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The planet called Thorsten had been settled for nearly half a century. The colony on Thorsten was well established. Its economy should have been flourishing. It should have been expanding.
Instead, it had been first static, then failing, for two or three years; now it was collapsing.
Governor Masters was known to have reached his level of inefficiency on Thorsten; he had been a satisfactory enough assistant governor, but once he was in a situation where he had nobody to pass the buck to (should it prove necessary), he proved to be of an irresolute nature, but he was not incompetent enough to be removed from office. To be incompetent, a man has to do something, make some decisions, usually wrong, and he did neither. He simply coasted along, letting events take their course, and for several years they did so without any trouble.
Then the titanium mines began to show a growing drop in production.
Since they had no valid reason to deprive him of office, Masters' superiors in the Colonisation Office kept pressuring him for reasons for the lack of continuing expansion in the titanium mines, in the hope that the constant harassment would encourage him to resign - especially since he was nearing retirement age.
Masters, to give him his due, did make an attempt, as persistent as his rather easy-going, vacillating nature would permit, to discover the reason for the poor production figures from the mines that were the main source of income for the planet. But incompetent leadership does not encourage conscientiousness among his underlings unless an ambitious one sees an opportunity to bring his face to the attention of those in supreme power; and there was no opportunity for that on Thorsten, since all reports to the Colonisation Office, and from them to the Federation Council, went through the governor. Masters' department heads had become lazy, giving only the appearance of brisk efficiency when he was around, knowing that their superior lacked the drive to do anything positive about it if indeed he even noticed their negligence.
And then Masters, who for so long had been too irresolute even to decide to remove himself from a position that he found unbearably demanding, finally made a positive decision and took early retiral, driven to it at last by the continual pressure from his superiors.
The powers that be at the Colonisation Office breathed a collective sigh of relief and put their heads together to select a successor. They discussed qualifications, this time looking for someone who had proven experience in colony governorship rather than an assistant applying for promotion.
After much thought, the decision was make to appoint Roald Dorcas to the post.
Despite a well-deserved reputation for being able to get satisfactory work out of a stone, Dorcas had always maintained a good relationship with the men under him. He went to Thorsten quite sure that within a month the planet's problems would be at an end; he was convinced that these problems were all the responsibility of the previous Governor, whose reputation - or lack of one -- had become well-known throughout diplomatic circles.
He was wrong.
Not only did his arrival fail to improve the situation; within a very short time he realised that matters were growing rapidly worse. Despite every incentive he could offer, production of titanium continued to drop. The miners claimed that they were producing almost as much of the ore as they had ever done - there was dissatisfaction over certain of the working conditions and a work to rule in operation - but the weight of titanium leaving the mines was steadily diminishing.
His study of the figures led him to the unwelcome conclusion that the miners were lying, although he could not understand why they should. An inspection of the mines showed that the veins of ore were still rich. Certainly the miners had had some genuine grievances, none of them particularly major - Masters' vacillation and unwillingness to commit himself to any concession that he might have to justify later were responsible for many of them - but Dorcas quickly managed to resolve most of these and promised to look into the remainder. The work to rule was suspended. It had made no difference to the production figures.
Unlike Masters, Dorcas was not afraid to admit that a situation had become impossible. His report to the Colonisation Office listed everything that he had done in an attempt to resolve the problems as well as the few things that Masters had managed to suggest, and finished with a request that an experienced negotiator should be sent to Thorsten in an attempt to discuss the situation with the miners' leaders, for he was still reasonably sure that he had nothing more than a labour dispute to blame for the trouble.
Perhaps predictably, the Colonisation Office reported the lack of progress on Thorsten to the Federation Council, which in turn ordered Starfleet Command to Do Something About It.
Starfleet - also predictably - responded in its usual fashion, by sending in a Starship.
James T. Kirk scowled irritably as Admiral Fitzgerald's image blanked cut, to be replaced by the ever changing starfield. Who did Starfleet think he was - Sherlock Holmes? This situation needed an industrial negotiator, possibly even one skilled in industrial espionage; the situation seemed to Kirk to bear all the hallmarks of typical commercial sabotage.
Certainly it was difficult to think of any group who would be able to benefit from a failed Federation mining colony; before a private group was permitted to take over any Federation-funded project, it had to pay back all the money the Federation had spent in developing that venture as well as showing that it was wealthy enough to do something positive with it. Few industrial groups, no matter how successful, possessed that sort of money.
What of one of the member planets of the Federation? passed through Kirk's mind. He shook his head. The likelihood was vanishingly small, for the failure of a Federation undertaking meant loss to all member planets.
He rose abruptly and crossed to the science station. "Opinion, Mr. Spock. "
The Vulcan shook his head. "The situation is unprecedented," he said quietly. "This is not a normal industrial dispute, that is certain; the miners have made no impossible demands, and while they did have certain grievances these would now appear to have been rectified. It is not a strike nor, now, a work to rule; the miners say they are working normally, that the ore is being produced. Therefore the problem is one outside the industry - despite Governor Dorcas's suspicions."
Kirk nodded gloomily. "I tend to agree," he muttered. He sighed. "Just what Starfleet Command expects us to do..."
Spock glanced at him, the faintest gleam of mischief in his eyes. "It is your own fault, Captain. You have never yet failed to resolve whatever problem Starfleet has assigned to you. If you do not want to be assigned these impossible missions you should endeavour to fail occasionally - "
"And have them think I'm incompetent?" Kirk responded in kind, his mood involuntarily lightened by his friend's teasing even although the indignation in his voice was only half feigned.
The gleam in Spock's eye intensified. "Then it is a matter of pride, Captain? You complain, but you are also proud to be assigned these 'impossible missions'?"
"Dammit, Spock - " Kirk gave a resigned shrug. "I suppose I am," he admitted ruefully. "Not for myself, though..."
"No, not for yourself," Spock said softly. "It's for the Enterprise, isn't it? You're really quite proud that Starfleet automatically thinks of the Enterprise when there is a difficult task to be undertaken."
"Yes. Yes, I am." He glanced round the bridge. "The best ship - and the best crew - in the Fleet."
As the Enterprise swung into orbit around Thorsten Kirk swung the command chair round to face Uhura.
"Contact the Governor, Lieutenant," he ordered.
There was a brief pause, then, "I have Governor Dorcas, air."
"On the main screen."
The face that shimmered into view looked tired, although Kirk knew that Dorcas had only taken over his position a few weeks previously.
"James T. Kirk, commanding the Starship Enterprise, Governor," he introduced himself.
"Captain Kirk. You are most welcome."
"I understand you're having some problems, Governor."
"Yes, Captain. If you would like to beam down we can discuss them with the figures in front of us."
"By all means, Governor." He glanced over at Spock. "You have the co-ordinates, Science Officer?"
He stood. "We'll be straight down, sir. Lt. Uhura, contact Security and tell them that the landing party is to report to the transporter room immediately. Mr. Sulu, you have the con. Mr. Spock - " He headed for the door, the Vulcan at his heels.
The four security guards were already waiting in the transporter room when the Captain and the First Officer walked in.
Security duties were normally undertaken in rotation, but because of the nature of the mission, Kirk had ignored the duty roster on this occasion, and selected four highly experienced men to accompany him. Inexperienced men sometimes made the most elementary of mistakes; although they were well trained in both armed and unarmed combat there were times that it seemed that the men and women who specialised in security were taught nothing else. It never failed to horrify him when he discovered how little some of the new crewmembers knew about possible dangers on alien planets.
The group materialised in Dorcas' office. The Governor began to move forward to greet them, but paused when he saw that his Vulcan guest carried a tricorder which he was studying even as he shimmered into existence.
As the guards scattered to doors and windows, Spock scanned the room carefully with the tricorder, then nodded to Kirk, who was already wiping sweat from his forehead.
"It's clear, Captain."
"Clear?" Dorcas asked, puzzled.
"We wished to ensure that there were no communications devices surreptitiously embedded in, or on, your furniture," Spock explained.
"Oh. You mean bugs?"
"Yes, Governor," Kirk agreed, smiling apologetically.
"I can see why, I think, but do you really think it was necessary? Who would want to bug my office?"
"Offhand I can't think of anyone, but you never know." He indicated Spock. "Mr. Spock is my First Officer - also, incidentally, my Science Officer. I've discussed this situation with him. We're agreed that it has to be caused by something more than a simple labour dispute - "
"Captain," Dorcas interrupted wryly, "labour disputes are seldom simple, but I am now forced to concur. The miners had some legitimate grievances, but most of these were easily dealt with. Any that are still outstanding are being negotiated. There is no reason for the miners to be disrupting the output of titanium ore. Indeed, they say they are working full time and producing a full quota of ore.
"I don't want to disbelieve them, but the production figures have been diminishing steadily." He indicated a wallchart that showed a steadily dropping line. "The colony was almost self-supporting when this started, Captain, even with Masters' mismanagement. The earliest drop in income wasn't big enough to throw the colony into the red, but as it continued... Another six months like this and we'll be showing such a loss that we'll be right back to square one; fifty years away from being self-supporting." Dorcas ran a distracted hand through his hair. "I've got a good reputation, Captain. I'll admit I don't want to lose that. But there's more than that; colonists who settle a new planet expect to have to work hard - it can be practically slave labour in the first few years, depending on how much money has been invested in it in the first place, and there was a lot invested here. I don't want to see all the hard work of two generations of colonists thrown away; I don't want to see the present generation condemned to nothing but constant hard work at a time when they have the right to be expecting an improvement in their standard of living, increased leisure time... That's another reason I don't want to disbelieve the miners. I can't see them being willing to lose a higher standard of living. Yet I have no choice but to disbelieve them.
"There have not been any demands by an outside body, or threats to any personnel on the planet that I know of. Just this impossible drop in output."
Kirk grunted. Dorcas has his priorities right, he decided, as he said, "Governor, the Klingons could be responsible for quite a surprising amount of disruption without even letting themselves be seen. In their eyes, bankrupting a Federation colony could be a legitimate move in the power battle between us."
Hot as it had been inside the office, it was even hotter out of doors - a sticky, humid heat that all of them - even Spock, whose home planet was dry - found enervating. Within seconds the Humans were all sweating profusely, and Spock, whose metabolism was geared to preserving body moisture, found himself wishing that he could sweat - anything, even the loss of precious body fluid, that would relieve the distress of the unpleasant heat would be welcome.
Dorcas took them to the mines, where the manager, Karl Unger, showed them round. The men were all hard at work and, watching them, Kirk decided that the Governor was correct; he did not want to disbelieve these men. From the way they were working, there was no reason for the drop-off in production. Their morale was not good, which was hardly surprising under the circumstances, but they responded to Unger's praise, his occasional joke, in a manner that showed that the mine manager was well liked.
Yet when Unger showed them the production figures, calculated from the amount of ore taken from the grading sheds, these indicated clearly that production had fallen quite sharply.
Kirk said little until they got back to Dorcas' office. There, in the blessed relief of a mere eighty degrees fahrenheit, he said slowly, "When was the last shipment sent out?"
"They go monthly. The last one was three weeks ago."
Kirk turned to the Vulcan. "Mr. Spock - I'd like you to take two of the guards and check out the storage areas here. Compare what's there with the figures for the last three weeks that Mr. Unger showed us."
"Yes, sir." Spock looked over at the guards. "Tadden; Donnelly. Come with me."
The three men went out, and Kirk turned his attention back to Dorcas' records.
He began to look over the records, discussing them with Dorcas. They gave him a history of the colony that he found quite fascinating, and he was soon deep in a study of it. He eventually raised his head from papers showing the first signs of the incompetence of the unmissed Masters to the realisation that fully two hours had passed and there was no sign of Spock's party coming back.
Surprised - checking the storage areas should not have taken half that time - but not yet worried, Kirk reached for his communicator and flipped it open.
"Kirk to Spock. Spock? Come in, Spock."
There was no reply except a faint crackle of static.
"Strange," Kirk muttered. "Kirk to Tadden... Kirk to Donnelly..." His frown deepened when neither replied.
He glanced over to where the two remaining guards were standing by the window, gazing out and exchanging spasmodic conversation. They looked bored, and in all honesty he could not blame them if they were.
The two men jumped, but recovered quickly, turning with every appearance of alertness.
"Sir." Fasleur was a man of few words; Dixon answered for them both.
"I can't get a reply from the rest of the landing party. We'd better go to the storage sheds and see if they're all right. Governor, I'll call on you again tomorrow; but for the moment I must check up on my men."
"Yes, of course, Captain. If there's anything I can do..."
"If there's any trouble, I'll take you up on that, but I imagine there's a simple enough explanation, though offhand I can't think of one."
He nodded a farewell and led the two remaining guards from the office into the intolerable heat of outdoors. Even the clouds that had begun to gather did not chill the air when they passed in front of the sun.
They found the storage area easily enough. It was cluttered-looking, dirty and with a strangely hopeless appearance of neglect - but it was deserted. To call these buildings 'sheds' was not wholly accurate, for they were quite big, but they were built of wood and had a not-quite-permanent air - as if whoever had built them in the first place had intended to replace them at the first opportunity with something more durable but had never found the time to do so.
The three men looked into shed after shed, noting the depressing emptiness of most of them, but finding no sign of the missing trio.
At last Kirk called a halt. He scowled round at the unresponsive buildings as he flicked open his communicator.
"Kirk to Enterprise."
"Enterprise. Lt. Uhura here." Her voice had a background accompaniment of crackling.
"Lieutenant, has Mr. Spock called in?"
Kirk hadn't really expected an affirmative. "Ask Mr. Scott to beam down a full search party - Mr. Spock and two of the guards are missing. Initiate a sensor scan - "
"Scott here, sir," the Chief Engineer's voice interrupted. "Sensors arena' working properly -" The signal faded completely for a moment, replaced by a hissing crackle, then strengthened. "This planet has a heavier than usual magnetic field and it's disrupting the signal."
"Damn. All right, cancel that. But get a search party down. There's only about an hour of daylight left, unfortunately, but I'd like to make full use of it."
Kirk replaced the communicator on his belt. Moments later, he heard the hum of the transporter as the first group of security guards materialised.
In the hour before it became too dark to see properly, the Enterprise's security guards searched the area around the grading and storage sheds as thoroughly as was possible without the help of tricorders. There was too much static electricity in the air; it disrupted the tricorders as much as it had the communicator signal, and as the sky darkened the static interference worsened. Kirk could feel - or thought he could feel - a tingling in his body that corresponded to the crackling of the electricity in the air.
Finally, reluctantly, Kirk gave up for the night. He called the ship again.
"Landing party ready to beam up, Mr. Scott."
"I wouldn't - @**+!@@&! - disruption."
"I didn't quite catch all that, Scotty."
"'**%&%! - working properly, Captain."
Kirk swung round. Intent on his attempted conversation with the ship, he had not heard Dorcas' approach.
"I wouldn't recommend trying to get back to your ship now, Captain. The magnetic interference isn't impossible for most of the day, but it gets worse during the evening - there's a build up of electricity during the heat of the day. It dissipates during the hours of darkness. You'll be able to contact the Enterprise again in the morning. Meanwhile, I can provide quarters for you all. The huts that were put up for the building workers are still used from time to time so they're in good condition, and I've a spare room at my own house where you can stay, Captain."
Well, that explained why he had been able to communicate with Dorcas when they arrived without the annoyance of static crackling disrupting half of what was being said.
"Thank you, Governor." He was not happy about the situation, but realised that it would be ungracious to complain. He was beginning to dislike this planet, he realised, as he wondered why, in almost fifty years, nobody had thought to include information about the nightly magnetic disruption of the atmosphere in the recorded data for Thorsten. Probably because most of the contact and loading of ore was done early in the planet's day. Well, once he returned to the Enterprise, he would personally see to it that the information was entered in the data banks.
Kirk saw his men assigned to the currently empty workers' dormitory Dorcas was offering them. It was at least clean; an air conditioning system had been switched on, and the hut, while not exactly cool, already had the worst heat off it and, according to the Governor, would soon reach a tolerable temperature. Kirk nodded politely as Dorcas added, "There'll be a meal ready soon in the mess - " he indicated a door on the opposite side of the corridor - "and there's a common room along there. I think you'll be comfortable enough."
Kirk hung back slightly as Dorcas turned to the door, glancing at Lt. Gulkin, the ranking member of the search party.
"If you have any problems let me know right away," he murmured.
Kirk followed Dorcas out. In some ways he would have preferred to remain with his men, but he realised that this would be the perfect opportunity to talk over the situation with the Governor in guaranteed privacy. Despite their failure to find any bugs in Dorcas' office, he had become quite suspicious of the security on Thorsten.
The search was resumed at first light.
Several hours later a tricorder trace led a pair of searchers to a pile of rubbish in a narrow alley between two of the sheds.
Tadden's body was roughly buried among the empty boxes and sacks of anonymous, mixed waste. The back of his head was smashed in.
Lt. Cappas reached for his communicator.
"Cappas to Captain Kirk."
"We've found Tadden, sir. He's dead."
"What about Lt. Donnelly and Mr. Spock?"
"No sign as yet, air. We've only just found Tadden. About to resume the search in this area. We're beside the storage sheds, sir."
"I'll be right there."
Kirk paused only long enough to order all the search parties to the storage area and call McCoy down.
Dr. McCoy bent over Tadden's body, scanner busy.
"Killed instantly," he said with the professional impersonality that he assumed at such times to cover his sorrow at the waste of a young life. "He's been dead at least twenty four hours."
"Any other injuries?" Kirk asked.
"No," McCoy replied. "I suspect that someone came up behind him and killed him before he even realised the danger."
"In that case -" Kirk's voice was grim - "the other two should be around here to."
"We don't know that they were all killed," McCoy protested.
"If whoever killed Tadden was going to bother with prisoners, why kill one of them with a blow from behind?" Kirk asked.
"Over here!" Gulkin called harshly. Kirk moved instantly, McCoy behind him by barely the second that it took him to rise.
Donnelly lay at the other end of the pile of rubbish. His skull had also been crushed by a heavy blow.
"He's the same?" Kirk asked unnecessarily as he bent over the dead man.
McCoy nodded. "Yes. Killed instantly about twenty four hours ago. "
Kirk straightened and looked round. The rest of the men had resumed the search, but Gulkin was still standing looking down at Donnelly's body, the expression on his face showing with brutal clarity the effort he was having to make to maintain his self-control.
"Lieutenant?" he asked.
He saw Gulkin's adam's apple bob as the security lieutenant swallowed before he looked up. "It's just... Dave Donnelly was a good friend, sir. Even while we were still searching, I'd hoped..."
"We'll get whoever killed Donnelly, Lieutenant," Kirk promised. He glanced round again. The pile of rubbish was being moved steadily to the other end of the alley as the search for the missing Vulcan continued.
Behind him he heard McCoy talking, then the hum of the transporter. A moment later, McCoy joined him.
"I've sent the bodies up to the ship," he said. "I don't think there's any need for an autopsy. The cause of death is self-evident." He fell silent again as he watched the rubbish being shifted.
Even before it had all been moved, it was clear that Spock was not hidden there.
Kirk ordered the search extended again, not sure whether the lack of a Vulcan body was good news or bad. Then he turned and began to make his way back towards the Governor's office. Dorcas should at least be informed of this development.
As he went, he noticed that the area was strangely quiet. Surely there should be someone at work? Even though the mines were apparently working at less than half capacity, there should be some ore to grade and then move to storage.
He rounded a corner, to see a group of four or five men loitering in the roadway ahead of him. Despite his belief that there should be some work to do, there seemed to be no reason for their presence, and he felt uneasy, not liking the look of them; there was an air of watchfulness about them. He almost hesitated for a moment, almost turned back, then changed his mind and strode onwards. There was no reason to feel nervous; hadn't he just been thinking that there must be some work for the non-mining men of the colony to do? If they were not working, it must be because, in the present uncertain economic climate of Thorsten, they were unemployed and merely looking for some way to pass a few hours, and possibly regarded him with some hostility as a representative of the Federation which had so far failed to produce a solution to the problems the planet was facing. They might have it in their minds to rough him up a bit, but if they did try to start something, he was confident that his training would enable him to defend himself without any great effort.
He watched them surreptitiously as he walked briskly towards them, alert for any hostile move.
He had almost reached them when something heavy landed on his head, and he collapsed.
Kirk regained consciousness to the awareness of a throbbing headache. He opened reluctant eyes, and closed them again hurriedly as the dim electric light hurt them. He lay for some moments, hoping that the throbbing in his head would ease, but it remained obstinately severe, preventing him from thinking clearly.
At last he opened his eyes again, very cautiously, and glanced round the small, filthy and - he now realised - really very dimly lit room, moving his head carefully to avoid aggravating the ache.
He forgot about it, however, when he saw the man who was sitting beside him, apparently guarding him. He pushed himself upright, grinning foolishly.
His First Officer looked blankly, unrecognisingly, at him. It was quite clear that the name meant nothing to him.
When Spock, with Tadden and Donnelly, left Kirk they headed straight for the storage area. They soon left the mine offices and entered an area which bore a slum-like appearance, unlikely though that seemed in a colony as recent as this one. It seemed more like part of an ancient city, hundreds of years old, decrepit and desperate for renovation.
The place had an unsavoury atmosphere and even Spock glanced round uneasily as they made their cautious way through increasingly litter-strewn streets, past the grading sheds to the ones where the graded ore was stored.
As he looked round, it seemed to the Vulcan that the area had been designed for maximum inconvenience. The sheds were an awkward size, too big to be totally efficient yet, at the same time, not big enough; fully stocked, each would hold too much for one freighter but not enough for two. The streets between them were too narrow for safety, too; should fire break out in one of the sheds the streets would be useless as firebreaks. The entire area would go up like tinder.
He knew that the ore was taken to be graded, then to store, in wheeled transport; he would have thought that the streets were too narrow for any wheeled vehicle to negotiate easily. Certainly it would be impossible for two such vehicles to pass.
Spock led the way round a corner, and stopped.
A truck, long but narrow, was drawn up at the entrance of one of the sheds; several men were busy, loading it with what had to be some of the meagre stock of ore that was in storage. Although they had been told that one was not expected for other week, a freighter must have arrived unexpectedly.
And yet... He had just left Dorcas, and if anyone was told that a freighter had arrived, it should have been Dorcas. These men had obviously been working for some time. In addition there was something about them - a furtive quality that attracted Spock's attention. It was almost as if what they were doing was not official.
"What are they doing, sir?" Tadden asked softly. "Nobody said anything about ore being moved."
"I know, Lieutenant. I believe that we should check this with Mr. Dorcas."
He had his communicator half out when they were jumped from behind. Three iron bars were brought down almost simultaneously. The two Humans collapsed, both killed instantly; Spock slumped to the ground, unconscious.
One of the attackers growled, "Good work, Mason, Drem," as he bent to examine the three bodies.
"These two are finished - shove them somewhere out of the way where they won't be found too quickly. Bring the Vulcan along - he could be a useful hostage." He straightened. "Looks like our time here has about run out. That bastard Dorcas was bad enough, nosing in where he wasn't wanted, but now that he's called Starfleet in... Still, we've done pretty well; this goose has been pretty well plucked for the moment. It's about time to move on. We'll get as much away as we can while the boys in red are running round looking for their pals then if we have any trouble getting away ourselves we can use Buster here as a lever."
"Why not just kill him now, Boss?" the man called Mason asked uneasily. "Vulcans have good memories; he'll remember our faces - "
"Mason, a dead hostage is a useless hostage. We need to keep him alive until we get away. After that... Well, I never said we were going to let him go after we get off planet, did I?"
When the Vulcan regained consciousness and struggled into a sitting position it was to find himself in a gloomy, dirty room with three masked, armed men glaring at him. He blinked at them, confused.
"Your name?" one of them snapped.
"I ..." He shook his head, puzzled. "I don't remember."
"What is Dorcas planning?" There was impatience in the rough voice.
Spock considered the question. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said at last. "Who's Dorcas?"
"I knew it was a waste of time bringing him here," muttered one of the other two. "Kill him now."
"No." The first speaker held up his hand. "Vulcans do not lie, even when it would be to their advantage to do so." He turned his attention back to Spock. Reaching out, he twisted Spock's head round to face the light, not bothering to be gentle; he peered into Spock's eyes. "Can you remember anything?" he asked, a calculating note in his voice.
Spock looked at him. "No," he said at last. "Who am I? And... who are you?" Even lacking his memory, instinct told him that he did not know these men.
The man glanced at the other two. "He's lost his memory." He stated the obvious with a gloating satisfaction. "That could be... very... useful." He thought for a minute, then addressed Spock again.
"Your name is Vulcan," he said. "Now listen; you were attacked by a government agent, for no reason except cruelty. The government of this colony is corrupt, and we're trying to do something about it. You could help us. Will you help us? We found you lying unconscious where you had been left by your attacker. We brought you here to tend your hurts. In return, will you help us to destroy this evil government and put a new one into power?"
Spock continued to look at him; his words were oddly at variance with his facial expression and even the tone of his voice; somewhere deep in the Vulcan's mind a question tried to formulate itself, but his head ached too much; thinking was so much of an effort that it was easier not to think.
He could only take the words at their face value. There was, after all, no logic in lying.
"Yes," he said. He hesitated. "What will I call you?"
"My name is... One. That is... Two; and this other friend is Three." The Vulcan would never be able to tell the three of them apart anyway as long as they kept their masks on. (In fact, he could, for their heights were different.) "Rest now. We'll bring in some food shortly."
He went out, followed by his two men, leaving Spock alone.
"Are you sure this is safe?" asked Mason, the man designated as Two.
"Of course it is!" laughed One. "We've got him convinced already. Think of it - Vulcans are very strong. With a tamed one to help us load up we'll get double the stuff away in the time we have left. The idiots from Starfleet will be too busy looking for their missing pals to bother about the missing ore - we'll just have to make sure we take ore on its way from the mines rather than after it's graded. It's a pity, because we'll get a proportion of law--grade ore among it. Still, even low-grade titanium ore is fairly valuable, and we'll probably be able to sell it to some hick planet that doesn't know the difference till they start to work it."
"And what if the Vulcan regains his memory?" Mason insisted.
"Mason, you're a worrier," the third man said.
"Too right, I am!" Mason admitted. "It's kept me alive, too, Drem, and out of a rehabilitation centre. I'm happy with myself the way I am. I don't want any shrink poking around inside my skull telling me what a bad boy I am and how I'll need to change my ways."
"I don't think there's much risk, and I do think it's worth what risk there is," One said decisively. "Remember - while they're looking for him in the last place he was known to be, they won't be looking for us."
What Spock had chanced upon was the theft of titanium ore.
With the arrival of Governor Dorcas, the man who had introduced himself to Spock as One had quickly realised that their days of carefree larceny on Thorsten were numbered.
He was not particularly upset. Despite the impression that he had carefully given his men, he had been aware for some months that it was only a matter of time before the inefficient Masters was replaced by someone with more drive; indeed, if anything he was surprised that the replacement had not arrived earlier.
Greed, however, had persuaded him to continue gathering the titanium ore for as long as possible and even to extend the range of his activities. Where they had originally done nothing but raid the stocks of ore at the grading sheds, in the last two or three weeks he had taken advantage of the total lack of morale in the colony to remove much of the ore that had gone into storage to await transport.
The interruption they had received when Spock and his men had appeared had caused the gang to retreat with their truck not quite half full. One was determined to make up that half load and - if possible - collect still another load of ore.
The next day saw the gang joining the ore trucks being loaded at the mines, quietly adding their truck to the line of vehicles being loaded.
"This is the source of the government's power," One told Spock. "They have a monopoly, and sell it at an inflated price. We plan to sell it at a proper price and use the money to help undermine the tyrants."
Spock accepted what he was told. The half thought that had begun to formulate had gone, apparently beyond recall. He found it easiest to accept what he was told.
He spent most of the day helping to load ore into a truck, and when it was full and driven away helping to load another, only half aware that he was working harder than any of the other men. He was very tired when at last the work was finished and he was taken back to the dingy little room that was, apparently, home. He was only half aware of the sound of the door being locked.
His head still ached, and when he lay down on the heap of sacks that was the only possible bed, he discovered that there was a painful place on the back of it. The aching made it difficult to concentrate, and he felt quite ill.
He could remember very little, even of what he had been doing during the day. One half memory did remain; he thought he remembered One saying that they would tend his hurts, but no-one had done so. And at the back of his mind was a strangely empty feeling, as if something that should be there was missing - but he had no idea as to what it could possibly be.
As it happened, Spock was given very little time to rest. Barely fifteen minutes had passed when he heard the grating sound of the key turning and the door opened again to admit One, closely followed by Three, who was carrying an unconscious man slung over one shoulder. Spock scrambled to his feet; Three strode over to the sacking bed and dropped his burden ungently onto it.
"Special job for you, Vulcan," One said, a note in his voice speaking of some emotion that Spock was completely unable to identify. "This is a government spy we've just captured. He has to be guarded. He's unconscious just now, but even when he comes round he shouldn't give you any trouble. If by any chance he does... kill him."
"Kill?" Something in the empty mind rejected the order.
"Remember that government men tried to kill you. Remember that the government is composed of corrupt men. We'd like him alive for the moment to get information about the government's plans out of him, but it's not vital; you'll be doing the country a service if you do kill him."
One and Three left, and Spock heard the lock grating as the key was turned again, securing the door. This time it registered.
Why are they locking me in? he wondered, dimly but without any real interest, as he sank back onto the sacking bed. He looked down at the unconscious man without recognition, but somehow liking the look of the prisoner. He would not want to kill this man.
With a mental effort that left him shaking, Spock decided that the man did not look like the representative of anything corrupt. And... he also had hurt his head. It gave Spock a strange sympathy for the prisoner as he reached out and touched the cut on the unconscious man's head very gently, remembering the still untreated injury on the back of his own head. Was this what his head injury looked like? An open cut, with the brownish-red of dried blood surrounding it?
Then the captive's eyes opened, and shut again quickly. Spock found himself sympathising. The prisoner also must have an aching head from the blow that caused that cut.
After a few moments, the man's eyes opened again, slowly and carefully. He looked round.
"Spock!" he said.
But the sound meant nothing to the Vulcan.
Kirk looked thoughtfully at his First Officer. This, then, was the answer to one question; something had happened to make Spock forget who and what he was. But what? For a moment he wished McCoy was there; then, remembering the possible danger of his position, he was glad that the doctor was safe.
"Spock," he said again, his voice gentle, soothing. "Don't you remember me at all? Jim Kirk - your Captain. Your friend."
He began to sit up, to be stopped by the more than usually impersonal note in the other's voice as he said, "You will remain still, tyrant, or - "
"Tyrant?" Kirk exclaimed, surprise making him speak louder than he had intended, and winced as his own voice made his aching head pound. He noticed the Vulcan's eyes closing momentarily as an involuntary spasm of pain flickered across his face.
Pain? What on earth had happened to Spock that he would show pain so openly?
But Spock was looking at him once again with that cold, almost threatening, expression that forbade liberties; a hostile stranger.
Fighting the throbbing in his head, Kirk began to speak. He spoke of the past; of the years that they had been together. He spoke of the dangers they had faced side by side, of work they had done together. Spock listened, his face still expressionless, never taking his eyes off Kirk's face.
No memories stirred in the injured mind... but the voice was kind and gentle - so much more pleasant to hear than the rough, harsh voices of One and his men. He felt that he wanted to trust this man... but government men had injured him, and this was a government man...
If only he could think!
Kirk's voice eventually faltered to a stop. This was getting him nowhere.
He closed his eyes again in a futile attempt to ease the pounding in his head while he wondered what else he could do to reach his friend. At last, without opening his eyes, he said, "Spock, what are you trying to accomplish here? You and these others?"
"We seek..." Spock hesitated as he fought to remember the lies One had fed to him. "We seek the downfall of a corrupt government," he managed at last. Kirk's eyes opened abruptly at that. "Its supporters are wicked men who must be stopped before everyone is destroyed."
"It's the men you're with who are wicked," Kirk protested. "The government is doing the best it can for everyone in spite of the selfish actions of these men here."
"You insult my friends, tyrant." The words came automatically, but to Kirk's ears Spock's voice somehow lacked conviction.
"Are they your friends?" Kirk asked, speaking more gently. "What are you getting out of all this? Anything? What are they giving you for your efforts? What will your reward be? Have they ever said?"
Spock frowned. "I want nothing," he said. "It is enough for right to defeat tyranny."
"Can you be sure that right will defeat tyranny?" Kirk asked. "Do you - can you - trust them all? How much do you know about them, Spock? How well do you remember them?"
Spock looked puzzled. "I ..." He hesitated for a long time. At last, he said slowly, "I know nothing about them. But they have been good to me; they brought me here to tend the hurts that a government agent gave to me, and they have sheltered me..."
"Can you remember that a government agent hurt you?"
A long pause. "No. But why should they lie to me? An enemy must have hurt me, and only friends would help me. That is... logical."
"Yes, that would seem to be logical," Kirk agreed. "But Spock, Humans are often not particularly logical. Humans are among the galaxy's greatest opportunists. Suppose they hurt you themselves - and when you they discovered that you couldn't remember, pretended that it was someone else who hurt you, in order to gain your confidence. You're very strong, Spock. Have they used your strength?"
Slowly, Spock nodded.
"Asked you to do more than your share of work, and you still recovering from an injury?"
Spock nodded again.
"Would friends ask that of you?" Kirk's voice was very gentle.
There was another long silence while Spock struggled to make his rebellious brain consider the question.
"No," he said at last.
"I wouldn't ask it of you," Kirk said softly.
Spock tried to consider Kirk's statement, confused by the conflicting 'facts' he had been given since he regained consciousness to a world in which there was no past.
At last, remembering the long monologue of we went... we did... that the captive had given him, he asked, "Who are you?"
"Before you were hurt, you knew me well. I'm Jim Kirk. You are one of my closest friends, Spock - indeed, you are my closest friend. And as your friend, I think that you have not recovered from being hurt. You should be lying down, resting."
He reached over to put a gentle hand on Spock's arm. The Vulcan stiffened suspiciously, and Kirk remained very still. Spock relaxed slightly.
The Human was irresistibly reminded of a dog he had once owned, when he was still a boy. It had been a stray, and very nervous; it had taken a great deal of convincing that nobody would hurt it. But, its confidence once gained, it had been so friendly...
He waited, ignoring the throbbing beat inside his head, until Spock was completely relaxed once more.
"Spock," he said as gently as he could, "will you let me - your friend - look at your injury?"
He waited, hardly daring to breathe. He could tell that he had made Spock start thinking, had made him a little suspicious of the men who held them. He sensed that Spock wanted to trust him, yet was so convinced by the lies he had been told that he was afraid to trust his own instincts.
After a moment, he smiled at the Vulcan, allowing the very real affection he felt to show clearly.
Spock continued to hesitate for what seemed an age, then he grasped Kirk's right hand and held it firmly.
"You may look." He turned his head.
With his left hand, Kirk carefully moved aside the blood-matted hair, struggling to focus with eyes that he now realised were persisting in trying to see double.
The wound looked nasty, swollen and inflamed. Kirk felt round it carefully with gentle fingers. He was very aware that the limited training in first aid given to all Starfleet personnel was completely inadequate to permit him to do anything useful for this injury.
"Bones should see this," he said. "It needs skilled attention. It must be very painful?" His tone made it a question.
"Yes," Spock admitted. "And my head aches."
Kirk nodded slightly, although Spock couldn't see the gesture, and, slightly clumsily because he was using only his left hand, pressed the sides of the wound more firmly. A fair amount of unpleasantly-coloured pus oozed from the cut, and Spock drew in his breath with a gasp of pain.
"Sorry," Kirk said. It was obvious now that Spock had forgotten even pain control along with everything else. "Is there any water?"
Spock had not thought about water since his capture. Even injured, his desert-born metabolism required very little liquid. "I don't think so."
Startled, Kirk asked, "Didn't they give you anything to drink?"
Suspicion flared. "What have you had to eat?"
Spock had not thought about eating either - the food promised him the day before had not appeared - but even without memory, instinct had controlled him. The body of a Vulcan who was sick or injured normally rejected food until he had had the opportunity to initiate a healing trance. "I have not been hungry."
"That isn't an answer, Spock. Have they given you any food?"
Kirk's lips set in an angry line. He kept the anger from his voice however as he said, "I can't really do anything to clean this cut up without water." He pressed the swollen sides of the gash again, and more pus oozed from it.
"Let my hand go, Spock. I need to tear my shirt to get some cloth to mop this up."
Spock hesitated for a moment, then obeyed. Kirk began to worry at the hem of his shirt, mentally swearing at the obstinacy of the material as it refused to tear. His shirts usually tore far too easily, according to Stores.
And then he heard the familiar hum of the transporter.
As they materialised on the transporter pad, still in a sitting position, Spock swung round. "Where are we?" Then he registered the presence of two phaser-armed security guards as well as two other men. Anger on his face, he reached out for Kirk's neck. "Where...? Traitor! You tricked me nicely, tyrant, with your false words of friendship. But you won't fool me again!"
Kirk grabbed at his arms, desperately holding him off, grateful - in spite of his concern for his friend - that Spock seemed to have been slightly weakened by his injury. McCoy leaped forward, waving the security men back. A hypo hissed; Spock swayed and fell forward against Kirk, who broke his fall, steadying him with gentle hands.
"What caused that?" McCoy asked. "Oh, my God!" He groped for his scanner and checked the Vulcan's head injury.
"He seems to have lost his memory," Kirk explained.
McCoy grunted and glanced towards the control console. "Scotty, call sickbay for a medical trolley." He looked back at Kirk. "What about you, Jim?"
"I'll do. Just give me something for a headache, and - "
"Liar," McCoy commented without heat. "If you have a headache, you won't 'do'. Just how did you got your headache, anyway? To say nothing of that gash." He turned the scanner onto Kirk.
"Well..." Kirk hesitated, unwilling to let anyone know how easily he had been caught.
"Someone clouted you over the head, right?"
"I ... I think so."
"I think so," McCoy growled as he checked the reading. "Jim, you don't get concussion by accident. You only get concussion courtesy of a blow on the head - "
"Which could have been an accident," Kirk offered in a very small voice, well aware that the doctor couldn't be fooled. "I didn't see anyone."
"Don't try playing word games, Jim," McCoy said. "Tadden and Donnelly are dead because someone clouted them over the head with more force than was needed just to knock them out. You could have been lying there dead too and then we'd be reporting in for a new Captain."
"Yes, I know," Kirk said quietly. "Sorry, Bones - I was just... just..."
"Jim, the only way to keep me from worrying about you is to make sure that I've nothing to worry about," McCoy said bluntly.
Kirk looked at him, hesitated, then said, "How did you find us?"
"It's planet morning, not quite dawn. The magnetic interference is at its lowest." He glanced over at the Chief Engineer. "Scotty tried looking for Vulcan readings - got 'em without too much bother, too. So we just beamed Spock up along with the Human who was with him. We had expected it to be one of the people responsible for his disappearance; it was sheer good luck that it happened to be you."
The door swished open and an orderly hurried in, pushing a trolley. McCoy helped him to lift Spock onto it.
"Right, Abrams. I'll be right behind you."
"Yes, Doctor." Abrams left as quickly as was consistent with giving the patient a smooth ride.
"You, too, Captain." McCoy offered Kirk his arm. "I'll spare you the indignity of a ride, but you need time in sickbay."
"Bones, we've got to let Dorcas know - "
"I'll see to that once you're in bed," McCoy told him firmly. "You can fill me in as we go."
"Not that I do know much," Kirk said ruefully as McCoy steered him towards the door. He called back, "Well done, Scotty," as the door opened, continuing as it swished shut behind them. "As far as I can make out, once the men who captured Spock discovered that he had lost his memory, they spun him a tale about a corrupt government, that they'd rescued him when he was hurt. I'd just begun to convince him that they were no friends of his and that he could trust me when you beamed us out." He shrugged. "Now he seems to think I've... well, kidnapped him, wouldn't you say?" He shrugged. "At the same time, I don't fault Scotty for beaming us out. Spock's rather desperately in need of medical attention."
"So is Captain James T. Kirk," McCoy told him bluntly.
"Just close the cut and give me something for the headache, Bones - "
"Uh-uh. No way. You don't fool with concussion, Jim."
They turned into sickbay and McCoy gestured Kirk onto the examination table. With a resigned sigh, Kirk took his place on it. McCoy checked the cut with gentle hands, and Kirk winced.
"Still say it'll do?" McCoy growled. Without waiting for an answer, he closed the cut.
"Spock's worse hurt than I am," Kirk protested with a worried glance at the bed where Abrams, helped by Nurse Chapel, was settling Spock.
"Don't try to sidetrack me," McCoy growled. "If I attend to you first while Chapel's getting Spock into bed and cleaned up a bit that'll get you out of the way; then I'll be free to concentrate on trying to re-wire the circuits that that Vulcan computer calls a brain. Now - how bad is your headache?"
Kirk hesitated, then settled for the truth. "Pretty bad."
"I wouldn't have believed you if you'd said anything else," McCoy commented drily.
"Give me something for it?" Kirk asked. "Please?"
"Sorry, Jim. I can't give you any medication; not with concussion. You should know that."
Kirk made a face, but he did know that McCoy was right. The doctor watched as the Captain, realising that he was not going to fool his friend about his condition, closed his eyes. McCoy nodded to himself, seeing in Kirk's behaviour a clear indication of how bad he really felt. He couldn't let Kirk sleep properly - but he could let him snatch a brief nap.
He stood looking down at Kirk for a moment longer before he turned to the bed where Spock was lying. Hearing the sound of McCoy's feet moving away, Kirk opened his eyes and watched him, allowing himself to relax now that McCoy was attending to Spock. His only real worry now was his First Officer's memory - or rather, lack of one. If the Vulcan did not regain his memory, his career in Starfleet was finished... but at least he was alive.
That's... something, he reflected as his face twisted in grief. If Spock never regained his memory, Kirk would miss him, and miss him badly, both personally and professionally. But at least he would know that Spock was alive.
Without realising it, he drifted into sleep.
He was wakened about half an hour later. He looked up, seeing McCoy's face peering down at him, and closed his eyes again. It seemed that he was no sooner asleep than he was wakened again... and again... and again.
Finally, he woke more fully, to the realisation that the pounding in his head was fractionally less. He tried to sit up, realising that he should beam down to see Dorcas. The moment he moved, however, McCoy, who was studying his readings, pounced.
"And where do you think you're going?" he demanded.
"I forgot - I have to report to Dorcas - "
"Not in person you don't," McCoy told him. "Not tonight. Come to that, you can't report to him at all yet."
"What do you mean?"
"Forgotten the evening loss of communication?"
"You've catnapped all day, Jim. Communications are at their worst right now."
"Oh." He glanced across to the other bed. "Spock?"
"He's come round, but he's hostile. I've had to use security restraints. It hasn't helped encourage him to trust us."
"No, I suppose it hasn't. Is he conscious now?"
McCoy shook his head. "I sedated him an hour or so ago. Not that he was violent or anything like that, but he was obviously agitated and he needs to rest."
"His head injury?"
"There's no fracture, for what that's worth, and we've got the cut cleaned up. There was a slight infection, but that's dealt with too. There's no obvious pressure on the brain to cause the amnesia, so... dammit, Jim, there's nothing else I can do!"
"Has he said much?"
"Nothing that made sense. Just rambled on about corrupt governments having to be stopped. What you said he'd been told."
"Mm. I thought I'd got through to him, persuaded him that the men who told him that weren't to be trusted; obviously I didn't." He fell silent again, glad that his mind seemed to be working again - at least fifty percent efficiency. "When you beamed us up, Scotty didn't think to send a security detachment to where we'd been found?"
"Yes, he did, as it happens. When you didn't give any orders about it, even he guessed you were in a worse state than you were admitting and that it was up to him to do something. It was just an empty building, a few scraps of furniture in one or two of the rooms and no sign that anyone was making it any sort of base."
"Figures. Keep the prisoners away from their real base, someplace that could be abandoned at a moment's notice. Did he tell Dorcas we'd been found?"
"I think so - you did say something about letting Dorcas know before I got you off to sickbay."
"Yes, I remember. Bones, how long was I missing?"
"Best part of a day and a half."
Kirk thought about that for a moment. "I must have been unconscious for quite a while," he admitted. "The room we were in didn't have any windows - at least, they'd been boarded over - and we were in artificial light. But I'd have said - guessed - that I was only there for two or three hours."
He yawned, already bored with his sojourn in sickbay. "Any chance of releasing me to my quarters?"
"Please, Bones - I'll behave, I promise - "
"Jim, I've heard that before. You go off with perfectly good intentions, but someone sees you going into your cabin, the grapevine gets to work, and half an hour later you're being contacted because there's some sort of emergency. And because it's an emergency, you forget you're off duty, forget you've promised to take things easy, and you're diving straight in to whatever crisis has developed. Right?"
"Well... " Honesty wouldn't let Kirk deny the charge, slightly exaggerated though it was.
McCoy grinned at him. "Try to get some sleep. Proper sleep this time."
"More sleep?" Kirk asked, a note of disbelief in his voice.
"The more you sleep the quicker you'll get better," McCoy told him, then turned and moved back to Spock. He studied the readings on the diagnostic panel thoughtfully, before continuing, "On the other hand, I don't see any reason why Spock can't be moved to his quarters, as long we leave someone with him. Chris Chapel, I think - he won't have any reason to distrust a woman. The familiar surroundings might do something for his memory."
"But he was belted over the head too!" Kirk protested. "He's lost his memory! Surely he needs to be kept monitored?"
"Christine can do that with a medical tricorder. The biggest problem was the lack of immediate attention. That made the head injury seem worse than it actually is."
Kirk looked unconvinced, but McCoy ignored him. He punched his intercom. "Abrams! Chapel!"
The orderly hurried in. "Yes, Doctor?" he was asking as Chapel followed him through the door.
"I want a trolley. We're taking Mr. Spock to his own cabin." Abrams hurried out again. "Nurse, get a medical tricorder; keep him monitored. I'll send in a relief in a couple of hours."
"Yes, Doctor," she said as Abrams wheeled in a med trolley. McCoy helped Abrams to lift Spock onto the trolley while she collected a tricorder; then she followed Abrams out.
McCoy paused, looking down at Kirk. "Going to sleep, or do you want a sedative?"
"I'll sleep, I'll sleep!" Kirk assured him, closing his eyes. McCoy gave the Captain one last suspicious glare, and left hastily, half running to catch up with Chapel and Abrams.
Kirk waited until he heard the doors swish shut, and opened his eyes again, wishing that it was possible to read his own diagnostic panel accurately from a sitting position, or even lying with his head to the foot of the bed.
How does Bones think I can possibly sleep with all this going on? he thought irritably.
It seemed quite clear that the difficulties on Thorsten were the result of a deliberate campaign; but just what was the motive? Was it in fact political, as Spock had been told, or had the criminals merely picked on a 'reason' that they guessed the logical Vulcan would accept without question?
No; it could hardly be political. No demands of any sort had been made. Political agitators were usually very vocal about the 'improvements' they wanted. Usually all that that meant was 'I -- or my leader - should be the boss rather than you'.
The miners said that production was still as high as it had ever been; the amount of ore in storage was low.
So - someone must be stealing ore. How they managed to steal it without having been noticed was one mystery. How they got it off planet was another, for he would have expected an unauthorised ship to be detected.
Did that mean - could that mean -- that the leader of the thieves was an official here? Someone who could suppress a report...
Who in the Governor's office might that be? He acquitted Masters and Dorcas, if only because the thefts spanned the terms in office of both men. It might be possible to clear some of the Governor's heads of department, but it still left several of them as suspect.
His eyes felt tired, and he closed them. Almost at once he fell asleep.
McCoy returned a few minutes later. He strode in, saying cheerfully, "Well, that's got Spock - "
He broke off as he realised that Kirk was asleep. He moved quietly to his desk, and sat, starting to bring his notes up to date.
Time passed. McCoy finished updating his notes and began to read through his latest medical journal. After a while he left his desk, moved to check Kirk's readings, and, satisfied, returned to his seat again. He immersed himself once more in a report on new vaccines.
The intercom bleeped, and he flicked it open.
"Kyle, doctor." He sounded slightly groggy. "Mr. Spock beamed down a few minutes ago - and he took Nurse Chapel with him. He knocked me out when I tried to call security."
McCoy muttered a near-silent curse as he made a quick check of the time. Yes, enough time had passed for the interference to have diminished to a safe level. "Do you have his co-ordinates?"
"I've sot the co-ordinates he beamed down to, but he's not there now; he's moved away."
"All right, Kyle - I'll get the bridge sensors on to tracing him." He flicked the switch again. "McCoy to bridge."
"Bridge. Scott here."
"Scotty, Spock's managed to beam down to Thorsten with Chapel. Can you pick up his readings?"
"No problem, Leonard."
McCoy closed the channel and rose, crossing to collect a hypo.
"Bones? I heard that."
McCoy paused beside his patient. "We'll soon pick him up, Jim - and just as soon as we do, I'll get him sedated. Then I'll bring him back here and this time I'll keep him under restraints."
"I'm coming with you." Kirk sat up.
"No you're not. Your place is in bed - "
"Bones, one of my crew is injured. He might cause injury to another member of the crew. I've got to go down! I'm the Captain - it's my responsibility." He gave a wry smile. "You know perfectly well that Komack won't accept 'injured' as a valid reason not to go down under those circumstances - at least, not without a far more serious injury than I've got."
"Jim, you don't play with concussion."
"Tell that to Komack."
McCoy knew perfectly well that Kirk was quoting higher authority simply to overrule the medical authority that would otherwise have been used to keep him on the ship.
"Jim, that's cheating." But he surrendered. Concussion alone was not in fact serious enough for him to pull medical rank on the Captain; if they had been in routine flight, he would indeed have released Kirk to his cabin.
Kirk dressed quickly and the two men made their way to the transporter room. Once there, Kirk called the bridge.
"Scotty? Any word on Spock?"
"Yes, we've got him, Captain. There are a dozen or so Human readings with him, though. They're moving."
"Right. Feed the co-ordinates to the transporter. We'll follow on the ground. Kirk to Security."
"Security. Lt. Peden here."
"Lieutenant, I want twenty men for landing party duty, in the transporter room in two minutes. I think we've found the group that killed Tadden and Donnelly."
"Right away, air."
The men arrived inside the two minutes. Kirk glanced round them, seeing two or three faces he remembered from the search - including Gulkin.
"Shouldn't some of you men be back to the end of the duty roster?" he asked, his eyes fixed on Gulkin.
"Everyone volunteered for extra duty on this one, sir," Gulkin told him. "We ran up a new roster just for it - names out of a hat - because everyone wanted a crack at whoever killed our men and hurt Mr. Spock and you."
Kirk looked round at the men. "I ... I appreciate your loyalty," he told them. "Now, this is the situation - " He explained what had happened as concisely as possible. "We want to get those men alive, and we want to rescue Mr. Spock and Nurse Chapel unhurt. So - phasers on light stun. The idea is that we stun everyone in the area; be ready to move in as soon as everyone is unconscious."
"Right, sir," Gulkin acknowledged, and headed for the transporter pads, gesturing to the three nearest guards to join him, Kirk and McCoy for beam down.
They beamed down a short distance from where Spock's Vulcan readings had been detected, and waited until the rest of the guards joined them. As they waited, McCoy said softly, "Jim, let Lt. Gulkin lead this one."
Kirk looked at him. "Bones - "
"You don't fool with concussion, Jim." McCoy was beginning to feel like a repeat-loop recording. "I'd let you do light duty - very light duty - if you were still on the ship, but you're not fit for anything more than that. You either let Gulkin lead, or I knock you out."
Kirk stared disbelievingly at the phaser McCoy held.
"I mean it, Jim. We can't afford to lose our Captain as well as our First Officer - and Gulkin is trained for this sort of situation. You're not. You're good at unarmed combat, but it's not your job." He saw that Kirk was unconvinced, and added, "You want to give Spock the best chance of surviving this, don't you?"
Mutely, Kirk nodded.
"Then let the trained professional fighter lead."
Kirk took a deep breath, and for a moment McCoy thought that he was about to object. Instead, he said quietly, "You're in command, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir." If Gulkin was aware of the debate he gave no sign of it.
Once everyone was down, Gulkin, clutching a tricorder that he consulted frequently, gave the signal to advance. The guards fanned out. Kirk began to move forward, and McCoy grabbed his arm.
"Let them do their job, Jim."
Inwardly rebellious, Kirk allowed McCoy to hold him back, not wholly resigned to the situation but encouraged to accept it by the renewed throbbing in his head and the sick feeling that had begun to accompany it.
He could still function, but honesty compelled him to admit that if things got much worse, he would find himself completely unable to do anything with any degree of competence.
He had not had such a severe migraine for a long time.
The security guards advanced cautiously, Gulkin's eyes still fixed on his tricorder. When the readings told him that the readings were stationary, he signalled to his men to spread out and surround the building that the men they were following had entered - insofar as it could be surrounded, for one side was attached to the neighbouring, derelict building. At least, Gulkin assumed it to be derelict, for there were no life readings from it.
Moments later his communicator bleeped.
"All in place at the back, sir."
"Right." Gulkin paused to examine the building. "How's the back for windows?"
"Several at ground level."
"Split into small groups and each group take a window. Go in on my signal."
The communicator bleeped again. "Anders cutting in. We're all set at the side."
"Use them both; get in as fast as you can - " He glanced at the men with him, lowering the communicator. "Chang, Hardy - take the right hand window. Gundorf, Larssen, the left hand one. Preston, Sykes, through the door with me."
Without waiting for the muttered acknowledgements, he raised his communicator again. "All units - go!"
He replaced the communicator on his belt as he ran forward, steadying the tricorder with one hand as he went, his two men at his heels.
The door opened easily, and he found himself in a small hallway. Several doors opened off it, and a flight of wooden steps led upwards. The readings had indicated that their quarry was up those stairs, and he took them two at a time, Preston and Sykes close behind him. They were half way up when the first of the doors opened and two more of his men ran through, to follow them. Before Gulkin reached the top, the guards were all on the stairs, having, by virtue of entering at different points ensured that all the downstairs rooms were empty and spread themselves out so that they were not getting in each other's way as they headed up the steps.
But so many feet on the wooden steps could not avoid making a great deal of noise. It was inevitable that a door on the landing at the top of the stair should open and a man come out.
Sykes gave him no time to fire the phaser that he was holding, but felled him with a quick burst of the phaser he was holding ready.
Gulkin hurdled the collapsing body on his way into the room - and stopped short. Behind him, the other guards also stopped as they registered the scene inside the room.
Spock lay still, accepting the medical attention that he was given almost without interest and certainly without trust. It did register that One's erstwhile prisoner had been as good as his word about attending to his hurts - or at least getting them seen to - but he could not forget that the prisoner had tricked him.
The man who fussed over him had seemed friendly too, even concerned, but had asked him too many questions. Doctor though he appeared to be, he had to be a government spy sent to discover One's plans. So he pretended to be more confused than he really was even while he muttered about "corrupt governments" in the faint hope that the spy could be made to see the government's faults.
He had expected to be kept under strict guard, but no; he had clearly succeeded in fooling them. They took him out of the area where his hurts were tended and through several corridors to a fairly small room where they put him to bed... with only a single woman as guard!
Spock could hardly believe his good fortune.
It was the work of only a moment to slip out of bed while her back was turned and capture her.
She gasped as he caught her arm. "Mr. Spock!" she exclaimed, but her voice was weak as she fought to keep from fainting at the pain of his grasp on her arm; it was clear to her that he had forgotten his strength. "You're hurting me!"
He relaxed his grip slightly. "I want to leave this place," he told her. "How do I get back to... to where I came from?"
"This is where you came from, Mr. Spock," she protested.
He ignored her comment, which made no sense to him. "How do I get back?" he repeated. A faint memory, triggered by the beam-up, connected. "I must... there is a machine..."
"You need to go through the transporter," Chapel said reluctantly.
"Take me to it."
As he forced her to the door, Chapel debated the wisdom of taking him somewhere other than the transporter room, but she could not guarantee that there would be someone to help her in any given part of the ship, for though the grapevine would have let the whole crew know that Spock had been retrieved, only a handful knew of his condition. In addition, he might have amnesia, but he would remember if she tried to lead him directly back to sickbay, and the alternate route led past the transporter room.
No, she would have to take him to the transporter room, and hope that Kyle, who did know the situation, would be quick enough to act when they walked in.
Rather, Spock was too quick for him. Before Kyle could react, Spock - nerve pinch forgotten - had knocked him out.
He dragged Chapel over to the control console, and looked down at the controls with a puzzled expression. It was clear to the Nurse that he knew he ought to know how these worked, but his memory refused to co-operate.
"We use this to travel, do we not?" he asked.
She debated lying, but realised that it wouldn't work. "Yes."
"Set the controls," he told her.
"I'm not terribly sure - " she began.
"You work here. You know how to set them."
Even Chapel realised that the logic was suspect, but she decided not to argue. She could at least set the controls to take them down to the surface. Then, as she depressed the control levers, she said, "Onto the pads, quickly."
Spock dragged her with him. They had almost no time to wait before the transporter beam took effect.
They rematerialised on the surface close to the mines. There was a truck being loaded, supervised by a man that Spock recognised, by his general build, as One. The Vulcan promptly crossed to him, pulling Chapel with him.
One stared at him, annoyance on his face.
"I'm sorry, One," Spock said. "I was captured by government agents. But I've brought back a hostage."
One turned his attention to Chapel. An amnesiac prisoner was one thing, but an alert member of Starfleet was something else altogether. He grunted as he recognised the medical insignia. A woman - unlikely to be a doctor, his male-dominant mind decided; a nurse, then. But even a woman could be a danger to him, for even the stupidest of them was likely to be able to identify him.
Irritably, he gestured to his men. Mason scrambled into the driver's seat of the truck and began to drive it away, while One said, "Come," harshly and began to walk briskly away. Still pulling Chapel, Spock followed him, with the other men close behind.
One took them to an apparently derelict building not too far from the mines. There had been furniture in it - once -- but much of it was now broken. Once inside, Spock released Chapel and turned to face One, suddenly apprehensive. There was an ugly look on the man's face, and the Vulcan could not help but compare it with the much gentler expressions he had seen on the faces of the 'government agents' from whom he had so recently escaped.
Was it possible that he had made a mistake?
Would a friend ask that of you? ... I wouldn't ask it of you...
The words sounded faintly in his mind.
Just you lie there and rest... The other one, the doctor, speaking in gruff tones that nevertheless had carried - he now realised - a would-be-hidden caring.
One reached out and grasped Chapel's arm roughly. "You've done well, Vulcan," he said, but Spock was no longer fooled by the feigned friendliness.
Yes - he had made a mistake.
"Don't hurt her," he said, knowing that alone he was powerless to defend her against so many enemies.
One laughed harshly as Chapel tried to pull herself free. He twisted her arm viciously, and she cried out with the pain.
Spock flung himself forward, but before he could reach One, Drem snatched up a broken table leg and struck at him with it. The blow landed heavily and Spock crumpled. Chapel tried to pull free to go to him, her nurse's instincts roused, but One held her easily.
It was then that the door was flung open and the Enterprise's security men burst in.
Gulkin took in the situation at a glance even as One hauled Chapel roughly in front of him as a shield. He reckoned without Gulkin's pragmatism - or perhaps he had just forgotten that a phaser could be set to stun. Gulkin fired; Chapel went limp in One's grasp and the continuing stun beam caught the criminal. He collapsed, face down, not quite on top of Chapel.
Seeing their leader defeated, the others were quick to surrender. When Kirk and McCoy arrived seconds later, it was to find everything over.
"Nurse Chapel's just stunned, Doctor," Gulkin reported, "but Mr. Spock was unconscious when we broke in."
McCoy crossed quickly to the Vulcan, reaching for his scanner as he went, Kirk close at his heels.
"He's been knocked out..." McCoy sounded slightly doubtful.
Kirk swung round to the prisoners, wincing as the sudden movement intensified his headache. "What happened to him?""
The men looked at each other doubtfully. Finally, one of them said, "He was going to attack the boss. Drem there hit him."
Kirk looked at them in disgust and turned back to McCoy. "Get Spock and Chapel up to the ship, Bones. Gulkin and I will see to things down here."
McCoy nodded, crossed to Chapel and lifted her over to beside Spock, then spoke into his communicator. Moments later the three shimmered away.
"Right," Kirk said. "Lieutenant, we'll take our prisoners to Governor Dorcas first -- he may recognise some of them. Then we'll take them back to the Enterprise."
Kirk indicated the still unconscious figure on the floor and addressed the prisoners. "Two of you carry him." Then, when none of them moved, "You - and you."
The two moved reluctantly, but they moved. As they picked up their leader, Kirk saw his face for the first time.
"Unger!" he gasped.
Faced with Dorcas, it was not long before a couple of the prisoners cracked and told the Governor where the stolen ore was hidden. Much of it was indeed still on-planet, hidden in one of the worked out levels of the mines; as mine manager, Unger had been in the perfect position to know where these levels were. It transpired that he had planned to charter a private ship and use it to lift the ore when he finally decided to leave.
But Kirk was tired, and worried about Spock. He pleaded the after-effects of his concussion to get away from a grateful Dorcas and a relieved colony, and returned to the ship, where the prisoners had already been taken.
He went straight to sickbay, worry about Spock keeping him on his feet. In the turbolift, he leaned against the wall, grateful for its support, and when the lift doors opened he stared at them for some moments before he registered that he should get out of the lift. In the corridor he paused for a moment to orientate himself, then set off, headed for sickbay.
McCoy glanced round as he entered, and moved straight over to him.
"Jim, you've been doing too much. Here - onto this bed."
Kirk tried to shake his head, and the movement was too much. His body finally rebelled and he doubled over as his stomach emptied itself.
His retching had one good effect; it eased his headache considerably. When it finally eased off, he straightened, feeling much better.
"Spock?" he asked as McCoy urged him to the bed.
"Just coming round," McCoy assured him.
"Doctor? Why am I under restraint?" Spock's voice interrupted him.
Momentarily forgetting Kirk, McCoy swung round. "Spock! How are you feeling?"
"I was under the impression that you preferred to tell me the current state of my health," Spock replied.
"Spock," Kirk said. "How much can you remember?"
"Remember?" Spock fell silent for a moment. "A lorry being loaded... and then something hit me from behind."
"And that's all?"
"Well, you've had quite a busy time since then," McCoy told him. "But now isn't the time to discuss it." He looked from one bed to the other. "You both need rest - " He broke off, seeing that Kirk had already fallen asleep. He looked at Spock, and indicated their sleeping Captain. "He's exhausted, Spock. Just take my word for it - everything's worked out fine. We'll tell you what happened - in the morning. For now - you'd be better of a sleep too."
Spock nodded. He lay for a moment assessing his physical condition. Yes - he did require rest.
Obediently, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to sleep.
McCoy looked from one to the other. Then he turned to call an orderly to clean the floor.