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Meg Wright

Sulu set his empty glass down on the bar. "If we're to get back on board and into dress uniform for this dinner tonight, we'd better be on our way. Ready, Uhura?"

She nodded and climbed down from her high stool. A sudden burst of laughter from the other side of the crowded bar made them both look across. A young officer lay sprawled over a table in a welter of broken glass and spilt liquor. His unsteady companions were vainly endeavouring to pull him upright.

"Silly young idiots," Sulu said without much interest. "We'd better be going, Uhura."

"No, wait. Sulu, isn't that young Chekov?"

Sulu craned his neck to see and nodded. "Yes. He'll have a sore head in the morning."

"He'll have more than a sore head," Uhura said grimly. "He's expected at this dinner tonight and if he's not there the Captain is going to want to know all about it. Let's go and see how bad he is."

They shouldered their way through, arriving just as his companions managed to pull Chekov to a sitting position from which he slumped back onto the table.

Uhura surveyed the group icily. "Most edifying," she told them. "I suppose you're all having a wonderful time?"

"Jus' celebrating," said one of the steadiest. "It's not every day one of us gets made Navigator. We're jus' givin' him a good send-off."

Sulu picked up a glass and sniffed it. "With this?" he asked. "What in the nine worlds is it?"

"Some local juice," protested the Ensign. "It packs a powerful punch, though." He giggled at them. Uhura passed him a glance that seemed to penetrate his happy haziness because he backed off a little.

"You may not remember it, Ensign, but Ensign Chekov has to attend a formal dinner on board tonight, and it isn't going to make a very good showing if it has to be entered in the log that he was too drunk to attend." She cut the young man's protestations short. "Ignorance is no excuse, Ensign. This sort of behaviour in Federation uniform is intolerable on board, but in a Space Station it is unforgivable. I suggest that all of you get back aboard as soon as possible. Lt. Sulu and I will deal with Ensign Chekov."

The coldness of voice and manner displayed by the normally friendly Uhura had a noticeable effect on the group; they left without protest, looking both sheepish and owlishly solemn. Sulu could not help but grin after they had passed him. Uhura grinned back at him across the unconscious figure. Her smile faded.

"It's all very well to laugh, Sulu, but the Captain doesn't take this kind of thing lightly. "We've got to get him back on board and get Dr. McCoy to sober him up."

Sulu shook his head. "Much better to sober him up first," he said. "You've got to get him from the transporter room to sickbay, and I've got a nasty feeling that Mr. Spock and Scotty are going to be working on the transmission circuitry today. I've got a better idea. I know this station; old Doc Ansen is a terrible drunk but a past master with instant alcohol cures. I'll go and see him. You wait here."

He was not gone long, in about ten minutes he returned with a small ampoule of milky liquid; he was smiling broadly.

"This stuff should do the trick provided can make him swallow it." He looked a little dubiously at the sleeping figure.

"That's easy enough." Uhura lifted Chekov upright in his chair. "I'll hold his nose and you pour the stuff in."

This manoeuvre proved effective; in a short while a hazy, but sober, young Ensign was opening a pair of unwholesome eyes. Uhura shook him.

"On your feet, Ensign," she said sternly. "If you're not back on board quicker than a Vegan flea there's going to be trouble."

As they materialised, Sulu looked meaningfully at Uhura. Protruding from the console were the unmistakable legs of the First Officer; a concerned Chief Engineer clucked unhappily above him.

Uhura waved airily. "Hi, Scotty, see you later."

In the elevator Sulu breathed a sigh of relief. "It's lucky it was Spock who had his head in the console when we arrived and not Scotty. I wouldn't have wanted to find Mr. Spock giving us one of those mildly enquiring looks."

Uhura laughed. "You've got a guilty conscience, Sulu, that never does mix with Spock. But I don't think he saw us, and why should he take any notice anyway? We were simply returning from a pleasant run ashore."

"You never know what Spock is going to notice until it's too late," Sulu said darkly, "and I don't usually have to hold Chekov's hand! Still, providing we have him ready to go on duty, we shouldn't have anything to worry about."

Indeed, apart from a slightly subdued demeanour, Chekov's behaviour was so normal that they left him to get ready on his own.

* * * * * * * *

The farewell dinner for the Space Station staff went off smoothly too - up to the moment of Chekov's collapse.

Uhura followed McCoy to the sickbay as soon as she could slip away unnoticed, to enquire how the boy was getting along. McCoy shrugged a little.

"I don't know what's wrong with him. He'd had plenty of alcohol over the last few hours, but I don't think that's the cause of his collapse. Why are you taking such an interest, Uhura?"

"Sulu and I got him back on board earlier on. He'd been drinking and we wanted to get him back here on the quiet. Sulu got some stuff from the Doctor on G2 to sober him up. Could it be that that caused it?"

"What was it?"

"I don't know. Sulu went to get it, he's still in the mess. Shall I get him?"

"No, I'll call up Dr. Anson."

"I'll do that for you, Doctor. You want to know exactly what the stuff was, I suppose."

"Yes, and how much of it he's had. It may be nothing to do with his collapse, but it needs looking into."

* * * * * * * *

She passed the required information on to McCoy. He read her notes and frowned. "Ptisan! That should be all right. It shouldn't have this effect on him, quite the opposite. I'm surprised he isn't doing Cossack dances round sickbay. I'll have to look for some other cause. Thank you, Lieutenant, you've been most helpful. I hope he was duly grateful!"

Uhura laughed. "I think so. Certainly, if we hadn't sobered him up first the sight of Spock working in the transporter room would have done the trick. Chekov's got a healthy respect for Spock!"

McCoy snorted derisively, but said nothing. Uhura's eyes were lit with laughter as she left the sickbay. She was well aware of the running feud that existed between the Doctor and the Vulcan, but she was equally aware of the solid but unspoken affection that Dr. McCoy had for most of his fellow men. It would be interesting some day to find out exactly what they really thought of each other.

* * * * * * * *

A few hours later the Enterprise left orbit for the crossing to Colony Delta 9. She carried a cargo of medical supplies that were needed in a hurry, and was due to travel at high warp speed in order to get the supplies there within five days. The normal passage time was three weeks, but this would have to be made at Warp 6 at least. It meant enduring a great deal of bad temper from the Chief Engineer. On such occasions most of the Human personnel on board kept a respectful distance from Scott, and prevented themselves from unnecessarily exacerbating a potentially explosive situation. Luckily for everyone, McCoy was too busy in sickbay to have time to annoy Scott, and for this Kirk gave thanks. Equally fortunately, Scott raised no objections to the interest Spock took in the proceedings. The modifications which he and Scott had been working on recently were coming into their own while the engines were under comparative stress, and the pair of them were frequently to be seen deep in conversation, their heads together over quantities of figures and diagrams.

"It's a good thing," Kirk said to McCoy in one of the surgeon's brief off-duty moments, "that those two can concentrate anywhere."

McCoy nodded. "They're well-matched occasionally," he agreed. "Heaven help the machine they get together over. How's the trip going, Jim? I've been too busy to notice what's happening around me."

"No excitement," Kirk assured him. "I get left to myself except when those two come to me for official approval. How is Chekov - has he come round yet?"

"Not yet," McCoy said. "Everything is quite normal about him, except for the fact that he's unconscious. His condition isn't deteriorating,, that's some comfort."

Kirk got to his feet. "Let me know if there is any change."

* * * * * * * *

McCoy floundered up from the deep, comfortable warmth of his dream, to find the persistent whistling of the crickets in the surrounding grass still ringing in his ears. Sourly, he stabbed at the intercom with a sleep-lazy hand only to come abruptly awake.

"Calm down, Nurse," he barked. "Now, give me a proper report."

She took a deep breath before she replied. "The screen shows a steady decrease in several areas, Doctor, but Chekov himself is showing unusual symptoms. Doctor, I can see through him!"

"See through him? What is that supposed to mean, Nurse?"

"I can't put it in medical terms, Doctor, his condition is way outside my experience. He appears transparent, I can see his bones like an old-fashioned X-ray print, and from the way the screen is acting I'd say his condition is rapidly deteriorating."

As he studied the young Ensign, McCoy could understand Chapel's agitation. Chekov's skin was now entirely clear and he resembled the plastic anatomical models made for the benefit of medical students, except that this was a working model. It was not, McCoy thought critically, the best advertisement for mankind. It was not a sight they were called upon to watch for long. In spite of all his efforts, by morning Chekov could not be seen at all, only the sterile gown that covered his body and the depression his head made in the pillow gave any indication of his presence on the bed; while the diagnostic panel gave readings that McCoy could only gape at in disbelief. After his body had totally disappeared, however, the panel indicated that Chekov was beginning to come out of the coma. Like a small child waking, he stretched, rolled over and spoke, his voice sounding quite normal if a little bewildered.

"What am I doing in sickbay, Doctor? I feel fine."

McCoy hesitated, uncertain where to begin, when there was a rustle of movement from the bed and then Chekov's voice, with more than a touch of panic in it. "Hey, I can't see my hand... or anything. Doctor! What's happened?"

McCoy felt his arm grabbed and did his best to sound soothing. "It's all right, Ensign. I'm not yet sure what has happened to you, but there is no cause for alarm."

"No cause for alarm!" The voice cracked on the words, the gown on the bed came bolt upright. McCoy reached for the shoulders; they felt reassuringly solid.

"Just keep calm. I'll find out what's going on and you can help yourself best by not panicking. Try and act as normally as you can and that will give us a chance to get to work on the problem all the quicker."

At last, satisfied that Chekov had sufficiently calmed down, McCoy left Christine with him and went to his office. He made sure the door had completely closed before he flipped his intercom switch.

"Captain Kirk."

"In quarters, Bones. What's up?"

"Can you come to the sickbay?"

"Straight away, Bones? I'm going ever some data with Spock. Is this urgent?"

"As long as what you are doing can wait, I suggest you come over straight away and bring Spock with you, his opinion could be useful. I have an interesting development here I'd like you to... " He paused. "Well, not look at, but consider."

As he thumbed the switch a confused babble of sound came from the sickbay; he went at a run. Christine was ludicrously struggling with a ballooning bedgown.

"You're laughing at me," Chekov shouted. "You're not to laugh at me!"

"Chekov!" McCoy's voice held all the authority he knew. "Chekov, lie down at once! I will not have my staff treated like this."

Nurse Chapel straightened herself, obviously free; the white gown subsided on the couch, stifling a sob.

"Now." McCoy came to the bedside, carefully maintaining his most normal manner. "From the look of that panel I would guess that your condition could be giving us some false readings. I'll have to check things out the slow way. I shall want some nail parings and hair clippings to test, and blood, skin and urine samples. It will be easier for you to cut your own nails and hair and I shall need your full co-operation for the rest."

As soon as Nurse Chapel brought the required kit, McCoy broke open the sterile packs and turned to Chekov again. The gown was sitting up; it seemed to wear a defeatist air.

"Put your hand on mine," McCoy instructed, "then I can feel what I need." While he was working the door hissed open. "Don't talk, gentlemen," McCoy said over his shoulder. "This may look to you like the beginning of paranoia, but I assure you I am deadly serious. If you will be patient for a moment, I will be able to answer such questions as I can."

Kirk surveyed the scene before him in bewilderment, half suspecting an elaborate hoax; he shot a glance at Spock standing at his shoulder, expressionless as ever, head slightly on one side, eyes watchful. Kirk waited.

McCoy finally straightened. "Well, I think I've got enough here, Ensign, but it's difficult to be sure. If I haven't I will have to come back to you. Nurse, will you give him the scissors and a couple of containers and bring the samples to the lab."

Kirk watched, bemused, as Christine held out the scissors; they glided off into empty air and began to cut at nothing; he felt his jaw dropping. Pulling himself together he followed McCoy into his office, motioning Spock to follow.

"Bones! Is this some kind of joke?"

"I wish it was, Jim. The only thing I can tell you is that your eyes are telling you the truth. Chekov has become invisible."

"When did it happen?"

"It started in the early hours of this morning; Christine sent for me as soon as she noticed it. At the moment I've no idea of the cause. I'll start testing and let you know."

"I'd no idea it was even possible." Kirk was fascinated. "Is it radiation of some kind?"

"I doubt it, Captain," Spock put in quietly. "Some work on the subject has been done on Vulcan, and it is believed theoretically possible to synthisise a substance which will temporarily remove all colouring from the body cells. My information on the subject is hardly up-to-date, however."

McCoy gave an angry grunt. "I might have known this was some glorious notion cooked up by Vulcan scientists. Where's the logic behind this little piece of meddling with nature?"

"The practical applications are surely obvious, Doctor? I believe it was the work of another Doctor originally. His idea was to render the epidermis transparent for easier diagnosis of the tissues beneath."

McCoy opened his mouth, remembered his first view of Chekov in the early hours, closed it again carefully and turned to Kirk.

"Captain, can you spare Spock to work with me? It looks as though his help will be valuable."

Kirk raised an enquiring eyebrow at the Vulcan, who nodded. "I have finished most of the work with Mr. Scott now, Captain, and will be pleased to give Dr. McCoy any help I can."

"Very well. Everything is going so smoothly I guess you can be spared. How long will it take, Bones?"

McCoy shrugged. "I've no idea, Jim - have you, Mr. Spock?"

"It is possible that it will correct itself, Doctor. As far as I can remember the theories indicated it would be a temporary condition. I think we can hope for a positive solution."

* * * * * * * *

"Have you found out how Chekov is?" Sulu handed Uhura her coffee. "I haven't had time to go down to sickbay and no-one I've asked has heard anything new."

"I went down to see him," Uhura told him, "but they wouldn't let me in. I thought Christine looked more than a little worried, but I didn't get any details."

Sulu's cheery face lost its normal smile. "I hope it's not my fault, I did get him that pick-me-up."

Uhura shook her head. "It's nothing to do with that, I checked on it for Dr. McCoy. I radioed Doc Ansen on G2 for him and got the full details of the stuff; according to him it was a standard stimulant, brand name Ptisan."

Sulu set his cup down sharply. "Ptisan? It wasn't that. One of the disadvantages of a mis-spent youth is learning to recognise Ptisan. This stuff was milky looking and Ptisan has a distinctly blue look. I checked with Doc Ansen that the stuff was where he said it was, but he was pretty drunk himself."

Uhura stood up. "We'd better go and see Dr. McCoy. Come on."

They tracked him down in the lab; he heard them out in frowning silence. "No hope you kept the ampoule? No, I didn't think so, that would make my life too easy. We must get on to Ansen again. I'll come with you, Uhura, and have a chat with him myself that will sober him up for once."

* * * * * * * *

Christine Chapel sighed over the recalcitrant behaviour of her patient. She had grown accustomed to the eerie sight of the apparently empty gown as it moved about on the bed, but the young nurse on duty with her had not improved matters by being first of all terrified and then relapsing into hysterical giggles. Neither reaction found favour with Chekov and he expressed himself quite plainly. Christine dismissed her assistant and looked severely at the bed.

"Ensign! I fully realise this is a difficult situation for you, but I cannot have you speaking to Nurse O'Hara like that. Your language was unforgivable - and you may consider yourself lucky that O'Hara does not speak Russian."

The gown's shoulder hunched and Chekov said sullenly, "You should try what it's like. You think it's very funny but what sort of life am I going to lead like this?"

"I don't think it's at all funny... "

He interrupted her. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm hungry. I haven't had anything to eat since the day before yesterday, or had you forgotten? Are you all going to solve the problem by starving me to death?"

"Dr. McCoy sees no reason why you should not eat. Tell me what you fancy and I will go and get it."

* * * * * * * *

When he began his meal she found she had to turn away. Food apparently did not disappear until it was fully absorbed by the body, and the process of mastication was unattractive. Christine could only be grateful that his digestive system was safely covered by the gown. She busied herself at the other side of the room, determined not to turn round until he had finished.

Chekov thought he could understand that averted gaze. "What's the matter, Nurse, am I repulsive as well as funny?"

She swung round immediately. "Don't be foolish, Pavel. It's easy to see you don't know much about nursing. At the moment I am merely thinking you are behaving like a spoilt child. Have you eaten all you want?"

The bed-tray jerked sharply; slopping liquid from its container. "I don't want any more. Take it away and leave me alone!"

"Ensign," she said gently, "you only hurt yourself if you don't eat. Are you quite sure you have had enough?"

"Of course I'm sure!" he snarled. "I may not be visible, but I haven't gone soft in the head."

She shrugged a little, and removed the tray, taking it to the disposal chute in the sluice room. As she did so the outer door slid open and a fluffy blonde peeped in.

"Hello, Wanda. I can guess what you want - to see Chekov."

The blonde curls bounced with her vigorous nod. "How is he, Nurse? No-one seems to know. He's not really ill, is he? Someone said it must be pretty serious."

Christine looked at her thoughtfully. "Wait here and I'll have a word with Dr. McCoy. It's possible that a visit from you is just what Pavel needs."

She went into McCoy's office and called the lab. It was a moment or two before McCoy answered. "Problems, Nurse?"

"Not medical ones, Doctor, but he's becoming depressed and belligerent. Yeoman Schnabel wants to visit him. If I brief her carefully she may be just what he needs. Shall I let her in?"

McCoy pondered. "We seem to be on the track of the substance, and once we've got that we'll be on the way to an antidote. Yes, let her visit him, but warn her not to go babbling all over the ship."

"Affirmative, Doctor." She switched off the intercom and went to the door, beckoning Wanda in. Once she had persuaded her it was not a joke, she emphasized the need to treat Pavel normally.

"He's upset and nervy, so you mustn't make it any worse for him. Understood?"

The girl nodded. "Of course. Can I go in right away?"

"Yes, carry on. I'll stay in here. I don't imagine you want an audience. It might be easier on your own at that, at least he can't accuse us of ganging up on him. Whatever you do, don't laugh. It's not at all funny for him."

Listening to the murmur of voices from the ward, Christine was beginning to congratulate herself on finding the right distraction for her patient when Wanda's voice rose in a perceptible plea to "Let go!"

She was about to go in when Wanda fled into the office crying hysterically and clung to the older woman. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset him but he tried to kiss me and... Oh, Nurse Chapel, it was horrible!"

Christine quietened her down and looked into the ward. Chekov appeared to be sitting quietly enough on his bed. She went back to the still sobbing Yeoman to administer a calming shoulder, finally sending her away with a warning against gossip, then she hurried back to her patient.

The gown lay limp and empty over the bed; she looked round the room. "Ensign, this is not the time to start playing games. Get the gown back on so I can see where you are."

There was no reply and, at last, she stepped to the intercom.

* * * * * * * *

McCoy gave Spock a triumphant slap on the back. "We've done it, this is the stuff all right; now we can get to work on the antidote, and it should be reasonably easy to synthesize." He stepped impatiently to the buzzing intercom. "Yes, Nurse?"

"Doctor, Chekov has removed the gown and I can't find him, will you... "

A gasp followed by a thud brought both men to their feet. McCoy only just beat Spock to the door.

No amount of reassurance over the intercom that the antidote would shortly be found induced Chekov to return to the sickbay. He roamed the Enterprise attacking several crewmen and, more distressingly, Ensign Marie Mancini.

Raging impotently, Kirk took out his bad temper on Spock. The Vulcan heard him out calmly, nodded his agreement to the least outrageous parts of Kirk's summing up and got on with the job in hand. Balked - not for the first time, either - Kirk turned on McCoy.

"Are we any nearer the antidote, Bones?"

"No nearer than when you came in here," McCoy said tiredly. "Anything in those results, Spock?"

"One lead in the last molecular tests, Doctor. There is an interesting variation in the pattern that could account for the eventual breakdown of the haemoglobin as opposed to the swifter reaction of Vulcan cells. It may explain why the substance was effective on Human as well as Vulcan body chemistry. I should like to do some further tests, however."

"We haven't got time, Spock," Kirk said bluntly. "Chekov has got to be found and stopped before I have to make an entry in the log that will stop his career before it's started. De Salle heard Mancini scream before she was actually hurt, the next girl might not be so lucky."

"You can't destroy a boy's life for a temporary, drug-induced psychosis," McCoy flared, "or do I have to remind you of young Riley, now doing very nicely aboard the Lexington!"

"There is no evidence that this psychosis is caused by the drug, Doctor," Spock said. "All the evidence points to it having been caused by the condition."

"I'll log that as caused by the drug!" snapped McCoy.

"Then you will be guilty of an unscientific and emotional lie, Doctor."

"Stop it," Kirk said evenly. "You're wasting time. At the moment our prime objective is to put Chekov under restraint somehow - anyhow. Once we've prevented any further action on his part we can then put ourselves to solving the rest of the problem at leisure. Any suggestions as to how we get hold of him, gentlemen?"

"There are too many hiding places on a ship this size for a person you can see, Jim. How you find one you can't see, I don't know."

"We'll have to wait for the next attack," Kirk said grimly. "Seal off that area and flood it with anaesthetic gas and then go hunting for him by feel. It's the only way I can think of."

"Supposing there is no further attack, Captain?"

"I don't want another attack, Spock, but we're helpless unless he does."

"Captain, Dr. McCoy mentioned Lt. Riley - it occurs to me that Mr. Scott's recent modifications are somewhat vulnerable. Should we not ensure the safety of that area and of the engineering department generally?"

Appalled, Kirk strode to the intercom. "Mr. Scott, seal off engineering area D immediately and then the rest of the department. We want to make quite sure you don't have any unwelcome visitors."

"Aye, sir," Scott's voice replied comfortably. "I've already been keeping a watch for unexplained opening doors. If he's in here already he's keeping awful quiet about it."

Kirk breathed a sigh of relief. "Well done, Mr. Scott. Report to the Security Chief at any sign of trouble and he will deal with it according to Section Bl, understood?"

"Aye, aye, sir."

"Chief Hanwell!"

"Affirmative. Section Bl, sir. I'll have men standing by with filter masks."

"Good. Secure all other areas and check the elevators for unaccountable movements. Let's contain him wherever he is at the moment."

As Kirk turned, McCoy looked up from the electron microscope display. "Yes, I think this is it, Spock. We'll get M'Benga to work on it. You'd better go and get some rest now. You've been on your feet too long."

His expression dared Kirk to argue. Kirk gave a tired grin.

"He's right, Spock. You came off watch eight hours ago. Go and get some rest. We don't need you at the moment, and we may later."

"Very well, Captain. A short period of meditation may well be beneficial at the moment. I will be in my quarters."

Kirk subsided onto one of the lab stools. "We've still got to find him, Bones. Any ideas?"

"Not in deep space, Jim. We've too many on board to make the heartbeat technique feasible. It would take several hours to eliminate over four hundred possibilities, plus having to breach your security in engineering. What you need is a good bloodhound!"

* * * * * * * *

Spock began the meditation ritual as he showered, allowing his mind to open freely. After so many years there was no need to proceed tentatively lest his thoughts should encounter another's; the mental boundaries of his own private area were as well known as the visual limitations of deck and bulkhead. He was hardly wet all over before he switched off the shower, allowing the stream of warm air to dry him. Stepping out, he crossed to the cupboard and, pulling on a clean uniform, said conversationally, "You will certainly not remain in that condition for ever, Ensign. Untreated, your body will commence to reappear in just over seventy-two point eight three hours. Given the antidote which Dr. M'Benga is working on at the moment the molecular changes will speed up considerably. You should be normally visible in point two six hours after receiving treatment."

"You were prying into my mind." Chekov's voice was shaky and out of control. Spock moved to the door and operated the thumb print lock.

"Not prying, Ensign. I intended to meditate and was unaware that you were within range. Had I been expecting to find you in my quarters I would not have begun the ritual."

Chekov caught his breath. "I know. I knew no-one would look for me here, no-one ever comes to your quarters except you and I thought you would be with the Captain, you usually are. As though you think he can't manage without you."

Spock looked across at the slight depression in his bed, realising that the slight impairment of its customary neatness should have informed him of his visitor's presence before.

"The Captain's ability is proven, Ensign. There is no need for anyone to doubt it. Just as there is no need for you to doubt his assurance that Dr. McCoy has found the antidote for your condition."

"I don't believe a word of it." The counterpane crumpled suddenly. "You can't wait to get rid of me - all of you. No-one has behaved normally since I came round. I don't trust any of you."

Spock moved forward slowly. "If you think that, then none of us can help you, but if you will let me blend our thoughts you will know without uncertainty that I speak the truth."

"Don't touch me!" The boy's voice was shrill. "Don't touch me, you... alien!"

Spock stood very still, his eyes fixed on Chekov's so firmly that the boy thought for one glorious moment that he could be seen.

"How do you know where I am?" he demanded. "You're reading my mind again."

"I can hear your voice, Ensign," Spock said calmly. "Naturally I can estimate from that the approximate place your body occupies. I cannot enter your mind unbidden unless the well-being of others transcends your right to privacy. That is why I have locked the door against anyone but myself.

"I will explain the situation as I see it.

"I have prevented you from doing any harm to others as long as I remain conscious. Now I may not link minds with you without your free consent, therefore I have placed myself in an inferior position tactically. You have the upper hand in attack since I cannot see you, and you can open the door by rendering me unconscious, using my thumb to unlock it. You cannot get out while I remain conscious.

"Therefore you have a choice, to trust me or attack me. Should you attack me you are on the run again, feeling everyone to be against you. The better choice would seem to be to decide on whether or not you can trust me. I may here remind you that I am the proven friend of your Captain, and also that I am an alien from a world you do not understand. The choice is yours."

"But... " Chekov said, bewildered, "but I don't want to attack you."

"Naturally I welcome that." The silence lengthened. "I await your decision with interest, Ensign."

"Does it... hurt?"

"No-one has ever complained of it hurting," Spock told him, "but I believe Dr. McCoy finds it unpleasant. You must take that into consideration."

"And the Captain?"

"It has saved his life and his sanity," Spock said quietly.

The bed sagged once again. "I don't know what to do," Chekov whispered. "I'm tired and I seem to have lost myself and everyone else. I don't think I care. Do what you want to, Mr. Spock, nothing matters any more."

"You matter, Mr. Chekov. You have a fine career ahead of you; one day you will have your own command. Is that worth a little trust?"

"I trust you, Mr. Spock. What must I do?"

"Take my hand and put it upon your face, and I will do the rest."

Spock's fingers touched his face, feather-light. Chekov felt his tensions drain from him - he knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was one man you could trust with your life, your thoughts, hopes and unspoken ideals. His whirling mind became centred in a deep well of compassion.

* * * * * * * *

McCoy looked up as the sickbay door hissed open. "I thought I told you to rest, Spock?" he said roughly. "Don't stand there in the doorway, man. Come in!"

"Doctor, I am sorry to have caused so much trouble."

McCoy dropped his sheaf of notes. "Well, it's always nice to be allowed to finish a course of treatment, Ensign," he said jovially. "Come in and we'll get to it right away. Jim's in my office still, Spock, go and give him the glad news."

He rejoined them a short time later. "I've tucked him back up again and given him the antidote. Christine and M'Benga are with him. Where did you find him, Spock?"

"Spock is in the middle of his report," Kirk told him shortly.

"Oh, good," McCoy said unrepentantly. "Start it again. I'd like to hear the details for my log."

"It is quite simple, Doctor. Ensign Chekov went to my quarters because he thought they would remain empty. I persuaded him to return to the sickbay."

"Is that all? What do you mean, 'persuaded'?"

"Doctor, I am a Vulcan. 'Persuasion' means convincing another to do something by logical argument."

"Logical argument, in a pig's eye," McCoy snorted. "I'll bet you reminded him it's a serious offence to hit a superior officer."

"The subject was not mentioned, Doctor. I think you will find the psychosis was only a temporary matter and has entirely disappeared."

"Thank goodness," Kirk said. "Mancini and the rest have been most helpful. They seemed more worried about Chekov than about themselves. I'm glad you found him, Spock, your powers of peaceful persuasion are most useful on occasion. Let's go and get a coffee and then we can both get some well-earned rest."

As Spock followed him into the elevator, Kirk said, "By the by, I've been on to Commander Nilsson. I guess there are going to be some changes in the medical section on G2. That stuff was part of a consignment left to be collected by a group of Vulcan doctors on their way to Rigel Four, and there was the very devil to pay when they found it had gone astray. I'm glad I wasn't around to catch the worst of it."

Spock's eyebrow moved fractionally. "I am sure, Captain, that they were never less than fully polite."

"Exactly," sighed Kirk.


Copyright Meg Wright