Disclaimer:  Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom.  This story is the property of Kelthammer and is copyright (c) 2004 by Kelthammer.   Rated G.

 

The Plot Curdles

Kelthammer

 

McCoy didn't wake up with the intention of killing anybody that morning, but when half the Bridge crew became casualties from a terrorist bomb, it did put him in the proper frame of mind.

 

He was not a man who enjoyed stasis of any kind -- but as far as excitement was concerned, having Kirk, Spock and Sulu laid up on biobeds within the same twenty-foot-square area was far  too much of a good thing.

 

After debating the possible outcomes -- agony booth or execution -- he decided to damn the consequences anyway, and ordered all the bodyguards out of what he considered his domain.

 

Nurse Chapel voiced what was on the mind of every member of the staff:  "Have you lost your mind?"

 

"God, I hope not," he shot back glumly.  Standard Empire procedure demanded he treat in order of rank, but the captain (as usual) had the best luck and had only been knocked silly when the bomb threw him into the comm station.  Or more accurately, into the comm officer's arms.  "But we can't accomplish a thing with all those muscle-graft apes lurking against the wall."

 

Chapel still looked at him with a degree of pity for her superior's obvious imminent demise.  "What makes you think the saboteur won't get to them in here?"

 

"I don't, but you know as well as I do that nobody comes here unless they have to.  All injuries qualified as under Priority are to be allocated to--"  His mind thought of the furthest possible working point from Sickbay.  "--Shuttlelounge B."

 

They moved past the sleeping Kirk to Spock.  The Vulcan was in serious condition, and McCoy considered him the medical priority.  "Nurse, please admit Lt. Moreau, and only Moreau into the sickbay."

 

"You'll bar the bodyguards but admit his--" Dr. M'Benga momentarily choked in disbelief.  "Uh.  Personal assistant?"

 

"Not bad," McCoy approved as he turned the padd over to his AMO.  "I like that.  Sounds a bit better than 'personal yeoman'. doesn't it?  First off, Lt. Moreau is well qualified in the defense of her captain.  Frankly, I think she's worth any three of his men.  She can be trusted to stay out of the way, and best of all, she doesn't take up nearly as much space.  When the captain is officially coherent enough, see that he and Moreau are put in the back room."

 

Chapel and M'Benga looked at each other over McCoy's shoulders.  McCoy was aware of it, but politely pretending otherwise.  Acknowledging every unspoken accusation of his mental state would be a consistent drain of his resources.  Besides, crazy people were generally left alone.

 

"Oh, Nurse, please tell Atkins that if any of the Bridge crew die while in Sickbay, I'm ordering everyone on my staff executed."  He passed off this sally pleasantly.

 

"*" Chapel cleared her throat.  "Yes, sir."

 

"Nothing like a little voluntary loyalty to the medical oath."  The CMO muttered under his breath.

 

***

 

Spock's injury was not serious -- by human standards.  Unfortunately his Vulcan biology was not doing him any favors today.  What would have just knocked a human cross-eyed had tap-rattled his brains. His nictating membranes failed to respond when McCoy held a small light in front of him.

 

"Ever see anything like this?" he asked M'Benga.

 

M'Benga shook his head, perplexed, unhappy, and worried about his continued health, not to mention lifespan.  "Head injuries are awfully rare on Vulcan."

 

"Yeah?  Why is that?"

 

"Well, maybe I should say, surviving them are rare.  You get knocked out, it's usually a precursor to an ugly death."

 

"Silly me."  McCoy tried the light again.  "Still no response.  And I didn't see anything funny on the brain scan."

 

"That's the problem.  His life signs can really fake you out."

 

"Mmn-hmn.  Probably a protective reflex."  McCoy straightened and exhaled.  "Okay, let's think this out.  Vulcan's a hot, arid climate with high gravity and a god-awful hostile attitude.  Playing possum is probably a great way to hide from the predators, many of which can detect you with kinetic heat.  Something made Spock shut down, as it were, but he's not in a healing trance either."

 

"What's a possum?" M'Benga was the product of a rather sheltered upbringing.

 

McCoy re-set the biomarkers above Spock's head and went to Sulu's bed.  "How'd the surgery go?"

 

"Textbook," M'Benga said proudly.  "He'll have residual soreness from the acid buildup, but we didn't have to do more than re-knit his deltoid structure."

 

"How about the shrapnel?"

 

"Came out smooth.  I saved every piece and put them in a little bag for him to take home."

 

"Nice thought." McCoy approved.  "Did you make sure the scars were extra ugly?"

 

"Just the way he likes them."

 

McCoy gave M'Benga a thumbs-up and went back to Spock.  "All right.  Back to the stumper.  Storn says he doesn't know anything about head injuries -- and that's on par from what we know of traditional Vulcan medical practices.  But he did say that Spock might recover on his own?"  He looked up from M'Benga's report.  "He said that?"

 

"Sure did.  I asked him how but he couldn't give me details.  Or a time frame, for that matter."

 

"Huh." McCoy absently flicked the light-pen on and off between his fingers.  "Most of the predators on Vulcan are nocturnal, aren't they?"

 

"Most?  If you don't count Vulcans, they all are!"

 

"Really."  McCoy gnawed his lip.

 

"I think we're looking at a protective reflex," M'Benga offered.  "As you said, kinetic heat is the method by which most predators find their prey.  If a Vulcan were to be rendered motionless and of reduced body temperature, it would make him harder to find."

 

"That's what I'm thinking.  But he's also part human, and we don't know how that could change the factors.  He might be in a form of trance we can't slap him out of."

 

"I'll tell you what."  M'Benga had lifted both hands.  "If you want to make sure, YOU slap his face.  I'm not gonna."

 

"Do I look suicidal to you?" McCoy wanted to know.  "Never mind, don't answer that." He sighed.

 

"Being in the 'fleet is suicide enough," M'Benga chipped in.

 

"Not if you compare the marriage I fled from."  The CMO rubbed his nose and frowned.  "Okay, keep him on all flags -- put the bio-graph on automatic re-adjustment every three minutes.  I'm going to see Mr. Scott with my report."

 

***

 

CE Scott was absolutely not a happy man -- but as always when forced into a responsibility he didn't want, he dogged it out.  The two men sat at the empty briefing room and soberly contemplated the implications of this latest attack on the ship.

 

"I'm not even happy that we got th'bugger who did it," Scott growled.  "Ye should've seen the mess in his cabin.  Killed all his mates and put the phaser to his own head."

 

McCoy nearly choked on his coffee.  "Another zombie?" he asked uneasily.

 

"Aye, but this time we've got a shred o' proof.  When he blasted his head off, he didna get it all, y'see.  There's just enough of a skull to see the traces o'metal implant."

 

McCoy sighed and held his cup with both hands.  Rigellians were famous for their mind-arts, and even more for the high quality of their assassins.  Standard procedure had them grab a person you trusted, and stuff in a certain type of implant that left you to all purposes normal, but unable to do anything but act upon the orders programmed in the nasty little piece of metal.  The only way to find a "zombie" was to notice the person's short-term memory couldn't account for those few hours that they went missing.  And as you could count on about anybody to go AWOL from their friends, family and co-workers under all kinds of excuses...

 

"This is messed up," he said to no one in particular.

 

"Aye."  Scott picked at his uneaten food.  "Too easy to bring a 'plant' aboard during the roster-changes.  That's one disadvantage o' killin' one's superior, ye ken.  Never can tell who'll be the replacement."

 

"So that's how the plant got aboard?"

 

"Aye.  Tehnician Chou.  Brought in tae replace Technician Gideon.  Gideon was kilt off by--"

 

"--Techician Barr, I know, I know.  Look, who signs the necropsy reports anyway?  Besides, I'm not sure your example counts.  Wasn't this all some kind of bizarre lover's triangle?"

 

"A lover's pentagon, if ye count all the involved parties included in th' report."

 

"Well that's what happens when you get cross-eyed over Andorians.  You don't cheat with one, you cheat with five."

 

"Thot's kids these days for ye.  All I know for sure was, half the bodies were stuffed up cargo vents and t'other half was mailed t' various unsavory planets."

 

McCoy made a face, and resolutely took another sip of his coffee.

 

"How long before th' captain is back on his feet?"

 

"I stuck him under the lights, so he should wake up without even a headache tomorrow.  God forbid anybody try to get to him with Moreau around."

 

Scott grimaced.  "I know I'm not man enough."

 

"Neither am I."

 

The two men gloomily thought about the rotten state of the ship.

 

"And word from Command?"

 

"Other than a command t' get the man responsible?"

 

"Why is it," McCoy leaned his head in his hand and made a paper glider out of a flimsy, "when an officer assassinates another officer, its okay?  But if an outsider assassinates an officer, it's an attack on the ship?"

 

"There's a difference." Scott protested.

 

"Yeah? What?"

 

Scott was silent.  "I'd answer ye, if I wasn't so fashin' tired."

 

"Okay, we'll drop it.  How are you dealing with Sulu's overachievers?"

 

"I've got enough for 'em to do."  Scott shrugged.  "What about Mr. Spock?"

 

Again there was a silence.  It was an exaggeration to say anyone was fond of anyone on the Bridge, but there was a certain reliability in having a cohort whose mannerisms one was used to.  Spock could be counted on to spot for you in a fight; for that reason, everyone else gave him the same courtesy.  Mostly.  If the captain or First Vulcan ever stepped out of the politics of the Empire, it was the unspoken duty of their rank inferiors to kill them.

 

McCoy considered himself apart and separate from this schism; as a medical officer, he tried to think of the whole picture and not some braid-laden egos.  Unfortunately for anyone who would think a neutral party would have it easy on the Enterprise, the reverse was true.  Been on the ship for three years now, and the crew was still waiting for him to show favorites to somebody.  The doctor's nerves occasionally fantasized with the idea of cracking up, but paranoid individual that he was, cracking up was a serious detriment to survival.

 

"He should be fine once he comes out of his trance," McCoy said at last.

 

Scott nodded, not savvy enough of McCoy's world to ask more specific questions.  "Thot's it for th' report then?"

 

"Almost.  Can you send a tape down to Sickbay?  I know the first thing the captain'll want is to see what happened when he wakes up.  And I've got to keep him still long enough to verify his command capability."

 

"Aye," Scott sighed.  "Albeit, if 'twere up to me, he'd be up there right now."

 

"Lord, Scott.  They're gonna find you stuffed up a Jefferies Tube someday, dead because you forgot to eat or drink.  Are the engines really your whole life?"

 

"They're a lot safer than havin' a relationship with flesh and blood," Scott answered comfortably.  As his "flesh-and-blood" lover was a certain lady named Mira, off on mandatory training leave on Memory Alpha, his strangeness could be excused.

 

McCoy shuddered.  "Lemme guess -- if you die while on ship, we're expected to cremate you in the engines?"

 

"Beats the alternative." Scott answered darkly.  "There's more than reasons o' digestion that I avoid eatin' any of the meat products in the Mess Hall."

 

"And people call me the token ray of sunshine."  McCoy got to his feet with a tired sigh.  "All right.  Let me know when the Alternative Sickbay is finished."

 

"What are ye so nervous for?  It's not like people are lined up with the anxiety o' walkin' in for Sickbay."

 

"For which I'm grateful.  I'm just full of unknown factors right now.  And if I really enjoyed mysteries, I wouldn't be tryin' to solve them."

 

"Have yer fun then." Scott stood and slowly stretched.  "I'm off tae inventory."

 

"Oh, lucky dog." McCoy tried to sneer, but his heart wasn't in it.

 

***

 

At 1600, the captain opened his eyes and more than Moreau breathed a sigh of relief.  The captain was extremely angry about what happened, and that was also cause for relief -- Kirk wouldn't be Kirk if he weren't angry about something.

 

"Are you going to try to stop me from going to my Bridge, doctor?"  Kirk spoke through his teeth as he wrapped his sleeves around his waist.  This particular moment in time, he wasn't actually being angry -- he was just trying like hell to pretend he wasn't half-doubled over with pain.  "Because I'm not satisfied that the saboteur actually was that bastard found with his head blown off."

 

"I'm not about to stop you."  McCoy lifted both hands up, pax.  "But I'm going to really crack down on you if you push yourself too far-- I've given Lieutenant Moreau temporary medical license to give you holy hell if you overdo it."

 

Kirk glared disruptor beams at him.  "I suppose you think that's clever."

 

"Actually, I do," Marlena said sweetly.

 

McCoy loosened the collar of his tunic as the two left -- Kirk's parting eye-sally had the promise of Purgatory later.

 

"You're going to wind up in the Booth before the day is out," Chapel muttered in his ear.

 

"Probably."  He sighed.  "At least the A-waves will kill this headache."

 

"I'm just glad the hallway is a little less crowded," Chapel grumbled.  "Only four left.  Who's next -- Spock or Sulu?"

 

"I bet Sulu."

 

"Spock."  M'Benga held up a credit.

 

"You're just loyalty-betting," Chapel scolded.  "Sure you lose a credit, but you're hoping he finds out you were rooting for him."

 

"I am rooting for him.  There's not too many Vulcan-Humans out there in the Empire.  My job description goes downhill if anything happens to him."

 

"Nice that the First Officer knows exactly where he stands," McCoy said sourly.  "Smack on the other side of an electron microscope."

 

"Come on -- he'd do the same for me.  If I was biologically unique."

 

McCoy shook his head.  "I'm going for lunch in the Back.  Something vegetarian."

 

"You've been listening to Scott again?" Chapel smirked.

 

"Well ... what if he's right?"

 

"McCoy, just think of all the diseases the crew would be coming down with if the captain's enemies were winding up in the food banks."

 

"Nurse, just think of all the captain's enemies who have just disappeared without a trace.  A trace.  A.  Trace.  You might feel confident enough to eat the dumplings, but not me."

 

"What about Sulu?"

 

"If he wakes up while I'm in the back, dismiss him.  He's sleeping with half of my staff anyway -- I doubt there's anything I have to say to him that he doesn't already know."

 

McCoy paged up Buddha's Delight -- pondering again why he hadn't changed his religion to avoid the military -- and poked through a mass of noodles while watching the tape of the bomb.  Scott had been helpful enough to supply little notes on the screen-margins, so if he felt like taking a Night Course in Warp Drive Physics, the information would actually be helpful.

 

It wasn't much to talk about.  There was a blood-red flash, then...  Everything happened quickly, as most bombs do.  Velocity killed, not otherwise inert objects.

 

Kirk was little more than a twisting blur; Chekov had missed the bomb's radius by sheer luck -- which was really funny if you considered the ensign's self-created gloom and doom persona.  Kirk wound up in Uhura's arms, a sprawl of arms and legs that Moreau certainly should not know about -- she wouldn't take her captain's unconsciousness as a good excuse.

 

"Hmph."  Spock's adventure was even less interesting.  He simply dropped like a felled tree when a padd tapped him on the left temple.  McCoy replayed the tape several times, but nothing else revealed itself.

 

He emerged from his office to find Sulu's biobed empty, and a harried looking Chapel.

 

"Mr.  Spock's bodyguards are getting restless."

 

"Vulcans don't get restless, Nurse."

 

"Let me put it this way."  Chapel took a deep breath and held it in for a moment.  "They're standing at perfect attention in the hallway, and staring very, very hard.  They haven't moved in thirty minutes.  They haven't blinked in thirty minutes."

 

"That sounds more like it.  But they probably are blinking with their pesky nictators."

 

"Doctor, I don't want to be executed for your not being able to figure this out.  Call me flighty, but that's how I feel."

 

McCoy blinked, puzzled.  "You mean you won't call in that favor the captain owes you?"

 

"Oh, that makes a lot of sense!" Chapel barked.  "He might pull my fat out of the fire, but Moreau would have me killed out of jealousy!"

 

McCoy realized Chapel was probably not being paranoid with that.  Moreau wasn't just possessive -- there was only a matter of time before somebody named a jealousy complex after her.

 

"Some favor," McCoy said at last.

 

"Probably why he gave me the favor in the first place," Chapel growled.  "Because he knew he wouldn't have to honor it."

 

"Probably.  That does present a poser."  McCoy sat down and began pulling wires out of his personal tricorder.  "Can you get me one of those cesium-rubidium crystals out of the file cabinet?"

 

"What in the world for?"  But Chapel obeyed.

 

The doctor murmured absent thanks and began tinkering with the crystal until it was wire-mounted to the emergency beam on the head of his tricorder.  Satisfied with what Mr. Scott would call irreparable damage to the Empire's property, he went to Spock's bio-bed and hefted the machine up.

 

"You might want to get out of the way," he told her as in afterthought.

 

Chapel obeyed.  You couldn't be too careful.

 

Deep ruby-red light cast down over the Vulcan's face, and McCoy held the beam for the count of twenty, then paused, lowered the tricorder and pulled the Vulcan's eyelid up.  This time he shone the light directly into the nictating membrane.

 

Spock's eyes fully opened.

 

***

 

"M'Benga's going to be very jealous," Chapel warned under her breath.  Spock was now sitting up in bed and taking a strong broth while his relieved bodyguards stood at (if possible) even more attention than before.

 

"Yeah," McCoy sighed.  "Why don't you join his side or something?  It might save you from getting knifed when he wages that eventual takeover."

 

Chapel gave him a scalding look.  "Not as long as he uses those Andorian colognes, I'm not."

 

"What's wrong with Andorian colognes?  If I could afford them, I'd buy them too."

 

"Ohhh."  Chapel exhaled from exasperation for the third time that day (at least to her CO's reckoning).  "That's the point.  He can afford them because he's a cheapskate everywhere else."

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Yes.  He makes twelve credits less than you do."

 

"How do you know?"

 

"I used to be a records clerk."

 

"You did?" McCoy asked, suddenly alarmed.  "Well, for the record, I'm not a cheapskate."

 

"No, you're always broke because your wife was sleeping with the divorce lawyer and now you're paying three times the normal alimony."

 

McCoy stopped dead in his tracks.  "How'd you know that?"

 

This time, she rolled her eyes at him.  "Good Gods, Leonard.  That's the oldest trick in the book.  Why do you think women decide to divorce before the last of their good years are gone?"

 

"Oh."

 

On that meek note, he left the safety of his office for the relative battlefield of his working domain.  There was a great deal of comfort in knowing the doors were proofed against even Vulcan ears.

 

"Morning, Spock.  You look like hell."

 

Spock rarely had patience for bizarre language, and said so.  "I have no idea why you expect that statement to make sense.  A sentient visage cannot resemble a mythological domain."

 

"Haven't you heard of having a face like the badlands?"  McCoy flashed him a grin guaranteed to annoy him -- when McCoy had to approach Spock in his domain, the roles were reversed.  He held up his tricorder.  "Still getting conflicting readings, but as long as you feel fit for duty there's no reason to deny you the continued pleasure of developing that permanent hunch over your science viewer."

 

Spock made one of those "Vulcan sounds" that was as inexplicable to humans as "huh" was to Vulcans.  "How did you stimulate my pineal gland into activity?"

 

"Oh, just noticed that the bomb flash was almost the same red as Vulcan's Eridani.  Figured you'd gone into a protective coma thanks to the wiring of your primitive cortex.  So I just flashed another red light in your eyes and voila."  He paused, ever so slightly.  "Not that I'm complaining, but I wish Vulcan physicians had a decent grasp of Imperial Standard so they could put a couple of footnotes in the xenophysiology books."  He walked over to the wall and programmed another Buddha's Delight.  "By the way, you need to send some of your people down to Food-ops.  The buckwheat noodles have been crossed with the kasha again."

 

"I will be sure to give your palate my highest priority," Spock assured him in most un-assuring tones.

 

"Very good," McCoy smirked.  "Since I'm stuck here I might as well convince Mom I'm eating well.  Not that she believes anything I say since I joined the Heathens."

 

"If your parents wished you to avoid the military, why did they not change their religion?" Spock wanted to know.

 

"I think it was bad parenting." McCoy admitted.  "But my father has occasional irrational notions about "change within the system."

 

"If he feels so, why did he not join?"

 

"He probably did.  At least, that's what I'm led to believe," McCoy sipped his tea reflectively.  "What else can I conclude, if the question, 'Are you Mad-Dog's son?  You look just like him' is a standard precursor to getting the tar whaled out of me in every bar from Terra to Centarus."

 

Spock looked pained.  Idiocy did that to him.  He was one of those rare individuals that was offended by low intelligence.  "Then you should consider improving your fighting skills."

 

"Can't.  Imperial surgeons aren't allowed to use their hands in a non-medical setting."  At Spock's expression, he swallowed his tea and pointed to the computer.  "If you don't believe me, look it up. Medical Paragraph 4b."

 

Spock slid out of his bed with relief.  "At least this conversation has made one thing clear," he announced as he pulled on his tunic.

 

"Oh? What?"

 

"The apparent incongruity of ship's physicians who use 'trust me, I'm a doctor,' before they conduct most unprofessional exams on their patients."

 

McCoy waited until the doors shut after Spock before he snickered.  Chapel must have been busy when his back was turned...