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Captain James T. Kirk did not particularly like Ensign Rev Harbi... and he did not know why.
It worried him.
Harbi had only joined the Enterprise a few days previously; he was courteous, obedient, efficient, punctual, tidy... there was nothing, nothing at all, that Kirk could put a finger on and say, "This is what's wrong."
Kirk had shipped annoying crewmen before this; men who had been less than fully competent, or who were lazy or careless - he usually managed to get rid of them fairly quickly - but he had never shipped one that he had completely disliked - until now. And there was no obvious reason why he should dislike the Dorian. The being was, perhaps, a little more extrovert than Kirk personally appreciated, but that was no reason to dislike him... nor was it any comfort to Kirk to learn that no-one in the crew liked Harbi. Not that he was actively disliked; he just wasn't liked. And that in itself was odd, too; every Dorian Kirk had ever known had been popular, liked by everyone aboard ship, without exception.
Kirk found himself wanting to punish - or at least reprimand - Harbi for any and every minor thing that he did; things that he would overlook in anyone else, at least until the new crewman found his feet and learned Kirk's ways. Realising this, Kirk was deliberately lenient with the Dorian, even when Spock mentioned to him that several of the crew had complained about the Dorian Service Medallion that Harbi wore.
This medallion had been annoying Kirk, too, but knowing as he did how proud the Dorians were of their medallions, he had deliberately waited, hoping that once Harbi had got over the first raptures of being entitled to one, he would wear it inside his shirt, as all the other Dorians Kirk had ever served with had done. The trouble with the medallion was that, because the Dorians' optic system was different from the human one, what they considered a thing of beauty was, to humans, highly, very highly psychedelic, and visually very disturbing, causing a condition that, in extreme cases, led to dizziness and loss of balance.
"Even I find Mr. Harbi's medallion disturbing," Spock said, having delivered the general complaint.
"I know," Kirk said. "I keep wanting to drag it off his neck. The trouble is, the thing's a status symbol."
"So I have heard," Spock commented. "But I have never before served with a Dorian. In what way is it significant?"
"Well, you know the Dorian system," Kirk replied. "Gravity only 85% of Earth normal. By Terran standards, Dorians are mostly far too weak to meet the physical requirements of Starfleet. The handful who are strong enough to get through a physical and eventually get on to a ship... they're regarded as something special. Once they're assigned to a ship, they get a Service Medallion from their Government. This is Harbi's first assignment, so he's only just got his medallion. Of course he wants to show it off. I can understand that. But understanding doesn't make it any easier to live with. I probably would have spoken to him about it days ago, only I was scared of - well, looking as if I was picking on him."
Spock nodded. "I understand how you feel," he said, surprising Kirk considerably. "I do not like him - I find I am continually wanting to correct him unnecessarily, so much so that when I do have reason to correct him, I am reluctant to do so."
"I'm glad I'm not the only one," Kirk commented drily. "But I think I'll have to speak to Harbi about it now that there are complaints."
He sent for the Dorian, and when Harbi reported to him, he merely pointed out that since most of the crew were humans, and humans found the medallion disturbing, it would be more courteous to his crewmates if he wore his medallion under his shirt, where most of his race did.
Harbi agreed to do this; but within twenty-four hours, the complaints had started again. Harbi was again wearing his medallion in full view.
This time McCoy came to Kirk.
"Jim, that medallion of Harbi's has got to go," he said. "Half of the crew are suffering from general dizziness and lack of concentration because of the crazy colour pattern on it. Even Spock's affected. And I couldn't give him a proper physical because of it. I kept seeing double. If you can't persuade him to keep it out of sight, you'll have to confiscate it."
"I don't want to do anything that drastic," Kirk began reluctantly - more so because it was what he wanted to do.
"It's that or have no-one on the ship apart from Harbi working at full efficiency. The ones who aren't affected yet aren't affected simply because they haven't come in contact with Harbi yet. But they soon will. And as soon as they do ... No, Jim, you'll have to stop him wearing it, and if the only way is to confiscate it..."
"I suppose you're right," Kirk said unhappily. "But he's going to feel that I'm picking on him. And he'll be right."
"You're not, Jim. You gave him a chance. He didn't take it. You have the rest of the crew to consider ... Jim, if you liked him - would you hesitate?"
"No, I don't suppose I would... All right, Bones. I'll order him to stop wearing it, and warn him that if he disobeys this time, I'll confiscate it. I hope I don't have to."
The warning was sufficient, however. Harbi stopped wearing the medallion, at least where it could be seen, but Kirk sensed that the Dorian was resentful. On the surface, he was still the same courteous, efficient, obedient officer; on the surface, there was no sign that Harbi knew he was disliked, especially by his Captain; but Kirk felt that he knew... and returned the dislike with outright hatred.
It would have afforded him no gratification to know that he was right.
Kirk was definitely right.
Harbi didn't like the Captain. But then, Harbi didn't like anyone.
He had always been regarded as unusual on Dor; he had grown up knowing that everyone expected him to join Starfleet Command because he was so big and strong; he was pleased that he was big enough and strong enough to be accepted - yet paradoxically he resented it, resented the assumption that so many of his race, his family among them, made, that only the big and strong Dorians should be of value to the Federation. (No-one else in the Federation made this assumption; there were many things Dor produced that the Federation valued, and there had been great advances in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses since Dor joined the Federation because of them. Only the Dorians themselves underestimated the many benefits they had given to the other races who were allied to them.)
No, Harbi didn't like anyone - his defiance in continuing to wear the medallion, the one disobedience he had allowed himself, and that only because it hadn't been a direct order, had been symbolic of it - but Kirk he now hated, as the symbol of the detested Federation that decreed that his younger brother, who would have given anything to be entitled to wear the medallion, but who was too slightly built to pass the preliminary medical examination, should be useless to the Federation. He himself didn't want the hated symbol of strength, but he found he bitterly resented not being allowed to show it off.
He began to wonder how he could be revenged on Kirk... and suddenly realised that he had an innate weapon that he could use, without anyone being any the wiser. The fact that Kirk himself wouldn't know who was causing him distress didn't matter; all that mattered was the fact of being able to distress Kirk - and gain personal pleasure at the same time.
Dorians were unique in that they had developed from a parasitic life-form. They had existed on the emotions of the other life-forms on Dor, preferring the more pleasant emotions, and had developed intelligence as they sought to cause pleasant emotions in their hosts. Although Kirk didn't know it, it was one reason why the other Dorians he had known had been so well liked; they had provided a telepathic aura of happiness, which had provided them with feedback to satisfy their now rudimentary parasitic cravings. No-one suffered, everyone was happy, and no-one was any the wiser. It was also the reason why Dorian treatment for psychiatric disorders was so successful; but they had never seen any reason to mention their ability to the Federation.
But Harbi was not a normal Dorian.
Unlike most of his fellows, Harbi was capable of resentment.
Harbi was a throwback - and a throwback of the worst kind. The emotion he preferred to feel in others was unhappiness. The aura he projected was one of dislike. For a parasite, it was anti-survival, and most of his sub-species had died out long before the race had gained intelligence. It was rarely that a Dorian like Harbi was born.
On Dor, he had been cunning enough to hide his aberration; here, he saw no need to. And since it was a telepathic condition, it didn't show up on any of his personality profiles. Since he came on board, he had been feasting on dislike, unhappiness and disorientation. And he had now been forbidden to wear the medallion that had given him much parasitic food - a double reason for resentment.
But he could replace what he had lost, from Kirk. He could make Kirk miserable.
He watched Kirk carefully for several days, before insinuating a parasitic thread of thought into Kirk's mind. He saw Kirk's deep affection for Spock and McCoy; and decided that he could cause Kirk great distress if he could somehow alienate him from them... preferably one at a time. And he would feed fat from that distress.
He knew the theory of the ancient technique, no longer commonly used, of causing dreams in the host; and began to experiment with the technique.
He probed Kirk's memories carefully, searching for one that he could use. He knew he couldn't create dreams for Kirk - not yet. He had to gain experience in controlling his host's mind first, and the way to do that was to take memories and manipulate them.
The surface memories were all pleasant ones, and Harbi's nose wrinkled as he experienced them, finding them sickly to his depraved tastes. Memories of laughter, of friendship; memories of assistance in times of danger; memories of a look or a word or even a touch exchanged, a rapport greater than even a parasitic mind could appreciate. And worst of all to the Dorian's warped mind was love... Kirk's love for his friends, his certainty that they loved him in return - even the Vulcan from whom Harbi had been able to obtain very little reaction.
There was nothing that he could use!!! Even the more unpleasant memories were smothered in a thick layer of suffocating gratitude for help received...
Wait though ... wait ... could he use some of them? There was one... the help given had been so little ... could he use it? He probed the memory, absorbing all the details...
...then recalled it to Kirk's sleeping consciousness that night. He watched, standing in the background of Kirk's mind, absorbing Kirk's emotions...
It was a beautiful planet. Gravity, temperature, atmosphere, all perfect, with no seasonal fluctuations anywhere; eternal summer. Then a flower, a beautiful, large flower, fired a cluster of darts at one of the landing party, and he fell, dead. McCoy bent over him... He could do nothing. Kirk glanced round. There were more of the flowers... but none near enough to do any damage. Then Spock came up behind him - and deliberately pushed him towards one of the flowers. Still off-balance, he tried to get away from it, and failed. He felt the darts hit him, like so many stabs of fire, and fell, unable to move, unable to speak... Still conscious, he heard McCoy say, "He's dead," and Spock's reply, a mocking, "We're well rid of him." McCoy laughed too; and they walked away together and left him lying there, still alive but unable to show it. Long tendrils snaked out from the plant then, fastening themselves round him; he felt them sucking the blood from him, pulling tiny pieces of flesh from him, and knew that the flower, so beautiful to look at, was eating him alive. He threshed about, trying to get away from it, but knowing that for all his efforts he wasn't moving an inch...
Full-fed, Harbi allowed the dream, an amalgam of two experiences, to fade, but remained watching, probing for another memory he could use, another memory he could manipulate as easily... odd that it had been so easy after all, but of course they had been simple memories, nothing complicated about them. .. Ah, there was another one...
The survivors of the escaping band of genetic giants faced the crew of the Enterprise, who had proved unable to stop them.
"You can join us,' Khan said. "We need servants ... as our slaves, you will be permitted to live... and you, Mr. Spock. We would be glad to have you join with us, as an equal. You are our equal, much superior to these puny creatures that Earthmen have become since they overthrew us by their treachery. Will you join us?"
"Yes," Spock said clearly. "You are by far a better leader then Kirk... You do not went Kirk, Khan. Let me have the pleasure of destroying him. Otherwise, you will be eternally in danger from his trickery."
"Do what you will with him," Khan said. "He is yours."
Spock gripped his arm and dragged him out. Once outside, Kirk said, "That was a good act, Spock - "
"Act?" Spock said mockingly. "It was no act, Kirk. Khan is your superior; I serve him now."
He opened the door of the decompression chamber and forced Kirk in, The door slammed shut; the air pressure began to decrease... Kirk gasped for breath... gasped... gasped... and everything became black...
He opened his eyes to find himself in a space-suit, drifting in empty space. Where?... Nearby, he could see the Enterprise. He struggled to reach her, trying to swim through the vacuum of Space, and finding that he could. He only had air for such a little while now; he had to get to the Enterprise...
He reached out to touch the ship, and found that his hand went through her. He pushed his way through the hull, and moved down the corridor.
The bridge - he had to get to the bridge; and he was there, on the bridge, with no idea of how he had got there. Spock was sitting in the command chair, McCoy at his side, and Scotty nearby.
They saw him, stared at him. He tried to call to them for help; Spock shook his head. "No, gentlemen, Kirk is dead. That is only a ghost. Forget about him. He is dead. Lost with the Defiant."
Desperately, he tried to speak to Spock, to beg him for the help that a corner of his mind knew Spock should give him, but he had not the breath to do it. He gasped for breath again, feeling his senses going, sinking into blackness...
He jerked into wakefulness, and sat up sharply. He looked around the familiar cabin, and drew a deep, thankful breath. Only a dream - no, three dreams ... but so vivid - and so wrong, so terribly wrong. Why had his subconscious mind insisted on having Spock betray him, when he knew Spock had saved him each of those times? Deliberately, he thought over the actual incidents about which he had dreamed. Spock had pushed him away from the flower; Spock had risked everything to retrieve him alive; Spock had not sided with Khan, but had defied him...
He was worming his way into your confidence, a thought said, deep inside his head. He wanted you to learn to trust him... so that he could betray you later...
"No!" he gasped aloud.
To distract himself, he glanced at the chronometer. Time to get up, to return to duty. He yawned, still sleepy, but hauled himself out of bed.
He found himself watching Spock cautiously from time to time during the day, and each time he forced his eyes away. He trusted Spock... of course he did! A few bad dreams couldn't alter that - if only that treacherous little thread of thought would stop remembering the mockery in Spock's voice during the dreams.
He went to bed early that night, hoping for a good sleep to make up for the lack of rest the night before. Harbi watched as he settled down.
He fell asleep quickly; he was very tired.
Which memory tonight, Harbi thought. That one? Or that?...
Gary Mitchell's eyes gleamed silver as he looked at Kirk. "You always wanted me to think, didn't you, James? Well, I'm thinking now. You can't stop me, James; I'm stronger than you. You should be kneeling before me; I should be the Captain, not you..."
Spock moved into the line of Kirk's sight. He walked over to Mitchell's side. Then he turned to face Kirk.
His eyes also were gleaming silver!
"We're taking over this ship, Kirk," he said. "We're the rulers of the Galaxy. We're stronger then any of you puny Earthmen. You wanted to leave us stranded on Delta Vega. But it's you who will be stranded there, Kirk, you and the rest of the weak insects that we could crush under our feet. We could survive down there; how long will you live?" And he laughed, scornfully.
Somehow, without any transition, Kirk found himself on the surface of Delta Vega, several of the crew at his side. Facing him were Mitchell, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, all with their eyes gleaming unrecognisably. Then they were gone. They had been his friends, and they were gone... leaving him, and the handful of the crew who had not been affected by the barrier, to die a lingering death from starvation. He looked round at the near-barren planet, seeing plants sprouting miraculously; he glanced towards his crew - and found that they had mostly disappeared. Only one or two, all studying tricorders, were left.
He whirled to face the remembered, the hated, voice.
"Do you think you can survive here now, Jimmy boy? You have to beat me first, you know - and you can't beat me, Jimmy. You never could. You never will."
Kirk lunged forward, wanting to batter Finnegan into unconsciousness, irritated beyond bearing by the detested, gloating voice. He thought he had seen the last of Finnegan when the Irishman left Starfleet Academy; it seemed he had been wrong. And he had never envied the unfortunate Captain who had had to put up with Finnegan in his crew.
Finnegan danced backwards, away from Kirk's threatening fists, and round behind a rock. As Kirk followed him, he stopped.
Finnegan was no longer alone. Spock stood beside him.
Kirk stopped dead. "Spock?"
Finnegan burst out laughing, a horrible mocking laugh that Kirk remembered only too well; it spelt humiliation for him, indicated that once again he had fallen victim to one of Finnegan's tricks; and this time, Spock laughed with him. He turned away, unwilling to let Finnegan see how hurt he was that Spock, Spock of all people, should laugh with Finnegan at him; and knew that Finnegan was not fooled.
He turned to face a stone wall and whirled again.
Finnegan no longer stood there; Garth did, with Spock still at his side. And Spock held an open communicator.
"Yes, Kirk," Spock said coldly. "Lord Garth is the natural leader of the Galaxy. He must be allowed to leave here, and take up his rightful place."
Kirk lunged at Spock, trying to stop him. With one hand, almost contemptuously, Spock held him off while he spoke into the communicator.
"Spock to Enterprise. Two to beam up."
Scotty's voice spoke. "Queen to Queen's level three."
"Queen to King's level one," Spock said deliberately.
"Scotty! No! No!" Kirk screamed. "No!..."
"You did kill Ben Finney," Spock went on, as if none of the previous exchange and happened. "You panicked, Kirk, never gave him a chance to leave the pod. You murdered Finney, Kirk. You murdered him. You murdered him. You murdered him..."
Kirk closed his eyes to shut out the sight of the accusing face. The voice slowly faded into silence; Kirk reopened his eyes.
He was lying on the floor of his cabin. A glance at the chronometer told him it was again morning.
He got to his feet, slowly dressed. He had never felt less like going on duty.
That night, he fought his tiredness, trying to stay awake as long as possible, afraid to sleep in case he dreamed again. He sat at his desk, trying to keep his mind occupied with paper work, but his eyes drooped shut despite all his attempts to remain wakeful. At last he gave up, and staggered to bed, hoping against hope that this time he'd be tired enough to sleep without dreaming.
He faced Spock, a strip of leather in his hands, wondering how to use this weapon to best advantage. It seemed so unlikely a weapon! And he didn't want to kill Spock - even though there was killing fury in the Vulcan's eyes. He was half conscious of McCoy at the side, beside T'Pau, watching. Spock lunged, getting his thong round Kirk's throat, He felt it tighten, and struggled for breath, unavailingly. He felt consciousness slip from him; as it did, he heard McCoy saying, "He's dead. Well done, Spock." The voice was truly congratulatory; Kirk knew that McCoy was offering a sincere comment. He felt his body being thrown into a pit; and heard the gathered Vulcans, McCoy with them, leaving. They weren't even bothering to take his body back to the Enterprise...
He struggled back to conscious thought, to find himself lying on a bed - facing himself! He stared in horror at the face, so familiar from his mirror, as it looked down at him, a vicious expression on its face. Then it left him, and he lay, unable to move because of the restraints that held him.
Spock came in, to look down at him.
"Spock! You must help me. I'm Captain Kirk. Janice Lester changed bodies with me..."
Spock's fingers on his face ..."I believe you ... but I believe we will be better with a change of Captain. She will depend on me more, since she has no experience ... and she will not have the delusions of grandeur that you so often have... If you tell anyone that I admitted that you told the truth, I will say you are lying, Dr. Lester.
"I hate you, Captain..."
Kirk's attention was drawn from his aching head to Spock's statement. Somewhere in the background, Kevin Riley was still singing 'Kathleen', very badly.
So the ailment, whatever it was, had affected Spock too ... and now he knew the truth. Spock hated him. He had hidden it cleverly, but the disease had betrayed him; he would know never to trust the Vulcan again...
He closed his eyes in misery, and when he opened them again, it was to look up at the roof of his cabin. It was morning again, and for the third night he had obtained no rest from his night's sleep.
Sitting in his command chair that day, he had a momentary impulse to confide in Spock. Despite the dreams, he still trusted Spock... he did, he told himself.
Inside his mind, Harbi sensed the thought with near panic. He mustn't allow Kirk to confide in anyone - but could he influence Kirk's waking mind? Really influence it, as opposed to putting a stray thought into it?
The dreams can't be wrong. The thought came subtly. They can't be wrong. Why have there been so many of them, if they are? Spock is just biding his time. He wants to be Captain. He must want to be Captain. If I tell him, he'll tell McCoy, and get me declared unfit for duty... maybe even insane. Never to command the Enterprise again - and then Spock would be Captain...
He gave an involuntary shiver at the thought of losing the Enterprise.
"Are you all right, Jim?"
He glanced round. Spock was standing beside him, an expression of some concern on his face.
It's a trick, the thought said. He wants you to admit to feeling ill so that he can have you removed from duty. He's cunning...
"I'm perfectly all right, Mr. Spock," Kirk said coldly, formally.
Rebuffed, hurt, Spock retreated into cold formality himself. "Very well, sir. I regret having bothered you unnecessarily."
He returned to his station, and gave his attention to his sensors.
Kirk watched him for a moment. I was right, wasn't I? the thought said. If he really cared, he wouldn't have gone back to duty so readily. You beat him this time.
From his place at the navigation console, Herbi glanced back at Spock. A new flavour had crept into the parasite's mind; he realised that he was getting some feed-back from Spock as well as the now-permanent emotional feast he was getting from Kirk. This was wonderful. He had never been so well-fed, even as a child basking in the love and care of his parents, for that emotional aura had been the sickly-sweet one of affection, and he preferred the bitter one of hatred, fear and distrust, the tart one of hurt.
After Kirk went off duty, however, Spock made his way to Sickbay to see McCoy.
"Well, Spock?" McCoy asked airily. "What can I do for you?"
"For me, Doctor, nothing... but I do not think the Captain is feeling well. He is looking tired. He claims to be feeling perfectly all right, but I am not convinced. I think you should give him an examination."
"Are you saying you think he's unfit for duty, Spock?"
"No, Doctor, I would not go that far. I do say he is not looking well. I think he is tired; unnaturally so, and that unless something is done soon, he may then become unfit for duty. I think it better to see to him before that stage is reached."
"I'll go and see him."
McCoy made his way to Kirk's quarters casually, as if he had nothing more important on his mind than a gossip. He pressed the buzzer at the door; and on hearing the invitation to enter, went in.
Kirk looked at him a little suspiciously.
"Bones. Did Spock send you here?"
"Spock? Why should he? I just looked in for a chat."
"Oh. Sorry, Bones, I'm a bit edgy..."
"You're looking a bit tired too," McCoy said, privately shocked at how right Spock was.
"Oh, that. I'm not sleeping too well, that's all."
"Any idea why?" McCoy struggled to remain casual, half afraid that Kirk would resent so direct a question. After all, Spock must have asked, to know that Kirk claimed to be feeling all right.
Kirk shook his head. "No, not really. I've had a nightmare or two, that's all."
"Come on, Jim. You're coming to sickbay with me, and I'll give you a check over. Maybe all you need is a tonic."
The checkup proved that Kirk was surprisingly badly run down, and definitely underslept. McCoy gave him a shot and a couple of sleeping pills.
"Take these when you go to bed tonight," he said. "And go early to bed. Then I want to see you again in the morning."
Kirk took them and left. He had no intention of taking the pills; he had no intention of going to sleep if he could possibly avoid it. He didn't want to spend another night dreaming about being betrayed by Spock.
He sat at his desk working, forcing his eyes to remain open. Harbi sent him sleep thoughts, but he fought them, not knowing what he fought. Eventually, he could fight no longer, and slumped forward over his desk.
Joanna was on board the ship. She and McCoy were avoiding him... Well, he thought, they don't see much of each other... He was walking down the corridor when he heard laughter coming from Sickbay. One of the voices was Spock's.
"It's better like this," he was saying. "We don't need Kirk."
We don't need Kirk.
We don't need Kirk.
WE DON'T NEED KIRK.
The voice echoed round and round in his head, the cruel laughter from McCoy and Joanna providing a background to it.
Suddenly Spock was standing before him. He was holding a whip. He struck out at Kirk with it; Kirk dodged and turned to flee. As he did, the lash caught him across the face; across the eyes. He tried to see where he was going, and couldn't - the lash had blinded him.
The ship seemed to have gone now. He was walking on a partly-yielding surface, one that dragged at his feet. He tripped and fell over a rock; he rolled and came to rest against a larger rock, the impact winding him. He lay for a few moments gasping for breath, then tried to get up. His skin seemed to be adhering to the rock... he pulled himself away, and felt the pain as some of his skin tore away. His shoulder was beginning to ache too; somehow, he had damaged it. He tried to move on. It was so hot; he would give anything for a drink. He tried to call out, but his throat was far too dry, and he could only croak. He heard rustling behind him, and turned; the rustling stopped, to be resumed to one side of him a few seconds later. He tried to ignore it, but kept wondering if the animals of this crazy world were as bloodthirsty as he had discovered the plants to be ... he tripped and fell again.
Then he heard Spock's voice, and knew that the Vulcan was somewhere near.
"Spock!" he croaked, and knew that he'd been heard.
"There's no-one here," Spock said clearly. "We might as well move on. He isn't here."
"Spock!" He tried to call again, but only a hoarse sound came.
Someone caught his arm in an unfriendly grip.
He was hustled along. Involuntarily he opened his eyes and found that he could see again. He was being forced towards a huge rock. He was made to stand with his back to it while his arms were tied by a rope that went round the back of the rock. Spock was standing there, watching.
"Spock!" he cried desperately. Even yet, somehow the instinct to trust Spock had not died completely.
The Vulcan smiled cruelly at him, and picked up a bow. He fitted an arrow to it, took aim carefully, and fired.
The arrow pinned one shoulder.
Spock took another arrow; fired it. It pinned the other shoulder.
He took yet another. This one, Kirk was sure, would be through the heart. He closed his eyes. He didn't want to watch Spock killing him...
Nothing happened. He opened his eyes.
He was slumped over his desk, his neck stiff from his uncomfortable position.
He was washing when McCoy came in without buzzing. The doctor took one look at him and said accusingly, "Jim, you didn't take those sleeping pills."
"How did you know?"
"Because if you had, you'd still be out cold. Jim, I didn't give you them for fun. You need a good sleep. Either you promise to take those pills tonight, or I come in and sedate you. Now make up your mind which it's to be."
Kirk looked at him from bloodshot eyes. Maybe, he thought, in a drugged sleep I won't have those nightmares. "All right," he said. "I'll take them tonight."
"Did you have another nightmare last night?" McCoy asked.
Reluctantly, Kirk nodded.
"Jim, why not get Spock to meld with you, see if he can find out what's causing them?"
"No!" Kirk rejected the idea with revulsion - Harbi's revulsion. "I'm not having anyone crawling around inside my skull, least of all Spock!"
"But Jim, you've been in mind-meld with Spock before, and you never minded - if you'll excuse the pun."
"Well, I mind now! I won't agree to it."
"All right, Jim, just forget it." He glanced at Kirk. "I think you should stay off duty today, and rest. Try to get some sleep."
"I'm perfectly fit and able to do my job," Kirk answered sharply.
"You're tired out and liable to make a mistake."
"Doctor, are you in league with Spock to declare me unfit?"
McCoy stared at him in amazement. "No," he said. "But if you go on the way you're doing, I will be declaring you unfit, temporarily at least, and I'll keep you in Sickbay, under restraint if necessary, until you're fully rested."
He turned and left without another word. Kirk stared after him, aware that he had hurt him by his attitude, not fully understanding his own behaviour himself.
In a corner of his mind, Harbi smiled, savouring the flavour of McCoy's hurt. It had a different taste to Spock's, for it was mixed with anger... delicious!
Somehow, Kirk got through the day. He was desperately sleepy, and there was a terrible temptation to take the pills as he had promised and go to bed. Harbi was feeling hungry; the gluttonous hunger of the compulsive eater. He had become addicted to his parasitism - he projected sleep thoughts at Kirk. Sleep... sleep...
Kirk fought the temptation until mid-evening, ship's time; then he took the pills and lay down.
The pills weren't working! He had never been so wide awake. Restlessly, he got up again and made his way to the bridge. They were near Romulan space; soon it would be time to enter it in obedience to Starfleet's sealed order. They had to discover the secret of the Romulan cloaking device.
Yes; there was the Romulan ship. ...
"You will beam over, Captain, with your First Officer."
The woman commander ... Spock staring at her.
"You should join us, Spock," she said seductively. "Your place is here with us, your distant cousins ... these humans do not appreciate you as they should."
"I agree, Commander," Spock replied.
"This is a spy trip, is it not?" she asked..
"I do not know," Spock said. "But Kirk will know. He can be made to talk."
Kirk stared at Spock in horror. Romulan guards approached; he was seized and stripped, fastened to a wall. He twisted his head round to look at Spock. The Vulcan had picked up a whip and was approaching with it.
"I have tolerated you too long, Kirk," he said, coldly, harshly. "I have supported your illogic too long. But now we will see which of us is the stronger."
The whip lashed down across his back, with the full force of the Vulcan strength cutting the skin. It fell again, again... Kirk bit his lip against the pain, struggling to remain silent. At last it stopped.
"Will you tell us, Kirk?" Spock's voice was cold, cruel, full of sadistic pleasure.
With an effort, Kirk shook his head.
The woman rapped out a sentence in Romulan; Kirk didn't understand what she said, though he felt that he should have done. The ropes fastening him were untied; he was dragged across the room to a table and thrown down onto it, roughly, on his back, the impact jarring all the whip cuts.
Four guards held his arms and legs; he closed his eyes for a moment to shut out the expression on their faces, and felt the smoothness of the table change under his back to a rough, uneven surface. He blinked his eyes open again.
The Romulan ship had vanished; in its place was an uninviting landscape. But one thing hadn't changed; Spock still stood there, whip raised; then he brought it down, full force, across Kirk's unprotected stomach.
He twisted in agony, tearing his lacerated back still further on the rough surface of the boulder on which he was lying.
"I wonder how long he can remain silent under this?" Spock said, calculatingly. Then he brought the whip down again. Again Kirk writhed, silent under the fire that shot through his body. The whip came down again... again... a tiny corner of his mind knew that ten lashes was the sentence; though when at last the whip ceased to fall, it felt like many more strokes than ten.
Harbi, watching, licked his lips delightedly, savouring the spicy tang of remembered agony. This was the best taste yet; better than hate, better than hurt, better than anger or fear. He wanted more...
"Will you tell us?" Spock's voice insisted. Kirk was beyond speaking. He dared not open his mouth for fear of losing the fragile control he had over his desire to scream... and scream and scream...
The lash fell again... again...
Spock came out of his cabin as McCoy passed on his way to Kirk's quarters.
"How is the Captain, Doctor?"
"I don't know yet, I'm just going in to see him now. He should still be asleep, though; I gave him a couple of extra-strong sleeping pills, should knock him out for about fifteen hours, and he promised to take them. You know, it's funny, Spock; he's... Well, I gave him the pills the night before, and he didn't take them; he's badly underslept, and he seems to be fighting going to sleep, or he'd have taken them. He admitted having one or two nightmares; but when I suggested that we should get you to meld with him to try to find out what's causing them, he refused point-blank. Didn't seem to want -"
He broke off as an agonised scream, piercing for all that it was muffled by the closed door, came from Kirk's room. As one, they leaped for the door. McCoy pressed the button to open it; they went in.
Kirk was writhing on the bed, his face a twisted mask of agony, as he screamed... and screamed...
Spock reached him first, and gripped his arms roughly, shaking him.
"Jim! Wake up! Jim!"
McCoy reached into his bag for a hypo. "He's too deeply doped by the sleeping pills to waken," he said. He pressed the hypo against Kirk's shoulder, and Kirk subsided from sleep into unconsciousness.
Harbi wrinkled his face in distaste at the honey-sweet taste of concern that reached him from their minds, and withdrew contact, maintaining only the tenuous link that held Kirk a helpless prisoner of his greed.
Spock and McCoy looked at each other.
"If that's the extent of one of his nightmares, no wonder he's fighting sleep," Spock said quietly.
McCoy nodded. "What I don't understand is why he refused to let you meld with him... could you trace the origins of the nightmares, as I suggested?"
"Probably; but if he is unwilling, he would fight my influence in his mind."
"Whether he fights it or not, Spock, you're going to have to do it," McCoy said slowly.
Spock nodded. "It does seem to be the only solution," he agreed reluctantly.
They looked at each other again, then, by mutual consent, sat down to wait for Kirk to regain consciousness.
Kirk lay quiet for a little while, but then he began to toss restlessly again. McCoy bent over him anxiously.
"What is it, Doctor?"
"I don't know, Spock. I just don't know. It's as if ... remember on Deneva? The people affected by the parasites showed strong reactions even when they were unconscious. He should be out cold after that shot I gave him; but he seems to be in the grip of another nightmare..."
Spock reached out to touch Kirk's head; but before he could, Kirk's eyes opened. He stared up at them, pain and horror showing clearly in his eyes.
"It's all right, Jim," McCoy said soothingly. "You're awake now... that must have been some dream."
Kirk shuddered. "It was... pretty bad," he admitted. He became aware of Spock beside him, and, almost without knowing he was doing it, he moved fractionally to get further away from the Vulcan.
Spock noticed the withdrawal, slight as it was, and moved away himself, his face wooden. McCoy noticed it too.
"Jim - what's wrong with you?"
"I... Nothing, Bones."
"No? What was your dream about?"
"It was just reliving one of my... my less pleasant memories," Kirk said hesitantly.
"I'd... rather not."
"And the rest of your nightmares?"
"Were much the same..." he said unwillingly.
"All right, Jim. Now, there must be some reason for them; I said that already. The only way we can find out what's causing them is for Spock to mind-link with you."
"He's prepared to do it," McCoy told him. Surely that was why Kirk was refusing - his knowledge of how unpleasant it would be for Spock.
"No," Kirk said again. "I told you, Bones, I don't want anyone nosing around inside my skull."
McCoy glanced at Spock, apologetically. "Jim, either you agree to it or I declare you medically unfit for duty, sedate you and have Spock do it anyway. It'll be more pleasant all round if you submit voluntarily."
Kirk stared at him, gauging the extent of his implacability. Then he sighed.
"All right," he said. "Get on with it."
Spock came back almost reluctantly. He reached out to touch Kirk's face; and sent a tendril of thought into Kirk's mind.
At once he became aware of a stranger there, standing in a shadowed corner of Kirk's mind, watching. He moved towards the stranger; and found Kirk standing in his way, facing him.
"You must let me past, Jim," he said quietly.
"No!" Kirk gasped. "You want to get behind me, to stab me in the back..."
Spock stared at him in amazement, amazement that lessened when he realised that he was holding a knife in his hand. Now where had that come from?
"You must let me past," he repeated. "I am not any danger to you, Jim. But he is." He nodded past Kirk to the shadowy stranger.
He tried to step past, tried to move round Kirk; but his Captain moved with him, turning to keep facing him, and the stranger moved too, keeping behind Kirk.
"Look behind you, Jim. There's your enemy - not me. Jim, I hate to remind you of it, but how often have I saved you in the past? Would I do that, then seek to stab you in the back now? Look behind you."
The inner struggle showed on Kirk's face. He wanted to trust Spock... so much, so very much ... but that horrible little thread of thought still whispered inside his head, He's tricking you ... he hates you...
With an effort, a terrible mind-wrenching effort, Kirk gasped, "Spock - help me! Help me!"
He held out his hand. Spock gripped it, and pulled him to his side, turning him to face the shadow.
"Who are you?" he asked.
The shadow moved slightly; a man-shape, its face a featureless mask, it was completely anonymous.
Spock lifted the knife he was still holding and moved towards it.
"If you destroy me, you destroy Kirk," a hoarse, sighing, unidentifiable voice whispered. "If you destroy me here, you destroy his mind; if you do discover who I am and destroy my body, you destroy his body..."
The figure thinned, became transparent, and vanished.
Kirk became aware of McCoy standing there, watching anxiously, and realised that the doctor had heard none of the exchange. It had all been inside his head. Beside him, Spock said quietly,
"We were partly successful, Doctor. There was someone else inside the Captain's mind, influencing his thoughts. He is gone now, at least for the moment, but unless we can find out who it is and somehow disable him, he will re-enter and continue to give the Captain nightmares."
With some difficulty, Kirk said, "Spock - what I said about the dreams... They were all things that did happen - but he twisted them somehow, so that you... You were the one trying to harm me..."
"Have you no idea of who it could be, Captain?" Spock asked briskly.
Kirk shook his head. "I didn't even know he was there, Spock. Bones, who on board, apart from Spock, is telepathic?"
McCoy shook his head. "No-one, as far as I know."
Kirk glanced at Spock, who also shook his head. "Anyone who is, is hiding the fact."
"If you melded with him, would you know?"
"Spock, I hate to ask it of you, but we have to find him. Even if it means you linking with everybody on the ship."
Spock nodded. "Yes, Captain."
"It isn't as bad as that," McCoy put in. "I think we can forget about the humans on board; and we can forget about most of the aliens too. The ones to investigate are the aliens who joined the ship recently, and there are only one or two of them." He saw Kirk's puzzled look, and went on. "Don't you see, Jim? Your nightmares are so recent, it can't be anyone who's been on the ship for a while that's responsible, or they'd have started long ago."
"Yes," Spock said. "Of course. Now why didn't I think of that? However, Doctor, we can take the matter one step further; which of the new alien crew-members would have any cause to dislike the Captain enough to give him nightmares, nightmares in which I am the villain?"
"There's only one of them that I've had anything to do with yet," Kirk put in.
They looked at each other.
"Ensign Harbi?" Spock asked.
"I stopped him wearing his medallion. He would certainly resent that," Kirk replied. He glanced at McCoy. "Bones, what information have you on the Dorians? Are they telepathic?"
"If they are, it's never been reported," McCoy said.
"Let's find out." Kirk reached for the intercom. "Ensign Harbi, report immediately to the Captain's quarters."
Harbi, when he arrived, was the polite, courteous, non-obtrusive, unlikable officer they had come to expect him to be.
"Yes, sir?" he asked.
Kirk nodded to Spock. "Ensign, will you permit Mr. Spock to mind-link with you?"
"For what purpose, sir?"
Kirk looked searchingly at him. "I think you know that, Ensign." Harbi's face twisted with rage. He reached out with his mind; Kirk cried out in pain as the Dorian's mind crashed into his with brutal force. Harbi glared defiantly at Spock.
"If you try to hurt me, you kill the Captain," he gasped.
"We're wanting to help you," Spock said reasonably, quietly, gently, even though his mind was a seething mass of anxiety for Kirk's safety - for Kirk's very sanity. Kirk' only chance lay in not frightening Harbi. He reached out to touch the Dorian, even though his mind shrank from the black hatred he already sensed in the other's thoughts; and Kirk screamed again, in sudden agony, as Harbi sent a red-hot thought spiking through his brain.
Balked, Spock retreated slightly. He caught McCoy's eye, and moved sideways; Harbi turned with him, to keep facing him. Cautiously, McCoy moved the few steps that separated him from the Dorian, and thrust the hypo against his neck. Harbi gasped; Kirk screamed again; then the Ensign fell unconscious while Spock leaped forward to support the staggering Kirk, who reeled from the effect of the white-hot dagger-thrust in his mind. Kirk clutched at Spock, gasping, while Spock projected soothing thoughts.
Meanwhile, McCoy, leaving Kirk to Spock, bent over the Dorian, his diagnostic scanner busy. At last he straightened.
McCoy shook his head. "His brain waves are showing definite abnormalities, Jim. In my opinion, this man is insane."
Kirk shuddered again. "He's still affecting me," he said. "I can feel him; now that I know about him, I can definitely feel him."
Spock moved now, to touch Harbi's head. He concentrated; his face twisted with distaste as he felt the lust for unpleasant emotions that boiled in the Dorian's head. His eyes closed in the effort to separate Harbi from Kirk; then Kirk cried out again as he felt the thread of thought pull out of his mind, hurting like a pulled tooth.
Spock glanced at McCoy. "You must kill him," he gasped. "Now, while he is unable to fight back. You must... or he will kill Jim..." His face showed the strain of holding the link while talking.
McCoy said slowly, unwillingly, "Is it essential?"
If Spock thought so, it absolutely had to be. Unwilling, but resigned, McCoy gave Harbi the appropriate shot. The Dorian's body went completely limp; Spock pulled his mind free at the last possible moment.
"I'll take his body to sickbay," McCoy said quietly. "Jim, you should try to get a proper sleep now. You should be all right."
Kirk nodded, with a weak smile. But after McCoy had gone, he turned to Spock.
"Spock... can I ask you a favour?"
"Harbi... He is dead, isn't he?"
"Even so... I'm... Well, I'm afraid to sleep. Those nightmares were... were pretty bad. Spock, would you meld with me again... so that I know you're there to help me?"
Spock reached out without replying to touch Kirk's face. Then he whispered, "Our minds are one..."
He sat on the edge of the bed, holding Kirk's hand. Kirk smiled as he closed his eyes. Spock concentrated. Peace... tranquillity... comfort ...
Kirk walked through an open meadow, relaxing in the peaceful atmosphere. Spock came forward to meet him, and without speaking, turned to walk beside him. At the edge of the meadow they stopped and looked back at the beautiful panorama behind them. They smiled at each other; and together, they walked on. There was more beauty ahead... and they were together... and nothing could ever come between them.