DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kelthammer and is copyright (c) 2002 by Kelthammer. This story is Rated G.



Paper Tiger

Kelthammer



Mostly out of sheer exposure, Spock had become quite fair at gauging human behavior. Some humans, he had learned, reacted upon a stressful situation like others would upon opiates: they were incapable of lying or not saying what was exactly on their mind.

Case in point: ship's surgeon.

Dr. McCoy glanced down, his eye following the captain's wince. He sighed with a rather fatalistic air. "Oh, hell... That's gonna leave a scar."

Spock spared him a look of a bona fide emotion -- disbelief -- as he flipped the communicator open. The landslide had dislodged most of the overhanging, quartz-laden boulders that had made shiptalk impossible, but it was highly unlikely that was why the Canopians had caused it.

Supporting his doctor from behind, Jim chuckled in McCoy's ear. "Spock's never been hit with an arrow before," he confided, sotto voce.

"Oh." McCoy gingerly put his hand around the protruding shaft of the missile, holding it in place against the arm muscle. "Don't worry, Spock," he assured the Vulcan. "It's really one of the best ways to get shot. I'm not saying there's a good way, but there's a lot worse. Arrows hardly hurt at all ... you can generally function until you get to medical help. So long as you're not plugged in a fatal place."

"Enterprise." Spock foraged forward verbally, his dark eyes looking a little wild at the corners. He could see no new signs of panicky natives, but that hardly meant they weren't out there.

"Honest," Jim chipped in. "Those primitive exploding munitions like bullets, they literally rip your flesh apart. But arrows just go in smooth and clean. How's the bleeding, Bones?"

"Not too bad." McCoy gingerly peeked into his collar. "Missed all the majors. 'Course, that's because they didn't know where they were, I bet."

"No doubt." Jim nodded. "Want to wager a little of your paycheck that that's where the Canopian artery is?"

"Not taking--"

"ENGERGIZE," Spock fairly barked.

"--that bet." McCoy put his free arm around Jim's neck as the captain picked him up and stepped off the transporter platform, Spock in tow with what was left of the beam down supplies. Behind the console, Mr. Kyle whistled appreciatively.

"Looks like a good'un, Doctor."

"Thanks, Kyle."

"Feel anything yet, Bones?"

"Nope."

"Bet I can sprint you to Sickbay before you do."

"No. I'm not taking that bet ei--" The doors hissed shut. Spock exhaled, and began the long, involved chore of cataloging their surviving equipment, followed by a painstaking explanation to Starfleet on the precise fate of each piece of Fleet property that had been lost, destroyed, or declared MIA.

* * *

"...so then I just looked down, and saw this thing stickin' out of my arm. Crazy, but it sure beats a kleeat from Capella IV!"

"Did you ever get a kleeat from Capella IV?"

"Nurse, nobody 'gets' a kleeat from Capella IV. They get planted by 'em. No, but this makes the fourth time I've modeled the latest fashion for aggressive warfare since I joined the service!"

Christine was shaking her head as she passed over a large beige-colored drink to her boss. "That happened to one of my cousins, actually. Got shot by an arrow without knowing it."

"What was he doing, exploring a foreign planet too?"

"Actually, he was in Florida, hunting black bear."

"Who the hell would hunt black bear in Florida?"

"Did I mention my cousin is certifiable?"

"Uh." McCoy took a sip. Over the rim of the frosty glass, his eyebrows met in the middle. "I guess you didn't have to mention it, when I think about it."

"Anyway, it turns out there were a lot of poachers in the area, and arrows shoot silently."

"Huh. Yeah, my family's pretty active in the ol' 'prematurely tagged' hunting and fishing section too."

"Well, he was pretty disappointed that there wasn't much of a scar. Just a tiny slice in his leg."

"Did you tell him better luck next time?"

"His mother did. They're a lot alike."

"Lovely." McCoy blinked at the new arrival. "Hi, Spock, sit down. We're swapping arrow stories. Do Vulcans have archery?"

"It would be a waste of valuable wood," Spock admitted. "We were more attuned to the sling and sand-traps."

"No kidding. Want a latte?"

"I do not take dairy," Spock reminded them.

"It's okay. It's a Caribe Coffee." Chapel pulled another glass from nowhere.

Spock took a sip and realized the milk was coconut. "Enjoy it." The Nurse sighed. "I've been limited to one a week."

"Join the next Landing Party. I guarantee you'll work off those pesky fat grams while running desperately for your life. Or bleeding them out with the latest projectile," McCoy told her dryly.

"There's very little fat in blood, Leonard. Not worth my while."

"Sign up for one of Jim's Certifiably Insane Exercise Regimes." The doctor persisted. "You'll love it. He makes you do a mile under eleven minutes, then you swim laps around the pool fully clothed. Sometimes he lets you put on a breathing mask first."

"What did I ever do to you?" Christine was dismayed. "Or did you get clipped on the head by a blunt arrow?"

"Hey!" McCoy called after her. "Don't walk off! I want a shot at the last word!" He sighed as the door shut. "Streuth. Well. How's it going?"

"Nearly all of the lost equipment was declared irreparable," Spock explained. "One communicator and a medical tricorder was declared unknown."

"Well, landslides of granite boulders can do that." McCoy let his head fall back on the head pad with a sigh. "How about the usual CO reports?"

"As expected." Spock took another drink. "The captain is putting another commendation in your record." As a faint groan floated up, the Vulcan's eyebrow did the same. "You disagree?"

"I don't want any more commendations." McCoy had his hands over his eyes, hiding most of his face. Plastiskin rippled over a tiny arrow-slit in his bare arm. "No. Tell him no. I don't want it."

"It is a factual account," Spock began.

"Ohhh, God! Spock, think about it!"

"Think about what, Doctor? You appear to be in genuine distress."

"Genuine distress? What did you think this was?"

"An example of your usual tiresome false modesty."

"It is not false modesty! I mean, most modesty is false modesty, but Good God, Spock! Do you use that brain of yours for anything simpler than temporal equations?"

"I do not understand."

"No, I can see that." McCoy tried getting up, but Spock swiftly made that impossible. The doctor settled for breathing hard until his voice was properly collected.

"Spock, how many commendations have you garnered in two years?"

Spock did not hesitate. "Fourteen."

"How many of them were given you because you put yourself between Jim and some kind of alien menace?"

Spock considered. "Seven."

"How many commendations have I garnereed in two years?"

"Twelve."

"How many of them were given me because I put myself between Jim and some kind of alien menace?"

Spock stared at him. "I believe I see the point you are making."

"Well, good. That's just good. Now. Do you think, when this mission is over, said and done, its going to reflect well on any of us that: a) we have a walking accident for a CO, and; b) we perpetuate his record of chaos by gleefully blocking his hard head with our own, marginally smarter selves?"

"Colored emotionally, but I can comprehend what you are saying," Spock confessed. "Enabling is not considered wise among the Admiralty Board."

"No, it is not," McCoy said through his fingers. "You see, there are only twelve Constellation Starships in the Fleet. An alarming number of them have fallen casualty to various bizarre fates. The Admiralty Board is leaning hard on the Medical Board to lean on the Board of CMOs to try to keep their ships safe, dammit, and contrary to popular belief, they take a dim view indeed to anything that resembles a martyr complex. Jim's already displaying it in spades, and they're starting to look at us now, because we're getting an unfortunate reputation for pulling his fat out of the fire he shouldn't be firewalking in in the first place."

Spock slowly, reluctantly nodded. "As First Officer, I have been aware of a similar concern from the Board of Executive Command," he admitted. "My father tells me the health insurance rates are about to double for starship crewmen, plus full coverage burial rates."

"Egad. Sarek's just a fountain of gossip." McCoy finally uncovered his face, which made him easier to understand. "But good. I'm glad to hear that. Now how long do you think it will take you to get that commendation stricken off my record?"

"I am not certain," Spock admitted. "He may have already sent it out."

"Then you'd best hurry, hadn't you?" The doctor blinked. "Hey, wait a minute. What are you doing here anyway? You avoid Sickbay even more than our illustrious captain!"

"I was hoping you could submit a report to the anthropology department along with the artifact."

"Artifact? That artifact made me lose half a pint of blood and had to be pried out of bone!" The doctor leaned backwards and pulled the arrow from the daytable, slapping the tool lightly in his palm. "Nice, though, don't you think?" He confessed with open admiration in his face. "Beautiful Clovis-style point. Probably knapped out of imported rock or harvested from a waterwash."

"Why would you speculate this?"

McCoy's smile was sweet, and therefore, evil. "I'll put it in my report. Which you'll get after you make Jim pull that commendation of my record."

"I do not believe I can 'make' Jim do anything," Spock said dryly.

"Then logic him out of it. Find an excuse."

"Logic is not based upon finding excuses, Doctor. Even you should be aware of that."

"No? I coulda sworn logic was all about rationalizing your behavior." The smile only grew wider. "First my record, then your report."

* * *

SIX HOURS LATER:

"Doctor?"

"Hmn?"

"My apologies. I did not know if you were asleep."

"When in doubt, check a pulse."

"Doctor?"

"Best asleep than dead. So? Did you do it?"

"I believe I convinced Jim to strike the point," Spock answered slowly. "At least, as far as your protecting him was concerned."

"There's a 'but' in your voice, Vulcan. Can I get the whole story, or are you going to string me along for three days?"

"There is no need to exaggerate."

"A small exaggeration, Mr. Spock, merely amplifies the absurdity of a given situation." With the presence of mild sleep aids, the doctor's accent thickened to Tulepo honey. "Now what's the full deal?"

"I believe you are getting a commendation anyway."

"Great balls of fire! Waitaminit, what for?"

"The commendation was already filed; simply under vague language. Jim promised to modify it so no one would know you were protecting him."

"I've got an awful feeling." McCoy was wide awake now, and looking nervous. "What's he gonna tell Starfleet?"

"I do not know," Spock paused. "He would not say." He cocked his head to one side. "Doctor, do you wish a painkiller?"

"Why would I want a painkiller?"

"I distinctly heard you moan, and masochism is not a part of your personality..."

"Spock, serving under Jim is a lesson in self-abuse. But no, I'm not in pain. I'm in dread. I know that cornfed Iowa boy. I'm not going to like what he writes. I just know it."

"I will inform you as soon as I know something." Spock said doubtfully.

McCoy only exhaled and looked weary. "Crazy job. Nothing but crazy luck from the get-go. At least the Canopians weren't really out to get us."

"I fail to see how you, of all people, would come to this conclusion."

"Common sense, Spock. Lookit the arrowhead." McCoy shoved the weapon under Spock's nose. "It's a Clovis Point?"

"And this means?"

"It's a hunting arrow. They had arrows for warfare in their quivers, but they didn't use them. Ergo, we stumbled on a small hunting party and frightened them nearly to death."

"What would the difference between warfare and hunting arrows be?"

"Boy, you Vulcans really didn't mess with archery, did you? Okay, Spock, Clovis points are meant to be used again if the tip doesn't break off in the bone. It's designed to go in nice and neat, see, there's even a cute lil' blood groove in the stone here." McCoy ran his fingers over the area in question, and Spock nodded. "Warfare arrows are designed for things that are really really big and bad, like, say, a grizzly bear, or something that can shoot back at you. They're napped with barbs in the end; the barbs catch in the flesh and the point works ever deeper inside, until it finally slices an artery or ligament. Making this even harder to come out, a wartip is designed to break off from the shaft almost as soon as the head impacts with the target. You'll note, my esteemed Head Nurse pulled this beauty out without a problem."

Spock was unusually impressed. "Is this in your report to Anthropology?"

"That and much more." McCoy's smile was back. "Now, can you please find out what Jim is up to?"

Spock's shoulders drooped in a sigh. "I will do what I can."

"That's good of you."

"Hardly. Canopia has been declared quarantine and further beam downs are unlikely. Your report supporting startled hunters may change that."

"Great. But I'm not going down there anymore. For the record."

"What if Jim beamed down?"

"Spock, you don't torture the wounded. It's not nice."

* * *

FOUR HOURS LATER:

"Equipment? Risking my life to save valuable equipment??"

"Doctor, your blood pressure gauge is rising with alarming speed."

"@(%*&@% my blood pressure @$)%*&@ gauge! I don't believe that @#(%*@%&))!! Get these #(%*&@%# restraints off before I really go off!"

"Having anticipated a reaction of this nature, doctor, can you fault me for restraining you before reporting?"

"You did it while I was still asleep. A %#@(*&@% dirty trick if you ask me. Risking my @#(%*&@ life to save valuable equipment? Those were his @(#%*& exact words?"

"Yes, doctor."

"Anybody who knows me will be laughing their !(%*^&! stripes off! I'll never be able to show my face at the medicon again! Commodore Boyce will send me gag certificates for years! And Mark -- omigod, Mark! I'll never be able to attend a quarterly conference again! And I'll lose my license if I don't attend one every year! And they'll fine me too!"

"Doctor, your blood pressure..."

* * *

TWENTY HOURS LATER:

"He's hiding, isn't he?" McCoy demanded.

"Who is?" Spock wondered blandly from the other side of his office desk, as if he didn't already know that 'he' had been McCoy's pronoun for the captain since their beamup.

"Captain James T. Kirk, T for Tiger, as in, Paper Tiger, as in, Paper Tiger Kills with Many Cuts!" McCoy waved a sheaf of plastic government foolscap in the air with his good arm. "That mathom! That -- that -- poosking, pennyfeist Plutarchian! Did you read this blasted report?"

"Yes--"

"And, oh, what a grand report this is. Sliced by clumsy Canopians, minutes before they accidentally start a rockslide that marginally protects us, but stubs a few native toes and makes them retreat. Dear God."

"Do you agree that the captain did find a plausible excuse for your commendation?"

"Getting shot trying to save a medical tricorder??? I'll grant you, that's a shade better than just saving 'valuable equipment', but my friends are gonna want to know just what was so damnall important about that tricorder that would make me take a shot for it!"

"Perhaps you should discuss this with the captain?"

"I've been trying, for the love of God! But I can't find him! Why do you think I asked you where he was? Don't the Klingons have some kind of plausible reason for calling you 'Kirk's Shadow'??"

"Because I consistantly stand behind him when he faces the sun?"

"SPOCK TELL ME WHERE OUR CAPTAIN IS!"

"I cannot tell you with any certainty, but it is reasonable to assume that at this time of evening, he would be in the Officer's Mess."

"Stocking up on forbidden TVP starches again, I'll bet. Okay, but if I can't find him, I'm headed straight back here!"

It it were possible, McCoy would have slammed the door after him. Spock regarded his return to solitude in silence, then returned to his computer.

"Computer, please define 'poosking pennyfeist.'"

* * *

ONE HOUR LATER:

"That sonofarabidbloodworm!"

"Good evening, Doctor. Am I to understand you found the captain?"

"Oh, I found him all right! The sonuvatinker told the Medical Board I was working too hard! He got them to stick me on medical leave!"

"Perhaps that would be for the best. You appear to be easily stressed of late."

"It's not about stress! It's about revenge! He's getting to me before I can get to him!"

"Getting to..? Now, really, Doctor..."

"You think I'm exaggeratin' don't you?"

"Obviously."

"Well, I'm not. And I can prove it! Because, y'see, he put you on medical leave too!"

"Why would I be put on medical leave with you?"

"Because you've been fielding calls for both of us! I think he's jest a lil' ol' bit paranoid about your part in this whole mess. A week or two of rest and he thinks we'll beam back, no hard feelings."

"I have no 'hard' feelings. Emotions do not have texture."

"Tell that to a Deltan."

"Deltans are not Vulcans. Ergo, that argument does not apply."

"No? How about minimal dissatisfaction at being unable to complete your report on the Canopian sociological system?"

"I confess, that did not escape me."

"Hah! All these years, and I've been going at it wrong! Paint it up the words with 48-karat veneer and you can admit to emotion!"

"Doctor..."

"Spit it out. What's my harebrained excuse for risking my life for a medical tricorder?"

"I thought you were wanting a plausible excuse, not a flimsy one."

"Spooooockkkk..."

"I found some data that might be important enough to defend."

"Which is?"

"The Canopian mitochondria is identical to that on Roma II."

"Oh, Lord God on High." McCoy put his head on his desk and piled his arms atop.

"Doctor? Is this useless information?"

"No ... no ... no ... better hung for a sheep as a lamb, Granny always said."

"Why would one choose to be hung at all?"

"That's... Spock, are you sure your mother is human?"

"Why would you ask that?"

"Sometimes..." McCoy rubbed his face. "Look. I can use whatcha got. It's just that ... well, I got drunk at the last medicon -- not to be confused with the other times I get drunk at medicons -- and theorized we kept running into humanoid races because there were a bunch of omnipotent god species that liked to stick us on various planets like we were potted plants. Some people really liked that theory ... but a lot of people got madder'n hornets."

"So you are saying this mitochondria sampling will inadverdantly fit your drunken ramblings?"

"Arrow's in the top right drawer, on top of the hardcopy anthro report. File it quick. We're headed for Sigma Gamma at 1400."

"Sigma Gamma?"

"Didn't I say Jim was a little mad at us?"

"Shore leave on Sigma Gamma seems a bit extreme."

"What are you complaining about? The planet's swarming with computer technicians!"

"Males are a minority on that planet, doctor, as you are well aware. With a minority status, and chauvinistic mentality thereof. The females have free reign with the men but the reverse is not true."

"Yeah. It's gonna be like my marriage, on a global scale. We'll have to stick together for protection."

"What could you protect me from?"

"I can smell a come-on a mile away. You can't."

"Granted. But is there no other alternative?"

"Oh, sure. Jim said we didn't have to go on leave at all, just spend it on the ship if we were okay with taking the Updated Jakob-Tarr Test."

"That sounds like an adequate alternative."

"Spock, I am not taking the Jakob-Tarr Test."

"Is there a reason?"

"It's a theoretical gauge of one's potential in retaining common reasoning abilities in unique and stressful situations."

"Why is this a problem?"

"Spock, which would you prefer: saying you failed an insanity test, or passed it?"

"....."

"Wow. That's a full minute you've been speechless. I'm impressed."

Spock sighed for the third time in thirty hours. "When will we be leaving for Sigma Gamma?"



The End

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