Chapter 18

The Commodore had been awake for half a day at this point, and had grown so bored that she was giving Dr. McCoy's legendary irascibility a run for its money. As a result, he had sent her to quarters, and then shut himself in his office, muttering something about more cooperative patients, and silently promised himself he'd visit her later. When Kirk called him, he went as much to check on her as because the Captain wanted him there. Captain Kirk's eyes were narrow, and his mouth was a grim line. Dar watched with interest as they approached her bed. She could tell something was wrong, and her instincts told her that Kirk would be a formidable enemy.

"Commodore, when you came aboard this ship, I admit, I doubted your mission. I didn't know what you could do for the ship that has the reputation of being the best in the fleet, but in the short time you've been aboard, you've completely gained the trust of my crew, and my First Officer which, I might add, is no easy task. So, I have to ask you, why are you trying to sabotage my ship?" The Commodore looked at him blankly for a moment, and then she suddenly remembered the tape that was in the viewer before she blacked out, and realized he must have seen it. Oh, brother.

"Captain, I assure you that I have no intention of sabotaging your ship. I understand that you might have seen something you don't understand, and I wish I could tell you the truth, but it is part of my mission, and as such, it is classified."

"I cannot accept that as an answer when my ship is in danger. A Starfleet Captain's first duty is to his ship, and her crew. I need answers, and I will get them, one way or another."

"You don't have a choice whether to accept my word that this is part of my mission. I am still your superior officer, on a mission duly authorized by Starfleet, and I am in complete charge of my faculties. There is no reason to believe that I have lied to you beyond the truth I am forced to conceal for the mission."

"No, no reason at all, except a little record tape that indicates you are trying to sabotage my ship." His voice was growing quieter, more deadly in his anger.

"Commodore." The voice of authority cut through all of the human chatter, and she looked at him in some surprise. "It is time to continue the discussion we had earlier." She swallowed hard, and glanced at each of the other men in the room in turn.

"Would you rather make this a private conversation?" She looked at the men standing next to her bed, and shook her head. If this is what she thought it was, and if she could convince them that she truly did not intend to sabotage the ship, she could not have better allies. That was a rather large "if", though.

"Very well. One of them seemed to think that you are a fugitive from Vulcan, for whom he helped search some twenty years ago. Is this true?" Silently, she nodded.


"Thank you, sir. I'm not sure where to start."

"Relax Commodore, and just tell me what you remember."

"That's just it. Large chunks of information about what happened are missing from my memory." McCoy looked at her appraisingly before he spoke up.

"Tell us what you do remember. Maybe I can help bring the rest back."

"All right. I was living on Vulcan, serving my medical residency, and I was very young. One night a young Vulcan male came into the Science Academy Hospital during my shift. He had been beaten pretty badly, and I patched him up. When a patient is sick, I treat them. I don't ask about their politics. He stayed there a week, and I got to know him. He was different than anyone I had ever met. When I released him, he asked me out. We had been dating for about four weeks when he asked me to treat one or two of his men. I agreed, seeing their treatment as my responsibility. Things were good for quite awhile.

"Slowly, I began to see signs of what he truly was, but I was young and inexperienced, and I did not want to believe it. Besides, I was only doing my duty as a doctor, and I could not refuse him treatment, no matter what he was, so I ignored the signs I was noticing. They were really only small things, anyway, a lie that I told myself was a miscommunication, a couple of broken promises for which I made excuses. Then, one night he asked me to step over the line. I guess I had known all along that that day would come. Well, by that time, I didn't see any way out. I could not, would not, do what he was asking. To do so would have violated everything any decent person holds sacred. Understand that he was a powerful man, with eyes and ears in many courts, and I was in his territory. I had seen his hideout. He could not allow me to leave and we both knew it. We also both knew that I was more valuable to him alive than dead, and if he killed me, there would be some difficult questions he did not want to answer.

"The next thing I remember, we were at the hideout, and there was a fire. The building burned to the ground. I rescued everyone I was able to reach, and spent the next two days patching them up and keeping them alive. At first I thought he had died in the fire, but the rescuers never found a body. As time passed, I began to suspect that he had started that fire. It too conveniently solved a few problems for him.

"After that, I must have caught up to him again, somehow, or he must have caught up with me. I don't remember it, but I do remember being again, briefly, in his presence, and I remember him leaving. It wasn't until later that I realized he had left me there as bait for the Vulcan guards pursuing him. They caught me, and I went to sleep that night under heavy Vulcan guard, awaiting a hearing the next day. I woke up two days later in a Federation holding cell, completely devoid of memory, and was released later that day. What I have remembered in the intervening years has come back in bits and pieces. I'm sorry, but that's all I remember."

Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan regarded her frankly for a moment, and then turned to McCoy. "Is there anything you can do to help her remember?"

"Yes, plenty, but it will take time."

"Time is what we do not have, Doctor. Truth drug won't help her?"

"It might, but if she's not ready to remember, she'll fight it, and that could hurt her more than it helps her. I'd prefer to allow her the time she needs to remember on her own." Sarek looked at Captain Kirk.

"Captain, I have a suggestion. It is possible that I have a solution to both of our problems. With the Commodore's permission, I'd like to meld with her. Perhaps I can help restore her memory, and look at the classified information she is concealing for this mission. Though I will not share it with you, you would at least know whether she is telling the truth about trying to sabotage the ship." Kirk considered for a moment, then nodded. Something was better than nothing.

"Carry on, Ambassador."

"Commodore?" She sat staring mutely at the Vulcan Ambassador, he who held sway over the destinies of entire planets, and considered what he asked of her. Her eyes acknowledged the sacrifice he was making in the offer, and honored him for it. Slowly, she shook her head, and they all read the discomfort in her features. Quietly, Kirk spoke up. "Once I make the decision to turn this over to Starfleet Command, what happens will be up to them. I can assure you that you can have no better allies than the men in this room."

"And what happens if you don't like what you find when you look inside my mind, Ambassador? Answer me that."

"It is not a matter of like or dislike. What is there simply is, and you must deal with it. I only seek to assist." She knew what he was offering her. This would quite possibly be more difficult for him than for her, and she felt a bit ashamed of herself as she realized that.

Another voice spoke quietly from the corner, and she suddenly realized she had not known that Spock was standing there, he was so quiet. "Commodore, do you trust me?"

"Yes, of course, Mr. Spock." She spoke without hesitation.

"My father has requested to meld with you. Whether you allow this or not, you are about to embark on the most difficult mission of your career. You will be facing the Vulcan High Council and answering some uncomfortable questions. They might very well order a Healer at the Science Academy to meld with you at that time. For while you are there, you are subject to Vulcan law, and while Vulcans usually don't meld with someone without their permission, the situation with those accused of crimes is a bit different, for melding with them clears them of the crime, almost as often as it convicts them. You cannot lie to someone who joins their mind with your own. Often those melds are the more stressful for being ordered, and therefore, a bit more dangerous to both parties, and quite frightening for the one who is the subject of the meld.

"I owe you a debt of gratitude for a service you recently rendered me. Using the resources I have at my disposal to help you in this matter is one of the ways in which I would render a partial repayment. We can help you. Will you allow us to do so?"

She sat quietly for a moment, considering Sarek's words and Spock's. Finally, she spoke again, almost inaudibly.

"Just do it."

"Will you join me, my son?"

"I do not wish to look at the classified information for her mission. If I felt the ship were in danger, I would feel it my duty to tell the Captain what I saw there."

"As you wish, my son." He turned back to the Commodore and without warning placed his hands lightly against her face. Chills ran down her spine as he made contact. She was surprised for a moment at the gentleness with which he touched her. There was an authority, an indefinable power in the touch. She marveled at how it skated lightly across the surface of her consciousness for a moment, rapidly processing information, looking for a specific memory. He must have found it because she felt a great wrenching pain for an instant, and then something hard and rigid and formless where the pain had been, and she realized that he must have put a block in there. Lightly, other hands touched her face, and an intensity that she had never known hit her full force before subsiding slightly into a steady, pulsing throb. It wasn't pain, exactly, but something more like pressure, and strangely comforting. She fought the sudden onslaught of panic that washed over her, and concentrated on opening her mind to them, not that she could have actually kept it closed if she had wanted to do so. Those logical Vulcan minds moved in a rapid, orderly fashion through her mind, sifting through layer after layer, from memory to memory, perusing them and then laying them aside for a time. Until they found what they were looking for—a jumble of memories that had blank spaces in them. Now, they moved slowly, carefully, straightening them as someone would straighten an extension cord. She gasped in surprise as one of them touched one of the blank spots and the circuit closed and her mind was flooded with impressions. Finally, it was beginning to seem that all the frustration was worth it.

Suddenly, blackness swirled into her vision, tightening the corners, closing in all around her. She felt the Vulcans' grip begin to loosen, but they were trying to hold on. An ugliness, an evil reared up at them, and then the blackness took her and she felt herself sliding down into it.

Spock's face contorted in pain as the entity reared its ugly head. It came from the center of her being, and threatened to overpower them. Somehow, Spock sensed that if it were released completely, there would be no controlling it. He took a deep breath, and putting all of his considerable strength into it, he thrust back down into her mind, heedless of the pain he might be causing her, and of the pain that he himself was experiencing. On some level, he was aware of his father next to him, thrusting as hard as he was, seeking some invisible door to slam on the entity. He sensed her terror, but he could not afford to allow his attention to be drawn away from the work in which he was engaged, and so he dug deeply into his own being, concentrating with that focus unique to Vulcans, shutting out all else.

For an eternity encased in a single few moments, he thought they were winning. Somewhere in the far distance, outside of the meld, he heard someone screaming, a scream that would serve to stand the tiny hairs on the back of one's neck on end. His knees buckled and he tried to hang on, but felt himself slipping. He heard a thump and recognized it as his father falling. As blackness took him, his final thought was of whether they'd managed to contain the creature once again.