Chapter One

            “Come ...”

            His cabin door opened with a swish but James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise didn’t look up.  He felt, more than watched, the familiar form of his first officer approach his desk.

            “You sent for me, Captain?” Spock asked.  He took in the condition of Kirk’s cabin -- tidy, as was its owner.  The room, nevertheless, had a more lived-in look to it than usual -- a consequence, no doubt, of four days’ shore leave at Starbase 12.

            The spell broke.  “Oh, yes, Spock.”  Kirk seemed distracted.  “‘I'm sorry ... please sit down.  I was ... well, what do you make of this?”  He turned the reader screen around to face his friend.

            “Ensign Rothschild directed it to my quarters as soon as it came in.”  Claudette Rothschild was second watch communications officer.

            Kirk shook his head.  “I confess, I’m stumped.  What makes a star just...disappear?  Outside of the usual reasons, that is.”

            Spock directed his concentration to the screen.  He moved a half empty glass of brandy to safety as he turned the screen back around to face the captain.

            “By ‘usual reasons,’ Captain, I assume you mean black holes, super novas, hyperspace anomalies--”

            Kirk broke in, “I get the point, Spock.  Continue.”

            “There are a number of possible explanations.  However, the communique does not provide enough data for more than an educated guess,” Spock said.  “May I also assume we have been directed to investigate the disappearance of the star VI Beta Caliguli?”

            “Why, Spock, do I detect  a hint of excitement in your voice?”

            The Vulcan leaned forward, resting his arms on the table and clasped his hands together in an act of practiced casualness.  He was a picture of sheer boredom to anyone who didn’t know him.

            “I must admit I am intrigued, Captain.  However, no more so than in any situation which promises an opportunity for increased knowledge.”  Spock raised an eyebrow and cocked his head slightly toward the bedroom.  “I suspect that will disappoint you, Doctor.”

            “I KNEW IT!”  The voice came from the other room.  “I told you, Jim!  Those pointy green ears could hear an Aurellian flea burp three cabins from here!”  An agitated Dr. Leonard McCoy charged around the corner, one finger pointed directly at Spock.  “But that doesn’t save him!  He's thrilled!  Didn’t I say he’d be thrilled?”

            “‘Thrilled,’ Doctor?” returned Spock, not bothering to turn around.  “Need I remind you that as a Vulcan, I do not feel emotions?  Therefore, my being ‘thrilled,’ as you say, is a physiological impossibility.”

            Kirk watched in mild amusement as his two friends began their usual ritual of verbal combat.  To an outsider, these two Starfleet officers would seem the worst of enemies.

            “Don't feel emotions?!” McCoy shot back, having picked up the gauntlet.  “In a pig's eye!”

            Kirk held up a hand.  “Gentlemen, if you are quite through ...”

            Both officers folded their arms, backs turned toward each other.

            “In answer to your question, Spock, yes, we’ll be going to investigate.  Starfleet Command has ordered us to proceed to the Beta Caliguli Cluster.  We leave as soon as we can get everyone back from shore leave.  Begin the recall immediately.”

            “As you wish, Captain.  I shall be on the bridge.”  Spock rose from the chair and left the cabin.

            Kirk turned to McCoy.  “In response to your question, Bones, you did indeed say Spock would be thrilled.”  Kirk tried hard -- often without success -- not to get in the middle when his two best friends were engaged in one of their verbal battles.

            “Yeah, well ...” McCoy downed the rest of his brandy.  “He was thrilled.”  He put the glass back on the desk and headed for the door.  “And, by God, he’s still thrilled.”  Swish.  The door opened.  “And someday ... someday ... I’m going to prove to that green--”  Swish.  The door closed.


            Starbase 12’s only tavern was dark and smoky.  Anyone with a choice would have been somewhere else.  Chief among those who had no choice were three prominent, and somewhat less than sober, officers of the USS Enterprise.

            From a table in the corner came a familiar Scottish brogue.

            “Listen to me, now, lad.  What I saw you with last night you wouldn’t want to be seen in the daylight with,” Scott said.  “Now, I’m no’ trying to insult you, lad, but as your superior officer, it’s m’duty to point out the need for a wee bit more discretion in your choice of companionship.”

            “Vith all due respect, sair, I was the only one of the three of us with any companionship of the opposite sex.  At least I didn’t spend the evening in a dress quoting technical manuals to inebriated helmsmen.”

            “A dress, now!  I’ll have ye know this kilt is fashioned of the finest  Highland wool!”

            Sulu lifted his head from the table.  “Maybe so,” he slurred,  “but I still say your legs need shaving.”  Sulu’s head dropped back down.

            “As I was saying, anybody could have found better-- ... Pavel?”

            Checkov was staring at the engineer’s legs.  “They do need shaving, you know,” he commented.


            “I'm sorry.  I don’t know vhat came over me,” he apologized.

            Scotty signaled for another round.

            As they waited for their drinks to arrive, a middle-aged, rather bovine woman appeared in the doorway.  She seemed to be studying the room, looking for someone.

            “Down, lad,” Scott snapped.  Checkov jumped out of his chair and ducked under the table.

            “Vhat!  Vhat is it?” he asked.  “Klingons?”

            Scott held Checkov's head down.  “Shhh!  Worse!  It’s yer dancing companion from last night and she’s on the prowl for sure.”

            “Let me see.”  Scott eased the pressure and Checkov peeked over the table.

            “She does look familiar.”  He squinted in a vain attempt to focus.  “Now that you mention it, she looks wery familiar.”  He winced.

            The woman, spotting someone she knew, lumbered across the room and joined them.

            Scott released the navigator from his uncomfortable position.  Checkov rubbed the spot on his head where the engineer had him in his iron grip.  “You know, I could have svorn she looked better last night.”

            Scott opened his mouth, but his words were replaced by a familiar chirp.

            Checkov stared at his friend in amazement.  “Vhat did you say?” he asked.

            Before Scott could speak, the communicator chirped again.

            “Twas na’ me,” the Scottsman said, looking around the bar to find the source of the sound.

            Checkov glanced at Sulu -- he hadn’t budged.  Then, lifting the cheap plastic tablecloth, the Russian peeked under the table.


            Pavel slammed the back of his head on the underside of the table, sending half-empty glasses clattering to the floor.  A foamy tide of beer washed up against Sulu’s face

            “There it goes again,” Pavel said, rubbing the sore spot on his head.

            Sulu lifted his head, foam dripping from his chin.  “Commu ... Commun ... Comm ...”  His head dropped back down with a soggy splat.

            Checkov picked up the chant.  “Comm ... commune ... Communist! ... no, that can’t be it.”  He looked at Scott as the chirp sounded again.

            “Communicator!” they both yelled.

            Sulu’s arm came to life long enough to shoot straight out, one finger pointing right at them.  Then it fell lifelessly to the table.

            Scott reached around to the back of his waist, grabbed his communicator and flipped it open.

            “Scott, here.”

            “Mr. Scott, all personnel are ordered to return to the Enterprise immediately.”  Lieutenant Uhura’s voice came through loud and clear.

            “Aye, lass,” Scott said with a sigh.  “We’re on our way.  Scott, out.”

            “I vonder vhat that’s all about?” Checkov asked, shrugging his shoulders.

            “I’m sure we'll find out in good time, lad.”  Between the two men, they managed to get Sulu to his feet and out the door.

            As the last particles of the transporter beam disappeared, Checkov’s dancing partner appeared at the door with a male companion on each arm.

©1989 Stephanie Holcombe and Steve Zachar