Kirk turned and surveyed the bridge. Spock, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu and DeFalco were at their respective stations. There were also several junior officers manning various auxiliary boards. "Spock," Kirk said, turning to the Vulcan science officer. "How long before we reach Starbase Twenty?"
"Thirty point eight-seven hours at our current velocity of Warp Two."
Kirk started to ask another question when there was a loud explosion. He turned to find the life support console engulfed in smoke and flames, and the officer stationed there, Ensign Ras, on the deck at his feet where the explosion had thrown the Andorian. "Cut power to that panel. Get Sickbay," Kirk ordered as he moved to the fallen crewman.
"Sickbay, medical emergency on the bridge," reported Uhura.
"McCoy here. On my way," came the chief medical officer's reply over the intercom.
"Captain, this panel shows signs of excessive deterioration. Much more than can be accounted for since the maintenance and evaluation it received after the V'ger mission," said Spock from the damaged panel.
"Then Scotty may be right about the effect of the Barrier on the instrumentation," concluded Kirk.
"Yes, sir. I suggest we get to Starbase Twenty as soon as possible."
"Mister Sulu," said Kirk as he turned. "Increase speed to Warp Factor Eight."
"Mister Spock." Kirk directed his attention to his first officer. "I want all systems checked out, and I want a preliminary report..."
Doctor Leonard McCoy entered the bridge at that time followed by two orderlies with a stretcher and a nurse. "What happened, Jim?" McCoy asked as he knelt next to Ras and scanned him with a feinberger.
"The life support panel exploded."
"Looks pretty bad. Electrical shock, concussion, second degree burns...I'll let you know. Get him to Sickbay, stat!" he directed the orderlies, then exited the bridge in their wake.
Kirk watched them leave, then to face the Vulcan. "Spock, I want a preliminary report by all department heads in twenty minutes in Briefing Room Three."
In Sickbay, Doctors McCoy and Chapel and a nurse were working to save the life of Ensign Ras. "Vitals are dropping. Start life support and cardiostimulate," ordered McCoy.
The nurse flipped on the life support while Chapel handled the cardiostimulator. The assistant chief medical officer glanced up at McCoy. "Life support functioning. Malfunction on the cardiostimulator. Cardiac massage."
"Nurse, get two c.c.'s of adrenaline. Hold it, Chris," McCoy said, gesturing toward the monitor. "We have a weak heartbeat. Hurry with that adrenaline."
"Here, Doctor." The nurse gave the syringe to McCoy.
McCoy administered the adrenaline intracardiac and then studied the monitor. "Good. Vitals are coming up and leveling off. Watch him very closely, Mark," he told the nurse. "Dress those burns, and call me if there are any changes. And get that cardiostimulator checked out. Chris, come with me."
She followed him into his office. The doors closed, and he turned. "What the hell happened with the C.S.U.?"
Christine Chapel thought a moment. "I'm not sure. When I flipped it on, it was functioning properly, then it just quit. It checked out during the equipment check before Ras was brought in."
"Well, we better get the rest of our gear checked. Let me know the results, and if there's any change in Ras, I'll be in Briefing Room Three."
McCoy walked into the meeting which had already started. Scotty was talking. "...not all our instruments and monitors are affected, but it is impossible to predict which ones will be affected."
"All right, Scotty. Bones, how is Ras?" Kirk asked as McCoy took a seat.
"I think he'll pull through okay, but we almost lost him due to an equipment malfunction. I've ordered the rest of my equipment checked. But from what Christine told me, and from what Scotty just said, I don't expect that to be much help."
"We're heading at top Warp speed to Starbase Twenty. I want all equipment and all backup equipment checked and ready in case of more malfunctions. Any questions?"
There were none.
"Okay, that's all for now."
And with that, everyone got up and went to their various duty stations.
As Kirk and Spock entered the bridge, Sulu reported. "We are on course for Starbase Twenty at Warp Eight. E.T.A. is twelve point four hours. No more major malfunctions have been reported. However, an increasing number of problems are being reported. No cause has been determined for any of the breakdowns."
"Very well, Mister Sulu. Carry on." Kirk moved to the life support panel where Scott, Spock and Ensign Rayton, a life support specialist, were discussing the problem. "How bad it is, Scotty?"
"Well, sir, jury-rigged like this, we have fifty-two percent capacity with this system. Back up systems are handling the rest. If it holds steady, we'll make it to 'base for sure." He looked up at Kirk. "If not, then we'll be pushin' it because the backup systems are beginning to show signs of strain."
"Any more bad news?" Kirk asked wryly.
"Were it the static energy generated by the Ph'ecdalyns' energy, our instrumentation would have detected it. As of yet, sensors have detected nothing," explained Spock, but with that statement, he vanished from the bridge in a flash of light similar to those of a transporter beam.
"Spock!" Kirk swung around to Chief DeFalco. "Trace that beam, navigator!"
"Aye, sir. it originated from the solar system two parsecs off our starboard bow. More precise readings are impossible since the beam didn't last long enough, and there are no residual readings."
McCoy strolled out of the turbolift. Quickly surveying the bridge, he demanded, "What the hell's happened now?" he glanced around the bridge. "Where's Spock?"
"I don't know, but we're going to find out. Some sort of transporter beam pulled him off the bridge," Kirk elucidated. "Mister Scott, I want--"
"Sir, we canna delay gettin' the Enterprise to Starbase Twenty. The life support system canna take much more strain."
"I know, Scotty. That's why I'm taking the warp sled Kepler while you take the Enterprise in for repairs. But first I want the shuttle completely inspected and preflighted. I also want whoever in your department that's most familiar with the shuttle along. Bones, you're coming. Get together whatever you think you'll need. Come prepared to stay awhile. I also want two security guards, Mister Chekov. Prepare to leave in an hour."
"Sir," the young Russian security chief spoke up. "Request permission to accompany you in the shuttlecraft."
"Very well, Lieutenant. Pick one of your men to accompany us."
"Jim..." McCoy began, a look of anxiety on his face.
Kirk placed his hand on McCoy's shoulder. "I know, Bones. I want to get to Spock as soon as we can, but I also want to make sure we get there. I have this feeling we've waited too long already."
An hour later, Kirk was preparing to board the shuttlecraft. "Mister Scott, you have the conn. See to the Enterprise, and get her to Starbase Twenty. Have her checked out, and then return to the planet as soon as possible. Locate us by the shuttle's beacon and contact us. Hopefully, we'll be able to respond."
"Aye, sir. We'll be back as soon as possible. Good luck, gentlemen," said Scott as the five men boarded the craft.
On the bridge, Sulu hit the intercom. "Prepare to launch shuttlecraft. Clear hangar bay. Prepare to launch shuttlecraft."
Scott came out of the turbolift and to the center seat. "Scott to Kepler. We're ready to launch, Cap'n"
"Very well," came Kirk's reply. "Lifting off. Kirk out."
Scott addressed the helmsman. "Mister Sulu, as soon as the Kepler is away, increase our speed to Warp Nine. I want to get to Starbase Twenty and back as soon as we can. I have a very uneasy feeling about all of this."
"I know what you mean," agreed Sulu. "Warp Nine coming up."
Aboard the shuttlecraft, Kirk set the course and pivoted to face the rest of his landing party. "Give your equipment another check and get some rest. It'll be about an hour before we get close enough to get any detailed readings. We'll discuss a plan of action when we get some more information."
One hour later, the Kepler entered sensor range of the star system. "Mister Chekov." Kirk placed his hand on the shoulder of the sleeping lieutenant. The Russian awoke instantly at the touch. "Please get me some readings on the planets ahead of us."
McCoy stepped forward to the helm/navigation console. "Do we have any information at all on this system?"
"Not much, Doctor. All I could find in the Enterprise memory banks before we left was gathered from a probe flyby of the system. G class star, possessing five planets, two of which are class M, though the fourth is only marginally so."
"Begin scanning," ordered Kirk.
"Any word from the Enterprise?" asked McCoy.
"No, Bones. She should make Starbase Twenty in another few hours, if everything holds together. I just hope she doesn't have to stay away too long."
"Knowing Scotty, he'll get out and push her back here if he has to."
"Yeah," Kirk chuckled. "He would at that, wouldn't he? Anything yet, Chekov?"
"Very little. The fourth planet appears to be barren. No lifeform readings. The second planet, also class M, has low level lifeforms, varied fauna and abundant flora. I don't scan any humanoid lifeforms, Vulcan or otherwise. If Mister Spock is there, something is shielding him from our sensor scans."
"Thank you, Mister Chekov. Maintain scanning. Let me know if anything comes up."
"I only hope Spock is on one of those planets."
"But which one?" considered Kirk. "Let's try for planet two. I have a hunch that's where we'll find Spock." He directed his attention at the shuttle pilot. "Mister Miller, find us a suitable place to land."
Forty-five minutes later, the Kepler landed in a meadow on the second planet. "Check your equipment. Get all the readings you can, but keep together until we get some more information. Miller, I want you to stay with the shuttlecraft, inside and out of sight. We'll contact you every thirty minutes. If you don't hear from us, stay put until Enterprise gets back. Explain the situation to Mister Scott; he'll decide what to do. Make sure you stay ready to come after us if I should call for you. Okay, let's move out."
As Kirk and the landing party, except Miller, exited the shuttle, they began studying the surrounding area. McCoy and Chekov began taking tricorder readings. Hoverton found a vantage point from which he could scan the surrounding area for danger while keeping an eye on the rest of the landing party.
"McCoy, Chekov, either of you have anything on your tricorders?"
"Faint lifeform readings is all I get. They seem to be coming from that direction." McCoy pointed toward a wooded area a few kilometers away.
"Confirmed, sir. I have the same readings," reported Chekov.
Kirk and the group hiked toward the woods. After a short time, they came to the edge of the wooded area. Kirk checked in with Miller, and then proceeded into the woods with the rest of the landing party. They walked another hour before anything happened.
"Jim, those life form readings are getting stronger. They're still ahead of us, but I can't tell what sort of lifeform it is yet," announced McCoy. "These readings are still weak. They should be stronger. It's as though something is inhibiting the readings, just giving us enough to follow."
"I've got the feeling that we're just being led along," declared Kirk.
"Captain," Chekov interrupted, "my readings are beginning to fluctuate somevwhat. It's like whatever is inhibiting our readings is beginning to fail, and they are trying to switch to another energy source."
"Can you get any clearer readings?"
"No, sir. They were only momentarily stronger."
"Very well, carry on. Let me know of any further changes. Let's keep moving. The sooner we get to those readings, the sooner we'll find out what they are. And with any luck, they'll lead us to Spock." With that, Kirk moved off toward the mysterious readings.
They traveled for another hour, checking in with Miller at regular intervals. They found nothing in the wooded areas that didn't belong there. They were approaching the edge of the woods when Chekov spoke up. "Captain, those readings have suddenly become much stronger. Origin is five hundred meters ahead, but they are still indistinct. It could be a plant, animal or something entirely different for all the sense these readings are making."
"Everyone on alert. Phasers on heavy stun. Move out," Kirk ordered as he started off toward the still invisible object of their search.
The group got within twenty meters of the source of the strange readings when Chekov shouted, "It's Meester Spock!" and pointed to where the Vulcan was lying in a heap upon the ground at the base of a cliff. Everyone rushed to him.
When McCoy got to him, he ordered every back and started checking Spock with his mediscanner. "He has a concussion, a couple of broken ribs, and assorted bruises and contusions. He should be okay in a couple of days, but I really need to get him back to the Enterprise to check him out thoroughly."
Kirk started to say something, but McCoy wouldn't let him. "I know, Jim! You want to know how long Spock will be out and when you can question him. Well, I'm not sure. The concussion is pretty bad. I don't want to give him a stimulant until his vitals come up some more. Even then, he'll be pretty weak. I'll just have to let you know later."
"Thanks, Bones. It seems we're going to be here until morning, so we might as well get the camp set up. Chekov, you and Hoverton scout around the area, check for any more lifeform readings, and take various samples of flora and soil. Also, while you're at it, you might as well collect some firewood. Keep in touch, and don't go too far."
"Aye, sir," was the reply as the two men moved off in the same direction.
"Well, Bones. Looks like we're stuck for awhile. Keep an eye on Spock; I'm going to set up camp." Kirk surveyed the area. There were several fallen trees and some large boulders. He phasered these away, leaving a fair-sized clearing. Then he made a fire pit and started a small fire to help cut the chill of the coming night. Next, he helped McCoy move Spock closer to the fire and made him as comfortable as possible. When he was done, he sat down next to McCoy and started discussing their situation while they waited for Hoverton and Chekov.
Hoverton was the first one to return. Answering Kirk's question before it was asked, he replied, "I saw no indications of any other lifeforms here, sir."
"Very well. Get yourself something to eat out of one of the backpacks. Here comes Chekov. It doesn't look like as if he has any news either."
"No, sir, I don't. No trace of any kind of lifeforms other than ourselves, nor of anything unusual."
"I suggest that we get some rest. Hoverton, you take the first watch. Mister Chekov, you take the second. Bones, take the third, and I'll take the last watch. Everyone is to maintain scanning for alien lifeforms and periodically contact Miller back at the shuttlecraft. I want to be made aware of any changes. Any questions?"
As usual, there were none.
The night went quietly. When Chekov awakened McCoy, the chief medical officer got up and checked on the Vulcan before questioning the lieutenant about any changes. After standing watch for about an hour, McCoy checked the Vulcan again and found that the readings were improving. A quarter-hour later, he checked and found that the Vulcan would soon be awake.
"Jim," McCoy whispered while kneeling and laying a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Spock's coming to."
"Any other changes?" Kirk asked as he got up and followed McCoy over to Spock.
"No, everything has been quiet. Spock should be awake within another half hour. I'd still feel better if we were back aboard the Enterprise, but he'll be fine. He'll be pretty weak for awhile, though, so I don't want him to try to do anything just yet," McCoy stated as he checked Spock with his medical tricorder.
Kirk and McCoy continued to keep watch while talking quietly. Half an hour later, Spock began to stir. They immediately went to him. "Spock," Kirk said quietly. "Spock?"
The Vulcan's eyes slowly opened and focused on the faces of his worried friends. "Captain, Doctor," he greeted them.
"Spock, how do you feel?" McCoy asked as he again checked his tricorder.
"I am nauseous and weak. I also have a headache. Otherwise I am fine."
"That fits. You have a bad concussion. It's causing all of those symptoms. You should be fine in a few days."
"Spock, do you know what happened to you? Why are you here?" Kirk queried.
"Sir, the inhabitants of this world took me off the bridge of the Enterprise so that I might help them solve a problem. It seems that they were having some trouble with a couple of their environmental computers. They were desperate when they beamed me from the bridge of the ship. It seems that their attempts at contacting us and their scans of us were undetected. Our communicator and sensor systems are incompatible with each other as are all the other systems aboard the ship. That is why there were several malfunctions occurring all over the vessel.
"When they took me off the Enterprise, they brought me to their computer center and explained their problem. I agreed to attempt to correct the situation."
Kirk interrupted. "That's all they wanted? It seems to me they could correct the problem easier than you. It's their computer."
"That would normally be true except that they no longer have physical bodies. The computers were programmed thousands of years ago just before they started evolving into their present incorporeal forms. Up until now, the computers have functioned perfectly. A flaw somehow got into the system; there are any number of ways it could have happened. I found the flaw and repaired the computers. But by this time, the Enterprise was well out of their range, and they couldn't transport me to the shuttle, even though they knew it was approaching, as it was too small for them to establish an accurate lock. So they allowed me to study the surrounding area while I awaited your arrival. I was studying an area above this cliff when a strong wind started blowing and an earthquake hit the area. It is the last thing I remember until I awoke a few moments ago." Spock ended his report and seemed to go into a trance.
"Spock!" Kirk called, alarmed at the sudden change in his friend's condition.
McCoy hurriedly checked with his mediscanner and tricorder. "He's in some sort of telepathic trance. However, his physical condition hasn't worsened. He's still weak, and it'll be a few days yet, but he'll be fine."
Spock seemed to be coming to again. "Spock," Kirk implored, "Spock, what is it? What's wrong?"
"Nothing, Captain. I...they didn't mean to worry you. The Arlisians were telling me what happened when I lost consciousness. They communicate by a combination of telepathy and empathy. That is one reason you cannot perceive them. It seems that the computer is still malfunctioning. It caused the high winds and the earthquake. When it subsided and you were entering the system, they more or less directed you to me with the aberrant sensor readings. You detected them and came to investigate. It was quite difficult to arrange as their presence generally inhibits our tricorders and other devices."
"We've noticed that. What happened when we got that surge of readings?" Kirk asked.
"They momentarily left the area so that you could get better readings. They are staying in this area to try to provide some protection against the computer. So far, they have had only limited success."
At this point, McCoy noticed that Spock was beginning to shiver, despite the nearby campfire and the blanket which covered him. "Spock, what's wrong? Are you cold?"
"Yes, Doctor!" Spock tried to get up.
"Stay still. I don't want you moving around," McCoy snapped as he firmly pushed Spock down and turned to Kirk. "Jim, we have to get that shuttle here. Spock's not the only one getting cold. I think the temperature is dropping."
"I know it is," Kirk remarked, looking up from the tricorder he just checked. "The temperature's dropped ten degrees in the past five minutes. I hadn't noticed it until Spock started shivering. He's more susceptible to cold, especially now that he's injured. It's almost dawn. I'll have Miller bring the warp sled over to us instead of trying to move Spock to it."
With that, Kirk called Miller and ordered him to move the shuttle to their location, giving him precise coordinates to follow since the shuttle engineer couldn't follow the weak sensor readings precisely enough to find them. He then woke Chekov and Hoverton to explain the situation to them, and have them gather more firewood to last until Miller arrived with the Kepler.
"Captain," Spock called as Kirk moved back to him and McCoy. "I have to go back and repair the computer. It is the cause of the dropping temperature."
McCoy snapped, "You're not going anywhere for a day or two. You try and get up now, and you'll only make things worse for yourself. You've got a bad concussion, Spock, not to mention some broken ribs. Those computers can wait until you're better."
Kirk cut in. "Besides, when the shuttle gets here, we'll stay inside it until you either get well enough to fix the computer or until the temperature goes back up."
"Yes, sir," Spock said in resignation, knowing that it was useless to argue with both Kirk and McCoy.
"Spock, I want you go back to sleep. Rest is the best thing for you right now. I don't want to have to put you back under because of the concussion, and I don't want you undergoing a healing trance either for the same reason. I can't monitor you as well here, so I'm going to have to have your cooperation."
"Very well, Doctor. I understand." And with that, Spock was asleep.
Chekov and Hoverton returned with the firewood. All moved around the now blazing fire. They were all aware of the increasing cold. The wind was also increasing in strength, making it seem much colder with the wind chill factor.
Several minutes later, they heard the shuttlecraft as it approached. The wind and the snowfall that had been begun were making it difficult for Miller to make an approach to the clearing with the cliff nearby. Just as it was landing, a strong gust of wind caught the shuttle and slammed it into the cliff before Miller had a chance to compensate.
Leaving Hoverton with Spock, Kirk, Chekov and McCoy raced toward the shuttle. When they reached it, the captain and his security chief managed to get the door open enough to get in and get to Miller, but it was too late. Miller was dead.
"Chekov, check out the aft compartment for damage." As the young Russian went aft, Kirk moved forward to check the control board. "From the looks of this panel, we aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Most of the damage is irreparable."
McCoy got up from where he was examining Miller. "He died instantly. The seat's pressor fields must've malfunctioned. He was thrown against one of the bulkheads. His neck was broken, and his spinal cord was severed." He looked around them and added, "Well, if there's no danger of the shuttle exploding, we can at least use it for shelter."
"Chekov," Kirk called. "Find anything?"
"No, sir. Most of the systems are damaged beyond repair. I shut down any that were overloading or non-essential. Supplies, though tossed around a bit, appear to be intact."
"I guess this is going to be home for a while. Bones, straighten up in here a bit, and Chekov and I'll go get Spock and Hoverton in here. Spock can't take much more of the cold."
"What about Miller?"
Kirk stood silent for a moment; it was always tough, losing a crewman. "Chekov and I will take care of him."
"How is he, Bones?" Kirk asked sometime later after they all had settled into the upside-down, wrecked shuttlecraft. McCoy was examining Spock as he lay on a pile of blankets in one corner.
"He's pretty weak, Jim. I wish I had him in Sickbay. But he should be okay in a few days if he stays quiet and does as I say."
"Captain," Spock broke in. "I have to get back to try and repair those computers. If I don't succeed, this whole planet will eventually be torn apart by all the seismic and atmospheric disturbances, and quite soon. That is why the Arlisians were so desperate to get in touch with us and why they took me from the bridge after failing to make contact."
"I know, Spock. We will help them. But right now, you couldn't get very far, even if the weather permitted it. As it is, you wouldn't make it two meters out the door; the blizzard is getting worse every minute, and the temperature is still dropping. So just lie back. We'll get to the computer as soon as we can. Now get some rest."
"Either do it voluntarily, or my hypo and I will do it for you," McCoy threatened.
"Very well, Doctor, Captain. I will rest." And with that, the Vulcan went back to sleep.
McCoy quickly checked Spock to be sure that he was sleeping, and went over to the captain and Chekov, who were discussing a new wrinkle in their plans.
"Kyptin, the heating unit just vwent out. It vwas severely damaged in the crash, and I don't believe it can be fixed. It's possible that it might be cross-connected to another unit and made operable, but I doubt it. Most of the systems which are compatible with the heating system were also damaged."
"Jim, we've got to have heat. It's getting colder outside, and, with the heat out, it'll be pretty damn cold in here. We'll be pretty uncomfortable, but he'll be in real trouble. As weak as he is, his system can't take the cold right now. We've go to have heat!" McCoy said emphatically, turning a worried eye toward Spock.
Also looking worried, Kirk turned toward the aft compartment. "Come on, Chekov. Let's go see what we can do."
An hour later, Kirk and Chekov were finishing their repairs. The temperature in the shuttlecraft had dropped considerably. "I think that is about all vwe can do, Kyptin."
"I hope it works. Give it some power."
The unit sluggishly started functioning. Kirk adjusted a control knob, and reexamined the unit monitor. "I think that's got it. It's operating at a low level, but it is working. Keep an eye on it, Chekov."
"How's Spock, Bones?" Kirk asked as he moved toward the bow of the shuttle.
"Cold, like the rest of us, but holding his own. Did you get us some heat?"
"Yes, the unit's functioning, but on a pretty low level. It'll keep us from freezing to death, but that's about all. How's the weather, Hoverton?"
"The temperature's leveled off at twenty below zero. It's still snowing, but it doesn't seem to be coming down quite as heavily as before."
"Looks like we're stuck here for awhile."
They remained in the shuttlecraft for three days. On the morning of the fourth day, Hoverton awoke them shortly after dawn. "Captain, all the snow is melting, and the temperature is sixty-eight degrees."
Kirk immediately got up and went to the portal, opened it and looked out. "Well, it seems the computer got tired of snow. Bones, how's Spock?"
"Well, it would be better if he rested a couple more days, but I don't think we can afford to wait that long. Yes, he can travel. Just take it easy as you can, Spock."
"All right then. Let's get our gear together. Spock, can you lead us back to those computers?"
"Yes, Captain. With the help of the Arlisians." With that, Spock seemed to withdraw within himself. When he came back, he said, "The Arlisians have given me the direction. The computers are approximately one point five kilometers, bearing at seven-two-three mark seven."
"Is everyone ready? Good. After you, Mister Spock," said Kirk as the landing party left the inverted shuttlecraft and headed for the Arlisian computer center.
The had covered nearly two-thirds of the distance when the wind started picking up. The sky grew overcast and dark, with heavy, menacing clouds, and the ground shook with several minor tremors.
"It doesn't look as if those computers are through with us yet," McCoy observed as he fought to keep his footing against the wind and the tremors.
"Yes, it would seem that the computer knows that we are coming and is trying to prevent us from getting to it," commented Spock. "However, this is not the case. "We are merely being subjected to random weather patterns."
"Can we get any help from the Arlisians?" asked Kirk.
"Very little, Captain. The Arlisians have no control over the computer or the weather it creates. That is why they so desperately need our assistance in repairing and reprogramming it."
"Well, it doesn't look as if it's going to get any easier, so let's keep moving. Watch your step and keep an eye open for flying limbs and other debris. Let's go," Kirk said as he again headed off in the direction of the computer center.
They proceeded, finding the going more and more difficult. The closer they got to their destination, the worse the weather conditions became. They were within a few hundred meters of the computer center's entrance when the ground shook with a tremor much stronger than before. It loosened several small boulders on the hillside that the landing party was passing alongside.
"Look out!" Kirk called out as everyone began moving out of the way of the slide. They were almost out of the way when a small boulder caught Kirk in a glancing blow on the shoulder and sent him tumbling.
"Spock! Jim's been hit by some of those boulders!" McCoy called as he raced toward Kirk. "Jim! Jim, can you hear me?" McCoy demanded as he knelt down next to the stunned Kirk.
"Bones," Kirk answered as he focused on McCoy, then tried to get up. He promptly fell back and grabbed his shoulder.
"Hold still, Jim. Let me check you out. Where are you hurt?"
"My right arm and shoulder," Kirk replied while lying on his back.
McCoy got out his medicorder and took some quick readings. "You've dislocated your shoulder, and your arm is broken. I'll have to set that arm and shoulder, but we've got to get out of his slide area first. Here, this'll help," McCoy explained as he pressed a hypo against Kirk's uninjured arm. "Okay, try to get up, but keep that arm as still as possible."
With some assistance from Spock and McCoy, Kirk made it to his feet. "Let's keep moving, " he said as he headed for the computer complex entrance which they could now see.
The weather got much worse as they approached the building. Kirk now had to yell to Spock, who was standing next to him, just to be heard. "Is there anything the Arlisians can do to help us against these weather conditions?"
"As I said before, no, sir. They are having trouble just maintaining their existence against the weather. In addition to meteorological conditions, the seismic activity is intensifying, as is the fluctuation of the planet's magnetic fields. It is this fluctuation that presents the greatest danger to the Arlisians, and this is why the they are so desperate for our help."
As they reached the complex, Spock strode forward to the door and pressed the access touchplate, but the door remained closed. Kirk signaled Chekov to use his phaser. The door dissolved in a spectacular burst of color. Spock and Chekov immediately entered the complex and began scanning the area.
Kirk turned to the security guard. "Hoverton, I want you to wait out here. Find some place that affords some protection but allows you to monitor the entrance. Try to keep in contact with us every thirty minutes."
"Aye, sir." And with that, Hoverton retreated to the nearby woods.
"Jim," McCoy said, "we're going to have to stop here a few minutes so that I can fix that arm and shoulder."
"All right, Bones. But hurry. We have to get to that computer." He shook his head when McCoy offered him a painkiller. "Just do it."
McCoy popped the shoulder back into place with a sudden movement that was sheer agony, but it was a pain which ended as abruptly as it had begun. There was a dull ache of discomfort, but it was manageable. McCoy helped Kirk to his feet, and together they made their way inside the weather-controlling complex.
Chekov and Spock had completed their survey. "Captain, the Arlisians are going to leave the area so that our instruments can function. The lieutenant and I have determined the area of the system that is flawed. It will take a moment to repair." Spock, with Chekov monitoring his tricorder, leaned inside an open panel.
Kirk flipped open his communicator. "Hoverton, do you read me?"
"Yes, sir. The weather had taken a turn for the worse. High winds, rain, hail and heavy tremors," came the guard's voice over the speaker.
"Mister Spock, there has been a change in gauge L-7," reported Chekov. "It's deviating wildly from its proscribed position."
Spock shifted slightly, and made another tiny adjustment.
"There, sir. You've got it."
"How's the weather, Hoverton?"
"The wind's dying down. The tremors, rain and hail have stopped."
Spock backed out of the open panel and closed the access plate. "I believe the computers are functioning now as they were meant to."
The landing party made its way outside, and a familiar hum was heard. Commander Scott, Doctor Chapel and a pair of security guards materialized.
"Scotty, you just now getting back?"
"Aye, sir. 'Twas a bit hairy en route to Starbase Twenty, but it didna take as long as I'd feared. We made orbit five minutes ago, detected your party, and I hastily assembled a landing party of me own."
"The Arlisians have returned, Captain," Spock announced as his eyes glazed slightly.
"Spock, would you please tell them that we are going back to the ship, but if they would like, we will return later to see if they have any other problems that we could help them with."
"Captain, they understand your wishes and would appreciate a discussion at a later time. They also say that they will leave this area so that we can return to the Enterprise."
"Thank them for me, Spock, and tell them--"
"Jim, that's enough!" McCoy snapped. "It's time I got you and Spock to Sickbay."
"Bones, give us a minute--"
"No, damn it. Now. You can talk to the Arlisians later."
Kirk nodded in assent, and Spock dissolved his link with them.
The doctor opened his communicator. "Enterprise, eight to beam up. Energize," ordered McCoy.
It was two days later when Kirk and Spock were released from Sickbay. They had beamed down to Arliss, and returned to the ship.
"Uhura," said Kirk as he strode out of the turbolift, "contact Starfleet and tell them we have set up a preliminary treaty with the Arlisians, and that we are proceeding on to our next assignment. A full report to follow."
"Spock, how are the Arlisian weather computers functioning now?" asked Kirk as he sat down in the center seat.
"They are operating as they should be. The ecological damage was light enough and should eventually repair itself."
"What I want to know is what happened the first time you fixed those computers?" McCoy spoke up, trying to bait Spock.
"I corrected the problem as it was presented to me. The internal error was not obvious until the computer began causing turbulent weather. Once I realized the problem wasn't totally in the programming, I had to set up a series of specific tests to find the internal malfunction. First, I--"
"Never mind, Spock. I didn't want a lesson on computer trouble-shooting."
"I was only endeavoring to answer your question."
"But you didn't have to read the whole--"
"Gentlemen, please," Kirk implored. "Mister Sulu, take us out of orbit. Warp Two."
"Aye, sir. Warp Two."
"Well, at least we learned something," muttered McCoy.
"What's that, Bones?"
"It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature."
And with that, the Enterprise continued on to her next assignment.
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