"How much longer?" Scott gasped. He was on his back, feet in the air, pumping furiously against the resistance pedals.
"Save your breath for pumping. Itll only a few minutes more," Doctor McCoy replied cheerfully.
"Have you no mercy?" Scotts bare torso glistened with sweat as he continued pumping against the slowly increasing resistance. "Im going as hard as I can."
"Im supposed to be measuring how hard you can go, not listening to you tell me how hard you think you can. You wouldnt want to short change the test sequence, now would you? Its no different than what you do down in Engineering, after all."
"Its very different," Scott puffed between gasps for air. "Were into non-destructive testing in Engineering. You sassenachs in Medical obviously are not."
McCoy ignored the gibe and concentrated on the readout before him for a few more moments. "Okay, Scotty. You can quit." Gratefully, Scott dropped his feet. "Youre healthy as a horse."
"Im not surprised. To survive the abuse you heaped on me, Id have to be."
McCoy chuckled. "This, coming from every Engineering cadets worst nightmare? Compared to some of the staged crises you pull in Engineering, this is nothing."
No longer gasping, Scott grinned back at the doctor. "Ive got to confess to agreeing there. I do push em beyond what they thought were their limits, right enough. I dont need to be worrying that one of them will crumble under stress."
"And Im just making sure your heart wont give out when youre halfway through bailing us out the next time a Klingon or Romulan disables the Enterprise during combat." McCoy slapped Scott on the shoulder. "Get on back to Engineering and do your wonders."
Scott pulled his shirt over his head, sniffing in disapproval. "Would you be minding if I took a wee bit of a shower first? I smell worse than an overheated warp engine."
"Offhand, Id say that the rest of the Engineering crew would mind severely if you didnt. If I recall correctly, youre expected on the bridge this afternoon. The captain would hardly appreciate the odor, either." McCoy pretended to hold his nose in revulsion. "For that matter, nor do I. Youre polluting the air here in Sickbay. Get out of here before I have to put on a respirator just to bear the smell."
The turbolift door slid open next to the engineer. "Tis your own fault, Doctor! At least you dont have to ride in the turbolift with me. The stenchll be far worse in this wee box!" Before McCoy could reply, the turbolift door slid shut, and Scott was out of reach.
Back in his quarters, Scott quickly stripped and climbed into the shower. After the exhausting stress of his annual medical exam, the play of the stream of water across his skin felt thoroughly refreshing. For a few moments, he stood still, reveling in the pleasant sensation. Just before he reached for a washcloth and the soap, Scott was gripped with a sudden, agonizing, crushing sensation. An instant later, the shower was pouring on Scotts motionless form, collapsed on the floor.
In Sickbay, the wall communicator chimed. "Hey, Bones," Kirks voice demanded, "Are you going to keep Scotty down there all day? Ive been expecting him on the bridge for over an hour."
McCoy looked up from the readout hed been studying. "Of course not, Jim. I set him free, oh, two, maybe three hours ago. He probably went to the Engineering Deck rather than the bridge after his shower, and just plain forgot. Have you checked with Indri?"
"I called Engineering first; no such luck. I cant get any answer from his quarters, either. This just isnt like Scotty, Bones."
McCoys face began to register concern. "It sure isnt." He grabbed his mediscanner and kit, and hurried to the door. "Im on my way, Jim."
When he arrived at Scotts door, McCoy was surprised to see that Kirk had arrived first, and was leaning on the manual trigger for the annunciator. "No answer, Bones, even though the indicator says hes in."
The doctor fished in his belt pouch, producing a small box he placed next to the annunciator. "Emergency medical override, Doctor Leonard McCoy, Chief Medical Officer. Immediate opening requested."
"Emergency override authorized," the box said, unemotionally. The door slid open. From the back of the room, there came the sound of running water. McCoy elbowed Kirk out of his way, running to the shower. "Get a medical team up here now. Scottys down."
Kirk ran to the communicator. "Medical emergency! Medical to Montgomery Scotts quarters immediately!"
McCoy knelt next to Scotts motionless form, medical tricorder in hand. "Forget it, Jim. Scottys dead." He walked over to the communicator. "Sickbay."
Nurse Webbs voice came across the speaker. "Sickbay here, Doctor. The medical team is on the way. What is the nature of the medical emergency? Do we prepare for immediate surgery?"
"Negative. Recall the emergency medical team. I need a carrier down here, Marie. Scotty is..." McCoys voice cracked. For an instant, it almost looked as if he was going to cry. With extreme effort, McCoy regained his self control and continued, "Scotty is dead, Marie. We need to get his body back so we can figure out what we missed on... on..."
Webb interrupted the doctor before he embarrassed himself. "We will be there immediately, Doctor. You will, of course, close up the room, pending notification of his next of kin."
"Of course, I will," McCoy responded gratefully. "At least as soon as I can shoo the captain out of here."
Kirk took the hint, and exited the room, with McCoy close behind. Once both men were out, the doctor turned to the small box again. "Modified medical override: occupant expired. Medical team access only."
"Acknowledged." The door slid shut, almost with an air of finality.
McCoy stared at the door, motionless and silent.
After a few moments, Kirk tried to jar his friend back to the present. "Cmon, Bones. Let me buy you a cup of coffee or something."
The doctor turned to Kirk, only half seeing him. "I appreciate the offer, Jim, but I dont think so. Id better get back to Sickbay. I need to review Scottys physical to find out what I missed." McCoy walked slowly, almost mechanically, over to the turbolift.
"Look, cant that wait until later? You look terrible."
McCoy seemed to focus a little. "Good. I should look terrible. Thats how I feel. I gave Scotty a clean bill of health, and hes stone cold dead in what, an hour, maybe five minutes?" The turbolift door slid open, and McCoy stepped into it as he was talking. "I think I have a perfectly good excuse to feel thoroughly lousy, and I deserve to feel lousy, if not substantially worse."
Bones " Kirk started, but the turbolift door slid shut, ending the conversation.
The area around the photon torpedo launching ramp that held the container with Scotts remains was full. It seemed as if the entire crew of the Enterprise had tried to crowd in to pay their final note of respect. Kirk scanned the crowd, looking for Doctor McCoy. When he finally found his friend, Kirk hardly recognized him: McCoys face was drawn, almost haggard, looking like he hadnt slept at all. Before Kirk could speak to McCoy, Spock caught his eye, signaling that it was time to start the proceedings.
Kirk stepped into position near the slim, black casket that held Scotts mortal remains. He cleared his throat to get everyones attention. "We are here to pay our last respects to Montgomery Scott, who has been Chief Engineer on the Enterprise longer than I have commanded her. His remarkable ability to repair and maintain anything and everything in a starship has become almost a legend in Starfleet. All of us here owe our lives to his resourcefulness in getting the Enterprise running again after taking a critical hit during combat situations.
"Although his mock emergency drills were the terror of the Engineering cadets he has mentored over the years, as I went through his effects, I found dozens, indeed scores of letters from cadets who had survived his drills. Each of them had gone on to take roles in Engineering in starships, and each of them told of an incident where surviving one of Scotts drills had given the cadet the confidence, the skills to deal with a real crisis, rescuing the entire crew of a starship. Many of them relate that they could almost hear Captain Scotts voice bellowing orders at them as they struggled to make the emergency repairs that saved their lives, and the lives of their crew mates.
"Through these men and women, Scottys hand has reached out to rescue more men and women than he ever knew, and through the men and women he has trained, and those that they will train, his legacy will reach forward into a future he will not see. More than that, we have lost," Kirk choked for a second, battling to restrain his tears. After a visible struggle, he continued, "We have lost a loyal, dedicated, deeply respected and beloved friend. More than the loss of an engineering genius to whom we owe our lives, we, I will mourn the irreplaceable loss of our friend."
Kirk signaled Spock. The air was filled with the skirl of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace. "As was his wish, we consign Scottys mortal remains to burial in space." Kirk signaled Assistant Chief Engineer Indri, who triggered the ejection mechanism. "May he travel in peace through all eternity in the infinite void his genius made safer for us to travel."
The container slid smoothly along the ramp, disappearing into the photon torpedo tube. An instant later, there was an almost imperceptible lurch as it was launched. After an additional moment of silence, Kirk dismissed everyone. Kirk looked for McCoy, but couldnt see him. From behind him, Kirk was surprised to hear Spocks voice, whispering almost at his ear.
"Doctor McCoy left as Indri triggered the launch mechanism, Captain. I am most concerned about him."
Kirk turned to face the Vulcan. "Me, too, Spock. Im going to see if I can find him."
"I am concerned for you, as well, Captain. Captain Scott was a valued friend. If I may, I will join you and the Doctor, after I have dealt with a detail or two on the bridge. Perhaps we can share our reflections on our memories of Captain Scott."
Kirk registered surprise. Before he could voice his astonishment, Spock responded to it. "Even Vulcans reflect on the loss of a treasured comrade, Captain. Our way of approaching the issue may differ, but we are still aware of the loss, in some ways more sharply than humans. To experience the death of a comrade, especially one as skilled and capable as Captain Scott, without reflecting on his life and impact on our lives would be most illogical."
"Either way, Spock, Im going to hunt for McCoy. Youre welcome to join us when you wish, however you wish." Kirk stepped into the turbolift. "Level Five." The turbolift moved swiftly.
When McCoy wasnt in his quarters, Kirk sought him in Sickbay. On arrival, he found the area almost dark, with only the wan light of a readout visible off to one side. Hunched over the readout, Kirk could just barely discern the form of his friend. Quietly, he walked up to McCoy, looking over his shoulder. A moments observation told him that the doctor was reviewing Scotts records.
"Bones," Kirk said, putting his hand gently on his friends shoulder, "Let it go. You cant bring him back by studying his records."
McCoy sat up, swiveling the chair to be able to look Kirk in the face. "Jim, Scotty shouldnt be dead."
"I agree. He was still young and too full of life to die, even if he was getting close to retirement."
"Blast it, thats not what I mean, and you know it." McCoy turned to the readout. "Look, even you should be able to see it." His finger jabbed at the screen as he talked. "The scans before Scottys death and afterward are almost identical. Look--heart, clean. Liver--only minimal changes, and nothing more than Id have expected from the amount of alcohol he packed away. Kidneys, pancreas, nervous system, endocrine systems--absolutely normal. No evidence of toxins, of infections, of damage or destruction of any kind. I took tissue samples from all over, during the autopsy, to the point that what we buried was almost an empty shell. Ive studied them until Im almost cross-eyed. Theres nothing I can find. Ill bet that when we get the specimens back to the nearest starbase, they wont find anything either."
Kirk hardly understood the data scrolling across the readout. "Theres still a lot we dont know about the Human body, Bones. You know that better than I do. Just because its something that youve never seen before, or cant find, doesnt mean it cant be there."
The doctor shook his head, staring at the readout dejectedly. "It doesnt matter what the cause is, Jim. Anything that kills has to leave tracks somehow, somewhere. There has to be some sort of change in one or more in the body's systems for things to quit working, and it has to be pretty big to kill someone. Its just not there. Scotty cant be dead, I tell you."
From behind the two men came Spocks voice. "Although it appears impossible, Doctor, Captain Scott was manifestly dead. To deny that without supportive evidence to the contrary is most illogical."
McCoy stood. "Blast you and your logic. Change must have a cause. Isnt that an old Vulcan proverb? Look at the data yourself, Spock. Other than his being dead, there isnt a change to account for his death."
The Vulcan reached over to the keypad that controlled the readout. After a few minutes study, he stepped back. "I agree, Doctor McCoy. It appears probable that Captain Scott is not dead. Look." He pointed to the readout.
Kirk looked at Spock in astonishment. "How... What... Werent you just telling Bones to face the fact that Scotty was dead?"
McCoy looked at the area on the readout Spock was indicating, then went ashen and dropped into the chair. "I cant believe I missed it. Jim, weve got to turn around and rescue Scotty."
Kirk looked from McCoy to Spock and back again, in speechless astonishment for a few minutes. "Would one of you two explain whats going on here?"
"Doctor McCoy overlooked a subtle, but very telling point. The proteins in what we mistook for Captain Scotts mortal remains were a racemic mix."
"And the real Scottys proteins are all the levo stereoisomer, Jim, just like yours, mine and Spocks. What we found in the shower was an almost perfect replica, not Scotty. Scottys been kidnapped, Jim. Weve got to find him."
Kirks mind whirled in shock for only an instant before he reacted. "Spock, I want you, Bones, Reichard and Indri in the briefing room in half an hour. I want concrete ideas about finding Scotty, and about how Scotty might try to signal us, and how we can detect it." Kirk turned to the wall communicator. "Bridge!"
"Reichard here, Captain."
"Turn this ship around, and retrace her path, immediately. And be ready in the briefing room in half an hour."
Reichards voice registered astonishment. "Very well, Captain. May I ask what has happened?"
"Scottys alive, Reichard, and were going to find him."
Montgomery Scott awoke to the realization that wherever he was, it was dark, humid, and miserably hot. He opened his eyes, or thought that he did; the darkness was so complete that opening them didnt seem to make any difference. For an instant, his grandmothers dire predictions about his destination after his death flitted through his mind, only to be dismissed out of hand. It was hot and uncomfortable, but not as bad as Granny had painted it. On the other hand, it wasnt anything like the paradise shed painted, trying to motivate him to reform his behavior. He stood up, thankful that he still seemed to have the use of his arms and legs. He remembered the terrible crushing sensation in the shower, and losing consciousness. Perhaps he was in some sort of limbo or the entry to Purgatory? That didnt make sense to him, either. Finally, having no better idea, he called out. "Hello! Is there anyone there? Can someone tell me where I am?"
I am here, a voice boomed in Scotts head. As to where you are, I am afraid I cannot give you an exact answer. Please rest assured that you are in none of the abodes of the dead that your mind conjured up. You are quite alive.
Telepathy, Scott realized, but apparently somewhat limited. "Would it be possible to cool the room a wee bit? And could you manage a wee bit of light?"
Of course. Please let me know when you are comfortable. Slowly, the temperature of the room began to fall. When it felt comfortable Scott said so. Next, the chamber was filled with a bluish light that climbed in intensity. Again, Scott signaled when it was comfortable. The chamber in which he found himself was a sphere, except for the black, three meter diameter flat area on which he stood. The walls were an opalescent white, for the most part, being interrupted at the top, and in several places along the side, by meter square patches of what appeared to be a softer material that was almost black. As near as Scott could tell, the light and heat came from the opalescent wall.
"Youve still not told me where I am. And Id like to know why Im here, if that wouldnt be too much trouble."
As I said, I cannot give you an exact answer as to where you are. Would an approximate answer do?
"Tis better than nothing." Scott suddenly had a feeling like ants were crawling over his scalp.
The best I can do is to say that you are a little over two and a half kilometers under water, near a hydrothermal vent.
"Whatever made you bring me to such a place?"
It is my home environment.
Scott took a moment to digest the revelation. "Why did you bring me here, then?"
I require your help in building a device.
"Could you not get others of your own kind to help you?"
Unfortunately not. They are quite certain that I am utterly insane, and possibly dangerously perverted. On the whole, they do their best to avoid me, and when I approach them they either flee or try to drive me away.
A shiver ran up Scotts back. Visions culled from fictional mad scientists who kidnapped victims and tortured them in bizarre experiments designed to further their warped and psychotic brand of pseudo-science sprang up. With an effort, he pushed them aside. "You dont seem to be insane or perverse to me. So far."
I doubt that you would find me so; certainly, I have no plans to make you the victim of sadistic experimentation, as the mad scientists of your fiction would have done. Frankly, you share my so-called insanity and perversion.
Please understand that the sciences of my kind have turned inward. As a whole, our research has focused on modifying our internal function and structure, on developing new organs to do whatever we wish, or on making things within ourselves to serve our ends. Our control of our internal environment, and what we can do in terms of making organic materials, or objects made from organic materials, would amaze your kind. Alas, our knowledge of the external environment is sketchy, being limited to what we need to know to achieve our goals. Internally focused sciences can only go so far, and it is my belief that we have come near to exhausting that avenue.
Alone among the Yarnt, I have chosen to study and work with the exterior environment. In their eyes, this means I am either insane, perverted or both. You were brought here because your skills lie in the engineering of the external environment, and because I can communicate with your mind.
"You seem reasonable enough to me; youre a Galileo as far as I can tell, not a lunatic. Its the other Yarnt that seem daft to me. Why do they prefer to contemplate and play with their own navels rather than study their environment and modify it to suit their needs?"
Perhaps you have no idea how harsh our environment is? By your standards, near the hydrothermal vents, its a seething, caustic cauldron. Away from it, it is eternally cold and dead. Down here, the external environment is far harder to handle than the internal one.
"Id not thought of it that way. Well, what is it that you need built?"
Regrettably, the rest of the Yarnt have decided that I am a threat to them. First, it was just an occasional Yarntashi that came here and harassed me. Later, they came in twos and threes. Now, it appears that they are massing to take me into their custody and cure me of my warped, sick attitude, before I infect other Yarnt with it. I cannot permit that. I need you to construct a device to keep my own kind away, but one that wont bother me.
Scott felt a tad uncomfortable about the answer, but figured that he didnt have enough of the picture to make any value judgments. "Basically, you need something to scare off the sassenachs. That shouldnt be too hard to do. If you can get me back to the Enterprise, Im sure I can get you such a thing built in a few hours."
No doubt you could. I regret that I shall not be able to return you to the vessel from which you came, however. The mass exchange device that I built to exchange you for the duplicate of your body I constructed did not survive being used; the stress was more than the device could handle. Please accept my apologies.
"A duplicate of me? Whatever did you do that for?"
Unfortunately, because of the turbulence of the electrical and magnetic fields around the vent, and the thickness of matter between here and the surface, the only way that I could make the device work was to exchange two, very nearly identical objects. Were it not done that way, your body would have been distorted to the point of destruction. Even so, I was barely successful in your transfer.
"If you had a duplicate of me, then why didnt you just have the duplicate build your gadget for you, and leave me alone?"
The duplicate was not a living being, only a dead replica. It would have been of no help to me at all.
Scott sat down, hard. He almost responded that the crew of the Enterprise would never desert him, and would come to his rescue, but before the words were formed, he realized that the duplicate would be taken as his dead body. Everyone would assume that he was dead, and rather than search for him, they would mourn him. "If your duplicate was good enough, I guess theyll think Im dead. It looks like Im trapped here, at least until weve your wee bit of a device built. Youll be wanting to do that before I try to find my way home."
You are correct.
"It seems to me that youve several problems well have to solve."
"Well, youll not be expecting me to build the device in here, will you? Theres scarcely room for me, let alone the tools Ill be needing. Then theres a power supply. How did you power the mass exchange unit?"
Scotts scalp felt full of ants again. Clearly, it was the sensation caused by the Yarntashi trying to find something specific in Scotts mind.
I used the thermochemical gradient between the hydrothermal vent and the open ocean to generate a current that I stored in a large capacitor. It took me The Yarnt paused for a few moments. It took me over ten years of your time to charge it sufficiently.
Scott shook his head. "Thatll never do. Youll need a better source of energy. An Ill need a means of working out in your environment. Itd be no good at all to build it in a compartment like this. You could never maintain it."
A good point. Where shall we begin?
"With a bite to eat, and a drop or two to drink. Do you have a way of providing bathroom facilities for me, too? While youre at it," Scott looked down at his naked body, "Id not mind some clothing."
One of the black squares suddenly showed a hole. In it, Scott could see several apparently wooden cups next to several flat bars.
Please taste each of the fluids, and tell me if they are palatable, then do likewise with the bars. They should be adequately nourishing, but flavoring is more of a challenge.
Cautiously, Scott lifted the first wooden cup to his lips and tasted its contents. "Its tolerable, but almost flavorless. What is it, just water?"
Exactly. The others are more complex.
Keeping the water at hand, Scott tasted the second cup; it was almost brackish. "That ones terrible." He rinsed his mouth with the water, and turned to the third cup. It was sweet, with a hint of heather blossom in the flavor. For an instant, he recalled the heather honey his mother had used to sweeten the hot scones she served for breakfast on special days. "This one is marvelous. Tis as wonderful as Highland air." The fourth, Scott tasted with less fear. The flavor was that of a rich beef broth. "Its tolerable," he said, "But it needs a touch more salt, do you follow me?" The fifth tasted like tetralubisol, and was rejected out of hand. The last one reminded Scott of coffee. "This ones fine, laddie."
He turned to the bars. To his surprise, all six of them were almost flavorless. "Ive eaten worse, mind you," he informed his host, "But not a one of them has as much flavor as the drinks."
With time, I shall learn. The orifice closed. A second patch opened, revealing what turned out to be shoes, socks, underwear, kilt and shirt. Will the coverings be adequate?
Scott tried them on. The fit was excellent, and the fabric was soft and comfortable. "Youre a right good enough tailor. Tis magnificent. Now, about the lavatory facilities?"
One moment. There was a brief pause. Please do not move. Suddenly, there was a sensation of something crawling up between Scotts legs. He shifted away from it
Please, hold still. It will not harm you
The sensation returned, and after a few moments, he felt it move around his undergarments to arrive where his legs met, then flowing front and back, softly but firmly surrounding the areas involved.
You may relieve yourself. The material will be vented outside.
Feeling slightly foolish, and more than slightly exposed and embarrassed, he complied. Once finished, he felt himself released, and heard something drop to the floor.
Let us begin.
"Good enough. First, lets see if we can rig something to use for remote manipulators. Can you read the motor signals from my brain?"
"Then youll have to put sensors on my arm muscles, and read off that. Do you think you can do it?"
Perhaps. One of the black squares extruded several long tentacles. Scott moved toward them. As they located themselves on his arm, Scott could feel a slight tingling. It will work better, I think, if I sense the signals traversing your nerves. This may take a little practice. Another black square sprouted a creditable replica of Scotts arm.
"Lets see how well you do, then." Scott moved his arm. The arm on the wall moved with it. Initially, the movements were jerky and uneven, but within a short span of time, they moved in perfect concert with Scotts real arm. "Excellent! Now, what can you do about me seeing what Im doing?"
Four more tentacles extruded, moving toward Scotts face. I shall try to provide both sight and sound. This will be somewhat more challenging. Two tentacles covered Scotts eyes; two others filled his ears. Suddenly, he could hear his own breathing and heartbeat, and realized that he was seeing himself. For an instant, he suffered a wave of vertigo, then recovered.
"Tis excellent! Ill make an engineer out of you, yet!"
Thank you. But please remember, this is the kind of engineering that Yarnt science has been developing for a thousand generations or more. Building other devices may be more of a problem.
"Well take that as it comes. Now, can you manage to let me see outside?" Suddenly, Scott felt like he was standing in a maelstrom. He could see the plume of superheated water, black with dissolved metals coming out of solution, billowing out of the vent. Near it, Scott could see hundreds, if not thousands of creatures of numerous kinds, each about its own business. What appeared to be a couple of kilometers away, he could see another vent, around which swam several large, undulating creatures that reminded him vaguely of a picture of Terran sea slugs hed seen once. Beyond that, he made out other vents, extending off as far as he could see. He could even hear the muted roar of the water rushing out of the vent, and the scratchings, snaps and swish of the organisms nearby. The vista fascinated him.
His contemplation of the scenery was interrupted by the voice, again. The creatures that you thought looked like sea slugs are my kind, the Yarnt. They are feeding, right now, straining out small organisms swept up by the currents created by the hydrothermal vent. The rest are non-sentient beings.
Scott continued to watch, fascinated, for a few minutes more. "Tis beautiful down here, do you know that? Im glad you let me see it."
A pair of hands suddenly came into view. Shall we begin?
Scott tore his eyes away from the grand view, and turned to the issue before him. "Aye. Lets start with working on a better power supply."
McCoy was the last of the five men to arrive in the briefing room, and felt that he was the least useful member there. He took the sole remaining chair, and stared at the captain silently.
Kirk scanned the faces before him, hoping to find a ray of hope. He saw none. "Gentlemen, let me hear what you have to offer."
Spock spoke first. "The facts, as we have them, is that some being or beings exchanged Captain Scott for a nearly perfect replica of his body, sometime between the completion of his physical and the discovery of the replica."
Silence reigned again. McCoy tapped on the controls of his readout for a moment. "We can do better than that, Spock. According to the records, I completed Scottys physical at 10:17 hours. He got into a turbolift, and returned to his quarters. That would have taken all of four minutes in the turbolift, and two to get to his door. Add a minute or so to get undressed and get his shower to temperature, and youve got 10:24 hours. Even being conservative, he couldnt have been snatched any earlier than, say, 10:20 and likely it wasnt until after 10:30 hours. Isnt there some record kept of turbolift activity, Spock?"
"Yes, mostly to estimate future demand. If I can pinpoint the arrival of Captain Scotts turbolift near his quarters, we can refine your estimate slightly. It may be possible to detect Captain Scott turning on his shower. That would refine it even more."
Kirk saw Scotts shower in front of him for an instant. "Wait a minute. I think we can put a limit around the other end of this, too. Bones, did you notice anything about the washcloth and soap?"
McCoy closed his eyes and concentrated briefly, then opened them with a grin. "Youre a genius, Jim! The washcloth and soap were still dry, so Scotty had to be gone within a few minutes of his entering the shower. He couldnt have stood there more than, oh, five or six minutes. Lets be generous--that puts his abduction between about 10:20 and 10:40 hours."
"Magnificent. Anything else, gentlemen?"
Reichard looked up from his readout. "If I understand things correctly, the copy of Captain Scotts body was perfect enough to fool Doctor McCoy until it was discovered that the proteins had the wrong chirality."
"Thats right, Reichard," McCoy chirped. "Other than that, I couldnt have done a better job myself."
"With all due respect, Doctor," Reichard responded, "may I submit that you, indeed no individual or team in the Federation, could do it at all, and if we could, it would take years of effort?"
"Your point, Mister Reichard?" Spock demanded, clearly intrigued.
"Whatever it was that snatched Captain Scott had seen him once before, far enough back in time that it could construct that copy, and then snatch Captain Scott when we came past the second time. There cant be too many star systems weve been particularly near twice in the last several years." Reichard began working furiously with his readout. "Cross correlating the time estimates youve put together with the ships position, and with the navigation log from the last several years should give us some help."
"Spock," Kirk asked, "Think you can find any record of some sort of field or beam that might have hit the Enterprise near the time were talking about? Something that could have served as a carrier for the mass transfer?"
"Given the limited time frame," the Vulcan replied, "It is entirely possible that we might find two sensors that were triggered. That would not only give us a refined time estimate, but a rough search cone to refine Mister Reichards findings."
"Reichards got a good point in another way, Jim. Do any of you have any idea how sophisticated the bioengineering involved in duplicating Scottys body is? Were dealing with a being or a race with incredible bioengineering skills."
"Their technical skills cant be all that bad, either, Bones," Kirk added. "Were talking about an incredibly high resolution scan, and the ability to exchange masses over a considerable distance. Top that off with the targeting problem: the Enterprise was clipping along at warp speed. The technology involved is remarkable. What do you think, Indri? Despite being the Chief of Engineering while Scottys gone, youve been silent the whole time."
"I am in perfect agreement with all that has been said, Captain," Indri said, quietly. "Until now, there has been little that I needed to say. However, I believe there is one further issue. If we assume that Captain Scott was not kidnapped at random..."
"Evidence all points to it being purposeful and planned, dont you think, Indri?" McCoy interrupted.
"Indeed so, Doctor. Assuming that Captain Scott was chosen for a purpose, then it is unquestionably for his remarkable engineering skills that he was selected. Is this a logical deduction?"
"Eminently so, Indri, given the initial premise," Spock agreed.
"It assumes that the kidnappers could read Scottys mind well enough to recognize that technical skills, you know." It was McCoys Southern drawl.
"I concur, Doctor," Indri went on. "Does this not suggest anything to you?"
The five men looked at each other for a moment. Kirk finally answered for everyone. "Not off hand, Indri. Considering the sophisticated technology theyve already shown, Im not altogether sure theyd need anything that Scotty had to offer."
"Perhaps it reflects limitations on their science imposed by their environment, Captain." Only Spocks face registered any indication of comprehension, so Indri continued. "Would a creature whose world never rose above twenty degrees Kelvin be likely to have created a plasma at all, let alone have developed the physics of plasmas? Would they have developed any semiconductor technology at all? Yet their development and application of superconductivity would be quite advanced. A life form whose world was never below five hundred degrees Kelvin would be hard pressed to discover superconductivity, and might never be able to apply it. A life form living under extremely high atmospheric pressures might know of vacuums in only a theoretical sense. One that lived in a near vacuum would know little or nothing about wind, and perhaps even less about meteorology. The examples are limited only by our imagination."
"A most astute observation, Indri," Spock intoned. "I fail, however, to see its significance."
"Is it not obvious? If Captain Scott was abducted for his technical skills, it seems most reasonable to assume that the abductor would live in what we would consider an extreme, exotic environment, one in which some field of knowledge that is easy for us would be remarkably difficult for them."
"It also means that Scotty would have access to tools and technology of some sort, Jim," McCoy added. "That means that he might be able to build some sort of signal beacon for us to home in on."
Reichard looked up from his readout. "All we have to do is figure out where to look, and what to look for. As for the first, Ill have that down to a handful of star systems in an hour or less. Fewer, if Spock can give me anything additional from the sensor records."
Kirk stood up, a smile playing across his face. "Gentlemen, I think weve made remarkable progress. Spock, Reichard, you two refine the search area. Indri, you try to figure out what Scotty might use for a signal, and rig whatever you need to detect it. Anything you find that looks like a signal, forward to Spock so he can try to match it against the material in the science library." He took a deep breath. "Scotty would be proud of the work weve done already, gentlemen. Lets get him found, so he can tell us how impressed he is. Dismissed!"
Scott suddenly found himself inside the chamber, again. The handful of contacts between his right arm and the black wall patch had grown into a glove that covered his whole arm, from the shoulder down; a second one covered his left arm. The slender lines that had initially connected the sensors had become thick cables. In front of him, Scott could see a face mask retracting toward another patch, one that had clearly covered both his eyes and ears. Suddenly tired, he sat down, leaning against the opalescent wall of the chamber. "We didnt achieve much on a power source," Scott opined. "How long were we at it, anyhow?"
If I understand your measurement of time correctly, about eighteen of your hours. You are, I believe, in need of sleep.
"Aye, and a bit of nourishment, too. But weve got to be doing some design work, here. How well can you read my mind, anyhow?"
Next to him, Scott saw a bulge in the black flooring rise and open to reveal a richly grained wooden table, with two pitchers, a cup and several bars on it. Scott sniffed the pitcher that was steaming, and poured from it. Tea, he decided, with just a touch of heather honey. Lifting one of the bars, he nibbled at it cautiously, then greedily, its flavor reminding him of the gooseberry tarts his mother had made.
I am glad these are more to your tastes, the voice in Scotts head boomed. As to how well I can read your mind, I am not sure, nor sure how I could describe the precision to you.
Scott thought for a moment. "Well, lets try a wee experiment, then. Ill think of iron. Thats simple enough. See what you can do."
Several moments passed, as Scott focused on thinking about iron. Several minutes passed, with his scalp feeling like an army of ants were staging a Highland Dance Festival on it. Finally, the voice boomed in his head. Im afraid its not much use. When you think of iron, you think of everything youve learned about it, its structural properties, its electromagnetic properties, alloys, ductility, and endless other things. I shudder to think what it might be like if you thought about an engineering design. We must find a simpler means.
Scott nodded, and thought for a moment, munching another bar and sipping the hot beverage. Although knowing that the Yarntashi could not read his mind in grave detail was going to complicate designing and building the devices needed, he was relieved to know that his mind wasnt laid totally bare before his host. That still left him with the problem of communication.
Several minutes passed as Scott conceived and discarded different ideas. "Lets try something a bit different. See if you can track this." Scott closed his eyes, and imagined the surface of his engineering padd, stylus, touchboard, screen and all, trying to think only of its appearance.
Yes. That is easy enough.
Scott opened his eyes. Before him, there lay an almost perfect replica of his padd. The touchboard area looked a little fuzzy to him, and he wasnt sure that he could read it.
We will refine the touchboard. Pick up the stylus, and use it, picturing what you expect as you use it. We will build from there.
Gingerly, Scott picked up the stylus. His first few attempts to work the padd worked poorly, but within minutes, the touchpad area became sharper and clearer; the touchkeys for functions, for formulae, and for two and three dimensional displays and vectors, as well as other automated activities began to take shape quickly.
Suddenly, the padd screen went blank. "What happened? Did it break?"
No, the voice answered. But if I dont let you rest, you surely will. Sleep now. When you are rested, we will continue.
Scott realized how tired he had become. He lay down on the floor, feeling it shape to cradle him. Within a few moments, he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
How much later it was, he didnt know, but suddenly Scott awoke to the odor of breakfast. Nearby, there was another pitcher and cup, with several more of the bars. "Good morning to you," Scott called, cheerfully. "Are you ready to begin?" He felt more tired than he thought he should have, and was stiffer than he expected, but he chalked it up to the unfamiliar surroundings, and made no mention of the issue to his host.
Almost. One of the black patches extruded a long arm, that took the shape of a shower head. I believe you would prefer to cleanse yourself first. This is as close a replica to the cleansing unit I brought you from as I can manage. After that, breakfast and to work.
Suddenly, the shower head began spraying warm water. Scott stripped, and rinsed off. Something touched his inseam. Instead of flinching, Scott stood still, cooperating as it repeated yesterdays performance. Relieved, he donned the new outfit provided.
Please, nourish yourself.
Scott settled down to his breakfast. "If itd not be too much to ask, how do you eat? Ive not noticed you taking any breaks for it."
He thought he heard a sigh before his host answered. For my kind, feeding is automatic. When it is time to feed, our bodies start swimming through the organism laden waters around the hydrothermal vent, harvesting the suspended organisms. It is only when the hydrothermal vent starts to become inactive that we have to use our wits to find a new site. Normally, anyhow; I had to move to a new site for other reasons.
Scott thought he felt a hint of grief and anger both in the last sentence.
Of course, thats part of the reason I need the device. The other Yarnt want this vent, since one of the others is beginning to peter out. If they come, I shall be driven off, or worse. I have no desire to surrender the vent; there is just too much work that I would have to leave behind.
"Aye," Scott agreed. "Thats the trouble with working the external environment, I suppose, wherever you are; you have to pack things up to carry with you when you move." He swallowed another mouthful of the bar, and a little more of the drink. "Shall we begin?" Scott reached for the padd and stylus.
I am ready.
"First off, how do you manufacture things in this soupy environment?"
By depositing them directly, in thin layers, one after the other, at least for organic and most inorganic materials. Metals, of course, by something similar to thin layer electroplating, I think youd say.
Scott shifted his position slightly, and rubbed his chin. "How precisely can you control that?"
There was a long pause, during which Scotts scalp crawled considerably. Thicknesses of a thousand atoms or so; widths about three times that. Will that be sufficient?
"Itll do fine," Scott replied, making no effort to conceal how impressed he was. "Now, can you build this?" His fingers flew across the touchboard, augmented by occasional strokes with his stylus, building a pattern of deposited materials into a three dimensional structure.
I can, but only with difficulty. Some of the things listed are toxic to my kind.
"And to mine, too. But theyre what will get us started."
I understand. What manner of thing is it?
"Its a batterya kind of power supply. Itll no manage to be an adequate power supply for what you need, mind, but itll power what well need to make the tools to make a better power supply, so that we can make more tools to build an even more powerful power supply. Then we use that one to build a tiny LeMoyne-Briggs transformer; thatll give you the antimatter supply youll need for an essentially endless power supply. Then youll not need to be attending to the thing so often."
I see. Show me the description of the LeMoyne-Briggs transformer, please?
Scott began filling the padd with equations, constants and diagrams, concentrating as tightly as he could on what each item meant as he did so. "You realize, on the Enterprise, wed usually use hydrogen to feed the thing, but down here, youll be wanting to use iron. Were able to work in a natural vacuum, you understand; down here, youll have to manufacture a vacuum to move things around in. Magnetic transport would be best." He sketched a rough idea of what he meant on the padd. "A bit like this."
I believe I can save us some trouble, then, by generating the fields directly. Is there a lower limit on the size of this thing?
"In theory, no. But its not been practical to make them less than about a hundred meters or so long, and a meter and a half in diameter. The Briggs Field Generators no problem, of course, but with the transformer, it gets too hard to feed matter into if you make em much smaller. Why?"
The large size is a problem, of course, and the energy we need will be modest, even though far larger than I could have generated. Constructing one as large as you describe will take immense amounts of energy. A smaller one, however, would be more tractable.
"No doubt. How big did you have in mind?"
About the length of your forearm, and the diameter of your thumb. I believe I may be able to generate the necessary fields directly. Assuming I can make one that size, sketch out the design for using it to generate power.
Scott cleared the padd. "Youll be needing to make a dilithium reaction chamber; if its just a few atoms at a time that youll be doing, it neednt be particularly large. Heres how the thing should look. Youve got to make the crystalline lattice a bit irregular, you understand, almost quasicrystalline. Like this." The padd screen began filling again, with intricate relationships.
Yes. Yes. I understand, I think. Quite remarkable, altogether. Scott sensed excitement in the voice. The relationships involved in this, in the Briggs Field Generator, and in the LeMoyne-Briggs transformer hint at an underlying universal force.
"Hint? Och, man, they require it. Thats the whole trick. Now, lets see if you can manufacture a housing for this all."
It will have to be done in sections, and you will have to assemble them. What manner of coupling would you advise?
Scott stepped over to the padd, his stylus moving swiftly. "Im assuming youll be using this pearly stuff for the outer housing, and using iron for the inner one. Assuming the stuffs about the strength of mother of pearl..." Under Scotts stylus, the design rapidly took form.
I see the design. It will be done soon. The mask and gloves extruded from the black patch on the wall. Scott moved toward them, letting them slip into place. As before, he suddenly found himself transported into the marine environment. Nearby, he saw the parts he had designed extruding from a black patch on the outside of what he assumed was his living quarters. Once they freed themselves from the black patch, Scott began assembling them into the finished structure. The final structure was somewhat larger than Scott had anticipated, and one side of the reaction chamber remained open. With the last piece in place, Scott watched as the arms he had been controlling stretched into long tentacles that put the device on top of the opalescent sphere, on a large black patch. He found himself back in his room again, surprised at how tired the exertion had left him. Sore, stiff and exhausted, he sat down, leaning against the chamber wall.
"What were you planning to do about creating the vacuum? And you left part of the reaction chamber out."
I will fill it all with the black material, and withdraw it; the dilithium reaction flask and the control systems will be deposited as I clear it. One of the black patches extruded a control surface. Once it is constructed, you will use this to control it. Enter the mathematical description of the field and it will be generated. Do you think that it will be possible to finish the construction of the device using generated fields?
"Depends on how well be scaring the sassenachs off, doesnt it?"
What would be easiest?
Scott thought for a while. "Im not sure on that one. Lets get the power source up and running first. Thats the most important starting point, at least for now."
Very well. When I have completed the steps I need to take, I will let you know. Please be comfortable.
Scott picked up a couple of the bars, and a cup of the hot brew. He climbed back to his feet, and started working with the replica of the engineering padd, trying to remember the tricks that hed learned at Starfleet Academy the ones that he and his fellow engineering students had used to play pranks on each other, and on other, unsuspecting students.
While he waited for the housing to be ready, he keyed in the equations describing some of the more memorable tricks that hed pulled with a Briggs Field Generator. One of them, he hoped, would be of service. Long before Scott ran out of remembered pranks, his host interrupted him.
We are ready to begin building the LeMoyne-Briggs transformer. If you will begin putting in the equations?
"First, we build a Briggs field generator. Then well use it to build the transformer, and after that, perhaps what well use to keep the others out of here." Scott stepped up to the control surface and began loading in the mathematical relationships that would culminate in the formation of the transformer. After nearly an hour of work, the chamber was filled with the soft, deep throated hum from the power system performing its task. Scott smiled, tired but satisfied.
What is that horrid noise? Scotts Yarnt host demanded. Its terribly annoying.
"Tis a byproduct of the reaction thats generating the power well use. Id not have guessed it would be a problem to you, considering how much rumbling and all yon hydrothermal vents create."
Scotts scalp felt full of ants for a moment.
It affects me much like fingernails across a blackboard would affect you, I suspect.
"That makes our life easier, then. All we have to do is let the matter-antimatter reaction run, and the other Yarnt will stay away."
Alas, not. It would be easy enough for us to tune out the pure tone. It would require some variation across close frequencies. Could you generate such a thing, and do it without making it audible to me?
"Aye, I think I can do that." Scott pondered a moment, and did some rapid calculations on the pseudo-padd. "How large an area do you need?"
Half a kilometer in diameter should do, I think.
The Scotsman did a few further calculations. "I can do it, then. Now, heres how. Well just set up a spherical gravitational field shell, and vary its power by varying the throughput of the LeMoyne-Briggs transformer; thatll save us having to do any complicated linkages. From there, we can..."
This will have to wait, Scotts host interrupted. There are a dozen Yarntashi coming, presumably intent on combat with me, or else intent on destroying the machinery weve built.
Before Scott could reply, the room in which he was housed rocked. "Yon sassenachs are trying to break the LeMoyne-Briggs and the matter-antimatter reactor, Ill be bound. Ill not stand for it. Get yourself down." Momentarily, the ache and tiredness cleared from the Scotsmans body as he considered his response to the attack.
You dont understand, these individuals are intent on destroying our work, and on killing me. I must defend us.
"Its you that dont understand," Scott insisted, his fingers flying across the controls. "This is combat, laddie. This may be new to you, but Im an old hand at engineering under combat situations." The enclosure rocked again, this time throwing Scott to the floor. He was up and keying in control commands with one hand, holding the panel with the other hand. "Get you down, quickly, preferably buried in the ooze on the floor, before they do real damage. Youve got to trust me. Ill get rid of the sassenachs, if youll just get to where you wont get hurt." There was another blow to the enclosure, almost knocking Scott down again. "Hurry, will you?"
Im on the sea floor, totally immersed in the sediment. I should be safe.
"Good." Scott triggered the command sequence. Even through the translucent walls of his habitat, the brilliant flash of light was clearly visible. "Are they running?"
They are in flight, at least those that are able. The closest ones are certainly temporarily blinded. I did not realize light could be so intense.
"Och, it can be brighter even than that. All we need is enough to buy us a little time. Ive no doubt that theyll have a wee bit of sunburn to go with their blindness, but Im sure theyll recover. Tis what they get for messing with my machinery. Is the area cleared, yet?"
I believe so. But that trick will not work a second time.
"It doesnt need to. Lets get the noise generator going and keep them out of here." As he spoke, Scott turned to the controls again, fighting a sudden wave of tiredness. "Now, well have to be varying the tones, and well be wanting the sound to carry a ways, so heres how well do it. This should scare the sassenachs off, right enough." Doggedly, he plugged in the equations describing the field he needed.
The bridge of the Enterprise was tense. It had taken longer than just one hour for Reichard to narrow down the possible star systems, and the number of possible systems had been more than anyone had expected. Hunting for possible signals, cruising near every possible system, searching every possible broadcast medium for evidence of a meaningful message had been painfully slow. There had been several false hopes raised, only to be dashed as Spocks search through the computer library identified the hopeful signals as either known communications channels, or as simple, repetitive noise.
Spock looked up from the science console. "Indri has found another signal, Captain, carried on a stream of electron neutrinos. Although I have not yet run it through a thorough computer analysis, I believe it is from Captain Scott."
"Can you let the rest of us hear it, Spock?" Kirk asked.
Spock tapped the control panel at his station. Suddenly, the bridge was filled with the skirl of bagpipes.
"What on Earth is that racket?" Kirk sputtered.
"It appears to be Scotland the Brave being played on a set of Great Highland Bagpipes, Captain. I conjecture that only Captain Scott would be likely to generate such a signal."
"Turn it off!"
Spock obeyed the captains order.
"I agree, Spock. Its got to be Scotty. No one else would put up with that discordant noise. I bet you cant even tune bagpipes."
"Actually, Captain," Spock replied, "Bagpipes are tuned, quite carefully. In the classical mode, which Captain Scott appears to be using, the Great Highland Bagpipes are tuned with the bass drone at 115 cycles per second, the two tenor drones at 230 cycles per second, and the chanter is tuned with the A at 460 cycles per second. By using this ratio of frequencies, the melody played by the chanter can be carried over remarkable distances, similar to the effect achieved in..."
"Thank you, Captain Spock! Finish the explanation of the acoustics of bagpipes another time. For now, could you triangulate the source?"
Spock raised one eyebrow. "Of course, Captain." He returned to his console. Only a few moments delay ensued. "It appears to be emanating from the second planet of this star system, Captain. It would be easier to locate Captain Scott precisely if we were in a parking orbit around the planet."
"Mister Reichard, take us in!"
The Enterprises warp engines burst into life, almost as if they were as eager to rescue Scott as the crew was. Orbit was achieved swiftly, and almost as swiftly, Spocks voice broke the silence again. "I believe I have located Captain Scott. He is in a spherical chamber 2.68 kilometers under the surface of the ocean, near a hydrothermal vent at a fracture line. Most fascinating. The chamber walls appear to be predominantly made of aragonite and conchiolin, deposited in numerous concentric thin layers."
"Meaning?" Kirk demanded.
"He appears to be enclosed in a gigantic pearl, Captain. Unfortunately, the fracture line near which he is anchored appears to be geologically unstable, and facing an impending volcanic eruption caused by a magmatic upwelling that appears to be under comparatively great pressure. I would suggest that immediate effort to rescue him be initiated."
"Thats the point of being here, Captain Spock. Lets get him beamed up."
"That will not be feasible, Captain," Spock replied.
Indri entered the conversation, from Captain Scotts usual position at the engineering console. "Captain Spock is quite correct, Captain. The depth of the water is bad enough, but the turbulence and electromagnetic activity it causes near the vent would generate enough distortion of the transporter beam that the transporter would work only over distances of thirty meters or so. We will have to build a craft to go down to Captain Scott, transport him over a short distance, and return."
Kirk shook his head in frustration. "Wonderful. Indri, can you do it? And if so, how long will it take you?"
"It is difficult to say, Captain. The aquashuttle is designed for submarine environments, but not ones of that depth and pressure. There would need to be considerable structural modification, of course, and the hull would require reinforcement."
"Indri, I realize it isnt going to be easy. Can you do it?"
Indri thought for a moment. "Yes."
"A week, perhaps."
"Unfortunately, Mister Indri," Spock interjected, "It appears probable that there will be some degree of seismic activity in approximately three point four days time, most likely a locally devastating volcanic eruption. May I assume that your computation of time involved using the Engineering personnel only on their standard duty shifts?"
"Naturally, Captain Spock."
"Indri, if you had every available member of the Engineering staff working sixteen hour days, how long would it take?" Kirk asked.
"Slightly over four days, Captain. But I couldnt ask the Engineering crew to do that."
Spocks eyebrow raised. "I conjecture that, once the plan is developed and ready to implement, you would find it difficult to keep the Engineering crew down to sixteen hour days. It is altogether possible that you would also have other members of the ships crew working with you, in any capacity available. Unquestionably, I would be more than willing to assist."
"Frankly," Kirk added, "Id bet most of the crew would, if we made the need known."
"Given essentially unlimited personnel and resources," Indri calculated for a moment, "Perhaps thirty six hours, possibly a little less."
Kirk nodded. "Uhura, open communications to the whole ship."
"Communications open, Captain."
"Now hear this. This is the captain. We have located Captain Scott. It will be necessary to modify an aquashuttle to rescue him. All personnel who are willing to volunteer their off-duty hours to assist in this effort, report to the Shuttle Bay starting in two hours. Kirk out."
Uhura closed the channel. "Indri, will there be anything that I could do to help? I go off duty in about an hour."
"As do I," Spock added. "If you wish, we could go over the design together."
A chorus of other voices on the bridge echoed the sentiments expressed by Spock and Uhura.
Indris face registered some degree of surprise. "Uhura, if the response of the rest of the crew parallels that of the bridge, I will need your assistance with handling the flood of volunteers. Captain Spock, I would be honored to have you assist with the design."
"Then both of you get off the bridge and get started," Kirk ordered. "You have less than two hours to be ready for the influx. Uhura, youd better go with them."
It was nearly twenty five hours later that McCoy made his way to the observation deck in the shuttle bay. Sickbay had been full of crew who had suffered minor injuries from their volunteer activity converting the aquashuttle Phillippe Cousteau into a deep sea vessel, wanting treatment so they could return to their tasks. The sickbay crew had been running extra shifts just to keep up with the load. Finally, MBenga had forced McCoy to leave Sickbay, and get some sleep.
McCoy had decided to see how the project that had been running Sickbay ragged with injuries was progressing. From his vantage point, the shuttle bay looked like a picnic being invaded by an army of ants. People were scurrying from place to place with materials someone needed, toiling on one of the dozen makeshift workbenches assembling some module needed for the task, or climbing over the hull of the shuttle under the oversight of one or more members of the Engineering crew.
A small handful of individuals were moving through the manic ballet, pushing carts laden with coffee and pastries, trying to keep the volunteer team fed and watered as they labored. McCoys face was creased by a satisfied, respectful smile.
From behind him, a familiar voice broke the silence. "It is fascinating to see how Humans respond to such crises, Doctor. It is one of the few positive aspects to Human emotion."
McCoy turned to face Spock. "A Vulcan, admitting that Human emotions have a positive side? Thats the last thing Id have expected to hear! I thought that you were going to be down there helping?"
"Indeed so, Doctor. I am returning to my labors after completing my duty on the bridge. It appears that the task is almost complete."
"You call that thing almost complete, Spock?"
The Vulcan moved to the window overlooking the shuttle bay. "Yes, Doctor. There are only a few seams needing sealed on the shuttles new hull, and the reinforced propulsion units remounted." Spock turned to face his comrade. "I estimate twelve point three minutes to completion. Most of the activity that you see now is focused on clearing the area preparatory to Indri boarding the shuttle and taking it down."
McCoys eyebrow raised. "Indri?"
McCoy searched Spocks face for any hint of emotion, and found nothing but a blank mask. "Id have thought Jim wouldve sent you."
"Or gone himself, Doctor. The captain felt that I would be most valuable monitoring the mission from the bridge."
Unable to find a response to the Vulcans remark, McCoy turned to look at the shuttle bay. "Youre right, Spock. The crowds clearing."
"Perhaps you will join me in assisting Indri into the vehicle? Entry is now only possible through a small hatch on the top."
"Whys that, Spock?"
"The aquashuttle was originally designed for operation at depths of less than two hundred meters. The original access would have been unable to withstand the pressures involved in diving to Captain Scotts present location."
"Good point. Well, lets get down there, and get Indri loaded in, then."
The Human and the Vulcan descended to the floor of the shuttle deck. Indri was busily supervising the last steps.
"Spock! Doctor McCoy! Youre just in time, and Im glad youre here. Id have asked you to be here, if you hadnt come on your own. Ill be boarding as soon as the bay is cleared. If you and Doctor McCoy would give me a hand boarding the Cousteau?"
Spock nodded, looking around himself. The last of the personnel were exiting the shuttle deck. "If you are ready, Indri?"
"Ready and eager, Captain Spock. Lets go!"
Spock climbed the ladder leaning against the side of the hull. Once on top, he reached for Indri to help him onto the upper surface. Indri turned to the hatch. Spocks hand slipped onto Indris shoulder, and Indri slumped. "Doctor, I believe that Indri has been overcome by the stress of the moment. If you could assist me in taking him to the airlock?"
McCoy climbed onto the craft. "You pointy-eared fraud," McCoy hissed into Spocks ear, "I saw that nerve pinch." The two carried Indri to the exit lock.
"I believe you anticipated it, Doctor." The Vulcans hand caught the doctors as it moved toward him. "Just as I anticipated the hypospray you just attempted to use on me. May I remind you that your experience in piloting a shuttle is very limited? I believe you would be better off with my assistance. If you give me your word not to sedate me, I will release my grip."
"Okay, okay, I promise." McCoy pulled a wry, somewhat frustrated face. The Vulcan released his grip on McCoys wrist. "I guess youre not the only fraud here, Spock."
"There is ample room for us both on the shuttle, Doctor, as well as for Captain Scott. It is altogether logical to assume that Captain Scott may require your services. If you would join me?"
"First time you and your green-blooded logic ever reached a conclusion I liked, Spock. Give me a hand, will you?"
Both men climbed into the shuttle. Within moments, the modified Cousteau was on its way to the planet, Spock smoothly piloting it.
"Jims going to be hopping mad when he finds out what happened to Indri, Spock."
"Perhaps, Doctor. However, as brilliant as Indris engineering skills may be, he still lacks some of the experience at improvisation that a mission of this nature requires. Allowing him to take the risk would have been most illogical. Unfortunately, Captain Kirk could not be induced to see the logic."
"Well, I hope he doesnt court-martial us for mutiny, thats all. How long until we reach Scotty?"
"Approximately one point seven hours, depending on the oceanic currents. That assumes, of course, that the modifications perform as anticipated."
McCoy decided no reply was needed, and lapsed into silence.
"Enterprise to Cousteau. Come in!" It was Kirks voice.
McCoy looked at Spock. "Sounds like Indri woke up, Spock. Im dying to see how you talk your way out of this."
"Cousteau here, Captain."
"Spock, you all right? Indri said he blacked out, and you two had to take his place."
"Thats about the size of it, Jim," McCoy chirped, staring at the ceiling, crossing his fingers. "I guess he was working too hard trying to get this shuttle ready. I sort of figured that Id keep an eye on Spock, to make sure he didnt fall apart on the way."
"Right, Bones. While youre at it, are you planning to offer to sell me a share in the mineral rights to a solid gold asteroid youve found?"
The two beings on the shuttle exchanged glances. Spock took the lead. "Captain, in the unlikely event that we find such a bonanza while on duty, we would automatically turn full mineral rights over to Starfleet, as per Starfleet regulations. Were the doctor to find such an asteroid on his off-duty hours, I am confident that his generous nature would guarantee you a share in the windfall, without asking you to make any financial outlay."
McCoy grinned. Spock was beginning to show a devious streak hed never expected.
The communicator registered a derisive snort from the Enterprise. "Just be careful, will you? And thats an order. I dont need to lose three of my most trusted friends at once."
"On my word of honor, Jim, such as it is." McCoy replied. "Well be back, safe and sound, with Scotty before you know it."
"Youd better be," Kirk said, "Or Im going to have the pair of you posthumously hung for shanghaiing a shipmate. Enterprise out."
Spocks eyebrow lifted. "Hanging us posthumously would seem rather redundant."
"Oh, ignore it, Spock. Jims just jealous that he didnt sneak on board, too." The Vulcan chose to concentrate on piloting the shuttle.
Riding from the Enterprise to the surface of the planetary ocean had been comparatively smooth. The trip through the ocean was, to McCoys surprise, hardly rougher--at least, once the shuttle had managed to make its way under the surface. The doctor watched in fascination as the craft dropped deeper, and the image on the viewscreen faded into utter darkness, to be replaced by the eerie false color of infra-red imaging.
"How much longer, Spock?" McCoy demanded, prying his attention away from the screen for a moment
Spock studied his console. "It is difficult to estimate, but I would expect not more than fifteen point four minutes. We are close to the source of the neutrinos, and I presume Captain Scott will be nearby. Can you hear the bagpipes?"
McCoy listened, carefully. He could just barely discern the sound of bagpipes. "Just barely. Bagpipes sure sound better from a distance."
Spock continued to study the console. "It appears that the sound is being generated by a fluctuating gravity field, less than a kilometer distant. Since I cannot find signs of him elsewhere, I presume that he is inside the field."
"Cant you see inside the field?"
"Regrettably no, Doctor. The fluctuating fields blur the image on the shuttle crafts sensors too much. We will be inside the field before we can expect to see him. I would advise plugging your ears. The volume is likely to become intolerable as we pass through it." Spock fished a pair of ear plugs out of his pocket, and handed them to the doctor. He produced a second pair, and donned them. Before McCoy could put his ear plugs in, the aquashuttle heaved in the water.
"What on Earth?"
Spock brought the shuttle craft back onto course. "The gravitational field generating the bagpipe music must have destabilized the crust locally. The eruption appears to be imminent, Doctor."
McCoy made no reply, choosing to don his ear plugs instead. As they entered the gravitational field bubble, the noise became deafening, despite the ear plugs, making the silence inside the bubble all the more apparent. McCoy lifted his medical tricorder. "Got Scotty, Spock. Wed better hurry; it looks like hes in pretty sorry shape."
"Its getting cold in here. Could you raise the temperature?"
As you wish. Unfortunately, I believe that it is your body temperature is rising, rather than the chamber becoming cold.
Scott shifted himself to the mock padd. "I guess its time to change the..." The chamber shook violently. "Och, dont tell me theyre on the attack again." A second tremor shook the chamber.
Alas not. I fear I have made a dire miscalculation. It has begun sooner than I had expected.
Scott reached for a wooden cup, full of some cold fluid, and gulped it greedily. Whatever was afflicting him was beginning to get the upper hand. "What?"
The end, Im afraid, for us both.
Scotts scalp crawled again.
There is a large magmatic upwelling below us. It is, in part, what is providing the heat to drive the hydrothermal vents. Recently, I have observed that there has been increased intrusion of the upwelling, locally weakening the crust.
The chamber shuddered again, more violently.
What you feel is very likely the seismic prologue to a major volcanic eruption.
Scott shook his head, struggling to comprehend. "A volcano? Down here?"
Perhaps not immediately beneath us, but near enough. It matters very little. I doubt that there is time left to create an escape for you. I am sorry, very sorry. I have become most fond of your companionship in our short time together.
"And Ive become fond enough of you, too. Can your sensors see if there are any ships near enough to hail for help?"
No. Your little trick to make the noise has essentially blinded me to everything outside it, I fear. At least most of my people wont be killed in the eruption.
The chamber rocked again. "Aye, and they thought you were mad, when you were trying to save em." There was a long pause, with no answer. "Are you still there?"
"Yes, yes, of course. Something unfamiliar has joined us in here. Look at it, please?
The face mask slid smoothly onto Scotts face, cold against his feverish skin. Suddenly, he was transported into the deep sea, again. Before him, there was an almost familiar object "Tis an aquashuttle from the Enterprise, I think, modified to handle the pressures down here. Looks like Indris work, although Im thinking I see a bit of Spocks style, too."
There must be a way to warn them of their danger. Can you manage to make some sort of communications device?
Scott tried to stand, and found he couldnt. It felt like the room was spinning, and he was feeling cold again. "Could you bring the controls down here? Its possible, if I can remember how." The padd came within range. Scott tried to handle the stylus, and found that his hands were shaking too much. "I cant do it."
He tried again, this time not even managing to hold the stylus. "Must or not, I cant. I cant even hold the stylus, man. How do you expect me to do anything with it?"
The ants began dancing on Scotts scalp, again. If you cannot, then I will.
The dance of the ants turned to an invasion of fire ants, biting his scalp, then to what felt like red hot needles shoving through his scalp. Suddenly, equations began flowing across the padds display at a rapid pace, all unnoticed by the Scotsman. "Stop! Youre killing me!"
"Scotty! Is that you? Whos killing you?"
Suddenly, the hot needles disappeared. "No one, now. Am I hallucinating, or is that you, Doctor McCoy?"
"Doctor McCoy is here, Captain Scott, as am I," Spocks voice returned. "We will be within transporter range in two point four minutes."
"You cant. Its not safe. Theres an..." The chamber lurched, throwing Scott to the floor.
"Spock," McCoy said, urgently, "That last tremors knocked Scott cold. Hurry."
The Vulcan worked rapidly. "I am hurrying as much as is physically possible. If you would stand by the transporter controls, I will get the coordinates set. On my signal, actuate."
McCoy shifted his position, waiting tensely.
McCoy triggered the mechanism, and saw Scotts form materialize. He looked at the Scotsman, then at his mediscanner. The hypospray hissed as McCoy applied it to his friend. One of Scotts eyes opened a little. "Leonard?"
"Thats right, Scotty. Weve got you, now, and youre safe. Well, as safe as we are, anyhow, which isnt very."
"Youve got to help. Spock--"
The Vulcan stood up. "Do you feel able to handle the shuttle for a moment, Captain Scott?"
Tentatively, Scott stood up. "If its only a moment."
McCoys hypospray hissed again. "Thatll help. What are you planning, Spock?"
"There is insufficient time to escape, Doctor. I will have to try to use Captain Scotts Briggs field generator to deal with the impending eruption."
"Tis impossible, Captain Spock."
"Oh, just shut up and man the controls on this thing, Scotty," McCoy insisted. "Spock, give it your best shot. Get where I can transport you."
Obediently, the Vulcan took his position. While Scott tried to hold the shuttle stable, McCoy energized the transporter.
Spock materialized in the chamber Scott had only recently left. To his left, he saw the engineering padd, extruding from the wall. He walked over to it. "May I assume this controls the Briggs field generator?"
In his head, he heard the voice replying, Yes. Is the other one safe?
Spock studied the padd before him. His fingers began playing on the control surfaces. "Captain Scott is in no greater danger than you and I are." Spock continued entering equations rapidly. The hum of the matter-antimatter generator began to rise in pitch and intensity.
What are you doing? Do you have any idea of the magnitude of the energy you are creating?
"I am attempting," Spock responded, entering yet another command sequence with one hand, holding on to the padd with his other, as the chamber shuddered again and again with the crustal tremors. "To generate a transversely directed, negatively oriented gravitational field pulse below the surface of the local crust."
Another set of relationships were delivered to the Briggs field generator. The matter-antimatter reactors pitch climbed to an almost intolerable shriek. "I estimate that it will have to be approximately 4.95 terajoules in intensity." Spocks fingers continued to fly across the padd. "It is my hope that I can shift the magmatic upwelling just enough to..."
The chamber bucked again, causing the Vulcan to pitch to one side. He resumed his position, and continued working. "Shift it enough to abort this eruption." Spock entered a final set of equations, and stepped back from the padd. "It is completed. It is now a question of whether or not the eruption will occur before the field generator has the energy to create the pulse to prevent it."
Another tremor shook the chamber, followed by a second, then a third. There was a brief pause, a final shriek from the generator, then a fourth shock, more powerful than before. Suddenly, there was silence.
Spock stood up. "Doctor McCoy, can you hear me?"
"Yep. You ready to come back?"
"If Captain Scott feels up to it."
"Oh, hes fine, Spock, or will be soon. He was just having the mother of all allergic reactions to something in the chamber youre in. Getting him out of there did him a world of good, and Ive got him pumped so full of medication that hes looking almost normal. Ill have him beam you back before you start getting green hives."
There was a brief delay, then Spock found himself back on the Cousteau. He turned to Scott. "I trust you are feeling better?"
Scott nodded. "A good deal so, Captain Spock. Not quite up to par, but good enough for the moment."
A voice echoed in their heads. I am glad.
"Id guess that was my host. Am I right?"
Yes. I am most grateful to you all, as the rest of the Yarnt will be soon. The last action not only stopped the eruption, but also appears to be reviving the dying vents, and possibly reactivating some of the ones that have failed in recent centuries.
"Do you think youve learned enough to be able to stay in contact using the machinery weve built?"
Again, yes. There may be difficulties with individual Yarntashi, but I believe that the Yarnt as a whole will accept the value of my work, and of contacting the other intelligent life forms in the universe. Is it possible to contact the captain of the ship?
"It should not be difficult to connect with the Enterprise," Spock replied. He tripped the communications contact on the console. "Cousteau to Enterprise. Captain Scott is on board, and according to Doctor McCoy, doing quite well. Captain, are you available to speak with one of the beings of this planet?"
"Enterprise here, Spock. Id definitely like to have a word or two with the being, especially if its the one thats caused us all this grief by kidnapping Scotty."
The speaker boomed with the Yarntashis voice. I wish to tender my most sincere apologies for my behavior, Captain, and plead for forgiveness. It was driven by a combination of desperation, having no other way to protect myself and my kind from disaster, and of ignorance of life outside my narrow realm. Alas, I have no way of proving my contrition, other than to state it.
Disarmed by the statement, Kirk was silent for a few moments. Finally, he said, "For the grief and difficulty you have caused me, I tender forgiveness, but it is not me that you kidnapped, and held as a virtual prisoner. I think you need to turn elsewhere for the absolution youre requesting. Captain Scott, what do you say?"
"Captain, if it were the Enterprise and her crew on the line, and I had to kidnap someone to save her, do you think Id hesitate? Would you hesitate? Weve done the like, or very nearly so, more times than Id care to have to count. How could I not forgive the beastie for doing whatever it takes to take care of his own? Of course I forgive you. Especially if youll give us a hand with making those bars that tasted like Grannys gooseberry tarts!"
Kirk laughed. "Good enough. Do you think you could teach the being enough about our food units to make that possible?"
I am willing to learn, even without it being a condition of my forgiveness. Indeed, I am eager to learn all that your people will teach me.
"If itll keep you from snatching Scotty again," Kirk responded, "Im sure we can arrange for you to be taught whatever you need."
Thank you. For now, goodbye. I must speak with my fellow Yarnt. And thank you, thank you greatly.
"Youre welcome!" Scott replied. "Goodbye for now!"
"Enterprise out, Captain Spock. See you when you get back." The connection went dead.
The three took chairs in the aquashuttle, Spock piloting the craft. As it rose through the water, Spock turned to Scott. "Your use of bagpipe music as an identifying signal, Captain Scott, was most unusual. I would have thought that you would have used your own voice."
"Signal? I dont follow what you mean, Captain Spock."
"The electron neutrinos you broadcast."
"Ah, so thats how you found me. Well, Id not actually planned that; the neutrinos were a wee byproduct of the matter-antimatter reaction I was using. I was using the Pipes because theyre the best thing I know for scaring sassenachs away."
McCoy grinned broadly. "And what would you have done if the pipes hadnt worked?"
"Thats when Id have gone to voice signals, Doctor."
"I fail to comprehend, Captain Scott," Spock responded.
"Aye, Captain Spock, but youd understand well enough if I sang for you. Thatd scare off almost anything that can hear. Ill demonstrate, if you want," the Scotsman offered cheerfully.
"Only if you want to be sedated suddenly and thoroughly, Scotty," McCoy threatened. "Look, you may feel half decent, but youve had a hard time here the last few of days. Theres a pallet rigged for you in the back. Why dont you try to get forty winks while Spock gets us back to the Enterprise. Trust me, you need a nap"
"Aye, Id not mind one. Just you wake me before we land, will you?"
"Of course, Captain Scott," Spock promised.
Before long, the modified aquashuttle breached the surface of the ocean, and cruised to the Enterprise. As the aquashuttle neared the shuttle bay, the forward viewscreen suddenly blanked. Spock triggered the communicator. "Enterprise, this is the Cousteau. The forward viewscreen has malfunctioned. Landing will be by low resolution scan and radar only. Please prepare."
"Indri here, Captain Spock. Well make sure the braking tractors are readied, just in case, but Ive no doubt that you will be able to land without trouble. Shuttle bay door open. Were awaiting your landing."
"Thank you, Mister Indri," Spock answered. For a few moments, he concentrated on the instrument panel. There was a tiny jar, as the Cousteau settled to the deck in the shuttle bay.
"Congratulations, Cousteau," Indri announced. "Perfect landing, as far as I can tell. I knew you could do it, Captain Spock. Well have a ladder to the side of the Cousteau in a moment or two."
Spock stood up, and climbed the short ladder to the hatch. He grasped the knob for the release mechanism, only to find that it fell off in his hand as he turned it. He returned to the console. "Indri, it appears that there is a problem with opening the hatch. The knob inside has become detached. You will have to open it from the outside."
"No problem, Captain Spock. I designed the hatch to be sure that would be no problem. It will only be a moment or two." True to his word, within a moment or two, Spock heard what he assumed were Indris feet on the top of the shuttle, and the sound of the hatch being opened. Spock climbed the ladder, only to see Indris gesturing that he should remain silent. With Spock out, Indri called into the vehicle. "Out you come, Doctor McCoy. Then you and Captain Spock can help Mister Scott out." The doctor climbed the ladder, to see Indri make the same gesture to him. Last of all, Scott climbed out of the shuttle. As his head emerged, all he could see was his three friends as they crowded around the hatch, apparently trying to help him out.
Spock reached for the Scotsmans hand. "Allow me to assist you, Captain Scott," he offered.
"Youd be greater help if you gave me a wee bit of room to climb, Spock," Scott grumbled. He took the offered hand.
"Mister Indri," Spock requested, "If you will assist me?" Scott felt Spock lifting him out of the shuttle. Suddenly, he found himself sitting on Spock and Indris shoulders, facing a shuttle deck full of cheering people. Strung across the width of the bay was a gigantic banner, reading, "Welcome Back, Captain Scott!" and over the almost deafening din of the cheers, Scott could hear the sound of bagpipes playing Scotland The Brave.
"Welcome home, Scotty!" The Scotsman looked down, to see Captain Kirk, grinning at him. "We just thought that wed let you know how much we missed you."
There were tears on Scotts face. Suddenly, the whole area became silent, and the air was filled with the sound of Kirks eulogy for his friend. As the recorded eulogy came to an end, the captains voice boomed, "And were glad that it wasnt you we buried after all. Welcome back, Scotty!"
Spock and Indri carried Scott down from the Cousteau, to the seat of honor prepared for him. The crew surged around the Scotsman, welcoming their lost comrade home. With the attention of the crowd focused elsewhere, Spock turned to Indri. "I am most surprised that the viewscreen failed to function so conveniently, Indri, and that the hatch mechanism failed. It was my understanding that you inspected both mechanisms yourself."
Indri gave Spock a wide eyed look of innocence. "Why, Captain Spock, are you accusing me of sabotaging the hatch handle, and of arranging for a small circuit I could trigger from the Enterprise to shut off the forward screen?"
"The thought had not occurred to me, Indri, but since you mention it..." The Vulcans voice trailed off to an eloquent silence.
"I expect it never occurred to you to wonder why I was so glad that you and Doctor McCoy were present to help me into the shuttle, either, despite the fact that I could have as easily entered it myself. It was most convenient to have you both there when I was, ah, overcome with fatigue." Indri smiled widely. "After all, you are far more experienced at improvisation under dire circumstances, Captain Spock. And Doctor McCoys assistance was, I am sure, most helpful."
Spocks eyebrow arched. Before he could reply, Kirks voice boomed through the shuttle bay. "Ladies and gentlemen, I propose a toast! To Captain Scottmay he live long, and prosper!"
Kirks toast was greeted with loud cheers. As the cheering died down, Scott stood up. "Thank you all, and thank you, Captain. I didnt know how much I was appreciated. Getting to hear ones own eulogy is a rare treat, and no mistake, especially the kind things you said about my being an engineering genius. I was just thinking, in light of what you were saying, maybe this would be a good time to talk to you about a wee raise..."
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