AN: This story is an AU set six months after Spear in Hand Spear in Heart, so six months into their first five year mission.
The first few chapters of this fic are based upon 'This side of Paradise' an episode from season one of TOS. A lot of dialogue and scenes from it are reproduced here that obviously, I didn't write.
Big thank you to Lamb's Ear for betaing this for me over christmas. Her suggestions have, as usual, improved the story a lot. All the typos are mine however. This story is complete so you can expect regular updates, I'm just tweaking as I post.
Finally - thank you to everyone who reviewed or pm'ed me over the course of my previous stories. The only reason I wrote this story was for you guys. I hope you enjoy.
Warnings: Bad jokes and violence.
This is a T rating version of the story - the complete smutty-as-I-originally-wrote-it MA rated version will be posted simultaneously to my archive of our own profile. There's a link on my FF profile.
All things that Burn
Spock took a detailed scan with his tricorder, not truly expecting the instrument to locate any life forms. Four years previously Omicron Ceti III had been home to 150 Federation colonists, but shortly after their arrival on the planet all contact with them had been lost. A unique form of radiation, Berthold Rays, had been successfully identified by Federation scientists some 2.8 years after the colony had fallen silent and was suspected to be to blame.
The rays had proven to be highly destructive to living tissue. The radiation sickness Berthold Rays induced was particularly unpleasant. The flesh of the creature exposed to the rays slowly disintegrated until death. For a mammal the size of the average humanoid, just one standard week was sufficient to cause irreparable, fatal, tissue damage. Long range scientific scanners had shown that the planet of Omicron Ceti III was doused in the damaging rays. The Enterprise had been assigned to confirm the fate of the colony.
Spock's tricorder beeped, indicating a life-form reading. He looked down in muted surprise. The scan had detected humanoid life forms, a reading which should be impossible. Spock recalibrated the device. Most likely it had picked up the away team themselves. He set it to a more precise setting and ran the scan afresh.
Captain Kirk was looking around the abandoned colony wistfully. They had beamed down to an abandoned farm of some sort. There was a stable and a fenced paddock - but no animals of course - and a terran style homestead up ahead. James Kirk was from a rural area of Ohio on Earth. Perhaps the setting induced feelings of nostalgia in him. Lieutenant Sulu and Dr McCoy were likewise looking about the area in a reserved manner that Spock believed indicated sadness or some complicated human variant thereof.
'Another dream that failed.' Kirk said. 'There's nothing sadder. It took these people a year to make the trip from Earth. They came all that way and died.'
Despite his overly emotional tone, Spock could only agree with the Captain's sentiment. It was indeed unfortunate that 150 people had died in such a manner, that Berthold Rays had not been discovered slightly earlier.
His tricorder beeped again. It indicated a humanoid life-form a mere 3.9 meters from where he stood. The likelihood of it being a second misreading was exceedingly slim. Spock therefore turned to face in the direction indicated. A middle-aged Caucasian male in utilitarian coveralls stood nearby. Spock regarded him in great interest.
'Hardly that, sir.' The newcomer said in response to the Captain.
The Captain and Lieutenant Sulu spun, their hands on their phasers, but Dr. McCoy simply directed one of his customary scowling facial expressions at the man.
The stranger smiled. 'Welcome to Omicron Ceti Three! I'm Elias Sandoval.' he said.
Spock recognised the name from the information their briefing on the colony had contained. Evidently the colonists weren't all dead. He wondered how they could have survived for four years being bombarded with Berthold Rays. The means of that survival offered great scientific insight. The rest of the landing party seemed equally intrigued. It was with great curiosity they followed the man to his home for further conversation.
Mr Sandoval's explanations proved unenlightening and highly improbable however.
Spock's tricorder and the powerful scanners of the Enterprise had confirmed the presence of the deadly radiation, but all Mr Sandoval would say on the colonist's survival was highly implausible. He claimed their vegetarian diet and healthy lifestyle had kept them alive.
The statement was unquestionably incorrect.
Vegetarian diets did not render one immune to radiation. As a Vulcan in possession of a tricorder on a planet bathed in radiation, Spock was in a position to know. His tricroder clearly indicated that his body was showing the early signs of exposure to Barthold Rays. Since he had never knowingly consumed animal flesh and followed a strict regime of physical exercise, it therefore followed that vegetarianism and fitness were not the reasons the colonists were still alive.
Mr Sandoval then introduced them to the colony's Botanist's, Leila Kalomi. Spock was acquainted with the woman. She had worked in a civilian capacity as an assistant in the zenobiology department at Starfleet Academy some five years previously. Her presence did not surprise him - her name had appeared upon the colony manifests. She corroborated Sandoval's claims. Despite this, it was plain to Spock that the Captain, Dr McCoy and Lieutenant Sulu were just as sceptical as he.
The Captain had Dr McCoy begin running medical examinations upon the colonists whilst Spock and Lieutenant Sulu searched the immediate vicinity for any clues as to the real cause of the colonist's apparent immunity to Berthold Rays. The botanist decided to join him on his expedition. He was not opposed to her presence. He recalled her being competent as a laboratory assistant. Her expertise and knowledge of the native plant-life could prove useful if the colonists were truly unaware of what was keeping them alive, and if not, perhaps she would reveal something of the nature of their deception in conversation.
After walking some 1.7 km, taking extensive tri-corder scans and discussing the native flora with Ms Kalomi, Spock contacted the Captain upon his communicator to report his findings. They were quite intriguing. Kirk answered with his usual promptness.
For all his faults, James Kirk did have excellent communicator etiquette. Spock took the time to remind himself of his Captain's favourable qualities whenever he encountered them. It was something Nyota had suggested. She found it aided her patience with the man. Spock was as yet undecided as to its effectiveness.
'Spock here, Captain.' he replied. 'There seems to be a total absence of life on the planet, with the exception of the colonists and various types of flora.'
'Sulu made the same observation. Any explanations?' Kirk's voice was understandably curious and slightly wary.
'Not at the moment, sir. I am conducting various tests with the tricorder, but results are inconclusive.'
'Very well, continue investigations. Kirk out.'
Spock reattached his comm unit to his belt and headed towards the crops he could see to the north-east. His scanner had picked up on some interesting plant life approximately 420m in that direction. Ms Kalomi followed. During the 48.3 minutes he had spent in her company Spock had noted that she appeared to be much changed in comparison to the woman he recalled from the Academy.
As a laboratory assistant Ms Kalomi had been talkative and demonstrative in her interpersonal interactions. She had often shown interest in the cadets and their studies beyond the scope of her own work. She was also one of the first of the Academy staff to make any overtures of friendship towards him. He had found not found her company unpleasant. Over the course of the year she had been a staff colleague he had socialised with her on 5 separate occasions.
He recalled she had expressed sadness that her departure from the Academy would end such interactions. She had contacted him several times after her departure for the colony planet. Spock had observed that these missives ceased suddenly, but had not thought upon the matter further until the discovery of the Berthold Rays.
In comparison to his memories of her from their acquaintance Ms Kalomi was very quiet and… odd. She smiled constantly in an almost dazed manner. Spock admitted that he was hardly the most adept at judging human behaviour however. There could well be a perfectly logical explanation for the changes he had observed. He dismissed Ms Kalomi's behaviour from his thoughts.
The plants he'd picked up on his scan, whilst alien to him, proved unremarkable. A grass-like weed growing amidst the corn the colonists were cultivating. What was remarkable was the continuing lack of lifeforms. How was it that the humans had survived if nothing else on the planet had? Humans were hardly the hardiest of species to be found on an M class planet. He scanned one of the corn plants at his feet. Insects were often resistant to radiation. It was strange that he had not encountered even one surviving species. The ripening corn would be a source of sustenance tempting to them.
'Nothing. Not even insects.' he said in regards to his negative readings. He looked up at Ms Kalomi. 'And yet your plants grow and you have survived exposure to Berthold rays.'
The botanist was bizarrely at ease. Confident. Calm. Smiling in that strange manner.
'That can be explained.' she replied.
Spock raised himself to his feet and regarded her in interest. 'Please do.'
Instead of providing the information she promised, she said 'Later.'
'I have never understood the female tendency to avoid a direct answer to any question.' Spock remarked thinking of Nyota and his mother. Both prone to seemingly random bouts of frustrating obstinacy in conversation.
'And I never understood you.' Ms Kalomi remarked, walking towards him. 'Until now.' She was standing too close to him for his personal comfort. 'There was always a place in here,' she reached out and pressed a hand to his chest, where if he were human he would have a heart. Spock looked down at her hand in disbelief. '- where no one could come.'
Spock knew his face must have shown his shock. Ms Kalomi had never touched him during their casual acquaintance 5.6 standard years previously. Nor had he ever desired her to.
'There was only the face you allow people to see.' she continued. Spock took a step back from her so she was no longer touching him. 'Only one side you'd allow them to know.'
She was still smiling her strange smile. Spock found it increasingly unnerving. She appeared to be exhibiting signs of romantic interest in him and some sort of mental imbalance. He walked past her and tried to steer their conversation back to a more professional subject. He certainly did not wish to discuss the duality of his hybrid Vulcan/Human nature with Leila Kalomi. Not only were her stated opinions upon the matter highly emotional and illogical, it was hardly a subject she was well versed in.
'I would very much like to know how your people have managed to survive here Ms Kalomi.' he asked in a concise cool voice.
'I missed you.' she replied in a tone of voice Spock was not comfortable being directed at him by any woman save Nyota. He ignored her words. He did not know how to respond to them. His experience in rebuffing would-be romantic partners was limited. Exceedingly limited. Cool disinterest seemed the best option.
'Logically, you should all be dead.' He remarked as if she had not spoken.
'If I tell you how we survived, will you try to understand how we feel about our life here? About each other?' she said. Although he did not understand what she referred to, her remarks clearly inferred that the colonists knew precisely how they had survived the radiation.
'Emotions do not interest me. I am a scientist.' he replied, hoping his words would be hint enough for her to cease her odd discourse.
'Someone else might believe that.' she said. 'Your shipmates, your Captain, but not me. Come.'
Her words made him decidedly uncomfortable. It was inappropriate for her to speak of him in such a personal, overly familiar manner. She did not know him. Their acquaintance had been superficial. An experiment in human social interaction as far as he had been concerned. Spock wanted to leave, remove himself from her company, but she referred to the mystery of Omicron Ceti III. A short period of discomfort with an overly familiar woman was worth enduring if it provided an answer to the question of how the colonists had survived.
'Very well.' he replied.
Ms Kalomi gave him another of her too-wide smiles and pointed away from the crops and towards fields of pasture for non-existent animals. Spock nodded and fell into step beside her. She led him 1.3km from the field in a south-westerly direction. His tri-corder indicated nothing of particular interest in a 50km radius.
He found himself wary. Her behaviour was very odd. What if she had lured him away for some other purpose? Human females often made use of bizarre reasons as circumstance to be alone with males they were interested in. Spock had no desire to have to openly reject her if this was her intention. It would be exceedingly uncomfortable. He would almost prefer it if she simply intended violence against him.
Despite his attempts to calm his disquiet, he felt Nyota reach to him over their bond with concern. Wordless he reassured her that he was in no immediate danger, merely wary and uncomfortable. As was her custom, she accepted his reassurances and withdrew from him so as not to pose a distraction.
She turned back to face him. He had allowed himself to fall 3.2 meters behind her after she had attempted to hold his hand mid-way through their journey. 'It's not much further.' she informed him apparently sensing his disquiet.
Spock made no attempt to close the distance between them. 'You have not yet explained the nature of this thing you refer to.' he said.
'Its basic properties and elements are not important.' she claimed illogically. Obviously the basic properties and elements of something that could protect a humanoid from Berthold Rays would be vitally important. 'What's important is that it gives life, peace, love.' she concluded.
She appeared more and more deranged the longer he spent in her company. 'You are describing was once known in Terran vernacular as a 'happiness pill'. And you, as a scientist, should know that such a thing does not exist.' Spock pointed out.
She ignored him. 'Come.' She touched his arm. He shrugged her hand off. He wished she would stop trying to touch him. 'I was one of the first to find them. The spores.'
'Spores?' It was one of few logical things the woman had said during their conversation. A spore from one of the native plants that seemed to thrive in the radiation soaked atmosphere could perhaps have some sort of negating effect on that radiation if ingested or somehow absorbed by a human, but if that was true why had no animals -
- One of the red flowering plants nearby violently shot out a cloud of pollen that settled over Spock's face and chest. He felt and tasted them in his mouth and nostrils. For a moment he was still, frozen in shock, and then he felt a sudden tearing pain deep in his mind. Reflexively he reached for Nyota. He felt her panic and fear reflected back to him even as he felt his thoughts slowing, changing.
It horrified him.
'No.' the word dragged itself from his mouth without his permission. He realised he was on his knees in the grass, his hands pressed to his head. There was a terrible pressure in his mind. Like his thoughts were being crushed.
'It shouldn't hurt.' Leila Kalomi remarked in a voice soft with concern. As if he was mistaken. As if he could stop the pain he felt.
His thoughts shifted. He felt something in his mind. Like a mindmeld and yet nothing like one. It tore at his logic. His mental discipline. Reduced his mind and thoughts to their primitive base components.
'No, I can't. Please, don't!' he begged whatever it was that was inside his mind.
'Not like this. It didn't hurt us!' the botanist insisted.
'I am not like you!' Spock yelled at her. Stupid woman! For a moment he was angry at her, angry at her for her deceit, angry at her for touching him and speaking of him in a familiar manner, angry at her for whatever she had unleashed upon his mind and then… and then. The pain was gone.
… Partially he supposed.
No. That wasn't correct…
Full of… happiness!
Yes. Yes. That was what this feeling was.
Happiness. A human emotion.
He had only ever experienced the muted Vulcan equivalent first hand, but he recognised it.
It was dizzy. Giddy. Familiar yet not. He had felt it before, but reflected in his mind or buzzing through his fingertips. It reminded him of something, something wonderful. Something happy. Something - no - someone.
The answer appeared in his mind fully formed.
He reached for her. She was scared, afraid, she did not understand. He must share this with her. Share this wonderful feeling! He reached towards her through their bond with nothing held back, pouring his love for her, his happiness into her as if he could somehow pour himself into her. He smelt her perfume. Jasmine and Vanilla. The flowery scent of her shampoo that clung to her long dark hair.
Her soft beautiful hair.
He wanted to bury his face in the cool silky strands of it as he sometimes did when they lay together in his bed. Then twist it around his fist and pull her head to the side so he could press his face to that magical place between her neck and her shoulder that always smelt and tasted wonderfully of her. Nyota. Dan'Vansurik. (most-beautiful)
He called to her, shaping his thoughts into distinct shapes and sending them to her through their bond. /Nyota! Ashayam! You must come!/
He felt her react to his call, his tel'esta (bond-touch). Yes. She would come now. Beam down to the surface and he would share this wonderful thing with her. He would kiss her and love her and nothing would hurt anymore. Their bond flared into white soaring light as Nyota reached to him. She was in his arms, cool and soft and lovely with hair like silk where it brushed against his skin and the scent of flowers clinging to her. He inhaled deeply.
/Yes! Yes Spock I come!/ she called within him. Her beautiful human voice was filled with joy. He heard her laughter before she withdrew once more. Their bond dimmed back to its normal state. A rope between them. A steady trickle of awareness in place of the rushing torrent of consciousness and thought that was tel'esta. He could no longer sense her thoughts clearly, but he felt her happiness and her intent. She was coming.
Leila Kalomi's voice pulled him from his delirious reverie.
'Now.' She said, 'Now, you belong to all of us and we to you. There's no need to hide your inner face any longer. We understand.'
Yes. He felt them. They were there in that deep part of his brain where once he'd felt the lives of 6 billion Vulcans, his people, like the murmur of the wind. That background noise had been cut-off from him in a deafening chorus of fear and despair 6.7 months previously when Vulcan was destroyed, but now there was something there once more. It was a tiny breeze where once there had been a gale, but it was something. It filled that dark void. He could feel Leila Kalomi there. And many others beside.
Belonging, acceptance, love.
They understood him. They knew him. They were part of one whole.
Leila smiled at him. He smiled back.