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The Enterprise had used the slingshot effect to travel back in time once more. They were investigating some unsolved riddles in Earth's history of the 1940s. It was a routine mission given to the Enterprise upon the request of some historian. Their task was almost completed; it had been recording with the ship's sensors for the most part. Captain Kirk rose from the command chair.
"Mr. Spock, we're sending down a landing party to those village ruins the sensors reported. We might be able to get some closer readings on the type of weaponry used down there. We'll meet in the transporter room in fifteen minutes. Have Dr. McCoy, Mr. Kano and two men from security join us." As Spock joined him at the turbolift doors, Kirk added, "Mr. Sulu, you have the con."
The area where the landing party beamed down proved desolate and lifeless. They spread out, surveying the territory and taking tricorder readings. Suddenly, McCoy looked up from his tricorder in surprise.
"Jim!" he called to Kirk who was next to him. "I'm getting some life readings from over there!" Pointing towards one of the ruins, he hurried off in the indicated direction, and Kirk followed him.
Following the tricorder reading, they went down to the basement of the house. The place was dark, and they had only the small lights on the tricorders to illuminate the room. After they scanned the room without finding anything, Kirk shrugged. "Must have been a tricorder malfunction, Bones. Come on, let's get out of here."
"Just one minute, Jim," McCoy replied. Then he took a sharp breath. "Over here, Jim! In this corner. Hurry!"
When Kirk joined him, he was already working feverishly, trying to remove debris and planks from a half-buried body. "Jim, go and get some help. We have to get her out of here fast." Kirk glanced at the motionless form. "Get moving!" McCoy shouted at him.
Ten minutes later they had uncovered the girl. McCoy bent to examine her. "Oh, my God!" he gasped suddenly as he discovered the bundle which had been partially shielded by her body. "There's a baby! I can't do anything for them down here. Jim, we have to get them up to the ship, fast!"
"Doctor, I don't think that would be wise," Spock said. "By doing so, we might risk changing history, therefore it would be illogical to - "
"Spare me your logic, Spock!" McCoy snapped. "I don't care about that right now. Dammit, there's a life at stake!" Kirk had his communicator open already. "Jim, have an emergency medical team standing by in the transporter room."
* * * * * * * *
Several hours later, Kirk had scheduled a meeting with Spock and McCoy in the Enterprise's briefing room. It turned out that McCoy was late, and Kirk decided to inform himself about the situation.
"Well, Spock?" he asked, turning to his First Officer.
"The girl we beamed aboard carried an ID card, Captain. Her name is Seigrid Neumann. She was born in 1919 in - "
At that moment, McCoy entered the room. "Sorry, Jim. I was still busy - "
"It's all right, Bones. How's the girl?"
"She's going to be all right, but the baby is dead. Now can anybody tell me what this fussing is all about? I've saved a life. So what? I'm a doctor, for God's sake!"
Spock answered. "Doctor, it appears that in saving her life you have not helped her."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Seigrid Neumann was the daughter of a scientist. She died after a bomb attack in the fall of 1943. In saving her, you may have changed history, Doctor."
"What do you want to do, Spock? Kill her?"
"No, but it is apparent that we cannot return her either."
"Why not? I don't know any famous person of that time named Neumann."
"That is not the point, Doctor. Seigrid Neumann was studying to work on the same project as her father did. Her father died only a couple of months after his daughter. We don't know what would happen if his daughter were able to continue his work."
"Spock's right, Bones," Kirk said quietly. "The risk is too great. You know how a minor incident can change all history. The girl has to stay here. Do you think she can deal with it, Bones?"
"I've no idea. She's still unconscious; and anyway, I wouldn't dare tell her what's happened right away."
"O.K., Bones. I'm relying on your medical judgement. Gentlemen, this meeting is closed."
McCoy returned to sickbay to check on his patient's progress. He was bending over her when the girl started to come round. She opened her eyes and saw concerned blue eyes looking down at her.
She tried to rise. "Wo... wo bin ich?"
McCoy tried to push her back against the pillow. "Easy. You're all right."
"English. Who are you?"
"I'm Dr. Leonard McCoy. And you are Zae... Sig... That's an unusual name. I'm not sure how to pronounce it."
"Call me Siggi. How do you know my name?"
"You had an ID card with you when we found you."
"Where am I? Is this a hospital?"
"Yes, sort of. How do you feel?"
"Tired. Where is my child?"
McCoy lowered his eyes and was silent for a moment. "Dead. I'm sorry. She died shortly after we found you. I wasn't able to do anything."
Siggi tried to get up, but McCoy put a restraining hand on her shoulder. She began to cry and to tremble uncontrollably.
McCoy reached for a hypo, and selecting a tranquilliser on the dial, he pressed it to her arm. Then he took her in his arms and started talking to her softly. "Easy, easy. Relax... Ahh. Ahh."
The sobbing ebbed away slowly as the drug took effect, and finally she fell asleep against his shoulder. McCoy eased her back on the pillows, looking down on her thoughtfully.
* * * * * * * *
McCoy had returned to his office and was working on a report to the Surgeon General. The buzzer sounded, and a tired-looking Kirk entered the room.
"Bones, I've got a headache. And how is your patient?"
McCoy didn't answer, but got up and gave Kirk some pills. "Here, take these. They ought to take care of your headache."
Kirk swallowed the pills and noticed the open brandy bottle on the doctor's desk. "Bones, you haven't answered my question yet. How is the girl? Any complications?"
"No complications, no." McCoy shook his head and poured a shot of brandy for each of them. "She's going to be all right physically, but the shock must be enormous."
"Have you told her yet?"
"No. She just knows about the baby, and that was a terrific shock to her. I have her under sedation now. Jim, I don't know how to explain this to her. That girl is already frightened enough. What must she have been through? She was suffering from malnutrition, and she's had that infection on her arm for quite some time. They didn't have any decent antibiotics in those days... and who knows how long she was lying there?" McCoy stopped and looked at Kirk.
"Don't worry, Bones. There is no need to rush anything. When you think she's able to deal with it, we'll take her round the ship, and tell her slowly. I think even Spock will help."
* * * * * * * *
McCoy was working at his desk when his 'problem child' woke again. She was calmer now, took in her surroundings, and watched the man at the desk.
McCoy looked up when he felt her eyes upon him. He smiled at her. "Hello, Siggi. Have you slept well?"
She didn't quite trust her voice. "Hmmm... yes. I... I thought I was dreaming. How did I get here?"
"That's a long story. We'll talk about it later. Right now, how about some breakfast? Aren't you hungry?"
Hungry? Yes. Only now did she notice it. "Yes. I... I... "
"All right. I'll be right back."
He returned carrying a tray loaded with food. Placing it on her nightstand, he pulled up a chair. "Help yourself."
She just stared at the tray. There was porridge, with sugar and cream if she wanted them, ham and eggs, fried chicken, toast and two mugs of steaming hot tea. "You... you must be American."
He took one of the bowls of porridge and started eating. Nodding, he said, "Yeah, I'm from Georgia."
She too started eating. "My Dad said that you are not as they tell us. He was in the States before the war, and he said he liked it. I never thought I would meet some of your people."
McCoy noted with satisfaction that her fear had given way to curiosity. She had finished the porridge and started on the chicken with growing appetite. After twenty minutes, the tray was empty. Siggi burped. Embarrassed, she said, "I'm sorry."
McCoy grinned. "Doesn't matter. You seemed to enjoy your breakfast."
"Oh, yes. I'm full. That chicken was delicious; I've never eaten one done that way before."
"I had the recipe added to the food programming list. It's home-made from Georgia."
She looked at him, startled, but he didn't pay any attention to it. Removing the tray, he said, "Let's see how your arm is. You might even be able to get up for a few hours tonight."
She looked at her bandaged arm. "I didn't notice it till now. My arm doesn't hurt any more. What did you do?"
McCoy started to remove the dressing carefully and smiled. "Nothing unusual. I cleaned it up and gave you a shot, that's all. It's healing all by itself now." He ran the mediscanner over her arm. "In fact, it's healing beautifully; I don't think any scars will remain."
Puzzled, she said, "But I've had this for almost two months. I went to see a doctor, but he couldn't do anything. In fact, he said he might... might... " Her face grew pale. "Might have to amputate it."
McCoy touched her shoulder gently. "There have been a lot of advances in the medical field. You're going to be all right."
"But then why did my baby...?"
"She was just barely alive when we found you. She was too weak and I... " His voice trailed off.
She looked at him. Were there clouds in those blue eyes now? His head was bowed. After a moment he continued speaking. "Our knowledge may have grown enormously, but lots of things are still beyond our reach. I'm sorry, Siggi."
With tears in her eyes, she said, "It isn't your fault, Doctor." He had finished redressing her arm and turned to leave.
"No - please don't go." There was such urgency in her voice that he stopped and turned back to her.
"Easy. What is it?"
"I... I want to learn... what I can. I might be able to help."
"You're free to learn everything you want."
"You mean... I'm not a prisoner of war? How... "
"No, of course not. There's no need to be afraid. I'll explain it to you later, I promise. Just now, you ought to get some rest."
Tears were running down her cheeks freely now. Embarrassed, she tried to wipe them away. McCoy squeezed her shoulder, and pushed her softly back against the pillows. "There's no need to be ashamed. Crying often helps a lot. That baby meant a lot to you; I know how you feel. I have to go now. Try to relax." He went to the door.
"Doc - "
He smiled reassuringly. "I'll be back soon."
When McCoy reached his office, he sat down heavily. He switched on the intercom. "McCoy to bridge."
"Kirk here. Bones, what is it?"
"Jim - can you spare a few minutes?"
"Sure, I'll come down as soon as - "
"I'd rather see you somewhere else," McCoy interrupted. "Siggi is awake now, and I don't know... "
Noting the tension in the doctor's voice, Kirk nodded. "O.K., meet me in my quarters in fifteen minutes."
* * * * * * * *
"All right, Bones, what's the trouble?" Kirk asked.
"Jim, Siggi thinks she is a prisoner here. I told her she's not, but I guess we'll have to give her a full explanation soon. Certainly she's intelligent enough, only I don't know how... "
"Bones, do you think that's the right thing to do? You told me she was frightened."
"Yes, that's true. But I've talked to her since. She learns quickly, and she has a fair knowledge of our language. The thing which seems to bother her most is that she doesn't know exactly what kind of situation she is in. Jim, I'm going to allow her to get up tonight, and I'm going to explain to her. I want you to be present also. I might need your help."
Kirk nodded. "If you think that's best then we'll do it. If you want me to, I'll ask Spock to come along too. His knowledge might be helpful."
"I'm not going to debate Spock's knowledge, but in this case... " McCoy smiled. "This is already going to be quite hard for Siggi to deal with, and I don't want her scared by little green men."
"Oh. I didn't think of that. Where do you want me to come tonight, though?"
"I think sickbay should be all right; at least that's somewhere familiar to her. And, Jim - "
"What else is on your mind, Bones?"
"Jim, Siggi wants to learn. There are so many new things, and she's showing interest already."
"I'll ask Spock to work out a schedule for her until we can get her to a rehab station, and - "
"No!" McCoy interrupted. "Jim, we can't do that! Dammit, she's not a criminal!" He broke off and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Jim."
"Bones, she's got to adapt to our century."
"But can't we keep her aboard? She has some scientific training. She'll be able to fit in."
Kirk looked at the Chief Medical Officer for a long moment. McCoy didn't get that involved very easily. There had to be a reason. Then Kirk asked, "Why, Bones?"
"Jim, in a way I'm responsible for her situation - "
"Bones, you - " Kirk interrupted.
"No, Jim, let me finish. I'm not regretting that I helped her. Gosh, no. I'm a doctor and that's what I'm supposed to do. It's just... I like this kid, and I want to keep an eye on her."
Kirk studied the doctor's face. He had known McCoy for quite a long time, and over the years he had also learned about some of his background. He knew of McCoy's divorce and about his daughter. That daughter must be about Siggi's age. Kirk nodded.
"All right. We'll give it a try. We're a bit short of personnel, anyway. You'd probably like to have her in your department."
McCoy was silent for a moment. Then he said quietly, "Thank you, Jim."
McCoy returned to sickbay and found Nurse Chapel waiting for him with a pile of reports. He checked on the patients' progress. All were recovering quite well, only one showed a slight set-back, and McCoy made a mental note to check on that person later. Then he turned back to Chapel. "How is Siggi?"
"She was sleeping when I looked in about half an hour ago."
McCoy nodded. "She probably still needs a lot of rest. Well, I'll go to her now, anyway."
"Don't you think you're fussing a bit too much about her, Doctor?" Chapel asked, smiling.
"No - I just don't want her to feel hospitalised and - " He broke off, grinning. "Well, I guess I just like her. Christine, would you mind looking after her a bit while I'm seeing to my other patients? I'm going to let her use that room next to my office until she's assigned her regular quarters."
Chapel glanced at the doctor curiously, but then decided to ask no questions. Instead, she smiled. "Sure."
McCoy turned to leave, but paused at the door. "And get some clothes for her, will you?"
* * * * * * * *
He found Siggi awake, staring at the ceiling. She didn't notice his entrance and was a bit startled when he spoke. "Bored, Siggi?"
"What? Oh - yes, I guess so."
Glancing at the body function panel, McCoy said, "Everything looks just fine. I'll give you another shot to make sure it stays this way, and then you can get up."
McCoy took out a hypo, and Siggi looked at the instrument with interest. "What is that?"
"A hypo." Then he realised that that didn't answer her question. Selecting the appropriate medication on the dial, he pressed the hypo to Siggi's arm. "It's used to inject people. It carries the drug directly into the bloodstream by using pressurised air instead of a needle." She winced at the hiss of the hypo. "It still hurts."
McCoy shrugged. "Some things never change. It isn't supposed to, though. You shouldn't feel much when your arm is relaxed."
Nurse Chapel entered the room, carrying a clip board. "Doctor, Ensign Harper's internal bleeding's started again."
McCoy looked up in alarm. "Have him prepared for surgery immediately." Chapel nodded acknowledgement and left. McCoy turned back to Siggi. "I'm sorry, Siggi. Nurse Chapel will help you get settled. When I'm through with that operation, I'll show you round a bit, O.K.?"
Siggi nodded. Then she asked, "Doctor, can I get something to read?"
"Of course. I'll show you how to operate the - " He broke off, realising that it was probably too early to give her access to the library computer. "I'll get you some books. I mostly have medical stuff, but Jim has a nice collection. I'll ask him. See you later."
* * * * * * * *
When McCoy returned from the operating theatre two hours later, Siggi was sitting on the couch in the room next to McCoy's office, listening to some music. She was wearing a uniform now.
McCoy dropped into a chair. Smiling at Siggi, he said, "That fits you nicely."
"Thank you, Doctor. You look very tired. How is that patient?"
"It was tough, but he's going to make it. We'll have some coffee, and then I want you to meet the Captain."
"The Captain?" There was a slight note of fear in Siggi's voice again.
McCoy noticed it, and said, "No need to get worried. Jim Kirk is nobody to be scared of. He's my best friend."
The doctor rose and led the way to his office. He ordered the coffee and pointed to a chair. "Make yourself comfortable."
He brought the coffee and settled down in a chair too. At that moment, the buzzer sounded. "Come," McCoy said.
As Kirk entered the room, Siggi rose with a start. McCoy placed a hand on her arm. "It's all right. You're off duty already, Jim?"
Kirk nodded. Then he extended his hand towards Siggi. "I'm Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise."
Siggi ignored the offered hand and took a step backwards. An awkward silence followed, then McCoy said, "Would you like to join us for some coffee, Jim? Have a seat."
As Kirk dropped into a chair, Siggi reseated herself. Kirk took his cup, ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes for a moment. McCoy studied the Captain's face. There were shadows under Kirk's eyes. "Headache again, Jim?"
Kirk nodded. "Yes."
"You should get some rest. You've been pushing yourself too hard lately."
"No lecture, Bones. Just give me some pills."
It was Siggi who answered. "Pills are no substitute for sleep."
Both Kirk and McCoy looked at her in surprise. "She's right, Jim," McCoy said, then he grinned at Siggi. "You'll make quite a doctor one day, young lady."
Kirk smiled too. "I guess Bones is right. My compliments, Miss Newman."
"I believe you didn't just come down here to pay me compliments, did you?"
Again both men were somewhat taken aback. Where is the frightened girl of only a couple of hours ago? McCoy wondered. Siggi seemed calm now, even rather reserved.
"Well, no. You're right," Kirk answered. "We have in fact quite a lot to tell you." He then started to tell Siggi about their mission, the accident, the danger of changing history, and the like; sometimes McCoy interrupted with some additional information or explanation.
"... The United Federation of Planets is an alliance of many different races and cultures," Kirk continued. "We're working for the common good of all our worlds, and try to preserve peace throughout the galaxy. In our century, most races live in peace with each other, and freedom and equality are the things of utmost importance. Through their contact with other races, humanity has gained immensely; as you have probably noticed, there has been enormous progress in medicine; also in science and engineering and many other fields." Kirk paused, looking at Siggi. She was sitting quietly, taking in all the information in silence. Kirk smiled at her. "I know this is all quite a lot at once, and it's probably quite hard for you to grasp at the moment. But don't worry. You'll get used to it."
"I'll do my best to learn, Captain, and - "
At that moment the buzzer sounded again, and McCoy reached automatically for the release button as he called "Come!" The door slid open and the Vulcan First Officer entered.
"Captain, Mr. Scott told me I could find you down here. I've discovered additional data - "
Siggi, who had been staring at Spock since he entered the room, suddenly screamed and rose with a start. McCoy managed to get a hold of her and pushed her back into the chair, "Easy! It's all right. Spock won't... "
But she was in panic and didn't listen to his words. Spock merely raised an eyebrow at her reaction.
Kirk rose and tried to reassure her. "Please, Ms. Newman. This is my First Officer, Mr. Spock... "
Siggi was now crying and trembling violently. Spock stood stiffly, unsure what to do. He felt Kirk's eyes upon him, and giving in to an urge of his Human half, he went over to the girl and placed a hand lightly on her arm. "Miss Neumann, it was not my intention to intimidate you. I should have considered that my appearance might disturb you. My apologies."
Siggi looked up at the strange tall man. She thought she saw a flicker of warmth in those dark eyes which hadn't been there before. She tried wiping away the tears and took a deep breath.
"It's... all right. I was just... surprised."
"Mr. Spock is from the planet Vulcan," Kirk said. "There is absolutely no reason to be afraid of him. He is the finest First Officer in the fleet, and he's my best friend. I trust him with my life."
"So do I," McCoy added. He paused. "But as far as the ears are concerned, I've been around him for quite some time, but I'm still not quite used to them."
Siggi managed to smile. "I see. Captain, as I was saying - I'll do my best to learn, but there seem to be so many incredible changes that I don't... "
"Ms. Newman, Bones mentioned that you showed an interest in medical science. You also have some scientific training in that field already. Bones suggested that you might want to work in his department. So, if you are interested - "
"Interested, yes. But I don't know if I can handle all that technology, Captain."
"There is almost nothing men cannot learn to get used to," Spock said. "Learning is the very purpose of our being. We are learning from our first breath to our last." His calm eyes locked with hers. "We will all help you as much as we can, and I believe that you will be successful, but you also have to have confidence in yourself. You have lost your world and you must get used to a new one. We can assist you, but we cannot build it for you."
McCoy was gazing at the Vulcan. "Now, Spock, you aren't going to tell me... " But he fell silent again, realising that this was not the time for one of their 'exchanges'. Instead, he turned to Siggi. "I promise I'll give you all the help I can."
"That goes for me, too," Kirk said. "And I think I can speak for the rest of the crew as well." He paused. "So, if it is your wish, you can start your service life aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise as Ensign Newman of Life Sciences in a few days. We'll have to put in a formal request to Starfleet Command, of course, but I'm sure they'll agree. Now, do you want to tour the ship right away?"
"Honestly, I'd rather not. I'm quite tired."
"Well, then, get a good night's sleep," Kirk said. He rose. "I'm going back to the bridge. Coming, Spock?"
"Now wait a minute, Jim." McCoy rose too, and went to a wall cabinet. Taking out a bottle and glasses, he said, "You were complaining about a headache. As Siggi pointed out, pills cannot replace necessary rest. We all need that decent night's sleep, and I'll make that a medical order if necessary. But before that, I'm prescribing a nightcap for everybody." He started filling the glasses.
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Your 'nightcap', Doctor, does not appear to be any kind of headgear. I see no useful purpose in poisoning my system with alcohol. If you will excuse me." He rose and left the room.
McCoy stared after the Vulcan for a second, then he yelled, "Spock! Can you, for once... "
But the door had closed behind the Vulcan.
* * * * * * * *
Weeks passed, and Siggi seemed to settle into the ship's routine quite well. Starfleet Command had approved Siggi's admission to the Enterprise crew, and she was now an official crew member. Everybody was surprised at the enormous progress she made; Siggi was learning fast and easily. She was working in the medical labs, and she was already able to conduct research on her own.
And yet a problem remained.
Siggi didn't socialise with the crew at all. In the beginning that had been considered a natural shyness, but she didn't make any response to anybody's attempts to make her feel at home on the Enterprise. As several weeks passed, the crew finally thought her to be a natural loner, and the efforts at making friends with her ceased.
McCoy was worried about Siggi's behaviour. He had attempted talking to her on occasion, but he hadn't yet been able to break down the barrier she had erected around herself. He didn't want to force her to speak, and so he had decided that all he could do was wait.
* * * * * * * *
It had been a long and hard day. There hadn't been any emergencies, but the steady flow of routine cases had been quite tiring. In the afternoon, McCoy had received a message tape from his daughter Joanna. She told him about her work in the hospital, and her mother's constant complaints about all kinds of different ailments. The message ended with "I'm feeling so lonely sometimes, Dad. When will you come on home leave?"
McCoy rose stiffly from his desk and filed away the last report he'd been working on. He pondered whether to answer Joanna's letter right away, but decided he was too tired for that. He'd settle for a hot bath and his bed now. Glancing at the wall chronometer, he realised that he was off duty already. Damn paperwork! It always took him so long.
In the ward he found Dr. M'Benga attending to a young crewman's hand. Looking over M'Benga's shoulder, McCoy said, "That's a nasty cut. How did you manage to do that, Lieutenant? Get into a fight?"
The lieutenant lowered his eyes and shifted uneasily. "No, sir. I... I broke my glass, sir."
Sensing that something was bothering the crewman, McCoy motioned to M'Benga. "I'll finish this off."
M'Benga looked at his senior officer. "But you're off duty, sir."
"That's all right. I'll finish this off - you can catch up on the patients' reports."
The younger doctor shrugged and exited. McCoy applied spray dressing to the hand. "All right. What happened?"
"Like I said, Doctor. I broke my glass and - '"
"Now you aren't going to tell me you got that cut just from touching a broken piece, are you? As CMO, I'm responsible for the physical and mental well-being of the crew. I can order you to report if necessary."
The young man blushed, and McCoy added in a softer voice. "This is confidential, of course, but if there's somebody loose on the ship, causing fights or anything like that, I have to know."
"She's so beautiful."
"What? Who?" McCoy asked.
"Siggi Newman. She's so beautiful!" the crewman burst out. "I love her! I've tried to get to know her, but she doesn't respond. Tonight in the rec room, I kept looking at her... but she didn't even notice me. And... well, I must have crushed my glass."
There was a moment of silence, then McCoy said, "I see. Well, get some rest now. You're off duty for the next two days. Report down here tomorrow to get your hand checked."
The young lieutenant hesitated, and McCoy smiled inwardly. Probably afraid he'd put him on report, disabling himself just because the girl he wanted didn't notice him. "Such accidents are always nasty, Lieutenant. Be more careful next time, all right?"
The lieutenant gave him a relieved smile. "Yes, sir, I will. Thank you, sir."
McCoy smiled after the departing crewman for a moment, then he too left sickbay. On the way to the turbolift he pondered this new problem. He couldn't blame Siggi for her behaviour, of course, but something needed to be done.
McCoy paused at the entrance to one of the rec rooms. A cup of coffee would go down nicely now. He entered the room, looking round. The room was almost empty - no wonder, at this hour. The light were already dimmed to give the illusion of night. In one alcove there was a couple embracing each other and murmuring softly. They hadn't noticed his entrance, and McCoy felt guilty for eavesdropping. He went quickly over to the food dispenser to get his coffee.
McCoy took the coffee and went to sit at one of the tables. Then he saw a lone figure at a table in one of the corners, bent over a reading screen.
Spock? No, the Vulcan would be on duty on the bridge now. Picking up his cup again, McCoy slowly approached the table with the single occupant. After a few steps he recognised the figure. Of course - it was Siggi, studying again. Was Spock pushing her too hard? No, that couldn't be it; the Vulcan had shown a patience and understanding with Siggi that McCoy hadn't thought him capable of.
He crossed right over to Siggi's table. "Reading again?" he asked. "Do you mind if I join you?"
He didn't get an answer, so he sat down without waiting for her response. Her head was turned so that he couldn't see her face. Then he noticed that she was trembling slightly. He reached out to touch her arm. "What is it?" he asked softly.
Siggi raised her head to look at him for the first time, but she didn't speak. Her face was tear-stained. McCoy spoke again. "Siggi - I don't know what is bothering you, but don't you think it might help if you told me about it?"
"I want to go home and be with my own people!" Siggi burst out. So that was it. She was homesick.
Siggi could not withhold the tears any longer. She was crying uncontrollably now. McCoy took the trembling girl in his arms and tried to hush her.
When she had calmed down somewhat he said, "Come on - tell me about your people. But this isn't the place for it. Tell you what - we'll go to my quarters and you can tell me what's wrong, all right?" Siggi nodded.
In the doctor's quarters she looked around in wonder. She hadn't been there before. The cabin was only sparsely decorated, not luxuriously as she had expected from a senior officer; a couple of books, a few alien artifacts and paintings. The rest was standard equipment for officers' quarters.
McCoy went to his desk and returned with a bottle and two glasses. Filling them, he said, "Medical orders, Siggi. Cheers!"
Carefully, Siggi took a sip of the green liquid. It tasted like peppermint and caused a warm feeling in her stomach.
McCoy sat down at his desk and put his feet on the desk top. Indicating a chair, he said, "Take a seat." She did so and took another sip of her drink.
"Well?" McCoy asked, looking at Siggi expectantly. Then he realised that the formality of remaining behind his desk wasn't appropriate in this case. He rose and pulled up a chair next to the girl. "Siggi, I could tell you a long story about the psychological need of Human beings to share their problems with someone, but you know that as well as I do. And you don't seem to have formed a friendship with anyone in the crew." He paused, leaning back in his chair, and smiled. "So why not tell your good doctor about it?"
She began speaking in an almost inaudible voice at first, hesitatingly and haltingly, but then she spoke faster and faster as she released the story that had been confined too long within her.
She had been raised in a city, but after her mother was killed in a bomb attack, her father had insisted that she move to the country. There she had become acquainted with a young man. When she discovered she was pregnant, they decided to marry - but her fiance was a bomber pilot, and had been called back to his unit early. They had postponed their marriage until his next home leave, but he was lost in an attack over England.
McCoy suspected then that that was why she unconsciously shrank from forming any close acquaintances. He sat listening to her quietly for a long time; then when she finally fell silent he said, "Well, right now we can't do anything about your homesickness. We're too far from Earth. But we're due for R & R pretty soon. You've had too much happening to you too quickly, haven't you? I guess the best thing for you is a shore leave."
He rose. "It's late. We'd better get some sleep. But Siggi - if there's anything else bothering you, you can come to me at any time."
Siggi smiled. "Thank you, Doctor." She stopped at the door. "Good night."
McCoy smiled. "Good night. Sleep well, Siggi."
* * * * * * * *
The scheduled shore leave was postponed because of an outbreak of a violent disease on one of the Federation's newly colonised worlds. The Enterprise had been ordered to deliver the necessary medical supplies to the planet, and to do some mapping and geological exploring of other planets in the sector.
This was all routine, and although things seemed to be going well, the prolonged routine was getting on the crew's nerves and influencing their behaviour. There had been a few incidents where people were hurt because of carelessness. Yes - the crew needed shore leave more than anything else.
McCoy sighed and leaned back in his chair. Paperwork again. To hell with the bureaucrats back at Starfleet Command! Every single treatment given to the crew and also to the people down on that planet had to be listed. Although he sometimes let M'Benga do the internal paperwork in preparation for the day when his junior would be promoted, McCoy would only do the reports for Starfleet by himself. M'Benga had called him stubborn, but McCoy insisted that it was his duty as Chief Medical Officer.
He forced himself to concentrate on the report on the desk - the report of the Captain's last physical. Physically he was healthy, but all of his efficiency ratings were below normal. No wonder. McCoy's mind started to trail off again. Abruptly, he shook his head. He wasn't getting anywhere. He was tired as hell. The reports would have to wait until the morning.
He rose and left his office. Out in the ward he met Nurse Chapel, who frowned at him. "You're working overtime again, Doctor."
He shrugged. "Those reports have to be finished."
"You should do what you ordered for the rest of the crew. Get some rest. You look as if you need it."
He answered with half a grin. "That's what I intend to do, right now." He headed for the nearest rec room, realising that he was starving. When he entered the rec room, there was another surprise waiting for him. Siggi and the Vulcan First Officer were quietly engaged in a game of chess. McCoy smiled. That was a privilege usually reserved for the Captain only. Jim Kirk was the only one on board who could psych Spock out; otherwise the Vulcan only played against the ship's computer.
With Siggi, the computers had been special from the beginning. She was fascinated by them, once she had become used to them. In a way, she was not unlike Spock; her mind was seeking logic and perfection, and she too had erected a shield to hide her emotions behind.
McCoy sat down with his tray and began to eat, still watching the two figures engaged in their game. McCoy caught a trace of a smile on the Vulcan's face which vanished almost immediately.
Yes - there had been some improvement in Siggi's behaviour since their conversation a couple of weeks ago. Siggi still was no social butterfly - probably she'd never be one - but at least she now seemed to be developing a loose friendship with some of the female crewmembers, though she shrank back from any closer relationship with males. Even Jim's efforts in courting her had failed, and that really meant something. McCoy grinned. Even though Kirk had been disappointed, some kind of relationship had formed between the two. Kirk was no longer treating her in his Don Juan manner but in an almost brotherly way, and Siggi had learned to respond to the gentle teasing and sometimes brotherly advice of the Captain. They even called each other by their given names, off duty of course. McCoy was glad about that. At least Jim was somewhat closer to Siggi's age. Usually she hung around only with older members of the crew.
Her relationship with Spock was more formal, of course.
Spock lived up to his promise and helped Siggi a good deal in settling on the Enterprise. Some of the younger crewmen even called her 'Spock's Pet' behind her back.
However, McCoy was becoming growingly aware of the fact that Siggi's hanging around with the senior officers made it more difficult for her to get along with the rest of the crew. Yet there was nothing that could be done about it right now. Things had to work out on their own. He was grateful for the confidential relationship which was slowly forming between himself and the girl. She had come to him with all kinds of problems once he had broken through her shell, and he had tried to help her with them as best he could.
Yes - she was a lot like Joanna. He wished he could see his own daughter more often... His train of thought was interrupted by a crash over at the chess table. Siggi's fist had come down on the table with a blow that knocked down some of the pieces.
"I warned you to pay more attention to the game, Miss Newman," Spock said, eyebrows on the rise. "You cannot expect to win a game of chess when your mind is occupied with something else. And I think this outburst of emotion was unnecessary."
She rose abruptly without giving an answer and left the room. McCoy got up too, leaving his unfinished meal on the table, and headed after her. Something was definitely wrong here. Usually Siggi was calm, hardly revealing any of her emotions in public, sometimes making McCoy think that she was imitating the First Officer.
McCoy caught up with her before she reached the turbolift. "That was quite a scene back there. What's the matter?"
Siggi shifted uneasily, not meeting his eyes. "Nothing."
"Nothing? Do you want to make me believe - " He stopped, seeing that she was blushing. His voice softened. "Siggi, didn't we have an agreement that you'd come and see me if anything was bothering you?"
She lowered her eyes. "Please, Doctor - I don't want to talk about it."
"All right, I don't want to push you. But if you feel like talking, remember you can come any time."
The turbolift doors opened. She stepped inside, but turned immediately. "I will... Len."
"Siggi - wait!" McCoy's words were echoed from the sound of the closing turbolift doors.
McCoy frowned. Len? What did that mean? Then he shrugged it off. She must be as tired as he was. Probably a slip of the tongue.
Slowly he returned to the rec room to put away his tray. He didn't feel hungry any more. Tiredly, he ordered a drink from the food processor. Crossing back to his table, he watched Spock resetting the chess pieces. He sat down as Kirk entered the room, heading for Spock's table. McCoy rose again and went over to join them.
"Care for a game of chess, Spock?" Kirk was asking.
"No, Captain, not tonight. I would rather get some rest. If you will excuse me, Captain."
Spock rose and left. Kirk turned to McCoy. "Bones? What's the matter with Spock? Is he all right?"
McCoy nodded. "Physically he's in the green, as usual." He hesitated for a moment before adding, "Siggi might have upset his Vulcan calm tonight. She suddenly tossed down the whole chess set. It was while I was eating - I've no idea what has got into her. She was losing against Spock, and he said something about keeping her mind on the game when she had some kind of... almost a temper tantrum, except that she's basically too mature a person to throw tantrums. Well, I guess we all need a rest. But I want to know what's upsetting her, even though she doesn't want to talk about it. Jim - has she mentioned anything to you?"
"It's adding up," Kirk said absentmindedly.
"What?" McCoy asked in bewilderment.
Kirk placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Bones, we have that bottle of Saurian brandy to finish off. Let's go to my quarters and do it. We can talk there."
In Kirk's quarters, McCoy dropped into a chair. He started talking about Siggi; this time it was Kirk who listened quietly. After the third brandy, McCoy raised his hands in resignation.
"Jim, I don't know what's the matter with her. I thought she was learning to trust me, but now she's withdrawing behind a wall again and doesn't want to tell me what this is all about."
Kirk looked at his CMD for a moment in silence. Then he said, "Bones, I believe she has a crush on you."
Staring at Kirk, McCoy took a while to digest that bit of information. Then he burst out, "Poppycock! Then she has to be in love with Spock too. How for heaven's sake did you get that idea?"
"Well, how would you explain, for example, her reason for asking me whether you were married?"
Unusual as it was, McCoy didn't know what to answer. Kirk refilled their glasses. "Bones, I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think you've been closest to her, and it's only natural that some kind of relationship should form between the two of you."
McCoy nodded slowly. "I guess you're right, Jim. But that I didn't realise it... Damn, I'm supposed to be a trained psychologist! Sure, I like Siggi a lot, but I didn't give her any reason to think that I might be interested in an affair with her! Dammit, she's two years younger than my daughter!"
"Bones, as you pointed out, Siggi is still a kid in many ways. She's lost everyone who was dear to her. She has to cling to something, and I guess as the person she was around with most of the time, you're the one she chose." Kirk grinned. "You know, Bones, you do have some kind of father image."
McCoy remained silent for a while. Finally he grinned too. "We should trade professions, Jim. You'd make quite a psychiatrist sometimes. But I suppose I'll have to talk to Siggi about this sooner or later."
Kirk smiled. "It's part of my job. And Bones - don't push it with Siggi. Probably she'll pull herself together pretty soon."
Downing the last of his brandy, McCoy said, "Let's hope she does. Thanks for the brandy." He rose to leave. "Goodnight, Jim."
* * * * * * * *
Three days later, the standard physicals for the crew were finished. Now he'd have to give the formal report to the Captain. McCoy sighed. Fortunately, there weren't any serious cases this time, but the whole crew, including himself and the Captain, were overtired. Kirk was fully aware of this, and McCoy hated that he had to remind him of it yet again. He knew the symptoms of Kirk's fatigue - he had treated his friend's headaches and sleepless nights often enough.
As if on cue, the sickbay doors opened and a weary-looking Captain entered. "So - what about the physicals, Bones?"
"There are no severe cases of illness, Captain, but all the efficiency ratings are down and there are signs of stress and fatigue. Hell, Jim, what the crew needs is some rest and fresh air. Why don't we just stop at the next habitable planet for shore leave? Even a couple of days?"
"Bones, you know my orders. We're to proceed with the mapping of this quadrant. I can't go against Starfleet Command and authorise shore leave - this area hasn't been properly surveyed yet. But I do have some good news; when we're through with this quadrant, we are to return to Earth for an overhaul of the ship and home leave for the crew. Until that time, there isn't much I can do, except maybe... " Kirk grinned. "We could arrange to send down a large survey party to the next Class M planet we come across. Does that fulfil your medical orders?"
McCoy grinned too. "Well, it'll help. Be sure that you get to do some exploring yourself, too."
As it turned out, they didn't have to wait too long for their 'extensive geological survey'. Captain Kirk was on the bridge when they came within scanning range of a Class M planet two days later. Spock made the announcement calmly. Kirk leaned back in his chair. "Well, Mr. Spock, let's have the readings."
"The planet is Class M, oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, diameter 13126.37 kilometers, gravity 0.876. Suitable for Human life. The sensors do not show any trace of intelligent life and there are no large mineral deposits." He raised his head from the viewer. "I recommend standard mapping procedure by sensor probe, Captain."
"No, Mr. Spock. Have the department heads meet in the briefing room in half an hour. We'll send down landing parties for a general survey." Spock raised a questioning eyebrow at Kirk, but refrained from comment. "Yes, Captain."
Kirk turned to Uhura. "Ask Dr. McCoy to join me in my quarters in five minutes. Mr. Scott, you have the con. Mr. Spock - "
Spock looked sceptical even after he had been briefed on the plan, while the other senior officers shared the enthusiasm of Kirk and McCoy. "You are stretching the regulations, Captain," the Vulcan said quietly.
"Spock, you don't need me to explain to you the need Humans beings have to get some fresh air and rest. Why do you always have to be - " McCoy's voice had become quite loud.
"Bones, cut it. Dr. McCoy is right, though, Spock. And we will be conducting a survey, after all. Gentlemen, I want each of you to work out a duty roster for your departments. We'll take five days for the survey. See that each person gets at least forty eight hours free time down on that planet. Ask Mr. Spock for further details. The first landing parties will beam down in three hours. This meeting is closed."
* * * * * * * *
Two base camps from which the landing parties operated were established on the planet's surface.
The scenery was magnificent; luxuriant vegetation, lush meadows, lovely green hills, and also jagged rocks and steep mountains. The planet had the wild and undomesticated beauty of a world which had never been touched by Man's hand.
It had been a good idea to come down here, McCoy thought as he inhaled the fresh air deeply. It was a nice change, even though it wouldn't last long. Well, in a few weeks he would be back home for a longer leave.
Better get something done, he reminded himself. He had chosen to examine the flora. He had discovered some kinds of medicinal plants growing in abundance here which were rare on other worlds.
McCoy took a couple more tricorder readings of the spot he'd been examining before he got up and stretched his back.
He and the small group accompanying him had moved away from the main camp. McCoy had felt the need for some solitude and quietness. His small team was made up of himself, Siggi, a security guard, biologist Lt. Commander Jane Rowlands, and Spock. The Vulcan had joined them because they were at least doing some scientific work.
McCoy smiled to himself. The vast majority of the crew was hardly doing much in the field of science, the officers turning a blind eye to the lack of results from those groups who were supposed to be working. Jim was off with a small group stalking some bearlike creatures somewhere in the mountains. It would require some hard thinking for him to write his report...
Spock, Rowlands and the security guard were tracking an animal which, according to the tricorder readings, possessed semi-intelligence; and Siggi was nearby, gathering samples of wild berries.
McCoy looked around. Well, she had been there a few minutes previously, but now there was no sign of her.
"Siggi!" he called out.
When he didn't get an answer, he shrugged. She must have become bored. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. This planet was beautiful, but also damn hot. The sun had almost reached the zenith. Spock had called it 'pleasantly warm' but McCoy found the growing heat intolerable. Gathering up his instruments, he walked slowly back to the tent. On an impulse, he grabbed a towel. He'd go for a swim in the nearby creek.
When McCoy returned to the tent half an hour later, Siggi was still nowhere in sight. McCoy opened his communicator and tried to reach her, but the only response he got was a crackling sound. He tried Spock's frequency, but the result was the same. It was no use - there was something in the planet's atmosphere which interfered with the communicators occasionally. Spock had warned them about that even before they beamed down. Well, it didn't really matter. There wasn't any emergency, and they'd return to the main camp in three days anyway to be picked up by the transporters.
It had all been carefully planned; a skeleton crew, changed each watch, on the ship, everyone else on the planet with nominally two days free, and three days of duty, but in actual fact the only work being done was by those conscientious souls whose work was also their hobby. There was no need to get worried; Siggi had probably gone for a walk.
McCoy dried his hair and glanced up at the sky. It was cloudless, and of a deep azure. The water of the creek had been cold and marvellously refreshing. McCoy yawned. The lush grass at the foot of an old tree was inviting. A scent of blossoms filled the air and made him lazy. A nap right now sounded good. He stretched out on the grass.
Blinking up at the sky, he soon let his mind wander. Siggi had been behaving quite strangely these last few days. After the conversation with Kirk, McCoy had tried to talk to her but she had withdrawn and kept out of his way as much as she could. It had taken some persuasion to convince her to come down to the planet, but now she seemed to be enjoying it. The incident at the turbolift must have embarrassed her. Probably she hadn't wanted to show her feelings for McCoy. He wondered whether his own daughter had gone through the same experience. Usually that phase was supposed to come at an earlier age, but Siggi had lost all the people dear to her, and she was also from a different time and had been raised in a different way. Yet McCoy knew that sooner or later he had to tell her that there couldn't be an affair between them.
He tried to analyse his feelings for her. Over the past weeks he had become more and more fond of her, and yet he was sure he wasn't in love with her. In a way he felt responsible for her, and quite often he had caught himself trying to compare her with his own daughter. Must be because he'd been away from home so long.
Joanna... Yes. He must spend his leave with her. And Siggi? There was nobody waiting for her on Earth. Perhaps he could take her along; Joanna probably wouldn't mind - she liked to have people around. And the peace among the oak trees and magnolias in the old-fashioned mansion would be good for Siggi.
Yes - he would ask her to come along, and inform his daughter about it in his next letter.
The air was heavy with the sweet scent of flowers and the birds were chirping in the trees above him. Slowly, McCoy's mind drifted off to sleep.
He woke in mid-afternoon, when Spock and the others returned to the camp. He rose, stretched and walked over to join them. Suddenly, it struck him that Siggi was still missing. He started to run, and reached the others, panting slightly. "Have you seen Siggi anywhere?" he gasped.
Spock raised an eyebrow at him. "No, Doctor. I thought she stayed in the camp with you."
"Spock, we need to do something immediately' She's been missing since noon. I tried to reach her via communicator, but the blasted thing didn't work. I thought she'd gone for a walk, then I fell asleep. Hell, I shouldn't have - "
"Calm down, Doctor." Spock pulled out his communicator, and tried to reach Siggi, without success. He flipped it shut and returned it to his belt. "The communicator is working all right now, but Miss Newman does not answer. I suggest we start looking for her immediately."
It was several hours until Siggi was found. She had slipped when trying to climb up a hillside, lost her communicator and sprained her ankle. It was the security guard who found her. He had to carry her back to the camp - the communicators were malfunctioning again.
After McCoy had bandaged her foot, Siggi fell into an exhausted sleep. A couple of hours later the rest of McCoy's team retired for the night too; but the doctor couldn't sleep. He was sitting at the almost dead fire, staring into the red embers when Spock found him.
The night was becoming rather chilly, but McCoy didn't feel it. He felt guilty; fortunately, Siggi wasn't severely injured. But this should not have happened. His behaviour was irresponsible and unpardonable; Siggi had gone off on her own and he had not started looking for her immediately. It seemed a hospitable planet, but even so, nobody should be on their own. He didn't dare imagine the things which could have happened to her...
Suddenly he felt a light tap on his shoulder. He looked up, startled. In the dim light he recognised the lean figure of the Vulcan First Officer. "It's getting late, Doctor," Spock said quietly. "I think it would be wise to retire for the night."
McCoy looked up at the Vulcan. "I'll turn in shortly. I've just been thinking."
"It will get quite cold during the night, Doctor. You might - "
"Just leave me alone, Spock!" McCoy snapped. He then felt immediately sorry for what he had said. He looked up at Spock apologetically. "Sorry, I didn't mean it that way."
The Vulcan nodded slightly. "You are overly involved emotionally, and you are blaming yourself for what happened this afternoon. In addition," he added, glancing at the almost empty bottle next to McCoy, "you seem to have consumed rather a large quantity of alcohol."
McCoy rose, but once he had got to his feet, he swayed unsteadily. Spock extended a hand towards him. McCoy shook his head. "No, it's all right, Spock. I can manage," he said, almost toppling over. He had to grip the Vulcan's arm for support. "Well, I guess you're right. Better give me a hand."
McCoy hadn't felt the effects of the brandy while he was sitting at the fire, but now the effect was catching up rapidly with him. He tried to reach for the brandy bottle and almost lost his balance. Spock took the bottle from his hand and led him over to his tent. There, he locked it away inside a container. The Vulcan stayed on while McCoy tried to prepare for bed, babbling something about 'responsibility' under his breath.
Finally, the doctor slumped in a sitting position on the edge of his bed and pulled his boots off.
Spock watched him for a moment and then walked up to the cot. "You help nobody with reproaching yourself for what happened. Miss Newman should not have walked off on her own in the first place. You had better rest now."
McCoy stretched out on the cot. Except for his boots, he hadn't undressed. "Good night, Spock" he mumbled sleepily.
"Doctor, don't you think it would be wise to... " But McCoy was asleep. Spock hesitated for a moment, then he covered the sleeping figure carefully with the sleeping bag, turned down the light and left the tent.
* * * * * * * *
McCoy was roused the next morning by busy noises outside his tent. Bright sunlight was flooding through the entrance. McCoy opened his eyes but closed them immediately again at the sight of the bright sunlight. His head seemed to be nothing but one throbbing agony. Finally, he got to his feet with a grunt and crossed over to the entrance. The day was going to be beautiful. The sun was already high in the sky.
Suddenly McCoy discovered that Siggi was hobbling busily around her own tent although he had ordered her last night to stay in bed. Smiling, McCoy noted that the young security guard was standing right next to her, and the two of them were engaged in some kind of conversation. He could hear Siggi's ringing laughter. Last night he had wanted her to beam back aboard, and only the malfunctioning communicators had prevented him from ordering it; now he was glad that he hadn't done it.
Ignoring his throbbing head, McCoy went down to the creek to wash and shave. When he reached the water, he suddenly was violently sick. He hadn't had this kind of hangover for a long time. He cleaned himself up and returned to camp. Spock was waiting for him in front of his tent. "You are late for breakfast, Doctor."
"Don't talk about food, Spock," McCoy grunted.
After looking him over carefully, Spock said, "You appear to be suffering from the after-effects of overindulgence in alcoholic beverages, Doctor."
McCoy started to reply, but a wave of nausea gripped him, and he swayed unsteadily. Instantly, Spock was at his side. "You had better lie down," the Vulcan said, leading him back to his cot. McCoy looked up at him, and saw a flicker of concern, which vanished almost immediately, in the First Officer's eyes.
"Ms. Rowlands and I will leave the camp to finish off some measurements we made yesterday. Mr. Simmons will stay in the camp with you and Ms. Newman." He paused. "You should take something to relieve the pain and nausea, Doctor," he added quietly.
"Don't worry, Spock - I will."
The Vulcan handed him his medikit and went to get a water bottle and a cup. "Rest, Doctor. We should be back by midafternoon."
McCoy slept for a few hours and then woke again. The pills he'd taken hadn't brought the relief he had expected. He attempted to get up, but a wave of dizziness convinced him otherwise.
A short time later, Siggi looked in on him. "You are awake now. How do you feel, Doctor?"
"Mr. Spock said you were ill, and I was getting worried."
"Crap! Now don't you start fussing about me too. I had too much brandy last night, that's all. But you can help me. Get the medikit and give me a shot. The pills I took aren't helping."
As the drug she gave him took effect, he relaxed somewhat. "And how about your foot? You know I told you to stay in bed." But McCoy smiled as he spoke.
Siggi blushed slightly. "It's so nice here. My foot doesn't hurt much. But... " She stopped abruptly. Immediately, McCoy's professional concern took over. His own headache and discomfort were forgotten; he sat up.
"Siggi, are you all right? What is it?"
"Nothing." She avoided meeting his eyes.
"Siggi - come on, you promised to tell me if something is wrong."
Looking down, she spoke in a low voice. "I'm feeling... strange. It started this morning. When I was with Mr. Simmons, I suddenly got awfully hot and nervous, and... "
McCoy interrupted her with a burst of laughter that made his sides ache. She looked at him, bewildered.
"Sorry, Siggi, but what you are suffering from is no disease. You should be familiar with it!" He couldn't help chuckling at her obvious confusion. "Jeff is a boy and you are a girl. In fact, rather an attractive one. Don't you understand?"
It took the information a while to sink in. When it finally came home to her what he meant, she shouted at him, "But I love you!"
"No," he said quietly. He took hold of her hand and pulled her down to a sitting position on the edge of his bed. "Siggi, listen. You could be my daughter. In fact, my own daughter is two years older than you."
"You don't understand me!" She had started crying. "I love you, but you didn't notice it."
"Yes, I did notice it. But hear me out, Siggi. I hoped you would realise the impracticality of the situation by yourself. I do like you very much, Siggi, but this isn't love.
"You told me about the death of your fiance. You didn't want to be hurt again, did you? Because of that, unconsciously you shrank back from all closer commitments. I was a safe choice for a 'lover' because you thought I wouldn't disappoint you. Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"
She sobbed quietly. "Nobody cares about me."
"Poppycock! Spock does, Jim does, I do... and everybody on the Enterprise does! I watched Jeff and you this morning, and you seemed to be getting along very well. Jeff is a nice guy. Try to get to know him. Now, hush. Ssshhhh."
With a visible effort she pulled herself together. She started to get up. "I'm sorry, Doctor. I... I'm ashamed."
"No, stay. Siggi, there's no need to be ashamed. Love exists in many different forms. How do you define what the word means? I love my work. I love my daughter Joanna. I'm very fond of you, too, Siggi - I guess you could call it love. Sit down, and I'll tell you something about my family and my home."
They were still engaged in quiet conversation when Spock and Rowlands returned to the camp. McCoy felt somewhat better, but he sensed that he was coming down with a cold.
* * * * * * * *
The remaining two days of their 'expedition' passed quite uneventfully. Siggi spent a lot of time with Security Guard Simmons, but also took care of McCoy, who was nursing his cold. But rest and fresh air did more than all the doctor's drugs or therapy could have done; his cold was past its worst and Siggi's limp had become merely a trace by the time they had to leave.
Yet Spock insisted that the journey back to the main camp would be too much for either of them. The Vulcan had slightly altered the frequency of his communicator and was now able to reach the ship without any trouble.
After they'd been beamed back aboard, the three senior officers met in Kirk's quarters for a quiet evening and an unofficial discussion of their 'survey'. Kirk was suntanned, and looked rather relaxed.
McCoy grinned at him. "Did you get your bear, Jim?"
"Well, not exactly. One of the creatures almost got me. I had to climb a tree to get away from it until the rest of my team caught up with me and chased it away. That's where I got the bruises you treated this afternoon. And how do you rate the success of this unauthorised leave, Bones?"
"It was short, of course, but I also think it did a lot of good. Hope you don't have too much trouble writing your report, though - that would put you under stress again."
"I don't think there will be much trouble, Doctor," the Vulcan First Officer said. Even he looked quite relaxed. "You discovered some rare medicinal plants in abundance on this planet, which will undoubtedly be of value to the Federation - this alone will justify a survey as we conducted it. We obtained some good readings of the creature that will probably evolve into this planet's ruling intelligence; the Captain and his party surveyed another native species that appears to be at the top of the planet's evolutionary chain at present. There are some other readings that will be of value as well - probably as many as would have been obtained in a normal landing party survey carried out by a small group. I do not think there will be any trouble." He paused. "What I don't understand though is why I did not think of changing the communicator frequencies earlier. We would not have had those periods of lack of contact had we done that."
McCoy looked at the Vulcan thoughtfully. "Isn't it possible, Spock, that you too were simply overtired, so that it didn't come to your mind?"
Spock considered this thoughtfully. "It is very unlikely, Doctor - but of course, it is also a possibility which cannot entirely be dismissed."
Kirk looked at his two friends. "Well, I think that takes care of the business at hand. You two care for a shot of brandy now?"
McCoy made a face. The memory of his recent hangover was too fresh. "No, Jim, I'd rather not. I think I'll turn in now." He got up and left the room.
Spock rose also. "The Doctor is right. It's rather late."
Kirk's face fell, but then he smiled. "How about a game of chess, Spock?"
After a moment, Spock nodded. "Gladly, Jim."
* * * * * * * *
McCoy was sitting on the porch of the old mansion his family had owned over the last four hundred years. It was the last evening of their eight-week home leave. Leaning back in his rocking chair, McCoy thought back over the last months.
After their 'survey' of the planet, Siggi's behaviour had changed. Through Jeff Simmons, Siggi had been introduced to the younger crew members. Simmons was generally liked, and Siggi was welcomed and accepted among his friends.
The crucial point had come when Siggi's friendship with Simmons broke up after only two weeks. Siggi had been broken-hearted and wept out her grief on McCoy's shoulder. Eventually she had overcome her disappointment.
Also, McCoy had told his daughter about the young woman they had rescued, and that he intended to bring her along with him on leave. He had been relieved when Joanna had invited them both warmly.
The past eight weeks had been wonderful. The two young women got along easily. For a fortnight they had toured the important places of Earth to introduce Siggi to the way it was in the twenty-third century. Even though Siggi had been immensely interested, it was only after they returned to McCoy's home that she gradually relaxed. She had settled in fast, enjoying the countryside and making friends with the neighbours.
McCoy was happy to see his daughter and his protege getting on so well. But once again the question of Siggi's future had arisen in his mind.
Sure, Starfleet had become sort of a home to her, but she had no relatives... McCoy had pondered his idea for quite some time, then he had discussed it with his daughter. He planned to adopt Siggi formally. Not only had Joanna agreed to his plan, she had been delighted. In the short time they had spent together she had grown to love Siggi.
McCoy had seen that the formalities were taken care of immediately. It had taken a few weeks to get the papers legally approved.
Apart from Joanna, he had spoken only to Kirk about it; Siggi did not know yet. He had only received the legal approval last night. Tonight he was going to tell Siggi.
She wasn't home yet. She had been taken horseback riding by some friends in the neighbourhood.
McCoy's musings were interrupted by the sound of an aircar coming to a halt at the gateway. Laughter and shouting rang over to him. Siggi jumped out of the aircar, waving happily as her friends drove away.
She came running down the driveway. Panting slightly, she came to a halt in front of McCoy.
He rose. "Howdy." Smiling, he added, "I guess you enjoyed yourself."
She nodded. "It was great. But it hurts to say goodbye to my friends."
"I know, a farewell is never easy." Putting an arm around her, McCoy grinned. "Come on, let's go inside. You must be starving?"
"I am. What's for dinner, Bones?" Without hesitation, she was now using the affectionate nickname Kirk had given his Chief Medical Officer.
"I don't know. Joanna said it's a surprise."
The meal was substantial and delicious as usual. After dinner, they settled in the old-fashioned chairs around the fireplace. The matter about the adoption itself was told fast and easily, but McCoy found the reaction quite overwhelming. Tears, hugs, then simple joy and quiet conversation. They talked until early morning. Once Siggi asked if she had to call him 'Dad' now. McCoy replied, smiling.
"I think 'Bones' will do."
Finally McCoy retired for the night, leaving the two young women who were still engaged in conversation as it looked as if they might carry it on till morning. As he said goodnight, Siggi said, "Jo and I have still so much to tell each other, and I too am leaving tomorrow." Then, glancing at the clock on the wall, she added with a grin, "Better make that today."
As McCoy stretched out on the bed, he stared through the open window at the dark night sky. This parting would be even harder, yet McCoy was glad that Siggi had found a home. She would accompany him back to San Francisco where she had chosen to stay for a six month course at Starfleet Academy. But she didn't want to remain on Earth. After she had completed her studies, she would return to space. She would probably return to the Enterprise. McCoy smiled. Siggi had adapted quite well, and the time on Earth would do her good - yet like him, she considered the Enterprise her home.
Well, now she had two homes, just in case... You never knew what happened.
McCoy was becoming drowsy. They'd have to leave very early. He wouldn't wait so long until his next home leave...
Slowly, McCoy's thoughts drifted off to sleep.
* * * * * * * *
Back on board the Enterprise, McCoy was unusually quiet. When his shift was over, Kirk went to see his friend. "Something wrong, Bones?" McCoy looked up from his desk. "No, not really. I've just been thinking. You know, it's been almost half a year since Siggi came aboard... and now six months seem so long.. "
"They'll be over before you know it. Anyway, Siggi is planning to come back to the Enterprise, isn't she?"
"Yeah. Still, I miss her."
"We all do - even Spock said he was looking forward to seeing her back at her post after the training course - mainly, of course 'because her additional knowledge will be beneficial to the ship'. I think in his own way he's become quite fond of her." Kirk paused. "How about a brandy now? You're off duty, Bones, aren't you?"
McCoy rose, smiling. "Yes, gladly. But only one." He grinned. "You know, Jim, Siggi said I should watch it... "
Copyright Doris Schulze