DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2022 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
The Needs of the Sacrificed
Chapel checked to make sure the privacy lock wasn't on for Lab Five, then palmed the door open. She saw Spock staring at a padd. "I'm sorry to barge in when you're working."
"He is not working, Christine," came from the padd and Spock held it up to show T'Pring.
"I am so sorry. I didn't mean to—" She could feel her face turning bright red.
"Are you here about the child?" Spock's voice was extremely gentle. "I was just telling T'Pring about him."
"I don't want to interrupt." She hated how ragged her voice was, how tired she felt. Between this and the ship nearly coming apart during that Gorn attack, well, space might not be for her. "I just thought..." Shit, who cared what she thought?
"Christine, it is a human saying that two heads are better than one, is it not?" T'Pring's voice wasn't even a little bit mocking.
"Well, provided they're not on the same person, yes."
Spock's lips ticked up slightly and there was a lightness to T'Pring's voice when she said, "Then three is even more beneficial. Please come sit and talk with us while we make sense of this. Even I can tell you are highly affected."
Chapel took the stool across from Spock, and he put the padd back in the stand he'd been using.
"A very diplomatic choice of seating, but you are out of frame. Sit next to him, Christine. It is not as if you are going to hold his hand under the table, correct?"
"I hadn't planned on it, no."
Chapel moved over to the stool next to him. "I couldn't sleep."
"What reasonable being could?" There was no judgement in T'Pring's words and Chapel met her eyes. "I embrace logic but this sacrifice was needless."
"Yes," Spock murmured.
"Exactly and it infuriates me. Forget that he was a wonderful little boy. Or a symbol for an entire planet. At the most basic level: such vast potential was lost. The brilliance of his mind—the curiosity, the joy in science. And they can't find some other solution?"
"Spock indicated their maxim is 'Science, Service, Sacrifice.' I would argue it is the other way around." She leaned in. "I fully embrace the concept that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
"Or the one," Spock said softly.
"Yes. But that is not applicable in the case of a needless sacrifice."
Chapel nodded. "My professor used to have us brainstorm scenarios, however implausible. But I don't have to do that here. I can immediately think of two simple solutions they clearly have ruled out. Quit being so damn insular and ask for help with the tech that requires a child to keep your floating cities viable—or with terraforming your inhospitable surface into something better—or find a new place to live."
"Indeed. They have refused Federation membership," Spock said. "They had advanced medicine, comms and defenses, and yet in other ways...so primitive." He frowned. "Pike said the guards carried spears."
"Perhaps they were primarily symbolic. If the world has no conflict."
"Show me a world without conflict and I'll show you a big, fat lie covered in frosting." Chapel laughed bitterly.
"I did not follow that one." She glanced at Spock. "Is it something human? Did you understand?"
"Sadly, yes." At Chapel's look, he said, "My mother made me birthday cakes. Until I grew old enough to ask her to refrain."
"Of course you did," Chapel said at the same time as T'Pring said "Of course she did." She could bet she wasn't the biggest fan of Spock's mother. Or was it of humans in general? But then why was she with Spock.
Not relevant—she mentally replayed the conversations with Gamal. The saying he'd mentioned had been lovely—or so she'd thought. She'd written it down. "The boy's father said something else. 'Let the tree that grows from the roots of sacrifice lift us where suffering cannot reach.' But it does reach. It reaches him. Who in the hell would put the father of a child doomed to that fate in charge of his education and ascension?" She leaned back and laughed, the way she used to when she'd found an answer no one had thought of yet. A harsh puff of air that made both Spock and T'Pring study her. "The child is chosen by lottery. That's what they said, right?"
"I say no. Because while you might be able to indoctrinate most children, you can't guarantee that their parents would go along with it. You need a true believer. They lied about the colony; I bet they're lying about this too. Alora thought Gamal would go through with it because he was handpicked to go through with it."
"I imagine the relief the other parents felt at their children not being selected was quite an incentive to maintain the status quo." Spock nodded slowly. "The other parents would not have to lose anyone. And Alora—and those who came before—would have a peaceful populace."
"It is logical. Perhaps even elegant. With the only victims being the child—and the family." T'Pring nearly frowned. "Were all of them ostensibly sanguine? Where was the mother in this?"
Chapel shook her head. "Never mentioned."
"Nor to me."
"Perhaps not so sanguine." Chapel wanted to get up and pace but then T'Pring wouldn't be able to see her. "And the thing was, they won't share their tech with outsiders. We're so...inferior to them. That must make the population feel good—special. So special they don't think to ask why a society that can cure illness can't figure out a better way to run their master control system." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm going to be emotional so mute me if you want, T'Pring, but I hate those people. So fucking superior. He didn't even have a name." She looked at Spock. "Did he tell you his name? I asked when his dad was in the bathroom but he told me he didn't have one."
"He told me the same thing. His only designation was The First Servant."
T'Pring nearly frowned. "The first and last, apparently—why did they have no alternate candidates? Accidents happen, even in utopias with no illnesses."
Chapel and Spock just stared at her.
"Not so logical, after all." She looked intensely satisfied. "I will ask you what I ask those I counsel. What would you do to remedy this if you could do anything?"
"Rescue him," Spock said, his tone firm.
"And adopt him? Our first child?" T'Pring was actually teasing? She was adorable when she did it. "Unfortunately, you cannot. He is tied to that system and will die if removed. What next?"
"Offer assistance to prevent another child from going through this." Spock sounded like he knew the answer to this.
"They do not wish assistance or they would have asked for it. You said their leader was close to Chris. It would be a small thing to find him again."
"Got that right," Chapel muttered.
"And you, Christine. What would you do?"
"I'd send in a team"—one with someone like La'an on it preferably—"and destroy their master system. The child's as good as dead now—end the suffering and their stupid paradise."
"That is wish fulfillment."
"Also impossible," Spock said gently. "Their forcefield was impressive."
"Second alternative, Christine."
"Psyops, then." A term she'd known nothing about until hanging around with La'an. "Somehow get doubt into their system. Bring it down from the inside."
"For one child?" But T'Pring looked like she hadn't considered that option—and liked it. "They would no doubt call you a barbarian."
"Or the serpent in Eden." Chapel grinned, but her smile soon faded. "Is this how space is? How Starfleet is? This...hole I feel inside?" She looked down. "Maybe I'm not cut out for this?"
"Now you sound like Cadet Uhura," Spock said.
"I know. Kill me now."
"I will never understand that saying. His mother says it. Clearly neither of you truly wish for death."
Chapel laughed softly and conceded with a shrug.
"Lost potential is disappointing no matter where you find it. While I have made it obvious to Spock that I would prefer him on Vulcan, I believe that the Federation is a force for good. But we cannot force our way."
Spock nodded. "It is a difficult realization. The Majalan have found their way. It is not one we would choose. But it is not up to us to approve of them if they are independent agents. We move on, to those we can influence."
"Spock is correct. But it is right and proper that you question these things. You are a scientist. You must have ethics to go with your drive to discover."
"Okay, but what if the Majalans offered me the secrets to their medicine—how many could be helped by that? On the back of that little boy." She looked down.
"Would you take it?" Spock asked. "If they offered you the end to disease?"
She shook her head. "Not if I knew about The First Servant. And...maybe we're not ready for no illness. Maybe discovering things on our own is better in the long run. But it would be tempting. So tempting."
"Yes, it would be." T'Pring's voice was gentle, as if she approved of the answer. "Do you think you can sleep now?"
"Is that your very diplomatic way of saying you want to be alone with Spock?"
"Yes. But I am also interested in your answer."
She eased off the stool and stood. "I don't think so. But that's what many cups of coffee are for come morning."
"Not the best answer," Spock said.
"You'd prefer I grab a sedative from sickbay?" She lifted an eyebrow in a creditable imitation of his.
"I am unsure what I would prefer."
"Other than me," T'Pring said, this time her tone a little impatient. "Do not lie in bed if sleep will not come, Christine. Do something useful. But somewhere else preferably." Her tone was even but her eyes—they were so bright it reminded her of La'an when she was pulling a fast one.
"Actually, there's a simulator in security that might work off some stress if no one's using it."
"It is possible you have been spending too much time with Lieutenant Noonien-Singh." Spock's tone was impossible to read but his tone was a little sour—would he and La'an never find common ground?
"Nyah." She put her fingers to her lips and touched the padd's screen. "Good night, sweet princess. Have fun with our guy."
"She is not amused, Christine."
"Knew that already." But she glanced at the padd and saw T'Pring shake her head in what was an extremely tolerant way. "Okay, bye, you two."
The simulator was not in use. She pretended she was storming the Majalan command center until two security officers came in to use it.
It felt great.
If felt futile.
She didn't sleep a wink once she got back to her quarters so she lay staring at the ceiling, spinning scenarios, trying to come up with just one that would work.
M'Benga had a cup of her favorite espresso waiting for her when she got in the next morning. "How many hours did you not sleep?"
"All of them. Did you even leave?" she asked as she took a sip and sighed happily.
"No. I was trying to make sense of some of the scans of the First Servant."
At least one of them had been doing something useful.