21/02/07: I've revamped and replaced the contents of this chapter.
Chapter 3: Swings and Roundabouts
Chapel dropped the last slide and pushed herself away from the scope. She glanced across at Atkins who shook her head. The nurse looked as defeated as she felt. Chapel sighed and heaved herself out of her seat, moving across to the terminals where the Head Nurse hadn't looked up once for the past three hours. "Jonas?" she asked softly.
Wahler jumped at the sound of her voice and turned in his seat. He had rings under his eyes and the bloodshot expression of a man who had spent too long at the computer. "Nothing," he mumbled.
"Everything's come back negative," she slumped into a seat and looked at her team. There was silence for a moment.
"Doctor, at this point I think we've ruled out anything pathological," Atkins sighed.
The ACMO nodded glumly. Atkins was one of the best pathologists on board and if she was out of ideas it was probably time to give up that theory.
"I've taken some DNA samples," Newman commented, pushing back his greying hair and joining the exhausted group at the lab bench they were gathering at.
"You think there's some shenanigans going on at the microcellular level?" Wahler didn't even bother getting up, he scooted his chair across to them from the terminal he had been working at.
"We've covered everything else. There's nothing left," Newman was older than most Lieutenants on the ship, having sacrificed a famous career in engineering and physics to pursue his current calling.
Well published in the fields of microfabrication and quantum mechanics, his research had had been spotted by Starfleet Medical, which had been investigating ways to improve the technological manipulation of life at the cellular and genetic level. Fascinated by this research, Newman had returned to school and enlisted fully educated in the fields to which Starfleet was applying his prior research. At home in Engineering, Science or Medical, there were few scientists in Starfleet with such wide-ranging competency; he was one of only a very few that could challenge Spock's scientific expertise. If the Vulcan ever resigned as Science Officer, no-one was in any doubt as to who his replacement would be. Newman sighed. "Unfortunately, there's nothing. His DNA hasn't been tampered with."
Chapel frowned. "Did you get samples of his RNA?"
"Yeah. Cellular RNA is fine. Still waiting for the mitochondrial analysis. But so far ... nothing."
Atkins buried her head in her arms. "This is insane," she muttered.
Chapel rose to her feet and walked out of the lab without another word. Atkins had summed up everyone's opinion right now. She walked into Sickbay and leaned up against the door frame of her office, where she could watch the gaggle of visitors near Wylp's bed unobserved.
Maberley, Prescott and Grabosky had been discharged quickly. Otherwise healthy, they were on medical leave while the inflammation in their lungs was being treated. The two burn victims were still restricted to Sickbay and spent much of the time they were allowed up gathered near the comatose Andorian. It had become an unspoken ritual between the ill-fated engineering team - no-one left Wylp alone for long.
Currently, they were playing poker. There was even a hand dealt for Wylp, Thalit checking his cards as his turn came. On the surface they seemed to be enjoying themselves but even from this distance Chapel could see the strain in their eyes and the tension in their bodies.
Suddenly Prescott leaned forward "I'm calling Wylp's hand."
Thalit grinned aggressively and showed them all Wylp's cards. The flame-haired engineer stared then smacked his head. "I can't even beat the unconscious guy? This has to be fixed!"
There was a soft ripple of laughter from the group. "Well seriously, Red," Grabosky chortled. "That's the best damn poker face I've ever seen an Andorian wear. It's no wonder Wylp's won the last three games!"
The smiles that for only a few moments had been genuine faded quickly and they all looked at Wylp's monitors uncomfortably. Thalit reached across and patted Wylp's cold, still hand awkwardly and murmured something in Andorian. Summers wheezed slightly. "You're forgetting I know Andorian, Thalit," he said with a weak grin.
"Doesn't matter, I'll say it in Standard," the Andorian shrugged. "Wylp vowed he'd never learn such a weak Human game. Now he's beating us all at it. I don't know whether that proves his point or suggests something else," his antennae twitched wryly.
Chapel's senses sharpened suddenly as her skin flushed in response to the unmistakable sensation of a very warm body standing almost within touching distance of her. She sighed and relaxed knowing it could only be one person, closing her eyes, her shoulder leaning against his chest. It wasn't a deliberate gesture but given her proximity to the doorway, it was unavoidable. She did plan to let him into the office eventually but right now she just wanted that one brief moment of peace his presence was so good at bringing her. For a moment, she didn't speak, quietly gathering strength from his silent, but reassuring, presence. "This is going nowhere fast, Bones," she sighed at last.
"It would appear not," was the soft, but slightly dry, response.
Her eyes flew open and she sprang away from the door, swiftly putting the desk between them before she consciously thought about what she was doing. "Commander Spock," she leaned her hands on its smooth, unyielding surface to steady herself, aware she was blushing but unable to stop it. "I'm sorry, I thought you were Doctor McCoy."
"Really." For a brief moment, there was a slightly odd expression in his eyes but it vanished before she could interpret it. She suspected he didn't appreciate being mistaken for his preferred sparring partner. "Your presence is requested in Doctor McCoy's office," he added, as if it wasn't an issue at all.
Quickly she pulled her tattered dignity around her like a threadbare blanket and straightened. "Right. Thanks Spock," she hurried out of the room but quickly realised that the Vulcan was following her to the CMO's office.
"We've ruled out everything biological," she announced as soon as she entered the room.
McCoy grunted as the pair sat down. "We've got a new theory. How's your knowledge on remote genetic resequencing?"
Chapel stared at him then frowned, hunting through her memory. "That's what Newman's research has been focused on. Using nanotechnology to repair damage at the cellular and genetic level, without the need for standard invasive surgical techniques. I've been following the research but I've not been involved in it," she looked between the pair of them and her eyes narrowed. "What's going on?"
"It looks like someone's been hiding pre-programmed nanites in normally harmless bacterial cultures with the intention of transferring them to hosts like a parasitic vector," McCoy rubbed his face wearily. "Of course, that's our theory right now. But if it's technology that's playing God with Wylp on a genetic level it's possible that's why we haven't found anything yet. We've been barking up the wrong tree."
Chapel was silent, observing their faces. McCoy looked serious, Spock looked expressionless. She sighed. "This will make Newman the chief suspect."
"I know," McCoy sounded testy. "That's why we're having the conversation here and not in a briefing for the entire research team."
"Nurse Wahler and Lieutenant Summers are also suspects," Spock added.
"You've got to be kidding me. Summers is recovering from third degree plasma burns! Why the hell would he do that to himself? And Jonas has been pulling double shifts trying to find a cure!"
"Doctor McCoy explained this to me," Spock replied blandly. "Anyone with the relevant expertise is currently a suspect."
McCoy grinned. "Including him," he thumbed in the Vulcan's direction.
"Really?" She studied Spock for a moment. "Should you be involved in this conversation if that's the case?"
"Your concern is quite valid, Doctor," he handed her the datapads he had been holding and rose. "From now on, you will report any findings to Lieutenant Chekov and Captain Kirk. I am no longer involved in this investigation," he nodded to them both and left the office.
"Uh ... I was joking," she said to the closed door then looked back at McCoy in consternation.
"He's right though. He's already had this discussion with Jim. Hit us with that damnable logic and regulations. You know the drill. We did manage to convince him he doesn't need to be relieved of duty though."
She laughed. "Sorry, it's not funny," she leaned forward. "We'll have to relieve Newman and Wahler from the team though."
McCoy nodded seriously. "I know."
"They're some of our best specialists, Bones. And it wasn't easy with them."
"I know, Chris," he agreed soberly. Then he threw her a bright smile, feigning a confidence he didn't truly feel. "But we'll manage. We always do."
The solemn strains of the Vulcan lyre danced around the rec room holding the room enthralled. Uhura wasn't really paying attention to her audience, she was concentrating on a piece she had discovered at the end of the last mission. After four months of solid practice she still hadn't perfected it and her fingers were starting to ache. She was stubbornly refusing to ask Spock for help, determined to get through it alone. Part of the reason she was having so much trouble was that she hadn't been able to find any vocal accompaniment to the music. Singing often helped her to pace the music and hold the beat. She paused and stretched her fingers, easing the cramp.
"You have excellent command of Vulcan music, Commander."
Uhura looked up sharply to find a beautiful Vulcan woman gazing intently at her. She hadn't met the Vulcan passenger they had picked up from the Rigellian freighter until now, although she had heard the woman had imposed herself on the Captain already, much to Kirk's annoyance. She looked thoughtfully at the woman. "Have we met before?"
The woman returned her gaze curiously. "No, we have not. My name is T'Van."
"Nyota Uhura," she wasn't convinced by the woman's answer. There was something about the way the Vulcan tilted her head and arranged her shoulders that was glaringly familiar. "Do you play?"
"I do not play the ka'athaira well enough to attempt the composition you seek to master."
Uhura sighed. "Seek. That's a good word. I've been trying to get this for four months. It's not going well."
"Unsurprising. The music you attempt to recreate on the ka'athaira is part of Vukhut-var school. Alone you are incomplete."
Uhura mulled over the unfamiliar term "Body... story?"
A smile touched the Vulcan's eyes. "Not precisely. Do you speak Vulcan?"
"I'm a linguist, so I understand it as well as any Human can," Uhura smiled wryly. "I understand the relationship of the ancient root words with the modern usage but it makes translating into Federation Standard difficult."
"I sympathise. I am also a linguist," she sat down next to Uhura. "I am familiar with the Opera of Earth. It is a vocal musical style accompanied by an instrument that together creates a story. The Vukhut-var achieves a similar purpose through dance instead of song."
Uhura's eyes widened. "Vulcan Opera?"
T'Van looked slightly amused. "We also utilise vocal forms but the piece you are attempting to play is Sov-lates and it combines the ka'athaira with a dance form."
Uhura nodded. "I know the Sov-lates is part of a much larger composition called the Tam t'Meilak but I haven't been able to get hold of the other three parts."
"The Tam t'Meilak is only one part of a Vukhut-var called the Mokuv t'Yon. It is, however, the most famous part that most offworlders are familiar with," T'Van considered for a moment. "If the ka'athaira is the only Vulcan instrument you play, it would not be logical for you to pursue any compositions other than Sov-lates and Masu-lates. The others do not use the ka'athaira," she focused suddenly on Uhura again. "Nevertheless, it will be difficult for you to master this composition without a dance partner who knows the Vukhut-var forms."
Uhura sighed. "I wish I had been told this in the first place. It would have saved months of sore joints."
"Is your mentor Spock?"
Uhura looked startled at the blunt question, and the easy familiarity with which she used Spock's name. "Yes. Do you know him?"
"Indeed. If you knew this form existed would you ask Spock to demonstrate the dance?"
Uhura tried to picture Spock dancing around the rec room to help her keep time on the lyre and began to laugh. "No wonder he's never mentioned it to me! He must be terrified I'd ask him to teach me!"
T'Van's lips twitched at the corners. "Indeed. Spock does not enjoy dancing. I, however, am trained in the Vukhut-var," she rose. "If your fingers are rested I will demonstrate."
"What ... here?" Uhura stared at the peculiar Vulcan woman.
"There is plenty of space here. What would be the logic in relocating?" She stepped away from Uhura. "The dancer always leads. Begin."
The Vulcan stretched slowly and started a slow turn as Uhura began the piece from the top. She noticed the difference almost immediately. The swift, graceful movements of the Vulcan woman as she flew around the impromptu dance space guided the music in exactly the same way that a conductor controlled an orchestra. She brought life and form to the music that Uhura had been trying to learn and a few parts that had really confused her now made sense as she saw the dance steps that went with them. The dance lifted the music until it seemed as though the rhythm was floating on air before eventually descending back to earth and ending with T'Van poised in a deep curtsey, the lyre throbbing on a final note that lingered almost below the range of Human hearing.
Uhura stared at the Vulcan then at her aching fingers. "That's amazing," she said at last. "It really does make the music easier to play."
T'Van's eyes twinkled and she rose to her full height again. Then suddenly she folded her hands in front of her abdomen and raised both eyebrows, gazing past Uhura. The Communications Officer turned around to find Spock and Kirk standing nearby watching them. Kirk was staring at T'Van with admiration written all over his face and Uhura noticed that one of Spock's eyebrows was almost in his hairline.
"Explain," Spock said coolly.
T'Van stepped forward until next to Uhura and tilted her chin. Uhura thought she detected defiance and mischievous affection in the Vulcan woman's eyes as she met Spock's gaze. "We have not seen each other for 7.13 years and your first action is to question my logic? I should be insulted, Spahkh-kam."
Uhura had to fight to keep her jaw from dropping at the form of his name she used. There seemed to be no surprise in Spock's eyes at the affectionate term either. She glanced surreptitiously at T'Van suddenly burning with curiosity about this woman and her relationship with the First Officer.
"You are, of course, not insulted as that would be an illogical emotion," Spock replied easily and this time Kirk threw him a sharp look as well. He was able to read Spock even better than Uhura did and he could see the bond of affection the two Vulcans had for each other. He met Uhura's gaze briefly and she could see the Captain was as intrigued as she was.
"Kaiidth," she retorted and her lips twitched as his eyebrow rose.
"So ... Spock. Are you going to tell us how you and the young lady know each other?" Kirk interrupted, unable to reign in his curiosity any longer.
"We grew up together," Spock said noncommittally.
Kirk stared at Spock as if unable to believe that's all his Vulcan friend was going to tell him. Spock met his gaze evenly and remained completely impassive. At last the Captain sighed. "Alright, Spock, you win. How about we get dinner and join these two lovely ladies in their conversation?"
"Vulcans do not speak as they eat, Jim," If Uhura didn't know better she would have sworn that Spock was quite smug about this barrier to Kirk's attempt to pry into his private life.
T'Van cocked an eyebrow sharply. "Spock, you sound more like Sarek every year," she turned her gaze on Kirk, ignoring Spock's rising eyebrow. "Captain, I am quite familiar with Human customs," she replied with an air of amusement. "Therefore, I will talk to you over dinner."
Kirk grinned, as usual unable to resist a beautiful woman. "That's a deal, T'Van. And while I'm at the slots, can I get the ladies anything?"
"A salad and Altair water is acceptable, Captain."
"Well, if you're offering, I'll have a finger bowl with some warm water and lemon, and a napkin," Uhura said. "My fingers are killing me."
Kirk chuckled and, without waiting to see if Spock accompanied him, went in search of dinner.
Chapel didn't know what time it was when she made it back to her quarters, nor did she care. She was pulling off her shoes even as the door closed behind her and had stripped off her uniform before she reached her bedroom. She sighed, standing in the middle of her room in only her underwear, staring longingly at her bed. She shook herself. If she sat down, even for a moment, she wouldn't get back up again - and she really needed a shower.
She finished undressing, put on a robe, and gathered her toiletries before heading into the bathroom she shared with Uhura. There was no sign of the Communications Officer but the doctor wasn't surprised. It was late and she would have been more surprised if her friend had still been awake.
She didn't spend long in the shower, she was too tired. However, as she finished re-robing herself, Uhura walked into the bathroom. Chapel gave her a surprised look. The small Bantu woman was wearing what was, for her, rather drab pajamas and a pair of very fluffy slippers. "New look?" Chapel managed to grin, the shower having woken her up slightly.
Uhura looked down at herself and then smiled. "Everything else is being cleaned," she looked intently at Chapel. "We need to talk. Now."
Chapel gazed at her serious expression and sighed. "Sure, come on through," she turned and padded back into her bedroom. "Drink? Midnight snack?"
Uhura shook her head. "Not for me, go ahead and get something for yourself though."
Chapel contemplated raiding her secret and extremely non-regulation stash for a moment then decided she was too tired to fuss and flopped down on her couch. Uhura joined her; rather warily it seemed to Chapel.
"Nyota? What's wrong?"
Uhura couldn't meet her gaze and concentrated instead on finding a comfortable position on the couch, drawing her legs up to her chest, crossing her ankles and hugging her knees. Normally Chapel envied the smaller woman's ability to curl up so completely in chairs but now she was more concerned by Uhura's uncharacteristic unease. She leaned forward. "Nyota, spit it out. You're starting to worry me," her voice was soft.
Uhura frowned as she searched for the right way to open the subject. She hadn't been able to sleep for worrying about the situation and when she heard the shower had made the decision to raise the subject now, before she drove herself crazy over a situation she didn't even know for certain existed. She took a deep breath. Just say it, Nyota, she silently admonished herself. She leaned forward. "Chris, how are you these days? About Spock, I mean?"
Chapel's expression grew visibly wary as she studied Uhura. "What do you mean?"
"Well, I notice since this tour started that you two have been a lot closer than you were on the first tour. Everyone's noticed. Spock treats you the way he treats me or Scotty, or even Bones or the Captain." She trailed off and gave the doctor an intent look.
Chapel shrugged, trying to look noncommittal. "We were both on board before the official deadline. It was a slow two weeks so we did a lot of talking and somewhere down the road, I think we both put the past behind us and moved on. Now we're friends. Is that so bad, Nyota?"
Uhura smiled quickly, but it was strained. "Just friends?"
Chapel's jaw dropped. She stared at Uhura in disbelief for a moment, then her teeth snapped back together with an audible click. "What?" she said incredulously. "Don't tell me the grapev...!"
"No!" Uhura interrupted quickly. "No, the grapevine doesn't really discuss you two much anymore. It did initially, but then people got used to seeing you two together and it seemed innocent enough... and, well, people moved on to other topics."
"Oh, Chris, are you still in love with him?"
Chapel sat straighter in her seat, expression growing grim. "Nyota, just say what's on your mind, please!"
Uhura unfolded her legs and moved a bit closer, looking anxious now. "Chris, we both remember when Spock divorced T'Pring. We both know Vulcans well enough to know how their families arrange marriages, and we both found out the hard way that marriage is actually a lifesaver for Vulcan males..." she raised a hand as Chapel started to speak. "Yes I do know about pon farr, Chris, so don't start denying it. Just let me finish," she watched Chapel subside with a reluctant nod, then continued. "Anyway... oh God, there's no easy way to say this," she took Chapel's hand. "Look, the Vulcan passenger we've taken on board. Her name is T'Van. She and Spock know each other. I mean, really know each other. They grew up together, they've... she's on board at Sarek's request, it wasn't an accident that the Rigellians asked us to take her to Vulcan, it was all arranged by the Ambassador," she trailed off watching her friend's face anxiously.
Chapel gazed at the Communications Officer steadily, there was no expression on her face that Uhura could readily discern and it bothered her. "You're telling me Sarek's chosen her to replace T'Pring?"
Uhura swallowed and nodded. "I think so. I wanted you to know, before you found out another way." Like last time. The thought echoed in her head but she didn't say it out loud.
Chapel nodded. She suddenly felt immensely tired and stifled a yawn behind her hand. "What's she like? T'Van, I mean?"
Uhura watched her anxiously and wondered if she should lie. But aside from looking sleepy, she couldn't see any strong emotional reaction in Chapel's face at all. She smiled sadly. "She's beautiful, intelligent... she even has a sense of humour, and she seems comfortable with Humans."
"You like her?"
"Yes, I do. I'm sorry, Chris."
Chapel smiled. "It's okay. It sounds like she'll be good for Spock. Maybe Sarek chose right this time."
Uhura was staring at her. "Chris, are you okay about this? If you want to talk..."
The doctor chuckled. "Right now, Nyota, I just want to sleep. I've had an absolutely hectic day and I've got an early shift tomorrow."
Uhura didn't move at the gentle hint. She looked her friend deep in the eyes. "You're not in love with him anymore?"
"We've got a good friendship. It's more than I could have ever hoped for on the first tour, mainly because I wanted more and he knew it. We both know he's never going to fall for a Human woman..." she paused, remembering Omicron Ceti III. "Well, not when in his right mind, anyway. I've got his respect as a peer and his loyalty as a friend. I think that's pretty good going for a girl like me, don't you?"
"Then you're really okay about this?"
Chapel smiled. "Get to bed, Nyota and stop worrying about me. I'm fine!" she rose to her feet and pointed to the door with a mock glare. "Shoo!"
Uhura rose as well, still searching her face. "Alright, but you know where to find me if..."
Uhura finally laughed at the fake indignation on Chapel's face. "Yes, Lieutenant!" she grinned, heading towards the door. "Night, Chris."
"Night, Nyota," Chapel yawned again and shuffled off to bed. She changed into her nightdress and climbed into bed without a second thought about Uhura's news. She was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.
The chime of the chronometer startled the ACMO so much that she dropped her datapads all over her lap. Hastily she gathered them up and looked at the time. Where's the morning gone? she wondered in disbelief, stacking the pads and turning off the computer. She rose quickly and headed out of her office.
"I'm off for lunch," she said, poking her head around McCoy's door.
"You should be gone already," McCoy grouched back. "Get out of here."
Chapel smiled but didn't argue. She was supposed to be meeting Chekov in the rec room and she was already late. However, on entering the rec room, she found she was the first to arrive. A little surprised, she chose her meal and found a quiet place to sit down, where she wouldn't be overheard.
She scanned the room in that lazy manner of someone who didn't have anything else to do while eating and noticed two Vulcans sat on the opposite side of the room playing chess. As unobtrusively as possible, she studied the woman that had to be T'Van.
Neither too tall nor too short, the woman was slight of frame but clearly feminine. She seemed to favour a style that was a mixture of Terran and Vulcan. Chapel knew those fashions well; when she had been on Vulcan she had adopted similar fashion choices. Terran styles were not practical for the Vulcan climate and Vulcan clothing did not suit her. But there had been several hybrid styles that were as practical as the Vulcan dress and which were far more comfortable, psychologically, for her to wear. T'Van's hairstyle wasn't pure Vulcan either, gathered into a high, complicated arrangement on top of her head and spilling down her back like an obsidian waterfall. Chapel knew that Vulcan styles tended towards short hair or heavily bound hair to allow the back of the neck to breathe in the hot climate.
The doctor sighed before she could stop herself. Uhura had been right, T'Van was stunning. On looks alone, the young woman would have the attention of any man in her vicinity. Chapel glanced around the rec room. Sure enough, several men were throwing furtive looks in the Vulcan woman's direction. But she also had a natural poise and an almost aristocratic air to her that seemed purely unconscious and somehow familiar.
Chapel frowned to herself trying to pin down where she had seen the woman before but her attention was distracted by T'Van reaching across to pick up her drink. At the same moment, Spock moved one of the pieces. Briefly, their fingers brushed together before they completed their tasks, their attention returning to the board without a word having passed between them. She suddenly realised this wasn't the first contact she had seen between them either.
They're communicating telepathically, she realised and, at the same time she realised this, something slammed hard into her stomach. Bile welled up in her throat and she grabbed her drink, quickly swallowing a mouthful to drown the bitter taste. Shakily, she placed the glass down and turned to her food but she almost threw up again as she contemplated finishing it. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw the two Vulcans brush fingers again.
Chapel didn't think. She knew she had to get out of there before she did something to betray herself. Quickly grabbing her tray, she took the half eaten meal to the dispenser and tossed everything, striding out of the room at the fastest pace she could manage without drawing attention to herself. She almost crashed into someone entering the room but didn't pause. She made it around the bend in the corridor and stopped, leaning against the walling and gasping.
"Chris?" Chekov's voice was at her shoulder. "Are you alright?"
Oh god, not now! She thumped her chest and smiled wanly at Chekov. "Yeah, food down the wrong pipe. Made me choke." She prayed silently Chekov would accept the lie at face value and leave her alone.
He stared at her for a few minutes then nodded with a wry smile. "I will get my lunch then we can go to my office. Do you need a glass of water?"
"I'll be fine, Pavel. Thanks for asking," she straightened just wishing he'd leave so she could regain her composure. He nodded again. "Be right back," he said and hurried off to collect his food.
He barely noticed Spock as he entered, although like most of the men in the room he was intensely aware of T'Van. He could hear the conversation in the corner of the room, a group of ensigns speculating about the relationship between the two Vulcans and he did notice that T'Van's eyes were fixed on Spock's face with a peculiar intensity. Maybe there was something in it after all, he mused with a slight pang of regret. What the hell do women see in him? He asked himself wryly and then chuckled to himself at the thought of the First Officer's face if he actually asked for pointers.
For her part, T'Van was puzzled by Spock. They had been engaged in an extremely challenging game of chess and she had been certain she would lose this match when Spock's attention suddenly seemed to waver. She did not fully understand the cause as he made an error of judgement that was most unlike him.
Quietly she reached for her drink, brushing his fingers almost imperceptibly. You are distracted.
Spock studied her mutely for a moment. He neither confirmed nor denied her statement and returned his attention to the chess board. As they played, T'Van studied the room quietly, her attention briefly drawn to a tall, slim woman in science blue collecting her meal from a food slot. Finding the amazing blonde hair too compelling to ignore, she watched the Human woman make her way over to a distant table. As Spock reached out to move again, she touched him briefly again. All this time among Humans. Blonde hair will forever distract me, she admitted and her lips twitched as she saw the startled look that appeared all to briefly in Spock's eyes.
I do not understand, he responded. His thoughts were strangely closed off from her. It was not something she was used to and it intrigued her.
It is so rare on Vulcan. Do you not find the phenotypic variation in Humans fascinating?
Spock gazed at her uncertainly and she suddenly had the impression he was wary of her, as if trying to ascertain why she had asked the question. Hoping to gain more insight, she touched his fingers again but discovered nothing more. He was so adept at hiding his true self from others, even from her.
Then the blonde Lieutenant rose and left the room, moving with a grace of carriage that made T'Van pause and pay closer attention. That was when she noticed two things; firstly that the Lieutenant looked distressed and discarded an illogical amount of her dinner; and secondly, that Spock had just made another unusual error of judgement in his game strategy. She thought back swiftly to the timing of his first error and compared it to the timing of this one. One eyebrow rose sharply and she gazed intently into his face. Fascinating, she thought.
Chapel wasn't sure how she made it through the meeting with Chekov, nor was she sure how she made it through the rest of the day. Life seemed to pass her by as if she was separated from everyone else by a thin veil. People seemed to function in slow motion and voices, even hers, sounded as if they came from miles away. She performed her duties without thinking, she ate meals through force of habit, and she responded to conversations only automatically.
A decent night's sleep, however, proved therapeutic in the extreme. She awoke the following morning, alert and ready to address the important issues facing her in Sickbay. It was over breakfast that she realised what the problem was, what had caused her shock, what had subsequently brought her back into balance now.
Upon resolving the discomfort of the previous tour, the routine that she had developed with Spock had turned into a friendship. They had moved beyond the professional relationship of the past, into something that was more personal and much more comfortable. With that feeling firmly in mind, she had completely believed what she had told Uhura that night in her cabin - friendship was enough, nothing else mattered.
Then she had seen them together, the level of ease they had with each other, the intimacy. It was the intimacy that had unsettled her, she realised now. Something as simple as caressing fingers was a hugely intimate gesture for a species that refrained from touching except when necessary. For a race of touch telepaths, who could slip into each other's minds with the briefest of physical contact, it was an intimacy she, as a Human, could not truly comprehend.
It was something she could not compete with.
It was that sense of competition that had unsettled her. No matter what kind of friendship she established with the Vulcan, it would never be anything more than what a Human could offer. And that fell far short of what a Vulcan could offer. Did it fall far short of what a Vulcan needed?
Sleeping on the situation had helped bring things into perspective for the doctor. It had helped her remember that Spock had found what he needed in Starfleet, in a predominantly Human world. Even his mother had commented that he seemed more at home in Starfleet than at any time on Vulcan. Clearly, therefore, Vulcans fell far short of his needs as well. The odds had probably been stacked against Spock's family ever finding a Vulcan who could meet the needs of an individual as unique as Spock.
She couldn't help the pang of bitterness she felt at the thought but she understood where it came from. The loss of the status quo, the ability to ignore the majority of her feelings through the simple knowledge that they were friends, they were both single, and therefore the only people she had to share him with were other friends. It was something selfish, deep within her, which wanted him in the only way she could have him.
Recognising that had helped her consign it back into the black pit she chained those aspects of herself she wasn't proud of but which made her Human. Nobody was perfect, least of all herself. Everyone had thoughts and feelings they were ashamed of, and she was no different. And so she accepted that bitterness, controlled it and then locked it away where it could cause no mischief.
Over the next few days, she realised the grapevine was working overtime on the two Vulcans. They were comfortable with each other; they spent Spock's off-duty time together. Allegedly, T'Van even went to his room late in the evenings. Even Spock's closest friends were watching the pair with avid interest. It was with relief, however, that she realised this time she wasn't lying to herself. This time, she wasn't blindsided by emotions she had chosen to ignore and, as a result, she could get on with her life and her duties. Whatever else happened, she and Spock were friends now and that friendship was more valuable than a fantasy could ever be. The yearning would always be there - but she knew now that she could get on with her life without it controlling her.
Unfortunately, while decent sleep and ruthless honesty had worked wonders in helping her find equanimity with the situation, it did not seem to have had the same effect on her closest friends. They were watching her almost as closely as they were watching the two Vulcans. She wondered if that meant the gossip was discussing her, if the crew from the previous mission were dredging up old tales about the once-Head Nurse and the First Officer.
It was with shock that she realised the concern and unvoiced pity of her friends was much harder to handle than Spock's future with this Vulcan passenger. Uncertain of how to handle that situation, now aware her protestations of acceptance would not be believed, it was her friends she found herself avoiding - not Spock or T'Van. Eating her meals in private, working all hours in the lab, the less time she had to put up with the tension, the scrutiny, the better.
Four years ago, if someone had told her she could cope with Spock taking a wife but not with her friends' reactions to such an event, she would have laughed. Probably, she would have cried. Either way, she would not have believed it possible. Now, she knew it was absolutely true. So, she concentrated on her work, on resolving the conundrum that was Ensign Wylp, and found herself in the bizarre situation of finding her co-workers better company than her friends.
Even though she had been forced to exclude Wahler and Newman from the investigation. Fortunately, both men had been understanding. It defied belief that either one of them could have been involved in the Biolab sabotage - they had bent over backwards to find a cure for Wylp, and they had accepted their removal from the investigation with grace.
Somehow, their calm had made her feel like an ogre, as if what she was doing was unreasonable, even irrational. Even though she knew it was the right thing to do until their names were cleared.
That day of the fateful lunch, she had met with Chekov because the Security Chief had wanted to develop a plan of action for uncovering whatever it was about this investigation they were so far missing. Despite his own scientific experience, Chekov had not been as sympathetic to Medical's situation as she had initially hoped he would be. He had insisted she repeat the tests that Wahler and Newman had had access to again just in case the medical tests had also been sabotaged. She wasn't certain if it was because Chekov was new to the job and thus zealous or just a perfectionist. The scientist in her recognised and approved of Chekov's thoroughness, and even accepted the logic behind assuming the tests may well have been sabotaged. Nevertheless, the emotional part of her rebelled against the insane notion that anyone who had behaved with the decorum and dedication of these two men could be the saboteur.
So now she was spending all of her spare hours with the remainder of the pathology team, running and rerunning tests that had already been performed. They were all in the unenviable position of hoping for the repeated negatives that would prove Wahler and Newman's innocence, while also desperately hoping for a positive - something that could help them find a cure for the steadily deteriorating Andorian.
It was as though they were being asked to choose - between the innocence of two men and the life of a third.
The computer beeped, startling Chapel out of her ruminations. She rose from her seat and moved into the isolation chamber to recover the samples she had been preparing then settled down to analyse them, part of her mind returning to the consequences should the tests have been sabotaged. To the consequences should the tests have been accurate all along.
As a result, she almost missed it. Chapel had moved through three different sections before she realised what she was staring at. "Oh, my God," she breathed out loud, her excitement energising her in a way she hadn't felt since the biolab accident. Hurriedly, the doctor reclaimed the sections she had discarded, exploring them more carefully. It was there on every sample, at varying degrees of visibility. "Alright, Chekov!" she sighed in wry acceptance, setting them aside. Just as she rose to reach the comm, the computer whined and power went out, plunging the lab into darkness.
"What the...?" she muttered, looking around. She couldn't see a thing but she was so familiar with the Sickbay labs that she knew she could find her way to the comm interface. Turning to edge her way cautiously along the wall she froze as her skin tingled in that curious way that told her another warm body was close by. "Hello?" she asked, wondering who had come into the lab. Something bit her in the shoulder and she winced. "Ow!" she muttered rubbing her arm.
It was the last thing she remembered.
"How is she?"
Uhura and McCoy looked up as Kirk slipped down into a seat beside them. Uhura's dark eyes dropped down to her meal and she continued pushing food listlessly around her plate. McCoy raised his mug and hastily swallowed a large mouthful of something that could only tentatively be called liquid and which completely failed to smell like coffee.
"That good?" Kirk tried to lighten the tone but he could see no appreciation on either of their faces. He sighed. "It's definitely Spock then?"
Uhura glanced quickly off to the left but the rec room was busy today and Spock was not sitting close by. Kirk had not spoken loudly and she was certain the Vulcan could not overhear. Not with this level of ambient noise between the two tables.
"She's in the labs at all hours, she's taking double shifts. She won't leave Sickbay until I toss her out and I haven't seen her eat for days," McCoy gripped his mug tightly. He stared at his hands for a moment, willing his fingers to unfurl before the pressure broke the cup. The grip did not ease.
"I thought she was over him," Kirk murmured. "She certainly seemed to be."
Uhura bit her lip. "If I had known... she's such a terrible liar normally, Jim. I thought she was being honest!"
"It's not your fault, Commander," Kirk replied immediately.
"I told her," Uhura mumbled. "Of course it's my fault."
"You did the right thing, young lady," McCoy finally managed to release his mug. In his own way, he was as unable as Kirk to resist a beautiful woman in distress. He gently patted her hand. "I remember how she found out about T'Pring. You were right, darling," he patted her hand again. "You were right."
Uhura speared her food moodily and wished she could believe that.
Spock moved the knight up a level quietly and sat back, waiting for the computer to respond. His performance had been unsatisfactory and the computer would win this game. Logically, the differences between Vulcan and Human physiology were obvious to everyone on board this ship but somehow they never seemed obvious enough. Humans continued to underestimate Vulcan sensory capability. Over the past few days he had become aware of the rumours that were circulating about himself and T'Van and the conversation he had overheard at Uhura's table confirmed to him that Chapel must have heard them too.
His eyes darkened as the computer spoke its move and he reached out to retaliate with his pre-planned tactic. His Human friends thought Doctor Chapel's feelings for him still existed. He had not been certain for she had conducted herself with great decorum when in his presence. While she had always behaved professionally on the first tour, when not robbed of her control or dignity, on this tour, she had seemed much more relaxed and open.
He preferred this version of Christine Chapel. He did not want to lose this new relationship to the formal, professional tension that had existed two years previously. If the concerns of Lieutenant Commander Uhura and Doctor McCoy were correct - and they knew Chapel better than anyone else on board - then the damage might be irreparable.
He found that knowledge distracting.
He picked up a pawn, contemplating how best to proceed to correct the situation, when the comm came to life.
"Sickbay to Doctor McCoy."
The CMO sighed and pushed himself to his feet to flip the comm. "McCoy here."
"Doctor, we need you in Sickbay immediately," the Ensign's voice wavered slightly. "It's Doctor Chapel, sir. She's in a coma."
For a single heartbeat, McCoy stood frozen, then he dropped his hand from the comm panel and ran from the room, Kirk and Uhura only a step behind him. The CMO was shouting demands even as he walked through Sickbay's doors, his companions forgotten. They stood by a wall out of the way as he charged across to the biobed that supported Chapel's still form and even from this distance, Uhura could see how white her friend's face was, how lifeless she looked.
Not lifeless, she quickly amended, watching the monitors anxiously. She didn't fully understand them and couldn't read them properly at this distance anyway but they were moving, which meant Chapel was still alive. A technician hurried past them then stopped suddenly as a commanding voice halted him. "Ensign, explain."
It wasn't Kirk's voice. Uhura looked up, saw Kirk turn sharply. Neither of them had noticed Spock had accompanied them down to Sickbay. Now he stood in the doorway, blocking the technician's route and holding the Ensign's attention with a steely brown gaze. The technician swallowed, unsettled by how completely the Vulcan was focused on him.
"Nurse Atkins found Doctor Chapel collapsed on the floor in Medlab 2. She's stable but they don't know what's caused it. Her physicals show she was healthy before this happened."
"Is her coma life-threatening?"
Something inside the Ensign recoiled at the question. There was no discernable emotion in the First Officer's face or voice but some instinct, something akin to self-preservation, was telling him to back away from his superior officer now before it was too late. "I don't know, Commander," he muttered, praying silently the Vulcan would be satisfied and let him go.
The Vulcan was not satisfied but forcibly reminded himself it was not this technician's fault that he could not answer the question. It had been an illogical question to ask and yet he had been unable to stop himself. He stepped aside and, with an audible sigh of relief, the Ensign hurried on.
He turned back to watch the activity around Chapel silently, aware of the thoughtful look Kirk threw him but discarded the knowledge as irrelevant. He could feel his mind begin to function once more but his thoughts churned with questions. Was she more exhausted than McCoy had indicated? Had her health deteriorated so far in only a week? Had she caught some illness? If so, were any other members of the crew affected? Had she been working on an experiment that had gone wrong?
Had the Biolab saboteurs struck again?
The Vulcan felt as though he was rooted to the spot, his limbs seemed unusually heavy and he wondered if there was a problem with the gravity control system. If so, the gravity was presently heavier than Vulcan norm. He was preparing to move towards the intercom to raise Scott and ask him for an update when he realised McCoy was standing in front of Kirk.
The shock of not having been aware of McCoy's approach or of the time that had elapsed since arriving in Sickbay until this moment, brought the life and sensation back to Spock's body. The first thing he realised was that the gravity was still Earth-normal. The second thing he realised, as he mechanically followed the group into McCoy's office, was that he finally understood what Humans meant when they referred to 'the weight of emotion.'
His emotions. For a moment, he thought his Human heritage was taking advantage of his weakness until it occurred to him that his Vulcan half was still in control. He sank into the depths of his mind seeking the stability of control and the ingrained mantras of logic, irrationally wishing it was the legacy of his mother's people causing his current dilemma. His Human half was capable of embarrassing and humiliating displays but, on a ship full of Humans, it could be controlled - by his Human companions if not always by himself. The violence and chaos his pre-Reformation instincts would unleash if he allowed them to surface, however, would bring only pain and grief to his colleagues and friends.
He wondered if they could ever appreciate how dangerous Vulcans were when provoked. The two men standing inside this room did. But Kirk had nearly died before they were able to understand. The Vulcan's eyes turned towards those two men as he was finally able to refocus on his surroundings again. McCoy was only just slumping into his seat, the hiss of the doors only just closing behind him. His internal chronometer calculated the time that had passed during his struggle to master himself. How could 27.3 seconds feel like eternity?
"What's going on, Bones?" Kirk leaned up against the desk. He didn't like the look on the CMO's face.
McCoy lifted tired eyes and studied the faces of his three companions. Uhura was one of Chapel's closest friends, sometimes it seemed they couldn't possibly be closer if they had been born sisters. McCoy had never been able to pin down the relationship between Kirk and Chapel, however. She called him "Captain," he called her "Chris" but he did that with everyone. Everyone for whom his feelings were innocent, anyway. The doctor was fully aware that the only two women Kirk had ever maintained a level of verbal formality with had been Janice Rand and Nyota Uhura. He didn't think Kirk had been truly in love with either woman but his feelings did seem to run a little too deep. Deep enough for Kirk to go to unusual trouble to maintain his professionalism in their presence.
His mind shied away from memories of Edith Keeler and Miramanee, even as he turned his attention to Spock with a scowl. It was the Vulcan's presence here that bothered him. Like everyone else, he had noticed the change in the relationship between the First Officer and ACMO from the professional detachment of the first tour into something the doctor had to admit looked like a real friendship now. There was nothing official to report to the First Officer yet, so maybe he was here as a friend, McCoy mused silently. Like Uhura and Kirk. Then he looked a little harder at the distracted Vulcan. In a pig's eye, he decided, suddenly determined to delve a little deeper into the origins of this new friendship.
Right now, however, there were more important things to worry about. He sighed heavily. "The good news is her life isn't in danger."
Uhura swallowed at his tone. "And the bad news, Doctor?"
"I can't say the same thing about her mind."
"Explain," Spock's tone was clipped. McCoy stared hard at him again and this time the Vulcan locked gazes with him. No help this time, and the doctor heard himself sigh in exasperation.
"Isn't impatience illogical, Mr. Spock?" he asked acidly.
"Doctor McCoy, if we were to wait for you to report your findings according to your customary speed, Starfleet would cease to function," Spock retorted immediately.
"You know, Spock, I swear you'd argue with a fence post given a chance."
"That would be illogical, Doctor."
"Even a Vulcan has fleas," the CMO snapped.
The Vulcan's eyebrows hit his hairline so hard McCoy almost heard the impact. "I assure you, Doctor, I do not suffer parasitic infestations of any obligatory haematophagic species."
"Alright, that's enough," Kirk interjected sharply. He glared at them both until they visibly subsided. He was familiar with them using each other to deflect tension or uncomfortable emotions but there had been a real menace to this exchange that he had never before heard. He turned to the doctor. "Bones, explain what the problem with her mind is."
The CMO growled in frustration and swung around to face his Captain. "Dopamine reduction, widespread synaptic degradation, localised neural over-stimulation. At first it looked like it was Alterian Encephalitis, but that didn't fit her medical history, and the rest of the symptoms don't fit either," his eyes narrowed at Kirk then he turned to jab angrily at his computer. A moment later, he swung the monitor around to face the others.
On the display were two images positioned side by side, two brain scans. Kirk looked at McCoy. "What am I looking at, Bones? Besides the obvious that is."
McCoy was about to respond but he paused as Spock leaned forward for a closer look. For a moment, the Vulcan's brow almost furled into a slight frown. One eyebrow visibly rose. "Images of Doctor Chapel's brain wave activity? These look like two different individuals."
McCoy nodded. "Healthy," he tapped the image on the right. "Current," he tapped the image on the left. "And you're right, Spock. Her brain wave pattern is shifting. It's like someone's rewiring her brain. In fact," and here he scowled fiercely. "If I didn't know any better, I'd be reminded of the artificial neural pathway reformatting that was made illegal during the Eugenics Wars."
"Is this what caused her coma?" Uhura interjected.
"Yes. And if it continues, the woman who wakes up won't be Christine Chapel anymore."
Kirk gave him a sharp look "Explain that, Bones."
McCoy gestured at the images in disgust, then rose abruptly. He looked like a man who wanted to pace but the small office space was not large enough to accommodate him. "What is a man but the sum of his memories? Don't answer, Jim, it's rhetorical," he sighed heavily. "There's more to our personality than genetics, Jim. We are literally the sum of our experiences, environment... our life. Memory loss can alter a person's personality significantly if it removes defining experiences from the person's life that helped shape who they had become. It's the same here. Memory is biochemistry. Mess with that and you change a person's memories and if you change a person's memories... you change who the person is."
"Most of the changes so far occur in the frontal, parietal and temporal lobes," Spock mused thoughtfully.
McCoy glared at him but his voice was calm when he spoke. "Mainly the prefrontal cortex, sensory association cortex and auditory association area."
Spock lifted his gaze to meet the doctor's angry stare. "That is very specific," he observed quietly.
"I noticed," the CMO's voice was sour. "I'd like to know why and to what end myself."
"Doctor, what could cause this to happen?" Uhura looked bewildered. "Brains don't start rewiring themselves overnight, even I know that."
McCoy sighed and slumped back into his seat. "Well, you're right there. We're looking for evidence of microscopic bugs."
Uhura looked uncomprehending for a moment, then her dark eyes widened slowly. "That would mean..."
"Yes," McCoy said grimly.
"Will that be easy to fix, if that's what it is I mean?"
McCoy gave her a tired look. "The brain is a delicate organ. There are no guarantees," he sighed heavily and his eyes lowered to his hands. "If that's what we're dealing with, I may need help from Engineering to mend what's been done to her."
"Keep me updated, Bones." As Kirk turned to leave, McCoy's voice called him back.
"Where the devil are you going now?"
"To talk to Mr. Chekov," the Captain replied. "If she's been infected with nanites, someone must have put them there. It'll be our first direct evidence of attempted murder."
"Not necessarily, Jim."
The Captain froze then turned around slowly. "Why not, Mr. Spock?"
The Vulcan arched an eyebrow. "The evidence suggests that the attack is designed to fundamentally alter her brain chemistry. That requires living brain tissue, meaning the purpose of this attack would not be to kill."
"Then what is its purpose, Spock?"
"Irrelevant," McCoy snapped. "The Christine Chapel we know will be dead, regardless of whether her body's still alive. It's murder by any other name."
Spock's gaze shifted to the CMO. "The distinction will not be irrelevant in a court of law, Doctor."
McCoy was back on his feet again, glaring at the Vulcan. "Spock, I don't give a damn what a court of law would think about the matter. I'm a doctor, not a lawyer. And, as a doctor, I'm telling you that the woman we know will be dead if we can't reverse what's been done to her."
"In that case, Bones, I suggest you and Spock quit arguing so you can get on with it," Kirk told him dryly. He waited for the pair of them to both subside and nod their agreement with his demand, then he turned on his heel and strode out of the door.
This new mission was getting off to an abysmal start.
There was a whisper of sound on the edge of his hearing. He paused, suddenly alert but it faded away. Moments later, it was back. Just in the distance, just beyond ken. Once more he stopped to listen. Straining his senses, he moved forward at a cautious pace, trying to identify the sound he was unable to ignore. It was alien and yet familiar. Uncertain how to resolve this discrepancy, he continued around a bend in the corridor...
...and found himself standing in a town square, surrounded by people. He came to a full stop. The whisper had risen to a roar, a roar of sounds, voices all around him - laughing, crying, shouting, talking, idle conversations, private conversations, business dealings. He remained still, observing the people around him. Except for himself and a few others, the people were Humans and he was on Earth watching them going about their daily lives. There was nothing unusual about this scene at all.
Except a moment ago he had been walking down the corridors towards Science on a starship that was currently located only five days from the Vulcan solar system.
He turned to look at the route he had come by but it was impossible to tell where he had come from. He stood alone, in the centre of one of the busiest cities on Earth, in his Commander stripes and Science blue. And he wasn't alone because this was San Francisco, the home of Starfleet Headquarters.
A flash of something out of the corner of his eye made him turn but when he looked it was gone. There it was again. Swifter this time, he turned sharply and saw a tall slim woman in Science blue standing in the crowd, her blonde hair gleaming like molten metal in the midday sunshine. She had never looked more beautiful. Or more lost.
"Doctor Chapel?" he asked curiously.
She turned slowly, looking around herself, a vacant, glazed expression in her china blue eyes. Her lips moved as if she was speaking but he heard no words. She wasn't responding to him, however, that much he could tell. She didn't even know he was there. Quickly he began to move towards her. "Doctor!" he raised his voice slightly, hoping she would hear or see him.
His route was interfered with as people moved across his path. No-one jostled him as he moved, in fact no-one seemed to notice his presence at all but he lost sight of Doctor Chapel. He stopped again.
There she was, moving vaguely off to the one side, away from him, eyes darting around her in confusion. Someone jostled her, sending her spinning. He picked up his pace, hoping to reach her before the surging crowd harmed her. He had never seen her so witless, so vulnerable. What was wrong with her?
The crowd was swelling as people poured out from one of the large accounting firms searching for an outdoor lunch in the bright Summer sunshine, and Chapel was jostled again. Her mouth moved once more and he could see her flinch in pain. The crowd was hurting her, she had cried out, and yet she had said not a word.
Rage surged within, startling him and lending strength to his lean frame. He sliced through the crowd as if they were not there, heading towards her in a straight line but she was dragged from view by the momentum. For a moment, her eyes seemed to find his and, for the second time, he was frozen into stillness. This time by the terrible fear in her gaze. Before he could move towards her, or call out to reassure her, the crowd surged a final time and she was gone. He turned frantically, trying to push his way through to the last place he had seen her, but this time he was jostled violently to the ground. Something struck the side of his face and pain lanced through his temples.
There was nothing but blackness. Spock sat up abruptly, looking around but the crowd was gone. He was in his quarters, in his bed and alone. For several moments he remained completely still, concentrating on his breathing. His head ached around his temples and he lifted his hand to his meld points, touching the skin lightly where it throbbed. There is no pain, he told himself sternly, and a moment later the headache was gone.
"Computer, lights," he ordered and was already on his feet by the time the computer responded. He walked over to his desk and sat down in front of his computer. A dream then. It was known to happen to him occasionally. It wasn't the kind of dream he had any experience with. He had not been interacting, he had been watching. Watching Chapel lost among strangers, torn away from him by an unpredictable crowd. Sensation flooded through him. Fear, loneliness, confusion, pain... so much fear.
He was dressed and half way to Sickbay before he regained conscious awareness of his actions. He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror as he strode into Sickbay. The professional, unperturbable Vulcan First Officer, pacing into the room with a regal stride and not a hair out of place.
He was not as calm as he looked.
Spock came to a stop at the foot of Chapel's bed and studied her. Face pale, reposed, body so still except for the faint, gentle rhythm he could see in the base of her neck. He looked at the monitors above her. She looked so peaceful. As if asleep.
He knew it was illogical. He did not know what had triggered the dream or what had driven him to Sickbay. He did not understand what he was experiencing as he studied her unconscious form now. He did not comprehend why the regal beauty of her stillness now filled him with the sensation of fear. He did not understand where these emotions were coming from. They did not feel like his and yet they were within him, exactly where he would expect to his emotions to be. He should return to his quarters and meditate on this situation immediately. He was a Vulcan and not in a fit state to be seen. He needed to regain his centre. It was the logical thing to do.
Instead, he pulled up a chair and sat down beside her, leaning forward slightly. "Christine, I am here. You are not alone," his voice was a murmur and she was unconscious. It was the most irrational decision he could have made given the circumstances.
And yet he knew with absolute certainty it was the right thing to do.
The insistent beeping invaded the Vulcan's thoughts as he entered Sickbay and he immediately noticed the frenzy of activity in ICU. Kirk and Scott were standing in the doorway watching the chaos anxiously and Chekov was sat at the CMO's terminal. One eyebrow raised, he left the Captain and Second Officer to their private worries and entered the office.
"Mr. Spock," Chekov greeted him barely looking up.
"Ensign Wylp's condition has deteriorated?"
The Security Chief sighed and nodded. "It does not look good this time," he gestured to the monitor where he was studying Chapel's hyperencephalograms. "What do you think?"
Spock's gaze was steady. "It is unwise to discuss this with me, Lieutenant."
Chekov sighed "It's alright, Mr. Spock. I've ruled you out," he looked at the polite curiosity on the Vulcan's face and managed to smile. "I have you to thank for helping me narrow the search down," his smile turned into a grin as the expected eyebrow shot up. "I've reviewed the tapes of the lab Doctor Chapel was found in. She was redoing the tests Wahler and Newman originally performed. She saw something that made her excited but just as she stood up, all power went out in the lab. Even the surveillance went off. When power came back on, she was lying unconscious on the floor and the samples she had been studying were destroyed." He quickly keyed instructions into the terminal and Spock took a seat opposite him, watching as the information changed to what initially appeared to be an inventory report. Closer inspection corrected that assumption.
"Fascinating," Spock murmured eventually. "Doctor Chapel's organisational approach is most Vulcan."
Chekov grinned. "I'll take that as a compliment, Mr. Spock," he waited for the eyebrow then continued, still smiling. "I asked Doctor Chapel to log with me a report of all the tests that needed to be re-evaluated, when she was performing them, and when she would be making the final analysis. It's a habit I picked up from you when I was working for Science on the last tour. We do not have the samples she made the breakthrough on but we know exactly what time she lost consciousness from the power shortage and we know exactly what she was testing for at that time because of these records," he scrolled through the inventory and highlighted a specific section. "Artificial disassembling of the SNARE complex in Ensign Wylp's brain. The tests were worked on by Nurse Wahler, Lieutenant Newman and Nurse Atkins. They came back negative before but if what I see on the surveillance footage is anything to go by then those initial results were wrong."
"The disassembling is initiated by nanotechnology?"
"Exactly, Mr. Spock. And the reason we didn't realise it beforehand is because certain tests were being sabotaged to interfere with the investigation. Only three people were in a position to sabotage those tests."
Spock reflected on that for a moment. "Lieutenant Newman has the engineering expertise to sabotage Biolab 1 but Nurses Wahler and Atkins do not."
Chekov nodded seriously. "If one of them was responsible, they did not work alone. The only person with the required expertise who has used Biolab 1 since we left spacedock is Lieutenant Summers."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "How many level 5 diagnostics have been conducted on the force field generators in Biolab 1 since we left Earth?"
Chekov leaned forward and searched through his information in silence. "Two," he said eventually. "One the day before we left spacedock, the second a week later."
"Were they conducted remotely or manually?"
"The first was manually, the second was remotely, from Engineering."
Spock steepled his fingers in front of his face. "Then it is possible the nanotechnology was installed during the manual diagnostic and activated during the second."
Chekov nodded. "Mr. Scott believes that is the case. We investigated the engineering team that performed each diagnostic. It was the same team both times. And was the team that was taken to Sickbay when the forcefield failed."
"It is logical to assume the saboteur is one of the engineers."
Chekov stretched slightly. "And one of the engineers must have a connection to Newman, Atkins or Wahler," he shook his head. "But if there is one, it is not easy to find." He suddenly looked up at Spock with a smile. "But at least you and Mr. Scott are no longer suspects."
"Then I will assist your inquiry," Spock stood up. Chekov nodded once and rose with him.
As the pair exited McCoy's office they paused beside Kirk and Scott, looking into ICU. "What is the situation?" the First Officer asked.
The grim looks on both faces told him all he needed to know but Kirk answered anyway. "He's dead," the Captain confirmed with a bitter sigh. "Bones said he just shut down. Breathing, heart, you name it. He's taking a closer look at the damage but so far the damage in his brain is looking a lot like what's happening to Chris."
The Vulcan stared through screen into the room beyond for a few moments. Although his stomach churned at the knowledge, the implication, his features were expressionless. "Understood, Jim," he turned, nodded to Chekov and marched out of the room without another word.
Chekov glanced to his left, shook his head and headed over the food slot. There was no doubt about it, Spock was not part Vulcan, he was part machine. Upon leaving Sickbay after Kirk's grim message, they had headed straight for the Security Office. Once there, they had activated privacy mode, tied in with the First Officer's personnel databases and not looked back.
For hours they had referenced, cross-referenced and even cross-referenced the cross-references, trying to find a clue as to who exactly was involved, how and why. Chekov had gone through three coffees and he didn't even like caffeine. He was also in danger of wearing a hole in the carpet with all the pacing. The young officer had picked up many habits on the first tour from the command crew and, like Kirk, sometimes he had a tendency to pace.
Now the Security Chief was finally reaching the end of his stamina, his eyes were aching and his head throbbed. He was starting to forget what they were researching. He ordered another coffee then spotted the time. For a moment he stared, then he turned back to the food slot and changed his order to a black coffee. Eleven hours? No wonder he was exhausted! He let the aroma filter past his sinuses and shake up his brain slightly as he watched Spock.
The Vulcan had not raised his head in two hours. Probably longer. He had barely spoken in that time either. Chekov was used to long, silent research sessions with the First Officer but the only times he had seen Spock this driven had been during times of crisis - missing crew members, planetary catastrophe, battle stations. The ship had one crewmember dead, another comatose and multiple injuries; a saboteur who had only struck twice and a compelling mystery. Chekov knew Spock well enough to know the Vulcan cared more for the crew than he would ever admit - even to himself - but his determination still had the power to surprise the Russian.
"Since I'm up, do you need anything?" his voice sounded loud to his own ears. The silence had pervaded the room for so long.
"Not at this time, Lieutenant," the Vulcan didn't even raise his head.
Chekov frowned and moved back across to the terminal. "Mr. Spock. We've been doing this for eleven hours ..." he checked the time again, "... and thirty-two minutes. It is illogical not to eat or drink something."
This time Spock did raise his head. He glanced at the chronometer, an act which in itself surprised Chekov. Spock usually knew the time without needing to double-check artificial sources. Then he rose and moved towards the foodslot. Chekov expected the Vulcan to come back with something innocuous like Altair water. His superior officer's actions again surprised him when he returned with Tarkelian tea.
He managed a small smile as the Vulcan resumed his seat. "Isn't that a bit on the strong side for a man who's still on duty?"
Spock arched an eyebrow. "It is a drink Doctor Chapel introduced me to. I have observed many members of the crew partake of such beverages when requiring artificial stimulation during extended shifts."
Chekov tried not to smile at the Vulcan's coy confession to being tired. "So what have you found out?" he asked instead.
"Lieutenants Grabosky and Newman are both civilians who entered Starfleet later than usual. Newman was a physicist and engineer who was recruited by Starfleet Medical when they began to experiment with his microelectronic research. Grabosky was a civilian engineer who has worked on space docks for Earth and Mars. His work at Utopia Planetia is how he achieved his assignment here. In both cases, the Enterprise is their first assignment outside the Terran solar system. Grabosky has worked with Lieutenant Prescott prior to this mission, who was posted to Utopia Planetia for two years, but Prescott completed his Academy training on the Saratoga and was later assigned to the Carolina."
He paused, scanning the computer records he had created. "Nurse Wahler has been mostly assigned space station and planetside work. However, he has worked in the medical facilities at Utopia Planetia while Lieutenants Grabosky and Prescott were stationed there. Lieutenant Summers was born to an engineering family that worked on freighters involved in the spice trade and has spent his entire life in space. He joined Starfleet Academy at the age of 17, completed his training on the Constellation and has since been assigned various engineering positions on the Invincible, Cortez and Yorktown. He was also highly decorated during a tour on board the Victory."
Chekov sighed. "Nurse Atkins is fresh from the Academy, she's never even been in space before this posting," he glanced at his monitor. "Wylp and Thalit had fairly normal upbringings for Andorians. Raised on Andoria, in different provinces. They didn't go through the Academy at the same time either, Thalit completed his training two years before Wylp came to Earth. Thalit went through postings on the Midway, Yorktown and Beaver, and Wylp has served on the Beachy Head and Fesoan Prime. It would seem they met when the Fesoan Prime was badly damaged during an unspecified conflict with an Orion ship and was towed to Argelius II. The Beaver was on shoreleave there and took the surviving crew back to Earth for debriefing ..." he stopped as Spock arched an eyebrow.
"Lieutenant, on what date did this conflict occur?"
Chekov leaned forward and scrolled through his information. "Stardate 3138.2. They put into orbit around Argelius II on 3139.5," he looked up. "Is that relevant?"
Spock wasn't looking at him, he was staring at the computer. "The Carolina was also in orbit around Argelius II for recreational reasons during that timeframe. They also recorded taking damage from Orion aggression."
Chekov frowned as Spock's fingers continued to dance across the console. "So Red, Wylp and Thalit could all have met then?"
There was hesitation from Spock, and it took Chekov a moment to realise that the Vulcan was processing the identity of 'Red'. He was about to clarify Prescott's nickname, when Spock nodded. "Indeed," his gaze didn't rise from his study of the monitor. "Lieutenant Summers and Ensign Thalit might also know each other. They both served on board the Yorktown."
Chekov checked the notes. "But this means Wylp, Thalit, Summers, Red, Grabosky and Wahler have potentially all known each other prior to this assignment. And we can't find any previous connections to Newman or Atkins," he sighed. "I guess we have narrowed it down a bit."
Spock didn't answer, his hands were busy again, eyes scanning the terminal intently. He was looking for something. Chekov waited, sipping his coffee to keep his brain active. Eventually the Vulcan raised his head. "I have cross-referenced incidents between all suspected crewmembers and the Orions."
"Wylp, Thalit and Red. Anyone else?"
"Indeed. Nurse Wahler was stationed at Space Station K-5 when it was attacked by Orions, 3.23 months before their attack in the Argelius system. Lieutenant Summers has familiarity with Orions as a result of his upbringing."
Chekov rubbed his forehead wearily. "Are we really tying Orions into this?"
"There is no evidence to suggest Orion involvement at this time," Spock responded immediately.
"But we investigate that anyway?"
"Indeed. If we cannot eliminate the data as irrelevant it would be illogical to ignore it."
"Of course," Chekov muttered and turned once more to his terminal to follow a new line of inquiry.
Captain Kirk conducted a simple service for Wylp. The officers wore dress uniform, his closest friends and Mr. Scott each spoke highly of the Ensign's dedication to duty and passionate nature. Chekov found himself watching the recovering engineers intently. Most of them seemed to be in shock that their friend had died, however. Only Thalit stood rigidly to attention, almost as emotionless as the Vulcan First Officer. The Security Officer wasn't too suspicious by this behaviour, however. He knew Andorians too well, knew their passionate nature could so overwhelm them that the Humans around him would be in danger. Andorian funerals were violent affairs by Human standards and the two security men flanking the Andorian now were there at Thalit's own request. The gym had been isolated on Doctor McCoy's orders for Thalit to release his emotions later in private without any danger of harm coming to the rest of the crew.
Wylp's body was not released into space in the manner his Human friends would have understood. Thalit had asked for Andorian tradition to be honoured and the body was prepared and lying in stasis. As soon as possible, his body would be returned to Andoria and his family for private arrangements to be made. Thalit had not elaborated on what those traditions were. Apparently he had felt the knowledge would shock the Humans too much.
The service was conducted smoothly and nothing happened to give Chekov any clues as to who among the suspects had been responsible.
"Standard orbit, Helm," Kirk ordered curtly but he knew Sulu was already doing just that.
"Aye, sir." To the Helm Officer's credit, he controlled most of his amusement as the Captain pensively studied the red planet that dominated the viewscreen and the other Constitution-class vessel off their bow.
"Uhura, hail the Long Beach," he said softly.
"Aye, Captain," she turned to her console and moments later the Captain of the Long Beach was gazing at Kirk from his seat.
"Jim, you're just in time for dinner, how about your command staff beams aboard and joins us?"
For a moment Kirk didn't answer then, face carefully neutral, he rose from his seat. "My place is bigger, Jack, how about you join us over here?"
"Fine. Kirk out." Kirk waited for the channel to close before hitting his comm and sounding general quarters. "Senior officers to Briefing Room 1." He lifted his head and scanned the bridge. "Lieutenant Kyle, you have the Bridge," he stalked off to the turbo lift, ignoring the silence. He knew his abruptness bordered on rude but the closer they had come to Vulcan, the shorter his temper had become. Uhura, Sulu and Spock joined him and they rode the rest of the way to the briefing room without speaking.
By the time the officers were assembled in the briefing room, Captain Martin and his officers had beamed across and joined them. Once they were all seated, Kirk didn't waste time on niceties. "Alright, Jack, what's going on?"
"Did you get the information we sent to the Bainbridge?" Martin asked immediately.
"Yes. It all seems routine. There's no explanation for why you've been stuck in orbit here for the past four months."
Martin shook his head and the muscles in his forehead started to bulge. "I swear it, Jim. I used to think I got on well with Vulcans, but recently all I've wanted to do is strangle the lot of them. For starters, they're not being straight with us. The High Council is running rings around us. They won't let us beam down planetside and the highest ranking Vulcan we've been able to speak with has been some kind of minor paper-pusher. I'd rather deal with Klingons than this bureaucratic farce!"
Kirk pursed his lips. "How did it start? Did your crew have a falling out with the Vulcan scientists on board?"
Martin's First Officer sighed. "There was the usual tension that tends to happen when you put Vulcans and Humans on board the same ship. They considered us emotional, we considered them irrationally logical. But it was nothing unusual. Nothing our two planets haven't been dealing with since First Contact, and for the most part, I think we put our differences behind us. Unlike the Captain, most of us have only heard of Vulcans and haven't dealt directly with them. From the scientists who beamed aboard, I got the impression that not many Vulcans deal directly with Humans either. Once we all got used to how the other side did things, we worked well together. By the time we were returning to Vulcan most of us were ready to call the Vulcans on that team friends," he smiled wearily at the memory. "Not that I'm sure Vulcans would even understand friendship. It seems like a bit of an informal concept for them."
"Vulcans take friendship very seriously," Kirk told him. "They seem to think we're the ones who don't understand what it means." Despite the situation he had to smile at the reaction the Long Beach crew displayed to that idea. A moment later his smile faded. "So what happened?"
Martin sighed and picked it up. "We didn't get any warning. We arrived in Vulcan space, signalled to the Academy we would be in orbit shortly, and the next thing we knew, we were being hailed by the High Council itself and told we were to take up standard orbit and remain there until further instructed. When we asked about shore leave while we waited, we were politely but firmly informed shore leave would not be permitted. When I asked if anything was wrong, I was told to stand by. I ended up "standing by" for three days before I lost my temper. In retrospect, that was probably a bad move. I've noticed that Vulcans seem to become stubborn in the face of emotional outbursts," he sighed again. "The Vulcan science team had to beam down immediately and we've had no contact with the Academy since. We can only get minor administrators to talk with us; all they'll say is that an investigation is in process into the survey of the Apulu Rose Nebula and we have to stand by until we are asked to contribute."
"And what does Starfleet have to say about this?" Scott demanded.
"Their diplomats are talking to Vulcan's diplomats, but as far as I can tell it's going around in circles. Starfleet's main angle into Vulcan has usually been through the Vulcan Ambassador but even he's not talking to Earth right now."
Kirk considered for a moment, then swung around to face Spock. "Thoughts, Spock?"
The Vulcan was silent for several moments then pressed the comm. "Spock to T'Van. Report to Briefing Room 1," he folded his hands quietly, not waiting for a response, and arched an eyebrow at his Captain. "I submit her response to that question will be more useful than mine."
Kirk eyed him narrowly. "I refuse to believe you don't have an opinion on this, Spock."
"An opinion without facts is illogical."
"Facts?! You think there aren't any facts?!" Martin's Second Officer suddenly seemed to erupt at the Vulcan.
"Ken..." Martin began quietly.
"I'll list the facts off to you if you like! Starting with the fact that your goddamn bureaucratic circus seems to have a completely illogical objection to Humans being in space!"
"Lieutenant Commander Ashby that will be all!" Martin snapped, his voice echoing around the briefing room.
The Second Officer sat back, face red and knuckles white as his hands balled into fists at his side. "Yes, Captain," he said tightly, still glaring at the very silent Spock.
The doors slid open to reveal the graceful form of T'Van. She paused momentarily on sensing the tension then completed her journey into the room and took the seat Kirk offered.
Kirk looked at Martin. "This is T'Van. We picked her up from a Rigellian freighter and are escorting her back to Vulcan. Apparently it was arranged by Ambassador Sarek. Exploiting loopholes to help us," he grinned as Spock raised a disapproving eyebrow.
The Long Beach crew studied her. Even Ashby's anger drained slightly to be replaced by curiosity. Kirk turned to her as well. "T'Van, this is Captain Jack Martin of the Long Beach. His First Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mick Braxton and his Second Officer, Lieutenant Commander Ken Ashby. Could you please tell them what you came aboard to tell us?"
She inclined her head to Kirk and quickly informed them of the information Sarek had passed on to her. In return, Kirk filled her in on what the Long Beach had told them.
Ashby shook his head in disgust. "I knew it. Vulcans are just as racist and intolerant as they claim we are."
T'Van lifted both eyebrows. "Denial of IDIC does not support the teachings of Surak. Unfortunately, facts are only as useful as the context to which they refer and Vulcans are capable of using logic to illogical ends."
They all studied her curiously. "I never thought I'd ever hear a Vulcan say that, T'Van." McCoy admitted, the first to speak.
Her dark eyes turned to him gravely. "Vulcans are no more perfect than Humans, Doctor." She turned to Kirk. "Captain, the question you must answer is why this mission allows the conservative Vulcans to address this debate now. If you can answer this question a solution might present itself."
Kirk paused. "T'Van, you said we could not speak to Vulcans. What about Ambassador Sarek's wife? Could we speak with her?"
T'Van shook her head. "There would be no need to speak with me if that was possible."
Kirk rubbed his forehead, then hit the comm. "Bridge, open hailing frequencies with Vulcan."
"Aye, sir. Hailing frequencies open."
Kirk nodded and activated the view screen in the briefing room. A moment later, a thin, austere Vulcan face appeared on the screen. "This is Captain Kirk of the Federation ship, U.S.S. Enterprise. We're in orbit around Vulcan and waiting to take over the Long Beach's survey mission. I'd like to speak with Ambassador Sarek."
"Your orbit is confirmed, Captain. Remain on board ship and stand by for further instructions," the viewscreen went dead.
There was silence in the room.
"That's exactly how they've treated us for the past few months," Martin's teeth grated.
Kirk's eyes narrowed but before he could speak, Spock rose to his feet. "T'Van, Doctor McCoy, accompany me to the Bridge." Then he turned on his heel and strode out of the room before anyone else could react.
Wild horses couldn't have kept them away. Quickly, the senior officers took their stations on the bridge. The three Long Beach officers found a quiet place out of the way to watch as Spock stepped down into the well of the Bridge. "Lieutenant Uhura, re-establish contact," he ordered as if the Captain wasn't present. The Communications Officer glanced uncertainly at Kirk, who nodded. He was frowning but he wasn't prepared to interfere just yet. He trusted Spock had identified a way to handle this situation that the Humans had so far failed to find.
The same Vulcan reappeared on the viewscreen, one eyebrow raised. Without preamble, Spock spoke in the Vulcan tongue. What followed was only a brief conversation but ended with Spock suddenly drawing himself up to his full height and issuing what appeared to be an ultimatum of some kind. Certainly the Enterprise crew recognised his command tone but never had they seen him quite so imperialistic. T'Van stepped gracefully down into the well to stand next to him, chin lifted, looking as dignified as the First Officer. The administrator on the viewscreen stiffened in response as she joined in the conversation.
Apparently unsettled, the Vulcan cut communication again. Feeling his head starting to pound, Kirk moved forward but Spock raised his hand. "One moment, Captain," he murmured quietly, eyes still fixed on the viewscreen.
Moments later, the Vulcan was back on the screen and nodded once to T'Van. He seemed about to cut the connection when Spock spoke again, this time in Federation Standard. "Doctor McCoy and I will accompany T'Vanan to the surface."
"Unacceptable. I have informed you of the regulations."
"You specified exceptions could be made during an emergency. We have an emergency on board. One of our crew has experienced a life-threatening condition. At the Science Academy is a doctor with knowledge of her medical history. The Science Officer and Chief Medical Officer of the Enterprise require his expertise and resources to resolve this matter."
The Vulcan looked away, apparently seeking confirmation. "Very well. T'Vanan will be transported to her husband's location. You and Doctor McCoy will be transported to the Science Academy. You are restricted to the campus and will return to the Enterprise once you have received the information you require to save Doctor Chapel's life. This is not negotiable."
"That is acceptable."
The Vulcan nodded curtly and cut the commlink.
Spock turned back to face Kirk and a very silent Bridge.
"Are you going to explain any of that?" Kirk demanded.
"I have acquired permission for T'Van, myself and Doctor McCoy to transport down to Vulcan," Spock replied.
"I was correct, Captain," T'Van said. "Part of the reason for the lack of communication between the Council and your two starships is because of Spock's presence in Starfleet. Another reason is that Vulcans do not feel Humans need to know what happens during council sessions on a planet that not their own."
"They're being arrogant and pig-headed in other words," McCoy grunted.
T'Van met his gaze evenly. "Yes."
McCoy looked startled at her agreement then grinned, a slightly disbelieving expression on his face and turned to Spock. "She agreed with me!"
"She is distracted by personal matters," Spock replied dryly then changed the subject. "Doctor, we must be ready to transport to the surface in 15.21 minutes."
McCoy scowled at him suddenly. "And that reminds me. M'Benga doesn't know anything about Christine's medical history that I don't."
"I surmised as much, Doctor," Spock admitted blandly.
The CMO looked shocked. "You lied!"
"Vulcans do not lie, Doctor. It is entirely possible Doctor M'Benga can help you. It would be illogical not to utilise his abilities. It would also be illogical for me not to make full use of the Science Academy resources during the time we are searching for a diagnosis," he turned to Kirk. "Permission to transport to Vulcan, Captain."
McCoy stared at him for a few moments then glanced at Kirk who was grinning wryly. "Permission granted, Spock," was all the Captain said.
Spock headed for Transporter Room 2, deep in thought. So deep in thought, in fact, that he didn't know he had a companion until he stepped in the turbolift and T'Van instructed the computer before he could speak.
"You are distracted," she said.
Considering that to be an unnecessary statement, Spock chose not to respond at all. She turned to face him fully and tilted her head so she could look him in the eye. "Your friends are interesting people," she said calmly. "People of good character. Starfleet is good for you."
His eyebrow shot up. "You have revised your decision."
"I have. I am not as stubborn as some."
"Don't "T'Van" me, Spahkh. You believe I am too illogical for a Vulcan. I have concluded the teachings of Surak have merit and I do not ignore them. But I am no more Vulcan than you are and I accept Surak could not foresee our situation. That is not a betrayal of the Vulcan way, it is acknowledgement of the true logic of applying Surak's wisdom to the reality instead of the interpretation. Too many full-blooded Vulcans aspire to an interpretation instead of acknowledging the reality. Sodek accepts my logic. Why can't you?"
He gave her an intent look "Is this a conversation or a debate, T'Van-kam? Your defensiveness is not logical."
"Are you teasing me, Spahkh-kam?"
"That would be illogical."
Her lips twitched. "You are."
He raised an eyebrow at her but neither confirmed nor denied it as they stepped out of the turbolift and headed for the transporter room.
"This woman who is ill, Doctor Chapel. She is the blonde Lieutenant I observed in the rec room, is she not?" T'Van asked thoughtfully as they walked down the corridor.
Spock studied her for a moment before answering. "Yes."
She was silent, as if considering something. "What is her prognosis?"
"Doctors McCoy and M'Benga are competent Medical Officers," was all Spock said.
She lifted her eyes to give him an intent look but his attention remained focused on the route ahead of them. He was completely expressionless and she knew the conversation would not progress.
"Spahkh, has working on board a Human ship affected your ability to meditate?" T'Van asked instead.
His eyebrow shot up. "Any inability to meditate I experience is an internal matter. It is difficult to shield against Human emotions but not impossible. Have you experienced difficulties?"
"For the last 5.2 days." She paused outside the transporter room. "When I have attempted to meditate, I have experienced emotional contexts I am unfamiliar with. I have also dreamed frequently. My dreams have involved members of this crew. I theorised it was because I am unused to being in such close proximity to Humans for sustained periods of time."
"That does not seem likely," Spock said slowly.
She nodded once and stepped into the transporter room where Doctor McCoy was waiting impatiently for them. Spock followed, thinking swiftly. T'Van nodded to McCoy. "It has been a ... pleasure meeting you, Doctor," she said to him.
McCoy looked startled for a moment, then smiled. "And it was a pleasure meeting you, missy," his blue eyes twinkled. "You almost restored my faith in the universe."
Her eyes twinkled back. "May you find a cure for your friend soon."
At that, he sobered. "Damn straight I will," the wealth of determination in his voice was a testimony to how seriously he took that vow.
T'Van stepped up onto the transporter pad and started to raise her hand in the Vulcan salute when Spock stepped forward, dark eyes intent. "T'Van-kam, in your dreams, where were you?"
He had spoken in Vulcan but the computerised echo to his words told him immediately that McCoy must have already activated his universal translator ready for beaming down to Vulcan. He resisted the urge to stiffen at the breach of privacy.
"Sometimes I was on board the Enterprise. Sometimes I was at Starfleet Headquarters."
"Did you find yourself concentrating on any members of the crew in particular?"
She stared at him then both eyebrows rose. "Indeed. Doctor Chapel."
"Indeed," Spock muttered. "I beg thy forgiveness for the personal nature of the questions."
"Forgiveness is thine," she replied easily but there was a hint of impatience as she raised her hand in the Vulcan salute this time. "Live long and prosper."
"Peace and long life," he responded in kind then nodded at the technician to energise.
As soon as T'Van was gone, McCoy sighed. "I'm sorry about the translator, Spock, I didn't plan on eavesdropping."
"It is irrelevant, Doctor," Spock sounded distracted, he turned and began moving towards the door.
"Spock, where the devil do you think you are going?" McCoy demanded incredulously.
"To test a theory. Ensign, inform the Captain and Vulcan we will be transporting late due to medical reasons. Doctor, please accompany me to Sickbay."
Spock didn't say anything more until they reached Sickbay. When they arrived they found Kirk standing there. "What's going on?" he demanded.
The Vulcan breezed passed him without answering, heading to Chapel's bed where she lay as still and silent as the day she had been found in the lab.
McCoy gave Kirk a helpless look. "I don't know, Jim," he moved across to stand on the opposite side of the bed as Spock bent over her, studying her face intently. Before either the CMO or Captain could react, Spock pressed his fingers lightly to Chapel's meld points and closed his eyes. Seconds later, the Vulcan gasped and sank to his knees.
"Spock?" Kirk was at his side, steadying him almost immediately. With McCoy's help, he eased his First Officer onto a nearby biobed. Spock's eyes flew open and his grip tightened like a vice on Kirk's arm. The Captain's swift hiss of pain seemed to bring the Vulcan back to his senses. His eyes focused and he pushed himself up. "Did I injure you, Jim?"
"I'll be fine," Kirk said flatly as McCoy ran a tricorder over his arm to double-check that assessment.
"That's going to be some real nasty bruising," the CMO corrected dryly.
Kirk ignored it. "I want explanations, Mr. Spock," he snapped.
"For the past 5.2 days my meditations have been interrupted by what I am inaccurately forced to classify as dreams. I have also been dreaming when I sleep. My dreams follow a similar pattern. I am either walking through the corridors of this ship listening to the crew converse around me or I am on Earth at Starfleet Headquarters, again listening to the crew converse around me. The one crewmember I always see is Doctor Chapel but she is the only one I have not heard speak. She also seems disoriented," he hesitated only briefly before continuing. "Just before T'Van transported to Vulcan, she told me she had been experiencing such dreams, also for 5.2 days. She believes it is because she is unused to the proximity of so many Humans. That did not explain why I was experiencing these dreams as I am acclimatised to the presence of unshielded Humans."
"What brought you here?" Kirk asked, now more curious than angry. He knew that most of Spock's physiology followed Vulcan norm rather than Human norm, and like Vulcans, Spock rarely dreamed.
"I theorised that since the common factor in both our dreams is Doctor Chapel and our dreams coincide with her comatose state the answer may lie with her," he paused and his gaze slid passed Kirk and McCoy to rest on the unconscious woman's face.
"What happened when you melded with her, Spock?" McCoy asked impatiently.
"I did not meld with her," Spock corrected softly. "I only touched her but I was overwhelmed by the activity in her mind," there was a flicker of horror in his eyes as he continued. "She is not unconscious, she is completely aware of her surroundings. Her mind has been awakened to the thoughts and emotions of everyone around her in the manner of a telepath. Unlike a telepath she cannot control the input she is receiving," his eyes fixed on McCoy. "Doctor, she has suffered sensory overload and may be in neural shock. If this is not resolved she will become irreversibly insane."