The current mission had seemed completely routine until Spock collapsed.
The Enterprise was transporting Ambassador Chan and her staff to Starbase Eleven, and while Kirk was never thrilled with providing taxi service, Ambassador Chan was less arrogant than most Federation dignitaries, making her a more pleasant guest than many they'd had. Kirk had personally given the ambassador and her secretary a tour of the ship, and all of the senior officers had dressed in their finest for a formal dinner in her honor, which had gone well. It was customary to take honored guests to the Observation Deck after dinner, and the entire group had just reached it when Spock suddenly passed out.
McCoy dropped to his knees beside Spock and examined him as the others watched.
"Well?" Kirk asked.
"His heartbeat's strong, and his breathing is regular. I can't tell you more without instruments," McCoy said. "Help me get him to Sickbay."
Kirk picked up Spock's shoulders while Sulu grabbed his feet, and the two of them carried Spock quickly and carefully to Sickbay, depositing him on a diagnostic bed. Alarmed by the sudden collapse, everyone else trailed along behind them, no one quite having the presence of mind to dismiss the ambassador and her secretary.
As Kirk waited anxiously by the bed and the others stood quietly in the background, McCoy performed a quick examination. The doctor found only that Spock was deeply unconscious, which they already knew. He was just beginning a longer and more thorough examination when Matthew Hansen, the ambassador's secretary, began to laugh.
"Examine him all you want," Hansen said, "You won't be able to do anything for him."
"You know something about this?" Kirk demanded.
"I've given him a Rigelian mindworm. They eat telepathic minds, and it'll gobble up your Vulcan until there's nothing left."
"Rigelian mindworms are non-corporeal and survive solely on energy — telepathic energy — which they consume until there's nothing left of the mind that produces that energy. They aren't dangerous to humans, because WE aren't telepathic, so it won't hurt anyone else on the ship, only your First Officer. But once it's eaten his mental energy, your Vulcan will be very, very dead."
"What can be done to save him?"
"I won't tell you. And you can't get it out of me because your telepath is unconscious, and he's going to stay that way."
Kirk looked fierce. "There are other ways of making a man talk."
Hansen laughed. "There are, but YOU won't use them. The Federation prohibits torture, because we're all good little boys and girls nowadays. We can't wipe out the Klingons or exterminate the Romulans because those Vulcan pacifists have cut off Earth's balls. We'll see some changes once all the Vulcans are dead."
"Even if you succeed in killing my First Officer, there are billions of Vulcans. Killing just one won't make any difference."
Hansen's eyes took on the fanatic glaze that Kirk had already seen on far too many faces, on far too many worlds. "This is just the test case. My people have figured out how to breed Rigelian mindworms in captivity, and now we can breed billions of them and wipe out all the pointy-eared pacifists."
Kirk gestured to Sulu and Chekov. "Put this piece of shit in the brig before I bring about that uncivilized future he wants so badly." Sulu and Chekov marched Hanson off to the brig as Kirk turned back to McCoy. "Bones! Now that you know what it is, can you do something?"
McCoy shook his head. "I"m sorry, Jim. I've never heard of a way to reverse the effects of a Rigelian mindworm."
"There must be something you can do! Hansen swore there was something you could do."
"We don't know that he was telling the truth, Jim. He may have said that just to wind you up."
"We can't just stand here and let some ... THING destroy Spock's mind."
McCoy sighed. "Come up with a sensible treatment, and I'll be glad to apply it, but Rigelian mindworms are so rare that I'd thought they were nothing but a rumor up till now. Dealing with telepathic creatures just isn't something I've been trained to do."
Kirk looked at McCoy sadly. "No, it isn't, is it? That's always been Spock's job. But now we don't have Spock."
"Captain," Ambassador Chan spoke. "I can't tell you how sorry I am that such evil has been perpetrated by a member of my staff. If there's anything I can do..."
Kirk looked at the ambassador. "Yes, there's something you can do. Find out all you can about Matthew Hansen. You had to have investigated his background before taking him on as your secretary; dig out that information now. Who does he listen to? Who holds his leash? Is there anyone who can talk him into divulging the secret for getting that mindworm off of my First Officer?"
Ambassador Chan nodded gravely. "You can be sure I'll try, Captain," she said, before leaving in the direction of the guest quarters.
"Captain," Scotty said once the ambassador had left, "If that bastard's so fond of violence, maybe we should give 'im some to make him talk!"
Kirk put a hand on Scotty's shoulder. "I want to, too, Scotty, but you know we can't. Our principles don't mean anything if we throw them away at the first sign of trouble."
"Torture is always wrong, Scotty," Uhura said. "You know that. Why, Spock would be the first person to tell us that."
Scotty hung his head. "Aye."
Kirk dropped his hand from Scotty's shoulder. "Get some rest, both of you. If Mr. Spock is out of commission, I'll be leaning on both of you even more than usual. Sleep while you can."
Uhura looked sadly at Spock, unconscious in the biobed. "I'm not sure any of us will be able to sleep, Captain, but we'll get out of your hair at least. Come on, Scotty." The two of them left Sickbay.
Kirk moved to Spock's bedside and put a hand on his First Officer's forehead. "I can't believe there's something in here, consuming everything that makes him Spock." He looked at McCoy, tears in his eyes now that they were alone. "How can there be nothing we can do?"
"We could comm Sarek or T'Pau, see if they know of any way to defeat Rigelian mindworms."
Kirk nodded. "Do it." McCoy went into his office and placed the call, while Kirk paced back and forth beside his First Officer's bed, talking to the Vulcan, even though he knew Spock couldn't hear him.
"You're not just the only telepath on board this ship, you're also the Science Officer. Even if you weren't telepathic, I'd turn to the Science Officer for information about Rigelian mindworms. It isn't just my First Officer who's out of commission, it's my Science Officer, too." He paused and thought. "First Officer AND Science Officer. Vulcan AND human." He turned to face the door of McCoy's office and shouted. "Bones!"
McCoy came back into the room. "I called Sarek, and the Vulcans can't help; they don't know of any way to get rid of a Rigelian mindworm once it's attached itself to a host."
Kirk waved his hand, brushing that aside. "Thanks for making the call, but that's not what I wanted to see you about. Bones! Spock is half human."
"This thing attacks Vulcans! Can we bring the human part of his mind to the fore, get that part of him to work with us on getting rid of the mindworm?"
"Jim, it doesn't work like that. He's not divisible into halves; he's Spock all the way through. His brain doesn't have a human lobe and a Vulcan lobe; you can't separate him into portions."
Kirk stared at him. "You're the one who's always reminding him that he's half human. You talk about his human half all the time, as if it is a separate piece of him."
"I know I have, and I've been wrong. This crisis has shown me that. But ... a Georgia boy knows all about mules. Do they still have mules in Iowa?"
"Our farm was heavily mechanized; the only animals we had were pets, and no, we didn't have any mules among them. Why?"
"Well, a mule is a cross between a horse and a donkey. A mule lives longer than a horse, and they're hardier and more sure-footed. But they're faster than donkeys, more intelligent, and less obstinate."
"So a mule isn't a horse's head on a donkey's body. It doesn't have the forelegs of a horse and the hind legs of a donkey; a mule is 100% MULE."
"You're saying that Spock isn't half human and half Vulcan; he's 100% Spock."
"Well, maybe so, but knowing that doesn't give me any options. Treating him as half and half gives me a plan."
"We call to his human side, get that side to wake up if we can, get it to help us figure out how to get rid of the mindworm."
McCoy shook his head. "I don't have a better plan, so I guess I got nothing to say."
"Get Nurse Chapel in here," Kirk said, then turned to the bed where Spock lay so quietly.
Nurse Chapel entered the room, and Dr. McCoy quietly filled her in on Spock's condition and Kirk's plan.
Kirk pulled up a chair and sat down next to the bed, grabbing Spock's hand and holding it while he talked to him. "Spock, it's Jim. I need to talk to your human half. Remember during the Psi 2000 virus, when you told me you felt ashamed because you felt friendship for me? Remember when I told Garth that you and I were brothers, and you agreed with me? Feel my hand, think about all we've been through together. We're good friends even though Vulcans don't really believe in friendship!" He looked up. "Nurse Chapel!"
"Spock will die unless we can get his human half to take over. Will you kiss him for me?"
"Jim," McCoy said, "He's not Sleeping Beauty. You're grasping at straws."
"Yes," Kirk said, "And I'm going to keep ON grasping at straws until one of them works or until Spock is dead." He turned to Nurse Chapel. "Christine? You don't mind, do you?"
Christine Chapel swallowed and shook her head. "No. No, I don't mind." She leaned over Spock and gently kissed his unconscious lips.
McCoy took another reading. "He's not as deeply unconscious as he was, but he's still too far down to be close to waking up. Have you got anything besides the hand of a friend or the kiss of a crush?"
"Bones," Kirk said. "I've heard that chocolate gets Vulcans drunk, that it's an intoxicant for them, the way alcohol is for us."
"I've heard that too," McCoy said, "But I don't know if it's true or if it's just a rumor."
"Can you give him chocolate intravenously? Can you get his Vulcan half drunk?"
"I don't know what the active ingredient in chocolate is for a Vulcan, if there's an active ingredient at all, and I can't put chocolate into an IV."
"No, Doctor," Nurse Chapel said, "But we can feed him plain chocolate using a nasogastric tube."
"I guess it's worth a try," McCoy said. "I'll insert the tube; you go find some chocolate."
"Yes, Doctor," Nurse Chapel said.
McCoy deftly inserted a tube through Spock's nose and into his stomach, and Nurse Chapel returned with chocolate that she'd ground up and mixed with water, forming a chocolate slurry.
"I have no idea of the dosage," McCoy said.
"If you get him good and drunk, there's no harm done," Kirk said, "But if this doesn't work, he dies."
"Right," McCoy said. "I'll try 200 grams, then." He fed Spock the chocolate slurry, then turned to Kirk. "This isn't like a hypo; since it has to be digested, it won't work instantly." He removed the tube and gently wiped off Spock's face.
"Then let's continue with the other plan while we wait for the chocolate to digest. Christine, can you kiss him again?"
"I'd be happy to," she said, "But he and I aren't really close." She looked at McCoy. "Leonard, is there something you can do, not as his doctor but as his friend?"
Kirk looked consideringly at McCoy. "Maybe you should insult him."
"You sure that wouldn't make him want to stay unconscious?"
"No, he'll want to have the last word. Give it your all."
McCoy looked at Spock, unable to find the insults that usually came to his mind so readily, now that his friend was unconscious, maybe dying. He seized on the most recent idea. "Only a damned Vulcan could get drunk on something as innocuous as chocolate. What a lightweight! Human children can eat twice this much and only get tooth decay."
Spock's eyelids fluttered, and Kirk motioned to Chapel and McCoy. "More," he said urgently, as he grabbed Spock's hand and squeezed it hard.
Christine pressed another gentle kiss to Spock's lips while McCoy continued speaking, "My daughter can eat twice this much chocolate and still have room for dinner!"
Spock opened his eyes. "You have successfully anesthetized the telepathic centers of my brain, and the creature has departed. Thank you, Dr. McCoy."
"It was Jim's idea."
Spock sat up and inclined his head graciously. "Thank you, Jim."
Kirk looked at him suspiciously. "You don't sound drunk."
"I am, I believe, slightly tipsy. The effect should wear off soon."
"You know what's never gonna wear off?" McCoy asked.
"The knowledge that you were saved by your human half."
"Indeed. It is the first time my human half has ever proved useful." Spock raised a brow. "Undoubtedly, it will also be the last."
Kirk laughed. "You're a mean drunk, Mr. Spock!"
Spock, aware that he was being teased, pretended to look affronted, and his friends laughed in relief to see him alive and well and only slightly drunk.