The Terran Empire, Spock knows, is... illogical.
This is, of course, recognized by every sane Vulcan. Every follower of the tenets of Surak can agree that the intimidation policy of the Empire can only lead to unrest and revolt, whilst those same methods directly oppose the fundamental, peaceful teachings of Surak. In the beginning, just after the disastrous first contact with Earth, Vulcan tried to follow Surak's teachings.
Ri klau au ik klau tu. 'Do no harm to those that harm you'. So the Vulcans did not. They put up a token protest, but the Terran's methods were brutal and harsh. They slaughtered entire cities, adults and children both, until the High Council surrendered. The Vulcans were reluctant to respond as fully as they could have. The tentative destruction of each new earth ship only resulted in more being constructed, and the Vulcans were not so desperate as to consider committing genocide by attacking earth. Surrender had seemed... Logical.
In hindsight, Vulcans agree, this was the worst mistake of their entire history.
Nufau au sochya – yi dunga ma tu sochya. Offer them peace, then you will have peace, Surak said. The Vulcans offered peace, and it was violently, ruthlessly rejected.
The Vulcans stood down, but the assault did not end. The High Council members were executed without ceremony. Shikahr, Vulcan's proud capital, was blown to pieces with inelegant nuclear weapons that laid waste to the area, rendering it an uninhabitable reminder of the takeover. Dozens of major cities were destroyed with prejudice, innocent children stolen from schools and slaughtered. In the end over a billion lives were lost, and the population of Vulcan was reduced to roughly thirteen-billion individuals. Spock is aware that thirteen is an 'unlucky' number by human superstition, and wonders if some perverse sense of human irony is all that saved the remainder of his race, even as the Hall of Ancient Thought and the Katric Arc were pillaged and obliterated...
In any case, humans were swift to subjugate their new world – to subjugate a race older, prouder, wiser and stronger than the humans could ever dream of being. Vulcans were made into second-class citizens. Their beautiful desert world was carelessly stripped of resources for new vessels, and by the time other worlds began to wonder over Vulcan's long absence in galactic affairs the Terran Empire's warp-seven military vessels (achieved by stolen technology) were already headed for Tellar, Alpha Centauri, Denobula…
Before, Vulcans were reluctantly respected as peace-keepers and revered for their infamous brilliance by most other races. These day they are merely used for their gifts and discarded, even by non-humans; Terrans might mock their cowardice, but other races have a deeper hatred for them - hatred for the race that submitted to an inferior species and allowed the Terran Empire to gain a firm foothold, and prosper.
Vulcans have adapted.
The tenets of Surak survive, but they are mutilated. Peace is respected – on Vulcan, with other Vulcans. Aliens are fair game.
He talks peace if it is the only way to live, Surak said. Be slow to take life. As far as possible, do not kill.
Peace is no way to live. Life must sometimes be taken for survival. To kill is to live.
Spock accepts these teachings, understands their necessity. He respects the adaptability of his people, admires their struggle to toe the line between morality, survival, and tradition. In a human-dominated empire he calls himself Vulcan with pride and defiance, rejecting his own equal humanity, his poisonous humanity.
And then there is Kirk.
Spock was six when he first met a human.
His mother had died in childbirth*, for Vulcan's were not permitted access to the technologies that could have saved her and she insisted on a traditional Vulcan birthing. But Sarek had told his only son of the halfling's gentle mother, her shy strength and bubbling, radiant emotions that perplexed and enchanted him in turn. Spock regretted his mother's death, but he knew enough to love her without ever knowing her. And he was always, always puzzled by the hatred of his peers toward humans. How could humans be so cruel as everyone said, when his mother had taped voice-readings of old Terran lullabies to send him to sleep? How could humans be callous beasts if she had painstakingly learned to weave Vulcan silk, personally creating his first silver-gray toddler's tunic? Could his father's well-hidden pain be reserved for a tyrant?
It was an otherwise pleasant day when the human arrived. Spock was in physical training, and his age-group was assembled outside the school whilst solemnly moving through their katas. The day was windy, sweeping sand from under their feet so it whipped around their heads. That was part of the challenge, and Spock's focus was entirely intent upon the shift of muscle and foot. He actually missed the approach of the human until the class's sole instructor ceased his repetitive instruction and went silent.
“The hell is this?”
The harsh voice, speaking in Standard, jerked the class from their practice. Almost instantaneously, the quiet class froze and twisted to look at a red-faced human, thick-set and covered in something Spock knew to be called sweat. He was wearing a drenched non-sleeved shirt and 'shorts'.
He was also armed.
The man had a phaser in one hand, a knife hanging loosely in the other, and a plainly visible agonizer displayed proudly on his hip. The phaser was aimed, almost casually, at the stone-faced teacher.
“You training up soldiers? Insurgents?”
“Negative, Sir,” was the instructor's calm response. “These katas are traditional Vulcan techniques, used primarily to establish physical fitness - “
The teacher fell silent.
“You!” A young girl jumped as the phaser swung her way. “How long do these lessons go on?”
The girl, like most Vulcans, had brown eyes. Spock remembers that very clearly, wide brown eyes staring up curiously at the human, unafraid and innocently bemused. “Roughly 1.239 standard hours, Sir.”
“How many years.”
A blink. “Until pre-university education is attained. Sometimes beyond.”
The girl had a slim face, Spock recalls, and wore a childish green tunic just too big for her slender frame. Oddly, the detail that stands out the most in his mind, to this very day, is the glint of Vulcan's sun off her sleek black hair as the phaser's whine cut her off and the girl was, quite suddenly, gone.
Death. It is a strange concept for children. The class stared, but the instructor, quicker to react, leapt forward in automatic defense of his charges. A blur, and then the man's so casually-held knife was lodged in the teacher's heart. He fell, gurgling up bright green blood on the parched Vulcan sands, and died.
And Spock stared, stared, stared, right until the world went white.
He came back to awareness with a strained throat and an aching, twitching body, panting harshly as the man and his agonizer moved away. The class was silent.
“That's what happens, kiddies, when you think to rebel,” the man told them. “Remember that. I'll be putting an end to these traditions of yours, and you remember that.”
The practices never stopped. To this day Spock doubts the man ever tried to stop them. Because he recognizes, after serving with humans so long and having years to consider the memory, that the man had enjoyed the pointless murders. He had killed for fun, harassed and traumatized a group of children for the sheer joy of showing off his innate power as a human, a Terran, a conqueror.
That was when Spock vowed to always, always call himself Vulcan.
“Our orders, Sir?” Spock asks Captain Pike.
“You're going to collect a sample, Vulcan. Alone. Afterward we'll be blowing the place to Kingdom Come, so hurry up.”
Spock salutes and leaves to execute his orders. They are stationed above the planet Deneva, which has by last reports fallen prey to a parasitic lifeform that can override and control its victim's nervous system, essentially seizing control of that being – should the host not die in the process. Spock is not unaware that he is being sent on this dangerous mission, despite being a senior officer, due to his heritage. Pike's racism has long since become an accepted fact of the service.
He is surprised to find First Officer Kirk waiting in the Transporter Room when he arrives. “Sir.”
Kirk nods stiffly, but just continues to watch him with dark, piercing eyes. When no response is forthcoming, Spock steps smoothly onto the transporter pad and nods to the technician.
Spock of Vulcan has known pain.
From the isolation of his childhood to the harassment and viciousness of Starfleet Academy (Crawl back to your desert rock, alien) he has known emotional anguish, repressed though it is; and for physical pain there was the early application of an agonizer, the slow poison of a lematya bite barely survived, the broken ribs and shattered shoulder from a groups of fellow cadets who disdained a alien that made them feel inferior.
None of it compares.
His vision has lost all color, tainting everything a cool foggy gray speckled with black dots. Pain lances from his skull, his spine, radiating and inflaming every nerve and synapse in his body, tearing apart his very mind from some dark inside-place. And all this from two tiny puncture marks on his lower back.
The strange, rubbery-looking creatures seem content to forget him now, still letting loose their strange squelching whines. It takes every ounce of Vulcan control he possesses to roll onto his back, pick up his scientific forceps, and transfer the organism that has attacked him into a specimen tank.
The creature goes quietly, complacently, and when it is safely sealed away Spock takes in sucking gulps of air, fighting to ignore the foreign influence of the creature, of – whatever is inside him.
Worse almost than the physical pain is the low itch at the back of his mind, almost similar to a telepathic invasion. It whispers in a language he doesn't know, yet inherently understands. The concepts, at least, are easy – help us, give in, obey us, spread us, kill them -
Spock knows he can' t beam up in this condition. He is fighting the creature's presence for now, but for how long will that last? He isn't particularly concerned about the fate of the Enterprise crew – they are, in honesty, of no value or sentiment whatsoever – but with a starship this organism could easily spread across the entirety of the Federation, including Vulcan, and that is unacceptable.
More than that, though – if anyone realizes the threat he poses, Spock will be killed immediately. Of that, at least, he has no doubt.
So he stays on the cold of the ground, staring through gray-hazed eyes as the orange-ish creatures fly through the shade of an abandoned building. They ignore him entirely.
Only when he feels himself to be in sufficient control does Spock rise on wavering, hesitant legs and fumble for his communicator. “Spock to Enterprise,” he manages, very quietly. “One to beam up.”
The light of the transporter beam is gray, too.
The creature presses harder as Spock sees the uninfected transporter technician until every nerves surges and sears with some impossible fire. Spock ignores the sensation, moving past control in favor of outright repression. “Ensign,” he acknowledges curtly. The ensign, wincing at being in any way under the Vulcan's attention, hastily salutes as Spock sweeps out of the room.
Spock makes directly for his science lab, and only when safely ensconced does he comm the bridge. “Spock to Captain Pike. Sample organism has been obtained.
“Then get on the bridge,” is the brusque reply. “Pike out.”
Science, as always, is secondary to conquest and defense. Double-checking that the parasite is secure, Spock relies on his memory to make his way to the turbolift and then the bridge, half-blind through the darkening haze of his sight.
Spock will need to find his own cure for his affliction, he knows. The thought taunts him; it will be a lone venture, one the captain would never allow; but that, keeping secrets from Pike, is nothing new.
Spock just needs to act calm and casual. That is all.
Pike glances at him as the Vulcan steps onto the bridge. “Took you long enough. At your station; we'll begin bombardment from the east of the colony and continue northwest-southwest in sweeps. Standard procedure.”
Spock knows that many of Surak's teachings have in the last two centuries become obsolete, redundant, counterproductive. But there is one teaching which always returns to his mind, steady and sorrowful, a pervasive reminder he cannot shake. It affects him, mostly, because it is not a teaching; it is simply a fact.
The spear in the other's heart is the spear in your own.
For all his Vulcan control, the senseless violence of Starfleet never fails to send a stab of conscience through his chest.
And for a moment he attributes conscience to his sudden lethargy, the dull ache rattling his bones; the sudden surge from his seat, and the mad dash to the captain's chair, takes even him by surprise.
Spock and Pike fall down in a flail of limbs, the attack feral and inelegant. In the next second a dozen hands are tearing them away, and Spock lashes out. He catches someone across the jaw, feels his skin rip and tear against the flash of teeth; he shoves a smaller body into the wall, elbows someone who jumps at his back, writhing like an eel and lashing out his arms in senseless fury.
The the gray world fades blissfully, blissfully into black.
“That was the most stupid thing you've ever done.”
The words seem to echo tinnily. Spock slowly blinks open his eyes. The world is still gray, but almost morose now instead of metallic. Spock stares up at Commander Kirk almost blankly.
“Trying to kill Pike,” Kirk clarifies. “At least like that. But then it wasn't your plan, was it?”
Spock doesn't question how Kirk knows. “It was not.”
“Would you like to see him dead?”
Spock glares at Kirk balefully, not even bothering to sit up. “Wanting to see someone dead is very different from actually committing murder – much less a foolish one.”
Kirk's lips twitch. “Fair enough. And 'foolish' is a bit of an understatement.” He tilts his head, thoughtfully, and goes silent.
“When will I be executed?” Spock asks.
Spock just Looks at him.
Kirk smiles, half mocking. Then; “My brother called me from the planet – a private channel. He fought them; most of the colonists didn't. It took you over, that's why you tried to kill Pike, correct?”
“You're our best scientist,” Kirk says firmly; that is not even in question. “Do you think, if I let you out, you could find a cure?”
Spock doesn't wait to calculate the odds; there is only one possible answer. “Yes.”
Kirk still wavers. “You can control yourself now?”
Now. But, yes. Finally, finally he understands. “Pain is a thing of the mind,” Spock replies, and as he speaks he shuts down synapses, stalls electric connections, consciously shifts the web of neurons in his brain. No pain can reach him if he does not allow it, and without pain as a tool the creature is useless. “I can work.”
Without further questions Kirk disables the forcefield sealing Spock in the brig. Spock slowly rises, feeling numb to all sensation. When he steps out he sees the body of a dead guard in the hall. “You have two hours,” Kirk tells him. “And then you're dead.”
Spock is fascinated by what odd turn of biology could leave a creature so vulnerable to light that it will die immediately in its presence. The Denevan specimen Spock has collected does die, though, at a flare of white light equivalent to that imparted by the sun. It takes Spock one hour to determine this.
He needs to test the 'cure' on a specimen which has taken a host; but Spock has no desire to be blinded, and he has one more hour at least until anyone realizes he is not in the brig. More people likely die every minute he wastes, but he doubts they want to be cured blinded, either; the infirm, in this Empire, are typically killed.
Thankfully, it doesn't take more than a few minutes to determine that ultraviolet light is also acceptable. The freedom that accompanies the creature's death makes every muscle in his body sag with relief, and he calls Commander Kirk immediately.
Kirk enters and looks at him. “How?”
“Light. I believe an array of satellites, emitting strong ultraviolet light, should easily be able to kill off the creatures as effectively as bombardment – if not moreso. They can be set up in a matter of days.”
“Good work, Commander. I'm taking you back to the brig; I'll present Pike with your findings.”
Spock hesitates, doubting for a moment the Commander's honesty. And what should happen if the Captain decides to kill Spock anyway, even though he is free?
But he is vulnerable either way, and at last the Vulcan nods. Quietly, sedately, he walks with the Commander and enters the brig. The sound of the forcefield reengaging seems to foretell his own death.
“Humans are proud creatures,” Sarek once told his son. “Proud, and also arrogant. They do not take well to being contradicted.”
“But to persist on a useless course of action is illogical,” a younger Spock insisted. “The Empress's extermination of the Vians even after their surrender was if anything counterproductive when the Vian's power could be used by the Empire.”
“Certainly. But more importantly the Empire had already used widespread propoganda to deride the Vians, establishing them as a weak and cowardly enemy employing dishonorable tactics. Anticipating a long and bloody struggle, the Empire made the Vians into an enemy undeserving of any lenience, even after surrender.”
“I have never understood propoganda.”
“It is used to cause individuals to ignore logic in favor of base hatred. In any case, the Empire could not utilize Vian technology openly without making themselves out as liars.”
“Of course the Empire lies.”
“But always carefully,” Sarek told him. “To be called out on misinformation is a mortifying experience for other races, and humans especially. And when confronted with proof of their inaccuracy, human nature tends to cause if anything an escalation of violence.”
“Everything human seems to lead to violence,” Spock observed.
A sigh. Weary, fatigued, and empty of defiance. “And that, my son, is precisely why Vulcan fell.”
Spock rises from his cot as voices approach, loud and angry. His guard outside moves away as the two come closer.
“Captain, I really must insist – it is surely better for the Empire if we save as much of the colony as possible, and if anything the satellite arrays have a better chance of destroying the parasite entirely, when they can be operated planet-wide simultaneously - “
“The answer is no, Kirk! I won't have anything that traitor created - “
“Your other scientists can verify the results - “
“Our orders are to destroy the planet, Kirk, and that's what I'm going to do – right after we're through with this one.”
Spock stands straight and aloof as Captain Pike stops in front of his cell; his eyes alight on the phaser in the captain's hand, the plain frustration on Kirk's face. “Captain?” He prompts calmly.
Pike's only answer is to slam a fist into the control panel outside the cell; the forcefield around the brig flickers and dies. “Be lucky I'm granting you a quick death, Vulcan.”
“Unusually kind of you,” Spock deadpans.
He waits, resigned, as Pike raises the phaser. This is not an unexpected development, but fighting would be worse than useless. He stares down the phaser's slim length and wonders if dematerialization burns, or if it is similar to the cold fade of a transporter beam, but never ending.
He doesn't have the chance to find out.
Because suddenly Pike is on the ground, swearing with surprise as Kirk wrestles for his phaser. Though taken aback, Spock is more than ready to take advantage of the situation and lunges down to help pin Pike against the floor.
This accomplished, he turns to Kirk and flinches back from the phaser in his face. But it's not pointed at him, and a second later the Vulcan falls against the floor as the captain's body disappears with no more than the burnt smell of ozone lingering against Spock's hands.
Panting, Spock stares up at Kirk, and finds the phaser pointing, this time deliberately, right at the Vulcan.
There is, Spock must concede, no logic in the universe. No order, no meaning. And certainly, certainly there are no morals.
But then what is life, and what is his purpose? Staring up into the savage brown eyes of his unexpected savior, and the phaser-pistol aimed at his own head, Spock makes a decision.
“I will follow your lead, Captain – if you will have me.”
Kirk does not trust him, not yet – but he will.
And maybe, just maybe, something Good may come of Spock's life after all.