originally published as "You Always Hurt The One You Love"
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return To Part One
Go To Part Three
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return To Part One
Go To Part Three
Return To Part One
Go To Part Three
“…With eyes of velvet amethyst
And ruby lips made to be kissed
No man yet born can long resist
She’ll rip your heart from you…”
Uhura’s voice, full and melodic, filled the café where Ruth was dancing. They’d been working there for the past two days, Ruth as a serving wench, Uhura as a drudge. Only recently had the proprietor learned they could both sing and dance. They took turns, each making acapella music for the other’s movements. So far, they’d managed to keep the men enticed but unfulfilled. The Captain had found Monique DuBois, but there was as yet no sign of Jilla or Kevin. The landing party’s disguises seemed to be working perfectly.
Ruth wasn’t thrilled with Uhura’s choice of songs, but then she noticed that a certain priest and healer had come into the café and she understood. How could Uhura resist? And for that matter, how can you? After all, you’re supposed to be a completely amoral and decadent animal, right?
She entwined herself around the male customers, paying perhaps just a bit more attention to the white-robed priest. The lyrics were of Uhura’s own composing. The communications officer had a knack. She’d written words for this ballad for several members of the Enterprise crew – including Spock and Sulu and, as was evident from her current song, Ruth.
“Her charms are of Antari fame…”
Ruth approached Spock, glad the word “Antari” didn’t translate into Cantian. She smiled, licking her lips, locking her fiery, purple eyes on his. They were, of course, cool and dark and unreadable. She heard McCoy suppressing a snort of laughter.
“…She weaves a spell of golden flame …”
Her arms swept gracefully around him, her light, supple body undulating before him, using every ounce of Antari seductiveness. Spock didn’t even blink.
“…Her fire could drive a man insane …”
She slid a hand along his cheek, her action hidden by the hood, and gently, teasingly traced along his ear. He stiffened, his eyes flashing for a brief moment. Call me Pippin Took, will you? she thought and, thoroughly delighted with herself, broke away from him.
“…We know what lust can do!”
Uhura could barely keep from laughing. McCoy couldn’t. The rest of the clientele were also laughing, but at the audacity of this girl, trying to seduce a Holy One.
“Gentles all, be wary, be wary, be wary!
Gentles all, be way,
We know not what she’ll do!”
Ruth gracefully swirled to the ground as Uhura completed the song. The room broke into thunderous applause and showers of coins. They both scrambled to pick them up, then Ruth approached Spock.
“Forgive me, Holy One,” she said, trying to keep the amusement from her voice. “Please accept these coins for your good works.”
Spock’s expression did not alter. “Your generosity will be noted in the annals of the gods,” he replied, then lowered his voice. “And in my log reports, Lieutenant.” But there was a teasing gleam deep in his eyes.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Spock, sir,” Ruth returned as humbly as she could manage, and giggled at McCoy’s snort.
“We came to tell you about Ensign DuBois,” Spock continued. Ruth became immediately attentive, sitting at Spock’s feet as though she were listening to a Holy One’s words. ”She seems to have suffered some sort of neurological damage, as well as negative psychological conditioning.”
“I’ve done all I can for her,” McCoy put in, now as serious as Spock.
Ruth nodded. “Should I beam up?” she asked.
“Not just yet,” Spock answered. “The Captain prefers to wait until we have recovered Mrs. Majiir and Mr. Riley.”
“Miss DuBois rests comfortably as long as certain triggering words aren’t used around her,” McCoy added. He turned to Spock. “I’ll catch up with you later. I want to fill Ruthie in on the details.”
Ruth nodded, rising to her feet. She smiled, blowing a kiss at Spock. “See you later, Holy One.”
Spock sighed, then rose himself and left the café.
“Too much temptation for you, Holy One?” a quiet voice said suddenly at his side. A young man dressed in poor clothing stood near him, just outside the café’s enclosure.
“To see the moral state of such a young woman saddens me,” Spock replied, gazing what he hoped was piously at the horizon. “Still, she is not irredeemable. She gave of her coins to the ministry.”
“She is the one you saved from the crowd two days ago, is she not?” the man said.
“Yes,” Spock said. “One always hopes such as she will mend her ways.” In more ways than one, he added privately.
“I saw you. You are a powerful speaker.”
Spock turned to the man. “Is there something you wish, my son?”
“Yes, Holy One. There is something of some urgency I need to discuss with you.” His voice lowered to below a whisper. “It concerns the star people.”
Spock straightened. The man’s eyes were earnest – and knowing.
“Not here,” he continued. “There are ears. Come.”
“Holy One, this is Sosha, Kolm, and Frey. I am Palin. We may speak here, it is safe.”
Spock was seated in a small hovel with walls of packed mud about a kilometer from the café, the four Cantians on the floor before him. His chair was a tuffet of hay. A fire pit occupied one corner of the room, a heavy clay pot resting on the stones surrounding it. There were piles of straw covered by worn, ragged blankets laid out next to the fire, beds for those who lived there. A weathered plank set across two more hay bales served as a table. A jar filled with less-than fresh water and a clay bowl with two pieces of already browning fruit had been placed before him, no doubt as a gesture of hospitality. Spock could see no other store of food. The abject poverty was disturbing, the four before him younger, he suspected, than their thin, haggard faces suggested.
“You said something of star people?” he asked.
“You know more about them than we do,” the one introduced as Kolm muttered.
“Mind your manners,” the woman, Sosha, said sternly.
“I know of the myth that the Outlanders cling to…” Spock began.
“It is no myth, Holy One,” Palin broke in. “And you know this, too.”
“Palin and I,” Sosha again, “have been following you ever since you prevented the stoning of the governor’s harlot. We know you are not of our people. We have seen you disappear in golden starlight, and reappear the same way.”
“You were kind to her, and your words were strong,” Palin rejoined. “We knew if we could speak with you, tell you of the evil Rison does, surely you would help us, too.”
“What do you know of – the star people?” Spock asked carefully. If they had seen him and Dr. McCoy transporting, there was little point in denying the truth. Still, caution was called for.
“We know they are kind and just,” Sosha returned. “All our myths speak of them as noble kindred, of a much higher order than we. They work miracles and have means beyond our imaginations. It is said our first Holy Ones came from them.”
“It is also said that they are ignorant of the brutality with which Rison controls us,” Palin added. His dark eyes glanced up at Spock. “Holy One, the minerals the star people trade for are mined by the outlanders who, in payment, are allowed to live in houses such as this.” He gestured around. “If we did not work, or hide from the soldiers, we would be put to death.”
“Rison feeds on the labor of our people,” Kolm interjected. “He grows fat while we are forced to thievery or starvation.”
“Or accept our status as slaves,” said Frey. His young voice was harsh with barely suppressed hatred.
“Even as slaves, you see the care with which we are kept!” Kolm rejoined.
“But now that you know, now that you see,” Sosha stated urgently, “you will help us, I know you will!”
It was a hard admission. “We are aware of the conditions here,” Spock said.
Sosha gasped. Palin’s eyes widened. “But… you… you yet deal with Rison?”
“Our laws forbid us to interfere in local governments, no matter how distasteful we find their methods.”
“You interfered for the whore!” Frey cried.
“Perhaps you are not as holy as you would have us think,” Kolm growled.
“Wait!” Sosha burst out. “Holy One, you are here, among us. Surely that is a sign of your wish to help us. You hide among us. This must mean you are trying to find a way around your laws.” She knelt at his side, imploring. “Please, Holy One, this must be so!”
Spock spoke haltingly. “Some of our people are missing,” he said. “We are here to find them, nothing more.” He looked into Sosha’s pleading eyes. “I am sorry.”
“Sorry does nothing!” Frey suddenly shouted as he leapt to his feet. “You must help us! We have no hope without the star people!”
“You have weapons, powerful weapons that could crush Rison!” Kolm hissed. “I know! I have heard Rison’s soldiers speak of them!”
“Rison’s soldiers….” Spock began.
“It is an open secret, your Federation,” Kolm snarled.
“They think the outlanders too stupid to understand the truth," Frey rejoined. "They speak of myth and ‘star people’ but we are not children!”
“Frey wants revenge,” Sosha said with a stern glance at the young man. “Our parents were killed by the soldiers. But all we would ask of you is to mediate in our behalf. If you insist Rison give the outlanders their due share of the wealth their labors reap, he would have to listen to you. You have the means to force his hand. You must do this or we will not survive!”
“We have had no hope, no reason to live except for vengeance,” Kolm continued. “The star people are used as a myth against us.”
“But you could make that myth reality! You can give us new life!” Palin enjoined, his voice rising to the ringing, strident tone of a true revolutionary. “You can give us the hope we need to rise and demand our due! Knowing the star people are with us, we will become strong and powerful and when we have gained enough knowledge we will govern fairly and wisely, giving all people freedom and dignity!”
Spock sighed. However much he agreed with the ideals of these people, there was nothing he could do to aid them that would not break the Prime Directive. That it was, apparently, already a point beyond discussion did not free him to act. However, it might free Captain Kirk. He would, of course, be as culpable if he recommended such a course, yet with the Federation an ‘open secret,’ and one that predated the Enterprise’s actions…
The Seeders would wish us to aid them, he thought suddenly. If a case can be made that would insulate the crew from any repercussions from Starfleet and the Federation, the Captain would find it acceptable.
He resolutely faced Sosha. “I can make no promises,” he stated, “and I must speak with my superior first, but I will…”
His words were interrupted as Sosha abruptly threw herself into his arms. Instinctivly he rose, pulling away. Her fingers caught the edge of his hood drawing it away from his face. Four pairs of eyes stared at him. Sosha gasped and scuttled backwards away from him. Palin and Frey were frozen, dumbstruck. Kolm was just as obviously startled, but his eyes flickered in recognition.
“You… you’re…” Sosha stuttered, and quickly got to her feet, running from the hovel. Palin and Frey followed, panicked. Kolm watched them go, then turned to Spock.
“What is the meaning of this, Romulan?” he spat. “Doesn’t your commander trust Rison’s spies?”
Spock managed to keep his eyebrows from rising. Romulans. Of course. “Apparently not,” he replied.
“I think we’d best discuss this with Lord Rison,” Kolm glowered. “If he authorized this little set-up, I want to know why I wasn’t informed.” He stalked out of the hut. Spock followed, carefully drawing the hood back over his head.
Another fist struck Chekov in the stomach. He doubled up with it, grabbing at the arm it was attached to and pulled sharply as he rolled onto his back. His attacker went flying over him, tumbling into sacks of grain. Pavel got to his feet and glanced around for Kelly and Ordona. David was holding his own, but Ramon looked like he could use some help. The botanist, like Sulu, was good with the weapons of Terra’s ‘Romance’ period; but unlike the helmsman and Chief of Security, he wasn’t well-versed in martial arts or hand-to-hand combat. Pavel sprinted across the alley, leaping onto the back of the man attacking Ramon. He threw an expert headlock on the man while Ordona regained his footing and began ramming fists into the man’s belly. Chekov felt the man weakening and dropped off, dashing him to the ground. He turned to Kelly, who flipped his attacker neatly to the ground. He did not get up.
“Thanks, Pavel,” Ramon wheezed.
“Don’t mention it, Ramon,” Chekov replied, bending forward, his hands on his knees. Ordona took a step towards Kelly, who was leaning against a cart catching his breath.
Suddenly something hit Chekov square on the back. He dropped to his knees, reaching behind him to throw the attacker, and heard Ordona shout, “Kevin!”
Chekov twisted, seeing the anger-filled face of Kevin Riley. He felt hands at his throat. No, it can’t be, he thought in stunned disbelief. Kevin wouldn’t be trying to kill me. The attack had been completely unprovoked in the first place. He, Ordona and Kelly had been walking back to their adopted hideout after another fruitless day of searching for evidence of the whereabouts of the missing officers. They’d been jumped from behind. Until Ordona had shouted, Chekov hadn’t thought to look at the faces of their attackers.
He realized, slowly, that he couldn’t breathe and that David and Ramon were shouting.
The hands at his throat were pulled away, air rushing into his lungs. He wavered on unsteady feet, letting his vision clear. Riley’s face was twisted with an unseeing hatred, a ferocity that was both murderous and vacant. Kelly had him in a tight hold, arms under Riley’s, hands clasped at the back of Riley’s neck and still the lieutenant struggled with mindless fury.
Pavel took out his communicator. “Mr. Scott,” he rasped, “four to beam up, quickly!”
The two Cantians who had attacked with Riley stared in amazement as the four pillars of shimmer disappeared, then picked themselves up from the ground and ran as if chased by the devil himself.
“You call this a proper blade? The sister of an outlander could forge better steel!”
The brash young mercenary was shouting at the weapons dealer. The older one watched with apparent amusement at the merchant’s obvious fear. ‘Outlander’ was, of course, the worst thing one could call a merchant, and with the Cantian attitude toward women, the insult was doubly cutting.
He’s playing his role to the hilt, Jim thought, then grimaced at the unintended pun.
“If you expect anyone to purchase these half-tempered excuses for weapons,” Sulu continued acidly, “you’d best lower your ridiculous prices!” He glared menacingly at the dealer. “Understood, friend?”
“Yes, sire, most certainly, my sons will hear of the disgrace their work has brought me.” The man was bowing as he spoke, never meeting Sulu’s fierce stare. After all, Sulu looked more than capable of stringing him up for the insult. “To atone for my grievous offence, please, sire, take whatever weapon you wish. They are not worthy, I know, but please, sire, take one, forgive me!”
With a snort of disgust, Sulu picked a small, jeweled dagger, his arm sweeping most of the other cutlery to the ground. He strode away, not looking back. Jim gave the appropriate laugh at the man’s discomfort, and sauntered after Sulu.
Once out of earshot, he grasped his officer’s arm. “Lieutenant,” he said quietly, “I know this has been difficult for you. I understand the strain, it’s been four days with no sign of Mrs. Majiir. And I realize that we have to act in character,” he paused, “but shaking down the local merchants is going a bit overboard.”
Sulu’s jaw tightened, and for a moment, Jim thought the young man was going to shout at him. Then he sighed. “I know, sir. Sorry.” His voice was flat and tired, worn from the days of frustration. “But sometimes it’s just… if I don’t get it out…”
“Understood, Sulu.” Jim gave his arm a friendly pat and a wan smile briefly crossed the lieutenant’s lips, the first Jim had seen since Mrs. Majiir’s disappearance. “Come on, let’s see if any information has turned up among the soldiers.”
They turned a corner in time to see a wretchedly dressed man leading a tall, stately, white-robed priest into the governor’s residence.
“Captain…” Sulu began.
“I know, Lieutenant.”
“What’s he doing?”
“He may be onto something.” Or he may be in trouble. Either way… Jim thought quickly. “I think it’s time we sought employment in the governor’s personal guard.”
Spock followed Kolm through the winding passages of Governor Rison’s castle. Rison hadn’t seen him on the Enterprise; it was probable, then, that the governor would make the same mistake Kolm had and believe he was a Romulan. For the first time since the appearance of Vulcan’s long-lost brethren had been revealed, Spock found himself glad of the resemblance. There would be much he could learn as long as he was thought a Romulan. Of course, if any of that race were to see him, the ruse would be discovered. He would, however, deal with that as it happened.
They entered a large audience hall lined with uniformed men at attention. Rison was seated on a throne at the far end.
“Lord Governor!” Kolm stormed. The Cantian looked up from a scroll he was reading.
“You bring me a priest?” Rison asked dryly, his tone filled with bored amusement.
“Not a Holy One, Lord Governor!” Kolm replied, and faced Spock. “Show him!”
Slowly, Spock drew the hood of the robe from his head. Rison quickly stood.
“Romulan, explain!” he demanded.
“There is little he could tell you, Governor,” a cool, dark voice said from behind Spock. Spock turned. The imperial figure of a Romulan Commander stood just inside the doorway.
“Mr. Spock,” Tal continued. “I had not believed we would meet again.”
“Nor I,” Spock answered. “I see it is Commander. My congratulations.”
“And I see it is still Commander. A pity. I would have thought your Fleet would have been more generous after your capture of our cloaking device and a Romulan officer.”
“The performance of one’s sworn duty is expected, and neither merits nor requires reward,” Spock countered. Tal flushed.
“What is this?!" Rison demanded. Tal stepped up to the governor.
“Fool, do you not know the First Officer of the Federation ship which orbits your world?”
“A Romulan…?” Rison sputtered.
“A Vulcan,” Tal corrected. “A most dangerous Vulcan.”
A guard strode into the hall. “Lord Governor…” he began.
“What is it, Mas!” Rison snapped impatiently. The Romulan’s words had obviously both stung and disturbed him.
“Two mercenaries from the North seek employment.”
“I have no time for such trivialities. Send them away!”
“They are quite insistent, Lord Governor.”
“Deal with them, Mas, I said…”
"If you want our services, you’ll deal with us, and now!” A loud, brash voice filled the hall, followed by two richly dressed men, heavily arrayed with weaponry.
“Where there is Spock, there must be Kirk,” Tal murmured with satisfaction. “Guards, take those men!”
The shock of seeing the Romulan commander had stunned Kirk and Sulu just long enough to enable the castle guards to surround them.
“Surely you recognize Captain Kirk,” Tal said smoothly as he walked toward the knot of men. “And this is undoubtedly a member of the fine crew of the Enterprise.” Suddenly he turned to Kolm, who had been standing silently, almost unnoticed since his initial outburst. “What is the report on the revolutionaries?”
“They were trying to enlist the aid of the ‘star people’ for their cause,” Kolm answered, and pointed to Spock. “This one seemed actually ready to consider it.”
Tal’s eyebrow rose. “He did not speak of laws that forbid interference?”
Kolm frowned. “It was mentioned, but…”
“What, breaking the Federation’s wonderful Prime Directive?” Another voice spoke, a voice harsh that yet managed to seem suave. Spock saw Jim’s face harden and knew that his captain, too, had recognized it. Kor, a one-time planetary governor of the Klingon Empire, dressed in the robes of a Cantian noble. He waked toward them from behind the throne. “Your rebels will receive no help from these people,” the Klingon continued. “Their own foolish laws will keep them from giving what the slaves ask.” He paused, smiling. “And it if doesn’t, the poorly named Organian Peace Treaty will.” He spoke directly to Captain Kirk. “We were here first, my old friend.” His attention turned again to Rison. “But I would suggest you make it clear to your rebels that their ‘star people’ won’t be helping them.”
“A public display, perhaps, to convince them of the futility of their hope,” Tal suggested.
Spock briefly closed his eyes. Romulans were the descendants of a long-abandoned Vulcan colony, one which had lost all contact with its homeworld millennia before the time of Surak. It was not an intentional abandonment; Vulcan itself had been devastated by a nuclear war, losing all capacity for spaceflight and interstellar communications. The planet-wide destruction had led directly to the savage existence which had eventually necessitated the Way of Peace. Romulus, having had no such catalyst, remained true to the noble if martial philosophy that had once been the soul of Vulcan. And as such, Spock was well aware of the harshness of Romulan methods of such ‘displays.’ Vulcans did not forget their history, no matter how unpleasant.
Silver was nervous. She, Tomlan, Crona, and Leaan had been heading for the narrow, winding alleys of the worst parts of town. Leaan said it was time to scout for a new hiding place. She said they had been in the grotto for nearly a month, though Silver couldn’t really remember how long ago she had joined them there. Silver much preferred to make excursions into the heart of the town alone. It was easier to keep the press of others’ emotions at bay when she didn’t have to try to make conversation. But Leaan was in charge, and Silver followed.
“Look, a crowd’s gathering,” Crona said. “It must be a public announcement.”
“Good!” Leaan exclaimed. “Where there are crowds there are purse strings waiting to be cut.” She quickly removed her shawl, throwing it over Silver’s shoulders. “Cover that patch!” she hissed. “We have to move undetected.” She turned to Tomlan. “Tom, you and Silver take the west side. Crona and I will work this end.” She and Crona melted into the growing mass of people.
“Come on, Silver,” Tomlan said, taking her arm. She pulled it away, a flash of memory burning its way across her mind. There was another time, another who needed to escort you this way… She winced and took a deep breath before following Tomlan.
They had reached the town square, heading for the other side of the public space when the crowd roared sudden excitement. She glanced up at the square. Two men were being dragged up onto the central platform, one in the white robes of a Holy One. More fire seared through her, and she stopped, staring.
Tomlan pulled at her sleeve. “Silver, we can’t stop here,” he whispered.
She pulled her attention away from the square, but her heart was beginning to pound in her chest.
“There’s something going on out there,” Uhura murmured to Ruth as they worked wiping down the tables of the café. “McCoy went to see if he could find out what.”
“What’s wrong with us finding out?” Ruth suggested.
“We’re supposed to be working,” Uhura returned.
“And how suspicious will it look if everyone else gawks and we stay here?”
Uhura hesitated. “I suppose you have a point.”
Ruth gave one of the tables a final swipe with her skirt. “Come on,” she said, and started across the courtyard to the town square.
“People of Liswell!” Rison proclaimed. “Attend and listen well! We know there are those among you who would oppose the rightful rulers of this land, those who believe outlanders deserve equality!” There were jeers and cries of defiance. “We know the leaders of this movement, and they are even now being taken! But there are also those who believe the legendary ‘star people’ will come among them and lend them aid!” There was laughter, but not a few people gasped and fell silent. “I, Rison, Governor of Liswell and Lord of all Canti, will deal with these legends! If any in this assemblage hope to continue this madness, whose hope lies with the star people, behold!”
He gestured, and his men roughly lashed the Vulcan and the young lieutenant to a wooden frame that had been hastily erected on the town’s public platform. It had been his intention to flog all three Federates, but the Klingon suggested it would be more effective to force Captain Kirk to watch helplessly as his men were punished for his errors in judgment. And Rison had been anxious to show the powerful aliens the mettle of the Lord Governor. Kirk himself was restrained with sturdy ropes and two burly guards, held on one side of the platform.
The Klingon stepped forward, ripping the material from the back of the lieutenant, pulling the robe of the Vulcan open and away from shoulders, arms and back.
“These are your star people!” Rison thundered. “This,” he gestured again and Kirk was dragged forward, “is their captain. He has mighty warriors, mighty weapons! See how he defends his own, and ponder this: how much better would one such as he defend you!” He snapped his fingers. Another guard stepped forward, handing the Klingon a long, braided whip, unfurling a second, stepping to the other side of the wooden lattice from which the Federates hung.
Ruth held her breath as the two Cantians raised their whips. She stared, unable to believe what her eyes told her, the thick crack her ears registered. The spurt of green blood, the second slash, the stiffening of Spock’s slender body, the third, the fourth….
A scream rose in her throat, the power that was keheil rising likewise in her mind.
Uhura grasped at Ruth’s arm, more than a scream forcing its way to her mouth. She swallowed bitterly, pulling Ruth back. She saw McCoy and hissed his name. He was standing, rooted in horror to the sight on the platform.
“Doctor, I need your help!” she cried.
The sound jarred McCoy. He hadn’t been able to believe his senses, not even when the first lash connected with Spock’s back. How had the Vulcan been caught, how had Jim and Lieutenant Sulu? And what in God’s name was a Klingon doing on Canti? The nobleman’s robes couldn’t hide the distinguishing features from McCoy’s trained eye, even at a distance, though he was aware that to anyone not familiar with Klingons, it would look like an affectation of make-up and style of facial hair.
The whip slashed again. The Klingon was holding nothing back. Spock was silent, only the tension of his body giving indication of the pain he was enduring. The blood had spurted with the first crack due to the more rapid Vulcan circulation, but after that, equally rapid Vulcan response kept the loss of blood to an oozing trickle from the broken welts on his flesh. The whip kept cutting new furrows, deepening as the Klingon continued to apply his full brute force to the flaying.
Uhura’s voice hissing “Doctor, I need your help!” reached his hearing, and he turned.
Ruth pulled frantically away from Uhura’s grasp. Anguish welled inside her, fear and terror and desperate need. She had to stop this, she had to touch him, heal him, take the pain… She couldn’t bear it, could not allow it, fuck the mission, fuck Starfleet, fuck the Prime Directive…
She charged toward the platform, determined to put an end to the horror.
McCoy leapt after Ruth, grabbing her furiously.
“Let me go!” she screamed.
“Ruthie, you can’t!” he thundered in her ear. “We can’t help if we’re caught, too!”
She laughed wildly. “You think they can catch me?”
“Ruth, they’ve got the captain! They’ll kill him!”
“I don’t care! I can’t let them …”
“Look, girl!” McCoy shouted. “It’s a Klingon! We can get to the ship, we can use the ship. Ruth, it’s Klingons!”
Ruth stared at him, her eyes feral. “I won’t let them…” she began in a menacing hiss. Then she jerked her attention back to the platform just as another crack sounded, this one out of sync with those that had come before. And before there could possibly have been enough time, another.
The crowd screamed and Silver nearly lost control. Emotion beat at her; hatred and terror and hungry excitement, even arousal. She could barely breathe, couldn’t think. Even her vision was distorted, shimmering as though all were covered in some pale gossamer. She found herself staring around at the crowd, trying to find something to focus on.
Then she saw the young woman with long golden hair pushing through the mass of people. She froze, recognition burning into her scattered thoughts.
I know her!
Then the woman screamed.
I know that, too!
A man raced up to the woman, hissing sharply to her. Hissing… cold metal… icy blue eyes… get out, get away…
Pain blazed behind her eyes, sense beginning to leave her, the fierce, cold ache that would be stopped only with sleep or…
Sulu arched away from the whip, his face contorting, but after Spock’s stoic endurance, he was determined to let no cry escape him. The searing pain slashed across his back again and again. He could dimly hear Spock’s labored breathing, the crack of the Klingon’s whip breaking that rhythm as his own beating broke his breath into hissing gasps. He felt the sticky wetness of his own blood trickling down his skin. He clenched his teeth, the silent, unconscious mantra beginning without his awareness: relax, accept, endure.
“Lieutenant, there is no shame in expressions of pain.” Spock’s voice, hissing thinly.
“No,” was all he could manage in return.
“I am Vulcan, it is…” Spock gasped sharply. The Klingon’s oily voice interrupted.
“You will cry out before I am finished, Vulcan.”
His face bent down to Spock’s and Sulu couldn’t control the loathing. He found moisture somewhere and contemptuously spat at the Klingon.
With a roar of outrage, the Klingon stepped back, bringing his whip sharply across Sulu’s face. A strangled cry caught in the lieutenant's throat, and the pain soon forced him to forget all else.
“SULU!” Ruth cried, her voice a sick, aching shriek.
What can you do now, keheil? How can you heal him, too? You can’t get in his head, you already know that. So what are you going to do? Charge up there and save Spock and leave Roy to the dogs? Would Jilla ever forgive you for that?
I wouldn’t, the divine voice in her head reminded her.
McCoy’s voice penetrated the anguish of her thoughts. “Didn’t you hear me, Ruthie? I said we can use the ship!”
She grabbed onto the words like a lifeline.
“The ship…” she repeated.
“Look, that’s a Klingon up there. We don’t have to be bound by the Prime Directive. We can stop this from the ship!”
She heard herself sobbing and felt McCoy’s arms around her and she suddenly slumped, the agony too much for her to take. She was aware that McCoy led her through the crowd, back to the café. Uhura was waiting in the doorway, her face drawn and tight.
“Mr. Scott is ready to beam us up,” she whispered, ”but we have to get out of sight. Come on, there’s an alcove here.”
McCoy nodded and he helped Ruth stumble after her.
Sulu! The word, the strong word…!
Silver rushed toward the square, toward the golden-haired woman, then heard the sound of the second flaying. Her eyes were drawn to the platform – and she froze. Agony flooded her, and helpless terror. The dark man of her nightmares stood there brandishing the whip. Again her senses were overcome – then she saw the object of the monster’s fury, the deep olive color of the blood and the paler tones of the skin. Her heart raced. This, too, I know! Images of fire and the heat of passion warred with those of calm and control. Her body knew this man, of that she was certain. How and when were clouded, but she knew his name; Spock. Then the dark man roared and took a step back, focusing on the other man bound to the wooden frame. Her eyes widened, her breath a gasp of recognition colored in suddenly shared torment. She cried out, feeling the lash of the whip against her face, against her back. All thought of Spock left her mind, all thought of the golden-haired woman. This was life and reason, this was sanity and comfort and warmth, strength, caring, tender devotion. The word that had saved her from the suffering of her mind was a name, his name, he was…
“Sulu!” she screamed. “SULU!”
She fell to the ground, tears falling from her eyes, helplessness pounding into her. She felt every blow, shared the fear and the fury. She cried his name over and over, the agony in her breast as strong as the fierce pain in her head. Her voice cracked as emotion overwhelmed her and she rocked desolately on her knees.
A hand came to her shoulder and she trembled, unable to respond. She heard Tomlan’s voice hissing at her and her weeping renewed, filled with sorrow and emptiness. She had betrayed her life with this man, how could she ever explain…?
“Silver, what’s the matter with you?”
The word, the name escaped her in broken sobs. “Sulu…”
“Sulu?” Tomlan asked. “What’s that?”
Anguish tearing at her, she pointed.
Sulu was nearly unconscious. Spock was. The Vulcan had simply hung his head and closed his eyes, willing awareness to leave him. The Klingon’s disappointed sigh had been bitter triumph. “We’ll make this one beg,” he had promised. So far, he hadn’t. Sulu hadn’t uttered a sound but for the rasping breaths. He had almost broken once, and had heard Captain Kirk swear vehemently. That stopped him. A cry from him would’ve forced Kirk to admit to the pain and he could not, would not do that to the captain of a starship. He had seen the set look on Kirk’s face when Tal had informed him of the nature of the ‘public display,’ and Sulu refused to break that resolve.
And doing what they want you to do never stops the pain anyway.
His back was raw, now, and the whip cut through the bloody mess, sending fiery pain burning through him. He pleaded silently for the blackness that kept eluding him, damning his higher-than-normal pain tolerance. Then he felt a hand on his face. It jerked his head up. The Klingon smiled at him.
“I wanted you to know my name, Lieutenant,” he said amiably. “Governor Kor of the Klingon Empire. Do not forget it.” Then he spoke to the crowd.
“Where is the might of the star people?” he jeered, repeating Rison’s opening words. “If they will allow this to their own, what aid will they give you?” He jerked Sulu’s head hard, catching and tearing the weal his whip had given to the side of Sulu’s face. The bolt of agony was at last too much, the deliberate act raising specters of other times and other places. Sulu screamed and the blessed darkness came to release him from knowledge.
At the sound, Silver leapt to her feet, pushing and clawing through the crowd. She screamed the name, her voice hoarse and catching. Tomlan grabbed her just as Leaan and Crona rushed up. The three began dragging her away.
“No, let me go to him, I have to go to him!” Silver shrieked.
“Who is she talking about?” Crona grunted.
“The one who was whipped,” Tomlan answered in disgust.
“The Holy One?” Leaan asked skeptically.
“No, the younger.”
“Sulu!” Silver cried.
“What does she want with…?”
“How do I know? She fell, then wept, then began screaming.”
“I told you she came from the star people,” Crona insisted.
“No you didn’t,” Leaan stated. “But her screaming like this is going to attract attention. We have to get her out of here.”
“No!” Silver sobbed. “We have to help him, I have to…”
Leann exchanged glances with Tomlan, then sighed. “Silver, we’ll come back after sunset. We can’t do anything in this crowd.”
“They’ll leave them hanging, they always do,” Crona added helpfully.
“Sulu!” Silver screamed.
“Silver, we’ll help, but later!” Leaan promised. “We have to get out of here. If we’re caught…”
“It’ll be the mines for all of us.” Tomlan’s voice was tight and controlled, and Silver collapsed into a sobbing, tortured huddle, moaning the name of the man she knew she loved.
Go To Part Three
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum