Lust is usually thought of as excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. (Wikipedia)
McCoy floated between dream and reality. His pillow was soft beneath him and made a perfect dent for the side of his face. His blanket lay losely over his body, keeping in the langurous warmth around it. He could feel a light pressure of something pressed against his back, something warm, and soft that made him feel snug and secure. A warm, gentle breeze brushed against the back of his neck in a regular rhythm.
McCoy knew he was in his own bed, hovering in a half-conscious and strangely omnipotent state, where he could form reality according to his wishes, and travel to wherever he wanted. The porch of his parents' house, maybe?
Immediately, he found himself lying in a hammock that he'd put up there one summer when he was a boy of fourteen or fifteen. It was one of those warm, humid nights, when the air was heavy, laden with the fragrance of the jasmine vine that grew all over the side of the house.
He concentrated and smelled it again. There was something else. … Music! His parents were sitting inside the house, listening to classical music he didn't like. He used to close every door between him and that noise, but some figments of the melody had always reached his ears. It was a pleasant sound now, a reminder of his happy and sheltered childhood, of being loved and encouraged by his parents, though at the time, it had been highly annoying.
Gemma was sitting on the porch railing, furiously typing on her PADD whose artificial light softly illuminated her face in a greyish-blue glow, making the rough scars on her right cheek and her neck almost disappear. He had thought her breathtakingly beautiful then, and had contemplated on how to tell her that, without sounding like a complete jerk. She hadn't worn her scarf to hide the wrinkly, red skin on her neck that night, because he'd convinced her that he didn't care how she looked like, but only cared about what she had in her brilliant brain. It had taken him all of his skills of persuasion to get her to work with him on the biology project.
Gemma usually kept to herself, out of habit. Her appearance, a result from an accident she'd had as a ten-year-old, made her subject to all kinds of mean behaviour from their peers. Leonard felt sorry for her and had tried to befriend her before, but she'd always blocked off any advances. She mistrusted his good intentions, he'd believed then.
He knew better now. She had tried to avoid becoming emotionally attached to anyone, after having lost her mother and sister in same accident. It was a familiar strategy, one that he himself had adopted years later - or had tried to.
A harsh sound threatened to bring him back to the here and now, a cough. McCoy clenched his eyes shut and concentrated on those violins, the cellos and a that moanful clarinet until he really heard the music in the background again, not at all sure if it was reality or imagination. The soft breeze against the back of his neck resumed after a small pause, and McCoy finally succeeded in convincing his mind to go on dreaming.
He was back in his teens, much more optimistic and naive, much less bitter and experienced. Things were less complicated, the only thing he was interested in was sitting on his parents' porch railing across from him, typing a text about honeybees into that PADD.
Gemma's enthusiasm for biology and her knowledge of scientific methodology had impressed him, he really did want her as a project partner, though he had to admit that he had developed his own secret agenda during their project work. He wanted to get her to like him.
No, that wasn't true. He wanted to make her happy, get her to smile, truly smile at him, a genuine smile that was a sign of trust, friendship and contentment. He wasn't too far away from achieving that goal now. And maybe, just maybe, she would like him enough to hold his hand? Or give him just a slight brush on his lips with that sweet mouth of hers? Maybe this was the night? If only that annoying music would stop!
"Let's go for a walk!" he said, sliding out of the hammock and walking up to stand before her.
He could see her raise an annoyed eyebrow at him, something he found extremely appealing. "I can't type while I'm walking."
He reached for the PADD in her hands, took it from her, gently touching her fingers in the process. "And I can't concentrate with Beethoven fiddling in the background," he complained, looking into her amazing eyes, hoping that he didn't look like a whining little kid at the moment.
"It's Mozart," she corrected him with a superior smile, "and it's not fiddling. That's the 40th symphony in G-minor."
He smiled. She knew everything about biology and classical music! He was impressed. "Please?"
And there it was, Gemma was smiling at him. He could feel a warmth forming in his chest that slowly spread all through his body, until it reached the tips of his toes. They had been so happy then, excited, unsure, but incredibly happy.
As he saw himself and Gemma hand-in-hand, taking a walk around the lake, all of a sudden a strange dread and sadness crept up inside him that didn't originate from his teenage self, but from Doctor McCoy of the USS Enterprise, watching young Lenny. It was as if he was looking at a photograph in his grandma's scrap book, where people were smiling and laughing on the dusty pages – only he knew that these people had turned into dust themselves, eaten by the worms, long ago.
Of course, he knew well what had happened near the lake that night. Those bullies had been his friends once, but when they had picked on Gemma, in his naivité he'd felt the need to protect her, to be her knight in shining armour and avenge her, despite Gemma begging him to leave them alone.
He'd started the fight, which had ended with him and Brad King being hospitalized. Gemma had retreated back into her shell, and had never come out again. That biology project had never been finished and he'd never gotten that kiss.
It didn't need to end like that now, he reminded himself. He was older, more experienced, and wiser.
"Hey Lenny, are you taking that gremlin out on a date?"
He could hear them again, felt Gemma let go of his hand at the voice, and despite himself, he sensed the hot anger burn inside him at that. Before he knew it, he wanted to land his fist in Brad's face again, after all these years, and even with knowing to where all of this would lead to. He turned towards Brad's grinning mug, his arm was raised, his fist balled, and for the fraction of a second he was certain that this was history repeating itself … . Then, a restraining arm over his chest held him back. "Easy, Bones."
"Jim!" he shouted, in surprise.
"Gremlin, gremlin! Don't feed her after midnight, Lenny!"
He shook off Jim's arm, but had found his control again. Before he could give a peppered reply, he heard Spock who had appeared to his right: "Are you comparing Gemma to a mythological creature that was said to have manipulated aircraft engines in your World War II, because she is so talented in mechanics?"
McCoy rolled his eyes. Spock's comment was inappropriate, as always. These guys needed a verbal kick in the ass, not some smartass lecture about mythology.
"What?" the teen looked at Spock, confusedly.
"Do you want him to speak a little slower?" McCoy asked, relishing the fact that Brad King looked like a retard at this very moment. Maybe Spock's strategy hadn't been so bad after all.
The teenager looked at Spock, furrowing his brows.
"And who are you, you pointed-eared gremlin?"
"My name is Spock."
"I just insulted you, Spock. Don't you want to defend yourself?"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed boy."
Gemma laughed behind them and McCoy found himself supressing a chuckle, but a quiet sound, resembling a moan. escaped his lips.
"Shh, Bones, it's alright. You're safe," he heard a soft voice from behind, and the pressure on his back grew more intense. Jim was wrapping an arm around his torso, pulling him back against his chest.
"Jim?" he whispered, a bit confused. He'd seen Jim in his dream, standing close beside him, preventing him from making a mistake. But now, … he really was here, in his bed.
"Yeah. You're fine, I'm here," Jim said quietly.
It burst the bubble. McCoy was brought back to reality. The lake, Brad King and Gemma all faded back into his memories of the past, the scrap book was closed and put away on the shelf.
What stayed, were Jim and Spock. Jim was hugging him from behind, and Spock was sitting in his desk chair, intently watching them both.
He attempted to free himself from Jim's embrace. "I see that," he said, and Jim let go.
"You were shouting the captain's name," Spock explained Jim's behaviour calmly.
"I doubt it. I had a dream about my childhood," he mumbled, sitting up in bed. He became aware of the fact that he was still wearing the surgical scrubs he had worn when he'd operated on Jim, which seemed ages ago, now.
"Were we there, too?" Jim asked casually.
McCoy squinted at him suspiciously. Jim had used his most innocent voice, which meant that he was up to something. He wanted to psychoanalyze him, probably.
"I had a happy childhood. Which means neither of you could have been there," he said sarcastically, and got his feet out of the bed. He still wore his boots, he noticed.
Geez, they fussed all over me, and then they let me go to sleep in my clothes and boots?
"Did you have a friend called Jim in your childhood, as well?" Spock was determined to get to the bottom of this.
"Yes," he curtly replied, which wasn't even a lie. He got up, half expecting to become dizzy, but it didn't happen. Satisfied, he looked down at Jim, then Spock. "Well, I have work to do. When you're finished here, Spock, don't forget to bring Jim to sickbay for a check-up!"
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Spock raise an eyebrow at him, so he hurried to get out before he was drawn into a discussion about his well-being, his need for something to eat, a shower, or another mind meld. He'd definitely had too many of those, lately.
He almost ran through the corridors until he reached sickbay, then hesitated just a moment, before rushing in. Noting briefly that no one was currently there, he swiflty slipped into his office and let himself fall into his chair.
His two friends were invading too much of his personal space. He decided. What were they doing in his childhood memories? It weren't memories, it was a strange dream, an attempt to fix something in your past, he reminded himself.
What's done is done. And if, just supposedly if, that really was possible, why would he need Jim and Spock to help him? Shouldn't it have been easy to not make the same mistake again? He stared off into the space of his office. Even in his dream he'd been about to break Brad King's nose again. Why? He wasn't that rash anymore, if anything, then he would have to hold Jim back from a fist fight, not the other way around, wouldn't he?
And Spock, … he certainly didn't need Spock to help him insult a teenager. He was actually famous for his quick wit. Everyone on the Enterprise knew he never refused to engage in an argument with Sp … .
Aww, hell. "I don't need those two to define myself," he said to his monitor. But you still need them, a voice in his head said back.
"Osborne to sickbay," the intercomm squawked and ended his musings. It was a welcome distraction. "McCoy here."
"Doctor McCoy, … our Romulan passenger needs a doctor," the security officer said.
McCoy sighed. He prided himself in not making housecalls. He was a doctor and not some kind of gofer service boy. However, that Romulan was in the brig, and security probably wasn't willing to let her out.
"What's wrong?" he asked, trying to determine what he needed to carry.
"She appears to be having ... a fever," the lieutenant replied, unsure.
McCoy rolled his eyes. "I didn't ask for a diagnosis, I just want to know why you think she needs a doctor."
He heard some shouting in the background, but couldn't make out the words. Then: "Well. doctor, she says, she isn't sick, only has an urgent request to make of you personally. But honestly, she isn't quite herself," Osborne explained, then chuckled, "I'd say, it's rabies."
He heard Velal swear at Osborne who shouted back an insult, something about her ears. It made McCoy angry for some reason. "Back off, lieutenant!" he barked. Then, more controlled: "I'm on my way."
He grabbed a standard medkit and left his office, but a vague feeling in his gut told him that Velal wanted not his services as a doctor, but something completely different.
Kirk studied Spock's face which in turn scrutinized his own.
When he'd woken up in sickbay after his brain surgery, he'd been alone. Well, except for Nurse Chapel who was there, making him answer questions, do Maths, and all the usual stuff.
But neither Spock nor McCoy had been with him, and although Chapel had assured him they were both well, it had disquieted him immensely. It could only mean something was really wrong.
When Spock had finally arrived at his bedside, he'd fired questions at his first officer. Although, the Vulcan had answered each one of them, Kirk still had the feeling Spock had been withholding information from him.
Spock had answered each questions elaborately enough, even telling him, that almost everything had been recorded by Uhura, and that he could watch for himself what had happened in the control room of that grinding mill in Prolia. He'd listened to how Bones had subjected himself to a brief, but undoubtedly very unsettling mind meld by Delihan again, only on his behalf. Spock told him how McCoy had befriended a Meriahni slave, and what he'd found out about the Meriahni society. He'd reported on how Bones had saved Kirk through the escape capsule, how Delihan had died before being able to give him any information about Tamulok's whereabouts, how McCoy's mental stability in the prison had deteriorated, and how very disturbing these pictures had been for the bridge crew. Kirk's own heart ached to no end at Spock's descriptions, and he suspected Spock also had been quite disturbed by the events.
When interrogated about his own performance during the crisis, Spock also recounted the events accurately, according to Kirk's estimation. He didn't leave out his own emotional outbreak (in Vulcan terms) in front of Pulliam, which had resulted in her refusing to treat him, or his decision to disregard direct orders by Starfleet Command, which fortunately had turned out to be fake orders.
Still, there had been a nagging feeling in Kirk that there was something that Spock had left unsaid, something that was troubling him. When Scotty had appeared in sickbay, and had told them about his encounter with Bones in the rec room, however, Kirk had pushed his concerns for his Vulcan friend away temporarily, in favour of focussing all of his attention on taking care of his other troubled friend.
Bones was hurting, he had known that. And although McCoy had a capacity of sitting out physical and emotional pain that exceeded that of anyone else he knew (any human at least), he had been determined to help. He owed him so much more than that.
Had he succeeded? Probably only minutely. At least Bones had slept for a couple of hours, but had taken the first opportunity to escape them. I need another plan.
However, Bones really did have amazing powers of self-healing. Maybe, he just needed a few hours to himself. He'd surely meet him again when he was back in sickbay. Until that happened, he could concentrate on Spock.
"How long before we reach Starbase 3, Spock?"
"Five hours," the Vulcan replied, without taking a look at the chronometer, or any other instrument for that matter. Kirk didn't doubt Spock knew exactly what time it was, and at what speed the Enterprise was going, but something else surprised him.
"And how many minutes, seconds?" he asked.
Spock raised an eyebrow. "It's now four hours, 59 minutes and 53 seconds, Captain."
"Ah. Well, then, …," he stretched out on the bed and yawned, "on Starbase 3, we need to give Velal over to the officials. And Pulliam. We should also request a replacement for them. Medical mustn't be understaffed for long."
"Captain, what will happen to Velal?"
The question surprised Jim, although he had brooded over the question for a bit himself. He liked Velal, as much as he could like a Romulan spy and enemy of the Federation. He was sure whatever Starfleet Command had planned for her, wasn't nice.
"Well, she infiltrated the crew of a Starfleet vessel, Spock. For years. She could have gathered sensitve information about technology, personnel, politics, anything really. The Romulans are our enemies, the peace we've had since the end of the Romulan War is fragile, to say the least. … They will question her, and lock her up. She will be separated from other inmates, the risk of her sharing sensitve information with the enemy, is too high," Kirk said, watching Spock who just nodded.
"Yes, Captain, that would be the logical conclusion."
"Why are you asking?"
"I was examining the concept of human moral principles."
"Spock, I don't like it either. But, she is a danger to the Federation, and we must protect ourselves."
"At the cost of disregarding an individual's right of physical and mental integrity."
"Just because she will be put in solitary confinement, doesn't mean she'll be hurt." … much, he finished the sentence in his mind. Of course, solitary confinement, even in a Federation prison, would be hurting anyone's psyche.
"If Romulans are biologically identical to Vulcans, and there is enough evidence that they are, being isolated over a longer period of time will lead to Velal's death within the next seven years," Spock said calmly, and Kirk wasn't quite sure to what exactly he was referring to. Pon Farr? In females?
There was still a lot he didn't know about Vulcans, he realised.
"Spock, doesn't a Vulcan proverb say: The good of the many outweighs the good of the one?"
Spock nodded in agreement, but Kirk already knew the Vulcan wasn't satisfied with that answer.
"When Dr. McCoy had been mind raped on Meriah Five, you believed that the Romulans might have acquired some sensitive information that could harm the Federation and its citizens, possibly hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people," Spock started to lecture.
"He did not give away any information, Spock. It didn't happen! Now, you know that!" he said angrily, though he had no idea, why he was so angry at Spock for simply pointing out a fact they both were aware of.
"Yes, Captain. But before I melded with him, we didn't know that. It could well have been that he had given the enemy a formula for a biological weapon that would kill all humans."
"What is your point, Spock?"
"Even though the whole Federation was at stake, you were willing to protect Doctor McCoy from another mind meld, forced upon him by a Vulcan healer."
Kirk swallowed. He hadn't at first. Not until McCoy had accused him of being a liar and had thrown up all over the captain's chair, nearly suffocating on his own vomit right then. His conscience was giving him a hard time about that. He should have been a better friend from the beginning.
"I don't regret that, Spock. It was the right thing to do," Kirk said.
"You risked quite a lot on behalf of a single individual," Spock concluded for him, and continued:
"Doctor McCoy himself pointed out that his personal rights, guaranteed by the United Federation of Planets, were being violated by same organization. The perversion is evident. However, I believe while you were willing to take a great risk to protect the doctor's rights, you aren't willing to take these risks on behalf of Velal."
Kirk nodded. He wouldn't, of course. Did that make him a hypocrite? "You are right. It's because Bones is my friend, Spock. Velal is not. It's … hard to explain. But, I would take the same risks for you."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Although I am honoured, I cannot approve, Captain. However, I believe it is understandable, considering ... you are human."
Kirk observed Spock closely, beginning to understand. He was trying to sort out his priorities.
"Spock," he started, "this mission has gone awry. I've made some bad decisions, I overstepped my authorities, I endangered myself and my CMO quite uselessly. I didn't pay attention when the situation was becoming more and more dangerous. I managed to injure my head and fall into a coma in that prison and made it necessary for Bones to work with Delihan to save my life when I had promised him he wouldn't even have to talk with Delihan. And now we're further away from catching Tamulok than ever."
Kirk saw the Vulcan equivalent of a wince in Spock's face at that last statement, and made a note to investigate later, but for now, he went on:
"You managed to bring this disaster to an end that enables me to look at myself in the mirror without self-loathing. If Bones had died in that prison, I … I don't know, I would probably be banging my head against the walls of a padded cell right now."
Spock's eyebrow arched once more. "No, Captain. You'd be dead, or dying. And that would have been my fault."
"What are you talking about?" Kirk pressed.
"When we had beamed you up and Doctor Taylor had examined you, I knew you needed neurosurgery that no one currently aboard the Enterprise could provide. I also knew that you needed it within a limited amount of time."
Suddenly Kirk saw it crystal clear before him. Spock, had had to decide between the lives of his two best friends. His heart constricted in sympathy of Spock, but also because he was reminded of that horrible day on Minara. He still wanted to thank every known deity in the universe that he hadn't had to actually voice his decision then. Ironically, he had never brought it over himself to thank the only being in the universe that really deserved his gratitude for sparing him that decision: Bones.
Kirk forced himself to concentrate again.
"You're thinking you made an illogical decision, because you decided to stay in orbit of Meriah to try and save Bones, instead of leaving and getting me to a qualified surgeon on Starbase 3, without wasting any more time. Aren't you?"
"It was not certain that I would succeed in saving the doctor. Had I failed, you and Doctor McCoy would have died, and I had estimated the chances of that happening at 66.7 per cent. Even if I had managed to save the doctor, chances were only at 33.3 per cent that he would be able to save you in turn. The logical decision therefore would have been to return to Starbase 3, as long as we had the chance to arrive in time for your surgery."
Kirk suddenly realized how lucky they'd all been. The gratitude he felt towards his first officer increased another notch. "Spock, you did good! Success proved you right!"
"Indeed. I was … lucky."
"We all were," Kirk agreed.
"Captain, may I ask you a question of personal nature?"
"You don't have to answer if it is too personal."
"Spock! What is it?"
"On Minara Two, the Vians tried to force you to make a decision between saving my sanity and saving Doctor McCoy. Do you know what decision you would have made?"
Kirk drew in a surprised breath at Spock's question which was so near his own musings from just a few moments ago, if only considering the setting and not the subject.
After a short moment of hesitation, he nodded. It hadn't taken him long to make that decision on Minara, then. He'd actually already made it long before Bones had hypoed him into oblivion.
Spock waited, not inquring further, but watching the captain intently.
"I would have chosen to save Bones' life, Spock."
Spock nodded in acceptance, even understanding, which made Kirk continue quickly: "Spock, you and I, we have a lot in common. We both joined the Fleet early, we always strived towards a career on a starship. We're explorers, and we're absolutely comfortable in space. When we started wearing the uniform it was what we'd always wanted to do."
"I believe that is an accurate description."
"Of course it is. That's why we know, why we understand each other so well. We made similar experiences, we have the same motivations."
"It would seem so."
"Right. For Bones, it is different. He was a doctor before he joined Starfleet. He is and always will be a doctor first, and only after that, a member of Starfleet. He joined the service not because he was particularly fond of living in space, but because he found it more and more difficult to live on earth."
"So I've heard."
"Right. Spock, I'm trying to say, that I always feel compelled to protect him, because he, well, he is in a way, so vulnerable here, in space."
"Doctor McCoy has been in Starfleet for 13 years. He has served on more vessels and spacestations than either you or I have. He has mastered hundreds of critical situations and crises, and not only always managed to survive, but also, on at least 4 separate occasions, he was the sole reason for why his team or his crew survived that crisis. He is anything else than vulnerable, and does not need your protection more than anyone else on board the Enterprise. If anything, he needs it even less, since he has proven he is capable of watching out for himself and others."
Kirk smiled. "You are right. And don't ever tell him what I told you, because he won't talk to me for months after that. Truth is, however, Spock, my instinct always tells me to protect him. That's why I probably will always choose him over you. It doesn't have anything to do with whom I think is more valuable, or whom I "like" better, it's just … he's a healer, Spock, he must not be harmed."
"I see," Spock looked past Jim, at the shelves behind him, where some photographs of McCoy's daughter as a young girl of maybe 5 or 6, were arranged. "You are renowned for your unfailing instinct, Captain. As a Vulcan, however, I am positive when I say: I don't have an instinct."
Kirk sighed inwardly. He had tricked Bones into sleeping in his bed with Jim beside him, so he could also trick Spock into forgiving himself for making a human decision.
"Well, that is true. What I'm trying to say is this: You are my first officer. And as my first officer it is your duty, to anticipate my wishes and command the ship accordingly when I'm uncapable to do so. I wouldn't have left Bones to die in that prison, as I have tried to explain to you in the past ten minutes or so."
"I assumed as much," Spock said evenly, handing Jim the opportunity he'd waited for on a plate.
"And you assumed correctly. So, you simply did what was your duty as my first officer. Thank you, Spock."
"You are welcome, Captain," Spock said without missing a beat. Then, after a while, he added: "I believe we have an agreement on how to act, … where the doctor's life is concerned."
Kirk's eyes twinkled. "Yes, Spock. And I always assumed we had that agreement, although we never talked about it."
"Indeed. You seem to be right: We do understand each other well."
As he entered the brig, McCoy's uneasy feeling increased, left his stomach and consumed everything, up to the roots of his hair. Velal's face was flushed in a yellowish-green. Her hair was unruly matted to her forehead, drenched in sweat, and she was breathing hard. Her nostrils flared, her pupils were blown wide, her mouth was slighlty open, and he wouldn't have been surprised had she been foaming at the mouth. She actually did resemble a rabid animal, or a boisterous racehorse chomping at the bit before the final race at the Kentucky Derby. The force field of her prison cell hissed and sparkled at Velal's futile attempt to break through it when he entered.
"STOP THAT!" Osborne shouted, clearly quite nervous himself. This must have been going on for quite some time, McCoy concluded. He mustered a smile trying to diffuse the situation. "Hello, kids!"
"Doctor! I'm glad you're here. She's gone insane. And it's getting worse," he said, speaking into his ear confidentially, and turning him around to get some privacy.
McCoy wasn't all that comfortable having a raging Romulan female behind him, force field or not, but he let it happen. He could sense the young lieutenant was really worried.
"When did it start?" he asked, forcing himself not to flinch and turn around at the sound of the force field hissing again.
"I don't know, I think it gradually built up. I mean, she can't be all that happy to be in this cell, but she didn't start jumping at the energy field until a few hours ago."
McCoy nodded. Velal had been in that cell for about 6 days now. If roles were reversed, he would have a little tantrum in there himself. But this?
"Did she eat anything?" he asked.
"Not since the day before yesterday. She refuses. Actually, she threw her bowl full of soup against the wall this morning, it was quite a hassle to clean that up."
McCoy's thoughts flashed back to one of the most bizarre moments during this five year mission. It involved Spock, a bowl of plomeek soup and his poor head nurse.
What is it with you pointy-ears and soup?
"I need to talk to the doctor alone!" the Romulan ground out between clenched teeth, making them turn around. She seemed to have gotten herself under control, her posture rigid, at attention. An almost unnoticeable tremor told them otherwise, though.
"That's not going to happen, you green-blooded …," Osborne sneered, but was stopped by McCoy once again.
"Shut it, Lieutenant!" It bothered him that Osborne called her names. Quite irrational, for he used those same names on Spock quite frequently, he knew, still … that was different.
"Doctor?" Osborne turned, unsure and confused by the reprimand.
"Leave us alone!" he commanded.
"What?" Osborne suddenly stared into icy blue eyes that could freeze over hell.
"I … have the order to not leave her unwatched," he tried.
"And I'm giving you a NEW order!" McCoy said, getting loud. "Ever heard of patient/physician confidentiality?"
"Of course, … but, sir, she's a Romluan," Osborne tried, already backing towards the door. Ever since having reported for duty on the Enterprise four years ago, he'd hoped he'd never truly anger Doctor McCoy. He'd heard rumours about the CMO's wrath from the nurses, but had started to suspect they had been only playing with him, then. Now, he wasn't so sure anymore.
"Lieutenant Osborne," McCoy started dangerously, "I hope you're not trying to give me a reason for reporting your xenophobia to Starfleet Command!"
Osborne swallowed, had his own assessment of the good doctor's character deceived him that much? "Yes, Lieutenant Commander," he mumbled, "I'll wait outside."
Still unsure if he was doing the right thing, but too intimidated to question the order again, he stepped outside. There was an energy field between Doctor McCoy and that rabid female Romulan, he reminded himself. Surely, it would hold. Better do what McCoy wanted.
Kirk jumped off the bio-bed and strode towards the intercom. He knew he was on sick leave, but he was also the captain of this ship, and he needed to know why they'd changed course and to where the hell they were going now! As a captain, he needed to know these things! He felt anger form in his gut, anger at his first officer, and he took a deep breath to quench it. It's not that he didn't trust Spock, just …
He reached out a finger to press the button of the intercom, when the room went completely dark around him. Talyor let out a surprised yelp, and Chapel also expressed her surprise with a whispered: "What the …?"
He pressed the button, but knew even before he spoke: "Captain Kirk to bridge," into the speaker on the wall, that the comm system was dead. He tried anyway, several times, but there was only silence in reply.
Kirk began to understand the idiom deafening silence as he strained to hear the constant humming of the engines, or the steady hiss of the ventilation system. Nothing. He turned around, trying to make out the contours of sickbay's inventory, but found it was absolutely dark, no light, whatsoever. Reaching out to feel any obstacle within his path he slowly, carefully walked to where he remembered sickbay's doors. Deafening silence and blinding darkness, his mind provided, while he felt his way. It's what he was right now: Deaf and blind. The ship had apparently lost power, even the emergency lighting didn't work. Life support was also down, except for artificial gravity. And they were drifting. Drifting somewhere off course, too, and he had no idea why. He was literally and in every sense of the word in the dark.
"What happened?" Taylor asked, still from his position near the bio-beds.
"I know as much as you do, Doc," Kirk said, barely able to keep his irritation from his voice. He'd finally reached the doors and of course they were shut fast. They'd need something like a crowbar to get them open. And then? The only people who might know what had happened to his ship were probably on the bridge, or maybe the engine room. Both were many decks away, and to get to either place would require climbing a lot of ladder spokes in a narrow tube. That would take time. Time they might not have. Did he really have a choice, though? "Where are your med kits, and mission equipment packs?" he asked, turning to where he suspected Chapel and Taylor.
The pack the medical personnel carried on away missions included several instruments which could be useful to them. A flashlight, for example. But what he wanted most at the moment, was a communicator.
"In the storage room," Chapel sighed. The room was well organized, easily reachable from any place in sickbay. If there was an emergency you didn't have to search for long to get the item you wanted. However, it had a door. A door that was now closed.
"There's also one in McCoy's office," Taylor said.
"Which has a door, also!" Kirk finished Taylor's sentence.
"McCoy was called to make a visit to the Romulan woman in the brig," Chapel said, and Kirk heard she was moving around, "I think he may have left the door open when he left."
"He has disabled the automatic closing mechanism, because … well, he just has," Taylor explained.
"What?" Kirk asked, a little worried. Why had Bones been called to the brig? And what did the power failure mean for the people on the other side of the force field that was holding the prisoner inside the cell? There should be an armed security guard in there, too, so even if the force field had failed … . Then again, Velal may have planned this, and all this time she may have been waiting for an opportunity to escape. But why would she have wanted McCoy in there with her?
"Well, when the door's closed we know he doesn't want to be disturbed, when it's open, we know it's safe to go in," Chapel said, chuckling a bit.
"And when he isn't there at all?" Kirk asked, smiling at his friend's peculiarities. There were still some that he didn't know about.
"Open!" Chapel shouted triumphantly already from within the small room. There was a noise as she stumbled over the chair, then a series of louder thuds and clanks as something, or rather a lot of things, fell on the floor.
Kirk blindly followed the noise and the following soft cursing of the head nurse, until he reached the entrance to Bones' office.
"Nurse?" he asked quietly, unsure about where to step. He didn't want to kick Christine in the head, in case she was crawling on the floor, trying to retrieve the things she'd just thrown off the desk.
Instead of an answer, the light cone of a flashlight greeted him, illuminating the clutter strewn all over the floor of the CMO's office.
"He's going to kill me," Chapel whispered unhappily.
Kirk stepped around the mess on the floor and grabbed the nurse's arm as she already stooped down to clean up.
"It's his fault. He shouldn't have left the pack open on his desk. Christine, I need a communicator. Did you find one?"
She straightened, half turning towards her captain, but then shining the light around on the floor. "This is the content of a med kit used on away missions. The communicator must have ..."
"Got it!" Kirk spotted it and bent over to retrieve it from the floor. "Thanks! Don't worry about the mess! Give Bones something to do when he reappears! We could use another flashlight, though! And something to pry open the doors!"
She nodded, and started to rummage around in the desk drawers.
"Kirk to bridge," he spoke into the communicator, hoping everyone on the bridge was safe and uninjured. He hadn't felt any blows or blasts that had rocked the ship, so there probably hadn't been any explosions, no damage to the hull. However, something abnormal, unpredictable must have occurred.
There was no answer. "Maybe they don't have a communicator with them, sir," Taylor who had finally found his way to McCoy's office as well stated.
"Well, there are some stored up there. But they're locked inside ..." Kirk started, but was interrupted.
"Scott to anyone!" the engineer's voice sounded exasperated.
"This is the captain," Kirk answered, a bit irritated that he had to answer to a call that was addressed to anyone. "What happened, Scotty?"
"Captain! It's good to hear you. I wish I knew. We're experiencing an almost total power failure. Luckily, the containment field around the reaction chamber is still functioning, as is artificial gravity, the rest … gone ... from one moment to the next."
"A malfunction?" Kirk speculated, and hoped it was. At least that would mean that it wasn't an attacker, or a trap, or an anomaly that could do further damage to the ship. At the moment they were without shields, weapons and engines, not a good position to be in when at someone's or something's mercy.
"Definitely not, sir," Scotty sounded offended, "all systems were functioning fine."
"They're definitely not functioning fine now, Scotty. When can you get everything online again?" Kirk didn't have time to be considerate of his chief engineer's pride right now. Scotty didn't seem to mind, though.
"Right now, our top priority are the life support systems. They should be up and running in a few minutes, sir. I planned to deal with the comm system after that, and then ..."
"No!" Kirk cut in quickly. "No, Scotty, we need the scanners fast, we must know what brought us into this situation. Also, our shields, weapons, and at least the impulse drive must be functional as soon as possible."
"Captain, we can't work on everything at the same time! I'm an engineer, not a magician!"
"Ah?" Kirk smiled, although Scotty couldn't see it. He knew his chief engineer was easily motivated by a little schmoozing. "Sorry, I sometimes forget. You've sure done magic to those engines before! But I guess, this is a more dire situation than before."
Scotty sighed. "Captain, I hope to have the scanners, shields, weapons and impulse engine online within the hour, but I can't promise anything."
"Just do your best Scotty. So far, that's always been enough. I hate drifting helplessly in space, it could be interpreted as an invitation to all sorts of felons!"
"Aye, we're on it …, now, sir."
The engineer said, and even before he'd stopped talking, Kirk heard the swoosh of the ventilation system coming to life. The sound was unusually loud, or it just seemed to be, in this nearly total darkness. Now, at least, we won't suffocate, he thought to himself. Aloud he said: "Good. I'll try to reach the bridge. Kirk out," and with that he pocketed his communicator.
"The bridge, Captain?" Chapel was standing next to him, handing him a pair of old-fashioned metal scissors, then shining at the door so Kirk could work on getting them open.
He took the scissors and tried to work them between the doors to apply a lever to pry open the door leading to the corridor. "Yes. Jeffries tube 21C should get me there."
Doctor Taylor sighed from somewhere in the background. Only Chapel was bold enough to actually comment: "Captain, crawling and climbing through the Jeffries tubes is strenuous to anyone. But in your condition ..."
"Thank you, Nurse Chapel, I'm aware of the risks, but I must know what's going on with my ship," he cut her off impatiently.
Chapel took a breath to steady herself. Then she went on: "With all due respect, sir, I don't think you are aware of the risks. If you strain yourself, your blood pressure will go up which will make you bleed inside your brain again. If that doesn't kill you right away, you're likely to fall off a ladder and break your neck. Then we'll be stranded with no power and no captain. But that won't be your problem then, will it?"
Kirk stopped fiddling with the scissors and turned to face Bones' head nurse.
"You've been taking lessons from Dr McCoy?" he asked, smiling arrogantly at her. He hoped to abash her, make her forget about his risky intentions, but without success - she probably couldn't see him properly.
Her face mirrored what he imagined to be his own expression as she gave him a superior smile: "Captain, after having made that disarray in Dr McCoy's office, I don't want to anger him further by letting you take that obstacle course through the Jeffries tubes. I for one, am very fond of my life, you know?"
He decided to put off the decision. "Well, Nurse, we'll see. First, we need to get these doors open. I'm sure people were injured when the power went out. Sickbay must be accessible to them."
"He's here," Velal whispered into McCoy's ear. There was no need to whisper, though, since they were alone in the room. Security officer Osborne was waiting in the corridor, behind the closed door which would prove difficult to open. Without power these doors were like a clam fiercly protecting its pearl, to get them to open manually, a crowbar and lots of muscle was needed. This was a door to the brig, which meant it probably had all sorts of well-thought-out safety mechanisms, too.
Velal pressed herself to McCoy's side, so close that he could feel the burning heat of her feverish body seep through his clothes and into his own skin. Her racing heart thumped a staccato against his elbow and he could feel every muscle within him tense, every hair on his arms and neck stand up. His breath flattened out. He estimated the Romulan, burning with that ancient need that was an inherited trait of her race, was about ten times stronger than himself. Her reflexes, though maybe not as alert as they were when she was her normal self, were no match for him either. So, what was there to do?
"Who is?" he asked smoothly, maybe he could calm her down a little?
"My bond mate. He must be the reason for this!" she said and her lips were touching his ear as she spoke.
He turned just a bit. Of course he couldn't see her face in the total darkness, but he'd heard a touch of fear in her voice.
"Does that worry you?"
"He thinks he's omnipotent. He'll claim me."
"But he is your bond mate, isn't he?" McCoy asked further.
"That doesn't give him the right to possess me. He's mad. He'll destroy your ship when he's found me." Her hands were seeking out his own and then started to awkwardly play with his fingers, touching and stroking.
McCoy suddenly remembered seeing Amanda and Sarek, Spock's parents, touching the tips of their fingers in a peculiar gesture, one that had been similar to this, if, admittedly, a bit more "civil".