Title: When the Hour Strikes (5/6)
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 | 3 | 4
Or read at AO3
As it turns out, Spock has forgotten the important details—like serving on the Enterprise for the past four years and every person he’s met since that time. McCoy wishes for a medical tricorder to examine the amnesic Vulcan but he cannot seem to find one in Sickbay (where he’s carted Spock and Jim). Even fiddling with the other equipment is useless because they seem present just for show (or Tarind is messing with McCoy, which is a moot point by now).
Leonard allows Jim to explain the facts of Enterprise life (in particular the last two weeks) to Mr. Spock, who says fascinating after every five sentences that come out of Kirk’s mouth. By now, the doctor is ready to use a different tactic—like smacking Spock upside the head to see if anything rattles around in there.
McCoy grits his teeth. “Would you stop saying that, you overgrown pointy-eared elf!”
Spock turns to him and says, “I find no logical reason for your insult… Doctor.”
It’s that typical form of address Spock tacks on that releases some of the tension in Leonard. Not that he would ever admit it to Spock, but having the Vulcan refuse to call McCoy by a name—his surname or title, which has become customary between them over the years—has unnerved the doctor more than he thought possible. (He’s missed it too. That little tidbit he’ll definitely never say aloud.)
Jim rolls his eyes at them both. “Why am I not surprised? Could you two not argue right now? I’d like to figure out where we are!”
“Captain,” Spock pauses after he says the name, “we are currently on the Medical deck of a constitution class starship—”
“The Enterprise, Spock. Yes, I am well aware of that. What I mean is…”
“…is this real?” McCoy finishes.
Spock looks grave. “If your statements are correct, then our bodies—and this ship—are psychological manifestations in which our minds reside… and therefore interpret as real.”
“But whose psyche is it—Tarind’s or yours, Spock?” McCoy crosses his arms to hide the shaking of his hands. He hates the thought of being trapped in someone’s mind.
“It is highly unlikely that we reside in my mind, Doctor McCoy. My mental capacities are… compromised.” McCoy has a sense of déjà-vu. He says nothing, because Spock won’t remember that conversation anyway.
“Basically then,” Jim summarizes, “we’re in Tarind’s mind—and it looks like the Enterprise?”
“Indeed, I presume this to be true.”
Jim turns to Leonard, who hasn’t any useful advice to share. “Don’t know, Jimmy. I was creeped out the moment I woke up in that lab.” And realized I wasn’t dead, he doesn’t mention that. “Not only are we stuck in this God awful place, but we aren’t physically here! Spock’s been hoodooed—” (wiped clean) “—and I don’t have a clue how to fix it! I’m a doctor, not a mind guru. That’s Spock’s department.” Ah, the irony, he thinks bitterly.
“I find your dialect most fascinating, Doctor.”
That startles Leonard into a smile. “Why, thank you, Mr. Spock.” He makes sure to drawl the words twice as long as he normally does. Spock’s eyebrows go up, so McCoy raises one of his own in return.
Jim is shaking his head but makes no comment at their behavior. Rather, he directs his next question to Spock. “Tell us everything that has happened since you found yourself here.”
“Once regaining awareness, I attempted to locate other life-forms aboard this vessel.” His face goes blank. “However, a voice—” (“—a voice!” “Don’t interrupt, Bones.”) “—informed me that there were no others present… until yourselves, of course.”
“Spock, was it in your head?” McCoy’s not even sure if that’s possible—a voice inside the mind of your mind—but, by now, he feels that nothing should be surprising. It’s all so damn crazy! (McCoy’s upset and confused.)
“Negative, Doctor. It speaks over the inter-ship communication units.”
Jim stalks over to the comm unit by the door. He stares at it expectantly, maybe hopes that Tarind is stupid enough to address the furious Captain Kirk. Jim depresses the side button (comm-ing the Bridge) and says, “Captain Kirk here.”
They wait but no response comes.
“Don’t worry about that, Jim. Tarind won’t talk if we want him to. Besides, he has to know everything we’ve just said. We’re in his mind, for Christ’s sake!”
Spock clasps his hands behind his back and makes a partial turn (so that he does not directly address either man). “I fail to understand how Tarind overrided my shields. Vulcans practice the art of shielding from an early age. Perhaps…” The Vulcan does not complete his statement. This alarms McCoy because Spock is rarely hesitant in voicing his opinion. (Which can only mean…)
“Spock,” McCoy lets his voice gentle, “you are one of the strongest telepaths I know. I wouldn’t lie to you. Now, I don’t understand much about this ability of Tarind’s—I wasn’t aware that he had any—but he couldn’t possibly be more adept than a Vulcan.” McCoy can see that he hasn’t completely convinced Spock. “He injected a hypospray of God-knows-what into you, and I’ll bet you a month’s pay that that’s the reason he can manipulate you so easily.”
Jim agrees with McCoy.
Spock seems mollified now. “Did you identify the contents of the hypospray, Doctor?”
“No,” McCoy says with real regret. “We’d sent it down to the lab for testing, but then—”
“It has to be the same poison. Why it made you vulnerable so quickly this time…”
Jim adds, “I think Tarind couldn’t get to Spock after the initial dose. Remember when we got word of Spock’s collapse?”
Leonard recalls that moment with a heart-wrench. “Yeah. An ensign reported it and stayed with Spock until we could get him to Sickbay.”
“So Tarind didn’t have the opportunity to attack Spock right away.”
“That’s true, Jim. And he was never alone when he was unconscious, so probably anything Tarind did to Spock’s mind wasn’t very effective from a distance.” McCoy comes to a conclusion that makes him cold.
Jim looks grim. “He waited until Spock was alone in his quarters.”
McCoy paces in thought. “The concentration of the poison was tapering off after we let him outta Sickbay, Jim. And Tarind couldn’t have realized that until too late.” McCoy turns to Kirk, sees the same anger he feels in the lines of Jim’s body. “We interrupted that attempt and he had to make a second one.”
And Tarind succeeded—the words hang in the air, unsaid but heavy.
Spock looks to McCoy, wants to know, “Doctor, what was the concentration level in my bloodstream before you were… transported here?”
McCoy cannot lie. “It’s not going to matter this time. Spock—” He searches for the professional calm that usually gets him through this kind of conversation. (He can’t find it.) “—in matter of hours, you may be brain-dead.”
The Vulcan is silent.
Jim steps up to Spock, reaches for him. “Spock—”
Spock says, “This explains the sun.”
“What sun?” Jim asks sharply.
“Captain, Doctor, if you please. Come with me.”
Jim and Leonard follow Spock to the Bridge. McCoy immediately winces at the alarm whistling from the navigation console. “What in God’s name is that?”
Jim looks pale and when McCoy turns in the direction that the Captain faces, looks at the Bridge screen, he goes pale too. There’s an enormous sun filling up the screen.
From behind the two Humans, Spock says quite calmly, “Twenty-two minutes and six seconds until termination.”
Spock explains to Captain Kirk that any attempt to correct the ship’s course is futile. Kirk will not accept this answer until he personally verifies that Navigation and Helm are nonresponsive to input. Spock now suspects that Tarind’s Enterprise is without substance in the areas that Tarind himself does not understand; hence, why Spock can run tests at the Science station but Doctor McCoy cannot find functional equipment in Sickbay.
The Captain and the CMO insist that they are his friends—McCoy refers to himself as Spock’s verbal sparring partner (Spock suspects that the doctor is his own personal Human annoyance)—but Spock cannot easily accept that word friend. He understands its meaning but not its purpose. When he attempts to penetrate the fortified walls of his memory banks, they do not yield to him, and so Spock must accept these Humans’ statements as truth. Somehow, he does not have difficulty believing that they are Kirk and McCoy, Captain and CMO. That Spock is First Officer of the Enterprise—he finds this more implausible than any other truth presented to him.
However, his position matters little on a ship that journeys to the center of a sun and will cease to exist in less than half of an hour.
Spock decides on a course of action. “Lieutenant Tarind wishes to destroy my mind. Tarind may release you both if I give myself willing to his desires.”
Kirk and McCoy refuse to see the logic of his suggestion. They argue heatedly—in McCoy’s case, with inappropriate name-calling.
“Why should three lives be sacrificed when one will suffice?”
“God dammit, you stupid Vulcan! How can you even suggest such a thing?”
“I’m with Bones, Spock. You can’t give up!” The Captain closes the distance between them, stops short of touching Spock. “I order you—”
“Captain, with all due respect, your orders are not valid under our present conditions.”
Kirk’s blood pressure must have increased substantially because his face darkens to a shade of red. Spock is about to suggest a breathing technique when he is interrupted.
I just don’t understand how you three manage to survive around each other, let alone work together.
The voice is back and very amused.
Kirk jumps at the chance to communicate with Tarind. “Lieutenant Tarind, you will release us now!“
There is static laughter echoing down at them.
My apologies, Captain Kirk. I truly had no intention of bringing you into this… ordeal, but you just wouldn’t detach yourself from McCoy and I couldn’t leave such a threat around my person. I had little choice.
“You had every choice, you sick bastard! When I get my hands on—” Doctor McCoy shouts when he is angry. (Why isn’t Spock surprised?)
Ah, McCoy. I won’t apologize to you, Doctor. While I have great admiration for your professional work, you are a loud-mouthed nuisance in person. It’s a shame that more people don’t tell you the truth. Maybe the other crew cow before you but I won’t! I am going to take great pleasure in permanently shutting you up. A loss to Medical, surely, but that’s all.
Spock does not like the look in McCoy’s eyes. “Your assessment is incorrect, Lieutenant. Doctor McCoy is my… friend and the Captain’s.” The word is not so difficult to acknowledge after all. “His loss would be significant to us both.”
Tarind replies, That’s why he’s here, Vulcan, so that you comprehend the price of your indifference.
“I do not understand your reference.”
My experiment, you fool! You—
Tarind cuts off, then, perhaps because he remembers Spock cannot possibly know the why of his current state. Tarind has taken that from Spock—and in essence, deprived himself of a piece of his revenge.
“Not as satisfying, is it?” Kirk speaks before Spock can.
It doesn’t matter now, Tarind insists. As long as Mr. Spock suffers and I win.
McCoy wants to know, “And how do you plan on winning? What do you gain—besides revenge by leaving Spock as a permanent vegetable?”
I get to study the mind of a telepath. His mind, all of his thoughts and memories, will be mine.
Spock goes very still at this confession. Tarind is not destroying his mental capacity, he is stealing it—siphoning of the last vestiges that make Spock who he is—for data.
And the sun?
Spock turns to the Bridge screen, with clarity. The sun represents Tarind’s final stage, the encompassing of one mind into another—and the burning of those last threads that bind Spock’s Self to his physical body. (The end of Spock is close now, looming bright red and blazing.)
Spock approaches the Captain’s chair. He says, “You desired that I take this seat.” There is silence. “I will do so now.” Spock lowers himself into the chair.
“Spock—” McCoy comes up to his left, Kirk to his right. They stand on either side of him.
He opens his hands, palm up, in a silent request. Kirk instantly takes his hand. McCoy hesitates, asks, “Are you sure?” Spock nods. So Doctor McCoy grasps his other hand.
The Enterprise shudders then and the two Humans lean into the sides of the chair to steady themselves.
What are you doing, Mr. Spock?
“I am accepting my fate,” the Vulcan replies.
Jim is a myriad of emotions—he’s angry (as he has been since the beginning), hopeful when he grips Spock’s hand, and very much afraid for them all. Once Spock sits the Captain’s chair, Jim seeks reassurance that the Vulcan has a plan (surely he must, right?) but then Spock speaks of accepting his fate. Jim listens closely to the undercurrent of those words, so when Spock turns to him, he picks up on the shimmer in the Vulcan’s eyes. (It sends Jim’s heart pounding.) He cannot help but say “Spock.”
It’s Bones who slides his arm against the back of the chair and leans into them both. He is quiet but asking questions with his eyes.
Spock raises their linked hands. “Never and always touching and touched.”
McCoy’s eyes grow wide but Jim does not understand. Bones whispers “T’Pring” at Kirk, and Jim has a sudden vision of Spock facing his Vulcan fiancé on the Bridge repeating those ritual words. (He tries not to follow his memory to the resulting disaster.) Spock raises his eyebrow and repeats the phrase. He looks expectant.
Jim meets Bones’ (very blue) eyes and jumps in headfirst. “Never and always touching and touched.”
There is a little zing between their pressed palms, and Jim can imagine the startled look that must be on his face. He urges “Bones” then to the doctor, who chews at his lower lip with uncertainty.
Jim almost concludes that McCoy won’t go along with the plan (that he himself doesn’t understand) when Bones’ posture changes just faintly. “Never and always touching and touched.” Jim feels sweet relief.
The Enterprise doesn’t just shudder after that, it actually wobbles like it’s about to tilt off an axis. Spock grips Jim’s hand tightly. “Sit down, Captain, Doctor,” he says. “Do not let go.”
They comply quickly. Jim clutches at the side of the chair and Spock’s hand (eyes widening) as the floor starts to buckle around the turbolift and upper consoles. He reaches out across the chair for Bones, and the doctor locks forearms with the Captain.
Spock! The Vulcan’s name is cried out in a thousand voices from the crevices that break open in the metal paneling. SPOCK! YOU ARE MINE!
“He’s not yours!” Jim shouts. His words seem swallowed up in the twisting of the Bridge that groans and weeps and screams.
He is drawn from the terrifying noise to McCoy who is watching the Bridge screen. Jim turns his head, sees what McCoy sees. The Bridge screen is cracking under the heat of the sun—leaks bright white—and alarms shriek of imminent destruction. Spock tells them, “The hull has reached its melting point. Please prepare yourselves.”
Jim thinks, This is it. This is the end of us.
*T’Pring: from ST TOS S2 episode “Amok Time”; the Vulcan female who was Spock’s arranged bondmate since early childhood.