Doctors Orders | Chapter 2 of 9

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Doctor's Orders

 

 

BY

 

DIANE DUANE

 

POCKET BOOKS New York London

 

Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,

 

places and

 

incidents are either the product of the author's

 

imagination or are

 

used fictitiously. Any resemblance

 

to actual events or locales or

 

persons, living or dead, is entirely

 

coincidental

 

An Original Publication of POCKET

 

BOOK

 

POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon and

 

Schuster Inc.. 1230

 

Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY

 

 

Copyright (C 1990 by Paramount Pictures.

 

All Rights Reserved.

 

STAR TREK is a Registered Trademark of

 

Paramount Pictures.

 

This book is published by Pocket Books, a

 

division of Simon and

 

Schuster Inc., under exclusive license from

 

Paramount Picture.

 

All rights reserved, including the right

 

to reproduce this book or

 

portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information

 

address

 

Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the

 

Americas, New York, NY 10020

 

ISBN 0-671-66189-2

 

First Pocket Books printing June 1990

 

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 

POCKET and colophon are registered

 

trademarks of Simon and Schuster

 

Inc.

 

Printed in the U.s.a. For Laura, Nita,

 

Tom, the good Dr. Spencer,

 

and the many other friends who worked (or work) in and

 

around Payne

 

Whitney Psychiatric Clinic in New

 

York City

 

with happy memories of the Sixth Floor and the

 

Pros from Dover.

 

And for them all, this variation on a theme

 

"Why would anyone want to rule the world? They'd just

 

have to

 

do the time sheets." "In the ancient names of

 

Apollo the

 

Physician, and Aesculapius, and by Health and

 

Allheal his daughters,

 

I swear this oath-though chiefly by the One above

 

Them, Whose Name we

 

do not know. I swear to wield my art in such

 

ways, and only in such

 

ways, as serve to preserve sentient life in its

 

myriad forms, or to

 

allow such life to depart in dignity. I shall turn

 

aside from every

 

act, or inaction, which would allow any being's life

 

to depart

 

untimely. Into whatever place I go for the healing of the

 

sick, I shall

 

hold such things as I see there to be as

 

secret as the holy

 

Mysteries. I swear to perform no procedure in

 

which I am unqualified.

 

Nor shall I use my position as a tool in the

 

seduction of any being.

 

I will teach this, my art, without fee or stipulation,

 

to other

 

disciples bound to it by oath, should they desire

 

to learn it; and I

 

shall hold the ones who taught me the art as close

 

as family, and

 

help them in their need should they require it. I

 

ask the Power Which

 

hears oaths to hear me swear this one. As long as

 

I keep it, may I

 

stand rightfully in the respect of my fellow beings

 

but should I break

 

it, may the reverse be my lot."

 

comHippocratic Oath, revised ed.

 

"I wish that blasphemy, ignorance and tyranny

 

were ceased among

 

physicians, that they might be happy and I

 

joyful."

 

comationicholas Culpeper

 

(specialist in alternative medicine,

 

fl.

 

1608)

 

"Do YOU REMEMBER," said Leonard

 

McCoy, "when I stole your cadaver?"

 

The tall gray-haired man lying in the other

 

lounger laughed.

 

"Disaster," he said, "alas! Murder most foul,

 

alarums and

 

excursions, theft, buggery, barratry,

 

incomplete perfusion!"

 

McCoy suspected that Dieter was trying to say

 

that, at the time, he had

 

gone into shock. It was always a matter of

 

guesswork, figuring out

 

what he meant. Dieter Clissman's grasp

 

of English had never been

 

less than perfect, but sometimes he seemed

 

to want to make you

 

wonder about that a little. McCoy leaned forward a

 

little to signal

 

to one of the waiters looking out toward the hotel

 

terrace. "Here,

 

never mind," he said, "you've gone right through that. You

 

and your

 

milk drinks. Let me get you

 

another." The waiter glanced at McCoy,

 

nodded, and went off. McCoy leaned back in his

 

lounger and looked

 

out through the railings of the terrace at the landscape.

 

The old

 

hotel sat on the highest shoulder of the little

 

plateau that held the town of Wengen against the

 

Jungfrau, "the

 

Maiden," queen-mountain of all the Bernese

 

Alps. The sky was that

 

perfect light clear blue of late Alpine

 

summer, the color of the very

 

end of July, just before the fall first begins to assert

 

itself. Down

 

below, among the dark green scattered pines, under the

 

brown peaked

 

roofs, lights were beginning to show in windows, as the

 

day drew on

 

toward sunset and the houses farthest west in town

 

fell under the

 

upward-leaping shadow of Schilthorn across the

 

valley. A pair of

 

lights down toward the Lauterbrunnen valley

 

spoke of a train coming

 

up the old cog railway, loaded with

 

tourists and the day's commuters

 

from Interlaken, Thun, and Bern. Nothing else

 

moved down there in the

 

streets of the town but people walking, and electric or

 

horse-drawn carts; bigger ground vehicles and

 

fliers came no farther up the mountain than

 

Lauterbrunnen, a restriction that McCoy found

 

hard to fault when the result was such perfect

 

quiet, broken only by the bells on the horses"

 

harness, and on the tuned bells of goats and cows on

 

the green alp higher up the

 

mountainside. High above everything, the razory

 

peak of the Maiden was half- hidden in veils of

 

wispy cloud, but that was the best possible news to

 

McCoy. Cloud at the end of the day in Wengen

 

meant incredible sunsets. They were one reason why

 

McCoy was here. The other reason was to see

 

Dieter.

 

It had been a long time since they were at medical

 

school together. After graduation, they had gone their

 

separate ways. Now Dieter ran the Xeno

 

department at the University of Bern and was

 

practically a legend among the xenomedics of the

 

Federation; and McCoy . . . Heaven only knows

 

what I am, he thought. 2

 

"When does it start?" he said to Dieter.

 

"In about an hour, I should think," Dieter said,

 

looking down toward the valley. After a long, long

 

drink, he added, "And whatever did make you

 

steal my cadaver?"

 

McCoy laughed softly at that, and took another

 

drink of his mint julep. "If I hadn't, someone

 

else would have," he said. "I thought it would be better

 

if a friend did it."

 

"Mmmmm," Dieter said. "We did have a few

 

rogues among us, did we not."

 

McCoy nodded. There had been people studying

 

xenomedicine in the same class as the two of them who

 

turned out not to have been particularly well fitted for

 

it. Well, he thought, better they should find out in

 

training, rather than in practicing on a patient. But

 

some of them had been less than kind to the hard-working,

 

hard-studying man who got better grades than

 

any of them, and made them look less than competent

 

in the labs and on the wards. A lot of them had

 

tried to make Dieter's life less pleasant

 

than it might have been. That had annoyed McCoy.

 

It annoyed him now, even though it was all a long

 

time ago. But some memories would not lie down and be

 

still.

 

"Rogues, yes," he said. "Well, they're

 

all in other jobs, I hope and

 

trust."

 

"What I don't understand is what made you put

 

the cadaver in the Dean's

 

office," Dieter said, leaning back to gaze at

 

where the clouds around

 

Schilthorn and Morgenburghorn and Niesen to the

 

west were already beginning to crimson.

 

"Seemed like a good idea at the time," McCoy

 

said, looking, around him as the terrace slowly began

 

to fill

 

up with tourists, people with stillshooters and cameras.

 

Most of them had

 

sweaters on-a good idea; it was cooling down, and

 

McCoy wished he had

 

brought his own jacket. "It also seemed to me,"

 

he said, "that the Dean

 

would be forced by such a gesture to take a more

 

personal interest in what was going on in our

 

classes. That seemed like a good thing."

 

"But you were flunking anatomy," Dieter said.

 

McCoy blushed. That was one memory he had

 

never quite been able to come to terms with. "Such only brought

 

more attention to bear on you," Dieter said,

 

ignoring the blushes. "Not a good thing."

 

"It's all relative," McCoy muttered.

 

"And it all turned out all right in the end." Indeed

 

it had, though it had meant the Dean of Medicine

 

tutoring him within an inch ofhis life for the next

 

three months. He had passed

 

anatomy with a more than respectable grade, and the

 

Dean had shook him by the hand and told him that she never

 

wanted to see him again. "Getting a little thick up

 

here, isn't it?" McCoy said, looking around him

 

at all the tourists, who were beginning to gather

 

expectantly at the railings.

 

"I decline to be distracted," Dieter said.

 

"You went to great trouble for my sake. I have never

 

forgotten it."

 

"Yes, well. What about that time-was McCoy

 

stopped himself, then. What's

 

wrong with just letting a thank-you in? he thought.

 

"Never mind," he said after a second or so. "I

 

was glad to help."

 

"I was glad to be helped. Which is one reason

 

I wanted to see you before you went off again. Your last

 

couple of letters-there was a lot of

 

complaining about Starfleet bureaucracy."

 

McCoy chuckled. "You recruiting,

 

Dieter?"

 

"Don't joke. You haven't my budget cuts

 

to deal with. I just wanted to know that you are all right."

 

McCoy sighed, looked out at the darkening

 

valley. "Well, good usually

 

manages to triumph over bureaucracy, at

 

least lately. But good has to be very, very careful. It

 

can tire you out."

 

Dieter said nothing to that, just took another drink.

 

"This mission that means you can't stay to dinner," he

 

said, "will it take you away for long this time? I'd like

 

you to come lecture, if you can spare the energy when you have

 

some more leave. Your last few articles left the

 

other department heads hot for your blood. That

 

Gastroenteriditis denebiis one in

 

particular. Old Kreuznauer threatened to feed you

 

that article with-. out a GI tube."

 

McCoy chuckled. "I don't know," he said,

 

gazing out at the sunset. It was becoming

 

magnificent; the late a fternoon had become almost a

 

recipe for

 

splendor-high clouds in an otherwise clear

 

sky, the reflected crimson light of a sun already

 

gone down now lingering on the highest snow-covered

 

peaks so that they blazed pink-orange against the

 

deepening blue, as if lit from within by fire. "It's

 

officially a post-survey survey. The First

 

Contact people have been down to the planet in question and counted

 

the species. Apparently they already have some knowledge of

 

space travel. The survey has done the initial

 

language analyses and so forth. Now we have to go in

 

and do the fine calibrations for the Universal

 

Translator . . . and evaluate them to see if

 

they're Federation material. And if they want

 

to be." He

 

shrugged. "It's work we've done before. I'll be

 

busy . . . there's a lot of xenopsych involved,

 

as you might 6

 

expect. Other than that-biological survey of

 

flora and fauna, especially the

 

germs-anatomical and medical analysis of the

 

species involved-was

 

"Wait a moment. Species plural?"

 

Dieter said, sounding surprised. "More

 

than one?"

 

McCoy nodded. "It's unusual," he said.

 

"They're not planted, either-not put there by some other

 

spacefaring species earlier on in history.

 

Three

 

species on the one planet, all true

 

convergent evolution. Starfleet is hot to find out

 

what's going on . . . seeing that no such planet

 

has ever been found before. Enterprise was headed somewhere

 

else first, but this mission has pushed that other one

 

farther down the list. So-off we go tonight, and not next

 

week as I thought. Otherwise, I would come

 

lecture for you,

 

happily. There's no telling how many years

 

it'll be this time. You know how it is."

 

Dieter made a little sound like a sigh. "Here we

 

are in the prime of our careers," it said, "and we have

 

no more time to ourselves than we did as first-year

 

students. Something's gone wrong somewhere."

 

McCoy studied his drink. "At least we're not

 

bored."

 

"We weren't then, either," Dieter said. He

 

paused, and added, "You know, I think they may be

 

starting early. Let's look."

 

McCoy got up and followed his friend to the end of the

 

railing, where there was still a little room left. They

 

looked out, down past the town, down the valley.

 

There were sparks of light showing not electric

 

lights, this time, but fires, burning on the nearby

 

heights and hills. One after another, they started

 

to blaze up. Down in the valley, near

 

Lauterbrunnen and 6

 

Murren and right down to Interlaken and Spiez by the

 

lake on the heights on the far side of Lake

 

Thun and Lake Brienz, on the Brienzer and

 

Sigriswiler Rothorns, and eastward to the

 

Schrattenflue they shone, so that the fires

 

doubled themselves in the still waters of the lakes; and right

 

down into the lowlands, atop the hill-heights of

 

Rammisgummen and Napf. And one tiniest

 

light, farthest away, due north by Lake

 

Luzern not a bonfire, but a

 

laserbeam starting upward straight as a spear from the

 

peak of Mount

 

Pilatus, and vanishing into the night.

 

"They just can't wait till midnight anymore,"

 

Dieter said. "The impatience of the young. But

 

anyway, you understand why I wanted you to see this. This

 

year in particular."

 

McCoy nodded. All around them, on every

 

mountaintop, new fires were being kindled. One was

 

lit down in the main square in Wengen; in

 

response to it, another laserbeam lanced out upward

 

from the meteorological research

 

facility on the peak of the Jungfrau, pure

 

white, casting a light like

 

bright moonlight on everything around. The sound of

 

singing began to drift up-at first a few voices

 

together, then more and more of them, thin but

 

clear, singing a simple tune in a major key,

 

something that might have been mistaken for a music-box

 

tune. But the translator handled the words without

 

hesitation, even though they were in the oldest Swiss

 

language, Rumansch, and made it plain that this was

 

not a song for music-boxes. "Freedom or

 

death, that is our will; no foreign rule, for good or

 

ill; Free folk are we, in a free land-was

 

"Almost a thousand years since they spoke those words

 

first," Dieter said, "in the middle of the night, 7

 

in the Riitli meadow up north by Luzern.

 

Thirteen stubborn people, annoyed with the local

 

representative of a foreign empire."

 

McCoy nodded again. That pact, the Perpetual

 

Alliance, had been the seed of the formation of

 

Switzerland the declaration that the Swiss belonged

 

to themselves, and each other, not to whatever empire felt like

 

conquering

 

them. And the Swiss Articles of Confederation had

 

been one of several

 

useful models for the Articles of Federation of the

 

United Federation of Planets-a loose

 

association of fiercely independent parties bound

 

to help one another in distress, to protect the group

 

against threat or

 

interference from outside, and otherwise to leave each

 

other pretty much alone. It was all history, and

 

well enough known. But a little thread of suspicion

 

woke up in McCoy and wouldn't go away. "How

 

much of it really

 

happened?" he said. "All the William Tell

 

stuff?"

 

Dieter chuckled. "Willem Tell certainly

 

lived," he said, "but he didn't

 

kill the tyrant with his bare hands, or shoot any

 

apples off his son's

 

head. He was a stubborn man with a talent for

 

withholding his taxes in

 

protest, and getting his neighbors to do the same.

 

Among many other things. And as for the Rutli meadow,

 

it's there, all right, but who knows what

 

happened nearly a thousand years ago, in the dark?

 

All we have is the

 

signed Pact in the Bundesbriefarchiv in

 

Schwyz. And its results."

 

Some of the people up on the terrace were singing, now, in

 

German or French or Italian; the words

 

all came out the same in McCoy's

 

translator, though it often had trouble with the

 

Rumansch, and kept trying to treat it as if it were a

 

sort of worn-down Italian with 8

 

pig-German mixed in. "Our homes, our

 

lives, no one's but ours our earth,

 

our blood, no foreign power's-was

 

The song chorused up to its end. Applause and

 

cheering broke out as more fires flared up on the

 

heights. Glasses were raised, drained, but not

 

smashed-this was Switzerland, after all; smashed

 

glasses were untidy-and people went in search of

 

refills. In McCoy's back pocket, the

 

communicator cheeped.

 

He sighed, yanked down suddenly from the odd

 

elation that had been building in him. "At least I

 

got to see this," he said to Dieter, and pulled the

 

communicator out. "McCoy," he said to it.

 

"Doctor, was Spock's voice said to him, "The

 

Captain has asked me to say to you, All aboard

 

that's coming aboard. ?"'

 

"Tell him I appreciate the extra time,

 

Spock," McCoy said. "Tell Uhura I'm

 

ready."

 

"Noted." There was a brief pause.

 

"7t is a most notable sight, Doctor. And a

 

bit of a curiosity. his

 

"Oh? Why's that?"

 

"1 had not thought of you as much of a historian. his

 

McCoy chuckled a bit. "It's personal

 

history, more than anything else. And besides," he

 

said, "those who ignore the mistakes of the past

 

usually wind up treating the resultant bullet

 

holes in the future. Just consider this as

 

prophylaxis. McCoy out."

 

He could hear Spock's puzzlement as he

 

closed the frequency down, and he approved of it.

 

"A longer stay next time, old friend," he said

 

to Dieter. Dieter raised his glass. "Grusse

 

Gott, was he said.

 

"Mud in your eye too," said McCoy. He

 

drained his 9

 

julep, putting it down just before the transporter

 

effect started to take

 

him. "And ciao. his

 

James T. Kirk leaned back in the helm and

 

appeared to take no particular notice of the

 

predeparture checks going on around him. That

 

appearance was one he had cultivated for a long, long

 

time. It didn't do for a Captain, in terms

 

of the everyday running of a ship, to let his crew think

 

he was

 

watching them too closely. Such scrutiny only

 

made them nervous, or gave them ideas about their

 

Captain's opinion of their competence. No, it was

 

better to lean back, enjoy the view, and let them

 

get their jobs done.

 

At the same time, Kirk knew every move of the

 

predeparture ritual, for

 

every station of the Bridge. He paid scrupulous

 

(though low-key) attention to it, for the same reason that

 

old-time parachutists used to pack their own chutes,

 

having first signed the silk. With the back half of his

 

attention he listened to the checks on the warp and

 

impulse engines, and the OK'S from the various

 

departments around the ship, and assured himself that everything

 

was proceeding correctly. But in the meantime, the

 

front half of his attention was busy with a

 

philosophical problem.

 

Am I lonely? he wondered..

 

He had had a birthday not too long ago, and some

 

of his congratulatory mail had just caught up with

 

him. One card that had come from an old friend on Earth

 

had made some mildly humorous remark about

 

wondering when he was

 

going to settle down with someone. Kirk's first

 

reaction, after chuckling at the question, had been to think that

 

he already was settled down with someone with the

 

Enterprise. But a 10

 

moment later, some annoyed part of his brain had very

 

clearly said to him. How long are you going to keep

 

feeding yourself that answer? You made it up a long time

 

ago. Is it still valid? Was it ever valid? And how

 

come it's

 

been so long since you even gave it any thought?

 

Because it was true then, and it still is, he had

 

answered the mouthy part of his brain. But the derisive

 

silence that was the only reply had brought him up

 

short. Slowly, over years, Kirk had learned

 

to pay attention to the things his brain said to him without

 

warning; accurate or not, they tended to be worth

 

considering. So he was considering the question, regardless of the

 

fact that it made his brain hurt.

 

This is all McCoy's fault somehow, he

 

thought, a bit sourly. I never used to be this

 

introspective. He's been contaminating me.

 

"Sickbay," he heard Lieutenant Uh ura

 

say behind him, as she went down the checklist.

 

"Sickbay ready, was he heard Lia Burke

 

say she was acting as McCoy's head

 

nurse while Christine Chapel was out doing her

 

doctorate practicals.

 

"Doctor McCoy's on his way in from the

 

Transporter room."

 

"Ask him to come up to the Bridge when he has a

 

moment," Kirk said

 

suddenly, deciding in momentary wickedness that if

 

he had to be

 

philosophically uncomfortable, he was going

 

to spread some of the

 

discomfort back to the source.

 

"Certainly, Captain. Anything in particular?"

 

"I'll discuss it with him when he gets here," he

 

said. Let him sweat, he thought with mild amusement.

 

"Ah, Mr. Chekov. Thank you."

 

He reached down and took the datapadd Chekov

 

was offering him; he looked it over, saw nothing on the

 

 

day's schedule that he hadn't been expecting,

 

signed the padd, and gave it back to Chekov.

 

"Your briefing today, I see," he said.

 

"At 1900 hours," Chekov said, "yes,

 

sir."

 

"Done all your homework?"

 

"I should think so, Keptin," Chekov said

 

mildly. "It is a Russian

 

inwention. Like many other things."

 

Kirk smiled. "Carry on, Ensign," he

 

said.

 

"Sir," said Chekov, and went back to his

 

post.

 

Spock stepped down beside the helm from where he had

 

been going through his own checklists. "We are ready

 

to leave, Captain," he said. "All personnel

 

are accounted for, and all departments report ready."

 

"Fine," Kirk said. "The usual notifications

 

to orbital departure control, then. Mr. Sulu,"

 

he said, glancing at the helm console, "take us out

 

at

 

your discretion."

 

"Yes, sir," Sulu said, and started the

 

departure procedures.

 

Kirk stretched a bit in the helm. "A quiet

 

time out this time, I hope," he said to Spock. "A

 

little pure science will do us all good."

 

Spock looked speculative. "It would be

 

dangerous to attempt to predict

 

events in advance without sufficient data," he

 

said, "but one may certainly wish for ample time in which

 

to do one's research."

 

Kirk looked sidewise at Spock. "Is

 

there something you know that you're not telling me?" he said.

 

"Some. reason to suspect that things won't be

 

quiet?" "Indeed not," Spock said, with a slightly

 

scandalized expression. "I would inform you immediately of

 

any such. Preliminary data about this mission are

 

all negative as regards any significant

 

problems."

 

"A hunch, then?" Kirk said. His teasing mood

 

was refusing to confine itself to McCoy.

 

"Really, sir," Spock said, "it is most

 

undesirable technique to hypothesize without data-was

 

"Of course," Kirk said. "Never mind."

 

The Bridge doors hissed. "Can't leave for a

 

moment," McCoy said. "Place

 

goes to pot the minute I turn my back on

 

it. Evening, Spock."

 

"Morning, actually," Spock said. "It is

 

point three six-was

 

"Spare me the decimal places," McCoy

 

said, leaning up against the center seat. He was carrying

 

a datapadd, and looking cross. "Jim, have you

 

seen these?"

 

Kirk took the padd and scanned it. It was a

 

list of crewmen who had been seen in

 

Sickbay over the past week, while the

 

Enterprise had been on

 

layover. "Yes. So?"

 

"These numbers are twice what they should be.

 

Maybe three times. Look at this. There were five

 

people down with colds-was

 

"It's not their fault that you haven't found out how

 

to cure the common

 

cold yet," Kirk said.

 

McCoy scowled at him. "You know perfectly

 

well that diet and exercise and a generally healthy

 

immune system are the only things that're going

 

to stop minor upper respiratory infections. These

 

people go on shore leave, and all their health training

 

goes out the window."

 

"Oh, come on, Bones," Kirk said. "One of the

 

reasons for shore leave is to cut loose a little."

 

"Indeed," Spock said, "just last week you were

 

lecturing us on the

 

beneficial effects of shore leave in 13

 

minimizing the effects of long-term stress." He

 

paused for a beat, then

 

added, "In those species that experience stress,

 

of course."

 

McCoy merely snorted at Spock in

 

genial disgust, and said to Kirk, "The

 

numbers are much higher than they ought to be."

 

Kirk sighed and stretched a bit in the helm.

 

"Yes, well. We can't have

 

everybody on the ship in perfect health, can we?"

 

"Yes, we can!" McCoy said, with surprising

 

force. "That's what I'm aiming for. Nothing less."

 

"But if that happened, you'd be out of work."

 

"Jim, every doctor and nurse from here to the Rim

 

lives in hope that one day we'll wake up and find

 

that everybody in the Universe is perfectly

 

healthy and in possession of a signed certificate

 

from God saying that

 

they're going to die peacefully in their sleep.

 

Then we can all retire and go fishing."

 

"You don't like fishing. You said it was barbaric the

 

last time I took you. You made me throw back a

 

ten-pound trout."

 

McCoy scowled at Kirk. "Now you know what

 

I mean, dammit. We all want some other job.

 

Any other job. In any case, it's not likely

 

to happen this

 

week."

 

"Not any other job, surely," Kirk said,

 

feeling the teasing mood get

 

stronger.

 

"Not his, anyway," McCoy said, glancing

 

at Spock. "Give me an ulcer for

 

sure."

 

"Not mine, then?!"

 

"Don't tempt me," McCoy said. "Your

 

chair's a lot

 

more comfortable than the one in my office. I think it

 

was designed by Torquemada. Anyway, look,

 

Jim,"

 

McCoy said, "these figures need to be handled

 

at the

 

next department heads" meeting. They're too

 

high

 

right across the board; they were too high for the last two

 

missions. Heads need to take a little more

 

responsibility for helping their people follow

 

their regimens, especially as regards shift

 

scheduling and making sure

 

people don't run themselves into the ground out of sheer

 

enthusiasm. I can't be everywhere."

 

"No?" Spock said, lifting one eyebrow.

 

"No," McCoy said. "Doctors couldn't be

 

everywhere, so the Lord invented

 

Vulcans. I thought you knew."

 

Kirk smiled a bit. "Anyway," McCoy

 

said, "we'll go into this in more detail at the heads'

 

meeting. Jim, I need your backing on this."

 

"You've got it, of course. Anything else?"

 

McCoy looked meaningfully at Kirk's

 

middle. "I'll be wanting to see you

 

sometime tomorrow," he said.

 

"Just me? Not Spock?"

 

"Spock is logical," McCoy said with

 

entirely too much relish, "and takes good care of

 

himself. Besides, he's not due for his

 

hundred-thousand-kilometer oil change yet.

 

0800 tomorrow, Jim. Be there."

 

McCoy headed for the Bridge doors. "Good

 

to see you too, Bones," Kirk

 

called after him. "I had a nice leave, thank

 

you for asking!"

 

"Mnnnhhhhnnn," McCoy said, and the Bridge

 

doors shut on him.

 

Kirk and Spock looked at one another.

 

"He's in a prime mood," Kirk said. "I

 

guess he wasn't done with his leave yet."

 

"It is frequently difficult to tell what is

 

occupying the Doctor," Spock said, "or perhaps

 

"preoccupying him' would be a more accurate

 

assessment. I suspect the medical model of

 

behavior is at fault; it seems to require its

 

adherents to keep their true concerns to 15

 

themselves. But I daresay the Doctor will let us

 

know in good time."

 

Kirk nodded, watching Earth slip hurriedly

 

away behind them as Sulu took them up out of the plane

 

of the ecliptic and out of the system. "You're

 

probably right," he said. "Now what about those

 

mass conversion ratios you wanted to discuss with me? .

 

. ."

 

"The planet's name," Mr. Chekov said, "is

 

1212 Muscae IV the fourth body out from

 

1212 Mus, an orange type-F8 star with no

 

spectrographic or

 

historical anomalies worth mentioning. The star

 

was initially cataloged by the Skalnate Pleso

 

stellar survey on Earth, the edition dated epoch

 

1950, and the Bayer number and classification then

 

assigned have been retained under the new IAU

 

survey. Galactic coordinates and the nearest

 

Cepheid-wariable tag beacons are in the

 

ephemerides listed to your

 

screens."

 

Kirk leaned back in his seat at the head

 

of the table in Main Briefing,

 

noticing that the list of coordinates was about half

 

again as long as it would have been if Spock had been

 

doing the briefing; evidently Chekov was taking no

 

chances, for Spock was down at the other end of the table,

 

his cool regard resting on the screen with the calm

 

interest of a teacher

 

waiting to see how a star pupil performed.

 

"The planet," said Mr. Chekov, "was

 

surveyed in

 

the first Southern Galactic Boundary Survey.

 

Initial readouts from the non-landing survey

 

indicated

 

a planet in the broad M-type

 

classification, that

 

is to say, metallic core, largely

 

silicon-bearing crust

 

with significant carbon deposits the

 

atmosphere

 

middle-reducing, with oxygen at no more than 20

 

percent, nitrogen no more than 70 percent, and

 

noble gases within Federation medical tolerances for

 

carbon-based life."

 

He touched a control on the data panel in

 

front of him. The image showing in the

 

screens changed to show a green-blue planet of a very

 

Earthlike

 

kind, the picture taken from about three hundred

 

thousand kilometers out. Soft white brushstrokes of

 

cloud stroked across its surface; the continents were

 

separated by wide seas, and were mostly islands not much

 

bigger than, say, Australia, to judge by the

 

scale of miles down in the corner of the image. The

 

polar caps were tiny scraps of ice, hardly there

 

at all.

 

"As you can see," Chekov said, "the planet is

 

presently interglaciated;

 

overall planetary average temperature is

 

sixteen degrees Celsius. Weather patterns

 

are generally unremarkable except for their mildness;

 

no wind

 

during the survey period of twenty-nine days

 

exceeded force four, even in the polar areas."

 

"What's the mean daytime temperature in the

 

temperate zones?" Scotty said from down the table.

 

"Twenty-one C in the winter," Chekov said,

 

"Twenty-three C in the summer."

 

"Ahh," Scotty said, "just like Aberdeen."

 

Several people around the table laughed.

 

"That's as it may be, Scotty,"

 

Kirk said. "Mr. Chekov, this planet sounds like

 

a nice place for a holiday."

 

"It might be, sir, if people weren't living there.

 

But more of that

 

shortly. If you'll look at the next

 

image-was and it changed in the screens, to a

 

small-scale tactical layout showing the

 

relative position of Federa- tion

 

space-"you'll see that the system is in so-called

 

"debatable' space, to which neither Federation 17

 

nor any other aligned group has laid any

 

serious territorial or "buffer'

 

claim. Neither Klingon nor Romulan interests

 

have ventured much in this

 

direction, probably for economic reasons; this

 

part of space is fairly

 

star-poor, it being in a gap between the Sagittarius

 

and Perseus arms of the Galaxy, and systems with

 

sufficiently exploitable resources, like asteroid

 

belts, are few and far between."

 

Kirk nodded. "A long way to come for just a

 

holiday planet," he said.

 

Chekov nodded. "In any case, the warious

 

indigenous species would

 

complicate a holiday," he said. The

 

image changed again, to show a diagram with three

 

line-drawn figures, compared for size one like a

 

collapsed

 

sack, one vaguely treelike, and one that was

 

merely a squarish dotted

 

outline somewhat taller than the human figure that

 

stood nearby for

 

comparison.

 

"There are three intelligent species native

 

to the planet," Chekov said. Some glances were

 

exchanged around the table, from those who had as yet

 

heard nothing of this. "This is extremely

 

unusual, as some of you have

 

guessed. So far this is the only planet found

 

by any Federation survey that has so many species

 

living together that were not brought there by some

 

other species, like the Preservers. The First

 

Survey team confirms that

 

they are genuine products of evolution on the

 

planet; the DNA'-ANALOG

 

samples taken early on give a better than

 

six-sigma probability to the

 

thesis. One of our mission objectives will be

 

to get absolute confirmation of the evolutionary

 

situation, which is certainly historic in

 

space

 

exploration so far, and which will certainly be

 

actively questioned by the scientific community when we

 

bring our data home."

 

"We have our honor to defend, hm?" McCoy

 

said from down the table.

 

"The truth is worth defending, Doctor,"

 

Spock said calmly. "As long as it is the truth.

 

It is our business to find out.

 

"The three species show an unusual' spread

 

of morphotypes," Chekov said, very calmly

 

continuing and paying no particular attention to the

 

backchat. Kirk smiled a little to himself. "The first

 

one to be contacted-was

 

The image on the screens changed again. It now

 

showed something that looked surprisingly like a plastic

 

bag full of some clear liquid; but the surface

 

of the bag shimmered with iridescent color, like glass

 

left for years in the sun. "This species,"

 

Chekov said, "identifies itself as one of a people called

 

the Ornae-the singular and adjective form appears

 

to be Ornaet. They are one of the first true

 

theriomorphs known to Federation science, even more so

 

than creatures like the Alariins or the amphibian

 

gelformes of

 

Sirius B III. There are apparently about

 

five million of them on the

 

planet, which they describe as a normal and stable

 

population. The

 

creatures' interior, according to the survey team, is

 

pure undifferentiated protoplasm the outer

 

membrane seems to be a standard semipermeable, such

 

as is possessed by simple one-celled animals like

 

the amoebae. However, the outer skin or pellicle

 

is highly radiation-resistant, and its relative

 

permeability seems to be consciously

 

controllable. It is also completely malleable; the

 

Ornae seem able to take any shape they choose,

 

for limited periods, and they use their own bodies as

 

tools."

 

"They're not shapechangers, though," Scotty

 

said.

 

"No; their appearance remains the same,

 

regardless

 

of the shape they take," Chekov said. "They seem

 

able to absorb energy

 

directly from their surroundings, in any form

 

awailable." He began to grin a bit. One of the

 

younger Ornae took one of the survey team's

 

phasers and

 

ate it. The team member got the phaser back

 

physically undamaged, but

 

completely drained of charge."

 

Scotty put his eyebrows up at that.

 

"The survey team found the Ornae friendly and

 

communicative, if a bit

 

obscure," Chekov said. "They weren't sure

 

whether to attribute the

 

obscurity to difficulties with the uncalibrated

 

universal translator, or species-specific

 

difficulties. We're expected to find out which."

 

McCoy looked interested. "What were they

 

obscure about?"

 

"The survey team reported most of their

 

difficulties with terms having to do with

 

physicality," Chekov said. "Body shape and so

 

forth. It was thought that polymorphs might have

 

difficulty understanding why an alien didn't

 

change shape as often as they did themselves."

 

"Makes sense," McCoy said. "Probably

 

the language is at least as flexible a

 

psychology like that would find it normal for everything

 

to change con- stantly, including symbology. I

 

think we'll be able to find a way to handle it."

 

"The second species-was The image

 

changed again. This time Kirk found himself looking at

 

something that resembled a small forest-except that he

 

couldn't get rid of the idea that it was looking at him.

 

"This is a Lahit-was

 

"Singular?" Uhura said in surprise.

 

"One entity," Chekov said, "yes. These people

 

obviously bear some physical similarity

 

to dendroids like the Lusitanii, but there the likeness

 

ends. The Lusis are individuals; the Lahit

 

are more like a hive, economy than anything else.

 

They are vegetable in, habit, and move slowly

 

over the face of the planet in large colonies, some

 

of which

 

willingly inhabit the parklands in the Ornaet

 

cities. In many cases, the

 

Ornae seem to create those parklands

 

specifically for them. There are about twenty million

 

Lahit on the planet, which is described as an

 

under-usual

 

population due to some disaster in the recent past, the

 

nature of which the survey team was unable to establish.

 

Each Lahit entity is connected to its own

 

subgroups and to its immediate supergroup by a dendritic

 

system that

 

usually resides under the soil, and moves

 

through it with great rapidity, in the same sort of way

 

used by the sporulating tubules of brachiophytic

 

fungi like the fairy-ring mushrooms. The network of

 

dendrites functions as a

 

nervous system, though the survey team remarks

 

on the apparent slowness of transmission along the

 

network. Asking a Lahit a question can mean waiting a

 

few days for the answer."

 

"I talk to the trees," Uhura sang softly

 

under her breath, "but they don't listen to me . . ."

 

A little chuckle went around the table. "Apparently

 

that was pretty much what the survey reported,"

 

Chekov said. "Very few of the Lahit would even

 

acknowledge their presence, much less have any kind of

 

conversation with them. But the Ornae seemed to think that the

 

Lahit were somehow more

 

important to the planet than they themselves were.

 

It's another of the

 

puzzles left us to solve."

 

The image on the screen changed again. "The third

 

species-"said Chekov.

 

Kirk squinted at his screen. The image there was

 

a vague one-a large,

 

oblong, palely colored shape, seen as if through

 

a fog. "Bad weather that day, Mr.

 

Chekov?" he said.

 

"No, Keptin. The image was made in full

 

daylight under clear conditions. That is an beAt."

 

"Say again?" Uhura said to Chekov.

 

Chekov shook his head. "That's the approved

 

pronunciation of the species' name for themselves-as close

 

as the survey's linguist could get to it,

 

anyway. The IPA orthography is in the

 

full report-maybe you can make better sense of

 

it than I have. Anyway, the beAt are the

 

planet's third species. We have no count of their

 

total numbers, and this is the best image the

 

survey could come up with."

 

"Some kind of gaseous entity?" Scotty said.

 

"No, sir. They simply seem not to be there

 

sometimes; their physicality is selectively

 

variable. The survey reported that members of the

 

beAt with whom they were having conversations would fade in and

 

out without warning, and without any seeming correlation to the

 

subject being discussed. Images of them seem not

 

to come out, no matter how clearly the entity in question is

 

manifesting."

 

Chekov sounded a bit embarrassed by what he was

 

having to report. "The

 

survey team," he said, "reports that the

 

beAt received them with great

 

courtesy and were willing to converse with them at great

 

lengthmuch greater than the other two species.

 

However, those conversations were all rather problematic . .

 

. since it seems from the transcripts in the

 

report that the beAt did not believe in the survey

 

party."

 

There were some bemused glances exchanged around the table

 

at that one.

 

them?" McCoy said. "Like not believing in Santa

 

Claus? Sounds absurd."

 

Chekov shrugged. "The transcripts repeat that

 

basic thread several times," he said. "One member

 

of the survey party asked the beAt in question whether it

 

doubted the evidence of its senses, and its reply, as

 

closely as the

 

translator could render it, was that "it always

 

distrusted perception, and if its senses gave it

 

unacceptable data, it exchanged them for new

 

ones."" McCoy sat back in his chair with his

 

arms folded and a look of great

 

interest spreading over his face. Aha, Kirk

 

thought, pleased, that's got him. There was nothing better

 

calculated to catch Bones's fancy than a

 

bizarre new psychology, and this

 

certainly sounded like one.

 

"No more information was obtainable about the beAt,"

 

Chekov said. "Again, the survey party found them

 

sociable and voluble, but also found great

 

difficulty in understanding what they meant. The

 

report suggests that a

 

more advanced or complex translator algorithm

 

may be necessary."

 

Uhura nodded and began making notes on her

 

datapadd.

 

"That concludes the survey's report,

 

Keptin," Chekov said.

 

"Thank you, Mr. Chekov." Kirk looked

 

around the table.

 

"This mission leaves us with some interesting work to do,"

 

Kirk said.

 

"We're well away from the conflicts of more

 

populated areas of the Galaxy, so we should have

 

leisure to concentrate on our work. Starfleet's

 

orders to me indicate that we may stay in the area as

 

long as we require to do a more thorough

 

surveysubject to recall, of course." All

 

around the table, eyes 23

 

rolled. The Enterprise had a way of being

 

dragged out of the most

 

interesting assignments to save someone's bacon

 

halfway across the Milky

 

Way. Everyone was used to it by now, but no one

 

liked ir,

 

"All the same," Kirk said, "I think they

 

may let us be on this one. My

 

orders make it plain that the Enterprise was

 

assigned to this mission

 

because of the considerable scientific expertise aboard

 

her. Half of our brief is straight scientific

 

investigation; the Federation scientific

 

community desperately wants all possible

 

information on this world's

 

evolution, on as many of its species as we can

 

catalog, both sentient and nonsentient, and as many

 

informed theories as we can come up with on how this world

 

got this way . . . and why only this world, among the

 

tens of thousands of inhabited planets we know.

 

What we discover here, what these species can tell

 

us about themselves, will profoundly affect all the

 

biological sciences. So all the departments of

 

Science aboard ship are

 

going to be stretched to their utmost." McCoy

 

stirred a little in his seat. "I want to remind you

 

all not to let your people overextend themselves,"

 

Kirk said. "Tired researchers miss clues that

 

may be right under their

 

noses, and may prove to be vital. I'll be

 

vetting all lab schedules and

 

landing party assignments daily, once we

 

arrive. Please consult Dr. McCoy with any

 

questions you may have."

 

Heads nodded all around. "The other half of our

 

mission," Kirk said, "is diplomatic. Or at

 

least we hope it will be. The survey merely

 

identified its members as explorers; they were able

 

to get very little actual

 

information about how the planet is administered, how the

 

three species

 

interact with one another, and so forth. Our business

 

is to find out-to

 

sense of their cultural structures and

 

government, if they have one-and to make formal contact with

 

all three species on the Federation's behalf.

 

We

 

must discover whether they want to be affiliated with

 

us, some or all of

 

them, and to what degree. Also, we must discover

 

whether it's even

 

appropriate to ask them. There is some

 

emphasis in my orders," Kirk said,

 

looking a little grim, "to try to make sure that it

 

is. Considering the

 

political implications of this kind of

 

evolutionary situation-whatever they are-the

 

diplomatic people are apparently edgy to have this world in

 

our camp rather than in some other, and have put some

 

pressure on us to that end.

 

Nonetheless, I intend to see to it that this secondary

 

survey is carried out with the utmost probity. What

 

matters is that these species be offered a

 

well-informed choice, and left free to make it.

 

I expect all departments to act accordingly."

 

He paused for a breath or two to think. "One of

 

Science's main tasks will be the correct

 

calibration of the Universal Translator for this

 

planet.

 

Obviously the initial survey team couldn't do

 

more than a quick and dirty calibration, with the time they had

 

to work in. A great deal rests on

 

making sure we have good translation otherwise much

 

of the "hearsay" data we collect will be

 

corrupt. And everything in the later stages,

 

especially the diplomacy, will rest on the

 

correctness and completeness of

 

translation, for all three species; we, as

 

well as they, must have the

 

correct data with which to make our choices." He

 

looked at Uhura and Spock. "I expect all

 

the other departments of Science to defer to Linguistics

 

for use of computer time and other necessities.

 

Note it, everyone."

 

"Noted," several voices murmured.

 

"With any kind of luck," Kirk said, relaxing

 

a little, "at least two out of the three species will

 

elect to be associated with us, in some way or

 

other, and give us the leisure to know that some other

 

ship can come back and fill in what we miss. But

 

we can't count on it, and the sheer

 

uniqueness of this planet demands that we treat this

 

survey as a

 

once-and-never-again opportunity. Starfleet has

 

kindly used this short

 

layover to install an extra eighty terabytes

 

of storage in the Library

 

computers. I want to come home with that memory

 

full, ladies and gentlemen. Be advised. In the

 

worst case, at least we'll have enough raw data to have

 

made the trip worthwhile . . . and found out that little

 

bit more about the Universe that we didn't

 

know. At best, one or more of these species will join

 

us, and after completing the agreement between the Federation and the

 

people of 1212 Muscae, the rest of the mission will

 

degenerate into

 

rubber-chicken banquets. Or rubber-whatever they

 

use on 1212 instead of

 

chicken."

 

Another chuckle went around. "Any questions?"

 

Kirk said.

 

"How soon do we get there?" Uhura said.

 

"Three days. Three days, Scotty?"

 

"At warp six, aye. Unless you want more.."

 

"What, and deprive the departments of time to get

 

ready? Seems unwise.

 

Three days let it be. Anyone else?"

 

No one spoke.

 

"That's the story, ladies and gentlemen," Kirk

 

said. "Dismissed for now. There's an informal

 

reception at 2100 hours, for those of you who have time

 

to attend."

 

They all rose, all but McCoy. Kirk

 

kept his seat too, 26

 

waited until the room cleared and the doors had

 

hissed shut for the last

 

time. "Problems, Bones?" he said.

 

"Was that enough backing?"

 

"More than enough." McCoy stretched a bit.

 

"Thanks, Jim."

 

"Something else, then?"

 

McCoy smiled a bit. "They handed you the

 

hottest potato they could find, didn't they?"

 

Kirk shrugged. "It's not Starfleet's style

 

to hand you easy jobs once they find you can handle the

 

tough ones," he said.

 

"I bet I know what your orders looked like,

 

though," McCoy said. "The only commander with

 

sufficient diplomatic and exploratory

 

experience for the

 

job. Incredible importance to the Galaxy.

 

Severe consequences for the

 

Federation if anyone else should acquire influence

 

in this sensitive part of space-was

 

Not for the first time, Kirk found himself wondering if the

 

command ciphers controlling access to his personal

 

terminal were as secret as he liked to think they were.

 

"Listen, Bones, they're not-was

 

"Yes, they are."

 

"Are what?" Kirk said. McCoy's

 

favorite mindreading game always annoyed

 

him.

 

"Entitled to depend on you to pull their bacon out

 

of the fire every time it falls in," McCoy said.

 

comannoying, especially when he does know what I'm

 

thinking, dammit, Kirk thought. "Jim, want some

 

advice?"

 

"Is this a free sample, or will you bill me

 

later?"

 

McCoy snorted. "Jim, listen to me. Just

 

try to relax and enjoy yourself."

 

Somehow that wasn't the advice he had been

 

expecting. "Oh really?" he said, a little weakly.

 

"Yes. Because for a good while, if I read this

 

mission correctly, you won't have any decisions

 

to make; you won't have enough data to make them. Sit

 

back and let your people do their jobs." There was a

 

wicked twinkle in

 

McCoy's eyes. "We're going to have the worst

 

work to do on this mission, anyway. Make a change

 

for you."

 

Kirk laughed softly. "You're always telling me

 

how to do my job . . . now you're telling me how

 

to not do it, too?"

 

"May be the last chance I get for a while,"

 

McCoy said. "Psychology and

 

Xenopsych are going to be real busy this

 

mission, from the look of things. Working on the people on

 

1212 . . . and on our own people, who may have

 

their own problems interacting with them. Culture

 

shock works both ways . . . and always worst the first

 

time."

 

"I thought you were a surgeon, not a shrink,"

 

Kirk said, teasing.

 

The Doctor looked ironic for the moment.

 

"Probably in a couple of weeks, I'll wish

 

that were true," he said. "Hell, since when did a

 

ship's doctor get to wear just one hat? If our people

 

get busy enough, I may find myself staining

 

microscope slides. It's happened before."

 

"Not this time, I hope," Kirk said. "Don't

 

you overtire yourself. I might have to relieve you of

 

duty."

 

"Threats, idle threats," McCoy said,

 

grinning a bit as he got up. "Are you coming down

 

to the rec room later?"

 

"If I have time," Kirk said, getting up too.

 

"Paperwork."

 

McCoy rolled his eyes. "What about that

 

administration-free starship they promised us about

 

ten years ago?" he said. "The one where we all

 

have secretaries from

 

telepathic species, who know what we need

 

done without asking us, and do

 

it?"

 

"They got it worked out, finally," Kirk said.

 

"Then they stuck it in Earth orbit and called it

 

Starfleet Command."

 

Laughing, they went out together.

 

"I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS," McCoy said, first

 

under his breath, then more

 

loudly, for the benefit of his staff "I can't

 

believe this! Lia!"

 

"Mmm hmm," Lia said from the next room of

 

Sickbay, without much enthusiasm. Possibly this was

 

understandable, since she had been responding to

 

expostulations of this sort for two days now.

 

"What are you going to do about this damn report from

 

Bio?"

 

"I'm going to let it sit there until," there was a

 

brief pause as if

 

options were being considered, "someone else does

 

something about it. I'm busy with Uhura's thing at the

 

moment."

 

McCoy put his head in his hands and groaned.

 

"Can't you get Lieutenant

 

Kerasus or somebody in Linguistics

 

to handle that?"

 

"Not when Linguistics has sent the translator

 

algorithm to us for a psych assessment."

 

"Damn," McCoy said, and sat down at his

 

desk, again. This did nothing to improve matte rs,

 

since it 30

 

merely called to his attention the pile of

 

tapes, datapadds, cassettes,

 

floppies, and other debris all over the top of

 

his normally tidy desk.

 

He groaned softly and leaned back in his chair.

 

The preliminary work for the mission was spread among

 

departments all over the ship, but one way or

 

another, they all seemed to wind up on his desk for

 

approval or adjustment. The microorganism

 

cataloging and the antibioticstantigenic survey

 

well,

 

those would naturally come under Medicine. But spending

 

hour after hour

 

looking at pictures of slides of germs, and

 

wondering which might be

 

biologically active, and which you should have the Lab people

 

culture, was no fun any more than thinking that should you

 

miss some unprepossessing organism because of a

 

flaw in your thinking, or the way you felt that

 

afternoon, the humanities might be cheated of a

 

pandemic cure for cancer. Or the common cold,

 

McCoy thought sourly. And no matter what he

 

did, people were going to have to run all over that planet

 

picking up samples of dirt, and the lab people were going

 

to have to be told which to culture out for likely

 

organisms; and McCoy knew that they were going

 

to rediscover

 

penicillin at least three hundred times on this

 

trip.

 

Then there was the flora and fauna survey. You would

 

think that would come under pure Science, the Biology

 

department. But no, all the flora on 1212

 

Muscae, from the simplest to the most complex, were

 

apparently a little on the hyperactive side-walking

 

trees, for pity's sake, whose good idea was that?-so

 

all the plants wound up in Xenobiology, and hence

 

in Medicine. A surgeon 1 may be, McCoy

 

thought, but a tree surgeon?

 

And then the linguistics work; no translator

 

program could begin to work without some knowledge of the psychology

 

of the species in question-not

 

that the survey team had done more than give the

 

slightest inkling of what any one of the three

 

species in question liked to think about, or the

 

way they did it. Who picked that survey team,

 

anyway? Some damn civil servant with thinking like a

 

New York sidewalk, all concrete and no

 

abstracts.

 

About as much depth to the interviews as a frog

 

pond in August, no

 

invitation to introspection or analysis, nothing!

 

"How do you get around?"' "What do you eat?"'

 

Dammit, no species lives by bread alone-

 

And that was just the beginning. Atmospheric surveys,

 

taxonomy, etiology of local diseases, once

 

they managed to talk enough to the local species to

 

find out what their diseases were-once they figured

 

out how to talk to the species-if the species even

 

wanted to-

 

McCoy rubbed his head. "Nurse," he said, not

 

for an audience this time, "my brain hurts."

 

"It'll have to come out," Lia said from the doorway.

 

She was standing there with her hands full of tape

 

cassettes a slender little curly-haired woman,

 

her normal cheerful look very much muted at the

 

moment. It looked rather as if it had worn off

 

"Take it," McCoy said. "Lobotomy sounds

 

like just about what I need."

 

"We're having a special," Lia

 

said. "Prefrontal with a ten percent discount on a

 

vasectomy."

 

"You just shut your mouth," McCoy said,

 

straightening up a bit. "Uppity

 

nurses anyway. Pretty soon you'll start

 

thinking you run this place."

 

Lia merely smiled. "You asked about the crew

 

health summary," she said. "It's done. Do you

 

want to read it?"

 

"Should I? Will it tell me anything I want

 

to know? Or don't know already?" No.

 

"Then sign the damn thing and send it to the

 

Captain. Let him read about what the crew brought

 

home from leave." He snorted. "Athlete's

 

foot! Only place you should be able to catch that these

 

days is in a museum."

 

Lia looked resigned. "Are you happy with what

 

you've got for Linguistics?" McCoy said after a

 

moment.

 

Lia nodded. "It should do for the time being. We need

 

to get someone

 

skilled in interviewing techniques down there in a

 

hurry, with the first party, if possible. The present

 

Translator algorithms are pretty shaky

 

without more verbs and without the causal

 

relationships tables filled in. If these species

 

believe in causal relationships, and I'm beginning

 

to have my doubts, especially in the beAt's case.."

 

She made a sort of click before the vowel sound.

 

McCoy cocked an ear. "Is that how you

 

pronounce it?"

 

"Don't ask me," Lia said. "That's how most

 

of the survey people pronounced it most of the time. But that's

 

hardly a guarantee of anything. I want to hear

 

one of those creatures say it." She paused and

 

added, "If hearing's even involved. Some of those

 

audio records are pretty strange.

 

Staticky" McCoy nodded and sighed. "I'll have

 

a listen later . . . things are a bit busy now.

 

Anything else I need to know?"

 

"Lieutenant Silver's in for his physical,"

 

she said. McCoy raised his

 

eyebrows. "That bone still behaving itself?"

 

"Good knit," Lia said, "no sign of

 

metastasization or edema."

 

"Keep an eye on it. His marrow's gone

 

funny on us once before."

 

"Want me to do a broad-spectrum

 

histological on it.

 

McCoy nodded. "Go on," he said,

 

"let me get back to this. Spock's going to be

 

jumping down my neck for this damn taxonomy

 

proposal in a matter of min- utes."

 

Lia went off about her business. McCoy sighed

 

and turned to his own data terminal again.

 

"Restart," he said. "Display previous listing."

 

The screen came up with a long list of Greekish

 

and Latinate names, and the desk comm whistled

 

stridently, both at the same moment. "Damn,"

 

McCoy said, and hit the button. "McCoy!"

 

"Spock here, Doctor- his

 

"Of course you're there," McCoy said, with

 

exaggerated politeness that at the moment he

 

definitely didn't feel. Where else would you be?

 

I'm not done yet; you can have it in an hour."

 

There was a longish silence on the other end.

 

"Doctor, Spock said, "7 was not inquiring about

 

the taxonomic parameters list. his

 

"That's a relief."

 

My interest was in your assessment of the survey's

 

fungal data in the

 

preliminary microbiological catalog."

 

"Spock, my boy," McCoy said, "between you and

 

me, I don't think those

 

toadstool if one jumped up on them and

 

gave them warts. There's one spot

 

here"-for a moment he riffled through the cassettes on

 

his desk, then gave it up-"never mind the reference,

 

but there's at least one mycete listed as four

 

discrete species, and another three of what look

 

like different species to me seem to have been mistaken

 

for different sporulating forms of the same one. Heaven

 

knows how many times this kind of thing happened in the one

 

prelim catalognot to mention all the others. And

 

since the divergent-

 

evolution problem makes it crucial to tell the

 

difference between mutative and allomorphic forms on

 

this particular planet, I think we may have to

 

reassess almost everything the survey team gave

 

us. But certainly this

 

report is best suited to somebody's compost

 

heap."

 

There was another brief silence. McCoy braced

 

himself. Then Spock said,

 

"Doctor, we are in perfect agreement. Am

 

I to understand that you are

 

finding your department somewhat overloaded at the

 

moment?"'-

 

McCoy let a breath out. "Spock, that would be

 

a correct understanding. To

 

say the least."

 

"In examining the assignment rosters, was Spock

 

said, "it would seem possible to reassign some

 

Science personnel to Medicine, once we have made

 

planetfall and had time to do some initial

 

assessment. Perhaps, two or

 

three days after arrival. his

 

Now is when I need them, McCoy thought. But

 

Science needs them too, and

 

needs them now; the study and classification plans

 

they're making now will determine what they do for the next

 

several weeks .... "That would be very nice of you,

 

Spock," he said,,

 

"very nice indeed."

 

There was another of those brief silences. "7t

 

would only be logical,

 

Doctor. Nice is- His

 

"Oh, for gosh sakes, shut up and go count

 

electrons or something," McCoy said, though he was

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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