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Chapter 19 – Appeasement vs. The Offensive
The bridge of the Deuteronomy was eerily silent. Spock watched Captain Kirk nestled in his seat of authority with a pensive expression, his friend and colleague was regarding the entire situation with carefully guarded suspicion. He was clearly unsure of the next course of action.
"Commander," Nyota's gentle, strong voice broke into the rapid oscillation of Spock's thoughts. He wanted to reach out and touch the smooth skin of her hands. There was a shared sadness between them, one that had been fed by the horrific mirror image they had seen of their own lives. In the same way that mirrors alter the orientation of their reflections, both Spock and Nyota had seen a history where Vulcans bore no logic and humankind did not lead the Federation.
She had not wanted to leave T'Lew and Gray aboard the ship but they were, for all intents and purposes, still part of a rebel crew and Kirk refused on the grounds of the obviously growing attachment his crew was forming. So Nia and Sirek's son and daughter, along with two-hundred-and-seventeen others from the alternate time-frame, in metastasis, suspended in sleep until a reasonable solution could be found to keep all of them both safe and sane.
"Yes, Lieutenant," he replied, pausing before doing so.
"He's crying again."
"I am aware of this. My procrastination was with purpose. I hoped he would return to a restful state."
"It seems unlikely," she gave him an urging nod.
Spock turned to Kirk, engrossed in several blinking datapads. Sulu and Chekov, both a little worse-for-wear, were plotting the fastest, safest course to Earth with the alternate Enterprise in tow, while before them all, what had once been Vulcan loomed, a black void in the distance, ever threatening to send all their lives back into chaos.
Scotty had been gone for hours, surveying the ship's engines. They seemed to have suffered extensive modification. It seemed that in the short time the Deuteronomy had been in Sirek's possession, he had ordered many alterations which were now proving extremely dangerous. However, without being able to trust the huge crew they could not pilot the other ship. Scotty had absolutely no idea how to repair a system which was no powered solely on Red Matter, or even what the effects of using such a system would be.
Furthermore, if Scotty did not have enough faith to move the Deuteronomy, then neither did Kirk. Instead, the crew pawed over everything they knew about the Raynes, and everything they had managed to garner on the other Enterprise and began to piece together a very complex but frightening picture.
"I will see to Sonek, Captain," Spock explained although there was no real need. He was gaining more and more of the unnecessary attributes of human conversation.
Kirk nodded absentmindedly, "And send Bones in here, would ya?" he barked, still shuffling between datapads. Spock knew as well as he that these attempts at research were most likely futile.
"As you wish, Captain."
"If he doesn't settle," Nyota began.
"If your assistance is required I will not hesitate from notifying you," his dark eyes softened in response to Nyota's troubled expression.
She had developed an almost fiercely protective bond with Sonek in a very short amount of time. Spock was unsure whether this was due her feelings regarding the young boy's traumatic past or something altogether more sinister. Mental manipulation was possible. Sonek had not experienced a full spectrum of sentient expression and interaction. It was very likely that he regarded Sirek's behaviour and perspective as normal.
All-the-same, Spock and McCoy had argued vehemently that Sonek stay with them. He had been kept in silence for too long. The more interaction he could gain, the greater his chance for a more positive future.
Sonek's love for Doctor McCoy, and it was indeed an arduous infatuation, had also grown steadily since the child had been recovered from his prison. Spock assumed that this was due to Sonek's interpretation of the doctor's medical ministrations as affection. That said, up until this moment McCoy had been integral to keeping Sonek calm.
The boat of serenity had now sailed and whenever he required communication and the boy was greedy in his need for this, he would howl and cry in high-pitched squeaks until the required person came to his aid. Whenever he wanted a kiss or a cuddle, he would project images of Nyota doing so into Spock's mind, forcing him to feel the almost overwhelming pleasure the sensation gave Sonek.
There were times when he would transpose the rough texture of Doctor McCoy's voice, requiring that sound. As a Vulcan, Spock found the nakedness of Sonek's emotions difficult to contend with. They were not cloaked with any decorum or filtered by any particular human decency. This, more than anything else, unsettled Spock, the way Sonek desired in the most unashamed sense of the word. There was something distinctly animalistic and primal about all of Sonek's communication.
Spock walked into the small room where Sonek was being kept, and was instantly greeted by a scene of distress. Doctor McCoy held up his tricorder to Sonek as if it were a weapon. The wailing continued, dissonant shrieks and squeals, coupled with rapid shaking of paw-like hands and an overflow of drool.
"His vitals are fine, damnit!" McCoy glared at Spock before he had even said one word.
Sonek reached to the wall by which Spock stood and almost instantly Spock felt his own throat grow parched, dry and cracked and lacking in moisture. He understood quickly that these feelings were Sonek's and not his own. However, the sensation was still uncomfortable.
The methods by which Sonek could transmit his feelings were astonishing. The scientist in Spock repeatedly wished to test this phenomenon, its capabilities, and its genesis. What exactly had triggered such an intense response in this young child? If Spock could isolate the cause then, well it would be a scientific breakthrough.
Then he realised that he had, for an instance, held a shared goal with Sirek. This utterly repulsed him.
Sonek should certainly not be forced to a life as a scientific subject but deserved to exist solely as a child with thoughts and needs, a loved and wanted member of a family. However, the scientist within refused to completely disregard the wellspring of telepathic intrigue which was stored in Sonek's small mind.
Spock felt another surge of self-loathing at this prospect. He would have to meditate as soon as occasion arose for it. This was something that he had required for days, in order to organise his thoughts. It was a mandatory way of Vulcan life, to keep his emotions under his control and within boundaries that he could define.
"Sonek simply requires hydration," Spock explained to Dr McCoy. "He becomes easily frustrated by his inability to communicate with you."
"You don't say!" McCoy watched with irritation as Spock ushered a baby's bottle of water into Sonek's waiting mouth. Drinking, like most processes for the boy, was an unskilled and messy venture.
"The Captain requires your presence on the bridge," Spock replied smoothly while Sonek continued to splutter and choke, unable to balance his thirst with the necessity of breathing.
"But last time..." McCoy's sturdy voice trailed off. The last occasion he had attempted to leave Sonek alone resulted in a tantrum of epic proportions. The child could only be pacified by a warm embrace from Nyota.
"In that case," Spock replied, "Sonek believed you would leave him in solitary confinement. Rest assured that my presence will prevent the incident recurring in this instance."
McCoy stood slowly with a gruff nod and took a slow step towards the door. Spock had spent enough time around humans to know hesitation when he witnessed it.
"I appreciate your concern, Doctor," Spock did not turn to address him, "and Sonek does also. You have a way with this child and he is enamoured by you."
"He ain't so bad himself," Dr McCoy's voice echoed gruff embarrassment and a hint of affection. Then he left Spock and Sonek alone.
And then it was just them. Sonek lifted a curved hand and batted away the bottle. He was satiated. Then with a constantly shaking motion he reached forward and touched Spock's naked hand. Instantly Spock saw tableaus of his own image, carrying out a frenzied beating, arms and legs flailing in furious abandon, shouting.
Spock shirked away from the relentless replay of Sirek's abuse. Sonek did not know what the word meant; it was 'failure' in the Vulcan language.
"It is not I," he said in Vulcan although he knew well that Sonek was incapable of understanding complex speech of any kind.
Then Sonek smiled, a globule of shiny saliva dripped from his mouth and Spock instantly reached for a nearby napkin to gently catch the offending dribble. Sonek had formed a habit of tearing off the bibs they had attempted to put on him and his inability to use a toilet meant that getting him into and out of a nappy was also quite troublesome.
He reached forward to Spock again, the almost sleepy smile in his glassy squinting eyes and communicated in the only way he could. All of him was uncomfortable and sweaty from the exertions of crying. He wished to feel comfortable – he wished that Spock would bathe him and change his soiled underclothes and make him feel refreshed.
He had very much liked the way the lights refracted off the water, how it was warm and it got everywhere – he very much enjoyed being bathed and as terrified as he had been of Sirek, he exuded an expression, an aura-almost of love for Spock. That was why Sonek had replayed the severe beatings he had suffered, because on some level he was attempting to make a comparison.
"I will bathe you," Spock said gently and wiped a little more of the saliva from Sonek's mouth and carefully began to undress the boy.
He decided in that instance that Sonek should no longer be separated from the rest of the crew. The Captain had allowed him to be on this ship and therefore, Sonek would be given the privilege of every other member of the crew, to be on the bridge, at the forefront of the action. This would prove more efficient, seeing as all of the crewmembers could assist in Sonek's care and no member would be relegated to this side-room.
Spock's conclusion was reached through a series of logical ideas and assumptions; however, at the centre of his decision was an undeniable need to keep Sonek close by.
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Nyota hands floated over her console in a series of fluid, rapid movements as she tapped in the correct co-ordinates. She was soaked in trepidation, a slight tremble in her limbs as she finally heard the most welcome words through her communicator.
"Captain!" Nyota addressed, nervous excitement flooded her belly; the transmission was the most hopeful piece of correspondence that the crew had received.
"Lieutenant," Kirk pre-empted her response, "the Federation?"
"Yes – an unnamed division. Apparently they apologise for our previous isolation and are taking all of our new information into account."
"What is that supposed to mean?!" Kirk blurted, "Sulu, where in damn is Scotty? Bones, why hasn't Spock come back in all this time? Someone go and get my crew!"
The bridge sprang to life as the orders were carried out.
"Patch you through to High Command, Captain?" Nyota inquired. She was used to Kirk's frequent and unnecessary outbursts of frustrated emotion. "They are now accepting our frequency."
"Better time than any," Kirk self-consciously smoothed down the collar of his regulation uniform and looked pointedly at the screen.
"Captain Kirk?" said a pale-haired, middle-aged American with a lisp and pink cheeks. His suit was immaculate but the fuzzy uncombed tuft on his head radiated stress.
"That's who you're speaking to. Now who are you and why have we been left dawdling for the past forty-seven hours?"
"I regret that you have been uniformed. However, I believe that is about to come to an end. My name is Cartery Slakeson and I am an expert in chronological intemperance. High Command placed me in charge of this delicate mission. You see – what you carry is basically a detonator to an intergalactic, inter-reality war."
"I know what's in my back-pocket," Kirk's voice carried a hard edge, "but while you at High Command were burying your heads, Rayne and the Iris Corporation were setting up base in San Francisico. The stolen mountains have been converted to enough Red Matter to blow our universe to hell. Those mountains ain't coming back. They were an experiment – those millions are fuel for this war to burn. So, excuse-me Mr. Inter-chrono-book guy, I have a ticking time bomb about to go off up my ass and I'm trapped on a ship that runs on time dust. So you tell me – what in fuck am I supposed to do?"
The bridge had slowly filled as Kirk spoke, reminding them all of how dire their situation still was.
Sonek had taken a seat by Nyota's feet and was now rocking back and forth, thumbing a criss-crossed piece of leather material that Chekov had given him. His eyes were glazed as he bounced; paws braced in front of him like a begging puppy.
"In that case, Captain Kirk," Slakeson announced momentously, "we will come for you."
All was silent on the bridge at this unexpected news. The Federation were coming. Finally, someone was going to sort out this dreadful mess.
"How long?" Kirk did not move an inch.
"Seventy-two hours," Slakeson's throat closed in an extraordinary coughing fit and he reached forward and switched off the transmission.
The corpse of the futuristic Enterprise was ghostly; those that breathed within its chambers did so only under the duress of their lungs, in a deep state of sleep which barely allowed dreaming or imagining. They were waiting for life to return to what it had once been: sensible, chronological, or, if possible, to end for them finally. Sirek's plan had failed. He had not secured the Deuteronomy or stayed in charge of his operation. Surely there was no other course of action but to rescind.
However, in the deep belly of the ship, while the crew on the Deuteronomy were planning their rueful escape, some way to rectify all the mistakes that had been made, somewhere, a lyre began to play. One soul had not fallen into a truly metastatic state; one inhabitant of the great metal boat could not be so easily put down. Sirek was very much conscious and very much alive.
Not long now... you read it, now leave your mark
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