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Mary Gordon stared down at her husband's body slumped across the ruined radio. The room was very still now that the mob had gone; only the arrhythmic tapping of a broken shutter cut the silence. Awkwardly she put out her left hand - her right arm hung uselessly at her side, the shattered bone gleaming whitely among the torn flesh - and touched his head gently; the blood was already hardening. She drew a long, shuddering breath.
How long was I unconscious? she thought, panic flooding her. Perhaps they will come back again; or maybe John's message got through and someone will come to help us. The thought drove her into action. Ignoring the pain of her bruised body she left John; there was nothing she could do for him. Now she must follow the plan she and John had decided on when they had worked out the risks to be taken. She crossed to the tiny store-room. She must have energy to help her get as far into the mountains as possible. Too small a distance and her body might well be found before it was sufficiently unrecognisable as alien. She tucked a few capsules into a pocket and lifted an oilcan. Opening it was a nightmare business but it was done at last. Carefully she poured the contents around the radio and over the body of her husband, closing her mind to the inevitable result of her action - there was no time for sentiment now. Sighing for the use of a serviceable phaser she took the primitive firelighters from the shelf, cursing her one-handedness as she struggled to draw the head across the striking surface. It was done at last and she dropped the small flame into the oil; the blaze almost caught her clothes before she stepped back clumsily.
"Goodbye, my darling," she told John. "I'm on my way to join you very soon."
She crossed to the small window and looked out; no-one was in sight. The door creaked as she opened it cautiously and she paused, wondering if any of the infuriated mob were still waiting for either of them to emerge. There was no sound and the heat inside the room was becoming unbearable. The longing to stay with her husband grew, but she knew what she must do, that she must not be found. If only she could be certain her body would be completely destroyed she would stay, but she dared not take the risk.
Once outside, she no longer hesitated but ran, swift as a hare, across the short grass and upward to the mountains.
* * * * * * * *
Peace on the bridge.
It can't last! Kirk thought, relaxing in the command chair. Things are never quiet this long.
"Captain!" Uhura's voice. Urgent and incisive. "An S.O.S. from Kassler. The preliminary survey station is under attack!" She swung round in her chair. "Message is repeating, sir. I don't think he had time to hear my acknowledgement."
"Plot in a course, Mr. Chekov." Kirk came upright. "How far away are we, Mr. Spock?"
"Approximately thirty-six point four hours at warp 6, sir. We seem to be the nearest vessel."
"Tell Starfleet we're on our way."
* * * * * * * *
McCoy lifted enquiring eyebrows as the landing party assembled in the transporter room.
"Where's your shadow?" he murmured in Kirk's ear. "It's not like Spock to let himself be left out."
Kirk grinned. "Haven't you noticed that he tends to stick out in a crowd, Bones? This is only a preliminary survey team, no contact has yet been made. We keep out of sight and don't draw any attention to ourselves. Ready, Scotty?"
"Aye, sir, ye've got the place to yourselves."
They materialised beside the burned-out remains of the small hut. Chekov studied his tricorder. Kirk looked around him. The view was spectacular. Behind him the mountains rose, gaunt and snow-capped, ahead the lower slopes fell away in grassy meadows smothered with yellow flowers. Only the mauve turquoise colours of the sky told him it was not Earth.
"Sir, there are traces of only one body inside the hut. Two persons are on record in the team, John and Mary Gordon. The body is male, there is no sign of Mary Gordon."
"Thank you, Mr. Chekov. Anyone else around?"
Chekov swung the tricorder round. "Down there in the valley, sir, there's a small village. Nobody else near, sir. Wait a minute - yes, there is one reading up there in the mountains, sir, but... "
"What is it?"
"Something odd, Captain. The reading is confused. No, I see. Sir, it's... no, it's Human. It could be Mrs. Gordon, sir."
"Well, we can't beam her up until we're sure," Kirk said grimly. "How far away is it?"
"About six kilometers, sir. Assuming she left when the fire started - that was about thirty hours ago - she hasn't got very far."
"Thirty hours? Are you sure?"
"Then it wasn't the fire that destroyed the radio," Kirk said. "Gordon sent out the call six hours before that. We'd better see if we can find her."
"She may be hurt," McCoy said. "Six kilometers is no distance in thirty hours. Why didn't she wait for us?"
"She can't have known the message got through," Kirk told him. "Check that reading, Mr. Chekov. We'll get Scotty to beam us closer."
McCoy touched his arm and pointed. "Someone beaming down, Jim."
"I gave no order," Kirk growled. "Who is it?"
"Bet he's got a logical reason," McCoy grumbled as a familiar figure took shape.
"Mr. Spock, I left no order for you to join us," Kirk said. "Your explanation had better be good, you're putting the Prime Directive at risk coming down here."
Spock made no sign that he had even heard. As though he were alone he walked past them and towards the mountains. McCoy's mouth came open.
"Spock!" Kirk yelled. "Where do you think you're going?" The tall figure did not break his stride.
"Come on!" Kirk set off after him. His communicator bleeped. "Damn. Get after him, Chekov, and tell him I want him back here. Kirk here."
"Sir." It was Scott, sounding harassed. "Spock just beamed down. Kyle tried to stop him, but he gave him a neck pinch and left."
"We've seen him, Scotty. Any idea why?"
"No, sir. He didn't speak to anyone. Uhura says he just got up and left the bridge in the middle of watch."
"All right," Kirk said, although it was anything but. "We'll deal with it here. Kirk out."
He set off, motioning McCoy to follow. "What do you make of that, Bones? Has he been showing any signs of strain recently?"
"Huh?" McCoy was incredulous. "No," he added shortly. "As far as I know he's been acting quite normally - for him."
"Well, he's not at the moment. Look."
McCoy rounded the rock behind Kirk and broke into a run. He bent over Chekov, scanner out. "Nerves temporarily paralysed. He's been neck-pinched, Jim. He'll be round in a minute."
"Stay with him," Kirk ordered. "I'll go after Spock."
"Be careful, Jim!" McCoy yelled after him. "That Vulcan packs quite a punch, remember."
Kirk caught a glimpse of blue up ahead and ran. The Vulcan was walking swiftly and steadily onwards. taking no notice of Kirk's shouts and eventually he gave up calling and concentrated on running. When he caught up he slowed to a walk and fell in beside Spock.
"Well, you haven't just come for the walk, Spock. That is it?" No response. "Spock, what's the matter with you?"
The Vulcan walked steadily on, eyes fixed ahead of him, face blank and immobile. Kirk lost his temper.
"You've gone as far as you're going. We stop right here, and that's an order."
Well, he hadn't really expected it to work. He grabbed at his First Officer's arm and was knocked aside by a massive punch to his jaw. He rolled to his feet and closed in again, not relishing a fight with Spock but resigned to the apparently inevitable. Luckily Spock seemed more bent on keeping steadily along his chosen path rather than on disabling Kirk and was generally content merely to roll Kirk aside each time he attacked. Realising this Kirk settled for a flying tackle to the Vulcan's knees and brought him crashing to the ground. Having got him there he hung on grimly... only to find himself being pulled along as the Vulcan continued to drag himself single-mindedly in the same direction. Bruised and battered, Kirk held on wildly yelling the Vulcan's name. It seemed that Spock's strength would never give out.
"Hang on, Jim!" That was McCoy's voice.
"I am hanging on!" he yelled back, "but I can't stop him!"
Boots pounded across the grass, there was the hiss of a hypo and Kirk was no longer moving. He relaxed his grip tentatively; the legs remained still. Thankfully, Kirk rolled over and sat up. His right side felt as though he had been though a mill and his right tunic sleeve and trouser leg were shredded. Numerous grass cuts stung along his leg and arm. He looked across at Spock. The Vulcan's fingers were torn and bleeding from dragging them both.
McCoy hauled out his medikit. "Why I ever bother to patch you two up I don't know," he complained. "You'd better have a shot, heaven knows what you've picked up with all that dirt."
Kirk submitted to the hypo, crawled over to Spock and lifted his head. "He's still out cold, Bones."
"Well, of course," McCoy replied with satisfaction. "When I knock someone out they stay out."
"What's wrong with him? He took no notice of me until I tried to stop him. Even when I got him down he still kept going in that direction. Why?"
McCoy shrugged. "That's where Chekov reckoned Mary Gordon is."
Kirk gazed ahead. "Even if he was making for Mary Gordon, why?"
"He's coming round. Maybe he can tell you."
Spock sat up, hands to his stomach. "I feel nauseated," he said thickly. "Dr. McCoy must have been tending me."
"Well," Kirk said, "you seem to be back with us again, Mr. Spock. Where were you off to?"
Spock had taken in his surroundings by this time and his bony face came as close to bewilderment as Kirk had ever seen it. "Spock, if you dare to say 'Where am I?'... "
"It is quite obvious to me that I am on Kassler, Captain. What I do not understand is how I got here."
"You beamed down," Kirk told him. "You abandoned your post while on duty, assaulted the transporter chief and beamed down against orders. Since when you have assaulted a fellow officer, assaulted your Captain and were finally overcome by the single-handed bravery of Dr. McCoy." McCoy smirked. "Have you anything to say, Mr. Spock?"
Spock considered this conscientiously. "No, sir."
"Don't you remember any of it?" Kirk fingered his bruised jaw. Spock's eyes followed his fingers and then fell to his own knuckles. "It was a righthander," Kirk told him helpfully.
"Assaulting a fellow officer is a very serious offence," Spock said soberly.
Kirk nodded. "So your reasons had better be good, Mister. When we know what they are."
"When you two have quite finished fencing round the subject of whether or not you're likely to put him on a charge," McCoy broke in, "there's still the problem of Mary Gordon. We have to find her, Jim, always supposing that is her up there. Why should Spock be going in the same direction?"
"Could be coincidence."
McCoy snorted. "It could be. But I doubt it, and so do you."
"Has Mrs. Gordon disappeared?" Spock asked.
"Yes. We found John Gordon's body in what was left of the survey hut. It had been burned down. Mary wasn't there. There's a solitary reading out that way that could be her."
Spock frowned. "But these preliminary survey teams are under the same prime directive as we are, to die rather than allow primitive races to learn of their origins. Surely they would have had suicide capsules for use if everything else failed."
"She might not have had the courage when it came to the crunch," Kirk said quietly. "You never know until it actually happens. I, for one, would not condemn her for that. She may have chosen to hide, hoping that Gordon got a message through and that we would find her."
"The locals were obviously het up about something," McCoy pointed out, "or they wouldn't have been under attack. At least she was doing the right thing by getting out of their way."
"We're talking in a vacuum," Kirk said. "We need two answers. Where is Mary Gordon and where was Spock going in such a hurry? And while I'm asking questions, where is Mr. Chekov?"
"I sent him back aboard, Jim. He was still pretty shaky. That must have been some pinch Spock gave him. I had to give him a shot to pull him out of it. Scotty has a replacement standing by for you."
McCoy got up and held a hand out to Spock. That the Vulcan accepted his help was a certain sign that he was not feeling a hundred per cent fit.
"We'll get Spock back on board," Kirk said, "and then we'll carry on looking for Mary Gordon."
"No!" The word seemed wrenched out of Spock. "I must... carry on."
Kirk gave him one startled look. It was totally unlike Spock, such a stickler for discipline, to offer such a contradiction. "Mr. Spock, you are not fit to carry on, and furthermore, you should not have come in the first place. Your presence here is a potential problem for us all. You must return to the ship."
"No!" It was almost a cry of pain. "I have to go on." As though jerked by a string he began to move towards the mountains, eyes once more fixed straight ahead.
"Stay with him for the moment," Kirk said abruptly. "Don't try and stop him." He flipped open his communicator. "Scotty, maintain a constant fix on Mr. Spock and if I give the word, beam him up at once. And be prepared for trouble, have M'Benga standing by in case you need to use restraint. Kirk out. Bones, see if you can find out what's wrong."
McCoy paced behind Spock, scanner held out. "Never could hit a moving target," he grumbled. "I wish you'd stay put long enough for anyone to work. And don't walk so fast, either!" he added, beginning to run to keep up with the long-legged stride.
In spite of the seriousness of the situation Kirk could not repress a grin at the two of them trotting along like a pair of puppies around a racehorse. "Strong indications of alpha waves," McCoy panted, frantically studying the joggling instrument. "Jim, he's in some kind of telepathic link-up."
"Well, at last we've got something to work on," Kirk said thankfully. "Check up and make sure we're still alone, Bones. We don't want any of the locals to see him!" He took out his communicator once more. "Scotty, get someone to check the records on Mary Gordon. See if there's any record of telepathic abilities."
"Dammitall," Bones complained. "I'll have to stand still a moment, I can't got an accurate all-round reading like this." He paused, trying to get his breath and take the reading as swiftly as possible, then sprinted to catch up again. "Just the one reading up ahead," he reported, "but getting faint, Jim. Whoever it is they are in some kind of trouble; if we don't get to them soon it'll be too late. And we're being followed. Readings show a group of the villagers coming up the hill to the survey hut. They'll be able to see us soon, unless we can get Spock to get a move on."
"You were wanting him to stand still a while back," Kirk reminded him.
"Come on, Spock, we have to hurry." He got a couple of paces ahead of the striding Vulcan and began to run. Spock increased his speed and the panting McCoy followed gamely behind them. The going was getting more difficult, grassy slopes giving way to patches of bare rock and loose stones, a treacherous surface for running fast. As they topped the rise and descended down the steep side of the next valley McCoy lost his footing in their headlong gallop and came rolling and bouncing past Kirk with muffled yells of agony, before coming to an abrupt stop against a large rock.
Kirk slowed down with difficulty and knelt beside him. Spock paid no heed to either of them but kept relentlessly on. Kirk watched him go out of sight among the rocks and turned his attention to McCoy. The doctor was sitting up, his hands moving over one leg.
"It's broken, Jim. I guess I've got no-one to blame but myself. I was trying to save the tricordor."
"Idiot!" Kirk said forcibly. "You know perfectly well that can stand up to any amount of bashing around." He grabbed at the instrument and checked it swiftly. "They must have seen us, Bones, they've not stopped at the hut." He whipped out his communicator. "Get us out of here, Scotty, on the double. Have a medical team standing by."
As the transporter room settled around them he dragged McCoy off the platform. "Now get Spock up here quickly. M'Benga, get ready with a tranquilliser shot, we may need it. Don't let him get at the console, Scotty, he may try to beam down again."
The next few minutes were hectic to say the least, but once the inert figure of Spock and the protesting McCoy were taken off to sickbay, Kirk had time to gather his thoughts again.
"Anything on Mary Gordon, Scotty?"
"Lt. Jansen has been checking, sir."
She was taking too long about it. Kirk went to the intercom and jabbed at the button. "Jansen, what have you got on Mary Gordon?"
"Sir, the record seems to be incomplete."
"Incomplete? But that's impossible."
"Yes, sir. But the records of parentage are missing and the physiology file is incomplete. I don't understand it. I've been checking through the system but the computer hasn't come up with anything."
"Have the records been tampered with?"
"If they have, it's been done by an expert. As far as I can tell the record was entered this way. If Mr. Spock could check it over, sir, he might be able to see how it was done, he has a K-7 classification."
"Keep working on it yourself for the moment, Lieutenant." He thumbed the switch and swung round. "Scotty, we've got to find out if that solitary reading is Mary Gordon, and find out quickly. Get a fix from the tricorder reading and beam me down there. If it is her we'll get her on board and find out just what is going on around here."
Scott set him down in a rocky defile close to the life reading. "She's on your left, sir," he reported, "surrounded by rock. I guess in some sort of cave."
"I see it. Stand by."
Kirk climbed the rocks to the dark opening and ducked inside. There was a scrabble of movement up ahead and a small whimper of pain.
"Mrs. Gordon?" He peered into the gloom. "It's all right, no need to hide any more." He was taking one hell of a risk; if it was not Mary Gordon he would have to think quickly. The dim shape was visible now, one hand going to its mouth. Instinctively Kirk dived and grabbed at the wrist, forcing the hand down. The crushed capsule lay, wine dark, in the palm of her hand.
"That's not necessary now, Mrs. Gordon," he said gently. "I'm from the Enterprise, you're quite safe."
"No, you must let me... " she said desperately. "I want to die here, no-one will find me."
"They're on your trail now," Kirk said. "Scotty, beam us up."
In the clear light of the transporter room he could see how badly she was hurt. Her face and legs were one mass of bruises and the broken arm hung at an obscene angle, the green blood caked around the open wound.
Green blood! It was going to be M'Benga's busy day.
* * * * * * * *
"Vulcan," McCoy snorted. "I might have known it. Nothing but trouble... "
"I am not Vulcan!" Mary Gordon almost shouted it. "I'm Human!"
"Mrs. Gordon, you have caused a considerable amount of trouble up to now," Kirk said grimly. "Outwardly you appear to be Human, I agree, but you cannot deny that you have Vulcan ancestry. I want to know how you managed to get yourself into a survey team for a humanoid planet in the first place, how you falsified Starfleet records, and how you sent my First Officer berserk, and I want straight answers."
He wasn't going to get them, it seemed. "I am not Vulcan," she persisted. "I have never considered myself to be Vulcan. My grandfather came from Vulcan but my mother was pure Terran."
"It happens," McCoy confirmed. "It's rare, but it happens. But she passed Vulcan genes on to you all the same and you must have known it. After all, you can't go through life without noticing your blood is a different colour."
"It is the only thing," she persisted. "Physiologically and psychologically I am Human. I have no other Vulcan characteristics at all. I never wanted to be Vulcan either, not after all my mother told me about her childhood. It was dreadful; we all tried to help her forget."
McCoy looked gleefully across at Spock, but refrained from sarcasm. The Vulcan looked as though he was suffering the worst sick headache of his lifetime. He decided to let it pass - for the moment, anyway.
"Mrs. Gordon, whether or not you consider yourself totally Human is beside the point," Kirk said patiently. "No doctor would have passed you for the team once he had examined you."
"But he did," she insisted. "I went through all the usual tests. I didn't expect to get through them, I admit, but I wanted to go with John so badly. When I passed we could hardly believe our luck, and we decided that if anything went wrong I must get out and die somewhere alone where I wouldn't be found."
"Naive as a couple of babies," McCoy said bluntly. "You must have known that we would have to find you somehow."
"You have put many lives at risk," Kirk said sternly, "and so far your answers are most unsatisfactory. I want much more information on how you managed to falsify Starfleet records to the extent you have."
"I believe I can offer some explanation, Captain."
"Spock?" The Vulcan hesitated. "Well, out with it, man."
"If I may put a question to Mrs. Gordon, sir." Kirk nodded impatiently. The Vulcan turned to Mary Gordon. "Are you aware that you have a very high degree of telepathic ability?"
"No!" She was emphatic. "I have no telepathic ability at all. I told you, I am not Vulcan."
"Other races have telepathic abilities as well," he told her. "Some Humans are also born with the talent. I suspect that you have unconsciously suppressed it all your life and that you were unaware of it on a conscious level. However, you have demonstrated your ability to force others to do what you wish. When you hid yourself away you told yourself that you wished to die, but you were transmitting a call for help so powerful that it reached me on board the Enterprise and I was forced to respond to that call to the exclusion of everything else. I have never experienced such a profound... invasion... of my mind."
"And you think that she influenced the examining doctor, Spock?" Kirk demanded.
"I am sure of it, sir. If she wanted to be with her husband, then she would let nothing stop her. The doctor would never have known that his findings and his report were inaccurate."
"It's not true." Mary Gordon was shocked. "It's simply not true. How can you say such things about me?"
"Mr. Spock is not accusing you," Kirk said gently. "He merely states facts as he sees them. It's hard for all of us to 'see ourselves as others see us', but Spock is very good at making us take a long, hard, new look at our most deeply held convictions. Believe me, we've all had to adjust our way of thought a little since we met him."
She stared hard at Spock, eyes hard and angry, then her expression changed to bewilderment and finally to fear. "It's true... I never felt that before. You... you were reading my thoughts."
"No." Spock shook his head. "I have cultural blocks against invading another mind unbidden. You were reading my thoughts, testing my willingness to say what you wanted to hear."
"Yes," she whispered. "You are right. I always do that and... people are always helpful. I thought that... I was lucky, and really, I've been having my own way all my life?"
"In effect, yes," Spock said soberly.
"That attack on the survey hut," Kirk reminded them. "Why couldn't she have prevented that?"
"I wasn't in the hut when they attacked," she said slowly. "The women had asked me to go down to the village... but I knew something was wrong... that I had to get back to John. They were all screaming around the but and throwing rocks and spears. I was hit several times before they stopped, then they all ran off and I went inside and found John dead. Then I fainted." She bit her lip, clearly close to tears. McCoy caught Kirk's eye and shook his head. Kirk took the hint, and rose.
"We must let you rest for now, Mrs. Gordon. We can go into this more fully when you are recovered... How's the leg, Bones?" he asked, when they reached McCoy's office.
"Sore," McCoy said succinctly. "Spock, you'd better let me give you a headache pill."
"No, thank you, Doctor. I have no wish to add an upset stomach to my problems."
"Gave you a headache, did she?" Kirk grinned. "Well, women affect us all differently, don't they, Bones?"
His First Officer ignored this. "Doctor, Mrs. Gordon has the most powerful mind I have ever encountered. She should be taught how to use the ability properly or she will be a potential danger to everyone she meets."
"Well, I can't do anything, Spock, she'll have to go to Vulcan... " His voice died. "Spock?" he said accusingly.
"Precisely, Doctor," Spock said blandly. "You will have to spend several weeks extolling Vulcan culture."
"This I have to hear," Kirk told them both, affectionately.
Copyright Meg Wright