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Spock's parents are frequently in conflict about the specifics of his upbringing, though he knows they try to present a united front to others. His father's wishes seem to prevail in a majority of matters, but perhaps as an unspoken compromise he has noticed that Amanda gets her way in any and every matter which she truly insists upon.

 

Today, however, they are at a true impasse.

 

“What he's learning with those Vulcan tutors is completely useless if it can't be applied, Sarek!” Amanda insists. Spock watches from one corner of the room – silent and ignored, as he always is during these conversations – as Amanda paces like a protective lematya. Her colorful robes swish with agitation as she whirls on her husband. “Just let me find him a different instructor - “

 

“We agreed to have him taught under the philosophy of my people,” Sarek retorts calmly. Compared to the sharp motions of his wife, he is a pillar of tranquility. “Do you feel a need to change the parameters of that agreement?”

 

“Don't put words in my mouth. But the Vulcan stance on non-violence is absolute. Perhaps too absolute.”

 

“Evidently it has served my people well for several thousand years - “

 

“That's not an argument and you know it. More importantly we wouldn't be standing here arguing - “

 

“Debating - “

 

“ - If not for the fact that Vulcans keep hurting your son. Funny, that.”

 

“I do not find it amusing in the slightest.” Sarek tilts his head. “But I must protest. The individuals to whom you refer are children.”

 

“So is your son.”

 

“Which makes it all the more important that he receives a proper moral upbringing in this critical time of life. It is a positive sign, not a negative one, that he should refuse to strike back at his peers.”

 

Amanda throws up her hands. “A positive sign! Well!”

 

“I do not understand you.”

 

“Clearly!” Amanda sighs. “This won't be the last time, you know.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Do you think the violence will stop? I don't want him to defend himself because of these children, Sarek. Not only because of these children. One day he'll face something far more frightening, and far more dangerous, and then what will he do?”

 

“He will contact the appropriate authorities and wait,” her husband replies promptly. “As one should.”

 

Amanda suddenly sighs. She sits down in despondence. When her Vulcan spouse only looks at her, plainly baffled, she just shakes her head. “Oh, Sarek,” is all she will say.

 


 

 

 

It is evident to Spock from the start that Vulcan society disapproves of him.

 

One of the most common complaints he hears is that he is the start of something larger, a sign of negative influences which will only become more prevalent. His birth signifies a mixing of Vulcan philosophy with lesser, barbaric practices, people say. He, too, is implicitly inferior.

 

“Other races are violent,” is one such critique. “Look at him. Look at his deficiencies. What will this mixing mean for us? How will this taint destroy us?”

 

Spock supposes he could be called violent. He thinks ungracious thoughts, sometimes, toward his classmates. Once, as a child, he tackled a peer who insulted him. And as a near-adult, he even forcibly struck blows upon a Nausicaan thief who he found harassing an elderly shopkeeper as he was walking home in a secluded part of Shikahr. As a list, it looks grim for him.

 

Still, he endeavors always to live by the doctrines of Surak. Overall, he thinks he manages to do this to a sufficient degree.

 

He is not certain why his father protests so vehemently when he announces his intention to join Starfleet.

 

“It is a militaristic organization,” his father argues.

 

“It is an exploratory and scientific organization devoted to peacekeeping.”

 

“A very nice euphemism. They will have you forsake our philosophies, our way of life.”

 

“I would not allow it.”

 

“You will not have a choice.”

 

“Wherever I go, I am still myself,” Spock protests. “I am still Vulcan.”

 

Sarek looks at him.

 

“For now,” he says.

 


 

 

 

The first time an animal on Earth flees from him, he is surprised.

 

It is an absent surprise, at first, because of course Vulcan animals can be skittish too. And of course there are wild places on Vulcan where animals are quick and fierce and skittering, and this would be no surprise at all. But Starfleet Academy is in San Francisco, in the middle of a thriving urban city. The animals that have situated themselves into this changed environment are well-accustomed to humanoid, vulcanoid and other sentient life.

 

So it is strange, when he walks by a flock of birds, to observe how they rise as one to fly away; or when he passes a squirrel or a mouse, to see how they twitch and scramble into the shadows. Still, these are nothing but distant musings until he sees the cat.

 

He first spots a group of human children in the park, and they are gathered around something lying beneath the shade of a young tree. One is bent over something, half-laughing, and the others are making sounds of disgust and mingled delight.

 

It isn't until one says, “It looks mad,” that he becomes curious.

 

He slowly winds his way over, green Terran grass bending under his boots. Eventually he comes into a position where he can see what the children are looking at. He is bewildered.

 

It is a cat. A black cat, to be precise, laying limply on one side. Its side is bared open, bleeding from some half-clotted injury. As he watches it jerks its head back when the boy reaches out to touch it. The boy just grins a little, poking it despite the evident disgust of the other children – and the evident pain of the helpless animal.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

The children look up, a few scrambling quickly backwards as they hear Spock's sharp voice. The boy by the cat stiffens, then tilts up his head sullenly. “Playing,” he says.

 

Spock clasps his hands hard behind his back. He cannot think of a response appropriate to this. “The harm of another lifeform does not constitute 'play', by any standard.”

 

The boy just looks at him.

 

“You will leave,” Spock says, lips thinning. “ - Now.”

 

They do.

 

The cat's pupils are wide and wild with pain. It hisses when Spock crouches down. He reaches out a hand and ignores the quick, clawed slash that meets his wrist.

 

A pulse of telepathic energy makes the creature calm. In a moment he scoops up the cat, cradling it carefully to his chest. The scent of iron is heavy against the air; it is the smell which accompanies mammalian-blood on Terra. He rises and leaves.

 

When he tends to the beast's wounds that night, he reflects on what he has seen - on what he continues to see.

 

On Vulcan, his people have been total pacifists and vegetarians both for over two-thousand years. These are traits found everywhere on his planet. Occasionally there are rare sects like the V'tosh'ka'tur who might deviate from Surak's teachings, but even they are not usually violent and would rarely hurt animals. Wild creatures have no fear of Vulcans; they have no reason to fear Vulcans.

 

But the cat hisses weakly whenever he relaxes his telepathy. Still it does not trust him. Perhaps there is a reason for this. For once, he starts to wonder about the people he lives among and to whom he gives his trust.

 


 

 

 

On the greens of Starfleet Academy one cadet pounds a friend on the back. His smile looks terse. “Hey,” he says. “So. I thought you said you were at Henry's yesterday?”

 

“Yeah, why?”

 

The first cadet bears his teeth in a frightening grin. “See, that's funny, 'cause I was told some people saw you with Beth yesterday. Pretty close. ”

 

The second cadet seems to go very still for a moment, then draws himself up. “So what if I was?”

 

The punch is sudden and startling. It connects with the jaw of the second cadet with a sickening crack, but he remains standing. It is the first who seems more injured, yelping and grasping at his hand. Taking advantage of this preoccupation, the second man dives at his former friend, sending them both sprawling to the ground.

 

Spock watches this scene in frank astonishment. For a moment no one else moves to intervene either, but then a few upperclassmen with the distinct look of security-track rush in and start to break apart the fight. Red blood is gushing from the face of the second man. The first is still cradling his fist.

 

When Spock leaves he tries to rationalize the scene, to normalize it in the context of what he knows. Even Vulcans will fight for their mates. Surely this fight, then, is nothing so strange.

 

When he hears in passing the very next day that the elusive 'Beth' is not interested in either cadet, he is significantly more baffled. He can not understand this human tendency for violence without cause; he is not sure he wants to.

 


 

 

 

There is a requirement for all cadets to undergo mandatory courses in self-defense. Spock considers this logical; Vulcans, too, learn traditional defense methods. And it is important to keep the body well-prepared for any activity.

 

But sometimes these classes do not include demonstrations of skill or new techniques. Sometimes they do not use time to exercise or practice. Instead, the instructor bids them gather around and lectures on another subject:

 

“In the field,” he tells them, “when someone wants to hurt you, I know you can't abide by these rules. I know a lot of you are rolling your eyes at 'polite' forms of fighting. But it's important to learn how to defend yourself properly before you can learn to improvise. That being said - “ his gaze sweeps over the assembled cadets, “when someone does want to harm you, you throw the rules out the window. Remember the basics, keep your head, and you fight nasty and use everything at your disposal.”

 

Cautiously, Spock asks, “Sir? Why would someone want to harm us?”

 

A few heads turn.

 

The instructor pauses. He looks at Spock. Suddenly, he has an odd look on his face – almost as though he is in pain.

 

Spock is not very experienced at reading emotions, but he would also say the instructor looks sad.

 

“Let's hope you get put on a science vessel, kid,” is all he says.

 


 

 

 

Upon graduating Spock is immediately granted the rank of lieutenant - a rare honor. He is put at once on the USS Enterprise under Captain Pike, who takes a certain interest in him.

 

He is not certain why this is, precisely. But it is the conclusion he comes to. He is placed, somewhat inexplicably, at the head of the astrophysics section within sciences, thus ranking him over officers who have served on the Enterprise for several years. He does not understand this. Based on the wary, suspicious way he is treated by his new subordinates, no one else understands it either.

 

Every now and then Pike likes to invite him for dinner or on walks, always with a sort of firm insistence that he is not precisely allowed to refuse. There is a similar treatment, here, given to Dr. Piper and Number One. But these relationship make some sense; Number One is the first officer. Piper is also a senior officer, the CMO. Spock fails to understand why he has caught the captain's attention at all.

 

Or, at least, he doesn't understand at first.

 

“Why'd you join Starfleet, Spock?” Pike wants to know.

 

“I am a scientist. Starfleet offers many opportunities in my field.”

 

Pike nods. He does not seem particularly interested in Spock's answer. “We don't get many Vulcans in Starfleet,” he says.

 

“Technically, there are no Vulcans in Starfleet,” Spock responds. “Unless one counts the officers of the Intrepid, which is more accurately a Vulcan vessel.”

 

“But you're in Starfleet.”

 

Spock considers how to respond to this, and finally settles on: “I am only half-Vulcan.”

 

Pike doesn't say anything for a moment. Then he continues. “We could use more Vulcans, you know.”

 

“Why?”

 

Pike looks surprised. “What do you – Well, Starfleet, Starfleet wants to make the fleet as inclusive as possible - “

 

“I have seen no evidence of this,” Spock says, and realizes it is true even as he says the words. He is one of only four non-humans on the Enterprise; ships are usually divided by species. “Why do you specifically require more Vulcans if Vulcans do not want to join?”

 

Pike stutters. He seems taken aback. Then he scrambles for an answer. “There – there is a concern that non-humans are not joining out of, out of some misconception that the main fleet is some human-only club that disapproves of aliens.”

 

“That seems accurate,” says Spock blandly, and ignores the captain's sputtering. But he continues. “However, that is not why Vulcans have neglected to join.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“It has never been a matter of outside approval, nor any fear of judgment,” says Spock, thinking this a very human assumption. “If Vulcans do not join the main fleet, it is because they do not approve of you.”

 


 

 

 

Pike looks at him more strangely in the weeks following their talk, but still exhibits his inexplicable moments of almost paternal pride. His interest in Spock's work does not fade, nor his intrigue with Spock's heritage. It can be unsettling, but Spock is, at least, grateful that this interest seems benevolent. And Pike, for all his idiosyncrasies, is a good captain – if one with very human flaws.

 

He tries to encourage Spock to socialize more with the crew. Spock does his best to refuse. “Vulcans do not require 'friends', Sir,” he tells the captain.

 

He does not understand why the captain seems so personally aggrieved by this comment, nor why he seems to take it as a reason to actually try harder at making Spock talk with others.

 

It is during one of these attempts – Pike is trying to explain to a very dubious Spock the merits of 'sports' – when the red alert sounds.

 

Spock has undergone many drills, of course, but this is the first instance where the red-alert has been used in earnest. Captain Pike's smile disappears in an instant. Without a word to Spock he stops himself mid-sentence, turns on heel, and strides at a rapid half-jog for the door.

 

Spock hesitates long enough to allow the senior officers and those with battle-relevant fields to flow past him before walking with quick efficiency to his own posting. He takes a brief moment in the back of his mind to appreciate the grim efficiency of the officers who move around him. There is no panic, though a few people look vaguely wide-eyed, and some of the newer, younger officers are glancing around as though trying to seem nonchalant. Panic detracts from purpose. It is interesting to know that humans can internalize this, too.

 

He situates himself in the science-labs, placing himself in front of the feed which connects to the ship's scanners. In any necessary situation the scientists can sift through the Enterprise's colossal intake of data and send any relevant pieces to the bridge, which lessens the task of the science officer.

 

This situation, however, does not seem to be one well-suited for scientists. From the sensor feed and reports coming in from the bridge, they understand that two unknown ships have appeared on sensors and have fired a warning shot over the prow of the Enterprise. Indecipherable communications are being relayed.

 

As his primary function as an astrophysicist is relatively useless in this situation, Spock is working instead to run scans on the hull and design of the alien vessel, searching for anomalies, weaknesses, and similarities to other ships that Starfleet has encountered in the past. While doing so, he pays only minor attention to the activity of the vessel, but what happens is this:

 

Captain Pike, following protocol, has the communications officer run through a standard litany of greetings through the Universal Translator. The communications officer is working frantically – and quite likely futilely – to decipher something in the foreign language that comes through transmissions.

 

After a pause, though, the translator begins to work. This is a relief, and the translator turns her attention to trying to make sure nothing is lost.

 

And after Pike introduces himself asking about the other ship's purpose and apparent hostility, the garbled reply is this:

 

“Outsiders repel/eject/repulse. Permanent leaving/ending. Permanent shhrzik .”

 

And they open fire.

 

After that, there is mostly confusion. Suddenly Spock's orders are changed; he is to focus not on identification of the other ship, or anomalies in the design, but weaknesses. Flaws. Imperfections.

 

Something the Enterprise can use and exploit in battle.

 

Shock-waves rattle the deck. With each rock of the ship officers brace themselves against their consoles, then grimly continue working. Some younger officers seem alarmed; others do not.

 

Are they accustomed to this, he wonders?

 

“Lieutenant,” calls a voice, and Spock looks up. “Report to engineering to assist repairs.” He nods, then weaves between the trembling bodies of his crewmates.

 

The halls are nearly empty. Two men rush past, not sparing Spock a glance; they ignore the cascade of sparks that rain down from a broken cable as they pass. As he enters Engineering a woman stumbles out, clutching a bleeding gash that has opened by her ear.

 

An unfamiliar man spots Spock as he enters. “You, yes, you'll do,” he says.

 

“Are you the chief engineer?”

 

“I am now,” the man says. “Come with me, laddie. Vulcan hands, I can use some steady hands right now.”

 

Spock soon discovers why. The engineer needs to re-calibrate several of the pressure-valves and fuel-mixers and only has the time to judge them by sight. He does not seem particularly concerned by the apparent impossibility of this task, and only wants Spock to help steady the instruments and consoles against the rattling of the ship.

 

“Everyone else is covered in blood, anyway,” he says in passing. “Too slippery to help, you know?”

 

And then he's slapping Spock on the back – heedless of the blood on his own hands – “Good job, lad, back to it.”

 

The end comes very suddenly, when it does – an abrupt call from the bridge that brings everything to a standstill.

 

We did it,” says Pike, weary, triumphant. “You can stand down, Engine Room.

 

The engineer huffs and stomps over to a comm panel. “Easy for you to say up there!”

 

Pike sounds a little bemused. “Mr. Cor-”

 

“This is Lieutenant Montgomery Scott,” the engineer says. “Acting Chief Engineer, Sir. We're still taking care of damage down here.”

 

And where is - ?”

 

To his credit, Scott does pause. “ - I'm sorry, Sir.”

 

There is a brief silence from the bridge. “Understood,” Pike answers. “Are there any injured?”

 

“Headed to Sickbay as we speak. No one's unable to make the walk, if that's what you mean.”

 

Estimated time for warp five?”

 

“Give me a good six hours, Sir.”

 

Understood. Keep me updated. Pike out.”

 

Spock finds himself watching Scott as the call ends. The new chief engineer seems to feel his gaze, and turns around. “...You should leave, too,” he tells the Vulcan gently.

 

“I am uninjured.”

 

Scott looks him up and down. For some reason, he seems unconvinced. “If that's how you like it,” he says at length. “ - Come on. You can help me organize this mess.”

 


 

 

 

The ship seems quiet, after the battle.

 

In part, there is truth to this perception. Quantitatively, there are fewer people in the Enterprise's halls. Some crewmembers are in Sickbay recovering from wounds received in the battle. Some are resting off their fatigue in their quarters. Some are dead.

 

But Spock also starts to doubt his own purpose in Starfleet and his actions during the battle itself. It is not the blood; he can face disaster with equanimity, he is relatively - mostly - certain. But something – something about the alien ship -

 

“How are you holding up?”

 

Spock looks around. Scotty has fallen into pace beside Spock, which seems strange, because Spock is moving without destination. He is nearing the first stage of a walking-meditation, and is currently on one of the more unused portions of the ship. “I am well,” he says, and remembers human etiquette enough to ask, “and yourself?”

 

“Fine, fine. Department's a mess, but we're getting by.” Scott peers at him. “I haven't seen you around, is all.”

 

“We have not encountered each other, to my knowledge, prior to the incident of - “

 

“Well, aye, but that's not the point.”

 

“...It is not?”

 

“Oh no, not at all.” Scott smiles at him. “I'm more concerned with since.”

 

...Spock is. Confused.

 

“I do not understand.”

 

Scott just nods. “What did you think of that battle, Lieutenant?”

 

“I thought very little of it,” Spock says slowly. “...I was occupied first in the labs, and then in engineering. I was not privy to most of the details of what occurred.”

 

“But you were aware of enough of the details,” Scott says. “The same details as everyone else. And then the ship was exploding around you... You've never been in a firefight before, right? There was no getting out of that, not anywhere on the ship. It's something they don't exactly emphasize so well in the academy brochures.”

 

Spock is quiet. “I have been more concerned with the motivations of the beings that attacked us.”

 

Scott blinks, and it is clear he has not expected this response. But, to his credit, he keeps going. “Why do you say that, now?”

 

“We gave them a message of peace. Indications suggest that they should have possessed a rudimentary understanding of our language through the Universal Translator – certainly enough to understand our intentions. There was no logical reason to attack.”

 

“Ah,” Scott says. “You've hit it, Mr. Spock. You're expecting people to react with logic – and that can be a dangerous assumption in space.”

 

Spock is troubled. “I am not certain how to operate,” he says slowly, “if I can not anticipate such things. I understand that other races possess certain emotional impulses, but to forgo logic so entirely in favor of violence is inconceivable.”

 

“Ach, Mr. Spock, but what's logic, really? Not that I'm disagreeing with you – but anyone who's taken a course in computers can tell you the logic of a program depends completely on the values of the variables, and the commands and sequences initially put in by people. Logic only follows after. So maybe for these people it seemed perfectly logical, to assume that we were dangerous to them – or that it was ethical to attack first, for profit or conquest – or, maybe they just really didn't like the looks of us, and that seemed good enough by their minds.”

 

Spock contemplates this idea.

 

“...Have you talked to anyone? About the battle?”

 

“I see little need to talk with others outside the constraints of duty.”

 

Scott frowns a little for some reason. “What about the captain?”

 

“The captain... is well-intentioned, but determined to misunderstand my position. He believes I need to socialize more, for my own well-being; but his attempts to have me do so are more exhaustive than helpful.”

 

Scott opens his mouth, looks at Spock, then pauses. He seems to change what he has been about to say. “...You know, there's an easy way around that. You can please the captain and yourself.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“How about this,” Scott says cheerfully, “if the captain asks where you've been, tell him with me. Even if it's not true. That should get him off your back about making nice with the crew, yeah? Some people just don't understand that not everyone needs to make friends with the world.”

 

“You are implying I should tell a falsehood.”

 

“Would that be a problem?” Scott seems to read the answer from his face. “Well, then. In that case, tell the captain you've been invited to work on some projects with me. Or chat about Scottish versus Vulcan music. Or get drunk, for that matter. All true. Standing invitation.”

 

“'Standing invitation'?”

 

“Means, consider yourself permanently invited.” Scott nods. “Anytime.”

 

“That is... kind.”

 

Scott beams at him.

 

It works very well as an implied excuse, too; but he never sees the need to take Mr. Scott up on his offer.

 


 

 

 

Lieutenant-Commander Johnston abruptly announces her retirement within the year, and to Spock's own bewilderment the post of Science officer is thrust – without his consultation – upon him.

 

Pike calls it a 'reward' for his sublime performance, a merit to his skills. Number One calls it an honor. He does not want to know what the other scientists call it.

 

Sometimes, he thinks that other races should stop equating 'Vulcan' with 'capable' in every situation, because Johnston leaves without bothering to train him at all, and Pike seems to overlook the need entirely. The thought of approaching Number One is unpleasant, to say the least; some people say she is Vulcan in attitude, but this is not true. She is calm and often cold, but not precisely logical. She does not follow the precepts of Surak. He never knows what to expect of her behavior, which cannot be reasoned out by either his working knowledge of logic or emotions. He does not know her well enough.

 

It is Lieutenant-Commander Scott, clicking his tongue in disapproval, who shows him how to file the reports and explains the procedures of departmental meetings. “You're young yet,” says Scott, who is only eight years older than Spock, and a human besides. “No offense meant,” he adds. “Only I hope you know what you're getting into.”

 

Spock does not know what 'youth' has to do with his position; he is far more concerned with his own inexperience. He nods anyway, because Scott is being gracious and helpful, and the matter drops.

 

A month later, he is informed of another 'perk' of his position; that is, Pike wants him to accompany a landing party.

 

It should be a simple enough survey to Rigel VII, but Spock nevertheless studies the planet and area extensively before the expected beam-down. It would not do to make a mistake in front of the captain.

 

Aesthetically, there is much to appreciate on Rigel. Violet skies serve as a soothing backdrop to an opalescent moon which rises, hauntingly beautiful, on the horizon. It blocks out half of the sky, and reminds Spock, suddenly and achingly, of Vulcan's fiercer sister-planet T'Khut.

 

Clear lakes and green forests belie any such illusion of home, though. The group has beamed down beside the ruins of what would seem to be an abandoned fortress.

 

“A kalar fortress,” Pike clarifies needlessly.

 

The kalar, the natives of Rigel VII, have yet to develop warp-capabilities. Spock is therefore certain that the surrounding areas have been scanned for life-forms, and that these scans have come up empty.

 

With the eleven-person party are several anthropologists, a geologist, the captain's yeoman, two security officers, and a botanist. The botanist and security officer Winston are left outside the fortress while the rest of the party enter.

 

“Oh, this is wonderful,” chatters one of the anthropologists. “Just look at these wall panels, the decorations – we're going to learn so much, I can tell already - “

 

“I'm a little more distracted by these,” says Pike, and gestures at one of the wicked-looking swords hanging from the ceiling.

 

“Oh, that's interesting too,” Trevor says absently. “But we already know they're a warrior-culture.”

 

“I'm curious about why they would have left so many serviceable weapons behind, though,” anthropologist Hayat adds. She points. “Look, they're not even rusted.”

 

“Oh, good point...”

 

Pike rolls his eyes and is forgotten entirely.

 

Spock contents himself with half-observing the scientists while running his own scans, occasionally prompting them forward when the anthropologists become too absorbed in one area. “We do have limited time,” he reminds them. “It will be possible to look over our data later on the ship, but only what we have already acquired.”

 

“Oh, but it's so interesting,” Hayat sighs.

 

The security officer hums with amusement.

 

Pike seems to enjoy the excursion planet-side, at least. “Makes me think of home,” he tells Spock, prodding the metallic rings protecting a dead sconce protruding from one wall.

 

“...Does it?” Spock asks politely.

 

“No.” Pike grins at his face. “It sure is nice to stretch my legs, though. There's something to be said for good, solid earth beneath the feet, isn't there?”

 

Spock doesn't really sympathize, but he decides not to argue. “As you say, Sir.”

 

After an hour of wandering, he calls to check-in with Winston and botanist Brevik. Strangely, there is no response.

 

“Should we be worried?” Pike prompts.

 

“There is significant magnetic interference in this area, Sir. It may be merely a communications issue – we can check on the landing party in person.”

 

“Let's go.”

 

The anthropologists grumble, but come along willingly enough. They step out into the light, blinking after the relative darkness of the fortress, and Spock immediately heads southwest, remembering the intended path of the botanist.

 

They move into the space of a sparsely-wooded forest. Though the number of trees are lacking, these few have broad, low-hanging branches and leaves that render the area dark and confusing. The party shifts restlessly, and Spock glances down at his tricorder. “The magnetic interference is stronger here,” he says. “It is likely the reason for our lack of communication.”

 

A rustle from nearby stops the rest of his words. Expecting that Winston and Brevik have found them, he looks up.

 

“Fuck,” says Trevors eloquently.

 

The kavar native shouts something incomprehensible, shaking a metal-clad fist in their direction. His hand is wrapped around the shaft of a spear. At this gesture, four more natives appear behind him – and an arrow comes flying out of the darkness.

 

The captain's yeoman stumbles, clutching her stomach. Blood blooms and bursts from the wound, deepening the bright red of her uniform. Pike clutches her arm.

 

“Phasers up!” he snaps, fumbling for his own. “Spock, call the ship. We need a beam-up, now.”

 

“Sir,” Spock protests, “To let them witness such technology - “

 

Phaser-fire roars over them.

 

“They've already seen plenty of our technology, Spock! That's an order!”

 

Ducking, they stumble into a retreat.

 

The same interference Spock had noted before is making it difficult to contact the ship. He hastily adjusts and re-adjusts his communicator, running low to the ground as the cacophony continues.

 

They have taken a different route out of the copse than they did in entering it. At one point, Pike curses and veers away from his initial path; Spock glances around and sees the broken, still bodies of Winston and Brevik abandoned on the ground.

 

“Hurry up, Spock,” Pike snaps, and shoots off a blast over his shoulder. One of the kavarrians falls to the ground, limbs splayed limply over the curved blade of his own sword.

 

Spock is about to respond when a searing pain strikes his leg.

 

He is not accustomed to pain – not of any sort – but he closes his eyes briefly. Pain is a matter of the mind. He pushes it away with single-minded repression. When he opens his eyes he glances at the arrow shaft protruding from his leg with blank detachment, then turns back to the communicator.

 

“Spock to Enterprise,” he says, not expecting a response. “Come in, Enterprise - !”

 

“Enterprise here,” responds an easy voice. “You're early, Mr. Sp - “

 

“Emergency beam up for eight,” Spock snaps. “Now.”

 

There's a startled pause. “Yes, Sir. Beaming up now.”

 

The katarrians make a rush forward just as the party disappears in a burst of blue light.

 


 

 

 

Spock is injured more heavily than he had assumed; the arrow nicked a vein in his leg, and he collapses upon reaching the Enteprise, much to the captain's alarm. However, this is not his primary concern.

 

Three people are dead.

 

Winston, Brevik, and the captain's yeoman – he does not even recall her name – are still on the planet, and unlikely to be retrieved at any point soon. Pike meets him, eyes red-rimmed, in Sickbay after the incident.

 

“The funerals are in three days,” is all he says. “I expect to see you there.”

 

Spock wants to ask the captain why they might have been attacked; why the crewmen are dead, and gone, because it doesn't really make sense. It isn't logical. But Pike leaves, just like that, and he asks nothing.

 

He does attend the funerals, in fact. Some people cry. He does not. And they look at him, too, still standing awkwardly on his damaged leg. One whispers, “He didn't fire a shot. The Vulcan didn't fire a single shot.”

 

Someone nudges the man, and he falls silent. But Spock spends a long time thinking of that, too.

 


 

 

 

Spock has questions he would like to ask, but Pike seems troubled and distant, consumed by his own thoughts. Scotty is still too much of an unknown quantity. He says nothing.

 

Over the years, it is not so difficult to put the mission behind him. Pike does not frequently ask Spock to accompany landing-parties unless the missions are purely scientific. Spock knows this both through evidence and because Pike tells him as much, talking to him in the science labs as a few of his staff listen. “You hardly work well with others,” Pike mentions, snorting. “I value your brain, but it's best if you delegate the social-work.”

 

Spock does not try to argue this; and in fact he notices a definite frostiness to the voice of Ensign Curtis as she appears between him and Pike, muttering, “Your report, Sir,” as she looks between them.

 

On a side note, his relations with his staff have become markedly warmer in recent years; he cannot quite account for the change.

 

Still, some measure of on-planet competency is expected. Shortly after his promotion to Lieutenant-Commander (“It's embarrassing, with your work, to keep you a Lieutenant,”) Pike feels obligated to assign him to the command of a scientific survey on the surface of Icoridi III. Icoridi is a relatively new member of the United Federation of Planets, and due to a certain number of religious restrictions to which most of the population adheres roughly one-fifth of the total land – the entirety of the second continent, in fact - is almost completely unexplored. However, preliminary scans show curious readings from the center of this mass, and the religious restrictions do not ban outsiders from entering; rather it is only considered unsafe for adherents to enter.

 

“It is your business, if you would like to investigate our world,” they are told. “ - In fact we would be curious to know what you might find.”

 

In other words, Spock thinks, it is a mission with no chance of 'social-work' whatsoever.

 

He beams down to the continent Ica II with three others. Most Starfleet scientists have multiple specializations, but Ensign Curtis is primarily a biologist, Ensign Kinteh a geologist, and Lieutenant Nahal a physicist.

 

They hit a snag immediately.

 

“Sir,” says Nahal, “The signals are very clear from this distance – this type of radiation should only be emitted by artificially-produced structures. And there shouldn't be any such structures, according to the briefing we've been given.”

 

Spock has come to this conclusion already himself, but nods and says, “Agreed. We will proceed to the source of the anomalous readings. Ensign Curtis, are there any signs of humanoid life?”

 

The woman jumps to be acknowledged. “Not that I can tell, Sir.”

 

“Very well. Remain alert.”

 

They proceed cautiously, but even periodic scans reveal no new information. Still, Spock suspects that the radiation is a sign that should not be ignored. As they approach the source of the signal, however, it becomes unnecessary to consult their instruments.

 

The sprawling complex of buildings that becomes visible over the hills is low to the ground, and clearly in a state of disrepair. More interesting than the scarred exterior, though, is the fact that it exists at all. Planetary sources confirm that no one has lived on this land in thousands of years – well before the industrial age, and even before such building materials as would be necessary for a metal-heavy structure could be created.

 

“Well, someone was here,” says Kinteh, stating the obvious.

 

“But not recently,” counters Nahal. “It's falling apart. And look – the roofs are covered in plants.”

 

“There may still be signs of habitation inside,” Spock informs them. “Perhaps even records of whomever utilized this space. Ensign Curtis?”

 

The woman is regrettably timid, he notes; she twitches at the sound of her own name. “Yes, Sir?”

 

“Remain outside with Ensign Kinteh. You two may investigate the surrounding area. Lieutenant, you will accompany me inside.”

 

To his credit, Nahal only gives the others one longing glance before following his superior officer into the largest of the damaged structures.

 

The interior is somewhat more well-preserved then the outside, but not by much. A layer of dirt and grime covers anything, and a thin layer of withered leaves lies sprinkled over the floor. A particular mess in one corner of the entrance speaks of recent animal habitation.

 

Still, it's easier to date the place once inside. Obsolete computers can be found once they start searching; it's hard to determine the purpose of the building they've selected, but Spock is cautiously willing to call it a research center of some sort after a short investigation.

 

“I don't know what anyone would want to research here,” Nahal says when he ventures this claim.

 

“Perhaps they are here for the same reason as us. It is perhaps unrealistic to think that the entire planet adheres to the same religious restraints, whatever the governor might claim.”

 

Nahal hums doubtfully.

 

Eventually they make their way to the center of the facility – a large room nearly forty meters in length, interspersed with crumbling tabletops, desks, monitors.

 

He finds what is probably a light-switch and toys with the dial, but the room stays gray and dim.

 

Nahal starts investigating from the opposite side of the room, peering under shelves and desks; for what, Spock doesn't know. He himself turns and starts to inspect the dusty remains of an old computer with alien configurations. He taps what seems to be a start button, and is surprised when the machine clicks to life with a slow, wheezing groan of expelled air. The place has power, then.

 

That should have been been his first clue.

 

But he still doesn't realize, and taps with interest through the system, trying to understand the foreign-yet-familiar language enough that he can learn the use of this place. Nahal becomes nothing but a dim presence moving somewhere very far away.

 

He doesn't even bother glancing up until the lieutenant screams.

 

The lieutenant crumples to the ground just as Spock looks up, and his scream – loud, agonized - is abruptly silenced when a hulking shadow reaches out, whipping him in the face with the side of a pistol.

 

Spock takes in this information with a glance, and processes the relevant facts; there are intruders. There are others in this place, and they are hostile.

 

He is certain he has been spotted, but the intruder is inspecting Nahal. Crouching under a nearby desk and glancing around – hoping against all likelihood that the hostile is alone – he takes out his communicator. “Spock to Enterprise,” he whispers urgently. “Spock to Enterprise. Emergency beam-up for two. Lieutenant Nahar is approximately thirty-six meters southeast of my location and injured. Enterprise, respond.”

 

Static.

 

Useless. Spock risks another glance over the desk.

 

The alien's back is to him. Male, approximately 2.01 meters tall, with burnt umber skin and the flaring crests like scales ridged along his arms, as are customary to natives of this planet.

 

Standard humanoid, is the important part. Meaning, he likely possesses and is susceptible to the same anatomical weaknesses common to most other humanoid species. Spock slowly draws his phaser, flicks it to the 'stun' setting, and aims hesitantly at the man's back.

 

The man is tall. Hardy. A weak stun might not subdue him. He flicks the setting a few settings higher. These settings can, in the cases of unknown species, sometimes be dangerous.

 

Abruptly, he pockets the phaser.

 

Spock makes his decision. In one swift motion, he leaps out from behind the desk. He runs, and as he approaches Nahal's assailant his arm rises in preparation for the Vulcan nerve-pinch. But his feet land too heavily on the metallic floor. The intruder spins around, raising a pistol, and there is a loud and painful burst against Spock's side before everything goes dark.

 


 

 

 

Spock has experienced true unconsciousness only several times in his life, but the experience is unmistakeable. Usually, though, the occurrence is relatively controlled. He awakens slowly but easily in a quiet room, surrounded by the hush of modern machinery and the low murmur of doctors and nurses. Hybrids are prone to medical problems, he is told.

 

This is entirely different.

 

His face is numb. He notices this first, the way his face is jammed so that his cheek is on the wall and his open mouth is splayed over something cool and crumbling This does not strike him as problematic for a long moment, until he swipes his tongue across the latter to taste dirt and rocks. It takes longer yet to taste the blood.

 

He pushes himself up slowly, heavily.

 

“Sir.”

 

Kinteh is barely visible. They are sitting together in a dark cell, solid-walled; the only slant of light comes from a high, barred window above a door, perhaps twenty centimeters square and two and a half meters off the ground.

 

“Ensign. Are you - “

 

Spock cuts himself off abruptly.

 

Kinteh is breathing heavily, sprawled awkwardly against the opposite wall in a way that immediately catches Spock's attention. It takes a moment, nonetheless, to see the way the human is curled around his abdomen – longer still to see the white-pink gleam of broken bone that has pierced that man's wrist. Dried blood stains the ground around him.

 

“Sir,” Kinteh rasps. “Sir, they took – they took her – C-curtis - “

 

“I understand,” says Spock, because it looks as though Kinteh is struggling just to breathe. Spock shifts into a sitting position to examine his surroundings.

 

There isn't any immediate weakness to the area; in fact the cell is completely barren and devoid of furnishings. But to imply that the other members of the party were taken - “Ensign Curtis was here?” Spock clarifies, though he is reluctant to prod the Ensign into speech. He wonders what fate has befallen Nahal.

 

Kinteh nods jerkily. “Yes.”

 

Presumably, either they will soon return... or Kinteh and Spock will also be taken away.

 

They is also a chance their captors simply mean to dispose of them – but as this possibility is unlikely, given the fact that they have not been killed yet, and also presents little hope for action, Spock ignores it. Likewise, he chooses not to share the thought with Kinteh.

 

“All we can do at this point is wait,” he says instead. “Attempt to sleep, if you will, Ensign. You may find it beneficial.”

 

A doubtful snort is his only answer, and then the ensign is quiet.

 

For his part, Spock settles in and meditates. There is no way to empirically determine the passage of time, but unless his senses have been disturbed along with the rest of his injuries approximately 1.23 Standard hours have passed by the time he is roused from his focus by the sudden sound of metal creaking and groaning.

 

Spock opens his eyes and rises in one swift motion. Kinteh stirs; he has slept after all, it seems.

 

The aliens who stand in the doorway are of the same species as before. They're holding hand-held weapons, energy blasters of some sort which he doesn't recognize. It prevents Spock from taking action, but he stands as straight as possible as he addresses them.

 

“I am Lieutenant-Commander Spock of the Starship Enterprise,” he states slowly. There is still dirt and blood in his mouth. “I insist that you return our crewmates and state your intentions in attacking us.”

 

One of the Icoridians tilts his head at Spock slowly.

 

“You should not have come here,” sighs another.

 

“No one comes here.”

 

Two armed natives – perhaps males – enter and heave Kinteh to his feet. The ensign makes a strangled sound, paling and jerking his arms as his broken leg drags over the ground. One of the watching aliens twitches his weapon in Kinteh's direction.

 

“He is only injured,” Spock says. “He requires medical attention.”

 

The Icoridian does not seem to hear him. After ascertaining that Kinteh is not a threat, they start to move toward the door.

 

Spock attempts to follow. He gets a weapon aimed at his face for the endeavor.

 

“Mr. Kinteh is my subordinate. If you wish to question one of us, it should be myself. Otherwise, I would request that we not be separated.”

 

They wave the weapon in his face and step back. The heavy stone door slams shut. Light wavers in dimly through the mirror as their footsteps fade away, and the scent of blood mingles with dust that rises from the slammed door.

 

Spock is alone. So he waits.

 


 

 

 

He does not receive food or water, wherever he is, and he is not certain if this is an attempt to kill him or a deliberate act due to knowledge of Vulcan physiology. Either way, he weakens over the course of the next few days but is nevertheless still able to rise, again, when he finally hears footsteps from outside the cell. He stands in a relaxed military-rest as the door swings open.

 

There are again several individuals, all of whom are armed. It is hard to tell, but Spock thinks the leader at the front looks a bit surprised to see him. They were probably trying to starve him to death, then.

 

Two of them move back and mutter quietly; abruptly, the same two approach and grab at Spock's arm. He does not resist as they pull him out the door.

 

If they are bringing him to the rest of his crewmates, he will hardly refuse.

 

After such a long period in the dark, the hallway light is almost painful for a quick instant until his second eyelids flicker down automatically. Thankfully, his captors don't seem to notice.

 

They take him up a slanted tunnel, which is the first hint that he seems to have been kept underground. This, at least, explains why the Enterprise has been negligent in retrieving him from a planet which presumably lacks the means to resist beaming technology. Without the added boost of their communicators the ship will never be able to find their lifesigns.

 

Eventually the tunnel widens into a modest chamber, and the Icoridians fan out into watchful positions around the room. The place is mostly bare. Across the room, a short female stands next to a wooden post flecked with red stains.

 

At her feet is the crumpled body of Kinteh.

 

Spock's thoughts stutter. There are protocols, he thinks blankly. Things he should do in this situation. He should direct a question to the woman. He should demand to be released and warn her of the consequences of her hostile actions. He should ask after Kinteh's status, and those of the rest of his team. He does not want to do any of these things. There is a scent of rot and decay in the room; a ripe, meaty odor. It is the smell of death.

 

“You are in command of these officers, correct?” asks the women mildly. She does not seem at all perturbed by the scene before them.

 

“That is correct,” Spock replies. These officers, plural. He should ask if she refers to the living or the dead. If there are still any officers living.

 

He does not ask this question.

 

“Then you will explain why you are on the forbidden continent.”

 

To this, he has an answer which thankfully requires no thought. “We are on a survey permitted by the Icoridian government.” But: “ - As I am sure you have been informed by my subordinates.”

 

“Yes,” the woman agrees. “That is not what I am asking.

 

“Then you must rephrase your query.”

 

“Who are you actually collaborating with? How have you discovered the location of our monastery?”

 

Spock considers this question carefully. The station did not have the look of any religious site. Religion is typically a motivation for people to stay off this continent. “You have been trying to hide your people,” he deduces. “- You have been scavenging old buildings in an attempt to go unnoticed.”

 

The woman – a religious leader of an alternate movement? A fanatic, trying to defend the banned land? - does not answer this accusation. “No attempts to take our home will succeed.”

 

“That is not our aim.”

 

“I have no desire to hear your words.” She makes a gesture. The others begin leaving the room slowly; the door closes behind them. Spock is left alone with the armed woman and two apparent guards. “Will you answer my questions, or resist?”

 

Spock looks down at Kinteh. At what remains of him. “As it seems you refuse to believe my answers, it seems that, by default, my answer is the latter.”

 

“That is unfortunate.”

 

The two guards move on either side of him. Their bodies are slanted toward a corner of the room that is stained red; Spock can well imagine what will happen next, and he has no desire to be tortured and killed. The next events happen swiftly.

 

The man on his left reaches out to push him forward under the shoulder. Spock pretends to stumble, catching the other guard around the neck.

 

He drops like a stone.

 

“What is this?” The woman snaps, her veneer of calm vanishing. She raises her weapon and shoots.

 

The shot goes wide. Choosing to use her momentary surprise to his advantage, he rushes forward and lunges at her feet. The two go sprawling. She beats heavily at his head with ringing blows – the Icoridians are a huge race – but he forces her arms aside. She shrieks in his face as he delivers another nerve-pinch, then goes slack.

 

Blood bursts in the back of his throat as a blow falls upon his head. Spock rolls aside in time to avoid another hit, grateful for the sturdiness of Vulcan bones, and kicks out at the final guard. He stumbles long enough for Spock to regain his feet.

 

Few species in the Federation can match Vulcans in terms of sheer strength. The Icoridians can – but the guard is clearly unfamiliar with the Vulcan Nerve Pinch, even after seeing it applied on his fellow. The two rush each other, and within moments of grappling Spock is able to twist his arm and render the larger alien unconscious.

 

The silence that falls afterward seems ominous. Spock checks the unconscious forms swiftly; no one seems likely to awaken. There are no footsteps outside the room, but he is uncertain how long it will be until someone comes to investigate the lack of activity.

 

He pries the woman's weapon from her limp fingers, checking its settings. There is only an on-off switch; it is clearly intended to kill. He is uncertain what effect a blow to a non-vital area might have; he does not possess enough information.

 

After only a brief moment of hesitation, Spock stands with the weapon in hand. If nothing else, he can use the weapon to intimidate any Icoridians he meets.

 

Sparing one last, brief glance at what was once Kinteh, Spock strides from the room in search of the rest of his landing party.

 


 

 

 

It takes a surprisingly long time for Spock to encounter anyone else, which makes him re-evaluate his estimation of the number of people on this apparent base. Their numbers are clearly stretched thin. Still, he knows better than to be over-confident.

 

A logical structure for any complex would have similar rooms nearby one another; based upon this reasoning Spock returns to the abandoned site where he was held captive and slowly expands his search radius.

 

The rooms immediately beside his own are covered with human blood. They are also empty.

 

After twenty-three minutes of searching he finally hears a low murmur of voices from around a corner. Ducking into a cell is a risky move – he could easily be trapped inside – but a second and then third set of voices decides the matter. Spock leaves the door cracked and waits.

 

Their steps and voices are relaxed as they pass; apparently no one is yet alarmed by his escape. Spock waits until a minute after they have passed and then slips out to follow the murmur of voices at a safe distance. Perhaps the group will lead him to more populated parts of the complex.

 

They do better; they take him to Curtis.

 

“Is this one fit for questioning?” asks a voice.

 

“She's awake. I don't understand their physiology. They seem delicate.”

 

“That is not our concern. She will answer our questions.”

 

Out of sight, Spock considers his options. He waits until his ears catch the sound of a door creaking open.

 

Then he steps into the open and fires.

 

The stone ceiling gives way with an explosion of dust and scattering rock. The Icoridians shout and scatter as larger chunks of material fall directly over them.

 

The man farthest from Spock is buried in the rubble. Spock moves toward the nearest one, who is stumbling away from the mess in confusion, and fells him swiftly with a nerve-pinch.

 

This gives the final guard time to see him coming, and Spock dives to the left to avoid being shot. His injured side aches in protest as he hits the ground, rolling around and bringing his weapon to bear.

 

The threat proves unnecessary, though. Even as he watches a black-coated boot darts out of the dusty air to kick the weapon out of the guard's hand.

 

Spock uses this distraction to dart forward and pull the alien's legs out from under him. The Icoridian falls back and flails. His head hits the wall with a sound like snapping wood and he abruptly goes still.

 

Spock waits a moment, but when nothing else happens he steps forward.

 

“Ensign Curtis?” he calls softly. He had recognized the make of that boot. “It is only myself, Ensign. Hurry, if you will; more might be coming.”

 

Ensign Curtis finally appears. Her science blues are dirt-stained and disheveled. Though there is a liberal stain of blood around her sleeves, she does not appear to be injured.

 

Spock almost anticipates her words before she says them.

 

“Sir, they – he – Lieutenant Nahal, he - “

 

“In that case, it is especially vital that we make haste,” Spock says. “Kinteh has also been killed.”

 

Curtis stares at him for a moment, then nods jerkily and scrambles over the debris to join him.

 

Spock briefly considers the merits of giving Curtis his weapon before dismissing the idea almost at once. Humans might not usually share the unique Vulcan abhorrence for violence, but her nerves make the idea unfeasible.

 

Besides, supplying someone with the means to commit violence would still make him responsible. He chides himself for the very notion. Spock turns away. “This way,” he tells her.

 

But she doesn't move. “I don't – Sir - “

 

“Ensign?”

 

“They have our communicators,” she offers hesitantly. “I think – I think I know the way?”

 

The communicators are vital if they are to have any hope of contacting the ship. He would prefer if she were more confident of her information, but there is little recourse. He nods.

 

Decision made, Curtis gives directions as they proceed. Spock notices with some doubt that the route they take seems to take them on a downward slope, presumably putting the pair deeper into the compound. There is nothing to be done for it, however.

 

“We'll be able to contact the ship from here, right?”

 

“It should be possible. It is vital that we communicate with the planetary government to discuss what has happened here.”

 

“I think they knew this place was inhabited, Sir. My guards were talking about it.”

 

This makes no sense. “I fail to see the logic in sending us to this place if the Icoridian government understood that this land was inhabited, even negligibly,” he tells her sharply.

 

“I, I heard some of them talking about that, too. The people here are remnants of a marginalized native culture, the Mixans. Apparently, a very old treaty says that no one from Ica I can come to Ica II until one of a few conditions have been fulfilled, to preserve the rights of the survivors - “

 

“Survivors?”

 

“I don't know what that means, either. I guess there was some sort of... extermination.”

 

“Genocide.”

 

“Something like that. Anyway, one possibility outlined in the treaty lets people start coming over if the Mixans kill someone who isn't native to their continent and I guess we qualify.”

 

The barbarity of this explanation – of lives being used as convenient political loopholes – is stunning. He struggles to counter it. “Were that the case, the Mixans surely would not have reacted to our presence aggressively. They would have no desire to break the treaty.”

 

“They didn't – they didn't mean to kill Nihal. I think. But they did, so, there was really nothing stopping them after that.”

 

Violence because of violence already perpetrated. Spock says nothing.

 

“Oh,” Curtis says suddenly. “It's here, up ahead, I'm certain - “

 

Excitement finally starting to overcome fear, Curtis bounds ahead before Spock can check her. Following hastily, he is relieved to find her alone. She's standing, flushed and proud, in the middle of a small room. Four sets of communicators rest on an oblong table.

 

“I do not see our phasers,” he notes.

 

“Maybe they're experimenting with them,” Curtis offers absently. “Who cares?” She darts up to the table. “We finally have - “

 

A scrabbling sound interrupts her. Stiffening in realization, Spock brings up his blaster and spins around just in time to witness a Mixan firing off a shot with one of the Enterprise's own weapons.

 

It's a narrow miss; the shot passes just over his shoulder.

 

“Get him! Get him!” Carter shouts.

 

Spock hesitates.

 

The shot could be fatal.

 

He thinks of Nahal, dead. He thinks of Kinteh mangled and red on the floor.

 

“What are you - ?”

 

He fires.

 

The guard yells with pain as the blast tears away a chunk of his leg, precisely where Spock had taken aim. The revealed mass of flesh is seared black. His hand fumbles. In agony, the man's next shot goes wide.

 

Curtis screams.

 

Spock abandons the traitorous blaster in favor of a physical approach once again. Shaking with pain, the Mixan tries to aim at him. He is too slow. The alien falls, just as all his previous compatriots have fallen.

 

But it is too late for Curtis.

 

When Spock checks, her abdomen is a cauterized hollow that pulses with a slow ooze of human-red blood. The smell of burnt flesh chokes the air.

 

Her eyes are staring at him. Even in death, she still looks terrified.

 

He takes one of the communicators from the table because there is nothing else to do. At first, he meets the hum of static with stoic resignation.

 

“Spock to Enterprise,” he says.

 

He does not expect a response.

 

It's almost surprising when a voice actually answers.

 

Pike here,” snaps the captain. “Where the hell were you?”

 

“Captain, the landing party - “

 

Look, we have a bit of a situation up here,” Pike responds. “People are popping up out of the woodwork, suddenly saying we have no right to visit the second continent at all – something about disrespecting the dead, a massacred culture,it's a bit unclear. Would have been nice to have heard about it before we beamed you down - “

 

“Sir,” Spock interrupts. “The rest of the landing party is dead.”

 

Silence.

 

“I am here with Ensign Curtis's body. A beam up would be appreciated.”

 

“...Standby.”

 

Spock snaps his communicator shut.

 

He hears a distant rumble of footsteps. Somewhere nearby, a voice roars in outrage. The scent of ozone fills the air.

 

Spock is still staring into Curtis' terror-stricken eyes when the transporter beam lifts him up and sweeps him away.

 


 

 

 

There are quiet funerals given for Nahal, Kinteh and Curtis. Spock does not speak; with the way people are watching him, he does not believe it would be appreciated.

 

“Good people,” some say.

 

“Barely knew them,” others say.

 

Pike wraps an arm around his shoulders after the services, blatantly disregarding the Vulcan restrictions against contact. “You're still alive,” he says. Spock smells alcohol on the man's breath. Pike gives him a little shake, looking at him hard. His blue eyes are red-rimmed. “You're still alive,” he repeats.

 

Spock is still alive. He is the only one alive.

 

He wonders if he could have made the shot.

 


 

 

 

Over the next few years, Pike never has him to lead another landing party.

 

Spock doesn't ask him why.

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