Captain's log: we're on course for Rannitare Two

To deliver the remedy for the Skodalan flu

An extract derived from the kunnkoli tree

First isolated on the fifth moon of Pi Eta Three

Spock positioned himself on the command chair

"How soon shall we be arriving at Rannitare?"

"We're two hours out," helmsman Sulu replied

"Just sit back, Commander, and enjoy the ride."

(At this, Spock's brow rose, as it often did

When Humans spoke oddly in moments of wit

You find mercy diverting? Spock wanted to ask

But after a moment, he let the comment pass)

Instead, he asked Yeoman Rand, who stood on his left

Whether the duty roster was finalized yet

Her answer was interrupted by the proximity alarm

"A vessel," Sulu yelled, "and its weapons are armed."

Spock turned on the comm with the flick of a switch

"Sir, your presence is needed up here on the bridge,"

"I'll be there in a moment. What's happening now?"

"An alien ship on our sensors." "On my way, Kirk out."

"You're not going up there?" asked McCoy with a frown

"Get back to bed, Jim, you need to lay down."

Kirk leapt off the cot where he had just been lying

"It's only a cold, Bones, it's not like I'm dying."

"Besides, my crew needs me to handle the ship,"

He pulled on his gold sweater and strode to the lift

"All right, if you're determined to risk your health,

I'm coming with you, in case I can be of help."

(McCoy turned on his tricorder, once through the door

Apparently, testing it as he'd oft done before

Which would have meant nothing, Kirk thought with a grin

If the probe weren't surreptitiously pointing at him)

Both doctor and captain strode from lift door to conn

"Report, Mr. Spock. Is that ship here or gone?"

Spock turned from the front, hands clasped behind his back

"It is following us, sir, but has made no attack."

Kirk eyed the screen calmly, finger tapping his chin

"Lieutenant Uhura - achoo - no word yet from them?"

"No, sir, not a peep. Shall I hail them for you?"

At his nod, she complied, choosing comm channel two

"So where is this ship? Can we see it from here?"

The doctor stood by Chekov's shoulder and peered

"600, 000 parsecs and closing in quick."

Pavel studied the controls. "I can magnify it."

With a series of taps, the craft came into sight

Dark blue and oblong, with several small lights

A single forward cannon jutted out from its front

Heavily armed and prepared for the hunt

"She's quite a monster." Scotty whistled out loud.

"One huge weapon in front, heavy shields all around

I'd not like to meet her on a moonless night.

But it looks as though she's gearing up for a fight."

Uhura's head shook. "I'm getting no reply.

"And I've tried all the channels." She let out a sigh.

Then flinching, she turned once more to her comms.

"Wait a minute, here's some-" and then she was gone.

Kirk reached for her arm, but he grasped only air.

"What on Earth? Spock, Bones, she was right there!"

Searching the bridge, McCoy's eyes widened with fear

"Yes, sir, she was once, but is no longer here."

"Get me a location, at once!" Kirk ordered, his gaze

Fixed on the vessel, frown marring his face

"Mr. Scott, once we've confirmed she's aboard-"

"-I'll be bringing her home again, sir, ye've my word."

"Still gaining on us, sir." Sulu's voice went hoarse.

"But it looks like she's making a parallel course."

"Aye, that it is." Scott confirmed, studying his screen

"Strange choice of maneuver, sir. What could it mean?"

Then a smile graced his features, and he turned to the crew

"Sir, I found her," he answered, "and I can get her back, too.

"Their shielding has lowered; transporters can lock.

She'll be back here and safe in two turns of the clock."

He ran to the doors, but before he passed through

Without any warning, he had disappeared, too

"Scotty!" Kirk cried, as though his engineer heard

The entire bridge echoed that one single word.

"Mr. Sulu, perhaps a shot crossing their bow

Will get their attention." "Aye, firing now."

His hand paused at the controls seconds too long

The torpedo remained, but the helmsman was gone

Before Chekov could let out a startled yell

The navigator was snatched from his console as well

Rand's slate clattered loudly down upon the floor

For she, in an instant, was present no more

The lines on Spock's forehead deepened further with stress

"All departments reporting their numbers are less.

Crewmen and women vanishing from their stations.

No warnings preceding and no explanations."

"They're all on that tank, aren't they, Jim?" McCoy snapped.

"There must be some way to get everyone back."

"A boarding party would have little chance of success,

With so many captured…and we could be next."

"I'm aware of that, Spock. But we can't just sit idle.

While our people are over there, fighting for survival.

I highly doubt they're enjoying a day at the spa,"

McCoy gripped the console, clenching his jaw

"How many still onboard?" Kirk stiffened his back

"And how did they do it with our shields intact?"

"The mechanism of their transport is unknown to me.

As of now, our crew numbers-" he paused briefly - "three."

"Three?" McCoy gestured from one man to the next

"You're saying that we're the only personnel left?"

"I believe you can count, Doctor, as well as I.

You would never have graduated otherwise."

Before McCoy's retort left his throat for Spock's ears

The Enterprise shuddered and bucked like a steer

"They've engaged a tractor beam and now have a lock."

Spock managed to report, even as he was rocked.

He skidded past the railing and onto the floor

While Kirk staggered sideways out the sliding door

McCoy grabbed a handhold to steady his stance

'Til the force of the revolutions loosened his hands

"The beam seems to have a rotational motion."

Spock grunted, rolling underneath his science station.

"You don't say," McCoy groaned, tumbling towards the helm

As the captain slid back through the entrance and fell

Then, as suddenly as the violent motion began

The Enterprise shuddered and righted again

Spock hoisted himself up, no worse for the wear

While Kirk was bent over the back of his chair

McCoy steadied himself against the nav display

"Is everyone all right?" "Just bruised, but okay."

"Nor am I badly injured" Spock assured both men.

"This tactic is curious. Employed to what end?"

"Those maniacs near killed us," snapped McCoy, full of scorn

Just as the deck jolted, sending all three airborne

Arms and legs flailing, the beam jerked them down

Tossed them like salad and whirled them around

Kirk clung to the railing, resolve shining in his eyes

The missing crew members foremost on his mind

While the mechanism of the device fascinated Mr. Spock

Bones groaned, head in hands, and prayed it would stop

Then, as though someone heard him, the trembling ceased

Spock peered into his viewer, still weak in the knees

"The tractor beam must use considerable power.

It won't be fully operational for at least an hour."

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's get back the crew."

"Don't worry, Leonard, that's what I plan to do.

A quick stop at the armory, then we'll transport aboard."

Kirk rubbed his sore back. "I feel like I fought a war."

But before they could head for the transporter room

Spock paused to listen. "I hear something, do you?"

"Could be atmospherics, we'll deal with it after."

"No, Captain, it distinctly sounds to me like laughter."

The sound became louder after a short pause

First giggles, then chuckles, then outright guffaws

It echoed through the labs, crew quarters and halls

Invaded the engine room and bounced off the walls

"Who are you? Identify yourself and then,"

Kirk shouted, "explain what you did with my men!"

"Why did you take them?" Kirk clenched his fists

"To spare them," the voice giggled, "all of this."

Once more, they felt the deck sway under their feet

They braced themselves until the trembling ceased

"My dearest of captains, can you not see?"

"This little diversion was meant for you three."

"As for your crew, they're all doing just fine

Enjoying a little long-overdue rest time.

I'll give them right back once you let me explain.

But first, introductions. Thame Gan is my name."

A rather plump man with a merry expression

Appeared on the screen, clad in velvet and satin

"I'm sure you're wondering the reason t'was done

Was I trying to kill you? Did I shake you for fun?"

Kirk scowled at him. "Yes, it had crossed my mind.

There's a very real chance - achoo! - we could have died."

At this, Gan blushed deeply. "I'm glad you did not."

"I should hope so-" Bones began until Spock cut him off

"What lesson?" the Vulcan inquired, confused

"Could you not have instructed us without the abuse?"

McCoy clenched his fists and glared at the man

"Explain your intentions, if you even can."

"Well, let's see, beginning with you, Captain Kirk.

You're loyal and brave, not afraid of hard work

All good qualities, I assure you, but this must be said

Why don't you stay on the bridge…or in bed?"

I'm sure your crew appreciates the personal touch

But you really shouldn't exert yourself overmuch."

At this, McCoy turned with a smug little smile.

"See, Jim? I've been telling you so all the while."

"And you, Mister Spock; please take this to heart

You have raised the fine science of logic to art

But I can see by the furrow well worn on your brow

You take matters too seriously, lighten up now."

Though you strive to emulate Vulcans of old

There's merit to the passion your Human side holds."

McCoy placed a hand on the Vulcan's left shoulder

"Isn't that what I've reminded you over and over?"

"Ah, yes, Doctor McCoy, I've saved you for last.

A compassionate heart that is strong and steadfast

Yet for all of your kindness, there's one place to improve

Your fervor to make others believe what you do

Though your opinions stem from a thoughtful mind

You have a tendency to let your sentiment blind."

Spock, listening intently, now inclined his head.

"I believe that is, Doctor, what I've always said."

McCoy, who had wilted, put both hands on his hips

"That's not the same thing, Spock, and you know it!"

Kirk shrugged and directed a smile towards Gan

"Now look what you've done. They're fighting again."

I don't - cough - understand why you rattled us, though."

Gan sighed, "Oh, Kirk, you really don't know?

If I had contacted you in any other way

You wouldn't have given me the time of day."

You're traveling in a starship exploring the galaxy

Landing on planets and charting anomalies

Fighting off villains, encountering new life

Compare that to one man calling up to say hi."

Kirk thought for a moment, "True, but some hello this is.

Appearing before us and naming our weakness."

"Though that was my intention," Gan agreed, "I found

It was fun to observe you three flying around."

"Now, shall we forget it and make merry, then?

I would dearly like to consider you friends."

"Some other time, perhaps, Thame, we have things to do.

In the meantime- cough, cough - would you send back the crew?"

Gan nodded. "Get well soon. You'll have them quick as a wink."

His face disappeared from the screen with a blink

Then one by one, officers appeared at their stations

All wearing looks of utter consternation.

As Vulcan and doctor continued to spar

Kirk's face shone as bright as a binary star

"There's no need to fight, the crew's been restored."

Spock's features eased and McCoy praised the Lord

Uhura was seated and rubbing her eyes

Chekov and Sulu both yawned side by side

Rand seemed relieved to be back by Kirk's chair

While Scott held two bottles he'd picked up somewhere

"Look what I have, sir. Compliments of our host.

"What do you say that we all have a toast?

I can confirm that everyone's back safe and sound.

Try this, it goes real easy all the way down."

Kirk shook his head at both Scott and McCoy

Who protested it shouldn't be drunk but destroyed

"Mr. Sulu," he asked, "is the ship still in pursuit?"

"No sir, she's vanished, I don't know by what route."

"Good. Now tell me, were you all treated with grace?"

"Yes, sir," Rand answered, a sweet smile on her face

"Indeed, he was kind, sir; but oddly, post-kidnapping.

It was the funniest thing; he couldn't stop laughing."

"Vhat could be so hilarious?" Chekov scratched his head

"Did something happen here while we were absent?"

"Nothing in particular," Kirk quickly assured.

As Leonard hissed under his breath, "Spock, not a word."

"Resume earlier course. We have somewhere to be."

"Aye, sir," answered Sulu. "Warp factor three."

"If you'll excuse me," said Kirk, "I think I'll retire

I don't want to stir up the good doctor's ire."

Later that evening, over drinks in his room

(McCoy having certified it safe to consume)

Kirk noticed his first officer staring into space

"Spock, what's with that faraway look on your face?"

"There is something that has bothered me about all of this.

It was not until now that I have grasped what it is.

You must admit Gan's remarks were rather apropos

One question remains, though, sir; how did he know?"

McCoy stopped mid-sip, and plunked his glass down

"You're right. I never thought about it until now.

He pegged all of us, even me-" (Eyebrows raised)

As though he was a shrink analyzing our ways."

"I have to be honest, Jim, now I'm feeling spooked

How long has he been spying on our every move?

Are we safe even now? Is this really the end?

Or can we expect him to come taunt us again?"

Kirk studied them both with a thoughtful eye.

"He won't be a problem, Bones, and here's why.

Tonight, I'm recuperating - cough -here in my room

As Scott leads the landing party to Rannitare Two.

Spock, though duty bids you command in my stead

You're enjoying a drink in the company of friends

And Leonard, if my ears are to be believed

Spock just made a statement with which you agreed."

Both men pondered Kirk's words without speaking.

Then, "Am I correct, sir, in what I am thinking?

Are you implying that if we take Gan's words to heart

He will not return-" "-and tear us apart?"

"You are still in one piece, Doctor, as are I and Jim"

"Just barely, you green-blooded-" "Please, gentlemen.

Let's not test my theory - cough - anytime soon.

I have no desire to be thrown across the room."

"Amen to that," McCoy acquiesced, "Well, all right.

I guess I can tolerate his logic for one night."

Draining his second glass and pouring a third

The twinkle in his eyes belied the gruff words

"As for myself, Captain, I suppose I can last.

I have had to endure greater pain in the past."

Though Kirk heard no inflection in the words that Spock said

There was the barest hint of mirth in the tilt of his head

Satisfied, he relaxed once again in his chair

And mused, "Wonder how Scotty is doing down there?"

Then, observing the return of both medkit and furrow

He shrugged, "Guess-cough -I'll just ask him tomorrow."