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Jim Ausfahl



Captain's Log, Stardate 6742.2

The Enterprise is now making its way to the Ylka, to transfer the Ylkan ambassador to Falla, a neighboring star system...


As Kirk was finishing his log entry, McCoy stepped off the turbolift without his commanding officer noticing his arrival. The doctor watched the captain quietly. After a few moments, he interrupted Kirk's reverie, saying, "I agree, Jim. Sending the Enterprise to ferry an ambassador from one Federation system to another is a royal waste of potential."

Kirk whirled around, clearly startled. "Bones! How'd you know what I was thinking?"

Spock turned to Kirk from his console. "Doctor McCoy's deduction was relatively simple, Captain. He noted you were completing your entry to the captain's log, and observed you. When you closed the log, you stared at the forward viewscreen for two minutes thirty seconds, then you scanned the major workstations on the bridge. You looked over Sulu's shoulder at the navigation console, shrugged your shoulders, and stared at the ceiling in resignation. It is was easy to deduce that you were thinking about the capacity of the Enterprise, and the fact that the mission we are on could have been handled by a small, interstellar ferry. Doctor McCoy broke into your reverie at that point, astounding you. This simple deductive reasoning is common in detective fiction of the late Nineteenth century Earth, Captain, specifically with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional character Sherlock Holmes."

Kirk shook his head, smiling. "Sounds 'simple' enough, when you explain it. And this mission does seem a waste of potential."

"We were the only available Federation vessel in the area, Captain. Although the mission could easily have been handled by a lesser craft, we were the logical choice to convey the Ylkan ambassador to Falla."

"I know, Spock, I know. But that won't keep me from hoping something will come up to divert us."

Uhura's head suddenly tilted to one side. "I think you're about to get your wish, Captain. Emergency distress signal coming in." The communications officer's fingers danced lightly and swiftly across her console. "I'm having trouble with static, almost as if the signal were being jammed. It's either a request for assistance with an invasion or a request for emergency assistance with a major epidemic."

"Source, Spock?"

"The signal emanates from the fourth planet of the Kenederis system, Captain."

Kirk shook his head. "Kenederis Four. It sounds familiar, but I can't place it."

"I recognize it, Captain." It was Sulu's rich baritone.

Kirk turned to face him. "Excellent, Lieutenant. What can you tell us about this planet?"

"It is a star system in a training simulation at the Academy, Captain. During the test sequence, the training simulator produces a request for rescue of Starfleet personnel from an industrial planet that is on the verge of achieving interstellar flight but that has not yet contacted the Federation. As I recall it, it was an interstellar freighter that crashed. The point of the simulation sequence is rescuing the crew without the people of Kenederis Four detecting the crashed freighter, its crew, or the rescue team."

"It's booby-trapped, too, Jim," McCoy interjected. "Phil Boyce designed the whole thing. If you don't bring the rescued personnel directly to the quarantine ward in Sickbay, an epidemic devastates the crew, and the command crew trainees flunk the test."

Kirk stared at the ceiling of the bridge in amused frustration for a second or two, then wondered aloud, "Is this someone's idea of a joke?"

Spock spoke before anyone else had the opportunity to answer. "I do not believe so, Captain. I have triangulated the source of the distress call. It is coming from the edge of the Federation, from a recently contacted planet: Kenederis Four."

The doctor agreed with Spock. "It's no joke, Jim. The Kenederis Four training sequence was constructed from a real rescue operation about fifty years ago. Almost the entire crew of the freighter Yankee Trader died of an unknown disease. The few survivors suffered severe, permanent brain damage. Whatever they picked up turned them all into vegetables."

McCoy shook his head sadly while recalling the events. "The scoutship Inquisitive attempted the rescue, and its crew died from the disease as well. Fortunately, its captain had invoked General Order Number Six, and the Inquisitive self-destructed twenty-four hours after the last man aboard succumbed to the disease. Only the log buoys were recovered, and the planet Kenederis Four was placed under a strict quarantine."

"Two years ago, the people of Kenederis Four made contact with the Federation buoy tender Glasgow which was servicing the isolation buoys in the system." Spock added. "The science ship Sheppard was dispatched to the planet. Using test animals, it was quickly determined that the plague was still in effect. As a result, there has been no change in their quarantine status."

"And the people of Kenederis Four?"

"Are apparently immune to this plague. Or, at least, were. Perhaps there's been some sort of mutation which has caused the organism to affect the Kened," suggested the physician.

"Or perhaps some force or forces unknown have engineered this mutation," conjectured the Vulcan.

"Still Kenederis Four is a quarantined planet and not part of the Federation. Under the Prime Directive, there may not be much we can do."

"Jim!" implored McCoy.

"All right, Doctor. Maybe we can help. Mister Chekov, plot a course for the Kenederis system. Mister Sulu, ahead Warp Factor Four. Uhura, please inform Starfleet we're responding to the emergency distress call and that we regret that another ship will have to transport the Ylkan ambassador."

"Yes, Captain," the Bantu woman responded, again with dancing fingers across her comm panel.

"Jim, if we're to be of any help, Scotty and I are going to need to set up the quarantine lab in Sickbay. We don't want to take any chances."

"Agreed, Doctor."

As McCoy left the bridge, Kirk settled back, grateful for the interruption in what was otherwise such a dull assignment.


Captain's Log, Supplemental

We are in orbit around Kenederis IV in response to a distress call. Records are scant on the Kened, at least in part due to the planet being in strict quarantine. The Kened themselves are about the size and appearance of a Terran orangutan. It would appear that their entire population is concentrated on a single continent and in a single, expansively large city. Their culture and technology, from a Human standpoint, appears oddly lopsided. They have developed to the point of building subspace communicators without developing warp drive, for instance. Medicine is equally lopsided: sophisticated surgical and metabolic medicine, but a surprisingly rudimentary grasp of principles of infectious disease.

The logs from the crashed freighter, the Yankee Trader, showed that the ship was returning with a full load of iridium gathered from Naos VIII, an uninhabited planet outside the Federation. The freighter apparently developed difficulties with astrogation, then the drives, and finally life support. The captain ended up trying to land on an uninhabited section of the planet but crashed instead. By the time they were rescued by the U.S.S. Inquisitive, most of the crew of the Yankee Trader were dead; the survivors died shortly thereafter. The crew of the Inquisitive apparently fell victim as well. Fortunately, the captain of the Inquisitive had issued General Order Number Six to prevent any other vessel from become victims to this mysterious disease.

Kirk closed the log, dissatisfied with the lack of information gleaned by his brief review of the logs of the Yankee Trader and the Inquisitive. Although McCoy and Scott had promised a more detailed review of the medical and engineering logs, setting up the quarantine ward had diverted both men from the task.

Kirk turned to Uhura. "Open all hailing frequencies, Uhura. Let's see what the Kened have to say for themselves."

"I'm trying, Captain. The standard channels seem to be jammed." Uhura's face showed increasing frustration as she worked over the communications console. Finally, a smile crossed her face. "Contact, Captain, via frequency modulated radio waves, of all things."

"Put them on the forward viewscreen, Uhura."

The screen suddenly showed the image of a small, chimpanzee-like being that was gesturing rapidly. Uhura tapped a few more keys, and a mechanical sounding voice came from the speaker. "Greetings from the Kened. As soon as you have received this signal, please respond. Greetings from the..."

Abruptly, the creature repeating the greetings was replaced by what looked like a much older individual; the brilliant copper color of the fur had faded to something closer to a pale strawberry blonde, and there were large patches of fur that were gray to white in color. The Kened's hand signals were slower and appeared almost stiff and wooden.

"Greetings, U.S.S. Enterprise! I am called Sheetak, leader of the Kened people. We thank you for responding to our distress call. We find ourselves in a difficult situation, one quite beyond our experience. We hope you came prepared to assist us from orbit. We must remind you that our planet is under strict quarantine. Until the cause of the deaths of the crew from the Yankee Trader and the Inquisitive has been isolated and conquered, we must insist that none of your crew enter our atmosphere. We may be dying, but we will not risk spreading our affliction further."

"We will stay in orbit, Sheetak," Kirk promised. "You realize that this restriction will unquestionably hamper our efforts."

"Understood, Captain Kirk. That is the price we must pay for respecting the quarantine."

"Sheetak, there was an ambiguity in the distress call," Spock interjected. "It indicated that your people faced either an epidemic or a hostile attack. It would be most useful to know which of the two we are facing here."

"It is both, Spock. We are suffering what appear to be acts of what you would call aggressive warfare; concomitantly, we have seen outbreaks of a particularly virulent infectious disease. Our concern is that this represents warfare using both physical and biological weaponry. Such a situation is quite beyond us."

"Wonderful!" McCoy blurted out. "And here I am, stuck in a parking orbit. What information can you offer us on your plague?"

Sheetak gestured to an individual out of the visual field. A quadruped, slightly larger than a sheep but with a scaled hide, arrived in view. The Kened leader gestured at it, and it fluttered its large ears in return. After a few moment's exchange, the quadruped left, and Sheetak faced McCoy again.

"It would be easiest to transfer what little data we have directly from our computer system to yours. That is, I presume, possible?"

"It is possible," Spock answered. "I will need to communicate with your data-processing specialists. Data concerning the outbreaks of violence are also available, are they not?"

"Unquestionably. We will arrange access to our entire database. Is there anything else that you will need at this point?"

"One thing, Sheetak. I'm sure that your observations of the victims of this plague are marvelous, but there's nothing like first hand information. If I can't come down to the sick Keneds, can I have one of them brought up to our Sickbay?"

"As a physician, Doctor McCoy, you realize the risk to which you are exposing the crew of the Enterprise, do you not?"

"We've got a special isolation ward we're setting up, Sheetak. There should be no trouble keeping the infection isolated from the rest of the ship. I'm going to have to have a patient to study if I'm going to be of any use."

"As you will, Doctor. A suitable victim should be easy to locate; this plague is spreading rapidly. Is there anything else I can offer in assistance?"

Kirk looked at Spock, who shook his head. "Not at the moment, Sheetak. The data and a plague victim should be enough now."

"Very well. Goodbye." Sheetak gestured to an unseen Kened, and the transmission ended.

Spock looked at Kirk. "Did you notice anything unusual, Captain?"

"Sheetak certainly knew who we were, without introductions, and I'm hanged if I know how the translator handled turning our speech into signals Sheetak understood."

"Simple, Captain," Uhura interjected. "Your names were inserted across your chests on the broadcast image we sent; the translator put a stick figure over your heads, making the gestures that translated what you were saying."

"Bet we looked stupid!" McCoy laughed.

"That is not what caught my interest, Captain," Spock persisted. "The scaled quadruped was obviously communicating with Sheetak. It appeared to me that the quadruped was also an intelligent being."

"Good point, Spock. What do you make of it?"

"Nothing yet, Captain."

"They're probably just phenomenally good animal trainers, Jim. The observations on Kenederis Four from the Inquisitive indicated that they appeared to be. Spock's just never seen a circus animal act and doesn't know what to make of one. Time for me to finish getting the isolation ward ready."

"As you prefer, Doctor. I will make arrangements for the data transfer."

McCoy left for Sickbay to prepare for his patient, and Spock turned to his library-computer station. Kirk sat, staring at the viewscreen, puzzled.


While reviewing his daily reports and logs, Captain James Kirk noted that his chief engineer's analysis of the engineering logs from the Inquisitive wasn't available. Instead, there was a short note of apology citing the extra work that he had to perform for Doctor McCoy's isolation ward as a reason.

The captain had decided to take a stroll down to the isolation ward at Sickbay and was amused by the two senior officers. The two were having a wonderful time quarreling as they put the final touches on the ward. Kirk watched the pair just long enough to be sure that he was never going to distract Scott from his task, and to realize that he was more of an obstacle than an aid, then beat a hasty retreat. After only a brief hunt, he located Spock.

Spock had taken over one of the tactical analysis rooms, and was accessing information from the Kened archives. There were at least five consoles active, and the viewscreen at the end of the room showed a map of the Keneds' continent, with flickering colored markings. Kirk stood silently, waiting for his friend to acknowledge him, knowing that it was best not to interrupt.

After a moment or two, Spock turned to his commanding officer. "Most interesting, Captain." The Vulcan pointed toward the screen at the end of the room. "Watch as the display shows the appearance of the plague, and the assaults on Keneds and their dwellings. The blue marks are the occurrence of the plague; the red, of violence." The map burst into blue in several places at once, all along the coastline; shortly thereafter, the edges of the Keneds' city began showing first a few, then numerous red marks again along the coastline. After the red marks began appearing in the city, blue plague markings began to blossom rapidly as well. It took only a few minutes to run through the whole sequence. "The duration is less than ten days' time, Captain. At the rate of progress this is showing, the Kened civilization will be devastated within a matter of weeks."

"What do you make of the pattern, Spock? Obviously, the invading force came in along the beaches, and has spread rapidly."

"Clearly, Captain. The invasion occurred almost simultaneously, with the sites widely spaced, but evenly so, suggestive of a well-organized, sophisticated adversary. However, here, in the earliest hours," Spock shifted the display a little and pointed to an assortment of locations, "several sites are chosen poorly, from a strategic standpoint, either being cut off from the center of the continent by the topography, or being overly exposed to observation initially. It would appear that the invasion force knew essentially nothing about the topography of the Kened's continent, and had no clear idea where the Kened population center would be. This is quite a paradox. Any off-planet invaders should have been able to have identified targets from orbit."

"Have you found anything else to tie into the landing sites, Spock? Any physical evidence of landing craft or an entering invasion force?"

"Possibly, Captain. All of the sites showed several decaying cadavers of large sea creatures, similar to the Terran cetaceans and pinnipeds. I cannot be certain, but it appears that they are in approximately the same degree of decay, suggesting that they beached themselves at the same time. It is probable that these creatures are the initial source of the infectious problem affecting the Kened."

"Or possibly a vector of the disease, driven up onto the beach by an invading force?"

"That thought had occurred to me, Captain. It is an inefficient means of spreading a bacterial weapon, but it does have the advantage of arousing very little suspicion early in the course of the invasion."

"Any conclusions, Spock?"

"None yet; there is still insufficient data. I do not expect to learn much more unless I can place surface monitors. To that end, I have instructed the tactical department to begin work on the project. I will need approval from Sheetak, of course, before placing the monitors on the planet itself. I have also directed our tactical sensors to scan for any sign of an invasion."

"Good enough. If anything else turns up, let me know immediately."

"Of course." Spock returned to his data, and Kirk moved toward the door.


Finishing setting up the isolation ward and ensuring that it was adequately secure took several hours, and finding a suitable patient had taken even longer. McCoy had chafed at the delay, and chafed even more at the fact that the flailing of the Kened's limbs had made it necessary to use restraints. McCoy looked at the results of the preliminary scans. The initial site of invasion was the nasopharynx and then the lung, as far as he could see, but it obviously became blood borne quite rapidly, infecting the brain shortly thereafter.

McCoy's fingers played across the control console, performing a high resolution scan of the Kened's brain. As the scan results played across the screen, a small smile flickered across his face. What appeared to be the Kened's frontal lobes were heavily infected with an extremely large microbe, one that looked remarkably similar to the microbe on the scan slides from the autopsies of the survivors of the U.S.S. Inquisitive that had been stored in that ill-fated ship's log buoy.

McCoy ran a comparison through the computer. After watching the display for a few moments, he nodded in satisfaction. The differences were small, too small to be any more than what he expected from the improvements in the technology in the last decade or so.

McCoy turned to another console: the exhaust filters for the quarantine zone's air were registering an increasing amount of small particulate material. Scanning the room's air confirmed his suspicion: the Kened was exhaling incredible volumes of spores. McCoy turned to the onboard communication console. "Spock, can you correlate the weather data from the Keneds with the spread of this plague? It looks like this is a sporulating bacterium, and the victims exhale them..."

"I understand, Doctor. I will cross check. Is there anything else?"

"See if any of the other species are affected. If there is a Kened equivalent of a rat that carries the disease, things are going to get complicated fast."

"Understood, Doctor. Is there anything else?"

"Not yet, Spock. Have you found out anything about the invasion they're having?"

"Nothing concrete, Doctor McCoy; Chief Tactical Officer Kelowitz is now deploying surface sensors."

"Well, happy hunting." McCoy disconnected and returned to the console. "Christine, see if you can get those spores to grow on something, will you?"

Nurse Chapel nodded, initiating the procedure. "The Kened is weakening, Doctor. Vital signs are deteriorating rapidly, and electrical activity in the brain is becoming erratic."

McCoy looked at the Kened; it was clear that the being had deteriorated to the point where there was little left to lose. He ran his eye down the listing of antibiotics that had failed with the crew of the Inquisitive. In the intervening years, there had been quite a few new ones. "Let's see what some kendramycin will do. Nurse, about three cc.'s. And repeat it about every four hours." He turned to studying the spores, hoping to find a key to the problem there.


The door to his cabin chimed. Kirk looked up from the paperwork that occupied about half his working day, glad for the interruption. "Come."

Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott entered his quarters, a data disk in hand.

"Well, Doctor McCoy's finally let you go, eh? Good. What have you found, Scotty?"

"The logs are as confusing as the rest o' the mess, Captain. It seems that the Yankee Trader had been overhauled at a Federation starbase before her last voyage. I found the records of the overhaul, and she was ship-shape. I couldnae have done a better job on the ship meself. From an engineerin' standpoint, the ship shouldn't have had any trouble at all."

"Any evidence of tampering with the records?"

"No, Captain, not a chance of it."

"Sabotage, then?"

"Aye, Captain. Some of the other log records are interestin', though, particularly life support in both of the ships. There's a wee thing or two that seem to have been overlooked..."

The Scot's commentary was interrupted by the bosun's whistle, followed by Spock's voice. "Captain, the surface observation units have caught an episode of violence in progress."

"Can you put the image on the my priviewer here?"

There was a moment of silence, followed by an eruption of noise as the scene from the surface burst into life on Kirk's desk viewer. Several Kened were locked in hand-to-hand combat with each other, and with numerous other creatures of a different kind, many of whom were battling other creatures as well. The drama being played out on the surface looked like a combat scene out of the Coliseum. In the background, Keneds and other creatures were breaking into buildings and ransacking them; groups of uniformed Keneds were trying to stop the activity with little success.

"Have you seen enough, Captain?" Spock's voice inquired from the desk speaker.

"Too much, Spock. Shut it off. I think we need to talk this over with Sheetak."

"I agree; it seems an important..."

Spock's observation was drowned out by a klaxon sound, and the computer's voice announcing, "Biological alert. Breach of isolation ward integrity. Biological alert. Breach of isolation ward integrity. Emergency isolation precautions. Biological alert..."

Scott looked at Kirk. "It's impossible, Captain. It would have taken a phaser five full minutes to cut through the weakest point in that wall."

"Possible or not, Scotty, it's happened. Spock, Scotty and I will meet you in Sickbay."

The two men left the captain's quarters at a run.


Five minutes earlier...

McCoy returned to the isolation ward to take over from Nurse Chapel the task of watching the Kened. "How's our patient, Christine?"

"No improvement, Doctor; the vital signs continue to deteriorate, and the seizure activity is becoming worse."

"Anything on the plates?"

"The bacteria grew well in glial cell culture, and the kendramycin was effective in eliminating it."

The chief medical officer shook his head. "It must not be getting to the infection in the brain. I guess the stuff will have to be delivered directly. Look, you're beat, Christine. I'll take over; you get some sleep."

"Yes, sir. I could use it." Nurse Chapel helped McCoy collect up the tools he needed, double checked the integrity of the doctor's isolation suit and left for her cabin.

When McCoy entered the isolation chamber, the Kened was struggling wildly, tugging at the restraints holding it in place and trying to bite itself. McCoy moved the operative field in place over the Kened's skull, both thankful and resentful of the restraints. Gently, slowly, McCoy opened the Kened's skull, then gave a dose of kendramycin. Nothing happened. After a moment or two, McCoy gave an additional dose; then, finally, a third. Moments after the third dose was given, the Kened writhed with even greater fury than it had before, then it fell limp. McCoy closed the wound through which he had introduced the kendramycin, and looked up at the biomonitor. He bit his lip in frustration. The vital signs were going haywire. Before McCoy could react, they dropped to nil.

Frustrated, McCoy moved the operative field away from the Kened's head and removed the restraints from the motionless creature, hating to see even a dead Kened restrained. He walked back to the barrier, and began preparing to do an autopsy. With his back to the being, McCoy failed to notice the biomonitor beginning to show life signs again.

The Kened's eyes opened, just a slit. It moved one finger, then when it realized it hadn't been noticed, an entire limb. McCoy remained oblivious, concentrating on the task before him. The Kened studied the isolation wall for a moment, spotted the door to the airlock and, with a single leap, bounded to it. It actuated the cycling mechanism, and then hit the emergency open bar. Immediately, the Biological Alert klaxon sounded, and the door at the far end of the isolation ward area slammed closed, trapping the Kened.

As soon as the klaxon sounded, McCoy spun on his heels and saw the Kened dash into the outer chamber. Instinctively, McCoy followed, astounded that his apparently dead patient was suddenly alive and well. McCoy ducked through the airlock, carrying a hypospray full of prolethene. The Kened turned, realizing that it could not open the door leading from the isolation ward to the rest of the ship. McCoy moved toward the being.

"Now just settle down, fellow. I know it's a big surprise finding yourself up here, when the last thing you remember was being in a hospital ward on the surface. Just let me give you a dose of this nice medicine, and everything will be just fine." McCoy reached for the Kened, intending to deliver the prolethene. The Kened swatted McCoy's hand out of the way and lunged for him. McCoy ducked the roundhouse the being had aimed at his helmet and began to circle around the Kened. The Kened didn't take its eyes off the doctor for a second. As they circled around each other, the Kened would snatch at McCoy, or feint, attempting to catch the physician's arm.

The wall communicator chimed. "Bones!" It was Kirk's voice. "What's going on in there?"

McCoy dodged the Kened as it leaped at him. "Would you believe Resurrection Day?"

"Doctor McCoy, we were under the impression that there had been a breach of integrity of the isolation ward. Were the ships sensors mistaken?"

"I'm afraid not, Spock." McCoy evaded another assault by the Kened and began circling toward the door again. "The Kened appeared to have died, so I unstrapped it. I turned my back on it, and it was out the airlock faster than I could react." The Kened picked up a chair and hurled it at McCoy, who barely managed to avoid being hit by it. "I don't know what's gotten into this Kened, but it seems bent on killing me. Is there any chance you fellows could convince it I'm really a sweet, generous individual that it wants to befriend?"

"Your adversary does not sound sufficiently rational, Doctor McCoy. I fear that we will have to take other measures."

The Kened managed to leap onto McCoy's shoulders. It was a few moments before McCoy was able to tear the creature loose and throw it against the wall. "Wonderful. If you guys don't do something soon, you won't have to do anything." Another missile sped just past McCoy's head, barely missing his protective helmet.

Outside the ward, Spock was rapidly donning another isolation suit.

"What dye think ye'll be doin' in thot, Mister Spock? Yon entry door is shut fast, and we've nary a way in."

"I suggest that you find a way of overriding the circuits, Mister Scott. I believe that you and the captain should be able to put a temporary isolation lock around the door with me inside. Once inside the chamber, I propose to stun the Kened. Unless, of course, either of you has an alternate course of action." There was a sound of smashing furniture from the other side of the isolation wall. "It sounds like the doctor is in considerable need of prompt assistance."

Spock moved as close to the entrance door as possible, while Scott and Kirk sealed the emergency lock to the wall around the closed isolation door and around Spock. Once he was satisfied that the lock was properly sealed, the chief engineer pried open a panel near the door and manipulated the circuits for a moment or two. They heard the door slide open.

McCoy had not fared well during the few moments it had taken to get Spock into the isolation ward. As the Vulcan entered, the Kened launched another leap at the doctor, grabbing the arm McCoy had swung to defend himself. The physician rammed the Kened against the bulkhead without result. A second blow caused the creature to loosen its grip enough for McCoy to tear free.

Suddenly, the Kened noticed Spock and dashed behind McCoy, using him as a shield. Before the doctor could react, the Kened had McCoy grasped tightly from behind, one arm twisted tightly behind his back. Spock attempted to move to a position where he could hit the Kened without harming McCoy, but the Kened kept the physician positioned as a shield.

"It would appear that your cure has been more successful than you had hoped, Doctor," Spock commented wryly. "Your patient seems to understand the situation clearly." Spock tried to get a clear shot at the Kened again, only to have McCoy shifted to block his aim. "To get a clear shot at the Kened, Doctor, I fear that I shall have to stun you first. Perhaps the Kened will then release you when you fall forward." The Kened shifted its grip on McCoy.

"Well, the Kened may not be able to talk with us, Spock, and it sure isn't in a charitable mood, but it does seem to understand. The way Junior here is holding me, I'm not going to flop forward if you stun me. I guess you're just going to have to kill me just like I killed the captain when I was in pon farr a few years ago."

Spock acquiesced. "Of course, Doctor. I quite understand. Regrettable, but necessary. So, with your permission, I shall use the phaser to kill you. Unfortunately, the Kened will probably die as well."

"Just give me a few seconds' warning, so I can make peace with T'Pau."

Spock nodded. "I shall give you a ten second countdown, Doctor." The Vulcan reset his phaser and aimed at McCoy. "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six..."

The Kened suddenly dashed away from McCoy. Spock fired his phaser, striking the Kened squarely in the chest as McCoy scrambled away. The being hardly seemed to notice being hit and began to move toward the doctor, baring its teeth in anger.

Spock reset his phaser and fired again. A large section of the Kened's chest charred, but it kept moving toward McCoy. A third time Spock's phaser fired, and the Kened disappeared into ions.

"My apologies for destroying your patient, Doctor McCoy."

"No need to apologize, Spock. You saved me the indignity of being killed by a patient. You might as well get out of here and start decontaminating. You probably need to get back to studying their little war down there."

"The data is being recorded, Doctor. You probably should exit first; the battle with the Kened has probably taxed you sorely."

"Thanks for the kind thought, Spock, but I'll be stayin' here in isolation." McCoy turned to go back through the airlock into the isolation ward. In the back of his isolation suit, there was a large rent, half a meter long. The doctor shrugged out of the remains of the suit, and settled down at a work table.

"Bones!" Kirk's voice came through over the intercom speakers.

"Jim, get Doctor M'Benga down here to record how this affects me. As heavily as I've been exposed to the spores it won't," McCoy sneezed violently a couple of times, "take long." The chief medical officer sneezed again. "After I'm gone, he'll have to decontaminate this entire section. Have him use neutron radiation."

"Bones..." Kirk repeated softly.

"You're a historian, Jim. It'll be just like the Black Death in Europe. It'll be in my lungs and bloodstream in a few hours, then my brain. When it hits my frontal lobes, have them put me out of my misery, will ya?"

Spock objected, "I do not propose to allow that to become necessary, Doctor McCoy. Mister Kelowitz can monitor the tactical sensors while I will address your problem. With your assistance, of course." The Vulcan turned to a triviewer and began paging through the medical logs.

McCoy shook his head, and began giving orders through the wall communicator.

Spock looked up from the readout. "Doctor McCoy, I suggest that you begin kendramycin immediately. It seems to have been effective."

McCoy's voice came from the communications channel from inside the isolation ward. "Forget it, Spock. Didn't you see what it did to that poor Kened? Almost killed it, and left it a raving lunatic. I don't need that."

"The Kened had an advanced infection of the frontal lobes, Doctor. You do not. I believe that you will respond well without the kendramycin being given directly to the cerebrospinal fluid. I would advise an immediate dose."

"Yes, 'Doctor' Spock," the physician wryly answered. "Unfortunately, I'm allergic to the stuff; almost killed me the last time I was given it. Save it for when my brains are turning into mush, OK?"

The science officer returned to the readout. "As I said before, I do not intend to let your infection grow that severe. If you would review the medical scans of the Kened's last moments with me?"

McCoy nodded in resignation and turned to a readout in the isolation ward.

Kirk looked on at his two friends: Spock, still wearing a decontamination suit, and McCoy, the effects of the disease beginning to show. Feeling helpless, he asked, "Is there anything I can do, gentlemen?"

Both officers turned to face their captain as he watched through the glass wall of the containment area. In unison, they shook their heads.

"I'll be on the bridge then. Keep me informed."

"Always, Captain," returned Spock.


Kirk walked out onto the bridge. Lieutenant Commander Steven Kelowitz, Chief Tactical Officer of the Enterprise, was waiting for him. "Our preliminary report, Captain."

Kirk reviewed the data and the analysis from both Spock and Kelowitz as he took the center seat. "Hail the planet, Lieutenant."

Uhura's hands danced across the screen, and the elderly Kened's form filled the forward viewscreen.

"Greetings, Captain. What progress have you made?" 'asked' Sheetak.

"Doctor McCoy's efforts have been partially successful with the plague, but he's run into a minor problem. Our surface observations have raised the possibility that this might be a rebellion."

"Impossible, Kirk. The invaders may be stealing our vehicles, our tools and technology, but there is no possibility of rebellion. This is from outside our people."

Kirk shook his head. "Sheetak, I mean you no disrespect, but my staff is quite certain. Our observations of conflicts as they were in progress are quite convincing."

"Yet does it not strike you as odd that a rebellion should begin in the coastline of our continent, rather than in the heart of our main city? Be assured, Kirk, a rebellion of part of our citizenry is quite out of the question. Your staff must accept that, no matter what your observations may mislead you to believe. Perhaps what you have mistaken for a rebellion is the violent ravings of those who are entering into the final stages of the disease. Have you discussed this with your staff?"

"I shall do so at my first opportunity." Kirk was silent for a few moments, suffering from the uneasy feeling that something obvious was escaping his notice. "I'll contact you as soon as I have further information. End transmission."


McCoy had placed the torn isolation suit in a biohazard disposal bin and had moved to the inner isolation ward, resealing it behind him. Doctors M'Benga and Sanchez had overseen the decontamination of the outer ward area, and Spock, no longer in protective gear, was intently examining the medical data collected. McCoy worked feverishly over the data while M'Benga monitored his condition. Sanchez was finalizing the decontamination protocols.

"Doctor, I believe that I have isolated the reason why the kendramycin was ineffective in completely curing your patient from this disease."

"Great, Spock. I'd be a lot happier if you found something that would keep the disease from killing me." McCoy sneezed violently, several times.

"Would you review this section of your medical scans with me again? It appears that there were actually two similar but quite distinct bacteria infecting the frontal lobes of the Kened. The one you characterized was dominant, but the other one was also present in significant amounts."

"Wonderful. Not one deadly disease. I guess that would be too easy. Two concurrent diseases. Finding the vector is going to be well nigh impossible."

"Perhaps so, Doctor. Still, it would appear that the kendramycin only eliminated one of the microbes, leaving the other."

Both were silent for a moment as the doctor reviewed the Vulcan's findings..

McCoy smiled. "You're right, Spock. The molecular chemistry makes more sense that way. Let's see...." McCoy's fingers played across the keyboard for a few moments. "What do you think of this pair?"

It was Spock's turn to stare at the readout for a few moments. "Yes, Doctor. Squaladine and arudazole together should be curative. Do you wish to try them on yourself first?"

"Spock, according to the monitor, this is already starting to spread into my bloodstream. I don't have time to do anything else." He turned to his assistant chief medical officer. "Ben, get a suit on and come on in. You'll need to restrain me and start the antibiotics as soon as possible."

"There should be no need for restraint, Doctor McCoy."

"Humor me, Spock," McCoy said as he lay down on the biobed. "After what happened with the Kened, I'm not interested in taking any chances with you or anyone else. I may be sick, but I'm not incapacitated... Yet, anyhow. And until I am, I'm still in charge, medically. Now do as you're told, or I'll charge you with insubordination. "

"As you wish, Doctor," Spock interrupted.

It was only a matter of moments before Spock and M'Benga were in their isolation suits and in the ward with McCoy. As M'Benga prepared the squaladine and the arudazole for administration, Spock affixed the restraints around McCoy's arms, legs and waist. "Spock, you don't really need to subject yourself to this. Ben can administer the medication without you, for crying out loud."

"I realize that, Doctor McCoy. However, I prefer to remain at your side."

"Suit yourself," the physician decided. "All right, Ben. Any time you're--"

The hypospray hissed as the medications were delivered. For a few moments, nothing happened, then McCoy's body became rigid and stiff. As they watched, his muscles continued to tighten. Spock and M'Benga looked at each other and at McCoy, clearly worried.

"Dedany!" McCoy said, through tightly clenched teeth. "Aralysis!"

"Are you trying to say tetany, Doctor?" M'Benga asked.

McCoy looked like he was trying to nod. "Ess! Aralysis!"

Spock looked at the mediscanner. "Doctor M'Benga, I believe he is indicating the need for paralysis. I believe that if we do not take steps to control the increasing muscle spasm soon, Doctor McCoy will either break his own bones or rupture the muscles."

M'Benga moved the surgical field over McCoy and began playing his fingers across the control panel. Slowly, the spasm in Doctor McCoy's muscles began to relax. He tapped a few keys again, and then a third time.

"Thanks, Ben. That's a definite improvement. You two need to check the results of my mediscan. I want to know what's happening here. I'll bet that there's a massive acetylcholine release going on from these miserable bacteria as they die off. See what you find on the neurotransmitters, will you?"

M'Benga sat before a readout for a few moments. "It would appear that you are quite correct, Doctor. Several neurotransmitters are being released and in quite considerable amounts, particularly acetylcholine; there are other compounds being released as well, cytokines and other immunomodulators. The acetylcholine would explain the muscle spasms."

"And the neurotransmitters as a whole probably explain why it tends to end up in the brain, as well," Sanchez added through the intercom speaker. He had finished the decon report and now looked on as a helpless spectator.

"Good bet, Raul. Either way, I'm a long way from out of trouble. I'm going to need to be treated for a while yet, probably several hours, if not days. We've got to make sure I am free of the bacteria before I'm let out of here. Spock, you've got a war to end, and I think that you need to communicate with the Kened over using the squaladine and arudazole. And Jim would probably like to know about the progress we're making here, if you see what I mean."

"I am sure that I do, Doctor."

As Spock moved toward the lock to exit the isolation ward, McCoy turned to M'Benga. "So far, so good, Ben. Now, we need to decide when the next doses of the antibiotics should be. Let's look at the degree of bacteremia I'm suffering." M'Benga sat down at a readout and began dredging up the information.


Sheetak was on the viewscreen again, visibly tired. Kirk imagined that his own tiredness was visible to the old Kened, and wondered how Spock managed to look fresh despite his marathon effort down in Sickbay.

"Spock, what is your opinion of the war we are experiencing?" asked the Kened leader.

The Vulcan stepped down from the upper deck of the bridge to stand next to his captain. "Observations from our monitors still suggest that your own population is being subverted, Sheetak, but I have not yet discovered how this is occurring. I do not believe that the activities I have seen are caused only by the delirium of the early phases of the plague. The behavior is too coordinated, too organized. I have not ruled the possibility out, but it seems very unlikely."

Sheetak nodded, pensively. "Subversion of the population.... Yes, that is very possible. It seems to me less unlikely than a rebellion. What of McCoy's success?"

"The plague was more complex than it seemed to be. We will transfer the molecular structure of the medications to you, a plan for treatment, and a kiloliter of each. If you will supply us with coordinates, it will be transported immediately."

"And are you certain of its effectiveness?"

"Doctor McCoy himself was accidentally infected, and yet this regimen of treatment was completely effective in curing him. There is a danger to the patient from a seizure caused by the death of the infectious bacteria. However, it is relatively easy to control. You'll find a detailed explanation in the material we'll be transmitting."

"Excellent. Kirk, is there more that you care to add? Or to ask?"

"Not yet, Sheetak. But you'll have your medical team keep in contact with McCoy during the initial trials with the squaladine and arudazole, won't you?"

"If he has recovered enough, we would appreciate his directing the trials. It would appear that your McCoy has considerable experience with such things."

"Doctor McCoy indicated that he was sufficiently recovered to assist you," Spock answered.

"Thank you, Spock. We will provide you with the coordinates you need and will arrange for a communications link with McCoy. Goodbye."

The screen blanked. Kirk looked at Spock for a second before speaking. "Spock, I have a feeling that we're missing something vital, that there's some obvious part of the picture here that we're not seeing."

"I do not believe that the gaps in our knowledge are particularly significant at this point, Captain. Is there something in particular that disturbs you?"

"I'm not sure what's bothering me, Spock. I just have this feeling that I'm looking at this mess from the wrong angle. Call it a hunch if you wish."

"Does your hunch offer any guidance as to where to look for the information we need?"

Kirk's brow furrowed deeply for a few moments before he answered. "See if you can find the remains of a colony ship, Spock, one that's been abandoned a long time, perhaps a couple of millennia. Probably near the center of the main city."

Spock turned to the library-computer. After a few moments, his face began to show considerable indications of puzzlement. "Fascinating, Captain. There is the remnant of what appears to have been an interstellar vessel, deeply buried under several strata in the Kened city, very near the center of the city. There are skeletal remains buried near the vessel, but they are of species quite unlike anything currently on Kenederis Four."

"Perhaps they're ancestral to the modern Kened?"

"I do not think so, Captain. The differences are too dramatic. The ship was comparatively small for a colony vessel; it could have held not more than forty or fifty individuals all told. To establish a viable colony would require well over a thousand individuals. Yet, there is no evidence of any other ship on the continent or in the ocean around it."

"Great. All I've done is dig up another riddle to answer."

"It would appear so, Captain."

"I've been on the run non-stop over this for the last eighteen hours, Spock..."

"Twenty-one point seven, to be precise."

"Whatever. Too long, anyhow. I'm going to get some sleep, and see if sleeping on the problem helps. I'll meet you at Sickbay at oh-nine-hundred, Spock. You get some sleep, too; you've been at this longer than I have."

"I am accustomed to prolonged periods without sleep, Captain."

"Get some sleep anyhow. Good night." Jim Kirk stood from the captain's chair. "Mister Farrell, you have the conn." And with that, the starship commander left the bridge.


As Kirk rode the turbolift to Sickbay, he hoped Spock had had a better night's rest than he had. The captain had awakened with no new insights at all and had spent most of the night suffering from nightmares of microbes with spears, rifles and phasers staging pitched battles with each other in culture dishes. The door to the turbolift opened, and he made his way down to the isolation ward.

As he entered, Kirk saw Spock and McCoy hunched over readouts, both looking quite confused. "What's the matter, gentlemen? You look more befuddled than last night--if, of course, that's possible."

"It's the results with the arudazole and squaladine, Jim. They're just not making sense to either of us," the doctor explained.

In the morning medical report, Kirk had read that the chief medical officer's medical staff had kept McCoy in isolation all night, decontaminating him thoroughly. "You should be used to this mess not making sense, Bones. What's the problem with the antibiotics? They seem to have fixed you just fine."

"The problem isn't that the drugs are failing to work, Jim. We tried them on a couple of the worst cases they had down there, and they cleared up wonderfully. Oh, they were vegetables, just like the crew of the Inquisitive, but no one was particularly surprised by that. Their frontal lobes were probably almost destroyed by the infection. The problem was with what appeared to be the less severe cases. They turned into vegetables with the drugs, too."

"You sound a little dubious about the cases being less severe, Bones. Was there something unclear about the results with the mediscanner?"

Spock answered for McCoy. "The Kened have not been able to get reliable readings from the mediscanner we transported down. I have not been able to discover the problem."

"And I don't like it one bit, Jim. Especially when everyone who gets the drugs ends up brain dead."

"Not quite everyone, Doctor. Your intellect, such as it is, seems unimpaired."

"Thanks, Spock. I think. I'm not sure if I've been insulted or complimented."

"Neither, Doctor. I was merely observing that..."

"Knock it off, you two," Kirk interrupted. "Let's get back to the Kened. I agree with Spock, Bones; you're your usual, irascible self, and I don't see any sign of brain damage. Now what I want to know is why it's turning the Keneds into vegetables and not you."

"I'd like to know that too, Jim. Aside from being different species, we are both oxygen-breathing mammals with iron-based blood. By all the rules, we should be rescuing Kened right and left, and we're not. We're killing the bacteria, all right, but we're killing their brains, too. It just doesn't make sense at all. We've run toxicology analysis, and neither of the drugs should be neurotoxic."

"I agree with the Doctor, Captain. It is most illogical."

Kirk's eyes narrowed with concentration for a moment. "Spock, do me a favor, will you? Recheck the scan on that Kened we had up here, and see if there was one of those bacteria that was dominant."

"I do not follow you, Captain."

"More in number, or maybe invading more areas of the brain, or something. Anything you can think of that might indicate one of them had the upper hand." Spock raised an eyebrow, but turned to the readout.

The captain looked to the isolation ward. "I see you brought up a few more Keneds."

"No choice in the matter, Captain. Their own doctors really can't seem to grasp simple medical concepts."

"Bones, are the Keneds you treated still alive?"

"Well, their bodies are. The Keneds are brain dead, though. I was planning on returning them to the planet for proper burial. Why?"

"Just a hunch. Find anything, Spock?"

"Yes, Captain. The microbe sensitive to the kendramycin and to the arudazole appears to have invaded not only the frontal lobes of the Kened Doctor McCoy treated, but also some of the higher thalamic centers, ones that are usually associated with the seat of consciousness. The other bacterium had only invaded the frontal lobes and part of the major motor strip."

"Good. Bones, I want you to try something for me. See what happens if you just use squaladine on one of the really sick Kened will you? And I want them on the surface, breathing the atmosphere of Kenederis Four."

"Are you crazy? That'll only cure one of the bacterium strains. The other will continue to kill the Keneds."

"Humor me, Doctor."

Spock looked as though he were beginning to perceive the truth through a veiled curtain. "I do not see any compelling reason not to try the captain's idea, Doctor McCoy, and I suspect the captain has had one of his 'hunches.'"

"I just don't like it at all." McCoy shook his head in resignation. "Treating only one of the two infections will probably kill the patient just as fast as treating neither of them, maybe faster. I don't know if I can talk the Kened doctors into this, Jim..."

"Manage it, Bones. We're scheduled to make a progress report to Sheetak in about six hours, and I want to have some answers by then."


On the bridge, Jim Kirk watched as Sheetak's image burst into life on the viewscreen. "Greetings, Kirk. What news have you?" At his side, Leonard McCoy shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"Nothing that you don't already know, Sheetak; we can eradicate the infection, but it seems that the cure is as terrible as the disease."

"Yes, so much I had heard. The victims are left mindless, whether they had early signs of the disease or were in the most advanced stages. Do you have any further insights?"

"I think we're on the verge of solving the problem, Sheetak, but I'd like to talk with one of your physicians, if I could. There are a couple of points I want to clarify."

"Jim, I've had a constant supply of data from the surface: reports on the epidemic, and of the status of every Kened we're treating," McCoy interjected, before Sheetak could reply. "There's nothing you're going to learn from a face-to-face conversation with a doctor that I haven't learned from the reports."

"Probably true, Bones, but I'd still prefer a face-to-face conversation anyhow."

McCoy shrugged his shoulders in resignation.

"As you wish." Sheetak gestured to someone out of sight. "One of our physicians will be here shortly. Have you given any further thought to the invasion we seem to be facing?"

"Some, but I want to talk with your doctor first, just to confirm my suspicions. Did Spock mention that we found the remains of the colony ship that brought you to Kenederis?"

"No, Kirk. But although your discovery may shed a great deal of light on our origins, I fail to see how it applies to our modern problems."

"I'm not completely sure myself, Sheetak. Yet."

As Kirk finished speaking, a creature about the height of a man, but looking more like a kangaroo with oversized arms and head and an undersized tail, loped into the room. Sheetak communicated with the creature for a few moments. It turned to face Kirk.

"Greetings, Kirk. I am Boorlag, one of the medical team working with your McCoy on the plague. You have questions you wish answered?"

"You are a Kened, too?" McCoy blurted out.

"Of course, McCoy."

"How many different kind of Kened are there?" Kirk asked.

Boorlag tilted his head to one side. After a moment's thought, he said, "Perhaps twenty main sorts, and I've no idea how many of the less common ones; over a hundred."

"Male and female of each different sort, I suppose, and they all breed independently?"

"Naturally! You couldn't expect different sorts to cross-breed, after all. They usually are not interfertile."

Kirk nodded, and a smile crept across his face. "But all Kened, right?"

Boorlag looked like he was becoming a little frustrated. "Yes, yes, all Kened. Each with a different task, one suited to the different abilities inherent in their size and shape, but all Kened. And all intelligent, as well. You seem surprised that we are not all the same."

"Believe me, Boorlag, I am," Mc Coy answered. "Tell me, how is it that you all are Kened despite being so different in appearance? Did you breed yourselves into different forms for the different tasks, or perhaps genetically engineer yourselves into different forms?"

"Not at all," Sheetak answered. "It has always been thus: many different shapes, but all Kened."

"Sheetak, are there any records of any vertebrate creatures on Kenederis Four that were not Kened?" Spock inquired.

Kirk noticed McCoy was starting to wear a grin, and Spock's eyebrow was beginning to arch.

Boorlag answered for Sheetak: "Only half-remembered legends, Spock, legends that say our remotest ancestors found such. But there have been none in recorded history, and I do not believe that such creatures ever existed."

"Boorlag," said Sheetak, "an hour ago, I would have agreed with you, but now I am in doubt. Kirk has evidence to support the belief that our ancestors came here from off-world."

"And they met wild animals, I'm quite sure, Boorlag," Kirk added. "But the animals probably didn't stay wild for long. It's been a couple of hours since McCoy asked you folks to try a couple of little experiments I suggested. What's happened with them, Boorlag?"

"With which experiment, Kirk?" asked Sheetak, unaware of the captain's suggestions to McCoy.

"Boorlag, did the squaladine alone do any good for the folks who were in advanced stages?"

"Yes, and they're not suffering the damage to mental function. I suspect the arudazole of being neurotoxic to our species. It appears that the squaladine will handle the plague quite adequately."

Kirk thought for a moment. "There never was a plague, Boorlag. Just an invasion."

McCoy nodded. "So what's your explanation, Jim?

"A lot of very sick minds, Bones. All the Kened have very sick minds. That's where we've been going wrong."

"I do not follow your logic, Captain." Spock's eyebrow was raised, almost to the point of merging with his hairline. "The Kened appear quite mentally stable."

"I don't mean sick that way, Spock. I mean their brains are normally infected; once the bacteria invade enough of the Kened's brain, they start acting like huge neurons, using the brain's native neurons to communicate. The bacteria probably aren't intelligent individually, but in the aggregate...."

"And it would explain the bacteria being laced with all those neurotransmitters and immunomodulators; that's how they control their hosts and protect themselves from the host immune systems," McCoy agreed.

"And why there are so many different forms of Kened, Bones. All the native vertebrate lifeforms of Kenederis Four were either taken over or exterminated. That would also explain the strange skeletal remains around the wrecked colony ship, Spock; they were just the creatures carrying the Kened bacteria, not the Kened themselves."

Spock nodded, and turned to a readout for a few moments. "Your hypothesis fits all the facts, Captain."

"Your theory is most interesting, Kirk, but it fails to explain either the plague or the invasion."

Spock shook his head. "I disagree, Sheetak. If the crew of the Yankee Trader were infected with another strain of bacteria, similar to the one in the brains of the Kened, your situation makes excellent sense. It no doubt took many years for the second strain to adapt to the local fauna, and to discover your existence."

Sheetak shook his head slowly. "You must understand that this is hard to believe, Kirk," Sheetak signed. "Even though it completely explains the facts, your explanation involves such a radical change in our view of ourselves..."

"Not really, Sheetak," McCoy interrupted. "It just means you have to learn to view your bodies as another tool you use; it really simplifies your outlook a lot, after all. That way you don't have to wonder about why there are dozens of different kinds of intelligent lifeforms on your planet."

"Bones is right, Sheetak. You're still Sheetak, just as much as I'm still myself if I change into another set of clothes. And it's the only explanation that makes sense of all of this."

Boorlag entered the conversation. "I believe they are right, Sheetak. This explains why we seem to be so far behind in the medical arts. However, we remain faced with the same problem: dealing with this invader.."

"No problem, Boorlag," McCoy grinned. "I can whip up a vaccine to protect your folk from the other microbe. Your people might like having another of your own kind on the planet to play with."

"Your McCoy is correct, Spock," Boorlag signed. "If it is possible to co-exist, we would prefer it. If this vaccine of which McCoy speaks will render us safe from the other organism, it might be beneficial to have a companion species."

Kirk smiled. "Good enough, gentlemen. Boorlag, I'm sure you and Doctor McCoy need to talk shop. Stand by, and we'll transfer your transmissions to Sickbay."

"Thanks, Jim," the doctor beamed and made his way to the turbolift.

"Sheetak, is there anything else?"

"About the quarantine of our planet..."

"It will, of course, have to remain in effect. It appears the Kened people are doomed to be confined to their world." There was regret in Kirk's voice that he doubted the universal translator would approximate using stick figures.

"Agreed, Kirk. All the more reason to make friends with this other species. Thank you, Kirk."

"All part of the job, Sheetak. End transmission."

Kirk turned to his science officer. "Well, I guess that about wraps it up, Spock."

"Not quite, Captain. There remains one point I do not quite understand."

"And what's that?"

"How the Yankee Trader crashed on Kenederis Four in the first place. It seems unlikely that the 'invading' bacterium was aware of the 'native' bacterium of this planet. Yet clearly the Yankee Trader was sabotaged."

Scott's brogue interjected. "It's as I was tryin' to tell the captain before isolation ward was breached. 'Twas the chief engineer that sabotaged the Yankee Trader. He noticed the bacterial spores in the life-support air filters and guessed it was some sort o' infectious somethin' from Naos Eight, the planet where they'd found the iridium. Because the captain wouldnae listen to him and impose a quarantine on the Yankee Trader, he began sabotaging the ship."

"Why didn't he just talk with the ship's doctor, Scotty?"

"He couldnae do it; the ship's doctor was the first to catch the plague. 'Twas all there in the engineerin' logs, Captain."

"A pity I didn't ask you earlier, Mister Scott. Mister Spock, remind Doctor McCoy to consult with Scotty on our next epidemic, will you?"

"Of course, Captain."

"Lieutenant Uhura, notify Starfleet Command to dispatch a buoy tender to Naos Eight. The planet should be placed under strict medical quarantine."

"Aye, Captain."

"Mister Chekov, plot course for Starbase--"

"According to this morning's daily mission briefing from Starfleet, no other ship has been assigned to transport the Ylkan ambassador to Falla, Captain," Spock interrupted. "I believe that we should resume the mission."

Kirk rolled his eyes in agony. "Thank you, Spock. Mister Sulu, please set course for the Ylkan system. And Spock, make sure that Doctor McCoy checks the ambassador carefully before he is let loose in the ship. There are too many sick minds out there for my liking. Let's be sure this ambassador isn't one of them."

"Far as I'm concerned," Scott chimed in, "he probably is. Just a different kind of sick mind than Sheetak had. Of course, Sheetak is, at least in theory, curable..."

The whole bridge, except for Spock, erupted into laughter as Sulu engaged the engines and the Enterprise leapt toward Ylka.

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