By the Firepot Beast

TITLE: By the Firepot Beast

AUTHOR: Kelthammer


CHARACTERS: The Big Three: Spock's POV; McCoy, Kirk.

SUMMARY: Betrayal begats betrayal. The Balance of Power is swaying on the ISS

ARCHIVE: Sure, just lemme know

A long-dead Terran writer once described eyes "blue and bleak." It fits you.
Circumstances have forced you here, and the resignation stands with your posture
as you brace for the worst I can give you. A sensible attitude. We have been
allies by circumstance, but never friends.

I do not take pleasure in knowing our captain is losing control of his crew.
But I am not standing idle and letting it happen, either. As he throws away the
most valuable men and women, I take advantage of his waste. You an unexpected

You still carry the soft red dust of the planet on your uniform. I can smell
the damp storms that wrecked its atmosphere, clean and fresh.

“Are you prepared?” I ask.

“As much as I’ll ever be.” Your reply is soft but by now I know when you
dissemble, and when you are sincere.

I stand then, and we regard each other. You are so much like your twin, only
far more subdued and secret. You had to be different in this way, to survive in
this Universe. I remember the meld with the other one, and look forward to this
one with you, hoping for a similar experience…a better experience…

The captain pushed you too far. Secure in his grip on everyone aboard, he
miscalculated. The expression on your face said it all. It was not the horror
of a man who had been discovered in a crime, but of a man who did not understand
what he was being accused of.

If you had been charged with a crime involving any of the twenty telepathic
species, it would have been solved simply, with a mind-adept glancing inside you
for guilt or innocence. But the Draymians were not gifted in any such way, and
the procedure was waived. They demanded justice on their terms.

I saw your eyes when the captain spoke, agreeing to their "trial." They were
bleak and weary, forced to listen to things you did not want to hear.

You shift slightly, trying to maintain your calm. In that small movement I see
a shadow out of place on your throat, just barely above the scrape of the
shirt-collar. It does not belong there.

"Take off your shirt."

The shirt comes off slowly, and I understand your hesitation when I see your
bare arms.

The agonizer is rarely placed against bare skin. The electrical charge required
to shock the body will raise burns on flesh. On some species, welts and open
wounds. Kirk’s “discipline” had created small dry red burns inside the elbows
and wrist joints; I see the glimpse of another at your throat, just barely
hidden by the black undertunic. There is no point in saying anything. I look
up and down, taking note silently, acknowledging what was done. Your face is
impassive again.


Whatever I order you to do, you are determined to survive it. I see that in
your eyes very well. You survived Kirk, you can survive Kirk’s First Officer.
The black comes off in a sharp, angry jerk, and worse marks are revealed in the
light of the firepot beast. The hot flame makes them painful, but you won’t
move away. Not unless I tell you to. I know you won’t ask permission.

Kirk was exceedingly angry. I see four agonizer burns, and a single square
pressure dent where he was forced to manually regulate your heartbeat when it
stopped. Like reading a trail, I can see where his attention drifted; sternum,
navel, diaphragm. I turn you around and see the same on the other side.

The clay of the planet has worked through the uniform fibers in places, leaving
pale rose smears of sweat and mud against a shoulder, across a floating rib, a
forearm, down your spine. There could be more wounds in better light. I pause
to rest my hand just above an agonizer burn. You feel the heat off my palm and

"Why have you not tended these?"

You are just a moment in your reply. The pause is deliberate; poignant.

"I was ordered not to."

I watch you for signs of panic, but your heart beats only slightly faster. Kirk
has numbed you to much. You are hoping that whatever is done, will be done
quickly before sensations return.

I call for T'Har, the only Vulcan female on the ship. She is also the only
Vulcan I know of with xenomedical training. Her record says she is a
technician, of course. Her entrance makes no sense to you, for we converse
first in Vulcan.

"The Doctor needs medical attention. He is..." I pause, and imitate your exact
mannerism. "forbidden to see to himself."

T'Har nods, unsurprised. It is so like Kirk to give such a command. Over time,
even his originality is taken for granted.

I return briefly to my reports--an update on Sulu's perpetual machinations.
Properly motivated, the man would be a captain worthy of Kirk--but it is
simpler, even safer, to kill one's successor than it is to find one's own ship.
Again, I consider that perhaps I should offer Sulu his own ship. My father
wishes me to gain in power. T'Har says something in the Empire's patois,
something medical that makes as little sense to me as Vulcan does to you. You
remain a mask as the hard alien clay is soaked away. The burns are paper-thin
and fall away, exposing the full wound. T'Har makes a comment of disapproval
underestandable to both of us.

The salve follows, and the sharpness of its scent is unpleasant to you, but you
also control your expression there. To me is is pleasant, reminding me of the
spine-flowers in the winter desert. My mother often complained it made her
smell like a "spice rack explosion." Such odd use of language always surprised
my staid, stern father into amusement. I think it was one reason why he kept
her. My father's family is not known for their flexible demeanor.

T'Har starts at the marks inside the wrists and works down to your shoulders,
using light, then firm circles of the fingertips. From the shoulders, your
throat. She traces your jawline, square and stubborn. You reflexively shut
your eyes as she brushes across the lids, and the thick lashes brush her skin.
I see you swallow.

You are helpless; I must show that I will not abuse that helplessness. But I
think of your twin's hot defiance. It conjures up the warrior of old inside me.
Vulcans relish conflict, though they will not speak of it. By the old laws, I
could have claimed victory when my mind won over his. The old laws do not
necessarily apply to aliens. Logic dictated another action, to return everyone
back to their rightful place. Instead, I had reason to consider the advantages
of seizing control over you…A pity there is no parallel to the concept in your
language. "Hostage" is the closest analogy you would understand, for the
Tr'eneh can buy or trade their freedom. You will not be harmed by myself nor by
my allies, but now my enemies are yours. This may very well shorten your

You knew what you had agreed to when you turned to me. Once I had divined the
reason for Kirk’s hold over you, it was a simple matter to raise the price.
But Kirk acted before I could, and threw you aside. You had nothing to expect
save an assassination in the near future. My offer was not exactly an
offer…more like a trade. Your loyalty for my protection…and that protection
would extend to that of your kith and kin.

All this, because my operative was in the most fortuitous place and time…

You know all Vulcans on board are sworn to me. None would rise against another
Vulcan anyway; their oaths are automatic, given to the highest ranking of our
people. That they consider me without question is an honor I cannot deny.


Storn reports himself to my cabin, saluting sharply, then turning it to a quick
Vulcan greeting. I bid him enter.

“Commander.” He bows his head, and the tools around his belt wave from the
motion. “There is an altercation between the captain and ship’s surgeon.”

Our people have an efficient language. I do not ask him why he is informing me.
He has reasons to. “Speak.” I tell him.

He bows his head again, offering the clear and undiluted memories inside his

Never taken lightly, I do not refuse. It is more than his desire to give me an
uncluttered account; he is extending his trust to me.

His skin is warm as my own under my fingertips.

For a moment, I am still in my cabin, warmed by the firepot, then I am in
Storn’s body, crammed inside the narrow confines of a relay conduit. Cables and
meters surround me from all sides, graphs and guides that increase the ship’s
ability to function, but needs constant upkeep. Light filters upward, an air
vent protected by a screen that leads to the soft mechanical sounds of Sickbay.

“I never caused any plague! The shots were straight and across the board!”

Storn stops working, stops moving, listening.

“Nobody ever said you DID, doctor. At least no one from Command.” Kirk’s voice
is thick with amusement. “But you can certainly see their point of view. If
you were being good, then the fault must be with your superiors, correct? And
nobody wants that.”

“Captain, I don’t care what anybody says! The plague of colors had nothing to
do with the medicines the Empire measured out! My God, half that colony was
made of children! At least let me investigate the facts before I beam down to a
kangaroo court!”

Soft sound; Kirk is folding his arms across his chest. “You’re asking a lot,
McCoy. I don’t have to grant you any priviledges.”

Stone-silence, then the doctor releases a sigh.

“What do you want, captain?”

“I thought you’d never ask…”

“Just…just tell me what you want done.”

“Now, now…don’t be impatient. Think of my view, doctor, You’re asking for a
chance to prove your innocence. I don’t have much potential for a return
investment, do I?”

“You’ll know I’ll conceed to anything that doesn’t fall out of the guides of my

“Still full of that Hypocritic ideal, are you? It must be lonely at the top.”

“Captain…tell me what you want.”

“I want access to your drug stores.”

Storn hears the silence grow thick and hot; horrified.

“We’ve been over this before, captain. I know what you want with those drugs.

“No? Too bad for you.”

“I’m not trading my reputation from one bad end to another! The Draymians MAY
execute me, but if I give you free run of my Sickbay it’ll be twice the hellhole
it already is!”

“Don’t complain to me, McCoy, if you can’t control your own people.”

"They aren't my people, they're yours!"

"That's right. They're mine, and that's how it is." Kirk’s arms fall to his
sides. His voice grows hard; confrontational. “Either way, I’ll get what I
want. I’m sure M’Benga will be more…tractable. Nice knowing you.”

Kirk's voice is mocking, trying to get a reaction out of the other. Storn does
not know this with his own cultural limitations, but my mother's views tell me
much: Kirk wants his McCoy's agreement badly, and he has tried everything but
harsh coercion. In the replayed memory, I read a mosiac of unsavory emotions:
self-directed disgust, anger, and thwarted hopes. What game is Kirk playing
that he would have such things inside him? He is the most powerful man on the
ship, but he acts as though he is fighting for power on a survivalist level.
Something has tipped the balance against him. What?

And why, I wonder, would Kirk turn on one of his closest allies? I would have
never predicted such a maneuver. Kirk has always been loyal to those who were
loyal to him. His rewards are traditionally as ingenious as his punishments.
He cannot bear one thing that I know of, and that is betrayal. Even those who
betray others in order to support him soon find, the captain will let them rise
no higher in rank.

For some reason, the doctor has done something that constitutes as betrayal to
the captain's mind.

I do not know why Kirk wants access to the drug stores. You do. That is why
you will eventually die.

Of course, Kirk did not expect you to be cleared of the charges. Nor does he
suspect my part in it. If he did, I would not guess his reaction.

It was a simple matter to summon you via communicator when I knew you were
alone. You came warily, with the strain of the day already on your shoulders.


I did not waste time. Vulcans do not believe in small talk.

“You are about to be charged with genocide on a planetary scale.”

“I never caused any plague. But it doesn’t matter.” You answer wearily.

“Why does it not?”

“Because they need a scapegoat. Someone to blame for all those deaths. They’ll
nail me to one of their biggest posts and leave me to die of exposure. And
they’ll all go home and have a good night’s sleep, believing the ghosts of their
dead kin are at rest too.”

Despite your words, heavy sarcasm is present. I lift an eyebrow. “Are you so
prepared to die?”

“I can hardly prove to them I didn’t cause the plague.”

“What if you could?” I press. “I know the captain made you an offer…which you

Spying is taken for granted. You are not at all surprised. “And what do you

“Only your loyalty.”

Your eyes flash, and I see your twin’s impotent rage as I pin him against the
wall. “You have all of that you’re going to get.”

“Oh? You do not seem to understand, doctor. And you underestimate the
abilities of Vulcans. I can prove your innocence. Have you considered what the
captain will do to you when you succeed despite him?”

You pale. You have already considered that unlikely possibility.

“Kirk is an excellent administrator of revenge.” I remind him. “And I believe,
uncaring of family ties since he has none himself. You have family, do you

“Stop.” Your hand goes up, shaking. It is all too likely Kirk will target them
if McCoy dares survive the trial. He has selected relatives of his enemies in
the past. They appear to be his favorite method of attack, as if he is lashing
out against a Universe that left him berefit, but not others.

“You win.” You swallow. “God…damn you, you win.”

“You will find I am not so harsh a taskmaster.” I continue my casual pose
against the desk. “It is simply I need a physician I can absolutely trust.”

“Why not import yourself one then?” You snap.

I almost smile. “I am afraid that is not possible. They are needed where they
are.” On Vulcan. With my parents where they can be the most useful.

It is true that I do need a personal healer. I had initial hopes for M’Benga,
who is skilled in Vulcans, but McCoy by debit, has become the expert in my
hybrid nature. And M’Benga is all too corruptible. Not a flaw he was born
with, alas, but his genius was carefully corrupted at a young age by experts.
My discreet inquires on his nature were disappointing.

“I will not require you to renege on any part of your Oath.” My voice drops as
I speak, and you stop breathing. “I know your limits, doctor. More than you do

You lock eyes with me then. I know you think of your twin, and what I saw
inside that one’s mind. It gives me an advantage over you you are hardly aware

I think you are not so unalike, you and he. He is simply living in an
environment that permits him the leeway to fight. He would have been an
unrelenting battle of wills, and he would have fought me until nothing was left.
So I use another tactic. I make this your choice, and chain you with your
own sense of honor.

You say nothing as you leave. There is no point. Many things can happen in the
length of time it takes to conduct a trial and return the convicted home. For
all our plans, Kirk may yet kill you before beamup.


T'Har leaves as quickly as she has entered. You slide the tunic back on slowly,
still in pain.

"Why does the captain make you an enemy?"

Disgust flashes over your face. "You'd have to ask him that."

I almost smile, for I can imagine a powerful disagreement in the heart of this
shism. And yet, not so long ago, there would have been a time where my loyalty
to the captain was unswerving. You are no doubt confused that I would actually
be capable of this quiet subterfuge. It is not, after all, the Vulcan Way...but
it is certainly Human.

"How is it the captain seized total control of your department?"

You stop, not looking at me. "It can happen if you're resourceful." He states
the obvious. "And I wouldn't call it total control."

"If you have allies, I suggest you employ them."

You hesitate, choosing your words with care. "I hope it won't come to that,
Commander." Your dark blue eyes flicker across the flame of the firepot beast.
"My allies have a way of dying."

A thin thread of emotion I cannot identify. Humans can convey so much without
actually speaking. Myraid, complex, changing...and yet logical if one takes the
time to comprehend. There is nothing I can say to his comment...yet. I merely
grunt, accepting his unspoken wishes. Whoever he is protecting, he cannot damn
them by asking for their help. I wonder who they are.

In time I will learn.