"Security alert. Target located, most likely being pursued by abductor. All units lock onto Mr. Spock's communicator signal and converge, immediately," Chapel barked sharply into her own communicator. "Chapel to Enterprise. Mr. Scott, beam down a child's shock treatment kit; we may need it. Hold it, Doctor!"
But it was too late. She should have known better, she thought in exasperation. McCoy had taken advantage of her temporary distraction to bolt away - if his half-staggering run could be awarded the generous term - into the crowd after Spock's disappearing figure. Sighing, she gathered up their equipment and shoved it at the startled First Aid responder, slung her portable medikit over one shoulder, and took off after her lovable idiot of a Chief Medical Officer.
Christine interacted with many of Security on a regular basis, simply because they were the section of Ops who needed the most frequent attention from Medical, and she knew them to be an underappreciated, highly loyal bunch. Many crewmen joked about how only an idiot would want to work in Security on such a high-risk and high-casualty ship, but in reality those who worked in Security were the bravest and most highly-trained men and women aboard. A competent Security detail meant all the difference in the world on a landing party, and more than once it was due only to their expertise, and self-sacrifice in many cases, that the members of the upper command chain were still alive. They were fiercely loyal to Captain Kirk and his Vulcan First, and that loyalty had only increased with Kirk's de-aging and Spock's advance as temporary acting captain.
Now, she was more grateful than ever for their competence and fierce protectiveness. She was still too far away to be of any use when she saw a half-dozen red shirts converging on Spock and McCoy, weapons drawn and forming a circle that grew gradually tighter as they scanned the crowd for the source of the danger.
She then saw Lieutenant Riley, who apparently had volunteered for the search despite not actually being in Security at the moment (1), flanked by two Ops men with drawn phasers, suddenly swoop down on a tiny figure in wild neon green and scoop the child up safely into protective arms. Jim promptly burst into tears and hid his face in the lieutenant's familiar red tunic, probably not even noticing that the remainder of their Security detail soon emerged from the crowd and surrounded them with ruthless efficiency, ignoring the alarmed screams of frightened park patrons at the sight of what amounted to a small armed militia.
She half-expected Spock to fly straight to the sobbing child's side, but was surprised to see him halt abruptly, and then suddenly veer off toward the shadows cast by an awning on a nearby refreshment station. McCoy shook off Ensign Turner's offered arm with a typical snarl of defiance, and stalked unsteadily over to the knot of gathered crewmen. Christine followed quickly, and was ready with his portable med-scanner when he silently held out a hand for it.
Jim was still crying into Riley's shoulder, arms flung tightly about the lieutenant's neck. Riley's face was twisted with a mixture of sympathy and limp relief, as he slowly rubbed the little one's back.
"Hey, it's okay, Jim," Riley murmured gently, patting the quivering shoulder. "You're okay now, everything's okay. Shhhh."
"Jim," McCoy said softly, walking around behind the lieutenant so that the child could see him. "Can you look at me, kiddo?"
At the sound of his voice, the child's head jerked up with enough force that he nearly cracked Riley's skull. Jim's eyes widened through the tears, and he immediately reached both hands out. "Bones!"
"Doctor, your heart rate really needs to come down, and exerting yourself isn't going to help," Chapel interjected quietly, though well knowing the warning would be useless.
And it was. "C'mere, Jim." Riley carefully relinquished his burden, smiling along with the rest of the relieved Security force when the child's sobbing began to decrease as he clung to their pale CMO. "Good boy. You're all right, Jim."
"Doctor, Mr. Scott said you'd been attacked?" Lieutenant Garrovick inquired. "Are you all right, sir?"
McCoy nodded wearily, murmuring nonsense into the distraught child's mussed hair. "I'll be perfectly fine if y'all will quit lookin' at me like I'm about to keel over and die," he growled irritably.
Unfortunately, that apparently caused the exact opposite effect of his intention; possibly because trying to look fierce and snarling while comforting a sniffling little boy had negating effects upon each other.
"Uh…sir. Lieutenant Garrovick, sir," one of the Security men said timidly.
Garrovick looked up from the report he was already compiling on his communicator's notation application. "What is it, Osaka."
"Er. Well, it's just that…I think Mr. Spock's about to kill that man," the young ensign said nervously, pointing toward the refreshment station.
Eyes wide, the Assistant Security Chief whirled around and promptly let loose with a loud Klingon curse that drew a glare from Chapel and a small giggle from a gradually-calming Jim.
"Turner, Riley, Osaka, with me. The rest of you, stay here. As soon as Chapel clears the two of them for transport get McCoy and the kid out of here and back to the ship."
A chorus of affirmatives followed him as he darted toward the small commotion beginning to form near the refreshment center, and he idly wondered who was so utterly uncaring of his own life that he would risk angering a Vulcan.
"You understand we're just as likely to get ourselves killed interrupting as whoever he's got cornered, right," Riley muttered under his breath as they approached, Osaka and Turner splitting off to wave back the few curious onlookers who'd caught sight of the conflict.
Garrovick rolled his eyes tolerantly. "That doesn't mean I can just let him off this guy, however much he deserves it," he replied dryly. "I'd say good riddance to anyone who hurts a little kid, but you know how much paperwork it would produce. And if Spock gets kicked off the Enterprise, we're stuck with Scott as Acting Captain until Kirk gets changed back, and he will not be happy we dropped the ball on this one."
Riley's almost murderous grin was barely schooled back into professionalism by the time they reached their current acting captain, who did admittedly look as if he were about to revert to Ancient Vulcan justice and commit tal-shaya upon a small, cringing humanoid who to all appearances had already wet himself with terror.
"Mr. Spock, sir," Garrovick reported carefully, staying well out of the line of fire.
"Mr. Garrovick, this…being," Spock said with a predatory almost-snarl, "is a news reporter for one of the galaxy's most influential and highly libelous tabloids. Do me the courtesy of destroying his holo-camera before we proceed further."
Garrovick grinned ferally. "You might want to put it down," he remarked, inspecting his phaser setting with affected casualness. "I'm a bit upset about Jim's kidnapping, you see…my aim may not be the most accurate. We'd hate to lose any necessary anatomical bits, now wouldn't we?"
The scrawny reporter hastily dropped the camera without so much as a whimper of protest, and a quick burst from the lieutenant's phaser left it as a pile of melted circuits and leather casing.
"M-my paper will have something to say about this destruction!" the journalist piped up with a bravery - or stupidity - that Garrovick actually admired; either the idiot had no sense of self-preservation, or simply was doggedly determined to get his story.
Either way, he was a dead man walking, if Garrovick's conclusions were correct.
"Your paper will be fortunate to even see you again, I think," Riley drawled lazily, gesturing toward the man's midsection with his phaser. "You're telling us this guy is the one who kidnapped Jim?"
"Affirmative," Spock replied coldly. "According to Mr. Hathar here, he was commissioned to discover the classified details behind Captain Kirk's current condition, and provide a shocking story exposing his life as a small child aboard the Enterprise."
"And you interpreted that to mean dosing our Chief Medical Officer with a highly illegal drug and abducting the kid to interrogate him about a traumatic experience?" Garrovick asked incredulously. "I've heard of getting the story at all costs, but that?"
"I bet you were getting the payoff of the year for it, weren't you," Riley added.
"W-well there was no harm meant!" the little man fairly wailed. "'Twas only going to be for a half-hour, and I couldn't get close to him otherwise, and I only wanted to ask the boy a few questions -"
"Ikap'uh t'du ru'lut, sha'kan-bu dash-tor'su," Spock hissed suddenly, and even Garrovick took a step backward at the verbal explosion of High Vulcan. (2)
Garrovick had only seen that particular expression on Spock's face once; and it had been while Garrovick was just a lieutenant a couple years back, during that little unscheduled detour to Vulcan they'd taken. The trip that no one was supposed to know the details of but everyone knew had something to do with Spock and a Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Emotional Upheaval of Doom or something. Either way, their gentle and mild-mannered Commander Spock had been worse than Garrovick's ex-girlfriend PMS-ing, and nobody had dared even look sideways at the First Officer until weeks afterwards. It was one of those things you just never talked about again on this ship, if you wanted to stay on Captain Kirk's good side.
"I'm guessing whatever-he-said is the Vulcan equivalent of Imma kill you now," he heard Riley mutter behind him.
What little Garrovick knew of Vulcan culture, dictated that they did hold their own laws which might not necessarily correlate with those accepted by the Federation's policies or personal human morals. For example, he knew that telepathy without asking the person first was considered rude and an invasion of privacy among psi-null humans - but reportedly, in Vulcan culture it was an offense punishable by death, or at least it used to be.
He was taking no chances that assaulting a healer and abducting a child had their own Vulcan equivalent of justice.
"Captain Spock," he said firmly, and saw Spock's lips tighten at the borrowed title. "Sir, the ship is standing by for orders. Will you be beaming up with our prisoner?"
"Y-you can't do that! I have diplomatic immunity as an intergalactic correspondent! And you can't take me aboard an official Starfleet vessel without my consent!"
"You'd better shut up now, buddy," Riley said helpfully, patting the quivering man on the shoulder. "Unless you'd prefer we just leave your body here as a cover story for your front page tomorrow."
"And don't bother talking diplomatic immunity to the son of a famous Federation ambassador," Garrovick added coolly. As he had hoped, his calm tone and reassertion of duty boundaries had served to veer Spock's fast-disappearing control slightly back on-course. "Orders, sir?"
Spock half-turned from them, eyes closed and hands clenched at his sides; obviously, the poor guy was at the end of his mental rope, and he'd been looking exhausted even before this stopover had begun. He saw the Vulcan take a long, measured breath, and then another, and another.
"Sir? Mr. Spock?"
For a long moment in which even the noise of the park seemed to fade away slightly, there was deathly silence, broken only by the hysterical breathing of their terrified prisoner.
Then Christine Chapel approached, and he looked up questioningly. She shook her head quickly as he opened his mouth to inquire of McCoy's state of health, and marched past him to Spock's tense figure.
"Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy is on his last reserves of strength from the brief stimulant I gave him to get him back on his feet. Also, Jim keeps crying for you," she said bluntly.
Garrovick and Riley shared an admiring glance over the nurse's head; that was dirty pool she was playing, and a highly effective Ultimate Weapon if Spock's expression was any indication.
Indeed, their acting captain immediately found a more collected nod and businesslike demeanor from somewhere deep within, and turned back toward them. "Beam up to the ship with Jim and Dr. McCoy, Nurse. I will meet you in Sickbay shortly."
"You'd better, Mr. Spock," she said pointedly, and marched off with a quick swirl of short skirt.
Garrovick's eyebrows had barely made it back down when their acting captain turned to him. "Mr. Garrovick, what legal grounds do we have to detain and pass sentence upon this…person," Spock inquired.
The lieutenant winced. "Well, sir, if the offense had been committed aboard ship, we'd be totally in the clear, since the captain or acting captain has full override power over planetside rulings. As it stands, he does have a point about diplomatic immunity. All proceedings against him have to go through the starbase, and that could and probably will take months. Months which we don't have to hang around. Also, we stand on shaky ground anyway just because we're under orders from Starfleet Command to not broadcast or publicize Captain Kirk's current condition."
"Those are my conclusions as well, Lieutenant," Spock agreed calmly. "However, am I correct in assuming that a charge of possessing illegal drugs would not require us to do more than send in a written report of Nurse Chapel's findings to facilitate a conviction?"
The little journalist's eyes grew wide with panic.
"Indeed, sir, that would be all a Starbase court would require of us," Garrovick agreed slowly, grinning. "He'll get at least twenty years for using ketamine - that was made illegal almost fifty years ago, galaxy-wide."
"Then, Mr. Hathar," Spock said coldly, "we shall leave you with the 'Base authorities on those charges." Hathar quailed under the icy fury that darkened the Vulcan's face as he leaned closer to the quivering human, voice dark with suppressed rage. "Consider yourself highly fortunate that we are under a secrecy ban from Starfleet Command, and that Dr. McCoy and Mr. Kirk were not permanently harmed by your actions. Had you stepped one centimeter further over that line, you would not be so fortunate."
Garrovick shivered reflexively, glad it wasn't him on the hot seat and the receiving end of Spock's (entirely logical) protective instincts. "And I think you'll probably find," he added, when Spock stepped back and unholstered his communicator, "that your paper is gonna disavow any knowledge of your actions; so you can probably kiss your career goodbye too."
Hathar whimpered, cringing against the wall of the refreshment station, but dared not make so much as a word in his own defense.
Ensign Turner had been dispatched and rapidly returned with three uniformed Park guards, who were suitably cowed by Spock's presence and soon had the overeager journalist in custody, charged by the 'base authorities for running and possession of illegal drugs.
Such offenses were highly frowned upon galaxy-wide in general, though there were planets who certainly took a less lenient view of the issue - but in neutral territories such as Starbases, those offenses were punished harshly, to protect the innocent crew, personnel, and civilians who frequented them. While Spock would have preferred nothing more than to see the reporter imprisoned for life in a penal colony after being convicted of abducting a minor, they could not successfully make those charges and still keep Jim under Starfleet's radar, so to speak. He would have to be content with the knowledge that Starbase 47-A would enact harsh justice upon the man for his actions, most likely at least twenty years of hard labor in a 'Base-approved work colony.
Montgomery Scott met him in the transporter room upon beam-up, manning the transporter himself, and lost no time in questioning him regarding the fiasco which had happened planet-side.
"A moment, Mr. Scott. Lieutenant Garrovick," he halted their Chief Engineer's rapid questioning and called after the Security team which was quietly exiting the room, unstrapping phasers and tricorders as they went.
"Please inform your Security forces that their rapid response and expertise were much appreciated today," Spock said quietly. "Your protection of the captain was, as always, exemplary, and my report will show that."
"Both captains, sir," Garrovick reminded him gently, but smiled and nodded his thanks before giving his subordinates a gentle shove out of the transporter room.
"Dr. McCoy looked to be in verra bad shape when they arrived, sir," Scott said worriedly, as the doors closed behind their Security team. "What happened to the fellow responsible?"
"He is being held by the 'Base authorities for possession of illegal drugs," Spock answered wearily. "He will face a minimum of twenty years for that offense alone; we are unable to press other charges at this time due to the secrecy ban in place by Starfleet Command on the captain's condition."
Scott nodded. "The poor wee lad was terrified out of his wits, looked like, but Nurse Chapel told me they should both be fine with a bit o' rest. Y'don't look the best yourself, sir, if ye don't mind my sayin' so."
One eyebrow inclined slightly. "If I did, you would yet proceed with saying it, would you not, Engineer."
Scott grinned. "Aye, sir. Y'know if ye intend to take the cap'n's chair, ye must also take what goes along with it. Including illogical concern from your crew, sir."
Scott was pleased to see that the Vulcan seemed to relax slightly at the light banter, because he'd known Spock for over ten years, ever since the fellow was just a young lieutenant under Captain Pike's original Science officer - and as such, he could tell Spock was fast approaching his last bit of Vulcan control after this day from hell.
"Sir, if I may," Scott continued carefully, "Nurse Chapel comm-ed just before ye beamed up, t'say that Dr. McCoy is now sleeping off the effects of the drug and that Jim was asleep too; no one's going to blink twice if ye decide to go meditate for a while before seeing them."
Spock hesitated, visibly torn.
"They won't even know you're there, sir," Scott added candidly. "And I daresay ye probably don't want to be around many of us humans until you're feeling a bit more yourself."
"I did inform Nurse Chapel that I would shortly follow them -"
"Y'can leave Christine to me, sir," Scott chuckled. "We canna allow Medical to intimidate us all the time, y'know. Dr. McCoy would never let ye hear the end of it, if ye bowed to her and still gave him the business when he tries the same thing."
A slight twitch of the Vulcan's lips showed that he had gotten through, and Scott silently sent up a prayer of gratefulness to any deity who happened to be within hearing distance of this quadrant.
"Your advice is sound, Mr. Scott," Spock finally said, unconsciously straightening his tunic. "What of the restocking procedures and the remainder of the crew's shore leave?"
"We still have a bit to do, sir, but it's proceeding as scheduled. If y'like, I can accelerate the process by turnin' Transporter Room Two into a cargo transport, would just take aboot an hour to change the circuitry."
"Negative, Mr. Scott. There is no reason to curtail the crew's well-deserved shore leave time. If, however, you hear rumor of any of the crew being accosted by journalists or even Starbase personnel requesting particulars of the events which occurred base-side today, please use your own judgment regarding cutting leave short."
"Aye, sir. Will do."
"I shall be in my cabin, in the event of an emergency."
"Of course, sir. I'll be sure t'run interference for ye with Nurse Chapel."
"That would be much appreciated, Mr. Scott. Please notify me of any change in Dr. McCoy's condition?"
"Definitely, sir. And -" He was cut off by the doors opening again, to reveal Lieutenant Riley, still in the scarlet Security uniform he'd hastily switched out his work jumpsuit for when the call had come out for search parties. Ensign Turner scuttled in after him, looking slightly sheepish when they saw their superiors had not yet vacated the transporter room.
"Ah, sir." Riley snapped off a salute that was more sloppy than professional, glancing uneasily back and forth between them. "And sir."
Spock's eyebrows inched upward, as he and Scott shared a glance. "Gentlemen. Have you business with Mr. Scott or myself?"
"Ah. Well, sir, it's just that…" Turner cleared his throat with evident nervousness, gesturing helplessly to Riley.
The young man rolled his eyes and turned to Spock. "Sir, we were coming to see if the transport lockout into the park had been reestablished yet."
"It has not," Scott said slowly. "But ye're not due for shore leave for another six hours."
"No, sir, we know that - it's just that…well, Jim was crying on his way to Medical," Riley muttered, looking at the floor. "From what I could understand he said that jerk of a reporter threw away his balloon hat, I'm guessing because it was too noticeable in the crowd."
Spock blinked, uncomprehending.
"It's a big deal to a little kid, sir," Riley explained. "You and Dr. McCoy got it for him, and to a kid that small losing something special like that is…um…well, it's like destroying a piece of the happy memories he will have of today, if that makes sense." Explaining a child's thought processes to a clueless Vulcan was not in his job description! "He's probably more upset about that at this point than he is about being kidnapped, sir."
"So we were gonna just pop back down and get another one for the poor kid, and maybe a cotton candy stick or something," Turner added, obviously having gathered up his courage at this point.
Spock nodded slowly, appreciation dawning in his eyes. "That is an extremely perceptive and thoughtful gesture, gentlemen." Both young men immediately relaxed, drawing a small grin from Montgomery Scott. "Please proceed, provided your department heads have been notified of and approved your absence. Mr. Scott will supply you with the appropriate expense reports for reimbursement."
"Thank you, sir!"
"And Mr. Riley," Spock added, as he paused in the open doorway.
"I was on my way back to Dr. McCoy and Jim with a most repulsive item of Terran foodstuffs apparently called a 'corn dog', when the abduction occurred. You might avail yourself of one such item as well. With mustard and relish, if the child's preferences have not changed within the last two hours."
Montgomery Scott's grin fairly lit up the transporter room as the doors closed behind their oblivious acting captain.
I dinna have emotions, indeed.