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Valerie Piacentini

Spock was engaged in repairing the guidance system of the wrecked shuttlecraft when McCoy beamed down from the Enterprise and beckoned him aside.

"A moment, Doctor. Mr. Scott, how long do you estimate to complete repairs?"

"I'll have her ready to go in an hour," the engineer promised. "She's ta'en an awful battering, but she'll fly again."

"Thank you. Inform me if you encounter any difficulties."

"It's a mess, all right," McCoy commented as the two moved away. "Lucky you were able to set her down, Spock."

The Vulcan offered no reply, but his eyes asked a question; the doctor grinned in answer. "Jim's fine - he's resting easily now. I want to check you out when we get back to the ship, though... and I suppose I'd better do a postmortem on the pilot."

Spock stiffened slightly at that, and the keen blue eyes narrowed in concentration - Spock was disturbed about something... that control was too rigid, too perfect.

For the moment however he chose not to pursue the matter directly; glancing round at the tranquil landscape he remarked appreciatively, "If you had to get yourselves stranded, at least you picked a pleasant spot."

"You think so? The interference on the sensors effectively concealed the dangers of this planet."

"Dangers?" McCoy looked around again. "No predators, plenty of water, vegetation, no sentient life-forms...what could harm you here?"

"The water is poisonous to all non-indigenous life forms. It was fortunate that I was able to filter out the harmful ingredients, as all the emergency supplies in the shuttlecraft were destroyed. I could not risk moving the Captain, and my own injuries, though minor, slowed me to such an extent that I could not search for a pure water supply - if one exists here. We were dependent on what we could find in the immediate locality."

"It's clear you did well enough; Jim lost a great deal of blood, but the food you were able to find sustained his strength ... if he'd gone hungry he would have been too weak to survive. Where's Syron's body?"

"Over here."

"You had to kill, of course... Spock, I'm sorry, I know how you must feel... but he needed meat. An animal's life - or Jim's..."

"I did not kill." The Vulcan halted abruptly and began to dismantle a pile of stones.

McCoy looked down in horror. "That didn't happen in the crash!" He looked up, accusation dawning. "It's been... cut..."

"You must understand." So expressionless, that alien face, but the quiet voice pleaded. "Everything... all the plant life, every animal I tested, contained the same poison as the water. There was nothing - nothing - that he could consume safely. Death if he ate, death if he did not. I chose that he should live. Doctor, he does not know... he must not know."

"But ... this - "

"Unpleasant, but necessary. The consumption of flesh to sustain life is abhorrent, but to permit suffering and death when it can be avoided is criminal. Cultural taboos are strong... but there was no other choice. Syron was dead and beyond harm; Jim lived, and could be saved." The strong hands gripped McCoy's shoulders, forcing him to meet the anguished gaze. "Should I have let him die, Doctor? Should I?"

Spock had his answer as the blue eyes dropped before him.


Copyright Valerie Piacentini