There was a dull, throbbing, irrelevant pain in his head. It dragged him out of unconsciousness and left him on the floor of the prison cell, rejoined with the aching toolbox that was his physical form. The prison was clean and well-lit, but had no comforts at all. This was a holding cell, not a final destination where he would wait out the end of his life. His long, miserable failure of a life. Alone, surrounded by ant-like creatures, all the ones like him dead. A wolfdog whose flock had been slaughtered while he watched.
There would be no way out of the cell. They knew him now. He didn't have anywhere to go but the grave, anyway. He pressed himself up to sit against the wall, ignoring the sharp pain from his left shoulder where his opponent had clutched at his nerves so tightly that his bones had separated; his head was still buzzing. Whatever Spock hit him with had been almost enough to kill him.
A sensor on the cuffs of his wrists sensed his movement and sent a notification to the guard's station. Footsteps approached from the end of the block. He sat motionless, watching the glass as the doctor appeared with a tablet under one arm, stopped, and watched him.
"I'd like to say 'welcome back,' but you'd do everyone a big favor if you'd just die." He approached the glass and dragged over the port ring. "You've been out for two days. Can you stand?"
A moment later, the request registered past the buzzing, but the doctor already assumed his was being difficult.
"Those cuffs on your wrists and ankles, they're magnetic. Powerful enough to move a truck where it doesn't want to drive. There's one on your neck that's telling me about your physical state remotely, so I don't have to mess with you as much. Right now, it's telling me you're low on some things that are necessary for keeping you alive. Like red blood cells."
He shuddered, then leaned heavily against the wall and pushed himself to stand against it. He edged over toward the front of the cell, focusing on the doctor and trying not to let his vision cloud. Even so, by the time he slumped against the glass, he couldn't hear past the buzzing.
Dr. McCoy shook his head. "You look terrible. The cuffs are telling me you're not faking." He dragged the port ring down to the level of his patient. "Put your arm through. I'm going to give you an injection of glucose, proteins, some vitamins, and an anti-inflammatory. Depending on how your system reacts, we may step up to painkillers."
He'd never had a painkiller in his life, but it sounded nice. He shakily pushed his arm through the ring and let the doctor do as he pleased. In a few moments, his breathing seemed easier and the buzzing in his head quieted. He let out a sigh and sank to the floor.
Dr. McCoy watched the reaction through the eyes of the sensors in the neck cuff. "As I thought, you over-expended yourself. Your body is only healing using resources it cannibalizes from healthy tissue. As soon as you're able, you need a good meal. And a bath." He pulled the port ring, which deactivated and detached with a quiet pop.
"What are you going to do with me?" he rasped before the doctor could walk away. "Am I to be experimented on? Shall I bleed to save your people?"
Dr. McCoy raised an eyebrow. "As much as I would love the opportunity to decode whatever makes you so damn special, it's really not my decision. It's his."
A second pair of footsteps, lighter and more careful, approached.
Spock stared down at the crumpled man, expressionless.
The buzzing in his head returned. He drew upon a reservoir of energy he didn't know was there, and flung himself at the glass in a mindless fury. "You killed them," he howled. "You killed them all. Every angel and beast of them."
He raised an eyebrow and did not flinch. "I assure you, I did no such thing. Though if they are all like you, perhaps it is better to leave them asleep forever."
His fury withdrew behind a pang of memory. His wife's caramel face made pale by the cold and glass. Waking in confusion and pain, three centuries and 28 souls lost, to be clapped in cuffs and bones broken, not knowing if the other 72 lived or died or where they were. Broken and healed and broken again until he was compliant, until he did what he knew was wanted. "You're lying," he said evenly. "You want something from me."
"Your compliance would be appreciated, but we have already taken what we need from you." He knelt and looked at anguish through glass for the second time that week. "I can show them to you, if you would like. But in return, I want to know everything that has happened to you."
That was a weird requirement. "So you can make more like me? I am the only, and I am the last."
"On the contrary. So we can prevent another of you from being made again, by anyone."
"You can show me my family?" he asked, shaking again. "They're not dead. In return, you want... a story."
"We will attach sensors to your scalp and record memories from the time of your birth on. With the aide of computers, we should be able to put together a narrative and trace any vital records that may exist of your creation."
"It's history, man," the doctor added.
He watched the commander for a long moment. "Show them to me first. I must know."
The commander paused. "The only way I can show you that you will trust and understand, will also give me access to your consciousness. You must trust me in this, or the process will be difficult and possibly painful."
"There are very few ways in which I have not already been violated. Are you sure my consciousness is something you want to access?"
"I am not certain it is what I want, but it appears to be necessary."
He tilted his head against the glass, a picture of misery. "Very well."
Spock placed the port ring on the glass near his face. He and the doctor exchanged looks, then he reached a hand through the glass and placed his fingertips firmly against the skull of a madman.
A pang of physical pain distorted everything, but it was possible to make out lumps of knowledge and snaps of time. The commander's view from the first person of the cryotubes laid out in rows in sick bay, extracted from the torpedoes, with a tired but pleased Dr. McCoy reporting that all of the occupants were alive and unharmed. The view from the Chair, a voice resonating, 'They are your torpedoes.'
The distortion increased as Khan's experience filled in what happened next. An intense fire in the chest, heart exploding not with the crashing ship, but with the realization that the torpedoes were armed. The following catastrophe of bruises and broken bones was nothing compared to that. The ship shuddering to a halt after a hard impact and a long slide. Bones knitting, his body living even though he no longer felt alive. Propelled by grief and hatred across 30 feet of nothing and almost a mile of pavement, searching for a way to do the most harm, barely caring about his pursuer until his demonically alien face appeared and placed revenge between him and his suicide. Alien- everything was demonically alien. The Vulcan, the humans, the earth, space, nothing made any sense now that he was alone.
Neither was sure whose rage was greater at that point. Their memories collided in a jumble of kicks and blows, both of them grieving, furious.
And then darkness. Khan saw himself laid out, a heap of bruises and uselessness, and the hatred that poured from him in that moment almost startled Spock. Uhura's voice, calming the commander and making everything crystal clear again. The distortion faded, the edges of the experience became defined and orderly. They transported up to the Enterprise, where McCoy took the unconscious man's blood, breaking every regulation on prisoner treatment, and gave it to Kirk. Khan being carried and placed unceremoniously but not unkindly in the bare prison cell. Waking up. Uncertainty. Confusion. Pain. Fear. Grief. Isolation. Failure. Suspicion. Surrender. A pale hand reaching toward him. The last ember of hope, rewarded, glowed. Past and present converged.
When the bond broke, Spock was surprised to find himself leaning heavily on the glass, chest aching. It had been a powerful experience and he wasn't sure he understood all of it.
The man stared up at him, face open, body limp. Vulnerable. Compliant. Completely unlike Spock had ever seen him. "Keep them safe, and I will do anything that you want."
"Tell us your story, and then you can go back to sleep."
A sob burst out of him, relief and amusement and exhaustion. He curled in on himself, gasping.
Spock stood and paced away, giving instructions to McCoy as he did. "When he is able, see that he receives a decent meal, access to bathing facilities, and a change of clothes."
"Are you okay?" McCoy asked, concerned.
"I need to see Jim."
"He's still not-"
"I know." A familiar emotion had transferred between them during the meld, and he felt irrational loyalty like he never had before. "I just need to see him. Please, Dr. McCoy. I am unable to explain."
The doctor smiled a little and patted the Vulcan on the shoulder. "No need. You sound more reasonable than ever."
Spock returned to the medical bay early the next morning. McCoy and two security officers already had Khan out of the cell and in the scanner. One guard stood at the foot of the scanner, one at the head, blasters drawn and aimed at the floor. Everyone seemed a little tense.
"Gentlemen," Spock greeted. "Has there been a problem?"
The doctor didn't look up from the readouts on his computer screen. "The patient began having breathing troubles shortly after you left. This morning, he was unable to stand and walk, so I put him in the scanner. The magnetic cuffs had to come off, so I brought security down, just in case."
The commander joined him behind the computer console, en eyebrow raised. "I do not believe they will be necessary."
The doctor pointed to cracked bones and fractured ribs. "This. Characteristic of injuries sustained during an impact like a car accident, not a dead landing in a star ship. You chased him with some of these; they're too far out of alignment for them to have come from a fistfight, even with you." He pointed out more. "Those are you, though. Remind me never to piss you off."
"He isn't healing."
"He is, and at a faster rate than I've ever seen, but not like Kirk described seeing on Kronos. It could be because the bones aren't properly set. We're going to have to set them, and because his bone composition is totally different than a normal human, we get to do it by hand." He sighed. "I'm surprised he didn't just solve himself and go into shock and die."
Spock was almost surprised at the hostility the doctor let creep into his voice. Even to a half-human, it was obvious. "Doctor, are you able to treat this patient with sound judgment?"
"No," the doctor surprised him. "But I can still treat him better than anyone else would."
That was hard to argue. When the computer beeped a signal that the scan was complete, Spock picked up the magnetic cuffs from the console and approached the scanner. The security guards lifted their phasers and stood ready. Spock watched as the scanner opened automatically to reveal a man bare, bruised, and broken, but somehow invulnerable. He leaned forward not unquickly and attached the neck cuff.
Khan reached up and placed a hand on Spock's forearm, not grasping. They looked upon each other for a moment only.
"I do not believe the presence of security is necessary nor beneficial at this time."
The security guards took the hint and dismissed themselves.
Spock helped the patient to sit up, then placed on the wrist and ankle cuffs not tightly. "Mr. Singh, the doctor has briefed me on your medical status. You have some broken bones that we will need to set."
He looked about to speak, but the words escaped. He nodded instead. Before he could form the request into words, Dr. McCoy handed Spock a white cotton robe, which Spock offered to him. He took it and tried to get it around himself, but stopped and exhaled raggedly, tasting copper.
Spock quickly tucked the robe around him and guided him to lie down again. "We will transfer you to the gurney. Be still."
They rolled him gently onto the gurney, careful not to move him more than necessary. Spock pulled the gurney over to a table frame, lowered it, and locked it in place. The doctor elevated it so the patient was half reclining. A mechanical arm folded out of the table frame and Bones set his tablet in it, positioned it over the left leg, and called up the relevant image from the scanner. "You tried to set these yourself," he accused. "You did a terrible job."
"There was nothing to brace against," Khan groused.
"Your arms are broken! What are you going to brace yourself with, your teeth? Oh never mind. We need to set these before they knit together wrong. Spock, hold him down."
The commander raised an eyebrow, considering how to do so without causing any more damage. He decided there was no good way at all, so he stood at the head of the examining table and wrapped one arm around the patient's chest to hold him in place.
"This is going to be uncomfortable," the doctor warned.
Khan sat back and closed his eyes. When the doctor wrenched his lower leg into place, he grunted. He kept his eyes tightly closed while the doctor called up the image of the other leg, grasped just above his ankle, and wrenched the other in place.
"You'll have to relax your arms. I can't fix anything while you're all clenched up tighter than a priest at a pride parade."
He focused on transferring the tension to other parts of his body.
The doctor jerked his right humerus into place, then lifted the aching arm and jerked his collar bone back until the swollen ends met and stuck. He put a needle under the skin at that exact point and injected something that burned. "This is a biodegradable polymer. It will hold your bone together for six weeks, then your body will break it down. I'd like to put casts on your other bones, since they're harder to get to."
"No need," Khan dismissed, voice tight. "They should mend in a matter of hours."
Spock released him, but hovered nearby.
Bones stood back and removed his tablet from the mechanical arm, which retracted automatically into the table frame. "You can stay on the table, then, so you don't move around and undo all that hard work. No funny business." He snapped the magnetic cuffs on his wrists, but left the ankle cuffs off for the moment. "I'll give you a nutrient booster in about an hour. Your body is burning through resources. You should try to eat solid food whenever you feel up to it, though. We can order whatever you want, as long as the replicator has the recipe." The silence was getting a little awkward. "Do you want something to read?"
Khan stared at him, trying but failing to remain unreadable. When he spoke, he sounded incredulous. "To read... I killed your captain. You're offering me tea and biscuits and a newspaper? You fixed my bones and... I do not understand you. Why?"
"Because this is how Star Fleet treats prisoners." Bones gave him a crooked smile. "Besides, you didn't kill Jim, you only tried. You actually saved him. From yourself." The crooked smile reached his eyes as he realized the irony. "Tea and biscuits, coming up."
"Wait." Stunned, he worked to find words. "Thank you."
The doctor pointed at him and looked at Spock. "Look, even he has manners." He strolled out of the examination room toward the nearest replicator station.
Spock almost rolled his eyes.
Khan leaned his head back and closed his eyes, thoughts finally overpowering pain. "You showed me a part of your mind. How much of mine did you see in return?"
"I saw enough to suspect that you are a lesser monster than we thought, but not enough to pass judgment on your actions."
"You don't speak lies, but you do lie." He remained motionless, but his irritation was clear in his voice. "Did you see what happened when Marcus awoke me?"
"No." He tilted his head slightly. "Do you think it would be relevant in a determination of your guilt?"
He pressed his lips together for a moment, then replied, "No."
"It will be a part of the recording we make of your memories. We will certainly review it when we piece together the narrative of Admiral Marcus's crimes. Is there anything you believe is necessary for us to see in the interim?"
He didn't answer the question. "You're planning to put me to sleep before any judgment is made."
"I..." he tried to spit out the words, but they were unfamiliar and molasses-thick. "I trust you."
Spock did not expect that.
True to his promise, his bones knit by the evening shift and he obediently returned to his cell, which had been thoughtfully furnished with a panel to read from and a replicator programmed for culinary synthesis. Khan's food requests were more or less recognizable to the replicator, and what came out of the replicator was more or less recognizable to Khan. He ate like a man who hadn't eaten for weeks. He read histories and news. When he slept, he was so still that the attending physicians checked the sensor readouts to be sure he was still breathing. Two days passed before Bones allowed Spock to begin recording.
Spock brought a case of recording equipment and connected to the computer interface before awaking Khan, who was lying very still in the back of the cell. He tapped gently on the glass. "Khan."
Khan twitched, then sat up slowly. He quickly looked beyond the Vulcan to make sure they were the only ones in the room, then without provocation he confided, "That is not my name."
He raised an eyebrow.
"Khan is a title. My name is just Noonien." He stood and came to the glass, stopping at comfortable distance for conversation.
Spock almost smiled. "Noonien. The doctor informs me that you are strong enough to attempt this recording."
He did not reply.
"I have, in light of your previous misdeeds, requested two security officers to be in the room. I hope that you will understand this as an indication of my respect, rather than my distrust."
He smiled. "It would be an indication of your respect if you requested more than two."
"I only enumerated the personnel who would be -in- the room. I did not count those who will be immediately outside."
His smile became genuine. "You do lie all the same."
Spock wasn't certain he liked this recovered, capable Noonien Singh as well as the defeated man of two days before. He let the security guards into the room. They flanked Spock and stood with weapons drawn as the glass slid into the wall, and suddenly it was like they were staring into something as lifeless and terrible as the vacuum of space.
The smile vanished now. "Shall we begin?"