Kirk stood with one foot on the steps to the transporter, waiting for McCoy to put his hypo away. He rubbed at his arm a little before pulling his sleeve down again, where the doctor had just injected a small locator chip. Much as he relied on technology every day, he still felt uneasy after all that had passed at putting his trust in a chip the size of a grain of rice to keep him and the doctor safe when they beamed down to the Tyok caves. The chip could tell the ship where to find them – it even transmitted body readings to allow the Enterprise to know if they had suffered injury – but it could not say whether or not he and the doctor were in imminent danger of sudden death.
'Sure you've got that transponder in properly?' he asked again.
'D'you think I want to be taken prisoner by those people again?' McCoy asked him, then he said, 'Yes. It's in, Jim. Ready?'
'Guess so.' Kirk got up onto a transporter panel, and McCoy followed. 'Energise, Scotty. Oh, and - '
'If you don't check in in an hour, locate you and beam you up,' Scott nodded. 'Aye, sir. Energising.'
He slid the buttons up, and the pair turned into gold sparkles, then disappeared, leaving the transporter pad empty. The men materialised dead centre in the cave-office belonging to Sha'Vir Seyak, on the rug that Kirk had been forced to kneel on as Spock was tortured in another room. Seyak seemed to be sitting peacefully at his desk, doing some kind of written business, but he jumped up in momentary fright as the men appeared.
'Kirk!' he exclaimed, then nodded, composing himself quickly. 'Captain, Dr McCoy. Good morning, I believe is the greeting you use.'
'Yes,' Kirk smiled. 'Except that I think it's evening down here. I'm sorry for busting in like this, but we had no way of contacting you to arrange it.'
Seyak sat down again behind his desk with a degree of control that would have befitted one of Spock's race, and looked up at them.
'I have heard that your First Officer Spock is trapped inside Pnauh'Kmaghe, condemned to death. I will offer my condolences.'
'Fat lot you care,' McCoy muttered as he looked around at the tapestries in the room, forgetting that the Vulcan's hearing was far more acute than any human's was.
'I will overlook that remark,' Seyak said graciously, 'considering the treatment we subjected you to due to our small misunderstanding.'
'Thank you,' Kirk said quickly, glancing at McCoy. 'And I'm pleased to say that Mr Spock isn't dead. He was freed, and is back on the ship.'
The Vulcan smiled. McCoy could help feeling that the smile looked wrong on a Vulcan's face – even a Tyok Vulcan's.
'Uninjured?' the man asked.
'He was suffering from lack of food and sleep, and the results of severe stress, but he's recovering in sickbay as we speak.'
'And the young child you rescued from Ly'Gotja?'
'She'll be adopted by a good family. We came to tell you that no more villages, or Tyok dwellings, will be at any risk from attack. The ship that was attacking Vulcan was destroyed in combat, along with its crew. There's no sign that their compatriots will consider taking on the Federation again.'
'I heard that it was Pnauh'Kmaghe that they took on,' Seyak laughed.
'Yes. Maybe it was,' Kirk said reluctantly. 'My chief engineer tells me that Pnauh'Kmaghe somehow repaired my ship and actually brought some of my people back to life, after they were attacked by the Pzyioman ship.'
'My ancestors were fine, intelligent people, Captain Kirk,' Seyak said proudly.
'Yes.' Kirk fidgeted, then looked down at his feet. No matter how amicable Seyak was being, he felt distinctly uneasy about standing in his office. 'I'm sorry to cut it short, Seyak, but I have a lot of work to do on the Enterprise – after the battle, there's still some damage to be repaired. We only came to tell you it's all cleared up.'
'Except for my hundreds of dead tribesmen,' Seyak said bitterly. 'But I cannot put you to blame for that, Kirk. I thank you for returning here to tell me.'
'Well, you had a right to know.' Kirk opened his communicator quickly. 'Scotty, stand by to beam up.'
'Aye, sir,' came the prompt response. 'Standing by.'
'You will, of course, convey my well-wishes to Commander Spock?' Seyak asked, getting up and coming forward to them.
He backed away a step as he saw that Seyak was coming forward with a long, sharp looking knife in his hand, wondering if the man had some kind of revenge to carry out.
'You will present him with this,' Seyak said, slipping the sharp blade back into an ornately designed leather sheath. 'It is the knife of a Tyok hunter. This blade has a long history behind it.'
'Thank you,' Kirk smiled diplomatically, taking the knife. 'I'm sure he'll appreciate it. Scotty, energise,' he said hastily into his communicator.
He felt the familiar tingling sensation beginning in his stomach, and the small office faded from his view. After a few moments they were back on the Enterprise, and he allowed himself to let loose a sigh of relief.
'He's not really that bad,' McCoy said unexpectedly. 'Just a very illogical man.'
'I would've thought you'd be more nervous of him than I am, after what they did to you, Bones,' Kirk said in surprise, as they went through the door.
'To tell you the truth, I think such an illogical Vulcan makes a nice change,' McCoy grinned.
Kirk laughed, then his face turned grave. 'Bones - '
'Yes, Jim? What's on your mind?'
'Is Spock recovering as we speak, or will he always be like – like – ?'
'Like nervous of all noise, hysterical and unpredictable? Spock's pretty tough, Jim. I can't do much for him in sickbay, except get him strong again and take care of him. I'm only giving him sedatives to keep him calm - otherwise he'd never sleep. I can't give him anything to make his mind better. He's strong enough to put that right himself, and he's fighting for that.'
'Bones, don't take offence at this, but do you really know enough about this kind of thing? You're a surgeon, not a psychiatrist – especially not a Vulcan psychiatrist.'
'I thought of that too, Jim,' McCoy nodded. 'I've had one of the best Vulcan headshrinkers up here to see him. He tells me Spock'll probably stay asleep until he's sorted himself out, then he'll pull himself out of it. He should be recovered significantly as soon as that happens. It may take a while for him to really put it behind him, but he'll be all right, Jim, really.'
'All right, Bones,' Kirk smiled. 'I just needed my mind put at ease.'
'I've got a better way than that,' McCoy grinned. 'Care to try it?'
Kirk chuckled approvingly. 'Your quarters? I'll bring a bottle of Rigilian whisky I've been saving.' He lowered his voice. 'Made illicitly by the farmers in the hill country. I better warn you, it's got quite a bite, Bones.'
'We can drink to Spock's health.'
'I'll be along after my shift, Bones.'
McCoy grinned, waved a hand in acknowledgement, and went happily back to the sickbay.
The next time Spock woke everything seemed clearer, and his eyes focused without so much effort. The drip that kept him from sitting up was still there, but he knew he probably could sit without finding a maelstrom in his head. He lifted a hand and stared at it, and it wasn't shaking so much. He could feel the trembling in his mind, but it was dulled, and controllable. It didn't make him want to scream and claw at his head. He closed his eyes for a few moments, to gather the energy to call out for someone, then found himself waking again, not knowing how much later. He reached out and pressed a button by his bed, and someone came running in.
'Spock. You okay?' McCoy asked anxiously.
'How long?' he asked sleepily.
'You've been asleep for about a week. You woke a few times.'
'Once,' Spock said with certainty.
'Once properly awake, maybe. You've half woken up when people came in to visit you. T'Syan came in, and your parents transported up for a while. Do you need anything?'
Spock glanced at the drip. 'I would like to sit up, to eat solid food, to have a drink – and to talk.'
'Not all at once,' McCoy laughed. 'But, okay. Now you're conscious we can do away with that drip.'
He disengaged the drip, and went over to a food dispenser.
'What d'you like?'
'I am not overly concerned,' Spock said. 'Simply something hot.'
McCoy nodded, making a quick selection on the replicator. He waited for the food to materialise, then came back with the tray.
'I got you something good and Vulcan. Tuck into that. What d'you want to talk about?'
'Are we still orbiting Vulcan? Do I still have T'Si?'
'Yes, you have T'Si. Nobody's going to send her away without your consent, and without you being well enough to think about it. I've been gradually reducing the sedatives, so you should be fit to think properly soon. I know they make your mind feel like cotton wool, but you needed them at first. And yes, we're still orbiting Vulcan. There're teams of people down there investigating Pnauh'Kmaghe. No one can get in, but they're having a field day with the outside, and thinking about the inside. They've all seen the pictures you sent back. Do you – mind me talking about that?' he asked cautiously.
'No.' Spock took another mouthful of solid food, trying not to seem too eager to eat, and trying not to let his heavy eyelids shut again. 'I do not want to talk much about what happened after Jim and Chekov left me, but the time before that I don't mind. Good morning, Captain,' he said, as Kirk came in.
'Afternoon,' Kirk corrected.
'Evening,' McCoy set them both straight.
'Doctor, this is a breakfast meal,' Spock complained, looking down at the food on his plate.
'That's the disc that was there. And it *is* your first meal of the day. You don't look like you mind that much.'
'I am hungry.'
'I've never seen you hungry before,' McCoy laughed.
Kirk laughed too as he sat down beside Spock's bed. He looked curiously at Spock's plate of food, and then exchanged a glance with McCoy. It certainly did not look like food that a human would enjoy.
'I've been speaking to some of the ground team, Spock,' he said. 'They're getting about as much information from that building as they did before we got in there.'
'The building is impervious to any kind of scan,' Spock remembered. 'It would be difficult. No!' He shook his head. 'When Suaniak took our mechanical devices - he absorbed them, Jim. He absorbed the tricorder, and communicators. When I was to be released, he told me he would use them to transmit audio and visual signals. They only have to contact him on the right frequency. I apologise. I hardly remembered. I was too far gone by then, to take much in.'
'It must've been awful,' Kirk muttered, then stopped as McCoy kicked him.
Spock closed his eyes as if he was in pain. 'I don't want to talk about it,' he said in a low voice. 'I – cannot make myself think of it yet.'
'I wasn't trying to make you,' Kirk protested softly. 'I just made a comment.'
Spock lay back into the soft pillows. He gulped slightly, his eyes almost crossing with concentration. He felt like a child again, struggling to enforce his mental disciplines and not quite succeeding. McCoy picked up a tranquilliser from the table and began to set the dosage.
'No,' the Vulcan protested. 'I don't need tranquillising, Doctor.'
'I'm sorry, Spock,' he said sincerely. 'I know you hate these sedatives – I know how they make your mind feel – but you're not strong enough to get upset.'
'No.' He grabbed for McCoy's wrist and took the hypo. 'You seem to want to sedate me at the smallest sign of instability. I am tired of having my mind turned into something comparable to a marshmallow. Give me a chance, Doctor.'
'Bones, don't give him any more of them,' Kirk pleaded.
'I hate keeping him doped like this,' McCoy said guiltily. 'But he'll become terribly agitated without them.'
'I don't need it,' Spock said firmly. 'I am sound of mind, and you cannot administer drugs to me without my consent. I must cure my mind myself – your drugs will only prolong recovery.'
He dropped the hypo, and pressed his long fingers to his own face for a moment. His eyes blanked, then cleared again, looking brighter than before.
'I'm all right now, Doctor. I won't need any more drugs. I used ghi-ta'ni. It is a way of calming the mind.'
'Are you sure that's reliable?' McCoy asked doubtfully.
'One hundred percent. I am ready to return to duty now, Captain, if you will relieve my deputy.'
'Jim!' McCoy protested.
'Not yet, Spock,' Kirk agreed. 'We do have to be sure you're all right.'
'Not to mention that you're still ill,' McCoy continued. 'You need more time to rest. One week of food doesn't make up for one week of starvation.'
'You have been pumping more nutrition into my veins than I could ever need. If you had consulted Dr M'Benga – '
'I did, and we gave you the absolute correct amount of food. He told me that when a Vulcan goes without food that long he needs the excess, because of the amount of energy his complex brain uses. You were in a very nervous, disturbed state. Your brain was racing out of control like a starship at warp nine.'
Spock couldn't think of a reply to that, so he lapsed into a reluctant silence. Then he turned to Kirk.
'Jim, I do not want to talk about that week yet, but I'll make a full report,' he promised. 'Later, when it's clear in my mind.'
'However long it takes, Spock. I won't rush you.'
Spock flopped back as sleepiness built up again, and he battled hard to keep the light tranquillisers that were in his bloodstream from muddling him. He sat up again, feeling as if his mind had been numbed, and uttered a sentence of nonsense.
'It's okay,' McCoy said quickly to Kirk. 'It's the tranquilliser that's still in his system.'
Spock yawned, as the sedative finally caught up with him.
'I'm fine, Captain,' he muttered, as sleep washed over him again. 'I am just fine.'
It was a week later before Spock felt able to leave the sick bay, and requested permission to beam down to the surface of Vulcan to conclude some unfinished business there. Kirk only heard of the Vulcan's full intentions via the intercom, just as Spock beamed down, and he pelted to the transporter room and immediately ordered the operator to beam him down in the same place.
Spock was already walking purposefully across the red sand when Kirk materialised, and he turned in slightly nervous surprise at the noise of the transporter behind him.
'Spock!' Kirk jogged up to the Vulcan, and caught his arm. 'Are you sure you want to do this?'
'I am perfectly sure,' Spock said calmly.
'But – are you ready to speak to him?'
'Yes, Jim,' Spock nodded. 'I must. He could have killed me, and yet he did not. He showed me mercy. He truly did not know how ill that week made me. He is already dead. He has forgotten hunger and fatigue.'
'He could have seen how terribly exhausted you were.'
'I may have simply seemed to him to be acting like an emotional Vulcan – as he knows Vulcans to be. Even if I was sobbing - he did not know how unusual that was to a modern Vulcan. He simply knew that I did not want to die. If my conversation became confused – insane maybe – he only knew that I was upset. If I was shaking, it was with terror. He does not know modern Vulcans. I remember little of the last few days in there – of being released, you finding me. I was detached from all reason. But I do know Suaniak still called me son. He did care as a father would.'
'And it's logical to go back and thank him?' Kirk smiled.
'It is not precisely logical,' Spock said, deliberately looking in the opposite direction.
'And if he's changed his mind? He can beam things out - he'll have the power to beam things in again.'
Spock shuddered, looking up at the dark walls, then turned back to face Kirk.
'If he had wanted to do that, he could have reached out and taken me from the Enterprise, with nothing more than a thought. I am a scientist, Captain. I cannot let personal fears interfere with that.'
'I know, Spock. But at least let me come with you.'
'No, Jim,' Spock said firmly. 'Stay here, please. Nothing will happen to me. I must do this alone.'
Kirk sighed. 'Okay. But I'll be waiting here for you.'
As Spock walked slowly towards the great black shadow of Pnauh'Kmaghe the transporter hummed again, and Kirk spun nervously, to see a human form materialising.
'Bones,' he smiled, as the man appeared properly. 'You gave me a fright. I thought it was Suaniak taking Spock again.'
'Not half as big as the fright I got when I heard what Spock was doing. Has he gone?'
Kirk pointed at the blue-shirted figure moving away from them.
'He's only going to talk to Suaniak.'
'That's what worries me,' McCoy said seriously. 'If it stirs up all those memories again - '
'I think he can cope with it now. I couldn't order him not to do it, and he's only speaking through the tricorder. It's not as if he going back inside the place.'
'I know, but - ' McCoy shook his head. 'What's the use? I guess it's his decision. It's just I'm the one who has to straighten his mind out afterwards.'
They watched as Spock reached the great tomb, and raised his tricorder to the wall. His figure looked like that of a child - as insignificant as a speck of dust against the huge black building.
The land was growing dark, and the air chilling as Spock turned and began to walk steadily back towards his captain. His face and body were half lit by the dying sun, that turned his top a strange shade of purple. Kirk walked slowly forward to meet him, motioning for Bones to stay where he was.
'Have you finished?' he asked.
Spock looked straight at him, and Kirk was glad to see eyes that truly belonged to his science officer again. But for a while his voice was human.
'I've finished. I've closed the lid on that fear, Jim.'
Then a change came over him - not a visible one, but to Kirk it was as if the Vulcan had straightened up and pulled himself back into shape. He bent his head to efficiently adjust a few buttons on his tricorder, then looked up again.
'I am ready to beam up, Captain. I have much to add to the history files of the Enterprise.'