A sharp gust of wind blowing into the crevice woke her. It stirred the pile of leaves where she was lying, and she sat up with a jerk. "What... Ow!" A rock was digging into her hip, and she was sore all over. She rubbed her eyes. "It's freezing!"
Her companion was also awake, and emerging from his own cocoon of leaves. "Dr. Chapel, it is not freezing. I estimate that the temperature is approximately 8 degrees Celsius."
"Close enough to freezing!" She shivered, and noticed how stiffly he was moving. "Are you all right?" An inane question, she thought. Neither of them were all right. "If the cold is getting to me..."
"I am functional. My species tolerates cold less well than yours, but we have a superior ability to ignore bodily discomfort."
She frowned at him. Presumably that was his way of telling her to stop complaining. Damn Vulcan superiority. Medical concern reasserted itself. "Let's get moving. We're stiff enough already, and there's certainly no reason to stay here." She brushed away the leaves and crawled to the front of the crevice. It was the only shelter they had been able to find the night before, and it was inadequate; just a crack between the rocks with no roof. They were lucky it hadn't rained. Or snowed.
They both stretched carefully, unkinking cramped muscles, and surveyed the scene before them. They were at the base of a rocky outcropping near the bottom of a deep valley. Mountains rose on either side and a wide river flowed through the bottom. From the signs, winter was approaching. Most of the vegetation had a bluish cast, but some branches were bare, and there were red and green and brown leaves on the ground beneath them. The sky was blue, but not earth-blue. It was very pale, and the sun seemed small and cold. The landscape looked bleak and unforgiving in the morning light. When Christine had first seen it, three days ago, she had thought it was beautiful, like an alien Switzerland. But that had been when it seemed to be an improvement over their previous situation. Now she wasn't so sure. She counted mentally. Eight days ago she had been on Wrigley's...
* * *
Wrigley's Pleasure Planet. An entire society devoted to hedonism. Actually, that popular impression was incorrect. The natives of Wrigley's were quite uninterested in the exotic diversions which they offered to others. Their passion was not food, entertainment, liquor, drugs, sex, or shopping. Their passion was profits, and they had grown rich catering to every whim and weakness of the other inhabitants of the galaxy. Wrigley's was a neutral planet, open to all who had money, and played host at one time to most of the races of the Federation, Klingons, Gorn, Orions and many others. Only the Romulans disdained it as decadent. Starfleet was uneasy about Wrigley's, but they did not go so far as to forbid it as a shore leave destination. It was just too popular, especially for deep space crews with cabin fever.
The Enterprise had just come off of six months of star-mapping and cataloguing. Boredom and routine can sap morale as badly as tension can. When the time for shore leave finally arrived, James Kirk didn't have to take a poll to find out what his crew wanted. The ship headed for Wrigley's at warp six. Some crew members would transfer to starliners for brief trips to their homes, but most could find everything they wanted on Wrigley's. The exception, of course, was Spock. Spock disapproved thoroughly of Wrigley's, but the rest of the crew would have disapproved even more of Spock's idea of a good shore leave.
* * *
Christine and Uhura wandered slowly through the columned arcades and stone alleys of the main shopping district of Wrigley City. Flowers dripped off balconies and climbed up pillars. Fountains splashed. The city was climate controlled into an eternal June. Other cities and areas were maintained in other climatic conditions, but this was the favorite of most humans.
"Where once it never rained 'til after sundown," said Uhura dreamily, sitting on a bench.
"An old song. Twentieth century, I think. About a kind of paradise."
The two women were happily exhausted, burdened with parcels. "I must have spent a month's pay today," said Christine unrepentantly.
"Me too. And I don't regret a credit of it."
"Dinner will probably cost us each another month's pay. I hope it's worth it."
"Everyone says the place is fantastic. I made the reservations via sub-space two weeks ago, as soon as I knew we were headed here. I was lucky to get them."
"What are you going to wear?"
"The restaurant is formal. Something I bought today, but I haven't decided what. You're going to wear the long blue silk..."
"You are so right. I haven't owned a dress that beautiful in years. It's totally impractical, and I love it."
"Isn't vacation great?"
They sat in silence for a while, then took off their shoes and rubbed their feet. "I really needed this," Christine said. "I actually caught myself wishing for a medical emergency. Anything that wasn't a sore throat or hemorrhoids."
"Mm. Even the captain was getting bored and jittery. Everyone was, except Spock and a few fanatics in the astrophysics department."
Another silence. "All right, Uhura. Don't look at me out of the corner of your eye. I'm not going to explode or shrivel up just because you mentioned Spock's name. I don't do that any more."
"Sorry. I bet you'd like him to see you in that dress, though."
"Unfortunately for him, he won't get the chance. I'll just have to settle for the admiration of the multitudes."
"We should get back to the ship. We'll just have time to shower and change."
"I'm not going back." Uhura looked at her in surprise. "I've got a hotel room."
Uhura grinned. "Oh? Met someone? Planning to meet someone?"
"No. I just need to get off the ship entirely for a while. Right now I wish I had three years of leave instead of three weeks, but I know that in three weeks I'll want to get back to work. Why don't you change in my room? There's no need for you to beam up."
"Thanks Chris, but the shoes I want to wear are in my closet. I'll meet you at the restaurant."
Christine consulted her map of the city and headed for the hotel. It was an extravagance, but she could afford it. Starfleet didn't pay her that well, but there wasn't much to spend money on in space. It was fun to be self-indulgent on leave. It didn't take her long to change, and she took a moment to admire her dress in the mirror. The silky material felt as good as it looked.
She decided to walk to the restaurant. The temperature here never went below 18 degrees, even at night. And though some parts of Wrigley's were rough, this was the most fashionable area. Anyway, even a Starfleet doctor had enough self-defense training to give the average mugger a nasty surprise. The streets weren't as crowded as they had been during the day. At this rate, she would be there five minutes early. It was her last conscious thought for many hours.
* * *
Spock found most of the pleasures offered on Wrigley's singularly unappealing. In the course of a short walk he had seen every variety of useless merchandise the sector had to offer. He had two tasks to perform down here. When they were completed he would gladly return to the ship for the remainder of this unnecessary leave. He shook his head severely at a purveyor of recreational drugs and wondered, not for the first time, why humans found life so unpleasant that they needed to constantly resort to stimulants and depressants. Reaching his first destination, he picked up the tape which he had asked his mother to send on from Vulcan. It contained the first draft of a new work on field density phenomena by one of his former professors at the Vulcan Science Academy. He would enjoy reading and commenting on it.
Dusk was falling and the lights were coming on. His second errand was to leave his harp for repair. Spock had misgivings about the quality of the craftsmen in this society, but this one came well recommended, and he had little choice. What had begun as a hairline crack had ended by nearly splitting the sounding board. As matters stood it was unplayable, and he missed its calming and focussing effect on his mental processes. He firmly averted his eyes from the naked young women sensuously displayed in one brightly lit window. Their state of undress was undignified, of course, but even worse was the emptiness of their faces. This planet was truly an unpleasant place. He thought again about his harp. He would have preferred to find a Vulcan to repair it, but there were none. Of course not, on this world. And after all, his instrument was simply a well-made modern one, not an heirloom museum piece like his father's. He turned into the alley where the repair shop was located, and reached out to press the door release. He never completed the gesture.
* * *
Uhura sipped her glass of wine. So far the restaurant was living up to its billing. The wine and a tray of tidbits had appeared almost as soon as she sat down. The waiter had suggested that if she was interested in anything not on the menu, they would try to provide it. The dining room was circular, with arches open to the outside all around, located at the top of a graceful stone tower overlooking the city. Uhura felt distinctly mellow and relaxed, so relaxed that she didn't even mind that Christine was forty-five minutes late. But as the forty-five minutes stretched on toward an hour, she began to get irritated. Really, she had been on time. This was very rude of Chris. At that thought, she stopped. Chris wasn't rude. Or unpunctual, certainly not to this extent. Maybe something was wrong. Oh, come on, she chided herself. Wrigley City isn't dangerous, and Chris is a big girl. She can take care of herself. Maybe she got lost. Nevertheless, after another five minutes, she decided to call the hotel. They confirmed that Dr. Chapel had checked in, but was not in her room now. Uhura frowned, and then decided to go ahead and order dinner. It would be a shame to waste the reservation.
Wrigley's Space Control processed an average of 126 ships in and out of orbit every hour. In the space of five minutes on this particular night they gave departure clearances to a Rigellian luxury liner, a Klingon scout ship, a Denebian freighter, three private yachts, and a merchant ship bearing the green and black markings of the Orion Trader's Guild. Once out of orbit, Wrigley's no longer tracked their flight paths. One by one they winked into warp speed and were gone.
* * *
Christine was aware of sounds first, but they made no sense. People were talking, but her brain refused to process the words. Touch came next. The surface she was lying on was hard and cold, and vibrating gently. More sounds of talking. She tried to concentrate. "...been here a month or so."
Been where, Christine wondered. Her head ached, and she felt sick to her stomach. She opened her eyes, saw a forest of legs, and shut them again. She tried hard to think. She was Christine Chapel, M.D., a lieutenant commander in Starfleet. Good, at least she knew her own identity. Now if she didn't know where she was, did she remember where she had been? On the Enterprise? No...? No. Shore leave. On Wrigley's. On her way to dinner... She tried opening her eyes again, and clenched her teeth to keep from retching. What in god's name was wrong with her? Headache, nausea, disorientation. She attempted to move an arm. It didn't work. Phaser stun, said the more analytical part of her mind. Just wearing off.
She drifted back into unconsciousness for a few minutes. When she woke again she found that her muscles were once more connected to her brain. She still felt terrible. She had only been phaser-stunned once before, in a training exercise at the Academy, and it was as bad as she remembered. Sitting up, she swallowed hastily and hoped that she wouldn't vomit all over the floor.
She tried to focus on her surroundings, both as a tactical necessity and to take her mind off her physical condition. Something already told her that she hadn't been the victim of an ordinary robbery attempt. She was sitting on the floor in the corner of a large, low-ceilinged room which was claustrophobically crowded with other humanoids. From her perspective they were a confusing mass, but she didn't feel quite capable of standing yet. As far as she could see, the room was completely featureless, but she supposed that it must have a door somewhere. There was no furniture, and the walls and floor seemed to be solid gray plastisteel. She rapped with her knuckles. Yes. There was definitely a faint vibration coming to her through the floor. It spoke of life support systems, engines, generators. It was familiar. She was on a ship.
* * *
Disr'ta'bilt ha Uldur had not become a master slaver and a rich man by being stupid, and he was not tolerant of stupidity in his subordinates. It angered him almost as much as losing money. Right now, his unfortunate chief guard was the target of his fury.
"But it was safe!" the man protested. "We were still a few under quota, and Wrigley's was our last stop. They looked strong and healthy..."
"Idiot! It was a supply stop! You call this safe!" He looked at some papers on his desk, and waved them furiously under the guard's nose. "There are rules to this profession. I thought I had made them clear to you. Primitives are fair game, and we can hit outposts and colonies if we're careful. But on developed planets it's hands off! If we start taking people who will be missed, we'll be out of business. And you bring me - you couldn't even be content with Wrigley's natives, that would be bad enough. No, you have to grab Starfleet officers, and not even tell me until we're six hours out of orbit. Now just what do you expect me to do with them?"
"But the woman wasn't in uniform," the guard protested. "The other one... It was dark; I couldn't see..."
"Get out! I'll deal with you after I decide what to do with them. And I can promise that you won't like it very much."
* * *
Christine decided to stand up. The nausea had subsided. So far, no one had paid any attention to her. She vaguely remembered hearing a scrap of English while she was coming to, but now she couldn't hear any language she understood. All the beings in the room were humanoid, and most seemed to be human, if not earth-human. They looked apathetic or frightened, certainly not threatening. As she stood, she glanced down at herself. There was a long black streak down the front of her dress, and a jagged tear in the skirt. "Damn!" she said, and then sighed. She had worse things to worry about than her ruined dress.
She looked around the room, and her attention was caught by a worried group about ten meters away, crouched around someone on the floor. She picked her way over to them. There was a woman lying there, her head pillowed on a jacket, shivering intermittently. Christine edged her way into the group. "Does anyone here speak English?" she asked. They all looked at her blankly, and she shook her head in frustration. But when she began to examine the woman gently, no one objected. "She's burning up. Who's in charge around here?" she demanded, not really expecting an answer. She probed the woman's lymph nodes, and she winced.
"Dr. Chapel?" said a deep voice above her.
She covered the woman again, and stood up. That voice was unmistakable. "Mr. Spock!"
An eyebrow lifted. "I was unaware of your presence here."
"So was I until a little while ago. I was out cold. Where are we?"
"As far as I have been able to ascertain, we are on board an Orion slave ship."
"But that's absurd." She knelt again to check the woman's pulse, and he knelt beside her. "Orions wouldn't raid Wrigley's. Or take Starfleet people. Is there anyone else here from the Enterprise..." Her voice died away as the hum of a transporter beam came to her ears.
The men who materialized a short distance away were clearly Orions, with black hair, dark green skin, lithe bodies - and phasers held ready. One of them, apparently the most important from the amount of gold jewelry he was wearing, said, "Where are they?" He glared at another man, who stepped forward and gestured at Christine and Spock with his phaser.
"You two. Over here."
They rose slowly, seeing no option, but Christine said, "This woman is sick. She needs medical attention. I'm a..."
"I said shut up."
The rest of the prisoners were drawing back, moving as far away from the phasers as possible. He herded Christine and Spock over to the gold-bedecked Orion, who gave them a venomous look. When he spoke, however, it seemed that his anger was directed mainly at the guard. "Of all the imbeciles I have ever had in my crew, you are the worst. Anyone with the intelligence of a slime devil would know better than to bring me a Vulcan in Starfleet uniform. Give me your phaser." The man hesitated. "I said give it to me!" He complied. The head Orion smiled. "Very good. Now go over there." The man stood his ground. The other gave a disgusted sigh and fired. The guard disintegrated with a scream. The Orion calmly said, "Energize," to the air.
The sense of solidifying in a transporter room didn't last long enough for Christine to be sure it existed. When she could orient herself again, she was in another featureless room. This one was small rather than large. Spock was there too, and they both looked around, slightly shaken. The room - no, cell, Christine decided - was only about four meters square, a completely blank box. It had a single light panel in the ceiling, and a round hole in one corner of the floor. There was no door.
"Fascinating," said Spock. "Intra-ship beaming."
"I was looking for the door in the holding area, and I couldn't find it."
"Evidently there are no doors in the portions of the ship which are used for captives. Extremely efficient." He clasped his hands behind his back and considered their cell. Exactly 4.15 meters on a side. 2.3 meters high. Walls... probably a tritanium alloy. He could see no way of getting out at the moment. Rest was in order, then, and would help to clear the residual effects of the stun from his system. "Dr. Chapel? Would you care to sit down?"
She came back out of her thoughts. "Yes. Thank you." Her mouth twitched. "You're being very polite. You wouldn't happen to have anything on you for a headache?"
"You are the doctor, not I."
They settled on the floor, backs against the wall. "Did they pick you up on Wrigley's too? I was meeting Uhura for dinner, walking to the restaurant, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on this ship."
"My own experience was similar. I was performing an errand..." He frowned. "I must assume that my harp, which I was taking to be repaired, is now in the hands of the Orions. Unfortunate. It is unlikely that any of them know how to play it."
"I'm sorry. My bag is gone... They must have found my I.D., or they wouldn't have known that I was Starfleet." She rubbed her finger absently on the black stain on her skirt. Oil, or grease. She remembered with grim amusement Uhura's teasing words about Spock and the dress. Aloud, she said, "I don't think that they're going to kill us. If they were, the man in charge - the captain? - would have shot us when he shot the guard."
"I am not so sanguine. It is clear that they have not yet decided what to do with us. Murder may still be one of their options. They may simply not have chosen between the alternatives as yet."
"You're very comforting." They were silent for a while, and then Christine said, "I hope he heard what I said about the woman with the fever. She needs attention. At the least, you'd think that they'd want to keep the merchandise in good condition."
"I believe that they may accept a certain amount of... shrinkage... in their inventory as a cost of doing business. Their attitude toward life and death is traditionally rather casual and fatalistic."
"That may explain the intra-ship beaming. It's not usually done, right? Too dangerous."
"It is considered so. However, the Orions probably consider the percentage of transporter accidents acceptable when related to the lowered chance of escape attempts."
"Escape." Christine rubbed her forehead. "I can't think of any clever way out of a box with no openings."
"There are always possibilities. However, I confess that as long as we remain isolated in here the prospects are not good."
"We'll be missed. That's why the Orion captain was so furious. He knows that someone will be looking for us."
"Well... Uhura must have been surprised when I didn't show up for dinner. But... I guess you're right. She wouldn't jump to the conclusion that I'd been kidnapped."
"And I had not confided my plans in detail to anyone. Though my absence from the ship will noted eventually."
Christine smiled. "Yes. I don't think that anyone imagines Wrigley's is your kind of place."
"By approximately forty-eight hours after our disappearance someone will begin searching for us."
* * *
Sulu settled comfortably into the command chair and surveyed the skeleton bridge crew. Most of them were, like him, paying the price for having used up their leave time in advance. He had taken a long trip home a few months ago for his brother's wedding. Worth it, on the whole, he mused, remembering the extended festivities which had gathered his entire family together for the first time in years. His parents were settled enough, in their university posts in Kyoto, but his brothers and sisters were all over the place, two in Starfleet, one on Memory Alpha, one at the Vulcan Academy. He had seen them individually from time to time, but in a group hardly since childhood. Not to mention grandparents, cousins... It had been good to go back to his roots, and it was good to return to the stars again.
Wrigley's hovered on the viewscreen, a pretty green bauble of a world. He could see some of the other ships in orbit, holding rigidly to the patterns prescribed by Wrigley's Space Control. He didn't really mind missing Wrigley's. He hadn't been affected by the claustrophobia of the rest of the crew, and a part of him relished being in command of the Enterprise, even under such mundane conditions. He signed a fuel consumption report and allowed himself to imagine for a moment that he was truly in command, that he could order the Enterprise to plunge toward the edge of the galaxy... The thought felt uncomfortably disloyal. It was impossible to think of anyone but James Kirk as captain of the Enterprise. But a ship of his own someday, his own silver lady...
"Sir?" said the ensign at communications. "Sir?" Sulu came out of his reverie. "Yes, Mr. Abada?"
"I have a message from Ms. Uhura. She wants to speak to you."
"Put her on, Ensign."
"Sulu?" Uhura's voice came through the speaker on the arm of his chair. "How are you all doing up there? You're missing a great time."
"You really like to rub it in, right? Did you call just to gloat?"
"No, but I couldn't resist the opportunity." The mischief dropped out of her voice. "Sulu, is Chris Chapel on board?"
"Not that I know. I'll check." He called up the transporter records, and paged her quarters and Sickbay for good measure. "I'm sure she's not. She's signed out planetside for the whole three weeks. If you want to find her, she's registered at..."
"I know. Trouble is, she's not there. She was supposed to meet me for dinner last night, but she never showed up. That's not like her. Today I checked the hotel, and she didn't come back after checking in. I don't know if I should be worried or not."
"Mm. That's strange. Still... maybe she met someone." "I doubt it. With her fixation on..."
"Hey..." Sulu remembered to drop his voice. No use telling the whole bridge. "I just realized. Spock isn't around either, and he's supposed to be. He's got leave coming, but he told me he was spending it on board doing reading and research. You don't think...?"
"God, I never thought of that. It sure doesn't sound likely, the way he avoids her most of the time. For that matter, she avoids him, too. But I will say... it's about the only thing I can think of that would make Chris stand me up like that."
"Could be. Stranger things have happened - though not very often. But what if they're not together? Think I should alert security, or let the captain know?"
"No... not yet. He's gone off camping with an old friend, female variety, I think." There was the barest hint of jealousy in Uhura's voice. "He needs the time off. Anyway, one of the great things about leave is not having to account for where you are every second."
"True enough. We'll let it go for a while."
"Right. Listen, if Chris's dreams have come true, do you think that either she or Spock would appreciate being run down by a bunch of phaser-toting red shirts?"
"If they were, I'd love to see his face. You enjoy yourself down there in the lap of luxury, okay?"
"No problem, sugar. Uhura out."
* * *
Half a dozen light years away, it had occurred to Christine that spending a leave alone with Spock was not all that she had imagined it to be. At this point she would infinitely have preferred her solitary hotel room. Conversation in the cell had petered out when Spock declared further speculation to be useless and illogical. He seemed to be meditating now, sitting cross-legged, head bent and fingers steepled. Christine had gone over and over in her mind everything that had happened since her return to consciousness, but nothing useful had come of it.
She wondered if the woman with the fever would be treated. Probably not. She sighed. The blankness of the cell was unnerving her. Not even a seam where the walls met the floor. She got up and paced it off. Seven paces from end to end. Standing made her aware of a physical problem which couldn't be ignored for much longer. She glanced with distaste at the hole in the corner, and cleared her throat. It was rude to interrupt a meditating Vulcan, but she couldn't help that. "Mr. Spock?" His head came up. "Would you mind turning your back? I need to use the..." She waved her hand at the hole.
"Certainly, Doctor." He faced the opposite corner with his hands behind his back.
"Thank you." This was embarrassing. She squatted awkwardly. Men had it so much easier. After a moment she said, "You can turn around again."
One hour and 27.8 minutes later, according to Spock, there was a transporter shimmer in the center of the cell. When it took form, it proved to be a flimsy paper tray containing what looked like crackers and a paper container of liquid. Christine and Spock each picked up a cracker and sniffed it. It had no particular smell, and when Christine broke hers in half the light brown crispy texture was the same throughout. "Nutribars," she said, "or something similar."
She dipped a finger cautiously in the liquid after smelling it. "Water."
Spock tried some too. "I concur."
"Well then it doesn't look like they're trying to starve us. Or poison us."
"I am intrigued by the Orion's expertise in handling captives. It is evident that they have developed it into an art. The use of the transporter virtually eliminates the possibilities of escape or revolt, since the the contact between prisoners and guards is minimal. Even food can be provided indirectly. And these," he studied a bar, "are easily stored, inexpensive, and capable of providing the nutritional needs of most humanoids almost indefinitely."
Christine sat on the floor by the tray. "A paper tray and a paper two-liter water bottle. No plastic, no metal, no cups or utensils. They don't want us making weapons."
"Evidently not. As I said, a most efficient system." He sat next to her. "Are you recovered sufficiently to eat?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact I am." Her headache persisted, but the nausea had faded, and she was actually hungry. Well it had probably been twenty-four hours now since she had eaten. To her surprise, the cracker wasn't bad at all, though she wouldn't have picked it for a permanent diet. "Sixty-five percent carbohydrates, thirty percent protein, five percent fat," she said. "High fiber, contains all the vitamins and minerals needed by humans, plus enough of vitamins M, O, and X, and enough trace minerals to sustain Andorians, Orions - and Vulcans."
"You can determine this from the taste?" Spock sounded skeptical.
"Not precisely, no, but I can make a good guess based on Starfleet emergency rations. These look identical - for all I know, they were pirated too."
They took turns sipping out of opposite sides of the water container. Two crackers each and a little water: the meal didn't take long to finish. Spock put the tray to one side and prepared to meditate again. Christine rubbed the back of her neck and decided to try to sleep. Maybe that would help her headache. The floor was hard and rather cold, but that couldn't be helped. She wasn't going to ask Spock for the loan of his shoulder, though it would almost be worth it to see his expression. She dozed off.
* * *
Disr'ta'bilt had a headache too. Killing that fool of a guard had been an impulse. Emotionally satisfying, true, but it had done nothing to solve his real problem. The Vulcan and the woman. He went over his options again. He had almost decided, but he wanted to be sure that he hadn't missed anything.
Return them, keep them, kill them, or abandon them. Return them? He was behind schedule and under quota already, and it would cause too many questions. Keep them? Vulcans were useless as slaves. Untrainable, and too intelligent. The woman was fairly attractive, but no real prize. And once again, there might be questions, this time from potential buyers. Kill them? In many ways the most attractive idea. Neat, simple, and final. It was unlikely that they would ever be traced to his ship. He twisted an earring. But if they were... Killing was the one option which couldn't be changed or explained away. It was the one thing which the Federation couldn't overlook. And the Komar and the Trader's Guild would happily throw away Disr'ta'bilt and divide his fortune if they got the chance. He pressed his fingers to his lips and decided. Calling the helm, he ordered a change of course. In three days, if he was lucky, he would be rid of his problem.
* * *
Christine woke up stiff and thirsty, but with her head mercifully clear. Spock was still in the same position, and she wondered if he had slept. It was disconcerting to wake without knowing if it was night or day, or how long she had been asleep. She sat with her arms around her knees. If only the cell weren't so empty. If only there were something to look at besides the walls and Spock. Not that she minded looking at Spock, but he wouldn't enjoy it.
She wondered why she wasn't more frightened. She had a feeling that she still didn't believe the situation. It was too bizarre. And, realistically, it seemed to her that the most reasonable thing the Orions could do was release them with an apology. The Federation, through Starfleet, made sporadic and largely ineffectual attempts to crack down on Orion piracy and slave-trading. The capture of a couple of officers might cause them to step up the campaign. The Orions wouldn't want that. If, of course, anyone figured out that she and Spock had been taken by Orions. That was a chilling thought.
The hours crept by, and slowly stretched into days. Spock meditated. Christine slept and played word games in her head. They politely turned their backs to allow each other use of the toilet facilities. More food arrived. Christine eventually tied up her skirt to avoid tripping and started a series of exercises, as much to pass the time as to use her muscles. To her surprise, Spock joined her,
declaring it an excellent idea, but afterwards he retreated into silence again. It seemed to her that he was uncomfortable. She was probably the last person on the Enterprise who he would have chosen to be incarcerated with. Poor Spock. She imitated his meditative posture and resolved not to bother him unless she was about to go crazy. She didn't have his mental disciplines, but she had a store of good memories to draw on. Childhood, her parents, her sisters, school, the good times with Roger before he disappeared...
Spock was grateful for her silence and yet it was paradoxically making it more difficult to order his thoughts. Her approach to the situation was so calm, so restrained, as to be slightly unnerving. He was accustomed to thinking of her as the most sentimental and emotional of humans (with the possible exception of McCoy). But he now realized that it had been some time - years? - since he had witnessed an impulsive outburst from her. Interesting, he thought. Something - growing older, or getting her medical degree, perhaps - had given her a new serenity.
"Dr. Chapel?" he said after a few more minutes of silence.
"Yes, Mr. Spock?" Christine pulled herself away from her recollections.
"I have reason to believe that we may not be in this cell for much longer."
"Why?" She stretched.
"Approximately 52 seconds ago this ship dropped out of warp speed."
Her eyes widened. "I didn't feel it."
"The change in vibration would have been imperceptible to human senses." He regarded her thoughtfully. "I would like your assurance that when and if we meet our captors again you will follow my orders without arguing. It is still impossible to determine whether negotiation will be possible, or whether confrontation will be necessary. In either case, there will probably not be time to discuss the matter. I am your superior officer, but my acquaintance with Dr. McCoy has made me aware that medical personnel do not always behave according to regulations. Will you agree in advance that you must do as I say without question?"
"Without question?" Christine looked at him coldly. "Commander. It's not surprising that you've had trouble with Leonard. I don't agree to relinquish my right to make medical judgements, nor do Starfleet regs require me to. And I certainly don't agree to stop using my brain in other areas either. I think your attitude is a bit high-handed."
"Doctor, this is exactly the sort of dispute which I was attempting to forestall."
"Well you didn't do a very good job, did you?" Amusement was starting to soften her tone. "Being a nurse for all those years got me used to taking orders. On the other hand, I never liked it, which is one reason I became a doctor. You hit a sore spot there. And you were using the voice I'd expect to hear if you were talking to a five year old. A stupid five year old."
"I did not expect you to take offense."
"The least you can do is talk to me now about your plans. I agree that we won't have time later. Who knows, I might even have some ideas worth hearing."
Christine blinked. Even as he spoke, Spock's body was dissolving in the shimmery hum of a transporter beam. A second later, the cell faded around her as well. A moment of disorientation, the impression of a transporter room, and then she was falling, hard, gracelessly, with no chance to cushion herself. The breath was driven out of her, and for a little while all she could do was gasp. "Ugh," she said finally. "Spock?"
Christine rolled over cautiously and sat up. Nearby, Spock was doing the same. "Where are we?" she asked. She didn't expect an answer, and she didn't receive one. She noticed that she was bleeding from a scrape on one arm, and Spock had a cut on his forehead. She carefully moved her arms and legs. Good, nothing broken or torn. They were on a rocky, scrubby, hillside and there was a keen wind blowing. She turned onto her hands and knees and got slowly to her feet. "Let me look at that cut. I thought we'd decided that the Orions knew how to use the transporter, with all that intra-ship beaming. That was the roughest beam down I've ever been through."
Spock touched his forehead and looked at the smear of green blood. "I do not require your attention. The wound is not deep, and I can control the bleeding easily." She checked it nonetheless, while he looked patiently impatient. "I assure you, Doctor..."
"Medical judgement, remember? You're all right, though. Stand up. Good. Nothing broken on you, either."
"We are fortunate, considering that we seem to have materialized almost two meters above the planet's surface with no warning."
Christine sighed. "So much for how to deal with the Orions. It looks like we won't have to. Unless they follow us down."
"Unlikely. It seems that they have stranded us."
"Stranded us where?"
He turned, and she followed his gaze. "Wow!" she exclaimed impulsively. She hadn't really looked at the scenery before. "It's beautiful!"
The blue-green heath on which they stood fell away for several hundred meters to soft folds of woodlands. Far below them a series of small lakes, connected by a river, dotted a deep valley. They were on the flank of a mountain, surrounded by other mountains of dark gray stone thrusting toward the pale sky. In the distance, Christine could see a waterfall. Patches of sun and shadow chased each other over the valley floor. The air was very clear and fresh.
"By Terran standards, the scenery has certain esthetic merits," agreed Spock. "However, the availability of water, food and shelter is of more immediate concern."