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Randall Landers



In the enormous heavy cruiser known as Enterprise, on a level called Deck Five, Captain James Tiberius Kirk was asleep in his quarters. He was dreaming of Edith Keeler again. He often dreamed of several of the women he had met in the past: Ruth, Helen, Janice, Miramanee, and others. And there was one, whenever he was on the verge of remembering, he heard the single word "forget." But tonight it was Edith. He saw himself standing, frozen on the sidewalk of a street in old New York. He saw Edith turning to see him from the middle of the road, the truck bearing down on her rapidly. With a start, he awoke in a cold sweat as Edith was killed again.

He looked at the chronometer set over his head in the bed alcove. It read 06:24:12. He had plenty of time to shower and grab a bite to eat before going on duty. He stood and walked over to the door which led to the lavatory. It promptly opened for him. He stepped inside the room, removed his clothes and placed them in the chute leading to the clothing reconstitution unit. He stepped into the shower and the sensors activated the shower head and sonics.

Tiny broadcasters set in the wall emitted ultrasonic waves which removed dirt from his body while massaging his muscles. Following the sonics came jets of water which rehydrated his body while rinsing off any remaining dirt. After a few minutes, hot, arid air was blown in, quickly drying him.

Kirk stepped out of the shower and went to the other side of the room as the unit deactivated itself. He heard the pneumatic tube in his bedroom deposit a clean, reconstituted uniform onto his bed. He rubbed his chin and opened the cabinet, removing a can of "shaving cream." He applied the cream to his face, waited a few seconds, and rinsed off the foam. All facial hair where the foam had been applied was gone, and none would grow there for several days.

After putting up the can, he combed his hair and stepped back into the bedroom. He pulled on the black pants with the built-in underwear and socks. Over the pants, he put on the black t-shirt and boots which were part of his uniform. As he shrugged into the gold-green command tunic, he heard the door buzzer. "Come in," he said.

The pneumatic doors parted to admit Lieutenant Commander Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Chief Medical Officer. He stepped inside, grinning. "Runnin' late, Jim?"

Kirk nodded and gestured to several multi-colored cassettes on his desk next to the viewer. "I did a little late night reading." Seeing the look of curiosity on McCoy's face, he added, "Reports on 113 Cancri Seven."

"Jim, you've been pushin' yourself again," the Georgian admonished.

"Guilty as charged, Bones, but it has to be done. 113 Cancri Seven, or Alcatraz as its inhabitants call it, is one of the few planets where iridium can be found in such a large quantity as to make mining operations practical. And now they've got someone or something sabotaging their mining equipment and operations, causing delays in shipping. We're to prevent any further delays."

"Another Horta?" asked McCoy, grinning. It had been recently discovered that Hortas were not solely indigenous to Janus VI. Apparently the race had at one time traveled among the stars.

Kirk smiled politely. "Bones, I'd rather have a dozen Hortas than what I think this is. This planet is on the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone. It's one of the 'spoils of victory' from the Romulan War. Its population is primarily Vulcan, making it relatively easy for Romulan spies and saboteurs to infiltrate the facilities. In fact, it's been surmised by Starfleet Intelligence that the population there is now nearly five percent Romulan, nearly unbelievable for a Federation planet."

"Are we going to go to breakfast, or are you going to give me the run-down of our mission for the sixth time?"

"Sorry, Bones, but it's been on my mind quite a lot lately, and it is important," Kirk argued.

"So is breakfast," McCoy snapped. "Let's go eat."

The two men stepped outside the cabin into the busy corridor. Kirk nodded a casual greeting to a technician who was at work on the deck's hydraulic system. They stepped into the turbolift. "Deck Eight, Rec Room," said McCoy to the hidden microphone. The lift shot forward and dropped three levels. The doors slid apart, and Kirk and McCoy walked into the corridor.

Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineering Officer, was seated behind a plate with a ham and cheese omelet when Kirk and McCoy entered the room. He watched Kirk take a tray of scrambled egg and bacon from the synthesizer slot while McCoy took a tray of muffins. All three men had coffee.

"Ah, good mornin' to ye, Cap'n," said Scotty as Kirk sat down across the table from him. "An' to you, too, Doctor."

After a few minutes of silence, McCoy asked, "Anything happen to malfunction durin' the third shift, Scotty?" He always asked such a question when the engineer was not being talkative. Normally, Scotty would have immediately begun complaining about something or another, such as how much radiation the ship was absorbing as soon as they sat down at the table.

"Why of course not, Doctor! I'm surprised at ye fer sayin' them words!"

"Just seein' if you were awake, Scotty!" McCoy said, grinning.

"I am!" The Scot turned to a smiling Kirk. "Cap'n, I dinna ken whether I like the Enterprise being so close to the Neutral Zone, especially since we stole their invisibility device only two years ago."

"Scotty, you of all people should know that two years is a long time, technologically speaking. They've probably got a 'new and improved' model out by now." He smiled his famous smile. "Besides, you don't think that they could actually destroy the Enterprise, do you?"

Kirk knew that the question would silence his chief engineer's complaints. Scotty would never admit that the Enterprise could be destroyed by either the Romulans or the Klingons or their fleets combined. Kirk swallowed the last of his coffee and glanced at the nearest wall chronometer. It read 06:57:43. He had two minutes to get to the bridge. "Coming, Scotty?"

Though the big, burly officer had just worked the third shift, Scotty was due back up on the bridge. Lieutenant Commander DeSalle, the assistant chief engineering officer, was in Sickbay with Saurian Influenza, and Scotty had volunteered to fill in for him during the third shift. The Scot now had to work his own shift, so he and his captain put away their trays and started for the bridge.

On the bridge, Commander Spock, the Human/Vulcan hybrid who served as Chief Science Officer and Executive Officer, had relieved the chief engineer thirty minutes early so his efficiency would not be impaired from lack of food. An entirely logical reason, of course. Glancing around, he noted that most of the first shift officers were already on duty.

At the communications post, Lieutenant Uhura, a lovely Bantu woman, was in her seat coordinating the entire ship's communications. Spock noted that someday she would make a fine captain. At the helm-navigation console, Lieutenant Sulu, the helmsman, conversed with Ensign Pavel Andreivich Chekov. Sulu was highly competent, and Chekov was filled with the youthful exuberance felt by all the younger officers on board. At the life support station, Lieutenant Raj, an Andorian, was adjusting the nitrogen content of the botany lab. The officer was one of the few individuals who could beat Kirk or Spock at chess.

The doors parted, and Kirk and Scott stepped onto the bridge. Spock felt a great deal of...brotherly love...for his captain, though he would never admit it to the Human. But Spock got the impression that somehow Kirk knew. Scotty, Spock thought, was an excellent officer despite the fact that he had the eccentric habit of referring to his engines as his 'bairns.'

"I'll take the conn, Mister Spock."

"Yes, sir," said Spock, while noting the time: 07:00:00. The captain was never late.

Kirk sat down in the vacated chair, cleared his throat and pressed a button.

Captain's Log, Stardate 6734.3

The Enterprise is en route to 113 Cancri VII to investigate several acts of sabotage committed again the iridium mining facilities there. Our orders are to prevent any further shipping delays by finding the perpetrators. We have been in contact with the governor of the planet, Commodore Jonathan G. Keller, retired. He has assured us of his complete cooperation, yet I...feel...something is not quite right.

Kirk deactivated the recorder. "Computer?" he spoke into his chair mike.


"Delete the last phrase from that log entry beginning with the word 'yet.'"

"Affirmative. Phrase deleted."

He shut the mike off, and with that gesture, the shift started.

Two hours of boredom passed by very slowly. I should have stayed in bed, Kirk thought to himself as he looked around the bridge. Spock was busy recalibrating the sensors. Chekov, Sulu and Scott were arguing the virtues of vodka, sake and scotch. Uhura and Raj were discussing music and comparing it to Raj's own language, which was a form of music in itself. Kirk was valiantly trying to follow the conversation on alcoholic beverages without much success because his mind kept drifting back to Alcatraz.

The governor of Alcatraz, Commodore Keller, was well-known throughout the galaxy. He had once been a Starfleet officer. But Kirk's memory of the incident which led to Keller's retirement was perfectly clear. Perhaps it was giving him the vague impression he had that 'something was not right' on Keller's planet.

Kirk sighed. Keller had been commanding a war-game simulation attack force against another attack force under the command of Commodore Robert Wesley. Keller had won all previous war-games and thereby generated his reputation for battle tactics. However, during one daring maneuver, Keller was put on the defensive by a flight miscalculation, and, after several losses, he had found his fleet totally surrounded by Wesley's attack forces.

Keller had forgotten that the war-games were designed to sharpen the skill of the participating ships' crews. To him, winning had become everything. Now he was about to lose. But he decided to go down fighting. He ordered his fleet to engage the opposing fleet. They had nearly been beaten when Keller's ship, the U.S.S. Republic, engaged Wesley's flag ship, the Lexington.

The ship's phasers struck the Lexington. The rules of the simulation had been quite clear. No shields, no photon torpedoes. Phasers to be used at one one- hundredth power. The Lexingtonhad been hit with phasers on full power. It took six weeks in space dock to repair the Lexington, and there had been two deaths, and forty-three injuries.

A small hearing was held, very private, very 'hush-hush.' Kirk himself was a member of the hearing board, as were Captains Jawalahara and Williams, Commodores Mendez, Stone, Sheridan and Barstow, and Admirals Nogura, Fitzpatrick, Komack and Chan. Starfleet did not want to publicize the incident; Keller was a hero to many in the Federation. He was given the option of choosing his own destiny: retire or face a court-martial.

Keller had chosen retirement, and had taken it badly. His fame had won him an invitation from the planet of 113 Cancri VII to become its second governor. He accepted it with grace and decorum, but Kirk vividly recalled one thing from the rather dull ceremony: Keller's eye crossed in an odd manner whenever his Starfleet career had been mentioned.

Kirk's mind drifted back to the planet, 113 Cancrr VII...Alcatraz, so named because of the hardships that its Human settlers had faced upon their arrival nearly four decades after the Romulan War. The planet was as barren as a rock, and had very little free oxygen. After the end of the Romulan War, a Vulcan expedition was sent to the planet, but the Vulcan government had no interest in filing a claim to the planet. So when a shipload of Terran colonists filed for a colony, they had been granted homestead rights by the Federation Council. Immediately, mining sprang up as the primary business. Most of the citizens were now involved in mining iridium for Starfleet, or in agriculture to increase the planet's oxygen supply.

Kirk's thoughts came to the orders given to him by Starfleet Command...

To: NCC-1701, U.S.S. Enterprise, Captain James Kirk, commanding
From: Starfleet Operations, Starfleet Command
Stardate 6730.7

You are hereby ordered to investigate acts of sabotage causing delays of iridium shipments from 113 Cancri VII. Determine nature and motive of saboteur(s). Eliminate delays. Top priority given to you. Exercise any authority you deem necessary to comply. Background materials needed included with this message.

/signed/ Admiral J.R. Komack, Chief of Starfleet Operations

"What do you think, sir? Which is the better drink? Scotch, sake or vodka?" asked Scott, interrupting his reverie.

"Why, Scotty, you know I only drink whiskey or brandy and rarely touch anything else!"

Spock turned to them from his station. "Captain, sensors are showing an object bearing down on us on a collision course from 32 mark 10. Closing at Warp Seven."

All amusement gone from him, Kirk turned to Uhura. "Hailing frequencies, Lieutenant." He turned to Sulu. "Sound battlestations. Set course 134 mark 231."

"No reply, sir," reported Uhura.

"Sulu, take us up to Warp Eight. Chekov, stand by on phasers and torpedoes."

The ship shuddered.

"Direct hit on deflector shield six, sir," announced Spock.


"Romulan crew aboard a Klingon D-7 battlecruiser."

"Mainscreen on, Mister Chekov," ordered Kirk. "Let's see what they look like."

The large, rectangular screen before him faded in to reveal a Klingon-style Romulan battlecruiser pass by. Kirk ordered another perpendicular course. "32 mark 129, Sulu. Chekov, lock phasers on target and fire at will!"

Bursts of blue radiance leaped from the facilities on Deck Eleven.

"Direct hit on their rear deflector shield! Sensors report that another Romulan ship of the old Bird-of-Prey design is closing in on us from 11 mark 2 at Warp Factor Eight."

"Sulu, 101 mark 92, Warp Nine!"

The helmsman did not argue.

"Chekov, fire a combination of phasers and photon torpedoes as they pass by!"

"Yes, sir."

The ship trembled, and the second Romulan ship flashed by on the screen. The Enterprise's weaponry fired, and the attacking ship ceased to exist.

"Captain, sensors indicate that the other Romulan vessel is no longer within sensor range. Seventy-three percent probability that it is still within the immediate area using the cloaking device."

"Mister Sulu, lay down a mine field of photon torpedoes set with their timer detonation for five minutes."

"Yes, sir."

Kirk figured that in five minutes the Romulan ship, if it was indeed still out there, would lower its cloak of invisibility and the majority of its screens in order to conserve power while it effected repairs. The motionless torpedoes, which were practically invisible to sensors, would explode, and the crew of the smaller Romulan ship would join those from the other vessel.

"Ahead full, Sulu," ordered Kirk. "Spock, drop a subspace camera-probe one light-second from the region."

"Yes, Captain."

Five minutes later, Kirk watched Spock's overhead monitor as it displayed the mined area. The results were very satisfactory as the Romulan ship appeared, only to be destroyed by the mines.

Kirk turned to his Russian navigator. "Plot a course for Alcatraz, Ensign. Sulu, bring us up to Warp Seven."

As they acknowledged his orders, Kirk's thoughts returned to their mission.


Four pillars of speckled fire appeared in a booth set into a wall of an office. The pillars materialized into the captain of the Enterprise, his science officer, the chief medical officer and the navigator, Chekov, who was training for command himself. The four officers stepped from the platforms. Kirk went to the desk at the center of the room where a Tellarite receptionist was awaiting him.

"I'm sorry, Captain Kirk. Governor Keller is in conference at this time. Perhaps you'd like to have a seat?" She gestured to a uncomfortable-looking sofa. "Or you may choose to visit a lounge next door. Out the front door and to the right. You can't miss it."

"Very well," said Kirk. He did not like the idea of waiting; every minute of delay could mean another act of sabotage and further delays in iridium shipping. "Gentlemen, shall we?"

"It's a vwery good idea, Kyptin!"

The four officers left the building and proceed directly to the bar next door. Upon entering, they noticed several different alien types. Chekov went up to the bar and ordered vodka. Kirk and McCoy had Saurian brandy, and Spock, of course, had nothing. Chekov upturned his glass, and in the process, he accidentally bumped into a patron behind him. He turned to apologize, but met a fist thrust into his face.

After recovering from the initial blow, Chekov looked up from the floor to see a rather small Vulcanoid hovering over him, the feral grin indicating his assailant was a Romulan. Chekov lashed out a leg in a sweep, and the Romulan fell. Chekov leaped up and brutally kicked the Romulan in the stomach with the toe of his boot. The Romulan pulled out a disruptor from his vestments, but Chekov had seen that coming and relieved him of the weapon with another swift kick. The Romulan, though losing his weapon, grabbed Chekov's foot and threw the ensign across the room to land in a crumpled heap.

Kirk leaped for his navigator, while Spock went for the Romulan, but both were stopped by two other Romulans, weapons drawn. They apparently wanted the fight to continue without interruption.

Chekov threw himself at the Romulan, knocking him down, and was struck in the chest by a boot as he approached the fallen Vulcanoid. The Romulan was fighting fiercely, and, in everyone's eyes, was clearly winning the fight. He threw himself at the Russian, but the navigator stepped out of the way, causing his assailant to crash into the bar and land on his stomach. Chekov jumped on his back and pinned his arms.

After trying in vain to remove the navigator from his back, the Romulan ceased to struggle. Seeing that his opponent had given up, Chekov relinquished the hold and stood.

Without warning, the Romulan pulled out a ceremonial dagger, and before Chekov could even try to stop him, plunged the blade deep into his own chest with one swift motion. The Romulan closed his eyes, dropped to his knees. Glaring at Chekov in contemptuous defiance, he fell flat on his face and died.

Chekov, the shock of what he had seen weighing heavily upon him, dropped to his knees. He could not believe what he had just witnessed. The other Romulans released Kirk and Spock, picked up the body of their fallen comrade, and carried it out of the bar quickly, without saying a word to anyone.

A stunned Kirk and McCoy went to the navigator and helped him to his feet. Spock joined them, looked at the young red-faced navigator, and said, "Mister Chekov, I suppose I should have briefed you on Romulan etiquette. Their race, as you must now realize, practices immolation whenever humiliated."

"Pavel, you need a drink," said a shaken McCoy as he gave him the rest of the brandy. "Forget it, Pavel. It was a perfectly natural reaction. You were attacked and you defended yourself." McCoy gestured to the apathetic patrons who showed little interest in them since the fight was over. "And judging from the reaction of your audience, it happens fairly regularly."

Chekov's face was flushed. Kirk also tried to console his officer. "It's all right, Chekov. I'd probably have defended myself, too. But bear in mind that to lose a fight is one thing to us Humans, but it's something too terrible to live with for the Romulans. Don't let there be a next time."

"Yes, Kyptin."

A bell chime sounded, and a voice came over the wall speakers. "Captain Kirk and party, please report immediately to Governor Keller's office."

Kirk's stomach sank suddenly. How could he tell the governor that one of his crew had killed what was at best a Romulan spy and at worst a civilian? The thought disturbed him deeply all the way to the governor's office. Chekov would probably have to stand trial, or at least face a board of inquiry.

The receptionist greeted them and ushered them into the office where Governor Keller was waiting for them.

Spock studied the man. He had realized while reading the reports on Keller that officially the governor had voluntarily resigned from the service after a brilliant career, but knowing Starfleet politics as he did, he suspected there was an underlying reason for such a resignation. Keller's psychological report indicated an extreme, if not overwhelming, sense of pride. Pride such as his could not have led to a resignation.

Kirk noticed Spock's intent gaze. Knowing the Vulcan as he did, he spoke quickly. "Governor?" He offered his hand.

Keller had noticed Spock's gaze as well and was slightly relieved when Kirk spoke. "I'm please to meet you, Captain." He took Kirk's hand and avoided meeting Spock's eyes. The governor gestured to the four seats before the desk. "Gentlemen, please be seated."

McCoy bumped Spock with his elbow and nodded toward the chairs, rolling his eyes about in a typical fashion.

Kirk and his officers sat down. "A pleasure to see you again, Governor," said the Enterprisecaptain courteously. "These are my officers: Commander Spock, First Officer; Doctor McCoy, Chief Medical Officer; Ensign Chekov, Command Trainee."

Keller smiled at Chekov. "Ah, yes. You're the young man who 'did in' one of my Romulan 'citizens' a few minutes ago." Chekov nodded meekly. "Don't worry about it, son. It, unfortunately, happens all the time with the Romulans being as 'honorable' as they are," the retired commodore said with a great deal of sarcasm. "You'll need to file a report on it, of course."

The governor turned back to Kirk. "I'm glad that you have an opportunity to see how it is here on Alcatraz. We suspect that a number of our 'Vulcans' are indeed 'Romulans' but we can't do much about it. You've seen my log reports. Sabotage. I want to know who's doing it, and I want it stopped."

Kirk noticed that the governor didn't want to know why the acts were being committed. Was it an oversight? Or did he feel that the Romulans would simply do anything to hinder the shipping of Federation iridium supplies. Perhaps the governor already knew the reason for such a strong Romulan presence on a Federation planet. He narrowed his eyes slightly. The governor wasn't duly upset over the death of the Romulan at the bar. One might have thought the governor would want to have questioned the Romulan? He decided not to press the issue further...yet.

"Governor Keller, there won't be another act of sabotage." He paused briefly. "May I ask why your own security men have not been able to identify the culprits? Romulans, after all, are easily distinguished from Vulcans by use of metabolic sensors."

"Well, one reason is that we don't have an extensive supply of 'metabolic sensors.'"

Spock and McCoy raised their eyebrows, but said nothing. Surely the commodore was aware that any competent physician with a Feinberger could easily distinguish between the anatomies of a Vulcan and a Romulan.

"And another is that the security forces have to work in the mines to meet our quota."

"If your quota is so important, shouldn't their first priority be to find the saboteurs?"

"That is your opinion, Captain. Just find the bastards responsible!"

"I give you my word, sir. We'll find whoever's responsible for these acts."

"I'll hold you to it, Kirk. I still have friends in Starfleet."

"Yes, sir."

There was an almost visible bond of tension between the two, and it was growing. Kirk had his own suspicions about the governor, and Keller still held a grudge against the starship captain who served on the secret hearing which led to his 'retirement.'

Keller pushed a button, and the receptionist appeared at the door. "Take Captain Kirk and his men to their quarters."


Their rooms were located next to the mining facilities. The cabins were not as spacious as those aboard the Enterprise, but they needed a planet-side base of operations. Kirk turned to the group as soon as the receptionist left.

"Gentlemen, we are here to investigate, so I want you to mingle with the miners. See if any of them have a motive for delaying iridium shipments. Keep your eyes and ears open. Avoid confrontation completely. Spock, take the mining levels. Bones, I want you to go into the bars and shops around here. Chekov, I want you to go through the records in the governor's office. I'll be going around to each of the sabotage sites. We meet back here at seventeen hundred. Understood?"

All the officers nodded.

Doctor McCoy went to the nearest shop and began questioning some of the patrons. At first he talked about the Federation Olympics, or some other mundane topic, but slowly and surely, he directed the conversation to the recent sabotage.

"Well, who d'you think's responsible for it?" he asked at an opportune moment.

But the Rigellian patron with whom he'd been speaking shut up, simply stared at him and left without speaking further.

After a few more responses like that, the shop's owner, a Human, came up to him angrily. "Listen, fella. You're causing me to lose my business. We don't like Federation space-boys comin' on strong like this on Alcatraz. You can't push us 'round. You'd better leave now, before I throw you out."

McCoy did not need to be told twice, and so he left. But everywhere he went, he got the same treatment.

Captain Kirk's investigations led him on what at first seemed to be a wild goose chase, but it eventually yielded him his first clue. At the first site, a mine shaft had been bombed with a sonic grenade. All evidence had been destroyed by the blast which had killed thirteen men and injured four others. At the second site, Kirk found part of a charred identification card, one belonging to a Vulcan miner. An entire tunnel had collapsed, but no one had been reported killed or injured. He had a suspect, though only on circumstantial evidence. But he did have a suspect.

Commander Spock had tried to speak with the Vulcan miners, but all ignored and avoided him. While exploring the mines, he found a tunnel which seemed to be much older than the surrounding tunnels and shafts. When he tried to enter it, he was blocked by several miners, Human and Vulcan alike. Of course, he could possibly have incapacitated them all with his phaser number one, but given the number opposing him, the odds were rather high against it. Logic told him that all he need do was inform Kirk and Keller of the miners' behavior, and return with a security squad to investigate the tunnel whether the miners objected or not.


Later that evening, Kirk opened the door to their quarters. Chekov was sitting on the couch with a view-corder and dozens of tapes.

Kirk smiled. "Good evening, Chekov. Doing some reading, I see."

"Yes, Kyptin. I found these reports in the archives."

"What kind of reports?"

"Archaeological, sir."

"I see," said Kirk. The ensign was probably off on some wild tangent, he figured. "Where are Mister Spock and Doctor McCoy?"

"They haven't returned, yet, sir."

Kirk heard the door open, and he turned to see McCoy and Spock enter the room. "Good evening, gentlemen. I hope each of your days have been productive. Bones, your analysis of the situation, please."

McCoy sighed deeply and began. "Jim, the citizens who go to the local bars and shops are awfully quiet and untalkative. I get the impression that they're mad at the Federation for some reason or another. Also, Keller was not very truthful, today, when he told you he had a shortage of metabolic sensors. Any half-decent physician can use a Fein' and tell Vulcans from Romulans."

Spock agreed. "Indeed. And your assessment of the mood of the general populace is also mine. I have not ascertained the reason behind this anger, but it may have something to do with a tunnel I found while exploring the mines. When I tried to enter it, several miners, both Humans and Vulcans, refused access to me. They were quite adamant about not letting me through, so I decided to wait, per your instructions to avoid confrontation."

Chekov spoke up. "That coincides vwith vwhat I haf learned here, Kyptin. There haf been a number of reports files pertaining to archaeological artifacts found in some of the lower mine shafts. All were Romulan in nature."

Kirk took out the I.D. card that he'd found. "I came across this at one of the sites. When I ran a check on its owner, it turns out to belong to one Vulcan miner named Saius, who happens to have called in sick since the tunnel collapsed, yet has not bothered to seek medical attention at any of the med centers. Gentlemen, let's go get Keller, a security team, and this miner, and find out just what is going on around here."

"I'm afraid it won't be that simple, Captain Kirk," came a voice from behind them.

A woman's voice, thought Kirk. Someone we've met before.

The Enterprise officers turned in unison. Spock's eyebrow lifted. Kirk's face was filled with recognition as McCoy's and Chekov's jaws dropped open in surprise. Before them was the Romulan Commander from whom they had stolen the cloaking device. And there were five armed guards with her.

"Not that simple at all."

The guns fired.


Spock awoke on a couch. The Commander was there, holding a gun on him as she sat in a chair across from him. She was serene, even beautiful. But from her expression, Spock knew she would never be fooled again.

"Hello, Spock," she said, smiling.

"Commander," he acknowledged.

"I am quite certain you are wondering why I am here."

"That is an understatement, Commander," he said. "I am wondering how you are still alive."

He was referring to the tradition of immolation upon disgrace, and she knew it. She drew a deep breath. "To put it quite simply, Spock, times are changing. I have been given this chance to redeem myself."

"Indeed. Why capture us? We have no idea what this is about."

"You and your friends were in the way. My agents could not function knowing you were there to catch them--I believe the term is 'red-handed.' You were also very close to discovering our motive, and you had the name of one of our operatives."

"And what is your motive?"

"You figure it out, Spock. The facilities for mining the substance you call iridium are directly over this temple."

"Temple? Then Mister Chekov's investigations were more revealing than anyone else's," concluded Spock. "This temple was discovered by Romulan infiltrators in the Vulcan miners. They reported the find to your government, and your Praetor determined that he wanted this planet back."

"Precisely. This temple, dedicated to our god of harvest, Gutremis, is in many of our religious legends. Our beliefs state that with the re-opening of this temple, our planets will again prosper. This is of great importance. Whether or not it is effective in increasing our harvest yields, the re-opening can be used to strengthen the spirit of my people.

"My government contacted Governor Keller, asking him to allow us to re-open the temple, and to permit us visitation rights in order to practice our religious ceremonies. The governor stated that he could not allow Romulan nationals on Federation soil. So we tried to get him to grant us excavation rights, and allow us to ship the temple back to Remus. He again refused, and informed us that he intended to destroy the temple, gathering the wealth from the sale of its smaller artifacts.

"We cannot allow that to happen, Spock. We shall take this planet by force."

"This temple is of such importance?"

"It is. Freedom of religious worship is as dear to my people as it is to your Federation."

Spock knew that she had a point. And he knew that Keller had been correct to deny visa privileges to the Romulans. He considered the information carefully. "You realize, Commander, that Governor Keller has been within his rights as the planet's governor in all his actions."

She sneered ferally. "'Governor' Keller," she spat. "The man is an arrogant pig. Spock, he wouldn't be the governor of anything if it were up to the general populace. Did you notice how badly the people here think of Starfleet and the Federation? The majority of the population deeply resent his presence here. A few years ago, before Keller came here, the planet's governor was John Fenton. Fenton stepped down from the office, and filed petition with the Federation for Alcatraz's independence. The Federation Council denied the petition, at the urging of Starfleet which needs the iridium the planet provides. The military convinced the Council that an independent government would be weak, and would have no incentive to provide the Starfleet with their ore demands.

"The Federation Council, feeling the pressure from Starfleet, decided that Alcatraz was not yet ready for independence. They sent a disgraced Starfleet officer out here to keep the iridium coming. But they alienated the population in the process." She chuckled. "The people here, of Human and Vulcan origin, would have gladly sent the iridium in exchange for food and oxygen supplies, as well as machinery to terraform this planet. But the Federation Council, blinded by the dire warnings of Starfleet, did not realize that.

"I am afraid, Spock, that war is now a grim necessity," she concluded.

"War is never a necessity, Commander. Consider the alternatives to war. Surely we can contact my father and get him to present Alcatraz's position to the Federation Council. If this planet wishes to secede, it can be done in this peaceful manner."

"And lose the element of surprise?" she asked. "Were I to agree to this, and the Federation Council to decide that Alcatraz cannot secede, Starfleet would be suspicious, and dispatch patrols to this area. We would lose our advantage, and that is something I am deeply hesitant to allow.

"This is a religious war, Spock...a jihad, if you will. And before you can give us away, I will have you and your friends put to death. Of course, if you join me, I will spare all your lives."

"Just as you tried to 'spare' us earlier with two warships?"

"I did not order that; the Praetor did!"

"Surely your Praetor realizes that a war of this nature will be detrimental to both our systems of government?"

"Of course he does. Spock, you must realize that this temple is just that important to us. We will risk everything, including interstellar war, to regain this temple."

"Commander, if you will risk everything, you must risk allowing me to contact my father, Ambassador Sarek, at the Federation Council on Babel. I will have him present this case to the Council. If he fails, you can have me for any purpose you desire."

She considered it for several silent minutes. "Very well, Spock. In the interest of peace...and your offer, I agree. Here is your communicator," she said, giving him the small device she had concealed on her person.

Spock raised his eyebrow in surprise.

She smiled at his reaction. "I suspected you'd make me an offer that I couldn't refuse."

He flipped open the unit. "Spock to Enterprise."

"Enterprise; Scott here. Where have ye been, Mister Spock? Your contact is long overdue."

"Belay that, Scott. Record this message and send it to Ambassador Sarek at the Federation Council building on Babel."

"Babel, sir?"

"That is correct, Mister Scott."

"Aye, sir. Ready to record."

"Father, as I record this message, a religious war is about to begin. On this planet, 113 Cancri Seven, a Romulan temple of great importance has been unearthed." He went on to detail the significance of the temple to the Romulan government. The Romulan Commander added a few details here and there. Then he addressed the issue of independence for Alcatraz, the feelings of the general populace, and the issue of the iridium. He concluded shortly thereafter. "This war would inevitably devastate both of our economies. We must prevent this. Alcatraz must be allowed to secede from the Federation. Surely, that is a fair price for peace."

"Ready t' beam ye up, Mister Spock!" shouted Scott's voice from the communicator.

"Negative, Mister Scott."

"Yer keeping yerself as a prisoner?"

"Affirmative. Even assuming that you succeeded in rescuing me, I doubt that the Romulans would treat the other members of the landing party with the same amenities afforded by the Deneva Convention of 2176."

"Aye, sir. That follows. Your orders?"

"Take no offensive actions against the Romulans," Spock looked at the Commander, "but defend yourselves if attacked. We shall maintain regular contact. Spock out."

About fifty decameters above Spock, Governor Keller turned off his communications monitoring device. He had heard every word said. He turned to K'Theel, an Aurelian who had served as his aide since their days in Starfleet, and to Gat, his Tellarite secretary. "This is a grave situation. No doubt those idiots in the Council will give in, and the Rommies will get this planet! I'd be disgraced again. Well, I'm not going to give up this planet!!"

Gat noticed that Keller's eye had crossed in a peculiar manner.

"But to go against the Federation Council?" objected K'Theel. "I mean, the people of Alcatraz deserve independence. You yourself have said so. If the Council agrees, don't you think it's time for independence?"

"No," argued Keller, "the people here would be independent only for a few weeks. Then the Romulans would attack, take over the planet, subjugate them, kill them. As the guardian of the people, I can't idly sit by and allow that."

"I don't understand," said Gat. "If we pull out, and Alcatraz is invaded by the Romulans, we'll come back."

"Don't you see? If we pull out, the nearest starbase is over thirty parsecs away. Romulus and Remus themselves are only two parsecs away. The garrison that would be set up here would be able to be constantly supplied, whereas our forces couldn't be."

"Let me ask the two of you this: do you want to give up the life you've built for yourselves here?"

"You better believe we don't, Governor," said Gat as K'Theel nodded in agreement.

"Good. What we'll do is set up a subspace frequency jamming device," said Keller. "We don't have time to jam the outgoing message, but we'll stop any incoming ones. And if we do that, Starfleet will have enough time to come to our aid. And, to add to that, the Enterprise will be slowing down any Rommie thoughts of an easy takeover. We'll fight for our lives...have we got the gear to create that jammer, Kay?"

The Aurelian nodded. "I believe so, but this may cause some trouble with this Scott fellow on the Enterprise. He might react rashly."

"Against whom?"

"Why, of course! He'll think it's the Romulans!"

"And if the Rommies attack that heavy cruiser, Starfleet will come to her aide. We'll have the support we need then, Kay. We'll keep this planet."


Ambassador Sarek was in his quarters with his wife, Amanda, when he received Spock's message. Sarek placed the microcassette into the proper slot of the desk viewer and called for his wife.

"Yes, Sarek?" she responded from the kitchenette, where she was preparing their dinner.

"We have a message from Spock."

He pressed the "play" button as she entered the room.

Moments later, the tape stopped and rewound itself. Sarek looked at his wife. "I'll call an emergency session of the Council immediately."

Captain's Log, Stardate 6735.2
Lieutenant Commander Scott, reporting

The Romulans have captured the captain and the other members of the landing party. Sensors record the presence of another ship in orbit, by configuration, a Romulan battlecruiser. However, I am under direct orders from Commander Spock not to interfere or take any action against them until the Federation Council makes its decision. However, no order was given to prevent me from threatening them.

Scott turned to Uhura. "Lieutenant, open a channel to the Romulan ship."

"Calculated, and open, sir."

"This is Commander Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise. If you attempt to leave orbit, transport anyone to or from your ship, or take aggressive action against this vessel or its crew, we will utterly destroy your ship without hesitation."

Even though it was mostly a bluff, it was also mostly effective. "Romulan Sub- Commander Tr'Hujjuhr of the Imperial Ship Valiant. We acknowledge Enterprise."

Scotty was not surprised by the non-belligerent response. They had encountered Tr'Hujjuhr a few months ago in another touchy situation. The Romulan Sub-Commander had wanted no conflict then, or now. "Mister Sulu, lock phasers and photon torpedoes onto that ship anyway. I like to have a sense of security."

Sulu smiled. "Aye, sir."


From the ninety-four worlds of the Federation, eighty-seven delegates and seven Starfleet officials were in the Council Gallery on Babel, anxiously awaiting Ambassador Sarek. Many noted it was fortunate that the Council had been gathered for the pending session when the emergency session was called; gathering so many representatives together in such a short time without prior notice was strictly impossible at best. Long-range hyperchannel communications relay had to carry the proceedings throughout the Federation whenever such a situation arose.

After what seemed an eternity, the Vulcan entered the enormous chamber, and went to the podium at the center of the round gallery. All delegates, officials, and pages became silent, and the Council President, Ori Regnhu, recognized him. "Sarek of Vulcan."

Sarek nodded curtly to the President, who was seated on a raised dais behind him. "Madam." He turned and held up the tape. "Fellow sentients, this message was sent to me by Commander Spock, First Officer aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. I would like for all of you to hear it."

He placed the cassette into a slot on the podium. Around the chamber, all speakers played the taped message. Sarek had thought to add some visual aids, and so holographics were seen, verifying some of Spock's comments and augmenting others.

At the conclusion of the message, Sarek spoke again. "Gentlebeings, we must consider giving the planet, 113 Cancri Seven, its independence."

There was a rumbling throughout the crowd; Sarek's podium telescreen lit up with three names. The Council President, who had an identical viewer on her desk, read the first name. "Delegate Chamberson of Starfleet."

The official stood. Starfleet, though not empowered to vote, had several representatives for each branch of the service. Chamberson, who was well-regarded by nearly all Council delegates, was the spokesperson for the military.

"Ambassador Sarek, 113 Cancri Seven, or Alcatraz, if you wish, is one of the few places where iridium can be found in sufficient enough quantities to make mining it practical. Iridium is used to control the matter/antimatter reaction on all starships. Being so vital, were we to lose the planet's iridium, we would have to curtail all operations until a new source is found."

Sarek spoke. "Representative Chamberson is implying that Alcatraz's independence would automatically result in the severing of our iridium supply lines, my fellow beings. In reality, the planet's independence would not necessarily mean a reduction of our iridium imports. At present, there have been no shipments of iridium in the past two months as the result of sabotage. This sabotage continues to occur because these people in their hearts want independence. I have no doubt that once granted independence, the sabotage will cease, and the shipments of iridium will begin again."

"How, sir, can you make such claims?" asked Chamberson politely. "First of all, the sabotage is obviously being perpetrated by Romulan infiltrators. Secondly, the planet, once granted independence, would have no reason to resume shipping iridium."

"I must agree with the charge that Romulan infiltrators have committed the sabotage. However, the population there has not reacted against the saboteurs. In fact, Starfleet's investigation into this matter was impeded by Romulans, Vulcans and Humans alike. Obviously the sympathies of the people there do not lie with the Federation." Sarek paused to note the stunned faces of the Starfleet officers present who had failed to consider all the facts at their disposal.

"Mister Chamberson," continued Sarek, pressing his advantage, "you are also forgetting that the planet is barely habitable. They would have to exchange iridium to purchase the necessary equipment to terraform their planet."

"If we gave them independence, the Romulans could move in and take over," Chamberson countered. "And we'd be in a serious crisis: no iridium, and the Romulans would have a base of operations on this side of the Neutral Zone."

"Representative Chamberson, if we fail in this chance for peace by refusing to grant 113 Cancri Seven its independence, then there will be a war. At first, there will be an increase in the sabotage--there will be no iridium shipments, and our installations there would be logical targets. We would, of course, counter with more force--starships would be sent in, combat troops, colonial marines. Those wishing independence would request aid from the Romulan Star Empire, and would, I have no doubt, receive it. There would be an inevitable confrontation, and there would be another Romulan-Federation War. I ask you, which would cripple Starfleet more? A Romulan-Federation conflict, or a possible reduction of iridium? As to the issue of a base of operations, I have no doubt that the area will be somewhat more difficult to patrol, but--"

"Difficult to patrol!" shouted the Adara delegate out of turn. "We border the 113 Cancri system! Are you going to surrender our planet if the Romulans decide they want it back, too?"

Sarek looked at him sternly. "Ambassador Ghred, we will not listen to red-herrings. Have you heard nothing I have said? Alcatraz must be granted its independence because its people desire it, not because the Romulans wish it. In fact, were the Romulans to demand Alcatraz be turned over to them and the general populace objected, I would be one of many who would oppose the action. The inhabitants of Alcatraz wish their independence. If we cannot allow them to secede from the Federation in peace, are we not as bad as our enemies?"

There was thunderous applause to the statement. Ghred sat back down. Chamberson looked around, and he, too, returned to his seat. The delegate from 113 Cancri VII was recognized.

Ted Johnson was quite old. He had been the delegate from Alcatraz for many years. He had petitioned the Council once long ago for his planet's independence. He was more than slightly amused by the proceedings, but gloating was not his style. He still had a duty to perform. "What will happen to the pro- Federation citizens on Alcatraz, specifically, those who do not wish to remain there?"

"They can be transported by the Enterprise and other vessels to another Federation planet. I do not believe many will wish to leave, but some may."

"I would like to add, Ambassador Sarek, that Alcatraz will retain its close ties to the Federation should we be granted independence. However, if we are denied this, then we may choose to find allies elsewhere." He sat down.

Sarek narrowed his eyes. "Ambassador Johnson is correct, although I disfavor the method by which he has brought this to our attention. However, time is crucial here. I hereby move that the Federation grant the planet, 113 Cancri Seven, the right to vote for its independence, and that this body will recognize the outcome of the election, regardless of that outcome."

Johnson stood again, urgently pressing the request button. He was quickly recognized by the President. "The right to vote for its independence?"

"Yes, Ambassador. Democracy is the basic precept upon which the Federation was founded. We will allow the citizens of 113 Cancri Seven to decide their fate. And if the majority, as is claimed, wishes to secede, the planet will be given its independence."

"And if the majority decides to remain with the Federation?" asked Starfleet's Representative Chamberson.

"Then it is our duty to protect them," stated Sarek.

"Agreed," said Johnson. "I second your motion, Sarek of Vulcan."

"A motion is before the Council," stated the Council President. "Should 113 Cancri Seven be granted self-determinacy in the matter of secession from the United Federation of Planets?" she asked.

All of the delegates removed from their apparel a miniature device, still referred to as 'the ballot box,' after ancient custom, and pressed one of the three buttons on it--Assent, Dissent, or Abstain. The votes were tallied by the Babel complex's master computer, percentaged, and the results were displayed holographically around the Council gallery.

The voting statistics appeared five minutes later. Assent: 89%, Dissent: 8%, and Abstentions: 3%.

Ambassador Sarek turned to the Council President. "I humbly request, madam, that we inform 113 Cancri Seven at once."

The Council President nodded.


Kirk awoke and found himself on the earthen floor of a stone chamber that had only one entrance, and that was protected by a Romulan force-field projector. He glanced around to see that McCoy and Chekov were still asleep. Spock, of course, never slept with his eyes closed, and, at first, Kirk thought he was awake. "Mister Spock?"

There was no response.

"Spock?" he repeated, a little more emphatically.

Spock blinked a few times. "Yes, Captain?"

"How long?"

"Four days, three hours, eight minutes, fourteen seconds," answered Spock.

"Any news from our hosts?"

"None, sir."

"They should have heard from the Council by way or another. Given how the Council will drag its feet, we should consider trying to escape. This mess is much worse than any other time I've ever seen it, and I'm sure the Council will mishandle it. What are our chances of getting out of here?"

The Vulcan sighed. "As I have stated six times now, sir, there is virtually no chance of escaping our hosts."

Kirk smiled. "I'm sorry, Spock. I'm just getting...frustrated here; I hate being helpless."

"I am curious, sir."

"About what, Spock?" He turned his gaze to meet his first officer's.

"Governor Keller. I dislike to 'pry,' sir, but the Romulan Commander's words have invoked a certain interest in his career with Starfleet."

Kirk nodded. Now it was time that Spock be told about Keller.


Scotty paced back and forth across the bridge. "No word, yet, Uhura?"

"None, Mister Scott. We aren't even receiving the standard chatter from the planet's surface or the nearest communications relay station, Epsilon One."

"Damn." He looked at the Romulan ship on the screen. "Try to raise them, Lieutenant."

He went back to the center seat and sat down. Her voice came to him from the communications console. "No response, sir."

"None?" He tapped his fingers a moment. "Launch a communications probe. Run a standard check."

A few minutes later, she turned to him. "We're being jammed."

"I thought as much. Prepare a message drone. I want to get in touch with the Romulans."


"So Keller is mentally unbalanced," concluded Spock.

"That's not what the Starfleet psychiatrists said. He was never really proven guilty...there was no evidence for it. The phaser circuitry itself was altered, but that could have been a mistake. One transponder had been removed. It was never found. And we looked long and hard for it."

Three Romulan guards came to the door. One of them deactivated the door, and, rather unexpectedly, took Spock. They wound their way through the tunnels, and soon arrived on the barren surface where the Romulan Commander was waiting for him. She dismissed the guards. "Spock, someone on this planet is jamming all communications."

"And you don't suspect the Enterprise?" He was wondering how Scott had handled the very difficult situation.

"They relayed a message via drone to us. Ergo, since they are not responsible, and we are not responsible, someone else is. Probably on this planet."

"Your logic is somewhat skewed, Commander. Whom do you suspect?"

"Governor Keller, of course. I want you to make an arrest because I have no real jurisdiction here. We wish him no harm," she explained.

"I will arrest him, Commander, only if you can convince me of his guilt."



Spock and the Commander entered the governor's office. Keller was sitting behind his desk with his phaser drawn. He had apparently received word they were coming. "You aren't giving my planet to her kind, Vulcan!" he shouted.

Spock noticed that Keller's eye had crossed in a peculiar manner as the Commander said a word so softly that only he could hear. "Convinced?"

Spock's attention was on Keller. "Governor, do you wish to be responsible for what, at best, would be a civil war, and, at worst, an interstellar conflict?"

"You'd better believe it, Vulcan! Anything's better than giving up my planet."

Keller's secretary, Gat, walked in, saw what the governor was doing, and ran out the door before he could stop her.

"Damned pig-people! Can't understand anything! Just like you Vulcans. I always have said that Vulcans are just Rommie spies!"

"Keller, this planet is not yours. It belongs to its inhabitants, not to an individual such as yourself. This planet's citizenry desires its independence, not to be under the Federation's guidance or Romulan rule."

"To hell with what the Rommies and their sympathizers want! They want my planet, and for the most part, they want that damned temple! And those idiots on the Council would give them the God damned planet and take away my command again!"

Spock drew a deep breath. "Governor, you were given the choice. They didn't make you accept their offer, which was quite generous to a disgraced officer."

"They did make me retire! Just like now! They invent a reason and act on it!" Keller raised his phaser and pointed it at the Commander's head.

She was not impressed. "Governor Keller, you can kill me now if you wish, but my death will not change the truth: this planet's citizens want independence. I am convinced that the Federation Council will not support your actions here, and without that support, you will lost this planet, one way or another."

"And you will not receive help from the Enterprise, nor the Federation in all probability," added Spock. "Please yield to the logic of the situation."

Keller went over to his desk and pulled out a clear cube which seemed to have an electronic part embedded in it. "You know what this is, Spock?"

"It appears to be a transponder suspended in plastic," he observed.

"No, it's an albatross...a mistake." Keller raised the gun to his head. It was obvious what he intended to do.

"Governor Keller, I wish you no disgrace," said the Romulan Commander as she and Spock slowly advanced toward him.

"I'll never be defeated," whispered Keller as he pulled the trigger. He disintegrated in less than a second.

In the shocked silence that followed the shriek of the phaser, Spock tried to analyze the situation. "He could not admit defeat, could not face his guilt, and preferred to kill himself instead of facing reality. Totally illogical."

"Totally Human," said the Commander, her face ashen. She had not wanted this outcome.

The door opened, and K'theel and Gat entered with their phasers drawn.

"Governor Keller has terminated himself," explained Spock.

They lowered their weapons. K'theel turned to Spock. "We hadn't realized that he was crazy. It wasn't until Gat saw him with a gun on the two of you that we knew he was insane."

The Aurelian walked to the desk and picked up the fallen transponder. "Do you know what this is?"

Spock nodded. "The transponder from the phaser firing controls from the starship Republic."

"That's right. Keller sent me down to the phaser control room to remove it. I did it out of some sense of the misguided loyalty I had for the man. He was a great hero to me then...and still is, I guess. He just became sick..."

"Spock," said the Commander. "I suggest that we enlist their help to destroy the jamming device."

"An ideal solution, Commander."


After destroying the mechanism, and hearing the Federation's decision, the crew of the Enterpriseset up polling booths all over the habitable area of Alcatraz. All voting were subjected to anatomical scans to prevent any Romulan interference with the election's outcome. The citizens of 113 Cancri VII made their choice quickly, and it was all but unanimous: independence.

A provisional government was quickly established with K'theel and a Vulcan miner named Selius appointed to the co-presidency. The government quickly established embassies for the Federation and the Romulans. Visitation rights for both were granted freely, and Alcatraz became an open planet. Everyone felt that 113 Cancri VII was undergoing a change for the better.

In front of the former governor's office, now the office of the presidents, the Romulan Commander met with Kirk and Spock to bid adieu.

"I am gratified for your assistance, gentlemen. And I must say, Spock, that when we first did not realize that the communications were being jammed, I thought I had you. I am not completely happy with the way things worked out, but be warned: I'll get you one day. Live long and prosper, gentlemen," she said as she started to leave.

"Peace and long life," answered the Vulcan. "'Til we meet again, Commander," he added enigmatically.

As she went down the street, Kirk looked at Spock. "I think she was tempted to take you by force, Spock."

"She would not, Captain. She knows that it would take more than that for her to have me."

K'theel and Selius approached them. The Aurelian spoke up. "Captain, again I apologize for my aid to Keller. I just..."

"Forget it," Kirk said. "Have you found out how many of your people will be leaving?"

"Yes, Captain."

"And where are they?"

"There are none, Captain Kirk," said Selius.

"Logical," remarked Spock. "How many people would give up the only life they have ever known?" asked the first officer rhetorically.

"Exactly," concurred K'theel. "We've been assured by the Romulans that they will not interfere here. And we just don't want to leave our homes, our jobs, our loved ones."

Kirk extended his hand to K'theel. "Good luck, gentlemen," he said as he shook the Aurelian's claw. He tried to make the Vulcan hand gesture to Selius. "Live long and prosper," he mumbled.

"Goodbye, Captain Kirk."


On Deck Eight, in the Rec Room, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty were seated at a table. "Thot was quite a price to pay for peace," commented the engineer. "If the iridium supplies fail to be shipped, Starfleet'll be virtually paralyzed."

"I believe the risk is minimal for that, Mister Scott. But I feel it is a logical risk. Aside from the prevention of civil and interstellar war, we now have a better foothold for peace negotiations with the Romulans."

"I agree with you, Spock. I imagine, though, that you're pleased that you've managed to save all our lives again," said McCoy.

"I am pleased that the ship's efficiency was not impaired by the loss of its captain, first officer, chief medical officer, and second navigator."

Scotty smiled at the rejoinder. He knew what was coming.

"I'm sure you are," said McCoy. "You'd better watch yourself, Spock. That pride of yours is showing again."

"Pride, Doctor?" asked Spock, raising an eyebrow. "Surely you realize by now that I am incapable of showing emotion."

"Spock, I've heard you say that so many times that I'm sick of it!"

"Why should a phrase of standard English cause a sickness? Obviously, a fault in your Human bodily functions--"

"Spock, you have one hell of a superiority complex, and that is an emotional disorder!"

"Really, Doctor, why must you label everything with an inaccurate title?"

"Irritated, Spock?" asked Kirk.

"I believe that I am, sir."

McCoy's eyes lit up as Kirk and Scott grinned. Spock had just admitted to experiencing an emotion.

"You will excuse me," he said and rapidly stepped out the door as his companions looked on in amusement.

"Bones, I think there's hope for him," said Kirk.

"Jim, I know there is."

"Aye," said Scotty, realizing that for the first time in a long while, he had the last word.

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