AFTER THE CREDITS--The Apple/ The Trouble With Tribbles
"Son of Tribble"
McCoy scanned Spock from outside his cabin door. The doctor did not want to disturb Spock if he was resting, but he needed to determine the Vulcan's state of health. Spock could weather nearly any disease but one, the common cold. Since his hybrid genes could not tolerate the usual remedies and symptom relievers, Spock had to just ride out the virus until it released its grip on him.
McCoy also wanted to replenish Spock's supply of vegetable broth and hot tea, as well as look in on the tribbles. Fortunately, no one had discovered their existence yet. Spock was still studying the creature's longevity, seeing just how little the animals could survive on without breeding.
The doctor slipped into the overly-warm room and was treated to a shocking sight. Spock was splayed on his back, sound asleep, with a large writhing mass under the covers at his groin.
Spock awakened with a gasp as McCoy sat the two thermoses down on the counter.
"Are those tribbles under the blanket, or are you just glad to see me?" McCoy couldn't resist teasing the staid Vulcan.
Spock peeked under the covers and grimaced.
"Not again," he murmured.
"What are those lil' fellers doing under there?" the doctor asked with a smirk.
"Licking me clean, it would seem," Spock replied with chagrin.
McCoy laughed. "That is some experiment you are conducting here."
"I assure you, Doctor," he replied tiredly, "I did not intend for this to happen…"
"Again." Spock looked over at the specimen case that he had placed the tribbles in the night before. Sure enough, the closing mechanism had been dislodged. His tribbles just did not want him to be alone, it seemed.
"Do you need a towel?" McCoy offered.
Spock looked down at himself again. "No, thank you," he replied. "The tribbles did an adequate job."
"So that's how you ended up with green tribbles, eh Spock?"
Spock couldn't help but blush. He hadn't wanted anyone, least of all McCoy, to know about that first occurrence. And now, here the doctor was, witness to this second shameful act that Spock didn't even have the pleasure of remembering.
"Don't worry about it," McCoy assured. "It's just a reflex. The tribbles were only trying to keep warm and fed." McCoy placed a hand on Spock's forehead and looked into the Vulcan's eyes. "So, how are you feeling this afternoon?"
"Afternoon?" Spock puzzled. How many hours had he slept?
"Yes," McCoy confirmed. "It is now 13:50. I bought you more broth and tea. I want all of it gone by 1800 hours, clear?"
"Yes, Mother," Spock replied.
"Don't be a smartass," McCoy responded as he took a look at Spock's eardrums. "No infection, but they are all drawn in. Have you taken a hot shower yet? Did you use the menthol tablet like I told you?"
"Yes and yes, Doctor," Spock answered, "but that was 14 hours ago."
"Well, then, your first item of business is to take another hot shower," McCoy ordered. "Let the water hit your face. Take deep breaths from the steam and vapor. Then come out here and start drinking your soup and tea. I'll hide your tribbles in my quarters so you can get some proper rest."
Spock caught himself pouting on the way to the shower. Snuggling with his tribbles was nearly as good as snuggling with Ee-Chaya, his childhood pet sehlat. However, Ee-Chaya never caused the same dramatic reaction the tribbles did, and all that the sehlat had ever licked off of Spock were the tears from the young boy's face when life overwhelmed him.
As Spock inhaled the medicated steam, he thought about what to do about the tribbles.
* * *
Doctor McCoy bundled the three tribbles in what was handy--Spock's meditation robe and headed for the door. He opened it, looked carefully up and down the hallway, and then scooted off for his cabin. Not three feet from safety, the doctor ran into the captain. McCoy froze for only a second like a deer caught in the headlights. He muttered, "Captain," with a nod and tried to slip past Kirk and into the safety of his quarters.
"Bones?" Kirk asked in a puzzled voice. "What are you doing with Spock's robe?"
"Robe" he repeated, stalling for time. "Oh, you mean this. Well, I, uh, I'm borrowing it. My sisters like to embroider, and I was going to scan in the fancy stitching here and send it to them." Kirk didn't seem to be buying it, so the doctor summoned up some unfelt bravado. "Spock's been ordered to bed rest, not meditating. He won't be needing this for a while."
"Does he at least know you have it?" Kirk asked, looking out for his best friend.
"Uh, yeah, sure," McCoy stammered. "He knows."
At that moment, the tribbles started to trill from inside the confining folds of Spock's robe. McCoy put a fist to his midsection, then said, "'Scuse me. Today's casserole." When the trilling started again, McCoy pushed forward to his cabin and slipped inside, coughing to cover the noise. "Must be catching Spock's cold. I'll just go medicate myself."
The doors closed in the face of a very suspicious Captain Kirk.
McCoy breathed a sigh of relief and uncovered the tribbles. "Pipe down, willya?" he whispered. "You're gonna get us all shoved out the airlock in our skivvies!"
The doctor looked at the treble of tribbles, curiouser than a cat over why the tribbles were green. He decided to risk taking them to the labs to study them in depth. McCoy called up a specimen case, loaded the animals inside, closed the sound-proof container, and carried them to the Science Labs.
As Murphy's Law would have it, the equipment that McCoy needed for his study was in the same lab that Nurse Chapel was presently using. Since she seemed engrossed in her own project at the far end of the room, McCoy risked removing a tribble, prayed to God that it would remain quiet, and started his scans. As soon as the scan was complete, he loaded the tribble back in the case and waited for the report.
What he found was astounding.
He wasn't sure how he missed it the first time he studied the tribbles. They weren't, strictly speaking, asexual. If he squinted when he read the data, he could say that all tribbles were actually female. Instead of using sperm to fertilize themselves, however, they used the DNA from whatever they found to eat. As McCoy thought about it, he realized that, when the tribbles ate the grain, they were all basically the same color. The only variant was shades of the same color.
That would explain the green tribbles. After eating Spock's… After consuming Spock's DNA, they would produce green tribbles with rusty red highlights. McCoy couldn't help it. He muttered, "Fascinating."
"What's so fascinating, Doctor?" Chapel's voice said far too close for McCoy's guilty comfort.
"Just doing some research, Nurse," he replied as he hurriedly closed the screen, gathered some tapes and the specimen case, and scooted out of the door.
"Now what could be so fascinating?" Chapel wondered and she re-opened the screen and recovered the data.
Vulcan DNA in a tribble? That would mean that Mister Spock and a tribble had done, well, it.
"Ew," was all Nurse Chapel could think to say.
* * *
McCoy made it back to his quarters, took the tribbles out of the case, rewrapped them in Spock's meditation robe, and hurried out the door to the Vulcan's side. What a tale he had to tell!
Once more, McCoy encountered Captain Kirk.
"What's in the bundle, Bones?" Kirk said in a low, dangerous voice.
"Just Spock's robe, Captain," McCoy laughed nervously. "He needs it by now. 'Scuse me."
Kirk was having none of the doctor's evasion tactics. He grabbed McCoy by the arm in a strong grip.
The tribbles sensed McCoy's feelings of danger and panic. The three of them let out a cacophony of screeches, as if their uncle-protector McCoy was being attacked by Klingons.
"Tribbles!" Kirk hissed. "How dare you harbor tribbles after what we just went through!" Kirk made a grab for the bundle.
"Spock!" McCoy screamed.
The Vulcan appeared at the door to his quarters at the commotion. McCoy tossed him the robe, praying that the creatures would not tumble out. Spock caught the cloth, grabbed McCoy by the elbow, pulled him into his cabin, and locked the door in the span of a heartbeat.
"Contagion protocols, Doctor," Spock suggested. "He may try to phaser the doors open."
"Computer," McCoy called, "contagion protocols, Mr. Spock's cabin. Authorization McCoy lambda mu."
The two men heard a screech as Kirk's tirade and call for a phaser was cut short with a yelp. When the captain had tried to pound on the door, he inadvertently hit the forcefield instead. Of course, that only served to increase Kirk's ire.
Spock gave McCoy a puzzled look.
"Quick," the doctor said, "give the tribbles names and register them as family."
"Just do it," McCoy replied, "and hurry. You have to put them under your family's protection right now before Jim sends them to kingdom come." He led Spock to his computer. "You type while I explain."
Spock's fingers flew over the keys as he typed in his request. He looked around his quarters for inspiration for the tribbles' names. He named them A'rs'a, Asenara, and Ausachya, and requested protection fro his family over the little trio.
"The animals are not asexual as we first thought," McCoy explained. "They are all female, and they use the DNA of their food source to indirectly fertilize their eggs. Therefore, these tribbles are not your pets, Spock. Genetically, they are your offspring. You are able to keep them as legitimate heirs."
As if on cue, the tribbles leapt into Spock's arms. He tenderly held his three "daughters" to his chest as McCoy lowered the forcefield on the door and opened it.
Captain Kirk peered into his First Officers quarters and saw the Vulcan shielding three tribbles. Instead of bursting into the room and continuing his verbal barrage, Kirk walked in slowly and dangerously quiet.
"Don't take my tribbles, Jim," Spock whispered.
"They're vermin," Kirk grated, "and a risk to my ship." He took another look at the creatures snuggling close to Spock. "Why are they green?" Kirk asked.
Spock ducked his head sheepishly. "They have Vulcan DNA."
Kirk looked at his friend with disbelief. "Spock, what the hell have you been doing in there?" he demanded.
leapt in to explain. He appealed to the
Kirk balked. "They have to go," he ordered.
"They are under the protection of my family," Spock informed.
Kirk said nothing further, but McCoy noted the captain's clenching jaw muscles and the reddening cast to his skin. His blood pressure was rising.
Kirk turned abruptly and stormed out.
"We're in deep shit," McCoy observed.
"Indeed, Doctor," Spock concurred.
* * *
Spock returned to duty the next day. Kirk did not speak to either Spock or McCoy except in the line of duty.
Spock and McCoy continued to observe the tribbles for four days. They finally determined that their life span was only one week. So much of the tribble's energy went into reproduction, and, since Spock had only been feeding them one seed a day plus whatever they got from him, their final litter was very small and, sadly, not viable.
Spock and McCoy went to Kirk's office to face the music.
Kirk gave his two officers icy stares and said nothing.
"The tribbles are gone," Spock reported sadly.
"Are you certain?" the captain asked frostily.
Spock nodded. "I held them as they died."
Kirk studied the mournful expressions on the two men's faces.
"Did you put them down?" he asked, using the colloquialism for euthanasia.
Spock shook his head. "No," he replied softly. "They died giving birth."
"What happened to the babies?" Kirk asked.
"They weren't fully formed, Jim," McCoy supplied. "They didn't make it either."
Kirk noticed the funereal air of his two officers. "Gentlemen," he rejoined, "we are talking about the equivalent of field mice here!"
"Life is life, Jim," Spock replied.
"But you're reacting as if they were your children!" Kirk snapped.
Spock's eyes flashed. "Because I am a hybrid, Jim, I was told not to ever expect children," he retorted. "This was the closest I have ever come to being a father."
Ludicrous! Kirk thought. "So, have you come to ask for a funeral?" he said sarcastically. "For a trip home to Vulcan?"
McCoy eyed Kirk angrily. "No, Captain," the doctor replied frostily. "We've already celebrated the death rituals. We came here to apologize to you and to present ourselves for disciplinary action."
Kirk studied the two men for a moment.
"What good will that do?" Kirk asked irately. "You obviously decided that your actions were better than my orders, and given the same set of circumstances, you would most likely do it all again."
Spock and McCoy exchanged glances.
"You are probably correct," Spock agreed. "However, we know that we have deeply wounded our friendship with you and broken your trust in us. What can we do to repair that?"
Leave it to Spock to bluntly state the obvious. Kirk still stung with anger, an anger that he had held for nearly a week. It would be easy to sever his ties of friendship with these men, but he also knew that it would be impossible. They had all, multiple times, put their lives on the line for each other. Kirk couldn't overlook that. Yet he also couldn't disregard the fact that these men had also disobeyed a direct order.
Kirk rose to his feet and hit a button on his desk. "Computer, record disciplinary hearing on Commander Spock and on Lieutenant Commander Leonard H. McCoy. For disobeying direct orders of Captain James T. Kirk, they are hereby sentenced to one week in the brig on rations, sentence suspended. Record disciplinary action in the officer's permanent records. Kirk, James T., Captain, USS Enterprise."
McCoy blew out a sigh of relief. He hated rations. Spock merely nodded his gratitude for the light sentence.
Kirk sat back down and looked at his friends. He couldn't image their friendship ever breaking up, so he decided to start rebuilding it. He motioned them to sit.
"So," Kirk began, "tell me about your tribbles, Spock. What did you name them?"
Both men relaxed at the captain's acceptance.
"I named one of them A'rs'a, which means 'dance,'" he began. "She was quite agile. Her littermate I named Asenara, or 'lantern,' because she seemed to light up whenever I came into the room. Their mother was named Ausachya, or 'fur,' because it was her fur that first started to show the pronounced green colorations."
"And I supposed you were their fairy godfather, eh, Bones?" Kirk teased.
McCoy grinned. "You could say that. I wish we could have shared them with you sooner. They were so damn cute, and little Houdinis to boot. It was so hard to keep them in their cage. You should have seen…"
Kirk listened to his friends as they related story after story about the creatures. Yes, their friendship was strong. This incident was hardly a blip on the screen. The three friends would survive this event with nary a lick of tribble.