DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kelthammer and is copyright (c) 2001 by Kelthammer. This story is Rated R. This is a Melkotian Illusion. This is not real.



Summary: What happens when you get a giant ship of sexy (and sexist) female pirates, love crystals, a career virgin, tribbles, dilithium, and free flowing alcohol? Utter mayhem, that's what. And let's not even THINK of chauvinist pirate captains on their peak. My response to the "McCoy doesn't get laid nearly enough" challenge that was posted on the DFF way back in the Days of Yore. What's the catch? Well, there's always a catch, people! This is also a backlash on people who see Chapel as a watering pot. Feedback: Sure, but be kind, ok? I'm always kind to you (kelthammer@hotmail.com).

* * *

Time: 4th year of 5 year mission.

"Dr. Chapel, will you kindly stop beating yourself up??"

Doctor Christine Chapel managed a weak smile around her discomfort. "I thought that crate did a pretty good job of doing that for me."

Leonard McCoy glared up at her in exasperation. He was down on one knee on the tempered metal floor of the Sauria's cargo hold, trying to angle the hemolyser for the ugly gash on her leg. "This is a freighter ship, Chris. Don't fall apart on me."

Chapel gusted out in a sigh as Leonard continued to stitch her up. All around her, Mr. Scott's Beta Shift Technicians (known as "techies" due to their extreme youth and lack of experience) were having plenty of good old fashioned elbow-greasing with their first trip in deep space by repairing the inner skin of the meteor-damaged hull. Truth to tell, this was also Chapel's first visit to a cargo freighter and she was impressed by the size. You could have put a good chunk of a starship inside -- and actually, there was a Swan Class Cruiser Yacht sitting in the very back of the hold, wedged neatly between giant crates of dilithium and cultured quartz.

McCoy's communicator chirped. "Geddat, will ya?" he muttered.

"Dr. Chapel here," she said crisply. God, but it felt good to say that! After 4 years on this ship, it was about time!

"Kirk here." Kirk's voice was smiling over the line. "How are you, commander?"

"Good. All the crew are safely ensconced in Sickbay. M'Benga says he won't have much trouble looking them over; just minor radiation exposure. Not much more than the equivalent of sun poisoning. Their own physician concurs."

"Mr. Leslie says the techs have the hull sound now; it's just the plastic surgery they're doing now," McCoy piped up.

"Since when does a cargo ship worry about looking good?" Jim wondered. Behind him on the Enterprise, a muffled shout of Highlander outrage floated up. "Belay that, I've just been corrected," Kirk added hastily.

"Done!" McCoy crowed. He straightened up as Chapel hopped off the crate that had wounded her in the first place. "Okay, Christine, let's get out of here! I can't wait to end this day with supper and somnolence!"

And just at that moment, his communicator went dead.

So did Chapel's, for that matter.

As did everyone else's.

As did the weapons and defense capability of the SS Sauria and Enterprise.

The cause of the blackout was big. It was huge. It rivaled Balok's FF ship. It effectively blocked out the light of the nearest sun and swallowed the Sauria like a misshapen drumstick.

In the wake of multilingual cursing that filled the starship's bridge, one calm Vulcan voice managed to prevail. A message buoy had been left behind for them to read. And when Uhura deciphered it, it told them that the Enterprise could pick up its freighter and crew in 2.5 days on the planet Bet'chok, deep in Nonaligned Space.

* * *

Christine edged closer to her boss and wondered how they were going to get out of this. All of the personnel were lined up against the hull of the pirate ship -- all 27 of them -- practically in the shadow of the Sauria. The size of a ship that could swallow a freighter was, well, unnerving. To say the least. And as for the pirates, she couldn't even begin to guess how many they were. Most of them were Sigmans; she could tell that much. After that it was an easier question to ask what race wasn't represented here. They wore green quilted uniforms that were like judo suits and looked pretty damn tough.

Sigmans were tough anyway. "Aggressive" was the Federation's opinion. "Moderately violent" by their own, conservative words. Only a quarter of their race was male, so men were in a sheltered/minority status.

"There's Klingons and Romulans here," Chapel murmured in awe. "I guess free enterprise is universal to all pirates."

"Uh-huh," McCoy muttered back. "Just don't mention the p-word, ok? They prefer to think of themselves as self-employed creative salvagers."

"Got you," Chapel gulped. If only she hadn't fallen on that stupid crate! "I'm worried."

"It's okay, darlin'." McCoy slipped his arm around her. Chapel tolerated this from only two men in her life and Roger was dead.

(Well, she would have tolerated it from Mr. Spock, only, if it ever did happen she'd be ruining it by wondering what alien influence was in control of his brain.)

Some reluctant (or maybe numbstruck) techs had been literally carried by muscled women. But no one was hurt. The techs were all lined up between the doctors and Leslie, and Chapel could see that every care was being made to treat them carefully. She made the mistake of saying so.

"Damaged hostages depreciate in value, Chris," McCoy muttered grimly.

Chapel blanched, visions of slave auctions dancing in her head.

"We're Starfleet, Doctor. We primarily guarantee that Jim won't do anything rash. When we're deep in Nonaligned Space, they'll maroon us on some primitive planet with a beacon and supplies. That gives Jim just enough time to rescue us, but not enough to pursue after the-- Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no..!"

Heart in throat, Chapel followed McCoy's wide-eyed gaze. Two tall, portly men were being hustled next to Leslie in line. Unpleasant memories threatened to drown her.

"Omigod!!! They're together??"

"Which means we've got tribbles with love crystals, or tribbles on Venus Drugs, or Android Love Tribbles, or something equally horrible frowned upon by the Lawgivers of Archon outside the Boundaries of the Red Hour." McCoy's' breath gave out at that impressive rant and he subsided to near-inaudible grumbling.

"Oh, God!!" Chapel no longer felt strong. "How did we miss them? Captain Jak didn't mention he was ferrying passengers!"

Leonard abruptly gulped for air. "I'm afraid we have more troubles than tribbles, Christine. Here comes the pirate captain."

The captain was obviously a native of Sigma Gamma. Her skin was darker than Uhura's, her hair glossy and ink black, piled higher than Janice Rand's. She was muscled like a panther and came up to McCoy's browline. With the hairsticks.

"That's Hurr. The most notorious freebooter in known space!" McCoy was stunned. "She's the reason why I have to pay double insurance on my letters home!"

Chapel thought that Hurr looked a lot like Kufe, Leonard's ex. A lot like Kufe. But Leonard never, ever mentioned "Admiral Gunboats" by name. "She looks, uh, a bit like Joanna's mother, doesn't she?"

"At the risk of being psychologically prejudicial, that's reason enough to be very, very nice to her."

Hurr stopped in front of the line of hostages and rattled off something to her burly Second Mate in Patois. Chapel thought she caught the words"dilithium" and "purity" and "filter" but wasn't about to swear to it.

The pirates stopped.

The hostages instinctively pressed against the wall and thought harmless thoughts.

Hurr slowly strolled up, then back down, the line, holding a fully powered knobkerrie in her hands. Her yellow eyes burned like lamps and Chapel hoped the techs wouldn't burst into tears. They were quivering in their boots as it was -- none of them were as old as twenty and six of them were fourteen.

"Who ranks for Enterprise?" Hurr asked in a smoky voice. Under other circumstances, it would have been pleasant.

Chapel stepped forward with a brave jaw. "Lt. Commander Chapel, Ship's Physician," she said quietly. Hurr, of course, would not treaty with a man unless she could help it.

The captain nodded to Chapel carefully, decided she was an equal, and then nodded at Leonard. "Juk," she said. Two burly Argelian women with tattoos all over their skin grabbed him by the arms and yanked him forward. The knobkerrie slipped out, humming with voltage.

"You will be treated well as long as you behave well," Hurr announced. Her voice rang off the metal walls. "But abuse the hospitality in any way, and we will be forced to be stern."


Chapel only just choked back a scream as the knobkerrie touched Leonard in the chest. He went down so hard the guards couldn't hang on to him. She cringed as his head hit the floor with a dull gong. I hope he's unconscious! she thought. She sneaked a peek. Apparently so.

Further down the line, she heard what had to be Harcourt Fenton Mudd, whimpering with fear.

"Put him in the guest rooms where he can sleep it off," Hurr told her soldiers. She noticed Chapel's pale face. "He'll be all right. You'll all be given suitable quarters until we deliver you to your ship again. Is this your first time in Neutral Space?"

"Yes," Chapel managed.

Hurr chuckled. "You'll do fine." Chapel was rather worried about that.

* * *

What followed next was predictable but mentally unnerving for the techies. Everyone's uniform was replaced with ivory colored loose tunics over charcoal trousers. Being forced to disrobe more than his ankles before woman -- in public -- was enough to send Tech Barnes cheese green, and Nakashima, who was also sixteen, gulped convulsively and loudly. They tried hard to follow Leslie's example, who was saying as few words as humanly possible. Then again, Leslie was not known for his voluble grasp of the language. It was the best way to be if you wore a red shirt under James Kirk, who never accepted anything but yes for his questions.

Chapel had no intention of speaking to either Jones or Mudd, but they were desperate for a familiar face. She groaned as they trampled her way. Small techies went flying in their path like small birds before charging rhinos.

"Christine!" Mudd stammered, large hands spread. He was about to fling his arms around her, but a subzero glare stopped him. Oh, dear, his look said. You're still harboring some irrational anger over that love crystal, aren't you?

You just bet I am, Chapel's eyes masered into his brain.

"Hello, my dear!" Cyrano grabbed her hand while her glare was on Mudd and began pumping furiously. Chapel found him -- marginally -- more tolerable.

"And just what are the two of you doing together?" she yelped. "So help me, this is no time for fabrications! We're deep in Neutral Space where the figurative sun does not shine!"

"Oh, er, ah, well," Mudd stammered. "It's really very simple. Ah, Commander -- ah, congratulations on your promotion. We were in charge of that sweet little Swan Cruiser you saw being piled away."

"A legitimate purchase, I assure you." Cyrano had both hands up. "We went together on the deal and we were en route to Wrigley's Pleasure Planet."

"Where an interested party wanted to buy it," Mudd added.

"Exactly," Jones agreed. The tribble riding on his shoulder like a parrot quirped as if in agreement.

"But what with the depreciation value of used vehicles, we were riding along with the Sauria, as it were, living on board ship. And then that dratted meteor shower punctured the hull and they were forced to radio for help -- which you admirably responded to, I might say."

"And we're going to be very late for our transaction."

"Yes. Now here we are."

"And now here we are."


Chapel rubbed her nose. Large, large holes were in this story, but for now she couldn't call them on it. But if they thought she could -- or would -- protect them, hah.

Technically, without Leonard, she was now ranking officer for real. She had no worries about Leslie, but these techs weren't what Scotty called "lads." These guys were "laddies."

"Er, why did they put these uniforms on us, anyway?" Mudd wondered. "Not that I'm against the scheme."

"Harry, don't you know anything about real pirates?" Cyrano shook his head. "It helps us all look the same if our rescuers get a visual and the cloth has a dampening affect on transporter sensors."

"Thank you, Mr. Jones. That saves me the lecture. now." Chapel braced herself. "I'm assuming Hurr is complying with Intergalactic Regulations and Leonard is off recovering. Until he returns, I am in control. So help me round up my men. We need some organization here."

* * *

Back in a high security cell (known as VIP quarters to all known civilized species), Dr. McCoy was trying to fasten the cuff of his new sleeve one-handed, using a brain that was pounding against the confines of his skull in a desperate attempt to escape. After a few tries his vision began to blur. Vertigo threatened.

This is ridiculous, Len! Take deep breaths, there you go ... focus carefully ... good ... now pinch the edges together on this stupid sleeve...


Vision slowly cleared to find he was flat on his back on a bullfrog-cold floor and Captain Hurr was blocking his view of the ceiling lights.

The doctor pondered his options. His head still hurt; his brain was still trying to escape (although the thumps had subsided to an occasional grumpy knocking). He was still half-dressed. Chris was still nowhere in sight. They were still captives. The floor was still cold as a bullfrog. Well, he could tolerate the cold. He wasn't about to get up with Hurr still there; nuh, uh, no way. She'd KO'd him flat and he hadn't even done anything, just to throw a little fear of God into them.

(Other than Natira's deranged, shock-happy computer, that didn't often happen to him. Usually when he got beaten up, it was from his association with Jim Kirk.)

McCoy wondered, inevitably, what Hurr could do to him if she had cause to be mad. It was an experiment he'd just as soon leave to Spock.

He decided to just stay there. Maybe even play dead. Nah. Playing dead was out; she saw his eyes open. Okay, go for extreme passivity.

Hurr bent over him, showing she had no use for underwear. "Are you all right?" She actually sounded concerned. "Would you like a drink?"

A drink of what? Alcohol? Water? Arsenic? Itching powder? Then tiny hands gripped his and -- swoop -- he was lying on the bed praying the room would stop spinning.

"You humans are stronger than you look. Most of my crew would be out all day after a jolt like that. I gave you the maximum dose."

"Thank ... you," he managed. He wasn't feeling very strong. His whole body tingled from the aftereffects of that knobkerrie. Hypersensitive, he figured, noticing that the tingling was like a track of fire where she gripped him.

She smiled at him. She kept the smile on her face. This was unnerving. "Uh ... a drink would be fine, thanks."

She poured from a clear carafe, and expecting water, the doctor took a desperate gulp. But the liquid had been water only a long time ago, when it began its days in the fermenting malt of Sigman Rum, the only brew in the Federation that could rival Irish Potato Whiskey (still illegal in Ireland since the English Occupation).

I'm dead, McCoy thought in a resigned calm that was at odds with the nuclear dump heading for his insides, the fumes of which were shooting up to anesthetize his brain. No matter what else happened to him, he just knew the end result was doom.

Hurr, still beaming, sat down on the bed just a wee too close to him, her long hair tied neatly back. "I'm sorry about shocking you, but I have to show what I'm capable of. It prevents future bloodshed."

"Um." The nuclear dump had hit his skin. Gallons of sweat were forming and Hurr's brush of fingers against his left another odd tingling. "So ... what happens to us ... now?"

"Ransom, usually. It's nothing personal. But dilithium is expensive."

"Dilithium? That's why you grabbed the Sauria?" Try to think, Leonard! Try to act intelligent, for the love of God. Ask inane questions as if you're alert and curious.

"Yes, an acceptable haul, but no better. One of the stores of crystal is contaminated, but I'm sifting through it to salvage what I can."

"Powdered dilithium's a mining tool." Oh, that's real good, doctor. Did you get those command stripes from the back of a cereal box?

"Industrial." She was edging closer, wasn't she? "Still valuable." He was leaning backwards in proportion to her advance.

"You..." McCoy swallowed dryly. "You said, usually. What else could happen?"

"Oh, once in a while, we take on new crew. Skilled labor, you know."

Yes, she was definitely edging closer. Her yellow eyes were dilated citrine. Her ebony skin gleamed with sweat and dilithium powder. Her full lips were slightly parted and he was horrified to find her attractive.

What the hell's wrong with me? She looks too much like Kufe for me to feel a thing!

Well, not precisely true. Passions had run rampant in the marriage, until finally running away from them. Leonard avoided Kufe still for the very good reason that they would inevitably fight about something, and their fights always led to graphic passion.

His back hit the wall, thump.

Like I said, Leonard. His brain was put out at not being able to escape and was sulking in a corner and snorting pitilessly. You are dead. Adios.

"Do you know what?" Hurr breathed conversationally. She was sliding her hand in his open shirt and making a search of his chest. His dog tags clinked like tiny death-knells.

"What?" he strangled.

"I like you."

No further warning. She pounced. The doctor flinched as he hit the floor for the third time that day.

* * *

It took some time, but eventually all the smooth-faced, timid little tech boys were gathered up. They hung on every word that sparkled out of Chapel's mouth. The attention made her resolve to rethink motherhood, when it was safe to do so. Her ego certainly wouldn't starve with this kind of regard...

"Now, be well behaved, no matter what. Apologize to any and all misunderstandings, even if you didn't do anything! Some fights may be instigated. These are Sigmans, people! Their view of men is low -- do not dissuade them! Are there any questions?"

"Not from me," said a graveled voice behind her ear.


Chapel damn near knocked him over in a hug. "Are you all right? What happened? You look awful!"

"I guess I'm all right." McCoy said slowly. "As to what happened, I'll be dammed if I know..." He stopped, a wild look entering his blue eyes. Unlike the "new" uniforms of the rest, Leonard looked like he'd been square dancing in a Jefferies Tube. Incongruous with his appearance, he reeked of fresh, sweet, mint.

"You ... are all right?" Chapel repeated worriedly.

"Um." He glared at Cyrano. "I didn't trip over any tribbles lyin' bout. Where are they?"

"Why, they're part of my cargo. What's a Pleasure Planet without tribbles?"

Chapel didn't give McCoy a chance to respond acidly to that. She just filled him in, with Mudd and Jones, of course, chiming in. "Folks..." He too, was rubbing his face at the end. "Chaucer couldn't tell a better one. So you've got a load of tribbles in cryo -- barring the one leashed to your shoulder -- ready to thaw out and sell to unwitting people? And you, Mudd -- am I supposed to believe you don't have contraband?"

"My dear doctor, I--" Mudd caught McCoy's expression. "I fronted most of my fortune into that sweet little yacht," he said meekly. "So the majority of the profits will be mine. Cyrano is selling the tribbles he could put in the cruiser's limited space, to equate his own investment."

"Uh, huh," McCoy muttered. "Maybe y'all had best get out of my lina' vision."

The traders stampeded away with gratifying speed.

"That was beautiful," Chapel sighed. "I wish I could snarl like that."

"You're one of us now, Christine. And you'll have to learn. But it'd help if you'd had my day!" McCoy suddenly groaned and sank to the floor Indian-style, head in his hands.

"Leonard. They didn't torture you, did they?"

McCoy made a choking sound.

"Well, what happened?"

"What happened?" McCoy lifted his head; the wild look was back in his eyes. "You wanna know what happened? Chris, let me tell you. You'd never believe what happened!"

* * *

Dinner on a pirate ship was without a doubt one of the most amazing moments in Chapel's life. For some reason, Leonard was sticking to her like a burr as they were escorted to the main lounge. The techs followed meekly behind. Leslie and "the civs" brought up the rear.

Then without warning, the doctors were separated to join the officers at their table. Chapel was at least grateful to have the techs no longer trailing close enough to step on her heels.

Hurr's table stood high to afford a grand view of the lounge. The officers comprised of seven Sigmans, and one each of the Klingon, Mantillian,

Romulan, and Rigellian species. Female, of course.

Hurr had them sit next to her. Leonard was the closest and he was pointedly not saying anything. His whole body language was stiff, possibly from the whack with the knobkerrie. Chapel couldn't blame him.

"Have a pleasant dinner, commanders." Hurr, of course, gave Chapel the real attention -- as a male, McCoy was socially intolerable and he didn't seem at all upset at that. "We have a large selection to choose from. Real food, nothing synthesized."

Chapel heard Leonard give a tiny, tiny sigh. Ethics, his personal ones, were far more strict than his Oath, and if anyone had been killed or maimed to seize said food, he wouldn't be able to eat it.

"Not to be rude, captain," Christine began, "But for our own health, may I ask where this comes from?" If she'd been forced to put up with a brittle, civil dinner on Exo with androids, she could put up with this. Or so she told herself.

"No offense, Doctor," Hurr smiled. "We grow most of our food. Now as to the shulb, I killed it myself."

Chapel wondered what a shulb was, just as she felt McCoy next to her give a start. A trio of Orion slave boys wearing almost nothing were appearing with the main course. It was the head of a pink fish larger than a hope chest, surrounded by mixed vegetables.

* * *

And the evening wore on.

* * *

Chapel realized just how naive she was. Never in her life had she witnessed such blatant chauvinism as tonight.

The underdressed Orion boys were no exception. All males present, from the boys to a dignified and elderly bartender, were handsome, well-groomed, expensively dressed and subservient, properly witty ... but if they were thoughtful and deep, they took great pains not to show it. The females responded with attention, praise, flattery and teasing. There was a lot of hands-on caressing and stroking; if the men didn't want such treatment, again, they were smart enough not to show it.

Christine was no stranger to the occasional he-man (calling a chauvinist a caveman was out, considering most neolithic cultures were matrilineal), but it was odd indeed to find herself on the A List of Favoritism. She quite often forgot to eat at startling displays, such as a beefy Rigellian copping a very improper feel to a ruggedly handsome waiter with long blond hair.

Beside her, Leonard was still giving off "Hell" vibrations. She knew he was deeply uncomfortable in Hurr's presence, and to make matters worse, she was trying to get him drunk. Oh, he was as polite as ever -- wild horses couldn't make a southern gentleman forget his mother's training -- but Chapel knew her boss, and she knew he wasn't putting out more than one arcsecond of charm more than he had to. Not that that was surprising, considering what Hurr had done to him. But for all his infamous temper, he was one of the sweetest, most gentle people you'd ever run across. He would prefer to get the zap rather than anyone else. So maybe it was just the abnormal attention Hurr kept piling on him.

And abnormal is the word, she thought as Hurr pressed another bottle of Argelian wine at him. With a polite smile, he shook his head and lifted his hands, palms facing forward in a "no, please" gesture.

"Oh, come on, this is as mild as mother's milk," Hurr persisted with a smile that showed a lot of gleaming white teeth.

"Not my mother's, captain." He was foiling her parry, but Chapel knew there was a bit of desperation to that courtly charm.

He was probably just a cute cipher to her, Chapel speculated (while deflecting the flirting of the wine-bearer at her left). By Sigman standards, Leonard was handsome, civil, graceful, and a puzzle because he had achieved a high rank despite the mental limitations of his sex. And he was not being the least bit intimidated at the role reversal.

"Have some more of this, then." Hurr lifted a nearly empty bottle of some other wine.

Hah! Good luck, captain! Chapel mentally snorted her amusement. That isn't just lean meat you're ogling. Leonard's metabolism is so high he could drain another bottle by himself while you're passing out under the table!

Chapel was being a little optimistic. McCoy hadn't eaten before going on duty that day and fish wasn't very filling. Once he realized what Hurr was all about -- again -- he filled up on heavyweight root vegetables, hoping the starches would forestall the alcohol.

Truth to tell, he was also worried about the crowd behind them. From what he could see in the bustling crowd, Mr. Leslie was trying to ignore alcohol, smiling women, and the godawful Romulan flute music with equal fervor. Mudd and Jones, predictably, were enjoying the free food with brave gusto, and the techs...

The techs were the belles of the ball.

I wonder if we can leave those two behind when we're released? It was an inevitable thought and he was only slightly ashamed for having thought it.

Well, Chapel was thinking as Leonard made his way to the bar. At least those kids are doing better. Its wonderful that they've got their confidence back up. Leonard looks like a lone sailor for the Conch Republic, staring down the Florida Eugenics Army.

Having a different kind of knowledge than Chapel, McCoy was not reassured at the Favored Nation Status of the techs. Without exception, they were being admired, cooed upon, petted, and treated like royalty by the green-clad Amazons.

Like sand-bats about to attack...

"I see Hurr has the Eye on you."

McCoy glared at the white-haired man behind the bar. "How about a drink to celebrate the honor?"

The bartender chuckled. He looked rather like Bones Boyce and carried a sympathetic air. All good bartenders did; that was why they made such good psychologists. Why spend a fortune getting grilled on a leather couch when all you have to pay for in a saloon is the drinks you imbibe while you open up to your troubles? "Here y'go, son. I feel for ye. All I c'n say is, she never stays stuck for long."

"Oh?" That sounded hopeful. McCoy sipped a Raw Rigellian defiantly.

"Yep." The 'tender swiped the bar easily with a rag. "Next thin ye know, she be off'n running and ye'll be wondering where thet y'ar went." His client began choking. "Y'ok?"

"A year--" McCoy fought for breath. Lifted his hands. Waved them and blinked out tears. "A year, suh, is not an option!"

"Wal, I don' know." The other said dubiously. "It's y'life, I reckon."

"That bad?" McCoy mumbled.

"Ye work f'Kirk, don't ye?"

"What does he have to do with Hurr?"

"Double 'is drive, an' perform a subtlectomy. Wipe all inhibitions off the board, too."

"Please do not say perform." Jim uninhibited? Horrific.

"Sorry." The man was. "Can ye take some advice fum a man whose been where ye are?"


"Keep drinking. It's how I got this job." The man paused. "Course, that was before she hit her sexual peak."

"When'd she hit that?"

"Last month."

McCoy wordlessly handed over his empty glass for a refill. At least it could numb the bruises on his back.

* * *

The night wore on.

* * *

The techies had gone from the lost deer-in-the-headlights fears to virginal confidence. Of course, free flowing liquor, and well stacked, adoring women who were gushing things like "how cute!" and "so adorable!" helped. As for Chapel, she was getting eyed by a very drunken Romulan. Remembering that species' fascination with blondes, she resolved to revert to brunette at the first chance and fake something communicable.

"I noticed you were restoring some order among those boys earlier." Hurr looked dismayingly sober next to Leonard -- who looked like a grad about to give medical orals before a board of cannibals. "You can tell them we'll be dropping them off at Bet'chor, so Kirk won't have to burn out his own crystals chasing us."

"Mighty generous of you." Christine remembered her own advice. "Bet'chor ... that would be Sirius V?"

"Yes. Of course, if anyone wants to join us, we never refuse. Skilled labor, you know." Did Hurr look at Len when she said that? He looked suddenly sweaty. A hard-looking fingernail lacquered with diamond dust trailed moisture off her glass.

Hurr pointedly looked him up and down. "I'm not really used to seeing men in command positions. Are humans supposed to be better?"

McCoy set his glass down, thunk. "In what way, captain?" His voice was strained.

"Smarter." Hurr shrugged. "More equal to women." Her voice was neutral. Overly so.

McCoy let that sink in a moment. "I wouldn't know, captain." He answered in a like tone.

Oh, my God! Chapel was doing the math in her head. And when Hurr had turned to speak to her deputy, a strong odor of mint caught her nose. Oh, no!

McCoy jumped as Chapel slipped an arm around his waist. "Maybe you need a chaperone?" She pitched only to his ear below the horrific music.

"Be very, very careful, Christine," he shot back. "Remember your own advice?"

"I don't like the way she's looking at you."

"Ixnay on the ooking-lay. Sigmans don't settle fights but two ways, Doctor. They either slap a virus in your computer or beat the tar out of you. And you don't have a computer."

Chapel gulped. "I can't believe this. She just whacked you with a--"

"Me, either." McCoy almost said something about Hurr's amoral use of hairsticks, but didn't. "D'you mind moving your arm a little lower? You're gripping a king-sized bruise."

And the night wore on.

* * *

"G'night, Christine." Leonard touched her hand briefly in the hallway. She smiled at him and the doors closed and locked behind her, a large Romulan woman posted guard.

"A friend of yours?" Hurr derailed his train of thought. After a long heartbeat, he realized he wasn't in the room he recognized. This was Hurr's own cabin. Egad. And she was already fingering those hairsticks.

"We've served together for many years. She's one of the best," McCoy was speaking calmly simply because his mind was shutting down in preparatory shock.

"Yes, I like her." Hurr locked the door and began stalking. McCoy's degenerate brain was laughing at him as he began retreating (Spock would have been amazed to learn that as snide as the doctor could be to Vulcan First Officers, it nowhere approached the level of contempt his own medulla had for him).

"Um, captain?" He was still aching from earlier battles, nowhere near as drunk as he wanted to be, and simply not interested. "Captain?"


"Not that I'm flattered--" His back hit the wall. Par for the course! his Inner Voice snickered. "But don't you think this is moving a little fast?"

"What is?"

Sigman DNA lacked the finer impressions of life. And she was gaining. "This, uh--" Words failed him. What exactly was this, anyway? Coercion? World's bluntest seduction? An affair without charm (which was a hanging offense to any self-respecting southerner)? McCoy was not his captain: not only did he find zero attraction in a sexual relationship without foreplay, but being captive too was very ... untenable.

Oh, Jim would LOVE this! the snide Inner Voice commented. Most of his romances occur while he's somebody's prisoner anyway! How the hell does he do it?

The only logical conclusion was, James T. Kirk had a secret thing for bondage cleverly disguised as hyper hormones. And his doctor had better learn the attraction to that, because angry Sigmans were responsible for 14% of all known homicides and computerized sabotage in the Federation.

Hurr's eyes gleamed as he found he'd slid right into a corner. Oh, hell.

"Captain--" he began, but she was quick as a cat and done with talking. As the floor reared up to hit him for the fourth time that day, a lamp crunched to its doom. His spinal column could sympathize with the poor thing. But at least the drinking did numb the bruises.

* * *

Chapel stirred her coffee slowly while the pirate idea of "morning music" played in the lounge. It sounded an awful lot like the Romulan flute music of last night. If the players were stuffing kazoos in the mouthpieces, or playing through their noses. Across the breakfast table sat a disconsolate Leonard McCoy and she couldn't think of a thing to say.

Well, you've got to think of SOMETHING! she admonished herself. Where else was he going to find some comfort -- or at least a grasp on reality? Not from Mr. Leslie, whose idea of an in-depth conversation went no further than twenty words, or the techies, who -- dear God, certainly not the techies! Don't even go there! THINK, Chapel!!! THINK!!

Chapel thought.

"Are you ... okay?"

McCoy's eyes had fallen shut. They slowly opened. Coffee steam was curling up his face but to show just how out of touch he was, he wasn't even reacting to the joys of Smuggled Jamaican Bean. "Christine," he rumbled hoarsely, "I have no idea how to answer that."

"Oh." Chapel continued to stir her cooling cup. "Well."


The awful Vulcanoid National Poetry Epic continued on. She was a despicable coward indeed, if she preferred to listen to that rather than her friend's troubles.

"Can anything be done?" she tried again.

"Like what?" he wanted to know.

"W-well ... you could ... switch tactics," she offered lamely.

He poked at the scrambled "stuff" on his plate.

"I mean, she might be discouraged if you chase her."

Leonard wasn't rude enough -- or energetic enough -- to laugh in her face. "What bad romances have you she wouldn't see my attention as her just dues?"

Christine tried again. "Well, there's got to be some way of discouraging her!"

"You are the woman, mind you. You think of something!"

"Good heavens, Leonard! I go to you for advice on other women! I thought you understood us!"

"I did until now! Anyway, I'm not sure that's a woman. I think it might possibly be a barracuda."

"Okay ... what if ... you ... were..." Chapel hated herself for the forming blush. This was not how one cultivated a reputation for poise. "Bad in bed?"

"Firstly." McCoy had wearily closed his eyes again. "We've never been in bed. Hurr is a distinctly impatient woman. And enjoying her sexual peak at the Sigman 42. So I doubt that will change anytime soon. Secondly, I tried being as nonparticipatary as possible without getting chained to a table."

"And?" She knew she would regret asking.

"And she said, 'I love it when a man just lies there.'"

"God, Len!! Can't you bore her somehow?"

"Tried that. She figured I was trying to be hard to get." Leonard suddenly smacked the table, making dishes jump. "I swear, I don't know what it is! She's not a Deltan, Orion, Troyian or Scalosian, but if she wants me to do something, by God, I'm doing it as soon as she touches me! It's like when Elaan had Jim drugged up with her biochemical love tears, or..."

A silence descended.


Chapel heard the pirates adoring the techs, dimly, over the tidal wave in her ears.

"Or..." McCoy's eyes had dilated to black.

They stared at each other.

Chapel knew she had gone white. "Hurr said the powdered dilithium was contaminated with another crystal."

"Which she's filtering personally," he finished.

As one, they plunged into the throng of prisoners and pirates, searching for two certain "legitimate businessmen."

* * *

"Now, now, Doctor, you are a physician sworn to do no harm." Despite the fact that McCoy was easily half his size, Mudd was terrorized at the blue-eyed typhoon pinning him to a heating pipe.

"Harcourt Fenton Mudd, if you think your mama was cruel for naming you, wait for my turn! You think I can't find ways around the Oath? Have you ever heard of the good old southern custom of gas lighting? I could take years with you!"

"We meant no harm, I swear!" Predictably, Mudd began to blubber.

Chapel sighed and looked at Jones. He sighed too as he stroked his shoulder tribble. "While your partner falls to pieces, how about a calmly stated report that might circumvent a long long rest in rehab?"

"Such as spacking some of those story holes?" McCoy growled.

Cyrano sighed again. "We have a buyer at Wrigley's who wants love crystals, and as you know, all forms of aphrodisia are legal there."

"Let the buyer truly beware," Chapel muttered.

"Those things aren't legal in half of Federation space!" McCoy's eyes narrowed. "Lemmee guess. To save on costs accrued if you stuck to the legal lanes, you didn't exactly record what you had on the files."

The big men looked guiltily at their toes.

"And bein' in powdered form, you found it easy to hide in a supply of powdered dilithium when it looked like you might be busted!"

"And Hurr's getting a daily dose every time she filters out a gram," Mudd said glumly. "Just wait till the rest of the pirates start helping her."

Chapel grabbed her boss in an arm lock seconds before he could rip them open.

"I've had it! I've had it! Let me go, Chapel! That's an order!"

"Denied, sir!" Chapel barked. While she sympathized utterly, she couldn't let him mine ore in a prison colony just for doing the Human Gene Pool a favor by taking out two of its worst members. "We still have a very -- oof -- important question for these jokers to answer!"

"We do?"

"We do?"

"Mudd, it's been 24 hours. Why hasn't Hurr tried to open him with a steak knife?"

"Hell, yeah," McCoy blinked. "Good question!"

Mudd and Jones traded uncomfortable looks. That made the doctors very, very nervous.

"Well, you see, lad, it's when there's an overdose of love crystals that causes the negative side effects," Mudd began.

More rational, Jones picked up the tab. "And while the powder ensures a little goes a long way, its still highly contact-sensitive. If an affected person touches a non-affected--"

"Oh, my god!" McCoy started gasping for air. "Seven hundred feminist Amazons with a communicable love potion in their veins? And they've been moonin' all over those poor techs! Oh, my god! None of 'em have ever been in deep space before, much less been kissed by the girl next door! Oh, my god! How'm I gonna explain to Jim Kirk that his entire Beta Shift Tech Crew was kidnapped to be the enslaved boytoys of gorgeous pirates??" The doctor buried his face in his hands and sank to the floor. "Oh my god!" He moaned. "Most of 'em are sixteen! They won't want to be rescued!!"

* * *

"I hope you're pleased." Chapel told Mudd in cutting tones. "Now he's a nervous wreck and I can't blame him." She looked down. "Please calm down, Leonard. We need to find a way out of this." For answer, a dubious snort floated up from the floor.

McCoy tried to remember he practiced nonviolence as a way of life, but, damn, it was hard. Chapel didn't look too happy either. "Okay, there's just one thing I wanna know," he said through his teeth. Chapel began edging away. She knew that look. "By anyhoo, were you gonna thin out that crystal to ensure nobody got a faceful of the stuff?"

"Already done so, La-- I mean, Leonard." Mudd looked less nervous, now that he had an answer that couldn't hurt him. "My supplier recommended the blend for its nontoxicity."

"Blend?" McCoy repeated. "What blend?"

"Oh, let's see ... a mixture of inositol, cholestrol ... some zinc and oxytocin ... magnesium..." Mudd tried to remember.

"Short-chain aliphatic acids," Jones reminded him.

"Oh, yes! Those two."

This time, both doctors leaped.

"Are you insane?" Chapel shrieked her throat raw into Jones' face. "Are you out of your minds? Do you know what you've done to my superior officer? To this entire ship?"

"Those are copulins, you slumgullion yard apes!!" McCoy was screaming into Mudd's eyeballs. Rage had invoked his usually latent Amerindian coloring and he was flushed darker than M'Benga. "Human pheremones! You're mixing love potions with fertility enhancers! Mammals are at their most amorous when they're breeding!!"

"Oh, dear," Mudd said.

"I thought they sounded familiar," Jones admitted.

The doctors were panting and crushing the fronts of the mens' uniforms in fevered grips.

Mudd suddenly brightened. "Look on the sunny side, lad. As distracted as those pirates are going to be, Kirk will find us in no time!"

("Joy." Jones muttered under his breath.)


"Leonard, quit screaming."


Chapel knew he was right. She sighed, and said the words nobody wanted to say: "Hurr needs to be told."

Defiant to the end, McCoy glared at his sudden audience. "Don't look at me, dammit. I'm just a Y chromosome, remember? A blasted object!"

"Ah, lucky you," Mudd said wistfully.

Chapel held McCoy down again.

* * *

Hurr listened to Chapel in silence while McCoy stood in the background and pretended interest in the decor -- as if he hadn't been thrown against it for most of the night.

"I see." Hurr leaned her hands on her desk. "And Mudd and Jones are repeat offenders to Federation Law?"

"They--" Chapel stalled out. "They defy an easy explanation, captain." Chapel fumbled. "If you can imagine two little boys who never grew up..." Or dropped repeatedly on their heads as babies...

"Little boys," Hurr smiled fondly. "Rather like those charming technicians. Honestly, commander, I wonder how you can get any work done on ship with tidbits like that working for you."

Before Hurr could go offer chocolate chip cookies to the techies, Chapel cleared her throat. "You seem to be taking this rather well."

Hurr shrugged. "Sigman sexual peak. I really hadn't noticed any change in my behavior."

"Oh," Chapel squeaked.

Hurr blinked thoughtfully. "We'll be dropping at Bet'chor in a few hours. Of course we offer board to any of your crew who would prefer to sign on with us." She looked behind Chapel. "Skilled labor, you know."

Chapel choked on her own spit.

"Ex-cuse me, captain?" An incredulous McCoy wanted to know. "Doesn't it bother you that your attention was affected by drugs?"

Hurr smiled. "No. Like I said, I hadn't noticed any change. And you Terrans aren't usually so persuasive. A fair trade in my mind."

McCoy went gray.

Chapel struggled to breathe. "Captain, I am responsible for my crew and we will all beam down together, or none."

Risky, that. Chapel might be a woman, but she was Terran. Hurr leaned back speculatively. "Well, now that that's out in the open," she said comfortably, "Let's get down to business."

"Business?" Chapel felt an awful sensation in her guts.

"We can always use a doctor on board. We independent salvagers enjoy some hazards with our lifestyle."

Chapel didn't doubt that for one blasted second, but she really doubted it was that kind of skilled labor Hurr wanted out of McCoy.

She glanced at her boss. His eyes had opened to the limits.

"I'm afraid I can't let go of my Chief Medical Officer. Leonard has his own obligations on ship."

"Is that your name?" Hurr asked politely. "I can always offer compensation, you know. Or we could settle this in nonmonetary ways."

And what ways were that? Chapel glanced at McCoy, who was emphatically shaking his head at her, no, no, no, don't! That look broadcasted.

"Look--" Chapel's body prickled with sweat. "I don't believe a fight is how to resolve this!"

Hurr shrugged. "All right then, how much?"

Chapel's mouth fell open. "Are you insane? How much for Leonard?"

Behind Hurr, McCoy had his face in his hands.

"Look, do you know what the Romulans want for him? Granted, it entails life on a prison colony, but I'm not going to be insulting either. And I can always sell him back later. We Sigmans are very civilized in these matters."

Oh, right, McCoy thought. Sure. Like Sodom, Gomorrah, Babel and Singapore.

"Are you insane?" Chapel repeated.

"Well? What is your figure?"

"I ... I can't sell him!"

"Then you'd rather fight?" Hurr frowned dubiously. Chapel was hardly out of shape, but nor was she overly muscled like the captain.

"He's not mine!"

The words had escaped before she realized it was the most worst thing she could ever say.

Leonard closed his eyes and gave himself up for lost. Maybe she'll let me write home once in a while. God. What a mistake. I'm pretty sure this was supposed to be Jim's fate, only I got tangled up in it instead.

Hurr smiled. It was not a comforting smile. "Rrrreally."

"Th-th-that is, I mean to say, he belongs to another!"

Still bad, but much more believable to the chauvinist Sigman mind. Leonard cracked one eye open, not quite daring to hope yet -- just wondering what more disasters would escape her mouth.

"Oh?" Hurr lifted a steely eyebrow. "Who?"

"ThththeHighPriestessoftheOracleoftheFabrini!" Chapel rattled. "The wedding's in the Federation records and I doubt she'll want to part with him!"

"Then why is he in your care?"

"Propriety! You don't think a heirophant would let her consort go unchaperoned, do you?"

Hurr admitted to the logic. "Very well. Ah, well. There's always a bartender to tell my woes to."

"No doubt." McCoy thought of a certain bartender in particular. "Doctor, would you mind if I spoke to the captain privately?"

Chapel stared at him for a long time. "As you wish, Doctor. I need to see to the rest of my crew."

Hurr put out her hand. "I'll see he gets to you safely, Commander."

Chapel grasped the other's hand firmly. "Thank you."

Now WHAT, she wondered as the doors shut behind her, is Leonard wanting to talk about?

* * *

McCoy showed up just before beam down, carrying a satchel and reeking of mint.

"I'll never, ever," he said as he joined her on the transporter pad, "Be able to drink juleps again."

"What in the world were you doing?" She hissed, then beam down abruptly stuck them in a type of atmosphere-craft hangar. "We're missing Mudd and Jones! I mean. Not that we're really missing them, but--"

"Hurr let them get back to their ship and leave," McCoy said tiredly.


Mr. Leslie came forward. "Everyone's accounted for, Doctors. We have our uniforms in a bin, and food and water." He paused and said wonderingly, "There's even some board games."

"Dandy," McCoy drawled. "If you would please, be so kind as to find me something with a lot of cholesterol in it?"

Chapel grabbed him as he began pulling off his tunic in favor of his Enterprise uniform. "Leonard, talk to me! Hurr let those idiots go? What did you talk to Hurr about? And did -- ohmigod!" She recoiled. "You look like you've been fighting a cougar in a briarpatch!"

"No kidding." McCoy winced and slowly eased himself into his under-T, then ever so gently, his outer tunic. "Those diamond-lacquered nails are what I call cruel and unusual. I asked Hurr to let them go."

"How could you?" Chapel screamed, goaded beyond belief. It rang off the hangar walls.

McCoy accepted a vitamin smoothie from an awed Leslie. "It was for their own good, Christine. Cause, I'da had to kill them if I saw 'em again. Wake me when the Enterprise gets here."

And, oblivious to the awed stares, the surgeon downed the drink in a gulp, and, using his prison uniform as a pillow, went to sleep on the hangar floor.

* * *

The doors of Sickbay opened. M'Benga was there to give hugs ("Pay toll!") and considerately left them alone with the parting shot: "And you wonder why I never leave Sickbay!"

"Smartass," Chapel muttered. She was not in the best of moods.

They stumbled into McCoy's office where a bottle of Scott's best hooch rested on the desk tied to a note thanking them for taking care of his "laddies."

Chapel simply unstoppered the bottle and handed it to her boss, who drank straight from the neck.

"Ahhhhhh," Chapel drank and piled into a chair. "Home sweet home. I may never leave again."

"Mnph." McCoy began digging in his secret stash drawer for candy bars. "Oh, good. This has potassium."

"What's in that bag, Leonard?"

"As far as I can tell," McCoy frowned puzzledly and began pulling out a wrapped basket of fruit, a bottle of expensive brandy, and a silver necklace. "Thank you tokens to Natira. Sigmans let you rent out your husband, you know."

"No, I didn't know." Chapel gulped more hooch. "Good Lord. You can't possibly tell Natira about this!"

"Chris, my marriage is not exclusive. She wouldn't care if I had an affair with the Klingon Emperor." The doctor stopped and paused, picturing that. "Which is more than I can say to that," he commented with a shiver.

Chapel went numb. "Oh, dear. I'm glad I didn't know that. I barely got you away from her as it was!"

"Yeah." He snorted sourly. "No kidding!"

"What ... what is a Fabrini marriage all about, anyway?"

"Heirs," he said bluntly. "Yonada's world is small. Only the Heirophant can choose marriage if she wants it."

"God on a trike! If that was in the records..."

"It's not. But if it had, youda been crossing sabres with Captain Amazon."

"Pass the bottle. Do we have to mention this in our reports?"

"I won't if you won't."


A few minutes passed as the bottle grew lighter. Chapel had noticed a pleasant flush was spreading through her body. "Are you taking contraceptives?"

"Don't have to." McCoy shrugged. "I practice Gung Fu." In other words, he was one of the 40% or more of Terran men who could control ejaculation.

"Oh." Chapel was impressed. No wonder those rumors in the women's locker room were so favorable ... the flush was spreading. "So. You and Natira are planning a family?"

He leaned his chin in his hand, hitting that sleepy stage of inebriation. "Only when I get out of Fleet. She has full time duties and I'm the consort, remember?"

"You're nonchalant. I can't imagine the captain feeling that way."

"All I can say is, Jim's never been clobbered over the head by the right woman's bodyguard." A blissful smile passed over his face at the memory.

"I knew I liked her for some reason."

"Yeah. Reminds me of you, actually." After the sleepy stage, comes the honest stage.



"How so?"

"Y'both toughern' Arkansas razorbacks with lotsa class. I could never resist that combination."

"Oh." Chapel languidly did some math in her head. "Well, I'm quite flattered, actually. Is that crystal powder still in your bloodstream?"

"Fraid so, darlin'."

"Me, too. I shouldn't have shook hands with her, in retrospect, but what the hell." Chapel got to her feet. Her free hand clutched his collar, yanking him upright. "My cabin's closer."

"Please, God, be gentle with me," he prayed fervently.

* * *

Jim Kirk rubbed at the beginnings of a Grade A Migraine. Bones and Chapel sat quietly, either oblivious to the constant stares or maybe they were just numb.

He was glad the briefing consisted of just himself and Spock; he didn't know what the hell to say to either doctor. Bones especially. He thought of Deela's manipulations of his hormones, the spoiled Elaan, and Spock ... if he knew his Vulcans, was reliving the horror of his spore-induced, happy-happy-happy affair with Leila Kalomi (the horror part kicking in about six hours after the spores were killed off).

And then of course, there were the Platonians (sadistic bastards, all). So no one on ship was really unfamiliar with enforced sexual situations ... it was just something they grimly tried to deal with.

With the poise that made him the most feared poker player on ship, McCoy selected a poma from the fruit basket and began slicing it open.

"Well, I think that about covers everything," Jim said slowly. "Except for Mudd and Jones."

"How so, Jim?"

"What to do with them when we find them," Kirk growled. "Of all the hare-brained escapades, this has to be the worst! I'd prefer Klingons!!"

McCoy expertly lipped fragrant orange sap off his knife blade and gave half to Chapel. He took a long, slow bite off a fruit that normally cost thirty credits a piece, wholesale, on Federation markets. Christine, still living the afterglow of her "end of career virginity", found it insanely erotic.

"By the time we get to Wrigley's, the ship, tribbles, and crystals will all be sold. I'm sure they learned a valuable lesson from all of this."

McCoy might have started channeling for Surak, for all the amazement he was getting.

"Leonard Horatio McCoy..." Breaking the stunned silence, Chapel said very, very slowly, "What did you do to them? Oh, don't give me that look!" She got to her feet. He looked up from his lounging position with a pleasantly curious air. "You've been through shock treatment, nonstop harassment, drug abuse and comedic rape! I know you! You did something! That last visit with Hurr -- you were striking a deal, weren't you? Weren't you??"

Kirk and Spock were staring alternately at Chapel and at McCoy, who calmly continued eating his poma with a sweet smile on his face. It was enough to strike terror in the hardest heart.

"Er ... Bones?"

"Why, Christine, ah sweah, ah don' know what yo' talkin' bout."

"Bonessss," Jim repeated.

Emotion or not, Spock's face was convulsing in an expression of alarm.

"Bones, did you do something to Mudd and Jones?"

"I didn't do a thing to 'em," McCoy said with perfect purity.

"Bones ... what did you do?"

McCoy dug invisible dirt from his nails. Looked at it.

"Spock, is the recorder off?"

"Yes, Captain."


McCoy tried, but his lips began to quiver. Without warning he collapsed into gales of laughter that might have been hysterical. Everyone waited uneasily as, many minutes later, his fit subsided.

The doctor gulped and wiped his streaming eyes. "I did some tinkering with the food relays on their yacht."

"You did what? What kind of tinkering? BBQ sauce instead of hot fudge?"

"Nothing so crude, Jim. And not at all poetic." McCoy struggled not to break apart again. He clutched at his aching ribs weakly. "I just made some additions to the bulk molecular storage. A handful and a half, for good measure."

"A handful of what, Le--" Chapel froze. Clapped her hands over her mouth. "Oh."

"Oh, yes."

"You didn't! Not the filtered crystals!"

McCoy was laughing again, despite the obvious pain. "By the time it kicks in, they'll be at Wrigley's. And every last, damned credit they make off their shady little transaction is gonna go right back to the Wrigley Commerce! And did I mention Mudd mixed fertility enhancers with the crystals? D'y'all know what the fine is for getting a Wrigely's hooker pregnant? Alimony!"

"Remind me," Jim said to Spock as the doctors collapsed into gales of laughter and McCoy fell out of his chair too weak to get up, "to never, ever get our surgeon truly angry."

"Agreed," Spock said faintly.

Kirk wisely gave them shore leave after that (which was nowhere near Wrigley's). That was fine with Chapel. With years of celibacy over with, she wasn't about to let Leonard get away from her. Natira had nothing to worry about from her, after all. She still counted on her (hypothetical) children to have pointed ears.

The End