Cave Substituti

Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi

"Unhand me - I'm your master." Mudd demanded as the costodices propelled him toward what was probably a command center, but looked like a hi-tech electric chair, complete with arm restraints and some sort of attached helmet. The master thing didn't seem to working out so well for him right now.

"Captain, Mr. Giotto, do something!"

Kirk took a step toward them, but backed off quickly when a costodix showed fangs and reached toward her torque.

Giotto shook his head in amazement. Female aliens who had taken a clear dislike to the Captain and Kirk was actually showing some caution - would wonders never cease?

"You know, Harry," Giotto said, carefully placing himself between the Captain and the aliens. "You might want to keep this experience in mind next time you try to swindle someone by playing god - if there is a next time, that is."

"Like you said, Mudd," Kemal added, taking a symmetric position. "We won't hurt them. So if it comes down to them or you..." He shrugged eloquently.

Mudd tried again to pull out of the costodices' grasp, eliciting more distressed but still unintelligible exclamations from them.

"Any luck with that translator yet?" Kirk asked Uhura.

"I think I may have it now." She adjusted something on the tricorder and a simulated voice said "Please, now. You must give your blood-energy."

"My blood?" Harry shrieked, chin wrinkling like a toddler about to go on a crying jag.

"Not your blood, precisely," Spock corrected pedantically. "The word I believe was firmivis, which relates to the energy arising from a being's life force, somewhat similar to the concept of chi in several of earth's Eastern philosophies."

"Whatever it is, I'm not giving it!" Mudd protested planting his feet like a mule as the costodices tried to push him toward the chair.

"Now," the translator rendered the next string of syllables. "Transmission failures are cascading."

"Tha' makes sense," Scotty said examining the array of glowing indicators on a display panel. "Thair systems aer beyond auld. All o' us suddenly mucking aboot down here has probably overloaded 'em. We dinna ken how they work, so maybe they take some sort o' biofield."

Giotto frowned. Unknown technology plus unknown variables were seldom a good combination. "It seems like hooking Mudd up to that could be dangerous."

"Finally!" Mudd exclaimed. "I knew you wouldn't let them hurt me."

"I don't recall saying that, Harry." Giotto raised an eyebrow. Although he wouldn't let them harm Mudd (probably), he didn't feel compelled to let him know that, nor was that his primary concern. "But you're obviously not the sort of being this was actually designed for. Who knows how it might respond to you?"

"Mr. Giotto makes a good point," Spock observed. "As this equipment was not designed to be used on humans, connecting Mr. Mudd to the machine could cause irreparable damage to rare technological artifacts."

"Trust you to keep things in perspective, Spock," McCoy snorted. "I think Sam's point was that it might be dangerous to everyone else in the room."

"And it's a good point either way," Kirk cut in. "But a cascade failure might be worse if we can't stop it. Scotty, is there anything you can do?"

"Maybe, but nae without knowin' wha' these symbols aer."

"I can help with that," Palamas volunteered. "If I'm not mistaken, these indicate parameters for T'Mov's law. "

Scotty looked at her adoringly. "Lass, ye ken nae only these squiggly bits but T'Mov?"

Giotto noted the engineer's expression with a sinking feeling and exchanged a worried glance with the Captain. They both knew that look. Everyone else might be trapped in a potentially self-destructing underground complex, but right now Scotty's world involved sunshine and birdsong and running through fields of daisies - or, in Scotty's case, maybe strolling romantically through a warp reactor. Either way, counting on his ability to concentrate on the problem at hand might not be their best option.

Kirk sighed. Nothing about today was going the way it should. If someone was going to complicate things by falling in love, it was supposed to be him. "Uhura, is that translator working well enough to try both ways?"

"I think so, Captain."

"Jim," Bones put a hand on Kirk's shoulder before he could launch into one of his speeches. "In case you haven't noticed, they don't exactly seem to have cottoned to you. Maybe you should let someone else – like maybe our communications expert – give this a go?"

Kirk deflated slightly, but nodded to Uhura.

"Wait," she said, holding up a hand. "That one is not a magistu."

As soon as the translator did its work, both costodices paused, canine pointed ears cocked in a way that immediately made Giotto think of Spock. He couldn't help glancing over. Yep. The Vulcan was listening to the jury-rigged translation with the same slight head tilt, probably filing words in his own internal lexicon.

They seemed to waver for a moment, but then renewed their grip on Mudd. "He possesses the amulet. He must serve."

"No!" Mudd howled.

Giotto, Kemal and Kirk began to move, but with surprising speed, the costodices hoisted Mudd's bulk and threw him into the chair as though he were stuffed toy, snapping wrist rings and head gear in place.

"Stop! That might –" Uhura began.

But before she could finish, the lights began to pulse and the thrumming sound of strained generators filled the room. Something arched from the chair and Mudd screamed like a little girl. One of the aliens hit some sort of cut-off and for a moment everything went black.

When dim emergency lighting returned, Mudd had been unstrapped from the chair. He stumbled away and nearly threw himself at Kemal. Harry grabbed the security officer's shoulders and cowered behind his back, trying to hold him like a shield. "Don't let them get me again. Please!"

"Let go of me, Mudd," Aydin growled, trying to shake him off. "Or going back in that chair will be the least of your worries."

"Come here, Harry," McCoy pulled him off, taking out his medical scanner and then a hypo. "You're a little low on electrolytes, but otherwise it doesn't seem to have done harmed you any."

"No harm?" Harry whined. "There were voices in that thing - and they were all yelling at me."

Once the tricorder had translated his last outburst, the costodices lifted their heads and howled in despair. "The Masters have rejected him. The city will be lost."

AN: Cave substituti = beware of substitutes. Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi = What is permitted to Jupiter is not (necessarily) permitted to a cow.

Palamas appears in TOS in the episode Who Mourns for Adonais, and the opening scene shows Scotty being love-sick-puppy smitten with her.

Sorry it's taken so long to update. A couple other stories took my brain over for awhile, but I promise I will finish this story. I started writing it for my dd so I have to end it to her satisfaction.

Please r&r