Vice Versa Dilemma
by Lorraine Anderson
Young Joe Crusher was a genius. He was a scatterbrained genius, an unfocused genius, but a genius, nonetheless. His instructors at Starfleet recognized his potential and kept assigning him long and difficult projects, trying to steady him. But, invariably, he'd do just enough to get by and went off in tangents of his own then went off in further tangents without finishing the first one.
For example, he may have been the only individual in the universe to create a successful perpetual motion machine and never knew it. Starfleet had precise instruments that would record a motion that minuscule, but Joe didn't. So, after giving up in disgust, he dumped the machine down the nearest waste tube, after which the individual components were completely recycled.
He graduated Starfleet Academy near the middle of his class. His superiors knew he would make a top rank research scientist some day but he needed to learn to focus his attention. Two weeks after graduation, they assigned him to the U.S.S. Xerxes as a science ensign to one of the toughest science officers in Starfleet, leaving immediately for a six month patrol along the Neutral Zone. His superiors hoped that the combination of a tough taskmaster and a boring tour of duty would make him into a first class research scientist.
They didn't know Joe Crusher.
Her tour of duty done, the Xerxes was going home. After logging the acknowledgment of the replacing ship, the U.S.S. Loki, and recording the position of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Ensign Tom Clarke turned to the young man hovering impatiently over him. "Ok, Joe," he said. "I'm off duty. Now what is it?"
Joe looked around nervously at the bridge, and particularly at his superior, Commander Francis. "Not here," he hissed. "Just come down to the room with me."
"One of those," Clarke grinned as he gave up the station to a waiting lieutenant. But he followed his roommate to their stateroom, highly amused.
Crusher's corner was a mess, strewn with abandoned projects. Clarke's grin widened as Crusher pulled out a six foot pole with a cross piece and stuck it into a base on the floor.
"Why you've reinvented the hatrack," Clarke said.
"Hmmm?" Crusher said, busy trying to steady the pole. It wasn't a perfect fit, and tended to list to one side. He finally gave up on the effort and looked eagerly at Clarke. "This hatrack, as you call it, will transfer brain patterns."
"What?" John McNary, their neighbor, stuck his head out of their shared bathroom. Then he pulled his head back and emerged yawning, a towel around his middle.
"Our budding young scientist says this hatrack will transfer brain patterns."
"Oh, yeah?" McNary sat down on Clarke's bed, who immediately muttered something about sterilizing it later. "Transfer 'em where? And where did you get this idea?"
Crusher reddened and McNary grinned. "Ah...I know that look! He's been hacking into the classified files again!"
Clarke turned to Crusher with mock disappointment. "Is that right? And just when I thought we had cured him of his life of crime!"
"Aw...c'mon." Crusher grinned.
McNary leaned back on the bed. "Seriously, I can't figure out what you see in classified files. Most of what you've shown me is deadly dull."
"To you, maybe." Crusher turned back to his machine, and the other two looked at each other and felt a little guilty. Crusher had very little sense of humor about his experiments.
"What did you mean about transferring brain patterns?" Clarke asked, moving forward.
Crusher turned toward Clarke, all slights forgotten. "It will transfer brain patterns from person to person."
"Souls, you mean," McNary said.
"I don't know about souls," Crusher said patiently. "But I can measure brain patterns I think."
McNary yawned. "The operative question is, does it work?"
"I don't know. I just got it finished."
"I think we're supposed to be the guinea pigs," Clarke grinned, looking back at McNary.
"I knew it!" He sat up in alarm and pointed at Clarke. "You mean, I'd have to look at that ugly mug in the mirror?"
He ducked the pillow that Clarke threw at him.
"Are you guys gonna help or not?" Crusher asked, impatiently interfacing the machine with the ship's computer and connecting it to a power source.
Clarke laughed. "Get over here, McNary it probably won't work anyway."
"This one will," Crusher assured them as he directed them to either side of the pole. He turned the machine on before either could move. And waited. And waited.
"Is something supposed to happen?" McNary asked. "If not, I'd like to get dressed." He readjusted his towel. "I'm getting cold."
"It don't understand it," Crusher said bemusedly, unpluging it. "The theory's correct."
Clarke tousled the top of Crusher's head. "Sorry, sport. I have to go. I have a hot date tonight."
Crusher sighed. "I guess I better look at my notes."
The problem with the machine was that it worked too well. One thing Crusher neglected to do was place the two far enough away from the machine preferably a couple light years apart. Since the machine didn't find anyone at those coordinates, the effect kept expanding until it found two at exact opposite points.
Doctor Katherine McPherson of the U.S.S. Loki sat back from the oversized computer screen with satisfaction and "cleared" her "brush" by pointing it at palette shade 0, neutral. The painting didn't look half bad, not bad at all, she thought. Well, a professional artist might look askance at it, but at least it gave her something to do while the ship was on patrol near the Neutral Zone.
The subject was a parody of an anatomical drawing a female figure, stripped of all skin, numbers on each muscle. "She" laid on her side, hand on hip, and winked seductively at the viewer. Kate pushed a button, and the figure stretched, stood up, and strolled away smiling and looking over her shoulder. The picture faded out and back in, and the reclining figure was back.
"Computer, save pain...ack!"
"Unclear command. Please repeat."
Kate looked back and glared at the man who had just poked her in the ribs. "Computer, save painting."
"Painting saved. Title: Stripped Tease." The man groaned.
"Computer off." Kate turned and faced the intruder. "Greg just when did you sneak in?"
"Just a minute ago." He pointed a thumb at the computer screen. "Pretty enough, but not my type."
Kate snorted. "Very funny."
"Why does she look like...that?"
Kate shrugged. "I felt like drawing a nude."
Greg sighed. "Trust a doctor to draw a nude like that!"
"Thank you!" She paused. "Greg, dear, much as I enjoy your company, why are you here? You're supposed to be on duty!"
"I got lonely?"
"Oh, all right. Perhaps I'm here to fix this." He lifted his left arm, and she belatedly realized that he had it hidden throughout their conversation. A gash crossed the top part of his forearm.
"Huh," she said. "Nice. Aiming for your wrist and missed?"
"Hey, I hit what I aim for! Actually, somebody dropped a screwdriver from the second level."
"Must have been a big, sharp screwdriver! Actually, I prefer the knife fight theory, myself." She waved a hand at one of the beds. "Well, technically I'm off duty..."
"Pick a bed and get over there!"
"And you'll have your reclining nude join me? Gee, thanks!"
"I'm going, I'm going!" He grinned. "Will you kiss it better?"
She laughed. "I think I will! It would serve you right."
Kate was in the middle of dressing the wound when a call came. "Damn," she said, after acknowledging the page. "I suppose the captain has stubbed his little toe again."
"Tut, tut, my good doctor. Captain Fries no doubt has an excellent reason for your inestimable presence on the bridge. In the meantime, how about leaving that pretty assistant doctor you just signed on?"
"Which one oh, I know!" She raised her voice. "Johnson, will you come in, please?" She ignored the tongue Greg stuck out at her as a six foot, husky male walked in.
Johnson finished dressing Greg's arm while Kate gathered her medical kit. She was just about ready to go out the door when Greg's voice stopped her. "Don't you think you better take your pants off first?"
"Greg!" She looked down at her legs. She had on a pair of men's duty slacks. "Oh. Yeah. I got cold." She pulled them off, and Greg wolf whistled. She glared at him. "These uniforms were designed by men. Short skirts, indeed!"
"I still like them," Greg said.
"You would!" She sighed. "I better get to the bridge before I get paged again. Ta, ta!," she said, walking out the door.
The white armored figure staggered, then gave James Kirk a smart blow with the broadside of the staff. Kirk landed on his back, but managed to bring his staff up, striking his opponent in the stomach between the plates of the armor. While the opponent oomphed, Kirk scrambled up and stood on guard, staff ready. The opponent panted a second, then quickly feinted a blow to the right, distracting Kirk, then hooked the staff behind one of his knees, throwing him to the floor. The opponent then jabbed the end of the staff at Kirk's armored chest, the padded end landing squarely over Kirk's heart.
Kirk was annoyed for a moment, then he laughed. "I'm dead, lieutenant. You can let me up now." The lieutenant stood back and took off her helmet, shaking out her shoulder length blond hair. "Sorry, captain. I just got caught up in it."
"Oh, don't look so worried, Murphy! You beat me fair and square. After all, you're the trainer!" He walked over to Dr. McCoy. "And why are you looking so glum?"
"Well, Jim, this isn't exactly what I had in mind when I prescribed exercise." He looked pointedly at a red mark on Kirk's arm, just between two connecting pieces of armor. "After all, isn't a starship captain joining in on a security training session a mite unorthodox?"
"C'mon, Bones. It's working, isn't it?" He patted his stomach.
Murphy waved at Kirk. "I believe I'm being paged," Kirk commented, then trotted back to the center of the room, forestalling any further arguments from McCoy.
"Ayer, your reaction time was a little slow," said Murphy as Kirk approached. "And, Captain..."
"I know. Don't let myself get distracted."
"Distractions could be fatal."
"I know," he said ironically.
"This round I'm pairing you with Ayer. Prepare your stances," said the trainer, raising her arm. "Ready? Go."
She dropped her arm, then hopped out of the way as the two started circling.
Kate had stopped counting the number of antacid pills that she had dispensed to the bridge crew. As she entered the bridge, she wished she had some for herself. She could see the injured crewman cradling his wrist at the navigators' section she couldn't imagine why Fries hadn't released the man from his post.
"Hurry, Doctor," Fries drawled. "We're waiting on you."
"Why...you flatter me, Captain," Kate said, in the same tone of voice. She turned to the ensign. "How did it happen?"
"He was clumsy," the captain said.
"Well...yes," the red faced ensign stuttered. "I tripped on the steps and caught my arm on the railing."
"Two demerits for clumsiness," Kate drawled, almost joking. She scanned his wrist. "Captain, I'll need to take him down to Sickbay. He's fractured his wrist."
Fries sighed. "His replacement hasn't come yet, Doctor. Take him then."
"I'd rather not wait, captain. He may injure himself further."
"When his replacement comes. Regulations."
"Please, Doctor," the ensign said. "She should be here any minute."
"And the ship can't run a second without someone here? Well...all right. I'll get my stopwatch out."
"Very funny, Doctor." The captain turned back to the viewscreen.
Kate pointedly drummed her fingernails on the railing. She could see the captain cringe at the noise, but he stared pointedly ahead. Well, so be it.
Finally, the replacement came. The ensign turned and stood up as the woman slid into his chair. "I'm ready, Doctor."
"Humph." Kate moved to the ensign's side. She knew he didn't need her support, but the captain caught the gesture. That was what mattered.
They walked into the turbolift, and it descended rapidly. Kate sighed, a cold shiver going down her spine. Someone walking over my grave, she thought, recalling what her great grandmother used to say. The feeling intensified. She felt alarmed. She stiffened, blacked out for a second, and...
Kirk was in a bad situation. His opponent had backed him into a corner, and he hadn't had an opportunity to do much else except block shots. However, he'd been in worse situations, and he knew there was always an out. Suddenly, he had goosebumps, and wondered why. The feeling intensified, then he knew. "Not again!" he shouted, and he blacked out, and...
He stumbled, but a strong hand steadied him. "Are you all right, doc?"
He wheeled. A young man was looking down at him, one hand held close to his body as if hurt, the other still under Kirk's arm. Kirk was relieved to know that he was still on a Federation starship, but which one? He didn't know this crewmember.
He answered, wary. "Yes, I'm fine...Ensign." His eyes widened at the timbre of his voice, and he couldn't help looking downwards. Bright red hair floated into his line of sight. Oh, no, he thought as he slumped. Another woman.
"Are you sure?"
"Oh, yes," he lied. "Are you in pain?" He nodded toward the arm.
"Just a mite."
"Well, we'll get you something for it when we get to Sickbay."
The ensign nodded. At least I'm making the right assumptions, Kirk thought, and hoped that a doctor would be in Sickbay when they arrived. He didn't think that his basic first aid training would be quite enough.
The turbolift doors swooshed open. "Go ahead," Kirk said. The ensign exited the elevator, saving Kirk the embarrassment of having to look at signs besides the doors. He had known that he was not on the Enterprise or any other Constitution class ships when the door opened and he saw the narrow corridor beyond.
As soon as they reached Sickbay, Kirk was relieved to find a doctor sitting at one of the desks. He smiled. "Could you fix the ensign up, please? I need to check something."
"Of course, Kate." The man got up and led the ensign toward a bed, then turned back. "If you're looking for Greg, he went back to Engineering."
"Thank you!" Kirk said, nonplussed. He headed to the nearest terminal to forestall any further conversation. "Computer on. Text only," he said in a low voice. He wanted to review his options before he decided on a course of action. He could explain his situation to the Captain but would he be believed? Best to play it straight and be paranoid.
He realized the computer was waiting. "Computer. I need this starship's name, mission, current status, location, destination, and list of officers."
The information rapidly filled the screen:
U.S.S. Loki: NCC529
Mission: Patrol of Romulan Neutral Zone
Location: +11 Mark 385 R12 KPC
Current Status: Green. All systems operational.
Kirk skipped over the next part it was technical information not relevant to his situation. Destination was irrelevant, also. He scanned until he found the list of officers:
List of Officers Status
Captain: Samuel John Fries Active
First Officer: Dolph James Peters On Leave
Science Officer: Eric William Corey Active
Chief Engineer: Gregory Thomas Phillips Active
The computer stopped, the screen full, and waited for Kirk's input. He thought he knew the Captain when he saw the name of the ship, but he hadn't been sure. It was Seej! Fries had been a friend of his brother Sam. He hadn't seen the man for years, but when he knew that Seej was up for a captaincy, he reviewed his service record which was exceptional and gave Starfleet his recommendation. However, as he remembered, Seej was rather literal minded, and, if the rumors were true, he had turned into a Captain Bligh! Fries may be an old friend, and it may be
regulations, Kirk thought, but perhaps I should convince someone else, first.
A strand of red hair got into Kirk's mouth, and he brushed it back without really noticing. He told the computer to continue.
Chief Medical Officer: Katherine Anne McPherson Active
"Computer, stop," he said, startled. "Computer, bring up Dr. Katherine McPherson's file." He looked at the picture, pulled out a strand of hair, then got up and looked in the mirror. He knew Kate. He used to date her back in Starfleet Academy.
Kate's vision cleared, then a blow to her right arm made
her wince. A man in body armor was in combat position in front of her, and he landed two more painful blows with his staff while she shook her head, confused.
The punches continued, and she started to get mad. Drawing from some little used, barely remembered defensive training, she showered his body with short jabs, trying to get close. She then jabbed the end of the staff hard into his stomach.
The armor pushed into the man's stomach, and he went down breathless. He stared incredulously up at her while he tried to catch his breath. She looked down at him and felt a little bit guilty, but said, "Try to pick on me, will you, dog breath?!"
"Jim!" A thin man in medical blue ran up to the two and dropped to his knees on the floor. He glared up at Kate. "What the hell did you think you were doing?!" He muttered while adjusting a hypo.
Who was this doctor? She didn't know him! Kate stared
at him. "I was defending myself...Doctor!"
"In a training exercise?" He pressed the hypo against the man's arm.
A training exercise? "What are you talking about? Who are you and who the hell is Jim?!"
Dr. McCoy, startled, overbalanced and almost fell backwards. He looked closely at the captain. "Are you all right, Jim?"
"My name is not Jim!"
"Oh, damn!" McCoy said. "I told him he'd get hurt!"
"You paged me, Doctor?" Spock said, striding into Sickbay. "Ah. Captain..."
"This is Commander Spock," McCoy interrupted. "Tell him what you've been telling me."
Kate, laying on a diagnostic bed, glared at McCoy, who was standing over her. Then she rolled her eyes and sighed. "Once again, my name is Dr. Katherine McPherson." Spock glanced at McCoy. "I'm Chief Medical Officer of the U.S.S. Loki." She turned to McCoy. "And while I may have been confused and disoriented before, I have finally noticed that this is not my body." She looked down at her chest. "I seem to have lost something."
McCoy looked chagrined for a moment. "Spock, I hate to ask, but no damage is showing up on our preliminary scans just a tiny cut on his forehead. And we both remember that other incident. Could you, please...?"
"It is called a Vulcan mind meld, Doctor." He turned and regarded Kate. "It seems I have no choice but to use the technique to determine who you are."
Kate sat up. "Hey, this is interesting! I've read about them, but..."
"C'mon, lay back down, Ji...Katherine." McCoy pushed her down. "Let Spock work."
Spock gently laid his hand to the side of her face. "My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts..."
After a minute, he shook his head. "She is speaking the truth. Also, she did not plan this." He looked at McCoy. "Doctor, I had never thought I would find a mind less disciplined than yours."
"Huh?" said Kate.
"He just paid you a compliment didn't you, Spock?" Spock looked away.
"Why, thank you, Mr. Spock," Kate said. "I think." She sat up. "By the way, gentlemen, I hate to be morbidly curious, but any ideas what caused this? And how it can be fixed and, also, if you don't mind, whose body this is?"
"Presuming the transfer was successful..." started Spock.
Kate shivered. "What a thought. Yes, let's presume the transfer was successful."
"Amen," said McCoy.
"Presuming so, and assuming the effect is similar to that which we encountered in another setting...you were not experimenting with any mechanism intended for such a purpose, were you, Doctor?"
"Heavens, no! I was in a turbolift with an injured crewman, as a matter of fact. But get to the point, please!" Spock looked slightly offended. "I have reason to believe that a retransfer will occur in anywhere from several hours to several days. I am sorry I cannot be more precise."
Kate sighed. "Thank goodness for small favors. But you still haven't answered my other question."
Kate snorted. "My soul, you mean."
"...is in the body of Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise."
Kate's eyes widened, then she doubled over with laughter. McCoy and Spock looked at each other.
"I take it you know him," McCoy said.
"Know him!" Kate laughed, wiping tears away. "I used to date him at Starfleet Academy! Dear stodgy Jim Kirk."
McCoy sighed. "Not another old girlfriend!"
"Uh huh. But he wasn't my type. Oh, he was a nice kid, but he was far too serious for me. I guess that's why he's a captain and I'm not." She looked around. "It's been years since I've seen Jim Kirk. Got a mirror?"
"Hold on a minute, Doctor. Aren't you being a little light hearted about this? For one thing, I'm a bit worried about how fast you're adjusting to this. I like my patients sane. And, for another, I am worried about my friend!"
Kate's face went still and pale. She raised a hand automatically to push her hair back, and winced when she touched a tough check and a regulation male haircut. "I'm scared to death, Doctor," she said slowly, "both for him and for myself. But if I don't whistle in the dark, I may start screaming. And I don't think you want the crew to think Jim Kirk has gone completely mad. I think I've tarnished his reputation a bit, already."
McCoy chuckled. "You're right. Actually, I'm glad you responded the way you did."
"Or else you would've tied me down?"
"You got it."
Spock cleared his throat. "We should consider how much the crew should know. Mr. Scott, of course, will need to be told."
"Of course," McCoy said.
"I would suggest that you put Captain Kirk under medical observation, relieving him of command until further notice."
"I'll log it immediately."
"Yeah, that's a good idea," said Kate with a wry grin. "Tell everyone he just hasn't been himself lately."
McCoy groaned. "Hmmph. If I could throw a pillow at you right now, I would."
"What professionalism! Hmmph, yourself. Try to make a little joke..."
Spock looked exasperated. "I shall inform Starfleet of our course change and reason why. Doctor, could you call Mr. Scott..."
The red alert klaxons blared, and Kate suppressed a shriek.
"I shall be on the bridge." Spock departed. McCoy and Kate looked at each other.
James Kirk sat back and brushed red hair out of his eyes. So he was in Kate McPherson's place. He remembered Kate quite well, actually. She was the only girlfriend he had that stored a six foot artificial skeleton in her closet.
Again, Kirk considered who should be told. Kirk knew the regulations he should report his presence to the captain first. However, these were abnormal circumstances, and his instincts kept telling him that Seej would never listen especially to "Kate McPherson".
Greg Phillips actually seemed the best possibility. He seemed to be a friend of Kate's. Also, he was a high ranking officer on board with a "need to know" clearance.
Once decided, he turned his attention back to the computer. "Computer," he said, wincing a little at the alto voice, "bring up file 9GA375072C1."
"File is classified. Please identify yourself for voice identification."
"Ja Katherine McPherson." The file immediately printed on the screen, and Kirk sighed. He had been afraid that since this was a smaller ship, the computer library may have been too small to include a report of that incident. He should've known better. Ok, one hurdle down. He read quickly through what was there, shuddering at the memory of being confined within Lester's sickly female body.
"Computer off." He got up with one fluid stride, relieved that Kate's body had good muscle tone, and strode out of Sickbay. He called over his shoulder, "I'll be in Engineering." Noting the smiles of the medical personnel, he wondered briefly if those two were better friends than he thought.
He was glad he took the time to study the deck plans he found Engineering without asking embarrassing questions. After a moment's hesitation, he walked in and looked around. A technician caught his eye and grinned, hooking his thumb at an office in the upper level. "Thanks," he mouthed, and scurried up the ladder, then he wished he had taken the lift. He had forgotten that he was wearing the standard uniform for women the short skirt and every male in the place had been focusing on his legs.
Well, he couldn't blame them. He wouldn't have minded seeing the floor show, himself. However, he could still feel his cheeks turning red.
"Kate?" He turned to see Phillips striding up he recognized him from the computer file picture. "What are you doing here? House calls?"
"I have to talk with you." Kirk looked around at the grinning engineers. "In your office."
"Kate I'm off duty in an hour. Can't we...talk...later? Perhaps in my quarters, this time?"
Kirk's eyebrows shot up, and he blushed slightly. "This is ship's business. Into your office now, mister."
Phillips eyes flashed, but he went to his office door and bowed, motioning Kirk to go first. Once inside the office, however, he slammed his hand against the desk and turned. "All right, what was so damned important that you had to order me in front of my crew?" His fingers tapped the table.
Kirk sighed, then leaned toward the computer screen. "Computer on." Kirk brought the file up, then waited patiently for Phillips to read the contents.
"It's a charming little story," Phillips said after finishing. "What does it have to do with the price of tea in China?"
"I'm not Kate McPherson."
Phillips laughed. "And I'm a cross eyed monkey."
"It's true." Kirk sat back calmly.
"Right. Well, who are you then?"
Kirk stared at him intently. "Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise."
Phillips stared at Kirk a second, then burst out laughing. "C'mon, Kate, you can think of a better one than that. Why not Attilla the Hun? Or maybe Khan Noonian Singh? How about Abraham Lincoln, while you're at it?"
"This is no joke, mister," Kirk said in a deadly tone.
Phillips looked at Kirk, and his laughter died. "You're serious."
Phillips looked at the computer, then back at Kirk. He had a smug look on his face. "Ok, if you're Kirk, why did you come to me? Why not Captain Fries?"
Kirk sighed. "Look I recommended Fries for this post, so I've been trying to keep track of his progress. From what I've heard, would you take a problem of this sort to him?"
Phillips frowned. "You have a point."
Kirk thought a moment. "You could question me on my career, but..."
"It's too easily found and learned."
Kirk bowed his head, and his hair fell forward. He brushed it back automatically, then stared at his slender hand. "I know. It's all on record. That was pointed out to me the other time." He looked at the screen, then thought a moment. "I don't suppose there's a Vulcan on board."
"Well, that can't be..."
The intercom beeped, and both men jumped. Phillips looked at Kirk, then punched the button. "Phillips here."
"Mr. Phillips, we have a big problem. And I mean a whopper."
Phillips raised his eyebrows at Kirk. "On my way."
"May I join you?" Kirk asked.
"I think I would rather not let you out of my sight, my dear er, I mean, Captain." He rushed out the door.
"Uh huh." Well, he could hardly blame the man. Life entity transfer was not an everyday occurrence. Also, considering Kate's penchant for practical jokes...
"Are you coming?" Phillips poked his head back in.
"Sorry I was thinking." He followed Phillips to where a group of technicians were huddled over a computer bank. The senior technician was peering into the computer and shaking his head.
"What's wrong, Stephenson?" Phillips said, trying to peer over the shoulders of the group.
"Plenty," said the senior technician. "Look." He held up a couple of computer boards. The crowd parted so that Phillips could get a closer look at it, and Kirk followed him. Kirk knew that computer boards should look almost mirror smooth, and he grimaced. This one was as cratered as the Terran moon.
Phillips turned them over and over in his hands. "Any idea why they melted?"
"No," Stephenson said. "And those are the auxiliary navigational power tie in boards."
Phillips grimaced. "All backups?"
"Yes, damn it. And take a look at the original." Phillips kneeled to look, and Kirk looked over his shoulder. While they watched, sections of the board sparked and turned into metal puddles.
"And the board tying into the bridge?" Phillips asked reluctantly.
"So they're getting faulty engine room information on their screens..." Phillip's face whitened, and he leapt for the communications console. "Captain Fries, this is Chief Phillips!"
"Captain, I'm shutting the engines down right now. All our navigational boards seem to be destroying themselves, and we're not sure how far the damage has gone."
"How long has this been going on?"
"For..." He looked at Stephenson, who looked puzzled, shrugged, then held up five fingers. "For five hours."
"Chief Engineer you must be dreaming. All our readings are right on the mark." Kirk grimaced this was the amount of trust he put in his Chief Engineer?
"Yes, sir, I have no doubt of that. These boards were obviously deliberately sabotaged." He motioned to the technicians to open some other computer panels.
"Looking at the damage here very possible." He looked around at the technicians. Many were holding their thumbs down. "Also, shield control, weapons control... um...the warp and impulse control seem to be going...engine monitoring and gross engine control appear to be good at the moment. Environmental control is fine." He paused. "Captain, I would suggest that you break all ties with engineering and take an independent reading."
"Recommendation noted...oh, damn! We're where?"
A faint, excited voice was heard over the intercom. "Almost into Romulan territory, Captain!"
"Engineering how long to fix the computer?"
"I think we can cobble something together from some of our other boards but it will take a couple of days to reconfigure them."
"What about the auxiliary engine control computer" Kirk's estimation of Fries' ability went up a notch. The man knew the ship. Perhaps his arrogance wasn't due to some undetected character flaw, but some other factor.
Stephenson was already over the auxiliary computer. He looked in, then pointed his thumb down. "Same," he said. "We can power the engines up and down right now but we still can't steer. At least we won't blow up."
Phillips turned back to the intercom. "Did you hear that, Captain?"
"Yes." In the long pause that followed, Kirk tried to remember what this situation reminded him of.
"If I find that one of your engineers caused this, your head is going to roll!"
The Chief Engineer pounded his hand on the top of the table. "But, Captain...!"
"Gentlemen!" Kirk was a bit taken aback at the alto voice that ran out. "This is neither the time nor the place for this."
"McPherson?" Fries exclaimed. "What are you doing there?! You should be in Sickbay. This is going on your record."
"I have an idea that may help."
Fries' voice was ironic. "I doubt that, Doctor."
"Hear me out!" Kirk growled. "Phillips. Do you remember reading about the old commuter jets, sometime in the twentieth century?"
"Hmmm...yes. Not safe, but safer than other modes of transportation of the period."
"On one airplane, once, the hydraulics system went out. The pilots could not steer the craft. The crash was inevitable, but they averted an even greater disaster by manipulating the throttles to alternate extra power to each side. It was crude, but they almost made it to the airport."
Phillips' face lit up. "I get it! We should be able to steer out of Romulan territory that way, Captain."
A babel of voices came from the intercom. "Captain?" Phillips tried again.
"I heard Doctor McPherson's suggestions," he said in an ironic tone. "But it's pointless." The red alert siren started. "You see, the Romulans have already found us."
Stephenson waved to get Phillips' attention. "And besides," he said. "The control boards just went. Lucky the engines were off."
Melachta looked out through the viewport, idly moving her drink back and forth on the table, and thought about how one bit of space looked like another. Supposedly, the ship was traveling along the edge of the neutral zone. If there were any Federation ships out there which she doubted they were certainly biding their time. Much as she hated the thought of a war, it would certainly relieve the boredom!
In the meantime, all that Security had to do was break up the occasional fight, solve the petty thefts, and play kkk'tarhf. her people were getting so bored that they had started fighting among themselves. Eventually, she was going to have to throw one of them in the brig, she knew.
She sighed, then downed the rest of her drink. She was beginning to wonder whether revenge was worth the boredom. Perhaps she should think about studying sociology again. She traced the rim of her glass and grinned sourly. To her mind, Security and sociology were on opposite ends of the spectrum, and the irony appealed to her.
She felt a hand on her arm and started, but stopped herself before she threw the person over her shoulder. "I would caution you not to do that again," she said slowly. "You almost landed on the floor."
The hand stayed, and the person laughed. "Surely you would not do that to your Commander."
She closed her eyes in resignation, then turned to face Commander Tanus. His hand slipped off. "My reflexes know no rank, sir."
"Well said." He sat down studying her. "I saw your new painting in the gallery. Nicely done."
A new tactic, she thought, and stayed on guard. "Thank you, sir."
He drummed his fingers on the table for a long moment, staring at her. She was starting to get nervous, then he spoke. "We're off duty, Melachta. You can call me by my name. You did before."
"I would prefer not, sir. Sets a bad example."
He laughed. "To whom? There's nobody else here!"
She looked around, startled. He was right. The lounge was empty. Narrowing her eyes, she thought, he ordered everybody out! Damn. How can I get out of it this time? "That was before," she said slowly.
He looked out through the viewport. "I never did understand why you broke off our relationship."
She sighed. "I'd rather do my fighting in the line of duty...sir."
"Fighting?" He seemed genuinely puzzled. She sighed again. When she had boarded the ship, she had been attracted to the man he seemed considerate, he was handsome, and he had plenty of power. It wasn't until they had started seeing each other socially that she discovered he wasn't as... considerate...as he seemed.
She started to get up. "Excuse me, Commander."
He grabbed her arm and swung her around. "No. I need you."
She almost laughed. What an approach! But, as she looked in his face, she saw he was serious. She thought of disabling him, but...
"I noticed your department is getting flabby," he said. "Perhaps we can overlook reporting that to Command, if..."
There was the problem she knew her department was in top shape, but it was his word against hers. She wasn't ready to give up her command yet she hadn't had a chance to mete out her revenge. And, historically, who did High Command always believe?
She pursed her lips in anger, but moved closer to him. He grabbed her arms in a tight grip and started to kiss her, hard. She relaxed, although she would've rather kissed a Klingon...
...then changed her mind. It was time she stopped giving in. She ran a tight department, and she could get others on the ship to back her up she hoped. She pushed him away forcibly and slapped him, almost knocking him to the floor.
To her relief, as he growled and came after her, the intercom whistled. "Commander Federation ship in Romulan space!"
He broke off and his face set. "I will be right up." He pushed her away and headed out the door.
She stood, startled, then smiled wickedly. Now, hopefully, her debt of revenge could be relieved! Perhaps it was the Enterprise.
After Spock left, the two sat in silence, then Kate grimaced and said, "I wish we could find out what's happening up there."
McCoy nodded ruefully. "Well, I could go but you couldn't. And I think I better stay here and keep busybodies away from you."
"Yeah. The price of fame." She thought a moment. "You know, on the Loki, I think they told me I could connect my terminal to the bridge monitors."
"I think you're right," McCoy said slowly. "I had forgotten. I always went up if I wanted to know what was happening. I didn't want to be a peeping Tom."
"I agree! But I think we're justified, this time."
"I suppose." With a distasteful expression, McCoy turned to the computer. "Computer. Tap into audio visual bridge monitors and display on this terminal."
"Identity verified. Monitor to use."
The bridge scene came up on the screen. Kate shivered. She didn't like the thought of any emergency happening right now. McCoy noticed, and gave her arm a pat.
"...not only are the weapons and shields boards out, but all the navigational interface boards are melted, Mr. Spock. I would say they've been out for ten or twelve hours. None of our warning signals went off," said the Scottish voice ruefully from the captain's chair intercom.
"Can you reconfigure a different board for the spot, Mr. Scott?"
"Aye, Mr. Spock I have a couple of talented laddies down here that can do that but it will take days!"
"Proceed with the work, then."
Scott sighed. "Aye, Mr. Spock. Scott out."
Spock turned the captain's chair to look at Mr. Checkov standing at the science station. "Just coming up on the screen right now," Checkov said quickly. "We are..." He paled. "We are 1/100 of a parsec away from the Neutral Zone!"
Spock nodded. "Scan for other ships."
Checkov turned to the scanner. "Yes, Mr. Spock. Hmmm? Federation starship half a parsec away in the far side of the Neutral Zone face to face with a Romulan cruiser. The identification on the ship is the...U.S.S. Loki."
McCoy glanced at Kate, startled. Kate gripped the edge of the table and leaned forward, pale.
"Status of the Loki?"
"No external damage."
"Are we close enough for detailed scanning?"
"No, sir. Readings keep fading in and out."
Spock jabbed the intercom button. "Mr. Scott."
"Aye, Mr. Spock."
"We need to maneuver away from the Neutral Zone. Can you control the engines manually?"
"Aye. But we won't have much control."
"We will need power on the port engine for ten seconds, then power equally on both for fifteen seconds."
Mr. Scott chuckled. "Aye, Mr. Spock. I'm ready."
"Now, Mr. Scott." The field of stars on the viewscreen slid left, then changed slightly as the Enterprise moved forward. After a second, the motion stopped.
"Done, Mr. Spock," Scott said.
"Distance from the neutral zone?"
"Three quarters of a parsec," Checkov said.
McCoy sat back. "Computer, disconnect monitor. Screen off." He looked at Kate, then he turned away, looking troubled.
"Damn!" Kate said, slamming her fist on the table. She looked angry for a second, then she looked thoughtful. "Leonard where did the Enterprise last have repairs? Was it at Starbase 10?"
"Why, yes, it was." McCoy looked at her. "Are you suggesting that something happened there?"
"Well, we were in right after you were."
"That's what I think. Why else would the Loki be in the Neutral Zone?" She paused and looked at McCoy. "Should you tell Mr. Spock, or should I?"
McCoy placed a call to the bridge. "Spock, I think you should come down..."
A few minutes later, Spock walked in. "Do you have relevant information?"
"I sure do," Kate burst out. "We were at Starbase 10 right after you were. Couldn't the computers have been sabotaged there?"
Spock looked at McCoy quizzically. "We were monitoring the bridge on the computer," McCoy explained.
"Ah." Spock thought for a moment. "I believe they tested the entire computer."
"There you go!" Kate hesitated and looked at her big strong hands and arms. "Of course, that doesn't help our situation, anyway. It's just a theory."
"An interesting theory. It presupposes a Romulan intruder in Federation ranks. This intruder would have had to maneuver to get assigned close the Romulan territory, and would have to have a confederate to provide him with bogus computer boards that would melt at a pre planned point in space. Because of the switch, the ship would then maneuver blindly into Romulan space, where the Romulans could legitimately capture interlopers."
Kate threw her hands up. "Good grief, Mr. Spock, did I imply all that? The whole things sounds pretty improbable, the way you put it."
"Improbable, but not impossible. I shall forward your theory on to Starfleet, Dr. McPherson."
Kate glanced at McCoy and grinned. "Huh. Maybe I should ask for royalties." McCoy chuckled.
"Royalties?" Spock raised an eyebrow.
"Never mind, Spock," McCoy said. "Gallows humor."
"Ah." He hesitated, slightly perplexed, then went on. "I believe the time has come to tell Mr. Scott."
"But isn't he busy in Engineering?" Kate asked.
"Mr. Scott has very capable assistants. Also, micro electronics is not Mr. Scott's major field of expertise."
"Still, he'll be hovering over the engineers like a hen over her chicks," McCoy said. "Look, why don't I say that Captain Kirk has partial amnesia due to a blow to the head. That way, we can have our meeting in Briefing Room 1, and we can boost morale by showing that the Captain is in fairly good health."
"Oh, good," muttered Kate. "I'm going on display."
McCoy turned to Kate. "Well, after all, you're not a prisoner. Wouldn't you rather sleep in Jim's quarters? It's a bit more comfortable than a diagnostic bed."
"I guess so," she sighed. "Those beds are pretty uncomfortable, aren't they? Well, grab a bandage and I'll get it around my head." She got up and looked at herself in the mirror. "Perhaps a couple of fake scars and a couple electrodes for my neck would be in order. I feel that way, and besides, I look horrible."
"Electrodes?" Spock asked.
"More gallows humor," McCoy said. "Dr. McPherson, you're babbling."
Spock was looking at Kate when McCoy got back, as if studying the feasibility of the plan. "Spock, don't worry about it," McCoy said.
"I shall not, Doctor."
"Well, I will," Kate said.
Kirk had the uncomfortable impression that the Romulan commander was staring at him and was liking what he was seeing. He regretted ever coming up to the bridge, but he had been curious.
"Commander Tanus...Commander Tanus!"
The figure on the screen refocused his eyes on Captain Fries. "Yes, Captain. You must excuse me. I was thinking."
Fries glanced at Kirk. "Commander, once again I demand that you let us go."
Tanus laughed. "Demand, Captain? You were almost through the neutral zone!"
Fries spread his hands. "It was an accident. Our navigational system failed. Must I remind you that Part V of the treaty allows for accidental intrusions?"
"Ah, yes. I am not so sure that this was an accidental intrusion. I think I should tow you to our nearest starbase for a complete inspection, don't you? Perhaps our engineers can teach a few things to your engineers."
"No!" Fries slammed his fist on the control console, startling his navigator. Kirk winced. "I will not be treated in this fashion!"
The Romulan Commander regarded him with bemusement. "Why, in what fashion, Captain? In face, while we are escorting you to our starbase, I shall invite you and a few of your officers to our ship for dinner. Tonight, I think. Ah and please include that lovely lady beside you."
It took Kirk a few seconds to realize that the Commander meant him. Fries barely glanced around. "That is our Chief Medical Officer, Katherine McPherson. And I don't believe we'll accept your invitation."
"I insist. In fact, I will send some of my officers to escort you over. Perhaps in three of your hours."
"You leave me no choice," Fries growled.
"Yes." The Commander faded from the screen.
Fries stood beside the navigation console, breathing heavily, his face flushed. He calmed down with visible effort. Turning to the communications console, he said, "Lieutenant, please advise Corey and Phillips of our dinner plans. I believe they are both in Engineering. Tell them to wear full dress uniform." He thought a moment. "Strike that. Just tell Phillips. If he objects, tell him the Romulans will come and drag him to dinner. Corey has too much micro electronics experience to be dragged away," he added, almost to himself.
Kirk tried rapidly to connect the names. Phillips was the Chief Engineer, but who was Corey? Oh, yes, the Science Officer. "And, Doctor," Fries said, startling Kirk out of his reverie. "I'm afraid I must ask extra duty from you. Wear your dress uniform, but take extra care with your appearance. Fix up your hair, wear jewelry, that sort of thing." Fries blushed slightly. "I will not order you to flirt with the Commander, but it may certainly help."
"Like hell I will," Kirk said, startled to the core of his being. But he knew Fries was right. They needed to keep Commander Tanus off center, until...whatever. "Sorry, Captain. You're right." He turned towards the turbolift. "But I don't have to like it."
"I don't expect you to," Fries said quietly.
Kirk held up a large pair of earrings. "And how do I put these on?"
Phillips, already in his dress uniform, grinned. "You're asking me?" Kirk turned and glared at him, and a bit of hair fell into his eye. He automatically brushed it back.
"Sorry, sir," Phillips said, still grinning. "I think you pull the back part away yes, like that and stick the rod through that little hole in the lobe of the ear. Wait a minute." He came over and positioned the back of the earring, then stood back. "There."
"I feel like my ear is going to fall off."
Phillips pointed at the hologram they were looking at for reference. "That's what she was wearing here."
"Yes, I know," Kirk sighed. Kirk worked the other earring in, wincing once when he slipped and poked his earlobe. "What next?"
"Hair, I guess."
Kirk glanced at the picture. The hair was pulled back into a bun, with a small strand coming out of the center and going down the neck. "Forget it. We'll never figure it out in time. The makeup, too."
Phillips looked at the picture. "I'm an engineer. I should be able to do it." He looked at Kirk's hair, then at the picture again. "Well, maybe not. But you have to put makeup on, Captain." He hesitated, then popped out the door.
"Tina could you come here a minute?"
"What are you doing?" Kirk hissed.
A young lady with a security uniform came in. "The doctor here is having a little trouble with her makeup nervous about the dinner tonight," Phillips said, grinning at Kirk. "Could you help us?"
"Is this in my job description?" the woman said, smiling, then she picked up Kate's makeup case.
"I'll make sure you get hazard pay," Phillips said.
Tina expertly put makeup on Kirk's eyelids. Kirk satisfied himself by glaring at Phillips with his free eye. She touched up Kirk's cheeks and lips, then stood back. "If I did any more, she wouldn't look natural."
"That's great, Tina. Thanks! I owe you a couple."
"You owe me hazard pay, remember?" The woman walked out, grinning.
Kirk watched her walk out the door. "She's nice looking herself."
Phillips grinned maliciously. "Captain, may I respectfully remind you that you shouldn't be thinking of such things in your present condition?"
Kirk blushed. "You're right but a man can dream, can't he?" He slipped on a pair of low pumps and stood up, feeling awkward. "How do I look?"
"You look beautiful."
"Stop joking, Phillips."
"I'm not. But that's the idea, isn't it?"
Kirk looked at himself in the mirror. Phillips was right, but he wished desperately that the rightful owner of the body was here. He turned around to make sure the dress hung right, and he felt half naked. He hated the idea of flirting with a Romulan male. It went against his very nature he was always interested exclusively in females. But lives were on the line, and this was no time for prudishness. he was a woman right now, so...
"Are you all right?" Phillips asked anxiously.
"If I think any more about this dinner, I'm going to need a team of psychologists," Kirk said, striding out of the room. "Let's get this damn thing over with." His left pump turned sideways on him, and he almost stumbled.
Phillips caught up with him. "Shorter steps," he hissed. "You have a dress on. You're walking too much like a man."
Kirk frowned at him, then he rolled his eyes to the ceiling but he complied. This was going to be a long, long evening.
"The man's name is Scott, right?" Kate whispered as the three walked down the busy corridor.
"Yes our Chief Engineer," McCoy whispered back. "But don't you worry. Spock and I will do all the talking."
"If that's so, why do you need me along I mean, besides the public relations angle."
"Well...after the Lester incident..."
"I understand where he might think that the three of you had gone nuts."
"Mr. Scott can be a suspicious man," Spock said. "we may need you to take a truth scan, if necessary."
"In other words, we needed to hedge our bets," McCoy said.
"Well, ok. I think the two of you are nuts, anyway." She shrugged her shoulders and looked around. "But I feel like everyone's looking at me."
"They are," Spock said. Kate glared at him. "In their eyes, you are the Captain. A starship captain must be strong in a time of crisis."
"Yes, I know," Kate sighed. "Ok, I'll stand up straighter."
Spock and McCoy stopped in front of a conference room door. Each one caught one of Kate's arms as she absentmindedly walked on.
"Well, it's showtime, folks," she said. "Open the curtain, hit the lights." The door opened, and the lights came on. There was nobody inside. "Well, that was anti climatic. Can we go now? I want to hole up back in Jim's quarters."
McCoy gently steered her in, and Spock quickly followed. "Doctor McPherson," Spock said. "I do not wish to reprimand you, but I must remind you that until this crisis is over, you must act like Captain Kirk."
Chagrined, Kate went over to a chair, sat down, and crossed her ankles. "I'm sorry. I'm babbling again I'm nervous. But, Mr. Spock, honey," she continued softly, "I haven't seen Jim Kirk in at least seven years. How should I know how he acts now?"
"She has a point, Spock." McCoy turned to Kate. "I'll look up some file recordings. In the meantime, just be the strong, silent type."
"Yeah. Right..." She would've continued, but a harried looking man in a red shirt came in.
"Ah. Mr. Scott. Please sit down," Spock said, turning to the computer viewscreen.
"Gentlemen," Scott said, brushing at something on his shirt. "I'm verra sorry I'm late."
"No problem," Kate said, while McCoy kicked her leg.
"Computer," Spock said. "Bring up the file on..."
The red alert siren blared, and the intercom came on. "Mr. Scott," Uhura said. "You're needed in Engineering. Mr. Spock Mr. Sulu requests your presence on the bridge."
Scott was halfway out the door. "Please excuse me, Captain, gentlemen."
"Mr. Scott," Spock said. "This information will wait." But Scott was already gone. "Dr. McPherson, I will need you up on the bridge."
"Too many of the crew have seen you walking. They may think it odd if Captain Kirk didn't try to get to the bridge for a moment."
"He's right, dammit," McCoy grumbled. "I guess we should've had this meeting in Sickbay."
"Politics. 'Oh, what a tangled web we weave/when first we practice to deceive...' Isn't that how it goes?" She stood up. "Ok, let's go. I'll try to act weak which might not be too far from the truth." When Spock looked at her quizzically, she added, "Stage fright."
Spock raised his eyebrow, but said nothing more. They remained silent as the two men "supported" Kate down the corridor to the turbolift. As the elevator sped towards the bridge, Kate crossed her fingers and held them up for the men to see. McCoy smiled wanly.
Spock burst out of the elevator towards the captain's chair, while Dr. McCoy and Kate "struggled" behind. "Mr. Sulu, report."
Sulu hesitated, glancing towards Kate, who almost panicked. "Mr. Spock remains in command," she said, finally.
Sulu nodded. "Engineering reported more disintegrating boards. Before they could stop the engines, we started accelerating again."
"Don't tell me," said McCoy. "Towards the Neutral Zone."
"Yes, Doctor," Sulu said. "No impulse power, no phasers, no photons, and we're almost in the Neutral Zone."
Kate started down to the main bridge. McCoy touched her arm and looked at her. She shrugged and mouthed "Why not?" McCoy mouthed back, "Be careful."
"Stabilizers?" Spock was saying, crossing over to the console.
Sulu punched the stabilizer status button. "Still good."
"Deactivate starboard stabilizers. The port stabilizers should push us away."
Sulu grinned. "Yes, sir!" He pushed buttons. "Stabilizers deact..."
The ship rocked sharply to starboard. Kate managed to grab the arm of the captain's chair, but fell to her knees. As the gravity control stabilized again, she looked around and saw many of the bridge personnel on the floor. We have
to install seatbelts, she thought. She saw McCoy getting up, shaking his head. And Spock...
She looked around and gasped. Spock was lying on his back, his head to one side. Green blood was pooling on the deck. Automatically, she dropped down beside him and reached towards her side only to slap her hip and realize that her medical kit wasn't there. So she pressed her hand lightly over the wound and yelled over her shoulder, "Leonard...I need help."
McCoy moved swiftly to Kate's side. Pushing her away, he stripped off his shirt, balled it up, and pressed it on the wound. Giving her a warning glance, he said, "Get Sickbay up here, Jim."
Kate quickly stood up, intending to use the intercom on the captain's chair, but Uhura was already paging them. Kate looked at her green stained hands, feeling slightly foolish.
Checkov, regaining his chair, looked at a reading, then looked again. He turned to face Kate, who was trying to wipe her hands on her slacks. "We're in the Neutral Zone, Captain. What should we do?"
Kate gave a startled glance to McCoy, and he looked up from his compress and shrugged. Gee, thanks, Leonard, she thought. What would a captain do now? She automatically put her hand up to flick her hair back, realized what she was doing, and brushed her hand over the top of her head. Well, here goes nothing, she thought, and was glad Spock and McCoy had the foresight to brief her on the bridge crew. She took a deep breath.
"Uh...Uhura, send a message to Starfleet informing them of our situation." She flicked the intercom. "Mr. Scott."
The answer was slow in coming. "Aye, Captain."
"What's our situation?"
"Not good, Captain. I had to shut all engines down." Kate gripped the chair arm, hard. "The gauges were off the scales," Scott continued. "They were about ready to go."
"No propulsion at all?" Kate queried.
"None, Captain. No energy except for life support."
"Damn computers," she muttered, thinking hard and fast.
"What?" Scott sounded puzzled.
"Nothing. Could you rig something up with the shuttles..."
"No. Not enough power, and the boards are too different. I'm sorry, sir. Our laddies and lassies are working hard down here, but they're nowhere near finished."
Kate sighed. "Thank you, Mr. Scott. You did all you could. I guess we'll all have to get out and push this buggy." She hesitated. "Oh and get those people in a hidey hole. We're liable to be visited."
She broke the connection. "Well, gentlemen. I'm open for suggestions." Except for the medical crew working on Spock, the bridge remained silent. "Then I think we better set an extra plate on the table. We're going to have visitors."
"Captain," Sulu said. "The Romulan bird of prey we saw before is towing the Loki toward us."
"Oh, lovely. Uhura, open hailing frequencies." Kate then looked at McCoy, who gave her a thumbs up. "Spock?" she asked.
"Still out. Nasty concussion, but he'll be up and around soon."
"Thank God," sighed Kate.
"Hailing frequencies open, Captain." Kate turned and stared blankly at Uhura, then remembered and turned towards the screen. "This is...Captain James Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Our intrusion was accidental. We shall leave Romulan space as soon as repairs are completed."
"Ah, Captain Kirk!" said the smiling Romulan on the screen. "I have heard many good things about you."
"Why, thank you," said Kate affably. "Perhaps I could say the same of you, if I knew your name."
"Ah! How careless of me. I am Commander Tanus of the G'tenaar. I doubt that you've heard of me. We Romulans are much more careful about letting out military information."
"Understandable of a people who keep even their ships invisible."
"Yes. An astute point."
Kate smiled. "Oh, I'm full of 'em!"
Tanus leaned back. "Of course. And, of course, you understand that I have every right to capture your ship."
Kate's smile faded. "I told you. Our intrusion was due to breakdowns. This is not an act of aggression."
Tanus looked to one side. "Our sensors show that your engines are shut down..."
"...but the legendary Captain Kirk always has a few tricks up his sleeve. I am afraid we will have to tow you to one of our starbases to verify...your amusing tale."
"Is the G'tenaar big enough to tow two big, old starships?" Kate asked contemptuously.
"Reinforcements are on their way." Tanus looked beyond Kate, and she involuntarily turned. The medical crew had put Spock on a stretcher and were just entering the turbolift. McCoy caught Kate's eye and mouthed, "Come down to Sickbay."
Kate turned back to the screen. "Our first officer. He had an accident."
"You seem to have a talent for bad luck." He turned away from the screen, then turned back. "I almost forgot. You and your top officers are invited to dinner on our ship."
Kate considered. "And if I refuse?"
"You would enjoy your meal more if you came voluntarily. Dinner will be served in one of your hours. Until then!" He broke the connection.
Checkov was muttering to himself. Kate got up and laid a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up and stopped. "I have no choice," she said, more for her own benefit then anyone else's. "Damn." She strode off the bridge. "Inform Mr. Scott of our dinner plans. I'll be down in Sickbay. My head hurts," she added, which was quite true.
"Dinner will be delayed," Commander Tanus said, striding into the reception room. "Our other guests will be arriving shortly."
Kirk groaned inwardly. He had mingled around the room, trying to flirt with the Romulan men, and trying not to flirt with the women. He was acting as feminine as he could be without overdoing it. And his feet hurt, and his face felt caked with makeup. If this wasn't hell, it was close.
He managed to escape the garrulous Romulan who had been talking at him for the last ten minutes by claiming he needed to freshen up his makeup. He then walked straight over to Phillips, who gave him the thumbs up sign. "How are you doing...Kate?" Phillips asked.
"My feet hurt, but otherwise good I think," Kirk replied. "What's your impression?"
"Our hosts are a friendly bunch..." He looked around the room. "...aren't they?"
"Hmmm. I wonder who our other guests are?"
"No doubt other Romulans late for the fireworks."
"You're probably right," Kirk said, hoping it wasn't the Enterprise crew.
"Incoming," Phillips murmured out the corner of his mouth.
"Huh?" said Kirk, then he felt a big hand on his shoulder.
"Are you enjoying our party?" Tanus asked. "Doctor McPherson, isn't it? And Mr..."
"Phillips," the engineer growled. "And I've had more gracious invitations. A shot across our path wasn't one."
"Quite possibly, sir, it wasn't." He turned to face Kirk, who didn't like the look in the Commander's eyes. "But let us not discuss war tonight."
Kirk reviewed his no muscle defense throws, then started to retort then he met the gaze of Phillips, who shook his head. As much as he hated to admit it, the man was right.
He looked at Fries glowering at him from a corner. Kirk himself would've and had! given this sort of order before. But he didn't have to like it, either way.
He exhaled, then smiled up at Tanus. "Why, no, Commander! Sugar..." he said, thinking how Uhura might handle this, "...war is the farthest thing from my mind tonight." He laid a hand on Tanus' arm to distract him until Phillips got over the coughing fit that suddenly came upon him.
"Sugar?" Tanus smiled. "I'm afraid I don't..." His communicator beeped. "I'm sorry. I must receive our other guests. Excuse me." He strode off, after a last admiring look at Kirk.
"Slow down," Phillips murmured.
"Can't. Have to throw him off balance. Wouldn't you know who do the same?"
"Yes, darn it. But I don't have to like it."
"Sorry. That's not the name of the game." He looked over to Captain Fries, who motioned Kirk over. "I think it's time to report in."
"Good luck." Phillips nodded, knowing what the two had planned.
"Oh, I'm used to bucking authority."
Kirk raised his eyebrows at Phillips, then slowly strolled over to Fries, who was waiting impatiently in a corner by himself. "Yes, Captain," Kirk said.
"I do not appreciate your associating with the enemy in that manner," he said, in a loud voice.
"In what manner?" Kirk said indignantly.
"You know," Fries said, even louder.
"I'm afraid I don't. Would you care to spell it out for me?" Kirk noticed that more and more of the party were trying hard not to look at them. I hope this works, Kirk thought, because I'm going to be terribly embarrassed if anyone finds out about this.
"Flirting," Fries looked around and lowered his voice. "An officer does not flirt with the enemy!" He dipped his right eyelid slightly to show that he was aware of the attention.
"I am not on duty. I will..." The door shushed open. "...flirt with whomever I wish." He then looked at the incoming party, and tried not to let the disappointment show.
"This is an order!" Fries' face got red.
Kirk, distracted, almost forgot his next line, then pulled himself together. "You can shove that order!" Kirk then flounced toward the Enterprise crew.
Kate was grinning slightly, and McCoy's eyebrows were almost up to his hairline. Scott, on the other hand, was looking around the room. As Kirk came closer, Scott and Tanus matched look for look in giving Kirk an appreciative once over. Kirk concluded then that Scott did not know, but McCoy did.
"Dr. McPherson," Tanus said. "I presume you know some of your colleagues."
"Why, yes," Kirk said. "Hello, Bones. Fancy meeting you here."
"You can't stay out of trouble, can you?" McCoy drawled.
"And, as for you," Kirk said, looking up at Kate. "I know it's been a long time, but this is ridiculous." He looked pointedly at the bandages on her forehead, wondering what had happened.
Kate touched her forehead. "A scratch," she said, then smiled. "You should have sent a letter instead of yourself."
"It would've been much easier on the nerves. But where is your first officer?"
"Our hard headed first officer managed to get a concussion," McCoy said. "He's in his trance now. He should be up in a day or so." He grinned a wicked grin. "May I take the opportunity to tell you how beautiful you look tonight?"
Kirk grinned tightly. "Can it, Bones."
Scott, who had followed the conversation with a bemused look, nudged the doctor. McCoy glanced at him, puzzled. "Could you introduce me to the young lady, Doctor?"
"Oh. Yes." McCoy glanced at Kate. "Montgomery Scott, this is Dr. Katherine McPherson of the Loki. Mr. Scott is our Chief Engineer."
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Scott," Kirk said.
"The pleasure is mine," said Mr. Scott appreciatively. Kirk looked at Kate and raised his eyebrows slightly. Kate shrugged, smiling.
"It seems that the Federation is one big, happy family," Tanus said. "How fortunate I was able to bring you together."
Kirk stiffened momentarily, about to make a retort, but relaxed into character. He took Tanus' arm and looked up at him. "Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy are old friends of mine. I met them at the academy."
"Ah. Old boyfriends."
Kate snickered and McCoy smiled. "No, nothing like that. As a matter of fact," Kirk smiled, "they were roommates." Paybacks are...
"Indeed." Tanus raised an eyebrow. "Starfleet is more enlightened than I thought." He looked down at Kirk, who attempted to look at him with something akin to affection. "Shall we move on, my dear?"
"Of course! I'd be delighted to meet some more of your charming officers...I'll talk with you later." He gave them a warning glance.
"I hope so," McCoy said, looking at Tanus.
"Do not look so anxious, Doctor," said Tanus. "As much as I would like to, I cannot spend all my time with beautiful women."
"Why, thank you!" Kirk said. Kate coughed to cover up a snicker.
As they walked off, Kirk looked back and lifted his eyebrows. He noticed that Scott looked at him with disapproval, and he wondered why they hadn't briefed him. As he looked forward, he noticed a Romulan woman looking with distaste at Kate and wondered who she was. She didn't look like anyone he knew.
He sighed. Just what they needed. Another complication.
"You know, she does that better than I could," Kate sighed.
"You do know why, don't you?"
"Huh...?" Kate then remembered how many of her female classmates flocked to Kirk. She imagined every technique in the known universe for snaring a male had been tried on him. "Well, yeah, I guess I do." She sighed again. "I'm just worried about hi...uh...her...and the other problem, if you catch my drift." She looked around, suddenly aware of sharp Romulan ears.
McCoy touched her wrist lightly. "Just remember that you're a Starfleet Captain, and, according to the book, willing to make sacrifices."
She shivered. "Thanks for the comforting thought, Leonard." She felt a touch on her elbow and whirled.
"Greg!" she shouted, grinning and grabbing him by his arms. He grinned back, looked her up and down, and shook his head.
"I have a few comments to say much later."
She resisted the impulse to gather him into a big bear hug. "Can it so it'll stay fresh. You're a sight for sore eyes, Greg."
"I'm glad to see you, too even though you do look like a starship ran over you."
Kate became aware of Scott and the few Romulans gathered around. "Greg and I...uh...lived in the same dormitory at Starfleet."
"Ah," Scott said, looking totally bewildered.
"You remember Greg Phillips, don't you, Leonard?" Kate said desperately, maintaining Kirk's lie. "The one always burying himself in the Engineering books?"
"Oh, yes," McCoy said. "It's been a longer time than I thought. Where did the years go?"
"I wish I knew, Lennie," Greg said, and Kate breathed a sigh of relief that everyone was reading the signals properly.
"An engineer, are you, laddie?" Scott said, all smiles now that he was on familiar ground.
"This is Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer on the Enterprise," McCoy cut in.
"Oh!" Phillips looked thunderstruck. "I've read some of your papers. Very nice work, sir."
Kate was impressed. Greg only said such things when he meant it. She looked at Scott with increased respect.
"Thank you," Scott said with a little embarrassment. "But have you read the papers by..."
"You know they'll go on forever," McCoy whispered.
"I suppose we should mingle." Kate heard a Romulan make a comment to Mr. Scott an engineer, she supposed and Mr. Scott answered in technical terms that didn't sound quite decent to Kate. But the Romulan looked satisfied. "You go that way, I'll go this way," Kate whispered. "Maybe something will turn up."
"You'll be all right?"
"Fine." She hoped.
She drifted around from conversation to conversation, but failed to find anything useful. Many of the Romulans were grumbling about some internal power coup on ch'Rihan; others, about their particular department and including some choice comments on Tanus. Apparently, he was not well liked, and had, in fact, been acting odd lately. Kate found this interesting, but the conversations had been cut short as soon as they realized she was close enough to hear.
Another group commented on Tanus' new ladyfriend and how beautiful she would be if she were only Rihannsu. Kate found that fascinating, then amusing, then she wondered how good Kirk was at self defense.
She tried to bypass Captain Fries, who was glowering in a corner, but he motioned her over. "Captain Fries. How are you doing?" She tacked the last on, desperate for something to say.
"Jim. Captain Kirk," Fries said, looking a little ashamed. "I wanted to thank you for sponsoring me for a captainship."
Kate's jaw almost dropped. Kirk sponsored him?
"I hope you won't be disappointed. I'm afraid I'm not doing a very good job."
"I've heard...rumors," Kate said slowly. "Mostly that none of the crew seems to like you."
"I don't expect to be liked. I expect to be obeyed."
"Perhaps that's your problem. Treat your crew like humans, not like machines! You should expect to be respected, instead!" Kate realized that she had raised her voice, and Fries blanched.
"Hmmm...can we talk later?" His voice raised a notch.
"I do, however, expect my Chief Medical Officer to obey my orders!"
Kate was startled, then she realized that the comment was aimed at Kirk, across the room hanging onto Tanus' arm. Obviously, they were following a plan.
"Her behavior...is quite shocking," Kate said as Kirk glared at her. "She never behaved this way at Starfleet Academy. I never knew she went for..." She shut her mouth after that comment. Let all the eavesdroppers make something out of that! "But I never get any respect from my own CMO, anyway." McCoy looked at her and waved.
"I can see."
Something touched Kate's elbow, and she jumped. "Perhaps I could give you some advice."
Kate turned. A Romulan woman was at her side. She was as tall as Kirk, muscular, yet slender. She wasn't beautiful, but Kate could tell she had the quality to make men look twice. "Pardon me?" Kate said.
"You were looking for advice on controlling your officers." The woman edged closer to Kate, laying a hand on her arm.
Kate didn't know how to respond. The Romulan was obviously offering more than advice, and Kate's gut reaction was to start running and keep going until she hit Terra. Then she caught a look on Tanus' face. This woman was somehow important to him.
On the other hand, maybe she should follow Kirk's lead...
Kate smiled and laid her hand on the Romulan's. It felt hot. "I would love to hear your advice." Fries, sensing he wasn't needed, faded back into the corner.
The woman faced Kate. "You're James Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise."
"Right on all counts. But call me Jim."
"I am Melachta, Chief Security Officer."
Oh, good, thought Kate sardonically. The most suspicious person in the lot! Well, here goes nothing.
"Pleased to meet you...Melachta." Kate tried to give the woman the once over, then stopped, not knowing whether it was appropriate. She wished desperately that she and Kirk would reverse again then she would know the right responses.
While she was standing, flustered, Melachta gave Kirk's body a long appreciative look. Kate hoped she wasn't blushing.
A chime sounded. "It's time for dinner," Melachta said, looking slightly disappointed.
"Perhaps we can discuss this later," Kate said. "In the meantime, may I escort you?"
Kate crooked her arm. Melachta hesitated, then, catching sight of Kirk and Tanus, laid her arm inside Kate's. Tanus looked long and hard at Kate and Melachta, then turned and smiled at something Kirk said.
Greg grinned and waved. Kate thought about the one fingered wave, decided against it, and opted for a sickly smile. I'm going to get him later, she thought. I wish I
was someplace else I wish I was someplace else I wish...
"Are we going in?" Melachta asked.
"Oh, sorry." I wish I was someplace else. "I was momentarily distracted."
"Understandable, considering the company," the Romulan woman commented loudly. Tanus, just ahead of them, winced as he escorted Kirk into the dining area.
Dinner was uneventful, despite the black looks the Romulan Engineer gave Phillips and Scott. Perhaps, Kirk thought, they were pulling his leg and it came off. Well,
every little bit helps.
It was also fortunate that Kate was playing the game. Divide and conquer! However, her companion was the same woman that was looking at "him" with so much disdain earlier in the evening. Kirk didn't remember meeting the woman before, much less ever making her angry but who know? He wished he could warn Kate, but the plan called for him staying with Tanus.
"You look pensive," Tanus said, and Kirk jumped.
"Oh, no...just enjoying the meal." It was good, if somewhat unidentifiable. The meat was gamey, and he steered clear of it after someone mentioned something about a carnivore. However, the vegetables were comparable to those he was used to. "It's delicious," he said. "Do you always treat your prisoners like kings and queens?"
"Let us take a walk," Tanus said abruptly, standing up. The other Romulan officers followed his lead, and he motioned them down. Tanus helped Kirk up, and the left the room arm in arm, playing to a room of Romulans and Terrans trying hard not to notice the scene.
They walked down the corridor, and Kirk noticed the two guards falling into place far behind them. "The Rihannsu do not take Federation prisoners," Tanus finally said. "We've always preferred tidier solutions."
"So I've heard."
"Rihannsu High Command has changed policies. All prisoners are to be brought in and...questioned."
You were about to say "tortured". Oh, well, let it
pass. "And the dinner?" Kirk asked.
"Ah...that was my idea." Tanus looked down on Kate's body and kissed the top of Kirk's head. Kirk tried not to flinch. "I hope you liked it."
"I did very much." Kirk knew he should kiss Tanus on the cheek at this point, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it. "Thank you." He busied himself looking down the corridor. "This ship is even more spartan than the E...Loki."
Tanus laughed. "Ah, my dear alien! This is a military ship, not a luxury cruiser."
"But our psychologists have found..."
"Trust a female to try to find beauty in a military vessel!" Kirk smiled wryly. "Actually, ours made the same discovery. Would you like to tour our art gallery?"
"I would. It should be very...illuminating."
The guards waited impatiently outside as Kirk and Tanus viewed the art gallery. There were many beautiful scenes of a sparse scenery ch'Rihan, Kirk supposed. He stopped in front of a painting of a fairy city. "This is lovely," Kirk said.
Tanus laughed. "You are very perceptive. I painted that."
Kirk turned. "You did?"
"It's a representation of my home town of S'tantul."
"The painting is very skillfully done. Why didn't you become an artist?"
Tanus looked sober. "One cannot defend the front wielding a paintbrush."
"Oh," Kirk said. He knew about sacrifices still, something didn't sound right. "Why did you join the military?"
Tanus gave her a startled look. "Our military is the highest profession. To defend the Empire is the greatest honor a Rihannsan can attain. Is it not so in your Federation?"
Kirk shook his head. "To be a part of Starfleet is honorable. But there are many other professions just as honorable." He hooked a finger toward the painting. "This painting, for instance."
"So." Tanus looked at the picture. "Interesting. But impractical."
"Possibly," Kirk said affably. "But, after all, we're a Federation, not an Empire."
"Yes." He looked at Kirk affectionately. "But here we are, talking politics, when I was going to show you the ship, my dear."
Kirk cringed slightly. He had momentarily forgotten that he was in Kate's body. Recovering quickly, he offered him arm to Tanus and smiled. "Well, then, lead on, sir!"
They went out into the corridor, and the guards fell in close behind, even to getting in the same turbolift. Time
to stir things up a little, Kirk thought. "In the lounge there was a lovely Romulan woman watching you. Who was she?"
The guards tried very hard to look away. Tanus' face tightened, then he laughed. "You are very observant. Jealous, are you?"
The statement seemed a little arrogant to Kirk, but he let it pass. "Maybe," Kirk smiled around clenched teeth. "Should I be?"
"Rest easy, my dear. That was Melachta, head of Security. She was, no doubt, worried for my safety." His hand tightened slightly.
"Nonetheless," Tanus went on. "I would not confront her. She is not overly fond of humans."
"She seemed rather cozy with...Captain Kirk."
"Yes," the Romulan said, and they exited the turbolift.
They stopped in front of a marked door. "You may wish to shield your eyes. Our greenhouse is quite bright." Kirk obliged. The door opened, and he could see the bright light against his eyelids. After Tanus led him in, he opened his eyes.
"Oh, how beautiful," he said, trying to sound feminine and enthusiastic. It was beautiful. The greenhouse was set in terraces, and it was filled with desert style plants some of the plants were blossoming, and there was a clean fresh scent in the air, a bit like aloe vera. The room appeared quite large, with many trails and hidden spots. It looked like what Kirk had seen of Vulcan.
Kirk turned in time to see Tanus motion the guards out of the garden. Is this going to be it, he wondered. How fast can I run? He dismissed that thought. Surely there were other ways he could defuse the situation and still keep Tanus distracted.
He turned around and fingered a flower, being careful of the thorns. "I always thought the Romulans were strictly war like. I see I was wrong."
"An understandable mistake. We, too, have our weaknesses."
Kirk looked at him, brushing back hair that straggled into his eyes. "I wouldn't call appreciation for beauty a weakness."
Tanus sauntered to Kirk, and put a hand on his shoulders. It took all Kirk's concentration not to flinch or pull away. "It's a weakness in a military society. But..."
"Yet you paint! Well. 'Man cannot live by bread alone.'"
Tanus smiled. "Is that one of your proverbs? We have a similar saying." He slid his arm around Kirk's shoulders, and Kirk looked at it with distaste. "Shall I show you the garden?"
"Why not?" Kirk said, and wished he was back on the Enterprise.
"Your ship is very military looking," said Kate, trying desperately to make conversation.
"We are a military ship." Melachta pointed to a small corridor, and they turned.
"Yes. But do you enjoy art?" said Kate, thinking about her hobby. "Is there any aboard ship?"
Melachta looked surprised, then her face hardened. "Some of our crew are weaker than others," she said, with some vehemence. "I have no need to search out non tactical matters."
Kate had the feeling the woman was lying. "In our culture, appreciation for art is part of what makes us human."
"Yes," Melachta said flatly. "Weak." A moment later, they stopped in front of a plain door. "Go in. You first."
"Well...ok," Kate said, uneasy. The door opened, and she gasped involuntarily. It was a stateroom. She turned back. Melachta was pointing a phaser at her.
"Ok," Kate said. "I said I would go first." She walked in nervously, Melachta close behind. When she heard the door close behind them, she stopped and spread her hands. "Now what?"
Kate sat down on the bed, facing Melachta. She didn't like the look in the woman's eyes she had seen homicidal maniacs before. However, they had been in security cells. "Why are you so angry?" Kate asked. "What did I do?"
Melachta spat on Kate's face. "You shamed my commander and my kinswoman...Captain...James...Kirk!"
"I did what?" Kate wiped her face off and wondered if Kirk had gotten that...kinswoman pregnant, then rejected that thought. However, she wouldn't put it past him.
Melachta was breathing heavily. "Do not play tricks."
"No, honest!" Kate exclaimed. "What did I do to them? I think I deserve to know that."
"My kinswoman and my commander is the same person," she said, slowly and angrily. "You stole our ship's cloaking device, and took her to rot on some Federation outpost."
"I was second in command on their security staff. You face is burned in my brain."
"Yes," Kate muttered. "I'm a regular firebrand." Why is this happening to me and not Kirk? Why does his past have to catch up with me? "Look, I did what I had to do. I was under orders." At least Kate presumed he was, since Kirk was still captain.
"Orders! This is what I think of your orders." She reached forward and slapped Kate, throwing her onto the floor. Still, Kate reflected, rubbing her face and neck, it could have been a phaser bolt...and I think she pulled back at the last moment. Perhaps she's not normally homicidal...
"I suppose your Mr. Spock was under orders to seduce our commander."
Kate's mind boggled, and she kept trying to visualize it, but she said, "Yes. He was."
Melachta's lip curled. "I do not think much of a Federation who gives such orders. I suppose it was also orders..." she spat the word out. "...that two Federation starships went across the Neutral Zone at the same time."
Kate gaped at her. "What do you mean? Didn't they tell you?"
The security chief lifted her chin proudly. "I was told that we caught two ships sneaking across the border."
Kate sighed. "Well, I don't suppose you'll believe me, but we didn't trespass deliberately. We drifted across like a wounded duck. Our ship was sabotaged. Didn't you wonder why we didn't fight?"
"...wrongly. Our navigation boards melted as soon as we got near the Neutral Zone." Melachta looked unconvinced, but she was wavering. "Look you're head of security. Check the computer if you don't believe me."
Melachta reluctantly turned to the computer. After a minute she exclaimed something in Romulan, then looked over her shoulder at Kate. She turned back to the computer, obviously exasperated, and Kate sat nervously, wondering why the security chief hadn't been told important items like this?
Melachta turned slowly back, a look of amazement etched on her face. "The orders were in code...but you are...right," Melachta said slowly. "The starships were disabled by one of our people working in the Federation." She put the phaser back on her belt. "The orders were in a code I am positive they do not think I know."
She smiled. "I, too, have my sources." She looked at the floor, then back up at Kate. "Perhaps you did not intend to shame my kinswoman."
"No. It was an unfortunate incident." She hoped. She would love to hear about this story when she got back to her own body.
"I regret striking you," Melachta said slowly. The apology sounded forced.
"Oh, don't worry about it. It's forgotten. But, if you don't mind my asking, why didn't anybody inform you of the orders?"
Melachta thought about that. "Tanus and I used to be...lovers. He knew of my hatred for you and your first officer. He probably hoped I would kill you, and would, therefore, be rid of an extremely troublesome prisoner. Also, the orders expressly forbid to tell anyone not on the command staff."
"But aren't you part of..."
"Yes, I am on the command staff." The Romulan woman laughed bitterly. "Of course, I would have been blamed, and Tanus would have been rid of me." She looked at Kate closely. "You are lucky I didn't kill you."
Kate felt weak. Life was much simpler when she was doctoring people very few came back for revenge.
"Are you all right?" Melachta asked.
"It's been a long day."
Melachta moved closer. "Perhaps this will help." She lunged forward before Kate could pull back, and kissed her on the lips. Kate wanted desperately to break contact, but she didn't dare she was afraid of insulting the Romulan again.
Melachta pulled away slightly. "Fell better?"
"I'm definitely wide awake," Kate said drily. "Impulsive, aren't you?" Suddenly, Kate wondered whether Kirk was having the same problem. "Where to, now? Back to the dining room?"
"No," she said, stroking the Captain's arm. Kate forced herself not to shudder. "I think I know where my...Commander...took your friend. If you have no objections, I would like to do a little act for him."
Kate grinned, relieved when Melachta stood up. "Sure! I love paybacks."
"Never mind." She got up and straightened her shirt. "Besides, I did want to check on my...friend."
"Yes. Tanus is not the considerate man he appears to be."
Kate looked at her.
"If this is how you treat your prisoners, I'd love to see how you treat your friends." Kirk sat back on the stone bench and stared fixedly at the flower beside him. Although he knew he had to play the game, he was increasingly uncomfortable under the Romulan's gaze.
"Ah, we just treat all beautiful prisoners this way." He pulled Kirk closer to him.
Kirk got up to look at the flower closer. "And those less fortunate than I?"
Tanus swiftly moved to Kirk's side. "I didn't hear your friends complaining."
Kirk wanted to say that his friends had no choice, but he remained silent with an effort. He tried to move away again, but Tanus grabbed his arm. "Let me go!"
"Stop playing games."
"Who said I was playing games?" Kirk said through clenched teeth. Distracting the Commander was one thing, but...
"You've asked for this all night."
Oh, damn! "I certainly have not."
Tanus turned Kirk around hard, with a grip meant to leave bruises, then he tilted Kirk's chin back and kissed him. Oh, damn, oh damn, Kirk thought desperately, then an image flashed by in his mind Tanus' face when he found out who he was really kissing. Kirk laughed.
Tanus broke away and looked at Kirk. "You find this amusing?"
"Let us see about that." The Romulan grasped Kirk's upper arms fiercely. Kirk squirmed, trying to get away, but Tanus bent down to kiss him again. Kirk turned his head, hoped Romulan physiology was like human physiology, and brought his knee up, hard. Tanus fell to the floor, in pain.
Kirk stood above him a minute, a little ashamed of himself he usually didn't fight that dirty but he hadn't the time for niceties. Besides, the man who forced himself on a woman deserved what he got and vice versa for the woman who did the same. Kirk smiled at Tanus' expression.
Distant laughter made them both jump. Tanus turned toward the noise, then got up very slowly. Kirk moved toward the voices. He tore around the corner at breakneck speed, and almost ran into himself.
"Steady," Kate said, putting out an arm to stop Kirk. She looked at him and winked, then looked past him. "Why, Commander Tanus! Fancy meeting you here! What a pleasant surprise."
Tanus looked at Melachta, then at Kate, then at Kirk. He looked as if he had swallowed a quart of alum. "Yes. A surprise."
"Perhaps we should tour the ship together, sir," Melachta said. "We would only keep running into one another anyway."
"That's true," Kate said, looking at Melachta as if the idea hadn't occurred to her.
"I think it's a wonderful idea," Kirk said, rubbing his arms and brushing red hair back over his shoulder.
Tanus looked at the three. "I think it's time our...visitors...go back to their ships."
"Spoilsport," Kate said, and Kirk kicked her lightly in the shin.
"Yes, Commander," Melachta said. "I will escort them back."
"Do that." Tanus turned abruptly and left.
They waited for a few seconds, then the three broke out in laughter. "Thank you," Kirk said, wiping his eyes. "I was backed into a corner this time."
"Unusual place for you to be," Kate commented.
"In more ways than one."
"It was Melachta's idea." Kate touched the Romulan's arm.
Kirk smiled at her. "Thank you."
"It was my pleasure," she said. "He had it coming."
"He certainly did," Kate said drily. "Rape is not my idea of fun."
Kirk grimaced. "Mine, either."
"I understand completely. I was in that situation once." She caught the look on Kirk's face. "I'll tell you later."
Melachta looked at the two, obviously puzzled by the exchange. "I must escort you back to the dining room. I am sorry. I am, of course, still loyal to the Rihannsu side."
"Of course," Kirk said. "We don't expect anything else."
As they walked back to the dining room, Kate explained Melachta's change of heart. "Does this sort of thing usually happen in the Ro...Rihannsu Empire?" Kirk asked.
"Does it not happen in the Federation?"
"Well...yes. Very occasionally."
"So it is with us. It is not policy." Melachta stopped in front of a door. "Thank you for saving my career."
"No, thank you!" Kate said, glancing at Kirk. "From both of us. You helped us more than you know."
Melachta looked like she was going to say something else, but she ushered them quickly through the door.
"Where were you two?" McCoy sputtered. "We stalled them as long as we could, and when Commander Tanus limped in, madder than a polecat..."
Kate whispered something in McCoy's ear, then rapidly whipped out her communicator. "This is Kirk. Beam us aboard."
As the transporter beam took them, McCoy's incredulous gaze met Kirk's. Kirk just pursed his lips and rolled his eyes.
Kate swore later that Mr. Scott was heading toward Engineering even before he was fully materialized. When she sat down in McCoy's office, she looked bemused. "I wonder if we'll ever tell Mr. Scott," she said, wistfully, while McCoy removed the bandages on Kate's temple. "He really should be in command."
"He's more effective in Engineering," McCoy said. "We'll just have to muddle through by ourselves."
"I quite agree," said a new voice, and Kate and McCoy started.
"Good God, Spock, I thought you'd still be sleeping!" McCoy exclaimed. He pointed at a diagnostic bed in the next room. "Lay down. Now."
"I am not your pet, Doctor. Circumstances require that I be up."
"Well," grumbled Mccoy. "At least let me check with your doctor. M'Benga?" He yelled out the open door. "Can your patient be up?"
"Yes, Doctor," came the disembodied voice. "He came out of the healing trance about thirty minutes ago. He may still have a headache."
"Which you have made worse, Doctor," Spock said patiently.
McCoy looked ashamed. "Sorry, Spock, I wasn't thinking."
Spock sat down. "Please close the door." McCoy touched a button on his desk and the door closed. "Please report, Doctors."
They looked at each other. Finally Kate said, "Go ahead, Leonard."
"I had a talk with the CMO of the Romulan ship, who seemed to be quite a pushover, if you ask me. I gathered that the Commander is not liked by the crew, and has shown some signs of instability. However, since he's backed by security, the crew can do nothing. All communications out are monitored. Which is why the CMO has taken no action."
Spock turned to Kate. "And you, Doctor?"
"I almost got killed by a revengeful Chief of Security, and Kirk almost got raped by Tanus." McCoy's mouth fell open. "However, I convinced the Security Chief not to kill me and she may be on our side."
"And you told me Kirk was flirting with the whole Romulan crew," McCoy said accusingly.
"Did you believe me?"
"Actually, no," McCoy drawled. "Anyway, how do you figure that the Security Chief is on our side?"
Kate explained about Melachta. "I do hope I was right about her kinswoman," she continued. "I tried to keep my comments as vague as possible. Really, I hated to think I lied to Melachta."
"You were correct in your assumptions. Doctor McCoy, you may wish to show Dr. McPherson a report of that incident, for future reference."
"Good idea," Kate said. "Maybe I should review his whole life! Are there any other incidents of this sort I should know about?"
"I hope not," said McCoy, leaning back. "We're having problems enough already."
"I agree," Kate sighed. "By the way did you review my actions on the bridge, Mr. Spock?"
"I did. Given the circumstances, you could not have done anything different."
"Meaning Kirk might've gotten you out of there. Well, I feel better, anyway." She relaxed. "I was worried that this whole thing was my fault."
"I apologize for leaving you on the bridge in that situation."
McCoy looked up at the ceiling. "You were unconscious," he said drily. "You couldn't have done anything different, either."
They sat silent for a minute. Spock steepled his fingers. "Well what do we do now?" said Kate. "Besides try to tell Mr. Scott?"
"Play tiddley winks?" suggested McCoy.
"We give the Rihannsu officers a tour of the Enterprise," said Spock. He didn't quite have a twinkle in his eye.
"We what?" the doctors both said.
"You want to tell him?!" Phillips exclaimed, whispering so that the department heads leaving the staff meeting wouldn't hear him.
"We'll have to, sooner or later, Phillips. But I need your opinion on Fries."
Phillips sighed. "Before this mess, I would've advised you not to tell him...sir. But he seems to have changed under crisis." He sighed again. "The person who could tell you for certain is aboard the Enterprise."
"I was afraid of that." Kirk turned to intercept the Captain. "Sir? We need to speak with you...alone."
"Can't it wait, Doctor? We all have things to do. We have a very large problem."
"Yes, we do," Kirk said. "And what I have to say is part of it."
"Please, sir," Phillips said.
The three sat back down at the table. Kirk call up the file on himself and Janice Lester. "Please listen to this."
Fries scanned the file, skipping over the technical parts. After it was over, he grunted and said, "So?"
Kirk leaned forward, closer to Fries. "It's happened again."
"Are you sure?"
Fries looked at him steadily. "I trust you're not pulling a practical joke during this emergency."
Kirk sighed. "I only wish it was a joke."
Fries tapped his fingers on the table and looked at him warily. "Are you trying to tell me that you two have switched with each other, using no apparatus whatsoever?"
Phillips looked startled. "Me? No, sir. I've never felt better in my life."
"Well, then," Fries said, turning toward his CMO. "Who do you claim to be?"
"Captain James Tiberius Kirk."
Fries slammed his fist down on the table. "Really, Doctor! How do you expect me to believe that? We saw Captain Kirk at the banquet tonight."
"Yes," Kirk said wearily, thinking of Dr. Lester. "But the essence in that body was that of Dr. Katherine McPherson."
"Humph." He steepled his fingers. "All right, let's go on that assumption. Answer me a few questions, if you can...Captain Kirk."
"Whatever it takes, Seej."
Fries looked startled, then collected himself. "Why did you call me "Seej'?"
"Because you were good friends with my brother Sam. We could hardly call you 'Sam', could we?"
"What is Sam's middle name?"
"Samuel. His first name was George."
Fries looked at him levelly. "These things could be on public record. I'll need to..."
"You might take into consideration that Kate McPherson knew James Kirk at the academy."
Fries looked startled again. "Did you...er, he? I didn't know that...Still, as I was saying, I'll need to make the questions harder." Fries looked at Phillips, then back at Kirk. "What did Sam keep on the gold computer wafers?"
"Research notes, I think. I never cared to look."
Fries slammed both hands on the table. "Doctor, that's enough! You've pulled your last..."
Kirk stood up, put his hands on the table, and looked Fries in the eyes. "Seej, the wafers you're thinking of are orange! Remember the ones that got us into so much trouble when you two were fourteen..."
Fries sat back, his mouth open. "That's right they were orange! Jim...?" He shook his head, dazed, then looked sharply at Kirk. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you. But when you have two like Mr. Phillips and Dr. McPherson..."
Kirk looked over at Phillips. "Sorry," the engineer said, his face red.
"I quite understand," said Kirk, sitting down.
"I suppose you do. But how did..." He gestured helplessly at Kirk.
"I wish I knew. I was in a training session with my Chief Security Officer, fighting another trainee, then bam! Here I am."
Phillips looked at Kirk. "Training session, sir? I didn't know that."
"I didn't think to tell you. Why?"
"Can you imagine what she thought?"
Kirk looked at him. "I hope she didn't harm my crewman too badly."
"I doubt it. She's never had the training."
Fries drummed his fingers. "Didn't the report say that the effect wore off after a while?"
Kirk sighed. "Yes but that was artificially induced. I think we ran into something else out there. I just wish I knew why it was the two of us and not somebody else on the ship."
"You've always been lucky that way." Fries grinned nastily.
"Anyway, it appears there's nothing we can do about it right now. I just thought you should know," Kirk finished.
"Yes. Thank you." He paused. "How is Sam, anyway? I've lost track."
Kirk had been expecting the question, and he looked down at the table. "I'm sorry. I didn't get a chance to contact you." He looked up, his eyes bleak. "He's dead."
"Dead!?" Fries' face went white.
"Aurelia, too. Peter's on Earth."
"How." Fries looked away.
"An alien life form infected the research colony. I got there just after... We were able to save most of the colonists, but..."
"Damn." Fries shook his head. "Damn. I'm sorry. I hadn't heard."
"You've been busy. I heard you had barely enough time to think since you got back from that hellacious tour on the Yorktown and they gave you the Loki."
"Well, I couldn't turn down a captainship." He looked over at Phillips, hesitated, then looked at the table. "However, even the lowest crewmember knows I've been messing up ever since."
"I've heard that, too." Kirk smiled. "Don't worry about it, and don't be so nervous. I have a feeling that's your problem."
"Yeah? Maybe you're right." Fries looked at Kirk strangely. "When did you say you two switched?"
"A few hours before everything came to pieces. Why?"
Fries laughed. "So that's why you dressed me down on the Romulan ship!"
Kirk looked puzzled. "I did what?" He grinned. "Oh, no, she didn't..."
Phillips laughed. "That's her, all right."
"We're prisoners, and you expect us to welcome them aboard?" McCoy sputtered.
"Why?" Kate ventured, then she smiled slightly. "Are we returning the favor and having a cocktail party?"
"Spock, stop playing 'twenty questions'," McCoy said. "Are we taking them as hostages?"
"No. They know we will not. They have no compunctions about destroying the ship if that situation develops."
"Well, then," McCoy drawled. "Are we just going to show them a good time? If we are, I would much rather hide in Sickbay."
"No. You are needed to help Dr. McPherson."
"Me?" Kate squeaked.
"I have been studying your Starfleet record..."
"...and I believe your talents are far more suited to this task than mine."
"Captain Tanus!" Kate said congenially. The Romulan Commander, Melachta, and a variety of other officers stepped uncertainly off the transporter platform. Melachta met Kate's eyes and smiled slightly.
"Are your transporters usually this...disturbing, Captain?" Tanus asked, as his leg gave way slightly. The other officers looked a little pale.
"Ah. I apologize. We seem to have a slight bug in the circuitry. We...usually have no problems, so we've been ignoring it." Kate spread her hands. "Anyway, we welcome you. Our officers are waiting for you in our lounge. Follow me." She made a sweeping gesture and ended up pointing at the door. She motioned the Romulans through.
With a yell, one Romulan the Chief Engineer, Kate thought slipped and fell to the floor. Kate rushed up, concern on her face. "Are you all right?" she said as she helped the man up. "You have to watch out in the corridors. I'm afraid that our cleaner 'bots haven't been functioning."
Tanus peered out. The corridor was strewn with papers, dirt, and other rubbish. Kate was rather proud of the effect, the highlight being the smell one of the techs called "Rotting Maggots # 15."
She could see several Romulans wrinkle their noses as they walked gingerly down the corridor. Almost all the corridors were covered with this stuff. She thought the Head Janitor was going to burst a blood vessel when they told him of the plan. In fact, she almost had to threaten him with the brig before he agreed to help. And then they had to go through the same procedure with Mr. Scott...
"I am surprised, Captain," Tanus said, walking beside Kate, "that you did not send one of your lower officers to greet us."
"Ah. Well, just a courtesy from one captain to another, eh? Besides," her voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper, "I was the only one with nothing to do." Which was quite true. There were distinct advantages to being a captain.
Tanus stared at Kate.
"C'mon," Kate bellowed. "Everybody on the turbolift!"
The entire party of Romulans got on the turbolift, putting Kate in mind of an ancient game called "stuff the public telephone." With an imperceptible sigh, she stepped in the front of the crowd and planted her feet as the door closed in front of her.
"Lounge 1 B," Kate said, and the lift started up with a detectable jerk. She had to give Scotty credit for that. It was one of the bumpiest rides she had ever taken and that included some amusement park rides. She saw a few Romulans lose their balances.
Melachta, however, grabbed onto Kate's arm at the first jerk and held on rightly. She looked at the Romulan and tried not to think of the psychological aspect behind that act after all, Melachta was stronger than Kirk!
"Do your turbolifts usually...umph!...run like this?" Tanus said, as one of his officers accidentally jammed an elbow into his ribs.
"Like what?" Kate said innocently.
The turbolift stopped with a jerk, and the man beside Kate almost fell as the door opened. The turbolift floor was almost a foot above the deck. "Just a second," Kate said, and she lowered the lift manually.
The exit from the lift put Kate in mind of bees coming out of a beehive. But as they walked down the hall, none of the Romulans wanted to get too close to the trash, so they all followed Kate as close to single file as possible.
"We're here!" Kate pronounced cheerfully, and the grateful Romulans piled into the first clean room they had seen on the ship. Most of the occupants of the room looked up briefly, then continued their conversations. The Romulans looked a little peeved.
"I believe you met Dr. McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott."
"Yes." Tanus shook hands with them, in deference to the current Federation custom.
Kate steered him away from them. "Commander Tanus, may I introduce Commander Spock. He's my first officer."
"Mr. Spock," Tanus said. "I've heard some rumors about you. May I inquire as to whether your ancestry was Vulcan?"
Personally, Kate thought that was a mite forward for a
first meeting, but it didn't seem to bother Spock. He raised his eyebrows. "You may, Commander Tanus. I am half Vulcan and half Terran, but my allegiance is with Vulcan and its philosophies." He paused. "I presume that is what you meant.
"Yes. I did wonder, from one of the rumors I had heard about you."
Kate's eyes went wide. What an interesting way to insult a Vulcan! Spock, however, was not perturbed. "There is no shame in asking, Commander. Truth is always preferable..."
Spock stopped short. Tanus had picked up a glass, which was now busily dribbling on his uniform. He sat, bemused, then flung the glass against the wall. "Is this your idea of a joke, Captain?"
Kate, who was enjoying every minute of it, said, "Commander Tanus, of course not!" She hesitated. "I apologize. These things have been happening to our equipment. We've been in space a long time without a refurbishing."
McCoy yelped as his mint julep dribbled on his uniform. Kate handed him a napkin. "See?" she said. McCoy glared at her as he wiped up.
"We have been on our mission a long time, also, yet our equipment has not...fallen into such disrepair." Tanus glanced at Scott, who flushed. "Perhaps I should send a repair crew to help you." He smiled.
Kate could see Scott trying to control his temper and barely succeeding. "Your offer is very generous, Commander." She smiled and spread her hands. "Of course, we have no choice, with your main phaser aimed at us."
Tanus smiled, his good humor restored. "Yes, Captain. That's right."
"And it would hardly do for you to pull your prize in dirty." She sighed heavily. "That's another difference between the Romulans and the humans. Humans don't mind a little dirt."
"Oh?" he said. "I had never heard of that trait, but it is very apparent." He crooked a finger, and an aide rushed over. "You can expect a maintenance and cleanup crew in about four hours." He turned to the aide. "Arrange it when we get back to the ship."
"Yes, Commander," the aide said.
Kate wondered how he could hear through that upside down tulip hat, then she smiled wearily. "Thank you."
Tanus looked bemusedly at one of his officers spilling food on his shirt. "Perhaps it will be sooner."
Kate smiled, but she felt like crowing. The first part of Spock's plan had worked!
The rest of the evening was a relative success depending on the point of view. The chicken was burnt, the mashed potatoes were runny, and the corn was tough. Kate was extremely amused to see how deep a shade of green a Romulan could turn. Even Melachta, who had kept close to Kate most of the evening, didn't look too well. A ship of soldiers, indeed.
After the last Romulan had been lead out by Transporter Chief Kyle, Kate turned to McCoy. "How's your patient?"
"That should be his line," McCoy grumbled, pointing at Spock. "But he's fine. Ready for active duty after his little operation."
"Good," Kate said. "I hope this works. I want to get out of here in more ways than one."
Kirk, unable to sit still, was looking at the paintings on the walls of Kate's stateroom. It was obvious she had talent, but she certainly had some unusual ideas for paintings! For example, the one with the buzzard flying over the dinner party...
The door buzzer sounded. Kirk started to answer, but stopped short to make sure he was decent. He had already left his shirt off while puttering around the room until he caught sight of himself in the mirror and startled himself.
He was still adjusting his robe when Fries walked in. "Oh, hello, Seej."
Fries sat down heavily on the edge of the bed. "We have problems, Jim."
"I know," Kirk said drily.
"I just had a coded message from the Enterprise. They had somehow managed to get one of the crew into Romulan Engineering..."
"He was almost caught. He had to transport out before the sabotage was complete."
Kirk sighed. "Not so good. How far did he get?" He thought a moment. "Oh and what was he trying to do?"
"They were trying to substitute dummy computer boards." He waved his hand in dismissal. "Why do you ask? Nobody else will get in now."
Kirk took a deep breath and put his hands on his hips.
"But if someone had an 'in' with the Commander..."
Fries stared at him. "Maybe, but..."
"Who else could you send?"
"Well, there must be..." He shut his mouth and shook his head. "You're right."
Kirk grinned. "If it will ease your fears, I have no intention of going...where this man has never gone before."
Fries smiled. "Oh, I know I shouldn't worry about you. You've always been able to take care of yourself..." He rubbed his shoulder, "...as I can still testify."
"After all these years!"
He rubbed his other shoulder. "That was quite a fight!"
"You started it!" They were silent for a moment, then Kirk looked wistful. "I just washed my face. I suppose I have to put that stuff back on."
Kirk punched him in the arm. "Ow!" Fries glared up at Kirk, then grinned.
"Well? Make yourself useful and find out whether the Enterprise left any of those boards over there. Then get Phillips up here to tell me where to put them. And while you're at it," Kirk turned red, " grab a woman to put some makeup on me."
Kirk, in an evening dress, materialized crouching behind a bulkhead in the Romulan Engineering room. After a few minutes, he determined that no one was searching for him and scurried over to the place where his crewman had left the dummy boards. Apparently, the "joy buzzer" an electronic pulse that temporarily disrupted the Romulan bridge detection devices had worked.
Working quickly, he snapped out the good boards and put the dummy boards in their places. As he worked, he thanked the stars that one of his crewman knew a little about Romulan computer hardware.
After he was finished, he looked around the edge of the computer, noted that the Romulan crewmen were still working at the far edge of the room, and pulled a miniature blowtorch out of his bust area. It actually was a convenient place to carry things, he reflected, but painful, if not careful. He made an "x" across all of the good computer boards, and placed them and the torch in the empty spots of the computer. He then scurried back to his original hiding spot and waited.
After a minute, he heard the transporter hum, and a broach materialized beside him. He rapidly pinned the broach on his dress, stood up, and walked out onto the main Engineering floor.
He was noticed immediately, and, shortly, the communicator on the wall broke out in urgent Romulan. He looked around confusedly, and said, "Where...am I? I want to see Commander Tanus." The Romulan engineer stared at him, then the doors opened, and Kirk was surrounded by Romulan guards. "Please take me to Commander Tanus," he said, looking from face to face.
"We will inform the Commander," said the Romulan Kirk had pegged as the leader. "Come with us."
They led him to the brig, as Kirk had expected. He kept up protestations of his innocence all the way down, and repeated his demand.
As they entered the brig, Melachta popped out of her office. "What's the meaning of this?" she demanded.
"We caught this...woman...transporting onto the Engineering deck. She insists that she needs to see the Commander." He said the last with contempt.
"And I suppose you think she's going to blow up the ship."
The guard shrank slightly. "Yes, Sub Commander."
Melachta looked Kirk in the eyes, as if searching for something. Kirk knew that she was the weak link in their plan.
She turned to the guard. "Stupid! This is the Loki's Chief Medical Officer! Just how many sabotage missions are carried out by a doctor?"
The guard gulped. "Yes, Sub Commander."
"Just lock her up." As she turned away, she nodded at Kirk, so fast that he wasn't sure he saw it. "Have you informed the Commander?"
"...No, Sub Commander."
"Do so. Now." Her voice implied slow torture if he did not. The guard practically dove toward the wall communicator.
The guard looked nervously at Kirk. "We've captured the intruder. It is the Chief Medical Officer from the Loki. She is insisting that she needs to talk to you."
There was a long moment of silence, and Kirk tried to imagine how he would react in the same sort of situation. Finally, he decided there was no comparison.
"I'll be down," the Commander said abruptly.
Kirk barely had time to sit in his cell before Tanus arrived. Standing up, he tried to show quite a bit of bare leg without being obvious. He saw Tanus' gaze drift down.
"Leave," barked Tanus.
"But, Commander..." Melachta said, then glanced at Kirk, who nodded imperceptibly. "Yes, sir."
As soon as all of the security personnel had left, Kirk cut in quickly. "I had to see you again to give you a chance."
"A chance!? Woman, I already gave you a chance..."
"Ah," Kirk said. "You need to learn more about humans." He softened his voice and thanked Uhura silently for the quote. "You're not playing the game right. I resist, you...come back." He paused. "You didn't come back!"
"But..." He shook his head. "Do you emasculate all your lovers?"
"Commander! What you must think of me. I'm not that kind of girl." Kirk almost winced at that last line. Now, more than ever, he had to act the seductress.
Tanus leaned on the wall beside the cell and stared at her. "You're saying that it was an accident?!"
Kirk nodded his head. "Human women always have that reaction...when a man moves too fast." Kirk moved forward and gently bumped into the force field. Sucking on the top of his finger, he waited for Tanus' next move.
Tanus appraised him, then abruptly turned off the forcefield. Kirk stepped out, and Tanus gallantly offered the doctor his arm. They swept out of the brig like Rhett and Scarlett leaving Tara. The guards gaped at the pair as they walked down the hall, but Kirk noticed that Melachta narrowed her eyes. Kirk hoped she would be following them.
They walked down the corridor arm in arm. Kirk wondered what Starfleet Command would think if this were sprung to them out of context. ("One of our top male officers, in the body of a woman, in a tryst with a Romulan Commander?!") He could think of two or three who would court martial him on the spot.
"You seem quiet...Katherine," Tanus put his arm around Kirk's waist.
Kirk shivered. "It's hard to believe I made it here."
"Why is it so hard to believe...oh, of course, your transporter! If the Loki's engineering is like the Enterprise I am surprised you could transport here at all."
Kirk looked at Tanus steadily. "But I did make it..." What had Spock been doing to the Enterprise?
Tanus squeezed Kirk and turned toward a door, which swooshed open. Kirk could see beds. He stepped backwards and rapped Tanus on the arm. "No, no, no! You naughty boy! First we have to...play Chess."
"Three D Chess, of course." He turned Tanus around. "All human women like to play games to get them stimulated."
"They do?" Tanus looked bewildered.
"Of course." Kirk looked around. "Now where's your recreational hall?"
"Well...it is this way," Tanus sighed. "You are lucky we stole 3 d chess from one of your ships."
Tanus was an impressively good player, but he lost. Kirk wished the game could've gone on even longer than three hours. What else...
Kirk felt a hand on his knee. He looked bored. He was not entirely acting, he was just tired of Tanus' technique. After all, he himself could play this game far better than Tanus. He brushed red hair back from his face, crossed his legs, and looked sideways at Tanus.
"What?!" Tanus muttered.
"That wasn't enough." Kirk removed the hand from his knee, pushing back on the fingers. Tanus yelped. "What other games do you have?" He looked around the room and secretly glanced at the time. "I know hopscotch!"
"Got a marker?"
Kirk quickly marked the squares on the floor and grabbed a coaster to show him how it was done. Tanus caught on quickly, and played it with a stone face. Kirk tried to do the same. They played for twenty minutes before the signal came in on the receiver Kirk had implanted under his skin.
Kirk looked at Tanus. He had to give the Romulan credit for fortitude and pig headedness, and he wondered if he was too tired for the second half of the plan. "It's time," Kirk said.
Tanus stood abruptly upright, all sleepiness in his eyes gone. He offered his arm to Kirk. "Let me lead you to my parlour."
"You're very conversant with Terran expressions." But Kirk thought he knew who the spider and the fly were in this case.
While walking down to Tanus' cabin, Kirk had just about decided he may have made a good actor, had he tried. Snuggling into Tanus' armpit, he gave him amorous glances and pressed as hard as he could against his side, all the while trying not to gag. The crew gave them incredulous glances.
The cabin door closed behind them. Tanus moaned and swung Kirk toward him in a hard embrace, crushing Kirk's breasts painfully against his chest. Kirk involuntarily lifted his face, and Tanus kissed him. To Kirk, it felt like being kissed by a codfish.
However, this was what Kirk had been waiting for. He let the kiss go on for a second, then jammed his knee upwards. Again, Tanus went down, moaning and clutching his injury. "I'm afraid I changed my mind," Kirk said. "Besides..." He toyed with his broach, in which was a audio/visual transmitter. "...this whole exchange has been transmitted to Romulan High Command."
Tanus reached out for Kirk's angles, and he deftly dodged him. "Now over to the Enterprise," he said into the broach. He started to dissolve in the hum of the transporter.
As he disappeared, he saw Melachta in the doorway.
Kirk reappeared in the transporter room of the Enterprise. "Who're you?!" asked a startled Kyle, who was sitting on the floor, inspecting the transporter connections.
"Let Spock know that Dr. McPherson is aboard," he said, grinning. Now that there was a fighting chance that they would get out of the situation, he was beginning to enjoy the lack of recognition.
Kyle scrambled to the intercom. While he was stuttering the news to Spock, Kate and McCoy walked in. "You're late," Kirk said.
Kate just held out her hands, and McCoy grinned ear to ear. "You did it?" Kate asked.
"I'd know that grin anywhere," McCoy crowed. "Of course he did." Kyle glanced at the Doctor, then returned to his maintenance work.
Kirk felt the ship accelerate, and his grin got broader. "I really must give Scotty a raise." He offered his arm to Kate. "Take you to the bridge?"
"Why, certainly," Kate said. "I have to keep an eye on my property, you know." She patted Kirk's arm.
"Vice versa," Kirk said. "Coming, Bones?"
"No I think I better get Sickbay ready for you two, later." McCoy started out the door.
"We'll be there with bells on, Leonard!" Kate said.
As Kirk and McPherson exited, Kyle slowly shook his head. This ship was getting loonier all the time.
As the pair emerged onto the bridge, they ducked over to one side, observing. Spock looked up at them and said, "Captain?"
Kate, forgetting herself, remained silent until Kirk poked her arm. "You still have the con, Mr. Spock. I'm still under medical observation." Kirk nodded.
Spock nodded his head and turned back toward the screen. However, every crewmember on the bridge found an excuse to glance at the couple.
"Tractor beams still holding on the Loki," Sulu said. "We'll be out of the Neutral Zone in...ten minutes."
"Mr. Spock," Checkov said, not looking up from his viewer at the science station. "The Romulan wessell has launched a shuttlecraft."
"Armed?" Spock said.
"Captain?" Uhura said, looking at Kate, then at Spock. "I'm receiving a tight beam transmission from the shuttle."
"Put it on."
"...calling Enterprise. Security Chief Melachta calling Enterprise." Kirk and Kate looked at each other, open mouthed.
"Open frequencies," Spock said. He waited a moment. "This is Commander Spock of the Enterprise."
"...commander..." The voice faltered for a second. "I need to speak with Captain Kirk."
Spock looked at Kirk, then he looked at Kate. Kirk gave her a small push, and she stepped over to the intercom. "This is...Kirk. Hello, Melachta." Kirk half smiled.
"James beam me over. Please."
Kate's eyebrows went up, and her mouth fell open again. "Why?!"
"I would rather tell you in person. Let us just say my security career is over."
Spock gestured to Uhura, who obediently shut the channel. "This could be a trick...Captain," he said, looking at them both.
"No," Kirk said. "I doubt it. She could've captured me a number of times but she deliberately let me go. Beam her aboard."
"Yes," Kate said thoughtfully. "Beam her aboard..."
"Then immediately destroy the vessel," Kirk cut in.
"My thoughts exactly," Kate smiled.
"Mr. Kyle," Spock said. "Beam the occupant of the shuttlecraft aboard." He paused. "However, Captain, neither the phaser nor the photon torpedoes are operational."
"Mr. Spock?" Kyle's voice sounded bemused. "Got...her?"
Kate exchanged an amused glance with Kirk. "We'll be right down."
A flash of light from the viewscreen blinded everyone for a second. "It would seem that our problem is solved for us," Spock said drily.
"Yes," Kate said. "Too bad Commander Tanus wasn't aboard."
Kirk fingered his broach. "I think we've taken care of him. Let's get Melachta."
"Whatever you say, boss," Kate whispered, smiling.
When they arrived back in the transporter room, Melachta was looking annoyed at the security guard, who was running a tricorder slowly over her. Kate knew that nothing could be done until the check was through, so she and Kirk stood quietly by.
The guard stood up. "No signs of weapons or explosives, Captain," he said, sounding somewhat amazed.
"Very good, ensign," Kate said. "Thank you." She turned to Melachta, then noticed the ensign, waiting. "You're dismissed."
"You don't have to enjoy it so much," Kate muttered.
"I'm just remembering how you hated command classes."
"Oh...shut up, Kirk!" Kate hissed. Kyle's eyebrows shot to the ceiling.
"No." He turned to Melachta. "We're somewhat baffled..."
"This is Spock," the loudspeaker interrupted. "We have just cleared the Neutral Zone. The Enterprise and the Loki will stay in this area of space for temporary repairs, then proceed to Starbase 11. Spock out."
"Temporary repairs make me nervous," Kate said.
"Mr. Kyle," Kirk said. "Please tell Mr. Spock we'll be in briefing room four. Tell him to page Mr. Scott."
Kyle looked at Kirk, then he looked at Kate. Kate nodded. "Aye, aye, sir," Kyle said.
Kirk motioned to Melachta, and all three exited the transporter room. Once they were safely out the door, Kate started giggling. "Now what?" Kirk said.
"I was just thinking how we confused poor Mr. Kyle."
"I'll explain it to him later."
Melachta looked from one to the other. "You are confusing me."
"I am sorry," Kirk said. "That is not our intention. We'll explain it later."
"Yes, we will," Kate said. "However, at the moment, we're mixed up enough ourselves. Kirk glared at her. "Well, it's true!" She sighed. "You never did have a sense of humor."
"I was grim at the Academy, wasn't I?" Kirk smiled.
"Well you weren't that bad."
They walked the rest of the way to briefing room in silence. The crewmembers were studiously avoiding staring at the unlikely trio. When they arrived there, Doctor McCoy was standing at the door. "We have to stop meeting like this," Kate said.
"I wish things would settle down so that I could bring you two in for tests."
Kirk grimaced. "Bones..."
"I know, I know...you hate tests."
Kirk motioned for Melachta to take the chair beside the psychological response monitor. "Please put your hand on the plate, then lie for us."
Kirk motioned to the plate. "This will tell us if you lie." He paused. "I'm sorry. We must be certain."
Melachta sighed. "Very well...I am five years old."
"Inaccurate. Inaccurate. Subject in error!" Melachta and Kate jumped. McCoy adjusted a dial. Spock walked in and sat down, without a comment.
"Why did you leave your ship?" Kirk said, sitting back.
Melachta shifted in her chair. "My career in security was over."
"Why, Melachta?" Kate said. "I thought we had saved your career when I stopped you from killing me."
"You had until you sabotaged the ship." She looked at Kirk. "I do not blame you for it I would have done the same in your place." She looked resigned. "I should have known that embarrassing Commander Tanus was not your only mission."
"But..." Kate said.
"The Romulan Empire does not tolerate mistakes especially major errors of judgement. I would have been demoted, at the very least."
"Could you have worked back up?" asked McCoy.
"It is unlikely." Her voice was flat.
"Could you have resigned?" Kate asked. "Go back to your family..."
Melachta shook her head. "No. I have no close relatives only cousins and there are few jobs for a dishonored starship veteran. In fact, the usual course for one in my position is suicide." She smiled. "I found I was not ready for that course. I could not see where the Federation would be any worse." She looked grim. "However, had you not beamed me aboard, I would not have gone back to the G'tenaar." Her implication was obvious, and Kate remembered what happened to the shuttlecraft.
"Of course, you could always report back if things weren't to your liking on this side with valuable information," said Kirk.
Melachta gazed at Kirk steadily. "It would have to be extremely valuable information the Romulan Empire executes traitors and deserters."
Kirk looked at Spock. "Quite accurate, Captain. The Vulcans once had the same tradition."
Kirk leaned forward. "You do realize that you will be monitored for the rest of your life. You may never travel in a starship again."
"But I will not be interfered with, will I?"
McCoy smiled. "Not unless you belong to Starfleet."
"Melechta will never be able to join Starfleet, Doctor," said Spock.
"I was making a joke, Spock. Don't you sometimes feel like a Starfleet slave...no, I suppose you wouldn't," the doctor said drily.
"I do have other talents besides security," Melachta offered. She turned to Kirk. "Doctor, I understand Tanus took you to the art gallery. Did you happen to see the painting of S'tantul?"
Kirk caught on and gave her a wry smile. "I pointed it out to him."
"He claimed it for his own, did he not?" Melachta swore in Romulan, then said, "I am glad he did not talk you into making love to him."
Kirk, McCoy, and Kate broke out laughing. "Fat chance," Kirk said.
"But you would have, had the ship's safety required you to do so," Spock pointed out.
Kirk stopped laughing. "Be raped? Only if there was no other course out. I can't ask others to sacrifice themselves if I am unwilling to do the same."
"So much for not being a slave of Starfleet," McCoy muttered.
Melachta looked from Kirk to Spock. "I am not understanding something..." she began.
Kirk looked at Melachta steadily. He hated to leave her hanging, but...
"The Federation has the technology to transfer souls, if you will, from one body to another," he said evenly.
"I do not understand."
Kirk pointed to himself. "I am James Kirk, and over there," he pointed at Kate, "is Dr. McPherson." He hesitated. "We decided we would have a better chance of escape if we exchanged places, particularly since I am better at espionage than the doctor." There was no use of telling her the actual truth.
She looked from Kirk to Kate to Kirk again. She then started laughing, long and hard.
"What's the joke?" McCoy smiled.
Melachta wiped tears out of her eyes. "I would like to see Tanus if he ever finds out he was kissing the great Captain Kirk, enemy of the Empire." This started Kate laughing, then Mccoy and, after a long moment, Kirk.
Scott walked in as the guards were escorting Melachta out. He looked after them, then looked at the group in amazement. "Did I miss something, Captain?" he asked, staring directly at Kate.
Kirk groaned. "Good Lord in heaven! Didn't anybody tell him?"
"Well, uh, Jim..." McCoy began.
"It wasn't my job?" Kate chirped in brightly.
Spock looked vaguely embarrassed. McCoy looked a little disgusted. "Don't apologize, Spock you were either unconscious or busy most of the time."
"I was not going to apologize, Doctor, although there were moments I could have informed Mr. Scott. The expedient course was to let him work."
"You're all excused for now." Kirk turned to Scott. "Scotty, do you remember Janice Lester?" he said in his best command tone of voice.
"You're the...!" Scotty's face went white, and he looked at the two in turn. "How long?"
"Since my last session in the gym before all hell broke loose."
"Indeed," said Spock.
"Do you mean to say that these two doctors ran the ship?"
Kate smiled. "Don't we always?"
McCoy's office was full when McPherson and Kirk walked in. "Well, if it isn't the Siamese twins," drawled McCoy. "What took you so long?"
"I had to do my hair up," Kate said, with a twinkle in her eye.
Kirk blushed slightly and ignored her. "Seej, how are the repairs on your ship coming?"
Fries nodded. "Fine, Jim. We should be able to limp to the starbase in a couple of days."
"Well, we'll be limping right beside you. You have a good crew, Seej."
"Thanks for helping me realize that."
Kate moved in front of Phillips. "Darling! I'd like to kiss you but under the circumstances, I think I should wait, don't you?"
Greg smiled. "I don't like whisker burn."
Kate felt her face. "I shaved this morning, silly!"
"Oh. Well, then..." He started to get up.
Kate pushed him. "Oh, sit down!" She turned to face McCoy. "Leonard...surely our problem is not going to be solved by committee, is it?" She spread her hands to encompass the room.
McCoy looked up, smiling, from the terminal he was sharing with Spock. "No."
"Thank you! I was getting worried."
"Kate, you're a nut," Greg said.
"Peanut, brazil, and Andorian m'kifjtz?"
Spock stood up. "May I have your attention." the chatter died down. "Successful mind to mind transfer has only occurred once before in Federation history."
"Lucky me," Kirk muttered.
"At that time, the retransferances appeared to be random. We discovered later that it was not. In both cases, Janice Lester was in a murderous rage."
"In that case, I'll just mention a few art critics," Phillips said. Kate punched him. "Ouch!"
McCoy continued. "Unfortunately, both of you are sane, calm, and well adjusted individuals." He grinned. "More or less."
Kirk grinned tightly. "You're enjoying every minute of this, aren't you?"
"As a last resort, we can artificially impose these emotions through chemicals," Spock said. "We would rather not."
"Chickens!" said Kate
McCoy looked at her. "It can still be arranged."
"No, thanks!" she sputtered. "But what are we supposed to do? Click our heels and mutter 'There's no place like home'?"
"Huh?" She shrank back into her seat. "Oh. Not the Vulcan mind meld again." She shook her head. "That's too darned convenient. Don't you get tired of it, Mr. Spock?"
"Yes, Doctor. The meld is physically draining."
"Can't we just use a crowbar?"
"Kate," Kirk said quietly. It was a rebuke.
"You're babbling, darling," Greg said. "Are you really that nervous?"
"Yes. What if something happens?" Kate started to explain further, but closed her mouth with a snap.
Phillips sighed. "Sorry, sirs. I had intended to save this for later, but...maybe this will relax her...or maybe make her happy..." His voice trailed off, and he got down on one knee. Taking her hand, he said, "Katherine McPherson, will you marry me?"
"Greg!" Kate was deeply shocked, then she felt dizzy, with that now familiar cold feeling flashing down her back. She stiffened, opened her eyes...
...and she was across the room. She brushed her hair back from her face and smiled, as Fries looked at her concerned.
Across the room, she could see Kirk blush faintly and dislodge his hand from Greg's grip. "I think the person you want is over there," he said, pointing at Kate.
Greg turned slowly to look at her, shock on his face. "Of course I will, you silly goose," she said, and before she knew it, she was in his arms.
"We won't need you, this time," Kirk said, getting up and laying one hand on Spock's shoulder, then one on McCoy's. "Apparently, any strong emotion does the trick, when the transference starts to weaken."
"The simplest solutions are best, Captain," said Spock.
"Amen," McCoy said softly.
"Bridge to Captain Kirk."
McCoy jerked slightly. "Hunh. Never a moment's rest."
Kirk flicked the switch. "Kirk here." The words felt good.
"Uhura, Captain. We have intercepted a message from Romulan High Command to the Romulan Cruiser G'tenaar. Commander Tanus is to be confined to the brig pending further investigation. The death of the traitor Sub Commander Melachta has been noted." She hesitated. "That is all."
"Thank you, Lieutenant!" Kirk smiled.
Kate broke the kiss. "All right!" she said, and gave Kirk a thumbs up sign. Greg gently turned her head back and gave her a very thorough kiss.
"Exhibitionists," McCoy said.
The wedding was held the night before the starships limped into Starbase 11. Captain Fries performed the ceremony, and Kirk gave the bride away, at her request. McCoy, Scott, and Melachta were there and also a reluctant Spock, who had to be persuaded that yes, Sulu could command the bridge for that short a time, despite the condition of the ship. Also invited were as many of the Enterprise personnel that could fit in the Loki chapel.
"Congratulations," Kirk said, approaching the couple after the ceremony was over.
"Thanks," Kate said, and with a quick glance at Greg, grabbed Kirk and kissed him soundly. The rest of the people in the room almost stopped breathing. She then released him, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, "You realize I only wanted you for your body."
Greg covered his eyes and muttered something about divorce. McCoy and Fries laughed, and Spock looked as close to disgusted as he had ever been. Kirk flushed slightly. "I'll take that as a compliment. What do you do for an encore?"
She motioned to Melachta, who grabbed Kirk, then also kissed him long and hard. This time, Kirk relaxed into it. This time, the whole room frankly stared at them.
"Well?" Kate said, when they emerged.
Melachta smiled. "Much better than last time."
"Last time..." Kirk echoed, wide eyed. The rest of the group around him looked at Kate.
"Better keep track of these things," she shrugged.
"Are you ever serious?" Kirk smiled.
"Only when I need to be," Kate said. "I don't ever want your job. What a headache!"
"Yes." Kirk paused. "I'm going to push for pants as a part of the female uniform. I think my legs still feel like ice."
Kate smiled, surprised. "Thanks! Heaven knows they might listen to the great Captain Kirk over a lowly ship's doctor." She paused. "You learned something, didn't you?
Well, those short skirts always did leave me cold."
The group groaned again. Kate looked around puzzled. "What did I say?"
Greg laughed. "For once, she missed her own joke!"
Kirk, Spock, and McCoy watched the Loki leave on the front monitor.
"You are quiet, gentlemen," Spock said.
Kirk smiled. "Just thinking of Kate. Both Seej and I gave those two commendations."
"And I was thinking that Jim had better start working out again," McCoy grumbled.
Kirk looked down at his stomach. "I suppose." He grinned widely. "Arrange for Diane Murphy to teach me some more no muscle combat techniques, just in case."
"Don't you dare let that happen again," McCoy said.
"Amen," Spock said, and the two stared at him.