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Encephalobasher
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Encephalobasher
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#2
Paul Robison
Nov 16, 2017
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15 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!4G16z6EpatQ8rCzMWOLYposted on PENANA

Balus Spock looked up from the journal he'd been studying.  The buzzer at his door had sounded.  "Come,' he called, and the door hissed open.copyright protection31PENANA3qoKhL7MP5

Dr. Huckleberry "Huck" Finn, chief medical officer of the Starship Esmeralda, stood in the doorway.  "Mind if I come in?" he asked formally.copyright protection31PENANAPULQ0lXFK7

"If you wish, Dr. Finn."  Spock switched off his viewer and indicated a chair across the desk.  His voice was cold.  It sounded as if he didn't care if Finn came in or sat down or stayed away.copyright protection31PENANA8BfAdOnaD8

Finn moved slowly to the chair and sat down.  He didn't speak for a moment, just stared at a rack of Vulcan bells on the wall as if he'd forgotten what he'd come for.copyright protection31PENANA8HzxrRizD8

"Well?" Spock prompted finally.copyright protection31PENANAEs2qi3LfIw

Finn roused with a start, turned to Spock. "Do you know what the date is?"copyright protection31PENANAnR7CrlrPw5

"Shall I repeat the exact hour and minute for you, Doctor?"copyright protection31PENANAXENwceovN1

"Yes---you'd know to the minute, wouldn't you?  Is that all?  Just numbers? D-don't you know what day this is, Spock?" Finn snapped out the last name distastefully.copyright protection31PENANADstGSMJD2s

"If you mean that this is the anniversary of the day that Captain Sawyer disappeared, yes, I know what day it is.  Why do you ask?" Spock had leaned back in his chair and had steepled his fingers before him, light gleaming from the gold braid on his arms, two bands of gold, with short dashes between---captain's stripes.copyright protection31PENANA9pjh2LCuA8

"Aren't you going to do anything to commemorate this day?" Finn asked. "Wouldn't a memorial service be in order?"copyright protection31PENANAAyNn5ZCtuq

"What purpose would that serve, Doctor?  A memorial service is to honor someone who is dead.  We do not know that Thomas Sawyer is dead."copyright protection31PENANAu8SYOKKyoN

"Of course he's dead, Spock!  Otherwise he'd have come back.  Tom Sawyer would come back from hell if he could.  If he were alive, he'd have shown up somewhere, somehow!  He's dead."copyright protection31PENANA0yckPf6sJH

"Where is the proof of that, Doctor?  Can you show me a body, a phaser burn----anything?"copyright protection31PENANAAkfoHlokOS

Finn flared.  "Goddamn you to hell, Spock!  Oh, I get it.  You've finally got something you've been wanting for a long time---you are captain of the Esmeralda now."copyright protection31PENANAKj1ChPn2oL

"Doctor, I did not wish...."copyright protection31PENANAPoj2J9hPB1

"Yeah, I've heard that one before:  'I do not wish to command.'  Boy, you couldn't take the conn fast enough when Tom disappeared."copyright protection31PENANAxclNA38YnX

Spock sighed. "I took command in order to keep an efficient crew together.  I have explained this to you before, Dr. Finn.  Very well.  Since you feel so strongly that some observance of the date should be made, you have my permission.  However"----firmly----"know that I will be absent."copyright protection31PENANAR7hSKzI7C6

"Why?  You got a guilty conscience or something?" Finn rose from his chair and started for the door without a backward glance.copyright protection31PENANATrvdufmM4Y

"Dr. Finn!  You will not use that tone with me." Spock stood also, and his face darkened.copyright protection31PENANANCa8pKbyJz

Finn whirled on him.  "Why, Balus, did I finally hit on the truth?  You're willing to admit you're glad Tom's gone?  Okay, put me on report!  See if I give a damn.  I'm thinking about leaving the Esmeralda soon anyway."  Finn was breathing hard, glaring at Spock.copyright protection31PENANAwAGNtrmczY

"Doctor, I am captain of the Esmeralda.  I command here. I do what I think is best for this ship, and I do not have to justify my actions to you.  There are reasons why I cannot believe that Thomas Sawyer is dead, but I will not go into them with you.  I understand how you feel about him, so I will overlook your outburst.  However, you cannot leave this ship unless I approve.  I do not approve, therefore you will stay."copyright protection31PENANAjtqOGU33G8

"You.......!" Fists tightly balled, Finn took one step toward Spock, stopped. "Oh, what's the use?" he said, turned, and stamped out the door, which closed behind him.copyright protection31PENANA1uLcDaXPJG

Spock stood at the closed door.  At last he sighed, sat down at his desk, and again switched on the viewer.copyright protection31PENANAofh53LwpX6

However, although the words on the screen came and went at his usual reading speed, he didn't see them.  Instead, in his mind's eye he again was seeing the face of the man he'd called a friend---a young, vibrant ship's captain, Thomas Sawyer.  A man who'd been closer to him than any other being.  Spock thought again of that day, one Earth-year before, when Sawyer had come bounding into his quarters.copyright protection31PENANAogzO5fJ9jq

"Balus!" He could hear the voice ringing in his mind again.  "Bal, how 'bout coming on shore leave with me?  Tony says he's going to pass it up this time.  He'll take charge here.  Come on, Spock, there's a place here that I just have to show you!  You'll never believe it."  Sawyer had grinned widely at him, excitement showing in his face and in his manner.copyright protection31PENANAhlU2xxdvmX

As if viewing a tape, Spock seemed to see himself answering his friend:  "No.....no, Tom, I have a new science journal with a report I must study.  You go ahead.  I do not wish to take leave now."copyright protection31PENANAbLctQfemFb

Sawyer's face had fallen a little, but soon regained most of its former animation.  He winked broadly at Spock, leaned over and said, "You'll be sorry!" waved his hand, turned, and hurried out the door.copyright protection31PENANAs3s1SxhCHB

Spock hadn't seen him since.copyright protection31PENANA2YWX1uufZR

Sawyer had beamed down to the R&R station.  And vanished.copyright protection31PENANAdbCpEsFTPl

The Esmeralda had remained in orbit while the planet was searched from end to end for sign or trace of Tom Sawyer.copyright protection31PENANA4ipxkh5CTM

Nothing.copyright protection31PENANAdWLaTNFo3F

Ships leaving the planet had been searched---but there'd been time before that for him to have left.  Or been taken.  Psychlo ships and others had left.copyright protection31PENANAfgQSGvlmob

It was an Open Planet----one of several near the edge of the Space Federation's sphere of influence, not far from the Psychlo Empire.  It was used by Humans and aliens alike.  Psychlos were often seen there, as well as other non-Human races.  It served as a kind of clearing-house for contacts, official and unofficial, between various races and cultures.copyright protection31PENANAHtt61Oo6ri

On the third day of the search, Lieutenant-Commander Gordon returned to the Esmeralda under guard.  he had obviously been in a fight; he had a black eye, and his uniform was torn.  He stood stiffly at attention in the Transporter room before Commander Spock.copyright protection31PENANATEeFP7svwv

"What happened, Mr. Gordon?" Spock asked.copyright protection31PENANAaMM1Esw0OV

"I---have nothing to say, sir," Gordon replied.copyright protection31PENANAbvpFCqt1xU

"Mr. Gordon.  You will tell me what happened."  Spock's voice cracked at him.  "Why were you sent back here in this condition?"copyright protection31PENANAjqzy5pGyUc

"Sir, I----well, I just couldn't stand there and listen to what they were saying about Captain Sawyer----sir." Gordon's voice revealed his anger.copyright protection31PENANA44YQ6CiDD6

"And what was it 'they' said, Mr. Gordon?"copyright protection31PENANAyOCYtfoXgV

"Sir, they---they said the captain has sold out to the Psychlos!  Sir!"copyright protection31PENANASAms8sRO0M

"I see.  Who are 'they,' Mr. Gordon?"copyright protection31PENANA04RZUXBdAe

"A bunch of heathens from the Optimo, sir.  They say the captain must've been paid off...."copyright protection31PENANAk93W7xcwvt

"That is enough, Mr. Gordon. I quite understand your impetuous reaction.  You are excused."  Spock turned away from Gordon for a moment, then looked back at him. "However, you will remain on board this ship until I give you permission to leave."copyright protection31PENANAsn3OQcgI1h

"Aye, sir."  And Gordon didn't leave the Esmeralda again while they were in orbit around that planet.  However, the story grew; others began to wonder, even while the search for Sawyer continued.copyright protection31PENANAu2ml1hjCuU

On the sixth day, Spock received a message from Fleet Command:  "Commander Spock. We regret to inform you that we can no longer permit the Esmeralda to remain out of service.  The search for Captain Sawyer will be continued by the civilian authorities.....You are hereby appointed acting commander of the Esmeralda and will return the Esmeralda to Base Eleven for reassignment."copyright protection31PENANARO3VLbsXHX

The message had been heard by the bridge crew.  There were expressions of shock and surprise when it ended and Spock ordered Kolchin to lay in a course for Base Eleven.copyright protection31PENANAr9luYcHfUI

"You mean you're gonna leave here without finding out what happened to Tom?" Finn had railed at Spock. copyright protection31PENANAwpKTLLa4oF

"Doctor, I have my orders."copyright protection31PENANAYgu2bfdEdV

"So what?  You can't do this, Spock."copyright protection31PENANACE5X93aQi4

"Dr. Finn, there is nothing further we can do here.  Fleet has already given us several extra days in which to search.   They can no longer have this ship out of action."copyright protection31PENANAzOukIf5Sku

"But.....Spock!"copyright protection31PENANAyjL2lWizBv

"That will be all, Dr. Finn," Spock said.  He turned his back on Finn and stepped to the command chair. For one brief second he paused, looking at it.   Then the cold Vulcan mask closed over his features---never to change in the days that followed.  He settled down into the chair.  "You will lay in the course to Base Eleven, Mr. Kolchin."copyright protection31PENANAudazbkClbV

"Yes, sair," Kolchin replied.  "Laid in," he said sharply, not raising his eyes from his board.copyright protection31PENANAqKKU4s9aku

"Take us out of orbit, Mr. Ko-Ko," Spock ordered. "Warp Two."copyright protection31PENANAFSNqV8ndHY

Ko-Ko hesitated.copyright protection31PENANAJccTMnepJp

"But.....Mr. Spock, he said, looking back at the Vulcan behind him.  Ko-Ko had never, to anyone's recollection, questioned a direct order from Spock before.  Nevtiri gasped; she could feel the tension on the bridge.  All heads turned toward the two figures, whose eyes were locked, the alien Vulcan and the Old Earth Oriental....races that had been set apart in their own times.copyright protection31PENANAk9a43fwdpR

"Lieutenant Ko-Ko, if you do not comply with my order immediately, I will have you relieved of duty," Spock said.copyright protection31PENANAH4KuuFDRTl

Ko-Ko flushed; a smear of red flooded his cheeks.  He turned back to his controls..... "Aye, aye, sir"----savagely snapping the switches controlling the great starship.copyright protection31PENANAQCy2wkpKJ9

Spock turned his attention to Engineer Gordon, who was standing near his bridge control board.  Another red-shirted crewman was seated there. "Mr. Gordon, I believe the lieutenant can handle the required engineering duties here.  I also believe your duties can be better handled from your office in the main Engineering section.  I shall notify you when your presence is required on the bridge.  Dismissed."copyright protection31PENANAa4ik9mzGAZ

Gordon's mouth opened in shock and surprise.  Then it snapped shut, opening only long enough for: "Yes, sir!" as Gordon whirled and stalked to the turbo lift.copyright protection31PENANAxi3iMyYqqR

"And you, Dr. Finn, will find work to occupy you in your Sickbay," Spock said, without looking at the doctor standing behind him.copyright protection31PENANALguji0EILo

Finn took a step toward Spock, stopped, glanced at Nevtiri, whose face registered her shock and disbelief.  His eyes swept around the bridge, taking in the rigid figures seated at their stations.  Finally he looked at Spock.  He could see only the sharp profile, as Spock stared straight ahead.copyright protection31PENANARVsagCwPi6

"Yes, Commander,' Finn said through stiff lips. "I shall not bother you with my presence here again----unless ordered."  He joined Tony at the door of the lift, and the two vanished from sight.  From that day forward, Tony Gordon and Huckleberry Finn had appeared on the bridge of the Esmeralda only when ordered.  They did what was required of them, most efficiently, but no more.copyright protection31PENANAOQoS8br7CS

The Esmeralda was no longer a "happy" ship.copyright protection31PENANAYo8sIrtmae

When the Esmeralda reached Base Eleven, Spock had been ordered to report to Commodore Montoya's office.  Montoya was waiting at his door when Spock arrived. "Come in, Mr. Spock."copyright protection31PENANAL2adcqPJf8

"Yes, sir," Spock said.  The two moved into the office, and the door closed behind them.copyright protection31PENANAQ4YfX7rpe3

Nobody aboard the Esmeralda learned exactly what happened behind that closed door.  All they knew was that several hours after he beamed down, Spock returned to the Esmeralda.  Lieutenant Nicholson was alone in the Transporter room when Spock materialized.  He, therefore, was the first one aboard to see the result of the meeting.  He'd glanced up from his controls casually when the materialization had concluded, gasped in surprise, and then had snapped to attention.copyright protection31PENANAhdrqGaS9w2

"Ah---welcome aboard, sir----ah----Captain Spock, sir!"copyright protection31PENANAoh4yvhYl0e

The familiar blue shirt Spock had worn for so many years was gone.  He now wore command gold, and two and one-half rows of gold braid designating his rank as captain gleamed at his wrists.copyright protection31PENANAtQjs5gzwGN

"Thank you, Mr. Nicholson," said Spock, stepping down from the pad.  He walked quietly from the room, leaving Nicholson staring dumbfoundedly after him.  Spock went immediately to the bridge, stepped down to the command chair, and seated himself.copyright protection31PENANAAY11oHbgQI

"Lieutenant Nevtiri, activate the address intercraft, please," he ordered.copyright protection31PENANAie0nNvELRF

"Ye-yes, sir---uh----Captain," Nevtiri stammered.  The unflappable Na'vi communications officer finally blew her cool and hit the wrong button, creating a squealing feedback for two agonizing seconds.copyright protection31PENANAZlviNBzm7g

Spock shot a dark glance at her, then spoke:  "This is----Captain Spock.  I have been ordered to take full command of the Esmeralda.  As soon as the ship has been resupplied, we will continue on our regular mission.  There will be no shore leave granted at this time.  Spock out."copyright protection31PENANAaIebJCTVTJ

A stunned silence, broken only by the click and hum of automatic equipment, swept the giant ship.  Then, throughout the ship, a hum of voices began.  Groups of crewmen formed, separated, reformed.copyright protection31PENANAEcYEzLaex1

"Did you hear that?" "Yeah!  I can't believe it!" "What about the captain?" "He's the captain!"  "Did you hear?"copyright protection31PENANATxmpQa0pw8

Nurse Becky Thatcher stood rigidly in the center of Sickbay, staring at the speaker of the intercom---unable to comprehend what she'd heard.copyright protection31PENANAGHQUTAxMwq

"Well, Nurse Thatcher, he finally did it," Finn said grimly.copyright protection31PENANAwaDvPcgZrO

"Sir?"copyright protection31PENANA1llnKbxLB4

"Ever since I've known Balus, he's said he didn't wish to be captain.  Now, Tom's been missing for less than two weeks, and that damned Vulcan's taken over. Blast him!"copyright protection31PENANAUhMLbFlJsR

"But Dr. Finn, someone has to be....captain of the Esmeralda until....until...." She couldn't bring herself to finish.copyright protection31PENANAaY2NtR0KRr

"Until Tom comes back?" Finn finished for her.  The good doctor couldn't as yet bring himself to believe that Tom Sawyer was dead.  Many of the crewmembers were beginning to say it, but he couldn't.  Not yet.  The thought was too painful, too awful to accept.copyright protection31PENANAySNUgy5NjG

"Um....yes, Doctor," Becky said hesitantly.  She, even more than the others, had been shocked and confused by Spock's sudden change.  She hadn't spoken to him since the day Finn had stormed into Sickbay after Spock had ordered him off the bridge.  He'd told her, "Your beloved Mr. Balus Spock has reverted to his true Vulcan colors, and I'll be damned if I ever set foot on that bridge again without a direct order!"copyright protection31PENANASeXEZ9klTM

Now Finn went on: "They didn't have to make him captain; he could have commanded as first officer for now."  But in his heart he knew the Esmeralda had to have a captain.  He turned away from Becky Thatcher, entered his office, and closed the door.copyright protection31PENANAc3LfQf7Q0Y

The Esmeralda stayed at Base Eleven only three days, then moved away.copyright protection31PENANAizQ5t7DzUX

They went to the planet they had christened Land of the Lost, shocking Finn and the others who had been there some years ago and decided that it must remain their secret.  One report, most secret, recommended that it was too dangerous even to garrison or guard, since it held the power of changing all history.  Spock beamed down alone and returned without a word.  Finn couldn't ask.  Wouldn't.  Routine seemed to resume.copyright protection31PENANAfNbdsbnMwg

The ship spent a lot of time near the Psychlo Empire.  Often they encountered Psychlo ships and personnel.  But the peace imposed by the Cyytians held.  And Spock held his peace, but did not look peaceful.copyright protection31PENANAzJjlYaB51C

One year passed.copyright protection31PENANA4jbVoF22eX

Huckleberry Finn couldn't know that, on the night that Tom Sawyer had disappeared, Spock had awakened in his quarters, shaking with horror----his mind a whirling torment of pain and fear.  In the midst of it all, he'd seemed to hear Tom Sawyer screaming to him for help.  The feelings and sensations were identical with those he'd experience long ago on the neutral planet of Cyyt, when he'd been subjected to the agony of the Psychlo Encephlobasher.  That time his powerful Vulcan mind had been able to withstand the torment, and he'd suffered no permanent damage from the experience, except for the memories.copyright protection31PENANAZuKbHdm50S

However, if Tom Sawyer or any other Human had been subjected to even the limited amount of exposure he'd endured, the consequences would have been devastating.  And on that night Spock seemed to see the same savagely urbane, smiling face of Qlom, the Psychlo commander they had faced there.  Almost regretful at the destruction of his valiant enemy, but pursuing the war.copyright protection31PENANAlABFWAQxGR

The sensation had faded quickly.  Anyone other than Spock would have said it was a nightmare, but Spock knew better.  He knew Tom Sawyer had been taken by the Psychlo, knew he'd drained Tom's mind---but not killed him.copyright protection31PENANAaKalGz1IBg

Spock would have known that---then or later, days later, when that which would let him know had been cut off in a burst of agony, but not in death.  A burst of agony and another call for help, and the old agony that had flared in the Encephlobasher----Victoria Winters dead and lost back in time, through a Land of the Lost time doorway, get to her, help me, Spock.copyright protection31PENANAGBKrMsE9xE

Nightmare.  But not unreal.  Not to be proved to Humans.  But if Qlom knew of the time doorways, all history lay in his hands.  And in Spock's.copyright protection31PENANA1TeDybdoIU

Tom Sawyer, also.  Lost, Spock believed, somewhere in time.  His mind lost even further.copyright protection31PENANAgSEqekZg3B

Spock knew that he could not think about that too closely.  His friend had cried out to him for help in his agony, and he hadn't been able to respond.  But help there must be.copyright protection31PENANAwJchaYJP8g

He locked away in his mind the realization that his friend, his only real friend, Tom Sawyer, could be to all intents and purposes a mindless vegetable---if he was still alive.  Spock did what he thought was best---for himself, for Tom, and for Fleet:  took Tom's place as commander of the Esmeralda.copyright protection31PENANAt9aINIT07C

As one of the terms under which he took the captaincy, he'd requested that the Esmeralda be assigned to the quadrant of the galaxy nearest the Psychlo Empire.  And he spent his time off the bridge searching ancient archives through the library computer.    The Library of Skulls could not or would not answer questions now.  Hopeless to try to find one man lost in all of time and space.   But one Vulcan must try.copyright protection31PENANAUovzOKUO0Y

There had been times when Spock had been tempted to tell Finn what he knew.  However, he could never bring himself to do so.   Finn would not have believed him, perhaps.  But if he had, how cold the Human live with the knowledge, and with the agony of hope, where there was, in logic, no hope?  How could any of the Humans live with that?copyright protection31PENANApxHCOSBxHJ

Finn knew nothing of this, so he went ahead, assisted by Lieutenant Navtiri, Mr. Ko-Ko, and Engineer Gordon, to hold the memorial service for Captain Tom Sawyer.  It was an emotional experience for all of them.  The service was piped to all decks.copyright protection31PENANAObSYTFHNGP

Captain Spock had appeared on the bridge just before the time for the service had taken over the command chair, thus allowing Ensign Kolchin to attend the ceremony.  Kolchin had been surprised when Spock had told him he could go; it was the first "human" thing Spock had done since becoming captain. copyright protection31PENANAqBdVb2F6QG

The service was heard on the bridge.  Several crewmen stole furtive glances at Spock during it.  The only thing they could report afterward was that when Lieutenant Navtiri had broken down while singing one of Captain Sawyer's favorite songs, a twinge of something----they couldn't say what---had flashed across the cold Vulcan face and then it was gone.  Nothing more.copyright protection31PENANA4gdMS2EtAm

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