|THINKING OF LIONS
by K.V. Wylie
I knew something was wrong the moment the first throb of the alien power field crossed my scanner. The energy signature spoke of immense power contained somewhere, perhaps below the surface, and strong enough to grasp the ship and steal from the warp core.
Mr. Scott's accent became almost incomprehensible, a sign of emotion. These humans are difficult to read, but he seemed more indignant than worried. My call to the captain on the planet's surface should have been no more than a situational report, but we could barely hear his voice through the static. A power field that could affect both high frequency communications and an antimatter warp core would surely be affecting an exposed person on the surface of the planet. Then the captain said he had met two people our scanners failed to detect and one had hit him.
I am a Vulcan and a Starfleet officer. I was raised in deference to control and the mastery of emotion. I am second in command and responsible for four hundred and thirty-two crewmen and a valuable starship when the captain is not on board. And I was given a direct order to remain on the ship.
I abandoned all and beamed down. I am incomprehensible to myself as well.
The captain demanded an explanation. I shrouded my justification in logic. Rather, illogic, for my reasoning would not have withstood examination. Fortunately the captain did not notice that I had beamed down in such haste that I had forgotten my tricorder.
The captain was unharmed save for a bruise forming along his jaw. The lightness of his injury was reassuring. He had also contacted the rest of the landing party. They were to meet at a central location. The captain did not say that anyone else had been hurt. I enquired without any particular emphasis. No, no one else had been harmed, though Yeoman Barrows had been surprised by a third alien. She had been left in Doctor McCoy's care.
Feeling the vibration of the alien power field beneath my feet, I urged the captain to return to the central meeting place.
We were too late.
I heard the captain's yell to Doctor McCoy before I was able to sort out the scene before me. A metal-clad figure on a horse and holding a long spear rushed towards the doctor. The spear pierced McCoy and he crumpled.
What had he been doing standing there without even the suggestion of trying to defend himself? He had been facing the alien. In fact, he had been between Yeoman Barrows and the threat. Why had he only passively stood there?
The captain had a weapon with a loud firing mechanism. I barely paid attention to it. The metal alien fell to the ground behind me for I was already past him. The doctor was a smudge of blue and black and spreading red on the ground. The oppressive smell of his blood filled my nose as I tried to bend over him. My first instinct was to protect him, cover him, but the yeoman was in the way. The edge of her veil flew into my face.
Bewilderedly, I broke Vulcan control and stared at her. She wore a white bridal dress.
She had been wearing a bridal dress for the doctor.
Someone was speaking. No, crying. It was the yeoman. I felt her shaking and hysterical against my side, her shock crashing through me, violent undulations until my eyes blurred. I heard another voice. The captain's? I didn't know. My mind flooded. The white dress. The doctor standing in front of her, shielding her, giving his life for her.
He had loved her.
I tore my sleeves. I ripped my skin with my fingernails. My Vulcan heart threatened to rupture my chest wall. I would kill the alien. No, he was already dead.
Then I heard the captain calling me. A drop of my blood splattered onto the doctor's face as I stood.
I moved towards my name. The captain knelt by the alien. Lieutenant Sulu pushed his tricorder into my numb hands. I could barely see the machine's display. I fumbled as I tried to speak.
"Mr. Spock, I want an exact judgment," the captain said.
Closing my eyes briefly, I struggled for K'eesh Ouna, the discipline of control, called sealing the lions.
There are no lions on Vulcan. I was five when I found the book of poetry on my mother's bookshelf. The poems had been written centuries before by a Master-Adept and my mother's copy was a translation for humans. Fanged Bawa Cats, which are on Vulcan, had been changed to lions. I had seen lions on Earth, but I had not seen Fanged Bawas. The poem made more sense to me in its translated form.
Seal the lions within your heart. Be friends with your burning. Burn up your thinking and your forms of expression and seal the lions within. It's better to hide completely within, as water hides in metal, as fire hides in a rock.
I became stone and read the tricorder's readings. "The alien is a mechanical contrivance. All these things are multi-cellular castings. The plants, the people, the animals, they're all being manufactured."
We were distracted by a buzzing sound overhead and we looked up to see an old-fashioned shuttle crossing the sky.
Lieutenant Sulu's voice interrupted our scrutiny. "Captain! Doctor McCoy's body has disappeared!"
"The Black Knight's too!" Yeoman Barrows said.
"Spock." The Captain turned to me for an explanation.
I was fire within rock, but barely. I had lost both the Doctor and his Katra. "At this point, Captain, my analysis may not sound very scientific."
"McCoy's death is a scientific fact," The captain said.
Yes, I thought. Death without a Katra. An inviolable end. "Captain, what were your thoughts just before you encountered the people you met here?"
"I was thinking about the Academy," The captain said. Immediately, another multi-cellular casting interrupted him.
"Hey Jim Baby!"
The figure resembled an upper classman at the Starfleet Academy. "Take Sulu," The captain told me. "Find McCoy's body."
He chased after the figure as I looked between Lieutenant Sulu and Yeoman Barrows. If my theory was correct and events that we thought about were brought to realization, which one of them had thought about McCoy dying? Neither one of them seemed capable of it. Had the doctor himself wished to die?
"Lieutenant Sulu, I believe the industrial complex manufacturing these mechanisms exists underground. You and Yeoman Barrows are to locate the Black Knight's point of entry to the surface. I will seek Doctor McCoy's body."
Would the Yeoman wish to look for McCoy's body herself? Curiously, she accompanied Lieutenant Sulu without comment as he began tracking the horse's hoof prints on the ground.
McCoy's body had been dragged only a short distance. His communicator had been left on the ground. I picked it up and followed the trail.
The impressions in the grass disappeared suddenly, but the tricorder registered no sign of a doorway.
My thoughts strayed and I allowed myself an irrational human wish that McCoy would overcome his death. Then I waited, but the door remained closed. If our thoughts were indeed being read, this one was beyond the planet's capability.
I knelt in the grass. The wounds on my arms had clotted and I reopened them. The letting of blood is one of the few visible signs of grief my people allow themselves. The tearing of our clothes is another. I had done both for the doctor. I meant to honour him.
McCoy was my first friend on the Enterprise. He was the first to approach me without apprehension. His comments to me were, on first impression, racist, yet his actions towards me were overtly compassionate. For a long time, I could not reconcile him. But the Master understood.
Take someone who doesn't keep score, who's not looking to be richer, who has not the slightest interest even in his own personality. He's free.
Freedom is attractive, especially to someone such as myself who lives under constant restraint even in his most private moments. The rules of my people are justified, but harsh. To be with McCoy allowed me to touch freedom.
As all of my people do, I live by logic. As a Vulcan I inherited the teachings of Surak. He has been endlessly discussed and never revoked. His way saved us. But we are also blood and flame. He taught control, but he did not deny our blood. He gave us a destination and called it impenetrable, burning peace. Kolinahr.
Kolinahr simultaneously closes and opens doors. It sets our logic on fire. We annihilate ourselves in it. But, first, we must open a door.
You can open the wide door of the sky. Surely you can open me. All I have is this emptiness. The tambourine begs, touch my skin so I can be myself.
McCoy was not averse to my company. We frequently had dinner in the Officers' Lounge after our shifts. He might extend an invitation but usually we simply arrived together. Sometimes we would continue an argument that we had started earlier in the day. Sometimes we spoke without disagreement. And sometimes we ate in benevolent silence. From him, I learned more about control than I had learned from any other teacher for his emotions never defeated him. He burned. He cried. He laughed. He raged. And he could put it all aside in a moment and tend to others. His concern for others outweighed his concern for himself. He was controlled, yet free.
I know you must feel this attraction too, for friendship always comes from both sides as do all love's motivations. You cannot clap with one hand or dance with one foot.
His companionship had not been unfavorable. I had believed he thought the same of me.
Yet, the doctor had turned towards Yeoman Barrows. They had apparently been playing at a wedding ceremony when the Black Knight had interrupted them.
I knelt down on the grass at the point where the impressions ended. My weight signaled the door to open.
Should I enter alone? I did not hesitate. I descended and the door closed behind me.
Two automated figures approached me, stick-thin arms waving. They had no heads, only eye-stalks. They looked like praying mantises.
"Who are you?" I asked. My words perplexed them. They regarded me, then scurried away on their stick appendages. I followed them and entered into a vast complex.
I could not see to the end of the factory. Conveyor belts whipped past me carrying pieces of torsos, heads, and parts yet to be completed, the disturbance of their passage tangling my hair and leaving behind the smell of smoke and oil. More stick robots monitored the works, dashing between and under belts in frenetic haste.
They were uninterested in me. Their sole occupation was tending to the belts. I walked past them unhindered and drew out Lieutenant Sulu's tricorder.
Unimpeded by the shielding at the planet's surface, I was able to locate McCoy. Maneuvering to him was more difficult. The narrow passages between belts had not been designed for someone of my bulk. I came up against several impassable places and had to backtrack, all while trying to avoid the speeding stick robots.
I found the doctor's body on a platform under a light. His ripped shirt had been removed and laid by his feet.
His chest was undamaged. There was no wound. The tricorder failed to find any signs of injury. In fact, it now registered a heartbeat.
McCoy lived. He lived.
He did not wake. I discovered a tube leading into his arm. A drug was being given to him. I did not dare remove it without knowing what it was.
The last time I had looked upon him in this manner was on Yonada in those frozen moments after the captain said the word Xenopolycythemia. I'd had to take hold of the side of his pallet for I'd suddenly lost balance. Shock, I thought as I closed my eyes against a suddenly spinning room. The Human part of me. But I have since learned that Vulcans may be similarly affected upon hearing certain tones.
It is possible to play on the Vulcan Reed Bells the musical note G and to play it with such purity that those who hear it lose their balance. The eardrums cannot contain the sound waves. My eardrums could not contain the doctor's diagnosis.
That moment was when I realized my heart.
Though reason is learned and has its honors, it pawned its cap and robes for a cup of love. Those who pay attention to ways of behaving and speaking are one sort. Lovers who burn are another.
Movement beside me made me turn my head. Two women wearing tiny pink costumes of feathers and beads stood beside me.
My tricorder indicated they were mechanized castings.
"I am Spock. This is McCoy, my shipmate. I have come to retrieve him. Who are you?"
The figures did not speak. One laid a hand on McCoy's shoulder. One tried to grasp me. When I stepped aside, she took hold McCoy's hand instead.
Statement one: the castings are produced in response to thought waves.
Statement two: my thoughts had not created these women.
Statement three: no other organic person is present beyond McCoy and myself.
Conclusion: McCoy's thoughts had created these women.
Now my reasoning became less sound. Inference one: as the doctor has thought of two other women, he may not be as serious about Yeoman Barrows as I first assumed.
Inference two, dependent on inference one: was that actually a wedding dress?
Inference three: has the doctor demonstrated overly-protective behaviors towards any other women in whom he has no personal interest?
Yes, he would not allow Gem to save him from the Vians, even at the cost of his own life.
Just then, he opened his eyes. He looked at me, then around. His gaze settled on the two females as he rose up onto his elbows.
"Where am I?"
"We are underground in a factory complex," I said. "Do you remember what happened?"
"An hallucination on a horse drove a lance through me."
He sounded upset. That was a good sign.
"How did I get here, Spock?"
"You were taken by a robotic attendant. I followed, though I was unable to do so immediately. In that interval you have been healed, remarkably, and are currently receiving an unknown drug mixture. The others, including the captain and Yeoman Barrows are still on the surface. As far as I know, they are unharmed."
"And these two?" he asked, indicating the female, feathered castings.
"Do you recognize them?"
"I may have run across them on Rigel Two."
I scanned the tubing and held the tricorder display towards him. "Is it safe to stop the drug currently entering your system?"
"There are two antibiotics, what looks like a tissue regenerative, and, hmm, I don't know what that is." McCoy frowned.
The female castings helped him sit up before I had a chance to do so. I gave him his communicator.
"Yeoman Barrows would be relieved to know that you are alive." "That's twice you've mentioned her name," McCoy said.
The cure for pain is in the pain. Yes, I keep speaking her name.
"Was she not wearing a bridal dress when the Black Knight appeared?" I asked.
"A bridal dress? I'm sure it's something out of Arthurian legend, but I don't think it was a wedding dress," McCoy said. "We were pretending, playing games. I haven't played in a long time."
"It is your business."
He looked hard at me. I looked away.
Then he touched my arm. His warmth was not displeasing.
"What happened to you?" he asked, indicating my torn skin and sleeves. "Did Rodriguez's tiger attack you?"
I could have claimed an injury on the surface. Instead, I replied, "I believed that you had died." Did he understand the significance of what I had done? His knowledge of Vulcan customs ran between enlightened and naive.
"My friend, I'm honoured."
He had understood.
I was abruptly grabbed from behind and lifted off my feet. The doctor called my name as I was conveyed in a blur towards the ceiling of the factory. A square of light opened. I was deposited onto the grassy surface of the planet.
I turned, caught a glimpse of the hoist of a crane, then the doorway shut and sealed.
The doorway would not reopen. I tried everything from prying at it to walking away and then returning to put my weight back
on it. It would not budge.
I began to comprehend why the Captain swore so often.
At the moment though, McCoy was safe and being looked after. I went in search of the captain and located him in a rocky area, the casting of the Starfleet cadet on the ground before him.
The captain looked singularly pleased with himself.
"Did you enjoy yourself, Captain?" I asked.
"I did," the captain said. "I've always wanted to beat the tar out of Finnegan."
"Which supports a theory I have been formulating."
"We're all meeting people and things we happen to be thinking about," the captain said. "It could be dangerous if we happen to be thinking of-" He stopped.
"Yes," I said. "As, for example, when Mr. Rodriguez thought of the tiger." I realized my mistake too late. The tiger appeared.
"Run," The captain whispered.
Which we did, and discovered that the tiger was the least of our current threats. The old-fashioned flying shuttle fired at us and an oddly-dressed swordsman chased us almost the entire way back to the glade.
Yeoman Barrows, Lieutenant Sulu, and Lieutenant Rodriguez were at the glade. The Yeoman was struggling with another multi-cellular casting.
"Sulu, Rodriguez, Barrows, front and centre," the captain yelled. "Stand at attention. Don't talk, don't breathe, don't think. You are at attention. Concentrate only on that."
A figure of a white-haired man appeared and stated that he was the Caretaker of the planet. My tricorder registered him as living, but did register the species.
"I have only just realized that we have guests who did not understand all this," the Caretaker said. "This planet was constructed for my race of people, Captain, to come here and play. I regret that your equipment was inadvertently affected. The system needed slight adjustment. It was pulling energy from the nearest available source. I think you will find that all is now in order."
"None of this explains the death of my ship's surgeon," the captain said.
"Possibly because I haven't died," came McCoy's voice. He came into the clearing accompanied by the feathered females.
Yeoman Barrows went to him. I turned away. Eventually one of the feathered females approached me. I turned away from her as well and offered to return to the ship.
"No, Mr. Spock," the captain said. "I'll go. You-" But his attention was caught by something behind me. I turned and saw a young, blonde female casting.
Yes, I thought. She seems more in line with what the captain would imagine.
I beamed up to the Enterprise, changed my shirt, and was in the Officers' Lounge when the door opened and McCoy came in. He ordered a cup of coffee from the dispenser and then took a seat across the table from me.
"You do not wish to remain on the planet?" I asked.
"I might go back down tomorrow if I have the right company," he said.
We settled into an easy silence. I read a scientific journal on the viewer. He engaged a fictional tape.
After several minutes, McCoy said, "She's fine. We were only playing."
"I trust your assessment."
"There's a first," he said, laughing.
He continued his tape. I watched him.
We have ways within each other that will never be said by anyone. If they ask what love is, say the sacrifice of will.
"I am available tomorrow, if you think my company would be suitable," I said.
"I can't wait to find out what sort of things you can think up," McCoy said.
"I may think of lions," I said.
He looked at me, his expression puzzled for a second. Then it cleared and he smiled again. "I hope so."
He nudged my arm with his. We resumed reading our tapes.
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