Cease my strain! I hear a voice
Naturally I approved it. It was painfully obvious he needed a vacation. I have rarely seen someone so completely lose it overnight. He just snapped.
I felt partially responsible for Spock's state, even a little guilty about it. I had been working him hard, but only because I honestly thought he wanted it that way. Mr. Spock is brilliantly intelligent and fantastically talented, and he was bored out of his skull. He seemed grateful whenever I added to his daily tasks. I was always trying to find odd things for him to do in addition to his regular duties. The man needs to be kept busy...at least that's what I believed. Like all Vulcans he keeps his emotions to himself, so maybe I can't be blamed for not realizing he was unhappy.
I did blame myself, though. When this sequence of events began, I found myself rethinking everything. As usual, Spock had me questioning everything I thought I knew. He never complained, but that doesn't mean he'd had no complaints. Could be I had misjudged the situation. And here I thought I had learned not to push people too hard.
We were expected at Altair VI at the time, but I figured a side trip to Vulcan wasn't an extreme request, especially considering Spock had never taken leave while under my command before. But then we were ordered to advance our Altair VI timetable, and this made a detour to Vulcan impossible. I naturally made the course correction as ordered, but not without deep misgivings.
Well, that evening I learned that Spock had set our course back to Vulcan. I asked Spock about the unauthorized course change, and although he accepted that he must have made it, he claimed to not remember doing so. Then he asked to be restrained, but refused to explain himself.
This was deeply disturbing. I sent him to sickbay, which I now realize I should have done in the first place. By now he belonged in the brig to await a court martial, but I couldn't believe he was willful in his behavior, which meant there had to be a medical reason. Next thing you know Dr. McCoy was telling me that Spock had maybe only eight days to live. Something was ramping his bodily processes up to dangerous levels, and his blood was so saturated with adrenaline that it's a wonder the guy was still in his own skin.
Although our ship didn't know which way to point her nose anymore, MY course was clear: I had to save Spock's life. The Altair VI thing was purely ceremonial. There had to be a way we could get out of it. I thought I'd just explain the situation to Admiral Komack, and he'd see it my way, but that was before I realized he is an idiot. I was stunned with dismay when he ordered me to continue on course despite being presented with the facts concerning Commander Spock's condition. Of course I couldn't tell him everything; I'd promised Spock I wouldn't. Admiral Komack didn't like me keeping a little secret from him and I think he played that card to force me to divulge it. I'm sorry, I don't operate that way, and I don't appreciate being bullied into betraying the confidences of a friend by anybody. That's the way to bring out the worst in me.
Well, if Komack was doing that to see how I'd react under pressure, he got his wish. I figured if he had no respect for a vow between friends that he'd have no quarrel with me breaking a vow to Starfleet Command. I changed course back to Vulcan on my own authority.
Self-important, short-sighted Admirals are easy to come by, but true friends are rare, and Mr. Spock was at that time in my life the best friend I'd ever had. Furthermore, he's a biological rarity, and a Vulcan of no small importance, not to mention a quintessential Starfleet officer whom I'd learned to respect and love. I owed my life to him many times over. If it meant the end of my Fleet career to rescue him, then, so be it. I realize now the Vulcans would be happy to find another job for me, but that didn't occur to me then. I didn't care about anything except for what was good for Spock at that moment.
I'll tell you one thing, I had lost all respect I'd harbored for Admiral Komack. I didn't care a feathersweight for what he thought of me then.
When we got to Vulcan, we got Spock up to the bridge and opened a channel so he could exchange a few words with his wife-to-be, T'Pring. She didn't seem all that happy to see him, but I told myself that's because Vulcans always play their cards close to the vest. Of course NOW it can be told that she really wasn't happy to see him, and to tell the truth the feeling (or lack of it) was mutual. Spock was there because he felt like he had to be, not because he wanted it.
Spock asked McCoy and me to beam down to be witnesses at his wedding. We were alone in this really desolate, wind-swept outdoor arena at first, but the wedding party soon approached with you-won't-believe-who in the lead: T'Pau, the only person to ever turn down a seat on the Federation council. I don't know if it was from some unimaginably serene indifference to humans and their political games, or from a truly inhuman degree of hubris, but either way, it was a pretty spectacular gesture.
Anybody who demonstrates a complete lack of fear of the whole Federation council has to be an ignoramus, a nutcase, or far more powerful than the average person can imagine. The general consensus was that T'pau was neither of the first two, and the third was a possibility. She definitely had my respect, if for nothing else than for being a galaxy-class bullshit artist of the first water. Even if she is a woman, that took BALLS!
I got really excited then, because I hadn't realized Spock had such a huge celebrity for a relative, and there she was, the whole Vulcan attitude problem rolled up into one highly concentrated little package -and she was conducting the ceremony. Wow. I wondered then if I'd remembered to wash behind my ears.
McCoy didn't know who the hell she was. I knew, because since I'd met Spock I'd developed an interest in all things Vulcan and had been catching up on the who's whos by searching for any mention of Vulcans in the news. Not surprisingly, Spock's name is the one that comes up the most. He's a celebrity in his own right, at least in scientific circles, but hey, there's no flies on T'Pau. Her name comes up more than any other woman's in Vulcandom. Naturally, I felt it was my duty to apprise McCoy of this fact. I didn't want him to mistake this occasion for some simple Vulcan country hoe-down and forget to watch his posture.
The ceremony began, and the first thing that happened is everything went wrong. T'Pring decided she didn't want to marry Spock after all, and then I find out it's because she wants to see him and me fight. This was Vulcan tradition, but T'pau rather generously offered to excuse me, which I probably should have accepted, but I don't know...the Vulcan atmosphere is somewhat lacking in the oxygen department, and maybe I wasn't thinking too straight.
There was this strapping Vulcan lad standing by in the midst of the rest assembled, and when he heard T'Pring calling me out he got riled and began to argue with T'pau. I caught on that he was there to fight for T'Pring himself, and he didn't like me taking his place in the face-off...and who can blame him? For him it was a matter of life and death.
That's what I hadn't told the Admiral. Spock didn't want everybody knowing that he was being driven home by an overwhelming natural urge to mate. If Vulcan men can't successfully obtain a mate, they die. Why this had to be kept a big secret I didn't understand, but a promise is a promise.
Anyway, as I told you: Spock was, IS, my dearest friend, and I looked at that other fellow, Stonn was his name, and I just didn't think Spock could take him. Spock's much stronger than any human, but so is any Vulcan, and that guy was taller and heavier and a little too eager to fight. I didn't like it. I know I should have backed out, and Stonn by rights should have been the one to fight, but like I said - I might not have been at my most rational right then. I made an emotional decision. I decided to fight, and to intentionally lose, so Spock could keep his life and have his wedding.
Only after I was committed to this course of action was it explained to me that this was to be a fight to the death.
I know that seems out-of-character for the famously peace-loving Vulcans, but it's the way they have always done things, since as long as anyone can remember. It actually is logical if you realize that the loser's just going to die a horrible, lingering, humiliating death anyway. Apparently there are more boys than girls born in every generation of Vulcans, and there are always extra males. This is nature's cruel way of ensuring that only the strongest Vulcans survive. Cruel, but logical.
There was a fellow standing by who was obviously an executioner. We were told he was here to take care of any cowards that might try to escape without a fight. That sure wasn't going to be me on his menu. If I was to die, I would rather it be by Spock's hand, because I respect him. But I honestly thought he wouldn't kill me. I figured he'd be satisfied with a symbolic victory, and I thought the rest of the Vulcans would be too. After all, I'm not going to die if I don't grab a Vulcan dame. I figured that if that wasn't obvious, that all I'd have to do is explain it, and I'd be let go. Spock could still have his victory.
I thought it was a workable plan, even after I saw the frenzy in Spock's eyes. I sometimes have a tendency to see what I want to see, instead of what's really in front of me. It's one of my weaknesses that I should stay aware of. The bad thing about personal weaknesses is that they are always happy to let you forget they are still working on you, if you are careless enough to stop watching them.
We two combatants were handed these amazing weapons called Lirpa. This was a wooden shaft about four feet long with a wide, flat, spadelike blade on one end and a broad, heavy bludgeon on the other. Nothing namby-pamby about it. It was designed to kill, in very bloody ways. The thing weighed about 110 pounds to me, with the Vulcan's strong gravity. I was given no time to practice with it. We were mixing it up in no time, and Spock cut me right away: a long slice right over my heart. Boy, that'll wake you up in the morning!
It took everything I had to stay alive. Spock wasn't holding anything back for me.
The Lirpa got broken and the Vulcans now prepared to substitute Ahn-whoon, which were nothing but wide fabric belts with small weights on the end.
McCoy called for a time out, and offered me a shot that was supposed to make me feel better. It didn't work. By the time I realized it wasn't working, that in fact it was making things worse, Spock had me on the ground with an Ahn-whoon around my neck and he was strangling me.
I realized that this was it: this was the moment of my death. I'd faced death many times before but this time was different. I was dying, and I didn't have any fight left in me. Not that I didn't care! I cared! I desperately tried to connect with Spock telepathically, because it was the only hope I had left.
I hadn't come there to die. True, I'm in a risky business, but that doesn't mean I don't value my own life. Like anybody else I would like to live a long, long life. I still had things I planned to do, all kinds of unfinished business. I wasn't ready. That's what I was trying to tell Spock. I opened my mind to him because I wanted to show him what was inside of me. I honestly thought that would help.
He had obviously mistaken me for someone who wasn't on his side. For someone who was deserving of death. For someone who was ready to die. It was a simple misunderstanding. In my dizzy delirium I figured I'd just explain everything, I'd just explain...and he'd understand me.
It was like I was paralyzed. I couldn't move, I couldn't speak. But my mind was alert and I could think, so I just did that. I thought like mad. I ferociously and aggressively thought at him. I opened myself like a book and hung myself right in front of his nose so he HAD to READ me. I was more helpless than a baby; I didn't even have a cry. This was all I had, so I used it.
I should explain that Spock is a master of the Vulcan art called a mind-meld, and it happens we had melded before. Plus, we are friends. I knew what channel to dial, how to attune him to me. I'd never had a better reason. I was the one who wasn't holding anything back then.
He stopped still, stared deep into my eyes, and then I felt his unfettered mind come roaring into mine like a fiery avalanche on the loose. That was terrifying. He'd always been a gentleman before, but he sure wasn't one this time.
It only took a split second in real time, but in my head every brain cell was lighting up, and my mind became a nightmarish amusement park for Spock's uncensored psyche, forever. For a hellish eternity. I guess I was a good time, I don't really remember too many details. A lot of crazy ideas occurred to us hundreds at a time, really fast, then he finally let me rest, thank God.
I was in sickbay. I hadn't opened my eyes yet, but I knew it by the sounds and the smell. I've been there often enough - I know it well.
I first realized I had a pounding headache, and then I remembered everything. I still couldn't move. I became frightened at the thought that Spock had broken my neck, and that I was now possibly paralyzed for life. I fought with all I had to move one thing, just to twitch a finger or open my eyes. When my eyes at last fluttered open after what seemed like an hour of effort I was wet with sweat as if I'd run 15 kilometers.
Doctor McCoy was right there, and he welcomed me back to the land of the living with the sweetest words I could imagine.
"I slipped you a mickey. You'll be fine."
McCoy had been responsible for my weird helplessness on the dance floor. Thank you, Bones. Thank you. I suppose that's really what did save my life. I sometimes wish he hadn't been quite so helpful in quite that way, it might have been a factor in how this situation with Spock ultimately shaped up... but we'll never know now, will we?
For some reason I thought Spock should be there too, but he wasn't. That made me anxious again. Then I found out he was still on the surface.
The whole idea was to NOT leave him to face his crazy relatives alone! I can't tell you what a relief it was to hear he was back up. I was just glad HE was alive. After all, that's what all of this was about.
I was only thinking of Spock the whole time. That, and that I wanted to live myself, that is. It was more than that. I didn't want to lose him. Especially not now, after all of this. I needed him to run the ship while I was in the brig.
I ran to the toilet and when I came out, Spock was there with his back toward me, talking to McCoy. When I heard what he was saying I realized he still thought I was dead. When he started detailing his plans for surrendering himself to Starfleet authorities, I slipped up behind him and said:
"Don't you think you should check with me first?" Ha!
He grabbed a hold of me and spun me around and greeted me with the biggest grin and was so God-damned happy to see me that my hair stood up on the back of my neck.
Uh oh. He was still cooking. He didn't care who knew it, either.
I had a choice right then. I could have chosen to send Spock back to Vulcan to take his tiny chances. I could have had McCoy slap his ass into medical restraints, since he clearly was still a flaming maniac. It was my decision. I admit at this time I did not have "thin air", or one of the doctor's concoctions to blame: this was my decision and I very humanly, very emotionally chose to make it a personal one.
It sure wasn't a career decision. I believed at that time my career was shot to hell.
I chose to streamline the debriefing process, let McCoy believe the crisis was over, and I then spirited Spock away to his quarters where we proceeded to act on some of those crazy ideas we had worked out together.
I don't want to live forever, but while I am alive I do want to really feel alive, if you know what I mean. I don't know who first said this, but it's a good one:
Don't Die Wondering
I'm not going to die wondering, and neither is Spock. Now, that's all I'm going to tell you, because that's all you have righteous reason to know.
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