Title: When the Hour Strikes (3/?)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy (pre-K/S/M)
Disclaimer: Star Trek is not my property, only my plaything.
Summary: The First Officer becomes a target for an unidentified assailant.
Previous Parts: 1 | 2
Or read at AO3
“Jim—Jim—God dammit, Jim! Hold still or so help me, GOD, I’ll—”
“Fine!” The Captain does a wonderful impression of Joanna’s pouting toddler years. Leonard possibly grips the Captain’s chin, to keep his head immobile, with more force than necessary. He’s been struggling to close the weeping cut at Jim’s hairline for the better part of five minutes. But Jim won’t stop yapping, fidgeting, and generally being so damned frustrating that McCoy eyes his medikit (and tranquilizer therein) a little too wistfully. He vaguely wonders if Spock would retrieve the hypospray if he asks.
Speaking of, Spock sits quietly to McCoy’s left. He’s not meditating (McCoy has decided that meditation is a terrible idea by this point), but rather watching the irate CMO patch up the irate Captain. Leonard thinks Spock has a mental bet going on who’ll throw the first punch.
No matter. They are all tense, even here in Jim’s quarters and with the security codes re-enforced.
Jim wouldn’t come to Sickbay. (“You damn stubborn fool! I saw that hit, Jim—don’t you ignore me!“) After a quick verbal snipping at one another, Jim had agreed to meet Spock and McCoy in his quarters. As far as Leonard could tell, the hunt for Spock’s assailant was not progressing well. He would have made his condolences to the Captain, but Jim was having no discourse on the subject. He refused to quit looking until every nook and cranny of the Enterprise had been searched and scanned.
McCoy had to give in, once he got Jim’s promise to seek medical help if he started feeling dizzy or light-headed (or, God forbid, began bleeding out of any orifice). Knowing the man as well as he does, Len sent two medics to “help” with the search and keep an eye on the Captain.
He finished up Spock’s examination—which showed no new external or internal injuries, thank the Lord—and they hustled to the Captain’s quarters. Leonard had just been trying to get Spock to lie down, quite loudly (and verbosely, Spock said) when Jim walked in.
Things went downhill from there.
Leonard snaps back to the task at hand just in time to catch Jim’s last few words.
“—walked straight through the wall!”
Jim is still wound up so Leonard taps his shoulder with the dermal regenerator none too gently. “Easy there, Captain. Don’t need you gettin’ an aneurysm ’cause you can’t catch a ghost.”
“Doctor, that statement is most illogical. Obviously, I am not—nor have been—attacked by a spectral being.”
McCoy snorts. “Says who?”
“It is unlikely that an… apparition can poison me, which requires at least a mass density of—”
“Spare me, please, you pointy-eared computer! So how do you explain the man walking through a panel of this ship, huh?”
Jim says, quite ill-temperedly, “I don’t believe it myself. I had him cornered. I HAD him right there.” Jim clenches his fists again. Leonard considers giving him another solid whack when Spock interrupts his (not-quite) attempt.
That grabs both Kirk’s and McCoy’s attention. “Explain, Spock.” Kirk demands rather than asks.
“Captain, given the circumstances of the attack—of a psychological nature—it is logical to assume that this person has a highly developed aptitude for mind control.”
“Like you?” McCoy asks.
Spock is indignant, no doubt, at McCoy’s indelicate inquiry. “Unlike myself, Doctor. As touch-telepaths, Vulcans adhere to a moral code which precludes us from directly controlling the thoughts of others.”
Jim is silent for a moment. He seems to have calmed down, for which Len is grateful. Kirk looks at his First Officer, face serious, and wants to know, “What about the mind meld you did on that female Kelvan?”
“Jim, I did not bend the will of her mind. I merely planted the strong suggestion of our release into her thought process. Her actions—and her decision to act—were her own.”
McCoy wants no more of this debate. Technicalities aside, this subject is tedious and chock-full of shades of gray at best. They have more pressing issues to address.
“What you’re saying, Spock, is that this… person made Jim and the security officers think he’d gone through a wall.”
“So he could have been there the whole time. Damn!” Jim goes tense again, and McCoy throws his hands up in defeat.
“Alright, Jim, you want to beat yourself up over something you couldn’t control… then go ahead. No skin off my nose.” McCoy levels his finger right between Jim’s eyes. “But don’t expect me to put you back together afterwards!” Leonard goes over to his medikit and starts stuffing items back into it with all the irritation that he can muster. Stupid angst-ridden Captains…
…and their stupid martyr-complexes…
“What?” Leonard snaps. Jim reaches out and touches Len’s stiff shoulder with warm fingers.
Why Jim’s I’m sorry‘s can always deflate Len’s anger is a world of mystery to the doctor. Nevertheless, he accepts Jim’s apology just shy of embracing the man.
They step apart when Spock rises from his seat with that (envious) Vulcan grace. He’s probably amused at their expense. Emotional humans! Ha! Give Leonard an emotional human over a stoic Vulcan any day. He’s about to voice such when Jim beats him to the punch.
“Spock, shouldn’t you be resting or something?” Jim looks at McCoy, who nods. “The CMO here says so.”
“Captain, Vulcans do not have need of the same quantity of rest as—”
“Same old song and dance, Spock! How about traumatized Vulcans? I bet even traumatized Vulcans get outta whack and have to let their bodies adjust.”
Spock’s look clearly reads Do I look traumatized? and Your suggestion is highly illogical.
It’ll be a cold day in Hell when Spock thinks that Leonard is not illogical.
McCoy bounces on the balls of his feet and says to Jim, “What’s your advice for insubordination, Captain?”
Jim has that gleam in his eye that can only mean trouble. “Well, Bones—”
Apparently Spock recognizes the look in Jim’s eyes too, because he says rather loudly for a Vulcan, “I require the use of your bed, Captain. I wish to retire.”
Jim just grins. “By all means, Mr. Spock, be my guest.”
Spock leaves the company of the Captain and CMO. McCoy turns, studies the flickering anxiety reflected back at him (he’s sure it matches his own) and wants to know, “What’s your plan, Jim?”
“I don’t know, Bones. But we’ll think of something.”
They do so for the next few hours. In the end, however, they have to admit defeat. Leonard stretches out his legs on the couch, exhausted. Jim denies any drowsiness, despite that Leonard could trace the tired lines next to his mouth (if he so dared), and leaves for a midnight ramble around the upper decks. (Jim takes his phaser, just in case.) By the time McCoy quiets his thoughts, he can barely force his eyes to stay open. He gives in to sleep.
Jim takes the turbolift to the observation deck. Once inside, he automatically goes to the decorative sailing steering wheel and lays a hand upon one of its wooden spokes. Then Kirk allows himself to shuck the shroud of Captain—the weight of duty—and return to the man Jim. (A man who feels tethered by earth, knows only the sweet call of the stars.)
There’s a killer on his ship.
More than that… there is a killer who wants to hurt Spock. Anger burns inside him, and he knows that the emotion is almost futile at this point. Yet Jim cannot seem to respond in any other way. Leave it to Bones to be the cool-headed one. That little piece of irony instigates a tiny smile at the corners of his mouth. He releases his tight grip and drops his hands to his sides. The stars seem so close, just a pane separating Man and Wonder. Looking at them calms Kirk down (always does).
He knows that he is missing a vital piece of the puzzle—and not just the assailant’s identity. There is a clue or some evidence that must have been left behind, ignored, or unrealized—only Jim just cannot see it. He raises a hand, touches the burning cold of the window. Some small detail that…
…what was it Spock said? Sensory manipulation.
Jim feels that he can barely accept such a possibility, despite the many strange encounters he has had as Captain of the Enterprise. He would rather face a situation he understands, can handle and correct effectively. But if the scenario were true, what could they do against a being with telepathic abilities to make others see what he wills?
What could a mere man, like Jim, do?
Jim draws in a sharp breath, then. When the enemy is shooting at you with a new weapon, chances are that he hasn’t worked out all of the kinks yet. If there’s something—anything—that it can’t do…
The answer strikes Kirk with a bright clarity. He knows exactly what his enemy cannot control.
Spock catches the drifting, forceful thought Don’t wake up. It pushes against his mind, and so Spock reacts naturally. He opens his eyes and digs the blunt fingernails of one hand into the palm of the other; the pain is refreshing and provides the balance he needs to focus (to combat the order).
Someone is close by; someone who can speak to his mind.
Spock slides from the Captain’s bed and seeks out either of his human companions. McCoy is asleep on the couch. He cannot feel Jim’s presence within the normal range of his senses. Where the Captain has gone, Spock does not know.
“Doctor McCoy.” Spock crouches next to Leonard. “Doctor.” The increase in his voice does not disturb the human’s sleep. When Spock reluctantly places a hand on McCoy’s shoulder, shakes him ever so slightly, Leonard shows no sign of coming to awareness.
The decision is split-second, almost too easy. He places his fingertips on the side of McCoy’s face and takes a deep breath.
And meets a wall.
A strangely solid, unforeseen block to Leonard’s mind. He can feel the human’s thoughts beneath it, flowing peacefully in dreams. That the wall is not of Leonard’s making, Spock is positive. When he probes gently at it, the words do not wake swirl out before retreating back into pattern of the bind.
Indeed, there is someone with a far greater mental aptitude than the First Officer has record of aboard this ship. He seems intent on Mr. Spock, intent enough to harm others to achieve his goal.
That a decent (though willful) man like Doctor McCoy can be a puppet in such unkind hands… it makes Spock angry. Yes, he admits to himself. This is anger. This is the feeling—that easily turns to black rage—which drove his people to control emotion with an iron fist.
He does not embrace it, but lets it simmer in his core. It can be a weapon, if he has need of such.
A scraping sound outside of the Captain’s quarters alerts Spock to the imminent intruder. Spock softly orders the lights to lower until the room is dark and full of shadows. (That the Captain’s quarters are programmed to respond to his voice commands, Spock will contemplate later when he has ample time.)
The Vulcan silently leans into a corner, crouched. Light spills into the room for a brief few seconds as the door slides back and a figure slips in. Too tall for the average female height; uniform consists of pants and short sleeves—most likely Medical or Science. Spock narrows his eyes, watches the figure slide around the furniture. When it bends over McCoy, Spock must restrain the urge to move. He counts each agonizing second that passes until the man (it must be male, he concludes) backs away from the doctor and turns toward the Captain’s bedroom.
The soft penlight in the man’s hand bounces and catches an angle of his face.
Spock has to quell his intake of breath. Lieutenant Marcus Tarind. There is a strange sensation in the Vulcan’s chest—hollow, cold (frightening). Of the Science Department. Spock’s department.
The man that Spock has supervised and exchanged admirable intellectual conversation with for the past three years, now identified as his assailant, goes completely still, as if he senses Spock’s thoughts. Then the form straightens up, hands dropping to his sides, and a quiet voice speaks from the darkness. “Hello, Mr. Spock. You’re awake. I didn’t plan on that.”
Spock sets aside his surprise and rises from the corner. “Light, 50%.” The room brightens.
Tarind merely turns to face Spock, smiling.
“Lieutenant,” Spock gives little pause in his demand. “You will explain your actions. Did you enter these quarters with the intention of committing a crime?”
“Mr. Spock, my pardon. Yes, I suppose that I did.”
“Then I place you under arrest by Regulation—”
Tarind says with a short bark of a laugh, “You won’t do that.”
Spock has no patience left. “You are hereby—”
“Doctor McCoy will kill himself.”
Spock’s words dry up in his mouth at Tarind’s blatant announcement. “Illogical. Doctor—”
“Uh uh. Not another word, Sir. And don’t worry about our CMO… If you do as I tell you, I won’t plant the idea in his head.”
“I can. You and I both know what I’m capable of.” Spock’s eyes do not flicker as an image of a sharp-taloned raptor runs through his mind. “I will do it, too, if you don’t cooperate.”
“What are your terms?”
Tarind moves back slowly, watchful of the Vulcan, to the entryway. “Simple, for now. Come with me, into the corridor. Go where I go without protest—and without arousing the suspicion of others. Understand?”
Spock says nothing. Perhaps when Tarind is far enough away, his mental hold on Leonard will weaken—
“Quit thinking, you stupid Vulcan!” Tarind’s amiable façade twists into something ugly before his face relaxes back into a cool visage. “Deal?”
Spock knows that if he prolongs agreeing to Tarind’s demand, the Captain may return to these quarters and fall prey to the man’s control, as easily as Tarind executed his earlier escape. “I will comply.” Spock proceeds Tarind from the Captain’s quarters.
Jim is running through the corridor, barely dodging the random ensign as a single thought pounds through his head. Too late.
There are scorch marks around the code pad to his door. It makes him go cold inside. Phaser-armed, Jim steps into his quarters and takes a quick survey of the scene. It’s quiet.
The feeling in his chest doesn’t go away. Instead, it increases.
Bones is asleep on the couch, one arm hanging trailing loosely to the floor. When Jim kneels next to him, shakes McCoy, he gets a slow mumble as Bones struggles to wake up. Satisfied, Jim says, “Get up, Bones. There’s trouble.”
Jim leaves the man then and goes directly into his bedroom.
Spock. Where’s Spock? (He feels sick.)
“Jim?” The strange (weak) tone of McCoy’s voice drags Jim back to the present and to the man who is bent at the waist on the couch, head in hands and groaning.
“Bones, what’s the matter? Are you okay?”
Jim lifts Leonard’s head gently, notes the lines of pain around his eyes.
“Feel like there’s a sledge hammer attacking my brain.”
“Did you take anything?”
McCoy grimaces. “Hell no, Jim. Just fell asle—”
Jim catches Bones easily as he blacks out.
Shit. Laying McCoy on the floor, Kirk comms Sickbay, tells them to get here now. Then he orders his computer to locate Mr. Spock.
Bones comes around after a minute or so. “Jim…” The name is slurred, like McCoy is drunk.
“Right here, Bones. Don’t worry, Medical is on the way.”
“Not worried about—where’s Spock?”
Jim has a quick and nasty debate with himself about whether or not he should tell McCoy what he knows. Leonard, despite his incapacitation, must pick up on his hesitation. McCoy demands quietly, “Tell me.”
“It’s one of Spock’s personnel in the Science Department. Lieutenant Tarind.”
McCoy’s eyes are surprisingly sharp blue. “Tarind? Yeah, I—” The doctor shudders so suddenly that Jim fears for a moment the doctor is having a seizure.
“Bones, don’t—it’s okay—”
“Ain’t okay, Jimmy.” Leonard bites out. “How’d ya figure out it was Tarind?”
“It was Spock’s idea, actually. Sensory manipulation. If he was right—”
“—he’s always right—” It’s said in a soft sigh that almost makes Jim smile. He catches himself.
“—then whoever it was could fool our minds… but not the mechanics of a starship. So I went down to Security and tapped into the vid feeds again from earlier today. We’d have laughed, Bones, if it had been any other situation. Tarind was following us the entire time, not running from us. He’s smart, I’ll give him that. When Scotty and I originally reviewed the feeds, we were only looking for the man that we were chasing—who wasn’t there. That’s why I was so angry. I thought—well, nevermind what I thought. The point is, Bones, while we searched for him like blind fools, he was directing us like a bunch of puppets.”
“Exactly,” Jim agrees.
“Jim, you gotta go. Spock’s in trouble, right? You have to go.”
The Captain almost rebels in that instance, until he looks down into McCoy’s quiet face. The doctor urges, “Go on, Jim. Spock needs you.”
He helps prop McCoy up, retrieves the location of Mr. Spock from his console, and leaves one of the dearest souls to his heart behind for another.
Tarind locks them into an empty science lab on the 47th deck. He congratulates Mr. Spock. “You did well. Thank you for that. Have a seat.”
“I will stand.”
Tarind shrugs a shoulder. “Always were too formal for me, Mr. Spock. I wonder, is that because of your Vulcan upbringing, or are you just naturally uptight?”
“The characteristics of my personality are not relevant to this discussion.”
“No, I guess not.” Tarind smiles.
Spock is direct. “Are the Starfleet records pertaining to your mental aptitude false?”
“They weren’t when I enlisted. Now? Yes.” Tarind paces in a circle around the Vulcan. “Do you remember when I came to you with a proposal for a new biochemical experiment?”
“A Protoplasmic Catalyst in the Development of the Psi Factor,” Spock draws the title from memory.
“You turned it down.”
“All Starfleet research funds are currently allocated to the experiments necessitated by our designated missions. I stated this.”
“Oh, c’mon! How stupid do you think I am? You’re Science Officer, not to mention First Officer. If you’d asked Starfleet for more money, they would have sent it!”
“Lieutenant, I am bound under the same regulations as any other officer. I cannot—”
“Don’t LIE to me!” Tarind jerks his upper body as anger tightens his muscles. “Vulcans can’t lie, right?” he spits. “Don’t think that this entire crew doesn’t know how you and McCoy and Captain Kirk bend the rules when you want to—”
“If we do so, it is for the good of—”
“Shut up, Spock.”
Spock does refrain from further comment, but not at Tarind’s behest. He is momentarily distracted by a soft bang outside the lab door. Spock casually shifts his position, begins to float around the room (closer to the door) as if in thought.
“You have not explained how you developed your ability since you boarded the Enterprise. I admit that I am curious, Lieutenant.”
“I spent my free shifts working on the final stages of my experiment. It’s been my pet project for years. I thought that, on the Enterprise, people would listen—” He breaks off, muscles in his jaw working. “I made a break-though.” Tarind’s eyes are lit, now, as he warms to his subject. “I developed a serum that interacts with the neurons of the brain. It stimulates their firing by almost 45%, specifically in the upper brain. After a few adjustments, I stabilized the electrical impulses over the temporal lobes, enhanced and re-directed them…”
“Most interesting. The visual-motor cortex, I presume?”
“The center that cultivates illusions and dreams, yes, among others.” Excitement laces Tarind’s voice. “Don’t you understand! I can manipulate those things. Me! I can see inside your mind, Mr. Spock.” The scientist’s eyes are fever bright. “‘My mind to your mind.'”
The direct quotation of Vulcan telepathic principle—from Tarind’s mouth—makes Spock go ramrod still. (His hearing picks up muted syllables—words outside of the lab.)
“Those places you dreamed—the desert and the mountains—I created them from your memory banks. You literally gave me the canvas to work with… beautiful, really.” Lt. Tarind is idly smiling to himself as he skims a hand along a laboratory table, picks up each test tube in the slotted sequence and gives them a little shake (even when they are empty). “Isn’t it amazing? I’ve been dosing myself with the serum for the last four months. Finally, finally, after all that waiting and practice, I tested high enough on the Psi scale. Can you believe it? The accomplishment alone—”
Spock barely tolerates Tarind’s mad dialogue. As a scientist, he could be interested in the progress of Tarind’s experiment, but the man is dangerous and obviously power-hungry now that he has a taste of mental exploitation. (Such wasted potential.) He watches Tarind pace the length of the room, seeks to determine the man’s actions. Tarind catches his intent focus, mistakes it for an emotion like fear.
“I am sorry, Mr. Spock. But you have to understand my position—you’re a scientist too! You are the only telepath aboard this vessel. I-I couldn’t use anyone else.” He pauses, continues. “Well, that’s not entirely true. I have been practicing on others, but they don’t have the strong mental shields that you do—and the more I take—study, the more I can conquer… I slipped a tasteless neuro-dampener—my own special concoction—into your plomeek soup. It was for the best, Mr. Spock, to make the culling process less painful for us both.”
“To harm another being in such fashion is a crime, Lieutenant. Amongst my own people, it is punishable by death.”
Tarind smiles nervously. “But if no one knows about it, how can they punish me? I can make them see its benefits, Mr. Spock, truly I can! The formula increases the Psi ability in the latent areas of the brain. Imagine what this could do for Terrans! We wouldn’t be at the mercy of races like the Romulans and the Betazoids.”
“You have made the false assumption that you have the right to interfere with the natural development of your species.”
Tarind goes pale (with fury?). “Of course you would say that. You don’t want Terrans to be better than Vulcans.” The word is almost sneered. His eyes are now wildly tracking around the lab and back to Spock. “You think your Vulcan-half makes you so much better…so superior to us!“
“Well, we’ll see who’s the stronger, won’t we!”
He makes a dive for Spock who uses the man’s hasty act to sidestep and grab his arm, swing Tarind around. If Spock can just get his hand on the man’s neck…
“No!” The howl is horrible (high and desperate). Tarind wrenches a hypospray from his pocket and jabs it into Spock’s arm. Spock lets out an involuntary gasp when the lights in the room flare to a blinding white. Tarind takes that moment to grab the Vulcan’s right hand, and Spock staggers as his senses are inundated with chaos. Tarind drops the hypospray and pressing his other hand against the side of Spock’s face, wrenching at his hair. The last thing the Vulcan hears is the high-pitched squeal of the lab door giving way to laser and physical force, and the reverberation of “Spock!“
Spock falls into the onslaught of Tarind’s mind and the battle begins.
*Kelvan female: refers to the TOS S2 episode “By Any Other Name” when Jim and others are trapped in a cave guarded by Kelinda, a Kelvan (race from beyond the Great Barrier). Spock uses a long-distance mind meld to get her to open their cell.
*steering wheel (ship): In ST V: The Final Frontier, we see that an upper deck has a large navigational ship wheel with the plaque “To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before” on it. (Kirk would be a sea Captain in the 20th century, don’t you think?)
…We’re not near the end at all. Sorry! And, um, you guys love me, right? Please remember that! I know that bad stuff has happened, but here’s fair warning: the situation is going to get much worse.