James Kirk acknowledged the message from the Engineering and bounced up from his seat.
‘Bones and Spock: with me. Sulu, you have the conn.’
Jim walked briskly to the turbolift without looking back to see if his orders were followed. He heard Sulu’s sharp “aye aye” from the helm console, where the helmsmen were constantly monitoring the ship’s functions and its surroundings. Spock and Bones were right at Jim’s heels, the former quiet, the latter complaining loudly.
‘I’m just a country doctor, Jim! I haven’t ever even heard of this species, and you want me to heal one of them? I wouldn’t even know where to start! How am I-’
Jim cut his ranting short. ‘Bones, your patient cannot survive the trip to the nearest Starbase. It has to be treated immediately.’
‘Precisely my point!’ Bones nearly shouted, staring hard at Jim and barely controlling himself. ‘She or he, whichever it is, has to be treated, which is something I cannot do! Not without studying it first, and there’s no time for that!’
’What did the ship computer have on the species?’ Jim asked right when the elevator slowed to a halt, and they all stepped out to the corridor leading to the transporter room. To the doctor’s surprise Spock answered that, before he, Bones, would pop a major artery from sheer frustration.
‘Only two literature references are available, Captain, dated over a hundred years ago. Both are second-hand observations and only state that the species resembles humans in stature and has a reptilian skin.’
They arrived to the transportation room. Bones had now targeted Spock and was venting his frustration at the stoic Vulcan. ‘Reptilian?’ Bones spat, ‘you’ll need a veterinarian for this!’
Jim took one quick look at the unmoving heap on the transporter pad. The creature looked humanoid. It was clad in pseudoleather and protective armor, and had a formidable-looking rifle strapped to its back. No, he had been wrong. The creature did move, very slightly, as if it tried to breathe. Bones saw it too. He motioned at the two security team members.
‘Quick! Take him to the sickbay!’
Spock turned to look at Jim. The captain smiled: he had been expecting Spock to ask for a permission to assist the doctor and to learn all he could about this new species. Jim didn’t wait for Spock’s question. ‘Maybe you should assist Bones, Spock,’ he said softly. He’d be sorry to lose Spock from the bridge, even if it was only for a few days. Spock nodded and turned to leave. Jim realized he didn’t even know what their new patient was called, so he shouted to Spock’s retreating back: ‘Spock! What did you say this species was called again?’
Spock turned. ‘They are known as the Drell.’
Jim had barely sat back down to his seat on the Bridge when Bones contacted him through the communicator system.
‘He’s stable, as far as I can tell. His life signs are steady, but I have no idea if they’re normal or not. Jim, really, I’m just guessing here! I could as easily kill him as I could cure him!’
‘Do what you can, Bones,’ Jim said with what he hoped was a reassuring tone of voice. ‘Have Spock dig up all the possible information on the Drell while you tend to the patient. Contact me if there are any changes.’
‘Affirmative, Captain,’ said Spock’s voice from the comm. Bones closed the connection without further comments. Jim slouched lazily on his seat. A Drell… They had transported the creature from a Starfleet shuttle, which had been sent to investigate wreckage at the border of the known galaxy. The scientists had tied the creature to a stretcher and called the Starfleet for assistance, since their own vessel, orbiting the wreckage from a safe distance, had only very primitive medical facilities. As usually seemed to be the case with any weird incident, the USS Enterprise was the closest vessel. The scientists had been only too relieved to get rid of their patient and to return back to their own duties.
Jim had to admit that this was more interesting than flying around and hoping to find something, which was what space exploration was all about. He was curious about the creature, and the reptilian skin fascinated him. The Drell did not look like an animalistic savage like the Gorn, and its armor had been well crafted. Its rifle had been taken to the Engineering for further analysis, but Jim expected it to be technically very advanced.
He just hoped Spock would return to the Bridge soon. He had had half a mind to confess his feelings soon, but had always found an excuse to delay the inevitable. James Kirk was not a patient man, he would not wait for the rest of his life for Spock to make a move – he might as well wait for the end of the world, with the exception that the end of the world would come, eventually. He’d tell Spock after this Drell-thing was over. Yes, that would work. Jim nodded to himself.
He’d tell Spock as soon as the Drell had left the ship.
‘Doctor!’ Spock said sharply. ‘I received additional data from the scientists at Vulcan Science Academy. I believe this information will assist you.’
Bones dragged himself over to the workstation, where the Vulcan can been working a day and a night now, trying to find more information about the Drell. The patient’s vital signs had increased slightly during the last five hours, and Bones felt angry and frustrated for not knowing what it meant.
‘The only thing that can assist me now is a long vacation,’ Bones grumbled. He had been lashing out at Spock and the nurses, like he always did when feeling helpless.
‘Here,’ said Spock and handed a blue memory chip to Bones. ‘I will send a summary of the data to the Captain as well. The data in its entirety has been sent to the Starfleet for a scientific evaluation, after which it will be added to the database of all Starfleet vessels as per protocol.’
McCoy barked his thanks, but only after Spock had already left the sickbay. It was easy for the hobgoblin to speak – he wasn’t responsible for the Drell male’s life! It was a male, Bones now knew. He had found several wounds on the Drell’s skin, but nothing the dermal regenerator couldn’t handle. There didn’t seem to be any internal damage, so why was the male still unconscious?
Bones inserted the data chip to the computer, asked it to read the data out loud and wandered over his patient. The Drell was now the only one in the sickbay. Bones stood next to the medical bed and listened as the metallic voice of the computer began to explain.
The Drell originate from a desert planet Rakhana, which has now been abandoned due to unknown reasons. The Drell resemble humanoids by anatomy and basic endocrinology. The color of their reptilian skin is known to vary from green to blue, and is known to excrete a mildly venomous substance, which causes hallucinations in several species, including humanoids and vulcanoids, if digested. Specific composition of the venom is unknown due to unavailability of research material.
Bones started. A venomous skin? He’d have to put a warning by the Drell’s bedside.
The skeletal muscle tissue of the Drell is 0,54 % denser than that of Vulcans, the computer went on. Their respiratory system requires minimal air humidity to maintain the oxygen balance. Moisture damages their lungs and may cause death by choking. Their history is mostly unknown…
‘Computer, stop playback!’ Bones shouted and ran towards the intercom on the sickbay wall. He pressed fervently at the call button, as if that would make the engineers and med team technicians react to it faster. When a junior crewmember finally answered Bones barked a list of sharp commands at him.
At the same exact moment Spock walked in to the sickbay. ‘The Drell must be isolated immediately,’ he said. Bones, despite is tiredness, felt his face contort to a victorious grin. He had beaten Spock! He tried to look bored.
‘Yes, to prevent damage to his lungs,’ he said smugly, trying to sound as if he was stating the obvious. The junior crewman was repeating McCoy’s name over the intercom, so Bones had to turn his attention back to his previous conversation.
‘Do you need two chambers prepared, sir?’ the crewman asked uncertainly.
‘What? No! Just one, and be quick about it!’
‘The chamber is ready, Sir, as per Commander Spock’s earlier orders. Is the patient ready for transfer?’
Bones felt his cheeks flushing. He barked his approval, turned the connection off and stared hard at Spock.
‘You’re running the sickbay now? The last time I checked I was the CMO here!’ He knew he was lashing out without a reason again, but damnit, it was infuriating how that bloody pointy-eared spook was always ahead of him!
‘I am aware of your station aboard the ship, Doctor.’
‘Then how about you let me give the orders concerning my patients? And now, if you excuse me, I have one to tend to,’ Bones huffed and greeted the nurses who had just appeared. Spock stood still and watched intently as the Drell was gently lifted from the medical bed, placed on the antigrav stretcher, covered with blankets and pushed away.
Spock was left alone in the sickbay. He thought of the information he had just acquired, and of the Drell. He found the species extremely fascinating, and was looking forward to studying all he could once the male would regain consciousness. The Drell were from a desert planet, like himself. They were also deeply religious, like were many Vulcans. The Drell had eidetic memory, again like the Vulcans. They were stronger than humanoids and believed the soul was separate from the body, just like Vulcans were stronger than humans and could transfer their katra at the time of their death.
Spock’s feet were moving on their own accord as he kept thinking about the similarities. The young Drell were apparently abandoning the ways of the old, or so the data from the VSA had said. The same was true to Vulcan, were Surak’s teachings were more frequently considered old-fashioned. The Drell lived solitary lives, Spocks thought as he turned around a corner and failed to return a salute from a lab tech. The Drell even had a nictating membrane in their eyes, just like Vulcans! What had their home world been like? What had turned it inhabitable and forced the Drell to flee? What gods did they worship?
Spock became aware of someone staring at him. He raised his eyes and met those of McCoy’s. He had arrived at the isolation area.
‘I… I wished to assure the chamber has been prepared as per your requirements,’ Spock explained vaguely while his eyes darted at the Drell. The man was in a transparent tent, hooked to several med scanners, while the doctor and then nurses stood outside and monitored the scanner readings. The Drell had a vibrantly green skin, with large closed eyes under a ridge over his brow. He had pink lips. He was about as tall as Spock, but more muscular. He had no hair, but there were long green and black scales over his head. His cheeks and his neck were of a brownish hue, and he had no ears that Spock could see.
Bones looked at the Drell, and then turned his gaze back at Spock. He sighed.
‘He’s breathing more deeply now, and his oxygen levels are rising. I reckon he’ll come to in a few hours. Send my thanks to the Academy, will you?’
Spock nodded. From what he could see, the man had well developed pectorals and strong shoulders. The rest was covered in blankets. Spock forced his eyes to look away from the slowly rising and declining chest of the Drell.
‘Oh, and Spock… thanks,’ McCoy said finally. This time Spock was prepared: he had learned how much humans needed to verbally express gratitude even when one did only what was expected. He had also learned the customary reply in such situations.
‘You are welcome,’ Spock said automatically.
Spock turned and left. Bones remained still, his mouth gaping open. You are welcome? Bones shook his head briskly, turned towards his patient and forgot all about Spock.
Jim took a hearty bite of his sandwich and munched on it happily. He had had a long morning reviewing weekly reports, sitting in technical and administrative meetings and generally doing all that boring stuff they never talk to you in the Academy. At lunch time he had finally stolen a bit of time for himself, and was now sitting in the mess hall.
Bones slumped on the opposite chair and placed his light lunch on the table.
‘What’s up?’ the doctor asked, while eyeing at Jim’s mayonnaise-filled sandwich disapprovingly.
‘Oh, you know. Nothing much. How’s the … the… patient of yours doing?’
‘The Drell? Something about him is just weird, Jim. His vitals are okay, he breathes evenly, his body temperature is steady, his EEG and EKG appear normal, but he just doesn’t wake up! It’s as if… as if something was keeping him asleep.’
‘Some disease, you mean?’
Bones was quiet, stared at the ceiling and apparently didn’t even hear what Jim had said. Jim saw McCoy’s lips moving as the doctor thought to himself. Jim wanted to leave him be, but one thing was bothering him.
‘So, Bones, has Spock been of any assistance? Haven’t seen him on the Bridge at all lately.’
Bones seemed to wake up. He blinked, focused his eyes at Jim and furrowed is brow. ‘The green-blooded hobgoblin? I have no time to keep an eye on him.’
‘You mean he’s not at the sickbay?’ Jim pushed his sandwich aside. It had lost all flavor. He was aware his voice was faltering just slightly, and hoped Bones didn’t hear it. Jim hadn’t seen Spock, and now Bones was saying Spock wasn’t at the sickbay either. A tiny hint of worry flickered in his eyes.
Bones was trained in psychology, and did not miss the change in Jim’s mood. He swallowed and pursed his lips. Bones then quickly put on a happy face and said cheerfully: ‘He’s probably studying the Drell. He got me a bunch of really good data from the VSA, and I’m sure he’s busy running tests on the various samples we’ve taken from the poor patient. You know how Spock is: he gets something in his mind, and he sticks to it like a rabid terrier. Nothing to worry about.’
‘Hmmh,’ was the only answer Bones got. From the corner of his eye Jim saw nurse Chapel, who was picking up a bow of spicy-scented soup from the replicators. Jim recognized the smell of the dish.
‘That’s plomeek soup. Excuse me,’ he said abruptly and rushed after nurse Chapel. Bones remained alone at the table and continued picking his salad, more concerned about the Drell than any drama that might or might not have been going on between Jim and Spock.
His mind full of old whodunnits, where private detectives stalked the criminals like shadows, Jim tiptoed after Chapel. Like he had expected the nurse headed directly to Spock’s cabin and knocked on the door. There was no answer. Jim waited until Chapel gave up and left, before he himself walked at the door. The door’s sensors recognized the Captain and let him in.
The cabin was empty. It was as tidy as ever: no PADDs scattered about or screens turned on so Jim could’ve seen what Spock had been up to. He saw one PADD on Spock’s bed. In a flash of jealousy (which he did NOT feel, mind you, he was merely worried) Jim commanded the computer to play the last viewed entry.
... guardian, while being a fierce warrior. Arashu is the Drell Goddess of protection and motherhood, a fascinating combination present in many religions throughout the Universe. Perhaps the most interesting of them all is Kalahira, the Goddess of oceans and afterlife…
‘Shut up!’ Jim huffed, more angrily than he intended. Again the Drell. Suddenly it dawned on Jim that Spock had never mentioned that “really good data” Bones was so grateful about. Maybe Spock didn’t consider it to be of any importance to Jim. Maybe the chess match they were supposed to have yesterday was also of no importance, since Spock had not shown up.
His emotions were a mix of definitely-not-jealousy, worry and childish annoyance at not being the center of attention. Jim stalked out from Spock’s rooms and headed towards the part of the sickbay where the mysterious lizardman lay in his isolation tent.
Jim saw Spock as soon as he entered the separate wing of the sickbay. The transparent tent was at the center of the small room, and right next to the tent was Spock’s familiar figure. Spock didn’t even flinch, but Jim was sure the Vulcan had heard him. Still, Jim stayed at the door and watched how Spock carefully opened the side flap of the tent. Jim could see Spock reach for the Drell and crouch over him, and imagined hearing a quiet muttering, which he for some reason interpreted as a Vulcan prayer.
Spock stepped inside the tent and sat down on a flimsy hair next to the bed. His fingers brushed gently on the black and green skin of the Drell, only barely touching him. A firmer touch would be too risky for a touch telepath like Spock, who did not have enough data to estimate the mental capabilities of the Drell. There was the tiniest of beeps when the medical scanner informed that the Drell’s heartbeat had quickened for a short while. Spock didn’t turn close the tent flap behind him. He never saw Jim, who stood absolutely still in the doorway, his lion eyes sad and longing.
‘He’s there, isn’t he?’
Jim jumped at the sudden interruption. Bones stood by him and watched Jim gravely. Jim nodded. Bones closed his eyes and sighed.
‘He goes there every day. Just stands there and watches the Drell through the plastic curtains. Gods only know what goes through his mind. Anyway, Jim, I’m sure there’s no reason-‘
Bones had stepped next to Jim, and his eyes had caught the crouched figure in the isolation tent. Things might have developed very differently from there if McCoy’s doctor’s instincts hadn’t kicked in full force.
‘Hey! What the blazes you think you’re doing? Get out of there! You’re letting moist air in, and gods know what you’re letting out!’ Bones shouted while fervently adjusting the air ventilation and climate controls to restore the proper levels of oxygen and moisture inside the tent.
Spock emerged from the tent, calm as ever. ‘Every precaution has been followed, Doctor. My entrance has increased his oxygen intake by 0,02 %, which is physiologically an unimportant change. I had adjusted the air ventilation accordingly to disallow any microbial contamination outside the tent.’
Bones couldn’t argue with that. Every telltale light at the control panel showed bright green. Spock closed the tent flap and sprayed himself with a decontaminant. Jim noticed Spock paid extra attention to his hand, where his skin had been in direct contact with the Drell.
‘What were you doing in there?’ Jim managed to ask, while Bones rushed to check the medical monitors for any disturbances or changes. To the Captain’s disappointment Spock remained quiet. Either he doesn’t want to say, or feels it is unimportant, Jim guessed. ‘You’re driving Bones insane. Better to stay away from here, yeah?’ Jim risked a smile. ‘You free for a game of chess?’
Spock was about to answer when Bones interrupted them with an urgent shout. ‘Come over!’
Jim and Spock stepped inside the tent side by side. The creature’s eyes were flickering open, and his pink, chiseled lips parted slightly. When he opened his eyes he looked directly at Spock, as if he didn’t see anyone else.
‘You’re at the USS Enterprise. This is a Starfleet vessel, currently patrolling at the edges of the Beta Quadrant. You were brought over after researchers found you in a heap of rubble and debris. Can you remember anything about it?’ Jim asked. His previous annoyance was melting, leaving him only with curiosity and concern for the Drell. The feeling-other-than-jealousy shrunk to a tiny pebble in his heart.
‘I… remember a crash,’ the creature said, still looking at Spock. His voice was deep and rasp, like he had a sore throat. Bones offered him a drink, which the Drell gladly accepted. ‘Where is my weapon?’ he asked then, still with the same, strange voice. It reminded Jim of old blues singers, who apparently had drunk so much whisky and smoked so many cigarettes their voice had turned from gold to gravel. His eyes were large and entirely black, gleaming, beautiful.
‘All your belongings are safe,’ Jim assured him. ‘Where was your vessel traveling to? Where did you come from? How-’
Bones pushed Jim aside. ‘Not now. He needs to rest.’
The Drell glanced at Bones, then at the medical monitor above him, and pushed himself to a sitting position. Spock stepped forward. ‘I will show where you can meditate.’ Spock made no attempt to support the Drell, who didn’t seem to even expect any help.
‘Spock!’ Jim and Bones barked in unison. Neither the Drell or Spock paid any attention to them. Slowly the two made their way away from the sickbay. The Drell stumbled at first, but each step was steadier than the previous. Jim and Bones stood quiet, listening, until the footsteps of the two aliens had faded. That’s when it struck Jim. ‘Spock was the only non-human onboard,’ he whispered to himself.
‘Until now,’ Bones specified. Once again he remained stunned only for a second before his training and experience took over. Jim was left standing alone as Bones began to call in for a team to disassemble the isolation tent and to do a complete disinfection of the section.
‘He was the only one… until now,’ Jim whispered again. He felt hollow inside. He blinked. The hollowness remained. He imagined being the only human in a ship full of aliens, perhaps those green Orion slavers, and how he’d feel if an injured humanoid would suddenly show up.
Jim needed a drink. But Bones was busy, Scotty’s shift had only just begun, and Spock was quite obviously not an option. Damn! Muttering under his breath Jim skulked back to the Bridge, forced himself to ignore the empty science station and tried his best to drown himself to endless, boring bureaucracy.