At the sound of a familiar step, Chief Transporter Officer Kyle looked up from his console, in time to see Captain Kirk, smartly attired for a night out, stride into the transporter room.
"Evening, Mister Kyle." Kirk nodded then looked around. "Have you seen the doctor yet?" he asked.
"No, sir. But Sickbay just called to say he has been a bit delayed, a last minute check in surgery, I think."
"Ah...nothing serious, I hope," Kirk muttered. He paced the room, trying to curb his impatience, then eyed the console. "You have got the new coordinates from the bridge, have you?"
"Aye, Captain, you will be beamed down right in front of the Residence, and the weather is fine down there, I am told," Kyle informed him.
"Well, it had better be since it is supposed to be a garden-party," Kirk drily remarked; then, struck by a thought, he added: "What about you, Chief? Isnt it your turn for shore-leave?"
"Aye, sir. My relief, Ensign Ferindottir, is due in twenty minutes."
"Good. High time for you to have a break, too. Have you got plans for the evening?"
"We have reservations for the Follies Merindol, sir. I heard it is worth the trip."
"Good choice, Lieutenant," Kirk approved. "I saw it last time. If you like a good music hall, its one of the best in this sector." A glance at the wall chronometer brought a scowl to his face. "Whats keeping McCoy, for Heavens sake! Hell end up making us late!"
Just then, the door parted open at last and both men looked round expectantly...and stood gaping at the sight which met their eyes. For it was not Doctor McCoy walking in, but a dazzling vision in a long, black shimmering skirtslit up to theretopped by a gold lamé, tight-fitting jacketcut down to here.
"Congratulations, Lieutenant!" Kirk said with frank admiration, "You look supremely elegant."
"Thank you, sir," replied Uhura. "One does not go to a Grand Opera every day, so I did my best to rise up to the occasion."
The expression she saw in the mens eyes left in no doubt that, in their opinion, she had achieved her goal. Inwardly pleased, Uhura produced a gold chain enriched by a garnet pendant and handed it to Kirk with a coy smile. "Would you mind, Captain? I cant manage to fix the clasp by myself, and I dont think that my escort..." Her voice tailed off meaningfully.
"No!" Kirk chuckled. "I dont think he would...ah, let us see...there!" He pushed the tiny clasp into place and let the gold chain fall on her brown neck.
"Thank you, Captain."
"And where is your escort, Uhura?" Kirk wondered with a sly smile. "What kind of a man is he to keep a lady waiting?"
"My fault, Captain. I am early...but, here he is, right on the dot!" she smiled approvingly at the tall, well-groomed figure just walking in. She was flattered for, indeed, the Vulcan first officer presentedfrom the silver-trimmed collar of his dark tunic suit down to his polished buckled shoesa perfect match to her stylish party dress.
"Ah, Mister Spock," said the captain, "I see you are all set to take this pretty lady to the Opera."
Spock looked at Uhura and seemed suitably impressed, but he refrained from comment and merely said, "Indeed, Captain. If you are ready, Lieutenant, perhaps we should proceed?"
"Sure, Mister Spock, let us go!" she briskly said, and throwing her wrap about her shoulders, she stepped up on the transporter platform, thus displaying a long, shapely leg.
Spock gave the coordinates to Lieutenant Kyle then joined her on the pads. "Captain," he said to Kirk, "I hope you and Doctor McCoy have an enjoyable evening. Energize, please, Mister Kyle."
"I am sure we will. Have a good time, you two!" Kirk cheerfully replied as the transporter beam began to enfold them.
"Thank you, Captain, same to you! Uhuras smile and wave of the hand sparkled away just as the door slid open again.
"My word! Who was that?" exclaimed the doctors voice.
Kirk turned around. "That you, Bones? About time!" he strode to the platform. "Come on! It will look really bad if we arrive late at the Governors Residence!"
"Never mind, Jim. Ill tell Laura its all my fault. She surely knows that a doctors lot is to get last minute calls. "But, say, who was that gorgeous female I just saw beaming away? Was it Uhura?" McCoy asked as he joined the captain on the transporter stage.
"Right, Bones. She and Spock, both in full evening dress. He is taking her to the Opera, you know."
"Ah, yes, I remember hearing something about it. Do you know what they will see tonight?"
"I think Spock mentioned one of Wagners Nibelungen opera. When you are ready, Mister Kyle..."
"That?" the doctor made a face, "Better them than me! I remember the only time I let myself being talked into watching one of those, ages ago...never been so bored in my life! And, do you know..."
The rest of the doctors appreciation was lost in the transporter effect.
The planet Merindol, above which the Enterprise presently orbited, was one of the earliest Terran colonies in the quadrant, and a favorite port-of-call to Starfleet crews. According to tourist publications, this world had been blessed by the gods. It afforded an amazing variety of landscapes as yet unspoiled, a temperate climate and a profusion of agricultural produce due to the richness of the soil and the expertise of dedicated farmers. The fruit, wines and liquors of Merindol had won the planet fame far and wide. Add to that some fashionable seaside resorts, a vast choice of accommodations for visitors, not forgetting a multitude of restaurants, bars, taverns, etcetera...catering to everyones taste and purse.
But what Merindol was most famous for was the Music Festivals during which the best orchestras, virtuosos and singers of the Federation were bound to perform at least once in their life if they valued their reputation.
By a happy coincidence, the Enterprise happened to stop over while Merindol was at the peak of the musical season. Those crewmembers scheduled for shore-leave had lost no time in taking advantage of their luck, and in swarming to the theaters, variety shows and night clubs still available to them.
All except Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy who had been invited to dinner at the Government Residence.
As dinner was drawing to its conclusion, and after consuming pecan piea five-star dessert according to McCoy, Governor Jeremy Saunders guests had reached a state of mild euphoria. While savoring the famous fruit liqueurs of Merindol and listening to the soft harmonies of a string quintet drifting in from the garden, Jim Kirk and Leonard McCoy relaxed in the feeling of being outrageously pampered by their hosts.
"Aaaah!" sighed the doctor contentedly, "this is just perfect. This is real life! Will someone kindly explain why I should go traipsing around the galaxy in a starship when I could live a quiet and comfortable existence in this paradise?"
"Because you wouldnt like it otherwise, Bones," Kirk said with a twinkle in his eyes, "and neither would I, for that matter. This is a beautiful world, but not for the likes of us old spacefarers. After a while, wouldnt you miss the adventure, the quest for the unknown, the thrill of discovery? I know I would. No offense meant, Jerry," he smiled at his host who had been First Officer on the Excalibur before resigning for family reasons.
"None taken, Jim!" Saunders smiled back, "and I agree; you are not made for a desk job. This planet is fine for shore-leave, to see the sights, go to the beach, enjoy the night life, but after a couple of weeks, a true spaceman would get bored."
"What about you, Saunders?" McCoy asked curiously." Dont you ever miss your early career out in space?"
Saunders glanced at his wife, former chief medical officer aboard the Excalibur, and they exchanged a rueful smile. "I cant deny that it took us some time to get used to this total change of activity. But the children came along, I became fully involved in my job, and Laura got that position at the Sector Two General Hospital which takes up much of her time. Now, we feel truly at home here, almost like Merindolians born and bred."
"You certainly made a niche for yourselves here," Kirk remarked, "and you have been well accepted by the local people, so well that after, how many...? five years?...you have been elected as the head of the government. Quite a feat for a newcomer!"
"That was six years ago, actually," Saunders specified, "but, yes, we get along well with the locals; I have no complaint."
"They are really nice people," Laura Saunders put in with a tolerant smile, "pleasant to deal with, easy-going..."
"Perhaps too easy-going, if you ask me," her husband dryly remarked. "I wish sometimes that they'd be more strict with their kids."
"Oh?" McCoy raised an eyebrow. "Something in particular?"
"Well," said Laura with an eye on her husband, "we seem to have a problem with some teenagers, and that has really worried Jerry for some time. You see, life is so easy here, much too easy, some would say. Some parents are much too lenient, I admit. The young people have everything for the asking; they are spoiled. Result? They get bored and restless and look for excitement and new sensations, and lately, some have really got out of hand, havent they, dear?"
"Out of hand is putting it mildly, Laura," Saunders replied with some ill-concealed irritation.
"But what have they done?" Kirk wanted to know.
"Jim, you will never guess whats their new fad! These spoiled brats have got hold of some antiquated 20th century motorbikeswhich are probably fakes, for all I know. Anyway, they paid a fortune for them to that con man...whats his name? Cyrano Jones. You may have heard of him?"
Kirk and McCoy both rolled their eyes skywards. "Cyrano Jones? Good Lord!" the doctor exclaimed.
"Ah! I see that you have!"the governor dryly commented. "Well, to make a long story short, that scoundrel has sold them some revamped motor bikes, and now Merindol is plagued with these gangs of youngsters who play at being daredevilscomplete with helmets and black leather suits, scaring the living daylights of decent citizens, pilfering fruit from the plantations, sparking barroom brawls, in short making a nuisance of themselves!"
"Good Heavens! Whats happening to Merindol?" McCoy wondered.
"You may well ask, Doctor." There was some bitterness in Saunders voice. "Recently, our local police has had to double their patrols because now it is not only the occasional unruly crew that they have to deal with, but our own teenagers, too!"
"And the parents do nothing about it?" inquired the captain.
"Just as I said, Jim. The majority dont bother. They pay for the bikes; when there are complaints, they pay for the damage; when their kids spend the night at the police station, they pay the fine, and thats it! I finally called for the Council to hold a special meeting next week, and we shall see what comes of it...yes, Johnson?"
"Excuse me, sir, but your guests have begun to arrive," announced the servant.
"Oh, yes, the reception. Thank you, Johnson." Saunders stood up. "I think we had better go, my friends. My friends, colleagues, staff and associates are eager to meet you. Sorry to have bothered you with my little problems."
"We understand, Jerry," Kirk genially replied as he followed the governor onto the gardens, "you need sometimes to get it off your chest."
"Well, thank you for bearing with me, Jim. As I was saying..."
McCoy strolled in their wake, then paused at the door and gave his hostess a keen look. "Seems to me that your husband is rather perturbed over this matter, Laura," he said sotto voce. "How come? These are just youngsters letting off steam, are they not?"
"Yes, in a way," she sighed, "but, you see, Leonard, Jerry takes pride in the peace and prosperity of our planet. He has worked hard to make it attain these high standards, and he would hate to see the reputation of Merindol stupidly shattered by some irresponsible youths who should know better!"
"Come on! It is not as bad as that!" McCoy protested.
"Leonard, believe me, it does not take long to ruin a reputation. If the word were spread that our streets are unsafe, our establishments at risk to be raided, you know..."
"I am sure you will find a way to stop this nonsense, Laura, but, your children, they are not involved, I hope. Forgive me for asking but you both look so concerned."
She looked at McCoy with a fond smile. "You have not changed a bit since our days at Old Miss, Leonard. You are as perceptive and understanding as ever. But, to answer your question. Our two oldest are just fine; they are away on a camping trip just now. But Tim, our youngest... yes, I am worried about him. He has turned sixteen, you see, the difficult agemoody, dissatisfied, always opposed to any of his fathers suggestions. Jerry wished him to apply for Starfleet Academy, and at a time, Tim liked the idea, but now he wont hear of it. I am sure it is the bad influence of some of his friends," she said darkly.
"Are he or his friends mixed up with these gangs?" McCoy asked.
"I am not sure, but I am afraid so. I tell you, Leonard, I hate it when Tim is away all night; I am always fearing the worst!" her voice faltered.
"Now, now," chided McCoy as he laid a comforting arm around her shoulders, "Don't you go imagining things. Its not like you, Laura. Im sure Tim is a good kid, but he is going through an awkward spell, like boys do at his age. He will get over it; they all do. Take heart, my dear. But, perhaps we should go before your guests start wondering whats keeping you?"
"Thank you, Leonard; you are a good friend," Laura whispered gratefully. "Lets join the party." Then putting on her best smile, she led the way down the garden steps to greet the local notables.
Not all the high society of Merindol graced the governors garden-party. A number of music-lovers, or would-be connoisseurs, had excused themselves so as to attend the premiere of Wagners second opera of the Nibelungen tetralogy : The Valkyrie. For that first performance, the Merindolians had dressed to the nines and offered a colorful sight in the foyer, the galleries and the grand stairway, while slowly leaving the amphitheater after the last applause had finally died down.
Lieutenant Uhura, perched on high heels, was carefully picking her way down the crowded marble steps while appreciating the loud pageantry unfolding around her. This certainly was the place to watch and to be watched. She congratulated herself on her choice of clothes for she knew she could compete in chic and good looks with the fashionable women parading along. Many admiring glances had come her way during the evening, proving that her exotic beauty had not gone unnoticed.
She stole a glance at her silent companion, calm and collected as ever, and she was amused at seeing how much his dark good looks and cool elegance attracted female attention. She had nothing but praise for her Vulcan escort. Spock had been quietly attentive throughout the evening. He had even taken her to the foyer, at the intermission, and treated her to a glass of the local sparkling wine. She had not thought a Vulcan capable of that kind of attention, but perhaps the fact that Spocks mother was Human accounted for that. But then, he was always perfectly courteous with her and the female members of the crew. Perhaps she could put him to the test and see how far his consideration might go? Why not?
They had almost reached the foot of the steps when Uhura gave a little cry and stumbled.
At once, a firm grip caught her arm and steadied her. A pair of dark brown eyes searched her face. "Are you all right, Lieutenant?" he murmured.
"Yes, thank you, Mister Spock. Sorry, I must have tripped on my skirt."
The strong hand let go of her arm, and a Vulcan eyebrow lifted in mock skepticism. Uhura felt the blush creep up her face. Apparently her deception had not fooled him one little bit!
"I am sorry, Mister Spock," she repeated with a rueful smile.
He merely inclined his head, but the amused spark in his eyes told her that she was forgiven.
A moment later, they stood in front of the Opera House, in the midst of the Merindolians who kept pouring out of the establishments which lined both sides of the avenue. The noise and excitement were indescribable. People were milling about, laughing, calling to one another at the top of their voices. Spock, pushing through the throng, led his companion down the way, to a quieter corner where they paused for breath.
"Whew! That was something!" commented Uhura. She took time to straighten her clothes, drew her wrap snugly about her for the night air felt chilly, then she smiled up at Spock.
"I must thank you for this wonderful evening, Spock," she said warmly. "I admit I had never cared much for the operas of Richard Wagner, but this was beautiful! And beautiful voices too, especially Siegfried and Brunehilde, dont you think? And that famous third act with the Valkyries riding in... la-lalala-la...la-lalala-la!" She laughed. "This tune is going to stick in my mind for a while, for sure!"
"I am pleased that you found tonights performance enjoyable, Miss Uhura ," Spock quietly said, amused by her enthusiasm.
"I just loved it. I know that thanks are unnecessary to Vulcans, but they are important for us, Humans, so just let me say: Thank you, Mister Spock."
"My pleasure, Lieutenant," Spock inclined his head, paused, then gazed intently at her face. "But, I suppose that you are in need of sustenance..."
He looked around. "If we could find some quiet place for supper, perhaps..."
"Oh, yes! That would be great! Actually I am starving. How did you guess?" she asked.
"Vulcans do not guess, Lieutenant. I have merely observed that after undergoing strong emotional experiences, Humans often resort to some food and drink. A problem of metabolism, I suppose."
Uhura burst out laughing. "You should report your observations to Doctor McCoy, Spock. He would love it!"
"Uhura! Oh, Uhura!" voices called from across the street. They turned round and saw a smart young man with a pretty blonde hurrying in their direction, and waving wildly.
"Uhura! Mister Spock! Fancy meeting you here!"declared Lieutenant Sulu grinning from ear to ear.
"Hikaru! And you, too, Liz? Where did you come from?" Uhura was surprised.
"From the Variety, down the street," said Lieutenant Palmer, "and guess what we saw there? My Fair Lady! I never thought a musical that old was still being played here. It was quite good, really, nice costumes, etcetera. But what about you? Where have you been?"
"Just a moment, Liz," Sulu intervened, "one thing at a time. Actually, we are looking for a reasonable restaurant, and we have been told that they are all booked up around here. Stupid of me, but I never thought of making reservations. So, we thought that perhaps you knew of some nice little place." The helmsman looked inquiringly at his fellow officers, but Uhura shook her head.
"Sorry, but no...so, what shall we do?"
"Well," Sulu said, "we were told to go down to the harbor and try our luck there. There are taverns near the fish market with good food and good music. How about that?"
"I think that would be fun. Yes, lets try that!" Uhura briskly agreed Then remembering her Vulcan escort, she asked him, "What do you think of Sulus suggestion, Mister Spock?"
"It seems to be the best solution to your problem, Lieutenant, but, now that your friends have joined you, I shall leave you in Mister Sulus care and excuse myself."
"But why? Where are you going?"
"Back to the ship, of course," Spock replied, genuinely puzzled.
"Oh, Mister Spock, no!" cried Uhura. The last thing she wanted was to give him the impression that he was no longer wanted. "You cant leave us now!" she insisted. "Come on; its our night out. The captain told us to have a good time, didnt he? Please, you cant let us down!"
Taken aback, Spock looked uncertain, upon which Palmer and Sulu added their persuasions to Uhuras. Spock, both surprised and touched by their insistence at including him, a Vulcan, in their party, finally relented.
After all, Jim Kirk had told him time and again that it would do him a lot of good to socialize more often with his shipmates. Now was as good an opportunity as any to follow his captains advice. So, he accepted...never imagining what he was letting himself into!
Before he knew it, they were all bundled into a taxi-glider hailed by Sulus shrill whistle, and off they went.
"Where to, gentlemen?" asked the driver.
"To the harbor, near the fish market, please."
"Fish market, right oh!" the man cheerfully replied and put on speed.
As he sat, squashed between Uhuras and Palmers curved forms, Spock was beginning to wonder at his poor judgment in being talked into joining the party. He did his Vulcan best to maintain his dignity in this uncomfortable situation while his junior officers, in very high spirits, were chattering and giggling like Human teenagers.
Presently, Lieutenant Palmer asked where he and Uhura had spent the evening.
"At the Opera," Uhura proudly replied. They were duly impressed.
"Wow!...Swell!...how was it?"
"Marvelous!" she enthused. "We saw Wagners opera The Valkyrie."
"The Valkyrie? Isnt that: ta-tatata-ta...ta-tatata-ta?" Sulus effort at singing the theme was not too conclusive, but his audience did not mind.
"Something of the kind, Mister Sulu," said Spock coming out of his reserve. "Are you a fan of Richard Wagner?"
"Not particularly," Sulu admitted laughingly. "In fact, besides The Flying Dutchman and The Valkyrie, I know very little, and I dont ..." He broke off, startled by a sudden noise.
A stream of dark roaring shadows were shooting past them at breakneck speed. About a dozen of them flashed by to vanish into the night as mysteriously as they had appeared.
"What the hell was that?"Sulu exclaimed.
"That?" Their driver growled. "That was one of those damned gangs which have been pestering us for months. Youngsters who roam around at night on their stinking machines, out for mischief. Two or three bands of them, calling themselves "The Dark Angels," "The Shooting Rockets," and "The Valkyries!"
"The Valkyries, again? la-lalala-la...la-lalala-la," Uhura sang and burst out laughing. "They are haunting us, arent they, Mister Spock?"
"Apparently," the Vulcan drily replied.
"But how is it that no one has put a stop to this behavior? Dont you have a police force?" Sulu asked the driver.
"Sure we do. But what can the police do, I ask you? The cops haul them in, then what? The next day, the kids are out again because their moms and dads pay the fines. Most of them belong to influential families."
"Oh sure!" Sulu replied knowingly.
But the Vulcan persisted with disapproval. "I do not understand why a few young people can disturb with impunity an entire population. It is illogical. I am surprised that your government does nothing to restore some kind of order."
"Well, from what I heard, the governor has convened a special meeting of the Council to discuss this problem. I hope they will take the necessary steps!" said the driver.
"Lets hope so, for the sake of fair Merindol," Liz Palmer commented. "Have we still far to go?"
"No, miss, we are almost there. Just down that steep lane is the harbor, do you see?"
Peering through windshield, the Enterprise officers could see dark waters shimmering in the light of the twin moons of Merindol. They had indeed arrived. "Where shall I take you?" they were asked. They exchanged a glance.
"We have no idea," Uhura admitted. "Would you happen to know of a nice place? We like good food and good music."
The man chuckled. "There are plenty of those at the harbor, but I know just the one you want: the Merry Porpoise, thats the best around here."
Spocks curiosity surfaced at once. "Are there porpoises in your oceans?" he inquired.
"No, sir!" The driver laughed. "Thats just a fancy name, an idea of the first landlord. He came from Terra."
"And do they have any specialty?" asked Sulu, quite ready for supper.
"All the seafood you can wish for," the driver answered, "but their best is the bouillabaisse, you know, a kind of fish soup."
"I know exactly what it is, and I love it," Uhura declared. "And I think thats what I'll have. Is that it?"
The taxi had stopped in front of an old half-timbered house. "Thats the place, Maam, and its twenty-five credits for the ride, please."
"Okay! Everybody out!" she said, "Sulu, will you take care of the driver?"
Once outside, the Humans breathed in with relish the cool breeze blowing from the sea, but to the Vulcans keen sense of smell, the air was saturated with a pungent smell of fish and seaweeds. He eyed the rusty sign with a porpoise dangling in front of the tavern with some misgivings, but it was too late to turn back, the taxi had left. So, repressing a shudder, he followed his shipmates through the door of the Merry Porpoise.
First, they went through a small lobby which functioned like an airlock to keep the warmth indoors, but when they passed the second door, Spock recoiled instinctively, hit full in the face by the blare of a loud jazz band. It was now the turn of his sensitive hearing to be assaulted. But he had hardly adjusted his senses to these adverse conditions, when a rosy-cheeked, buxom woman appeared in front of them.
"Good evening! Welcome to the Merry Porpoise, my dears." She greeted them brightly. "New to these parts, are you? Come in, come in...a table for four? Sure!...not too close to my musicians, perhaps, better if you want to hold a conversation! Come along, this way!" And she led the way across the low-ceilinged room, the four in her wake.
Not unexpectedly, they attracted a good deal of attention, even some wolf whistles, from the customers. Their hostess settled at a quiet table, at a safe distance from the jazz band, and said with a wink: "Dont mind these jokers, ladies. Pretty girls like you are bound to attract notice." She beckoned with authority and at once a waiter, dressed in sailor garb, handed them each a menu. Another snap of the womans fingers brought to their table four tall glasses of an amber sparkling wine. "There you are, dears, a drink on the house to begin with. You just relax and enjoy my vintage wine while you make your choice."
"Well," said Uhura glancing around the table, "I dont know about you, but my choice is made. Ill have bouillabaisse, if you have it tonight."
"We serve bouillabaisse every day," the woman beamed with pride. "The best in Merindol, a meal in itself. You wont be disappointed, lady. Same thing for you too?"she asked Palmer and Sulu who nodded assent eagerly.
"Good ...thats three bouillabaisse! But surely not for our Vulcan gentleman here," she added with a kindly smile at Spock who was perusing the menu in great perplexity.
"No, indeed," he answered, looking up, "Just some salad or some vegetable would be quite adequate."
"I know, dear, but I have much better to offer," she smiled. "A gratinee followed by some nice potatoe croquettes served with a rich ratatouille. How about that?"
Spock blinked and looked even more perplexed. "I am afraid I am not familiar with the terms gratinee and...ah...ratatouille, Madam. Will you please explain?"
She burst out laughing. "A gratinee is an onion soup complete with bread and grated cheese, and a ratatouille is some mixed vegetables simmered in olive oil, a recipe brought from Terra by my great great-great-grand-mother. I am sure youll like it! Why, only last month, the fine Vulcan gentleman who came here with his nice lady went so far as to praise my cuisine, specially my gratinee. And, generally, Vulcans are not generous with compliments, are they?" She chuckled. "Sorry, my dear, no offense meant."
"None taken. I understand," Spock gravely replied, "and I shall follow your recommendation, Madam."
"You wont regret it. And dont call me Madam, nobody does here. The name is Mariette. And now what about drinks? With the fish, I recommend our light rosé...yes?...one bottle of rosé to start with, and some bottles of water, of course...Done!" She scribbled on her pad, tore off a leaf which she handed to another waiter, then she wished the Enterprise party "Bon Appetit!" and took herself off to greet new arrivals.
"Well," Sulu commented appreciatively, "this is what I call efficiency!
"Indeed. A remarkable woman," Spark nodded in agreement and took a tentative sip of sparkling wine.
"She certainly knows her trade, and did you hear what she said?" Uhura pointed out, "that Vulcan gentleman with his nice lady...could it be Ambassador Sarek?"
"Quite possibly," Spock calmly replied. "My father was on this planet twenty-two days ago."
"Funny! Somehow I would not have imagined Sarek dining in...this kind of establishment; I mean, near the fish market, you know..."
"My father is not averse to testing interesting experiences, and, in his career, he has ample occasion to do so."
"Well, so have we, come to think of it," Sulu remarked. "That driver was right so far; this looks all right, dont you agree?"
They all did, including Spock, who admitted, "This expedition has thus far turned out better than I had feared."
The deafening orchestra had soft-pedaled perceptibly and was now playing blues with undeniable skill. Even the diners had thankfully lost interest in them, and the hubbub of laughter and talking seldom exceeded an acceptable level. After a short pause, Lieutenant Uhura expressed her feeling of well-being in heaving a contented sigh. "This is a really nice, cosy place, and this wine is delicious, dont you think, Mister Spock?"
"Indeed, Lieutenant. I find it both light and fruity. Better than the wine they served at the Opera."
"Agreed!" She gave him a meaningful smile which made the other two exchange a look of interested speculation.
All conjectures were soon forgotten, for a strong whiff of fish and spices came their way, preceding a huge soup tureen and several side dishes which were set on their table with all due ceremony. The Vulcan officer was doing his best to disregard the strong smells which reached his nostrils when a bowl of steaming soup was placed in front of him.
"Doesnt all that look good?" exclaimed Sulu, eyes bright in anticipation. "Ah, apparently we have to help ourselves. Right?" He picked up the ladle. "Liz, Nyota, hand over your plates!"
Meantime, Spock was eyeing his bowl with suspicion. At first sight, that brown, sticky mush looked odd. "Try it, Spock! It tastes better then it looks," he was exhorted by his Human colleagues, and indeed the aroma was not unpleasant.
He dipped a tentative spoon, and stirred, unfortunately the spoon got entangled in a mass of melted cheese. Now, he thought, quite conscious of being watched, there must be a logical solution to the problem. Given the adhesive condition of this mass, if I apply a constant pressure in that direction, perhaps I could...
A deep chuckle broke in his cogitations. Their jolly hostess had come to see how they were doing and noticed at once the Vulcans predicament. "Ah..." she said, "youve got stuck with that cheese. Often happens at the first try. Just use your fork, thatll help. Thats it! Now, you try it...careful! Its very hot."
Spock, having managed to extract the spoon from the steaming soup, took a cautious sip. It was quite hot. The liquid burnt his tongue, blazed down his throat, bringing tears to his eyes. He gasped, then discovered that the aftertaste was pleasant, in fact quite palatable. Since comments were apparently expected, he nodded. "Good," he declared, "surprisingly good."
His shipmates, busy with their fish-soup, exchanged a grin, and Mariette beamed at him." I knew you would enjoy my gratinee, like that other Vulcan gentleman did last month. Ah! thats what I call a real gentleman, a big shot, you could tell. And what a nice couple, he and his lovely lady! A blue-eyed blonde, as I recall." She smiled reminiscently, then heaved a sigh. "I wish he had told me his name, though. A pity, Id like to know who they were, such nice classy people!"
"He would not, Madam," Spock told her then, "Vulcans always travel incognito."
"Is that so? I didnt know that. Is there any special reason?"
"A matter of privacy," he said deadpan, "and this must remain strictly between us, you understand." He held her gaze significantly.
Realization dawned, and her eyes widened in surprise. "Oh!?...oh, I see...you, too...incognito?"
"Affirmative," he nodded gravely, "and I trust that I can rely on your discretion?"
"Absolutely! Not a word, I wont breath a word to anyone," she stammered, chubby cheeks flushed with excitement, hands tightly clasped on her ample bosom. "But," she went on, her curiosity getting the better of her discretion, "all the same, you look awfully like him, in a younger, slimmer way, if you see what I mean?" She was favored with the rise of a Vulcan eyebrow. "Thats it! Thats just what he did!" She was obviously delighted. "There is something about you, something in your eyes which reminds me so much of this nice gentleman. Who knows?" She laughed. "After all, he could be a relation of yours?"
"Who knows, indeed?" Spock echoed politely, then turned his attention back to his gratinee.
Mariette luckily took the hint and, leaving them to their meal, went to chat with other customers, but not before granting the bemused Vulcan a broad wink of connivance.
Some stifled giggles brought Spocks attention to his shipmates. They had, so far, managed to keep a straight face through the brief exchange, but they finally reached bursting point.
"Is anything the matter, Lieutenants?"
"Sorry, Mister Spock," Sulu choked, "but it was too funny for words!"
"Incognito, Mister Spock?"Uhura sweetly said, laughter dancing in her eyes.
The Vulcan looked a little sheepish. "I admit having resorted to an exaggeration, but, considering the ladys curiosity and tendency to speculation, I deemed it necessary to be not entirely truthful."
"I was just teasing, Spock," she smiled, "and I think you did very well for now that good woman is as happy as can be for having been taken into your confidence. You could not have given her a greater pleasure."
"Indeed?" Spock considered a moment , then went back to his meal, which turned out to be one of the best he had had in a long time.
Presently, Sulu remarked, "What I cant get over is the fascination which she has for Ambassador Sarek. She could not stop talking about him. Did you notice? I wonder why."
"But, Sulu, dont you realize?" laughed Lieutenant Palmer.
"He cant, Liz; hes a man," Uhura pointed out.
"Hey! Whats that got to do with it?" Sulu protested.
"Everything!" Both women declared emphatically.
"Because youre a man," Liz explained, "you cant understand why women, throughout the galaxy, find the Vulcans so terribly attractive."
"And," Uhura added, "Ambassador Sarek, being a Vulcan, is terribly attractive, in his own solemn way, if you dont mind my saying so, Mister Spock."
"Therefore, when Mariette saw him, last month, she was so impressed and taken with him that she cannot forget him," Palmer concluded.
"How is that for logic, Mister Spock?" Uhura teased, anticipating some pungent remark. She was not disappointed.
"Very far-fetched, Lieutenant," was Spocks reply.
That question having been thus settled, to the great amusement of the junior officers, the dinner proceeded smoothly to its glorious end. The bouillabaisse was unanimously proclaimed to be delicious; the gratinee very tasty, as for the ratatouille and croquettes which everyone tried, they were simply fabulous.
After two bottles of rosé, plus a bottle of sparkling Merindolkindly offered by their hostesshad been consumed, mostly by the three lieutenants (the Vulcans participation merely consisting in wetting his lips), the mood was decidedly cheerful at their table.
Well fed and pleasantly relaxed, the Enterprise party was debating the important question of a dessert, when a loud commotion drew everyones attention to the door. About a dozen young people clad in black leather from head to foot, came swaggering in, shouldered their way to the bar and ordered drinks in loud voices. The jazz band stopped playing, and the room turned quiet as the diners eyed the newcomers with ill-concealed hostility.
They downed their drinks, ordered some more, laughing and shouting as if they owned the place. One of the lads suddenly jumped onto the stage, grabbed hold of a trumpet, and sounded at full blast the ta-tatata-ta, ta-tatata-ta of The Ride of the Valkyries which his comrades took up in chorus, beating time with their beer tankards.
"Uh-oh!" Sulu muttered, "must be one of those gangs."
"Indubitably," Spock said with distaste, "and apparently ready for mischief. We must leave before the situation gets out of hand, Lieutenants."
"Aye, sir," they replied, all thought of festivity gone and forgotten.
"Stand by!"Spock ordered, and he swiftly punched a code into the small cash register fixed to their table, inserted his credit card in the slot, and it took but a moment for his bank account to be debited of the amount of their bill.
"And now, let us go," he said, standing up. The trouble was that they could not. A brawl had erupted near the entrance and was spreading rapidly. To the sound of the trumpet blasting the wild theme of The Valkyries, punches, blows and kicks were flying freely.
"Too late, Mister Spock," Uhura said over the racket, "looks like we are stuck here, unless you want us to fight our way to that door."
"Yeah! Just say the word, sir," cried Sulu, game for anything.
"Absolutely not!" the Vulcans curt denial damped their ardor. "Can you imagine what the captain would say if we were involved in a brawl?"
They could. The look on their faces left no doubt about that. "No, there must be another way."
And luckily, there was. At that very moment Mariette arrived, red-faced and breathless. "This way, quick! Come this way!" and while the turmoil was building up behind them, she rushed them to a dark recess, pushed a wooden paneling, and a door suddenly gaped open. "Thats a short cut to the back yard," she explained as they hurried along a corridor. "I have called the police, so, better make your getaway before they get here. You dont want to be caught in a police raid, do you?"
"Not if we can help it!" Palmer said with a titter.
"Sure! Thats not for the likes of you, and you traveling incognito," Mariette said while fumbling with the locks of another door. "You will be all right getting out this side, you see."
"We are much obliged, Mariette," said Uhura, "but we dont want you to get into trouble for our sake."
"No trouble at all, dear. It has been an honor having you at the Merry Porpoise, and with a Vulcan gentleman too! There we are." Mariette pushed the creaking door open, peeped round cautiously, and recoiled with a faint shriek.
Two dark figures were standing right in front of her. "Aha!" They sniggered. "Trying to sneak off behind our backs, grandma?" one of them asked.
"A good thing we were on watch. Mariette, sweetheart, that will cost you twice the price. You are fined six bottles to-night," declared the other.
"You rascals! You good-for-nothings!" raged Mariette, undaunted. "You will get nothing from me; you should be ashamed...aah!...let me go!" She struggled in their grip. "You are hurting me; let me go!"
"Ill let you go when...aahhh!" With a sigh, the young man dropped unconscious, neatly dispatched by a faultless Vulcan neckpinch.
"Hey!" His mate drew back hastily. "What are you do--?" He broke off, gasping in pain, his arm caught in Sulus steely grip.
"Mister Spock, if you would, sir?" Sulu suggested.
"Certainly, Mister Sulu," and, slipping a long hand down their opponents neck, the Vulcan obliged, and the youth joined his mate on the ground.
"Now," Spock briskly said, handing Uhura his communicator, "please call the ship for beam up and tell them to stand by. Mister Sulu, will you give me a hand with these young men?"
Mariette who had been staring at the scene in shock recovered her voice at last. "What happened? What have you done? Are they dead?"
"Dead? Surely not." Sulu laughed. "Just out cold, Mariette. They are okay."
After the two limp bodies had been dragged and dumped in the corridor, Spock straightened up and kindly said, "Do not be concerned, Madam. They have only been put to sleep for a while. I suggest you turn them over to the police before they recover consciousness. We have to go now. Thank you for a pleasurable evening."
"Goodbye, Mariette. Thank you for everything!" Sulu called, waving from the door step.
She waved back, suddenly moved to tears by a strange emotion. "Goodbye, my dears; take care of yourselves," she replied and locked the door behind them.
Spock and Sulu joined their companions a moment later, only to be faced with another contretemps.
"Problem, gentlemen," Uhura told them. "We cant beam back to the ship. Some interference in this area, I am told." She handed Spock his communicator which he flicked open at once.
"Spock to Enterprise. Spock to"
"Scott here. Sorry, Mister Spock, but we cant lock on your coordinates. There is a strong interference at the moment. Could you wait a wee bit?"
"No, Mister Scott, it must be now," the first officer firmly replied. "It is imperative that we leave this place immediately."
"Impossible, sir!" the chief engineer sounded flustered. "I am trying to override the system, but there is something interfering with the transporter. Where exactly are you?"
"Right by the harbor, at the foot of some steep hills, Mister Scott. Could that be the reason?"
"Aye, that may account for it. Let me check."
"Please, make haste, Engineer," the Vulcan calmly said.
"It wont take a minute, sir. In trouble, are you?"
"You may say that, Scotty. Please hurry up!" Uhura put in loud and clear.
"You down there too, lassie? Well, well..." A short pause followed which seemed interminable to the waiting foursome, then Scott came back on the comm channel, saying, "Thats what I thought, Mister Spock. There is some kind of screen, some forcefield which cordons off the harbor over an area of five to six kilometers all around. Wonder what they keep in their docks which requires such safeguard as that? But the long and the short is that we canna beam ye from that area. Now, if ye could move some five or six kilometers away from the harbor, there would be nae problem at all."
"Very well, Mister Scott. We shall attempt to do so immediately. Please stand by. We shall contact you again as soon as possible," Spock replied.
"Aye, sir. Will do, good luck!" The chief engineer heartily said.
"Thanks, Scotty. We need it," murmured Lieutenant Palmer.
"And now, Mister Spock, what shall we do?" Uhura came straight to the point. "Shall we hike up these hills, or go back in there and wait for the police?"
"I have neither of these solutions in mind, Lieutenant," Spock replied.
"Thank goodness! Frankly I like the idea of hurting my feet as little as I like the idea of hurting my pride," she declared in jest.
"Better your pride than your feet, Nyota, specially with that kind of footwear," Sulu wryly remarked with an eye on her high heeled sandals, as pretty and uncomfortable looking as Palmers silver shoes were.
"But, seriously, sir, is there another possibility?" the helmsman asked Spock.
"Indeed, Lieutenant. A means of transportation, a vehicle we can use to cover the distance necessary for an effective beaming point."
"A vehicle?" they echoed, nonplused. "Where is it?"
"Unless we call for a taxi, and that means going back in that bedlam," Sulu argued, nodding at the Merry Porpoise, quite rowdy by then.
"You are not very observant tonight," Spock drily remarked, "All the vehicles that we need are right there."
The bemused trio followed the Vulcan past a wooden fence onto a small parking lot where about half a dozen black, chromium-plated machines, gleaming in the moonlight. They stared agape, taking in the sight, then Uhura laughed softly.
"Are those what you have in mind, Mister Spock?"
"Precisely, Miss Uhura."
"Excuse me, sir, but they look like antiques to me!" Sulu was disappointed.
"They are indeed 20th century antiques, but obviously kept in mint condition. If memory serves, these models are Harley Davidson motorcycles which could reach very high speeds at the time, hence their success with the young people of that time...and today, so it would appear. And yes, Lieutenant, these machines will serve our purpose. I consider it only logical that, since these youngsters have caused us much inconvenience, we, in return, take advantage of their vehicles to make our escape."
"Were going to steal them?" asked Sulu in surprise.
"We shall borrow them. We will notify the owners where they may be found upon our return to the Enterprise."
"Quite logical!" Uhura agreed with a grin, "but do you have any idea of how to drive, or steer, or whatever you do with these things?"
"I believe the exact term is ride, Lieutenant, which you do by sitting astride there. This back seat is obviously for a passenger. I have but a scant knowledge of the mechanism, but the important thing is to start the engine, hold the handles there, and ride off. Will you take this machine, Mister Sulu? I shall take this one, and let us start."
Sulu stood eyeing the bike dubiously. "Im not sure I can handle it."
"Mister Sulu, dont tell me you have doubt about your skills! If you can handle the Enterprise, you can certainly handle this motorcycle. This is no time for hesitation," said Spock.
"Okay," Sulu bravely decided, "Lets see how this works..."
The Enterprise officers were examining the machines, prodding here, pulling there, when an indignant voice made them jump and spin round.
"Hey! What do you think you are doing? Leave my bike alone, will you?" He was alone, clad in the inevitable black leather panoply, and doing his best to look aggressive, but his young face and clear grey eyes belied his defiant stance. A mere boy, barely fifteen or sixteen years old.
Spock at once took the matter in hand. "Do these vehicles belong to you, young man?"
"Yes, to me and my pal. Why?" His tone was still hostile.
"There is an emergency, and we have to borrow a couple of these motorcycles for a short period of time. Naturally, they will be duly returned to their owners after use," Spock calmly explained.
The boy relaxed visibly, but still eyed them with suspicion. "How do I know if youll give them back? After all, I dont know who you are, or even why should I trust you?"
"Why indeed?" Spock murmured, his keen gaze searching the young face.
Then, urged by a sudden inspiration, and by the sound of numerous vehicles which only he could hear racing over the hills, he reached into his jacket and produced a small oblong card and held it up for the boy to see. "This, I hope, will set your mind at rest, and justify our request and the urgency of the matter," he said meaningfully.
The lad stared fascinatedly at the bright blue card on which a word stood out in bold silver letters. "Starfleet?" he whispered, "you are from Starfleet?"
"Yes, more precisely, Starfleet Intelligence," Spock said deadpan. "This is an undercover operation which requires total secrecy and which grants its agents, if necessary, the right to commandeer any vehicle available." He put the card safely away lest the youth see it for what it was: a simple Starfleet officer credit card.
"Now, do you understand the situation?" he directed his dark magnetic gaze at the boy who blushed and gulped nervously.
The youth was clearly impressed but not entirely convinced. With an eye on the smart attire of the women, he said, "Yes, yes I do, but you look funny for secret agents."
Uhura reacted like a pro. "And what did you imagine, young man? she chimed in, striking a Mata Hari pose. "That wed be wearing trench coats, soft hats and dark glasses, like they show in old spy movies? Our clothing is part of the trade, see? Dont you know that secret agents travel incognito?" The quizzical glance that she stole at the Vulcan was acknowledged with the faintest quiver of an eyebrow.
"Sorry, Maam. I...I did not know. I have never met secret agents before," the lad stammered, now fully convinced and passably excited. "Its okay... I mean you can take my Harley and this one, too. My pal wont mind. But, are you sure we will get them back in good shape?"
"You have my word," Spock solemnly promised, "and also my thanks on behalf of Starfleet for your cooperation. All we need to know, now, is how to operate your motorcycles."
"Oh, its easy...look, Ill show you."
And indeed it took but a minute for the starship experts to master the simple mechanism of a 20th century machinery. The lad went out of his way to help the Starfleet agents and even entrusted them with the protective helmets, equipped with radio, which every biker was bound to wear.
They were soon all set to go, the two men sitting astride the bikes, testing the engines, when Sulu asked curiously. "You never told us your name. What gang do you belong to? The Rockets, the Angels, or..."
"I am a Valkyrie, sir," he was proudly told. "And my name, my code name for the gang is Siegfried."
"A male Valkyrie? Fascinating!"
The comment, murmured by Spock, was only heard by Uhura who, stifling a giggle, asked the boy, "And your real name? Siegfried is quite appropriate for a Valkyrie, I am sure, but we would like to know the name of our assistant."
"Indeed," Spock put in, "We need to know to whom we must return these motorcycles, you understand."
The young man hesitated visibly, then replied, "Its Tim...Tim Saunders."
"Tim Saunders?" Spock repeated, "a son of Governor Jeremy Saunders?"
"Aye, sir. But, please, dont tell my Dad...I mean, he does not know about...about all this," he finished lamely.
Tim fidgeted under the Vulcans penetrating gaze.
"Well," Spock went on, "since you are helping us, I shall not tell your father that his son is a member of a gang, but I strongly recommend that you do, and the sooner the better. You must not keep this kind of guilty secret from your parents. Now, Lieutenant," he addressed Uhura, "if you would take a seat, it is time for us to leave."
And it was, indeed. Any minute and the harbor would be crawling with police.
But Uhura, seeing the boy looking forlorn, all by himself, went to him and hugged him warmly. "Hes right, you know," she whispered. "Youll feel much better if you come clean to your dad. Good bye, Tim. Thank you; we wont forget you. And my name is Uhura," she added, brushing his cheek with her lips. Then, hitching up her long skirt, she climbed up to the pillion seat behind Spock, and took the helmet he handed her.
"Do I have to put that on?"she wondered.
"Certainly, Lieutenant. That is the law, of course. Besides, we dont know what we may run into."
"Can you see to it that we dont run into anything?"
"I shall do my utmost. Ready to go, Mister Sulu?"
"Aye, sir, as ready as we shall ever be," Sulu replied with a grin at his fair passenger.
"Let us go, then. Live long and prosper, Tim Saunders," Spock intoned.
The Vulcan was about to slip on his black helmet when the boy suddenly called, "Wait! Wait, sir! You didnt say where or when youd return the bikes."
"I shall leave a message on your comm device some time tomorrow telling you where and when. A coded message which will be flagged for your eyes only."
"Okay, thanks. But, how shall I know its from you? Whats your name?"
Spock cocked an eyebrow and replied with the barest twinkle in the depth of his eyes: "Code name: Votan. Look for it on your comm screen."
A second later, the powerful Harley Davidson engines roared to life before quieting to a steady throb, and the helmeted figures of the Starfleet agents, after waving farewell to their accomplice, dashed through the back gate, even as the Meridolian police vans screeched to a halt in front of the Merry Porpoise.
By the time the house had been encircled, and the gang rounded up and driven away, young Tim Saunders, alias Siegfried, had slipped safely away in the dark, still dazed by his unexpected encounter with Starfleet Intelligence. The more he thought about his adventure, the more he wondered if it was not a dream. This was far more exciting than any prank he and his pals had ever concocted! This was the real thing, this was life!
Unbelievable! He, Tim Saunders had actually helped Starfleet operatives in a secret mission. He had perhaps even saved their lives? Wow!!
The two Harley Davidson motorcycles were racing along the steep, bumpy road winding up the hill, and their drivers were doing their best to keep their balance and hold their vehicles in the middle of the road. Tightly gripping the handles of his machine, the Vulcan stared ahead through his visor, looking for possible obstacles. "Miss Uhura?" he called. "Are you comfortable? The road seems to be very uneven. Hold on tightly."
"I am fine, thank you, and dont worry, Ill hold on!" she replied, and Spock suddenly felt her arms tighten their embrace around his lean body. "You dont mind, do you? I feel safer this way." There was a hint of teasing in her voice which came loud and clear through the noise and the muffling of their helmets.
Spock took a deep breath and replied at his most Vulcan. "Under these exceptional circumstances, Lieutenant, I believe it is the logical thing to do."
"Thank you, Mister Spock," she sweetly replied.
Some more bumps later, Spock called again. "Are you still with us, Mister Sulu?"
"Aye, Mister Spock, right beside you. But I never thought it would be so rough! Its worst than riding out a level seven ion storm."
"Indeed. I think this will prove to be a memorable experience, Lieutenant."
"I think its fun!" Uhuras voice came through, "I have the impression of riding a wild horse, like a Valkyrie. But, after all, we are the Valkyries!" And she began to sing at the top of her voice the la-lalalal-la la-lalala-la, soon taken up by Palmer and Sulu in the back ground.
Spocks eyebrows flew up unnoticed under his visor. This was getting somewhat out of hand. Perhaps the wines consumed at dinner had produced an emotional reaction to a succession of unexpected events could be the cause of this excitement. Who could tell with Humans? They were drawing near the top of the cliff. He peered at the small dashboard and checked the distance. They had so far covered about half the distance that they were supposed to, according to Mister Scott.
"Mister Sulu, Mister Sulu!" the Vulcans voice finally drowned the Valkyrie chorus.
Silence returned. "Aye, sir. Sorry!"
"We still have at least three kilometers to ride. Let us increase our velocity."
"Aye, sir....oh, and Mister Spock!" There was alarm in Sulus voice. "Palmer has just seen some headlights, behind us. Do you think we are being followed?"
"Possibly. Will you check, Lieutenants Uhura, Palmer?" Spock grimly ordered.
Both women, still clinging to their riding partners, looked round to see what was trailing them through the night. Some other Valkyries, perhaps?
"Yes! I see them, now," cried Uhura, "two, nothree cars with flashing lights. Look like police cars, Mister Spock, about one kilometer behind us and closing!"
Spock took a deep breath. "Mister Sulu, on no account are we to be caught riding these vehicles. I recommend full speed ahead. Lets see what these machines can do."
"Aye, sir. Warp speed ahead!"Sulu cried cheerfully, and the chase then really began.
The Harleys were going full tilt, bouncing over the rough track stretching like a white ribbon across the plateau. The Starfleet officers, leaning over their machines, were drawing all the power that the engines could give. Acutely aware of their trackers, they rode side by side, their passengers hanging onto them for dear life, evening dresses and wraps billowing and flapping like banners in the wind. The sight they presented in the moonlight was wild enough to make any genuine Valkyrie turn green with envy.
The police cars, outrun for an instant by the sudden acceleration of their quarries, had gathered speed and were streaking after them in hot pursuit. A few breathless moments went by, then Spock calmly told Uhura, "Lieutenant, we must have passed the limits of the forcefield now. My communicator is in my belt, on my ride side. Take it and try to raise the ship."
Uhura complied. By a feat of balanced skill, she managed to hold on to Spock with one hand, slip her other hand under his tunicif the girls could see me!retrieve the communicator, flick it open, push her helmet visor up and finally call: "Enterprise! Come in, Enterprise!"
The welcome voice of Engineer Scott was heard at last. "That you, lassie? Just a momentlet me check...three humans and one Vulcan, they must be somewhere..."
"For Heavens sake, Scotty," she urged, "hurry up! Believe it or not, but we have the local police on our heels!"
"The police? What in the universe have you been up to?"
"You will never believe it!" she said with a nervous laugh.
Meantime, Spock, thanks to his night vision, had noticed a clump of trees standing in the distance which partly obscured a sharp bend of the trail. This was an opportunity that they should not miss.
"Mister Sulu," he warned the helmsman, "on my mark , after the next bend, sharp right behind those trees."
The Vulcan checked behind him, glancing at the mirror. The police cars were still some 400 meters away. They could take the risk. The Harley Davidsons tore around the bend. "Now!" shouted Spock, and in a flash, the bikes jumped from the trail, bumped over rocks, and hid amongst the trees.
A few seconds later, they saw their pursuers zip past and disappear in the night. They all breathed a sigh of relief.
"Whew! That was close," came Sulus voice.
But the Vulcan was already calling the ship. "Enterprise! Spock here. Have you locked on our coordinates, Mister Scott?"
"Aye, sir. We can beam you right away. Ready when you are."
"We are more than ready, Engineer, but we need to have our vehicles beamed up, too. So will you please arrange to beam us to the shuttle bay?"
"What? Do you know what you are asking, man?"
"I do, Mister Scott, and I know it requires some delicate readjustments. But I cannot leave them here to fall into the hands of the police. I gave my word to send them back in perfect shape to their owners. I am sure that this is child's play for an engineer of your caliber."
Nothing like a few well-chosen words to smooth out ruffled feathers.
"Okay, Mister Spock, Ill see what I can do," Scotty was heard to grumble, "but I need some time."
"I understand, Mister Scott. However our situation being precarious, to say the least, I would recommend alacrity. Spock out."
"Do you know how long it will take?"asked Lieutenant Palmer who had jumped down from her bike to stretch her legs.
"I estimate eleven point four minutes, Lieutenant. Mister Scott knows our predicament, therefore he will do his utmost. But we must remain watchful, the Merindolian police may not give us up so easily.
And, sure enough, a few minutes later, some bright headlights heralded the return of the police squad who, having drawn a blank down the road, were retracing their steps and flashing search lights right and left.
"Damn!" Sulu muttered under his breath, "you were right, Mister Spock. They wont give up. What do we do now?"
"For the moment, just wait and see," Spock quietly told them, "but let us be prepared for all eventualities."
They donned their helmets again, climbed back on their Harleys and waited tensed and silent, quasi-invisible in the shadows of the trees. The cars reduced speed, to finally stop just opposite their shelter.
The two women caught their breath and even Sulu could feel the thumping of his heart in his chest. Search lights were swept around the area then focused on the copse.
"Stand by, Mister Sulu," Spock murmured. "We may have to go fast, very fast."
They watched as several dark figures alighted from the vehicles, got together to discuss on the road, then they heard a voice say loudly: "Let us have a look at this thicket over there. You never know."
"Ready, Mister Sulu?"
"Let them reach the first trees, then...steady...steady...now!"
And suddenly, to the police officers amazement, a couple of black roaring monsters broke out of the wood, jumped onto the trail, and had escaped before they even knew it. By the time they had scrambled back on board their cars and got a move on, their quarry was far away.
"Damn, damn and damn!"cursed the chief as they gave the chase again. "Never seen anything like it! Wonder whats got into those kids. Damn! We may lose them yet."
"No, sir, no! Look!" one of his men crowed, pointing, "they have taken the wrong turn; they are heading straight to the cliffs. Dead end, sir! Well get them for sure now; there is no escape."
By now, the Enterprise four had already realized that they had indeed taken the wrong turn. The track they were following led straight to the sea...and the police cars were gaining ground. Slowing down, Spock and Sulu reached the end of the trail and halted. Beyond, there was nothing but the sky already hued with the colors of dawn, and the relentless sound of the ocean sending its waves crashing against the foot of the cliff.
Cautiously, Spock moved his Harley onto the very edge and put a foot down. He and his passenger peered down. A sheer drop of 250, perhaps 300 meters. It was difficult to be precise in the dim light. Seabirds, disturbed in their rest, were flying and screeching about their heads. A beautiful but dangerous sight.
Uhura shuddered and turned her head away. She did not care much for heights. She raised the visor of her helmet and called the ship once again. About ten minutes had elapsed since the last contact, perhaps Mister Scott was now able to beam them up, Vulcan, Humans, motorbikes and all. But the answer was: "No, not yet, lassie, just give me a few more minutes, will you?"
She sighed and looked at the police cars closing in slowly, like a pack of hounds making for their preys. Too bad to have to end their glorious ride like this! In the hands of the police! "What can we do, Mister Spock?" she asked the silent man sitting in front of her.
"Yes, sir? Your orders, sir?"added Sulu who had brought his machine alongside. Clearly, they expected the Vulcan to produce another rabbit out of his hat.
Spock, impenetrable behind his black visor, looked up at the rosy sky, then back at their trackers who had stopped and formed a circle some distance away. "We must give Mister Scott the time he needs for his work," he said at last, "just a few more minutes should suffice. The police believe that they hold us at bay. They believe we cannot go anywhere, short of jumping into the sea. We can logically assume that they will presently order us to surrender quietly, without fuss." He paused, looked at the horizon which had brightened perceptibly. "The sun is about to rise, Lieutenants. Let us take advantage of the fact. Let us play for time."
"I am all for it, Mister Spock! exclaimed Sulu. "What about evasive maneuvers?"
"Precisely what I had in mind," Spock approved. "Miss Uhura, keep in touch with the ship all the time. And now, Mister Sulu, let us start the game."
"Hold tight, Liz!" Sulu cried. "Here we go!"
The engines growled ominously, then, with a roar, the Harley Davidsons leaped forward and dashed toward the line of police who backed hastily. The bikes swerved around in a screech of brakes, and raced back to stop on the cliff edge, and again the Enterprise officers faced their pursuers.
The police chief cleared his throat, then spoke through the megaphone, his voice booming. "All right, boys, all right! The game is up. Easy now. You have led us a merry dance, but it is over now. Come, get off your bikes!"
No reply, except the purr of the Harleys, braced to spring again.
"Funny, chief," remarked one man." They dont react like that usually. I mean, no insults, no catcalls. They just watch us from behind those visors. And have you seen these girls they have got with them. Wonder where they picked them up..They dont look like the usual lot, do they?"
"No, I wonder," the chief hesitated, then raised his megaphone again. "Thats enough, boys. Come on; we havent got all night...oh, damn! Here they go again!"
The helmeted figures on their hikes were now capering back and forth along the cliff as if to mock the helpless men. "Sir, What if I fire a shot at their tires? Thatll stop them for sure."
"No, too risky. They are riding much too close to that cliff. The last thing I want is an accident. For the last time, you two!" the chief shouted, "give yourselves up. You dont have a chance."
After another pause, the Harleys came back again, full tilt, circled tightly in front of the police, then, gathering momentum, charged head on in the direction of the sea.
"No!" cried the police chief, "No, dont do that! Wait!...oh my God!"
He and his men, blinded by a sudden blaze of light, put up their hands against the glare of the sun, now rising from the sea. When they could see again, they ran up to the edge, looked around, looked everywhere. Nothing but the seabirds. They looked down at the breakers splashing against the rocks. No trace of the Valkyries and their Harley Davidsons.
"Oh, my God!" moaned the chief, white as a sheet. "They have thrown themselves into the ocean. Of all the crazy things! What shall I tell the governor?"
"Not your fault, Chief; you gave them enough warning!"
"Hey, dont you think there was something funny with the sunrise this morning? I have never seen it so bright, really dazzling," remarked the brightest officer on the squad.
"Who is interested in sunrise?" snapped the chief. "Four people have just committed suicide in front of us, and all you do is prattle about sunrises! Come on, everyone. We are going home."
"Good God!"exclaimed a bemused chief engineer thirty-five thousand kilometers above the police chief, staring at the apparitions sparkling into being in the middle of the shuttle bay. "What in the world is that?"
The Harley Davidsons, still in full flight, scudded around the deck to finally come to a stop nose to nose with the Galileo shuttle. Mister Scott, standing with arms akimbo, watched the adventurers dismount from their machinery and demanded. "What is all this?"
"These, Mister Scott," said Spock, calmly removing his helmet, "are two original Harley Davidson motorcycles from the 20th century."
"My word, Mister Spock, you are damn right!"replied Scotty eyeing the bikes with excitement. "These are real beauties, Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic, if I am nae mistaken. I"ll have to check in my papers."
"Why, Scotty! I didnt know you were into antiques," Sulu said, laughing.
"Any engineer worth his salt has heard of these vehicles. They are legends, you know. But they seem to have had a rough time, lately. Look at those scratches and bumps. A shame!"
"Scotty, thats nothing compared to what I have!" said Uhura "I feel like I am bruised all over."
"Same with me!" Palmer declared, "and to tell the truth, I was never more scared in my life. Those last seconds...uh!" She shuddered. "I thought we would never make it."
"But we did, Lieutenant, thanks to Mister Scott, here," said Spock. "That was perfect timing, Engineer. Now, I promised to send these motorcycles back to their owners as soon as possible, and in perfect shape. As you see, they have suffered from the ride, so would you please employ some of your renowned expertise and perform the necessary cleaning and repairs?"
"Dont worry Mister Spock. Itll be a pleasure. The way we will refurbish these bairns, theyll be as good as new. But what exactly happened? You had the police after you? What have you been up to?"
"Yes, that is exactly what I would like to know," said a new voice.
They turned around to see Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy, still in evening clothes, emerge from the corridor.
"Whats all this I hear that you had to be beamed up in an emergency, that you were chased by the local police, and I dont know what else. I thought that you and Uhura were going to the Opera, Mister Spock. What have you been doing all night?" Kirk looked much amused.
"Why, Captain! Weve been following your advice," Uhura primly said. "Weve had a good time. But, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I am dead tired beat and ready for bed. See you later." And with a wave of her hand, she went to the door to the corridor. She turned back and smiled. "Thank you, Mister Spock, that was a wonderful night!"
Hikaru Sulu and Liz Palmer lost no time in excusing themselves also, claiming that they could hardly stay awake. So there was only the Vulcan left to satisfy the curiosity of his friends.
"Well, Mister Spock, we are waiting," Kirk said, grinning. "Wont you tell us what happened?"
"It is a long story, Captain. I am sure that Lieutenants Uhura, Sulu and Palmer will be only too happy to describe everything in detail tomorrow. Now, if you will excuse me, I shall also retire to my quarters to meditate."
And that was all that the captain, the doctor and the chief engineer could obtain that early morning.
It was evening. Tim Saunders was sitting in his room at the governors residence, in front of his comm screen, waiting for a secret message as he had done practically all day. He was getting more and more anxious, especially since he had overheard his father mention some incident with a gang at the harbor, followed by a terrible accident up on the cliffs.
Two couples on motorcycles had apparently fallen off the cliff into the ocean, and, so far, nothing had been recovered by the divers of the rescue squad. Two couples...that could only be the secret agents...Dear God! What am I going to do? Tell Father? They were Starfleet, surely Starfleet had to know. The boy was worrying to death when a signal announced an incoming message on his computer. With trembling hands, he punched in his code, and finally the mysterious message appeared on the screen: "Votan to Siegfried. Mission accomplished. Gratitude for your assistance. Your faithful steeds have served well. They are awaiting you in the park, beyond the lily pond. Farewell."
Two minutes later, Tim was running through the garden of the Residence, looking through the shrubberies and dark places where they might be hidden. Suddenly, he heard a curious tingling sound, behind him and turned in time to see the two Harleys materialize before him, more beautiful, and glamourous than they had ever been.
Thirty-five thousand kilometers above, on the United Star Ship Enterprise, an exact duplicate of his beloved bike was being fabricated from the blue prints that Mister Scott had taken on his personnal computer. The engineer had the firm intention to test the Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic at the earliest occasion.
At about the same time, in the little office of the Merry Porpoise, a very touched and happy lady was reading for the umpteenth time, the pretty card which had been joined to the large bouquet of flowers and the large box of chocolates which now sat on her desk.
The card read: "With the compliments of the Vulcan gentleman and his party"
"Such classy and nice people," she murmured, helping herself to yet another chocolate.
Captain James T. Kirk sat in his command chair and looked contentedly around the bridge. It felt good to be back where he belonged. Shore-leaves were all very well and good, but there was no place like home, and the Enterprise was home and family to him.
The bridge crew sat at their stations, preparing for imminent departure, for the Enterprise was scheduled to break out of orbit within fifteen minutes. Chief Engineer Scott had just sent word that his department was in the starting blocks and ready to go. The chief communication officer sat poised on the edge of her chair, earphone poking out of the mass of her dark hair, her attention focused on the Merindol portmaster frequencies.
When Kirk met her eye, she smiled. He smiled back, with a wink. The smile grew into a grin as the same thought crossed their minds. Together, they looked in the direction of the library computer science station where the first officer sat in silent communion with the ship computer. Kirk chuckled and turned back again, shaking his head. He still could not get over it, nor did the crew, to judge by the wave of disbelief and excitement which the senior officers escapade had aroused. Some of them had even had to go down to the shuttle bay to make sure that this unbelievable story was not just a hoax. Unbelievable indeed! Spock, of all people!
These reflections were interrupted by Uhura, calling his attention. "Captain! A call for you from Merindol, from the Residence, sir."
"On screen, Lieutenant."
All eyes turned to the forward screen where the smiling face of Governor Saunders appeared. "Captain Kirk," he said formally.
"Governor Saunders," Kirk replied likewise.
"Well, Jim, before you leave our shores, I have some news which might be of some interest to you and some of your officers. Naturally, as soon as I received your message, I had the searches along the coast dropped. I have just had in my office the chief police officer concerned. You can imagine how relieved he was, poor guy!"
"I am sorry about that," Kirk said apologetically. "He must be mad at us."
"Well, he was a bit miffed at first. But now that he fully realizes the people whom he gave the chase to be no less than the first officer, the chief and second communications officers and the chief helmsman of the Enterprise, he is rather pleased with himself. Thats something to tell home about! He and his force managed to give Starfleets finest a run for the money."
Someone was heard choking a suppressed laughter by the helm/navigation console.
"Seems to me that the culprits are within hearing range," Saunders remarked good-humoredly.
"Yes, they are right here. Uhura, please," Kirk said. "Expand the viewing area for the governors comm screen.
Saunders surveyed the bridge now offered to his eyes and said, "You certainly have brought some excitement to our little world, gentlemen and lady! But now, let me tell you the best news. By some mysterious miracle performed by some Wagnerian deity, the two missing motorcycles have turned up, of all places, right in my gardens. Yes, Jim, Tim has told us the whole story. He is very repentant, very excited, and quite determined to do what I wanted him to do all along: join Starfleet. He already applied for Starfleet Academy. Laura and I are delighted!"
"This is wonderful, Jerry. Congratulations!" Kirk said heartily.
"Thank you, Jim, but I think that some congratulations should go to your...ah...secret agents. They played a large part in his decision. So, you see, all is well that ends well. Incidently, Tim wants to specialize in Starfleet Intelligence!" The bridge crew burst out laughing. "Yes, I know! Well, we shall see about that. But I wont keep you any longer, Jim. Goodbye! Until next time... Warp Speed!" And the happy governor of Merindol disppeared from view.
"Yes, all is well that ends well, even The Ride of the Valkyries, dont you agree, Mister Spock?"
"I do indeed, Captain, better than could be expected," Spock quietly replied.
"Quite right, Spock. Mister Sulu, take her out! Warp Factor Two."
"Warp Factor Two. Aye, sir," intoned the helmsman, beaming from ear to ear.
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