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Located in a remote corner of the galaxy, the planet swung peacefully in orbit around its sun. Originally a colony founded by a long-forgotten religious sect from Earth, it had evolved over the years into a quiet, semi-rural society; there were few large cities, and only a little heavy industry - the inhabitants supported themselves mainly by agriculture, and the export of their one valuable commodity, the fine, soft wool of the native equivalent of sheep.
Although a member of the Federation, Sanctuary was of no strategic importance, and as it possessed no attractions in the way of rare minerals it remained untroubled by the political conflicts of the Federation - there was nothing here to draw the acquisitive eyes of either Klingons or Romulans. The tiny spaceport was a trading centre only, though very occasionally Starfleet ships would call briefly to allow their crews the relaxation of shore leave in the capital city.
These visits however made little impact on the majority of the citizens, who carried on their peaceful, stolid lives aware of, but not particularly interested in, the wide-reaching galactic civilisations that flowed around them.
Sheriff Blair disliked mysteries; yet now, he thought gloomily, he was faced with one. He had prided himself that in the small town of Arden crime was scarcely a problem - the occasional drunk, of course, sometimes an outbreak of petty theft, once even a case of arson - but this latest series of crimes was outrageous, horrifying. Several young women had been attacked in the town and the surrounding countryside; luckily, none fatally so far, but all had been injured in a manner which testified to the callous savagery of their assailant.
Blair investigated, sick at heart - surely none of the men he had known all his life could be responsible? Unfortunately none of the women could describe the man who attacked them; there were no clues to his identity, apart from the unusual physical strength he displayed.
Unconsciously hoping for a solution which would divert the guilt from his neighbours, Blair found himself considering the most obvious suspect, the new tenant of the old Forbes place on the edge of town.
The arrangements had been made through a lawyer in the capital, and the newcomer had moved in late one night, so that no-one had seen his arrival, and no-one in town seemed to know anything about him. He was a young man, this Kirk, to have chosen a life of isolation; for the house stood in extensive grounds, thickly wooded and heavily overgrown. He was seldom seen except when he drove into town for supplies, and the speculation increased when it was found that he politely, but firmly, discouraged all attempts to engage him in personal conversation.
Investigation revealed that he made no telephone calls, and received none; no visitors were ever seen at the house, nor was any mail delivered - he seemed to be, by his own choice, cut off from any social contact. And it was, by Blair's reckoning, shortly after his arrival in town that the attacks had begun. Certainly, he must be investigated - but discreetly; Blair knew only too well how easily rumour could brand a man as guilty without proof.
Casually, the Sheriff wandered past the grocery store one morning, timing himself so that he collided heavily with the emerging Kirk; the man staggered, his purchases flying.
"Sorry about that," Blair apologised. "My fault - let me help you." Kirk glanced at him, but Blair was scrambling after some tins that had rolled along the pavement.
"That's the lot, I think," he said at last; then, casually, "settled in all right, Mr. Kirk?"
"Yes, thank you; there are some repairs needed, of course - that keeps me busy." The pleasant voice was light, the lips smiled, but Blair saw that the hazel eyes were wary, defensive. He gestured Kirk towards the car.
"I'll bring these."
What was the man hiding? Despite his wish to pin the attacks on an outsider, Blair's every instinct told him this man could be trusted. He moved with the air of a man accustomed to authority, his face resolute and controlled. The simple clothes he wore were expensive, as was his car - he was young, good-looking, attractive to women - as his own daughter had informed him emphatically - why should such a man choose to bury himself in an isolated house in a small town?
Reaching the car Blair paused as Kirk reached for his keys; across the street he noticed the youngest Morris boy playing with some friends. Suddenly a ball bounced into the street, and the child followed - straight into the path of a heavy truck which had just turned the corner.
Shock held Blair frozen for a few vital seconds, but Kirk was already moving; dropping his purchases he raced across the road, snatched the child up and threw him to a startled passer-by; but as he turned to jump clear he stumbled and the truck was upon him, sending him spinning in a crumpled heap to the side of the road.
Somehow the Sheriff found himself calming the confused crowd that quickly gathered; he was conscious only of the terrified child screaming somewhere in the background, and of a pale face, blood-streaked, at his feet. Snapping an order for an ambulance he knelt and gingerly touched the chest, feeling with relief that Kirk's heart was still beating. When the ambulance came he rode with it, reluctant to leave the stranger.
At the hospital there was an anxious wait until the doctor appeared at last.
"How is he?" Blair enquired.
"He was lucky - the truck must have caught him only a glancing blow. There's bad bruising, and a slight concussion, but we won't have to transfer him to the city hospital. He's still unconscious, though, and likely to remain so for some hours yet. I'm glad he's going to make it - I heard what he did."
"Yes, I couldn't have reached the kid in time. I'll look in tomorrow, doctor, just to see how he is."
The doctor glanced at some papers he was carrying. "Do you know anything about him? I need details of his next-of-kin and so on."
"Can't help you, I'm afraid - he's a stranger in town. I'll talk to him when he comes round, and see what I can find out."
That night the mysterious attacker struck again. His hysterical victim had a fortunate escape - some neighbours returning from an evening out heard screams, and scared him off; although shocked, the girl was unhurt, but like the others she could only repeat that her assailant was unusually strong, and moved very quietly - he had approached her from behind, and she had heard nothing. Blair was aware of a curious relief mixed with his frustration - Kirk was in hospital, still unconscious, so he could not be responsible, after all. He was glad - he had liked the man, and his action in saving the child. had not been that of a man who could attack young women so brutally.
The following day Sheriff Blair returned to the hospital to visit Kirk; the doctor met him with a worried frown.
"He's not responding; seems to have something on his mind that's upsetting him. I can't understand what he's talking about - see if you can make sense of it. "
Blair entered the isolation ward quietly. Kirk was lying in bed, his eyes closed; he was under restraint, a necessary precaution as he was tossing from side to side, muttering quietly. Blair leaned closer, and placed a gentle hand on the burning forehead.
"Can I help?" he asked.
Kirk's eyes opened, unfocussed, bright with fever. The unintelligible muttering steadied into words.
"Spock... must reach... alone... so afraid... Spock... must help... Spock..." For an instant the eyes cleared. "Help Spock," he said distinctly; then his head fell back and he slipped once more into unconsciousness.
Blair straightened, a puzzled frown creasing his brow. Who was Spock? And how was he supposed to help him? It seemed that Kirk had been cleared of one mystery only to be involved in another. Or... was he? It might, after all, be the same one...
Grimly, Blair checked his holstered gun. Somehow he had the suspicion that a visit of inspection to the old Forbes place might be rewarding.
The house looked peaceful, deserted, as Blair surveyed it in the late afternoon sun. He was alone; Kirk was, after all, entitled to his privacy if he had nothing criminal to conceal - but he had told his deputy that he would be calling at the house to try and trace Kirk's next-of-kin.
To his surprise Blair saw that all the windows on the ground floor were heavily shuttered; either Kirk was afraid of intruders during what he had intended to be only a short absence, or he was taking precautions against being spied on.
The door was locked. Blair had suspected that, and pulled from his pocket the key-ring he had found among Kirk's possessions. The door swung open easily, and he stepped into the hall. The lights came on at a touch; well, that was a relief - he hadn't fancied groping about in the gloom.
Taking a firm grip on his gun Blair began a tour of the ground floor, finding that the rooms showed little sign of occupation. The exception was the kitchen, where a table had been laid for a meal; with a sinking heart he noted two place settings. So his fears had been confirmed; someone else was living here, someone whose presence Kirk felt it necessary to keep a secret. There could only be one reason for such concealment, and Blair knew a bitter disappointment - he had wanted to trust the man.
Leaving the kitchen Blair cautiously began to climb the stairs; from the landing he looked to left and right, wondering where to start his search. A patch of light wood on a door at the end of the landing decided him, and he hurried forward to find that the heavy door had been burst open from the inside. His mind raced, considering - someone had been locked in that room, someone with unusual strength... He must have broken out during the night, escaped...
Forgetting in his anger the shuttered windows and the locked doors, Blair turned away, intending to find the telephone and contact his deputy. He had only just begun the movement when steel-strong fingers clamped down on his shoulder, and he felt himself crumpling helplessly to the floor.
Blair stirred, groaned, and pulled himself unsteadily to his feet; he was not sure how long he had been unconscious, but certainly a considerable time had elapsed, for it was now dark outside. As he gingerly rubbed his aching neck and shoulder, he became aware of a cold draught blowing up the stairs -the front door, which he had carefully closed behind him, stood wide open. Blair caught his breath in horrified realisation - the maniac had made good his escape, might even now be on the search for another victim; and this time, he might be successful.
Running downstairs Blair found the telephone, and called his office; Dave Phillips, his deputy, answered.
"Dave, I'm at the Forbes place. Kirk's been hiding that madman we're after; he attacked me, and escaped. Round up search parties - make sure they're armed - and get them to start looking before we have a death on our hands. Warn them to be careful - this one's dangerous."
"What about Kirk?"
"I don't suppose he'll be going anywhere, but put a guard on him in case our man finds out where he is and tries to contact him. Get started right away - you've got a lot of ground to cover. I'll join you as soon as I've finished looking around here."
Replacing the receiver, Blair returned to the landing, intending to investigate the once-locked room.
He found that it was furnished as a bedroom, containing two beds, one showing signs of recent occupation, the other neatly made up. The wardrobe held clothing, some in Kirk's size, the rest intended for someone taller and slimmer. After a cursory glance Blair was about to close the door again when the gleam of gold caught his eye; he reached to the back of the wardrobe and lifted down a hanger, his eyes widening as he realised what he held.
Blair had never actually seen one before, but newsreels ensured that everyone on Sanctuary could recognise the uniform of a Starfleet Captain. Beside it hung another, a blue shirt this time; he was not able to identify the rank of its owner, but it bore the same gold arrowhead badge.
Blake hung the uniforms on the outside of the wardrobe, and stared at them thoughtfully; he was, he realised, involved in something he couldn't handle - but where could he turn for advice?
Investigating further, he found on a shelf a box containing equipment, but the only items he could identify were two communicators. Gingerly, he lifted one, and examined it carefully; from films he had seen he thought he remembered roughly how it worked, and after several fumbling attempts he managed to raise the grid.
"Hello?" he said nervously. "Is anyone there?"
The answer was immediate and explosive. "Who the hell are you?" a voice demanded. "Whit's goin' on doon there? Where's the Captain?"
"I'm Sheriff Blair of Arden," he replied. "Are you with Starfleet?"
"Lt-Commander Montgomery Scott, in temporary command of the U.S.S. Enterprise," the voice identified itself precisely, then continued agitatedly, "Sheriff, did ye say? Has something happened to Captain Kirk?"
"It's a bit difficult to explain. There's been... an accident, the... the Captain's in hospital, and..."
"Stay right where ye are," the voice ordered. "I'll send somebody down."
Blair waited, relieved that the responsibility was no longer his alone. Very soon he heard a low humming sound, and saw four glittering columns of light which coalesced into the figures of four men dressed in Starfleet uniform. One stepped forward.
"I'm Dr. McCoy," he greeted the Sheriff. "This - " he indicated one of the red-shirted men who accompanied him " - is Security Chief Baillie. Now, what's happened?"
Blair explained how he had come to investigate the house, hastily reassuring the doctor that Kirk was not seriously hurt; then he spoke of the assaults that had taken place, his initial suspicion of Kirk, and his final certainty when he himself had been struck down by the man the Captain had so carefully concealed. An exclamation of impatience from the doctor interrupted him.
"If you think that Spock's responsible for these attacks, you're a fool," McCoy said disgustedly. "Of course, you don't know him... Scotty, did you get all that?"
"Aye, Ah did," came the voice from the still open communicator in Blair's hand. "I've got Chekov scanning for Vulcan readings now, but there's a lot of movement in the area, and it's confusing the sensors."
"The search parties," Blair explained. "I ordered them out when I was sure... I couldn't take a chance on what he'd do..." His voice trailed off.
"Armed, I suppose?" McCoy snorted. "Chief?"
"Leave it to me, Doctor." The Security Chief turned to his two assistants. "Blade, Sorenson, get out there and keep an eye on things. Mr. Scott will give you Mr. Spock's co-ordinates when he's found; get between him and the search parties, but don't go near him - remember, he'll be scared and confused. He's hiding somewhere, and it's up to you to make sure that none of these trigger-happy vigilantes get near him. And gentlemen - " Baillie's beckoning finger summoned the two men closer, " - if anyone other than the Captain or Dr. McCoy lays a finger on Mr. Spock, I'll have a few words to say to you both. I trust I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly, Chief," the two assured him fervently.
"Off with you, then; call more men from the ship if you need them. They're good boys," he said earnestly to Blair as the Security men left, "but it doesn't do any harm to keep them on their toes."
"No, I suppose not," the Sheriff agreed dazedly.
"Now for the Captain," McCoy broke in decisively. "Scotty, can you beam us over to the hospital?"
"If you'll excuse me, Doctor, I'll go and keep an eye on the search," Baillie said. "I'll keep in touch with Mr. Scott - one of us will let you know when we have Mr. Spock safe."
"Thanks, Baillie. When you're ready, Scotty."
He did not, Sheriff Blair decided, like the transporter system; but for once his companion did not voice his own disapproval as they sparkled into existence before the goggling eyes of a youthful deputy; with merely a grunt McCoy hustled the dazed Sheriff into the room where Kirk lay.
The duty doctor hovered apprehensively as the Starfleet surgeon made a thorough examination, then relaxed visibly when the blue eyes flashed a glance of approval.
"You've done a good job," McCoy commented, "but he should have come round by now. This'll do it." He pressed a hypo to Kirk's shoulder, and within seconds the Captain stirred and awoke. He stared blankly at first, then his eyes widened in recognition.
"Bones!" he exclaimed, struggling to sit up. "Where's Spock?"
"Take it easy, Jim," the doctor ordered, pressing him down. With a curt command McCoy dismissed the deputy and the duty doctor, and Kirk subsided impatiently until the door closed behind them.
"Well?" he snapped impatiently.
"Jim, there's been some trouble," McCoy said slowly. "Did you hear about a series of attacks on women in this area recently?"
"Yes, vaguely; but it's got nothing to do with..."
"I'm afraid it has. It seems that you mentioned Spock when you were raving, and the Sheriff here went out to the house to investigate."
"Oh, no - "
"Oh, yes. Your pet Vulcan panicked, nerve pinched him, and ran - he's out in the woods somewhere, with armed search parties after him.."
"I must find him!" Kirk sat up abruptly.
"Not yet. Scotty's scanning for him, and Baillie and some of his boys are keeping an eye on the search parties. As soon as he's found I'll take you to him, I promise. There's no point in rushing around just now - relax, and get some rest until we have news. You know the Chief won't let anyone near Spock."
"You're right, of course," Kirk said wretchedly, "but he'll be so afraid."
Blair could contain his curiosity no longer. "What is all this about?" he burst out. "Who's Spock? Why all the secrecy? And why did he attack me?"
McCoy glanced at Kirk, and received a weary nod of assent. "Sit down, Sheriff," the doctor said. "It's a long story."
At the transporter station on Starbase 12 Jim Kirk turned anxiously to McCoy.
"Where the hell is he?" he demanded for the dozenth time. "The Vulcan liner should have arrived an hour ago, and I made special arrangements for him to beam straight down."
Kirk and McCoy had spent their leave at the base, while Spock had taken the opportunity to pay a visit home. Their leave was now over, and the three had arranged to meet and return to the Enterprise together; but the arrival of the liner from Vulcan had not been announced.
"I'm going to ask - " Kirk was interrupted as an official of the spaceline approached him discreetly.
"There is a message for you in the President's office, Captain," he murmured.
Kirk opened his mouth to ask a question, thought better of it, and beckoning McCoy, followed the messenger.
The President of the spaceline was not alone; a very worried-looking Admiral Bradshaw was with him.
"Sit down, Kirk, Doctor," the Admiral began without greeting. "We have an emergency on our hands - it's a lucky thing that the Enterprise is here just now. We have not released the news as yet, but the liner Saturn Queen, en route from Vulcan, has been attacked and seriously damaged; we have her position, but communications are poor - all we know is that most of the crew and passengers are dead or injured."
"My God!" Kirk burst out. "My First Officer was returning from leave on that ship!"
"I see; well, rescue ships are already on their way, but I want you to investigate - we think we know who is responsible."
"Klingons?" guessed McCoy. "Surely not, in this area."
"No, not Klingons - pirates. We've had trouble with them recently, but nothing on this scale. We knew very little about them, but a short time ago one of their crew was injured on a raid; they must have thought he was dead, because they left him behind. The little information we have, he gave us.
"The pirate leader is named Raynar. He was the ruler of a planet which recently appealed to the Federation for assistance in overthrowing his tyranny; normally we wouldn't have interfered, but we had evidence he was sympathetic to the Romulans, so... Anyway, Rayner bitterly resents the Federation, and Starfleet; we think this is his revenge on us. He escaped when Starfleet moved in, taking a fortune with him, so he's not doing this for money. Our informant told us he equipped a ship, set up a base somewhere, and recruited a crew of criminals and renegades. His First Officer's a Klingon, and we understand he has at least one Vulcan among his crew; the others are mainly Humans, but other races are represented as well. He's dangerous, Kirk; his ship - the Starwolf - is fast and well equipped. We'll get him in time, but he can do a lot of damage before he's caught - he's not too particular about sparing innocent lives."
"What about his base?" Kirk asked.
"Nothing, I'm afraid. Our informant couldn't help us there; it seems that only Rayner himself, his First Officer and his helmsman know its whereabouts. We want him, Kirk; you have a free hand to act as you think necessary."
"I'll get him, sir," Kirk said grimy. "Come on, Bones."
The rescue ships were already bustling about the stricken liner when the Enterprise reached her. Kirk beamed over, taking a full medical team; Scotty followed with Sulu and a Security squad to give what help they could.
McCoy and his staff were quickly involved in aiding the surviving passengers and crew, while Scotty immediately began work on repairs to allow the liner to be taken to safety. Before heading for the bridge Kirk despatched the Security team to search for any survivors trapped in the ship, and followed McCoy into the overcrowded sickbay.
His heart in his mouth, he moved among the improvised beds without finding the man he sought; he was just nerving himself to enter the room where the bodies of the dead were laid out when McCoy emerged and barred his way.
"He's not there, Jim," he said, and watched as Kirk's tense expression relaxed a little. "Don't worry - Security will find him."
But they did not. As some sort of order was gradually produced from the chaos, the reports began to come in, each with the same result - there was no sign of Spock. His cabin was empty, he was not among the dead or injured, and a thorough search of the ship had revealed no sign of him. The Vulcan had vanished.
"Do you think the pirates took him, Bones?" Kirk asked, worriedly.
"It's possible. If they knew he was a Starfleet officer, they might have thought it worthwhile holding him for ransom; or if they knew of his family connections..."
"Then all we can do is wait until they make contact," Kirk said quietly. "I'll be on the bridge if you need me, Bones."
Hoping that the liner's dead Captain had been able to leave some clue to the attackers, Kirk ordered the ship's log played. After some minutes of routine reports came the first hint of trouble - the radio contact from the pirates ordering the ship to hold position. Then followed a confused babble of orders as the Saturn Queen attempted to outrun the pirates, but was steadily overhauled. When the attack began in earnest the ship's screens went down almost at once - they had never been designed to take such punishment.
Kirk bit his lips in frustration - he was learning nothing useful - then suddenly he shot bolt upright in the command chair as a serene, familiar voice broke into the din.
"This is Commander Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise. All ascertainable details of the attacking vessel have been fed into the ship's computers. Traces indicate that the pirate ship approached from the 'Devil's Reef' area of space; it is reasonable to assume that her base will be located in that sector, and that she will return there to evade pursuit. I regret..."
The voice was drowned in a flood of static; Kirk allowed the tape to run on, but it remained obstinately silent - presumably the recording mechanism had been damaged.
"What's the Devil's Reef, Jim?" asked McCoy, who had arrived unnoticed on the bridge.
"Oh, it's a solar system of sorts, named after an old seafaring hazard on Earth, I believe. There are no planets, just hundreds and thousands of asteroids, ranging in size from a few inches to several miles across. It's a dangerous area to enter, but a skilled pilot could hide a ship there indefinitely. It's not much to go on, Bones, but it's all we're likely to get. And Spock thought it worth mentioning. Have you finished here?"
"Yes, I'll leave M'Benga to keep an eye on the injured. Scotty has finished the repairs, he says, so the liner can be taken back to base."
"Right. Let's get back to the Enterprise. We're going hunting."
In the sickbay of the pirate vessel Starwolf, Captain Raynar leaned over the bed and delivered a resounding blow to the face of the man who lay unconscious. There was no response.
"Damn Vulcans!" he muttered.
"Try again, Raynar," advised a harsh voice at his side. The Captain turned, acknowledging the arrival of his second-in-command the Klingon renegade Kuthra.
"Might as well," he grunted. "He's no use to us like this." He lashed out again, with increased force, and in response the Vulcan's eyes flickered open.
"Awake, are you?" Raynar said. "How do you feel, Sajan?"
A frown of bewilderment crossed the face of the man on the bed. "Sajan?" he said questioningly. "I regret, I do not... "
"Looks like the doctor was right, Raynar," Kuthra broke in. "That knock on the head has made him lose his memory. What can you remember, Sajan?"
"Nothing at all," the man addressed as Sajan commented calmly. "Most inconvenient. May I request that someone inform me precisely who I am, and what has happened?"
"Well..." Raynar began, but was interrupted by the Klingon.
"The other matter, Captain... Our presence is urgently required."
"I'll come at once. Sajan, I'll send Dr. Fellowes in to see you - he can fill you in. Don't worry - I'm sure you'll remember everything soon. See you later."
Left alone, the Vulcan lay back frowning in concentration; try as he would, he could recall nothing of his life before he had awakened in this room. The two men, Raynar and Kuthra, might have been total strangers - even the name Sajan awoke no memories for him. He was striving vainly to recover even a flicker of his past when the door opened again and a short, elderly Human bustled in, rubbing his hands.
"Right, Sajan," he said briskly, "this is no more than I expected, you know. You took a nasty crack on the head during our last raid - must have scrambled your memory circuits."
"I am not a computer," the Vulcan answered instinctively, and was puzzled by his instinctive response. "Raid?" he asked.
There was something about this man that he disliked and distrusted, he thought, without being able to give any reason; despite his friendly manner his smile did not reach his eyes, and there was a cold undertone in his voice. However, it seemed that Fellowes was to fill him in on his past, so he listened attentively to the events that were described to him.
They were, Fellowes informed him without the slightest trace of embarrassment, on board the pirate ship Starwolf, on which Sajan had served for a year under the command of the dispossessed Lord Raynar, who had turned to piracy out of a desire for revenge on the Federation and Starfleet for the loss of his heritage. His mixed Human and alien crew were criminals, outcasts of all races, and fiercely loyal to their commander.
The Starwolf's last attack had been on the liner Saturn Queen; there had been unexpected resistance from her crew, and Sajan had been struck down in the fighting. The Starwolf was now on her way back to her base in the Devil's Reef, where the liner's cargo would be disposed of through Raynar's many contacts.
"And that's all l can tell you," Fellowes concluded. "Your personal life I know nothing about - no-one talks about his past here."
"What do you suggest I do?" asked Sajan.
"Well, in a case like yours, memory often returns spontaneously once the bruising of the brain has healed. Don't try to force it - just take your time, ease your way back into the ship's routine. There's no need for you to stay here - go back to your quarters and take things easy for a few days. I'll order light duties only, and we'll see what happens. I could use drugs, but I'd rather not risk it with a Vulcan - your reactions are too unpredictable."
Sajan followed the doctor's advice, but his confusion only deepened. He found his way to the quarters he had been told were his - they were furnished in the Vulcan fashion which he recognised but he could not feel any familiarity or possessiveness about anything in the rooms. He examined a chess set, finding that he instinctively knew the moves, but he could not remember learning them; there was a harp standing by the desk - his fingers moved automatically, produced the correct notes, but when or where he had learned the tune, he could not remember.
It was the same when he went to the bridge; he followed orders automatically, seemed to know exactly how to operate the equipment, knew his way around the console without having to think about it - but he could not capture the elusive memory his surroundings evoked.
Even the crew remained strangers. They knew him, called him by name, but he could not respond. They had been told what had happened to him, however, and with a kind of rough friendliness attempted to awaken his memory by talking to him of events and situations they had shared - all in vain.
Accepting at last the doctor's advice, to give himself time and not try to hurry things, Sajan returned to his quarters at the end of his duty period. As he left the elevator he met Raynar and Kuthra, who were standing talking to another Vulcan, who nodded a courteous greeting as Sajan approached.
Raynar turned and beckoned. "Fellowes told me what he suggested, and I agree," he said. "We'll have some free time soon - Setron here thinks it advisable that we lie low for a time after the Saturn Queen affair. It's our first really big job, and we'd better let the fuss die down. Once we make base, take all the time you need to work things out."
Sajan inclined his head. "Thank you, Captain. With your permission, I will go to my quarters and rest."
"Do that. I don't want you ill, you're too valuable. Oh, by the way, we should reach Tortuga tomorrow." In response to Sajan's enquiring glance Raynar chuckled. "Our base - I named it after an old pirate stronghold back on Earth."
"I see. Most appropriate. Goodnight, gentlemen."
In the privacy of his quarters Sajan stretched out on the bed, and began to consider what he had learned - and what he had not. His biggest problem - what was he doing here at all? To find himself apparently accepted as a member of a pack of outlaws and renegades had been a considerable shock.
Raynar he instinctively mistrusted, despite his seeming friendliness - he could sense the man's cold ruthlessness. The Klingon - Kuthra - was no better; there was an air of barely-leashed cruelty about the man that Sajan found repulsive. Yet he knew he must hide his reactions; these men considered him one of themselves, but if they suspected his reservations, action against him would be swift and vicious. He must wait, learn what he could, until he was more sure of his ground.
Then there was the Vulcan, Setron; for the first time Sajan had felt a glimmer of recognition when he met the impassive dark eyes, so like his own.,. but was it in truth a memory, or merely an instinctive response to one of his own race? He rather thought it was a memory, but there was a subtle... wrongness ...about it that confused him.
With a sigh Sajan postponed his efforts to plan his next move; his head ached abominably, he felt so tired... Perhaps when he was rested, he would see his way more clearly.
As the Starwolf approached the Devil's Reef Sajan grew puzzled. The area was certainly confusing, with its complexity of planetary bodies, but surely the powerful sensors of a starship would be able to detect them?
Raynar took over the helm as they entered the edge of the Reef, and Sajan watched in curiosity as they approached one of the larger planetoids; then, to his utter amazement, a shaft opened in the surface below them, large enough. to admit the ship.
"Welcome to Tortuga," Raynar chuckled, noting his astonishment.
"No wonder we've remained undetected for so long," Sajan said. "A hollowed out asteroid - Starfleet would have to take very precise readings to detect it."
"Even then, they'd have to know where we were, to compensate for my screens. There's no way they could detect us by chance."
"Expensive," the Klingon commented, "but worth it - we can sit in here and watch Starfleet going crazy trying to find us."
Raynar piloted the ship safely into its docking bay; whatever else he might be, the man was a superb pilot.
Because of Sajan's impaired memory Dr. Fellowes took him on a tour of the vast complex. The interior of the asteroid had been hollowed out to provide adequate living accommodation for the crew, and the Vulcan could only marvel at the ingenuity and patience that had gone into setting up this operation - in a rarely expansive mood, Raynar told him that almost his entire fortune had gone into equipping his ship and his base as a preparation for his career of piracy.
As the days passed Sajan familiarised himself with his surroundings; his memory did not return, but he gradually found himself fitting in to the routine of the base, and he was accepted unquestioningly by his fellow renegades. Yet the sense of alienation persisted, growing stronger; he could not imagine what had brought him here, among people he detested, and to a way of life that offended every instinct he possessed. The only person in whom he felt any interest was Setron, and he seemed very withdrawn, associating only with Raynar and Kuthra; he answered when spoken to, but never initiated a conversation, to an extent remarkable even in one of his reserved race.
For a few days the men of the Starwolf relaxed, then came the pursuit they had expected - sensors detected the presence of a Federation Starship in the Reef. Too large to manoeuvre easily, she held position and explored the asteroid belt thoroughly by sensor scan.
Raynar was confident of his safety until he received a report that a shuttlecraft, obviously from the Starship, had crashed near the concealed entrance to the base.
"It could be a coincidence," Raynar told his assembled officers, "but I don't like it. They didn't have time to send a distress call, so we have some time yet before the ship comes looking for them. Sajan, you and Setron beam over and see what you can find out. The hull isn't breached, so the crew may have survived. If they're conscious, tell them you're Vulcan scientists investigating the Reef; try to find out what they know, and if they seem suspicious - kill them."
The two Vulcans beamed over to the wrecked shuttlecraft, accompanied by Martinez, another of Raynar's lieutenants, a clever, unscrupulous man whom Sajan disliked intensely.
There were three men in the wreck. Setron moved to check the condition of the pilot, while Sajan and Martinez examined the two passengers.
"The pilot is dead - killed in the crash," Setron said quietly.
"Well, these two are alive - a Starfleet Captain, and a doctor," Martinez replied. "What should we do with them? They're out cold."
"Let me see." Setron moved forward and leaned over the unconscious bodies; unseen by Martinez a flicker of... something... crossed the impassive face, but to the watching Sajan, his fellow Vulcan was displaying extreme shock and surprise. He looked at Sajan.
"Do you know them?"
"It is unlikely; my memory is impaired, as you know." Nevertheless, Sajan leaned forward and studied the two faces intently. The doctor was totally unfamiliar, but as he gazed at the face of the Captain, he felt a distinct sense of familiarity - somehow he knew that face, knew exactly how his voice would sound...
"Best kill them, then, just to be on the safe side?" Martinez asked, reaching for his phaser.
"No, wait." Sajan thought frantically, seeking a logical reason to spare the two men. "To kill them would be unwise. Their companions would know that they were not killed in the crash, and would suspect that we must be in the area. They would search until they found us. It would be wiser to do nothing - their ship will find them, and they will leave when their scan of the base reveals nothing."
"I agree," Setron added in unexpected support. "Martinez, check their radio log - that should tell us if they suspect our presence in the area."
"Right." Martinez moved away and Sajan followed him, looking back in time to see a curious thing - Setron, who was returning the two officers to their former position sprawled on the floor, was leaning over the unconscious Captain; for an instant his hand touched the Human's face lightly, his fingers assuming almost the position for the mind-touch.
Puzzled, Sajan turned away, to catch Martinez' eye as the Human bent over the radio; he could not tell if the man had seen that fleeting gesture, but when he said nothing, he assumed that mere chance had caused the impression, When he looked back, Setron was standing patiently waiting for them.
The radio log revealed nothing of interest, only that the shuttlecraft had been on a routine sweep of this section of the asteroid belt, so after removing all trace of their visit the three men beamed back to the base.
Raynar heard their report in silence, then said grudgingly, "I don't like the idea of leaving them alive, but you were right - if you'd killed them their ship would have known we must be near, and they'd have made it a personal fight. We'll monitor them, and watch what they do."
Not long afterwards the Starship's sensors began to scan the base; it was too well-concealed to be detected, but the shuttlecraft was found, it seemed, for a transporter beam was activated as the missing men were recovered. Then the starship passed out of range of their scanners, and Raynar relaxed.
The following day Sajan was again on duty in the base control room. Raynar was present, with Kuthra and Setron in attendance; the Captain had decided to maintain an alert until they could be sure the Federation ship had left the area.
Suddenly Martinez, who was in charge of communications, swung round in his chair.
"Captain - that Starship - she's making contact."
"On screen, Martinez," Raynar ordered.
The screen dissolved into a picture of the Starship's bridge; in the command chair sat the Captain Sajan had seen in the wrecked shuttlecraft. He shivered involuntarily as the hauntingly familiar voice, sounding just as he had imagined, came through the speaker.
"Captain Raynar, this is Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. We have your base-pinpointed - I suggest you surrender to avoid useless bloodshed. You have thirty minutes..."
"Cut it!" Raynar spat savagely; as the image faded he leaped to his feet. "How the hell did they find us?" he snarled.
"It must have been the Vulcan - Setron," Martinez burst out. "When we were in the shuttlecraft I saw him with that Captain. They're telepaths, aren't they? He was touching the Captain - he must have reached his mind and betrayed us."
"So!" Raynar wheeled round to face Setron, who looked back at him expressionlessly. "You have recovered your memory, Commander."
"Indeed. A most ingenious idea, Captain. When you found me on the Saturn Queen you conceived the idea of using me - a Starfleet officer would be a valuable addition to your crew. Kuthra's adaptation of the mindsifter was... most effective; the false memory you created for me was very convincing. However when I saw my Captain in the shuttlecraft the surprise restored my memory. I am accustomed to linking with him - a brief contact was enough to enable me to reach his unconscious mind and give him the necessary information. It would be advisable for you to surrender - there is no escape."
"But we still have thirty minutes, Commander," Raynar said viciously, "and I am a vengeful man. You and your Captain have robbed me of my freedom; by the time he finds you, you will wish that I had killed you - and so will he. Bring him, Kuthra!"
The Klingon stepped forward and pulled the Vulcan to his feet, twisted his arm viciously and forced him out the door. Raynar followed, commanding his men to remain on the alert, and to prepare to resist the Federation attack when it came.
Sajan remained with Martinez in the control room, listening with dismay as the man described the hideous trick that had been played on the Vulcan, and how the entire crew of the Starwolf had conspired to confirm his identity as the renegade Setron.
"He'll be sorry now that he's got his memory back," the Human gloated. "Raynar is very... inventive, and Kuthra... Well, he really enjoys hurting people. That Federation Captain won't find much left of his precious First Officer when he gets here."
Dazed, sick with horror at what he had learned - to a Vulcan, tampering with anyone's mind was the worst of crimes - Sajan rose and moved closer to Martinez. Before the man could realise his intention his hand shot out, and the Human collapsed unconscious. Pushing him out of the way Sajan scanned the communications panel; luckily the settings had not been changed, and he quickly made contact with the Enterprise.
The face of the Human Captain - so disturbingly familiar - filled the screen; he was white and strained, his eyes worried.
"Do you surrender?" he asked crisply.
"Captain, I have little time - I am making this call without Raynar's knowledge. If you wish to recover your First Officer alive and sane, I suggest you beam over a full Security team at once. Raynar and Kuthra have him - they know he guided you here."
"How do I know it's not a trap?" Kirk asked suspiciously.
"You have only my word; but if you doubt me, send only one man to check out the situation."
The Captain studied him intently for a moment, then appeared to make up his mind. "Very well; I have your co-ordinates - we'll be with you shortly."
Sooner than Sajan expected the hum of a transporter beam filled the room; Kirk himself materialised, accompanied by the doctor who had been with him in the shuttlecraft, and four Security men. The guards checked the room, and found no trap; one of them contacted the ship, and soon more guards were appearing in relays.
Kirk turned impatiently to Sajan. "Where's Spock?"
"Raynar took him - probably to his quarters. I'll guide you."
Sajan led the way along the corridors. The Enterprise men proved to be swift and efficient - the pirates they encountered along the way were taken by surprise and disarmed before they could raise the alarm.
At last Sajan signalled a halt, hearing voices round the corner. "That's Fellowes, the doctor," he whispered to Kirk. "He may know where Spock is - let me ask him."
At Kirk's nod of assent Sajan advanced casually towards the doctor, who was talking to one of his assistants. They looked up at his approach.
"Looking for Raynar?" Fellowes asked.
"Yes, I have a message for him."
Fellowes grinned evilly. "I wouldn't interrupt him now, unless you have a strong stomach. He and Kuthra have that Starfleet officer - you know, Setron - in sickbay. He's real sore about being tricked - be careful you don't spoil his fun."
"I'm afraid I shall have to," Sajan said quietly, drawing his phaser; raising his voice, he called, "Captain Kirk - sickbay!"
"Why, you... " Fellowes snarled, seeing the red-shirted Security men who approached at Sajan's call; he seemed about to attack the Vulcan, but the phaser lifted warningly, and he raised his hands in defeat.
Sajan paused long enough to see the two men taken into custody, then followed Kirk, who, with the doctor and half a dozen security guards, had burst into sickbay.
So swift and silent had been their approach that the two pirates had been taken by surprise; they had evidently fought back, though, for both were bleeding heavily as they struggled in the grip of the burly Security guards.
"Get them out of here," Sajan advised, then turned his attention to Kirk "Captain, wait!" he shouted in warning, but it was too late - Kirk reached the operating table, and stared down at its pitiful burden.
Joining him, Sajan felt his stomach heave in revulsion; after all, Raynar and Kuthra had had enough time - too much time.
Incredibly, the Vulcan still lived, for the slow pulse of blood from the wounds that covered him showed that his heart was still beating; but worst of all, from the ruins of what had been a sensitive, handsome face, two dark eyes gazed up at them, filled with a soul-chilling agony and awareness that was the more dreadful for the silence in which the victim endured.
"Bones," was all that Kirk could manage, but the doctor seemed to understand; a hypo hissed, and the tragic eyes closed slowly. Kirk sagged against the table for a moment, then pushed himself upright, staring blankly at the green blood on his hands. "How is he?" he demanded hoarsely.
The doctor looked up, his face white. "It's ... bad, Jim," he said slowly. "He'll live, I think, but he'll need extensive surgery; and his mind... God knows. Look." He carefully removed a metal band that encircled the Vulcan's head. "They've used the mindsifter on him again. I just don't know... But you'll have to be prepared, Jim - he could be insane."
"Insane! Oh, my God!" Kirk leaned over the table, took one of the broken hands in his, and held it gently to his cheek. With astonished pity, Sajan, that unemotional Vulcan, felt his throat tighten as he watched a Human Captain weeping in anguish for an alien half-breed he called 'friend'.
"We kept him alive," McCoy's quiet voice continued wearily, "but to this day I don't know how - I suspect Jim had a lot to do with it; he never left Spock's side except when he was in surgery.
"Surgery... Yes, there was so much of that, but even so, his face... I'll be able to restore it in time, but there's so much still to do. His hands... they healed, thank God - he was an accomplished musician. Mercifully, they didn't touch his eyes - perhaps they didn't have time; but it was weeks before he could walk again. Then there was the damage they'd done with the mindsifter." He turned appealingly to Blair. "You'd have had to have known him as he was before - a Vulcan, confident, serene, always totally self-controlled; now he's like a frightened child. The only one he really trusts is Jim - and me, perhaps. We can cure that, too, in time - his own people have methods... but he was too weak, and we had to wait. I ordered medical leave until he was strong enough for the final operations, but it was difficult; I wanted to get him away from hospitals for a while, but his face... people turned from him in revulsion. I'd heard of this town from a friend of mine who used to live here; he told me about the old Forbes place, and it seemed ideal - a quiet, isolated house where he could remain concealed, with Jim to keep him company... Things were going so well... "
"Until now," Kirk broke in despairingly. "Now he's out there somewhere, alone, frightened, perhaps even hurt... Hunted like an animal, to be shot down on sight... Bones, we must do something!"
"We will," McCoy said soothingly. "Don't worry, Jim - Baillie won't let anyone near him."
Sheriff Blair had listened attentively to the story McCoy told; he was a compassionate man when his duties allowed, and his heart went out to the crippled alien the doctor had depicted so vividly; but honesty made him say quietly, "From what you've said your Mr. Spock is mentally disturbed; he could be the one we're after, you know."
"No," Kirk stated violently. "I was with him all the time; and you don't understand - he's the gentlest, kindest person I've ever known... he couldn't harm anyone. I hurt him... so badly... changing the dressings... but he never complained... He can't be responsible."
"Perhaps not," Blair said soothingly; but he remained unconvinced. He had only Kirk's word, and was certain that the Captain would lie without a second thought to save his friend. After a moment, wanting to distract Kirk, Blair asked, "What happened to the pirates?"
"The pirates? Oh, they were returned to Abron - that's where the Saturn Queen was registered - and sent for trial. The Abronese still invoke the death penalty for murder. Raynar, Kuthra - oh yes, and Fellows - were found guilty of murder, and hanged; the others - most were sent for rehabilitation."
"And Sajan? He helped you," Blair remembered.
"That was a curious case. We simply couldn't identify him - there were no records anywhere to indicate his true identity. The only clue we had was that he thought he recognised me, but that didn't help - I couldn't remember ever meeting him. The Vulcans tried a meld, but his barriers were too strong - they had to give up, or they'd have killed him. Whatever he was trying to hide he succeeded - his past life is still a mystery. But whoever he was, the Vulcans and Starfleet psychologists were all agreed - he was no danger to society. He was given a suspended sentence, and released. I heard he went back to Vulcan. I was glad of that - he did save Spock..." Kirk's voice faded in exhaustion, and McCoy stepped closer.
"Try to rest now, Jim; we'll need you when we find him."
Kirk nodded and lay back in the chair, but he did not sleep; his haunted eyes remained fixed on the dark window as he waited - as they all waited.
At last the bleep of a communicator broke the silence.
"Baillie. We've found him, Doctor - he's in a sort of cave in the woods about five miles from you. I haven't approached him - thought I'd wait for you and the Captain - but I've got my men posted around; that mob is somewhere near, but they won't get near him, you can count on that."
"Thanks, Chief; we're on our way. McCoy out." The doctor closed his communicator, and glanced at Blair. "What's the quickest way?" he asked.
"I'll drive you - you can see the cave from the track."
Shortly afterwards Blair, McCoy and Kirk stood by the Sheriff's car in the middle of a forest track. In the distance could be heard the sound of the search parties, but the three men had found their quarry as they peered intently at the dark mouth of a cave a few hundred yards away.
Baillie appeared from the shadows. "He's just inside the cave, sir."
"Right - I'll go alone." Kirk turned at Blair's movement of protest. "I know you still think he's dangerous, but he won't hurt me. Have you a light, Baillie?"
"Here, sir." The Security Chief handed over an emergency light, and with a reassuring smile at his companions, Kirk moved forward.
"If you'll excuse me," Baillie murmured, "my boys and I have a little something to take care of... " Noiselessly he melted into the shadows.
The light had reached the entrance to the cave and was stationary, throwing a soft pool of illumination against the darkness. Within its circle Blair could see a slim, huddled shape crouching against the rocks, a shape that curled tighter upon itself as Kirk walked slowly forward, and knelt.
"Spock." The one word came clearly as Kirk reached out to grasp the trembling shoulders; there was a moment's resistance, then the fugitive turned, burrowing his face into the Captain's shoulder, clinging to him fiercely. With careful tenderness Kirk's arms closed around the man he held, pulling him close, and his voice sank to an inaudible, comforting murmur.
Somehow, Blair was glad he could not hear that whispered exchange; but when Kirk raised a hand to beckon them forward he followed eagerly at McCoy's heels.
At their approach the dark head lifted from Kirk's shoulder and turned to face them - with an intense effort Blair forced himself to concentrate only on the eyes, beautiful, velvet-dark, shining like stars in the ruined face. For a moment pity choked him - if the physical damage was a symbol of the harm that had been done to his mind, how this man must have suffered! And McCoy had repaired much already, he remembered.
He moved, and. the dark eyes focussed on him, widening in alarm at the unfamiliar face. Kirk stroked the Vulcan's hair gently. "It's all right,. Spock; he won't harm you, you're safe with me."
"Safe... yes... with you," Spock said slowly.
"Captain, I'm sorry," Blair said quietly, "but he is a suspect; he should be questioned..." He broke off as a red-shirted figure darted to Kirk's side.
"The search parties are coming, Captain," the Security guard reported.
"So I see."
Led by Dave Phillips, a group of armed men emerged from the trees to surround the cave entrance.
"You got him, then, Sheriff," someone called. "Come on, you - hand him over!" Rifles were levelled, and Blair started forward in alarm.
"Hold your fire!" he called. "There are guards all round you." He had seen the Security men who shadowed the search party, and knew that any violence would be countered swiftly.
"What do you want us to do, Sheriff?" Phillips called.
"Captain, please hand him over," Blair pleaded. "You can see that there will be trouble if you try to take him away - we have our suspect..."
"But you haven't got the criminal. I have," announced a voice from the darkness as Baillie strolled casually into the circle of light. His two aides, Blade and Sorenson, followed, supporting between them the semi-conscious figure of a man Blair did not recognise. The two Security men looked a little dishevelled, but when they dropped their prisoner to the ground at Blair's feet, it was clear that he had sustained considerable damage.
Baillie shook his head sadly. "He tried to take my boys," he said reprovingly, "so I'm afraid he's... er... slightly damaged. He's the one you're after, Sheriff. I did a bit of checking - he escaped from a prison for the criminally insane about thirty miles away. They didn't send out a warning, thought it might cause a panic. I'll have to have a few words with the Governor... Still," he smiled brightly at the Sheriff, "you won't want our Mr. Spock now, will you?"
Without waiting for a reply Baillie swung round, issuing terse orders. The prisoner was handcuffed, and pushed to Blair's side; the Security guards assembled in front of the cave, their eyes still watchful, phasers at the ready. With an abrupt change of manner to a gruff compassion Baillie urged Kirk to his feet, helping him to support the Vulcan, who seemed bewildered, confused, by the sudden influx of people. He buried his head on the Captain's shoulder and stood trembling in his sustaining embrace. McCoy, who had been tending the injured guards, took his place in the group, and in a shimmering sparkle of light the Enterprise party was beamed away, leaving a stunned Sheriff, a silent, embarrassed search party - and one somewhat battered prisoner. Making the best of things, Blair organised their return to town.
The following day Sheriff Blair was busy at his desk when the phone rang. He answered it, to hear Captain Kirk's voice.
"I'm at the house to collect my things," he said. "I'd like to see you, to explain - and to say goodbye."
"I'll be there in five minutes," Blair promised.
Kirk was waiting for him in the room he had shared with Spock. As Blair entered, Kirk turned, smiling a greeting.
"How is Mr. Spock?" the Sheriff asked. "T hope my... mistake... hasn't harmed him."
"No, thank God. He was just so afraid when I didn't come back... He thought you meant to harm him - that's why he knocked you out and ran. And that's how I knew he couldn't be guilty - he could have killed you easily, but even in his fear he's too gentle to harm anyone." His voice softened. "We're taking him home now, to Vulcan. McCoy thinks he's ready - and strong enough for final surgery. "
"He'll be all right?" Blair asked anxiously.
"Oh yes - we can be sure of that. If he'd broken last night... but he held on."
"Because he trusted you," Blair said understandingly.
"As I trust him." Kirk hesitated. "To you he's an alien - but to me... he's my friend. I hope that one day you'll have the chance to see him as he really is."
"So do I. In the meantime... It can't atone - but I'm sorry."
"I know. It's easy to jump to conclusions, isn't it? Just because someone acts strangely, it doesn't mean... but we won't speak of it. You're satisfied the case is closed?"
"Yes. Warders picked up the prisoner this morning. They should have warned me."
Kirk's grin flashed. "They will in future. Our Mr. Baillie had a word with the Governor this morning, and he has the knack of making a strong impression."
"So I noticed."
"Well, I must leave now. Goodbye, Sheriff."
"Goodbye, Captain. Good luck."
As the shimmering column faded and vanished Blair cast a last look at the deserted room. He could not rid himself of the memory of last night, of those two faces, one fine-drawn, handsome, the other a shattered ruin; yet the eyes had been so alike, each regarding the other with faith, and trust, and love.
For just an instant he had been allowed to glimpse a friendship that could transcend all barriers of race and tradition; had learned that it was possible to look beyond the obvious, and find a hidden truth. It was a lesson he thought he would never forget.