Star Trek: The Motion Picture

or

Twelve Can be a Dangerous Number

Montgomery looked over the cadet's shoulder, watching as he repaired the simulator.

"Does that look right, commander Scott?" the cadet asked hopefully when he'd finished.

"Aye, laddie, it looks fine." He patted the man on the shoulder. "Keep up the good work."

Montgomery sighed as he walked away. He sighed every time he said "laddie," because it reminded him of his best friend, Doctor McCoy, who he hadn't seen in three years. The doctor had written a couple times, but it just wasn't the same. Besides, Montgomery always got depressed by the letters, because he couldn't read the Doctor's handwriting, so he just had to sit and stare at the page and wonder mournfully what the Doctor had written. Perhaps he was just saying, "Hello, Scotty, everything's fine here," in more words. Or it could be that he was saying, "I sure miss you, Scotty, I wish you were here with me." Or maybe, "Help, Scotty, I'm dying!" Or possibly even, "Scotty, how about beaming me aboard for a visit? I'll bring some pistachios."

The only person he knew who could read the Doctor's handwriting well enough to at least get a general idea of what was being said was James Kirk, the former captain of the Enterprise. But Scotty couldn't ask him. For one thing, the Doctor had made him swear early on that James Kirk would never be told about their friendship - James Kirk thought that he was Doctor McCoy's best friend, and the Doctor was afraid that if he knew the truth, he would blow up the universe, kill somebody, or at least get severely depressed. Naturally, Montgomery hadn't wanted any of those things to happen, so he'd promised.

For another thing, Montgomery hadn't seen James Kirk in three years either. Three years before, the Doctor had retired from active service, James Kirk had become an admiral and left active service, and James Kirk's other best friend Spock had gone to his home planet Vulcan to do something Montgomery didn't understand, thereby abandoning active service.

Of course, even if Montgomery had had the guts to suggest that he retire from active service, it simply would never be allowed. He had too much of a reputation for being a miracle worker when it came to engineering. Early on in his career Montgomery had thought it was rather exciting to be known as the miracle worker of Starfleet, but now as he grew older he thought it was rather a bore - it kept him from doing the things he wanted, more than anything else.

There was no hope of the original crew ever being back together again on the Enterprise, Montgomery thought mournfully. Spock had to live the rest of his life getting rid of his remaining emotions, James Kirk was too important now to come back to the command of a starship, and Doctor McCoy had sworn never to return to Starfleet.

Montgomery found the thought rather depressing.

With another sigh, he sat down in his quarters to look over the Doctor's last letter from three months ago and try to decipher some more of it. So far all he'd made out was:

"Dear Scotty, imminerhatz thellinerdab shazlit hocus pocus internallia bellalinga thronus yamma lots of chicken pox heverinna uva resnes write soon undislena misermina gati, love, Doctor McCoy."

Which wasn't very enlightening, at least, Montgomery didn't think so. And quite frankly, he wasn't sure if it said "chicken pox" or "children's fox," but since Doctor McCoy was - quite obviously - a doctor, he had thought the former a valid guess.

He had just finished figuring out that "imminerhatz" meant "I'm doing well," when a voice spoke from a nearby speaker.

"Commander Scott, you've been ordered to travel to Space Dock to bring someone over, as I informed headquarters that our transporters are non functional."

Montgomery walked to the speaker to answer. "Thank you, Commander Uhura. I'll be on my way at once."

He was about to leave, glad to get away from his depressing thoughts for awhile, when Uhura's voice sounded from the speaker again. "Oh and by the way, Scotty, we have orders from Starfleet that the Enterprise is to depart in twelve hours instead of twenty.

"Twelve hours?" he exploded, almost literally. "Twelve hours? How in the…"

"I've got to go now, Scotty."

"But wait…" He sighed on his way out. "Twelve hours. That's impossible even for me. Well, that's what I get for pretending to be a miracle worker. Now they really expect me to be one."

When he reached Space Dock, he waited impatiently for the officer - whoever it was, probably some young cadet who wouldn't know anything and would just be in the way - to beam up. He really should be getting back to work. Twelve hours…

Finally, the officer materialized under the transporter. Montgomery gaped when he saw who it was.

"Why, Admiral Kirk!" He rushed forward happily to shake James Kirk's hand. "It's so good to see you again."

"The same to you, Mr. Scott."

"But those departure orders, Admiral," Scotty grunted as they walked to the travel pod, "twelve hours… Starfleet cannot be serious."

"I'm afraid they can, Mr. Scott."

"But we've just spent eighteen months refitting and redesigning the Enterprise! How on earth do they expect me to have her ready in twelve hours?"

"They don't expect you to have her ready on earth, Mr. Scott, they expect you to have her ready in drydock." James Kirk stepped into the pod, and Montgomery followed, still grumbling.

"But she needs more work sir! Twelve hours…" he pushed a button to release the pod and start it towards the Enterprise. "She needs a proper shakedown first…"

"Mr. Scott, there's an alien object of unbelievable destructive power only three days away from this planet. The Enterprise is the only ship in intersection range. Ready or not, she launches in twelve hours."

Montgomery grumbled again. "Twelve hours…"

"Do you have a particular problem with the number twelve, Mr. Scott?"

"Aye, sir."

"What is it, if I may ask?"

Montgomery hesitated. It was a bit of a private joke between himself and Doctor McCoy that twelve was their unlucky number. But he didn't dare explain this to Kirk, who labored under the delusion that he was Doctor McCoy's best friend, and that McCoy and Montgomery hardly knew each other.

"Nothing, sir."

Kirk raised one eyebrow (a trick he'd learned from his other best friend, Mr. Spock) but said nothing.

"The crew hasn't had near enough time to adjust to all the new equipment," Montgomery began grumping. "And the engines haven't even been tested at warp power… and an untried captain." Montgomery squirmed thinking about Captain Decker, who struck him as just a little too hot-headed.

Kirk smiled, and said, "Well, three years away may have made me a bit stale, but I wouldn't exactly consider myself - untried."

Montgomery shook his head absently. "No, no, I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about the Captain of the Enter…" He widened his eyes and looked at James Kirk in astonishment. "Wait, do you mean…"

James Kirk positively grinned. "They gave her back to me, Scotty."

Montgomery felt himself grin too. One down, he thought to himself, but then he felt mildly depressed again as he thought how hopeless it was for Doctor McCoy or Spock to come back. "After all you must have been through to get the command back, sir, I would not dare to disappoint you. She'll launch on time, sir. And she'll be ready."

Kirk clapped him on the back, and Montgomery mentally added, even if it has to be twelve hours…

As the pod began to approach drydock, Montgomery noticed with pride that Kirk seemed rather taken with the view of the newly improved Enterprise. He filled with pride. Yes, it did look rather good, if he did say so himself. Perhaps Kirk would like to see the front too, he thought, so he began to take the pod around to the front.

Kirk looked smilingly at the beautifully refitted ship. It was rather beautiful, Montgomery thought, smiling a bit himself. Perhaps Kirk would like to see the front of it for a little longer, he thought, so he went further before turning around to go to it.

Kirk didn't seem to be smiling quite as much, but by now Montgomery was so excited about the new and improved Enterprise that he thought perhaps Kirk would like to see the other side of it, so he started taking him around to that side.

Now Kirk wasn't smiling at all - in fact, he was looking at Montgomery with a rather inexplicably bored expression. He's so happy about it, Montgomery thought, that he's forgotten to smile. So he began taking the pod around to the back of the Enterprise, hoping to show that off too.

Strangely, Kirk wasn't looking at the Enterprise any more. Instead, he was looking at Montgomery rather as if he would like to yell something at him. He's so excited he can hardly contain himself, Montgomery thought proudly. Still, we only have twelve hours, so I'd better go ahead and go aboard. One of us has to have some self control.

When he docked the pod, Kirk turned rather shortly to him. "Thank you, Mr. Scott."

Was that a hint of sarcasm in his voice? Montgomery wondered. No, surely not. "Aye sir."

Had Kirk just rolled his eyes? No, surely it was just a shadow.

Before he exited the pod, Montgomery turned without thinking to look at the display of how long the flight had taken. His eyes widened, then narrowed. "Twelve minutes," he muttered under his breath.

When he stepped from the pod, Admiral Kirk was talking to an ensign, who paused to call to Montgomery, "Mr. Scott, you're needed in engineering at once."

I should think so, he thought. Twelve hours… but he only said, "If you'll excuse me, sir."

Admiral Kirk nodded and went back to talking, rather snappily, Montgomery thought, to the ensign.

When Montgomery got down to engineering again, he found Captain Decker there waiting for him. Montgomery had nearly forgotten about Captain Decker, because to tell the truth, Captain Decker was rather forgettable, especially in the light of someone as diametrically unforgettable as Admiral James Kirk.

"Did you need me, sir?" Montgomery asked. Captain Decker was leaning over the warp controls.

"Yes, Mr. Scott. I take it you've heard the new departure orders?"

"Aye," Montgomery sighed. "Twelve hours."

"We're going to have to get these engines adjusted to warp speed in that time. If we don't, we can't go at warp speed, Mr. Scott."

Montgomery thought that was rather self-explanatory, but then, Captain Decker was always saying rather self-explanatory things. "Aye sir."

"I have my suspicions about what may be causing the trouble; it may be a failed micro-chip. If so, then the micro-chip will have to be replaced."

"Aye sir."

"Because we have to leave in twelve hours. If we're not ready, we can't leave."

"Aye sir."

"I thought I should examine the micro-chip. That way, we can see if it's working properly or not."

"Aye sir."

"Here, Mr. Scott," Captain Decker began, unscrewing the micro-chip's compartment cover, "is where the micro-chip is."

"Aye, sir, I know that."

Captain Decker didn't seem to notice Montgomery's impatience.

"I will now remove the micro-chip in order to examine it."

"Aye sir."

"Once I examine it, I will be able to determine if it's functioning."

"Aye sir. But sir…"

"No arguments please, Mr. Scott, we only have twelve hours here."

"Aye sir," Montgomery sighed. He had been going to tell Captain Decker that he already knew that the micro-chip was not functioning, and that an officer was already on his way with a new one, but he kept quiet.

"Ah, just as I thought," Captain Decker said proudly, removing the chip from its socket. "Failed. That means we'll need to replace it, Mr. Scott."

"Aye sir."

"You'd better send someone at once to get one. That way we can replace it."

"But sir, I've already…"

An ensign approached them, holding a brand-new warp drive micro-chip. "Here you are, Mr. Scott."

"Ah," smiled Captain Decker pleasantly, "what fast service. It's a good thing you had me down here, Mr. Scott, to speed things up for you."

Montgomery was trying to decide whether he should just say "Aye sir" again or something else, but he was saved the trouble by Admiral James Kirk's arrival.

"Admiral Kirk," cried Captain Decker in surprise. "You're here!"

"I'm well aware of that, sir," said Kirk shortly. "Let's talk."

As the two walked into a little alcove on the other side of the room, Montgomery thought that he'd certainly be nervous if Kirk said, "Let's talk" in that tone to him. But Captain Decker seemed pleasantly oblivious. Shaking his head, Montgomery replaced the micro-chip (seeing as the old one had failed), all the time keeping his eye on the two who were talking in the alcove.

Captain Decker's oblivion didn't seem to last very long, Montgomery noted. His transition into non-oblivion was evidenced by the way he suddenly began gesticulating wildly and angrily in the middle of the conversation. Montgomery couldn't hear what Kirk was saying to him, but his expression was rather harsh, so Montgomery didn't imagine it was very comforting. At last, with a final motion that nearly hit Kirk in the nose, Captain Decker stomped away. Kirk sighed and looked at Montgomery, who tried his best to look sympathetic back.

Just then, there was a shower of sparks and a loud beeping from the console in front of him.

"Red alert, red alert," the computer voice sounded.

Kirk jumped forward. "What is it, Scotty?"

"The transporter, sir," Montgomery cried. He called to the transporter room, "Transporter, do not engage, I repeat, do not engage!"

"It's too late," an ensign yelled, "they're beaming now."

Montgomery didn't wait to hear more. He ran up to the transporter room with Kirk, hoping they wouldn't be too late.

Unfortunately, they were too late. Montgomery was even more depressed the rest of the afternoon. Transporter accidents always depressed him, especially when he was aboard - he always felt like he should have done more to stop it.

Later on that evening, the entire crew was assembled on the recreation deck to see a demonstration of the destructive power of the object they were facing. That wasn't very comforting either, and Montgomery grew even more depressed. He noted with some disturbance that the number of officers who stood on the platform (of whom he was one) was twelve, and the number of the science station that got eaten by the cloud was twelve twelve, and the number of things left to do was twelve. He groaned, causing Chekov, who stood next to him, to look at him with surprise.

"The mail carrier is approaching," Uhura announced just before they left the deck.

A brief hope rose in Montgomery's heart. Perhaps there would be one last letter from Doctor McCoy before they left. Of course, he wouldn't be able to read it, so it wouldn't be entirely comforting, but at least it would be nice to know that his best friend was thinking of him.

"Which carrier is it?" he asked, praying it wasn't what he thought it was.

"Number twelve."

Montgomery groaned again. Twelve. He should have known. This was his unlucky day for sure.

No letter for him, just as he'd suspected. It was just as well though, if there had been a letter on a carrier with the number twelve, it would probably have been some horrible news, and that would only have depressed him even more.

Finally, shortly before the twelve hour mark, everything was done, and Montgomery said as much to Commander Uhura over the speaker.

"We're still waiting for our last six crew members to beam up, then we'll be on our way, Scotty," she informed.

Six. That's half of twelve.

"Soon then?"

"Actually, five of them have now arrived, but one of them is refusing to step into the transporter."

Montgomery sighed again as he turned off the speaker. Why did everything today remind him of his best friend, Doctor McCoy? Doctor McCoy had always been suspicious of transporters too. Montgomery remembered the first time they'd beamed somewhere together - he'd thought the doctor was going to go into apoplexy. At least, in that case, they would have had a doctor along to take care of it - although granted, it might be a little hard for Doctor McCoy to treat himself when he was in the middle of an apoplexy.

"Thank you, Uhura," he sighed for the twelfth time, and turned the speaker off.

He walked out slowly to engineering, and sat down to monitor things. Montgomery was not often depressed - he had been quite a happy child, who loved peace and quiet, and a very polite man, who didn't like brawls, and an immensely intelligent fellow, who everyone liked. But today, he just couldn't help himself. Between his frequent thoughts about how much he missed Doctor McCoy, and the frequent appearing of the number twelve, he thought he could be forgiven for being in a bit of a bad mood. Especially when later Kirk ordered warp speed when the engines weren't ready, and the engines went into anti-matter imbalance and created a wormhole that the ship just barely escaped. More work for Montgomery, not to mention that the engine had caused problems upon reaching warp 1.2, which he noted glumly was just twelve with a dot in the middle.

A few hours later, there was a transport that wanted to lock on to the Enterprise, which meant Montgomery had to stop working on the engines and go take care of that. By the time he got back to the engines again, he wasn't in a very good mood.

"Why do people have to keep interrupting me?" he grumbled to himself as he worked. "First I had to go get someone from Space Dock. Of course, that was alright, because it turned out to be Kirk. But then I had to fix the transporter so the rest of the crew could beam aboard, and now, I have to get some transport locked on. And the engines are imbalanced…"

He didn't hear when someone came up behind him, until a voice spoke quite close to his ear, causing him to jump and hit his head on the twelfth turbine switch.

"Mr. Scott, I would like to discuss the equations with you, in the hopes that we may correct your engine imbalance."

He must be dreaming. But he couldn't be. That voice belonged to only one Vulcan in the world. He turned to look…

"Mr. Spock!"

"Indeed, sir."

"How did you get here?"

"On a transport."

"No, I mean, what are you…"

"Mr. Scott, if I may. I have some calculations that I believe shall assist you."

Montgomery was puzzled. Spock was not acting like himself. Why was it that everyone who came back seemed to be in a bad mood? Kirk had been testy and impatient, and now Spock was acting like he'd never met him before.

"I believe if we offset the power source by twelve ohms…"

Montgomery groaned. Spock raised one eyebrow.

Three hours later, the engines were finally rebalanced, and they achieved warp without further problems. This was good, and Montgomery was glad to see Spock again, but he still felt a little depressed. Everyone was now back on the crew except his dear friend Doctor McCoy - the one he cared about most of all.

He sat there for about half an hour, half heartedly monitoring the engine performance, and he didn't notice someone had approached him until a hand was laid on his shoulder.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Montgomery Scott."

Montgomery straightened up, his eyes widening in surprise. That couldn't be… it had to be… but it wasn't possible… yes it was…

"Doctor McCoy!" He could hardly believe his eyes when he turned to look. "Doctor McCoy, in the name of all that flies… Doctor McCoy! Is it really you, laddie? Or is it your ghost?"

"I don't know why it should be my ghost, when I'm not dead," the Doctor grunted. "Although I thought perhaps you thought I was, when you never responded to my letters."

"But I did, laddie!" Montgomery was so happy and excited, that he'd forgotten how much the Doctor hated to be called "laddie." He grabbed the Doctor's hands and pumped vigorously. "I did, I wrote to you every month!"

"Yes, but you never answered any of my questions."

Montgomery was rather taken aback by the Doctor's grumpiness. He'd thought that he might at least be a little happy to see his best friend again.

"I'm sorry, Doctor," he said meekly. Then, "I thought you said you'd never come back?"

"You're absolutely right. I did say that, didn't I? So what am I doing here? Well, I've been drafted."

"Drafted?"

"Drafted."

"Drafted?"

"Drafted."

"Drafted?"

"For Pete's sake, Scotty, I said drafted, are you deaf?"

Montgomery was taken aback by this outburst. "Is it just me, Doctor," he said mildly, "or are you a wee bit more grumpy than the last time you were here?"

At first Doctor McCoy looked like he might like to hit Montgomery. Then his face relaxed a little, and he laughed, and patted Montgomery awkwardly on the shoulder. "I'm sorry, Scotty. I don't think it's just you. I'm just a little upset at the moment. But I am glad to see you, old fellow. That was the one thing I missed about being away from here."

Montgomery felt himself grin widely. "I've missed you too, laddie - I mean, Doctor."

"Well, I still want to know why you didn't answer my questions. I've asked you the same thing in the last four letters, and you never answered me."

"What was that, Doctor?"

Doctor McCoy frowned. "What do you mean, 'what was that, Doctor'? Didn't you get my letters?"

Bother. Montgomery hadn't wanted to let on that the Doctor's handwriting was so bad; he didn't want to hurt his friend's feelings.

"N-nothing, Doctor. I just mean that… well sometimes it can be - hard to understand what you're saying in your letters."

Rather than being offended, Doctor McCoy nodded knowingly, and even smiled. "Ah, it's my handwriting, isn't it? I am sorry about that, old fellow. Tell you what, from now on, I'll type my letters."

"Actually, there won't need to be any next time, Doctor, at least not for awhile."

"True!" Doctor McCoy clapped Montgomery on the back.

"But what was it?"

"What was what?" The Doctor appeared to have forgotten what they had been talking about a moment before.

"What was your question?"

"Hmmm? Oh, you mean in my letters. Well, I just wanted to know whether the number twelve still upset you as much as ever. For the record, Scotty, it's good to be back."

Montgomery smiled. "You know, Doctor, I think we might have been wrong."

"About what?"

"I'm not sure twelve is our unlucky number."

"What makes you say that?"

"Well, it did bring us back together, didn't it?"

"Yes… I suppose it did."

The two friends smiled.