Series: Moments in Time
Characters: Spock, McCoy
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers for Catspaw. Yes, the one with the black cats and fog-shrouded castles and ghostly witches spouting "Very bad poetry, Captain." The usual warnings which accompany anything I write involving telepathic intrusion and issues of consent.
Summary: The Enterprise's Chief Medical Officer's desire to expand his medical knowledge has always been greater than his fear; however, it is the displaying of both of these which bridges a gap between himself and the ship's First Officer after this particular mission.
A/N: Despite the laughable nature of this Halloweentastic episode, this has always been one of my favorites – but for this one disturbing element which of course goes totally unaddressed by the writers or subsequent episodes, and which seems to be a frighteningly recurring theme in this series. Interestingly enough, while this episode airs in Season Two, according to its Stardate it's one of the earliest ones in the five-year mission, coming only days after Menagerie. The whole crew, including Spock and McCoy, would have still been learning about each other then.
Going through my sadly extensive WIP folder, I discovered that apparently I nearly finished but never posted this almost a year ago, so if anyone's still reading these scribbles, here, have a mediocre TOS oneshot with my love. *hides in shame*
While the event is not uncommon now that he has somehow unwittingly acquired a human shadow in the form of a curiously irrepressible starship captain, Spock is still somewhat surprised to hear his door-chime in a request for entrance at this late hour of ship's evening. For many years, over a decade in fact, he has grown accustomed to his self-professed solitude; and only in recent months, some little time after the initial whirlwind experience of Captain Kirk's command turnover, has that solitude slowly begun to change.
It is still a relative novelty, however, to be so disturbed of an evening. And despite a return to normality aboard, his relationship with the captain is still, understandably but undeniably, strained, after recent events; and so it is with no little wariness that he answers the door's summons on this peaceful ship's night. Jim is a man of lightning-fast decisions; quick to act, quick to react: and thankfully, quick to forgive, once the rationale for actions has been shown to him. He is strangely logical in that respect, almost Vulcan in his diplomatic ability to understand motive before action – and yet, it is but human nature to recoil at betrayal.
Once he identifies his visitor, however, he finds he would much prefer a visit from the captain, however strained the conversation might be. He has not sufficiently meditated this week to prepare for an evening engaged in this entirely different type of confrontational discourse.
However, it will not do to have junior officers see their superiors engaged in a one-sided shouting match in the corridor, which is the most probable outcome to ensue should he ignore the door-chime whilst obviously inside his quarters.
After stumbling slightly as the door slides closed behind him, the human in question glares sourly around the room as if the surroundings themselves rather than his innate physiology are responsible for his discomfort. Spock sighs silently, moving to the wall controls to lower the temperature by five degrees. A not unreasonable compromise, and he is after all a diplomat by heredity.
"Thanks," McCoy says gruffly, and after shuffling for a moment in curiosity to test the higher gravity, finally takes the seat Spock somewhat reluctantly points him to on the opposite side of the desk. "Am I interrupting anything?"
"I am finishing the day's reports for the captain's final signature, nothing more pressing, Doctor. Is there a matter in Medical which requires my attention?"
"Then…?" He attempts to restrain his impatience, which this particular human seems capable of drawing out of him with the rapidity of a depressurizing airlock. Said impatience wanes slightly, however, when he sees the physician shift uncomfortably in his seat, an expression of genuine unease crossing his weary features. "What is it, Doctor?"
"Believe me when I say I'm well aware of how strange it sounds, Commander, but I need your opinion. On a medical matter." The answer is strangely reluctant, almost hesitant; and not from the human's usual belligerence, if his expression is any indication.
Spock's eyebrows travel upward slightly. "I find that exceedingly hard to believe, Doctor. While your bedside manner leaves much to be desired and your practices occasionally speak of a lack of progressive technique in favor of more archaic methods, your specialities in at least two doctorate fields by far exceed any medical knowledge I might have, scientific background or not."
The physician snorts, but seems to relax slightly at the familiar repartee. "I'll take that as the compliment it is, coming from you," he retorts with a crooked grin, though the expression soon fades to a more serious one. "But I'm not joking around here, Mr. Spock. This is one field I am no expert in, and I need this conversation to stay off the record. For now, at least."
That is an irregular request, to say the least. And given that he has promised complete transparency to the captain in all matters, recent events considered, diplomacy will be needed here.
"Then I am at your disposal, Doctor, though I fail to see how I can be of assistance to you. Please specify."
"It's…it has to do with this mission we just completed."
"Ah." He sets down the padd he had been working on, and gives the human his complete attention now. He had been, for lack of a more Vulcan expression in favor of the Standard one, afraid of this. His suspicions may have been correct. "I take it that your questions have to do with the…mind-controlling incidents on Pyris VII."
He does not miss the slight shudder which goes through the physician at his delicate phraseology. "That's one way of putting it, yes. As the closest thing we have to a telepathic species aboard, you're the only immediate resource I have right now for this kind of immediate research, Mr. Spock. I need both a medical opinion and an expert who can keep that opinion out of the captain's sight if this conversation has to go on official record, given that I could have a potential conflict of interest."
McCoy waves a hand vaguely in the air with an expression of exasperation that is by now extremely familiar. "Starfleet Medical's always been inconsistent where training's concerned in regards to telepathic trauma and assault counseling. It's a disgrace, plain and simple. But those are the facts."
Now this, is considerably more alarming, because he had not thought the incidents to be that serious, given what he had deduced from the beings on the planet and their methodology; perhaps the incidents had done more damage, been more invasive, than he had presumed based upon his observances. Very much concerned now, he gives the physician his full attention and requests particulars.
"Hm. Well. The most unusual thing, Commander, is that I just completed the last set of brainwave scans on all three of us – Sulu, Scotty, and myself – and I did every test I could think of on all three of us, a full psychological workup. And in all three cases, none of us had any change in our brainwave signatures or delta wave patterns."
"Not a one. Even a neural imprint scan didn't show any change. That's a red flag for any neurosurgeon, Spock, because any type of telepathic contact should have left some kind of indicator, however minor. To have no trace whatsoever? That's just…disturbing, to me. Something doesn't add up."
Slightly relieved, Spock feels his tension ease just a fraction at the physician's words, for instead of disproving they actually confirm what he had presumed regarding the events; but this brings up a most alarming fact, one which is inexcusable in a superior officer: that he, as McCoy pointed out, the closest to a full telepath aboard, should have been more attentive to this incident than he had. It is his responsibility to this crew, not McCoy's, in this instance, and he has failed in that regard. The doctor should never have been forced to take this step in seeking out answers, because Spock should have ensured he fully understood all ramifications for the events on the planet below, rather than simply assuming human resiliency had succeeded in minimizing the incidents.
That is inexcusable in both a command officer and a Vulcan, to so discard the potential suffering of another being, and he will not make the mistake again. Captain Kirk has made it clear that he intends Spock to prove himself capable of commanding his human crew, and that includes commanding the respect of the senior staff, especially after his well-intentioned and indeed necessary act of mutiny scant weeks ago.
The doctor's eyes seem slightly haunted as he continues, unaware of this dawning realization in his superior officer. "I can't remember a thing, myself, and neither can they if they're telling me the truth; and that scares me. It's not natural. Any type of memory loss should show up on a brainwave scan. If it isn't? It could mean some sort of telepathic brain damage that I can't detect for some reason."
"I believe I can be of assistance in that respect, Doctor, if you will allow me to put your mind at ease," he interrupts with as much finesse as he can, and sees the man's eyes flick upward in surprise at the rapidity and openness of his answer. "To be perfectly honest, I had not realized that the incident was…troubling you, in such a manner; I did not see it as such an intrusion, and for that I owe you an apology."
The human's eyes look about to pop out of his head. "I dunno if I've ever heard you apologize to anybody, Commander." McCoy's eyes narrow at him with what is probably well-founded wariness. "And I have no idea if it's an intrusion, as you're calling it, or not – that's what I'm asking. We know very little about telepathic species, even after all this time, because they're not forthcoming with information. But the fact that I can't find any indication of telepathic contact is what's bothering me, because it's indicative of…well, if it were a physical assault I would certainly call it a lack of consent with a chemical or artificial component, since there's no memory of anything happening. Only problem is, in this case there's no medical way to prove something happened, short of your and Jim's eyewitness accounts."
Again, Spock feels that twinge of instinctive horror at the idea. Perhaps his, among other species, have done themselves no favors in mystifying other races regarding their telepathic abilities. It is not a skill to be inherently feared, except in circumstances such as the doctor is describing – the forcible assault against another's mind, without their consent and with the full intent to cause harm.
"I do not believe that to be the case in this instance, Doctor, though I will readily agree that such things have happened in history and, as you describe, are indeed an assault as criminal as a physical one. I assure you such a crime is a most grievous offense in any telepathic culture; even punishable by death, in many such."
A spark of interest flickers in the man's eyes. "In yours, Mr. Spock?"
He raises an eyebrow of mild agreement. "In mine, among others, Doctor, such a forced mental assault in the past carried such a penalty. It is an offense of the highest magnitude, and no telepath in his correct mind would ever contemplate such a crime against another telepathic individual, much less against one of a psi-null species."
"And that applies to this situation…how?" Blue eyes narrow shrewdly at him. "I don't like blurred lines, Mr. Spock."
"Nor do I, Doctor, which is why I appreciate your thoroughness in your medical examinations. The answer to your primary question lies there; were any type of actual mental contact made between the individuals on Pyris VII and the members of the Enterprise crew, such an aberration would have shown on your brainwave scanners; the difference would have been unmistakable, and there is no method of deceiving such a brain scan. The obvious conclusion, then, would be that there was no actual mental contact made between you, Lieutenant-Commander Scott or Lieutenant Sulu and the life-forms on the planet."
McCoy looks equal parts relieved and puzzled. "Not that I'm not glad to hear that, but I still don't understand, Spock."
"Doctor, from my brief contact with the beings and from what I observed of their behavior, I understood their ability to be more that of a higher life form, able to transmutate and manipulate matter and energy, rather than that of a race of actually telepathic individuals."
"The difference being…"
"The ability to manipulate energy would enable the user to block neural inputs to certain parts of the brain, and to redirect certain neural impulses at their sources. The effects would be similar to some neural drugs or local anesthetics, in your medical parlance: in essence, the ability to produce a tranquilizing or hypnotizing effect without the aid of pharmaceuticals. But the blocking of neural inputs does not constitute actual mind-touch, or telepathy in its technical sense, as both are done at a subconscious or neural level rather than in the actual consciousness. On telepathic and empathic worlds, such a procedure is often used in the medicinal field in lieu of chemical treatments, and is not considered technically any more mentally invasive than your hypospray cartridge's contents are on your world, Doctor."
"So you're saying, instead of us being mind-controlled, we were more just, what…hypnotized or drugged without the drug itself? That's a little sketchy, if you ask me."
"While I understand your medical skepticism, Doctor, that is in essence the impression I gathered from the female known as Sylvia, and from my observations of the crewmen affected. I did not gather the impression that she was powerful enough to instigate an actual act of controlling another's willpower; rather, she could only view another's thoughts and attempt to block incoming information to them. This would explain why the projections around us were solid; there would be no need for such things if she were able to actually alter our thoughts to see that which was not in existence."
"This would also explain the lack of altered brainwave patterns and the fact that you remember nothing of that time; your minds were not altered, merely…taken offline, to use a more familiar metaphor. Emptied, if you will, of all thought but those she allowed through the neural block."
"Hmph. I suppose it makes sense, but that's still a starshipload of things I Do Not Like, Mr. Spock." McCoy scowls, arms folded across his chest. "And y'know what else, I don't see the difference really in what you're saying is a crime and not a crime in your precious telepathic culture. I don't care if it was telepathy, hypnotism, voodoo spells or just a fancy magic trick, none of us gave consent to it!"
Spock pauses, considering this; again, he has forgotten that to a non-telepath, the difference might not be so obvious.
"I had not considered the ramifications to a human, Doctor. To a telepathic individual, the difference is instinctual, taught from the onset of one's telepathic abilities; but to one not accustomed to such things, it no doubt is not as obvious. You have my assurance that this oversight on my part, in not educating you and your medical staff accordingly, will not be repeated on another such mission."
The doctor regards him for a moment, unblinking, and for just a fraction of a second he wonders if this is the human feeling called unease. Then the tension seems to resolve itself, and McCoy sighs, shaking his head.
"As good as I'm gonna get, I suppose. I still don't like it."
"I am now aware of this fact, and acknowledge the reasoning behind it. I would be willing to discuss further the lack of sufficient medical knowledge in the Enterprise's databases on the matter, if it would help to alleviate your concerns about future treatments."
McCoy eyes him speculatively for a moment, then stands, shaking his head. "I think we can cross that bridge when we come to it again. I'm trusting you when you say it isn't something we should be overly concerned with, Mr. Spock."
"I do not believe so, at this time."
A quick tug to his tunic, and the physician turns to leave. "Good. Then I'm not going to even say anything to Sulu or Scotty about it, unless you think I should. They weren't anywhere near as concerned with it as I was. No point in stirring up a new hornet's nest."
"Your hesitation is natural, Doctor, and your desire to protect your patients most admirable. Also, such a self-preservational instinct will serve you well should we encounter other telepaths in our travels during the remainder of our five-year mission. That probability lies at an eighty-seven-point-six percent."
"Good to know," the doctor says dryly over his shoulder.
"The probability that they will be hostile, however, is a mere forty-seven-point-three percent."
"Even better." Nearly to the door, the human stops, swiveling sharply on one heel. Spock finds himself pinned by a sharp blue gaze. "And the probability of you pulling another stunt like that with Jim again for the rest of this mission?"
He does not waste either of their time asking what that is. "Zero, Doctor."
"Good. Remember I know your medical file by heart. Every. Single. Detail." The door opens silently behind him. "Goodnight, Commander."
He raises an eyebrow. "Goodnight, Doctor."
The dramatic exit is followed by a loud thud and colorful metaphor he can clearly hear through the now-closed door; obviously the change in gravity to ship's normal is an unexpected surprise.
He shakes his head in bemusement.
Thank Surak he will never have to share a mindscape with this human.