Healing Touch Chapter 13 K/U [NC-17]
Image a compilation of 'pretty'
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. I only own my fantasies.
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Beta: Sincere gratitude goes to: Nyotava, Bandicca, Zapp and Trekskitten for such wonderful betaing! Each of them brought fresh insight and used their unique expertise to make this story a reality.
Summary: A sequel to "My Faith in You," addressing Uhura's recovery from a brutal attack and the depths of Kirk's commitment to keep her in his world.
The bridge viewscreen was filled with the Potakai Ascendancy Processional in full tilt. Images from every angle were captured and presented along with a soft narrative by an off-screen commentator. Awash in a sea of color, the entire bridge crew was enthralled as each household marched by in their traditional garb. The boulevard used by the procession was lined with thousands of Potakai, all chirping and fluttering their crests. The entire screen was covered with spectators, no matter how wide a shot the camera panned.
A loud drum corps played a heady, reverberating beat. The rhythm was exciting, yet controlled the crowd. From the Conn, Spock noticed Sulu's hand tapping his console in unconscious mimicry of the compelling pulse. He felt it tug at the primitive center of his brain, but clamped down on his shields, blocking the entrancing rhythm.
McCoy and Christine came onto the Bridge and stepped down next to Spock. At his look of inquiry for their unrequested arrival, McCoy chimed in, his tone half-plea and half-challenge.
"The announcer said the last household was just about to march, Spock. Christine and I were tired of watching on our little screen and wanted to see the rest of the ceremony in detail. You can't begrudge us that, can you?"
"Very well, Doctor. However, please keep your comments to a minimum. I do not wish to be distracted." Spock warned.
McCoy started to retort back about being incapable of distracting such a stubborn Vulcan, but the serious gaze the first officer turned on him drew him up short. Spock was not bantering; he was worried.
"There they are!" Sulu yelled out, bringing all eyes back to the screen.
Emerging from the Torga archway, and the focus of a tight shot from the video feed, were Kirk and Uhura as they led their procession. A Company of female Warriors, all of equal Captain's rank, flanked them on all sides. Their faces were fully covered by tattoos, their crests a deep indigo tufted in white. No ceremonial palace guard, these were decorated and battle-proven Warriors meant for serious protection.
"My God! She is beautiful." Ignoring the Warriors, Chekov whispered in hushed awe.
"Stunning, my boy. Stunning." McCoy answered the young Russian, mesmerized by the woman before him.
There was no mistaking who they were talking about. Every man's eyes were locked upon the image of Uhura as she glided down the stairs at Kirk's side. She wore a brilliant white gown, richly brocaded in various insignia of the Federation homeworlds. The strapless gown was long and full, her crystal stilettos barely visible as she lifted its hem to aid her descent. Drawing attention to her décolletage, a matching wrap draped her shoulders, held closed by a golden Enterprise-emblem broach. A golden necklace and dangling earrings complimented her upswept hair and dramatic makeup.
As the Federation couple reached the bottom of the steps, Uhura dropped her hold on the hem of her gown and placed her hand on Kirk's proffered arm. Row after row of Torga Potakai followed their new household leadership down the boulevard.
Chapel studied her friend; a slight pang of jealousy thumping in her chest as she silently acknowledged how beautiful Ny was before turning her attention to Kirk. It was rare to see the Captain in anything other than his everyday uniform and the sight of him in civilian dress caught her off guard. He was gorgeous. Not attractive or handsome - but gorgeous. He wore a close-fitting outfit of midnight blue suede. The cropped jacket was trimmed in bronze cord along the seams and immaculately tailored to show off the breadth of his shoulders. While, Chris thought wickedly, the clinging pants highlighted the delicious curve of his butt. He wore a Federation pin over his heart and Chris was fairly sure two golden feathers were clipped in his hair near his temple.
"They look like they just stepped off the top of a wedding cake." Christine answered, putting her own spin on the imagery they presented. It was on the tip of her tongue to wax eloquent on whom she found attractive, but she kept her more risqué thoughts to herself.
The two marched in a slow, measured step, setting the pace and the tone for the hundreds following. Neither of their faces gave much away to those watching from the Enterprise. Kirk's eyes were serious, taking in all the activity around them. A ghost of a smile tried to lighten his face, but failed to unleash the sunshine they all knew he could blind them with. Uhura had a warm smile of her own, but a trace of apprehension clouded her eyes. That they were both on alert and nervous was about all that could be inferred from their body language.
Everyone sat up and took notice as the commentator remarked that Ramsha'ka had named Kirk as his heir in a special ceremony the night before. Spock's eyebrows were well past his hairline as he exchanged looks with McCoy.
"I take it this is news to you?" McCoy asked sarcastically.
"Affirmative, Doctor. The Captain made no mention of it during our morning briefing." Spock answered with just a hint of incredulousness.
"Well, Heaven forbid he should ever lead a dull mission. He would die from boredom."
"No, Doctor, he would not, but he may die from the repercussions of Ramsha'ka's decision to make him heir to the Potakai throne." Spock replied to McCoy's diatribe with quiet conviction.
Brought back to reality, McCoy demanded, "What the Hell does that mean, Spock?"
"It means that by choosing the Captain as heir, Ramsha'ka has made himself a lesser target to those who oppose his ascension to the throne. Now, his would-be opponents must consider the ramifications of his death: namely, the imposition of a Federation citizen as the head of their government."
"The Federation would never allow such a thing." McCoy scoffed.
"Exactly, but the Potakai do not know that. To them it is quite believable, and that, Doctor, is all that matters. It also makes Jim a far more desirable target to the opposition. Remove the heir first before renewing the attack upon the throne. "Fascinating; a highly strategic move, presumably made by the Dowager to bide time…"
"A strategic move with Jim's life, you pointy-eared calculator." McCoy blew up. "The Dowager has just possibly signed a death-warrant with Jim's name on it and you sit there and admire her strategy!"
"Doctor, calm yourself. It would appear Anata'ka has taken great pains to ensure the Captain's safety. Security is extremely tight throughout the entire city. All ships have been warned out of low orbit and she has surrounded him with a formidable guard. To allow something to happen to Jim only hastens an attack against Ramsha'ka, which she has gone to great pains to shield him from. I think it unlikely she wants anything to happen to the Captain."
"What she wants and what might happen are two different things, Spock. We need to warn him." McCoy growled.
"The Captain would have deduced all of this for himself, Doctor. You forget, he is an excellent tactician in his own right. I surmise his understanding of the threat explains both his and Lieutenant Uhura's state of alertness as they cross the processional - the most logical point for attack."
"Well, that's just dandy! Let's all just stand here and hold our breath while they cross the damn courtyard, why don't we?" McCoy bit back scathingly, impotent to do anything more than just what he had mocked.
Uhura took a deep breath as they entered the Audience Hall. It was not actually a sigh of relief--they still had to get through the ceremony--but at least she did not feel a sniper's scope targeting her now. They were not out of danger yet, but the security was tighter here inside the Hall. She felt Kirk give her arm a quick squeeze of reassurance. She looked up into his calm eyes and gained strength from him.
How did he do that? How did he always look like he could handle anything and make her feel that way too? Giving her a flash of his cocky grin, he started their march toward the dais, where the Royal Entourage and High Priest awaited them. Ny grinned back, feeling heady from the rush of adrenaline surging through her.
The scene was surreal, Warriors lining the walls and the aisles all the way to the dais, looking like a part of the decorations with their crests in full flare. Only the battle black of their armored uniforms bespoke of their potential role if something should go amiss. No weapons, save their ceremonial short swords, were allowed in the Hall, but Uhura had no doubt they were highly skilled in their use.
The march to the top of the dais seemed to take forever. Now, aware of the unrest within the Governor's ranks, she felt their tight scrutiny as she and Kirk passed row after row of each household along the way. Nearly all of the Governors stood at their approach--they did represent the House of Torga after all--but a few tried to remain seated. Ny felt herself brought up short and realized Kirk had stopped and turned to face the recalcitrant Governors, silently demanding that they offer their respect. She felt a shiver run along her spine at the stare down, but she kept her face composed. She glanced between the challenging glare of the Mescu Governor and the flinty stare of Kirk. She had seen Kirk's stare before, but he was usually facing a Klingon Commander, not a supposed ally. It was a battle of wills, but Ny thought that, with Anat's added urging from above, the Governor saw the error of his ways and grudgingly rose to his feet.
Seemingly satisfied that honor had been preserved, Kirk glanced hard at the other few governors who had started to show defiance. They quickly rose to their feet when the ringleader backed down, dropping their crests in a subtle apology. Kirk gave a slight nod of his head to each of them before continuing his march to the front.
When they reached the foot of the stairs, Kirk and Uhura continued to the top of the dais while the household members took their seats at the front of the Hall. The Aristocrats greeted them with warm smiles as protocol officers ushered them to their positions for the ceremonies. The Royals were all dressed in obscenely rich robes of traditional design and house colors. It nearly hurt to look at them.
The High Priest immediately took control of the assembly. He began his speech in that obscure dialect the translator struggled to comprehend.
A soft murmur of, / Don’t worry, I will tell you anything you need to know or do. / Flashed through Uhura's mind as Anat tried to put them at ease.
Actually, comprehending so little of the priest's words allowed Uhura to view the ceremony unfettered by anticipation. She watched as he chanted and anointed Ramsha'ka with the smoke of a pungent incense. The chant was picked up and repeated by everyone in the Hall.
Finally, it appeared it was time for power to be formally transferred from Anata'ka to Ramsha'ka. Anat turned to face her heir and placed her hands along his brow. They both closed their eyes and began a singsong chant of their own. This time, the Hall remained silent.
Upon completion of one verse, Anat motioned for Chota'di to detach himself from the bevy of Generals standing at the rear of the dais. He complied with exacting motion, unsheathing his sword and offering it to Anat in a gesture that needed no translation. With a deep drop of her crest, she accepted the symbol of his fealty and, in turn, presented it to Ramsha'ka.
Ramsha accepted the gift with all the reverence it demanded. He held the sword high and admired the rosy sheen the skylights bounced off its gleaming blade. He then turned it hilt-first and offered the sword back to Chota'di. The Warrior froze in the act of accepting his blade from his new liege lord. Once taken, it meant his loyalty was wholly and irrevocably transferred to Ramsha'ka from Anata'ka.
Uhura watched as Chota struggled with himself, trying to reach for the blade, but not able to do so. After a third attempt, he dropped his crest in defeat and stepped back to Anat's side. Uhura's heart broke. She knew he had tried to do as Anat had wished--to change for her--but the ancient drives were too strong. He would die before leaving her service, and her side. Ramsha'ka nodded his head once, both acknowledging the General's decision and agreeing with Chota's choice. The new emperor took the blade between his hands and snapped it in two, symbolically severing Chota'di from his service.
He then cast his eyes at the row of generals, challenging any to step forward and assume Chota'di's vacant position. One of the younger generals quickly stepped forward. His crest was proudly erect and the gold ribbons of service draped along the sleeves of his uniform fluttered in the sudden breeze of his advance. Uhura searched her brain for a name--General Ronar'di--she had met him once, at the reception, and pegged him as extremely ambitious to have reached that rank at such an early age.
Ramsha'ka stared hard at the brazen General, looking into his soul, attempting to find the bond of pono tomau he had so admired between Anata'ka and Chota'di. Ronar'di smiled at his liege. Acceptance by Ramsha would give him everything he had ever wanted in life and he would willingly give his blood to protect such a gift. Ramsha smiled back. He knew it was not the same sort of relationship his grandmother had shared with Chota, but he thought such daring ambition was a worthy substitute.
He reached out, silently demanding Ronar's sword. The General's smile beamed bright as he presented his sword and his service to his new master. Ramsha'ka took the blade and inspected it, then gave it back to his general, hilt-first. Once accepted, Ronar sheathed the blade and shadowed Ramsha as Chota'di did Anat.
Now it became time to address Potakai's acceptance into the Federation. Uhura heard Anat whisper in her mind to / be ready / as the priest led the assembly in another prayer chant.
Be ready for what? She had no part in the ceremony proper, only Kirk did. Ramsha'ka was emperor now, surely the threat had lessened. It did not matter; it was as if she had somehow transported to a higher plane of sound and sense out of her own body. She watched from afar in surreal slow-motion as Kirk took his position next to Ramsha. Uhura watched in exquisite detail as both kneeled in front of Anat as the Dowager placed her hands against their faces, calling for 'A Kef Bonz' chei', or a merging of souls. A rumble tore through the assembly--they had not expected this. The High Priest yelled something and made as if to break the bonds between the Human and the Potakai. Ronar'di stepped in and blocked the irate holy man.
A fierce yell from one of the remaining generals rang out as he made a charge against the Aristocrats. Chota'di had no weapon to block the deadly blow bearing down on Anat. Uhura watched in horrid fascination as Chota threw himself on Anat, trying to shield her with his body. Contact momentarily broken, Kirk became belatedly aware of the deathblow arcing toward both Chota and Anat. He pushed Ramsha back toward Ronar, moving him out of harm's way and launched himself over Chota--too far away to get to the berserker--but not too far away to use himself as a shield.
With sickening clarity, Uhura saw Kirk look her way; his eyes telling her goodbye as he prepared to take the blow meant for Anat. That look of finality stirred her to action--a millisecond of hesitation that seemed like eternity. Uhura yanked her wrap off her shoulders in one fluid motion, wrapping it around her arm as she moved in toward the attacker. The other generals broke rank, whether to attack or protect she did not know. They were not going to get there in time to affect the outcome of her altercation with the berserker.
Uhura reached the rampaging general just as his arm came down. His blow was meant to kill, to sever a body in one fell stroke. She threw her padded arm out, striking the General's arm and the hilt of the sword. She heard a sick crunch as the force of her awkward counterattack broke bone. A howl of pain mixed in with his war cry and the screams of the crowd.
The deadly swing was not stopped, just deflected, the angle and some of the fury flattened. Uhura continued her charge, using the advantage of the lesser gravity to run down the would-be assassin. She heard, more than saw, the blow land. It struck Kirk in the shoulder and sank into muscle before hitting bone and scraping along the flat of his scapula. Uhura rolled to her feet, grinding the heel of her stiletto into the attacker's hand, piercing it and forcing him to release the weapon. The other generals closed in and she was relieved to see them take the traitor in hand rather than finish his mission.
She rushed to the pile of bodies on the dais, seeing red blood pour from Kirk's wound. Loosening the wrap off her arm, she saw it already smeared with blood but had no thought as to how it had gotten there. She quickly folded it to make a pressure bandage, pressing it against the large gash she could see in Kirk's shoulder. He grunted in pain and Ny realized she had never heard such a sweet sound. Sound meant he was alive and all she had to do was keep him that way.
Kirk struggled to sit up, attempting to free Chota and Anat, who were still buried under him. Ronar rolled off Ramsha and Lilu, where he had pulled them both down in a similar protective gesture.
"Help me up." Kirk hissed between gritted teeth.
Uhura pulled him to a sitting position, trying to keep pressure on his wound at the same time. Chota quickly moved off Anat once he was freed to do so. His focus was intent on making sure she was all right.
The Dowager reached out and gripped Kirk's arm, as if trying to use him for leverage to sit up. Her grasp caused another grunt of pain from Kirk. Then Uhura found herself down on the floor with them--a roar of shock and pain passing all the way through her. The pandemonium of the crowds was hushed as they all collapsed--stunned from the same psychic blast Uhura felt--however, being much more psi sensitive, the effect was more devastating to them than to the humans.
/ Hurry! We haven't much time, Nyota. I have used Zhames' pain to stun everyone, but it won't last long. Get him to sit up and then help me to get Chota into position. / Anat screamed in her head.
Uhura did as she was told, scrambling to get Kirk in an upright position and then quickly move to help Anat rouse Chota from the stupor that had dropped him. What was the Dowager planning to do? Slick with Kirk's blood, Anat placed her hands against both men's temples, quickly starting a chant in a pleading, desperate voice. Uhura watched in bewilderment, but somehow knew Anat must succeed in whatever she was attempting. Taking up the makeshift pressure bandage, she once again held it tightly against the gash in Kirk's shoulder. The heavy wrap was no longer white; instead it, and much of her gown, was stained a deep crimson.
With her one free hand she fumbled for Kirk's communicator, finding it tucked in his breast pocket. It took two times to flip it open as she attempted to call for aid. She had to get through to Enterprise--Kirk was bleeding badly and she did not know if a Potakai doctor could treat him.
"Enterprise! Medical Emergency. Beam Doctor McCoy down immediately." She ordered over the answering chirp.
The scene went from stylized formality to chaos in less than the blink of an eye. One second Kirk was in the middle of a ceremony involving Anat and Ramsha, the next bodies were flying all over the place. The bridge crew watched in horror as Kirk threw himself over the Dowager and General Chota'di, trying to shield them from the berserker's attack with his own body. Almost in unison, Uhura launched herself at the assassin, using her stole as padding to protect her arm and deflect the worst of the vicious swipe that would have cleaved Kirk in two.
The angle of the blow was deflected but still made nauseating contact with Kirk. Spock flinched with the impact, as if he had taken the blow himself. They watched as Uhura drove her heel into the hand of the berserker, finally forcing the weapon from him. The next moment, she was at Kirk's side, using her wrap as a pressure bandage against the bloody remains of his shoulder.
McCoy was on his way to the turbolift, determined to get down there no matter what, when he heard Spock gasp and collapse against the command chair. He froze in indecision, but Spock motioned for him to go to Kirk. Freed from the agony of two patients, McCoy barked out orders.
"Christine, take care of Spock. Palmer, call M'Benga up here. Tell him Spock has collapsed and that I'm going down to the planet."
Scotty was in the transporter room arguing with Potakai Security to lower the planetary shields over the capital. McCoy paced on the platform, medikit in hand, as the Scot announced they had a medical emergency down on the planet and that Anata'ka herself had demanded a Human doctor. Silence spoke volumes as the Potakai on the other end digested that bit of bluff before agreeing to lower the shields just long enough to beam McCoy down.
"Ge' down with yer'self, Man." The engineer waved the CMO to stand still. "God Speed." He prayed as McCoy vanished.
Uhura looked up at the chaos that was going on around her just in time to see McCoy coalesce from the transporter sparkle. Immediately, two Warriors began to close on him, blocking him from his patients.
"Get out of my way! I'm Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy of the USS Enterprise and you're interfering with my treatment of the Ambassador!" McCoy practically roared and, with no thought of his own safety, pushed past the Potakai defense.
"Doctor! The Captain has been injured. He has a deep gash on his left shoulder." Uhura reported to him as soon as he was clear of the Warriors.
McCoy's eyes took in the scene, automatically assessing the situation as he closed the distance between them. Seeing Kirk mostly conscious slowed his frantic rush, allowing him to glance around the dais, looking for some place to lay Kirk down.
/ Take him to the back. There is a doorway leading to privacy and safety. /
Uhura knew Anat was mentally directing the same two Warriors to gather up Kirk, but McCoy looked from side to side, trying to see who had 'spoken'. As the Warriors half-carried, half-led Kirk away, Anat urged them to follow.
/ Attend to Zhames, McCoy. I will send whatever you need. Nyota, go with them, you are injured too. We are safe for the moment. Now, I must wait and see if we have been successful. /
Uhura needed no urging; she was going wherever they took Kirk. She realized that it probably was not only McCoy who had a wild look about him.
A path cleared for them to the sanctuary behind the door. Uhura's brain processed seeing Ramsha'ka take command of the scene, shouting out orders as if he had done it forever. Glancing over her shoulder, she was able to catch a glimpse of Chota'di as Anat hovered over him, all pretext of them merely being Dowager and General gone. He still sat on the bloody floor, a dazed and confused look on his face.
The deafening noise in the Audience Hall was shut out as the Warriors left them in privacy. McCoy had decided against laying Kirk down in favor of making him straddle a lounger that would afford better access to his shoulder. Handing his tricorder to Uhura, McCoy used a laser scalpel to slice through Kirk's jacket and peel it away, exposing the nasty gash underneath.
"Lieutenant, hold the tricorder where I can see its readings. I need both of my hands free right now." McCoy ordered quietly, his emotions now under control and focused on Kirk's injury.
Taking the unit in her left hand and using what was left of her makeshift pressure bandage to cushion her right hand, she answered automatically. "Yes sir." Glad for something to do.
McCoy quickly cauterized the wound, stopping the bleeding. He retracted the flap of tissue, exposing the full nature of the injury. Uhura could see the dull white of bone once McCoy cleansed the wound.
"Damn it, Bones! Try to leave some of it attached." Kirk ground out through gritted teeth--his first words to McCoy.
"Hurts, huh? Good--maybe it'll teach you a lesson about throwing yourself in harm's way." McCoy barked back sharply, but he glanced at Uhura and she saw relief in his eyes. "Now shut up so I can see how badly you're injured."
Using the feinberger and tricorder in unison, McCoy did a thorough examination of Kirk's shoulder. Uhura studied the tricorder screen, trying to understand all of the data. One of the images caught her attention over the others--a superimposed outline of Kirk with an assortment of white lines, dots and squiggles which Uhura finally realized was a catalog of Kirk's previous injuries. The abundance of markings caused her to let out a tiny gasp, immediately drawing McCoy's attention to her, then at what she had seen. His eyes tightened as a scowl momentarily flashed across his face before he returned to his ministrations.
In that instant, Uhura knew McCoy remembered each and every one of these injuries--probably better than Kirk did. He had been the one charged with patching Kirk back together time after time. She contrasted the difference between the wildness of his arrival to the controlled, but almost angry presence before her now. Angry with Kirk for risking his life, angry with him for once again making them scared his luck had run out.
How could McCoy stand it? How could he tolerate mission after mission with Kirk always in the thick of it? Uhura knew she had always been concerned when they had gone on landing parties before, but this new, stomach-wrenching fear of what she had nearly lost was unbearable. Had she been a millisecond slower, she would be staring at his corpse right now. How many little deaths had McCoy endured because he was not just Kirk's doctor, but also his friend? Was that why he accompanied him on so many landing parties when she knew he hated the transporter so much? To be there just in case? In case Jim put himself in danger and Spock could not protect him--that McCoy might once again cheat death?
Uhura's blood ran cold. How could she endure the same torture? She could not bully herself onto landing parties as McCoy often did and monitoring from afar now seemed woefully inadequate. How had a few nights in his arms changed her perspective so much? How could she allow herself to care this much for him and still remain quiet? Allowing him to command in the only way he knew how--from the front lines?
"Okay Jim, that's about all I can do down here. I need to get you into surgery to repair that muscle and nerve damage." McCoy announced, sounding much calmer and relaxed as he sealed the last of the dermal bandage. He scanned over the rest of Kirk's back with the feinberger and seemed to notice for the first time the telltale scratch marks Uhura had fretted over the day before. A raised eyebrow and a quick glance drew Nyota out of her internal anguish, forcing her to pull herself together and brazen it out. Looking confused would not work with McCoy, not when the man had practically wrote her a doctor's excuse for the opportunity to inflict them. The doctor merely shrugged as he protoplased the marks away--banishing evidence from future medical eyes.
"Surgery will have to wait until tomorrow, Doctor. I have a mission to complete." Kirk said as he pushed himself up off the makeshift treatment table. At that moment the door opened and Pahzj and Nesz bustled in, carrying new outfits for Kirk and Uhura.
"Now just a minute, Jim--" McCoy started to challenge.
"Not now, Doctor." Kirk glanced at the Potakai and warned McCoy off. "Surgery can wait till tomorrow. Please treat Uhura's hand--that's not just my blood she's wearing."
"We're not finished with this topic, Captain." McCoy ground out before shifting his focus to Uhura. At once his demeanor changed, the gentle McCoy came forward, dismissing Kirk from his thoughts for the moment.
"All right, Lieutenant," he purred in his best Southern drawl, "Let's take a look at what that nasty blade did to your hand."
Gently, he reached out and pulled her hand toward him, away from the protection of where she had tucked it against her chest. He carefully peeled the bloody bandage away, silently agreeing with Kirk that there was more than his blood here. Removing the last of the bandage revealed a long gash along the outward edge of Uhura's hand. Again, the wound was deep, but clean. McCoy ran his feinberger over her injury, assessing to be sure she had not sustained any nerve injury. Luckily, the cut only involved soft tissue and could be protoplased close in a few minutes. He lased it closed, and once satisfied with his work, picked the feinberger back up and ran it over the rest of her.
"What are you doing, Doctor? He only cut me there." Uhura stammered, brought out of her reverie by his continued attention.
"I know that, Lieutenant, but the Captain isn't the only one suffering from shock. Your injury, plus the after-effects of the attack have played havoc with your system. Let me give you something to make it easier." McCoy dialed up a hypospray and pressed it against her neck.
"I don't think you have anything in your medikit that can make it easier." She answered before thinking, glancing back at McCoy before catching herself and blushing at her inadvertent confession.
McCoy looked hard at her, following her gaze as she watched the elder Potakai male help Kirk put on a new outfit.
"No, probably not, Nyota." He spoke softly, sympathy in his eyes. "The pain that can be caused by caring for someone is outside of my skill--but at least you can feel something again." He offered in commiseration as he squeezed her good hand tenderly.
"Oh, yes…I can definitely feel again." She whispered to herself.
"I take it you intend to stay down here with him?" McCoy asked cautiously, having already given up that he could convince Kirk to return to the ship. But that did not mean she had to stay--he wasn't sure if staying was such a good thing for her either.
"Of course, Doctor. Somebody has to look out for him." She said with a bright, if forced, smile.
McCoy just nodded his head, recognizing that Jim had gained another soul in his unwanted collection of people who realized he often needed protection instead of always providing it.
"Fine, I'm leaving him in your hands. He lost a lot of blood and his whole left arm has little strength or feeling. Try to keep him quiet. Don't let him do anything too strenuous." The last remark was accompanied by a pointed look that caused Nyota's cheeks to fairly glow.
"Yes, sir." She answered mildly.
"Good. Now, I think this young lady has a new outfit for you too." McCoy nodded to where Nesz waited patiently against the wall, allowing them what privacy she could. "I'll leave you in her undoubtedly capable hands and go waste my time lecturing Jim. I don't see what's so all-fired important about attending a ball…It'd serve him right if I decided he didn't need anything for pain…" McCoy muttered crabbily as he left to rejoin Kirk.
Nesz came forward and began to strip off her blood-soaked gown. Modesty wasn't an option in their small sanctuary, but there really wasn't anyone to be modest in front of anymore.
"My Lady, that was a brave thing you did, fighting a Warrior--a berserker no less." Nesz whispered in quiet awe.
"Thank you, Nesz, for saying so, but I was just doing my duty." Uhura answered humbly, feeling uncomfortable with the praise.
"A Federation Consort is also a bodyguard? We did not know this. We were surprised when you did not bring your own Warriors--now we understand." Nesz seemed to accept Uhura could be both.
"Well, in this case, I guess you could call me that. As a Starfleet officer, I'm trained to perform in many capacities." Trying to get the conversation off of her, Nyota asked, "So what is going on out there? Why did that General try to kill Anata'ka?"
"Oh?" Nesz's eyes lit up with excitement. "They are claiming a new caste has been born!" She whispered gleefully.
"The crèche mothers and priests are very angry with Anata'ka for doing this--there is much shouting between them. We heard many things--most of it not for our ears."
"A new caste?" Nyota asked. "How did she do that?"
"I only know what Pahzj told me, and he overheard it as he attended Anata'ka right after the attack. He says she imprinted Chota'di with a part of the Ambassador's mente. That Chota'di is now clan leader of the Seka caste--those who desire to explore. Many are saying that others were converted at the same time--from all the castes!"
Uhura's mind raced at this news. Kirk was involved? He *knew* all along? "And the berserker sensed this was what Anata'ka was doing?"
"It would seem so. Sometimes a sensitive appears in the other castes. It made him quite mad, so the other Generals have let him have the honor of leading the Tikanga Whakamomori. They took him to the courtyard immediately after you were brought here. Hundreds of thousands chose to join him, but for now most have decided to stay and continue to serve their leaders or join the Sekas."
All the pieces suddenly clicked into place and Uhura could see nothing but red. She had known there was some plan going on between Anat and Kirk, but never imagined anything as remotely far-ranging as a new caste creation. That was Anat's plan all along. That was why she asked the Federation to send Kirk. That was why she needed a private audience with him--to gain his assistance and his silence. Was her motivation to save millions of warriors or just whatever she needed to do to save the one Warrior she cared about?
How dangerous it was to play God and revamp a whole society, regardless of the reason. How infuriating to be left out in the cold, not considered trustworthy enough for inclusion. Had Anat's aborted merging between Ramsha and Kirk merely been a subterfuge to draw the berserker out? To allow her an opportunity to stun the masses and substitute Chota'di for Ramsha? How desperate was she to risk both her grandson’s and Kirk's lives? Was her sole reason for joining the Federation just a ruse to get them to send Kirk?
Fury was building in her head, causing her temples to pulse with the hard beat of her heart. She had to get a grip on herself--this was neither the time nor the place to go off on a tirade.
"My Lady, are you well?" Nesz asked nervously at Uhura's continued silence.
"What?…Yes, I'm fine, Nesz. I was just considering what you had told me. Do you think the creation of a new caste is a good thing?"
"I'm sure I don't know the real answer to that question, My Lady, but as a Menage, I can say that the saving of lives is always a good thing. If a new caste could do that, would it not be an improvement?"
"One truly hopes so." Nyota prayed fervently. Being actively involved or not, there was bound to be a major investigation into this situation.
"Nesz, why are the crèche mothers and priests angry with Anat?" Uhura asked, trying a different tactic.
"Because she broke tradition and our way of life. It is their job to teach the young our culture and traditions. Anata'ka has caused chaos in all the households and castes. Some bondings appear to have been severed by the change, when one mate realigned and the other did not. They say the foundation of our culture has been shaken."
"Do you think they are right?"
"I am still Menage. Nothing has changed for me. If a house is built on good stone, can it not withstand a storm? If a few roof tiles fly off, did they not need replacing anyway? I'm sure there are greater issues to consider, but those are for the elders to contemplate."
Uhura turned just in time to see McCoy beam out and braced herself as Kirk walked toward her. Pahzj motioned to Nesz he was ready to leave and she quickly gathered up the discarded clothes and excused herself from their company.
"So, did Nesz catch you up with what's happening out there?" Kirk asked distractedly as he tried to shift his jacket and found that only one of his shoulders would cooperate.
"About the new caste? Yes, she did. She said it saved many lives, but that hundreds of thousands of the Warriors still committed suicide." Uhura knew that jab was unfair, but she had to vent a fraction of her anger or she would burst.
"Yes, Spock confirmed that too." Kirk added sadly before offering news she had not known. "Anat's stun even affected him on the Enterprise, but M'Benga told McCoy he checked out okay."
Somehow knowing Anat had stunned Spock made Nyota angrier. Were there any limits to whom she would risk? Did Jim not feel used?
Still struggling with his jacket, Kirk stopped for a moment, looking hard at Uhura.
"Are you really okay? McCoy said you wanted to stay down here, but you don't have to if you'd really rather go back."
Exasperated with his futile efforts, Uhura reached up and adjusted the set of Kirk's jacket across his shoulders, allowing the action to bide her a few seconds before replying.
"No, I'm fine--really. I guess it's just the letdown after that adrenaline rush. I want to stay and finish this mission with you." She tried to focus on the mission, letting the fact that many lives were saved diffuse some of the anger she felt at him and at Anata'ka.
His eyes softened and he clasped her hands as they rested against his chest. "Good, and I want to thank you for saving my life."
"I thought it was about time I returned the favor." She quipped, not allowing him the closeness he sought, pushing him away emotionally becoming her means of defense. Uhura caught the little flinch as he reacted to her distancing. His attempt to reach out to her only made it worse; it was too little, too late.
"Should we go out and show the others that you're indestructible?" She tossed over her shoulder as she moved toward the door, knowing it was insubordinate but unable to curb her tongue.
He was there before she could activate it, his good hand covering the control.
"Penda, what's wrong? Why are you being this way?" He asked in a hurt and confused tone.
"Just leave it for now. We've got a Coronation Ball to attend." She hissed at him, angry at his barring of her escape. Uhura saw his eyes glitter dangerously before he spoke.
"Why, yes we do, Lieutenant."
His soft and quiet tone, as well as the use of her title put her on notice that she would have much to answer for later, but for now he agreed they needed to be seen. He pulled back from the door, allowing her to finish waving it open. Uhura strode through it quickly, but he followed on her heels, his nearness for once intimidating instead of comforting.