Disclaimer: Paraborg owns all; this is a written version of playing with the action figures--got it? Copyright 2005 by Kelthammer. Rated PG. Sequel to "The Plot Curdles". Alt/Mirror Universe.

 

Corpses Are Not Considerate"

Kelthammer

 

It was still quite early in the alpha shift. Attendance was down to a minimum as two men walked slowly to Shuttlelounge B.

 

"You did a pretty good makin' a makeshift sickbay out of this," McCoy approved. His eye had caught a standard-grade poster a helpful technician had put on the wall of several species without their skins and a chemistry table highlighting the major blood groups.

 

"Well, I didn't think we'd have to need it," Scott admitted. "It's not like there's a bit o' a rush tae yer department."

 

"Not right now there isn't." McCoy pointed out. He could have said that rather ominously, but didn't. His hands were wrapped around the largest mug of coffee Scott had ever seen. It was obviously a purchase from off-ship. "Okay, now that we're alone, what was so all-fired important that it needed my approval?"

 

"Well th'captain's havin' the B Lounge cleared out for the annual HardMail runs," Scott explained. As "Hard Mail" (nonelectronic) didn't come but once or twice a year on a Standard Imperial ship, and what came tended to be in large volume, it made sense to donate so much space.

 

"I thought he assigned that to Chekov?" McCoy wondered.

 

"Aye, he did, but first I hav ta have my men clear it out n' prove there's nothing in here already. T'will be hard enough to find a lost piece o' mail when it all comes, wi'out someone screamin' for a left-handed spanner they left in here before the cargo came in."

 

"Sounds absolutely thrilling," McCoy offered. "Chekov thinks the captain's going to kill him anyway. Should be fun to work with him."

 

Scott paused, ever so slightly. "Is the captain wantin' tae kill him?"

 

"No more than he does anybody else," McCoy shrugged with a stoicism to impress Brutus. "I think he taeks the rumor mill a little too seriously."

 

"He used tae work in Covert; I imagine he'd be paranoid on principle." Scott mumbled.

 

"Ah, don't worry about it," McCoy offered jadedly. "He's the best astrophysicist on ship next to Sulu and Spock. If he just understood Kirk didn't have any immediate replacement lined up, he could relax a little." He looked around. Scott had stopped them in the center of a large wall of cardboard storage bins.

 

"Doctor, do ye know anything about these kind o' bins?"

 

"Well, when I was a kid they made dandy hideouts. I made an escape pod out of one in my back yard. It worked great until a flock of Muscovys decided it was great pre-feb housing. Why?"

 

Scott stopped in front of a particularly large canister made of compressed pulp-fibers and reinforced with strips of aluminum. He looked at McCoy, looked at the container. As McCoy watched, the CEO pried open the lid, looked inside the canister (it was almost chest-high), and looked again at McCoy.

 

McCoy took a step forward. He read the MEMORY ALPHA label on the outside. He looked inside.

 

"Whoa."

 

Scott was relieved that McCoy sounded (fairly) calm. "It's from Memory Alpha," he pointed out.

 

"Yeah, I noticed." McCoy said seriously. He took a drink of coffee. "Isn't that where Mira is?"

 

"Thot's the problem." Scott admitted.

 

"What is?"

 

"Mira's in Memory Alpha."

 

"I fail to see the problem."

 

McCoy privately wondered what they must look like, two grown men patiently trying to make each other see another viewpoint over a tin stuffed full of skeletalized remains. Eventually, Scott was able to make a breakthrough in comprehension.

 

"Lemme get this straight." McCoy swallowed the last of the sludge hanging to the bottom of his mug, coughed loudly, and continued. "You don't know if Mira had anything to do with this. But, she could because she's one of the 3,000 members of the Empire staffed to Memory Alpha."

 

"There aren't thot many crewmembers on Mem'ry Alpha who've been on the Enterprise," Scott pointed out.

 

"Have you thought about co-incidence?"

 

"McCoy, twasn't it you who said, only a fool can afford to believe in co-incidence?"

 

"I was trying to get Spock's goat."

 

"Well, you got it. But think about it. She could have something to do about this."

 

"You're wanting to cover this up in case Mira killed him?"

 

Put in that context, it wasn't the smartest thing Scott had ever come up with. But it was the only thing he could think of.

 

McCoy realized the silence was speaking for itself. He sighed. Looked again into the canister.

 

"I dunno. I'd be really surprised if Mira did kill this guy."

 

Scott normally hated to take a flying leap at hope. This time, there was no holding back. "Aye?"

 

"Ayeh," McCoy drawled back. "For one thing, that's a Vulcan."

 

Scott didn't know how the devil McCoy could tell a species from a jumble of dry bones, and said so in no uncertain language.

 

"Human bones are more gracile." The doctor explained patiently. "It's because of our lighter gravity. Vulcanoid skeletons, due to their lifespan on heavier-grav planets, are rough and almost pebbly to the touch. To translate it into engineering terms, Mr. Scott, that's what enables all that extra muscle tissue to lock on to their skeletons."

 

Scott looked again in the dark well of homicide. "Och." He said. "I was wonderin' if there was a telltale bump where th' ears would be or something."

 

"I'm glad I stopped drinking before I heard that."

 

Scott looked sour. "Well, now what?"

 

"Now what? This is your department!"

 

"You're in better wi' th' captain than I am, mon!"

 

"Yeah, for the next two hours!" McCoy snapped back. "Oh, for..." He exhaled and briefly closed his eyes. "Look, you wanna believe your lady-fair dispatched a seven-foot-tall Vulcan and stuffed him in a very small box after de-fleshing him, you--"

 

"Seven feet tall?"

 

"The thigh bones," McCoy said with great patience.

 

"Doctor, if I ever maun hide a corpse, I'll be goin' straight tae ye."

 

"Thanks ever so." McCoy began rubbing his forehead. "My mother would be proud. She always wanted me to have a secondary line of work to fall back on."

 

"I cannae get Mira implicated in all this! Chekov's comin' in here first thing tomorrow tae start preparin' for the mail!" Scott waited worridly.

 

Finally, McCoy exhaled -- a universal sign of defeat. "I'll see what I can do." He muttered all the way out of the store room.

 

* * *

 

Medical officers were not allowed on the Bridge unless asked first. McCoy had no desire to emulate Esther, and politely paged a request to the captain's private comm asking to speak with him on a departmental matter. The problem was, Scott wanted this discreet (and that was probably a good idea). However, if the doctor was too low-key in asking for Kirk's presence, he'd probably be denied.

 

Chapel heard him sigh as he looked at the DENIED on the screen.

 

"What's your problem?" Chapel wanted to know. "I haven't seen you this depressed since Spock told you we couldn't bring the Cannibal Jumping Spiders aboard for the lab work."

 

"I wasn't totally depressed from that, Nurse," McCoy told her. "While I'm sorry we missed out on a great chance to learn about the little devils, at least I got something good out of it."

 

"You did? What?"

 

"I now know Spock has a phobia."

 

"A really common one, you know. Most people can't stand spiders." Chapel paused again. "Most people."

 

"Hey, you said you'd help me take 'em apart."

 

"I said I would because you promised me an extra fifty credits."

 

"Hmph. I don't see why you're all so squeamish about them." He switched back to the original point of conversation. "I'm just tryin' to figure out how I can slip a note to the captain without anyone knowing about it."

 

"Have Barrows send it up."

 

"Tonia?" McCoy blinked. "I thought she got transferred back to Tech."

 

"She got transferred right back out." Chapel told him.

 

"When?"

 

"Yesterday. When you were trying to wake Spock up out of his trance without hitting him."

 

"She got back from Shore Leave yesterday! How did-- What'd she get transferred out of Tech so fast for?"

 

"Something about incompatible magnetics." Chapel shrugged with both shoulders. "Look, you want me to page her or not?"

 

"OK, tell her she's due for a checkup."

 

"She is due for a checkup."

 

"Then you won't have to lie, will you?" He watched her go, then busied himself with his Padd. "incompatible magnetics..." he muttered to the empty air.

 

* * *

 

"What's this about incompatible magnetics?"

 

"I'm not sure. Something about getting hit by lightning."

 

McCoy paused. He looked at the Padd that held her medical report. "When did you get hit by lightning?"

 

"Oh, last shore leave. If you want to be precise about it, about 12 hours before my beamup."

 

McCoy didn't blink. "When?"

 

"Mammoth Cave."

 

"How the @#%&* can you get hit by lightning in Mammoth Cave?"

 

"It's not like I did it on purpose," Tonia said defensively.

 

"I'm sure you didn't walk up and start pickin' bolts out of the sky, Tonia, but ... but how?"

 

"I was in the old clinic for TB patients back in the 20th century, and on my hands and knees checking out the cots. Those things are terrible, by the way. I think a rock ledge would be more comfortable. And can you imagine how it must have smelled back then?"

 

"Uh, Tonia, we were talking about lightning..."

 

"Anyway, I touched a metal leg and it felt like I'd gotten slapped by about 100 watts. Boy, was I mad! I told the tour guide he was trying to kill me, but then he got popped too, and we got out of there because we were afraid it was the primitive electronics in there -- I swear, they still have Edison's lights burning down in there, Leonard."

 

McCoy was rubbing his forehead. "So it wasn't lightning, it was a grounded wire?"

 

"No, it was lightning. Because the water started coming up really fast, and it turned out there was a storm going on above ground, and the guide said getting hit by lightning underground wasn't totally unheard of ... two men apparently got zapped when they were mapping for the West Virginia Cave Conservancy way, way, way back in the 1970's, and it was documented even back then."

 

McCoy stared at Tonia. "Your guide certainly knew his trivia," he told her.

 

She sniffed. "He was trying to impress me."

 

"Did he?"

 

"No. My hair was ruined. Can't you tell?"

 

McCoy managed to invoke marvelous reservoirs of strength and withheld comment. Tonia was, obviously, still dwelling on the indignation. "Look, I need you to run a note up to the captain." He held it up in the air so she could see. "Nothing overt, nothing covert, I'm just telling him when he has a moment I can use his input on the Stores Requisition forms."

 

Tonia shrugged. "No problem."

 

"So this is why you got transferred back out?"

 

Tonia shrugged. "Apparently now I'm high-risk for disrupting some of the more sensitive computers."

 

McCoy couldn't help it. He stared. "Hold still." She did while he found the right salt-shaker. He ran it over her, looked at its readings, did it again and plugged it directly into his personal computer. Tonia was a good poker player, and she figured his total lack of expression meant something was showing up on the readings.

 

"Anything I need to know?" she wondered.

 

"You might want to be careful walking across ionic-charged carpets," he warned her.

 

Fifteen minutes later, Barrows was back. "You were lucky I could get to him. He was sending Chekov downstairs to oversee the Security Mails."

 

"He signed it, though?" McCoy rose out of his chair.

 

"He signed it," she showed him the Padd.

 

McCoy looked at it. The Padd was blank. For a long moment he silently absorbed the implications of having a magnetic personality for a Captain's Yeoman delivering him electronic messages on an Imperial-grade (and apparently not well shielded) Padd. And Barrows, good little soldier that she was, had kept his correspondence confidential and not looked at the Padd to see what the captain had written. McCoy wondered how long it had taken for exposure to Barrows to erase the Padd-program.

 

"Thank you, Lieutentant," he said with heavy noble calm. "That will be all."

 

* * *

 

"Sulu!"

 

Sulu paused while carrying his tray from the wall. Chekov was sitting in the back corner, not his usual style, with a barely touched plate of something round with magenta and white concentric circles in it. No wonder he wasn't eating, the Helmsman thought.

 

"What the hell are you eating?" Sulu asked politely.

 

Chekov looked down at his tray to make sure his lunch hadn't changed when he wasn't looking. "Beets," he said, as if Sulu should know damn well what a beet looked like and had he been spending too much time watching quasars? "Sulu, sit down."

 

Sulu sat down, curious more than anything else. "What's got you looking so worried? Captain can't be mad at you if he sends you to check the Security Mails."

 

"I think he is mad." Chekov answered.

 

"Oh?" Sulu was even more curious. This sounded promising. "What's going on?"

 

"I went down dere to check out the lounge. Since I hev to start the shift in there in the morning, I thought it would be a good idea to 'scope out.'" Chekov's voice trailed off. He stared at his plate glumly. "When do you have to get back to duty?"

 

"I'm off for the rest of the shift."

 

"Can you meet me in Shuttlelounge B?"

 

"What's down there? You think the doc left any good pharmaceuticals by accident?"

 

"Nyet..." Chekov choked on his food. "Come down with me and see."

 

* * *

 

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Christine Chapel asked as her immediate supervisor got off the wall comm.

 

"If I was prone to good ideas, Nurse, would I be here?"

 

"You're here because your ex-wife was sleeping with your divorce lawyer."

 

"Having either in my life wasn't a good idea either, Christine." He sighed and went back to his desk. "Okay. After having Barrows send up a Padd for the captain to sign, I couldn't get an electronic confirmation. So what; big deal. It happens on occasion. Calling him up to confirm lost communique is standard Imperial procedure."

 

"Standard my Size Sevens," Christine snorted. "Nobody follows procedure except for Spock."

 

"Now you're bein' nasty."

 

"My point is," Chapel was getting exasperated now, "A call that soon after the Padd was sent up, and the confidential note you gave him before the Padd, will make Sulu suspicious of you."

 

"Big deal. The man operates on suspicion. He should be in Covert Ops. I hear they let you carry personal swords with your uniform."

 

"That's not all they let you carry. Poison rings, personal drugs, you name it. All you need to do is file a permit."

 

"I'm changing the subject back to our original conversation topic: what else is the Agony Booth good for?" McCoy wanted to know. He was making a fleet of gliders with declassified flimsys while waiting for Kirk to hurry up and decide to come down to Sickbay. Chapel had finished for the day, and the conversation had sort of tied them both up.

 

"Circulation." Chapel mused. "It does get the blood going."

 

"I once pulled a hypothermic patient back to normal blood temperature from it," McCoy offered.

 

"You can do that with agonizers, too. I read the Klingon Manual."

 

"Yeah, but don't follow that manual. Humans operate on a different frequency altogether."

 

"Will it kill you?"

 

"No, but it might as well; you'll bleed out both ears and have permanent tinnitus in the key of F-sharp. I'd rather shiver."

 

"Set it for Tellarites and you'll bleed out of a lot more than just your ears."

 

"Andorian settings just tickle. I think we've all prayed the interrogator was an Andorian."

 

"Senile Andorians."

 

"Yeah."

 

McCoy set the glider into the air. It floated smoothly to Chapel, who plucked it out of the air almost absently and flew it right back at him.

 

* * *

 

"Pavel Chekov," Sulu put his hands on his hips and glared. "Why didn't you tell me you were trying to hide a body?"

 

Pavel decided to actually opt for honesty. "I didn't want to implicate you."

 

"I'm head of security. Don't you think I'd know how to make something disappear?" Sulu shook his head. "I'm impressed. "How did you kill him?"

 

"I didn't. He was just there."

 

Sulu took another look. "Good grief." He summed it up neatly. "He's huge."

 

"How can you tell?"

 

"Look at all those bones. He takes up some space."

 

"Da." Chekov looked again at the canister. "Kin we just vaporize him with a phaser?"

 

"The ship's computers will pick up the molecules, Pav. I don't want to deal with a shipwide security alarm when I'm the head of security."

 

"I know, but ... I thought mebbe you knew a trick."

 

"I don't. The captain sure does, though."

 

"Da," Chaekov agreed gloomily. Both thought for some long moments on the unnerving but useful skill the captain had with conveniently vanishing enemies (barring the occasional but obnoxious exception). "Now what?"

 

Sulu turned the question over in his mind. "Move the thing. Scott's crew are going to come in here in a few hours, right? Move it."

 

"Where?" Chekov was staring at Sulu as if he wasn't convinced the Helmsman was a genius or deranged.

 

"I gotta idea. C'mon."

 

* * *

 

"Holy God!"

 

Scott was distracted enough out of his own horror at the sound of the CMO's. The potential for panic was unmistakable as his invocation hovered in the air of Shuttlelounge B.

 

"Where'd it go??" McCoy gaped.

 

"All I know is, I dinnae move it!"

 

"Well I didn't move it!" McCoy barked. "And if you didn't move it, and I didn't move it -- who moved it?"

 

"A verra careless technician?" Scott offered.

 

McCoy lapsed into low-key swearing. "We've got to find that thing! Chekov will be here in the morning to oversee the--" He stopped, verbally and physically. "Oh." He said softly.

 

Scott knew not to feel good at that. "What is it?"

 

"Barrows told me the captain was sending Chekov down to oversee the Outgoing Security Mails."

 

"So? Thot's over in th' next storage!" Scott pointed to the general direction.

 

"So, while overseein' 'em is just electronically scanning the cargo, how much to do want to bet our eager-beaver Navigator wanted to get ahead of his work and started checking out the Incoming stocks in B-Lounge?" He stared hopelessly at the bigger man.

 

Scott closed his eyes. Chekov was an eager-beaver. A paranoid one, to be sure, but always anxious to produce a 200% markup on the work input-output equation.

 

"So he's got it." Scott corrected himself. "Nae; he'd na be sae foolish. He's gut it hidden somewhere."

 

"We've got to find it." McCoy's eyes scanned the five hundred and twelve pressed fiber canisters in the B-deck. "Oh, Lord. The captain might come to see me tonight when I return to shift; I need to have some kind of answers for him!"

 

"Ye'r not the only one." Scott had found his mechanical tricorder; he passed it over to McCoy. "Mebbe ye'd know how to set this for a Vulcan skeleton?"

 

***

 

Kirk drummed his fingertips on the arms of his chair. Bridge was fairly quiet at this point of the annual calendar; unlike the anniversary of Caligula's Assassination, the twice-yearly occasion of annual Solid Mail was a peaceful occasion, and out of courtesy, co-workers made the attempt to get along. If they didn't, they soon found the captain was harsh with holiday transgressors.

 

"Kirk to Sickbay."

 

"Sickbay," Dr. M'Benga's soft deep voice floated easily over the intercomm. "Dr. M'Benga speaking."

 

"M'Benga, where's McCoy?"

 

"He's on his lunch break, sir."

 

"His lunch break? Officers' Mess broke half an hour ago."

 

"He only eats when the crew eats, sir. Something about how jg's are too scared to ask him for free medical advice."

 

Kirk blinked. He glanced at Spock, who had actually looked up from his post. "I heard him say that once over the incident with Blalock ... I didn't think he was serious." He shook his head. "Dr. M'Benga, leave a message for Dr. McCoy for when he returns: since he is unavailable at the time I am, he can wait until tomorrow morning for my return of his call."

 

"Tomorrow morning, sir?"

 

"Yes. I'll answer his call after I see to Chekov's post with the mail." Now why, he wondered, did Chekov flinch like that? He frowned thoughtfully at the younger man, wondering again if he had been wise to recruit a former Covert Ops-soldier. The man knew his work, and could perform six complicated maneuvers at once...but there was something about him that was just...twitchy. Not like Sulu -- although Kirk frankly felt the Helmsman was one of the most dangerous men on the Bridge. He sighed to himself, wondering if his day would remain boring, or be broken with some kind of unplanned chaos.

 

* * *

 

Dr. M'Benga looked up from his desk several hours later; McCoy was returning to Sickbay with Scott. Both men looked somewhat the worse for wear. Scott had a forming black eye where something straight and rigid had scraped his face. McCoy was uncharacteristically rumpled, and shook his hand like his fingers hurt him.

 

"I still can't get over how much those things hurt." McCoy complained.

 

"Leastwise it wasnae our heads when it fell," Scott pointed out. "How long will I keep this shiner?"

 

"Long as you want. I can even make up a story about it for the medical logs."

 

"Ahem," M'Benga cleared his throat. "Leonard, have you been square dancing in the Jefferies Tubes again?"

 

"Not recently, and never, ever alone." McCoy shot back. "Anything happen while I was out?"

 

"Nothing much; the captain is going to answer your call tomorrow morning after he briefs Chekov."

 

McCoy stopped. His hands fell limply to his sides. Scott closed his eyes and clutched his head.

 

"I'm takin' off for the rest of the day, M'Benga," McCoy strangled. "If, for no good reason, the captain calls, please route his call to me."

 

* * *

 

"So then, when I mentioned the mail, I swear I saw Chekov flinch." Kirk paused to let the wine flow down his throat. "Just a little reaction, like a reflex. The odd thing was, I got the distinct impression that Sulu was listening to my pointless conversation with both ears."

 

Spock paused slightly while pouring his own drink. "A figure of speech, captain?"

 

"Hmn? Oh. Yes." Kirk chuckled. "Anyway, Chekov gets jumpier by the day. I'm wondering if he's taking those rumors seriously."

 

Spock's eyebrow slipped upward, openly puzzled now. "What rumors would those be?"

 

"Oh, somebody started the rumor that I was looking for Chekov's replacement -- not that I am more than I'm looking for anyone's replacement. So long as they do their work, I'm not going to kill anyone..." Kirk turned his head as his communicator buzzed. "Hold on a moment..." He twisted, pulled out the tool and snapped it open. "Yes?"

 

"Captain?"

 

"Yes, Bones, what is it?"

 

"Are you busy tonight?"

 

Kirk shook his head. "I did have plans, why?"

 

If possible, a distinct uncomfortable silence conveyed itself over the line. "Well, I keep hitting a snag on my Interdepartmental Affairs."

 

(On the other side of the communicator, Scott was nodding approval at the most plausible explanation they could come up with).

 

"What kind of snag, Bones? Is this what you've been trying to reach me over?"

 

"Um, yeah." McCoy answered, clearly reluctant to go into details. "I'm convinced its a clerical error, but I certainly don't have the security clearance to go in and scan, much less correct the mistakes."

 

Kirk sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was go down to help McCoy -- not that he didn't mind being in the man's company, but he'd finally settled down and was starting to unwind. "All right. I can see why you want to be discreet." He glanced at Spock over the desk, saw the affirmative nod. "I'll send Spock over your way. He'll be going back to duty in a few hours." Kirk took a swallow of wine, noting McCoy had gone oddly silent. "Is that all right with you?" As if that would make a difference.

 

"No, it's fine. He helped design the damn things; he should be able to read between the silly electronic lines." McCoy sounded better now; more his usual grumpy self. "We'll be down in Sickbay's Briefing Room, me an' Scott."

 

"Well, that's done," Kirk flipped the communicator shut. "Would you care for another glass?"

 

* * *

 

"Did I ever tell you I was actually 'in good' with the captain?" McCoy snapped. As Scott watched, the doctor paced the small confines of Sickbay's Briefing room, determined to eat up space with long strides. "Look, I tried."

 

"He's nae coming down?"

 

"No, he's sending Spock down!"

 

"I dinnae exactly want ta discuss this wi' Spock." Scott was hushed and cowed.

 

"You have a better idea? This is a dead Vulcan, ya know. Dead Vulcans mean live Vulcans have to get involved somewhere."

 

Scott was feeling particularly stubborn. "Whut if it could be a Romulan?"

 

McCoy rolled his eyes. "Romulans are more gracile. The gravity on their homeworld is a whole 0.3 percent lighter."

 

"Rigellian?"

 

McCoy simply stared at Scott a full minute before answering. "Rigellians flatten the backs of their skulls with headbords during infantcy."

 

Scott meekly sat down. He sat back up again; Spock was just entering, his bodyguards neatly posted outside the doorway.

 

Salutes went off like phasers. Spock nodded curtly. "Might I inquire what would warrant a matter of such urgency that you would call me?"

 

There was nothing for it now. McCoy took a deep breath (mentally -- he wasn't about to let Spock see him stall for nerve) -- and nodded at Scott.

 

"We have a matter that concerns your input," Scott cleared his throat and glanced to McCoy, as if for help, but he knew better. McCoy was already implicated, and he wasn't going to just up and volunteer any more aid. "Tis a Vulcan matter, sair."

 

Spock actually looked interested. Not a common expression for him. "Indeed?"

 

Scott cleared his throat again. "Ye see, whilst I was overseen' the organization o' Shuttlelounge B, I came across ... remains o' a Vulcan."

 

Spock barely flickered an eyebrow, but one could tell he was not prepared for Scott to say such a thing. "I see," he murmured. "Doctor?"

 

"He called me in to verify it; I could tell it was a male Vulcan, 2.3 metres in height, weight unknown. It was just a skeleton someone had stuffed into a storage container labeled MEMORY ALPHA."

 

Spock folded his arms across his chest, thinking. "You pose a difficult problem," he admitted.

 

That was NOT what either human wanted to hear. "Whaddaya mean?" McCoy tried to hold down the growing alarm in his psyche. "You're a Vulcan, you know about Vulcan matters; we don't."

 

"Precisely." Spock exhaled through his nose. "Vulcan Laws of Privacy prohibit their handling by non-Vulcans, among other strict rules. Did you come into physical contact with the remains?"

 

"Hell, no." McCoy answered Spock's question with the scathing contempt it fully deserved.

 

"Nor I," said Scott.

 

"Hm. The question is, how did he arrive here?"

 

"And how about, what to do with him?" McCoy wondered. "That's my most pressing question. We've already lost the poor bastard once already."

 

If it would be possible, Spock's eyebrows shot to the ceiling. "You ... lost the remains?"

 

"Nae, not precisely," Scott broke in quickly. "They were moved whilst we were tryin' tae get th'captain."

 

"But we found him." McCoy put up his hands. "Chekov apparently moved him by mistake. I just don't want it to happen again."

 

"Obviously not," Spock agreed.

 

"So, how the hell did he get here?" McCoy was rubbing his forehead, fighting a headache with the aggressive application of shiatsu.

 

"I believe that falls under my question. If we learn how he came here, then we shall have a better idea of what to do with him." Spock folded his arms in the at-rest pose.

 

"So now what?" McCoy wondered. "I don't know much about Vulcan mores -- only that there are too many of them -- but I seem to recall the fewer non-Vulcans lay eyes on a Vulcan corpse, the better."

 

"Crudely put but correct. We should not advertise this matter to anyone on the ship."

 

"What about the captain?"

 

Spock's face twitched. McCoy knew that look: He'd been hoping the doctor wouldn't say precisely that. "The captain is a non-Vulcan. He would have to look upon the remains in order to approve our actions, which technically is not his problem; it is a Vulcan problem."

 

"But we already saw the remains," Scott pointed out unhappily. "Not that I want tae make a point of it, but if I'm going' tae be executed or something, I'd like to go ahead and know it now."

 

"I don't." McCoy snapped. "I haven't finished filing the easements on my properties yet."

 

"Thot's because yer lawyer was--" Scott broke off at McCoy's arctic glare.

 

Spock sighed. It was a very patient sigh. "As you have already viewed the remains, the damage is done, so to speak. From now on, no one else must be permitted to look upon the body. Doctor, where can it be discreetly stored?"

 

"Well there's--" McCoy stopped. "No, that wouldn't work. I'm not allowed to put a lock on the Necropsy lab."

 

"Yer not?" Scott was surprised.

 

"No."

 

"What if it were accidentally locked?"

 

"No can do, they're not made with locks."

 

"Why in God's name?"

 

"I don't know! I'm a doctor, not a paralegal! Necropsy is out!"

 

"Any of the other labs?"

 

"No."

 

"Somebody's quarters?"

 

"Not mine, sunshine. Spock?"

 

"Certainly not." Spock answered in frigid tones.

 

"You mean you have an irrational fear about corpses along with spiders?"

 

"The deceased could be of a divergent religion," Spock answered. McCoy's comment about spiders had really bothered him, but, superior being of control that he was, he wasn't about to acknowledge it. "In which case, his clan could be intolerant of mine."

 

"You're being respectful to the feelings of a..." McCoy closed his eyes and gave up. "Never mind, I don't need to think about that..." He reached for another cup of coffee. "Well, is there anything you can do?"

 

"Very little. If you had not informed me it was a Vulcan corpse, I could have seen the remains. Now that I already know that it is a Vulcan skeleton, I am honor-bound to keep to the mandates of Vulcan Oath and not view it." He caught McCoy's expression. "You may be pragmatic to a fault, Doctor, but even you can understand the impracticality of possibly raising the ire of the decedant's living relatives, who would then be obligated to kill me."

 

"But that's assuming you're of a divergent religion," McCoy said desperately. "What could the odds be?"

 

"High enough," Spock said with finality.

 

Scott tried. "Well, what if it isn't a Vulcan? What if the doctor made a mistake?"

 

There was a pause. A long one. Spock looked at McCoy, then at Scott. "Highly unlikely," he told the Engineer.

 

"I'd be thrilled if I wasn't so appalled." McCoy clutched his cup.

 

Spock exhaled again. "The matter is a forward one. The two of you have witnessed the remains. You have informed me, which is correct procedure, and I informed you what I can. A tricorder reading perhaps could render enough data from the calcium structure that an Identity Scan could be made, but such would take weeks."

 

"Are we in danger o' the wrath o' his family?" Scott wanted to know.

 

"Probably not."

 

Even McCoy looked up from his coffee at that. Spock was as likely to say "probably" as he was to say, "crank."

 

"If they are logical beings, they should recognize the odds of someone eventually discovering the remains."

 

"And if they aren't logical?"

 

"Then they should be gratified that someone has discovered their lost relative."

 

"Oh, my head." McCoy leaned his forehead into the palms of his hands, elbows propped on the table.

 

Spock pushed himself up from the wall, straightening his already-perfect posture. "I will clear any avenues of action you may require to solve this conundrum. Alert me of any unexpected changes." He strode out of the Briefing Room without a glance.

 

McCoy's opinion, short, sweet, and physiologically impossible, was observed long after Spock had cleared the hearing range of Vulcanoids.

 

"So now what?"

 

"I'm gonna have to do something I swore I'd never do," McCoy sighed.

 

"What?"

 

"Share my berth with a Vulcan."

 

* * *

 

Scott was winding down from what he hoped was the end of a very, very long day. First he found the damn skeleton. Then he dragged McCoy into helping him solve the problem, only the problem had been somewhat less complex than handwritten thermonuclear physics with the light of a brown star to see by.

 

Then, he metally tallied as he poured himself a drink, then Chekov had accidentally moved the cannister, and McCoy couldn't discreetly get the captain down to save one's life (now there was an unfortunate choice of thoughts), and now Spock was involved without being involved.

 

Hopefully, they were now back to the just-functioning level of things; McCoy wasn't happy about having a Vulcan's skeleton in his cabin, but it was probably the safest place for it. The man's reputation wasn't exactly of his making, it was just that people naturally assumed a CMO would have dark and unwholesome things around him. Then again, he got his medical internship examining failed gladiators of various species from the Imperial Arenas.

 

He sank back on his berth and took a careful sip of Royale, sighing with relief. For the first time all day it crossed his mind to wonder if Mira really was involved with the contents of Mystery Canister D-5. He certainly hoped not, but his all-too-brief experience with the lovely Ms. Romaine had taught him that disasters could flock to her from as far away as Zetar...

 

"Scott!"

 

Scott jumped; reflexes that kept him from dropping a syntheloop down a Jefferies Outlet managed to salvage the drink from spill. "What in Saint Andrew's -- McCoy, what the hell is it now?"

 

"It's gone!"

 

Scott didn't want to believe him. His first instinct, which was all about survival, simply refused to process the unwanted information.

 

"What's gone?"

 

"What do you #!%(*&#%) think??" McCoy snarled. "It's your @#(*&$ mailing tube your #%*&@#% girlfriend sent you. I can't find it!"

 

"It's not there?" Scott was starting to understand, against all wishes.

 

The intercom crackled with heavy irony. Were it possible, McCoy would have found a way to transmit silent scorn, sarcasm, and not a little potential for violence over the waves.

 

"All right," Scott struggled to speak with a fair amount of calm. Beads of sweat had popped over his forehead. "We lost it before, we can find it again ... where are ye noo?"

 

"I am," McCoy also spoke calmly--the kind of calm that can only be obtained if one's teeth are gnashed tight enough to trap a nanobe and speaking through the gaps in his ivories. "In B Lounge."

 

"On me way, mon." Scott slammed his drink down, already out the door.

 

* * *

 

Not very far away from McCoy, two officers of a different color were doing some sweating of their own.

 

"I didn't think a skeleton could weigh that much," Sulu breathed out.

 

Chekov had given up already, and was sitting on the cold metal floor, exhaling. "It must be the denser calcium."

 

"Metals, too." Sulu wheezed.

 

"Couldn't we use one of your bodyguards?" Chekov asked hopefully.

 

"Nothing doing, Pav. I don't want any of the little narcs to stab me in the back later."

 

"No one you kin trust, eh?"

 

"I trust a lot of them." Sulu scowled at the Russian's look of skepticism. "Sanchez, Berloiz, Wimme, Stamets and Bessette."

 

Chekov's skepticism only grew. "Dose people are all dead, Sulu."

 

"Well, it's not my fault they earned my trust a little late."

 

Chekov knew he was going to hate himself for asking, but couldn't stop himself. "Why are you helping me then?"

 

Sulu grinned, an easy predatory flash of leopard-like teeth. "Hey, if the rumors are right, Kirk wants to kill you. That means you're worth something, right?"

 

"But I do not know why he wants to kill me!" Chekov protested.

 

"Oh, that's okay. We'll figure it out. Honestly, Pavel, there's got to be something, or he wouldn't be trying to set you up like this."

 

"I still think this is being overkill," Chekov muttered. His spine was starting to recover from the unusual stress.

 

"I don't know, Pavel. If you want to get someone out of the way, permanently, then get the Vulcans involved. You know what the laws are against offworlders viewing their remains?" When Chekov naturally shook his head no, Sulu elaborated: "Really, really bad. Just think about it. If you had scanned the container and then looked inside to make sure there wasn't an error, then you'd have to report Spock, and then Spock would probably have to kill you. Spock would be out an astrophysicist, junior science officer, and protege, which would weaken his position against the captain. Your replacement would be someone Kirk has in mind."

 

"All this for looking at bones?" Chekov looked nausated. "Are there no exceptions to this rule?"

 

"If there are, I certainly don't know them. Do you want to ask Spock?"

 

Chekov's answer was a firm no -- or was about to be, when the men heard angry footsteps ringing the hall at the same time. Paranoia gives birth to unusual agility and finesse; they ducked into the storage closet just in time.

 

Both held their breath, releasing slowly as the footsteps hammered away. "McCoy's been down here a lot," Sulu commented.

 

"That can't be good." Chekov opined. "Unless you think he really did misplace some pharmacaeuticals."

 

"Hell, no. Anybody who can repair a defective Vuclan heart valve while the ship's under fire isn't likely to forget aspirin. He's up to something." Sulu gnawed his bottom lip. "Finish up the job; go on to Mess as if nothing's wrong. I'm going to follow."

 

* * *

 

Scott opened the B doors to see McCoy neatly pacing worried little runners into the floor.

 

"You took long enough," McCoy told him kindly.

 

"Ah was detained," Scott pointed out. "I got something that could help us wi' our work tonight."

 

"Yeah?" McCoy came forward as Scott held up a small tricorder. "Another tricorder?"

 

"Oh, nae just any tricorder." Scott grinned. "Nae only will it help us find th' problem, but it will lock on to th' object in question, so it cannae ever be lost again."

 

McCoy refused to grin back. He was still very angry. "Fine. Get started. I'll give you moral support."

 

* * *

 

"Big trouble," Sulu passed Chekov in mess, then sat down as if he actually had time to kill with his single cup of coffee. "Where'd you put that tube?"

 

"I put it under the sta'bbard ledge. If they want it, they'll have to go through a lot of trouble."

 

"But they could find it? Whew, that's a relief." Sulu visibly relaxed.

 

"Why?" Chekov wondered. He was too saturated on tension to actually be fearful anymore. The fatalism that Sulu had always thought was a stereotype of the species had settled on the younger man.

 

"It's McCoy's skeleton." Sulu hissed. As the words struck the ensign like pebbles, Sulu kept the barrage: "I don't know how he did it, but he somehow got permission to get a Vulcan skeleton off Vulcan. It's about forty kinds of illegal, but it's his skeleton, and now he's looking for it!"

 

Chekov was trying not to choke on his drink. "How did you find out?"

 

"He sent a message to Scott; it was encrypted, but you could understand what he was looking for. He must have gotten Scott's help with his connections to Memory Alpha."

 

"Bohzemoi..." Chekov was awed. "You mean we're supposed to look the other way at the presence of a skeleton??"

 

"What else are we going to do?" Sulu wanted to know. "We're not supposed to know about it, and you weren't even supposed to be in B-Lounge when you went in. You know the Praetorate Court. They'll die laughing if you say you were trying to 'get ahead' on your workload."

 

Chekov winced. It didn't take a Covert Opsman with a degree in suspicion to hold the Praetors in contempt. "Da..."

 

"And I'm betting anything Kirk knows about it, and he was trying to get rid of you. Why else would he assign you to the Mail job?"

 

* * *

 

"Why did Jim assign Chekov to the Mail anyway?" McCoy swore as he rammed cardboard with his shoulder; the closet door finally shut.

 

"Something about keepin' him out of trouble." Scott sank to the floor, using the wall as a backrest. He was breathing hard. "He tol' Spock, that so long as he kept th' lad hoppin, he couldn't think of ways to get in trouble."

 

"Well that just shows how much a man knows when he takes Command School, and not Basic Human Psychology!" McCoy shouted it to the ceiling, then sank down on the other side of the door frame as Scott. "My God! Chekov can get in trouble almost as much as Spock -- and Spock's only half human! How both of them can still be alive is beyond me, but I'll bet in the 4th dimension, there's two very exhausted angels with 40-foot wingspans!" The doctor let his head fall into his kneecaps. "Oh, Christ," he moaned. "I'm beat. And we've got how many doors and floors to go?"

 

Scott told him.

 

McCoy was by now too tired to swear. He let his silence speak for itself. He was getting good at that, Scott noticed. He staggered to the wall-server and came back with a cup of coffee. McCoy took it as his just due.

 

"All right, once we get it home safe, what do we do?" Scott wondered.

 

"Maybe we should ask Memory Alpha if they're missing any bodies." McCoy muttered.

 

Scott looked at him.

 

McCoy looked at him back.

 

"Yer fashed." Scott told him. "Yer brain's turned. Ye've got a hedgehog where yer common sense would be."

 

"Don't spare my feelings, Scotty." McCoy said mildly. "Use your in. Call Mira and ask if anything's going on. Heck, see if they have a news-report or something. Its a large station, so maybe they'd have an electronic news service." He glumly stared into his cup. "D'you have a better idea?"

 

"Aye."

 

"You do?" McCoy was interested. "What?"

 

"Mail it back," Scott told him. "Just th' way we found it."

 

"Well, we could, but that means getting Spock's clearance. And he's left for the day."

 

"Blarg." Scott said. "We've got tae think o' something. DeSalle's nae ready tae replace me in rank just yet."

 

"How do you think I feel?" McCoy wanted to know. "If M'Benga becomes CMO pro tem the ship's as good as lost. He doesn't know a thing about xenophsychology, cross-speices pathogens, or a decent game of golf."

 

* * *

 

"All right, Bones." Kirk strode into Sickbay, with the unmistakable aura of the Bridge flowing after his one-man stampede. The doors shut; McCoy imagined how the option-to-lifers felt when they took the quick way to the ancestors and signed up for gladiator duty with the Imperial lions (or, if you were Rigellian, the carnivorous land sloths). Here was one particular lion no one wanted to get trapped with. And lo, here he was. Figuratively and literally, James Tiberius Kirk was between himself and the door.

 

"What's so important you had to see me? First I sign a Padd, and then you confirm it over the comm? You're going to have Sulu sweltering in paranoia. At least he couldn't track your communicator's call but I'm sure his men noticed I sent Spock down to your briefing room."

 

"Make Sulu paraonid? That's never hard to do," McCoy protested, inwardly sweltering himself. Now that Spock had in effect, told him not to tell Jim under any circumstance, the doctor was feeling hoist on a Petard of Ethics. It felt dreadful. "I'm sorry to look suspicious; something was wrong with the Padd Barrows sent down, so I couldn't tell if you signed it or not. So then I called you at the Bridge."

 

There was a silence while Jim waited. "Well?" He wondered. "What did you want to see me about?"

 

"Well," McCoy pondered the many new developments in his life since sending the Padd up to the captain. "It wasn't anything particularly pressing; I wanted to know if we could get together for a drink, seein' as how we didn't get a chance last week."

 

"We didn't get a chance because you refused to go on shore leave," Kirk pointed out.

 

"I was working," McCoy said, much more defensively than he liked.

 

"You were working because your ex-wife was on the planet."

 

"She was?"

 

Kirk looked to the ceiling for spiritual support, and breathed out for patience. "Don't play dumb. That only works on Spock."

 

McCoy grinned sheepishly. "I thought it'd be in all the best interests if I laid low."

 

"Not wanting to share a 12,756 kilometer-diameter planet -- that's the fifth largest planetary body in our Solar System -- with a single woman is pretty extreme, Bones."

 

"Extreme happens to be whatshername's Modus operandi, captain."

 

"And that's another thing. You won't even mention her by name. You're lucky the Empire overlooks most of the superstitions of the peasantry." Kirk emphasized "most" rather strongly.

 

"I knew all that knocking on wood was good for something." McCoy slowly unfolded his long legs, climbing to his feet. "Anyway, I don't need to be on shore leave to procure excellent bottles of brandy."

 

"Oh? What do you need?"

 

McCoy grinned. "A winning hand."

 

"From who?"

 

"Scott."

 

"Scott? I didn't know he was desperate enough to play with Crown Royale."

 

"He wasn't." McCoy explained obscurely. "At least, he didn't want to, but I convinced him otherwise."

 

"Well, let me in on your secret." Kirk held out his glass expectantly. All too relieved to have everything (sort of) taken care of, the doctor poured a healthy swig.

 

"Not much of a secret, Captain. Just helping your CEO out of a little departmental mess."

 

"What kind of mess?"

 

* * *

 

"Och! Blost!"

 

Tonia looked up from her assigned work: collating boring cardboard canisters. She had no idea why Mr. Scott wanted it done today, but she wasn't going to complain. "Sir?"

 

Scott was wringing his hand and scowling. "Bumped muh hand," he explained curtly. He looked at his fingers and scowled. "Yeoman, if ye would be sae kind, finish collating th' merchandise on its way back tae Memory Alpha."

 

Tonia shrugged. "Certainly, sir. Do you need any assistance?"

 

"Nae, I'm on muh way tae Sickbay right now." Scott sucked his knuckles with a frown, wondering why McCoy had suggested he use Barrows over all other qualified personnel. Something was probably up, but damned if he knew what.

 

It's that Roane blood, Scott thought morosely. That slithy Roane blood. Ne'er met a' any mon with a drop o'selkie in im that wasn't eel-sneaky.

 

Scott conveniently forgot in moments like this, that the silthy Roane blood was exactly where he and Dr. McCoy (albeit by about ten generations) could call themselves cousins.

 

* * *

 

Scott's heart attack wasn't long in coming if he kept encountering ugly surprises like that of the captain swilling the liquor he lost to McCoy's card game, in sickbay. Without thinking he saluted off his chest with his sore hand. "Och."

 

"What happened to you, Scotty?" McCoy wondered, spanner already in hand as he stepped forward. Behind him, Kirk was admiring the purple-black bruises on the engineer's hand.

 

"Got pinched in cargo," Scott explained. So far he was doing everything McCoy had told him to do, although he hadn't a clue as to why. "Ah gave th' Padd tae Barrows and came up here."

 

"You had Tonia Barrows take the Padd?" McCoy stared. "Ohmigod."

 

"Why? Whut?" Scott demanded.

 

McCoy took a deep breath. "She was just supposed to help you. I didn't ohlord -- Barrows got hit by lightning last week. She was transferred out of Electronics because of her potential for disruptive magnetics."

 

Kirk stared. "Who gets hit by lightning in this day in age?"

 

"She wasn't around a lightning rod," McCoy explained. "She was in an historical TB clinic."

 

"Who goes to a TB clinic on shore leave?" Kirk almost roared.

 

"Well, I would," McCoy tried not to sound too defensive. Around him, people already jaded on his odd ideas of recreation were edging away. "Come to think of it, maybe I should put a scanner on her -- seein' as how there hasn't been too many modern-day neurological studies of electrical absorption."

 

His grisly observation was halted by the 'comm whistling. "Lt. Barrows to Sickbay; is Mr. Scott there?" It was Barrows, and she did not sound anything remotely like her usual calm collected self.

 

"Scott here," Scott punched the button with his good hand.

 

"Mr. Scott, it appears that the contents of one of the canisters is damaged."

 

"Ah'm on muh way, lieutenant," Scott answered.

 

"I'll come with you," McCoy hefted up his tricorder. "I really should give her a few scans..."

 

Kirk rolled his eyes. "Sounds positively thrilling. I'll see you this evening, Bones."

 

"Aye, sir..."

 

Scott had no way of proving it, but McCoy seemed oddly smug -- like he had seconds before Scott had surrendered all rights to his Crown Royale.

 

* * *

 

"What th'devil?" Scott asked through his teeth and under his breath. McCoy almost looked ready to bounce on his toes.

 

McCoy ignored him. "C'mon, we need to see what this is about."

 

Scott was about to push for details ... only a sudden unpleasant odor drove every other thought out of his mind.

 

Barrows was standing at the closed doorway leading to Shuttlelounge B. She looked scared. "Something weird's happening," she announced with a salute.

 

Scott stuck his head in. He was sorry he did. What was happening was all too visible.

 

"How can a skeleton catch afire?!" he gasped.

 

"Lessee..." McCoy pushed by him long enough to poke his head in the doorway. "Well, I'll be darned." He drawled. "It did catch on fire. How about that." He looked at Barrows. "Offhand, I'd say it was the leftover residue from the shock you absorbed." He tsked through his teeth in a mostly sincere tone, put his hands on his hips and shook his head. "Lieutenant, why don't you take a week off?" He watched her scamper down the hallway and poked his head back into the sight. "Wow."

 

Scott was starting to realize A) McCoy had somehow -- planned this and B) the skeleton was cremating itself in a very white pile of ash. He was calming down. The technician in him, which was never dormant, starting rising. "Och. There's a lot of gold sparks."

 

"Probably the duo-carbonates converting to soda ash," McCoy offered nonchalantly. He began cleaning his nails on his Officer's Dagger. "Definitely more potassium in there than you'd think ... those purple lights are kinda pretty." He frowned at a spurt of miniature green fireworks. "Hmn, I didn't think they stored nearly enough phosphates for that ... oh, hey, lookit the yellow smoke. That's got to be the extra sodium."

 

"Doctor ... why hasnae the security alarm sounded yet?"

 

"Offhand," McCoy commented, "Barrows' screwy electrical charges must've shorted out the safeties." He whistled. "Wow, look at that go ... gonna be a pile of ashes before you can recite Newton's Laws of Physics."

 

Scott turned around, silent as a doorknob, to stare at McCoy. McCoy looked him back quite calmly while the skeleton crackled peacefully in the background. Very slowly, Scott opened his communicator to follow proper ship protocol, but his desire to report the fire found him with a dead piece of machinery.

 

"Thot's not all Barrows' shorted out," he reported heavily.

 

McCoy pulled out his own comm and shook it. "How about that," he marveled. "Dead as a busted dilithium. I guess then we have to wait until it burns out before its safe to report it."

 

* * *

 

"There's a what WHERE?"

 

McCoy quietly repeated what he'd said over the intercomm to the captain. "What should we do, sir?"

 

One could hear Kirk shaking his head over the bandwidth. "Collect the ashes and put them up. We'll see about it when I get off duty."

 

"What about the rest of the Bay?" McCoy asked.

 

"Carry on as usual."

 

McCoy winked as he snapped off.

 

"Mr. Chekov," Kirk turned to the pale Navigator. "Kindly head to B-lounge and scan, collate and send the rest of the ship's contents off to their rightful destination ASAP. The last thing Imperial Command will want to hear is the paltry excuse of a homicide for delay in their mail route."

 

Chekov scrambled to his feet. "Aye, sir." He was gone in record time.

 

Sulu silently blew out his breath, amazed they were all still in one piece.

 

* * *

 

"Where is it??" Kirk wanted to know.

 

"We left it in B Lounge, captain." McCoy told him calmly.

 

"Well, where in B Lounge?"

 

"Right where it originally burned. Didn't want to move it more than was necessary, just in case."

 

"Good thinking. I'd do the s--" Kirk stopped. "S-s-s-..." He quit talking. Except for the turning wheels in his head, he quit moving. "Aren't you calm," he observed to the doctor.

 

"Hey, it's not my relative." McCoy told him. "I'm the only one crazy enough to give up a productive job in Agro-research to go to space." He pursed his lips. "You know, if we don't figure out what to do with it, it legally defaults back to Memory Alpha."

 

"Send it back?" Scott repeated. This was not what he expected McCoy to say, in lieu of the earlier conversations.

 

"Well," McCoy shrugged, "It's not our skeleton, now, is it?"

 

"We don't know who it originally belonged to," Kirk pointed out.

 

"I'm wondering if it wasn't a Vulcan," McCoy commented. "The skeleton went up awfully fast. Lot of transitional elements in their bones, y'know."

 

Kirk frowned. "Let's call Spock." He looked at Scott. "Good thing it burned. Vulcans have a hundred rules about proper viewing of their remains."

 

"So long as it's a recognizable skeleton," McCoy picked his teeth with his dagger. "Cremains, or powdered bone, or a corpse put in a blender doesn't count."

 

Kirk stared. "That's not classified, Bones, but there are Vulcans who don't even know that. How did you?"

 

"How did you know?" McCoy shot back.

 

"I asked Spock." Kirk answered.

 

"I won a card game from the Intrepid's CMO." McCoy answered.

 

"Oh." Kirk rubbed his temple. "I'm going to love this Briefing," he muttered.

 

FIVE STANDARD DAYS LATER:

 

"So," Captain James T. Kirk put his palms flat on the table and leaned forward. Not for the first time, his crew marveled at how his presence more than compensated for his lack of being over ten feet tall. "Firstly, I want to know why a crewmember overcharged with 50,000 volts of atmospheric static can ruin a Padd reading, but not have a problem with being beamed aboard using the ship's transporter?"

 

Scott spoke up, just a shade meekly. "Well, sair, ever since the ah, Halkan Incident, ah been workin' on extra shields fer th' carrier waves."

 

Kirk looked at Scott. "Why wasn't I informed?"

 

"I didn't feel it were efficient enough, sair."

 

"How efficient is it?"

 

"Only 32%, sair."

 

Kirk looked at Scott a long time, then at Spock. The Vulcan was in his customary pose, arms folded in military at-rest, eyes half shut.

 

"Mr. Scott apparently feels a higher percentage is in order before he can stay abreast of his reputation as a miracle worker." Spock opined. As usual, no one in the Briefing Room could figure out if he was giving a compliment or a scathing criticism. McCoy, who called them 'scathing compliments,' was just glad he wasn't on its brunt side for once. He nursed his coffee and pretended he was holding a winning hand from a room full of freebooting L'orrik pirates.

 

"All right," Kirk said in a voice that was anything but 'all right,' "That answers that. However," and his eyes swept across the table again, "You, McCoy, had Barrows sign the Padd for Memory Alpha, but her overdose of static damaged the Padd program. The Padd couldn't read there were skeletel remains in one of the canisters, and her same static sparked the skeleton, which caught on fire and due to the heavy salts and metals Vulcans carry, it burnt to ash in less than six minutes?!"

 

"But we still sent it back to Memory Alpha," McCoy pointed out. "Along with an explanatory memo."

 

"Er, fortuitous action captain," Scott pointed out. "As it appears th' killer was somewhat unsettled to find his victim was mailed back to him."

 

"Mailed back to Memory Alpha, precisely, Mr. Scott." Spock pointed out.

 

"A murder victim is stuffed in a canister from Memory Alpha to the Enterprise. Dr. McCoy has a recent victim of lightning put on light duty so he can evaluate her progress from potential neurological trauma. The yeoman in question has enough power in her nervous system that her equipment improperly reads the data on the Padds and even erases part of the program. Thus, the canister full of cremated remains is accidentally sent back to Memory Alpha along with Scott's little love-present to Mira Romaine. Mira Romaine opens up the canister, sees the contents and she just happens to be the Collator of Personnel and Data for the entire station, so her word is above reproach; she reports the cremains, they see by the numbers on the canister it came from Memory Alpha in the first place, and then they post a bulletin, by which the murderer is discovered and neatly executed--" Kirk started gasping for air. The others waited uneasily for his final verdict.

 

Kirk's glare could have wilted the entire Senior Officer's Staff. "And as for you," he began in tones that could have sent a chipotle a-fire, "I swear the level of genius, craft and brazen gall is something the three of you are capable of, but no power this side of General Order Number Four is going to convince me you three could join forces long enough to accomplish this kind of thing." Just in case, he held his glare. It hovered in the air long after he stampeded out of the Briefing Room.

 

It was a very long, long moment later. McCoy thought about breaking the silence, but he decided the hell with it; someone else could do it.

 

Scott cleared his throat. "Are we off the hook?" he wondered.

 

"I believe so," Spock answered in a most unconvincing kind of tone.

 

"I still have to go to his quarters for a drink tonight," McCoy reminded him. "Speak for yourself."

 

"Are ye takin' that bottle o' brandy ye won?"

 

"Hell, yes. It's my official bribe."

 

"Scott sighed. "Sae much for my night," he mumbled.

 

"Don't worry, I'll bring you what's left."

 

Scott glared at him. "Cheap," he accused.

 

"Nothing cheap about it. I'll be bringing 9/10ths of the bottle back."

 

"How d'ye know?" Scott demanded. Spock was also waiting for that answer.

 

McCoy shrugged as he got up. "Marlena's going to be there. And she's given up all alcohol for the Festival of Artemis."

 

Spock's brows flipped up. "Why would the Captain observe his woman's holiday?"

 

McCoy gave Spock a significant look. "Spock, are you sure you're part human?"

 

"For the fifty-sixth time, quite."

 

"No one would ever guess by dealing with you."

 

"Flattery will get you nowhere, Doctor."

 

Neither Scientist noticed the Chief Engineer had quietly departed. Scott knew it wasn't quite going with regs to leave before the Life Science Major and his superior officer, but he didn't want to sit at the table and listen to salvos for the next twelve hours.

 

Besides, he wanted to send a letter to Mira...

 

The End