  I proceed toward the entrance of the chamber ahead of me, every fibre in my hybrid system attuned, poised.  I am already sensing the effects of the incomplete red matter structure, my nervous system acknowledging the beginnings of pain, my mind engaged in the necessary suppression of it.

I arrive in stealth by the entrance to the chamber ahead of me.  My mind is calm, my breath even, my body relaxed readiness.  Fluidly I step into the chamber, my movements unnoticed behind Aesculapius, his attention fixed on Holda.  At my feet, abandoned near to the entrance, lays the caduceus.  Evidently, such a gesture reflects he deems he is in no danger and no longer requires his weapon. 

I judge him, attempting to calculate his strength and condition.  I cannot see his face as I stand directly behind him, yet I can finally hear his breath, ragged, hissing, his sides heaving with every intake.  The simple manta he wears bears the stains of Holda’s blood, the exertions of the chase having sweated it to his thin frame.  The bones of his spine stand rigid, cresting along his back, thickening to the base of his neck. 

I step over the abandoned staff, quickly discarding any idea of using it.  I do not possess knowledge of it, any attempt to touch it, I calculate likely to alert Aesculapius to my presence.  The advantage of my ambush currently remains as possessing the highest probability of success, 86.5% in fact.

Aesculapius is laughing.  Entertained no doubt.  In a fervour of movement, he lunges at Holda, his maniacal laugh morphing into keening savagery.  I do not hesitate.  In a single stride I reach him, in a complete movement grasp him from behind, my one arm sliding under his own, reaching up and around in front of his chest, my hand coming to position on the back of his neck.  I wrap my other arm about his own, twisting it towards his back, drawing it high, pinioning him.

From the moment I touch his cool, slick skin, I am assaulted by wave of fury at my actions.  Shrieking, he pushes back against me, writhing under my grip, his free arm lashing at my shoulder and face, his nails cutting through the flesh.  Despite the chase, he possesses strength and I find I am using all of my own in this moment, merely to hold him.  Applying pressure to joints in his neck, his own muscles straining against me, we remain locked in a violent impasse.  I have only one solution.  Using the connection of my fingers pressed against the back of his neck, I enter his mind.  

I experience his rage.  Violent anger, a wrath created over time, fury uncensored, a fervour possessing an intensity of a storm.  I am overwhelmed by his is eagerness for the kill, an ardent desire, sickening enthusiasm driven by insatiable consuming need.  Forcing every thought I possess in that moment against him, I locate the pain receptors in his mind, flooding his body, experiencing his own agony in that moment.

I am equally aware in that moment of the pressure I exert upon his neck, sensing the grinding of sheering bone under my finger tips as my assault upon his mind strips him of strength.  I force myself against his mind again, wracking his nervous system, tearing at the boundaries of thought and memory.

Through the meld with Aesculapius, I am witness to every face he has seen, the unique horror inflicted upon each of his victims.  I experience countless hunts, despicable acts of persistent and unrelenting torture, the frenzied feeding and sickening gratification that each kill has afforded him.  

I am flooded with his pleasure as he relives each of the deaths he has caused.  His insatiable want for the essence of life within each individual opens before me, his craving to possess life, his exaltation in the moment of taking, sings through my mind.  Finally, that part of him, the greed for power that drives him, the very nature of his survival is laid bare. 

It is now, I take from him as he has taken from others.  Distantly, I hear the scream as it rips from his chest in response to my mental assault.  Simultaneously, I complete the ‘talu shaya’, feeling the bones in his neck render under my grip, grinding, snapping back his head severing his spinal cord..  

My mind briefly holds the essence of him, his ‘katra’, as I end his life, experiencing his desperation to exist as I experience his death.  It claws at my mind, trying to grasp hold.  I am wholly present, engaged in an intimacy of death that few, I believe, have ever encountered.  I am rendered, astonished; a void sucking my consciousness down into darkness.  

...........

In my life, I have experienced a mind meld with so few, and only of my kind, except my mother.  My father’s mind was clear, calm, communicating the subtlest intonation of what I could only describe as comfort.  His mind possessed a strong, resolute presence within my own, respectful, considerate and familiar.  Of those times I initiated contact with my mother, I experienced, an absolute and unequivocable acceptance of me.

All other minds I have encountered, that have briefly touched my own, communicated only logic.  There have been instances, where others have initiated physical contact with me, predominantly humans, little understanding that their actions would result in some form of emotional transference.  I have endured these moments when the sensitivity of my hybrid system is flooded with information I do not require.  Any physical contact I myself have initiated, has been rare.   A tentative and limited exploration at most. 

I am therefore unsurprised that I find myself emerging from a darkness that is wholly unfamiliar, regaining consciousness and experiencing disorientation.   I am aware of pain throughout my body, re-acknowledging the destabilising effects of the incomplete red matter structure within me.  The pain in my injured shoulder has increased, no doubt from my exertions, and is accompanied by pain from the lacerations inflicted upon my arm, back and neck by Aesculapius in his frantic attempt to fight me.

I gradually regain awareness of the chamber around me and that of the weight of Aesculapius’ dead body laying on top of me.  With what strength I now possess, I free myself from the tangle of limbs and heavy torso, pushing him away from me and extracting my legs out from underneath him.  Holda, lays not far from me, her illusion no longer required she is returned to her original guise, that of a small child. Surrounded by a pool of her own blood, she observes me with unblinking pale eyes, her breathing shallow and ragged. 

I rise to my feet, staggering towards the adjoining chamber to retrieve my discarded robe and the containment device.  A simple process, yet requiring considerable mental focus, the effects of the mind meld having left me with all but the most basic of abilities.  I am aware of a part of my mind observing me, a distinctly detached experience as if my body is under an external control.

I reposition the containment device locking it tightly around my wrist, stabilising my hybrid system once more.  Taking my robe in hand, I rise once more and return to the adjoining chamber coming to rest on my knees in front of Holda.  She regards me with an expression I do not comprehend.

“Thank you, Spock.”  She breathes the words softly through lips tainted with blood.  I do not reply verbally, a mere nod of my head is all that I am currently able to offer her.  My mind continues to relive the meld with Aesculapius.  I am saturated by echoes of his emotions rippling through my nervous system causing me to shiver uncontrollably.

The opaque luminescence given off by the smooth walls of the chamber around us wavers, the soft colours loosing their strength and luster.   Somewhere, distant in mind, I yet again acknowledge the possibility this is a living vessel, however am unable to give consideration to the full meaning of the possible coincidence that has occurred.

“It is time for you to return to your ship, Spock,” whispers Holda, reaching out her arm, the back of her hand brushing across the floor in an almost affectionate gesture.  “The Aesculapian is dying.”

I do not entirely comprehend her words.  With effort, I speak, my mouth numb. “I can provide medical assistance for you, aboard the Enterprise.” 

“No,” is her reply.  “I am Holda.  My place is here, it is my duty to accompany Her.” 

The light about us fades further with each word she speaks.  I am gripped, suddenly, by an instinctive need, turning away from Holda and lurching to my feet.  On the far side of the chamber lies Aesculapius’ caduceus and I stagger towards it, an unfamiliar drive to obtain it, present within me.  As I grasp the discarded staff, I experience a sense of relief that even in my less than controlled state I deem uncharacteristic.  A residual echo no doubt, that belonged once to Aesculapius.

The walls around me dim to a liminal light, casting Holda into shadow.  It is the last image I shall possess of her, as an instant dislocation affects me and I find I am returned to the Enterprise, standing naked on the bridge, Aesculapius’ caduceus in my hand. 

I immediately step towards the navigation console, bringing the main viewer on line.  Beyond the Enterprise, sitting in the vacuum of space, is vessel unlike anything I have encountered.  Its structure bears similarities to that of an ammonite, the flat spiral turning gracefully on its edge.  I observe as a play of flickering luminescence fades across its surface until all light ceases, leaving it fossil grey.

I do not fully comprehend what has occurred, my mind remains detached and observing.  I am however, distantly aware that my experience has resulted in a shadow of a presence within me.   My eyes are drawn to the staff in my hand.  I find I am strangely unwilling to release my grasp of it.

....... End of The Aesculapian.......

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

I am hardly aware of the period of time I have remained standing on the bridge, transfixed, it seems, by the caduceus now grasped in my hand, a part of my mind remaining distant, observing.  I am absorbed in a study of my fingers, the stretching of my skin across the knuckle joints as they strain, wrapped about the double twisted staff.  I can sense tension in the whole of my hand, my nails, unseen, dig into my palm, the lock of my thumb sealing my crushing grip.

As my vision expands away from the details of my hand, so too does my awareness, moving from its narrowed point, opening out, widening gradually to observe subtle exertion tremors in hand and arm muscles.  I experience a detached acknowledgement of these exertions, the briefest touch of a sense of muscle exhaustion in my mind accompanied by a dull, distant realisation of my actions.

Pain, my nakedness, the texture of the deck under my bare feet, the openness and freedom derived from the very fact that I stand in accustomed surroundings in the manner that I do; sounds of instruments around the bridge, the familiar smell of the Enterprise, the caduceus quivering in front of me with the intensity of my grip, its imbalanced weight, its metallic like coldness, its presence. All of these experiences pass as though through a thick, slow, roving internal focus.

With dulled senses perceiving the movement, I take a step backward, away from the navigation console, floating and fluid as if I have been previously accustomed to an increased gravity environment.  With each slow breath I take, my eyes travel until they meet the main viewer displaying the empty vacuum of space, a scattering of distant stars, the dead husk of the Aesculapian now all but disappeared, drifting some considerable distance from the Enterprise.  I drift with it.

There is space.  Stars.  Time.  A ‘here’.  Breath.  Breathing.  Standing.  Holding.  Remember.  This is space.  This is a ship.  This is the Enterprise.  This is the bridge.  The Enterprise.  The bridge of the Enterprise.  Standing on the bridge of the Enterprise.  Breath.  I am standing on the bridge of the Enterprise.  I am…. standing on the bridge of the Enterprise.  I remember….

I am breathing, slowly, emerging from a tunnel vision pulled by a distant consciousness I am only marginally aware of.  Everything around me is familiar, yet I remain fogged, my sense of passing time eradicated, my perception of that which I recognise and identify as my awareness, blurred.  I am unable to establish comprehension of what is occurring, my mind shifting back and forth between observer and awareness, presence and senses.

That part of my mind that remains distant and observing continues to guide me, calling to me, preventing me from embracing a complete oblivion.  It is aware that I stand on the threshold of darkness and senses it within me.  As if I literally stand by the edge of some great chasm, it guides my steps backwards again, moving me further from the navigation console until my calves touch the command chair and it sits me down.

From a far, deep place within me, intention builds gradually, rising, pushing, directing.  My gaze is drawn again to the caduceus gripped by my hand as slow moving will battles rising semi-conscious desire.  Gradually the vibrating muscles respond and relax in my arm and hand, fingers uncurling stiffly to form an empty claw. 

I dumbly observe the caduceus as it slips from my hand, clattering on the deck of the bridge.  I remain so, seated, empty handed and staring at the fallen staff, experiencing friction of will against desire until breathing normalises and with gentle urging, I am able to release the direction of my attention from the alien object now laying at my feet. 

A sudden, deep shuddering breath escapes my chest and lips, raging desire for me to reach down and take up the caduceus once more, restricted by will.  The desire within squirms, twisting in my chest attempting to rise, the pressure forcing my breath to stutter once more. Invisible hands manifest upon my shoulders, distant observing mind and will securing me into the command chair as my empty hands flex and stretch, every muscle in my body in readiness to move and reacquire the alien staff.

My breathing continues to labour reflecting the writhes of the desire deep inside me until it begins to exhaust, moving from pressurising my chest to settle into my abdomen.  It remains there, a mass physically present, its force abating except for an occasional spasm that causes my entire body to jolt.  The occlusion within my perception recedes simultaneously, a partial retreat of a creeping mental miasma that has spread through my consciousness.

I experience a most unusual shift in perception, as if I am moved physically from one space into another.  As a result, I am able to deem myself hardly capable of complete and conscious discernment, yet, I appear aware of this fact as I sit in the command chair.  I attempt to identify the curious abstraction present at this time, a question drifting into my field of awareness alluding to a separation of mind and awareness. 

Vaguely, I perceive the distant observer within me as myself, which up to this present moment I have interpreted as independent guide to my actions and giving rise to the intention restraining me in the command chair.  I admit, I consider this revelatory, and oddly amusing. “Ha!”  The sound of my voice rebounds about the bridge and I am stunned and disconcerted by this uncontrolled outburst.

Instantaneously another shift of perception occurs reflected in a sharp involuntary intake of breath as I move to fuller clarity.  It is at this precise moment I am capable of a rationale in respect of my condition, realising the debilitating aftermath of my struggle and mind meld with Aesculapius. 

I cannot control the shiver that passes through my body at this point, perhaps a reaction to the gradual truth revealing itself to me.  I am keenly aware of my own self, my mind, my awareness, my body.  Yet, as I examine all that I recognise as me, I have no doubt there is a thing so markedly different, the only conclusion that presents itself is that there is a separate other within me.  

.............

For the first time since returning to the Enterprise I am fully aware of my condition.  Seated naked in the command chair on the bridge I consider the unpleasant possibility that I have acquired Aesculapius’ katra during our mind meld.  The distinct separateness I am keenly aware of in part of my mind together with the driving desire to pick up the caduceus at my feet, presents me with no other logical explanation

That I am Vulcan holds the powerful essence within me at bay.  Time served practice of logic over emotions restrains me, a distinct barrier formed in my mind against the alien katra.   Even now as I turn my awareness to examine it I am unable to establish focus upon it, existing as it does, blank and impenetrable.  Yet I sense it and attempt several times to gain direct perspective upon its shape and form only to be repelled back.

I judge the disorientation I have undergone on my initial return to the Enterprise as the beginnings of the inevitable mental paralysis that would occur should the alien katra be permitted uncensored access to the whole of my mind.  I have, in some fashion, unconsciously perhaps, erected or effected a protection from this eventuality.  How long and how effective this may continue to be however, I do not know.

I surmise the only logical conclusion to my predicament is to remove the alien katra.  It is unlikely that I would be able to effect this process alone and without the assistance of a senior Vulcan priest versed in such methodologies.  I resolve to locate and proceed immediately to Vulcan II, rising from the command chair whilst studiously avoiding any contact with the caduceus lying at my feet despite the desire that rises within me.

As I distance myself from the caduceus, the desire within me fights my will with a strength that stalls my steps.  I inhale a shuddering breath, galvanising my will and proceed to Ensign Chekov’s vacant position at tactical, forcing myself into the chair, observing subtle tremors in my hands as I proceed to enter the necessary commands into the console.  

My father and those few members of the Vulcan High Council I had rescued from the destruction of Vulcan, had discussed several possible destination planets during the aftermath of Nero’s act of destruction.  Due to my current circumstances, I am acutely aware however, that I do not know which planet, if yet any, has been selected for establishment of a Vulcan colony.

Whilst I enter a final command into the tactical console, I deem the only logical solution is to proceed on my current bases, systematically searching for others of my kind whilst maintaining the barrier against the alien katra within me.  Simultaneously, my mind turns to the distress beacon and subspace transmission to Starfleet I had previously set.  This would no doubt be answered in due course, surely….. Additionally, the Enterprise was fully capable of warp speed, even with a breached hull….

The sound of a response indicator from the tactical console in front of me pulls my attention from a reverie I find I have inadvertently slipped into.  Instinctively I check the internal barrier within me remains against the alien presence, my breath catching involuntarily in my throat.  I sense it remains, yet I am frankly astonished at how easily my conscious attention had drifted in those brief moments.  I realise I shall have to exercise extreme vigilance and control lest I am overcome, the possibilities of rest or indeed any state of unconscious respite clearly questionable

I return my attention to the console in front of me, examining the information displayed.  I am struck instantly by incomprehension that dissolves into rapid mental calculations proceeded by slow realisation accompanied by a distinct sensation of emptiness located in the centre of my body.  The ever present desire I sense within fades momentarily as a stillness settles over me

I touch a command bringing the full tactical display onto the main viewer of the bridge.  A representation of the Enterprise and her current position in relation to the surrounding spacial cartography fills my vision.  I proceed to assimilate the information in front of me, mental clarity present, yet a curious immobility of body secures me except for the shallow rise and fall of my chest indicative of breath

Uncharted space.  Unrecorded constellations.  Unfamiliar territories.  All that displays in front of me is unrecognisable.  I methodically enter commands via the tactical console, accessing the ship’s main computer, initialising an immediate cross reference to the last known position of the Enterprise.  The result is instantaneous, the databanks unable to correlate a relative position, my point of origin and that of the Enterprise, lost.

It is without doubt, the Enterprise and I are adrift in an unknown place, possibly an uncharted area of the galaxy, perhaps even an entire quadrant or more.  Lacking point of origin bearings there is substantially little possibility of affecting a return to co-ordinates 0001.1, that of Earth.  Equally the possibility of any rescue at this point in time I calculate as less than 0.332%, indeed even the likelihood of locating others of my kind presents unviable odds. 

My brief speculation moments before as to my current circumstances rapidly evolving toward a compounded futile conclusion have been confirmed.  Rooted to the chair in front of the tactical console, I continue to extrapolate possibilities, my mind shifting positions and perspectives, resultant probabilities giving rise to multiple probabilities,  more upon more and more….

Suddenly, I taste a hot, metallic liquid in my mouth.  It shocks me, dragging my attention immediately to the present away from yet another reverie into which I have slipped, unconscious of my actions.  I involuntarily swallow, a reflex, my mouth full, I realise, of my own blood; the desire inside me writhing with hunger.  I am frankly astonished to find my hand at my mouth, my teeth sunk deeply into my own flesh.

Slowly I release my bite, drawing my hand away from my mouth, incredulous that I have bitten so deeply and yet so unawares.  I discover I bear rivulets from my mouth onto my chest and abdomen, the wound having bled freely.  Only now do I acknowledge the pain I have inflicted upon myself and rather than effect a barrier against it as I would so normally do, I permit it to remain, trusting that its sharpness shall assist in reinforcing my clarity against a further absence of conscious awareness.

I swiftly place my free hand over the wound staunching the flow of blood as I rising from the chair, my mouth and throat taste laden, the desire within me alive, unappeased.  Forcing myself to avoid eye contact with the caduceus laying on the floor, I stride toward the turbolift, tremors throughout my body as if affected by a sudden decrease of temperature, blood spots across the deck marking my passage.  I hastily exit the bridge, my destination, medical.  

................

As the turbolift doors close in front of me the desire inside me twists, struggling to break free of my conscious will. 

Leaning with my back to the walls of the turbolift I close my eyes.  I sense the gentle vibration of the lifts movement through my body, the pain from the wound on my hand an acute counterbalance.  Either due to the effects of the desire within me, or the taste of my own blood, I am physically sickened, nausea rising causing a sudden involuntary reflex. 

I am wracked by a series of convulsions, discharging what little blood I had imbibed onto to the floor of the turbolift.  The severity of the reaction reduces me to a squatting crouch, where I remain, shivering uncontrollably, held static in expectation of further ictus.  I repeatedly swallow, attempting to remove the distaste from my palette, fully conscious of my undignified state.

The turbolift doors open to reveal the empty deck leading to medical.  They remain so, silently expectant as I remain crouched, breathing, staring at the soiled carbonite floor in front of me.  The vacant deck beyond awaits me, impassive observer to my reluctance and hesitancy to move, a void of empathy into which pours the remainder of the strength of my intention.

My senses amplify.  The light inside the turbolift floods my optic nerves, tightening the edges of the surfaces around me.  The dull ache from previous wounds at my temple and shoulder fade, dissolving.  The sharp acuity from the wound on my hand disappears.  A heat rises within me, utterly subduing the squirming desire until it too appears gone.  The blood in my veins sings with heat.

My muscles wrap to the bone, heat throughout my body amplifying, my eyes tightening shut to external light only to view a pulsating inner rainbow that crescendos to blinding white.  My anger, that I cannot control, is released.  It tears itself from deep within me, ripping from my chest to break my voice, culminating in a shriek akin to that of an animal, primitive, savage.

I hear no echo of my unseemly outburst, the emptiness of the deck beyond reflecting back only a critical silence.  I am unable to move, the blood in my veins heating my naked body until a sheen of sweat slicks the surface of my skin.  Accustomed only to those previous and rare lapses experienced during my childhood, and more recently towards the Captain, I am yet unprepared for magnitude of my current loss of control.   

With my eyes tightly closed I listen to the pumping of my heart, its fast beat drumming incessantly in my ears, blood, a pounding accompaniment, forcing capillary expansion as pressure builds at my temples.  A loud hiss rises through my hearing, blocking out even the sounds of my own body until it peaks, forming itself into a clear, yet distant whisper.  “..sass kieis si alrisi…”.

My eyes snap open and I am momentarily blinded by the sharp light of the turbolift, my breath held within my chest, my muscles tremoring from anger driven exertion.  I turn my head to observe the length of the empty deck lying beyond the confines of the turbolift as the whisper comes again, indistinct, drifting it seems, toward me from the far end of the deck.

I do not comprehend what is occurring, the blood heat of rage obstructing logical thought.  The breath trapped inside my chest exhales itself and I gulp oxygen erratically, my heart straining in my side.  Sweat beads coalesce at the nape of my neck until their critical mass causes them to evolve into speeding rivulets that trace paths down between my shoulder blades.

My eyes dart, seeking form and origin for the inchoate voice.  Nothing.  No-one.  There is a low hiss present to my hearing yet I am unable to discern whether this originates externally or internally to my body.  The deck yawns long, wide and empty yet I remain expectant of an apparition of some form to reveal itself to me.  

I stumble to my feet, lurching ungainly from side to side until I establish balance, my hands bracing the walls of the turbolift for support leaving smears of blood across the smooth surface.  I begin to forcibly inhale and exhale, the effect cooling the heat within me until it gradually subsides, my senses clarifying, pain returning in my wounds, unfamiliar desire resurfacing.

The sweat on my skin rapidly cools me, the temperature of the Enterprise so considerably colder to that which I would deem sufficient for my hybrid system, assisting.  I stand, shivering, listening, breathing, before I am forced to move by a sudden, urgent demand from my body, my colon in reactive spasm.  I lurch from the turbolift into a paced jog down the deck that builds to a flat run.

I stumble through the doors of medical into the private confines of the latrine, bypassing the main sick bay and the empty medbeds.  I surrender tenuous control and permit my body relief, shivering, my mind stripped of extraneous thought.  I come to stand in front of the basin, running cold water freely and cupping my uninjured hand under the flow to feed myself. 

I repeatedly rinse the taste of my blood from my mouth, swallowing finally several handfuls of water before proceeding to immerse my head under the icy flow.  Cold though the water is, I consider it clarifying and proceed to wash the unsightly evidence of my blood from my chest and legs, unmindful of the residue that gathers on the floor. 

As I turn off the faucet my surroundings are plunged into silence once more.  The only accompaniment I possess in this moment is the reflection of a hybrid Vulcan I observe in the mirror in front of me.  He stands, leaning with one hand against the washbasin in front of him, a containment device secured at the wrist.  His other, bearing a deep, self-inflicted bite wound, hovers gingerly near his chest.  His hair is soaked, his wounded body dripping with water, his dark eyes staring back from beneath angled brows. 

...................

Mirror.  It is curious.  I have never fully comprehended humans’ requirement to construct speculum, yet, I have observed they consider such objects essential.  Indeed, I have often queried humans’ predilection to furnish their surroundings with reflectors, those enquiries eliciting no more than illogical response. 

The frequency to which individual mirrors appear in humans’ personal environments I have calculated equates to a mathematical coefficient of 3, a figure possessing a spiritual significance for Vulcans, in abstraction infinite diversity in infinite combinations, Kol-ut Shan.  I am intrigued by this….. indeed humans; a species unconsciously evidencing logic yet predisposed to illogical thought and invariably subject to emotional compromise.

Unobserved, I often would study my mother, sat at privacy within our residence on Vulcan, holding a personal speculum, engaged in reverie of her visage.  That she was so enthralled, oft subject to display what I speculated to be displeasure, even possibly disapproval at her own critique, I concluded, my lack of understanding at her practice was a consequence of my failure to comprehend the complexities of her emotions.

All is vanity without logic.  Vulcans do not employ mirror.  Highly polished surfaces reflect immediate surroundings and that is all. Engagement in study of antonymia is illogical and serves no purpose.  No thing unreal exists.  Yet….

I continue to observe the hybrid Vulcan in the mirror in front of me.  I identify my customary sense of presence, even now though it is compromised by the alien katra within.  My awareness of presence I deem has not altered and yet, when I observe this hybrid Vulcan, I detect it becomes subject to an unusual phenomenon, one, I have never before encountered.

I am intrigued, my curiosity fixed by the gaze of the hybrid Vulcan I observe in the mirror and the measured amplification of the phenomenon.  I experience a brief, wholly unique occurrence, a momentary loss of presence in physical surroundings and a subsequent mental projection of awareness to the hybrid Vulcan that stares so intently at me.

Perhaps as a result of my complete shock and astonishment at this occurrence, the phenomenon I detected instantly ceases and I perceive an immediate mental retraction, my awareness of that physical space I occupy in relation to my surroundings, present once more.  My curiosity is piqued, even in light of my current circumstances and I return my attention to the mirror.

The hybrid Vulcan is there, waiting patiently.  I study the surface of his naked body systematically, noting colour, texture, evidence of wounds, until finally I meet his gaze.  He is staring at me.  He moves closer.  I am aware of the phenomenon occurring once more and surrender to its effects completely, sensing no danger, my awareness enclosed, observing.

The hybrid Vulcan’s eyes glint with recognition, the corners of his mouth twitching before the muscles in his face widen his mouth.  The characteristic he displays is similar to that of a human smile, however there is no friendly intention accompanying it, far from it, his eyes gleam with an opposing intention.  He laughs, yet it contains a maniacal quality, hysteria perhaps that subsides almost as instantaneously as it arrived.  He holds up his hand, palm facing outwards and deliberately articulates from the wrist.  He is waving.  He is waving at … me.

I am restrained in this moment by complete and utter incomprehension.  The grinning visage I observe stares at me, the dark eyes betraying ….triumph?  I do not understand.  I attempt to withdraw, to deliberately effect the mental retraction that had occurred earlier and return to my awareness of physical space and that of my body.  Yet I cannot. 

Something grows, rising from unfathomable depths until it reaches the surface of my consciousness and breaks, realisation spreading throughout my awareness.  The distinct barrier that existed in my mind, that I had earlier attempted to examine on the bridge, that had repelled all evaluation of shape and form, surrounds me.  I had interpreted its presence as a result of my own unconscious act to effect protection against mental paralysis.  I have made an error.

I am undeniably incarcerated, entombed, obstructed in every attempt I make to return to that place that would permit me to exercise control.  I attempt to speak, to voice objection, intent upon informing the hybrid Vulcan in front of me.  He watches, grinning, moving his head slowly from side to side in a gesture I interpret as a negative response to my insistence that he acquiesces. 

He is smiling again, looking directly at me.  He knows that I am here, in this place, observing, helpless, disempowered, left to reside in this empty place, devoid of control and senses.   I struggle, attempting to ‘move’ yet I am unable to turn my attention away, to ignore his visage, my view fixed and forced to continue to observe him in every detail.  He holds up a finger, and what I assume to be an expectant expression forms on his face, eyebrows raised, his mouth opening forming an O.

I am momentarily bemused by his behaviour, having witnessed similar displays in humans and several other species, yet never fully comprehending the meaning or purpose.  I am enlightened, however, in this particular case, the place I occupy so devoid of sense, beginning slowly to fill, saturating me with temperature, touch, taste, smell, pain, and yet, no sound. 

His face breaks into what I am already accustomed to, a smile, and I observe him, his shoulders, erratic, jerking accompaniments to his silent laughter until it fades and he stares at me with unequivocable malicious intent.  He raises his finger once more, though not repeating his previous facial expression, indeed, his brows deepen to a sharp pinch, his head angling downwards, his eyes revealing an inner intensity that I do not comprehend. 

Complete incomprehension is replaced by complete disbelief as I am assaulted by his emotions, his consuming fervour, his ardent desire and sickening enthusiasm driven by insatiable need.  None of these emotions are my own and I am powerless to control them, yet I am subjected to them, experiencing in equal measure, the relish he obtains from the torture he inflicts upon me.

He is laughing again, watching me, knowing reflected in his eyes.  He leans close to me, his face almost touching mine until all that I see is the deep colour of his eyes, the pupils dilated, flecks of blood from vessels that have ruptured at the edges of his eyelids.  His breath ghosts the surface of the mirror, partially obscuring him until he retracts a little distance and I see the whole of his face.  He mouths slowly, words… Time ….To …… Play ….

..............

I observe the face of my captor, privy to the threshold of excited anticipation that he stands upon, an inner light of intensity brightening his eyes.  He denies me knowledge of his intent, however, preferring no doubt, for me to endure my own ignorance of the future he has already divined.  His soundlessly articulated proposal to me therefore results in bemusement.  Play? 

The word ‘play’ has multiple variables : To cause or bring about.  To engage in sport or diversion; amuse oneself; frolic; gambol; take part in a game of skill or chance; gamble.  To perform on a musical instrument.  To discharge continuously as a fountain.  To be performed or exhibited.  To act on or as on a stage.  To act, behave in a specified manner, falsely.  To deal carelessly or insincerely with.  To engage in pretence wantonly.  To engage in an act of procreation sportively.  To employ another in a game as a player.    Specifically related to angling: to let a hooked fish tire itself by maintaining pressure on the line.

I await his selection of play variable.  He leans close to me once more, deliberately exhaling over the surface of the mirror to obscure my view.  Through a slow evaporation of moisture he appears once more standing, determination transforming his mouth to a straight line, the stark light in the latrine cutting and amplifying his figure into high relief against the blank walls. 

From the periphery of my vision his left hand rises, effortlessly lifting my own to hold it an arms length from my face, the level perspective obscuring my view of his mouth.  I am able to see the bite wound clearly as it is turned towards me, simultaneously interrogated by his gaze.

Transfixed, sensing the movements of his right hand, I submit to suspense before fingers creep into view, rising vertically, splayed wide, his eyes peering at me through the divides.  Leisurely, his fingers curl over the top of my hand, nails touching lightly at first the edges of the wound before sinking deeply into the exposed flesh, pressure mounting in the grip and blood flows freely. 

Pain has, multiple variables :  Care, effort, or exertion expended on anything.  To be careful to make an effort.  The sensation resulting from or accompanying some injury, derangement, overstrain or….obstruction of the…physical powers; any distressing or afflicting…emotion… or such emotions in general. 

His fingertips search through my traumatised flesh, touching the surface of the bone beneath, every subtle movement he makes recorded in detail by my nerve endings that transmit their messages in high frequencies to the exposed pain centres of my brain.  His intention channels, directing the flow of infliction away from himself and into me and I remain, trapped between excruciation and his unbridled glee that rides parallel to every sensation.

He denies me the ability to suppress the effects of my nervous system responses and I am subjected to the redundancy of my knowledge, that pain exists in the mind and the mind can be controlled.  He holds me suspended in my efforts of rejection, immobilised, unable to close the aperture he has opened into me and through which flows his torrent of objectionable cause and effect.

Finally, he slowly removes his fingers from the wound leaving me to flounder in an aftermath of agonizing perpetuity, his eyes locked with my own, his brows pinched into a deep ravine.  He approaches me, his head tilting fractionally, his proximity steadily increasing revealing the miniscule retractions of muscles pinching the skin around his eyes as they narrow, my bewilderment captured by a single lost eyelash resting against his cheek. 

His hand lifts to his mouth placing two of his fingers, tipped green with my oxidised blood, against his lower lip, running them lightly over the surface as he subjects me to what I interpret is close examination.  The tip of his tongue appears at the corner of his mouth beginning a slow removal of blood residue, circling, spreading saliva, his satisfaction of its taste and at my sensing of it, undeniable. 

Lightly, he drums his two fingers against his lips, the rhythm steadily decreasing to a measured alternation that finally ceases, his middle finger resting against his lip, the index, hovering momentarily a short distance before it begins a steady, single beat that eventually stops.  I am unable to comprehend the purpose of this behaviour or that of the expression ultimately reflected in his eyes. 

His eyes, gaze intently at me, then close, abruptly.  I am swamped as the levels of his excitement and unsatisfied need peak once more and I sense the fingers at my mouth move over my chin, running a line down my throat to rest in the hollow there.  I detect his other hand as it touches flat against the centre of my chest, smearing my skin with moisture I interpret as my own blood, his other hand moving down to join it.

I undergo a fervour driven exploration that travels over my shoulders and down each of my arms, finally returning to my chest.  His hands rest momentarily in parallel before they begin a slow decent down, crossing my stomach, lowering to my abdomen to finally grasp my genital and locate my anus.  There, in his hands, I am subjected to the breaking of Vulcan tabu, enduring his ministrations as I endure the rise of his incoherent frenzy and subsequent gloating satisfaction.

He permits me to finally see him.  He stands, some distance away from me, grinning in a manner I am now accustomed to and I continue my passive observations, noting the steady rise of his hand to his open mouth, the deliberate placing of two fingers within, the envelopment of his lips and subsequent slow siphoning of ordure residue from the digits. 

As he performs this act I am simultaneously subjected to his scrutiny, his eyes widening to an unblinking stare as his hand to falls to his side.  His chest then expands as he inhales deeply, his Vulcan eyebrows lifting in unison as he raises his finger once more, pointing it directly at me, his mouth opening, lips curling upwards at the edges as his head tilts.

My incomprehension as to the purpose of this particular gesture is equal to that which I experienced witnessing his previous two variations; suffice, I speculate in this instance, it is a precursor to another form of assault and am proved correct as his palpable need reaches down into the silence I occupy, smothering me, covering my whole.  I detect a unique sensation, delicate at first, intensifying slowly to a pressure that evolves into an acute pinpoint of intention.

The finger he maintains directed at me, twitches at the tip, as if to pick at some invisible surface that exists in front of it, the pinpoint of his intention simultaneously responding, scratching at the single location it has selected on the surface of that barrier he has detected within me.  It continues its abrasion, unrelenting, and I must concede to the inevitable truth I am presented with: he requires access to my emotions.

.........

I am subject to an unrelenting attack upon my inner most whole, unable to effect a defence against the abrasion of his intention, his insatiable need that blisters the surface of the barrier that exists inside me housing the most intimate part of my being.  It persists, even when I observe his finger cease the accompanying picking gesture he makes, no doubt a physical demonstration of that process I now experience.

He drops his hand to his side, grinning once more as he retreats from me with measured steps.  His entire body is smeared with residue of drying blood, a primitive representation of hybrid Vulcan, hostile, gleeful, savage, filled with an wild insanity that is directed fully upon me.

He turns quickly from me, his feet carrying me quickly from the latrine and across the sick bay beyond.  From the reflective surfaces of consoles and dividing partitions throughout medical I am afforded glimpses of him as he moves swiftly exiting through the doors into the deck beyond. 

He carries me with him, an unwilling passenger, unable to restrain his wild flight along the deck to the turbolift.  His journey swiftly takes him to the bridge whereupon he locates the caduceus I abandoned there, snatching it up, his crescendo of triumph assailing me as his intention scratches me raw.

His excitement peaks once more as he leaps towards the navigation console, stabbing commands and affecting an immediate jump to maximum warp.  I see him again in the main view screen as he moves and sits astride the command chair, his chest rising and falling with exuberant breaths of anticipation, the caduceus standing proudly at the end of his outstretched arm.

I have lost my ability to precisely calculate the number of hours he sits regarding me, his wanton need furiously eroding that place inside me that is yet denied to him diverting and holding my attention.  Even when eventually leaps from the command chair, pulling the Enterprise out of warp, his assault does not cease or relent, indeed, his excitement peaks once more twisting around my mind, constricting.

He shows me we have arrived in orbit around a planet, the scans he initiates, the organisation of settlements that reflect a simple society, pre-mechanisation, pre-industrialisation, agrarian, defenceless.  Throughout this process, I am overwhelmed by his eagerness for the process of an impending hunt, an ardent desire I do not comprehend, unbound enthusiasm, chaos.

From the surfaces of dividing schematics panels I glimpse him once more as he runs to the turbolift, wild eyed, slavering, clutching the caduceus in his hand, and I am unwilling companion once more as he hastily makes his way to the main transporter room.  Upon arriving, he sets the caduceus aside and frantically scans an area of the planet, selecting a random life form and isolating its pattern for transport.

His anticipation peaks as he initiates the transport, his expectation rising to a new height, his intention against the barrier within me redoubling its frantic effort.  His glee at the sight of a figure materialising on the transporter pad screams in my mind.   

I observe what I speculate to be a female youth of a species unknown to me, standing, gazing in wide, violet eyed astonishment at her new surroundings, her pale, cream skinned, slender frame draped in simple, unadorned gossamer.  She gazes in my direction with hesitancy forming on her mouth before it becomes firm, clear, bright, unafraid, trusting.        

I watch, as she unhesitatingly steps toward my captor with her arms outstretched, unabashed it would appear by the sight of his naked, soiled form as he approaches her, his arm upraised, striking her without hesitation across her face.  She is thrown easily from her feet under the force of his attack to lay upon the floor where she rolls, lifting her hand to her face, her mouth open in what I judge to be an expression of complete bewilderment.

He steps towards her, grabbing each of her wrists in his hands, lifting her easily into the air, her feet dangling several inches above the floor.  She does not struggle nor indeed make any attempt to free herself from his grasp, regardless of the fact it would be futile to make such an attempt.  Instead she hangs, unresisting as he shakes her by her wrists, her head snapping backwards and forwards violently.

I offer her a silent apology.  It is all I am able to afford her.  My captor’s insatiable need continues its unrelenting attack upon me, as he drops her to the floor where she remains, sitting, unmoving.  He leans down grasping the top of her head and threading his fingers through her pale hair, filling his hand with its fine threads.  Turning, he drags her behind him and I am momentarily left to speculate as to her welfare as he retrieves the caduceus that rests against the transport console.

Both she and I respectively at his mercy are carried and dragged from the transporter room to a turbolift, then on to what I recognise is the officers deck, whereupon he enters the Captain’s private quarters.  Though I am familiar with the interior of these quarters I do not comprehend his reason for bringing us here until we arrive in front a full length mirror near to the sleeping quarters.

There, in front of me, he mutilates her, waves of his pleasure assaulting me at each bone he breaks in her fragile body and at each of her desperate attempts to prevent him from doing so.  Finally, rendering her helpless and immobile, his need driving against the barrier within me, he seats himself upon the floor, dragging the barely conscious broken female into his arms, presenting her to me, resting her head against his filthy chest. 

Placing his fingers on her temples he enters her mind, her katra, and proceeds to gift me with all that she is, her innocence, her agony, her confusion, her disbelief, her own terrified perspective of what she believes to be her magnanimous God and her incomprehension as to what possible act she has committed to warrant his wrath. 

Leaving the fingers of one hand resting against her temple, he reaches down to her abdomen with his other, ferociously tearing at her flesh as his need tears at the barrier within me.  Her blood flows freely as her agony and fear blind her, her life ebbing slowly as his hand reaches into her extracting her heart.  He proceeds to feed to me, my own mouth filling with the hot taste of her, his need devouring my barrier.

Noise approaches me as I would approach an unseen waterfall, a tumultuous hiss that builds in vibration excluding all that I experience until I am no more than noise, a sibilate, coalescing to a whisper, Vulcan, drifting through me, voiced  “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”

I fall, I dissolve, I become….oblivion.

.......End of Vox Clandestina.........

Chapter Text



“….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”

 

‘Curious’ is my first conscious thought as I open my eyes, pulled from a wh’ltri meditation by a whisper of a voice.  I observe my room and find it is empty, but for myself, sat in losherok upon my meditation mat, legs half crossed, hands resting upon my knees with palms open. The light, the shadows, are merged by the commencement of dawn, the relative cool of the evening already beginning to evaporate in the climbing heat of an early Vulcan morning.

I remain seated, listening intently to the distant dawn call of a xirahnah, piercing, drifting down through the high open skylights above me, the sepia of night warming to gold.  Perhaps, I speculate, it was that call that disturbed my meditation and no whispering voice, a sign I have failed once more in my efforts to train, my diligence slipping from my grasp, shame replacing the illusive calm I am expected to achieve.

The xirahnah calls again and I am momentarily lifted beyond the shadowed confines of my room, out, rising high upon the thermals from the desert to circle, buoyant, unencumbered, swift.  My eyes, keen, search the empty skies in a fading dawn, the suns climbing as I descend on evaporating thermals, effortless, free, my cries echoing whispers “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”

“Spock.”  My father’s voice catches my breath in my chest and body stiffens, a reaction he will note, no doubt, with disapproval.  I did not hear his approach, my disturbed reverie snapping my head over my shoulder to find him standing in the open doorway behind me, his face impassive, his stance controlled.  Vulcan reserve and minimalism personified. 

“What are you doing?” His query, as always, I find, is most difficult to answer.  I cannot lie, equally I cannot tell him I was engaged in an act I believe my mother describes as day-dreaming.   My voice, when I speak, carries a hint of the shame I struggle so often to eradicate, my youth and inexperience clear in the tones as I attempt a reply.  “I was waiting for you.  I was listening to the xirahnah.”

Disapproval.  It is never present as an expression upon his face, yet his measured breath, his pause in reply, the rapid single blink that accompanies it are familiar to me.  I regard him silently, hesitating before shifting my position on my meditation mat to come to stand before him, my head no higher than his knees, my small hands self-consciously adjusting my robe to neatness in an attempt to remove external flaws in my visage. 

His face looms clear above me, his eyes looking directly into my own uplifted face, the umber of my room all but gone, replaced by a fully dawned crimson.  I ask, though it will be deemed unnecessary, “Is it time to go?” and my query is met by no more than a suggestion of an inclination of his head.  I regard his gesture as an acknowledgement of my own awareness of the continuing failure, error and shame at my lack of ability to achieve any semblance of suitable Vulcan behaviour.

He turns away from me, walking across the sparsely furnished room beyond.  I begin immediately to follow him with unquestioning obedience, slipping in socked feet across the polished wood floor before the sound of his own booted passage triggers my abrupt halt and subsequent ungainly attempt at a hasty retreat to my room to acquire suitable footwear.  I struggle, time conscious, aware I have made yet another error, my small hands unco-operative with what I judge to be the simplest of tasks - pulling on boots.

I emerge from my room to find my father, gone.  I proceed to adjust my clothing, chasing creases with my fingertips as I walk in search of him, passing through the open, conservatively furnished partitioned spaces that define our home.  I gravitate toward increasing light and step out onto the veranda to find my mother engaged in her usual morning contemplations, a Terran tea-cup hovering not far from her lips. 

I am hesitant, as always, to approach her and am grateful when she finally notices me, smiling and stretching out her hand.  Though it is unseemly, I run to her side, pausing to press my small fingers against hers in intimate traditional Vulcan greeting before I am smothered in a Terran embrace, willingly lifted to her lap.  Her words, “Good morning,”  are accompanied by a Terran kiss against my head and I settle against her, stealing the moment for myself. 

I lean with her as she leans to take up her tea-cup and I listen to her slow released breaths as she blows across the surface of the liquid to cool it.  Wind catches the fine silk of her cowl and we are briefly covered, the veranda temporarily disappearing from view.  I make no attempt to move and I hear her as she laughs, easily, hugging me tightly before revealing me, securing the unruly garment by tucking it between us.  I raise my eyes to find her face.  She is smiling.

I remain in my mother’s arms, staring across the veranda to the desert beyond, the impending appearance of my father, present in my mind, making me silent.  My mother cajoles me, tightening her arms about me as if sensing the nature of my thoughts, asking “Are you not feeling very happy today, Spock?”   Her queries, as always, I find as difficult to answer as those of my father, my reply, no doubt, equally unsatisfactory.  “I am satisfactory, thank you.”

It is warm, the twin suns of Vulcan climbing, chasing each other it would appear, a large fire red sphere pursued by a comparatively small cool yellow counterpart.  Liquid mirage turns the distant desert to a false sea and I sit, resting, immersed in remembering the stories my mother has told me of the oceans of Earth.  Rocked by my mother, I am sailing upon imaginary waves and their sounds whisper to me “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”

“Spock.” At the sound of my name, I calmly turn my away from the desert mirage to  find my father standing on the veranda, observing me. His head tilts as if to ask his customary query ‘what are you doing?’ and I silently reply by looking up at my mother’s angled face.  She is no longer smiling, instead looking directly at my father with an expression I do not comprehend and I sense a tightening of her arms about me as equally as I sense her torso constrict and straighten. 

I observe my parents’ silent exchange with curiosity before I am distracted by mother’s cajoling once more, her arms tightening about me, hugging me as she places a Terran kiss against my cheek.  She then proceeds to engage in her Terran custom of ‘tickling’, agitating my ribcage with her fingers with such persistence that I am unable to control my reactions.  My stifled laugh, my wriggling and squirming from her lap, raises my father’s eyebrow.   

As my feet touch the ground I am smothered in motherly persistence, kissing, adjustments to my clothing, my hair stroked and smoothed, arms corralling me close to her as if her intention is to protect me.  She speaks softly near to my ear “Time to go with your father, Spock” her hands lingering against my shoulders.  I nod and reach to touch her temples seeking kash-naf, yet she stops me, her own hands capturing mine and taking them to her lips.

I stand, uncomprehending as to why she would not permit kash-naf, watching her eyes fill Terran tears.  All I can hear in this moment is the wind from the desert.  It is whispering “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”  

.............

‘Curious’, is the thought I consciously acknowledge.  I follow my father’s tall, lean frame through featureless cloisters carved directly from Vulcan rock; open apertures high above us permitting daylight slivers to illuminate the cool covered avenue below.  I have a recollection of departing our private dwelling to engage in this journey, yet it is a vague memory, as though I have walked this path, this journey, years before.

I obediently follow my father in silence listening to the echo of our companioned footsteps.  Carefully observing the movement of his feet, the kick of the trim his heels make at the base of his robe, my mind engages in idle calculations of my own number of steps in relation to his. 14,302 of my steps thus far. 4.67 of my strides to his 1. Our velocity averaging 2.4 kols as we journey to an unknown destination. 

 My calculations grow steadily. 14,571, 14,572, 14,573.  We enter an empty, carved stone amphitheatre and descend a set of smooth, time worn steps that cut down through the vacant seats to central floor below.  My calculations slow. 14,629, 14,630, 14,631.  We arrive at our destination, the personal record of my journey halting at 14,633.7 steps.

A Priest of Gol awaits our arrival.  She is old, very old.  I would speculate she is perhaps one of the most aged Vulcans I have ever encountered.  Her traditional plain, cream pelal robes are trimmed with crimson lettering, notates of her high status alone, not for decorative or aesthetic purpose.  I observe my father offer traditional greeting before speaking in low tones informing her that it is time for his son to be evaluated.  My father’s words, are meaningless to me.

My father turns to me, his face impassive, delivering low toned instructions for me to remain with the priest before walking past me.  I watch as he slowly ascends the steps of the amphitheatre and disappears, abandoning me.  I turn to find myself under aged and emotionless observation; eyes, dark and knowing, conducting a detailed and intricate search of my face. 

A thin hand with skin stretched over bone like parchment, beckons me forward and I obey without question, though not, and it is observed, without some hesitancy.  This priest that awaits my proximity, her hand outreaching as she speaks: “Tan-tor vu kae nahp,” her words resounding throughout and around the chamber as if spoken by a chorus.  Her command - give me your thoughts - compels me to take several small steps toward her.

She initiates kash-nohv, placing her fingers at my temple.  Under her touch I am exposed, my mind too young to hide.   I have never before melded with another outside of my family, nor been subjected to a mind such this as I now experience.  She is incomprehensible to me, no desire, no want, no need, no shame or fear, no enthusiasm or confidence, no demand or vulnerability, no happiness, no serenity, no love. Pure logic.  She is T’Pau.

She questions me and I answer ‘I am Spock’, ‘I am four’, ‘I do not know’, ‘I do comprehend’, ‘my mother’, ‘human’, ‘I do’, ‘I am?’, ‘I do not comprehend’, ‘I do not know’, ‘I do not know’, ‘I do not know’, ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘he has not’, ‘NO’, ‘I do not comprehend’, ‘I do not know’, ‘I am?’, ‘I do not?’, ‘I will?’, ‘I try’, ‘I practice’, ‘I have not’, ‘I did’, ‘affirmative, I did’, ‘I try not to’, ‘it is difficult’, ‘she does?’, ‘I must not?’, ‘I do not understand, why?’, ‘illogical?’, ‘I do not comprehend’, ‘because she loves me’.

I am subjected to continuous interrogation for precisely 4 hours, 17 minutes and 12 seconds.  During that time I am rendered unconscious upon 3 occasions due the intensity of T’Pau’s kash-nohv.  Indeed, I experience that which would be described as significant discomfort throughout the process.  T’Pau finally leaves my mind, the tips of her fingers releasing the qui’lari at my temple and I collapse to the floor at her feet, exhausted.

As I stare at the pale stone floor, rendered incapable of any other act at this time, I hear her voice once more resonating throughout the chamber.  Its strength is equal to that present within my mind over the past 4 hours and I involuntarily flinch, my shoulders twitching in response to each word.  She informs me I am accepted, that I shall be taken to my pyllora.  She continues : My pyllora will teach me, be my guide in my studies.  My tantric arc has apparently begun. 

I do not fully comprehend the meaning in words, understanding only that I am to follow her.  She steps past me, the hem of her robe sweeping air and floor, her shoes grinding the small grains of stone dust that entropy has created since the chamber was last cleansed.  I rise, unsteady legged, hesitating before slowly turning to follow at her back.  Unhesitating in her passage to climb the steps leading from the chamber, she does not turn to observe me. 

Moving awkwardly, my young body suddenly weak unlike that I have ever experience, I pause upon the carved stone steps.  My chest and abdomen tighten and I am momentarily unable to breath.  My vision blurs causing me to blink as I look up to view T’Pau’s progress, concern pinching my brow that she disappear.  I am unaware of where she leads me at this time.  I take another step, my legs heavy, barely able to move in fact.

T’Pau’s form disappears at the top of the steps and I am left alone in the audience chamber, the vast vaulted ceiling arching silently above me.  I sink to my knees bracing my hands against the cool stone step ahead of me.  The sound of my blood begins a crescendo in my ears, my breath coming in short, ragged snatches.  I remain clinging to the steps as an urgency builds in my mind, as if a voice speaks to me from a great distance “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”

Locked within myself I am touched by a startling, yet brief, ghost of thought, that perhaps, I am remembering this, this moment? As swiftly as I experience it, barely acknowledging the presence of the possibility, it leaves me.  I return to staring at the sharp edge of the stone step in front of me that now fills my vision.  And again it comes, the voice, as if some other is present in the chamber “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”

I still my breath, my body, turning my head slowly to look behind me.  I observe no other, yet every sense, nerve, informs me otherwise.  My eyes travel the vacant chamber curves around me and overhead; my breath drawing pensive shallows as I am gripped by overwhelming readiness.  A sharp, searing sound swiftly draws my eyes down to the centre floor to observe a hairline crack slice and traverse through the seamless expanse until it reaches the foot of the steps upon which I rest.  Dust drifts down from the vault above into my line of vision.

I fill with primitive responses, the little hair upon my young body alive at is roots, my heart quickening, muscles wrapping to the bone. Mesmerised, dark eyes follow the passage of the breach as another sound heralds an advancement, the thin line widening through the floor of the chamber, climbing finally over the first step not but three below where I sit. My breath catches in my throat.  I hear my voice : “This is not ….” .how I remember?…  

I explode into movement, scrambling up the steps, my feet catching over themselves.  I am running.

.................

‘Curious’ is the thought I acknowledge suddenly, my running pace slowing in response to my mind.  I halt, listening intently to the silence around me, observing the empty cloistered avenue ahead of me.  I possess a vague memory prior to this moment, of T’Pau, of a need to follow her.  And yet, I was running?  Bemused I turn, seeking the origin of my passage, searching for a purpose to my flight.  I find none.

An impulse in me sets my feet in motion and I begin to advance once more at a walking pace, the vault of the cloister supports above me capturing the sound of my small feet.  I proceed with a strange familiarity of action and yet the purpose to it eludes me.  As I draw near to the end of the anonymous cloister I hear voices, indistinct, murmuring in low conversation; movement, as if there are many bodies.  My steps falter once more as hesitancy passes through me.

Moving slowly I edge close to the wall, placing my face upon to the cool stone before approaching the final cloister buttress, my body flattened to the stone.  I peer cautiously around the edge of the upright: people, a filled domed avenue lit by Vulcan sunlight, several Priests of Gol, their robes a pale counterpoint to the sombre minimalism worn by others.  My eyes traverse the strangers seeking familiarity and find none.

I stand in concealed observation of the throng, listening to fragments of conversation accompanied by thousands of footsteps until a decision finds me.  I step out, no doubt a pensive expression upon my face reflecting my inner uncertainty.  Save for the occasional glance downwards to my small face I am wholly ignored, my presence passing without question, despite my youth and solitude. 

The resolution arisen in my mind to seek a way to return home compels me to move again. Assessing the general movement of the unfamiliar crowd, I join it, skirting the edge of the flow.  It is not long however before I find myself inadvertently amidst tall, lean frames, my sense of direction lost to me.  Looking up I attempt to follow the vault of the ceiling buttress back to the edge of the throng, yet I fight a tide of movement stronger than my own.

I am in an ever shifting labyrinth of dark robed Vulcans, closed in on every side, carried in the ebb of fragmented conversation and footsteps toward an unknown destination.  I admit to myself that I have made an error.  I am lost.  I do not know what to do.  I stand still as a kus-vahk chimes deeply three times heralding some unforeseen commencement, or perhaps conclusion to proceedings.  In response, the crowd about me shifts with purpose, brushing past me, closing in around me.

My only need at this point is to escape, the only directive in my mind, to be free. Static or passive until now, I turn against the collective flow, pushing and squeezing myself between dark robes.  Every time I reach out my hands all I can see ahead of me is yet another obstacle, another anonymous Vulcan in my way.  I am becoming frantic, scrabbling through swathes of twilled silk and legs leaving gasps of subdued surprise and objections in my wake.

The kus-vahk intones three more times.  The crowd increases in density.  I am pushed, stopped.  I cry out.  I force my hands ahead of me, my small body finally dropping to the floor to crawl upon hands and knees.  As I snatch my fingers back from the edges of booted feet my desperation increases, a whimper of un-Vulcan broken composure escaping me accompanied by hot stinging tears that crest and fall.  I curl into ball, my hands covering my head, shoulders pulling elbows tightly into my body muffling the sound of my pitiful frustration.

The kus-vahk rings out, one, final, deep tone.  I hear it flood throughout the high vaulted ceiling above me mingling with the whisper of passing bodies around me.  It is as though all combine to produce one, single hushed expression “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” ….  that pulls against me, against my body, my mind, my katra, my whole.  I am terrified.

It is then as if a breath is taken and I can breath once more.  I sense a space around me, movement behind me instead of all about me.  I am no longer touched by any thing, a stillness descending upon me, releasing me.  I uncurl slowly, lifting my head and opening my eyes to the Vulcan sunlight pouring through the glass windows at the far end of the avenue.  The avenue is empty around me.

Turning I see the crowd that had previously held me retreating, a wall of blank backed Vulcans conducting conversation.  Sat alone on the floor I am finally granted perspective, the dome of the avenue above me reaching back to distant open doors that reach to the ceiling and through which the crowd filters quietly.  I look down at the small shadow my body makes upon the floor, my heart slowing to a steady pace in my side. 

A total of three individuals within the final ranks of the gathering cast a cursory glance in my direction.  I meet their impassive gaze with one practiced and trust is equal to their own.  I continue to sit upon the floor in silent regard of the diminishing flow, feeling the comforting heat of sunlight upon my back.  It is only when almost all of the throng have emptied from the avenue, that I acknowledge a vague recollection of this event, that I sense something… different; curious.

I experience a singularly perplexing state.  It is though I observe myself in the act of observing myself in this moment.  The event, all that has occurred is familiar to me, yet evolving simultaneously as it occurs, as I observe it, as I participate.  Transfixed, awaiting a resolution that I know shall arrive yet uncertain of its actual zenith, I attempt to examine the perplexing notion – I am remembering – before it is snatched away from me.  Replacing it, is a difference.  There is another presence.

As I sit with my back to the Vulcan suns a whisper drifts to me from the fragments of the crowd I now observe at the far end of the avenue “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”  It is then that acknowledge I have heard this many times before.  I remember.   I remember hearing it whilst sat with my mother at breakfast.  I remember it in the chamber, with T’Pau.  My brows raise reflecting a mild yet brief surprise. And then another whisper reaches my ears.  From behind me. “Spock…”

Dragging my gaze from the remainders of the crowd I turn my head, yet I sense, I should not.  My name, drifts to me once more and I finally tear my eyes away from all but thirty left of the crowd, turning, looking over my shoulder into the blinding sunlight that streams through the vaulted window at the opposite end of the avenue.  My inner eyelids close in response and I raise my hand to my eyes, shielding the light so that I may see once more.  There is a figure, standing, silhouetted against the backdrop of two Vulcan suns.

.............

‘Curious’ is the thought that drifts to the surface of my mind.  I remain sat upon the stone floor in silent regard of my present circumstances, bathed in the sepia light of Vulcan’s suns flooding through the vast window at the end of the avenue.  Behind me, I can hear the remnants of the crowd as they finally disappear; a strange impulse passing through me that I should follow them lacks the strength to move me. 

Murmuring below my consciousness is a sense that this experience is the present, now, and yet also, in part, memory.  Briefly I question whether I fully comprehend what is occurring before a whisper of voice drifts into my awareness “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” distracting me, my thoughts dispersing.  I am left with my only focus, the distant figure that stands alone near the vast window at the far end of the avenue.

Rising to my feet, my hand once more above my eyes shielding against the intensity of the light, I attempt to ascertain the identity of the figure.  I cannot.  The distance is such that in addition to the intensity of the light I am unable even to discern its sex.  I speak, my voice sounding small and fragile, its quality of doubt lost in the vastness of the avenue about me. “Greetings.  Are we acquainted?”

The figure does not move, and neither do I.  Time itself, stands still. In preparation to repeat my query I draw in another breath and am all but ready to speak; however, perhaps as a result of another impulse, I do not.  I slowly release the remaining breath caught in my chest, every fibre of my small body responding to the acuity of this moment with a rising sense of vulnerability.

Deep within me I am aware there is a knowledge, yet it remains outside of the boundaries of my understanding.  Its meaning is elusive and I receive only a vague suggestion that I should move, turn, follow the diminished crowd and leave this empty avenue.  My attention is otherwise captured by the presence of the distant figure; it holds me, preventing, in fact, any action.

As if the Vulcan stone itself under my feet speaks, I hear the whisper once more “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”  In counterpoint, the distant figure stands silent, incomprehensible.  Peering out from under the hand I hold against the glare of the suns, I am transfixed by the figure as equally as my instincts are drawn by the whisper that now fills the space of the avenue around me.  Within, a stifled realisation surfaces that I stand caught between two vying intentions that are distinctly not my own.

A stillness overcomes me like no other.  A threshold of realisation breaches within me, a shift occurring in my perception.  I remember T’Pau.  I remember following her, meeting my pyllora.  I remember my training, my tantric arc, I remember completing it.  I remember my father, my .. yes … the council, my refusal of invitation to the Vulcan Science Academy.  I chose to leave Vulcan in fact and join StarFleet.  Jim.  My eyes widen as I look down at my small frame.  I am no more than four years old.  How can this be?

“Hhss..Ow! Ngh….” Stifling my cry, I suck a breath between my teeth against the pain that suddenly sears my left hand, my right instinctively covering it and pulling it to my chest.  Uncovering the back of my left hand slowly I look down, a rising pace to the pulse in my hybrid system at the sight of a fresh, bleeding bite mark deep within the flesh.  Incomprehension overtakes my mind.  “What is…?” My query is spoken to the silence of the avenue.  “I do not understand.” 

Looking around me I search the emptiness of the vaulted ceiling above me until my eyes settle upon an internal horizon, my attention turning to the present.  A quietus grows.  Logic.  Am I remembering?  Is this now?  Is this the present?  Paradox?  Is this a construct or memory?.  I am Spock.  The mind can be controlled.  Thought is reality.  I am.  This is not merely a memory, but a…

My eyes travel slowly to the distant figure.  The intensity of the light is near blinding and yet I continue to attempt to focus, my injured hand throbbing but forgotten for a brief moment as I shield my eyes once more.  I observe the form as it wavers, the edges of it indistinct, perhaps as a result of the strength of the light; and yet?  My eyes are drawn to the figure’s base and the apparent solid shadow cast upon the floor.  The shadow makes a subtle movement.  

Transfixed I observe the unmoving figure, watching, as its shadow begins to creep across the floor.  It moves, dark, unfathomable, lengthening, accelerating towards me as if the Vulcan suns set at speed behind; a thin sliver of black intention, sharp, pointing, seeking, traversing down the avenue to where I now stand, my mouth open holding an expectant breath upon the threshold of my lips. 

“Spock….” As the sound of my name issues from the location of the figure, my small hybrid body responds with an instinctive intensity, every nerve energised, sensation crawling upwards through my legs into my spine.  Finally, my lungs respond, sharply sucking in a breath, my shoulders rising in sudden accompaniment.  Unrelenting, the shadow continues its slithering approach across the floor toward me at speed.  The figure, paradoxically, is stationary.

A tremor runs through me pulling my shoulders down again, pulling my lips into a line and holding me rigid.  Looking down I follow the knife point of the shadow as it finally lengthens, inexorably reaching forward across the floor toward my feet.  Perhaps in response to its proximity the whisper comes again as if the very air around me takes form and speaks “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” ..and my body at last is moved by the overwhelming intention and strength of those words. 

I take an awkward, hesitant step back followed by another, my eyes fixed upon the knife point of the shadow tip now chasing my small feet.  The whisper repeats, over and over and all about me, as if urging me to increase the speed of my retreat.  I respond.  The shadow keeps pace.  I stumble, my injured hand held against my chest an additional encumbrance to my stability.  I fall, landing heavily upon my rear.

The shadow is suddenly all but upon me.  I cry out “.. ngh!!..” Scrabbling frantically, I shift my feet out of its reach, legs flailing, high pitched squeaks from my shoes echoing throughout the vaulted avenue.  Seizing upon my vulnerability the shadow dives left and right as if attempting to grasp one of my feet as the whisper, rises to a crescendo all about me becoming chorus of voices.  I scream.

Dragging myself across the floor, my injured hand leaving smudges of green oxidised blood upon the pale stone, I finally find purchase scrambling to my feet.  A single image sears itself into my mind, the figure standing at the far end of the avuenue silhouetted against the backdrop of the Vulcan suns.  Tearing my eyes from the shadow, I flee, driven by the pure instinct of preservation that now floods my hybrid system.  I do not look back.

Ahead, where the crowd had once moved, the doors at the opposite end of the avenue begin to close.  Urgency within drives me forward, my breath coming in short, anxious filled gasps as my ears fill with the chorus “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” .. my short ungainly legs trembling with exertion threatening to fail me.  I cry out, indistinct yet appealing as if this alone can hold the doors open for me.

"Spock…” I hear my name.  I hear laughter.  I run.  I cry.  “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” I reach the doors, squeezing through the tight gap of the heavy wood as it threatens to shut upon me.  My head turns, as if in need; a single glance.  The avenue. The shadow.  The figure.  The doors close.

.................

‘Curious’ is the silent word at the extremity of my mind. Breathing hard in the darkness that surrounds me, my back against the iron wood door that has shut fast against the avenue beyond, I slip to the floor.  My legs shake with the unaccustomed exertions I have subjected them to; unable to support me now they flop against the floor in front of me.  In my lap I cradle my wounded hand, its throb reminding me in the darkness of a question I have yet to answer.  What is happening?

Steadily my acute vision begins to realise outlines around me; an ebb of the darkness, perhaps?  In the receding gloom I begin to see a suggestion of a roof above me, arching filigree of carved Vulcan rock, customary ventilation apertures lining the edges of the vaulted shafts open to the outside air.  My eyes follow shapes emerging from the shadows, definitions of an open floored assembly chamber appearing before me as pitch black continues to fade to a grey half light.

The frantic activity of my pulse responds to the stuttering of my breath as I react to the scene revealing itself.  I swallow, my breath ragged, my eyes blinking and darting left and right as I absorb the tableau before me.  Vulcans.  I estimate at least 200 or possibly more, in fact. They appear static and perhaps as a result of the grey light, without life.  They are standing, some facing each other as if engaged in some silent exchange; others solitary.  The chamber is filled with them.  Even the air does not move.

My mind fills with conflict, half remembered experiences, questionable truths.  My uncertainty increases with each rapid beat of my heart in my side, thoughts tumbling and turning in on themselves, images blending as events merge; my youth, a life.  Time and again I meet a single image: the bridge of the Enterprise, the cracking of the hull under duress of gravitational stress, the detonation of the core, the blinding light of the explosion that accompanied it.  And then, nothing more, as if I cannot see past that point. 

I cannot remember.  In this acknowledgement alone, an uneasiness inside me forms to an insistence.  It pulses, carried in my blood stream along the veins of my hybrid system as if I am an embodiment of an unanswered question.  My hand throbs with pain.  I look down to examine the wound, lifting my right hand to uncover broken flesh.  A bite mark.  Speculation stabs my mind.  Though all about me is faded and grey, the bright green of my oxidised blood sings out. 

A glimmer of something under the edge of my sleeve next to the wound captures my attention.  Tentatively my fingers reach to the edge of my tunic, pulling back the fine silk cloth to revel a strange glimmering band wrapped about my wrist.  Again, I sense speculation stab at my mind, yet the answer eludes me.  My small fingers scrabble at the indeterminate edges of this curious thing that has appeared secured upon me.  I am able to see it, it appears whole but lacks discernable form.  I cannot remove it, my fingers appearing to slip through it as if it were incorporeal.

My attention turns once more to the wound upon my hand.  An instinct asks : do I remember being wounded in this manner?  I interrogate myself, searching with intent every memory I possess or can possibly recall.  I examine every conflict I engaged in during my tantric arc with those fellow students who would confront me, corner me, goad me to some form of expression of emotional compromise.  I recall my ke-ya-yatar training, the several severe wounds I received.  Throughout all I can remember, the instance of a bite upon my hand is not in my memory.  It is only until now, moments before in the avenue beyond when it first appeared. 

Meaning sits upon the edge of my understanding.  I sense it.  Conflict arises within me once more.  I know that I do not remember this very instance, here, now.  No memory exists of this, this place without life, this contradiction.  My eyes flick their attention from my hand to the unmoving bodies standing before me.  I clearly remember this assembly chamber, from my youth and later; upon many occasions I accompanied my father in his ambassadorial capacities. 

At the thought of my father I look around searching the unmoving silence of the chamber.  I cannot see him and yet dare not move to go in search of him.  Everywhere my eyes settle, dead, impassive expressions upon the faces of unknown Vulcans is all that I see.  Their pallor is lifeless, a grey so un-Vulcan I am reminded of the first time I witnessed storm clouds upon Earth.  Then, as now, I remain in silent observation, waiting, an expectancy to my entire body.  Unlike clouds however, these Vulcans that surround me, do not move.

A deafening, reverberating impact against the doors at my back throws me forward.  Shocked into movement I scramble across the floor and up onto my feet.  My lulled pulse responds once more, leaping in my veins, the weariness of my small body momentarily forgotten as primitive preservation drives me to move.  My breath coming in short, panicked gasps, I thread my way swiftly amongst the static bodies that fill the chamber.  I pause, hiding in fact amidst three closely gathered Vulcans in silent association.  I listen.

There is silence.  Looking up I see the close quartered Vulcans, the underside of their faces towering above my small frame offering no response to my intrusion among them.  Peering through the gap between them my eyes settle upon the large iron wood doors.  They remain closed, though I am aware no locking mechanism secures them.  My heart beats, measuring the passing moments, my breath keeping a steady, shallow pace beside it.  I hear nothing.  I sense a frown crease my brow. 

A second impact against the doors echoes through the chamber sending a jolt of shock through my small hybrid system.  A tearing noise begins as if something beyond claws across the timbers.  Another impact, and then another.  Dust drifts from the huge hinge pinions driven into the Vulcan stone at the edge of the doors.  Silence fills the chamber.  Quivering with anticipation, my eyes fixed to massive doors I slowly uncover my ears with my hands.  Nothing has moved, no reaction has been given by the silent, statuesque Vulcans that surround me. 

A small frown graces my brow once more as I wait in the silence.  The chamber begins to fill with the low sound of grinding timber and although I do not comprehend the possibility of what I see, I am transfixed as the doors begin to bow and bend inwards.  It is inconceivable they do this.  I stand, captured by my own amazement at this sight.  Solid iron wood curves, yields, arches inward as if the very matter has transformed, becoming pliable.  I hesitate no longer.  Slipping from my concealment I take hastening breathless steps through the stationary figures, moving further towards the far end of the assembly chamber.   

The chamber fills with the sound of splintering timber.  The stone floor under my feet transmits vibrations through me as stone dust drifts from the vault overhead covering me in a fine layer of grey.  The rending sound of cracking masonry draws my eyes to the ceiling just as large fissures split through the arches.  The screaming of protesting timber transforms into ear piercing snapping as the doors finally yield revealing slivers of pale exposed wood.

Running, I reach the far end of the chamber, frantically searching for an exit, gasping and choking as stone dust fills my mouth and lungs; I can taste it.  Rending timber forces me to turn and watch, helpless, my back against shuddering stone walls.  Pieces of the ceiling drop silently before exploding on the floor and still, the Vulcans, they do not move.  My cry, I am certain, is not heard.  Suddenly, clarity chills me, realisation steals my breath, logic becomes two thoughts in my mind.  The first : I cannot get out.  The second : Aesculapius.

..............


‘Curious’; the single thought that, until now, has been my constant companion, is no more.  I am alone.  There is silence in my mind; nothing more.  Questions, are no longer relevant.  Speculation, is no longer applicable. Probabilities, are rendered obsolete.  Possibilities, cease to exist.  Cogitation, is no longer required.  Summation, evidences itself.  Logic, presents the inevitable; the unequivocable, the unemotional, the unavoidable, the undeniable.  I remember.   I remember, everything. 

Revelation, is complete.  Comprehension, is whole.  Understanding, is achieved.  Realisation, has evolved.  Clarity, is reached.  Truth, is presented.  Logic provides the answer… this is my mind.  All that I experience, I create.  All that I sense, I construct.  All that I see, I manifest.  All that is now, is now.  All that exists is in the mind.  The mind can be controlled.  And yet, here, in my mind, I am not alone.  I sense, others; thousands Vulcan minds, calling “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” and an opposing, single, separate hostile intention “SPOCK!”

I stand, immovable, observing the representation of the audience chamber disintegrating about me.  The centre of the floor lifts, splitting, erupting into thousands of separate pieces, the fine polished surface reduced to fragmented rubble.  The walls, riddled with cracks explode inwards, collapsing, shards of masonry groaning and falling, smashing to dust upon the floor below.  The vault of the chamber above, no longer supported, falls.  The doors splinter sending spikes of timber ricocheting from surfaces.

The perceived noise of destruction is deafening.  Dust fills the air.  The Vulcans, standing in silence, unmoving, are swallowed by the devastation, vanishing from view.  Stone screams in protest as it is rendered to oblivion.  The crescendo of progressive obliteration that assaults my ears blends with the sound of a triumphant laugh.  It fills the space; a familiar maniacal quality with an apparent ability to crawl into the spaces of the broken stone about me, searching, needing, wanting.

A manifested ceiling arch directly above me collapses.  The wall at my back wavers, threatening to crush me.  Scrambling over the piles of debris on my hands and knees I barely avoid being buried; a maelstrom of air sucking past me, a shock wave from the impact buffeting my small body and pressurising my ear drums as pieces of stone strike my back.  Ducking my head under my hands I shield myself, crouched in a narrow gap between a curved buttress and crushed, unidentifiable Vulcan torso. 

Laughter.  Destruction.  These are the sounds I hear.  The qualities and tenor of both cause the ground underneath me to shift and vibrate, the broken stone around me splintering as if torn apart by invisible fingers.  Scrabbling amongst the disintegrating masonry I crawl on my hands and knees as it dissolves around me.  Tumbles of stone slowly reduce to piles of dust under the tips of my fingers, the intention of the unceasing laughter transmitting from every broken surface I touch, travelling through my nerves, sending a reactive tremor though my whole body.  

A simulation of grit fills my eyes and my mouth.  Dust clogs my lungs.  Filth saturates my torn clothing, clinging to the apparent oxidised blood of minor wounds upon my face, shoulders and knees.  A breath then touches my face sending eddies the clouds of dust around me and freezing my crouched movements.  It comes again, driven with more force as if itself possess its own intention, driving against the heaps of dust that are now all that remain of the assembly chamber.  Again it comes, increasing with a strength of a desert storm. Tightening my eyes, I bow my head pulling my nose and mouth into the shelter of my clothing. 

Buffeted, my clothing snapping against my young frame, I endure the force of a howling wind about me.  Fine grains of stone dust sting my exposed flesh, burning against the surface of my skin; the sheer overload of sensations on my nervous system reducing me to a mental blindness so complete, that I do not at first consciously register any sound, until I detect voices, speaking.  Thinking at first it is the wind, it is only when it does not cease I recognise it, acknowledge its presence in my mind and am able to separate it from the sound of the raging air about me.  In turn, I remember the first time I heard the words; the turbolift, aboard the Enterprise.  “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….” .

Uncurling from my protective crouch upon the ground, I rise to my feet, my eyes squinting against the force of the wind in my face, my inner eyelids closed against the sting of sand grains, the assembly hall reduced, vanished into a shifting entropy.  Above me a familiar sky reels, Vulcan suns rising and setting at speed, again and again, shadows lengthening and shortening, darkness turning to light, turning to darkness.  The Vulcan desert expanse as far as I can see is laid before me, shifting sands and outcrops of rock in the distance. 

Wind pulls at my clothing, Vulcan minds call to me  “….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….”  mixing with a familiar sound of laughter; the laughter I know to be that of Aesculapius.  I turn, the wind moving with me as if I am the centre of its maelstrom; as if I am the source from which it stems and the well into which it pours.  My shadow moves quickly around my feet as the suns continue to speed from horizon to horizon; I, in counterpoint, turning slowly, moving my body and attention to finally fix upon that which I seek.  Him.

We face each other across a mental representation of an empty expanse of Vulcan desert.  He, a mockery of my adult self in every detail, is dressed in a familiar blue StarFleet uniform.  His lips appear pulled tight against bared teeth in a semblance of that which I speculate to be an expression of his triumph in this moment.  His shoulders shake visibly though not, I believe, from any physical effort but as a result of the barely contained laughter that issues from him.  It is dissolved by the wind.  Slowly, in a gesture I am wholly familiar with, he raises his hand and points his finger directly at me. 

“I am Spock.”  It is my voice, yet it issues from his mouth.  I shake my young head indicating a negative.  He grins, raising fine arched eyebrows and nods, indicating the opposing affirmative. “Oh yes I am,” his voice deep, yet rising as he repeats.  “Oh yes I AM! YES I AM! I.  AM.  SPOCK!” 

“….akhlami…..ish-veh …. Kah-if-farr….

It is inevitable.

It is logical.

I surrender.

Death, is only the beginning.

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To be continued.......?