in_the_line_of_duty.gif (3635 bytes)

Nicole Comtet




Shortly after the first watch, Captain Kirk and his senior team sat in the briefing room of the Enterprise, and gave Admiral Komack’s communication their full attention.

"...Therefore, Captain, your present patrol assignment is canceled. You are to proceed immediately to Cygnet Twelve in order to pick up their diplomatic delegation, then proceed to Starbase Eleven where the talks will take place. Commodore Mendez will give you further instructions on your arrival at the starbase. I need not emphasize the importance of this mission. The amount of dilithium on the planet would easily support our plans for starship construction for the next twenty years.

"Suffice it to say that the Federation Council has great hopes of the Cygnetians joining the United Federation of Planets in the not too distant future. Naturally, we will rely on you and your crew to extend to our guests the hospitality traditional in Starfleet, and to be prepared to meet all their requirements and satisfy all their needs."

Here Komack paused significantly then resumed, "Now, it is for evident reasons which I need not explain here that the Enterprise has been assigned this delicate mission, but I want to make it clear that its success rests mostly on you, Captain Kirk, and on your fellow officers. I am sure that you won’t fail us. Good luck! Komack out."

As the admiral’s face disappeared, to be replaced with the Starfleet Command logo, Kirk switched off, clasped his hands on the table, and gave his officers a considered glance.

"And that, gentlemen, is the communiqué we just received on top priority channel. Comments, anyone?"

A grunt was heard from the direction of Chief Engineer Scott. "You would think they had a better use for a starship than as a taxi!"

"I know, Scotty," Kirk replied with a sigh, "but you heard Komack: important mission, V.I.P.’s, et cetera. Yes, Bones?"

"Correct me if I am wrong," said the doctor, "but I thought that Cygnet was already a member of the Federation."

"You mean Cygnet Fourteen, Doctor. This is Cygnet Twelve we are talking about," Commander Spock specified. "There are several class M planets in the Cygnet system."

"Quite, Mister Spock, but let us hope that there is only one inhabited by fun-loving females," the captain wryly remarked. The computer technicians at the space docks above Cygnet XIV had repaired the Enterprise’s computer a year ago. As a joke, they had given the ship’s computer a caricature female personality which had provided some brief amusement but ultimately had proved to be extremely distracting.

A ripple of reminiscent mirth ran around the briefing table, but the first officer was not amused. "Indeed, Captain," the Vulcan gravely said, "but their idea of ‘fun’ evinced a poor sense of responsibility."

"Agreed!" Kirk conceded with a grin. "Fortunately the ship’s essential operations were not affected. But let’s go back to the matter in hand. What information have you got for us, Spock?"

Spock called up the chart of the Cygnet planetary system on the central viewer, and gave them a concise description of Cygnet XII, adding by way of conclusion, "This is all the information that we have to date. The first contacts with Cygnet Twelve have been unsuccessful, and it is only a year ago that they accepted to enter into negotiation with the Federation envoys. Long and laborious discussions have finally led to their application for membership."

"Very good, Mister Spock, but you forget something," Kirk pleasantly remarked.

"Do I, sir?" Spock’s voice expressed polite disbelief.

"Sure. You didn’t specify that the success of the negotiations was mostly due to the diplomatic skills of your father, Ambassador Sarek."

"Is that so?" drawled McCoy, holding Spock in his sharp blue gaze. "Then you must have first hand information on these Cygnetian folks, Spock. Let us hear about it!"

"Sarek is not in the habit of disclosing classified information, Doctor," Spock stated curtly.

"Naturally, and I never said that he did!" McCoy countered testily. "I am not asking for diplomatic secrets, just for some interesting tidbits, some hints that Sarek might have dropped in conversations, if you understand what I mean."

"I do not, Doctor. Sarek does not drop hints." Spock radiated disdainful disapproval.

"No, somehow I don’t think he would," Kirk dryly commented, then summed up the situation. "Well, we have our orders, ladies and gentlemen. I want all departments to be ready for inspection on our arrival at Cygnet Twelve. I want the ship to be spic and span from stem to stern. Let us show these delegates that the Enterprise is Starfleet’s finest."

"That we will, Captain. Never fear!" Scott assured him, a zealous gleam in his eyes.

"Right, Scotty, I’m sure you and your team will do us proud. Now, in regards Komack’s special recommendations, as usual we are ordered to give our guests the best possible impression of Starfleet, which means that we must be prepared to satisfy their demands to the best of our long as it does not interfere with the service and the safety of the ship." Then with a significant glance around, he added, "Any inconvenience or personal discomfort notwithstanding."

A murmur of half-hearted assent rose from the senior crew who did not seem overjoyed at the prospect.

"I know it’s a damned nuisance, but it will only last a week," Kirk said.

"Excuse me, sir," the chief of security spoke up, "but I’d like to know exactly where we stand with security. Will they have complete freedom of the ship?"

"Certainly not, Mister Giotto," Kirk firmly replied. "The high security sections are off limits as usual. I repeat: the service and the security of the ship come first, but at the same time, discretion and diplomacy are the key words, Commander."

"Understood, Captain. There should be no problem."

"Good. Any more questions? Mister Sulu?"

"Sir, do you know why the Enterprise has been picked up for this mission? The admiral spoke of obvious reasons..."

"Sorry, Sulu, but I can give you no reasonable answer other than Starfleet recurrent habit of using our ship to ferry shiploads of notables, and you know there’s nothing we can do about it."

"Captain...if I may?" the first officer smoothly intervened.

"Yes, Spock? Have you any ideas on the question?"

"Perhaps I have, sir. I believe there is a great probability for the Cygnetian delegation to be exclusively female."

A movement of interest met this revelation, but Kirk looked dubious. "Well, assuming this is not pure speculation—and no offense meant, Spock—I still don’t get your point."

"Sir," Spock carefully explained, "it is logical to surmise that Admiral Komack has arranged to transfer the female diplomats on the Enterprise because you are the captain, and also in view of past experiences."

A moment of silence followed while the implication gradually sank in. Kirk, quite conscious of the discreet grins spreading on his subordinates’ faces, tried his best glare. "‘Logical,’ you say?" he repeated, pretending umbrage.

"Yes, Captain." Spock stuck to his guns.

"Do you mean to say that my ship is to be saddled with female V.I.P.’s because of me, personally?"

"I believe that is what I said, Captain." Spock looked his most innocent.

A few seconds passed as the two officers held each other’s eyes in silence. Kirk’s hazel eyes, responding to the gleam lurking in the Vulcan’s gaze, crinkled in a smile as he declared, "Well, all I can say is that you have a damned peculiar opinion of your captain, Mister!"

"You know he’s right, Jim," McCoy said over the laughter. "Komack is no fool and, given your reputation, it’s no wonder if he is entrusting the Cygnetians to your tender care!"

"To our tender care, yours included, Bones. Don’t forget we’re all in the same boat. Still, a female delegation does sound interesting, assuming, of course, that Spock’s conjecture proves to be correct."

"Yeah, what makes you say that the delegation will probably be women, Spock?" the doctor asked.

"Simple deduction, Doctor. Cygnet Twelve, although technologically advanced, is an extremely matriarchal society. The power lies in the hands of a ruling caste, the female Warriors, comparable to the legendary Amazons. All offices of authority belong to women exclusively, so it stands to reason to expect female diplomats to attend negotiations on which depends the future of their planet."

"Excuse me, Mister Spock," Chief Engineer Scott leaned forward. "But where did you get all that information? Not in the computer’s banks, was it?"

Spock, face inscrutable, remained silent.

"Was it from Sarek?" the captain inquired.

"No, sir. With your permission, I would rather not reveal my sources," Spock replied, his gaze meeting that of Kirk.

The look which passed between them was brief but sufficient for the latter to concede. "All right, Spock. I won’t press you. I expect your sources are reliable?"

"Perfectly, Captain," Spock briefly said.

A pause followed, then McCoy, with a curious glance at his friends, declared, "Damned mysterious, aren’t you, Spock? But perhaps you can tell us about the men? What is their status on Cygnet Twelve?"

"They belong to the lower Labor caste and have no say in the ruling of the planet."

"Why this sounds pretty damn barbaric to me," muttered Chief Giotto. "Are they slaves or something like that?"

Uhura sat up with interest at the question.

"So far as we know, Mister Giotto, slavery does not exist on Cygnet Twelve," the Vulcan replied, "but the fact is that subordinate works and menial tasks are reserved to the males...which does not necessarily makes that society more ‘barbaric’ than the male-dominated society of your planet’s past, when the situation of Terran women was no better than the Cygnetian males’ present one. It’s all a matter of perspective, Mister Giotto."

"Yeah, but I can’t believe the Federation would allow a planet that uses a sex-based caste system to join."

"The planet must have a lot of dilithium," Sulu concluded.

"Good points, gentlemen. However, let’s keep our minds open," Kirk said with a glance at the security chief who looked only half-convinced.

"Of course, Captain," responded Spock.

"Yes, sir," responded Giotto.

"But, Captain, are we going to yield to these diplomats on just about all their demands?" Sulu asked plaintively.

"Don’t worry, Lieutenant. The day when I shall let anyone dictate to me or my crew on my ship is yet to come," Kirk solemnly promised.

"Hear! Hear!" Montgomery Scott loudly agreed setting off a round of chuckling.

Spock broke in, "I am afraid that you’re laboring under a misapprehension."

The command crew all looked at him.

"According to my...informant, the Cygnetians are not the viragos that you seem to imagine. On the contrary, they are a handsome, intelligent race, physically and intellectually superior to many species known in the galaxy."

"What! Even superior to the Vulcans?" McCoy’s sarcasm was ignored.

"No, Doctor," Spock aloofly replied. "The Cygnetians are unfortunately afflicted with a regrettable flaw."

"A flaw? What kind of flaw?" McCoy wanted to know.

A shadow of distaste crossed the Vulcan’s face. "They are inclined to be highly emotional," he stated.

The room dissolved into laughter.

"Well," Kirk chuckled. "That at least is something we’ll have in common with them. All right," he went on, rising to his feet. "That’s all for now. You have your instructions, ladies and gentlemen. Dismissed."

As the officers dispersed, the doctor took the Vulcan aside. "All right, Spock, off the record. That informant of yours...huh? I’ll bet I know who she is!" His blue eyes challenged the dark ones and caught a flicker of amusement in their depths.

But Spock was not to be drawn in to the fray. "No comment, Doctor," he coolly replied, and strode away.

The Vulcan caught up with Kirk in the turbolift. As they were speeding up to the bridge, he felt the captain’s quizzical gaze upon him.

Kirk said with approval, "Your informant was most helpful."

"Thank you, Captain."

"By the way, how is the lady Amanda?" he inquired casually, his twinkling eyes telling that he had not been fooled one little bit by Spock’s discretion.

"She was quite well when I last heard from her," the Vulcan told him deadpan.

Kirk gave him a knowing look. "Ah...your mysterious informant, isn’t she? Come on, your little secret is safe with me, you know!"

"It is not much of a secret...not to the good doctor, anyway," Spock admitted.

"Oh? So our astute McCoy has guessed, too? Not that it was so difficult for someone acquainted with your parents. Who else, besides Sarek and his aides, could come by that inside knowledge but the person always by his side? Your mother, Spock."

The Vulcan let the ghost of a smile surface in his eyes. "Sound reasoning, Captain," he commended.

"Simple deduction, my friend. But, tell me," Kirk turned the control, bringing the lift to a stop. "How did your mother cope with these formidable female warriors?"

"Very well. Actually better than Sarek."

"Logical. As a woman, she was an equal in their society," Kirk commented.

"Indeed. She even became a celebrity at the court and was honored with the Cygnetian equivalent of Knighthood, after a slight disagreement—due to some cultural misunderstanding—had been satisfactorily settled."

"Really? Congratulations! But what was the disagreement about, do you know?"

"It seems," Spock began, looking embarrassed, "that several ladies of the Queen’s entourage expressed close interest on Sarek, and were displeased when he declined their...offers, and when my mother strongly objected."

"You mean...they had, er, designs on the Ambassador?"

Spock nodded.

"I can’t believe it!" Kirk seemed to be torn between shock and hilarity.

"True, nevertheless. According to my mother, the Cygnetian males are not only treated like second rate citizens, but are also considered like some kind of interchangeable commodities to be claimed, swapped or discarded at will. Naturally, the Lady Amanda did not share these views and asserted her exclusive rights on my father in no uncertain terms."

"Good for her!" Kirk cheered.

"Curiously, her determination won her the approval and support of the Queen, and consequently the honorific distinction."

Kirk deduced, "The way your mother impressed these women must have contributed to the success of Sarek’s mission."

"Possibly," Spock admitted.

Kirk put the lift on the move again. "All the same, I’d’ve given a lot to have seen the reaction of Sarek!" He chuckled, then sobered down in view of a disapproving eyebrow. "I know, Spock. It’s a damned awkward situation for an ambassador on a diplomatic mission to be propositioned by ladies of the receiving planet. Come to think of it, I wonder if we should not warn all male personnel of the, er, potential risks?"

Spock cocked a mocking eyebrow. "I should not worry if I were you, Captain. Given the vast experience that Humans generally have in sexual matters, I have no doubt that the crew will be well capable of coping with any such situation."

Kirk regarded him with a suspicious eye. "Should I take that as an insult or a compliment, Mister Spock?"

"As you like it, Captain," Spock blandly replied.


Two days later, the Enterprise was orbiting planet Cygnet XII, and the captain was champing at his bit. His restlessness was manifested by the nervous tattoo that his fingers drummed on the arm of the command chair.

His patience, obviously, was running thin, but he had some excuse for they had been parked in orbit for the best part of the day, waiting for the good will of the diplomats. The ship had arrived right on schedule, and the first contact with Cygnet XII had been short but courteous. After an exchange of greetings, they had been required to stand by...and standing by they were, to the growing irritation of the captain and the weariness of the crew, chief science officer excepted. Actually Spock, bent over his viewer, was having a field day, stocking up the ship computer with precious data picked up by his sensors of the white and green planet revolving down below. Thus, as he pointed out to Kirk, their time would not be entirely wasted.

The captain, however, was willing to be kept waiting only up to a certain point. With a muttered oath, he flipped the intercom switch and called the transporter room. "Any progress yet?" he snapped.

"No, Captain, nothing!" Lieutenant Commander Scott sounded flustered. "Who do they think they are, keeping a Federation starship hanging around while they finish packing? I have a good mind to...ah, at last! We just received the coordinates, and about time!"

While Scott prepared to beam up the Cygnetians’ baggage, his running commentaries came through the comlink. "Easy now, lads. Their ladyships wouldn’t be best pleased if...Great Scott!" A gasp...then, silence.

A silence so disturbing that the bridge crew looked round at the captain who, suddenly tense, called sharply, "Mister Scott! Report! What is it? What happened?"

A few expletives were muttered in Gaelic, then... "The luggage, Captain. A mountain of luggage! I’ve never seen anything like it. Had I been warned, I’d’ve used the cargo transporter. And there are four burly baggage handlers, too! How they managed to squeeze in is anyone’s guess! Hello! Welcome aboard... Huh? Just a moment. Borgas frat! Activating translator now."

Chief Engineer Scott was heard fretting, and the captain was shaking his head when a familiar voice quietly in his ear asked, "Captain?"

"Yes, Mister Spock?" he looked up at his first officer standing at his side.

"Perhaps I could be of assistance?" the Vulcan delicately suggested.

"Scotty will be glad of your help; he’s not exactly an expert at diplomacy."

Spock nodded and left, and Kirk looked up at Uhura. "Lieutenant," he said, "tell maintenance to send a dozen more antigrav sleds to the main transporter room, will you? They might come in handy." Then, as Uhura passed on the order, he sat back and mused, "Piles of luggage? What for, I wonder?"


Moments later, Spock was back on the bridge and greeted with a "Well, Mister Spock, how are things down there?" from Kirk.

"Well on the way to be settled to satisfaction, Captain," reported the Vulcan. "One more Cygnetian has beamed up with some light luggage, which brings the staff to five male attendants all told. For convenience, I assigned them to the spare cabins on the V.I.P. wing on Deck Five, and had some crewmen help them transport and unpack the trunks they required for the voyage. The rest is to be stored in the cargo hold. I hope these arrangements meet with your approval, sir?"

"Quite, Spock," Kirk agreed, "a good thing that’s settled. But what about the delegation? What are they waiting for?"

Spock assumed his inimitable air of supercilious tolerance. "The ladies are waiting for their quarters to be readied to their satisfaction. Apparently they are very...particular, and they will not beam up until their attendants have everything unpacked and nicely laid out."

"But that may take hours!" Kirk exclaimed in irritation.

"It will take a certain time, although the bayle struck me as an efficient man who has his team well in hand," Spock conceded.

"Damn!" Kirk swore under his breath. "That’s all we needed. A delay won’t set too well with Starfleet Command. But what did you say? The bayle?"

"Yes, sir, the chief attendant who turned out to be quite informative. For instance, he told me—"

But McCoy chose that moment to disembark the turbolift. "Jim, what’s this I hear about tons of luggage being beamed aboard?" he asked eagerly.

"News travel fast, I can see," the captain remarked dryly.

"Sure it does; it’s all over the ship by now," McCoy grinned unabashedly, and came down to stand at Kirk left side. "And these Cygnetians? What do they look like?"

"Don’t ask me, Bones! Ask our expert here. He’s just met them," Kirk said with a nod at Spock.

"I beg your pardon, Captain. I have only seen five male Cygnetians," the Vulcan specified, "and I had more pressing business to do than to pay much attention to their physical appearance."

"Come off it, Spock!" the doctor protested.

"Please, Mister Spock," Uhura begged, supported by the whole bridge crew.

Hands clasped behind his back, Spock drew himself up. "I cannot see the logic in describing a species that you will have ample opportunity to study during the voyage; However, if only to satisfy your curiosity, Lieutenant, I suppose that, as a Human, you may find them aesthetically pleasing."

"Now, that’s interesting. And, do you, Mister Spock?" she asked, her dark eyes dancing.

"His Human half probably does, Uhura," McCoy put in slyly.

It was a remark which Spock chose to ignore as he turned to Kirk and primly said, "Excuse me, Captain, but I was about to convey some information which you ought to know when we were interrupted."

"That’s right, something that the bayle told you, wasn’t it?"

"Yes, sir. He gave me a brief outline of the delegates’ social position, their ranks, titles and functions. I believe it is more important than their external appearance, sir."

"Right as always, Mister Spock. Go ahead," Kirk prompted.

"First of all," Spock began, adopting his lecturing stance, "is the Ambassador, head of the delegation, who ranks among the high dignitaries of the planet, being one of the Queen’s private councilors."

The captain was impressed. "Looks like we’ll be moving in the high circles. That explains Komack’s special recommendations, I suppose. And what is the lady’s name, Spock?"

"She is Ambassador Adekunda Tahjeh Dah Tecumseh," Spock announced.

Eyes widened all around, and McCoy snorted, "Say that again?"

"Ambassador Adekunda Tahjeh Dah Tecumseh," Spock obliged then continued imperturbably, "The lady next in rank is right in your field, Doctor. Councilor Tanlila Pendalila Jeh Dahseh, a healer of repute and a relative to the Ambassador. As for the other three women, they function as aides, secretaries, bodyguards, et cetera. First comes Jabakim Perdita Dah Tibiliseh, next First Secretary Dorali Mendali Jumseh, and lastly, First Warrior Vanijeh Dah."

"Jabakim? What’s that?" asked McCoy.

"A rank within the Warrior caste, Doctor. Somewhat akin to the rank of Colonel in the Starfleet Marines. She is aide de camp to the Ambassador. Her full name and title are Jabakim Perdita Dah Tibiliseh."

"Whoa there, Spock!" McCoy broke in. "What’s the use of reeling off names that we’ll never remember anyway?"

"Speak for yourself, Doctor!" Uhura protested.

"Sorry, my dear, but you have to be a Vulcan or a communication officer to memorize all that. I know I can’t!"

"Never mind, Doctor McCoy," said Kirk. "Their titles will have to do for a start."

"Captain!" Uhura, hand on her ear piece, exclaimed, "A call from the planet, sir. The delegation is now ready to beam up."

"That’s it, gentlemen!" Kirk slapped the armrest of his chair and stood up. "Uhura, call Sickbay and Security, will you? Mister Sulu, as soon as the delegates are aboard, proceed at Warp Factor Four on course for Starbase Eleven. Mister Spock, you have the conn...oh, and Bones, I don’t want to see you anywhere near the transporter, understood?"

A chorus of "Aye, sir" answered him.

"Ladies, shall we go and welcome our guests?" he jovially said, and gathering Lieutenants Rhada and Uhura in tow, Kirk marched to the turbolift.

As the first officer took place in the command chair, Doctor McCoy leaned on the railing behind him and remarked, "Ladies first, huh? Looks like we’re going to have to stay on the sidelines."

"No discrimination involved here, Doctor," Spock said patiently. "Only the captain’s wise decision to spare the diplomats the shock of male predominance at their first meeting. Facts, when unexpected and unpleasant, are better accepted if disclosed incrementally. You, Doctor, as a professed psychologist, ought to know this elementary principle."

"And what, may I ask, do you know of Cygnetian psychology?" demanded McCoy. "Better mind your hardware gadgets, and leave psychology to experts, Mister Spock!"

"Doctor, let me point out that..."

And, much to their shipmates’ amusement, the Enterprise first officer and chief medical officer embarked on one of their favorite sparring sessions.


Meanwhile, Captain Kirk and his female officers had arrived at the transporter room. As he strode in, Kirk noted with satisfaction that Security Chief Giotto had followed his orders to the letter and detailed for the guard of honor the six female officers of his squad, led by Lieutenant Anne Nored, Assistant Chief of Security.

At the captain’s entrance, all six snapped to attention. "As you were," he told them with a nod of approval, then he smiled at Chief Nurse Christine Chapel and Chief Psychologist Helen Noel whose blue tunics contrasted with the reds and blacks of Security.

"Good! I think we are about ready," he said. "Mister Kyle, have you checked the coordinates?"

"Aye, sir. Everything is in order, just waiting for the word," replied the transporter chief who looked outnumbered in this feminine gathering.

"Stations, please!" ordered Kirk. The six guards lined on each side of transporter stage while the four officers moved into position on either side of the captain. "Energize!"

As the whine of the mechanism decreased, six pillars of energy slowly took shape and materialized into five feminine figures in full warrior a magnificent snow-white feline held in leash. The sight was so spectacular, so exotic that the Enterprise team just stood and stared, barely conscious of being stared at in return.

Finally a "Good Lord!" breathed by Kirk snapped Uhura out of her daze, and remembering her role, she stepped forward and bowed gracefully.

"Madame Ambassador, ladies, welcome aboard. I am Lieutenant Penda Nyota Uhura, Chief Communications Officer. May I have the honor of introducing James T. Kirk, Captain of the United Starship Enterprise?"

In silence, the beauties and the beast stepped down the platform. One woman, whose rich attire and unmistakable air of authority marked as their superior, approached and inclined her head.

"Your welcome is appreciated, Lieutenant Uhura," her voice, a rich contralto, was pleasant to the ear. "But, I don’t understand..." She stared at Kirk in perplexity. "A Human male is the captain of the Enterprise, Starfleet’s flagship? Unbelievable!"

Her eyes were cold, her tone disdainful. Kirk, self-consciously aware of her detached inspection, decided that it was time to unleash the charm. Flashing one of his dazzling smiles, he bowed and said, "Yes, Ambassador. I see that this comes as a surprise to you, but you will find it common occurrence in Starfleet. Here, on my ship, men and women serve together, as you will see by yourself when I shall, at your convenience, take you on a tour of the Enterprise, Madame. In the meantime, may I have the pleasure of presenting my officers?"

"You may," she assented with condescension and turned her attention back to the young women.

Kirk took advantage of the introductions to give his guests a discreet once-over, and what he saw confirmed his first impression.

These beautiful creatures were tall, fair-headed women whose pale complexion would allow them to pass for Scandinavian beauties, except for their strange almond-shaped eyes ranging from the palest of lavender to the deepest of violet, and for the small tattoo mark that each one bore on her brow.

The Ambassador looked simply stunning. The warrior trappings that she wore with great distinction, chain mail tabard, light helmet of burnished steel chiseled with gold, black leather breeches and boots, flattered her figure and made her white skin look almost translucent. The captain wondered what she might look like in a more feminine attire and could not help but hope that his curiosity be soon satisfied.

Each officer was duly introduced and subjected to the appraising scrutiny of a pair of lilac eyes, but when Chief Kyle’s turn came, he was spared only the most cursory glance as if such a nonentity was not worth of the lady’s attention.

"I must point out, Madame," said Kirk, "that most of my senior officers are currently on duty, but you will meet them tonight at dinner if you will give us the pleasure of your company?"

"Thank you, we will," she regally replied. Turning to her party, she said, "This is my staff, Captain. Councilor Jeh Dahseh," she indicated a handsome silver-headed woman wrapped in a fur cloak, "Jabakim Dah Tibiliseh, and my aides," she concluded with a nod toward the three younger women, resplendent in their shining armors. "Now, Captain, if convenient, I wish to retire to my quarters. I trust that my luggage and my servants are on board?"

Uhura then intervened. "They are in your suite, Madame. Shall I show you the way?"

"By all means," the Cygnetian said with authority and made for the door. Then she paused and looked back at Kirk. "Captain, I hope you have no objection to my pet on your ship. She never leaves my side."

Kirk eyed the animal dubiously. "Not at all, so long as she behaves herself. She’s beautiful...what is she?"

"A tungah, one of our finest predators," the lady replied, stroking the soft white pelt. "She is quite tame, but she can become fierce occasionally."

And on these parting words, the Ambassador marched out followed by her staff and the Enterprise officers. The captain and transporter chief were left looking at each other in perplexity.

"Opinion, Mister Kyle?" Kirk asked with a wry smile.

"Well, sir, since you ask me, I should say that the ladies have a poor opinion of men."

"They certainly do. That’s a characteristic of their culture, I understand. But, tell you what, Lieutenant!" A wicked smile dawned on Kirk’s face. "I bet you that before this mission’s over, we’ll make them change their minds!"

Kyle’s long face split in a delighted grin, but his "Aye, sir" was lost as the door closed behind the captain.


That evening, the officers’ lounge was ablaze with dress uniforms and astir with curiosity. Rumors had traveled at warp speed since the diplomats’ arrival, and now the crewmembers who had welcomed them aboard were besieged by their shipmates and plied with questions.

Doctor McCoy, standing glass in hand by the bar in Lieutenant Commander Scott’s company, observed all the excitement with amusement. Among the ranking officers present, men and women numbered about even, but Kirk had not yet arrived, and Spock was nowhere to be seen.

The doctor asked for a refill and remarked, "I have seldom seen such an effervescence over a diplomatic delegation. I wonder what makes those Cygnetians so special. Any idea, Scotty? You were the first to meet them."

"Well, I saw the men, all right; good-looking, strapping fellows no doubt, but..." Scott’s voice trailed off. "I heard the women are something else, according to Kyle."

"Yeah, they must be," McCoy nodded, "even Chapel was impressed. ‘Just wait and see,’ she said. Well, here we are, waiting and speculating...Ah! here’s Jim at last."

The captain, sporting the whole batch of decorations on his dress jacket, had just arrived, and was giving the company that sharp-eyed look which missed nothing. He caught McCoy’s eye and made his way to the bar.

"Well, Jim," the chief medical officer greeted him, "here we all are, in full dress uniform, per your orders, but where are the ladies?"

"They should be here any minute now. Lieutenant Uhura and Nurse Chapel just went to fetch them. This before-dinner gathering is Uhura’s idea, you know. A drink and a chat to break the ice and get acquainted."

"A bonny idea!" the chief engineer declared. "Nothing like a wee dram or two to break the ice and help make new friends. But, Captain, between you and me and Leonard here, tell us about the Cygnetian ladies."

"Patience, Scotty. Just wait and see," Kirk teased.

"Are Spock’s parlance, aesthetically pleasing?"McCoy asked.

"That, Bones, was the understatement of the decade!" Kirk grinned.

"Really? Well, you should know; you are the expert in that matter," McCoy grinned back. "But where is Spock? Isn’t he coming?"

"Mister Spock, pressed by some urgent duty, has requested permission to be exempted of —I quote —‘the pre-dinner drinking session.’ Permission granted, of course," Kirk announced.

The information drew a tolerant chuckle from his companions.

"So," McCoy noted sarcastically, "our Vulcan has once again managed to talk himself out of his social duties. You are much too easy-going with him, Captain; you have him spoiled!"

Kirk had hardly found a suitable retort when conversations and laughter petered out and a hush fell over the assembly. All the heads turned to the door where Lieutenant Uhura and Christine Chapel were ushering in the Cygnetians, five statuesque beauties whose attires and makeups were examples of elegance and glamour.

The Cygnetians, having discarded their warlike panoply, now stood revealed in all their feminine appeal enhanced by the colors of their evening dresses and by the extravagance of their hairstyles. Past the first shock of surprise, the company began to react.

"Would you believe it!" came from McCoy.

"Good Heavens! Are they real?" asked the engineer in awe.

"Want to make sure?" Kirk asked, enjoying his friends’ reaction. "Come on, gentlemen. Stop gawking and make your bow to the ladies," and the captain opened a way through the throng.

Uhura, who was making introductions, broke off at their sight. "Oops! Sorry, Captain," she said. "Perhaps you would rather..."

"Not at all, Lieutenant; you’re doing fine. Carry on; this is your show." He turned to the Ambassador. "Madame, we are honored," Kirk went on, unable to hide his admiration. Indeed, Ambassador Dah Tecumseh was a sight to behold with her pearly face framed by glossy coppery plaits and with her figure sheathed in a gold and mauve outfit, a clinging affair which left little to the imagination.

The woman inclined her head loftily. "Captain!" she acknowledged, then she turned her violet gaze to his companions.

"My senior officers," he said. "Our chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, and Doctor Leonard McCoy, the ship’s chief surgeon. I’m sure," he added pleasantly, "that Healer Jeh Dahseh and Doctor McCoy will find that they have much in common."

The lady in question, supremely elegant in a silver and cobalt blue gown, spared McCoy a disdainful glance. "I doubt it, Captain Kirk," she coolly said. "Men are notoriously incapable of comprehending the most basic of concepts, let alone acquiring the specific knowledge required for practicing medicine. Moreover, the mere idea of entrusting the art of healing to inferiors is preposterous!"

A deafening silence descended on the lounge. Uhura bit her lip in vexation; a flush of indignation rose up to Chapel’s face.

All attention now turned to the doctor whose quick temper and sharp tongue had earned him quite a reputation in Starfleet. For a brief moment, McCoy stood stock still, his blue eyes holding the councilor’s in a piercing glare. Then he struck a pose, folding his arms with slow deliberation. He chuckled, but it sounded more like one of derision than of mirth. "My, my! So much prejudice, so much ignorance to be found in such a lovely lady...what a pity!" he drawled. "So, according to you, Madame, we men are but inferior creatures too dumb and stupid to understand anything about medical matters? Wrong, my dear, completely, utterly wrong, and I shall prove it to you!"

Then, dropping his sarcastic tone, McCoy favored her with one of his irresistible smiles. "Come, let talk about it over a drink!"’

The Cygnetian healer, obviously disconcerted, blinked, hesitated, then, yielding to his southern charm, let the doctor escort her to the bar.

At once conversations resumed as if nothing untoward had happened. Captain Kirk turned to survey his officers with a smile, obviously pleased with McCoy’s handling of what could have been an unpleasant incident. Nurse Chapel and Lieutenant Uhura nodded and, seeing the rest of the Cygnetian delegation standing transfixed in shock, exchanged a glance. Taking them under their wings, they chose to leave the Ambassador to the captain’s care.

Appreciative of their maneuver, Kirk looked at the diplomat with a half-apologetic, half-mischievous smile. "Shall we forget this incident, Madame?" he suggested. "You see, your Councilor is perfectly safe with McCoy. As we say on my planet, "His bark is worse than his bite,’ and it looks to me that they’re now getting along fine."

She glanced at the two doctors who were sitting deep in conversation in a quiet corner of the room, then looked back at Kirk somewhat quizzically. "I am not in the least concerned, Captain. My cousin is well able to take care of herself."

"So I noticed." There was irony in the captain’s voice. "Our good doctor seems to have found his match with Healer Dahseh. But, what about a drink, Ambassador? Shall we sit down?"

They had hardly taken place by one of the large viewing ports that a young crewman turned up. "Your orders, Captain?" he briskly asked.

"Ah, Jenkins. Well, Ambassador? Would you prefer soft drinks perhaps...or cocktails?" Kirk looked inquiringly at his guest. "Unless, of course, something more potent would be more to your liking, Madame?"

"Certainly. Romulan ale for me, please," she requested.

Jenkins looked uncertainly at the captain who, having in mind Admiral Komack’s recommendations, cleared his throat and said diffidently, "Actually, Madame, Romulan ale is illegal on board Federation starships, but I believe that we can make an exception for you." Motioning the crewman closer, Kirk whispered a few words which sent the young man hurrying away. Looking conspiratorially around, he lowered his voice. "Between you and me, Ambassador, we keep a stock of Romulan ale locked up in a private hold. The advantage of patrolling the Neutral Zone and visiting isolated outposts. I hope I can rely on your discretion?" he added, a twinkle in his eyes.

The lady stared at him...then burst out laughing. The effect was, to say the least, startling. Gone was the proud patrician dripping contempt on what she considered as subalterns; instead, Kirk was discovering a charming, radiant woman whose lilac eyes danced with humor.

"Do not worry, Captain; your guilty secret is safe with me," she said at last. "I won’t breath a word about your illicit dealings. On one condition, however," she paused and eyed him with mischief, "that you keep me and my staff supplied with Romulan ale for the duration of the trip. A fair deal, don’t you agree?"

It was his turn to break into laughter. "All right. It’s a deal. But in return, you will do me the favor of tasting our Terran wines and spirits. On the matter of drinks, we can easily compete with the Romulans. Don’t you agree?"

"Agreed," she nodded, and picked up the tall crystal glass set by her side by Jenkins. The ensign was about to withdraw with the bottle of ale when Kirk caught the lady’s eye.

"That’ll do, Jenkins. Just leave it here."

Jenkins, red in the face, departed. "Yes, sir."

The captain, raising his glass to his guest, flashed at point blank the devastating Kirk-ian smile.

Surprisingly, she smiled back, a smile seductive enough to take his breath away and raise his blood pressure. Then, sipping her blue drink, she regarded him with quickened interest. "You are a surprising man, Captain," she calmly stated.

Under her keen scrutiny, Kirk suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling of being an open book to the beautiful ambassador. "In what way?" he asked warily.

The Ambassador tilted her head, eyeing him appraisingly. "Apparently, you are a man of character, of authority, with a degree of understanding appropriate to your position. Added to that a pleasant physical appearance," she coolly enumerated. "Tell me, are the males of your species like you, or are you an exception?"

Kirk covered his confusion with laughter. For all his vast experience with females, he was at a loss what to say. He felt a bit miffed by her blunt appraisal, but also strongly attracted to her strange beauty. Much as he liked to impress her, he could not possibly say that yes, he was an exception, that he was the one and only James T. Kirk of galactic fame. It would sound utterly ridiculous, and the lady was no fool, obviously.

And so, after refilling their glasses, he opted for candor. "No, Ambassador, I’m no exception, nor are my officers. We’re all typical Starfleet personnel. Starfleet requires the best and the brightest. We have to excel in various disciplines, to submit to the most arduous training in order to qualify for deep space assignment. But I like to think that the Enterprise crew is the best in Starfleet, and I am proud to be their captain. Does that answer your question?"

"In a way, yes," she said thoughtfully. "I can see that if you demand much from your crew, you take pride in their achievements, as I do with my subordinates. We seem to have that much in common, Captain."

Kirk beamed. The lady’s response was unexpected."In that case, perhaps we should try and find out what more we have in common."

" might be interesting," she replied with an enigmatic smile which left him in suspense. "There is, however, an important question which may remain a subject of contention, Captain. The principle of equal rights for females and male—which is, as I understand it, the rule in your Federation— is unacceptable on Cygnet Twelve."

"Yes, so I heard." Kirk nodded. "But don’t you think that your people may have too strong a view on that matter? With time, things change. Look around. Your assistants find it quite acceptable to socialize with my officers, males and females."

She followed his gaze and glanced around the lounge. He was right. To judge from the merry mood of the party, the ice was definitely broken. Chief Engineer Scott was even trying to convince Dah Tibiliseh of the superiority of pure malt over Mister Sulu’s sake, and apparently, the Jabakim was quite willing to try them both. The Ambassador shrugged. "Yes, Captain, but you must realize that my aides are willing to fraternize with your male officers because they are aliens, not Cygnetians."

"But, what difference does that make?"

"It makes all the difference!" she sharply replied. "On my planet, men and women are never seen intermixing in public. Our society would collapse if males were granted the same status, the same rights as females. We would revert to the state of the anarchy, the utter and complete chaos and barbarism that took us, females, centuries to emerge from. We cannot take the risk of giving the men the least bit of authority, Captain. That is unthinkable."

Kirk argued, "People have been known to evolve, to improve. Could your male population not be given a chance?"

"To imagine that Cygnetian males could change for the better is but a delusion, as we have learned to our cost. You cannot understand, Captain. I tell you it is downright impossible!" she stated with clipped finality.

But Kirk, never one to give up, remarked. "With all due respect, Ambassador, I have heard that one before, and yet I have seen events deemed ‘impossible’ happen too often to set much store by that argument. That’s not to say that I don’t understand how you feel about it, but, to quote the most brilliant man I know, ‘There are always possibilities.’"

The Cygnetian ambassador looked skeptical. "A daring concept," she said with a curl of the lips as she set her empty glass down on the side table. "But can it stand up to facts? I doubt it. But, I am curious...who is that brilliant man you refer too, Captain?"

"My first officer."

"Really? Well, if your first officer believes that his fine theory can apply to Cygnet Twelve, he is a fool or he knows nothing of my world," Dah Tecumseh flatly declared.

"He is neither, Madame. What’s more, he happens to be our resident expert on your planet."

As Kirk anticipated, that caught all her attention. "An expert on Cygnet Twelve? That I would like to see. Why haven’t you introduced him to me?" she asked peremptorily.

"Because he hasn’t arrived, yet. His duties have kept him longer than expected in our laboratories," Kirk glibly explained. "Actually, besides my second-in-command, he’s the chief science officer of the ship, and has won himself a wide reputation in scientific spheres." Though casually mentioned, the captain was not displeased to see the supercilious woman look suitably impressed. "Anyway, he’ll be joining us for dinner and should be along any moment now."

Just as Kirk was speaking, the door slid open, and Spock, as neat as a new pin in his dress uniform, came in quietly and took his usual stand just inside the door, to silently survey the assembly.

" he is." Kirk beckoned to his friend.

"The Vulcan? Your first officer?" Dah Tecumseh gasped in surprise.

"Yes...I hope you don’t object to Vulcans?"

"Object, Captain? No...on the contrary," she softly said, and the tone of her voice, the light in her eyes were so revealing that Kirk felt a sudden and unexpected pang of jealousy. Damn! He had spent the last half-hour trying to win the lady’s good graces, and progressed nicely, and Spock had but to show the tip of a pointed ear for those efforts to come to nil. Damn it! It was so unfair. First Sarek, and now Spock? Unbelievable. Now all five Cygnetians had spotted the Vulcan and were following him with their eyes as he crossed the room...and of course Spock, bless him, was totally unaware of their fascination.

"I should have known," the Ambassador was now saying. "Only a Vulcan could fit in your description, Captain. But I don’t understand your Starfleet; surely this Vulcan should command a starship."

"Mister Spock has always declined the command of a ship," Kirk told her. "He’s a scientist first and foremost and isn’t interested in command. But that doesn’t prevent him from being an excellent first officer, which is inestimable for a starship captain."

"Indeed. You must hold yourself fortunate to have such a superior being as your second-in-command," remarked the Cygnetian.

"I certainly do, all the more since he’s also a close friend on whom I can rely in all circumstances."

"Then you are blessed by the Goddesses, Captain," she said with a wistful expression on her face, "for the friendship of a Vulcan is a rare privilege."

"I am well aware of that, Madame," Kirk soberly replied. Seeing Spock surrounded by the fascinated Cygnetians, he wryly remarked, "At any rate, he seems to be successful with your delegation."

"Naturally! We find the Vulcans so attractive...don’t you?"

Kirk could not help laughing. "Well, it’s hardly for me to say, Madame."

"True," she conceded, "You are but a man, you cannot appreciate the physical appeal of the Vulcans," her voice was rich with ironic commiseration.

Anyway, the Ambassador was to experience the Vulcan’s ‘physical appeal’ at close range for Spock, having managed to extricate himself from the females’ attention, finally made his way to where the Ambassador and his captain were seated. "You wished to see me, Captain?" he said with proper formality.

"Yes, Mister Spock," Kirk said with more ease than he felt. "You haven’t yet been introduced to our eminent guest. Ambassador, this is Commander Spock, my first officer."

Spock made a slight bow. "Ambassador," he said.

The woman’s lilac eyes ran him up and down with an appraising gaze, and she graciously said, "Commander, I am pleased to find a Vulcan among the command crew of the Enterprise. Your captain tells me that you are an expert on Cygnetian matters. Why is that?"

Was there a silent reproach in the swift glance that Spock directed at his captain? Kirk wondered, but he noticed a curious restraint in Spock’s demeanor as he replied, "Hardly an expert, Madame. The information furnished by surveys and reports is unfortunately limited."

"Indeed? Ah pity..." Her voice was soft and husky as she gazed up at the Vulcan. She smiled. "But there is a simple way to remedy to this situation, Mister Spock. If you so wish, I have but a word to say and my assistants will give your technicians the necessary data, on condition of reciprocity, naturally. For my part, I shall be happy to personally instruct you in the ways and customs of my people. I believe you will find them interesting."

Her gaze, her purring voice were suggestive enough to quicken the pulse of the captain, but Spock remained impassible, hands firmly clasped behind his back in his most austere Vulcan posture. "An exchange of data," he finally answered, "would be quite acceptable, Ambassador, if Captain Kirk has no objection."

Kirk smiled inwardly. Trust Spock to keep the conversation strictly on a professional level. Now it was up to him to back up his very proper first officer. "No objection at all," he said heartily. "On the contrary, this exchange would be profitable for all concerned. But, shall we discuss the particulars at a more appropriate time? I see that dinner is about to be served, and, as the saying goes: ‘a good meal is like an admiral; never keep either waiting.’ May I escort you, Madame?"

Kirk got to his feet, and after a brief hesitation, the Ambassador followed suit. Together, they crossed the room, gathering on the way the other officers, while Spock, hands still locked behind his back, followed in stoic resignation, in the face of an inescapable duty.


It was well past midnight, ship’s time, when Captain Kirk emerged from his bathroom, a towel wrapped around his midriff. He poured himself a glass of iced water, and popped down his throat a couple of McCoy’s special pills supposedly capable of ‘nipping hangovers in the bud.’

"Damn!" he winced and ran a weary hand over his eyes. Too much drink for one night, but he could not possibly let McCoy and Scott get the better of him in front of the guests; the more so since the ladies could hold their own like troupers, to judge by the quantity and variety of wines and liquors which they had drained without batting an eyelid. Scotty had better watch out for his reputation.

Having refilled the glass, Kirk slipped on the gaudy black and gold robe he had once purchased on a whim on Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet, then flopped in his chair and turned on his personal recorder. Might as well log down the main facts while they were still fresh, or about, in his mind.

"Personnel Log, Stardate, er, supplemental. Tonight was the first official reception for the Cygnetian diplomatic delegation. Mmm...On the whole it went off satisfactorily, except for two incidents which I’ll bring up later. First, I must commend the ship’s galley personnel for the excellence of the food and the quality of the service. Append commendation to Mess Officer Briel’s service record. Secondly, I must tell the quartermaster to check our supplies in wines and spirits, specially in Romulan ale. Let us hope that our stock will last as far as Starbase Eleven.

"Remark: Thanks to the liberal serving of intoxicating beverages and the perfect teamwork of my senior officers, notably Uhura, Chapel and Sulu, the Cygnetians have considerably unwound over the evening.

"Question: Will their favorable disposition stand the test of a week spent on the Enterprise? Tomorrow, when I’ll take them on a tour, they’re bound to realize that my crew is sixty-five percent male, and that most of the posts of responsibility are held by male officers.

"Tonight, their prejudice against men in general has somewhat abated, but that does not preclude possible frictions in the proof, their strong reaction when McCoy announced, bang in the middle of dinner, that he expected them all in Sickbay first thing in the morning for...


"...just a routine medical checkup."

McCoy could certainly have chosen a better time, Kirk decided, but, to judge from their protests, one might think that the delegation’s virtues were endangered.

Jabakim Tibiliseh, in particular and the First Secretary Jumseh were the most vocal. "We will not accept this, Captain," swore Tibiliseh angrily.

Scott leaned to Kirk’s ear and whispered, "Beautiful women, but each with a hell of a temper! Take my word for it, sir. They seem likely to stir up trouble on board sooner or later."

Kirk silenced him with a stern glance.

"What’s all the fuss about?" asked McCoy, confused.

"We have never been so insulted!" answered Jumseh.

"We are fit and healthy as expected of Cygnetian Warriors, and to question our physical condition is an unwarranted provocation!" shouted Tibiliseh.

"Never, under any circumstance, would any of us submit to such an indignity," stated the Ambassador categorically.

The assembled Starfleet officers were taken aback by their outburst.

McCoy tried to explain. "I meant no offense, ladies, but Starfleet regulations—"

The Ambassador haughtily dismissed his argument. "Our diplomatic immunity elevates us above your Starfleet’s ridiculous regulations."

Visibly losing his patience, Doctor McCoy turned to Kirk, who was clearly weighing the matter.

Nurse Chapel guessed the real point of issue, and sweetly suggested, "Perhaps Healer Dahseh could run the physicals herself, in which case I would be happy to assist her."

Bless her feminine intuition, thought Kirk.

Before McCoy had time to protest, Spock chipped in smoothly, "I believe that this is an excellent suggestion, Nurse Chapel, as it has the advantage of minding Starfleet regulations and at the same time complying with our guests’ personal ethics." The Vulcan looked at the chief medical officer. "I am quite certain that Doctor McCoy would not only agree, but that he certainly would be delighted to demonstrate some of our latest medical diagnostic techniques to Healer Dahseh."

Kirk took his cue promptly. "If there are no objections, then I propose that we should end tomorrow’s tour of the ship in Sickbay and leave our guests to Nurse Chapel’s care."


"There were no objections. The incident was closed.

"The second mishap arose when someone brought up the Babel Conference in the conversation. Several Federation diplomats were mentioned, but when the name of Sarek came up, I saw all at once the Cygnetians prick up their ears. Naturally, my officers spoke warmly of Sarek and Amanda who had left a lasting impression on the Enterprise crew during that eventful journey a few months ago. Spock looked impassible, but I suspect that he would rather have had the conversation take another course, given the embarrassing situation his father had faced on Cygnet Twelve.

"Usually, when duty bound to attend official receptions, Spock has the knack, which I wish I had, for seemingly giving his full attention to the party while at the same time working out some scientific problem or some equation quietly in his mind. This time, though, the mention of Sarek coupled with the startling effect on the Cygnetian delegation, snapped him our of his innermost thoughts. And, although he feigned indifference, I am sure he did not miss a word when Dah Tecumseh held forth on Sarek and his wife, and on the high regard they were both held in by the High Society of Cygnet Twelve.

"This was for me the opening to ask..."


"...whether or not you know, Madame Ambassador, if Ambassador Sarek is going to attend the conference at Starbase Eleven."

"Certainly," she said. "We definitely required his and the Lady Amanda’s presence at this gathering."

"We look forward to meeting Sarek and his wife again."

Kirk looked around the room. The dinner buffet table had been cleared, and everyone seemed to be relaxing with after-dinner liqueurs. So far so good.

Unfortunately, McCoy chose that moment to tease Spock.

"Why didn’t you tell us, Spock?" he asked in his best baiting mode.

Retreating at once behind his Vulcan mask, Spock curtly replied, "Because I did not know, Doctor."

Kirk sensed trouble ahead, and was slowly but deliberately moving to intercept his chief medical officer. Unfortunately, McCoy did not, and went on needling the Vulcan.

"Oh?" the doctor said with mock surprise. "Your parents didn’t tell you? Why on Earth not? I can’t believe that Amanda would keep her son in the dark...unless it’s to make it a surprise?"

Spock deigned not rise to the bait and merely pinned McCoy with a glare, but it was too late; the damage was done.

The Cygnetians viewed the two officers with wide-eyed stares and glares and outright surprise.

Anyone who knew the Vulcan knew he hated being the focus of attention, but Spock endured it stoically. Kirk was glaring at McCoy. The doctor quickly realized he had perhaps spoken out of turn.

Ambassador Dah Tecumseh stared at Spock, demanding, "Are you truly the son of the famous Ambassador Sarek?"

The Vulcan coolly replied, "Affirmative."

Dah Tecumseh turned to Captain Kirk, not hiding her displeasure. "Captain, I must protest! Why was I not informed? The son of Sarek, the diplomat most reputed on my planet, happens to be your first officer, and I was not told? This is most inconsiderate, Captain, and I demand an explanation. Why was I not informed, Captain?"


"I admit that her arrogant tone stung me, and my first reaction was to answer back in style. But remembering our specific orders, I was looking for a diplomatic reply when Spock, unexpectedly, forestalled me. I shall never forget the way..."


Spock looked the woman straight in the face and coldly said, "Because my kinship with Sarek is no concern of yours, Ambassador. With all due respect, your exalted rank does not entitled you and your entourage to pry in the Vulcans’ privacy."

A chill descended on the dinner party. The Cygnetians sat in shock.

"Oh, boy!" muttered by McCoy.


"...that put the situation in a nutshell. I know that Spock, despite his innate courtesy, can be occasionally devastatingly abrupt, and I have seen people blanch at his scathing remarks, but this could not have been more untimely. Damn it! How could he overlook the fact that a diplomatic mission is at stake and that Dah Tecumseh has been highly recommended by Starfleet Command? I felt cheated, then, I was furious with Spock, but now...I wonder. In view of what followed, I wonder if Spock’s abruptness was not deliberate. What’s more, the lady’s reaction was also out of character..."


James T. Kirk struggled to come up with an apology, or some words to that effect, but he might as well have saved his breath.

Dah Tecumseh paid no attention to him, nor Spock for that matter. The Ambassador was literally speechless.

McCoy leaned over to his captain and offered the opinion, "I’ll bet no one has ever spoken to her in that tone, let alone a man."

The Ambassador sat staring at Spock, and the Vulcan looked back at her with that dark, enigmatic, unnerving gaze.


"The silence was charged with tension and again I felt that something was up between these two. Others felt likewise for McCoy cleared his throat and looked at me with raised eyebrows. I just shrugged in reply. I knew no more than he did.

"So we all watched in silence as Spock and Dah Tecumseh looked in each other’s eyes, totally oblivious of their surroundings, as if nothing mattered but a tacit, mysterious challenge known but to them. McCoy will say that I am imagining things, but I believe that she was ardently trying to fathom the man hidden behind the impassible mask, the man who had dared oppose her, and to provoke him into revealing himself. Of course, she failed. She was no match to Spock who had assumed his super-Vulcan act. So much for her warrior pride! She learned how infuriating it is to be confronted to that inscrutable Vulcan stare.

"But I have to hand it to the lady. She gave in with great aplomb and dignity..."


Finally, the Ambassador turned away with a proud toss of the head and fixed her strange lilac gaze on James Kirk. "Captain," she said, "I must compliment you on your first officer. A man of singular ability, gifted with the Vulcan traits of his eminent father, except one, unfortunately. Commander Spock sadly lacks Sarek’s exquisite courtesy."

"Is she serious or is she trying to be funny?" McCoy whispered to Kirk again.

Kirk looked askance at his chief medical officer with unspoken warning clearly in his eye, but McCoy had no hesitation.

In his southern drawl, and loud enough for the Ambassador to hear, he said, "You don’t say! I’d’ve never suspected that." There was an unholy gleam in the doctor’s eyes as he looked around the table.

A snort of laughter escaped Sulu, echoed by an irrepressible giggle from Uhura, and suddenly all the Enterprise officers dissolved into laughter, except of course one aloof Vulcan.


"...Bones had unwittingly released the tension. Our guests, surprised at first, must have found it amusing for they finally joined in the mirth. These women are really unpredictable; arrogant, short-tempered one moment, friendly and charming the next. Dah Tecumseh is surely overbearing, at times, but she has a sense of humor, and she is so gorgeous that it is impossible to bear her a grudge for long.

"In the midst of our emotional display, Spock sat imperturbable, but, if that was not a gleam of interest I saw in his eyes, then I don’t know my Vulcan. At any rate, for all concerned, the incident was closed.

"And to put the icing on the cake, Mess Officer Briel chose that moment to serve the dessert, a huge Baked Alaska sparkling with frost and crackers. Great success. The Cygnetians had never seen anything like it and they just loved it That and the champagne which the Ambassador immediately entered in her list of favorite drinks. And so, the reception which might well have turned into one big disaster, carried on late into the night with toasts, cheers and much, too much drinking. I still don’t understand how these women manage to hold their liquor. Must be something in their genes...

"Needless to say, Spock had long since slipped away, pretending some arcane task in the labs. Could be. It’s just like him to spend the night over some experiment or other."

Kirk stifled a yawn, then added, "For the record, I recommend Baked Alaska or a similar desert to be served at reception involving Cygnetian representatives. That and champagne might be decisive factors in the success of diplomatic conferences. Kirk out." He pressed the off button with his thumb.

"And now, to bed!" he muttered as he pushed himself to his feet. He switched off the recorder, then paused, head tilted. His door buzzed loudly in the silence of the night.

"Who is it?" he called.

"Spock," came the muffled reply.

Kirk leaned over his desk and depressed the release catch. The doors parted, and a tall figure, dark against the outer light, walked in and halted just inside the door which slid shut behind him.

"Spock?" the captain peered beyond the pool of light cast by his desk lamp. "What the hell are you doing up and about at this time of night? Don’t you know it’s past..." He looked round at the wall chronometer.

"Oh-One-Eighteen, ship’s time, Captain," Spock specified.

"Too damn late for a social call anyway, Mister Spock. What’s up? Something wrong with the crew or the ship?"

"No, sir. Ship’s status normal. Only...when I passed your door, I heard your voice, so I took the liberty.... I apologize for the intrusion."

"It’s no intrusion, Spock," Kirk swept the excuse aside. "But what’s so important that it can’t wait till morning?"

"Something imperative, Captain," Spock said.

"Oh? Let’s have it, then." Kirk sighed and sank back into his chair. "As a matter of fact, I wanted to have a serious talk with you first thing tomorrow, but since you’re here, we might as well settle it now. You know what I mean, I suppose?"

"I do, sir."

"I should think so," Kirk said with mock severity. "That was a shocking behavior at dinner, Mister! I think you have some explaining to do."

"I am well aware of that, Captain, which is why I am here now," Spock stiffly replied.

"All right then, out with it," Kirk smiled. "Oh, and for heaven’s sake, don’t stand there like you’ve taken root. Come and sit down." Kirk knew that he sounded peeved, but he was tired and longed for his bed. He waited for his visitor to take a seat then resumed. "So, what exactly happened, Spock? You’ve got me wondering. I’ve rarely seen you do it, but this evening you lost your Vulcan cool, and you ran the risk of offending the Ambassador. Why?"

Silence. The Vulcan sat, head bowed, studying his clasped hands.

"Come on, Spock! We haven’t got all night." A pause. "Don’t you trust me?" Hazel eyes searched the Vulcan’s face, which looked pale in the full light.

"I trust you, Jim. I wouldn’t have come to you otherwise," Spock said in a muted voice.

All at once, Kirk’s irritation vanished. "I know, my friend," he said, sitting forward, "and something went wrong tonight at dinner. What was it?"

Finally, Spock lifted his gaze. "As you pointed out, Captain, I lost my self-control," he bitterly said. "What I did is unforgivable; I gave way to my emotions, and failed in my duty regards Admiral Komack’s orders. That’s what went wrong, Captain."

"Yes, but the point is: what made you lose control? The Ambassador was maddening, arrogant, exasperating, I grant you, but you might’ve replied with more tact and diplomacy —and you didn’t. I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t intentional."

The two men shared a long gaze, then Spock lowered his eyes. "You’re right, Jim," he admitted in a deep voice. "It was intentional which makes my behavior all the more objectionable." He paused, took a deep breath, then resumed. "My sole excuse, perhaps, is that I was assaulted."

"You...were...what?" Kirk blankly repeated.

"Mentally assaulted. The Cygnetian females are telepathic."

"Damn!" Kirk sat back in his chair, whistled then said, "So...that’s what it was!" He paused, letting the significance gradually sink in. Of course, all that confusing sequence of events, Spock’s strange attitude at dinner and his weird confrontation with Dah Tecumseh now made sense. And James T. Kirk, had found nothing better than blame his friend for his curious behavior towards their guests.

"Spock, I’m sorry. I never realized. I failed you, my friend, and I feel such a damn fool for getting it all wrong! I felt that something was up between the two of you; she certainly made no secret of her fascination. I even, for a moment, thought that you were responding to her obvious interest...but I never dreamt that..."

"I was not responding, Jim. On the contrary, I was striving to keep her out of my mind, her and her assistants." The bitterness in Spock’s voice, the pain visible in his eye made Kirk wince.

"I’m sorry," he repeated. "It must have been terrible."

"It was...not pleasant," conceded Spock. "Especially when the Ambassador, having failed to breach my shields, enlisted her associates."

"Not pleasant!" Kirk thought, Spock and his gift for understatement!

"However, I am gratified to report that their collective efforts were entirely wasted," Spock dryly stated.

"Good!" Kirk said with feeling. "So that is why Dah Tecumseh finally gave up, not without style, I must admit. But what I can’t get over is the audacity of these Cygnetians. Why don’t they stick to the Denevan Convention’s Intergalactic Rules of Telepaths? ‘Never contact anyone’s mind without first asking leave to do so’?"

"It would seem that they know nothing of our basic principles. To Cygnetians, an intrusion into someone’s mind is not unethical. It may even be the natural thing to do, for I strongly suspect the females of Cygnet Twelve of ruling the male population by mean of their superior psychic abilities."

"Is that possible?"

Spock nodded.

"Then they probably see no harm in controlling the minds of their males since they consider them inferiors."


"Then are they manipulating us?"

Spock looked doubtful. "Unlikely, Captain. I detected no attempts at telepathic manipulation until they began to assert themselves on me."

"Are you saying you would have detected it if they had tried it on say me or one of the other Human crewmembers?"

"Yes, Captain. Telepathic manipulation requires such an outpouring of mental energy that any telepath would be able to detect it."

"Okay, so why try it on you?"


"And when they tried it on you, they failed." Kirk drew a conclusion. "That must’ve been a hell of a shock to their pride!"

Spock looked doubtful, but conceded, "Possibly."

"Sure, Spock!" Kirk persisted. "Think of the frustration of the Ambassador. First Sarek, and now you! This must be why Cygnetian females are so fascinated by you Vulcans. The irresistible attraction of the challenge, of the ‘Forbidden Fruit,’ even."

"Captain!" Spock was clearly affronted. "I find you comparison very farfetched, not to say insulting."

Kirk explained, "The fact that you Vulcans are impervious to their charms makes you all the more intriguing and desirable, don’t you see?"

Eyeing his grinning captain, the Vulcan considered it for a brief moment, then admitted with some reluctance, "I see your point, Jim, but I find it illogical for these females to persist in their vain attempt when they should find no difficulty with Humans. Given their propensity to broadcast their emotions, the crew should be a suitable source of amusement for our guests."

"Yes, you’d think that a shipload of emotional Humans would satisfy their curiosity," Kirk admitted with a chuckle. "But, these ladies aren’t used to being rebuffed. They must consider you as a challenge which makes you much more interesting than us mere Humans." He paused, fingers drumming on the desk. "Well, Spock, I don’t care much for the idea of our minds being probed by the Cygnetians, all the time."

"Not quite accurate, Jim. The Cygnetians’ mental abilities seem to be essentially superficial. I found that they are unable to reach deeply into trained minds."

"Well, that’s something anyway, but what about the average Human mind? What’s to stop them from getting all the information they want or even manipulating us into doing what they want? And surely Starfleet and the Federation must be aware of the danger!" Kirk wondered.

"There is always that risk when dealing with formidable telepaths, Captain, myself included. However, those particularly egregious acts do not seem to be their goal, or even part of their plan. From my brief mental contact with them, I must conclude that they are not interested in manipulating the conference or in surreptitiously attaining intelligence regarding Starfleet or Federation technology. They are interested in joining the Federation, but they doubt that it can be achieved considering the fact that men and women are guaranteed equality among its member worlds."

Kirk sighed. "That’s a relief. What other impressions did you sense?"

"I found that they are intensely curious about in the feelings others experience. Being a highly emotional race, the Cygnetians like nothing better than to pry and relish in others’ emotions." Spock’s distaste was evident.

"But that’s practically voyeurism," Kirk snorted. Struck by a sudden thought, he stared at his friend. "Spock ? Is that what they wanted from you? Your emotions?"

Spock nodded mutely. Being half-Human, the first officer had emotions, but, being half-Vulcan, he fought to keep them reined in. It was a constant struggle.

Kirk could see the hurt in his friend’s eyes, he could imagine the proudly private Vulcan, a prey to these females’ morbid curiosity. "How dare they!" he snapped, clenching his fists. "I have a good mind to—"

"Don’t, Captain," Spock quietly said. "There’s nothing you can do. The harassment which I was subjected to was unintentional, done more out of ignorance of the Federation’s telepathic ethics than malice. They seem to crave anything new, and being confronted with an entirely new culture and, honestly, an entirely new consortium of cultures, they are looking forward to the entertainment and emotional experiences that exposure to the cultures of the Federation member worlds would provide."

"Well, they’ll get more than they bargained for with us Humans!"

"Agreed. The complexity and variety of the cultures of the Federation’s Human-dominated member worlds should keep them more than occupied," was the Vulcan’s caustic comment.

Kirk chuckled."Do you think that we should spread the word, warn the command staff to be careful of their stray thoughts?"

"Yes, but in particular Doctor McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott," Spock suggested. "Both gentlemen have a tendency to broadcast even the slightest thought, no matter how inappropriate."

The captain smiled. "All right, but I’ll address it with the entire command staff at breakfast. After that, I’m sure the ship’s grapevine will take over. This way, the crew’ll be prepared for any eventuality. But, what about you, Spock? Will you be all right?"

The warmth of a smile lit the Vulcan’s eyes. "I shall be ‘all right,’ Jim, and I shall do my best to stay at a safe distance."

"Well, you are more than a match for these Cygnetian Amazons, and I hope that they’ve learned their lesson and’ll leave you alone now. Okay, then." Kirk got to his feet and stretched out. "If that’s all, I’ve got to turn in, Spock. It’s been a long day. See you later."

Kirk had hardly reached his bed when a slight cough made him turn around. Spock was still standing poker-stiff by the desk. "Something else?" the captain asked wearily.

"Yes, sir. I believe you forgot to put me on report."

"On report? Whatever for?"

"For non-observance of Starfleet’s orders, sir."

"Are you out of your mind?"Kirk said in exasperation. "I certainly will not put you on report, especially after what you have been through!"

"But, Captain, Starfleet Command specified—"

"Starfleet be damned!" Kirk snapped. "We’ve already surmised that Starfleet Command knew about the telepathic abilities of the Cygnetians and failed to inform us of it. As far as I’m concerned, they can stuff their orders."

Spock’s shocked expression cut him short.

Without missing a beat, the captain went on, "I will not let the brass allow these precious diplomats of theirs to harass my officers, even if it’s on a psychic level. We’re expected to meet all their requirements et cetera, et cetera, but there are limits, damn it, and Admiral Komack sure as hell knows it!"

The captain paced back and forth then halted in front of his first officer. "You know something, Spock? I think it was high time for our dear Ambassador Dah Tecumseh to be told some truths, and you saved me the trouble of doing it myself. So, instead of a report, what about having a commendation appended to your record?"

"I fail to see the logic of..." Spock began but he was again cut short by his captain who was in no mood for argument at 0200 in the morning.

"That is my logic, Mister Spock," Kirk stated, "and you’ll have to make do with it. I won’t put you on report, and that’s that! But..." He paused, a gleam in his eyes. "But, come to think of it, there is something which, logically deserves a reprimand, Mister First Officer."


"Your lack of diplomatic courtesy. For shame, Spock! What would your father say?" Seeing a green flush color the Vulcan’s cheek bones, Kirk said with a disarming grin, "Never mind, Spock. You taught the lady a rather blunt lesson in ethics which she’d be wise not to forget. But she took it in stride, and even with humor. The lady’s no fool, or did you not notice?"

"Yes, I did noticed," Spock replied.

"Well, then, let’s call it a day. The incident’s closed. Agreed?"

"Agreed, Captain. Good night." And, turning on his heels, the first officer departed with the sound of Kirk’s ‘Good night’ drifting after him.


In the chief medical officer’s ward, the chronometer ticked 1115, and the doctor scowled. Forty-five minutes late. The captain was supposed to bring the Cygnetian delegation in full force no later than 1030. Surely the diplomats were not that taken with Scott’s technology for Jim to be forced into drawing out their visit to Engineering longer than scheduled? He snorted. Sickbay personnel had better things to do than waste their time waiting for...

The intercom buzzing on his desk interrupted McCoy’s brooding.

"Sickbay!" he gruffly barked.

"Bones?" came the captain’s voice. "Sorry, but we’ll be late."

"Yeah, so I noticed."

"I know, but..." Kirk dropped his voice, "we are still in Engineering, and you know Scotty when it comes to showing off his department."

"Well, you can tell him from me that my department happens to run a tight schedule and can’t be kept waiting indefinitely," McCoy snapped. "Not mentioning the poor guys who are kicking their heels in my ward and wondering what’s to become of them."

"Damn! I had forgotten them," Kirk swore under his breath. "Wait! Looks like Scotty’s lecture is over. Okay, Bones, give me ten minutes, and we’ll be right there. Kirk out."

"And about time too!" McCoy grumbled as he stood up.

On his way to the ward, he looked in on the Cygnetian entourage and told the men that their ladies would arrive shortly.

The bayle, acting as spokesman, replied, "We understand, sir, all too well."

"Right! Er...sure you don’t want a drink?" McCoy reiterated his offer but, once more, met with a polite refusal.

"We are grateful, sir, but we do not need anything."

The good doctor could not help but feel sorry for the servants who had been kept waiting, and seemed to endure their treatment with great patience and dignity. Perhaps, if he got on good terms with the Healer, he could drop a word in their favor. "Okay, then, you just stay put," he told them for the sake of saying something, and he went in search of his head nurse.

When that morning, at breakfast, Kirk had briefed his senior officers on the situation, the captain had mentioned Spock’s painful experience with the telepathic Cygnetians, no one had been more shocked than Christine Chapel. She knew that it was foolish and hopeless, but she still nursed a tender passion for the austere Vulcan, and after hearing what the delegation had dared to do him, her opinion of them had changed drastically. And Leonard McCoy was well aware of her feelings.

"Nurse!" he called. "The delegation will be here any time soon. Is everything ready?"

"As ready as it will ever be, Doctor."

"And you, Chris?" he asked under his breath.

She gave him a wistful smile. "Don’t worry. I’ll keep my feelings to myself. They’re none of their concern," she replied.

"I could take over, if you wish," he offered. "These women can probe my emotions and thoughts for all I care! Only...since you volunteered last night, they might not understand if we change."

"Thanks for the offer, Doctor, but I’ll manage," Chapel firmly said.

"Good girl," he said approvingly, patting her arm. "Let’s go!"


When Kirk ushered the diplomats in McCoy’s office, he noticed on the doctor’s face that fleeting expression of stunned admiration which had followed his party wherever they went. The least you could say was that the Cygnetians had not gone unnoticed on his ship! Although they had apparently decided to present that morning a less flamboyant appearance than on the previous night, their conception of casual wear was pretty spectacular. The sight of the captain escorting a group of tall, striking-looking females clad in tight-fitting jumpsuits of glossy blacks, silver grays and vivid fuchsias, had naturally created a sensation.

For all their flashy appearances, however, the Cygnetians proved to be knowledgeable and interested in the wide spectrum of scientific technologies that the Enterprise commanded, which had led Kirk to change the standard ship survey for a more exhaustive visit. But he was not sorry to hand his glamorous visitors over to the medical staff and to return to the bridge. And so, after a brief exchange, Kirk made to leave with a casual "Coming, Doctor?" tossed over his shoulder.

McCoy, fortunately was quick on the uptake, and, busying himself at his desk, loudly replied, "Yes, Captain. Let me just turn this thing off, and I’ll be right with you."

This was not lost on the Ambassador, who paused at the door of the examination room and inquired, "Are you leaving, Doctor McCoy?"

"Yes, Madame. A technical problem to discuss with the captain. Besides, I was given to understand that you ladies don’t want me around at your medical examination."

Her beautiful face registered some huffiness, and she glanced at her cousin who said, "True, but we were given to understand that you would be available to provide all information on your medical facility."

"Which is what the other officers have done in their departments," Dah Tecumseh pointed out with asperity. "I cannot believe that your meeting with Captain Kirk be a matter of such urgency as to prevent you from honoring your obligations, Doctor."

The tone of her remark set McCoy bristling. "I’ll have you know, Ma’am, that it is not my habit to shirk my obligations," he retorted.

Kirk, an appreciative observer, felt it was time for him to step in. Clearing his throat to claim attention, he said pleasantly, "Excuse me, Ambassador, but there seems to be a slight misunderstanding. Do you actually require the doctor’s presence?"

"Naturally!" she replied haughtily.

" that case, my business with McCoy can wait, agreed, Doctor?"

"Of course!" McCoy shrugged.

"Perfect. Then I shall leave you, ladies, with our chief surgeon. Now, if you will excuse me..." And, after exchanging a wink of connivance with McCoy, the captain departed, laughing up his sleeve. The proud Cygnetians had fallen for his ruse, and now, at their own insistence, here was McCoy where he belonged, in charge of his domain.

And very much in charge, to judge by what he was saying next door. "All right, ladies. Let’s get on with your physicals. Will you show the way, Nurse...ah, just a minute, Ambassador. I regret to inform you that that pet of yours is not going into my sickbay. Sorry, Ma’am, regulations. You don’t want my patients to get a heart attack, do you?"

And so, when the captain returned to the bridge, he was wearing on his face a satisfied grin which was duly noted by his second-in-command.

"Satisfied with your morning tour, Captain?" the latter asked as he rose from the command chair to stand beside at parade rest.

"Quite, Mister Spock," Kirk cheerfully replied. "Actually, it went off better than I expected." Crossing his legs, he added, "In fact, it provided as much entertainment to the crew as to the V.I.P.’s."

"Indeed?" A Vulcan eyebrow went up and down while knowing smiles were exchanged all around.

"Quite. And, so far as I can tell, no attempt was made at mental contact," Kirk said with a meaningful glance. "Looks like your confrontation with Dah Tecumseh had produced the desired effect."

"Possibly," Spock said cautiously, "but I rather think that the emotional display of uninhibited Humans has rendered their mind probing superfluous."

"In other words, these women may well have had their fill of emotions just as we anticipated."

"Very likely, Captain."

"And now that we’ve left them with McCoy, who knows what might happen?" Kirk chuckled.

"They probably run the risk of an emotional overdose," Spock said deadpan, "which fortunately can be cured with appropriate therapy." And with that comment, the Vulcan calmly went back to his station, ignoring the giggles that went around the bridge.

Lieutenant Uhura, however, did not share the laughter. "For shame, Mister Spock!"she said reproachfully. "That’s not fair!"

"What is not fair, Lieutenant?" the Vulcan, mildly puzzled, inquired.

"To make fun of the doctor when he isn’t here to answer you. He’s just like the rest of us, too emotional for Vulcan standards, but isn’t that precisely what the Cygnetians are looking for? If I remember the terms of the briefing, weren’t we requested to meet all their requirements? So, there you are, Mister Spock!"

Thus challenged by his fellow officer, and passably disconcerted, Spock blinked.

A chuckle drifted up from the command chair. "I think she’s made a point, Spock, don’t you?" Kirk remarked.

Spock took time to consider, then cleared his throat and replied, "I must admit that there is some logic in Lieutenant Uhura’s reasoning."

"Why, thank you, Mister Spock," Uhura favored him with a smile then, with a side-glance at Kirk, she added slyly, "and if I know the good doctor, I’ll bet he’ll have them eating out of his hand before the day is over."

"You may well be right, Uhura. Doctor McCoy’s Southern charm does wonder with the ladies," Kirk agreed. Then, noting a slanted eyebrow raised in shock, he kindly explained, "Don’t worry, Mister Spock. It’s only a figure of speech."


As it happened, Uhura’s prediction came true sooner than expected. The captain and some of his officers were quietly talking shop over lunch when suddenly Chief Engineer Scott broke off in mid-sentence and stared wide-eyed at a point behind Kirk.

"By all that’s holy," he breathed. "Look who’s here!"

Kirk spun round just in time to see Doctor McCoy escorting the Ambassador, the Councilor and the Jabakim.

"How about that?" The captain commented with a wink at Uhura. "Looks like you were right, Lieutenant."

"In what way, sir?" asked the first officer who, despite a legitimate curiosity, considered it beneath his dignity to turn round and gawk like his human shipmates.

"Just take a look, Mister Spock, and you will know," Uhura suggested in an undertone.

He did, with appropriate discretion, and got a full view of McCoy helping the Cygnetians with the food dispenser. "Fascinating," Spock coolly commented before turning his attention back to his salad.

Helmsman Hikaru Sulu seemed unable to take his eyes off the Cygnetian delegation. "Captain, with your permission, perhaps I should go and help the ladies?"

"Sure, Mister Sulu, why not? Go and make your self useful...yes, you too, Mister Chekov!" Kirk’s tolerant smile sent the two young men jumping to their feet and rushing to the rescue of the Healer and the Jabakim who stood hesitantly, a tray in their hands.

"Look at them! Aye, it’s grand to be young, Cap’n," sighed Lieutenant Commander Scott as he watched his juniors doting attendance on the two women.

"Young, Scotty?" Kirk gave him a sly grin. "I don’t think that youth has anything to do with it, to judge by your faultless performance this morning. Our guests were fascinated."

Obviously gratified, Scott said,"Och, one does one’s best, Cap’n, but I admit that in my heyday, I could have taught yon lads one thing or two!"

The ‘lads,’ in the meantime, had settled the Cygnetians at a nice table and had checked that they had everything they needed. The two came back as pleased as punch, not even put out by an unnerving Vulcan stare. Next arrived Doctor McCoy with a laden tray, who plumped himself down opposite Kirk and launched into his lunch, apparently indifferent to the pointed comments of his fellow officers.

Kirk drained his mug of coffee and remarked, "How is it that you leave your charges to their services, Doctor?" He gestured at Sulu and Chekov.

"Mmm? Oh, I guess the delegation’s seen enough of my face for a while. Besides, I got the impression that they had a lot of things they wanted to talk about in private," he airily replied.

Spock raised an eyebrow while assessing McCoy with almost medical scrutiny.

Kirk noted as well, but chose not to pursue his suspicions. Instead, he nodded wisely. "Very considerate of you. I take it that the session went off well in Sickbay?"

"Yeah. Very well," McCoy smugly replied. "So well that Tanlila Dahseh wants to spend more time in our compare our methods with their herbs and drug therapy. Mmm...might be interesting."

"I knew that you two would get on well once she overcame her prejudice," Kirk said. "But...I am curious, Bones. What have you done with the cat?"

"Cat? What cat?" McCoy blinked. "Oh...the cat! Some ‘cat,’ isn’t she? Tingalee is its name. A beautiful creature, but out of place in Sickbay. So I had one of the Cygnetian men take her back to their quarters where she belongs."

His fellow officers looked amused.

"Just like that?" Uhura asked in surprise.

"Yes, just like that!"

"But, Doctor, she...she didn’t mind?" Sulu wondered with a look at the Ambassador conversing with her assistants.

"Well," McCoy’s eyes sparkled with glee, "if the ambassador did, she didn’t let on!"


The following day, the captain, having dispatched a hasty dinner, was striding along the corridor to his quarters where the unpleasant prospect of paperwork awaited him, when, rounding an intersection, he came upon a whirlwind of flame-colored chiffons which turned out to be his communication officer, all dolled up for a party.

"Oh my, Lieutenant!" he exclaimed when he recovered his voice. "Quite a striking sari!"

"Thank you, Captain," Uhura demurely said.

"And where are you going to?" His voice had an almost lilting quality to it.

"To a party, sir, she said," she returned in tone.

"Must be quite a party!" Kirk eyed her appreciatively.

"It is a diplomatic reception," she primly told him.

"Indeed? The Ambassador, I suppose?" Kirk’s eyes twinkled.

Uhura nodded. "Yes. Christine Chapel, Jasmine Rhada, Anne Nored, Helen Noel, Lashanda Briel and I have been invited to dinner, with her assistants."

"To dinner? Well, you women certainly move in exalted circles these days!"

"Actually," Uhura dropped her voice to a murmur, "we rather think that under pretense of treating us to Cygnetian food, she means to worm information out of us."

"What? More information? With all the inquiries and surveys that they’ve carried out for the last two days, I’d think they’d’ve stocked enough data to fill a computer up to the brim."

"Sure, Captain," Uhura laughed, "but I rather think that they are looking for something else altogether."


"Well...something more...personal, something that is never filed in a computer."

"Such as?" Kirk was now eyeing her suspiciously.

"Such as...for instance, our experience in Starfleet, the way we women manage our career, or the way we cope with our shipmates in this male-dominated community...perhaps also our relationship with our superior officers, et cetera, et cetera," Uhura rattled on. Then eyes bright with mischief, she sweetly asked, "Know what I mean, Captain?"

"Perfectly, Uhura," Kirk replied with a smug smirk, "and that, in my book, is pure female gossip."

"Are you sure, Captain?" Uhura was all innocence. "In my department, this is called an informal exchange of information, and it has the great advantage of working both ways. You can’t imagine how much we learn in these informal gatherings. You only have to mind you don’t give more than you get." She favored Kirk with the kind of roguish look which he always found irresistible.

"All right, you win, Uhura. I shall leave it to your expertise, but remember one important factor: With these women it is not so much a question of minding what you say as what you think. So, be careful."

"I know, sir," she said in earnest. "Actually, Chris Chapel and I have already had some telepathic experience, so we’ll be careful."

"Good. Now, don’t let me keep you. Have a good time! Oh, and Uhura?"

"Captain?" she turned around.

"Try not to put us poor men in too bad a light, will you?" Kirk suggested with a coaxing smile.

She smiled back. "We’ll try, sir. Promised!" And on these parting words, she vanished round the corner.


Naturally, the Ambassador’s party could not be ignored on a ship where rumors are always welcome to liven up the daily routine. Therefore, the next day, Uhura and her friends could verify that the grapevine had functioned at peak efficiency when a number of their crewmates came and plied them with questions. It came to the point that Uhura was heard declaring that she should perhaps consider giving a press conference! The Enterprise women proved to be the souls of discretion, however, for very little was said of what had taken place at the party, except a description of the V.I.P. suite, lavishly refitted, Cygnetian fashion, with furs, tapestries and rugs brought over from Cygnet XII, a description of the clothes and jewelry of their hosts, and a mouth-watering account of the food and drinks that were served.

Even Kirk obtained but the scantiest of information, and what Uhura told him only confirmed Spock’s data regarding the male-female relationship of that planet’s society. The women ruled and made all the decisions. Uhura compared the Cygnet XII situation to that of Earth, before feminist movements had led to an evolution of ideas, and eventually changed the women’s condition. With the difference that on Earth, it had been the males who were the dominant sex, and on Cygnet XII, it was the other way round.

This prompted Kirk to predict, "If they want to join the Federation, our fine Amazons will have to change their social system. But even if they don’t, it’s just a matter of time before they’ll find themselves with a Men’s Liberation Movement on their hands!"

"Possibly, Captain. Will you be the first to raise the standard of revolt?" she teased.

"Who? Me? Not on your life! These women scare the living daylights out of me, Uhura."

"I can’t believe it, sir! But, you know, the male condition is not so bad. For instance, Healer Dahseh is happily married, with three children. Her consort, a fine-looking man from the portrait we saw, stays at home and looks after them while she carries out her career."

"Really? Hmm... Well, one last question, Uhura. You said that Healer Dahseh is married. What about the others, do you know?"

"I do. They are not," she said pointedly. "From what I heard, many Cygnetian women prefer their freedom. They dislike being involved with just one partner. They like variety, experience. It’s more fun, they say. So...if you’re interested, Captain, I don’t doubt that any of them would be willing partners." And she left him with that parting shot.


Later that day, an event took place which was to bring momentous consequences.

Dihlut, one of the Cygnetian men-servants, was taking the tungah for her usual run down in the shuttle bay, when the animal broke loose. According to witnesses, it seemed that Dihlut’s attention was attracted by a couple of janitorial technicians carrying out repairs in a corridor, when one of the vacuum cleaning robots suddenly appeared and glided ponderously toward them with an ominous drone. The tungah took fright, snapped her leash off and bolted away. It so happened that two ensigns were stepping out of the turbolift on the same level, when a white tornado appeared from nowhere, ran full tilt at the two women who just had enough of a reflex to throw themselves face down on the deck as the apparition leaped over them with a blood-curdling roar, to tumble into the lift...which immediately closed its door and sped on.

The next thing that the women knew, footsteps came pounding down, skidded to a halt, and a voice shouted excitedly.

"Where it is? Did you see it?" asked one technician.

"Are you two okay?" asked the other.

The ensigns cautiously raised their heads, exchanged a dazed look, and sat up slowly. "Yes, I think so," said one of them, "but, whatever it was it’s the lift."

"Damn!" One of the crestfallen janitorial technicians looked helplessly at the distracted Cygnetian.

The man-servant, Dihlut, simply kept repeating, "I must find her! I must bring her back!"

"Don’t fret, man. Your pet is not lost," said a technician.

"Yes, but where is it?" wondered his mate. "It could be anywhere by now."

"Have you called Security?" asked one of the women ensigns. "They’ll start a search."

"First, we should try and stop that lift!"

The senior technician pried open the panel. "Right! There’s an override switch in here somewhere..."


On the bridge the morning shift was performing their routine duty with their customary efficiency.

Captain Kirk having been called down to Engineering, the command chair was occupied by the first officer. A yeoman presented Commander Spock with a compuclipboard for perusal and signature, then was dismissed. He went up to call up the turbolift, but, as he waited by the door, strange noises, bumps and growls drifted up the shaft.

As they grew louder, heads turned round in surprise.

"Do you hear that?" Sulu said.

"I vwonder vwhat it is," remarked Chekov.

Spock had swiveled his chair and was listening intently. "Curious! It sounds like..." He began, then he ordered sharply, "Yeoman! Stand back, now!"

The young man blindly obeyed, only just in time.

The turbolift opened and disgorged a howling, frenzied bundle of fur which rolled over, bounced across the bridge, leaped over the navigation console, to finally crouch at bay under the unmanned environmental engineering station.

The crew sat frozen, holding their collective breath. Then the shaken voice of Uhura was heard gasping, "Oh, my God! It’s the tungah!"

The intraship signal chose that moment to pipe up, and a breathless voice called, "Bridge! Bridge, do you read? Security Chief Giotto here! The Ambassador’s beast is loose in the turbolifts. Better lock your lift doors!"

Uhura replied with commendable sang froid, "Too late, Mister Giotto. The beast is already here."

A curse was heard, then the voice resumed heartily, "Hold on, up there! We’re coming!"

"No!" Spock cut in sharply. "On no account must they interfere now. Lieutenant, tell Security to stand down. They will be summoned when needed."

"Aye, sir. Commander Giotto? Did you hear that?" asked Uhura.

"Aye, sir," replied the chastened voice.

"Okay. Just stay put until we call you," she said briskly and switched off. Then, swinging her chair round, she found Spock standing close by and observing the flatten-eared, bare-fanged feline which was watching him warily.

"What now, sir?" she asked under her breath.

"Now, Lieutenant," he replied likewise, "this animal must be neutralized before it harms anyone. I shall attempt to tranquilize her, and I need total silence. No one is to move or make any noise. This tungah is frightened enough as it is."

"It is not the only thing frightened on this bridge," Chekov muttered from under his console, and nervous giggles, quickly repressed, answered him.

The bridge crew, then, sat and watched in silence as Spock stood quietly and projected an aura of tranquillity onto the feline.

"Mister Spock," Uhura whispered behind him, "perhaps I can help. She knows me; she let me stroke her the other night."

"Indeed, that might help. Try and hold her attention, but be careful," Spock replied in a murmur, never letting his magnetic gaze stray from the beast.

Together, then, they moved on, ever so slowly, while Spock’s powerful mind conveyed soothing waves of calm and peace, and Uhura’s cooing voice murmured softly, "Easy, Tingalee, easy. No one’s going to hurt you, easy now."

She tentatively reached out to the feline whose bristling fur gradually smoothed back. "Gently, Tingalee, gently." Uhura droned hypnotically. "You’re a good girl...yes...good girl." She began stroking the white brow between the black-tipped ears.

Tingalee blinked, then after a moment was blissfully closing her eyes, when, with lightning speed, a blue-clad arm shot over Uhura’s shoulder, and a firm hand clamped down on the tungah’s neck. Tingalee collapsed in a heap on the deck.

The two officers then straightened up and looked at one another.

"Phew! I am glad that’s over!" Uhura sighed with relief.

"Well done, Lieutenant," Spock approved.

"You, too, Mister Spock," she countered with a grin, and spontaneously their shipmates burst into a collective sigh. Now that it was safe, they all came up to take a close look at the beautiful animal, lying unconscious on the deck.

"Will she be all right, sir?"

"Of course. Another thirty minutes, and she will come around," Spock assured them. "Better call Security, now."

When a few minutes later, a detail of five red shirts erupted out of the lift, phasers drawn, they stopped dead in their tracks. The bridge that they had expected to find in a state of chaos was a model of studious normality. Calm and serene, First Officer Spock sat in the command chair, the crew at their stations. It looked as if nothing unusual had happened except that Uhura and Chekov were sitting on the deck, keeping vigil over the stunned body of the beast.

"Sir?" said Security Officer Dugovitch, feeling somewhat ludicrous with his phaser in hand.

"Ah, Ensign. Kindly remove this animal from the bridge, will you?" Spock coolly asked, adding with a side-glance. "You can put your weapons away; this tungah is incapacitated and therefore perfectly harmless."

"But you’d better not waste any time," Chekov put in slyly, "or you might find yourselves with a very peeved feline on your hands, vwhen she vwakes up in twenty minutes."

This was enough to get Security cracking. In no time, Dugovitch had his security team gather up and hoist the limp, heavy body on their shoulders, then carried and bundled it, dangling paws, tail and all, into the turbolift. This done, the ensign smartly snapped to attention and reported to the first officer.

"All done, sir. Where shall we take the beast, sir?"

"Take it back to the Ambassador, naturally."

"With the compliments of the bridge crew," added Uhura.

"Aye, aye, sir!" And the lift doors slid shut, barely missing the tip of a long tail.


As was to be expected, the tale of the runaway tungah sped like forest fire around the ship, and turned out to be the best story told during the day. But, when the captain and the doctor were treated with all the breathtaking details over lunch, they little imagined what was to follow.


Commander Spock was engaged in the biolabs with Doctor McCoy when they were interrupted by an urgent call.

"Mister Spock! We have a problem," said the harassed security chief. "The Cygnetians, sir. The Jabakim requests the use of our ‘punishment facilities,’ whatever that means. I told her that all we have is the brig and took her down to see the cells, but she says it’s no good. They need a place where to give one of their men-servants a beating, or so I gathered. Naturally, we have nothing like it on the Enterprise. I told her that physical punishment of that sort is against Federation law and Starfleet regulations, but she insists, Mister Spock. She has got her orders, she says, and won’t take no for an answer. I don’t quite know what to do, sir."

"I see." Spock exchanged a glance with McCoy. "Mister Giotto, have you contacted the captain? This problem is more within his province than mine."

"I did, sir. But the captain is not to be disturbed, I was told. Perhaps if you could just come and talk to the Jabakim, sir?"

"Is she still with you?"

"Yes, sir, and not in the best of moods," Giotto replied.

"Very well, Mister Giotto. On my way. Spock out." The Vulcan turned to McCoy. "If you will excuse me, Doctor, I won’t be a moment."

"Mind if I tag along?" asked McCoy. "You may need a supporter to confront that spitfire of a woman. She has one hell of a temper, you know."

"I know, Doctor. I don’t see what more you can do, but come along if you wish." Spock left at a brisk pace, the doctor close at his heels.


Meantime, the captain was actively flirting with the Cygnetian Ambassador in the Botany department of the Enterprise, and the proud diplomat, more stunning than ever in a gold and bronze outfit, seemed to respond favorably to the advances of her host.

Like many others before, she had fallen for his ploy, a ploy quasi-infallible, for, who could resist the garden’s fragrant seductions, much less the charm of an attentive cicerone? And there were ways and means to attract a lady which never failed to produce the desired effect. For instance, when Dah Tecumseh paused in rapt contemplation of blooming roses, Kirk at once, cut a few coppery flowers and handed them with a flourish to his guest who smiled in return.

"Beautiful," she breathed, "and so sweet smelling Are these blooms native from your home planet, Captain?

"Yes, among an infinite variety, Madame. But the rose is usually the flower we men prefer to offer pretty women." His tone and his gaze were equally suggestive of his admiration.

"Really? I can see why. Mmm, their fragrance is heavenly." As she voluptuously inhaled the heady scent of the roses the color of her coppery hair, the Ambassador looked so exotically beautiful, so desirable that the captain’s heart hammered in his chest.

Unfortunately, just as he was preparing his next move, his daydreams were abruptly shattered by a shrill piping signal, followed by a shipwide call, "Captain Kirk! Calling Captain Kirk! Captain, please respond!"

Startled back to reality, Kirk muttered an expletive and, seething with frustration, strode to the nearest wall intercom and barked, "Kirk here! What is it?"

"Captain? Spock here, sir. I’m afraid that your presence is required on Deck—"

"Mister Spock!" the captain cut in. "In case you haven’t been informed, I gave strict orders not to be disturbed for a couple of hours. I can’t believe that you, of all people, would deliberately ignore them."

"Sir," Spock’s voice was carefully neutral, "I am well aware of your specific orders and I apologize, but we are faced with a...delicate situation which demands—"

"What do you mean? What situation?" Kirk was at once on the alert.

"A problem concerning the Cygnetian delegation, sir. A problem of ethics and diplomacy which has reached a deadlock and calls for a command decision. Therefore, your presence is needed on Deck Five, V.I.P. staterooms section, sir."

Kirk knew his Vulcan friend well. When Spock used that formal, emphatic tone, it usually meant that something serious was up. "All right, Spock. On my way!"

"Very well, Captain," Spock calmly replied, "but may I suggest that Ambassador Dah Tecumseh come as well?"

"" Kirk paused, wondering how Spock had guessed that his captain was in gallant company. He hoped he was not that obvious, but Spock seemed, at times, to be gifted with second sight! So he briefly replied, "Understood, Mister Spock. I’ll tell her. Kirk out."

Turning round, he found himself being watched by a pair of lilac eyes. "That was my first officer," he explained.

"So I gathered, Captain. What seems to be the problem?"

"I don’t know, Madame, but I mean to find out. Sorry about that, but duty calls. Your presence is also required. Shall we go?"

"Certainly, but..." She looked around, taking in the peaceful scene. "...but I wish to come back to your garden another time."

"Of course, any time, Ambassador," Kirk readily said, his spirits rising at the idea that, with luck, another opportunity might present itself.


But, when Kirk and Dah Tecumseh arrived at Deck 5, all thoughts of dallying vanished at the sight of the group awaiting them. The captain could almost feel the air crackling with tension. Faces turned in expectancy as they approached, but, hardly had Kirk halted and demanded to know what this was all about than heated explanations poured forth.

McCoy launched into the fray first. "Jim! You won’t believe it, but these people—"

"Captain Kirk, I protest! Your officers prevent me from carrying out my orders!"

"Jim, listen! She wants to commit—"

"These men are deliberately offensive and obstructive! Adekunda Dah, please, do something!"

"Stop!" Kirk shouted, both hands raised, "Quiet everyone, please!" Then, having obtained some kind of order, he looked at the Vulcan who had remained aloofly silent. "Mister Spock, report, please."

Spock obliged, and from his account, it transpired that, on Dah Tecumseh’s order, the man Dihlut was to suffer punishment for having failed in his duty and let the tungah escape. The Jabakim then had required the use of the ship’s facilities for the execution of the sentence, namely twenty-one lashes of the whip presently carried by the bayle.

"What!" Kirk exclaimed in outrage.

"Indeed, sir." There was no mistaking the disapproval in Spock’s tone. "As you know, there are no such facilities on board. We have detention cells in the ship’s brig, but there are no physical restraint tables. Moreover, the Cygnetian laws regarding penalty are in contradiction with Starfleet regulations which clearly stipulate that corporal punishment cannot be inflicted on Federation vessels. Consequently, I informed Jabakim Tibiliseh that we regretfully cannot meet her requirements. She, on the other hand, must carry out her orders, but as her orders and mine are incompatible, we have reached what appears to be an impasse."

Spock’s level voice did much to calm down excited spirits. Kirk nodded. "Thank you, Mister Spock. Now, Ambassador, I want to be quite clear on one point. Did you actually give orders to have this man flogged?"

"I don’t understand, Captain. Why all this fuss?" she said with hauteur.  "I simply ordered my staff to see to it that my servant be punished as he deserves, that is all. I do not concern myself with the particulars; that is the function of my aides."

"Excuse me, Madame," McCoy broke in, "but don’t you think that to sentence a man to the whip because he let your precious pet escape is a bit excessive?"

"I don’t, Doctor McCoy," she disdainfully replied. "These are our laws, and they are no concern of yours!"

"I beg to differ, Ma’am. As Chief Medical Officer of the ship, I will not allow you to torture—"

"Doctor, please!" Kirk cut in sharply. "No one is going to be whipped on my ship. Sorry, Ambassador, but Mister Spock is right. Starfleet Regulations are quite clear on that matter. Physical punishment or mistreatment, of any kind, is prohibited on all Federation vessels."

"I have no use for your ridiculous regulations, Captain!" Dah Tecumseh scornfully exclaimed. "Cygnet Twelve is not a member of the Federation yet, don’t you forget, and it may never be! Jabakim, you have your orders! Take our men away and get on with it!"

Tibiliseh, a look of triumph on her face, nodded briskly and beckoned the nonplused menservants, but Kirk stepped resolutely in front of them. "Not on my ship, you don’t!" he said in a clipped tone.

The Cygnetians stiffened in shock, then Dah Tecumseh, eyes blazing with anger, swept up to Kirk and stormed, "Captain! You forget yourself! As the special envoy of the Queen of Cygnet Twelve, I demand that my authority be respected!"

Kirk calmly returned her gaze, but anger sparked in his eyes. "With all due respect, Ambassador, you have absolutely no authority on my ship."

They stared each other in the face challengingly, all thoughts of the pleasant garden interlude gone and forgotten. Then, taking a deep breath, she said tightly, "I’ll have you know, Captain, that it is not in my habit to overlook a defiance of my orders. This not the Warrior way. Your Starfleet notwithstanding, Dihlut will be punished as he deserves."

"Ambassador, I would advise you to reconsider," said a quiet voice.

She looked round at Spock. "Reconsider? Why should I?" she huffily asked.

"Because physical violence has never been a logical mean of punishing a culprit, Madame, and because your position at the table of negotiations might be compromised, should it be known that you ordered members of your staff to be flogged on a Federation starship."

This argument, coolly delivered, gave the ambassador pause. She gazed speculatively at the Vulcan, and she must have found some answer in his eyes for she sighed in exasperation and declared, "Very well, I shall reconsider. But the fact remains that my man has done wrong, and I will not allow such a breach of duty go unpunished!"

"No one is asking that of you," Spock quietly said. "Our starships also run on such high principles as duty, responsibility and discipline. Only the Starfleet methods are more..."

"More Human, Mister Spock?" Kirk put in slyly.

"I was about to say more honorable, sir," Spock replied with dignity. "Perhaps the Ambassador might find a penalty suitable to Dihlut’s case in the range of Starfleet disciplinary actions?"

Security Chief Giotto suggested, "Perhaps a temporary confinement to quarters, or detention in the brig for the duration of the voyage?"

"Ridiculous," Tibiliseh snorted. "We need the services of our men-servants at all time. To let Dihlut idle away the rest of the journey in detention is out of the question."

The Ambassador disdainfully remarked, "When it comes to enforcing discipline, Cygnetian ways are far superior to those of the Federation."

For Doctor McCoy, this was the last straw. "All right, Ambassador!" he said gruffly. "Go ahead with your own methods! Who are we to stand in the way of tradition? Carry on with your whipping execution, but let me tell you one thing: as the ship physician, I am entitled to monitor any disciplinary action done on this ship. So I and my medical team will be present, and the moment your barbaric sentence is done, your man will be whisked over to Sickbay where he will stay under my care. That means that you will have to do without his services until we reach Starbase Eleven. When we get there, I intend to file a complaint with the Federation Council, the Federation Red Cross and Amnesty Intergalactic. How about that?"

Dah Tecumseh stared in disbelief at the man who dared challenge her. "You can’t do that! You have no right!" she fumed.

"Try me!" retorted McCoy, a battling gleam in his eyes. "Your people want to join the Federation, fine. They’re going to have to learn to play by our rules."

"Captain!" she rounded on Kirk, "This is intolerable. I demand that you order your chief medical officer—"

"Sorry, Madame, but I can’t," broke in Kirk, not in the least bit sorry. "In all health and medical matters, his authority takes precedence over that of the commanding officers. So, for Dihlut, it is either the brig or Doctor McCoy’s Sickbay. I don’t see any other solution."

"I believe there is, Captain," put in a certain Vulcan who had been conferring in an aside with Lieutenant Commander Giotto.

"Ah...found something, Spock?"

"No, sir. However, Mister Giotto has suggested a punishment currently used in the Federation penal colonies. Mister Giotto?

"Penal labor as a substitute for detention, Captain. I think it might apply to Dihlut. After doing service for the delegates, he would give some of his time working for the ship," Giotto explained. "Since he inconvenienced a pair of janitorial technicians, perhaps he could be assigned to assist them in their duties."

"Why not? Good idea, Mister Giotto," the captain approved. "What do you think of this solution, Madame?" He broke into a disarming smile.

The Ambassador, disconcerted by this new development, hesitated, then reluctantly admitted, "Well, for want of our traditional methods, your proposal is acceptable, but on one condition. I don’t know what task you intend to give my servant, but I want you to know that he is a member of my house, and as such, must not be forced into exacting or demeaning chores on your ship."

"That was certainly not our intention, Ambassador," Spock assured her.

"Of course! What do you take us for?" McCoy interjected. "This is the Enterprise, the pride of Starfleet, not a third rate, ramshackle freighter. We don’t have the crew do the dishes or swab the decks."

"Quite, Doctor," Kirk broke in hastily. "What McCoy means, Ambassador, is that janitorial technicians service the units which actually perform the cleaning of this starship. We don’t use the crew for cleaning." He smiled. "Incidentally, it was one of those pieces of equipment which frightened your feline in the first place." He smiled even wider, turning on the Kirk-charm. "Now, I am sure that we can find some way to employ Dihlut to the best of his abilities...any other ideas, gentlemen?"

"Perhaps Mister Dihlut should be assigned to Lieutenant Uhura’s department," Spock suggested, locking his gaze with Kirk’s.

"Are you thinking of communication, Mister Spock?" Kirk looked amused. "Precisely, Captain. I think it would be appropriate."

"Right!" the Captain briskly said, "Let’s do that. Ambassador, if you have no more objection, Mister Spock will assign Dihlut to Lieutenant Uhura’s section where I am sure he will make himself useful. What do you say about that?"

By a stroke of luck–or was it by Spock’s design, Uhura happened to be among the ambassador’s favored so she had no more objection, and it was left to Spock to make the necessary arrangements.

The problem being finally settled, Dah Tecumseh summoned her aide and retired in good order, never showing what it must have cost her pride to yield to the Enterprise’s officers.


Kirk, Spock and McCoy took advantage of the privacy of the turbolift. "Well, Jim," McCoy declared with satisfaction, "that’s one for us, but it was a close thing, wasn’t it?"

"Yes, a good thing you, Spock and Giotto put in your oars, or we might have been landed with a diplomatic incident," Kirk acknowledged.

"Just good team work, Jim; that’s what it was." The good doctor was obviously pleased with himself. "But you didn’t do so badly, with your clever blend of diplomatic charm and authority. That’s the trick, Captain: an iron fist in a velvet glove!"

"Maybe," sighed Kirk. "At any rate, it seemed to work this time, but I’d hate to see our dealings with them turned into a permanent confrontation."

"It seems they thrive on confrontation, Captain," Spock pointed out. "They are warriors, much like the Klingons. Conflict is in their nature, and they take great pleasure in it...and I rather think that you enjoy it too, Captain."

"Me, Spock?"Kirk pretended offense but in view of Spock’s arched eyebrow, and McCoy’s broad smile, he gave up and chuckled. "Well.. yes, perhaps I do sometimes, but you’ve got to admit that Dah Tecumseh is mighty difficult to handle, and she’s a diplomat!"

"Yes, Jim, just like antimatter," said McCoy. "You know the instructions for use: ‘handle with extreme caution’!"

"Very funny, Bones!" Kirk snorted, then as a thought crossed his mind, he asked, "By the way, Spock, how did you know that she was also in the garden?"

"Simple deduction, Captain. You had ordered not to be disturbed and gone to the garden, and at about the same time, according to Tibiliseh, the Ambassador had left her quarters, destination unknown, so...logically..." Spock regarded his friend with tilted head and raised eyebrow.

Kirk made a face. "Oh, you and your logic! And will you stop chuckling, Bones? It’s no laughing matter. To think that the glamorous woman I met in Botany had just given an order to have her servant flogged! That’s hard to believe!"

"Indeed, Captain," Spock nodded. "The entire delegation is unpredictable, to say the least. Incidentally, both the bayle and Dihlut have expressed their gratitude for your intervention on their behalf."

"Did they? Poor fellows. That’s the least we could do for them."

Spock went on, "They were not only grateful but impressed also, for this is the first time when their mistress has ever been known to reconsider her decision."

McCoy burst out laughing. "So...this is a first? Good. I’ll bet you that it won’t be the last!"

"Possibly, Doctor, but kindly remember that this is a diplomatic mission and that the delegates..."

"...must be handled with extreme caution," McCoy cut in, "just what I was telling Jim!"


Finally, the tungah incident turned out to be beneficial for all concerned. Every day, according to plan, Dihlut carried out his duties to the Cygnetian diplomats as he was expected to do. Then, at the appointed time, a security guard reported to the V.I.P. staterooms, took charge of the ‘convict’ and marched him off to the communication center.

Lieutenant Uhura, when informed by Spock of Dihlut’s predicament, had at once agreed to help, and, communication and language being her trade and vocation, she had realized the advantage to be drawn from the Cygnetian’s assignment to her department. Dihlut was set to assist Uhura and her team in working out a few Cygnetian idioms which had escaped translation.

As he happened to be a bright young man, eager to please and to show his gratitude, he soon became an essential asset in Uhura’s linguistic efforts; and as he was treated as an equal by the Humans, sharing in with their coffee breaks, their good-natured banters, Dihlut had a great time. In short, he had never been so happy in his life.

The day following the incident, on McCoy’s suggestion that it might help to smooth out ruffled feathers, Kirk invited the Ambassador and her cousin to dine with them in the officers’ mess.

The invitation was graciously accepted. They had the room to themselves since their shipmates had thought it best to leave their senior officers to their privacy.

The Jabakim and the rest of the delegation, left to themselves, were invited by Uhura and Nurse Chapel to join the junior staff for an informal gathering including drinks, music, games, et cetera. The young women readily accepted, having overcome by now some of their prejudice, and developed a penchant for the entertainments to be found in the rec rooms.

While the junior grades gathered for the party, a more stately reunion convened in the mess room. Kirk had made certain that the drinks favored by the two ladies were served in plenty, and by the time that the soup was served, their mood had perceptibly mellowed.

Luckily, the Ambassador seemed to think no more of their confrontation, which suited the captain just fine. So, with McCoy’s active support, he led the conversation to safe topics, and the dinner party proceeded pleasantly until the second course when Dah Tecumseh, suddenly, remarked on the absence of the first officer.

Tiring of having to produce yet additional justifications for the elusive Vulcan, Kirk opted for frankness. "I’m afraid that Spock, like most Vulcans, seldom attends social functions, and asked to be excused."

Doctor McCoy added, "In all confidence, I’ve got to say that Spock’s reputation for shirking anything that resembled official gatherings, receptions and the like, is rather well established in Starfleet."

The ladies seemed surprised, and the Ambassador remarked, "I do not understand. Ambassador Sarek has never shown any reluctance to attend our receptions."

"Sarek is an ambassador," Kirk pointed out. "He must meet the obligations particular to his calling, and socializing is an important part of diplomacy. Spock is no diplomat; he is a Starfleet officer, and, as a Vulcan he is a very private person."

"And, yet, you are his friends," Dah Tecumseh thoughtfully remarked.

"That is not incompatible," McCoy countered with a smile. "Spock never joins Jim and I for a drink after a rough mission, and we know not to take offense at it."

Ambassador Dah Tecumseh looked at Healer Dahseh, then bluntly asked, "Then, since you are his friends, you must know if Commander Spock is bonded?"

Kirk choked on his soufflé. "I beg your pardon?"

"I mean, does he have a mate, a consort on Vulcan?" she said impatiently.

Good grief! Kirk thought in exasperation. She could not have the father, so now she has set her sights on his son! He cleared his throat and feigned ignorance. "I’m afraid I can’t say, Madame. Vulcans never discuss such private matters with ‘outworlders’ such as us."

"Absolutely!" put in McCoy, backing him up. "And we would not dream of asking about it."

"Not even to a close friend? You surprise me, gentlemen." The Ambassador obviously did not believe them. "But your discretion does you credit, and I will not press you. It does not matter, we have other ways of finding what we want to know," she added with confidence, and the quizzical look she gave them made them decidedly uncomfortable.

"I don’t doubt it," McCoy muttered darkly, thoughts of telepathic intrusion coming to his mind.

To the captain’s relief, the next course was served and no more was said on the subject.

Instead, McCoy suggested, "I understand Lieutenant Uhura is hosting a party tonight, and there will be music. If you ladies would care to hear Uhura sing, we could perhaps join them after dinner?"

The ladies were agreeable. So, having disposed of a glorious meringue dessert and two bottles of champagne, the captain’s party made their way to the rec room.


There was no music, no laughter in the rec room. When Kirk walked in, he stopped short at the sight of his crew clustered in a circle in the middle of the room. At a glance, he noted the presence of the Cygnetian aides, and, curiously, that of Spock as well.

Something’s up. Something wrong, most likely, Kirk decided. "What’s going on here?"

At his command tone of voice, the crew hastily made way, and he saw the Jabakim, taut with outrage, facing a very flustered Lieutenant Sulu.

"What the hell is the going on here?" Kirk snapped. "And what are you doing here, Spock? I thought you were in your quarters."

"So I was, Captain, until Lieutenant Uhura called me in over what seems to be another...incident." Spock’s tone conveyed his aloof disapproval.

Kirk swung round to an obviously embarrassed Uhura. "Will you please explain what this is all about, Lieutenant?"

"Well, Captain, all I know is that Sulu and Tibi...I mean the Jabakim... began arguing over a game, each one accusing the other of cheating, and by and by, the argument developed into a first-class wrangle, words were exchanged, and...well..." She shrugged. "I thought it best to call in Mister Spock. And since neither of them wants to make the first move and apologize, Mister Spock thought that..."

"Apologize? Me, apologize to a man? Never!" cut in the infuriated Jabakim. "I never was more insulted in my life."

"Please! Just a moment..." Uhura tried again.

"Captain, this is intolerable!" the Ambassador chimed in. "The honor of my aide is not to be trifled with. I demand that your officer apologize immediately."

"I’m sure, Madame, that if an apology is due, one will be issued presently," Kirk curtly said. "Now, Mister Sulu, what have to say for yourself?"


"I want an answer, Mister. Who started this stupid quarrel?"

"She did, sir," Sulu replied sullenly.

"It’s a lie; he did!" exclaimed Jumseh, the First Secretary.

Uhura tried again to get a word in. "Captain, excuse me, but—"

McCoy cut her short. "This is ridiculous! All this fuss over a game? Come on, Sulu; be a sport! Why don’t you make the first move and apologize like a true gentleman?"

The Asian’s pleasant face took on a mulish expression. "Sorry, Doctor, but I won’t. I, too, have my pride; I can’t accept being treated like the dirt at her feet," he stated, supported by murmurs of assent from his crewmates.

"That’s enough, Lieutenant!" exploded the captain. "I have a good mind to confine you and the Jabakim to your respective quarters for the duration of this mission."

"Absolutely not, Captain!" the Ambassador bristled. "You have no authority over my staff!"

"Oh, for Heaven’s sake! Will you please be quiet and listen!" Uhura finally shouted in exasperation.

A shocked silence fell on the company.

"Lieutenant? I beg your pardon. What’s the matter with you?" Kirk was incredulous that his junior officer would address them in such a tone.

"I’m sorry, Captain, but for the last ten minutes, I’ve been trying to tell you that Mister Spock may have a solution."

Kirk sighed. "Then, why didn’t you say so in the first place?" he asked. He turned to the Vulcan who was observing the scene with detachment. "Well, Mister Spock, we’re all ears. What’s your solution?"

"A duel, sir," Spock blandly replied.

Pandemonium erupted all around the rec room.

"A duel? Are you out of your ever calculatin’ Vulcan mind, Spock?" McCoy laughed out loud.

"Bones, please," scowled Kirk, "Go on, Spock. Explain!"

"Captain, in view of the fact that we have obviously reached a deadlock, and that the dispute has become an affair of honor, I propose that the Jabakim and Mister Sulu settle their difference by resorting to a time-honored tradition in their home worlds: I mean a single combat. Mister Sulu is an accomplished swordsman, and I expect that Pendita Dah Tibiliseh, a high-ranking officer, is proficient at swordplay. Therefore, I submit to the Ambassador’s and your approval that a duel be fought with swords and padded suits. Time and place at your discretion, sir."

Kirk’s eyes narrowed as he gauged his first officer. "A word with you, Mister Spock?"

"Of course, Captain."

Kirk took Spock aside to a privacy alcove at the rear of the rec room. "Okay, Spock, is McCoy right? Are you out of your mind?"

"Negative, Captain. I have been evaluating the behavior of the Cygnetians and comparing it with that of other warrior cultures. Logic dictates that the Cygnetians have actually been seeking a confrontation such as this. I propose that we accommodate their needs by giving them what they want."

"You think they’ve been purposefully provoking us?"


"And you think these provocations will end if we go along with this duel?"

"I think it is a reasonable possibility."

"Very well." The captain strode back to the center of the rec room. "This duel might indeed be the best solution. Personally, I am all for it, and I guess that Sulu is, too?"

"Certainly, Captain!" the helmsman grinned.

"That’s what I thought. Now, what about you, ladies?" Kirk addressed the Cygnetian party at large.

Apparently Dah Tecumseh had consulted her associates as Kirk and Spock had. She declared, "What you suggest is unprecedented, gentlemen. Never has a Warrior condescended to fight a male opponent in single combat. But since it concerns one of your officers, Captain, we shall make it an exception this once, so as to settle honorably this regrettable incident. Commander Spock’s proposal is accepted, and full credit must be given to his judgment."

This was said pointedly, with a lingering gaze at the first officer who merely replied, "Much obliged, Madame," with a slight inclination of the head.

And so, under the captain’s directions, the arrangements were quickly made, and the meeting set for the next morning. Then, as the doctor pointed out, now that the problem was settled, there was no reason to give up the party, so they all sat down over drinks, and Uhura did not need much persuasion to treat them with their favorite songs.

Kirk noted with interest that, for all their warrior culture, the Cygnetians were women of taste, appreciative of music, and seemed impressed by Uhura’s performance. He noticed also, out of the corner of his eye, the unobtrusive presence of his Vulcan friend who had declined to join the party, but who nonetheless tarried a moment by the door, listening unobtrusively to his fellow officer’s recital.


Captain Kirk shoveled a forkful of eggs into his mouth. "It was outstanding, Bones. Something to remember in the Enterprise history books. Luckily, Spock recorded it for posterity."

"Oh...Spock was there also?" asked McCoy, munching on a jelly-filled buttermilk biscuit.

"Of course, along with Sulu’s friends and most of the junior officers and the Cygnetian delegation in full force. You should have joined us, Bones; you don’t know what you missed!"

"No, thanks, that was much too early for me! But, you didn’t tell me who won the duel?"

"Neither...or rather, both, and with flying colors!" Kirk announced cheerfully. "They’d still be at it probably if we hadn’t thrown in the towel, so to speak."

"They were that good, huh?"

"Extraordinary!"enthused the captain. "I’ve never seen Sulu so light on his feet, so fast, so feline. He did us proud, Bones." Kirk chuckled. "The honor of Starfleet is secure, believe me!"

"And the Cygnetian woman?"

"Ah, Tibiliseh! Superb, fierce, in tip top condition, one of the legendary Amazons personified. The Ambassador was pleased with her, I could tell, and quite surprised at Sulu’s expertise. It must’ve come as quite a shock to them to see that a male, let alone a Human male, could be that good at fencing."

"That’s all very well and good," McCoy remarked. "But where does that leave them now?"

"Well, if you want to know, just take a look, doctor," Kirk chuckled with a nod towards the door.

Intrigued, McCoy looked round, and, lo and behold, there was lieutenant Sulu, beaming with pride, and self-consciously guiding his former adversary to a free table. Their appearance drew a round of applause and cheers from the company, for their memorable combat had been commented far and wide on the ship. McCoy observed the pair as they sat opposite one another, Sulu’s dark gaze smiling into the mauve eyes of his handsome companion.

"Just look at them!" McCoy declared with a shake of the head. "One moment, at daggers drawn, the next...all buddy buddy!"

"I told you, Bones," Kirk laughed, "Sulu’s won their respect. Maybe these women will begin to see us in a new light; in fact, this duel may well be a turning point in our relationship...don’t you agree, Spock?"

The Vulcan had arrived with his usual soft tread. He set his tray down on the table, took his place and inquired, "Agree about what, Captain?"

"Don’t tell me you haven’t heard, Spock, not with those ears of yours?" the doctor snorted. "We’re talking about these young people, over there, who’ve become bosom buddies, all of a sudden. A rather unexpected outcome, huh?"

"On the contrary, Doctor, this is exactly what I anticipated," Spock placidly replied, and started on his meal.

McCoy’s jaw’s dropped."Now, Spock, don’t tell me that you suggested that duel in anticipation of a rapprochement between Tibiliseh and Sulu?"

"Of course, Doctor."

McCoy looked to Kirk for confirmation and found it in his captain’s eyes. "Mister Spock noted that our delegates were constantly provoking us. He reasoned that logically, we needed to give them the confrontation that they wanted."

"That was taking a hell of a risk," McCoy argued, "What if one of them had been defeated?"

Spock took a bite from his piece of toast, a sip from his tea, and, having nicely brought the doctor’s patience up to breaking point, he set out at last to explain.

"Unlikely, Doctor," he calmly said, "since the antagonists are physically equally matched. And, even supposing that one of them had won, one way or the other, honor was satisfied, the combat being a fair fight. Therefore, there was no more ground for resentment and emotional display, the more so since a common factor played in favor of a reconciliation."

Hazel eyes and blue eyes met across the table. "Common factor? What common factor, Spock?"

There was a hint of Vulcan smugness in Spock’s voice. "Common factor? The propensity, common to Humans and Cygnetians for building up trivial dissents into serious conflicts, regardless of the consequences; then, for resorting at last to what should have been done in the first place, truce and reconciliation. Your history abounds in such pitiful examples of irrationality and irresponsibility, gentlemen."

A pause followed while the Humans eyed the Vulcan calmly proceeding with his breakfast. Then, the captain sat back in his chair. "I don’t know about you, Bones," he remarked, "but I have the impression that we have just been insulted."


True to Spock’s prediction, the diplomatic delegation’s attitude underwent a definite change on the next few days. It seemed that the Cygnetians no longer considered their Human hosts as inferior creatures. They probably assumed that, since the males could fight single combats like true warriors, there was hope for them yet.

Anyway, one could tell that the atmosphere had definitely lightened up, for the relations between the diplomats and the officers, which had always been courteous, were now becoming decidedly friendly, not to say intimate, going by the close relationship developing between Sulu and Tibiliseh, for instance.


"Did you notice, Jim?" the doctor remarked to the Captain, "Looks like they’re having a regular romance."

"You could hardly miss it," Kirk retorted. "They certainly make no secret about it. Why, even our innocent-minded Vulcan has noticed!"

"Has he, now?" McCoy chortled. "And did he say that it was also to be expected?"

"Something of the sort. Actually, he found the situation interesting and said that it might be a novel and effective method of furthering interplanetary rapprochements!"

"The problem with Spock is that he doesn’t even realize that he has a sense of humor," McCoy chuckled. "By the way, Jim, you can also include Chekov in that ‘rapprochement’ movement."

"No kidding!" Kirk sighed. His young Russian navigator always seemed to be popular with the unattached females. "With whom?"

"The pretty secretary, what’s her name? Dora something Jumseh. Looks like he’s really sweet on the girl."

Kirk looked amused. "What’s come over my crew, Bones? You’re not carrying on an affair with the Healer, by any chance?"

"Well, I wouldn’t mind if I did." McCoy smirked. "She’s a lovely lady, Jim. By far, the best of the lot. And, for all her warrior upbringing, she’s a sensible, kind-hearted woman, a true physician at heart. It’s a joy to talk shop with her, I admit."

"Just ‘shop,’ Doctor?" Kirk slyly asked.

"Now, don’t you go imaginin’ things, Jim!" McCoy protested righteously. "I said I wouldn’t mind if I did —which doesn’t mean that I do. And even if I did, what’s it to you anyway?"

"All right! All right! I was just asking," Kirk laughed. "After all, if our guests are willing, why should I raise objections? So long as my junior officers conform with Admiral Komack’s orders. Remember, Bones?"

"I’m not likely to forget! ‘I need not emphasize the importance of this mission.’ If these dalliances are what it takes to make them happy, you won’t have a lack of volunteers, Jim!"

"I know..." Then Kirk’s face clouded perceptibly. "All the same, I wish it were that simple. We still have two and a half days to go, spirits are high on the ship, and yet..." He sighed.

"Ah...the Ambassador, I’ll bet," said the perceptive doctor. "What is it with you? You’ve always got to—"

"There seems to be nothing I can do about it, Bones. It’s just my nature. Damn it! I’m at my wit’s end with that woman."

"Come on, Jim. Don’t tell me that the old Kirk magic has failed here. That’d be a first!"

"Well, it looks like it has," Kirk admitted half in jest. "At the risk of ruining my reputation, I must say that I don’t quite know what to make of her. So attractive, and yet so unapproachable! It’s really frustrating."

"Too bad, Jim," McCoy sympathized, "and I suppose you know why?"

"Spock, of course! I know. On the very first evening, the moment she laid eyes on Spock, she was hooked, and all my chances gone. It is clear that this woman has a kind of fixation on Vulcans...and this is nothing to laugh about, Bones!" Kirk sounded miffed.

"Sorry but the situation is so damned funny, come to think of it. There’s probably not be a single man on board who wouldn’t give a year’s pay for a romantic tete a tete with Dah Tecumseh, and who does she pick out? The one and only Vulcan of the crew, unreachable, emotionless, the man who couldn’t care less. If you’re frustrated, Jim, imagine what she must be feeling?"

"You may be right, Bones. Just this morning, she called to complain about the unjustified non-cooperation of my first officer, and she sounded quite peeved about it."

"Did she? And what has our Vulcan done to incur the lady’s displeasure?"

"Well, according to her version, she finds that the Vulcan physiological data in the ship library-computer too abbreviated, too incomplete. So she sent for Spock in order to obtain additional information first hand. Instead, Spock declined on the grounds that the requested information is classified, on the authority of the Vulcan High Council."

"Heavens! No wonder she was peeved! But what did she want, do you know?"

"I do. I promised the Ambassador that I would personally look into the matter, and I summoned Spock to my quarters."

"And? Go on, Jim," prompted the doctor.

"Well, I found Spock particularly tight-lipped, but, with a lot of persuasion and a little arm-twisting, I finally got to the bottom of the sad story." Here, Kirk leaned forward and dropped his voice significantly. "I don’t know how, Bones, but our guests have picked up somewhere the wild rumors which occasionally circulate about the Vulcans, the ones regarding pon farr!"

"Oh, no!" McCoy’s eyes widened in alarm.

"Precisely," Kirk nodded grimly. "So this naturally brought her curiosity to a peak, and the Ambassador requested Spock to give her confidential information on the Vulcan society, such as male/female relationship, birth and mating rituals, et cetera."

"Good God! The very things not to be mentioned within Vulcan hearing range!" McCoy exclaimed in awe. "Don’t they know that this is a Vulcan cultural taboo?"

"They didn’t, but now they do. Spock made sure of that," Kirk dryly replied. "Unfortunately, to these women there’s no such a thing as privacy; they know nothing of accepted telepathic ethics; they’re more often than not offensively inquisitive; and, to cap it all, they’re used to having it their own way always. And that, of course, goes against Vulcan ethics and principles. So, here I am, Bones, with Tecumseh on the one hand, and Spock on the other. What can I do?"

The doctor pursed his lips, mulling it over. "Nothing...there seems to be not much you can do, short of asking Spock to unbend a little."

"Unbend? Spock? He was ram-rod stiff with outrage just at the mention of Dah Tecumseh’s demands. And when I tentatively suggested that he perhaps should try and be more helpful, he coldly said that he’d given her access to all non-restricted Vulcan databanks, including some of his personal files, and that he did not know what more he could do."

"Hmm...typical Spock-ian reaction," McCoy commented. "It’s clear that he doesn’t realize that what the lady wants is not so much inside knowledge on Vulcans in general as on one Vulcan in particular. Look, Jim, what if you tried to play on his sense of duty? For instance, you could tell him that for the success of the mission, the sake of the Federation, the sake of galactic peace, whatever... he should make an effort and try to be more sociable. There are only two days left, damn it!"

"No use, Bones," Kirk sighed, "I tried. I even hinted that he follow his father’s example and take it on himself to socialize with Dah Tecumseh, if only to further Vulcan/Cygnetian relations. To which he flatly replied that they did not need to be improved. ‘Captain, to the best of my knowledge, my duty to the Federation and to Starfleet does not require me to forsake Vulcan moral principles and compromise my dignity for the gratification of Ambassador Dah Tecumseh. If, as I suspect, she is looking for a romantic interlude, I am not competent. There are on board this ship any number of Humans better qualified.’"

"Spock said that?"


"Well, so much for innocent-minded Vulcans! Seems that I was wrong," McCoy remarked. "Apparently he knows how things stand with Dah Tecumseh."

"Perhaps because he’s been forewarned. Bones, this is strictly confidential: the same thing happened to Sarek on Cygnet Twelve."

"What? You mean that Sarek—" McCoy gaped in disbelief.

"Yes, Sarek. Why not? Cygnetian females seem to be irresistibly attracted to Vulcan males. In any case, Sarek came through unscathed because Amanda quickly put a stop to that nonsense."

"Well, I’ll be damned!" the doctor declared in amazement. "No wonder Spock is keeping the lady at arm’s length. Well, Jim, if you cannot persuade Dah Tecumseh that, for want of a Vulcan, a starship captain might do just as well, I don’t see..."

The beep of the intercom cut him short. He touched the switch on his desk. "McCoy here...yes, he’s here. Captain, it’s for you."

"Yes, Kirk here. What is it?"

"Bridge, sir-r-r. The Ambassador is asking for you. Would you please report to her-r-r quarters at your-r-r earliest convenience, sir-r-r?"

"Did she say why, Lieutenant M’ress?"

"No, Captain. She just said it’s very important, and she did not seem very pleased about it, sir-r-r."

"All right, Lieutenant. Kirk out."

The doctor switched the comlink off. "What now? More trouble ahead?"

"Looks like it," Kirk grimly said, getting to his feet. "Who said that this mission would just be plain sailing?"

"Some pen-pusher, no doubt. Need some assistance?" McCoy offered.

"I think I could do with your moral support, Doctor. Come along!"


Commander Spock, his duty shift done, was riding the turbolift on his way to Deck 5. He was looking forward to an evening of quiet meditation in his quarters. He had to admit that his earlier discussion with Jim Kirk had upset him. Actually, the whole situation was decidedly upsetting.

A long meditation was indicated, if only to help him assess logically the uncomfortable position in which he found himself. He thought of his father, confronted with the same problem on Cygnet XII. But then, Amanda had been at Sarek’s side, ready to defend her husband against forward females.

Here, on the Enterprise, he was alone. Even Jim, for all his friendship, could not fully understand the inextricable dilemma which Spock was facing, caught between his duty and his code of Vulcan behavior.

Suddenly, he stiffened, hit by a wave of strong emotions coming from nowhere. Controlling himself, he put the lift on hold. Then, after setting all his Vulcan senses on the alert, he opened his mind and waited...

After a few seconds, the emotional flow hit him again, a powerful blend of anger, distress, even fear, and it seems to spring from within the ship. Something was wrong, some insidious power was at work. Seemingly, however, it was not affecting ship’s operations, for no alarm had been raised.

Jim, perhaps? Cautiously, Spock tested the weak link that was occasionally detectable between them. Nothing, at least nothing unusual. Jim did not seem to be suffering any physical or emotional discomfort. Spock only detected some irritation, the source of which he could easily trace back to himself.

Then he concentrated on probing methodically the various levels of the ship in order to pinpoint the origin of the mental disruption...and at least a clear vision flashed into his mind: the Sciences section, his own department, and more precisely, the astrophysics labs. Something suspect was going on there.

Spock sent the turbolift on the move again. There was not a moment to spare.


The astrophysics labs were indeed in a precarious situation. The personnel were in a state of shock. Four of them were sitting helplessly by their consoles, unable to move, while another was slumped on the deck, a nasty gash bleeding on his forehead.

The were watching with horrified disbelief the incredible ballet performed by some pieces of their equipment, floating gracefully about in the air, as if endowed with a life of their own. Actually, the technicians were being given a demonstration in telekinesis by Vanijeh Dah Timourleh who seemed to take great pleasure at showing off her Cygnetian superiority.

Since this mission had begun, the First Warrior had seldom had so much fun, for to have in her power these insolent young males was most entertaining.

"You stupid Humans!" she crowed. "You dare scorn my powers. Look, behold what I can do!" She raised a hand and another device detached itself from its stand, and rose up in the air before spinning like a top around the laboratory.

"Don’t please! No, Vani, not that one. Please put it down!" begged Ensign Prescott in a choked voice. He tried to stand up but, like his mates, he was held by her powers, paralyzed in his chair.

"Oh?" she asked sweetly. "You want me to put it down? Very well, I shall put it down. Now, watch!" And she sent the implement whizzing across the room, kept it hovering above Prescott’s head for a few horrid seconds, then with a chuckle, let it crash down on his computer console and on his hands which were frozen to the controls.

"Oh my God!" he screamed in pain. "Why are you doing this?"

"Be quiet! You can hold yourself lucky that I did not crash it on your head. Now, what about this beautiful isotope scanner? There certainly is something interesting I can do with it."

"I would not do that if I were you," said a quiet voice behind her.

She whipped around, a startled look in her purple eyes.

Spock, grim and watchful, was standing in the doorway.

"Oh, the Vulcan officer," she sneered. "The man who always spurns our requests!"

"Mister Spock! Do something, please! We can’t move; we can’t stop her!" pleaded Spock’s subordinates, inexpressibly glad to see him.

"Set your minds at ease. Clear them of stray thoughts. Concentrate on not thinking. You are under her telekinetic powers for now, but I assure you, crewmen, this nonsense is going to stop," the first officer calmly told them. Then, turning to the intercom panel, he briskly ordered, "Spock here. A security detail to the astrophysics lab, at once!"

He turned around just in time to see the isotope scanner zooming straight at his head. He calmly stepped aside and deftly caught it before it hit the bulkhead. Then putting it back in place, he eyed the Cygnetian with disfavor. "This is a laboratory, Madame, not a playground. Nor are these delicate scientific instruments toys to be played with," he sternly said.

The woman’s lips curled in a sneer. "Do you think that you can stop me? I shall do as I please!"

"I don’t think so. On the contrary, you will stop behaving like a spoiled child and release my assistants from the neural paralysis that you have induced, and you will do it now."

"Oh, I see that Vulcans are no strangers to psionics," she remarked.

"Your species is not the only one possessing extra-sensory powers," Spock coldly replied. Then, addressing the security guards who were rushing in and gaping at the scene, he ordered, "Ensign, you will escort this lady back to her quarters under arms."

"Aye, sir!" and the security officer drew his phaser. His two fellow security guards did likewise.

"Now, Madame, kindly release the labs' personnel and follow these men. We have wasted enough time."

Incensed by Spock’s cold indifference and apparent immunity to her psi-powers, Vanijeh stormed, "You insolent Vulcan male! See what it costs to offend a Cygnetian warrior!" With a defiant toss of her head, she sent a heavy stool hurtling straight at Spock...but, to everyone’s surprise, he caught it gracefully with one hand and gently set it down on the floor. The Cygnetian, quivering with fury, shouted, "You demon! You will bow to—"

"Madame, insults will get you nowhere." There was an edge in the voice of Spock. "You will now stop this nonsensical game, of I shall take measures that you might regret."

"Don’t you dare threaten me, Vulcan! I shall make you pay for your insolence; I shall have you whipped by my servants, demoted, expelled from your miserable ship!"

Her fascinated audience gasped in awe, but Spock’s only response was a skeptical eyebrow and a dry comment, "I doubt it, Madame." Then he marched purposefully towards the Cygnetian when the cry of "Sir! behind you! Look out!" from the guards, made him spin round. A tricorder was rushing at him like a guided missile.

But the projectile failed to reach its target, for after catching it with the grace akin to catching a butterfly, he slung the tricorder back towards the young woman. She instinctively recoiled, but, to her amazement, the menacing object clearly was not intended to strike her as it missed her face by several inches.

A flush colored her cheeks. Boiling with impotent rage, she could but glare at these insolent Humans who were now laughing at her helplessness, and at the Vulcan who had the nerve to face up to a Cygnetian Warrior.

"It will require more than mere psionic prowess to defeat a Vulcan in combat, First Warrior. Logic dictates that you must yield. I will not miss hitting you with the next item you propel toward me. Free these crewmembers immediately."

Vanijeh attacked him like a fury, screaming: "Never, do you hear? Never! I will not be ordered about by a man, even by a Vulcan!" She launched herself at the first officer.

But her hands never reached the Vulcan’s throat. Before she knew it, a steely hand grabbed her wrists while another closed on the base of her neck and pressed, and...she fell into oblivion.

"Gee! That was a neat one, Mister Spock. She never saw it coming!"enthused Ensign Preston while the grinning security officers nodded in agreement.

They eyed appreciatively the young woman who hung like a rag doll in the Vulcan’s arms. "Quite a woman, isn’t she?" commented Ensign Dugovitch with admiration.

"Sure, but she was no match for a Vulcan, thank Heavens!" put in Prescott who was rising stiffly to his feet. The moment that the Cygnetian had lost consciousness, the five technicians had recovery their freedom of movement. "Glad you came, sir. I don’t know what we could have done."

"Nothing, Mister Prescott." Spock, having gently set the Cygnetian Warrior on a chair, straightened up. "There was nothing you could do. The lady had, for reasons perhaps best known to you, worked herself into hysterics and become quite uncontrollable."

The sheepish glances that his assistants exchanged were not lost on the science officer and confirmed his suspicions. "Let this be a lesson to you, gentlemen: never underestimate a female, specially a Cygnetian female warrior."

"Understood, sir!"

"Naturally, I shall expect your report on the reasons and circumstances of her presence in these labs. But first, let’s deal with our priorities. Mister Prescott and Mister Donovan need medical attention. Crewman Valach here will escort you to Sickbay. And now, Mister Dugovitch," Spock told the ensign with a feeling of deja vu, "you will take this lady back to her quarters and station a guard outside her door until further notice. Please advise Healer Dahseh of her present condition. She should come to in fifteen minutes."

"Understood, sir. No problem," Dugovitch cheerfully replied. With the help of his mates, he swung the unconscious Cygnetian onto his broad shoulder.

"Gently, Ensign!" recommended Spock.

"Aye, sir. We’ll take care of the delegate!" grinned the red shirt. "Good thing she’s not half as heavy as their cat, sir!" A comment which set his shipmates laughing and the first officer frowning.

"Now, gentlemen!" he chided, then, having sent Security on their way, he briskly set about to assessing the extent of the damage.


Captain Kirk, when arriving at the guests staterooms, was surprised to find a security officer stationed in front of the doors. "What are you doing here, Ensign?" he asked.

"Standing guard, sir," replied Dugovitch, jumping to attention.

"So I see. On whose authority?"

"Mister Spock’s, sir."

Kirk and McCoy exchanged a glance. "Why? Has something happened?"

"Aye, sir! And a real mess she made of the astrophysics lab, sir."

"Who did? What do you mean?"

"She did, sir. The Cygnetian woman, sir. She’s in there now," the guard volunteered, nodding at the nearest door.

Before more could be said, the door opened and the bayle appeared who ushered the bemused officers in the guests’ sitting room. There, they found one of the aides reclining on a couch, attended by the Healer and Ambassador Dah Tecumseh. Kirk had hardly taken in the scene when the latter looked around and pounced. "Ah, Captain, here you are at last. Come and see how my staff is treated on your ship!"

"What happened, Madame?"

"You may well ask! My First Warrior here was treacherously attacked and incapacitated by that Vulcan of yours!"

"What! You don’t mean it, Ambassador; Spock wouldn’t hurt a fly!" Kirk protested.

McCoy pushed forward. "Ambassador, may I have a look at the patient? Perhaps I can help."

The First Warrior, then, opened one eye. "No!" she wailed, "please, don’t let this man come near me!"

"Come, Vanijeh!"chided Healer Dahseh. "You know Doctor McCoy; let him see your bruise."

McCoy then was allowed to approach and examine the Cygnetian’s neck. It took him but a few seconds to make his diagnosis and the look he gave the captain spoke volumes. "I see," he said at his professional best, "a muscular trauma resulting from a hard pressure applied at the junction of the neck and the shoulder. Hmm...painful but not critical. The pain should subside in a couple of hours. I take it that you applied some of your herbal salves on the contusion?" he asked his colleague.

"Of course. I have some ointment just for that kind of bruise," she said.

"Good! I suggest that you repeat the treatment regularly to ease the pain. Don’t worry, young lady. There will be no trace left by tomorrow, and you will be as good as new!" he told the girl with a fatherly smile.

But McCoy’s country doctor act was wasted on the First Warrior. "I don’t care!" she hissed. "All I want is to see that Spock punished; I want to see him whipped till blood is shed!"

"He will be, Vanijeh, you can be sure!" said Dah Tecumseh with a cruel smile.

This was too much for the Enterprise officers. "What the hell are you talking about?" McCoy said hotly.

"Now, just a moment, Ambassador. Must I again remind you that you have no authority over my crew?" Kirk asked angrily.

"You certainly make sure that I do not forget!" she replied with scorn. "Is it asking too much that you exercise your authority and punish your first officer as he deserves for assaulting my aide?"

"Wait a minute, Ma’am!" McCoy interjected. "You can’t accuse Spock of—"

"Of course, we can, McCoy, "the Healer broke in, "and you have just given us the irrefutable proof of his guilt. In your diagnosis, you have described precisely what is commonly known as the Vulcan neck pinch, a swift method that the Vulcans have to render unconscious. Yes, I know of that method; I found this information in the ship’s library. Very convenient."

"You see, Captain?" the Ambassador crowed. "Commander Spock is the only Vulcan on your ship, is he not? Do you deny?"

"I deny nothing!" Kirk replied crossly. "Everyone knows that Spock is the only person onboard the Enterprise capable of delivering a neck pinch. But the question is: Why?"

"That’s right!" McCoy put in. "He must’ve had a good reason. Vulcans don’t go ‘round pinchin’ necks and knockin’ people out just for the fun of it! And just what exactly happened in the astrophysics lab?" The doctor looked suspiciously at Vanijeh who glowered but kept silent.

"Good question, Doctor," Kirk grimly said, "and that’s just what I’m going to find out." He went to the intercom unit, called the astrophysics lab and asked for Spock.

"Aye, sir, just a moment," he was told.

"And what do you intend to prove, Captain?" Dah Tecumseh asked with disdain during the pause. "You cannot alter the facts!"

"Precisely, Madame, I want to know the facts, nothing else."

"Spock here, Captain."

"Mister Spock, come to the V.I.P. quarters at once. We have a big problem here."

"We have a problem here also, Captain," came the deep voice.

"Trouble in the lab?"

"Yes, sir. The astrophysics lab has been subjected to wanton vandalism, and we are now beginning the repair procedures."

"I see..." Kirk did not miss the uneasy look which passed on Vanijeh’s face. "You speak of vandalism, do you know who did it?" he asked Spock.

"I do, Captain."

"Perfect! Then get here on the double, Spock. I need your evidence, if only to clear you of grave accusations brought against you."

"Indeed? Very well, Captain, on my way. Spock out."

Turning around, Kirk glared at the Cygnetians. "Well, ladies, I suppose you know what the term ‘vandalism’ means? It means wanton destruction, and mischief, Ambassador. Perhaps your aide would care to explain herself?"

"She will not!" Dah Tecumseh bristled. "She is answerable to no one but to me."

Kirk’s angry retort was cut short by the bosun’s pipe.

"Kirk here," he said into the intercom.

"Captain Kirk? Prescott of Astrophysics, sir. Captain, I’m sorry, but I overheard what was just said. I know it’s not my place to say, but Mister Spock is not to blame, sir. On the contrary, he got us out of trouble. He stopped this Cygnetian Warrior from wrecking the whole place. I thought you should know."

"Thank you, Mister Prescott. You were quite right to call me. If necessary, I might have to require your presence here to give testimony."

"Sure, Captain, any time! You can depend on everyone in the department, sir! We all saw it!" was the eager reply of the ensign.

"Good. Thank you, Mister Prescott. Kirk out." His eyes met McCoy’s in unspoken understanding, then he turned and asked, "Did you hear that, Ambassador? I wonder what your subordinate has to say about that?"

All eyes turned to the wretched warrior who stammered, "It’s a lie! They all lie; they are all in collusion with him! They were laughing when... I..." Her voice trailed off, she froze and stared. Spock had just come in.

"Ah, Mister Spock!" Kirk promptly took the lead. "Come and hear the charges laid against you. You’re accused of unprovoked assault and battery on this young lady. What do you have to say for your defense?"

Spock cast a glance at the young woman and quietly replied, "I refute the accusation, Captain."

Cutting short the expostulations of the Cygnetians, Kirk continued, "It is your right, Mister Spock. However, Doctor McCoy has just testified that this lady has been rendered insensible by a neck pinch —which only you can perform on this ship. Do you still refute the charge?"

Spock met the captain’s searching gaze steadily and said, "What I refute is the term ‘unprovoked assault,’ but I admit to the neck pinch."

"This is ridiculous!" Dah Tecumseh angrily declared. "Mister Spock is wasting our time with these quibbles. He tries to evade the issue."

"If you please, Madame Ambassador!" Kirk snapped. "Now, Spock, I want a plain answer. Why did you nerve-pinch the First Warrior?"

"Because I was under attack, Captain."

"What did I tell you?" exclaimed McCoy. "That’s a damned good reason!"

"Captain, I protest!" cried the Ambassador. "Your first officer is now putting the blame on my aide."

But her cousin who had been quietly observant so far, intervened. "Adekunda, I think we should hear Commander Spock’s version of the incident, don’t you agree? Please, let him speak."

"Very well, let Mister Spock explain himself, if he can," Dah Tecumseh said with some reluctance.

Spock was a man of few words. His account of the labs incident was brief and to the point...with devastating results.

Kirk, jaw tense, arms crossed on his chest, glared at the Cygnetians. "Well, ladies," he declared, "you have really overreached yourselves, this time! We welcome you as honored guests; we give you freedom of the ship and facilities, and then what? This aide of yours goes and plays havoc with the Science laboratories, juggles with scientific equipment worth a fortune, ruins a computer, attacks three of my crew, injuring two of them, and to crown it all, she has the gall of accusing my chief science officer of wanton assault, and to demand that he be flogged in punishment of his crime! She wants you to be flogged, Mister Spock, did you know that?"

"I did, Captain. She informed me of her intention."

"She did? The woman’s got nerve, no mistake! But this has gone far enough. Ambassador, much as I regret to have to resort to security measures, from now on, you are all confined to quarters until arrival at Starbase Eleven. Upon our arrival there, I will inform Commodore Mendez of the actions of your delegation, and I will recommend that negotiations with Cygnet Twelve be suspended until further notice!"

"You cannot do that, Captain! You have no authority on a diplomatic mission," Dah Tecumseh flared.

"I have all authority on my ship, personnel and passengers, and I tell you, Madame, the next person who interferes again with my crew and my ship, will end up in the brig for the rest of the trip, and diplomatic immunity be damned!"

The Ambassador’s face darkened in anger. "You would not dare!" she stormed.

"Don’t put me to the test; you will regret it!" Kirk shot back, hazel eyes challenging.

They glared at each other, and during the pause, McCoy tried to put in a word. "Jim, be careful, maybe you should..."

"I don’t recall having required your opinion, Doctor. Let me settle this problem as I see fit," was Kirk’s cold retort.

"You will regret this, Captain Kirk!" Dah Tecumseh threatened. "Your unspeakable behavior will be reported to your superiors. I only have to say the word, and you will be stripped of rank and disgraced!"

The captain shrugged. "With all due respect, Madame, this kind of threat cuts no ice with me. I have heard it all before from pathetic little ambassadors to Federation Under-Secretaries to Federation High Commissioners, and, as you can see, I still command the Enterprise."

"What I see is that your insolence is on par with your conceit," she countered with contempt.

"Gentlemen," Healer Dahseh intervened, "you seem to be certain of the facts, but how do we know that Commander Spock has spoken the truth?"

"We know because he’s a Vulcan," McCoy told them. "Vulcans are reputed far and wide for being incapable of lying–it’s as simple as that!"

"And not forgetting the indisputable evidence of the destruction in the labs and the witnesses, Madame," Kirk pointed out.

Spock who had maintained an aloof silence throughout the discussion, now came out of his Vulcan reserve. "Healer, and you, Ambassador, you seem to question my truthfulness. There is however a simple and logical way to prove that I speak the truth."

"Indeed? Then prove it, Commander!" Dah Tecumseh challenged.

The Vulcan and the Cygnetian held each other’s gaze in silence, then Spock said levelly, "Your aide can prove it. She knows the truth. Why don’t you question her? You are of a telepathic species as am I. Why don’t you search her mind to find if she lies or speaks the truth? Don’t you think that is what you should have done in the first place?"

Thus challenged, the Ambassador regarded Spock with narrowed eyes then, making her decision, said curtly, "Very well, we will. Tanlila, do it, please!"

But, as Healer Dahseh approached her, Vanijeh, suddenly pale and frightened, shrank back. "No! No, please! I...I admit that the Vulcan is right, Everything happened as he said. Please, don’t do it!"

A heavy silence followed the confession.

Kirk shared of look of satisfaction with the doctor, but, seeing the two Cygnetians’s stunned expression, refrained from comment and kept his ‘I told you so’ to himself. Apparently their pride was hurt enough as it was.

Dah Tecumseh was indeed the prey of unprecedented and painful emotions. Never had she experienced such a crushing shame at being proven wrong. She felt her pride injured beyond recovery. She had threatened Captain Kirk with demotion and disgrace. She had accused his Vulcan officer of lying and more! She had threatened him with the whip. Goddesses! How could her reputation as Female Warrior of the First Circle ever survive this appalling error? Her gaze met her cousin’s worried eyes, they exchanged a somber look. Then, instinctively, their gaze turned to the First Warrior, the very cause of their vexation. And all at once, Dah Tecumseh’s anger and mortification soared like a gathering storm to explode in a towering rage. "You miserable wretch!" she flared. "You have disgraced our race with your lies and your perjury! You have shamed the honor of our Warrior Community! Get out! I no longer want to see you!"

"Adekunda Dah...I beg you!" pleaded Vanijeh on the verge of tears.

"Get out of my sight, I say!" stormed the outraged diplomat.

Spock, then, decided to intervene. "With respect, Ambassador, do not be too hard on your aide. I believe that this unfortunate incident resulted from a misunderstanding between two emotionally unstable species, Humans and Cygnetians. From what I gathered, this young lady, having befriended personnel of the Sciences department, went down to the labs to watch them at work, or perhaps to further their acquaintance. Anyway, a moment came when she wished to show off her female superiority, and she boasted of her psi powers...only to meet with disbelief and laughter. The Human habit of derision can be quite mortifying, even painful, Ambassador. The technicians certainly meant no harm; they just wanted to tease as Humans are wont to do, but your aide felt insulted in her pride, and proceeded to teach them a lesson, with dire consequences. This is why I had to stop her, at all cost."

"I see...a very enlightening explanation, don’t you think, Captain?" Dah Tecumseh pointedly said.

Kirk, frowning slightly, was glaring at his first officer. "Is that what it’s all about, Mister Spock?"

"I believe so, Captain."

"It’s quite possible, Jim," Doctor McCoy chimed in. "Ensign Prescott has a bit of a reputation for teasing his shipmates."

"Hmm...very well! I want you to make inquiries, and I want a full report first thing in the morning."

"It will be on your desk by oh-eight-hundred, Captain."

"Good! I only wish you’d told me before about that, Spock. It might have spared us some...unpleasantness," the captain remarked.

"Absolutely! Why did you say nothing about this earlier, Commander Spock?" demanded an indignant Ambassador.

Spock assumed his air of pure innocence. "With all due respect, Madame, when you and Captain Kirk are engaged in these impassioned discussions of yours, no one would dare venture to interrupt either of you."

"Damn right!" McCoy interjected, "What he means, Ma’am, is that there seems to be no way to stop you when you two have locked horns."

Before the two protagonists could protest, unexpectedly Healer Dahseh remarked with a tolerant smile, "Indeed, so I noticed. It even looks as if you both take pleasure in your arguments."

Taken aback, the diplomat and the captain traded glances, then the latter admitted with a cocky smile, "Well, perhaps I do. What about you, Madame?"

"Well..." replied the lady, a teasing gleam in her violet eyes, "I must say that I find our confrontations quite invigorating, Captain." An admission which sent the Humans laughing.

"Okay, then," Kirk briskly declared, "let’s call it a truce, Ambassador, and if my crew is proven to have any responsibility in the incident, I shall consider your position in a new light."

"I expect no less, Captain, and I hope that you reconsider your decision to keep my delegation confined to these rooms."

"I certainly will, except for your aide. Sorry, but discipline must be maintained, and I cannot overlook the havoc that she has caused in the labs. Whoever is responsible must bear the consequences. I hope you agree, Madame."

"Discipline is familiar to a Warrior, Captain. It is as essential to our community as it is to yours," Dah Tecumseh haughtily said. Then, glaring at her aide, she went on, "Vanijeh, you have much to answer for, and you can hold yourself fortunate not to be more severely punished. Go to your cabin, now, and stay there until further notice."

As they watched the First Warrior take her leave and stalk out of the room, McCoy remarked sotto voce, "There is something about this girl. She seems to get worked up against you, Spock, and not just because of that neck pinch. I wonder why...any idea?"

A disillusioned eyebrow arched upwards. "Better ask the lady, Doctor. She probably has her reasons."

"We know her reasons, Commander," the Healer said quietly, "she resents your psychic and physical superiority. For a woman as gifted as she is in psionic powers and combat, it was a great blow to her pride to be defeated by an alien male!"

"I regret that," Spock said with concern. "I did not mean to offend, nor to compete with her skills. I only wanted to stop her from damaging the astrophysics lab any further."

"I know that, Mister Spock, but you made her lose face in front of the Humans; you treated her, the First Warrior, as a child, a spoiled child," chided Dahseh.

"I only used her own methods, Healer," Spock’s voice now conveyed mild reproof. "I only made her experience for a moment the total helplessness in which she had kept my assistants."

"And you certainly succeeded, Commander," the Ambassador put in dryly. "You have taught her a lesson which she is not likely to forget!"

"Now, Madame and sir, if you have finished with me, I have pressing matters to attend to in the Science section. Permission to leave?"

"Granted. You can go, Mister Spock." Kirk nodded with a fond smile.

Spock was taking his leave with a slight inclination of the head when a sharp "Stay!" made him pause.

"I did not dismiss you, Commander," Dah Tecumseh told him provocatively.

She got in return a typical Vulcan response. "Ambassador, so far as I know, you are not my commanding officer, therefore you are not entitled to give me orders. If you will excuse me..."

Spock strode stiff-backed out of the room, leaving a diplomat bereft of speech and two officers struggling to keep a straight face.

"Don’t mind Mister Spock, Madame. He’s always been a stickler for the chain of command," Kirk hastened to explain, hoping to defuse an incoming storm.

"That’s the way with Vulcans!" McCoy added with feeling. "Always have to go by the book!"

Curiously, the information seemed to satisfy the touchy Cygnetians. They exchanged a meaningful glance. "Really?" asked the Ambassador. "Another singularity of the Vulcan character. I presume your first officer is an unusual man, Captain. High principled and plain-spoken to the verge of insolence."

"That he is for sure, Ma’am," McCoy dryly commented. "And with your permission, ladies, I had better take myself off as well..."

"Wait, Leonard! Are you going to Sickbay?" Healer Dahseh stopped him at the door.

He looked around. "Yes. I have to check the condition of the labs technicians. Want to give me a hand, Tanlila? Come along then!"

An awkward pause followed as the captain and the Ambassador were left by themselves. They shared an appraising look. "I am afraid I also have to go, Madame," Kirk finally said, "unless there is something else I can do for you?"

She gazed at him in silence, then her lips curled in a smile. "Yes, Captain, there is something I want you to do. Take me to your botanic garden."


Captain Kirk was putting the finishing touch to his smart attire and trying to fix the ribbons to his chest, when the buzzer sounded at his cabin door. Doctor McCoy, in full dress uniform, wandered in and, seeing Kirk wrestling with his decorations, offered his services, which were gratefully accepted.

"Well, Jim, have you finally talked Spock into coming along with us?"

"No, Bones. Total failure. He gave me a string of logical reasons for staying aboard on duty, the more convincing being to give Mister Scott his chance for a night out, specially since the chief engineer of the Lexington happens to be a friend of his. So, I gave in."

"Very nice for Scotty, but what about Commodore Wesley?" the doctor wondered. Stepping back, he studied his handiwork with a critical eye. "I think that’ll do. Take a look, Jim."

Kirk turned round, looked at his image and straightened his jacket. "Fine, Bones, thank you. As for Bob Wesley, I’m sure he won’t mind. He knows Spock and his peculiarities."

"Who doesn’t?" snorted McCoy. "That Vulcan has the knack for wriggling out of his social obligations, unbelievable!"

"Don’t I know it!" Kirk grinned. "But tomorrow he’s sure to attend Mendez’s official reception; his parents will be there."

"Ah...when do they arrive?"

"Sarek’s special scoutship is due by midday tomorrow. Then diplomacy will take over. Tonight, Wesley is just giving a ship to ship party. Come on, time to go and pick up the ladies."

Kirk strode to the door, but McCoy, struck by a sudden thought, called, "Wait! You never told me. How was it yesterday?"

"How was what?" Kirk blankly asked.

"Come on, Jim! The Ambassador, the garden?"

Kirk’s face registered some annoyance. "How do you know?"

"My private source of information, Jim. So...what happened?"

"No comment, doctor!" And the captain set off at a brisk pace down the corridor. It was only in the turbolift that a puffing and grousing chief medical officer caught up with him.

"Wait a minute, will you? What’s that suppose to mean?"

"Sorry, but my self-esteem is a bit sore on that subject," said the captain, setting the lift on its way. "If you want to know, nothing happened in the garden. Sure, it was all very pleasant, very romantic. We even kissed under the jacaranda." He smiled reminiscently. "But that’s all there was to it, Bones...a flop!"

"Incredible! That woman really led you up the garden path! Sorry, Jim, but I couldn’t pass that one over, now could I?"


As was to be expected, the arrival of the Cygnetian diplomats, dressed to kill and escorted by the Enterprise command officers, created a sensation on the U.S.S. Lexington. The moment they entered the mess hall, men’s jaws dropped all around in silent awe.

Commodore Robert Wesley came bustling forward to greet the newcomers. "Jim, you old space dog! Good to see you, good to see you all. Welcome aboard!" he genially said.

"Thank you, Bob. It’s been a while," Kirk replied as they shook hands. "I hear you've put in for your retirement, Bob."

"It has indeed, and I have indeed, but that's not a subject I want to discuss, Jim. There are other matters that concern me here. So what are you waiting for? Introduce me to the ladies!" Wesley’s gaze was already appraising the exotic beauty of the Cygnetians.

While Kirk readily complied, he congratulated himself on having gone over the full names, titles and qualifications that very morning with his encyclopedic first officer.

As the presentations of the dignitaries were duly performed, the Enterprise officers were mixing informally with their Lexington counterparts, and Kirk noted out of the corner of his eye that Lieutenant Uhura was already gathering a circle of admirers around her. He had granted her leave to dress up for the occasion so as not to be out-rivaled in looks and elegance by the Cygnetians, and, in that dazzling creation which seemed designed to turn every male head within visual range, Uhura easily competed with the beautiful Cygnetian delegates. Presently, Kirk left to Wesley the honor of presenting his guests and officers to the Cygnetians, and he began to move about the room, mixing and chatting with fellow officers, and all the time, observing with amusement the fascination that the purple-eyed women held on the assembly.

Dah Tecumseh, at her haughty best, acknowledged each person with a slight inclination of the head, or occasionally granted an admirer the grace of a condescending smile. She looked for all the world like a sovereign receiving her due rather than a diplomatic envoy applying for membership.

Kirk had to hand it to her: she was superb. In less that fifteen minutes, she had managed to have these Federation brass hats eating out of her hand. The slight pique that he had felt against her since the garden episode vanished before his admiration.

Suddenly, in the midst of all this excitement, their gazes met. Kirk’s eyes crinkled in amusement...a second later, the lady responded with an ironic smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

This look of complicity could not go unnoticed in the crowded room, and Kirk knew that it was bound to raise speculations. What the heck! Let them speculate. After all, I have my reputation to live up to! he thought.

His spirits went up another notch when, a moment later, Commodore Wesley introduced the Federation official representative. "And now, Ambassador," he said, "I would like you to meet the personal envoy of the President of the Federation Council, High Commissioner Ferris." Adding in an aside, "Jim, I think you know Commissioner Ferris, don’t you?"

"Yes, we’ve met before," Kirk coldly replied as the two men eyed each other with scarcely veiled hostility. The bureaucratic stubbornness and arrogance of the man still rankled the captain.

Ferris deliberately turned his back on Kirk and proceeded to ingratiate himself with the Cygnetians. "It will be my honor and privilege, Ambassador, to preside over the Conference. Rest assured that I shall make it my personal concern to facilitate the entry of Cygnet Twelve in the United Federation of Planets. I trust that the talks which I shall conduct will..."

"Just a moment!" Dah Tecumseh cut in sharply, looking Ferris up and down with obvious disdain. "What do you mean...You will preside?"

"I.. I am afraid I don’t understand, Madame," stammered Ferris. "I thought that you knew. I have been appointed President of the Conference; you have no objection, I hope?"

"I have, on the contrary!" she retorted. "My government specifically required Sarek of Vulcan to direct the negotiations. He and Lady Amanda are coming directly from Vulcan for that purpose. Have you not been informed?"

There was a movement of uneasiness among the Federation envoys, and Kirk heard McCoy whisper in his ear, "What’s up, Jim?"

"Ferris again, Bones! Hush, listen!" Kirk muttered intent on the confrontation between the Warrior and the Bureaucrat.

"Of course, we have been informed, Madame," Ferris was saying with a tightlipped smile, "but, being only an Ambassador, Sarek is not entitled to chair this important meeting, which is why the Federation Council—"

"I don’t care," Dah Tecumseh cut in coldly. "Ambassador Sarek will preside over our talks, or they will not be held at all."

A stir of acute embarrassment ran over the officials, and Kirk, unable to resist the opportunity, intervened, "Excuse me, Ambassador, may I?"

She nodded assent, and he turned to Ferris, saying, "I am afraid you are mistaken, Commissioner. Ambassador Sarek has the right and capacity to preside over the forthcoming meetings. As a plenipotentiary ambassador, he has presided over more diplomatic conferences that you ever will, and he has acquired on many worlds, and on Cygnet Twelve in particular, a reputation and an experience that you will probably never attain. I hear that they have appointed you President of this Conference. Congratulations, Mister Ferris. But high-sounding titles do not mean much if you don’t have the expertise. What, beside the official computerized information, do you know of Cygnet Twelve and its people? What inside knowledge do you have of their Warrior Community?"

Ferris was livid. "That is no concern of yours, Captain Kirk!" He bristled. "And I’ll thank you to mind your own business!"

"Pardon me, but these questions are very much my concern, Commissioner," broke in Dah Tecumseh, stiff with anger. "If you know so little about my people, how can you claim the right to direct the negotiations? Better leave it to professionals, Commissioner. Better leave it to Ambassador Sarek and his efficient staff." She turned away with contempt, leaving Ferris seething with mortification.

Bob Wesley, not best pleased with this turn of event, shot a questioning glance at Kirk who shrugged in reply. But the commodore was an old hand, and he was not going to let what looked like a diplomatic incident in the making develop on his ship and spoil his party. So, raising his best command voice tempered with cordiality, he reclaimed his guests’ attention.

"Ambassador, gentlemen, please! I suggest that all references to the Conference be postponed until tomorrow when Commodore Mendez will officially declare it open. I am sure that all parties concerned, including Ambassador Sarek, will settle all pending questions about protocol to everyone’s satisfaction. In the meantime, let us dismiss all dissent and drink to the success of the negotiations! Champagne, please!"

A clamorous applause greeted his announcement, then, after everyone was provided with a drink, Wesley raised his glass of champagne and proclaimed, "I propose a toast to our fair visitors from Cygnet Twelve. To Ambassador Dah Tecumseh and her party!"

While the champagne poured and the buzz of talking and laughing resumed, Kirk said in an aside, "Good show, Bob!" to his fellow officer.

"Well!" Wesley pulled a face, "I couldn’t allow the conference to capsize before it even started, and not on my ship! But, Jim, what came over you to add fuel to the fire?"

"Sorry, Bob, an old score to settle," Kirk replied evasively.

But McCoy came and clapped him on the back. "Well done, Jim! Served him right!" he said.

"Problems with Ferris?" asked Wesley, and as the other two nodded with a grin, he went on, "I didn’t know that, Jim, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. The man’s a real pain in the neck; just ask Duchesnay, my new executive officer about what he thinks of him."

Overhearing his name, the Lexington first officer came over. "Sir? Anything the matter?" he asked his superior.

Wesley performed introductions and explained. "We were just talking about your bete noire. Seems that they also had trouble with him on the Enterprise."

"Did they?" Duchesnay’s eyes widened with interest. "Well, Captain, you certainly know how to snub him. I don’t mind telling you that it made me feel good, after what I have had to put up with for the last ten days."

"Between you and me, Mister Duchesnay, it made me feel good, too," Kirk said with one of his impish grins which sent his colleagues laughing.

"What’s up, gentlemen? Can we share the joke?" asked a jovial voice. It was Lieutenant Commander Scott, sporting his full tartan rig and followed by a red-headed giant of a man, Chief Engineer Eriksen of the U.S.S. Lexington.

The newcomers shared the joke and the laughter, and, after indulging in small talk, Wesley presently excused himself and left them to their gossip called by his duty to his other guests. The commodore circulated among the groups, making sure that everyone was provided with drinks and food, and following an apparently random course which eventually brought him to the group of fascinated admirers surrounding the Cygnetian Ambassador and Councilor.

Kirk, seeing Wesley signal for drinks and join in with polished authority, smiled appreciatively. "I see that the commodore has not lost his touch with the ladies," he remarked to no one in particular.

The others followed his gaze and smiled.

"The Ambassador?" asked Wesley’s executive officer. "Yes, he’s sure to try his luck."

"The question is...has he got a chance?" wondered Eriksen with a meaningful glance at the Enterprise men. They looked doubtful.

"Hard to tell," said Chief Engineer Scott. "These ladies have a poor opinion of us men, in general, but they are so capricious, you never know."

"Is that so?" Duchesnay’s gaze was fastened on Dah Tecumseh in obvious admiration. "A striking looking woman, isn’t she? There is something about her eyes, and the color of her hair! Never seen anything like it."

"Take it easy, man!" Eriksen said in a dampening tone. "She must also have the hell of a saw how she dealt with Ferris!"

"And that was just a sample of the lady’s temperament, Mister Eriksen," Kirk dryly remarked. "Our trip here has certainly not been devoid of turbulence and excitement."

"You don’t say!" the engineer was impressed. "But what was all that to do over Ambassador Sarek, sir? Or did I miss the point?"

"The point," McCoy explained, "is that Sarek is a Vulcan and, believe it or not, the only males in the galaxy to find favor in their eyes are the Vulcans!"

"And don’t forget," Kirk added, "that Sarek’s the diplomat who went to Cygnet Twelve to work out the preliminaries for the negotiations. He’s held in high esteem by the Queen and her entourage, which is more than Ferris can claim. In my opinion, Ferris doesn’t stand a chance against Sarek’s prestige and competence."

"Great! I hope Sarek will put him in his place." Duchesnay’s cri du coeur drew more laughter.

"Resentful, aren’t you?" Scott chuckled.

"You would be if you had been in my place, Mister Scott," the first officer said with feeling. "The Enterprise drew the lucky number; you were entertaining these gorgeous creatures while we were ferrying Ferris and his gang over here!"

"That’s what you think!" McCoy protested righteously. "With these hotheaded Amazons, our trip has not exactly been a sinecure, as Jim here just told you."

"Not exactly!"Kirk wryly said. "Actually, we have been within an inch of a major diplomatic incident or two, and, but for Mister Spock’s unflappable sang froid, we might well have got ourselves into an interstellar war!"

"Aye, that’s for sure." Mister Scott nodded.

"Mister Spock?" Duchesnay repeated with a frown. "Wait a minute.. isn’t he?"

"My first officer," Kirk told him.

"That’s it! I knew I had heard that name before."

"And well you should, Duchesnay," Eriksen scolded. "Who in Starfleet hasn’t heard of Spock of Vulcan, First Officer of the Enterprise?"

"Sorry!" Duchesnay grinned apologetically. "Looks like I put my foot in it."

"Forget it," McCoy snorted. "It takes more than that to upset him, and he isn’t here anyway."

"That’s right! Why is that, Captain?"

"He is minding the store, gentlemen," Kirk informed them. "But you will have a chance to meet him tomorrow at the official reception on Starbase Eleven."

"Better not expect anything extraordinary, Duchesnay, or you’ll be disappointed," McCoy added slyly.

"Oh, Doctor, come on!" Eriksen chuckled. "Don’t believe him, man. Spock’s reputation is not overrated, you’ll see."

"Well, there must be something special about the Vulcans since you say they appeal to the Cygnetians. Wonder what it is?" Duchesnay mused.

"Nothing, if you ask me, but there’s no accounting for taste," McCoy’s caustic comment raised some amused protests.

Duchesnay, still following his line of thought, came up with a sudden, intriguing idea: "I say! Come to think of did he manage with the Cygnetians? I mean, Spock is the only Vulcan in your crew, isn’t he? Well, how did he cope with all five of them?"

McCoy stifled a giggle, and Chief Engineer Eriksen’s eyes widened in shock. "God!" he breathed. "You don’t mean that he..." Words failed him.

Kirk looked pained. "Now, now, gentlemen!" he chided.

"No, of course not!" Duchesnay went on with a disarming grin. "Stupid of me. I forgot that Vulcans are not the kind to indulge in that sort of thing... and, naturally, I won’t be so bold as to ask whether you, Captain...?"

McCoy was now choking with laughter, and the two engineers grinning broadly.

"Naturally, you won’t, Mister Duchesnay," Kirk firmly replied but with a twinkle in his eyes.

"Okay...message received, sir!" the executive officer said unabashedly. "But now," he raised his glass, "I must thank you for the tip. You were right; champagne seems to work like a charm with the Cygnetians."

"I told you. It is a foolproof method for putting them in a sunny mood. That and Romulan ale," Kirk said.

"I’m afraid that they have to be satisfied with champagne," the executive officer wryly remarked. "With Ferris and his staff around, I couldn’t very well risk Romulan ale tonight!"

"Heaven forbid!" his colleagues exclaimed.

Montgomery Scott, after draining his third glass of champagne, inquired, "Mister Duchesnay, do you think that Ferris would object to pure vintage Scotch?"

"No reason why he should, Mister Scott. So far as I know, whisky is not yet on the black list. Why don’t you try your luck at that buffet over there?" Duchesnay told him with a wink.


While Commodore Wesley’s reception was in full swing, the Enterprise was on third shift while moored in Starbase 11’s space dock facility. Her captain and the majority of her command staff were partying on her sister ship moored a short distance away in the space docks, and her crew was making the most of their brief shore leave in the joints and various establishments of Starbase 11. Only a skeleton crew remained on duty, under command of the first officer.

Spock, after closing his station on the bridge, had taken the turbolift down to go make his nightly rounds before turning in. As he walked along the corridors, he realized how much he appreciated the rare occasions when the Enterprise was abandoned by her emotional Human crew. Then he could ease his mental shields and relax in the peace and quiet of the silent ship.

He checked the ship status with Security Chief Giotto, then proceeded to the transporter room which had to be manned all through the night so as to give the crew and the guests the facility to beam back at all time.

Having confirmed the night rotation with the technicians and told them that, should he be needed, they would find him in his quarters, Spock finally headed to Deck 5, rest and meditation.

He had to admit that their assignment to convey the Cygnetian delegation to Starbase 11 had been more exacting than he had anticipated. Given the emotional species brought together on the ship, conflicts had been inevitable, specially since Humans and Cygnetians thrived on emotionalism. But, to constantly act as a buffer between his captain and the high-spirited Cygnetian Ambassador, had taxed the lone Vulcan beyond endurance, and he knew that the peace of mind he craved would be achieved only through intense meditation and strict discipline.

Deck 5 was deserted as he had anticipated, but when he turned into the senior officers corridor, he got a glimpse of a couple slipping around the corner: Lieutenant Sulu with a woman who had all the appearance of Jabakim Dah Tibiliseh. They had obviously left the party and come back to spend the rest of the night together. Interesting. Spock well knew, after years of observations, that his shipmates sometimes prolonged their festivities in the privacy of their quarters, but he was not aware of the Cygnetians sharing that curious habit. Another thing that the two species seemed to have in common.

A moment later, his door shut behind him, and he felt the heat of his rooms wrap him like a blanket. All thoughts of Cygnetians and Humans were then dismissed from his mind.

Spock first brewed himself some Vulcan herbal tea, took the mug to his desk and looked in at his computer terminal for eventual communications.

His parents were due to arrive on the next day and perhaps...yes, here was a message from Sarek, short and to the point: Spock was to meet his parents at Commodore Mendez’s reception then to join them for dinner if that did not interfere with his duties. Amanda had brought him some presents from Vulcan. The message completed, Spock switched off his viewer, and while sipping his tea, reflected how things had changed drastically when, six months earlier, on their voyage to Babel, his estrangement with his father had been definitely settled. Now he could look forward to meeting his parents, and specially his Human mother whom he missed more than he cared to admit.

But now was the moment to prepare for his mental exercises. He rose and went to his sleeping area, took a few grains of incense from a stoneware jar and dropped them on the flame of his flamepot. A sweet heady fragrance arose in the air and invaded his quarters. Then, having stripped, Spock entered his small bathroom to perform the ritual purification. This being accomplished, he took out of a drawer the black embroidered robe which his reserved for meditation and unfolded the vestment with care.

But, just as he was slipping it on, the buzzer sounded at his door. His inner time sense told him the hour was 2320, ship’s time, and he registered some annoyance at being disturbed, but he was on call, and he had to be prepared for all contingencies. Stifling a sigh, he finished dressing, went to his desk and released the door. "Come!" he said.

The door slid open, and all he could do, then, was to stare dumbstruck at the figure who stood framed in the lighted doorway. A few tense seconds went by, then, bringing himself under control, Spock said with polished composure: "This is unexpected, Ambassador. I thought you were at the Lexington reception."

"So I was, Mister Spock, but I finally got tired of all these Humans." She lounged just inside the door, incredibly beautiful in her evening dress. "May I come in?" she asked, her smile warm enough to raise the pulse of any Human male around.

But it had no effect on the Vulcan who stood still as stone, austere and unapproachable in his dark robe. "Don’t you know, Madame, that to come uninvited to an officer’s quarters is a serious breach of privacy?" The tone of his voice was cool and composed, but he managed to make the question sound like a rebuke.

"Is it?" Dah Tecumseh, undaunted, shrugged disdainfully. "That is not the impression that your fine Starfleet officers gave me tonight, quite the contrary!"

"They are only Human and easy prey to unscrupulous telepaths," Spock pointedly remarked.

"You do not approve, do you?" she asked half teasing, half serious.

"You know perfectly well that I don’t, Madame." Cool as ice.

"Yes, you were quite...plain about it on our first meeting, Mister Spock," she admitted. "However, we have restrained ourselves, with that one unfortunate incident in the astrophysics lab being the sole exception, from telepathically eavesdropping or even manipulating the crew of Enterprise. Or hadn’t you noticed?"

A moment slipped by as Vulcan and Cygnetian gazed speculatively at one another. Spock, however, knew that he had to ask the unavoidable, dangerous question. He finally asked, "What can I do for you, Madame?"

"You know very what I want, Spock," she replied in a low voice, and there was a strange expression of defiance and entreaty in her violet eyes.

Resisting their appeal, Spock sternly replied, "I am not interested in a romantic interlude, Ambassador. To ask of me that which I cannot give is pointless and illogical."

"Are you sure?" She stepped forward, and the door slid shut behind her. "Commander, all these days past you have deliberately avoided me; you have ignored my requests; you have treated me as no man has dared to treat me before. I know that I have offended you; I have hurt you unwittingly on that first night. But don’t you think that I have been rebuked enough by your indifference? Don’t you know what I seek from you? Let me in, Spock; let me show you what I want."

Spock shook his head. "This is not the Vulcan way," he said in a muted voice.

"Perhaps, but why could it not be your way? Spock, I appeal to you!"

For another long moment, silence reigned in the room as they faced one another, eyes locked in a measuring gaze.

At long last, Spock, his decision made, took a deep breath. "Very well, you may come in."


In the transporter room, things were on the move again after a boring spell of inaction. Crewmembers were returning to the fold after their spree at Starbase 11, and some of the guests and officers had already beamed back from the Lexington. Crewman Mariani was helping some tipsy shipmates to the door when another signal brought him hurrying back to the console.

"Enterprise here! State your coordinates," he said for the umpteen time.

"Kirk here! Three to beam up," came the brisk, unmistakable voice of the captain.

"Aye, sir. Right away, sir!" and three figures sparkled into being, still laughing over some joke apparently cracked on the Lexington.

There was the captain, and the doctor, and a tall, strong-featured man whom Mariani had never seen before. The captain of the Lexington, to judge from the stripes and ribbons which adorned his dress uniform. All three of them were in a jolly mood, and, as they stepped down the transporter stage, Kirk said in jest, "I guess we’re not the last ones home."

"Oh, no, sir! There are many still missing," replied the technician, standing stiffly to attention.

"The night’s still young, Captain; they have time," Doctor McCoy said tolerantly.

"Sure they have," Kirk nodded, then, looking at Mariani. "Crewman, do you know if Mister Spock is still around?"

"Aye, sir. When I saw him last, about an hour ago, he said he would be in his quarters if anybody wants him, sir."

"Perfect! Come on, gentlemen, let us try and debauch my first officer!" the captain said with a wicked grin.

"That’ll be the day!" McCoy declared, and they went out laughing.

But before the doors closed, Mariani heard the captain ask, "Your place or mine, Doctor?"

McCoy replied, "I propose mine, Jim. I have just got a fresh supply of..."

The doors snapped shut, and the crewman was left with the distinct impression that the rank officers had every intention to make a night of it.


A few moments later, the three officers, comfortably seated in Doctor McCoy’s cabin, were sampling the Saurian brandy fresh from the stores of Starbase 11, and looking quite prepared indeed to make a night of it.

Conversation ran desultorily from the forthcoming conference to the Enterprise’s current mission and the Cygnetian delegation. Comments were made over the great fascination which the beautiful delegates obviously held for the Lexington officers, some of whom being so smitten as to be seen dancing attendance on the ladies for the entire evening.

"Don’t worry, Bob; they’ll survive," Kirk said. "My crew went through the same syndrome; ask Bones."

"Yep. A contagious disease, but not terminal," the doctor quipped as he refilled their glasses.

"And how did you two manage?" Wesley curiously asked.

"I am a doctor, not a Don Juan!" McCoy primly replied.

"What about you, Jim?" Wesley wondered with a teasing look at his friend. "I was under the impression, back at the party, that the Ambassador and you—"

Kirk, very conscious of McCoy’s quizzing gaze, shook his head. "That’s just what it was, Bob...just an impression."

"Come on, Jim; don’t tell me that many...ten days? got nowhere with the lady. That’s not like you!"

"I know..." Kirk shrugged, took a long swallow, and continued. "Look, Bob, I’ll be frank with you. Dah Tecumseh is one of the most attractive and provoking women I have ever met, and I have met quite a few in my time, but, should my reputation never recover, I tell you she is the first woman I have drawn a blank with; and from all appearances, so have you, right?"

The commodore nodded with a rueful grin. "Yes, and it’s not for want of tactful maneuvers, Jim. But, no, nothing doing, just like you, and to know that James T. Kirk failed also makes me feel better. So it seems that what you told Duchesnay about the Vulcans must be true, huh?"

"As Mister Scott would say, these ladies have a wee bee in their bonnets about Vulcans, since Sarek went on a diplomatic mission on their planet, apparently," Kirk explained.

Wesley looked perplexed. "Funny! He doesn’t strike me as the classic example of a seducer."

McCoy cracked up at the image conjured up by Wesley. "Rather the other way round, I should say!" He chuckled.

"But, Bones, what if that’s precisely what appeals to the Cygnetians?" Kirk wondered seriously. "Look at Spock; think of all the women who, at one time or another, have had a crush on him. There definitely is something about the Vulcans; you can’t deny that."

"Far be it for me to deny anything, Jim, but, speaking of Spock, why don’t you call him in? I thought we were suppose to debauch him, remember?"

As Kirk rose and went to the desk intercom, Commodore Wesley leaned back in his chair and grinned. "I think it’ll take some doing to debauch a Vulcan, Doctor," he said. "Especially that Vulcan."

"Well, I might just have the very thing to tempt him, Commodore," McCoy replied with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "Jim!" he called to Kirk who was punching Spock’s code number, "tell him I’ve got a bottle of T’mara Omi waiting just for him. That should bring him along for sure."

"T’Mara Omi?" Wesley whistled. "That’s pretty hard to come by. Where in the universe did you get that?"

"Down at Starbase Eleven. That food store in the duty free zone, you know. Amazing what they stock in there...not mentioning what they sell under the counter, if you know what I mean..."

"Really?" The commodore was amused. "I think I’ll take some time off tomorrow and visit that store of yours, Doctor. Any luck with Spock, Jim?" he asked the captain who was trying to get a response from the Vulcan.

"No... That’s funny. I wonder where he is," Kirk said puzzled.

"He is probably asleep. Better forget it, Jim," suggested Wesley.

"If he were, he would answer, Bob. He’s as light a sleeper as a cat. No, he’s probably gone somewhere..."

But, just as Kirk was going to disconnect, the reply came at last. "Spock here," the deep voice sounded strangely remote.

"Spock? It’s Jim. Sorry to wake you up, but you said..."

"I was not asleep, Captain. Is anything the matter?"

"No, everything’s fine, only we’d like you to come to McCoy’s cabin. We’re having a small party, just the three of us, Bob Wesley, Bones and I. We’d be glad if you would join us."

"Captain, you know that..."

"Of course, I know you hate social gatherings, but we’ll be among friends. Can’t you make an exception, just for a moment? Oh, and McCoy says he has got some vintage T’Mara Omi for you...well, Spock?"


The three men waited and exchanged expectant glances, then McCoy called out, "Spock! It’s my treat tonight. Don’t you dare turn me down!"

"Thank you, Doctor. I am much obliged, but I regret I must decline your invitation."

"Oh, for Heaven’s sake, you pig-headed Vulcan!" McCoy exploded.

"Bones, be quiet!" Kirk broke in. "Spock, I’m sorry to hear that. Bob Wesley will be disappointed. Is there anything I can do to make you change your mind?"

"No, Captain. I regret but..." A pause. "...I am otherwise engaged."

In McCoy’s quarters, eyes widened in speculative interest.

"You entertaining a guest, Spock?" Kirk teased.

The next moment he was left speechless, for a delicate but distinctive yawn was heard over the intercom, followed by an unmistakable female voice asking sleepily, "Spocky dear...who is it?"

"Just a moment, please," Spock urged in an aside.

"But why do you let them bother us, love?" the voice persisted. "Just send them away, and come back to me, Spocky darling. I am waiting!"

To say that the three eavesdroppers were astounded would be an understatement. They were petrified with stupor.

Before they could recover, Spock resumed in a tone of voice full of restraint and dignity. "Captain, please convey my apologies to Commodore Wesley. Now, if you will excuse me...?"

The captain, completely fazed by this turn of event managed to reply, ", of course. Never mind, Spock; I quite understand. You obviously have better things to do. Sorry, I won’t keep you. Good night!"

"Good night, Captain. Spock out." For all his formality, the first officer was clearly anxious to sign off.

No sooner was the communication interrupted that Doctor McCoy, as excited as a kid in a candy store, pounced. "That voice? Did you hear that voice?" he said.

"Yes, that was her all right, Bones." Kirk gave a small wry smile. "Bob?"

"Definitely, the high and mighty Cygnetian Ambassador, and in a...flirtatious mood, by the sound of it!" Wesley agreed. "But, with Spock of all people? unbelievable!"

"Unbelievable is right. Can you imagine Dah Tecumseh in Spock’s quarters, and obviously in his bed?" McCoy looked delighted. "Gentlemen, this event calls for another round. I propose a toast to the fair lady who finally captured our reluctant Vulcan!"

"Granted, Bones, but if I know Spock, she must have submitted to his conditions to obtain that much." Kirk pointed out.

"Very likely," Wesley chuckled. "Let me propose another toast. To Spock for having succeeded where Jim and I failed miserably." There was frank admiration in the commodore’s voice.

Kirk raised his glass and intoned, "To Spock, my Vulcan friend who never ceases to amaze me!"

They toasted, they drank, they toasted again, and, as McCoy refilled once more the glasses, he declared, a gleam in his eyes, "I still can’t get over it! ‘Spocky darling’! Isn’t that something? I tell you, I’ll never let him live it down!"


Spock, meantime, had turned off his bedside comlink, and he glared down at the beautiful woman whose lilac eyes sparkled in mischief. "Would you please explain the purpose of this unseemly charade, Ambassador?" he sternly asked.

"Why, you naive Vulcan!" She laughed. "Don’t you see? Your Human friends were so insistent that the only way to rid ourselves of them was to let them know you were in good company."

"Perhaps, but it was not necessary to play this undignified hoax, Madame," he objected.

"Oh, but it was, Spock," Dah Tecumseh countered with amusement. "For one thing, you were reluctant about what to say, and for another, I took this occasion to teach these Human males a lesson in modesty. Your fine Starfleet officers are bright and charming young men, but they are so self-assured, so certain that they have but to lift one finger for a female to fall into their arms that I found this a perfect opportunity to show them how mistaken they are. I find the situation so amusing, don’t you?"

"Certainly not. I am a Vulcan. I cannot approve of nor participate in such a deception," Spock stiffly replied and deliberately turned away.

A teasing laugh and a soft warm voice answered him. "But, Spocky dear, it depends only on you for the deception to become a reality."

Steeling himself to maintain his composure, he dryly replied, "If this is an attempt at humor, Madame, I am afraid I have no aptitude to appreciate it."

Dah Tecumseh gazed with fondness at the stiff Vulcan back and clasped her hands about her knees. Lit by the reddish glow of Spock’s sleeping room, she looked strikingly exotic in her spangled evening dress and sitting upon the Vulcan rug spread out on the floor. "Spock," she said in a seductive murmur, "what if it were not humor but a serious proposition? Would you not like to be initiated by an expert in the most secret of our traditions, the Cygnetian Love Ritual? You would find it an unforgettable experience, and, in return, you would teach me the Vulcan ways in lovemaking. What do you say?"

Spock drew a deep breath and swung round, a picture of outraged vulcanity. "Your suggestion is most improper, Ambassador. I thought I had made it clear that your presence in my quarters was acceptable insofar as our conversation be strictly limited to an exchange of cultural information. That certainly excludes such irrelevant matters as what you call ‘lovemaking,’" he pronounced the last word as if it were the most vulgar thing in the world.

Dah Tecumseh eyed him in disbelief. "But, do the Vulcans never fall in love?" she asked.

"I repeat, this subject is not open to discussion, Madame. I would appreciate it if you would conform to our agreement, of I shall find myself obliged to request that you leave my rooms."

"You don’t mean it!" she exclaimed.

"On the contrary, Ambassador, I do," was the cold reply.

"Why, you insolent, arrogant Vulcan! Do you realize that no man has ever dared speak to me in this fashion?"

Spock lifted an eyebrow. "Indeed? That, perhaps, is what is lacking in your upbringing, Madame. Strict discipline and judicious reprimands are most beneficial to a child’s education."

"Another of Surak’s precepts, I suppose?" she pouted.

"Indeed. I was about to give you a summary of Surak’s views on education when we were interrupted."

"Well, if that is an example of his principles, thank you, but I don’t think I want to know."

"As you like. Now, Madame," Spock folded his arms and resumed imperturbably, "either you abide by my terms and then we can proceed, or you do not, and you must go. Which do you decide?"

"Spock! You are the most provoking man I have ever met. You are worse than your father! How can you be all at once so desirable and so inflexible?" the Ambassador cried in exasperation. "I accept your conditions, of course, what else can I do?" Then, seeing the Vulcan standing stock still and regarding her with wary speculation, she sighed. "You do not trust me, do you? I was wrong, I admit. Now, are you satisfied? Don’t you see that it was all for a jest? You Vulcans are so steeped in logic that you don’t even know when you are being teased... Come, Spock, let us continue...please."

Spock at last relented and sat cross-legged beside her. "Very well," he said austerely, "but before we proceed, may I ask a question?"

"You may, Spock. What about?" She looked intrigued.

"About your people, Ambassador. Are they in any way related to the people of Cygnet Fourteen?"

"Actually, we’re both descended from the same race that colonized the Cygnet star system millennia ago. Unfortunately, where they were from is a matter of dispute. Apparently, both our colonies were abandoned, and we slowly had to remake our worlds, our technologies. We are of the same genetic stock, but we were unaware of each others’ existence until our worlds developed space travel. But our kinship is not limited to physical likeness, but also in common traits of character, particularly in the female population."

"Ah," Spock nodded, "that accounts for your peculiar sense of humor. I understand. But, if I may say so, Ambassador, I find your excess in levity unbecoming in a person of your rank and your station."

"Now you are being impertinent, Mister Spock!"

"I beg your pardon; I meant no offense, Madame."

"No offense taken, then. But why do persist in calling me ‘Ambassador’ when I have told you my given name?"

Spock demurred. "It would be unseemly for me not to give you the honorific title that your position rightly claims, Ambassador."

"Very proper, I am sure, but oddly at variance with the fact that we are both sitting cross-legged, like true warriors, on your cabin floor. Clearly we do not stand on ceremony here. So where is your logic, Spocky dear?"

Spock winced. Why should the Ambassador find gratification in giving him this pet name was more that he could comprehend. He knew that he was being teased again. Another thing that, duty bound, he had to put up with, but perhaps it might be opportune to grant the lady this last whim. Is was at least acceptable and did not conflict with his moral principles.

"Let it be as you wish, Adekunda," he conceded. "Shall we proceed?"

"By all means, but, for a change, I want to know all about the ancient Vulcans of your past," she declared.

"They were violent, unprincipled barbarians, unworthy of your attention," Spock objected.

"This is precisely what interests me. I believe they were much like our warrior foremothers. Spock, how would you like to explore our pasts, to compare our origins?"

Unknowingly, Dah Tecumseh had found the chink in the Vulcan’s armor: his insatiable thirst for knowledge. How could such a proposal be refused? The response came, inevitable: "I think it would be most interesting."

And so, they joined hands again, opened their minds and let the telepathic flow link them as securely as a physical bond. It was not strictly speaking a Vulcan mind-meld, more a joining of spirits in an irresistible wave. If, at first, Spock’s trained mind had curbed the exuberance of the Cygnetian’s psi powers, now he allowed his telepathic partner to take the lead. And take the lead she did!

Then, driven by their intense curiosity, together they ventured onto unexplored territories, beyond limits where no Vulcan in his right mind had gone before. Leaving aside the facts of history that they had been taught, they reached into the lower levels of their minds, in search of the racial memories buried deep in their subconscious.

Gradually the flamepot in its niche and the walls around them melted away like mist at sunrise...darkness...blazing lights...and suddenly they were caught in a riot of colors, sounds and extraordinary sensations.

Images after images succeeded in their minds, springing from their collective consciousness. Ice-bound fields swept by blizzards, green sky, heavy with sky, red sun, boundless deserts...hunters plowing through snow drifts, carrying home the game they caught...pointy-eared clansmen, squatting around campfires and gorging on the flesh of desert preys...battles fought for the possession of a stronghold guarding a mountain pass...battles for the capture of a water hole in the fold of red sand dunes.

It went on and on, until Spock realized with a shock that he was no longer an observer, he was one of them, a warlord fighting, looting, killing at the head of his Clan. It was awesome. He had somehow regressed to his savage past and become the legendary Warrior, ancestor of his Family, from the pre-Reformation era. Fascinating! Never had his ordered mind been submitted to such exciting sensations.

And, all the time, he felt at his side the presence of the fiercest of them all, the copper-haired female whose helmet of burnished steel sparkled in the sun as she stood on the hill, rallying the clan. She and her kin shared their hardship and their hunts, their feasts and their forays, proving themselves as merciless as any Vulcan male if it came to slay a prey or a foe. Another image flashed in their minds. Nightfall on the desert. All furor spent, the Clan is settled for the night and gathered by the campfires....He, the Chieftain, standing apart, gazing up at the stars, a Le-matya howling not far away...then a silent presence coming up to him, enfolding him in her arms...a head resting on his shoulder. Spock shivered with a pleasure which shocked and delighted him at once, but, before he could try and analyze the feeling, a fresh image overlaid the other.

A dark, lofty chamber warmed by a blazing log-fire...he was now reclining on a thick pile of furs...a white tungah—Tingalee?—blissfully dozing by the fire...warmth...smells vaguely familiar, and an elusive scent wafting up to his nostrils...pleasant...restful...then hands stroking his hair, a husky voice murmuring in his ear...then a face framed by masses of coppery hair bending slowly over his face...and he suddenly felt himself engulfed in a maelstrom of sensations the likes of which he had never experienced before... much later?..difficult to determine as his time sense appeared to be temporarily out of order, Spock fought his way back to consciousness and finally surfaced, passably shaken by the experience. Clearly, one did not come out unscathed from an incursion in the hazards of the past.

Controlling his breath, his heartbeats, Spock took stock of his condition and eventually felt a curious heaviness against his side. Adekunda Dah Tecumseh had fallen asleep, her head on his shoulder. His eyebrow flew up as he realized the situation was very undignified, to say the least, for an Ambassador, and a Starfleet officer, for that matter.

What am I supposed to do now? he wondered with a feeling of annoyance bordering on exasperation. What he should have done in the first place was never let her walk in his quarters. But, in the cause of the service, he had given up his time for rest and meditation, and now, here he was, with a female sound asleep on his hands.

Controlling himself, he considered his options, and came to the conclusion that, short of carrying the lady back where she belonged, at the risk of having an embarrassing encounter with the crew, there was but one thing he could do: let her sleep to her heart’s content and try to make the best of the situation.

With a small mental sigh, he gathered the fallen Warrior in his arms, got to his feet and laid his burden down on his bed, for want of a more appropriate location. Taking in the view that she presented in her flamboyant gown, her hair spilled like red gold over his pillow, Spock dispassionately reflected that there were perhaps some reasons for the exceptional attraction that his shipmates had for this brilliant woman. She was arrogant, mischievous, demanding, she had invaded his space, the ultimate offence to a Vulcan, and yet, he could not hold it against her; she was what she was, a fact he had to accept since there was nothing he could do about it.

What he could do, however, was to try and achieve some inner peace; a series of strict mental exercises would restore his mental processes subjected to an unprecedented onslaught of primeval emotions. But he needed privacy. So, having, by a simple mind touch, programmed a suitable time period for the Cygnetian’s sleep, Spock took place back in front of the fire shrine, and slipped into meditation.


When Dah Tecumseh awoke from a deep and restful sleep, she felt at first some confusion as to her whereabouts. Strange...she was lying on a narrow bed and covered up to her chin with some kind of soft, warm blanket. Intrigued, she pushed the coverlet aside and looked curiously around. In the semi-darkness of the room, the red glow of the small fire sent shadows dancing on the walls and a vague odor of incense still lingered in the air—yes!—she was still in the Vulcan’s room, and, almost unbelievably on his bed!

A look of utter delight lit up her face as she recalled the events of the night. She had every reason to be satisfied for she had at last obtained from Spock the one thing that only he could give her. After meeting with rebuffs, she had finally overcome his reserve and been granted access to his staggering intellect. She had even been allowed to make use of his exceptional mental powers so as to go back in time and explore their peoples’ collective consciousness.

In return, she had help him shed his cloak of implacable logic and bring to light the full range of emotions which his ancestors possessed in plenty and which lay dormant in his heart. And what a revelation! She would never have imagined the solemn first officer to be a man of such passions.

She smiled reminiscently and reflected that, for all his high principles, she had been far closer to him than any physical interlude could have made possible. Did he realize that? Probably. Did he mind? That is another question!

But enough daydreaming. She had better leave before her staff started to search for her all over the ship. But, where was Spock? Had he left her all by herself as if he could not care less?

Slightly put out, the Ambassador sat up, pricked up her ears, and perceived above the background hum of the ship a faint clicking sound coming from the front room. So that is where he was, working at his computer, probably. Dah Tecumseh got up, smoothed out her dress, tidied her long hair into a neat bun, and slipped quietly behind the partition.

There, sure enough, was Spock, sitting at his computer console. His concentration was awesome, his eyes focused on the figures and equations parading at warp speed on the screen, while his fingers flew over the keyboard. He sensed her presence at once and looked up with narrowed eyes. "Good morning, Ambassador. I trust you slept well," he said, rising to his feet.

Back to formality, I see! Dah Tecumseh wryly thought, but she replied in kind. "Very well, Commander, thank you. But I seem to have lost track of the time..." She looked around for a chronometer and found none. "Do you know what time it is?"

"It is oh-seven-twelve hours, ship time," Spock informed her.

"Oh! High time for me to go and prepare for departure, then," she said.

"Indeed. Your delegation is scheduled for beaming down to the Governor’s residence in two hours, fifty-eight minutes, Madame."

"Indeed?" she echoed and looked him over as he stood, hands clasped behind his back, unreadable mask back into place, a far cry from the impetuous Vulcan warrior he had revealed himself to be. "Very well," she went on, "then I shall not take up more of your time, Commander, but..."

A pause. Her lilac eyes shone as she locked gazes with him. "...before I go, let me thank you for your gift which I shall always keep in my memory. Thank you for this memorable night, Spock."

Spock returned her gaze steadily. "I am pleased that you found it pleasurable, Ambassador, but it was only a dream, an illusion."

"A dream? Perhaps, but a beautiful dream while it lasted, was it not?" she said softly, searching in his eyes for the fire which she had seen burning in their depths...but it was gone. The gaze he gave her was cool and composed. "A pity!" she added, a teasing smile on her lips, "you would be such a wonderful lover, Mister Spock!"

Stunned silence.

A shadow of mortification flitted across the Vulcan’s face, then, getting over the shock, he stiffly replied, "I beg to differ, Madame. You are mistaking me for..."

"I am not! I know what I am talking about. Believe me, Commander, you underestimate yourself." Now raising her hand, she brushed his cheek with her fingertips. "Goodbye, Spock. I truly envy the woman whom you will choose for your mate."

And before he could find a suitable answer, she turned round and swiftly left the room.


The transporter room was unusually crowded when Captain Kirk strode in. He stopped short, looked around and inquired in his command voice, "What’s all this? A command staff meeting or something? A mutiny perhaps?"

Most of his senior officers had apparently found some pretext to drop in, and they now looked at him with sheepish grins. Uhura sweetly explained, "Only a farewell gathering, Captain. Since the Cygnetians are leaving, we thought it would be nice to see them off."

"Any objections, Captain?" grumbled McCoy who had come up with Chapel.

"None at all, Bones, on the contrary. Now that they’ve gotten used to us, there’s no more need for segregation. Have you seen to their luggage, Mister Scott?" he asked the chief engineer who had come to personally supervise the transportation of the Cygnetians.

"Aye, Captain. That I have!"Scotty nodded emphatically. "It took me the better part of an hour to beam the whole caboodle down to Starbase Eleven. Now, it’s up to them lads to sort it out. Wish them luck!"

"Okay, then," Kirk joined in the laughter, "I think we’re all set...Ahhh...has anyone seen Mister Spock?"

Looks were exchanged; eyebrows were raised.

Chekov volunteered, "Meester Spock was not on the bridge when I left, Captain."

"Never mind, he’s sure to report in due time, as usual," Kirk said casually.

The last thing he wanted was to raise speculations about Spock’s absence, but McCoy sidled up to him and, under cover of the conversation, hissed in his ear, "Are you sure, Jim? I mean, he may not feel up to par after his night know..."

"Bones!" Kirk silenced him with a frown, and stifled a smile.

Fortunately, before more could be said on the subject, the door opened, and in marched the Cygnetian delegation in full array, complete with tungah in leash and Security Chief Giotto in attendance. As on their arrival, the ladies were wearing their warrior suits and helmets, but there was a great difference in the mood.

The haughty Cygnetians were all smiles as they made their adieux to their hosts. Emotion was apparent on the faces of the Jabakim and her fellow delegates as they bid farewell to their Human friends, Uhura, Sulu, Prescott, Chekov et al. A smiling Healer Dahseh took her leave of Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel with the promise to keep in touch and continue their fruitful exchange of medical data.

But it was left to the Ambassador to express the general feeling as they all took place on the platform. "Captain," she told Kirk, "it has been a very pleasant and instructive journey that we made in your company. We thank you and your staff for your hospitality and your courtesy, and we have come to appreciate you and your officers, despite some slight incidents and misunderstanding. I believe they added some zest to our relations, don’t you agree?" Her eyes twinkled.

"Absolutely, Ambassador," Kirk said laughing. "We certainly have had our differences, but, all things considered, we’ve achieved a better understanding and have come to know and appreciate each other, which is all that matters. I wish you full success with the Conference, and I hope you will remember the Enterprise and her crew with fondness."

"The Enterprise and her crew will always be welcome on Cygnet Twelve and, believe me, Captain, we shall not forget what we experienced on your ship," she graciously said, and her lilac gaze shifted from his face up to a point above his shoulder.

Intrigued, Kirk looked round, and, lo and behold, Spock calm, cool and collected, was standing unobtrusively in the background.

A long, lingering look exchanged, a wistful smile on the Ambassador’s face...that was all. But it was significant enough to confirm Kirk and McCoy, interested onlookers, in their opinion: something had definitely happened in Spock’s quarters last night.

But Commander Scott, who was in permanent contact with Starbase 11, now gave the signal. It was time to go. Dah Tecumseh, standing on the pad with Tingalee curled up at her feet, nodded. "We are ready, Mister Scott. Beam us down."

A last farewell, a last wave of the hands, and the transporter beam enfolded the six figures which shimmered and gradually faded out of sight.

"Well, that’s that!" declared Scott as he came around the console. "Seems to me that the ladies were in a more gracious mood than when they arrived, right?"

"They’ve certainly changed," Uhura noted. "Did you see the Ambassador? She was positively beaming!"

"Yes, so I noticed," McCoy said caustically. "I wonder why?" His sidelong glance at Spock passed unnoticed.

Lieutenant Kyle surprised everyone by saying to Kirk, "You did it, Captain; you won your bet!"

"Bet? What bet?" wondered the officers. Even the captain seemed unsure.

"The day when the Cygnetians beamed up, as arrogant and snobbish as can be," Kyle explained, "the captain made a bet that he’d be able to make them change their tune before the journey was over. Don’t you remember, Captain?"

"Did you, Jim? I didn’t know that!" McCoy grinned.

"And I had forgotten," Kirk said. "Thank you for reminding me, Mister Kyle. Yes, it looks like I’ve won my bet, doesn’t it? We’ve delivered our passengers to Commodore Mendez in good shape, happy and satisfied with Starfleet as per orders. I think that we all know that this mission wasn’t easy, but we made it. Mission accomplished, ladies...and gentlemen. Good work." He smiled around with approval. "And one more thing for those of you going to the commodore’s reception this afternoon: assemble here no later than fifteen hundred hours. Full dress uniform with all the trimmings. That’s all for now. Dismissed."

"Aye, sir...thank you, sir. ’"

As the officers dispersed in every direction, the doctor caught the captain’s eye and nodded significantly toward the first officer who was disappearing down the corridor. Kirk nodded assent, and together they quickened their pace to finally catch up with Spock and corner him from both sides.

Surprised by his sudden escort, the Vulcan stopped short. "Captain?"

"A word with you, Mister Spock," Kirk said breezily. "It won’t take long. Ah...this way!" He located a service room and deftly steered Spock into it, McCoy right on his heels.

The door had hardly slid shut that the captain faced his friend, arms folded on his chest. "Spock, I know how much you value your privacy, and I certainly don’t want to intrude, but don’t you think you could at least have dropped me a hint about your involvement with Dah Tecumseh? If I’d been told, I wouldn’t’ve made that ill-timed call last night. I’m sorry; I would not want to embarrass you in front of Bob Wesley."

Silence. Spock was standing at parade rest, eyes front and center.

" I right in assuming that it was the Ambassador you had in your company?" Kirk persisted.


"Of course, Jim!" McCoy broke in. "There was no mistaking her voice."

"Spock?" asked Kirk.

Both looked questioningly at the Vulcan who maintained an obstinate silence.

"Well, since we have unintentionally discovered your little secret," Kirk resumed, a teasing look in his eyes, "you might as well tell us who was the lady. Strictly between us, of course."

Spock swallowed convulsively. "Yes, Captain, it was the Ambassador."

"At last! He’s confessed!" McCoy said. "So, you spent the night with Dah Tecumseh, you lucky devil! Come on, Spock! Tell us, what was it like?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Now, don’t you go and play dumb with me, Mister Spock! You know perfectly well what I mean. Come on!"

"Oh...yes, was...interesting, Doctor."

"Interesting? Do you hear that, Jim? Interesting! Is that all it means to you, you Vulcan iceberg? You had this beautiful, glamorous female in your bed, and all you have to say about it is...interesting?" McCoy was barely holding in his laughter.

Spock blinked and felt obliged to specify. "She was on my bed, not in my bed."

"In...on...whatever!" McCoy brushed this insignificant detail aside. "What beats me is that to have held in your arms the Ambassador of Cygnet Twelve had so little effect on you. I can’t believe it!"

Spock, head tilted on one side, considered. "I must admit, Doctor, that it was, at times, fascinating," he conceded.

Kirk burst out laughing. "Spock, you are amazing! I never thought you had it in you."

"Neither did I, Captain. But, given your insistent recommendations and Admiral Komack’s specific orders, I considered it my duty to grant the Ambassador her request...before she left."

Stunned silence.

Doctor and Captain stared at Spock, at one another, back again at Spock, then Kirk cleared his throat and managed, "Do you mean to say that it was in the line of duty that you slept with Dah Tecumseh?"

"To be accurate, I did not sleep; she did."

Kirk and McCoy exchanged a dazed look, then the latter recovered his breath and said sarcastically, "I hope, at least, that this duty you had to perform was not...let us say...too exacting, Mister Spock."

"Exacting? Not exactly, Doctor. Actually, I found it quite pleasurable, at times, more so than I anticipated." Spock paused, deep in thought, then eyed his friends considerably, and said with an air of limpid innocence, "I think that for want of a better term, gentlemen, I would describe my experience with the Ambassador as...indescribable. I hope this answers your question, and if there is nothing else you wish to discuss, Captain?"

"No, Mister Spock. I think that ‘indescribable’ covers about all there is to be said on the subject. I must commend you for having performed a difficult... er, task far beyond the call of duty. Thank you. I won’t keep you any longer." Kirk’s hazel eyes seemed to be dancing with amusement.

"Thank you, Captain. If you will excuse me, Doctor, Captain..."

And the Vulcan officer went his way, leaving his friends to their speculations and fantasy.

Typical human behavior! he decided. But, after all, if they were determined to draw the wrong conclusions about his relationship with Dah Tecumseh, why not let them keep their illusions?

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