DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns everything Star Trek. No money is being made here. I'm just playing around in their backyard. This story is rated PG.

LADIES FIRST

Cherpring

The bar was dark, crowded, and noisy. A noxious blue tinged smoke hung in layers in the air and something like caterwauling with an overwhelming vibrating bass undulated from strategically placed speakers. The noise, odors, and general rowdiness of the place was enough to give anyone a headache and the tall, regal looking blonde could feel the beginnings of a doozy forming just behind her eyeballs. The four men leaning against the bar to her immediate right and openly leering at them didn't help matters either: Two Ferengi, an Andorian, and a giant of an Orion: Not an especially attractive mix.

The blonde pushed her drink aside and leaned in a little closer to her smaller, darker companion. "I don't like it here, Ny. Bad vibrations. And I mean that literally. I think we'd better leave."

Uhura nodded. "Yeah, too many freaks and not enough circuses," she agreed. "And that God awful music! I wonder where Sulu and Chekov are. Maybe we got our signals crossed and came to the wrong place. I can't imagine they meant to meet us in this dump."

Chapel shrugged. Sulu was known to have sometimes quirky tastes in entertainment. "I don't know. All I know is I don't like it here and I want to go back to the ship."

"Me, too. Come on." Uhura started to rise, but suddenly sat down again muttering under her breath. "Uh oh, incoming at three o'clock."

Chapel had started to stand as well, but resumed her seat, steeling herself for the inevitable. It wouldn't be the first time since their arrival they would have to thwart off unwanted hits. It was getting tiresome. But she was almost as upset with herself and Uhura as she was with the all the dubious male attention. They should have left immediately when they saw Sulu and Chekov weren't there, especially in this part of the city. But no... she thought irritably. We had to wait it out. Ever the true-blue Girl Scouts...

She sighed loudly as one of the Ferengi sidled up to the edge of their table drink in hand, followed closely by his twin and the Andorian. The burly Orion stayed at the bar. Thank God.

"Good evening, ladies," the first Ferengi said, giving them a big toothy grin. "Mind if we join you?"

"Well, yes, as a matter of fact we do," Uhura said evenly, trying to avoid any unpleasantness. "We're waiting for friends. Male friends. So if you don't mind..."

The Ferengi made a show of looking around the packed bar. "Since I don't see any other Starfleet here, we'll just keep you company until they arrive. Surely you wouldn't take offense to that, would you?" Before Uhura could respond, he pulled out a chair and sat down at their table, his grin growing wider as he set his drink in front of him.

The others followed suit and the look in their eyes caused a small shiver to run up Chapel's spine. She had better nip this in the bud, she decided, and slowly turned to stare coolly at the Ferengi who first approched them. "And which dwarf are you?"

The Ferengi's smile faded a little as the shot went straight over his head. But he had a pretty good idea he had just been insulted. "Is that sarcasm I hear in your lovely voice, beautiful?"

"Sarcasm is just one of the services we offer," Chapel quipped in return then almost groaned, realizing she had just given the Ferengi an opening.

The Ferengi's smile brightened again and he leaned over the table towards her. "I've heard about some of the services Hoo-mon females have to offer."

It didn't seem possible, but the Ferengi's already huge ear crests suddenly appeared to be a bit larger. The other two men snickered. Chapel wasn't real kosher with the way the Andorian's antennae seemed to have perked up either and skewed slightly in her and Uhura's direction. In fact, it gave her the creeps.

The other Ferengi jostled the first in the side with an elbow. "And what services might that be, Ginarf?"

All three men laughed at this sparkling bit of wit while Uhura and Chapel exchanged an uneasy glance.

Uhura took a deep breath. "Look ... Mister Ginarf, is it?" she asked smiling sweetly and batting her eyelashes just a little.

The Ferengi nodded obligingly, responding to Uhura's charm, as most males invariably did. "You may call me Ginarf," he smiled in return. But his eyes didn't stray long from Chapel. It was obvious he was totally smitten with the statuesque blonde.

"Very well, Ginarf," Uhura continued. "We're just sitting here having a drink, trying to mind our own business," she offered in what she hoped was a placating tone. "So, we'd really appreciate it if you boys would just move along."

"Ah, business. Now that I understand," Ginarf responded with a slight slur in his speech. It was obvious he and his companions had had more than their share of Selubian Slammers for the evening and weren't going to be easily dissuaded. Uhura felt her hopes that they would get out of this without a little nastiness take a plummet. "Perhaps I have misunderstood you," he continued and reached into the inside lapel of his jacket. A moment later he took out a small bar of latinum and laid it in the center of the table. Looking squarely at Chapel, he smiled and then slid it a few centimeters towards her. "Maybe you would be more interested in a little exchange of commerce? Strictly 'business', of course." The smirk on his face said volumes.

'That's it!' Chapel thought, now thoroughly pissed. The couple of drinks she'd had while they waited for Sulu and Chekov made her a little reckless, even if they were watered down. And this little weasel was really starting to get on her last nerve. "Does this uniform I'm wearing look like I'm interested in an exchange of commerce, runt? Besides, I'm not your type. I'm not inflatable."

This time the Ferengi was positive he was being insulted and his expression grew hostile as he squinted at Chapel, his beady little eyes becoming beadier ... and dangerous.

Uhura shifted uneasily in her chair. "Chris, we need to leave."

Chapel glanced at her friend, saw the look of caution in the dark eyes. Uhura was right. She needed to get a grip. This scenario was going down the toilet fast. Taking a deep breath, she nodded. "Yes, that sounds like a stellar idea."

The women rose from the table, but as they started to turn away, Ginarf made a move to grab Chapel's wrist. Chapel snatched it out of his reach, blue eyes hard and glittering in the half-light of the bar as she whirled back to glare down at him. "Did I mention the kick in the groin you'll be receiving if you touch me?" she asked with exaggerated sweetness.

The Ferengi stared up at her. A female of his own kind would never dare speak to him in such a way, yet he found it decidedly arousing. "You reject me, Starfleet?" he asked a little incredulous. After all, he was rich now beyond even his own kind's expectations, an important man in his circles. He could buy and sell anyone he wanted. And he wanted this Hoo-mon female. She continued to look down at him, her icy blonde beauty enhanced by the long and curvaceous lines of her body. He liked them long, blonde and curvaceous ... and unattainable. This one fit the bill nicely.

"Hear no evil, see no evil, date no evil," she responded dryly.

"Chris..." Uhura warned, hearing Chapel's tone of voice. The nurse rarely lost her temper, but when she did ...

Ginarf stood up abruptly, his chair falling backwards and hitting the floor with a crash. "You think you are too good for me, Hoo-mon? Is that it?"

Ginarf's companions rose likewise and the noise level in the bar suddenly dropped as all eyes turned to the tableau taking place in their midst. Someone somewhere turned the music off and for a few moments, Ginarf's heavy breathing filled the sudden silence as he stood rigidly, his hands balled into fists at his thighs. The unnatural quiet was broken when a raucous male voice suddenly jeered from the crowd.

"What's the matter, Ginarf? The ladies don't find your charms so charming?"

There was an uproar of laughter.

"Shut up!" Ginarf growled over his shoulder then turned his attention back to Chapel. "We will just see if you are too good for me." He made a small gesture with one hand and the other two men fanned out.

A prickle at the back of her neck made Chapel glance behind her to see the Orion straighten up from where he'd been leaning on the bar. She grabbed Uhura's arm and pulled her closer as she maneuvered both of them toward the exit. "Time for the better part of valor, Ny."

"You got that right, girlfriend."

But before they could take more than a few steps the Orion made a move to block their escape setting himself directly between them and the exit. A huge grin was on his big ugly face.

"What do you think?" Chapel murmured to her companion.

"I think you'd better give me your back," Uhura responded, glancing around the bar and realizing there would be no Calvary coming over the hill.

Everyone seemed to be content to wait and see what happened next. Even the humans in the crowd, including the bartender, seemed non-pulsed, just standing there and watching expectantly.

"I think you're right," Chapel sighed as she edged her back to Uhura's, both women taking a defensive stance. "Well, one thing's for sure," she added in a grumble. "This day was a total waste of make-up."

Uhura couldn't help the grin that spread across her lovely features as she reached for her communicator. It was time for an emergency disappearing act. "Amen to that."

What happened next took place so fast, that later neither woman was sure how it had begun.

* * *

Spock stepped out into the lobby of the auditorium, suppressing a most illogical surge of annoyance. Although he rarely took shore leave, he had requested this one evening to attend a lecture on astrophysical anomalies and had not anticipated any interruptions. An erroneous assumption, he decided. He was a Starfleet officer. More to the point, he was a Starfleet officer assigned to the Enterprise. There were always interruptions. The lecturer had just begun to warm to the subject when the soft beep of his communicator pulled Spock out of the pleasant flow of logical thought his mind had slipped into. Now alone in the lobby, he flipped open the communicator with perhaps a touch more physical energy than what was required.

"Spock here."

"Scott here, Mister Spock. Sorry to have to disturb you, but we have a wee bit of a problem, sir."

"A problem, Mister Scott?"

"Aye, sir. Seems like a few of the crew have gotten themselves mixed up in a brawl of some kind and ... Well, Sir, you being the only senior officer available to contact and all, I had no recourse but to..."

"Understood, Mister Scott," Spock interrupted, unable to completely mask his irritation. It wouldn't be the first time he had been called upon to perform such duties during a shore leave. Bailing out inebriated and errant crewmen came with First Officer territory. "Have the authorities been contacted?"

"Not yet, Mister Spock. The call came from a communicator. The caller wouldn't identify himself, just said to beam a security team down there ASAP. He thought we might want to avoid getting the authorities involved. Said they couldn't be trusted. And ... well sir, he also suggested we bring a medic."

At this, Spock flicked up an eyebrow. The information on the local authorities did not surprise him. Graft was not unknown on some worlds the Enterprise visited, even one as technologically advanced as this one.

However, the mention of the need for possible medical intervention alarmed him. "Most considerate of our mystery caller," Spock remarked dryly. "Very well, Mister Scott. Beam Doctor McCoy, three security crewmen and myself to the location. Did our 'ally' provide you with coordinates?"

"Aye, sir. They coincide with the coordinates we pinpointed from the communicator. I've already contacted Doctor McCoy, and Security is standing by."

"Indeed," Spock commented. "Then you may commence beaming as soon as all are assembled. I will contact you when we have arrived. Please have a second security team assembled and at the ready should we need their assistance."

"Aye, sir. Scott out."

With a sigh of resignation, Spock placed the communicator back on his hip, clasped his hands behind his back, and patiently awaited beam out.

* * *

An almost animal growl issued from Chapel's throat as Ginarf made yet another lunge for her. Her boot clad foot connected with the previously promised location and he doubled over with a strangled yelp, clutching the family jewels. When he was able to, he glared up at her, murder in his eyes.

"You'll pay for that!" he gasped, trying to straighten up.

"I don't think so," Chapel responded, taking the opportunity to catch her own breath. She pushed a long straggling lock of blonde hair out of her eyes and knew she must look a wreck, but she didn't care. She and Uhura had not asked for this fight, but they were holding their own and for some reason she couldn't fully explain, it felt good. She'd already laid out the other Ferengi and Uhura had taken care of the Andorian to the cheers of all around them. That just left this persistent, obnoxious little runt Ginarf and the Orion to deal with.

Thankfully, no one else in the bar had joined in the melee but seemed content to simply enjoy the unexpected entertainment. She heard several voices placing bets around them and grinned. The odds were staring to turn in their favor. But what she wouldn't do to have her communicator back. Uhura's had been lost when Ginarf and his cohorts suddenly jumped them and knocked it from her hand before she could even flip open the grid. Her own had been lost shortly afterwards, falling to the flooring where it was kicked into the crowd and seemingly into a black hole. It was a cinch no one was going to come forward and offer it back.

Ginarf was finally able to stand erect enough to take a few steps toward her. Chapel sighed tiredly. "If I throw a stick, will you leave?"

"I'm not finished with you yet, Hoo-mon," the Ferengi growled. "What's a female like you doing in Starfleet anyway?" he sneered. "Any male can see you are for bedding and the littering of young."

"I sure wouldn't mind bedding her," a Denebian male at the front of the crowd commented. There were a few chuckles and murmurs of assent.

Chapel spared the Denebian a quick cool glance before returning her attention to Ginarf. For a brief moment back there she had actually felt sorry for the little man when she'd racked him so hard -- until he opened his mouth with that last crack. "If I want to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, I'll put shoes on my tribbles," she came back.

Ginarf took another menacing step towards her. "Maybe you just haven't met the right man yet," he smirked. "Someone who knows how to satisfy your female passions."

"Right. And it's not the size that counts..." she laughed derisively. "No wait, it is the size!"

This caused hoots of laughter among the onlookers.

At this insult to his manhood, Ginarf's expression grew darker and he crouched slightly. They began a slow, cautious circling. Chapel wasn't really worried about being able to take him ... he barely came up past her chin. All she needed was one clear shot, but so far it had eluded her. She was much more worried about how Uhura was faring with the Orion. So far, her petite friend had been able hold her own.

"Come on, Blondie! Put him away!" someone shouted from the crowd.

"What do you mean, put him away?" someone else bellowed. "Ginarf might be little, but he's wiry ! My credits stay on the Ferengi!"

Behind her Chapel suddenly heard a startled yelp. She glanced back in time to see Uhura duck underneath the Orion's massive arms as he tried to catch her up in a bear hug. Uhura scooted behind him and quickly pivoted around. The Orion was slow to turn, giving Uhura enough time to lean back on a table for leverage, place both feet on the behemoth's ample backside and give a mighty shove.

Realizing almost too late that she was in his path, Chapel quickly jumped out of the way just as the Orion went sailing past her. The breeze of his passing fanned across her face and with it a distinct malodorous scent. The momentum of his size carried him with increasing speed and seconds later he crashed headfirst into the solid titanium edge of the bar. There was a dull metal ring with a resounding thunk as his skull hit the metal. Several patrons nearby winced in sympathy.

Amazingly, the Orion slowly straightened up and for a few long moments just stood there, stunned. The crowd became quiet again, watching in anticipation. Staggering, the Orion turned to face Uhura. Forgetting about Ginarf for the moment, Chapel went to Uhura's side, both women breathing hard -- as much from adrenaline as exertion -- and poised to take on the giant.

The Orion took one unsteady step towards them, then another. Suddenly, he stood very still and looked at the women as if he couldn't figure out who they were. Gradually, an expression of total surprise dawned on his face.

"You?" the giant growled.

Just then his eyes rolled back in his head and he started to sway. Some smart-ass called "Timber!" and people who had moved in a little too close started to scramble to get out of the way. The Orion leaned heavily first one direction then another. Finally after what seemed an eternity, the behemoth pitched forward and hit the deck with a crash that shook the floorboards under their feet. He was out cold.

Both Chapel and Uhura bent over him, Chapel wondering if he might be seriously hurt. Her conscience gnawed at her. She was a nurse, for crying out loud! She was supposed to help injured people, not be one of the ones inflicting the injuries. The Orion took a deep breath, then another and her own breath came easier.

Almost at the same moment, Chapel remembered the Ferengi. She suddenly stood up and started to turn to face the last place she'd seen him. Enough was enough. It was time to call a truce. But before she could complete the turn a strong arm wrapped around her throat, cutting off her air.

"Now you pay, Hoo-mon!"

Chapel clawed at the arm strangling her as the Ferengi dragged her back with him into the center of the room, his weight adding pressure against her larynx as he struggled to compensate for her greater height. Digging her fingers underneath his arm, Chapel managed to pry it away only a couple of centimeters, but it was enough. She sucked in a quick breath and kicked back, landing a solid hit against one of Ginarf's shins. The Ferengi grunted, but didn't lessen his grip. Chapel reached back and tried to get a hold of his head and flip him over her shoulder. It shouldn't be too difficult with those ears, she thought derisively. But the man in the crowd was right. Ginarf was wiry, evading her reach but still managing to keep a tight hold around her throat.

On the other side of the room, Uhura made a move toward the pair, but a strong hand caught her upper arm and pulled her back. Startled, Uhura turned and looked up at a tall Rigellian. Way up.

"She fights for her honor," he explained with a smile. "You must not interfere."

Uhura blinked a few times, unused to seeing a smile on a Vulcanoid face. "What do you mean? He could kill her!" She jerked her arm, trying to break his hold, furious when she couldn't.

"I don't think so," the Rigellian replied, holding her easily. "I have placed a heavy wager that your friend will be victorious."

So that was it! "Look, if I can take out that Orion, I can sure take out you, Mister!" Uhura shot back.

The Rigellian's smile grew wider and alarmingly charming, his dark eyes glittering in his handsome face. "The Orion is big and clumsy. I am not. It would, however, be an interesting challenge." His gaze raked over Uhura's body then up again to stare meaningfully into her eyes. "One I may take you up on later, but not now. Now we will await the outcome of your friend's fate."

Furious by this time, Uhura twisted, desperately trying to pull free again, and stomped her boot heel onto the top of the Rigellian's foot. He didn't even flinch, just pulled her tight against him and held her fast. He had three or four times her strength and her attempts to wriggle out of his grasp only seemed to amuse him. Rather than give him a secret thrill, Uhura went still, her gaze going helplessly to Chapel.

* * *

Spock was still three or four people from the front of the crowd when he first glimpsed her. He stopped dead in his tracks and for a few stunned seconds, he logical brain literally refused to believe his eyes. His first impulse was to shake his head to dispel the illusion. But it was no illusion.

There, in the center of the raucous crowd ringed around her, stood Lieutenant Christine Chapel. Her hair was down and disheveled, her uniform torn, and there were bruises on her face as well as blood oozing from a cut on her bottom lip. She was struggling to throw off a smaller Ferengi male hanging onto her back, his arm clutched tightly around her neck. Without warning, a sudden jolt of rage crashed over the Vulcan and a green haze clouded his vision. Spock sucked in a deep breath and literally shook with the impact, but before he could command his body to move, Chapel elbowed the Ferengi hard: once, then two more times. The Ferengi let go and fell back as Chapel immediately swung around to face him. The Ferengi stumbled to the bar, then turned and slumped forward.

"Spock, what the..?" McCoy went momentarily speechless beside the stone still Vulcan and followed his gaze. "Chris?!" he breathed in shocked dismay when he found his voice. He saw Chapel glance around her, then a smile light her face.

"Ny?"

At that moment a woman called out and both Enterprise officers recognized the voice.

"Chris! Behind you!"

Before McCoy could react, Spock was instantly shoving into the remaining people ahead of him.

* * *

Chapel swung around.

Unbelievably, the Ferengi slowly straightened up from the bar and grinned at her.

"What do you like for breakfast, beautiful?"

That's when Chapel saw it: a small, streamlined phaser in Ginarf's right hand. Where the hell had that come from?

"Hey! No fair, Ginarf!" someone shouted from the crowd. "All bets are off!"

"Yeah!" several others agreed.

"What's that Hoo-mon expression?" Ginarf leered at Chapel. "Ah, yes. All is fair in love and war?" He took a menacing step towards her, still guarding his right side. "I believe you'll find my accommodations quite comfortable, Starfleet. Once you get used to them."

At first, Chapel could only stare at the weapon, then something inside her felt like it snapped and heat rushed to her cheeks. "Why, you sorry little son of a..." No longer caring whether Ginarf stunned her, or even blew her into the next dimension, she took two long strides towards him...

Out of nowhere, a lithe form in Starfleet blue and black caught Chapel's peripheral vision. Her momentum faltered as her head snapped to her right. Suddenly, Spock was there between her and Ginarf. With lightening fast reflexes the Vulcan snatched the phaser from the Ferengi's hand and tossed it behind him, where a startled McCoy caught it. Spock then grabbed Ginarf by the lapels of his jacket and lifted him up, leaving his feet to dangle above the floorboards. He turned taking Ginarf with him, shoving the Ferringi into the edge of the bar with deliberate, calculated force. Ginarf let out a yelp of pain as the cold metal slammed into his lower back.

"If you ever attempt to touch her again, I will most assuredly end your miserable existence, Ferengi!"

Ginarf stared into the dark and terrible gaze of the First Officer of the Enterprise. Although he had spoken in a low, soft hiss, there was a hard edge and depth of conviction in the Vulcan's voice that sent a cold shiver down Ginarf's aching spine. The Ferengi suddenly remembered a piece of advice passed down from his great sire, 'Never anger a Vulcan, young one. It is highly unprofitable.' Who knew the boyfriend the beautiful blonde Hoo-mon was waiting for would turn out to be a Vulcan?

"Have I made myself understood?" Spock added with deadly quiet, fighting to control the urge to shake the foul little Ferengi until his pointed teeth rattled.

Ginarf blinked several times and swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. He needed a drink. "Yes, I understand," he tried to nod.

Spock held him there for several moments longer glaring at him to emphasize his point, then abruptly let go. The Ferengi caught himself on the bar to keep from going to the floor, but made no further move of defiance.

Taking several deep breaths, Spock struggled to gather his calm. He pulled on the hem of his tunic, perplexed and admittedly a little shaken by his reaction to what had just happened. Then pushing it aside to be analyzed later, he turned to face Chapel, once again the totally emotionless First Officer. His gaze flicked over her searching for injuries as McCoy reached her side and began running a scanner over her.

"Are you injured, Nurse?" Spock inquired a touch more coolly than he felt. He found it difficult to meet her gaze and glanced away, noting security had formed a barrier between them and the crowd. It was apparent interest was waning now that the entertainment was over and a strong Starfleet presence had arrived. The tight ring of people began to disperse.

"I don't think so, sir," Chapel answered. "Other than a few cuts and bruises."

"I'll be the judge of that," McCoy announced testily. He consulted the scanner then looked at Chapel. "You're right, Chris. You're fine for the most part." The corners of his eyes crinkled as they met hers. "Which is more than I can say for your uniform," he added with a sudden lopsided grin. "Which you seem to be partially out of at the moment. Uh ... is that regulation, Lieutenant?"

Too relieved that the fight was over to be aware of her appearance, Chapel's eyes now followed the doctor's gaze and she stared down at herself. The whole front of her uniform had been ripped away on one side leaving one shoulder bare. It was flapped open all the way to her navel. God! How long had it been like that? Her cheeks flushed a deep rose as one hand shot up to try to pull the dangling fabric up to cover the hot pink and low cut lacy brasserie she wore underneath. It wouldn't stay and after fumbling with it a few seconds she finally just tucked it under a hot pink bra strap to keep it in place. She shot an embarrassed glance at McCoy, then stole a look at Spock. To her complete mortification the Vulcan's gaze was directed squarely at her chest, then did a quick flick down and up again. When Spock's eyes met hers he stared at her a second, then canted an eyebrow.

"Definitely non-regulation," he commented dryly. "In the future I suggest if you intend to engage in this type of barroom activity, nurse, you be properly attired in Starfleet issue."

"Sir, I ... I ... " Chapel started to stammer, then suddenly remembered Uhura and whirled around. "Ny!"

"Over here!" Uhura called as she pushed her way through the edge of the milling crowd. People were picking up scattered tables and chairs and getting back to whatever they were doing before the fight began.

Chapel rushed forward and grabbed her friend's arms, looking her over, Spock and McCoy right behind her. "You okay?"

"I will be once we get out of this hellhole," Uhura grinned. "Do I look as bad as you do?"

Chapel surveyed her disheveled friend. Although Uhura's uniform had held up better than hers, she still sported a few scrapes and bruises. "Yeah, I think you do," she returned the grin.

McCoy stepped forward, scanning Uhura. "Well, it's a damned good thing neither one of you were seriously hurt. Starfleet frowns on this sort of thing, you know. They have a lot of credits invested in you two."

"Indeed," Spock observed. "Perhaps one of you 'ladies' would care to enlighten me as to how you came to be in this particular situation?"

McCoy clicked off the scanner. "Can't that wait until we get back to the ship, Spock? The local boys could be here any minute and throw all our butts in jail. No sense in inviting trouble."

"Logical, Doctor," Spock commented grudgingly.

"Humph!" McCoy started to turn, but Chapel's hand on his arm stopped him.

"Just a few more minutes, Len?" She nodded toward a big man sprawled out on the floor. "He hit the edge of the bar pretty hard. And there's a couple of more I'd like you to check over."

"For crying out loud, Chris! How many of these guys did the two of you lay out?"

"Only three ... " she flicked a glance at Ginarf, still holding on to the bar, "and a half," she finished sarcastically. Whatever it was Spock had said to the Ferengi, it had made an impression. Ginarf looked totally cowed and hadn't moved a muscle.

McCoy glanced at Spock. "Well?"

"Of course, Doctor. But hurry."

As Chapel led McCoy to the fallen Orion Spock reached for his communicator and flipped it open. "Spock to Enterprise."

"Ah, there you are, Mister Spock. You were cutting the leeway a bit thin, sir."

"Unavoidable, Mister Scott. You may have the second security team stand down, however we are not quite ready for beam up. I shall contact you when it is time."

"Aye, sir. But better make it quick. Our mystery caller contacted us again and said the authorities have been called and are on their way to your location."

"Understood. Spock out."

Uhura stepped forward. "Mister Spock, I'm sorry you were dragged down here for this, but Chris and I didn't have a choice. These men were trying to force their company on us and when we tried to leave, they wouldn't let us. We had to defend ourselves."

"I can vouch for the validity of the lady's word."

At the rich baritone voice both Uhura and Spock looked up.

"Oh, it's you," Uhura said flatly.

Spock looked at the Rigellian who had suddenly appeared from the crowd, then back to the communications officer. "You know this man, Lieutenant?"

"In a manner of speaking," Uhura replied icily. If looks could kill, Spock mused, the Rigellian would be stone cold dead.

The Rigellian then held out two communicators to Spock. "I believe your females lost these in the scuffle."

Spock rose an eyebrow in immediate understanding and took the offered communicators. He handed one to Uhura and placed the other next to his own on his hip. "Indeed, sir. I believe we are in your debt ... Mister?"

"Jessic," the Rigellian supplied.

"Mister Jessic," Spock nodded. "I am Commander Spock of the Enterprise. Your intervention is most appreciated."

"Appreciated?" Uhura asked outraged. "Mister Spock, he's the one who held me back when I could have helped Christine!"

"I'll explain later, Lieutenant." Spock spared Uhura a warning glance.

"The tall one fought for her honor," Jessic shrugged. "Your females are worthy opponents, Commander, but Ginarf does not play fair. I knew he would not take defeat well. He has no small amount of influence in this part of the city and neither is he above bribing the local security forces. At this moment they are in route to this establishment. I urge you to finish your business quickly and take your females away from here."

" 'Your females'?" Uhura mimicked, fuming. "Mister, that's the second time you've ... "

"Lieutenant ... " This time Spock's command voice brooked no argument.

"Aye, sir," Uhura grumbled.

At that moment McCoy and Chapel rejoined them. "They'll be all right," McCoy informed Spock, "Although the big guy's gonna have one helluva headache when he comes to."

"In that case, Doctor, I suggest we leave for the ship immediately and with considerable alacrity, as I believe the local security forces have just arrived."

The Rigellian's hearing was just as acute as Spock's and he nodded in agreement. Both had heard the arrival of several aircars pull up out front over the internal din of the bar. "You will not be able to leave the way you arrived, Commander. I will guide you out the back," Jessic offered.

Spock saw no logic in doubting the Rigellian's word now. He made a quick gesture for the Enterprise security guards to join them. "Very well, Mister Jessic. If you will lead the way?"

* * *

"Chris? What are you doing here?" McCoy scowled as he walked into Sickbay after lunch and found Chapel at the front desk. "Aren't you still on leave?" Then another thought occurred to him. "You're not hurt, are you?" he asked with sudden concern.

Chapel blushed a little and shook her head. "No, nothing like that. And after last night, I don't think I'll ever take shore leave again," she moaned. "Turns out, Uhura and I did have our wires crossed. Sulu and Chekov were waiting for us on the other side of the city. Of course, that didn't stop them from laughing their asses off when they found out what happened."

McCoy chuckled. "Yep, it's all over the ship. Uhura and Chapel ... 'Warrior Women'," he laughed again.

Chapel dropped her head and raked the fingers of one hand through her hair. Even though she wasn't officially on duty she wore her uniform, but hadn't bothered with putting her hair up. "Please, Len. Not you, too."

"Sorry, Chris. I can't help myself. And you gotta admit ... it is kind of funny in hindsight. You two are about the last people anyone would expect to have to bail out of a barroom brawl. I think poor Spock about had a coronary."

At the mention of the First Officer, Chapel felt herself blush further. "Funny to you, maybe," she responded, raising her head and pinning her boss with a mock glare. "You're not the one sporting bruises in places no 'lady' should. I haven't been this sore since basic training."

"Then what in the devil are you doing here? You should be soaking in a hot tub somewhere."

"Next months staffing schedule, tracking down and collating missing duty logs, the budget review ... " Chapel began ticking off.

"Hold it right there," McCoy interrupted. "By my calculations, you have at least two more days before you're due back on duty, Miss Chapel. And the workplace is no place to spend your time off."

"This isn't a workplace. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting," Chapel muttered sarcastically, but softened her comment with a tiny grin. "Especially when the boss keeps poking you with verbal pitchforks."

McCoy folded his arms across his midriff and rocked back on his heels. "Yeah, well 'the boss' is laying the law down as of right now. Get your tushie out of here, Chris. I don't want to see hide nor hair of you until your next duty shift. Is that understood?"

"But ... but ... " Chapel stuttered.

"No buts about it. All this stuff will be waiting for you when you get back. I promise."

Chapel studied McCoy's expression and knew he was deadly serious. With a sigh of resignation she stood up, gathering several padds and her stylus.

"Oh no, you don't!" McCoy warned. "Leave those here, too. You are officially off-duty, Lieutenant. And I do mean off. No paperwork, no research labs, no nothing that has anything to do with work. Consider that a medical order."

Blue eyes met even bluer eyes in a stand off. After a few seconds, Chapel backed down. "I'm going to be bored out of my skull," she grumbled, contemplating the next two days glumly. Some might consider her a workaholic. She preferred to think of it as dedication.

"Why don't you go back down to Darus II, maybe do a little shopping," McCoy suggested helpfully as he began to saunter towards his office. "You know, for clothes and...'things'?" He paused in the doorway and turned, giving her a wide, devilish grin. "I have to tell you, Chris. Hot pink really is your color." With that he quickly ducked inside, deftly avoiding the stylus that came sailing after him.

 

THE END