"Jim, were you planning to take Chekov on this assignment?" McCoy asked as he looked at the viewscreen showing the apparently peaceful planet of Schizanthus II. The scans had shown a level of technology equivalent to that of Earth's sixteenth century. That prevented open contact but as the population was fully Human, the captain of the Enterprise considered it was feasible to send down teams to carry out a survey of what appeared to be an example of parallel social evolution.
"As a matter of fact I was." Kirk nodded. "The Schizanthans have a flourishing maritime trade, and Mister Chekov knows more about sailing ships than anyone else on board."
Kirk gave his chief medical officer a quizzical glance. "Ah?"
"Well, I was going to ask if we could beam down together," the doctor explained. "Give me a chance to get to know the boy, especially with you considering him for Chief Navigator. He's been on board quite a while now, and I haven't managed to do that."
"I'd have thought you'd have had plenty of opportunity, the number of times Chekov's ended up in Sickbay?"
"Not with an ensign who seems determined to outdo the captain in the 'worst patient on the ship stakes,'" McCoy hissed. "Chekov isn't spending time in Sickbay; he's spending all his time getting out of Sickbay." He sighed. "Which is why I wanted to take the chance to work with him, as opposed to putting him back together. He's still green enough to appreciate a little friendly guidance. I still haven't worked out why some of the situations he's landed himself in haven't bothered him more."
"I could have told you that, if you'd asked." Kirk shook his head reproachfully. "Bones, Chekov's handled everything the universe has thrown at him because none of those situations were due to any mistakes on his part. It's when he thinks he's made a mistake we'll have problems."
"That explains why you're the one who's worked it out!"
As the transporter released them, McCoy promptly began coughing as the acrid, alien smells from the narrow, dirty street reached him.
Chekov took a shallower breath and looked around. Schizanthus II's equivalent of seagulls were whirling and calling only a short distance away, confirming the direction that they needed to go. He put a supporting hand under the doctor's elbow. "Are you all right?"
"Fine. I just love breathing in this beautiful sea air!"
Chekov grinned as he reported their safe beam down before tucking his communicator away in his pouch. "The captain told us to just stroll around so let's head for the quayside. That way."
He was not sure how he felt about having the doctor along or what McCoy intended. The ensign began to study his surroundings, only to jump back, pulling the doctor with him, as a cry he had only heard about in his history studies sounded from a window above.
"No wonder the street stinks," McCoy muttered in disgust. "Let's get out of this alley. What about that way?" He pointed to another alley that seemed to lead in the direction in which they needed to go. "Wonder how long it is before everyone gets up?"
"Since probably everyone is, watch out for more windows opening!" Chekov followed as he saw the gleam of water ahead; the tide would be turning and he hoped to see ships setting sail. The fact Kirk had trusted him to make an evaluation of the shipping here filled the ensign with a determination to justify his captain's faith.
A woman appeared suddenly at the far end of the alley, her beautiful face bruised, her hair and dress disheveled. "Oh, please, help me!"
"What's wrong?" McCoy dashed forward.
"No, wait!" Chekov saw shapes moving in the dim dawn light, but it was too late to stop the doctor.
McCoy was in the middle of a crowd of grinning men, who quickly surrounded the ensign too, as the woman laughed. "Another pair of heroes rushing to the rescue," the leader remarked. He eyed the two officers. "Now, my beauties, are you going to come quietly or would you prefer a crack on the head first?"
"I'd prefer you to let us go," Chekov answered as he assessed his opponents. There were at least a dozen men, all armed with clubs; whatever was going on, this was a well-planned ambush. The thought of them both losing their communicators to thieves terrified him. "We're strangers here, and we need--"
"Couldn't care less." The man shrugged, as the two Enterprise officers were swiftly bound and pushed to stand with five other men. "I need a crew. Just a couple more, and we'll get you aboard. Stand over there with the other heroes."
As he woke to the fact they were in trouble, McCoy began to protest vehemently, only to stop abruptly as a club waved threateningly. Chekov watched as two more men appeared in answer to the woman's pleas, to be as efficiently captured. The leader grinned and tossed a few coins to the woman, who laughed once more, wiped away the bruises and went on her way with a toss of her long hair.
The captives were surrounded by the sailors and pushed along the still nearly empty street; another turning revealed a dock and a sailing ship. Chekov dug his heels in as they tried to push him aboard, dismay filling him. "I'm not refusing, but would you please answer a question first?"
The captain eyed him in amusement. "Try me."
"How long is this going to take?" Chekov already knew that even if he could contact the Enterprise, they could not beam out of this without breaching the Prime Directive. Their only chance of escaping this planet would be to reach land and go ashore.
"Endrisport to Callisport. Short run, about a moon."
"Thank you," the ensign replied politely.
Chekov did not argue further; he did not want an encounter with the clubs the crewmen were carrying. In a society at this level, he and McCoy had to do all they could to avoid any injury. He joined the others on the deck and watched as the ship cast off her moorings and headed out to sea. He was going to learn far more about Schizanthan sailing ships that he had ever expected.
One of the men was arguing fiercely that they would regret forcing him aboard as his family was important. Another was weeping over the wife and children he was leaving behind. The captain seemed equally unmoved by either as he ordered his captives taken below.
Chekov looked at the faces already turning a delicate shade of green. He did not have any desire to share the next few hours below decks. "Captain, I was looking for work anyway. Could I volunteer for this one trip and start work now?"
The captain studied him, before he grinned. "Fair enough. Fibory, get these landsmen below until we're clear of the harbor."
"Doctor, volunteer quickly," Chekov hissed urgently, as someone came to untie him.
"Uh?" The deck was rocking under his feet and McCoy's stomach was already unhappy. He found himself pushed roughly towards a ladder with the other reluctant sailors.
"The captain won't risk anyone jumping ship, so you'll stay below while we're in sight of land, but you'll be working later. I'll make sure of that. I'm Fibory, the first mate, and it'll pay you not to cross me."
McCoy lost all interest in what the mate was saying as he dashed for the rail, only for Chekov to grab him. "Not there! Get to the bows." The ensign pushed the doctor over to where he would be safely out of the way of the busy sailors, and, even more importantly, with the wind in the right direction. Within moments, he found Fibory was pushing five more reluctant sailors in his direction.
"Take care of the rest of them too, lad."
"Aye." Chekov lined the unhappy crowd along the rail, keeping McCoy next to him. He dared not risk speaking into his communicator, but he could manage a few words in code.
Spock turned from the science station at the dismayed exclamation. "Lieutenant?"
"I've just picked up a signal from Ensign Chekov, sir, in code," Uhura responded. "It's very brief, 'shanghaied, one month minimum'."
"It appears, however, to contain all the essential information we require," Spock observed.
"Shanghaied?" Riley queried from where he was passing a boring watch at the navigation console. Kevin Riley hated watches when the Enterprise was in obit. They reminded him too vividly of the hours he had spent in Engineering, regaling the crew with a song he never intended to sing again. Memory stirred. "Oh, no!"
"Well, if anyone was going to get themselves shanghaied, Chekov would be top of my list," Sulu muttered. "And ten minutes after beaming down at that."
"What are we going to do, sir?" Riley looked at the first officer. They could not even alert the captain. Kirk was on the planet, too, and he would not report in until he was ready to beam back that evening.
"There may be nothing we can do, Mister Riley," Spock answered, "as I believe Ensign Chekov has already realized." He saw the worried, questioning glances and elaborated, "Mister Chekov requested he beam down just before dawn in the entirely logical expectation he might hope to observe ships departing on the morning tide. A captain obtaining crew by such rough and ready methods would only do so just as he was ready to sail. If Ensign Chekov and, presumably, Doctor McCoy are on board a Schizanthan ship, we cannot beam them off. It would be a breach of the Prime Directive to reveal such technology. Even if the Schizanthans did not observe them depart, at that period the belief in magic is often quite strong. We cannot create such an incident."
"So they're stuck on board until they reach land?" Riley gazed at him in shock.
"It would appear so, Mister Riley."
Riley exchanged an expressive glance with Sulu. Both of them could visualize trying to explain this particular exploit to an irate captain and neither of them envied Chekov the challenge.
"At least Chekov was able to tell us how long he expected to be at sea." Uhura's concern was evident.
"You mean Doctor McCoy's got four whole weeks to try and keep Chekov out of trouble?" Sulu knew what was worrying the communications officer.
"We will have to trust the doctor is equal to the challenge, Mister Sulu," Spock observed. "Conversely, since we do not know which of them is responsible, we will have to trust Ensign Chekov will be able to keep Doctor McCoy out of trouble."
"Chekov keep McCoy out of trouble?" Sulu eyed the first officer in astonishment. "When he never stays out of trouble himself?"
"This won't last," Chekov encouraged, as he supported the doctor. "You'll soon be over the worst."
"Chekov." McCoy straightened painfully as his latest paroxysm eased.
The ensign lowered his voice. "I've told the Enterprise where we are. They can't beam us out but at least they know what's happened to us."
McCoy realized what the younger man meant. His gulp had nothing to do with seasickness.
"We'll manage somehow. Don't worry. I'll look after you."
Fibory snorted at the six pale faces. "Right, a friendly word of warning. If any of you are still thinking about throwing up, don't throw up on the captain!"
The mate tried to line them up where the captain was waiting but now they were clear of the harbor, the sea was choppy; first one, then another, of his reluctant sailors headed back to the side of the ship until only Chekov was left, surveying the scene around him with interest, as the rest of the regular crew gathered to watch the fun. The ship was sailing steadily under full canvas and until an order came, there was nothing for them to do; they were more than willing to be amused.
"The Lady preserve me from landlubbers!" the captain snorted as his new crew members slowly lined up again; it was clear enough some of them were already contemplating a return to the side. He looked at Chekov. "Only one of you with his sea legs."
He surveyed them. "I'm Captain Derorgas of the Lareta. You may have heard of me." One or two moans suggested he was correct, and he grinned. "Quite so! Now, I'm not an unreasonable man, despite what you may have heard. Deal fairly with me, and I'll deal fairly with you. I've got an urgent cargo for Callisport. It's a quick run, about a moon given good winds, and so I needed a full crew quickly. Once we're back, you'll be free to go. Now, you've two choices. You can prove you're worth the deck space, or you can earn yourselves a taste of Fibory's starter! Who knows anything about ships?"
"I do, but I've never worked aboard one with this rigging, Captain," Chekov answered quietly.
"Fair enough." Derorgas nodded and looked at the rest. "What about you?"
"Don't think we even need to ask, Captain," Fibory commented.
McCoy looked around; already the land behind them was little more than a streak across the horizon. He shivered and found the ensign's hand on his arm. "Steady," Chekov told him softly.
"I have never soiled my hands with any form of manual labor," Sarta informed Derorgas loftily, only to yelp as Fibory struck him across the shoulder with a knotted rope's end.
"Speak to Captain Derorgas in a civil manner, or regret it!" the mate snapped.
"You can't strike me."
"Think again." Fibory struck once more and this time Sarta had the sense to remain silent. The rest of the men also disclaimed any knowledge of seamanship.
Derorgas eyed them in disgust. "One out of seven! You'd think trying that trick a couple of streets away from the quayside would have rounded up more sailors. Useless bunch of landlubbers."
"Oh, I don't know, Captain." The largest of the watching sailors gave Chekov a grin the ensign considered he could well have done without. "You've found us one pretty boy anyway to make the trip more interesting."
"Shut up, Runf!" Derorgas looked at him in a disgust that made Chekov heave a sigh of relief; Runf evidently had his tastes to himself. It would have been a different matter if the rest of the crew had shared them. "You know what the Lady thinks of your perverted tastes."
"You pass your time your way, Captain, and I'll pass it mine." Runf looked uncowed and the shanghaied men could see he was someone most men would think twice about crossing; the sailors who had to share the mess deck with him would treat him very warily. "What do you think, boy?"
"That if you try anything, I'll kick your teeth so far down your throat it won't be your mouth you'll be using to chew food," Chekov told him levelly. The ensign felt McCoy's anxious hand on his arm but shook it off. He had to deal with Runf now or he would face endless problems.
Runf looked scornful. "So that's how you fight, boy? The coward's way, with feet?"
"My name is Pavel Chekov, and I don't see what supposed to be cowardly about it. You outweigh me and outreach me, so it's supposed to be fair to let you set the rules?"
Runf had moved to stand in front of him now. As the ensign had surmised, even the inhabitants of the lower deck who were not afraid of Runf preferred to avoid a confrontation and he did not intend to lose face by backing down from a boy half his size. "Only cowards use their feet."
Chekov shrugged, his dark eyes suddenly very, very cold, as he moved into an easily-recognizable fighting stance; he did not make any aggressive moves, he simply stood ready. "Only fools let their opponent set the rules."
Runf started to sneer at that, only to pause. There was something very chilling in that quiet statement and he did not like the way Chekov was standing. He forced a laugh. "Only joking. I was just testing you. I always like a lad who isn't afraid to fight."
"Like me from a distance, Runf, and look for someone who shares your tastes. I don't," Chekov told him, his voice still soft. He remembered how Derorgas had reacted. "I won't insult the Lady. I'll be looking for a girl in the next port, as she'd wish." He eyed Runf for a moment. "If the girl says no, I'll look for another one."
"Doubt you hear 'no' often, lad?" Derorgas grinned.
Chekov returned the grin. "Often enough so that I don't think I'm irresistible, Captain, but not often enough to sleep alone if I don't want to."
"More than Runf can claim," a voice called from safe anonymity. "Only way he can get a girl is to drag one into an alley."
The scene had certainly improved the captain's mood. Derorgas grinned at the ensign. "Now I do like a lad with spirit, but not for Runf's reasons. I've never understood a man who won't fight, and I've never understood the ones who manage to go through life without finding any trouble."
"Nor me, Captain." Chekov thought he had the measure of Derorgas now and that the captain was someone with whom he could deal. "As proved by the fact I'm on board your ship."
Derorgas looked at the rest of his new crew. "What you don't know, you'll learn, starting now." He inquired as to what everyone else was called before grinning at Chekov. "Right, Pavel. I'll see what you're made of and show the rest what they'll be doing. Up one side of the rigging, across the top main spar and down."
"Aye, Captain." Chekov paused to pull off his boots before climbing up into the shrouds at a speed which had the regular crew eyeing him in approval.
McCoy recovered from thinking he had never seen anyone climb so fast to wonder how the ensign would cross the spar, only to gape in horror as Chekov simply ran across before sliding down one of the lines, hand over hand.
"Right." Derorgas laughed at the horror-struck faces. "That's what you need to do and now's the time to learn, with a following wind and a calm sea. You first." He pointed to Sarta.
"Climb up there?" the man swallowed.
"Just to the main spar today."
"I'll climb up with you and give you a hand, if you need it," Chekov offered. "It's not nearly as difficult as it looks."
"No, and it's not as easy as you made it look either," Sarta retorted. "Thanks anyway." He began to climb very slowly, the ensign at his side offering quiet instruction. He reached the main spar, only to grip the shrouds even more tightly. "Pavel, I don't think I can."
"You don't need to cross the way I did," the ensign reassured. "Look for the lines there to use when you're reefing the sail."
"You'll find out." Chekov coaxed the Schizanthan along the spar and showed him how to slide down the rope, only for Sarta to ignore his instructions and allow himself to slide far too quickly. His shrieks as the rope burned his hands ensured the other landsmen listened far more carefully to the advice the ensign was offering.
McCoy watched the struggles of the next four novices with increasing misgivings.
"Ready?" Chekov landed lightly on the deck once more.
"No." McCoy saw Fibory start forward and reluctantly pulled off his boots.
"I'll stay with you; don't worry," Chekov encouraged.
One advantage of climbing up above everyone else, the doctor thought, was that at least it gave them the chance to exchange a few words. "Look, son, I know why you reacted so badly to Runf."
"Nothing to do with my father." Chekov shook his head. "You were never the smallest and youngest in your class, were you?"
"You had people try to bully you?"
"Not many tried twice. There's only one way to deal with Runf's type."
McCoy pushed that aside in favor of something he needed to say. "I'm sorry I got us into this."
"Don't worry about it," the ensign repeated. "If I'd been the one in front, it would probably have been me who fell for that trick."
"What's so funny?" McCoy demanded, as he saw Chekov's face split into a grin. He could not think of anything even remotely amusing about their predicament.
"I've just realized it means you're the one who'll have to explain to the captain!"
"Doctor?" Chekov asked, as they neared the spar, and McCoy stopped.
McCoy had known it was a mistake to look around the moment he saw his horizon tilt. Kirk had taken him sailing once or twice but finding himself in the shrouds of a vessel resembling one McCoy had last seen in a history lesson about the Spanish Armada was on an entirely different scale.
"What's wrong?" the ensign asked, as he saw how convulsively McCoy's hands were gripping the rigging.
"Yes, you can. Now just take a few deep breaths. I've got you, I won't let you fall. You can do this." Chekov tightened his grip on the Enterprise's chief medical officer.
"There is no way I am moving another step up, down or sideways!" McCoy knew it was stupid to close his eyes. This horrible reality was not going to disappear.
"You can't stay here for the next month," Chekov pointed out, as Derorgas began to shout for them to keep moving. "Keep your eyes closed, and I'll guide you."
"Move up here with my eyes closed?"
"That's how we used to practice for furling the sails at night."
"You mean we might have to climb up here in the dark?"
"You don't only get weather changes in daylight," Chekov warned, as Fibory arrived.
"Frozen?" The mate eyed the doctor with more sympathy than the ensign had expected. "Seen it before. Let's get him down."
"I'm not moving."
Fibory merely grinned at the ensign. "I'll pry him loose. You just keep a hold."
Chekov nodded, and waited until the doctor's hands had been forced from their death grip on the shrouds before he heaved McCoy across his shoulders.
"You can take his weight?" Fibory asked.
"I've done it before." Chekov descended carefully, until he felt able to release McCoy safely onto the deck. The doctor's legs promptly folded under him.
Derorgas came over, shaking his head. "I've seen some poor excuses for a seaman in my time."
"I'm a doctor, not a seaman, and nothing whatever is making me climb those ropes again," McCoy stated. "I don't care if you throw me overboard."
"I don't carry dead weight, and I don't take ultimatums." Derorgas dragged the doctor over to the rail.
"Wait, please." Chekov stepped forward hastily. "He didn't mean that the way it sounded, Captain. Let me look after him."
The ensign shook his head. "No, but McCoy saved my life a few moons back. I owe him."
"I don't carry dead weight," Derorgas repeated. "I need watch keepers."
Chekov shrugged. "Put us on different watches. I'll stand McCoy's as well as my own."
"Double watches? Watch and watch about?"
Fibory grinned. "And you're prepared to argue the point all the way to Callisport?"
"And back again."
"I like a man who pays his debts." Derorgas prodded the doctor with his foot. "What do you say?"
McCoy struggled to his feet as he asked himself just who was looking after whom. He could not let the weight of this predicament rest entirely on the ensign. "That I'm grateful but look, I'm not refusing to work, Captain. I'm just saying I can't climb up those masts. Isn't there anything else I can do?"
"You'll get the dirtiest jobs going, the ones we usually take turn and turn about," Fibory pointed out.
"Just as long as you don't want me to climb those masts."
"Fibory will tell you." Derorgas lost interest in someone who would never make a seaman. "Just one more question for our new recruits. Can any of you cook?"
Six faces looked back at him blankly, before Chekov spoke up, "I can, Captain. You never know what might earn you a meal. I can turn my hand to most jobs."
Derorgas sighed. "I might have known the only man of you who knows one end of a ship from another is the only one who can cook. Since our cook got himself knifed night before last, I'll give you a try, Pavel. You can't do any worse than Ceride did last night or this morning. Ceride, show Pavel where the galley is."
"Gladly, Captain." Ceride gave Derorgas a grin. "I told you I couldn't cook; I just wish you hadn't asked me to prove it."
"I'll teach you," Chekov offered.
"You don't want a soft berth?" Ceride asked.
"I'd rather ship out as a topman."
McCoy gazed unhappily after the ensign as the two went below decks; after the way Chekov had reacted to Runf, the doctor did not want to let him out of his sight.
"Your mess deck needs scrubbing out. Come on." Fibory headed for a different hatch.
McCoy sighed as he surveyed the area still to be scrubbed. The doctor felt as if he had been scrubbing this deck for hours; his back ached, his hands were sore from whatever type of coarse soap the sailors used, and he was worried to death over what the ensign might be up to. A foot suddenly kicked the bucket over, sending the dirty water over the only part of the deck he had managed to get clean. McCoy looked up to find Runf grinning down at him.
"I'm sure you'd like to give your new shipmate a little gift to show how much you like him, such as every coin you possess." The big sailor pulled the doctor to his feet, one hand reaching for the pouch at McCoy's waist.
"Let him go."
Runf turned, one hand still holding the doctor's shoulder. "Make me." He relished hearing people plead before he went ahead and did whatever he wanted anyway. He was still waiting to hear Chekov beg him to leave his friend alone when the ensign's foot landed between his legs and he fell to his knees, gasping.
"Get behind me and keep out of the way." Chekov knew exactly what the doctor's unarmed combat skills were like.
Whatever Runf intended to say next was lost as a kick to his jaw meant he lost all interest in the proceedings.
"Idiot!" Fibory had come to check on the doctor's progress. He called a couple of sailors down. Grinning, they hauled Runf to his feet and out of the mess deck. The mate surveyed the upturned bucket. "Start again."
"I'll get some water," Chekov offered as the doctor groaned in response. He reappeared with an additional bucket and started scrubbing.
"Aren't you supposed to be the cook?"
"Midday meal is cooking, and Ceride's watching it for me. I thought you'd need a hand. How's the seasickness?"
McCoy blinked. "I'd forgotten about it as a matter of fact. Thanks."
"Now that you mention it, the list is getting rather long, isn't it?" McCoy felt his face redden. After asking Kirk if he could pair with the ensign with the declared aim of giving the ship's youngest line ensign some friendly guidance, if he survived this, it might be to die of embarrassment when he returned to the Enterprise. "Let's see, thanks for getting me off the mast or whatever you call it."
"The shrouds. You didn't make it as far as the mast."
"Yes, well, thanks for that and for stopping Derorgas from throwing me overboard and stopping Runf from pounding me into the deck."
"I can't let anything happen to you," Chekov pointed out. "You're the one who's going to tell Captain Kirk how we ended up here. I certainly don't propose to tell him I've mislaid you."
"Very funny!" McCoy snorted. "But well done for thinking of a way to tell the Enterprise where we are."
"And how long this trip is likely to be."
"A lifetime, as far as I'm concerned."
Derorgas looked at his assembled crew. "One thing I won't stand and never have is a man who robs his shipmates, even a dead-weight such as McCoy." He gestured to the two sailors holding Runf. "Over the side with him!"
The order was obeyed without question.
"Don't think I thanked you nearly enough earlier, Pavel." McCoy looked back, as the realization of his own narrow escape truly sank in. "He won't have a chance of reaching shore, will he?"
"I doubt Runf could even swim."
"But he's a sailor."
"A lot of sailors on Earth refused to learn because their chances of rescue were so slight they wanted to drown quickly. It was logical enough."
"Now look, I'm already worrying about the effect Spock is having on you!"
McCoy yelped as he felt Fibory's starter across his shoulders. "What did I do?"
"That's a granny knot; it won't hold." Chekov came over.
"A knot is a knot, isn't it?" one of the others asked.
"Not for a sailor. Think of them as tools. There are a number of different knots, just as a carpenter has different tools," the ensign explained. "As for a knot being just a knot, think of tying up the ship's boat when you go ashore. You run back, followed by some very unfriendly people, only to find you tied a granny knot so the boat's drifted off, and you can't reach the ship."
Fibory fetched some lengths of rope. "See what you can teach them, Pavel."
McCoy joined the rest of the group in surveying the hammock Chekov was fixing to the hooks. "I'm supposed to sleep in that?"
"It's very comfortable, once you get used to it."
"The operative word being 'used'."
The ensign demonstrated, before swinging himself out of the hammock again. "Everyone unroll your hammocks, and I'll show you."
Fibory shook his head at him, greatly amused by the way the youngest member of their captured crewmen seemed prepared to look after everyone else. "Pavel, don't you ever lose patience?"
"You haven't heard me with someone I think ought to know what they're doing!"
The mate laughed and went to seek his bunk.
Kirk looked at his first officer. "They've got themselves shanghaied?"
"So it would appear, Captain," Spock responded. "My sensor scans show both communicators to be on the ship that left harbor at dawn."
"And with a two and a half weeks' voyage." Kirk knew Chekov would probably adapt easily enough to whatever type of ship the Schizanthans used; his chief medical officer would be a different matter, and he felt a surge of anger at the ensign for involving McCoy in such an ordeal. "I knew I should have sent a couple of security along. Ten minutes on planet, and Chekov gets himself and Bones shanghaied!"
"What do you intend now, Captain?" Spock inquired. "We have a time limit with our next mission."
"We need to reach Cestuma Three on schedule." Kirk considered. "Mister Sulu, I'm going to leave you and Mister Riley in a shuttle in orbit over Schizanthus Two. Once that ship reaches land, Doctor McCoy and Mister Chekov are bound to go ashore to somewhere they can signal. Find a suitable site and tell them to head for it." He sighed. "That's assuming they're allowed ashore. When I think of how the press gangs used to work, it might not be easy. Get them off planet if you can. We'll head back once we've finished with the diplomatic niceties. If they're not allowed ashore, then we'll have to risk a beam out in the middle of the night. As long as the ship is docked, they'll be assumed to have just jumped ship. Let's hope you can simply retrieve them."
As dusk fell the Lareta dropped anchor in the bay next to the harbor of Callisport. By the time it was dark, boats were pulling out from the shore and the crew were hastily pulling up bales from the hold.
"We're not going into port?" Chekov asked Ceride as they hauled on a rope.
Ceride spared a hand to tap the side of his nose for a moment. "Let's just say that if Derorgas sailed in to Callisport, we wouldn't be sailing out again! We'll be gone before dawn."
The ensign was unsurprised to learn his current captain was little better than a pirate but bitter disappointment filled him at the knowledge he was not going to be able to get the doctor ashore with less than half the voyage completed. If it had not been for the worry of how badly McCoy was coping with the harsh demands of life on the Lareta, Chekov knew he would have enjoyed the opportunity to sail over the Schizanthan sea.
Sulu joined Riley in studying the message from the sensors in dismay. The Schizanthan ship had not entered the nearby port as they had expected. She was already moving back out to sea. They had spent a boring week in the shuttle, now it was clear enough they were not going to retrieve the two officers before the Enterprise returned. "I really don't envy Chekov trying to explain this particular exploit to the captain."
"Especially after Captain Kirk's spent a couple of weeks in diplomatic negotiations," Riley agreed. "You know how he feels about those."
"Only a week at sea." McCoy found the opportunity for a word with the ensign. "I can just about stand another one."
Chekov looked at him sympathetically. "We reached Callisport in a week with a following wind."
"It won't change direction just to suit us. It's going to take us a week and a half to tack back."
"Tack? I thought tacks were little nails?"
"Doesn't he ever get tired?" Ceride asked, as he came to sit by McCoy in the evening sunshine.
"Not that I've noticed." McCoy looked wearily over to where Chekov was dancing hornpipes with some of the crew. With the ensign's claim to have sailed on other ships, he had soon been asked if he knew any different styles, and Chekov had promptly demonstrated some which carried a strong flavor of Russian dancing. The younger sailors had been enthusiastically learning them ever since.
If he had not been so tired and so miserable, the doctor thought, he would have been amused by the way Chekov regarded their predicament simply as a learning opportunity and even more by the way the crew had adopted him.
Ceride nodded. "I know I've taken over the cooking, but Pavel's stood a night watch and then he spent the next helping you, before he won that race up the masts. Now look at him!"
McCoy had given up protesting at the way Chekov had taken over most of his workload. The ensign never listened and the doctor was not sure he would have survived without that ungrudging help. He sighed at the thought that if they had only docked at Callisport, the two of them could have slipped ashore and beamed back to the comforts of the Enterprise.
Ceride smiled at the sigh. "Another tenday, and you'll be on dry land again."
Derorgas paid off each member of his crew as they reached the gangplank. Most, he knew, would be back within a day or two. His unwilling sailors, as he expected, could not wait to get ashore. He smiled at the ensign. "I'll be glad to see you back any day, lad, as I told you, but not," he directed a glare at the doctor, "with that dead-weight with you. I've never sailed with anyone so useless in my entire life."
"Well, I didn't ask to come aboard," McCoy snapped, as he saw that, as a final insult, he was going to be paid far less than Chekov.
"Wondering why you're only being paid a quarter of what Pavel's earned, Dead-weight?"
The captain gave him a look the doctor remembered from some uncomfortable interviews with the officer in command of the medical section of Starfleet Academy. "Because Pavel's done most of your work, Dead-weight. Think I hadn't noticed?"
Chekov only smiled at Derorgas. "I won't forget your offer." He walked down the gangplank to find several of his friends waiting to say goodbye. Ceride handed him a small wrapped bundle. Chekov took it in surprise. "What is it?"
"Something to remember us by," Ceride told him. "Because somehow, I don't think you'll be coming this way again, Pavel."
"Probably not, but I won't forget any of you," Chekov answered as he unwrapped the parcel to find a perfect replica of the ship carved in bone. He smiled. "Ceride, thank you."
"Now what?" the doctor inquired. "Much as I'm enjoying standing on something that isn't moving up and down, what do we do now?"
A glint of humor shone in the dark eyes. "You get to tell the captain how we were shanghaied!" Chekov pointed to where Kirk was waiting, a couple of security guards at his back. The captain of the Enterprise effortlessly gave the impression he had been standing there, his foot tapping impatiently, since the Lareta had set sail.
"That should round things off nicely!" Not to mention explaining just who's been giving the helping hand to whom!
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