Intermission 7: Of Cheat and Charmer
Disclaimer: ParaBorg owns the whole damn thing, but I own the original content of this story. Neener, neener.
Special thanks to Mary Ellen Curtin, whose comments about Intermission 6 inspired me to try and spackle this story in the way that I have. My gratitude to T'Thelaih and Editrix for sounding-board duties beyond the call. And thanks also to Alwyn, who didn't know why I was asking about command ranks in the Navy, but who gave me the benefit of her experience anyway.
Summary: From "The Galileo Seven," the scene just before Spock jettisons the fuel.
Rating: PG, TOS
"I to my perils
Of cheat and charmer
Came clad in armor
By stars benign.
Hope lies to mortals
And most believe her
But man's deceiver
Was never mine."
"I to My Perils"
The ache in my leg throbs dully as I look at the chronometer. By jettisoning the boosters, I have ensured that we have, at best, another forty-five minutes of life before the shuttlecraft re-enters the atmosphere. Forty-five minutes of circling the planet, waiting for a rescue which will likely never come.
I had asked my father once, long ago, how he knew my mother was angry. In one of our rare moments of communication, he had replied that he could smell it in the air. I did not understand it then, but I do now. The air inside the shuttlecraft is thick and sharp with mistrust and anger, emotions which the others do not trouble to hide from me. It has been that way since we crashed on the planet, and I am at a loss to understand it. Surely they would not have spoken to Jim in such manner.
McCoy mutters from behind me. "Well, Mr Spock, so ends your first command." The comment is barbed, like much of his words to me. Were I human, I suppose I would remind him that many of his actions since we landed on Taurus II have crossed into insubordination, but it is not logical to do so when our lives are near their end.
Instead, I reply, "Yes, my first command." Jim had been rather surprised to find out that I had never commanded a ship before, due to an earlier Starfleet policy which kept those in the Science Division out of the list of command specialties. The policy had ended shortly after my graduation from Starfleet Academy, but the gap between my rank and my actual command experience remained. This mission had been Jim's attempt to remedy the gap.
I think I now understand the concept of irony. The crew trusts him as they do not trust me, looking to me to save their lives but quite confident that I have no real idea as to how to accomplish it. Which is only the truth, for all my logical alternatives have brought us here, to this orbit around a barren planet with another 42.5 minutes of life. And yet, I cannot take refuge in logical alternatives as easily as I once could. There has to be another way, some way to signal to the Enterprise that we are still out here.
The logical part of my mind insists that Jim must have already left for the colony. But I also know, as surely as Vulcan's sands are red, that Jim has never left a member of his crew behind. I cannot think he would change that policy now. The belief isn't logical, but it is the only alternative left to me.
My gaze falls on the fuel gauge. The fuel is the only thing guaranteeing our life---or at least, what remains of it. If I jettison it now, we will have only six minutes left---but we will also have lit a signal flare, visible from a long distance. I do not discuss my decision with the others; I do not doubt they would concur eventually, but not without precious minutes lost to arguing.
I push the fuel button down, jettisoning the fuel. The shuttlecraft rocks with the force of its release, and the others gather around me. "Mr Spock!" Scott says, and I am surprised. I would have thought that he, above all the others, would have realized why I have done this. "He's jettisoned the fuel!"
"How much longer do we have?" This from Boma, who probably should have been brought up on charges of insubordination long ago.
Scott glances at the chronometer, slowly ticking away our last hope at rescue. "Six minutes, maybe less."
I meet the glare of the doctor and Boma, and stare them down. They back off slowly. I turn to find Scott watching me. There is something in his eyes I had not seen before: a dawning hope. Have I done this? With my illogical action that owes nothing to my Vulcan heritage? It is a thought worth considering later, assuming we get out of this.
Scott smiles then. "A distress signal? Like sending up a flare. Mr Spock, that was a good gamble. Perhaps it was worth it."
I shake my head as the reality of our situation encroaches once again. "No one out there to see it."
The last of the fuel, by my calculations, should have run out. As if to confirm it, Scott says quietly, "Orbit decaying, Mr Spock. Ten seconds to atmosphere."
McCoy's voice, free of scorn for the first time since this mission began, speaks from behind me. "It may be the last action you ever take, Mr Spock. And it was all human."
I glance at the chronometer before speaking. It won't be long now. I am not irritated by what the doctor has said, but puzzled as to why my illogical action should make any difference in how he speaks to me. "Totally illogical. There was no chance."
I can hear the smile in McCoy's voice. "That's exactly what I mean."
The shuttlecraft begins to buck as we begin to enter the atmosphere. Smoke from ruptured relays begins to fill the cabin, and it is only then that I feel the first tingle of dematerialization.
Against all logic, we were seen.
My mother has a saying that "no good deed ever goes unpunished." Like many of her Terran metaphors, its meaning eluded me until I actually began to live among humans. That particular expression comes to my mind now as I begin my duties on the bridge.
There is something almost merry in Scott's expression, something that puts me on my guard. The fact that almost the same expression is in Uhura's eyes, and the captain's, and the doctor's, makes me aware that my illogical decision will not go unremarked. I cannot honestly say that I mind. If there is to be a reckoning, as I suspect, at least I am alive to experience it.
As I expected, the doctor and the captain come near me once I sit down at the science station. "Mr Spock," Jim says, "there's really something I don't understand, and maybe you can explain it to me. Logically, of course."
I nod for him to continue. "When you jettisoned the fuel and ignited it, you knew there was virtually no chance of being seen, and yet you did it anyhow. Now, that would seem to me to be an act of desperation."
The bantering tone in his voice alerts me that the reckoning will not be long in coming. Nevertheless, I can find no fault with what he says. If it was an act of human desperation rather than Vulcan logic, the result is, at least, indisputable. "Quite correct, Captain."
"Now, we're all aware, and I'm sure the doctor would agree with me, that desperation is a highly emotional state of mind. How does your well-known logic explain that?"
His tone is bantering, affectionate, and his relief at our return was almost palpable. Curious, how I have learned to read human emotions---but there is still so much I do not understand. I have to think a moment before I can explain it in the way that Jim expects. "Quite simply, Captain. I examined the problem from all angles, and saw that it was plainly hopeless."
Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Uhura, trying not to laugh. Perhaps if I were fully human, I would be laughing too; I know the explanation is not in the slightest bit believable. "Logic informed me that under the circumstances, the only possible action would have to be one of desperation. A logical decision, logically arrived at." I am not used to bantering, but there is something curiously reassuring in it. If nothing else, it reminds me that I have a home here, with these people, on this ship.
"Uh-huh," Jim says, in a way that tells me he finds my explanation about as plausible as I do. "You mean you reasoned it was time for an emotional outburst?"
I am caught, and I know it, but I do not mind. There is no dishonor in being caught when the outcome was known from the start. "Well, I…wouldn't put it in precisely those terms, Captain, but those are essentially the facts."
The captain comes closer, and the tone is the same one he uses when he defeats me at chess, against all logic. He puts an arm around the back of my chair, and I do not feel his nearness disquieting. "You're not going to admit that for the first time in your life, you committed a purely human emotional act?"
I fold my arms and raise an eyebrow at him. I shake my head. "No, sir."
The captain begins to laugh, as does the doctor. Another of my mother's human expressions enters my mind: "They're not laughing at you, they're laughing near you." I understand, as I never thought I could. I do understand.
Jim stops laughing briefly. "Mr Spock, you're a stubborn man."
I cannot dispute this either. If it were not so, perhaps I would not be alive to discuss it. "Yes, sir."
The suppressed laughter explodes on the bridge. I do not mind.
I am home.