A dark pall had settled over the Enterprise, and Kirk halfway expected a dirge to play over the PA system. He wished he knew the Controller of Moods: as Captain, he’d demote the jerk and have him emptying slop buckets out the airlocks.
The lightheartedness from the previous week evaporated. Although the entire ship seemed entertained by Kirk’s practical joke on Spock, the humor had quickly circled the drain and dropped straight to Perdition. Just when he thought he’d have to break out the ancient cat o’ nine tails and beat everyone into a better temper, the shipwide mood shifted again.
A buzz, an increasing tension, even, dare he say? An excitement—and dammit, Kirk had no idea what was going on! He started wishing for a message from Starfleet, directing him to a nice little war or hostage negotiation.
Finally, it had reached the point where nobody would look him in the eye. Gone were the daily greetings, the how-are-yous, the good-to-see-yous. Conversations would stop when Kirk entered the room.
Kirk looked around the bridge, to make sure his voice carried to every person. Oh, they all knew he was speaking, all right. “Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary lately?”
“Why, no, Sir. Background radiation readings are typical for this sector, there are no unidentified ships or space debris nearby, all ship functions are reporting normal. Fuel consumption is economical, emergency systems are on standby. I find nothing untoward or worthy of tactical alert. All personnel are present or accounted for.”
Kirk wiped a weary hand over his face. “Yes, well…You have the bridge, Mr Spock. I’m going off duty now.”
Spock raised a single eyebrow. Kirk could feel the aggravation creep over his features.
“Are you feeling unwell, Sir?”
“Nah, just tired of all the excitement around here.”
“Do you wish to cancel our chess game tonight?” Okay, maybe there was a tiny amount of concern in Spock’s voice. Or maybe Kirk just wanted to hear even a tiny amount of concern.
He waved his hand haphazardly. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be there as usual.” And he walked to the turbolift.
Spock slowly turned and caught the eye of each individual on the bridge, and gave a nearly imperceptible nod.
# # #
Twenty-hundred hours, Main Recreation Room, USS Enterprise. Kirk enters, and glances over at the table where Spock is usually waiting. No Spock. No chess set.
The main lighting to the room is cut.
A drumroll sounds.
Colored lights criss-cross the ceiling. A spotlight illuminates one corner and then widens to cover the farthest wall, as a line of security redshirts dances from left to right with interlinked arms. Spotlights shine on the two sidewalls of the room, as the Alpha bridge crewmembers each take a few running steps, then jump to slide on the floor. Each one poses as Kirk did in front of Spock, one week ago.
Uhura’s voice purrs throughout the room: “Talk trashy to us, Captain, Honey!”
The room darkened once again, and a single spot shone in the center. A bowed head raised, and Spock stared at Kirk.
Oh, God, here we go again with the staring contest!
The room was absolutely silent.
Now, some people say that Spock actually smiled. Others present deny that vehemently. Vulcans don’t smile.
Maybe it was just the slight crinkle in the corner of Spock’s eye.
“I believe the word is touché, Captain.”
The spot was killed, the room lights were restored, and the entire ship was filled with thunderous applause.
Nobody applauded louder, or laughed longer than Kirk himself. He took a bow, and then waved his arm in Spock’s direction. The applause was amplified with hooting, whistling, and foot stomping.
Spock actually clicked his heels together, and bowed deeply from the waist.
After all the tears were wiped, hands were shaken, shoulders slapped, the tables were pushed back to their usual places, and order was restored. The chess board was set up, and Kirk and Spock settled down to their usual game.
Stories will be told and retold throughout history, and legends will be born and die. Yet people will always hear of the two “Gotchas” on the USS Enterprise, and after the beers and bottles have been passed around, those two tales will be told again and again…and yet again.