Doctors Orders | Chapter 4 of 9

Author: Diane Duane | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 1908 Views | Add a Review

Please hit next button if you encounter an empty page


somehow insulting. But the Ornaet shook itself a


bit and said, "You inquire of method? Or




Thank heaven, McCoy thought, they've got the


first-stage idiom sorter


installed. At least these critters won't have to be


relentlessly literal . . . and neither will we.


"Condition," he said.


"No complaints," said the Ornaet.


McCoy chuckled a bit at that. "You're about the


only one I've seen today who seems willing to say


that," he said. "Except maybe for them." He


nodded at the Lahit, waving a hand at them for good


measure in case the Ornaet


might not know how to read the head gesture.


The Ornaet put up eyestalks for a moment and


gazed at the Lahit. "They


don't complain either," it said after a moment.


Now this was interesting. "How can you tell?"


McCoy said. "Oh, and leave those eyestalks out


for a moment, would you? I want to look at them."


The Ornaet kept looking. "Just know," it said.




"Hmm," McCoy said. There was no direct


way to test esper ratings in a new species,


except to have a known psi-talented crew member do


an assessment; and the only one he would really trust


to do that was Spock. But Spock had his hands full,


and besides, McCoy hated to ask him to do psi


evaluations on 73


other entities. From what he understood of the


Vulcans' code of mental


privacy, asking something of this sort was like asking a


doctor to test for diabetes mellitus the


old-fashioned way. Not very pleasant at all, either


sensually or esthetically. Better to wait for more


vocabulary, and then run a rhine series.


"I take it that you and the Lahit see one another


pretty frequently," McCoy said. "I mean,


you socialize." This is amazing, he thought. The




tissue is actually multicellular. That's


recognizable retinal tissue,


there, with rods and cones. And a compound


lens, very sophisticated. But it all goes away


at w"...Would you mind terribly making one of those eyes


go away? Can you do just one? Not too quickly,




"Of course," the Ornaet said, and slowly the


lefthand eyestalk was subsumed back into the


Ornaet's main body mass. "Yes, we




"What about?" McCoy said. "If I may


ask. What kinds of things do you do


together?" Damn, look at that. The cells just


melted away. Not all at once, either, but one at


a time. I wonder, if we found the right words; could


we teach these creatures to synthesize new organs


for themselves? Would they want to, though? Or need to?


He shook his head and put the mediscanner




"We talk," said the Ornaet.


"Can you tell me what about?" said McCoy,


sitting down next to the Omaet. And then added,


"I'm sorry. I was calling you Hhch yesterday.


Was that


really your name? Or was I mispronouncing it?"


The creature made that scratchy noise again that the


translator clearly


rendered as laughter. "You mispronounced," it


said, "but no harm. You have words slowly, yes?"


"Yes, indeed," McCoy said, and laughed a


bit himself. "We'll get more as we go along."


"My name is Hhhcccccchhhhh," said the


Ornaet, and then he and McCoy both laughed


together, because it was clear the words weren't there yet.


"Maybe tomorrow," McCoy said. "But what do you


and the other species talk about?"


There was a pause. Then, "Life," said the


O rnaet.


McCoy nodded. "This means yes," he said.


"Well, so do we, my friend. The details will come out


with time."


"What do you talk about?" said the Ornaet.


McCoy stretched, thinking. "Work," he said,


"play, relationships . . . the things that happen in the


world . . . things that we can do something


about, and things that we can't."


The Ornaet was quiet for a moment. "Yes," it


said. "What is work?"


Oh brother, McCoy thought. "Work," he said,


"is when one must do things one doesn't always feel like


doing, because they need to be done, for some


reason. If you're lucky, you like doing


work most of the time. Not


everyone's that lucky."


Another long silence. "Yes," it said. "I


know. Some of us work."


"Really?" McCoy said, surprised. "Doing




The Translator emitted several short blasts


of static.


"Oh well," McCoy said, "never mind.


We'll have more words in a while."


"No," said the Ornaet. "I can show you."


"Really?" McCoy was on his feet in a moment.




"Come," said the Ornaet.


They went off through the clearing, the Ornaet


leading the way, McCoy following, trying not


to trip over other Ornae-they did seem to be


everywhere this morning-and zigzagging around more copses of


Lahit. There were more and more of them, too, rustling and


hissing, and


looking at the Enterprise people with all their eyes.


The Ornaet led him out of the clearing, into the forest


again, by one of the many paths. This was a broadish path that


seemed to have seen a lot of use recently, to judge


by the broken branches on either side of it.


Also, there seemed to have been something rather larger than the


Ornae using it. "Tell me something," McCoy


said as they went along. "Do you have animals around






"Other creatures able to move about, like you. But not


talkers, not




"Oh yes," the Ornaet said. "But we keep


them away."




There was another static attack. "Never mind,"


McCoy said again. "I'm much more interested in work at


the moment."


"Here," said the Ornaet.


They came out into another clearing. This one was wider


than the one where most of the Enterprise people were. There


were none of the wonderful self- built buildings as in


the other clearing. But there was a large stone, set right


in the middle of everything a tall, oblong stone,


brownish colored, roughly cylindrical, well


set into the ground.


McCoy walked up to it with interest, then looked


around the clearing, and finally at the Ornaet. "Where


is the work, then?" he said.


"Here," said the Ornaet.


"You mean someone set this stone up, as work?


Hmm." He turned to look at it. There were


certainly marks on it that could be construed as


tool-marks. Chipped stone? he thought. Metal,


perhaps?-Or maybe-what need does a


species have of tools, when it can make tools out


of itself?


"No, no," the Ornaet said. And it laughed at


him, so that McCoy looked at it in astonishment and


confusion. "This is work." It paused a moment, then


said, "This is working. his


"It is?" McCoy said, looking up at the


stone, very bemused. Some kind of machine, inside the


stone? Wouldn't be the first time we've found something like




And then the stone moved.


Not much. McCoy backed away in the time it


moved about a foot, leaning


toward him. But somehow it had not moved. There was no


change in the earth at its foot no crumbling, no


change in the grasslike plants that grew


there. The rock was suddenly simply a little closer


to him than it had




"Wait, wait," said the Omaet, clearly


pleased with itself. "Not,


it-indefinite-pronoun is working.


Itpersonal-noun is working."


McCoy's breath caught somewhere south of his




"And I can't pronounce your name either," he said


to the beAt. "Not even the name of your species."


There was a long silence. The beAt looked at


him. How McCoy knew it was


looking at him, he couldn't say. But he knew


it was; and he was too


surprised, and-to his own bemusement-awestruck,


to do anything but stand there.


The creature was not fully physical. On these


grounds at least, the initial survey report had


been correct. It was not a question of the creature being


somehow vague, or misty-looking. It was not. It was


as solid as any Swiss mountain seen from its lower


slopes against clear sky . . . and there was an


equivalent feeling of weight to it, solidity,


thereness. But at the same time, you had the feeling that that


thereness might suddenly stop-a feeling you did not get


with any mountain. McCoy knew that no matter how


many times he might say to the Jungfrau,


in the old words, "Be thou removed," it would stay


right where it was. But looking at the beAt, one was


left with the


impression that it might remove itself without warning,


and take a great deal with it if it wanted to.


"At any rate," McCoy finally managed


to say, "good morning."


"Good morning to you, Doctor," the beAt said.


No hesitation, no difficulties with the syntax;


though the voice itself, even translated, tended


to drive thoughts about syntax away. It was a voice


with overtones of earthquake


about it, of avalanche-of great force, controlled, but


force that could be suddenly unleashed to some huge effect.


McCoy took a deep breath or so to help him


manage himself. Then he said, "Sir or madam or


other, do you understand the meaning of the concept




"It is not a concept we use ourselves," the beAt


said, "but I believe we


understand the general sense."


No syntax problems at all. Oh dear.


Kerasus is going to have a fit. In


fact, I d have one myself, right now, if there was


time. "Then may I


examine you as I have done with my friend here?" 78


"You may."


Nothing else just the sound of the wind in the trees.


McCoy cleared his throat, pulled out the


mediscanner, and did a hasty recalibration on


it-he wanted all its available bandwidth working for this


scan. He keyed it on and began walking around the


beAt. "Would you mind if I touched you?" he




"Feel free."


Idiomatic, too. Good Lord on a bicycle.


He paused halfway through his


circuit to put a hand on the stone. It was warm.


The mediscanner was


ingesting data much too fast for him to be able


to tell anything from the sound of it; he was thrown back


on his physical senses, which told him


nothing except that the creature's outer surface


looked very like an


igneous stone, granite or something similar.


He wondered idly if there was any radioactivity


that would indicate genuine igneous formation, and


resolved to check later. "May I ask you a


question, please?" he said.


"Ask." The rumble sounded good-natured




"How many of you are there on this planet?"


"All of us." Was there an edge of humor there?


Was he being joked with?


McCoy cleared his throat again.


"Ah, yes. Do you have a problem with our number




"We understand it well enough, I think. Our


numbers in manifestation vary between nine hundred


thousand and one million."


Vary why, and how?-but it would have to wait. "My friend


here, whose name I can't pronounce," McCoy said,


"said to me while we were coming here that you were doing work."


He finished his circuit. "May I ask what you






His communicator went off.


He didn't swear this time; it seemed as


inappropriate, somehow, as swearing at the


Jungfrau would have been. "Excuse me, please,"


he said, and pulled it out. "McCoy here-was


"Bones, was Kirk's voice said, "what do I


have to do to get a word with you these days?"


"Jim," McCoy said, as politely as he


could, "I promise you on my Oath that


I'll be up there in a minute. I just need to-was


"Sixty seconds, was Kirk said, "and I'm


counting. his




"Your Oath, you said. his


"McCoy out," he said. He looked longingly


at the mediscanner and shut it down. "Sir or


madam or other-was


"As I understand the term," said the long slow rumble


through his


Translator, "I think "sir' would do.


"Thank you. I have to go. I'll be back as soon


as I can. Will you still be here?"


There was no answer for a second or so. Finally the


beAt said, "That is a philosophical question of some




The golden shimmer took McCoy away. This


time he did curse, as soon as he couldn't see the


beAt anymore.


"Though perhaps," it added then, was "madam' would have


been correct as




McCoy burst into the Bridge so torn between


delight and wild annoyance that he didn't know which


to let go with first. For the first moments, at


least, the 80


need to choose was aborted. Kirk was sitting there


in the center seat,


facing the elevator doors.


"You made it," he said, "just."


"Jim," McCoy said, "we've got a


breakthrough on our hands here. It's the beAt."


"Are you catching cold?" Kirk said, looking


suddenly concerned.


"No, I am not catching cold! Jim, I think


we're concentrating on the wrong species here. I


was just talking to one of the beAt, and-was He paused for a


moment and looked around the Bridge. It was


surprisingly empty for the time of day the only ones


there besides Kirk were a Communications officer and someone


from Navigation, sitting in Sulu's spot. "Where


is everybody?"


"Down on the planet, most of them, or


coordinating data. Or off shift. Sulu had just


done two back to back, and I remember what


I'm told about shift relief."


"Oh. Well, good. Jim, the beAt translation


algorithm seems to be OK, they have idiom and


everything, and this one said to me that it was-was


"Doctor, was Kirk said, "you have been


overworking yourself just a bit. I


think it's time you got some rest. But not even your


own staff seems able to get you to slow down. Nurse


Burke has been complaining to me."


I'll kill her, McCoy thought.


"You say a word to her and I'll dock your pay,"


Kirk said, wagging a finger at him. "I want you


to sit down here and write me a decent report, not


like that whitewash you did for Starfleet a little earlier


today. They may be suckered in by all your long words,



you can't hand me that stuff and expect to get away


with it. I want an


analysis of what's going on down there."


"But I can't do that without more data-was


"Give me what you've got, and make sense of


it. If you just sit still and think for a while, you're bound


to come up with something that will do me some good. And you stay out


of Sickbay to do it, too. You go down there, you'll


just start treating someone for something. Sickbay is off


limits to you except for legitimate medical


emergencies, until further notice. That's a


direct order. Understood?"


McCoy glowered. It was best to humor Jim when


he got in these moods. They passed quickly


enough. "Understood," he said.


"Good. And just to keep you out of trouble-was He got


up from the center seat and stretched. "Here. Sit




McCoy stared at him.


"Come on," Kirk said. "Have a seat. It's


nice and comfortable; you can sit here and dictate your


report. But anyway, I'm leaving you the conn."


McCoy was outraged. "You can't do that," he said.


"7 can't do that!"


"Of course I can," Kirk said, "and of course you


can. You've had line


officer's training. Not the full Command course,


naturally, but enough to know what to say at the right times.


Not that you'll need to. And I can


leave anybody with the conn that I please, most


especially a department


head and a fellow officer. There's no need to be in


the direct chain of


command at all-that's a common misconception. I


could leave an Ensign


Third-class with the conn if I 82


liked, and the situation seemed to call for it.


Well, at the moment, it


seems to call for Captain's






"So sit down," Kirk said.


"Uh, Jim-was


"I am leaving the Bridge, Bones. Then I


am going to get something to eat. And then I am going


to go down to the planet and have a chat with Spock, who


is also overworking, and who I've also got to yell


at; and then I'm


going to meet some of these people we're supposed to be


talking to. I've stood it up here about as long as


I can. And you, Doctor, are going to sit in this comfy


chair, and have a nice relaxing time, and coordinate


data, which you are better equipped to do at the moment


than I am, and then


you're going to call me on the planet's


surface and give me sage advice. You got




McCoy nodded.


"Then get down here."


Slowly, McCoy walked down to the center seat,


and very slowly, very


gingerly, lowered himself into it. It was indeed very




"You have the conn," Kirk said. "I'll


be back at the end of the shift. Have fun."


"Mmf," McCoy said as Kirk walked away,


and the Bridge doors closed on him. Leonard


McCoy sat in the command seat of the Starship


Enterprise and


thought, I'm going to get him for this.


Kirk had a sandwich and a cup of coffee,




the time for anything more complicated. He then took


himself straight off to the Transporter room, and


down to the clearing on the surface of Flyspeck.


The sweet taste of the


fresh air made the hair stand right up on his


neck, as usual. It was one of the small, secret


delights that he had never really managed to tell


anyone about-the scent of a new world's air, for the first


time, with its


particular compendium of strange new aromas. This


one smelled as if there


had been rain recently; and there was an odd edge


of spice to the air too, as if the growing things here were


mostly aromatics.


He glanced around him at the business of the


clearing-all the Ornae and


Lahit rolling or trundling or wading


around through the ground-and at his crew, doing their jobs,


talking, examining, collecting data. Spock must


be around here somewhere, he thought, and looked around for him,


but couldn't see him anywhere.


"Morning, Captain," someone said behind him; he


turned and saw that it was Don Hetsko, one of


McCoy's people. "Looking for anyone in particular?"


"Oh, Spock, if you've seen him."


"Not for a while. The Doctor went off that way just


a few minutes ago,


though," Don said, pointing toward one of the paths that


led out of the


clearing. "You ought to be able to catch him."


"Thank you, Mr. Hetsko," Kirk said, and


went off that way, smiling




His businesslike stride slowed to a stroll as he


got into the forest


proper. The quality of the light here was unusual,


somehow more intense than he had been expecting. It


was as if some photographer had purposely lit the


place to look both warm and coolly enticing; a


curious effect,


caused by the brassy gold of 84


the planet's sun, probably, and the


extreme greenness, almost


blue-greenness, of its plants' dominant


chlorophyll. The science of the


situation aside, it was a very pleasant effect,


re/l, and he was in no


mood to get out of it in a hurry.


The path gave onto another clearing, bigger than


the first one. Kirk paused on the fringes of it,


looking at the great stone shape in the middle. He


remembered the pictures of the beAt from the briefing;


he remembered McCoy's insistence that the beAt were


the people he wanted to talk to. But at the same time


an odd reluctance came over him, almost a shyness.


There was a sense of remoteness about this creature,


somehow, a feeling that it knew things that might make it


wiser not to disturb it . . .


Odd feelings, and baseless, of course. Kirk


shook off the slight case of nerves and stepped out


into the bright sunshine of the clearing.


The beAt @ddaw him coming, Kirk knew, though it


had no eyes that showed, and seemingly no other sense


organs. I wonder if Bones managed to get a


scan on it, he thought. Have to ask him about that later.


Some feet away from it, Kirk slowed down, and




"I beg your pardon," he said.


There was a long silence before the beAt said to him,


"I am not aware of


your having done anything that requires pardon."


The voice was astonishing it rumbled like a


landslide. But there was


nothing threatening about it. Rather, its tone of voice was


so grave, and at the same time so humorous, even


through the Translator, that Kirk


smiled. "That's good," he said. "The phrase is


an idiom of my culture,


interrupts another. I didn't want to take the


chance that I might have been interrupting you in the middle


of something important."


"You have not interrupted me, Captain," said the




"I'm glad." He paused and said, "You must have


been the one with whom the Doctor was talking."


"We did speak," said the beAt.


Kirk hesitated. "I hope you'll excuse


my ignorance," he said, "but I have no name to call


you by. Not even a gender designation, if you use






"The Doctor would have called me


Sir," said the beAt.


Kirk nodded. "If I may, then. Did the


Doctor speak much to you of why we are here?"


"He began to," said the beAt, "and I said to him


that the matter was one of some philosophical


complexity. He then disappeared."


"He went back to our ship," Kirk said. "The


vessel in which we travel, and by which we came here."


"Enterprise, was the beAt said.


"That's right."


"I see it," said the beAt. "All silver, but


it shines gold where the


sunlight touches it. And it has lights of its


own, for the dark."


"Yes," Kirk said, while thinking with some




ment, These creatures must have a sensorium that


we've never seen the like of. I know the sound of a




perception when I hear one. Anything that can see a


starship, somehow, from the surface of a planet-what


else can it see? "Sir," he said, "did he


speak to you at


all of why we came?"


"No," said the beAt. "No more than


did the first party who arrived here,


though they asked us many a question. They were cautious.


But we knew well from the sight of them that they did not


come of this world, and had


traveled from some other."


Kirk shook his head, thinking, There has to be a


better way to get these initial surveys done.


Dammit, these are intelligent species we're


dealing with, not idiots. They figure out what's going


on quickly enough. How does it make us look?


He glanced up. The beAt had not moved, but the


sensation that it was looking closely at him grew quite


strong-in fact Kirk was finding it a little


difficult to breathe normally, with the closeness of that


regard acting


almost like a physical pressure on him. There was


nothing angry or


threatening about it. It was merely a level of


interest so intense that it was actually affecting his




"Sir," he said, "that ship up there, and the people who


are here with your people and the Ornae and the Lahit, are under


my command. We have all come here to see how much we can


discover about your people, and how much we can tell you about us.


Once that is done, we have some questions we would


like to ask all three species as a whole-if that is


even possible. That is one of the things we need


to discover."


"Many questions," said the beAt. "And what questions do we


get to ask?"


"Any you like," said Kirk, just a bit nervously.


"So we shall," said the beAt, and fell silent.


Kirk stood in that silence and felt the hairs


rising on the back of his


neck again, but this time for no reason that had anything


to do with the sweetness of the 87


morning air. That intense interest was bent on him,


and on his ship, and all his people. He could feel it on


his skin, like sunlight, but it was not a


warming or calming feeling at all.


"When will we start?" he said at last, when the


silence became too much for him.


"We have started," said the beAt.


McCoy sat in the center seat and yawned.


He was tired, and annoyed, but at the same time


he felt a certain smug


satisfaction. Kirk had counted on his being


terrified by this experience. Unfortunately he had not


reckoned with McCoy's great talent for learning


to cope at high speed. It was probably


the first important thing a doctor or nurse


learned-how to turn the sudden surprising or annoying


situation into a commonplace.


He had been playing with the buttons on the center


seat's arms. There was quite an assortment of links


into the library computer, so that even


without a Science officer at his or her station, you


could display all


kinds of information on the main Bridge screen, and


even do things like


voicewrite reports. McCoy had finished the


report that Kirk had asked him for, and then had gone


back to playing with the machinery, pulling various information


up out of the library computer and annotating his report


with it.


The Bridge intercom whistled, and McCoy


glanced over to the communications officer on post,


Lieutenant DeLeon, to say that he would take it


himself. He pushed the appropriate button on the


seat console and said, "Bridge.




"Heaven help us, Doctor, what're ye doing


up there?"


"Blame the Captain, Scotty," McCoy


said. "He stuck me with the conn two and a


half hours ago."


Scotty chuckled a little at that. "Well, it'll


do you no harm, I suppose. Himself is


downplanet, I take it. his


"You take it right. Anything I can help you with?"


"Not a thing. He had asked me to do a reset on


the warp engines, and I have the figures for him on how


long it would take and how much antimatter we would


need. It can wait till he gets back up. his


"Why did he want a reset?"


"bebledh, I talked him into it. It's a matter


of maximizing our fuel


consumption, is all. He was looking to save some


power by resetting the


fusion timing. I found a better way, but I


shan't trouble you with the


details. his


"Thanks, don't," McCoy said. "I'll


let him know you've got the figures for him."


"Right you are, was Scotty said. "Engineering out.




McCoy pushed the button with satisfaction, and


sat back in the center seat. "DeLeon," he


said, "would you get me the landing party? I want to see


what they're up to down there."


"Yes, sir," said DeLeon. A moment later


the screen was showing the main


clearing down on Flyspeck and crewpeople


all over the place, busily doing their work.


McCoy saw Spock, and Lia, and various


other people he knew; but there was no sign of Kirk.


"Off gallivanting again," he said. "Pinpoint the


Captain, would you,




"Sure, Doctor." DeLeon touched a few


controls, then peered at his board. It was a curious




"What's the matter? Did he turn his


communicator off? Just like him," McCoy said,




"No, Doctor," said DeLeon. "I can't


find him."


McCoy got up and stepped up to the Communica-


tions station, looked at the scanner screen, and


frowned. No trace of the


Captain was showing at all. Even if Jim had


dropped his communicator, the


scanners would still clearly indicate where it had




But there was no trace of it at all.


McCoy swallowed hard and called Spock.




McCoy was so utterly glad to see him that he was


tempted to jump up and hug him. Instead, he just


said, "Spock, your damn scanner's gone on the


fritz again."


Spock favored him with an expression that was


skeptical at best. "Doctor," he said very


gently, as if to a brain-damage case, "that


hardly seems


likely. Nonetheless, I will run some checks."


The Vulcan went over to the Science console and


began touching controls


with the swift certainty of someone who barely even


needs to look at them. "I take it matters are


sufficiently under control in Sickbay as to not


require your presence there," he said.


McCoy humphed. "Fat chance, Spock.


Kirk handed me the conn and told me to stay out of


Sickbay except for medical emergencies."


That made Spock blink. He looked up from his


console-though he did not stop keying in instructions-and


said, "Forgive me, but I should not 91


want to misunderstand you. You say the Captain left


you in command?"


"His idea of a little joke. Ask DeLeon,


he was here."


"It will be on the Bridge procedural recording


as well," Spock said, and turned his attention


back to his work again. McCoy turned away and


watched the front screen for a moment. There was a little


forest of Lahit in that clearing now, and about two


hundred of the Ornae seemed to have gotten


together to build a much larger structure than had


been there the day


before-more ornate, with plenty more room inside. They


were considerate


hosts, if nothing else about them was very clear as




McCoy turned back to Spock to see the


Science Officer staring at his


console with a concerned expression. "Doctor," he


said, "we have a




He had known that, but hearing Spock admit to it


somehow made it much


worse. McCoy sat down in the center seat, more


by reflex at this point than by preference, and said,


"He is missing."


"The instruments are working correctly,"


Spock said. "The Captain's


communicator is not on the planet. According to the




"Never mind the communicator, Spock, where is




"Doctor," Spock said, stepping down to the


center seat, "calm yourself.


There are ways to explain why we might not be able


to find the Captain."


"Such as?"


Spock raised an eyebrow. "The Captain


may be in an area having a high


concentration of some other rare earth element, so that the


communicator's signal is washed out in the


background radiation-was


"And did you locate any such?"


"Well," Spock said, reluctant, "I must




"So? What else then?"


Spock looked at him with as close to a helpless


expression as McCoy had


seen on him for a long time. "Nothing," he said.


"Well, the hell with this, was McCoy said.


"I'm going where I can be of some use . . . down


there, to help look for Kirk. You mind the




He was halfway to the Bridge doors when


Spock said, "Doctor . . . I am


afraid you don't understand the situation."


McCoy stopped and looked at Spock in


surprise. "What part of it?"


"Your part, at least," he said. "Doctor, you


are in command. You cannot


leave the ship under these circumstances."


"Dammit, yes I can! I'm turning command over


to you! Where it ought to be, by the way. You're the one who


went all the way through Command School, and you're the


second most senior officer aboard ship. You sit


in the damn




"Doctor," Spock said quietly, "as the


Captain might put it, it would not matter if I were


Commanding Admiral of Starfleet and had a note from


God. I could not accept command from you under these


circumstances. Nor could anyone else. Fleet


regulations are most specific in this regard. An


officer placed in nominal command of a vessel must


retain command until relieved by the commander of


official record. The Captain is not around


to relieve you. Anyone who exercised command


in your place would be liable to


court-martial-and would not have a leg to stand on, as it


were, in court. And any effort by you to leave your


post-in this case, the Enterprise 93


would also be a court-martial offense . . .


especially in these


circumstances, when the Captain is missing. An


emergency, to say the least."


McCoy sank down onto the Science station


chair and stared at Spock in




"You are "stuck," Doctor," Spock said.


"I am very sorry." And he sounded it.


McCoy looked over at Spock. He took


a deep breath or two, thinking, Calm yourself,


boy. You're going to need your wits about you today.


"All right," he said. "You'd better go down there and


get a search started. Find out who saw him last .


. . take it from there."


Spock nodded and headed for the Bridge doors




"And by the way," McCoy added, "can I at least


have a restroom break?"


Spock nodded. "Give the conn to Lieutenant


DeLeon," he said, "but don't be away


too long. Though," he added, from just inside the


turbolift, "I


believe the Captain would say, "You should have gone


before we left.""


"Why, you-was


The lift doors closed.


McCoy looked at DeLeon and said, "Take


it, son. I'll be back in a few




"Yes, sir."


"And see if you can get Uhura away from her


business downstairs. I need


some advice."


"Right, Doctor."


When he came back to the Bridge, she was there


waiting for him.


"Lieutenant," McCoy said to the young Comm


officer, "go take a break or


something. When does your shift end?"


"In about an hour, Doctor," said DeLeon.


Lord, where has the day gone? Time goes fast when


you're having fun. He


glanced at Uhura; she nodded, and McCoy


said, "Never mind coming back, son. You go on




"Thanks, Doctor," he said, and headed out.


When the lift doors shut, Uhura said softly,


"I hear we have a little




"You bet your sweet-well, never mind. Yes,


we do. Do many of the crewpeople down there know?"


"All of them do, now. Search parties are working


their way through the


area." She looked worried. "But the trail


may be getting a bit cold at this point.


Nobody's seen the Captain since this morning, and


only very briefly then."


"Where was he going?"


"Off through the woods, on one of those paths. That


big one that seems to get a lot of use."


A sudden suspicion flowered in McCoy. The


one that led to the clearing


where the ,At was-"Has anyone seen any beAt


around there?" he said.


"No," said Uhura, sounding faintly


surprised. "Doctor, I think it's more of a


glottal stop, that noise."


"Never mind the pronunciation. Anyway, I


want to hear one of them say it. Uhura, I saw


one this morning. I was talking to it when Jim


made me come up here. I think he may have met it


too. "


"You were talking to it?" she said in surprise. "But


we have hardly any of the algorithms for their


language yet. The survey party could hardly get


anything out of them. Was it fairly easy to understand?"


"As easy as you are. I was surprised."


Uhura looked very concerned. "Doctor," she




"this is very odd. It can't be happening this way . .


. unless that species knows a lot more about us than we


think it does."


McCoy thought of that slow, silent regard bent


on him, the feeling of


concealed, controlled power, and shivered a little. "I


wouldn't put that past them. Uhura, we've got


to find at least one of them and see what it knows."


"It would help if we had some scan information,"


she said, sounding


dubious. "On the outside, they just


seem to look like big rocks. There are a lot of


rocks on this planet."


"Not that many rocks that move, was McCoy said.


"And only about a million of them, according to the beAt


I was talking to this morning. Never mind that;


I've got a scan. Here." He reached down for his


instrument pouch, which had come straight up to the Bridge


with him, and handed Uhura his mediscanner. "Good,"


she said, and went over to her station, popping the scanner


into one of its input ports. She touched a button


on her board, then squinted for a moment at the readout


screen. "Uh-uh," she said. "It's dumped its




McCoy muttered. "Yes, it would have. Check the


library computer; the file should be in there."


Uhura nodded, touched a few more controls, and


waited. "Here we are," she said, gazing at the


screen; then started to shake her head.


McCoy's stomach began to tie itself into a little


knot. "What's the




"I've got your uplink here," she said, "but


there's trouble in the visual component. What's this?"


She touched another control and brought what she was


seeing up onto the


main screen. In the back-


ground of the shot, McCoy could see the other side


of the big clearing, the view changing as he carried the


mediscanner around something in the center of the shot. What


the something was, though, there was no telling.


All the screen showed was a silvery vagueness,


foggy, an oblong shape with no




"Damn, was McCoy said.


"Your scan information is gone too, I'm


afraid," Uhura said. "Not wiped; the scan bands


are just blank, as if your scanner didn't




"This isn't my day for machinery, I can see that,"


McCoy said.


"Not the machinery's fault," Uhura said


promptly. She had been doing


something else with her console. "I get faint


scan artifact in some of the bands from the background


life forms-too faint to be of any use for data


collection, naturally. But your scanner was picking


up some of the fluid movement in the plant life in the


background, for example."


"Yes, it does that . . . but usually the life


form it's being directed at simply drowns out the


background readings, by proximity. Now what does


this mean?"


Uhura shook her head and took the scanner out


of the reading port, handing it back to McCoy. "Your


guess is as good as mine," she said.




better, since you saw the beAt, and I


didn't." She looked very curious.


"What did it sound like?"


"Trouble," McCoy said, only half listening.


"Like something you wouldn't want angry at you." His


stomach went cold at that thought; he had to con-


sciously push the fear away. "Never mind.


Maybe," he said, thoughtful, "it didn't want


to be scanned?"


He looked at Uhura. She tilted her head


to one side, eyes narrowed.


"Possible," she said. "Species that are 97


good at handling energy flows can do that sometimes.


Take our scans of the Organians, for example,


before they revealed themselves. We thought we were dealing with


hominids . . . and they manipulated our instrument


readings to make it look that way. We never thought


to question what was going on. These people-was She looked at the


screen. "That," she said, "is energy management of


great virtuosity, if your theory's correct. A


creature that could do that could do all kinds of other




"But it didn't try to trick us, as far as we


know," McCoy said, trying very hard to keep


strictly to the facts. "It just concealed its own


readings. Why would it want to do that, I wonder?"


"Privacy taboos?" Uhura said.


McCoy sighed. "Until we talk to more of them,


we'll never find out. And


they don't seem to be quite as forthcoming as the other




Uhura laughed at that, a short sound, and


slightly sarcastic. "Don't bet on the others


being any more "forthcoming," Doctor. I spent


all morning


discussing the nature of reality with some of the


Ornae. They don't really believe in us."


McCoy blinked. "This theme keeps coming up,"


he said. was "Don't believe in us" how? Are


we against their religion? Or is there something they


don't approve of?"


"Not that, exactly," said Uhura, sitting back


and sighing. "They just don't think we're real. Or


no, that's not exactly it. They know we're here. But


they don't think we're human."


"What? Two arms, two legs, one head, what


else should "human' be? More or less."


"Not that way. They don't think we're people. It's




not prejudicial on their part. They like us well


enough; they like talking to us. But they don't think we


matter, particularly. The things we find


important seem laughable to them. And why not?"


Uhura said. "In their


worldview-theirs and the Lahit's both, they seem


to share this-the basic


survival needs, air, water, food, are all


there for the taking-or don't even need to be taken, in


the Ornae's case. You just live. They simply


start at a higher rung of the self-actualization


ladder than we do. They have all


those basic physical needs met already, and


don't have to deal with them


consciously. Their concerns are all social. They


may be the most social


species the Federation will ever have encountered, in




"Be a nice change from some people we've run


into over the years," McCoy muttered.


"Well, yes. They understand the idea of a Federa-


tion, too-more or less. They just don't understand


our reasons for having one. They might join us just


to chat. But they would never think of joining us because we had


something they wanted. As far as I can tell,


we have nothing they would want or need-except perhaps


ourselves, to talk to. The language of any


association agreement would have to be


changed to reflect that, and I'll be telling the


Captain so-was


"When we find him."


"Yes," Uhura said, and concern showed in her


face. "I must admit, I'm




"You think you're worried," McCoy said.


"Well, never mind that at the


moment. I suppose Starfleet is going to want


to hear from us sooner or


later and find out how we're getting on." He


groaned. "This is one


conversation I'm going to love having."


"It won't be a conversation," Uhura said, "not




five hours' subspace radio distance, it


won't. You put together a report and get it ready


for me-our next scheduled transmission should go out in


about an hour and a half, and you don't want them


getting any ideas that you're


having trouble with things by being late with the news."


"I am having trouble with things,


dammit!" McCoy said. "I'd be delighted if


they'd relieve me. Here, quick," he said, "get


me a padd. I'll certify


myself unfit to command. Stress, that's a good


excuse. Then they'll put


Spock in this miserable chair instead of me-was


"Doctor," Uhura said, her voice full of


pity, "don't you just wish. But


there's no way they'll do it. Relief of command


by "remote control' is very rarely done,


specifically because it very rarely works out. On this ship


in particular. The time or two that Fleet has done


something so dumb, they've regretted it. And think how


it would look on your service record."


"Mmf," said McCoy unhappily. "Hadn't


thought of that."


"Think of it," Uhura said. "Poor Doctor.


You've got the tiger by the tail this time."


He nodded. "Nothing to do but hang on, I




"You do that. We'll all help you."


"Find me the captain," he said. "That would




Uhura nodded and turned back to her station.


McCoy sat there drumming his fingers on


the arm of the seat. He shifted


uneasily. The cushions were feeling a lot


less comfortable than they had earlier.


Spock came back from the planet surface some


three hours later, looking, to McCoy's


practiced eye, 100


very drawn-not physically tired, but showing the


effects of not having


produced any results whatever.


"We're going to have to have a department heads' meeting


in a while, I


guess," McCoy said to Spock, "and record


it and send it along to




"I would not do that," Spock said, sitting down at


his station and dropping a couple of tricorder tapes


into one of its reader ports. "Call the


meeting, certainly. We must intensify our search


for the Captain. But


Starfleet does not require the details of our


decisionmaking process.


Also," and there was a slight glint of humor in his


eye as he glanced over his shoulder at McCoy,


"there is no point in giving the, ah, bureaucratic


elements at Starfleet any more insight


than necessary into how we arrive at our decisions."


"How I arrive at my command decisions, you


mean," McCoy said.


Spock nodded. "The bureaucratic mind," he


said, "will always find some way to meddle if at all


possible. If faced with a decision-making process


that they find too . . . original . . ."


"Too intelligent, you mean. Or too




"Precisely. Under such circumstances, you could


find yourself issued orders which you would be required


to carry out, but which would be most . . .




"You mean stupid."


"I believe I said that," Spock said. "Though


perhaps not in so many words."


"Spock," McCoy s aid, in a moment's


gratitude, "when this is all over, I'm going


to cancel your next physical."


The look Spock gave him had more than a


trace of mischief about it.


"Dereliction of duty, Doctor?" he 101


asked. "I could never allow you to behave in such a


manner. I will take my physical in good part."


"And find some other way to ride me about


this for the rest of my life," McCoy said.


Spock didn't quite smile as he turned away.


"All right," McCoy said. He looked over his


shoulder. "Uhura, call the


department heads . . . tell them we should meet in


the briefing room in an hour. Special attention


to Linguistics and Biology; I want everything


we've got on all the species so far. I also


want a report to the minute on when the Captain


disappeared. Starfleet is going to want at least a


few concrete facts."


"Yes, sir," Uhura said, and started calling


around to the various


departments of the ship.


McCoy looked over at Spock. "I take


it," he said, "that no one has seen


anything of the beAt today."


Spock shook his head. "Uhura was kind enough


to give me your mediscanner's readout file for


signal analysis," he said. "I must admit that


at first I thought you might have mishandled the device


somehow. But two thoughts


suggested otherwise the fact that you are most


intimately familiar with the equipment after years of


using and even improving on it; and the


certainty that even you could not misuse an instrument


so selectively and skillfully."


McCoy sat still for a moment doing mental sums in


his head and trying to work out whether that sentence, taken as


a whole, came out to a compliment. He decided it


didn't, and decided to ignore it. "Thank you,"


he said. "Were you able to tell anything useful from the




"Something not useful," Spock said, "but certainly


odd. Your scanner picked up some incidental



radiation in the neighborhood, for which it was not


specifically calibrated, but which it recorded




"Radiation? Anything dangerous?" McCoy said,




Spock shook his head. "Merely odd. There was


an over-threshold amount of high-energy particle


decay some Cerenkov radiation, and Z-particle


remnants. Most peculiar."


"But Cerenkov radiation is associated with


black holes," McCoy said. "There aren't any


of those here."


"Indeed not. Cerenkov radiation, however, is also


associated with the


sudden deceleration of a superrelativistic body


in atmosphere."


"Someone traveling faster than light, and slowing




"Or some thing. Mere subatomic particles can be


responsible. The number


your scanner recorded was very small, too small


to indicate a spacecraft or anything of the kind."


"But still above the threshold amount," McCoy said.




He shook his head. "What about the




"Again," Spock said, "I am at a loss


to understand their presence.


Naturally occurring Z-collisions and decay


are rare enough that it has


always taken great amounts of sensitive equipment


to detect them. But here they do not seem to be rare.


Or did not while you were scanning. My own


scans, conducted over the past hours with much more


sensitive equipment, showed no such collisions


taking place."


"Then it's something associated specifically with the


beAt," McCoy said.


Spock nodded. "I feel that is a


safe assumption. But


what it can mean, I have no idea. It is a pity


the rest of your scan was not more revealing, but it was most


skillfully interfered with.-


64 You think it did that on purpose?"


McCoy said.


Spock frowned a bit. "We have no direct


evidence of that," he said, "but on the other hand, if the


beAt in question had not wanted its internal workings to be


known or theorized about, it could hardly have managed it




Statistically, I would find this data at least




McCoy sighed. "All right," he said. "I'm


going to go take a break. Have


everybody get their notes together, and I'll see


you in an hour."


He went down to his quarters. The sound of the


door closing behind him


filled him with a wild sense of relief, which he


knew was completely


spurious. In an hour he would have to go out and sit


at the head of the


table in the briefing room and pretend to run things.


He sat down in his favorite chair,


probably the oddest thing in his


quarters, certainly the most expensive. It was


an antique, and he had given up most of his


personal-possessions space allowance for it. It was




genuine Shaker rush-back rocking chair, circa


1980; not the most venerable of its kind-the really old


ones were all in museums-but good enough. It was good for


back problems, and the rocking was soothing.


I need some soothing now, he thought, as he sat


down. The motion was


physically comforting. His mind, of course, was


running around in little circles, screaming and biting itself


in the small of the back, 104


but then that was understandable-and the more clinical parts of his




weren't troubled by the fact. If he kept rocking


long enough, the body would affect the mind eventually.


It had no choice.


"Take about a year at this rate, though," he


muttered. He ran a quick check on himself. Palms


clammy, pulse elevated, some fine muscle


tremor, general malaise. Stomach spasm.


Physician, feed thyself, he remembered Kirk


saying. When did I eat last? Was it


really this morning? Not like me to miss meals. My


blood sugar must be down in my socks somewhere. He


reached out, tapped the intercom button, and said,




"David here."


"McCoy. Can you have somebody send me up a


sandwich and a coffee? I'm in my quarters."


"He leaned back again and sighed, glancing around.


The room seemed smaller than usual. Was this the


way Kirk felt when he took a break during a


crisis? As if the whole world's trouble was


pressing on the outside door, and would come rushing


over him the minute he opened it again? He could


understand why sometimes he had to tell Kirk to take


a sleeping tablet.


Sleep wouldn't come anywhere near him until all


this was resolved.


Yes, it will, said one of the clinical parts of his




A mind that isn't rested is useless. Lowering your




efficiency won't get Kirk back. If you have


to sleep, you


take the damn pill, or get Lia to hit you


on the head


with a hammer, or whatever. You don't get


to indulge


yourself in staying awake and feeling miserable. . .


not this time.


He sighed. All the times he had given Kirk




advice, and had been so sure he was right, while


Kirk sat in that center


seat and joked with him, and sometimes took the


advice, and sometimes


ignored it .... Often McCoy had been sure


that things would have worked out better, more elegantly, more


simply, if Kirk had done what he told him.


They had worked out anyhow, as a rule, and McCoy


had shrugged and tended his own business in Sickbay,


and made that part of things work.


But now there was more business to tend to than just


Sickbay, and it was all his responsibility. And


no matter who gave him advice, and no matter


how good it was, the responsibility for the choices


he made would lie with him.


And if he had a good idea, and acted on it, and


it didn't work, that would be his responsibility too.


He found himself wondering how Kirk had ever been


able to accept his advice with such good humor,


when he did accept it.


He found himself wondering whether any of his advice


had ever been good at all, all those times he had


hung over the back of the center seat and made


off-the-cuff suggestions.


Well, he thought, at least some things are going right


around here. I've gotten all introspective again.


First time I've had the leisure for it in hours. Not


that being introspective was bad for a doctor at


all, especially when he had the kind of


psychiatric responsibilities that McCoy


had, with the whole gestalt of a starship more or less in


his professional hands. But overdoing it could be a


mistake, and sometimes McCoy veered that way. It


was a tendency he had learned to watch out for.


Someone touched his door signal. He got up and


answered it. There was no one there but a tray, hovering


on its automatic transport pad. McCoy


chuckled a little apparently Meg had gotten


Scotty to teach her transport pads a new


trick or two.


He picked the tray up, and the pad silently


zipped off down the corridor and around the corner, out


of sight. "Just as well," he muttered, taking the


tray inside. "I was out of change for a




The sandwich vanished in short order, followed by the


coffee. McCoy began to feel better almost


instantly. Blood sugar, he thought. I've got


to eat bigger breakfasts if I'm going to be stuck


in this job for long. Tea and toast doesn't make




His intercom whistled then. "McCoy," he said,


finishing the last of the




"Doctor, "Spock said, "five minutes to the


meeting. his


"What? Never. I just got here," he muttered.


"Oh, hell, I guess time does fly when you're


having fun. I'll be right down, Spock."


"Acknowledged. his


McCoy took just long enough to change into a fresh


uniform tunic-no time for even a sonic shower, it


would have to wait-and headed out.


"All right," he said, looking around the concerned


faces at the table in Main Briefing. "One at a


time, from best to worst. Engineering."


"No problems, nothing to report," Scotty




"Bless you. Keep it that way.




"Same as Mr. Scott," Uhura said, "with the


exception of our inability to find the Captain by the


usual means."


"We'll get back to that. Recreation."


Harb Tanzer, the big silver-haired rec


room chief, said, "No operational problems.


Crewmen coming in on their off-shift time are a bit


nervous about the Captain's disappearance, but it isn't


a serious situation as yet."


"Mmf. How are they vi ewing the present, uh,




Harb smiled a bit. "With some amusement," he


said, "but positively. You've bandaged up too many


of them for them to doubt your general expertise, and they


know you're getting good help."


McCoy allowed himself a breath or so of


laughter. "All right. Science."


"We have a huge body of data to add to what we


gathered yesterday," Spock said, "especially as


regards plant life and subsoil flora and


fauna. It may interest you to know-it will certainly


interest Starfleet-that this planet is one of the most


promising sources of medicinal substances that we have


ever found."


"That's wonderful," McCoy said, meaning it, "but


it also means that


Starfleet is going to put that much more pressure


on us for a three-species agreement. My delight


knows no bounds.-What else?"


"There is also much more information about the


physiologies of the Ornae and Lahit. We are


coming to some conclusions that may shortly lead to


theories that will explain how such very different


species evolved here. On that count, at least, our


present information agrees with that of the


original survey."


"You mean, they were actually right about something." There


was muted


McCoy smiled sardonically. "Noted. What


have you been finding? Any fossil




"Surprisingly, yes. One of the landing-party


teams, from Geology, has been concentrating on some


submerged strata off the northern coast of the


continent where most of our research is taking


place. There is a


possibility, bizarre as it sounds, that the


Lahit and the Ornae have a


common ancestor-species."


McCoy shook his head. "That would be an


eyeopener. Anyway, I take it that this information


has all been packed up for the next transmission






"It has."


"Good. Security."


Ingrit Tomson, the tall, blond security


chief, said, "Nothing to report


shipside, sir. On the planet, we have search


groups combing the entire area where our contacts with the


Ornae and Lahit have been concentrated, and


then spiraling outward. Nothing has been found as


yet, though we've covered some fifty square


kilometers. There is no sign whatsoever of the


Captain, but there have also been no overt signs of


foul play."


"There is also something rather peculiar," Spock


said. "Doctor, after you furnished me with the




nates to which you beamed down, I was able to get a


temperature scan of the area-even when some hours


have passed, there are infrared heat-traces of the


passage of the human body." Spock reached out



touched the data terminal in front of him. A




ond later, everyone's terminal was showing a




of the clearing, seen from above, its colors process


ed by the computer to indicate areas of latent heat.


There was a wavering line that came from one side of the


clearing, circled around one spot, and then vanished.


"That's what Jim did?" McCoy said.


"No, Doctor. That is what you did. This is


the Captain's trace." He pointed to another fat


smudgy line, off to one side of the clearing, that entered


it at the same point . . . and faded out.


Glances were exchanged around the table. "Somebody


else's transporter


beam?" McCoy said.


"Unlikely, Doctor. That too leaves some


slight thermal trace, and some


characteristic background radiation. This fade-out is


atypical, and does not resemble a beam-up."


"Great," McCoy said. "Something grabbed him and


spirited him away.


Something subtle enough for us to need methods like this


to find out about it." He sighed. "Any theories?"


"None as yet," Spock said.


"All right. Defense?"


"Nothing to report," Chekov said. "All


ship's defense systems at normal and on




"Good. Medicine?"


Lia, sitting down toward the end of the table, said,


"Business as usual, Doctor. Routine small


interventions. It looks as if Morrison's


problem was some kind of allergy, by the way. No one


else has reported a similar


problem, and his skin irritation is almost gone."


"That's good. Communications-was


"Linguistics and I have been working closely


together," Uhura said, "trying to improve the level


of translation a little faster than would be the norm.



Unfortunately, we're having some


difficulties-not with vocabulary so much, at this


user comment image
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

Share your Thoughts for Doctors Orders

500+ SHARES Facebook Twitter Reddit Google LinkedIn Email
Share Button
Share Button