Summary: First contact with a new species doesn't go as planned.
Notes: Written for lomelinde
"So we have a first contact situation." Pike visibly brightened at the idea.
"It's unusual to come across a new warp-faring species that's ventured into Federation space without anyone noticing." Number One was more serious as she peered over her shoulder at the captain.
Pike sobered. "Noted, Number One. We'll proceed with caution."
Spock had searched every database they had access to, but the ship they'd come across was not in any of them. Yet the Enterprise was in an area of Federation space that was well-mapped. Whatever civilization the ship was from the occupants were either far from their home planet, or had recently discovered warp technology.
Keen to know who they were, Spock watched as Pike hailed them. There was an unusual flickering on the viewscreen, but it was not followed by the expected view of the inside of the ship. Instead a bright, multi-colored pattern appeared, which rotated as the hues shifted. It gave Spock an instant headache. His inner eyelid protected him, but the rest of the bridge crew held their hands in front of their eyes.
"Raise shields," Pike shouted. "Shut that off!"
As Spock turned to his station for more information he noticed the pattern was there too. It was the last thing he saw before he passed out.
When Spock awoke he was slumped over his station. He winced as he straightened his neck and his head reminded him that the ache he'd felt before he passed out was still there.
He relegated the pain to the back of his mind and turned his attention to the scanner. It told him the alien ship had gone. And that the Enterprise had sustained no damage. Why had the aliens gone to such trouble to knock the crew out, only to run away?
Hearing movement on the bridge behind him, Spock turned to see Pike sitting up straight and frowning. "Are you all right, Captain?"
Pike didn't respond, which made Spock worry that the aliens had done something to damage him. Worse, he was gazing around the bridge with a blank expression.
Spock strode over and, with a light touch on his shoulder, asked, "Are you all right?"
"I think so." Pike at last focused on Spock. "What happened? Where are we?"
"Exactly where we were. But I am unable to determine the reason the alien ship sent a transmission to knock us all unconscious."
Pike frowned. "Ship?"
It wasn't the question so much as the way he asked it that bothered Spock. It sounded like he didn't know what a ship was. "What is the last thing you remember?" Spock asked him, with some trepidation.
A worried expression spread across Pike's face. "Nothing." He peered up at Spock as if he had all the answers. "I don't remember anything."
"Neither do I," came from Number One, beside Spock.
To quell the likely repeat of those words from others, Spock asked, "Does anyone remember anything?"
His answer came with a chorus of shaking heads and murmurs of no. He surmised that the aliens had wiped the memories of all the humans on the bridge, although to what purpose he didn't know.
Since the only crew members ranked higher than him were amnesiac, Spock found himself in command, temporarily. He would need to ascertain how many others on the ship were affected. But there was something more important to do first.
"We need to find that ship. They will have answers." Spock strode back to his station. "If they have a warp trail we can follow it."
There was silence while Spock checked and when he turned to face the bridge he found everyone staring at him as if he had all the answers and they didn't even know which questions to ask.
He couldn't dwell on it, though, as the warp trail was already growing fainter. Having sent the information to Ortegas's station he headed over to it. It was clear that he would need to do everything himself.
"Please may I sit?"
She nodded and stood behind her chair as he sat, and set them on a course to follow the trail. Ideally someone would stay and keep an eye on the autopilot, but there was much to do and he was only one person.
For now he went over to Communications. Having guessed his intentions, Uhura moved out of the way before he asked. Over ship-wide communications he said, "Lieutenant Spock to anyone who remembers who they are."
"Hemmer here. What's going on? All of my engineers have lost their memories."
That was good and bad news. Bad that the memory loss was not confined to the bridge, but good that Spock was not the only person unaffected. It gave strength to his hypothesis that whatever had happened was confined to the humans.
"Unknown," Spock replied. And then proceeded to explain what he knew. "An alien ship wiped the crew's memories via unknown means. We are following the ship's warp trail in the hopes of answers."
"I'll keep the ship going," Hemmer said. And then, quieter, "Single-handed."
Since there had been no other responses to his hails, and Spock and Hemmer couldn't run this ship without help, Spock returned to the center of the bridge. "Captain, permission
to perform a mind meld."
Pike raised his eyebrows. "A what now?"
Needing to explain everything could become trying, had he not had the patience of a Vulcan. "A procedure that will allow me to see into your thoughts and retrieve your memories, if they are there. However," Spock added, "it may also reveal your deepest secrets."
"I don't know if I have any." Pike shrugged. "But if it restores my memories it's worth a shot."
Spock dropped to one knee beside the captain's chair and positioned his hand on the captain's face. "My mind to your mind. My thoughts to your thoughts."
He found himself in a vast, empty, nothingness. It was a blank space where Pike's mind used to be. Except he found it wasn't completely empty. There was something lurking at the back. Something that never came closer no matter how far he reached. There was a familiarity about it, which after a moment he realized was because he'd seen the same thing in his own mind during his meditation.
Closer to him, within reach, was a metaphorical door. Directly after opening it he was greeted with a flood of memories. At the forefront was a pain so intense it broke the connection. The pain lingered for a moment. Spock could guess what it was related to, since Pike had already described it as agonizing, so he didn't ask.
"Thank you, Spock." In Pike's eyes was a recognition that hadn't been there previously. "But you can't mind meld with the entire crew."
Spock nodded. It would be time consuming, as well as sapping his own energy and limiting the number he could do in a day. His whole body was still tingling with the after-effects of the pain Pike would feel in the future.
Besides, he wasn't keen on learning the secrets of the whole crew. Or feeling their feelings. Nor would they want that either. "I will speak with Doctor M'Benga. He may be able to find a medical solution."
Later, when the crew all had their memories back he would speak with Pike about what he'd seen in his mind.
Sickbay appeared empty, until Spock called out, and then M'Benga and Chapel exited M'Benga's office.
"Doctor M'Benga, Nurse Chapel." Spock nodded to each of them in turn so they'd know their names. "Doctor, the crew have lost their memories, as have you. I need you to find a medical solution to restore them. In order to do so, I must perform a mind meld on you."
He went on to explain what a mind meld was, as he'd done for Pike, and M'Benga agreed to it.
When he entered, Spock found M'Benga's mind empty, as he had with Pike. Although M'Benga's was wholy empty, aside from the door. Upon opening it, there was a flood of memories that Spock had come to expect. At the front was a girl Spock knew to be M'Benga's daughter. He could feel that the doctor had recently lost her.
After he broke the connection M'Benga thanked him, but didn't meet his eyes. Spock understood this was a human way of avoiding talking about something. Since he had no desire to play counselor, he didn't force the issue. Instead he told the doctor what had transpired on the bridge.
M'Benga nodded, a thoughtful expression on his face, probably already imagining the work a cure would require. "The brain is a tricky thing, but I'll see what I can do."
Back on the bridge, the alien ship was once again on the screen. "We have caught up to them," Spock surmised.
"They're not as fast as us. Or as heavily armed," Pike said, glancing round from his position at the pilot's station. Ortegas was sitting in the captain's chair, Spock noticed. "You're just in time for me to speak to them."
Spock caught the unspoken order in that and headed to the communications station. Once again Uhura moved out of his way to stand beside him. A small part of Spock's brain noted that she was still wearing her earpiece, but it didn't matter since he didn't need it. He sat and hailed the alien ship, audio only, then nodded to Pike.
"I'm Captain Christopher Pike of the Federation Starship Enterprise. To whom am I speaking?"
At their silence Spock checked his screen: the other ship could definitely hear them. "No reply."
"How about a warning shot?" Pike peered over his shoulder at Spock. "Just a little something to blow the wind in their hair."
Spock wasn't entirely sure how that metaphor related to the phasers, but he understood what a warning shot entailed. He went over to Lieutenant Noonien-Singh's station and she moved so he could fire the phasers close to the ship, but not hit it.
"This is Sozon of the Qinid," came a voice from the alien ship. The universal translator interpreted it as a low and gravelly. "We know who you are."
"Because you've stolen our memories." Pike stood. "We'd like them back."
"We merely captured your memories. All we erase is the memory of meeting us. It is necessary." After a pause Sozon added, "Yet you remember."
"Some of us," Pike said. "We need you to restore all of our memories and delete them from your computers."
"I apologize for our memory erasure being overly-zealous on your species, but we cannot do that. We can only take, not restore."
Pike and Spock shared a look. "We can help with that."
"We cannot allow that. We are on a holy mission to learn secrets to aid us in our quest to wipe out the colonists on our sister plant Qinib."
Spock raised an eyebrow.
Pike glared at the ship on the screen. "Maybe you could let them live."
"Certainly not!" Sozon sounded appalled at the idea. "They worship the false god Qib, and not the true god, Qin."
"Oh, great, a religious war," Pike muttered under his breath, but Spock could hear it. Louder he said, "If you don't return our memory data we'll take it by force."
There was a moment of silence, long enough for Spock to wonder if Pike's diplomacy had worked. And then a screech filled the bridge, coming from the speakers. Pike grimaced, his hands over his ears. Spock leaped back to the communications station, where he jabbed at the control to cut them off.
From the corner of his eye, he saw a movement from Uhura, and shifted to catch her as she fell, unconscious. He settled her into the chair and called M'Benga to the bridge.
"How is she?" Pike came over to Uhura's station, his expression worried as he peered down at her.
"She is breathing." Which is all Spock could be sure of. With her unconscious he couldn't ask her permission for a mind meld. Even if she could understand what she was agreeing to. People with access to their full memories could choose which to share in a mind meld, but that wasn't true for many of the crew right now.
The doctor would take time to reach the bridge, so while they waited Spock chose the mind meld.
Her mind held the same blankness he'd come to expect by now. However, the door was farther away and moved even further when he approached it. It took an effort to reach it, and when he did, it was harder to open.
He disengaged from the meld at the memory flood, although he found he had a song in his head. It was not a song he'd heard before. Perhaps he'd ask Uhura about it later.
M'Benga was on the bridge by now, scanning Uhura. "You're fine," he said, smiling at her. "But judging by these readings you could have a greater susceptibility toward anyone trying to wipe your memories in the future. I'll need you to come down to sickbay for a proper scan after this is over."
Her eyes widened at the doctor's prognosis, to which Pike said, "Don't worry about it. This sort of thing doesn't happen often."
"That's easy for you to say," she said softly.
"I'll see what I can do to make sure you're more protected," M'Benga promised.
"It may be that since we have melded once, another mind meld would restore your memories more easily, should the occasion arise," Spock suggested.
"Great, so only lose my memories if you're around. Nothing to worry about it." She managed a small smile in Spock's direction.
"As for the rest of the crew," M'Benga said, turning to Pike, "I think I have something. But it would involve treating the crew one at a time, with a time-consuming procedure. I'm hoping you've found a better option."
"I may have," Spock said slowly. "I recorded the captain's conversation with Sozon, and thus the audio he broadcast that affected Cadet Uhura. There may be some clues in there. Although I would not recommend listening to it."
"Good work, Spock," Pike said.
"We can look at the wave form," Uhura suggested. Sitting up straight, she put it up on the screen at her station and all four of them peered at it.
"Here." M'Benga pointed at a section of the wave form. "There's a telepathic element to this signal."
"That may explain why Hemmer and I were unaffected." And that it was not only their difference to humans that saved them. Or perhaps it was because the initial signal was visual, which Hemmer couldn't see and Spock had seen less of, due to his third eyelid. It was hard to be sure.
"It's possible that reversing it will restore everyone's memories." M'Benga straightened and faced Pike. "But I can't promise anything. My knowledge of telepathy is mainly based on Vulcans."
"Can you reverse the pattern?" Pike asked Uhura.
"Oh, yes," she replied, with confidence. "It's just a case of playing it backwards."
Pike and M'Benga shared a look before Pike made a decision. "Let's try it."
"Cross your fingers," Pike said, holding up a hand with two fingers crossed, as he returned to his chair, turfing Ortegas out and back to her usual station.
M'Benga had found a seat and, smiling, held up his crossed fingers. As did the rest of the bridge crew, who had remained silent and watching the whole time.
But Spock, having returned to the science station, protested, "I do not see how the formation of the fingers can make a difference to an audio broadcast."
Pike chuckled. But whether it did or not wasn't a repeatable experiment, because as soon as everyone was seated, Pike nodded at Uhura. She pressed a button, and they were subjected to an odd sound: the reversed screech from before. It only lasted three seconds, but as soon as it was over, expressions were replacing the blank faces on the bridge crew, with no one losing consciousness.
"Thank goodness for that." Pike leaned back in his chair. "That was potentially a long problem to fix. Good work." He nodded at Spock, Uhura and M'Benga. To Uhura he added, "Broadcast that to the rest of the ship." She nodded and he turned back to take everyone in. "Everyone change your command codes; aliens have them."
"What are we going to do about the aliens?" Uhura asked.
Spock checked his screen. "Their warp signature is still visible."
Pike shook his head. "We can't risk communicating with them again and it's not as if we can target their data with our phasers."
"We can target their engines," Noonien-Singh suggested, obviously having read enough on her screen to understand what they were talking about.
"And what would that achieve? Read the transcript of our conversation, you'll see nothing will stop them." Pike turned to face her. "No, we'll have to be content with broadcasting a warning about communicating with them. As long as they can't send their signals, they're harmless. To everyone except the Qinib."
"On it now, sir," Uhura said.
Pike turned to smile at her.
"What about the Qinib? Can we help them?" Ortegas asked, twisting round in her chair to face the captain.
"It's possible they have the same technology as the Qinid," Spock warned.
"We could send a message asking if they want our help," Uhura suggested. "And have the computer analyze their reply before we listen to it."
"Good idea," Pike said.
Everyone was busy changing command codes and reading transcripts. Spock still had that song in his head. But more important was what he'd discovered in Pike's mind. But that would also have to wait because Uhura announced, "The Qinib have replied."
Pike swung round in his chair and waited until she said, "Computer confirms message is safe." She pressed a button to play it and a voice very similar to Sozon's filled the bridge.
"We do not accept help from outsiders."
Spock raised an eyebrow, but Pike shrugged. "They know how to get hold of us if they change their minds."
It was probably for the best, Spock thought. Getting involved in religious wars never ended well, based on the mission reports he'd read at the Academy. But now things were quiet was a good time to raise the matter of what he'd seen in Pike's mind. "Captain. There is something I need to speak with you about. Privately."
Although Pike raised his eyebrows he said, "Briefing room."
Once there, Pike leaned against his desk; Spock stood facing him.
"When we melded I saw something in your mind," Spock began. "I believe it to be the Talosians."
Pike studied the other end of the room for a moment, before taking a deep breath and focusing on Spock once again. "I thought it was my mind playing tricks on me. Could you tell why they were there?"
"No." He'd been wondering over the problem since he'd arrived on the Discovery, after his trip to Talos IV. Now he had two pieces of information, which was enough to make a hypothesis. "But since they are also in my mind, I suspect that when they enter someone's mind they leave a piece of themselves behind."
"Purposely or by accident?" Pike wondered, not seeming to need an answer to that, since he also asked, "Do you think they're spying on us?"
"Unknown." The answer worked for both questions. He'd tried to find out during his meditation, but he had gained no knowledge from the effort. Nothing had changed about that presence in his mind, but he couldn't be sure if the Talosians hadn't noticed, or they had but hadn't reacted. "But I suspect we need to be closer to Talosian space for us to be of any use to them."
"So if we're close enough, they could pop into our mind whenever they liked." Pike sighed. "Is there anything we can do about it?"
"None." If there was, Spock would have found it. Of that he was sure.
He nodded. "Then I guess we'll cross our fingers and hope for the best."
"I will endeavor to cross them when close to the Talosian Star Group," Spock said, straight-faced.
Pike chuckled, and patted Spock on the shoulder.