The cold rain was startling on the heat of Spock's skin as he cautiously left the woods and struck out into open farmland. Each droplet struck with an icy sting, and he gasped at the unaccustomed feeling before he could control his response. The wetness only grew as he crouched down in the rustling, storm-blown wheat, and thin, half-parched leaves clung to his chest and back like seaweed, the water acting as an itching, clinging magnet between his body and the foliage around him.
He crouched still for a moment, heaving air into his lungs, trying to steady his breathing after the adrenaline-fuelled dash from the farmhouse. The sun had been below the horizon for a few minutes now, and although its rays still illuminated the sky and dimly reflected on the ground, edges were blurred and movement distorted in the dying light. Here, he had the advantage. He could see much better than his human pursuers – and he could hear much better, too. He could hear their blundering attempts to trace him in the forest, but he had no doubt that they were deaf to his movement as he began to crawl through the wheat on hands and knees, trying to find a place where he could not be seen from the margins of the field.
He shivered as cold began to replace blood-flushed heat in his naked skin. He was grateful for the fact that he still had his warm, tough uniform trousers, but everything else had been taken from him in the farmhouse as a preliminary to – what?
Those events still disturbed him. He had not been overly surprised to be taken hostage as he had. These colonists had reason – they were to be ousted from their planet, from their home of two centuries. They had built an old-Earth idyll, with Earth architecture, and Earth crops and animals to continue their home away from home. The resistance to the evacuation had been furious, and as an obvious alien Spock had expected to attract a certain amount of hostility. But when they had pushed him to the floor at phaser point, and used scissors to rip away his tops, and pulled his boots and socks from his feet, he had begun to feel far more vulnerable. The light in the men's eyes had been unreadable, manic even. Their cause had maddened them.
It was the storm, and the men's adherence to Earth tradition in their homes, that had given Spock this one, precious chance. No amount of intelligence or skill could have replicated the sheer luck of a lightning strike hitting the old-style generating house and putting out the power. In the sudden darkness of a room with closed door and drawn curtains Spock had found himself at a distinct advantage. At that point his intelligence had paid off, and it had been the work of a moment to shake off the disoriented humans, wrap his fist in his own ruined shirt, and punch out the window behind him. He had thrown the useless garment to the ground the moment he had made it through the window, and run…
Now he found himself crawling across drought-hardened earth that stuck to hands and knees and bare feet as the sudden storm eased loose clots into mud. The drought itself, and the storm that was raging about him now, were the very reasons why these people were being relocated, and the drought and the storm were helping and hindering him in equal measure. The wind and the pelting of the rain masked his movements through the wheat. The dry, iron-hard earth masked any marks he might leave on the ground. But equally, the rain now pouring down his face and over his bare back and soaking through his trousers was blinding him, and slowing him and freezing him, and the drought-stricken wheat stalks were brittle, and instead of rebounding at each buffet of the wind were being flattened in swathes, shrinking the areas he could count on for cover. He could hear the humans making up ground – and worse than that, he could hear dogs…
And then twenty-third century technology cut through the primal mixture of mud, storm and fraying plants, and he felt the familiar warm vibration of a transporter beam catching each molecule in his body and separating it from the battering elements around him. Vision and sensation began to die as he was disassembled in the beam.
Spock had expected the Enterprise.
The shock caught hold of him as the beam released him, crouched, half naked and soaked, on a utilitarian metal beaming pad in a dark, cavernous bay. He looked up cautiously, blinking water from his eyes, feeling the soil of the wheat field still on his palms and his bare feet – and as he raised his head it was caught by the brutal swing of an iron bar, and all discomfort and chill and surprise exploded into hot, quick pain, and then died in unconsciousness.
'Where's Spock?' Kirk asked, the instant he noticed the absence of blue in the shirts of the men gathered around him. The fighting had been so intense for a few minutes that he had barely noticed anything at all, apart from the shouting, screaming, furious colonists that they were supposed to be peacefully evacuating. It was only as the Enterprise crewmembers had regrouped after the fight had spilled down alleyways and behind buildings that he had realised that Spock was not among them.
'I don't know,' one of the security men said, looking about himself. 'I was off over there,' he said, pointing between two whitewashed buildings, 'and Mr Spock went in the other direction.'
'He wasn't with me,' put in another man, and the general consensus rippled through the group that no one had seen Spock for a good twenty minutes.
Coldness sank through Kirk's chest. This was supposed to be a peaceful evacuation, goddammit. *This* wasn't even the evacuation. This should have been a preliminary meeting, a quiet discussion between himself and the colony leaders to explain exactly why it was so necessary that they leave their home. He had taken the security team as a passive, visual representation of both the Enterprise's power and their ability to help. He had ordered that the men not be armed, that they do nothing but speak peaceably to the colonists if approached. He had meant them as a suggestion of why it would be wise to leave the planet calmly and willingly, not as an outright, immediate threat.
Dammit, *why* hadn't he ordered them to bring phasers? he cursed internally. Even if they had just been the basic phasers, easily hidden in a pocket, or a palm… How could he have been so naïve to think that these people would take the eviction from their homes in a calm, and rational manner?
He noticed the rain now, streaking coldly from a sky that was suddenly grey and thunderous. The drought had lasted on this planet for ten months, and *now* it chose to rain. Small puffs of dust were being thrown into the air as each raindrop hit.
He almost got the urge to laugh.
As the alien slumped to the floor of the transporter the men in the transporter room burst into anxious activity, surging forward and surrounding the limp, half-naked figure.
'You've killed him!' one man said in panic.
'Don't matter if I have, as long as we say he's alive,' the man holding the bar said dispassionately, poking the end of it hard into the alien's side. The inert skin went white, then flushed green as blood rushed back. 'But anyway – look – he's got blood-flow, he's breathing. Let's see what they sent us…'
The man rolled the limp body over with his boot, and a smile spread over his face.
'Well, look at that,' another man said, pushing closer to peer at the unconscious man. 'He ain't even human.'
'What is it?' the first one asked, stepping forward.
The man with the bar turned to his colleague, his smile still broad and satisfied.
'That, Jonas, is a Vulcan. One of those uppity bastards that think they run the Federation.' He kicked the unconscious form lightly with his boot. 'Well, Mr Logic. Let's see how far your brain and your reason take you here. This is a *human* world here, and you're not gonna take it from us.'
Spock woke in darkness and silence, with nothing more than pain and uncomfortable sensation to guide him as to what had happened. His first awareness was the throbbing, pulsing pain in his cheek where the bar had struck him. He could taste blood in his mouth, and when he moved his jaw a minute amount he could feel a nauseating grating as of bone on bone. His jaw was fractured, then, and he had suffered some degree of concussion, although probably not to a serious degree. He had been unconscious long enough for the wetness to dry from his skin, but not for his trousers to dry entirely in this chill place. That spoke at least of hours, rather than days.
He ran his tongue painfully over his teeth, but could find no loose or dislodged ones in the areas of the fracture. That, at least, was reassuring. He turned his attention now to his more general condition. He was lying on his side, and the floor was hard and cold under his hip and flank. His knees were pulled up towards his chest, as if someone had tried to approximate the recovery position to prevent him choking on the blood in his mouth, or on unexpected vomit. But as his awareness grew he realised that his arms were cuffed uncomfortably behind his back. The wide metal of the cuffs was pushing unremittingly into his wrists, and his hands were numb.
He lay still for a moment, recalling the sight of the transporter in the brief moment before he had been rendered unconscious. The pad had been strewn with lumps of incomplete soil and wheat, and he had a distinct memory of some kind of rodent running from his field of vision. The signs were typical of a transporter that had not been designed for live transport, and of an operator who was equally unused to the task. Whoever had beamed him up, he had to be grateful for the fact that they had managed it with him intact.
He tried to sit up – and then decided against it as his head swam. It was entirely dark in this room, so even if he had sat there would be nothing to see, and he could not begin to explore the place with his hands bound and his equilibrium seriously compromised by the blow to the head. He had no choice but to lie and wait for some kind of enlightenment to be bestowed upon him.
He heard a slight mechanical movement above him, and as he turned his head towards the noise he recognised the one certainty in the room. There was a tiny, slow blinking light high above him, too dim to light anything around it, and too blurred in his vision to make out with any clarity. That light, he was certain, was associated with a camera, and that movement that had only begun at his first attempt to sit meant that he was being watched.
So be it. There was nothing he could do. He closed his eyes again, and rested his head back to the ground. The only thing that could profit him now was rest. Anything else, he would have to trust to the mercy of his captors.
A light flickered on, and Spock blinked, wincing as his eyes adjusted. His head was pounding with crippling pain, and his vision was still somewhat blurred. From the feeling in his skull he suspected he had been struck more than once on the transporter, to ensure his unconsciousness. He could certainly feel dried fluid through the eyelashes of his right eye, and down across the bridge of his nose, and by concentrating he could see the green colour of the stain. Presumably blood had flowed from the second wound at his temple and dried across his face.
There was a metal bowl on the floor in front of him, deliberately put close to his face, and as he gazed at it he realised that it was half-full of water. Someone, then, had again put some thought to his survival, despite his harsh treatment. They wanted him alive – that much was obvious. Drinking from a bowl with one's hands tied behind one's back was not likely to be dignified, but it would allow him to imbibe vital liquid.
A door scraped open. He turned his head stiffly towards the noise of footsteps, and saw more than one person coming towards him across what was obviously a relatively large room. Their dark trousers and boots were still blurred to his sight. He blinked again, looking upward as they reached him, and faces slowly swam into focus. They were apparently all human, and by their clothing he judged that they all belonged to the colony that he had been sent to evacuate.
'Well, it's awake,' one of the men said.
Spock regarded him, unwilling to speak unless it was necessary with the pain in his jaw. He had a sense, more mental than visual, that this was the man who had caused the injury. His jagged, aggressive personality had felt very strong to Spock's mind as the bar had come down towards his face. He closed his eyes briefly as the memory of that moment played itself in his mind with agonising slowness. He pushed the thought away with an effort. At times an eidetic memory was more of a curse than a blessing.
He opened his eyes again to see another man bending closer to him, with more concern on his face than aggression.
'I don't know, Piper,' he said in a low voice. 'He doesn't look right. You shouldn't've hit him that hard…'
Piper laughed harshly. 'I hit him just hard enough to suit. Isn't that right, Vulcan?' he asked. At Spock's continued silence he raised his boot and held it poised, aimed precisely at the dark, agonised bruise on Spock's face.
'I am not dangerously injured,' Spock said quickly. The pain involved in talking was far less than the pain that would evidently result from *not* talking.
'There you are, Jonas,' Piper said in satisfaction, looking to the other man. 'You should take care. Treat him with too much softness and he'll use it for his own gain. These lot are devious devils.'
Spock suppressed the urge to raise his eyebrow at that comment. He could not imagine that his very real desire to remove himself from this situation could be classed as devious. If he read this man correctly, however, it would be best to do absolutely nothing to antagonise him, which is why he continued to lie very still on the floor, refraining from any movement, even facial, that may prompt violence.
'All right, get up,' Piper said after a moment of silence.
Spock regarded him emotionlessly.
'I will require assistance,' he said in a level voice.
'*Get up,*' Piper repeated in a dangerous tone.
Spock closed his eyes briefly, then began to roll awkwardly onto his front, attempting to push himself up onto his knees without the use of his hands. He wavered, his head swimming at the movement.
'I need assistance,' he repeated in a more humble tone. 'Please. I am suffering the effects of concussion.'
There was a moment of tense silence, then the man named Jonas reached down and put a hand under his arm, lending considerable strength to his attempt to stand. Spock wavered as he gained his feet, and Jonas's fingers dug into his arm to steady him.
'You'd better bring that water,' Jonas said to Piper, rather uncertainly. At Piper's look of disgust he said, 'Well, he'll need it. We can't let him die of thirst. We've all had a taste of that through the drought.'
Piper picked up the bowl with some reluctance, then said impatiently, 'Come on, then.'
Spock unsteadily followed the tug of Jonas's hand, trying to suppress nausea and dizziness so that he could properly take in his surroundings. His efforts were of little use – there were signs on the walls, but his vision was too blurred to read them, and the corridors he was taken through were lit only dimly. His impression was of a large, poorly maintained vessel that echoed with every footstep, but he could gain little more information than that. He was taken into a lift, and transported up or down a number of levels, and then led into yet more dark, neglected corridors. His final destination was a relatively small storeroom where boxes were lashed firmly to the floor with metal ties. He understood the purpose of this decision when he was ordered to kneel down on the floor, and the cuffs that bound his wrists behind him were attached by a short chain to one of the staples in the floor.
Without a word to him, Piper and Jonas began to clear out the boxes from the room, until he was left in an area that seemed bigger than it had, but ten times more bleak. This room had the same slow-blinking security camera in the corner that the other had had. The walls were a dim, dirty grey, and the floor was filthy with footprints and dried splashes of liquid and dust. The only relief on the flat, featureless walls and floor were the staples for lashing containers in place, but now that his wrists were attached to one of them they had an altogether more ominous air.
Piper put the water bowl down near him, slopping half of the contents carelessly on the floor as he did. Then, without another word of explanation, the pair left the room, and the light blinked off.
Left in darkness again, Spock allowed himself to slump a little. It was even colder in this room, and he felt exhausted. His only companion was a low hum, as of engines, vibrating through the floor into his knees and bare feet. Logic was trying to assert itself in his mind, but it was being crowded out by uncertainty and pain and tiredness. The water bowl did speak of a concern to keep him alive – but he suspected that concern belonged to Jonas alone. He could not be certain that the wrong movement or words, or the wrong decision from Starfleet if any ransom attempt was made, would not lead to the man called Piper unceremoniously ending his life – and he very much desired that his last moments of life would not be here, chained in a cold, dark room, experiencing blunt, deadly violence.
Logically, all he could do was to endure until someone decided to come to him again, and then try to reason with them – but he sensed that reason would be of little use with these men. How did one use logic against complete irrationality? His fate was entirely in the hands of his captors, and his colleagues who, he hoped, would be putting great effort into the attempt to find him.
He found himself wavering in his kneeling position, and wondering briefly if he was permitted to move. He could not recall them ordering anything. He could not recall them saying a word to him since telling him to kneel – but his concentration was blurred and spoilt by the pounding in his head. He exhaled slowly. He could not permit these people to control his responses even when they were not in the room. True, there was a camera watching him, but they could not expect him to kneel here, motionless, until someone returned.
He mentally castigated himself for allowing fear to creep in to his motivations. He needed rest. That was all there was to it. There was just enough give in the chain, at least, to allow him to move a little, and he clumsily tried to lie down again, finally toppling over onto the hard floor with a dull thud. Sleep, at least, would pass the time and help to restore his injured skull and bruised brain. He let his head rest onto the ground, and began to go through the process of a meditative exercise that would help him to gain sleep despite his discomfort.
More than twenty-four hours passed before his next visit. By this time he had recovered to an extent from the vicious blow to the head, and his thinking was far clearer, but boredom, hunger, uncertainty and pain were the only things to occupy his thoughts. He had managed, once, to find the water bowl in the dark and lap from it thirstily, but in doing so he had spilt the rest of the water over the floor, so he was almost grateful when a new person entered the room. The man wordlessly righted the bowl and poured more water into it, and Spock caught the scent of food as he bent. He watched the man, his stomach clenching on its emptiness, trying not to appear eager. The man took something out of the metal bucket he carried, and then put the pail down on the floor and unlocked the chain at Spock's wrists without a word.
Spock's eyes drifted to the bag he now saw in the man's hands, and his jailer smiled.
'You'll get fed, Vulcan,' he said. 'But first you can take advantage of your luxury bathroom facilities. Get up,' he said, pulling the Vulcan unceremoniously to his feet, and then unbuttoning his trousers, and roughly slipping them down to his knees, along with his underwear.
Spock closed his eyes briefly at this new indignity, then cast a reluctant look at the bucket.
'You'd better use it,' the man said, his eyes drifting deliberately to the Vulcan's exposed body, and then flicking away again. 'You might not get another chance for a while. No one's eager for this job.'
'My hands,' Spock tried, without much hope of a positive response.
'Oh, no,' the man smiled. 'You don't need your hands for that. I know what things you Vulcans can do with your hands. You won't find a man in here who's got keys to those cuffs.'
Spock exhaled, then settled himself down awkwardly over the bucket. It was obvious that even his most intimate bodily functions were subject to the whims of his captors, and he could do nothing about it but submit. The man watched him for a moment, then, apparently repelled, wandered over to the other side of the room and stood there, watching the camera in the corner with disinterest.
'I have finished,' Spock said finally, in a subdued tone.
'Thank god,' the man muttered, casting him a disgusted look.
He hauled the Vulcan back to his feet, pulled up and refastened his clothing, then put the bucket over by the door, and ordered Spock to kneel again.
'Right,' he said, as he fixed the chain back to the staple in the floor. He upended the food bag near to the water bowl, and a handful of bread and vegetable scraps fell to the floor.
'Light'll stay on for five minutes,' he said. 'Make use of the time.'
Spock watched him without speaking as the man picked up the bag and the bucket and left the room. He stayed kneeling for a second longer, then resumed his former awkward position lying on the floor, and began the undignified and painful attempt to eat the food that had been left for him in the dust and dirt.
It was three interminable days before the Enterprise was favoured with any contact from Spock's captors. Three days of frantic scanning and searching and questioning of the human population on the planet below had resulted in nothing but dead ends and denials of involvement. Kirk had barely slept in that time – but there was only so much that one frantic human could do in the face of a vast, mute planet that did not want give up its secrets.
When finally a call came through Jim was sitting in his quarters, his head resting on his arms as his exhausted brain tried to conceive of a new way to cajole or threaten some kind of information from the men who had abducted his first officer.
'Briefing room,' he said incoherently to Uhura as she relayed the request for an interview, then said more clearly, 'Call Dr McCoy to Briefing Room 6, Uhura. I'll take the call there. I want you there too. Do what you can to trace it.'
'Yes, sir,' she said smoothly, with understanding of his exhaustion deep in her voice.
Kirk cut the communication, tried to rub some of the tiredness away from his face with clenched fists, and left for the briefing room.
The picture that flickered onto the screen was obviously a video image, but Spock was neither moving nor speaking. He knelt motionless on the floor in a grey-walled room, his dark eyes focussed unwaveringly on a point just to the right of the camera and his arms held rigidly behind his back. An ugly bruise disfigured the right side of his face, spreading from jaw to temple, but his breath was steady and calm and his face composed. He had obviously been treated with some violence, but he showed no sign of noticing the cuts and bruises on his naked torso, any more than he did the swollen injury to his face.
'Since our guest refuses to make a plea, I will do it for him,' said a brittle voice from behind the camera.
The viewpoint moved shakily around the Vulcan, focussing more closely on the bruises on his body, and marks on his back that looked very much like boot prints. His arms were evidently joined at the wrists with cuffs.
'We have no problem with inflicting pain on the Vulcan,' the voice continued as the camera returned to view Spock face-on. 'It's quite fun seeing how much he can take. I can promise you, we have found out just how far we need to stretch him before he squeals.'
Spock's cheek muscle flinched minutely at those words, and Kirk started forward at the terminal with a low growl, before remembering that there was absolutely no use in lunging at a message on a screen.
'We want this unwarranted evacuation to cease,' the voice said in a rougher tone. 'We have scientific evidence that the alteration in orbit causing these weather patterns can be easily righted with tractor beams, if only the Federation was willing to put themselves to the trouble.'
At this Spock's eyebrow rose by a tiny degree, and his lips tightened momentarily, and the man's voice behind the camera sudden became less controlled.
'You disagree, Vulcan?' he asked heatedly.
Spock's lips parted stiffly, but he was not given the chance to speak. The view on the screen suddenly became blurred as the camera swung around, focussing on nothing, and there was the sharp sound of a fist hitting flesh, and a grunt that was very obviously Spock's. When the camera steadied again the Vulcan was bent over slightly, his tied arms straining, and his breath coming with difficulty as he attempted to recover from the blow to his abdomen. As he straightened up very slowly, he looked into the camera and said his first words in a voice slurred with pain.
'I am all right, Jim. I require no rescue.'
Another moment of alarm flickered in the dark eyes, prompted by some movement from the man in the room with him – but no violence came of it.
'It would be very easy to kill this – creature,' the anonymous voice said steadily from behind the camera. 'It would be just as easy to return him to you, if we get what we want. The condition he's in when you get him back depends on how long you take to make your decision.'
The transmission froze, and Uhura said softly, 'It was cut from their end, sir.'
Kirk stared at her for a moment, as if he had forgotten she was in the room. Then he shook his head as she reached out a finger toward the screen and said, 'Leave it, Lieutenant. Will you be able to trace it?'
'I've got all the data I can,' she said in her low, velvet voice. 'If I can take it up to the bridge, I'll do everything I can with it.'
Kirk nodded, then said briefly, 'Good, Lieutenant. You're dismissed.'
She gave him a brief, sympathetic look, and then left the room without a word. The captain's relationship with his first officer was common knowledge throughout the ship by now, and everyone knew that Kirk was not just worrying about a competent officer and friend.
'We have to find him, Bones,' Kirk said in a low voice, the instant they were alone in the room.
'You don't have to tell *me* that, Jim,' McCoy said seriously.
Kirk's eyes were fixed on the frozen image of Spock on the screen, as if he could somehow connect with him through that image, despite the fact that with every second it became more and more divorced from whatever was happening to the Vulcan at that moment.
'I should be able to *find* him, Bones,' he said desperately. 'I can *feel* him. I can feel him out there. I know he's hurt, and afraid, and – all those things he'd never admit to. *But I don't know where he is…*'
'We will *find* him,' McCoy said seriously. 'Uhura's working on tracing that signal right now. She's the best person you could ever dream of to have doing something like that. And once we've got that zeroed in, we're half way there.'
'Do you think they've really gone far enough to make him cry out?' Kirk asked, his face pale with worry and anger. For any human the idea of making noise under punishment was quite accepted, but for Spock it was unthinkable, except under extreme pain.
'Don't torture yourself, Jim,' McCoy said firmly, looking almost as worried about his captain as he was about Spock.
'*They're* torturing *him*,' Kirk said angrily.
'And you need to keep your head, if you want to get him out of there,' McCoy said firmly.
'I know,' Kirk said, rubbing a hand over his face. He gave a wan smile. 'I should be the one telling *you* all this, I know. I'm not being much of a captain at the moment.'
'Jim,' McCoy said softly, putting his hand on Kirk's arm. 'If I ever saw a person who can completely hold it together when their partner is in a situation like this, then I'd either be seriously doubting their relationship, or sending them for psychological review. You have got over four hundred good officers at your disposal. *Use* them.'
'Use them,' Kirk muttered, then looked up. 'All right. I'll use you first. What can you tell me about how they're treating him, Bones?'
McCoy peered close at the image on the screen, focussing in on the Vulcan's face.
'I don't think they're treating his injuries at all,' he said. 'And by the look of the filth on his cheeks and around his mouth I'd say they're not releasing his hands for him to eat – they're letting him eat off the floor, or something. Bruises at various stages of healing. I'd say he gets a good going over every few days, at least. He was squinting a little in the light, as well – which either means the light's painful to his eyes, or he's being kept in the dark. Perhaps both. And he's nervous. He's very wary of his captors.'
Kirk nodded, bound in misery, very well aware that McCoy had kept back from mentioning any specifics of inflicted pain he had gleaned from the injuries on Spock's body.
'He's got good reason to be wary of them,' he muttered. 'Do you think – ' He looked up at McCoy, an appeal in his hazel eyes. 'Do you think his life's in danger?'
McCoy exhaled a long-held breath, and shook his head.
'I – wish I could tell you, Jim, but I'm no criminal psychologist. I don't think he's in immediate danger from his current injuries. But – those people are volatile. That much was clear from that transmission. Like I said, Spock's very cautious. He's got the sense not to antagonise them. But – he is helpless. I can't say more than that.'
Kirk clenched his fingernails hard into his palms, staring at the image on the screen again. Spock was rigid, and he was pale, and alarm was clear in his eyes. He was half-naked and cold and injured, and absolutely incapable of defending himself with anything other than words. He had to be *found,* and he had to be found soon.
'All right,' he said decisively. 'I want every inch of that colony scanned, and I want every anomaly checked out, and every scrap of evidence logged and examined. We are going to *find* him, even if I have to tear that colony apart with my fingernails – and when I do find him – '
He trailed off, but it was obvious by the glittering light in his eyes that when he laid hands on Spock's captors and abusers, they would wish that they had never even heard of Vulcans or the starship Enterprise, or of its very determined human captain.