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"How are those tests going, Bones?"
"They're not, Jim. I'm going to have to re-do some of them."
"How long'll that take you?"
McCoy shrugged. "Till I'm finished. Seriously, all day today, and very probably tomorrow as well."
Kirk made a face. "Pity. We'll be coming up to Beta Ceti in a couple of hours, and I wanted you in the landing party."
"Can't be done, Jim, I'm sorry. The tests have medical precedence. I've got to get them finished as soon as possible."
Kirk and Spock beamed down with Sulu, biologist Houston, geologist Masters and a security guard - not that Kirk expected to need him.
Beta Ceti Two was a strange, cold world, a planet of a K-spectrum sun. Its primary gave out little heat; the plants were all a reddish colour, all of moisture-preserving types - ground-hugging lichens, algae, cactuses of varying size. The animals were small, thickly furred, none of them showing any signs of either incipient intelligence or the remnants of past intelligence. None of the animals were particularly nervous of the landing party; indeed, many of them showed an almost touching tameness, and Houston had no bother catching specimens to examine, being extremely careful not to hurt any of them. Spock and Sulu turned their attention to the plants, taking careful samples. Masters wandered here and there, probing, examining, picking up and dropping pebbles. Kirk took in the overall impression of the planet, to enable him afterwards to correlate more easily the various reports of his specialists. Although it was primarily Spock's job as Science Officer, Kirk liked to know what was going on too. After all, he was often asked, unofficially, for his opinion on a planet's suitability for colonising, for example, quite apart from the official report. A planet with a perfect bill of health from the scientist's point of view sometimes turned out to be less than perfect for colonising, due to some small, seemingly unimportant detail that never got into the main report. Like one planet that had been cleared for colonising almost a century previously. There was a strong scent of flowers in the air, very pleasant... until you had to live with it. After a couple of days, the scent - which varied according to the temperature, so that it was impossible to become acclimatised to it - no longer seemed so pleasant; within a month, the colonists had packed up and left, unable to bear the smell any longer.
Security Guard Young wandered aimlessly round. He didn't expect to be needed; this was the most routine of routine surveys, no dangerous animals, no intelligent life forms. He began inspecting the plants casually. He was a man of no great intelligence, capable in his work but with no ambitions to move on to greater things. He knew it was possible for an ambitious guard to pick up enough learning in the field to move into the labs as an assistant, and go on from there to become an assistant scientist - albeit a very junior one, without much chance of further promotion, but it was still higher in rank than most security guards attained; but it was not for him. Nor had he any real hobbies. He worked out in the gym with his friends, he played cards with them during the monotonous hauls between planets when security had very little to do - on some ships, he had heard, security was kept quite busy, keeping the peace between rival sections of ship's personnel, but there was none of that aboard the Enterprise. In his more thoughtful moments, he sometimes doubted whether those stories were true; but always there was someone who knew someone who swore that it was true, that aboard some ships the brig was seldom, if ever, empty because of inter-section feuds. He drifted on, not really looking where he was going. These plants were odd, weren't they? Red, not green like good plants should be, no matter what their planet of origin. He began, almost, to see why some people - Sulu, for example - were interested in finding out about them, even if it wasn't their job. He was moving round a huge, cactus-type plant with great spiky leaves, staring at the long daggers it carried in place of good honest leaves, when he bumped into Kirk, who was moving towards him from the other direction.
Both men staggered. Young managed to retain his balance; Kirk fell sideways into the clutches of the long, spiky leaves.
"Sorry, sir!" Young gasped, reaching out his hand to help Kirk onto his feet.
Kirk took it, knowing that he wouldn't really be able to get up unaided - it wasn't possible to get up without pushing against the ground, and he couldn't do that without putting his hand on at least one more of the long sharp leaves. He had already been cut by at least one of them.
"Not your fault, Mr. Young," Kirk reassured him. "I wasn't looking where I was going either."
"Did you hurt yourself, sir?" Young asked. Kirk shook his head.
"There's blood on your sleeve, sir."
"A prick, nothing more," Kirk said, passing it off. Spock nagged at him to be careful, McCoy nagged at him... He more or less had to take it from those two, it was their job, but he was damned if he was going to let a mere security ensign worry about him!
Kirk moved on unconcerned, but Young had lost the mild interest he had been developing in the red plants of this odd-ball world. Whoever heard of the plants of low-spectrum suns being of any use for anything anyway? He sat down, watching the activity of the other members of the landing party, wishing they would hurry up so that he could get back to his interrupted game of cards, away from this chilly temperature.
Slowly, so slowly that he thought at first it was merely imagination, Kirk also began to feel the chill. He shivered. He was becoming conscious of one of his all-too-frequent headaches. They were something he had had to learn to live with; not even McCoy knew how often these headaches bothered him. It was part of the price he had to pay for the responsibility he was so proud to bear, that of being the youngest Captain in the Fleet; the headaches were brought on by nervous tension, not by anything organically wrong. Sometimes he told himself he was too conscientious, that if he worried less about his ship and his crew, he would get fewer headaches; but he was temperamentally unable to stop himself. He was beginning to feel a little sick, too.
Spock came over to him after a while. "We aren't going to get the survey finished today, Captain," he began. Then - "Captain - are you all right? You have blood on your sleeve - "
"Cut myself on a sharp leaf, that's all," Kirk said. "Nothing to worry about."
"Indeed, Captain? You are also looking very pale. I suggest you beam up and let Dr. McCoy do something about that cut, minor though you consider it to be. I can quite easily take over command of the landing party."
Kirk shook his head. "McCoy's busy," he said. "It's nothing serious. Doesn't even hurt." But even as he spoke he realised that he wasn't speaking the exact truth. His arm was beginning to ache a little.
"Captain, if it had been any of us who had been hurt, you would have insisted on that man going back to the Enterprise for attention, since Dr. McCoy is not with us. Please do not deny yourself the attention you would insist on others receiving."
Kirk looked at him, knowing that he was right, and thinking that it would indeed be pleasant to sit back for a few minutes, letting McCoy tend his arm, and letting himself forget his worries for those few minutes. "All right, you win, Mr. Spock - as usual, your logic is inescapable." He pulled out his communicator, flicked it open. "Kirk to Enterprise - one to beam up."
When Kirk reached sickbay, it was to find the newest recruit to the Enterprise's medical staff on duty. Dr. Nimmo had only been on the Enterprise for a few weeks, and had not yet had an opportunity to show his ability - this was their first planetfall since he had joined the ship, and no-one had been sick. There had been only a handful of routine examinations. He hadn't even been able to assist McCoy in the tests he was now processing - M'Benga was doing that. McCoy still had no idea of how efficient his new assistant was, and was taking no chances on his spoiling the tests - he already knew how easy it was to make a mistake; he had had to redo some of them already, and an inexperienced assistant could have made it necessary to redo the lot.
"McCoy about?" Kirk asked when he came into sickbay.
Nimmo, his eyes on the blood on Kirk's sleeve, shook his head. This was almost certainly a minor, routine injury, hardly worth bothering about unless you were going by the book, which said that any injury caused by alien materials must be tended to as soon as possible. But it was a chance to show the Captain that he was an efficient worker.
"No, Captain. I'm sorry. He's still very busy processing the tests, and he gave instructions that he wasn't to be disturbed. He's wanting to get them finished today if at all possible."
Kirk nodded. He would rather McCoy saw to his arm, which was now throbbing quite badly; indeed, he had been almost looking forward to feeling McCoy's gentle hands tending him - even though he knew the attention would be accompanied by a scolding for not being more careful. However, he didn't want to be selfish; McCoy had been kept too busy with the test results, and he didn't want to be the cause of delaying him still more.
"Can I help you, Captain?" Nimmo was saying.
He had to pull back his wandering attention. "It's not much," he said. "I cut my arm on a plant down there, and it's a bit painful."
Nimmo nodded. He didn't know Kirk well enough to realise that Kirk invariably minimised any injury he received - it was, in part, an almost unconscious attempt to save McCoy worry - something McCoy had seen through long ago.
Nimmo rolled Kirk's sleeve up. There was a very small, almost invisible, cut, showing slightly red.
"The leaves of the plant were long and thin," Kirk said. "One ran into my arm."
Nimmo ran a diagnostic instrument over it. "It's not bad," he said. "I'll just put a dressing on it... " He dusted it with antiseptic powder, and put the dressing over it. "It should be all right in a couple of days, Captain."
Kirk nodded. He couldn't complain of Nimmo's treatment; but always getting McCoy has begun to spoil me for attention from any other doctor, he thought. There had been a personal touch lacking.
"Oh, Doctor," he added. "I've got a bit of a headache as well. Can you give me something for it?"
Nimmo stared at him for a moment. A headache?
In one way, Nimmo had made a bad choice of career. He had never suffered from a headache in his life - he didn't believe in them. He considered them to be purely imaginary - an excuse for laziness, an excuse for work badly done; purely psychosomatic, a sign of hypochondria. He hadn't thought Captain Kirk to be a man who would suffer from hypochondria, but apparently he was wrong.
Despite his training, he did not even pause to consider that the headache might be a symptom of something - any time he had been ill he had still never had a headache; and he decided that Kirk was just angling for sympathy.
He went over to the medicine cabinet, glancing through the drugs it contained. Then he took down a container and removed a handful of pills from it. He put them in a small bottle, which he gave to Kirk.
"Take one every two hours until you're feeling better," he said.
Kirk nodded again, and regretted it. "Thank you, Doctor."
He went out and made for his quarters. He would take a tablet, change, and... and what? Go back down? Hardly worth it; Spock would soon be bringing the landing party back for the day. He wouldn't bother going down again tomorrow - he'd already seen all he needed to see. Go to the bridge, of course... If only he didn't feel so sick...
In his cabin, he stripped off the blood-stained shirt and went to wash. The movement hurt his arm, and with the sudden pain of it, his sickness reached a peak. He vomited, retched, vomited again. After his stomach was empty, he still kept on retching for a minute before the spasms stopped. He straightened wearily. He had hoped that his sickness would clear his head - sometimes it did help if he was sick. But not this time. His head was still throbbing as badly as ever.
Although his stomach rejected the thought of anything entering it, he swallowed one of the pills Nimmo had given him, washing it down with a glassful of water. He still felt nauseous - the water would at least give him something to bring up if he was sick again. However, the pill did seem to work; by the time he had washed and re-dressed, his head was beginning to bother him less, and he was feeling marginally fresher. He considered lying down for a while - but before he could do so he was called to the bridge.
A distress call had been received from a Federation vessel. From the co-ordinates, Enterprise was the nearest ship to the stricken craft. Mayflower was an old ship - she should never, in fact, have been cleared for take-off. Colonising vessels, however, were often past their prime. Although in some ways uneconomic, unscrupulous traders often used these old ships to provide cheap transport; picking up goods cheaply from the new colonies for expensive resale on their return and making their profit that way. Now the life support systems on this one were failing; simple wear and tear faults, but beyond the capabilities of the Mayflower's engineers to repair; the ship didn't carry the spares. The breakdown hadn't yet occurred - if it had, it would already be too late - but it was imminent.
Kirk had no choice; the survey programme would have to be abandoned while he escorted the Mayflower back to the nearest Starbase - if her systems lasted that long - or take off her passengers and crew if they didn't. In addition, he would have to charge the Captain, who was also probably the owner, with criminal negligence.
Kirk gave the appropriate instructions to his bridge crew. The Mayflower was some distance away; they would have to travel at warp six at least to be sure of getting there in time to be of use. He took another of Nimmo's tablets, this time swallowing it without water, and recalled the landing party, aware as he did so that he should have done that first. He had almost gone away and left them... At least, he knew that if he had given such an order, Chekov would have queried it, and he wouldn't have left them, but he had very nearly made a mistake that a cadet taking his first command situation simulation would not have made. And that was not like him.
Once the transporter room had confirmed the landing party aboard, he ordered the new course executed, and the Enterprise swung out of orbit.
Spock seemed to be taking a long time getting back on duty... Oh, yes, of course, he would be seeing about the processing of the specimens; the emergency wasn't so imminent that he had to be on the bridge just yet.
He took another tablet. Funny... it wasn't doing anything for his headache any more, though he was beginning to feel very alert; and his arm was throbbing more and more. He was beginning to feel very sick again too, and the two feelings were warring in his mind, one part of him wanting to lie down and die, the other part wanting to... to what? Do something active, anyway. '
Would Spock never come? He was beginning to feel disorientated now, and regretting the impulse that had made him decide not to disturb McCoy. Wait, though... He could speed Spock up. He took another pill.
"Lt. Uhura," he began. "Call... call... "
Without finishing his sentence, he slipped sideways in his chair and fell to the floor.
Spock and McCoy, called by Uhura, arrived on the bridge together. McCoy took one look at Kirk, checked him over quickly, and glanced at Spock.
"Help me get him to sickbay, Spock."
The Vulcan picked Kirk up easily as if he were a child, holding him gently. "What's wrong, Doctor?"
"I'm not sure, but there's indications of poisoning."
The turbolift doors slid shut on them; the bridge crew looked at each other with concern on their faces.
Nimmo was off duty now; McCoy got Spock to put Kirk on one of the examination couches where he checked him over more thoroughly. The first thing he discovered was the now angrily red, slightly swollen cut. He removed the dressing, frowning in puzzlement.
"How did he cut his arm, Spock?"
"Did he not tell you?"
"This is the first I've seen of him since you all beamed down," McCoy growled.
"He ran a long pointed leaf into himself - almost a thorn. He didn't want to bother about it, but I made him beam up to get it seen to. But if you didn't see him - who did?"
"Nimmo!" McCoy exclaimed.
"But surely... "
"I was busy, and Jim knew it. He may have decided that Nimmo would do to see to it, save calling me away from those blasted test results." He crossed to the desk and checked the treatment record, and the medication given.
"The fool!" he exclaimed.
"What is it?" Spock asked.
"All he did was disinfect the cut. But Jim asked for something for a headache as well. That should have told Nimmo that something was seriously wrong. Even as inexperienced as he is, he should know that a headache following an injury on an alien planet needs to be checked out. But all he did about that was to give Jim diurate. It's a nasty drug, one I don't like using. There is a painkiller in it, but it's combined with a stimulant - it's meant to keep you going under extremely adverse conditions."
"It does seem an unlikely combination."
"And it can have side effects - some people are allergic to it." He ran another quick check. "No sign of allergy, thank the lord... "
He took a quick blood sample. "I'll go and test this for foreign matter. Stay with him - and call me right away if there's any change. Any change at all." Spock nodded. As McCoy left, he added, "I'll have Nimmo's hide for this. He's shown complete disregard for all the tenets of medicine... " The closing door shut off any further remarks he might have made.
Spock stood by Kirk's side, looking down at him. With no-one there to see, he allowed his face to relax slightly; the worry showed clear. It was almost a relief for him to be able to relax his control for a moment. He knew McCoy would understand, did understand, but it wouldn't be in the doctor's nature to refrain from making a comment about it.
Kirk lay deeply unconscious, breathing heavily.
"Jim," Spock whispered. He took Kirk's hand in his for a moment, but he was afraid of McCoy coming back and finding him like that; he let it go again.
When the surgeon did come back, it seemed to Spock as if he had been gone for a year even though his infallible sense of time told him it was only a few minutes.
"He's definitely been poisoned," McCoy said on his return
"The plant?" Spock asked.
McCoy nodded. "Though the stimulant in the diurate didn't help."
"Can you pinpoint the poison, Doctor?"
Slowly, McCoy shook his head. "Not without a sample of the plant that did the damage."
"I'm not sure myself which one it was," Spock said slowly. "There were several that had long thorn-like leaves. I'll go and see if anyone from the landing party knows - and if we've any of the leaves among our samples."
Sulu, of course, knew nothing. Neither did Houston nor Masters. Spock didn't think Young would be any wiser; he knew the man to be conscientious enough as a crewman, but not exactly intelligent or observant. But he spoke to him anyway.
Young looked guilty when Spock questioned him.
"It was my fault," he admitted. "I wasn't looking where I was going, and accidentally knocked the Captain into the plant."
"Would you recognise it again if you saw it?" Spock asked.
"I don't know... I might. I'll try," he said. "I'm really sorry, Mr. Spock. I just didn't think - "
"You could not know what your inattention would do," Spock told him. "And if we are to assign blame for the Captain's present illness, there is someone else more at fault than you. Come with me."
Spock took Young to the lab where Houston and a biology team were beginning to process the plants they had gathered.
"Have a look at the specimens, Mr. Young," Spock said. "Do you see any plant that resembles the one the Captain fell against?" Young looked carefully at the mass of plants. Several had long pointed thorn-like leaves, but none were quite like the one that he remembered all too well; after all, it was the one he had been examining at the time of the accident.
At last he shook his head. "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "This one's like it, but it's not quite the same. The one you want had redder tips to its thorns."
"Might this be an immature specimen of the same plant?" Spock asked.
"I don't think so, sir. It looks different, somehow. The red tips are only part of how it looked different."
"Very well, Mr. Young. Thank you." He nodded dismissal, and Young thankfully returned to his quarters. Spock hadn't seemed angry, though of course you never really knew what he was thinking - though rumour had it that the Captain always knew. He still felt terribly guilty about it, though.
Spock went back to sickbay to report failure.
"We gathered samples of dozens of plants," he said, and McCoy thought he could detect some bitterness in his voice. "But somehow we failed to obtain the only one that would be of present use to us."
"We'll have to go back," McCoy said.
Spock looked at him. "Doctor, I do not know the nature of the emergency that caused us to be called away from Beta Ceti - only that the Captain did not think it necessary for me to go directly to the bridge; the emergency, he said when he recalled me, was two days' journey away, even at warp six. I am quite certain that if the Captain ordered us to travel at warp six for that length of time, it must be something rather urgent. To go back - no matter how important we may think it is to do so ... "
McCoy hesitated. "All right, Spock; find out now where we're going."
Spock nodded. He turned to the intercom. "Spock to bridge. Lt. Uhura, what is our present mission?"
Uhura told him and played back the message from the Mayflower. When it was finished, McCoy said, "The emergency hasn't arisen yet. We've not come that far. We could afford the two or three hours it would take to go back, even if we had to travel at warp eight to make up the time."
Spock looked at him, torn between what he wanted to do and what he knew Kirk would want him to do. McCoy's suggestion was very tempting.
"Doctor, the Captain did not order warp six on a whim. He ordered it because we do not know how long it will be before that emergency is a fact. If we go back and lose those few hours, it might made all the difference between being on time and failing utterly. There are over two hundred innocent lives on that ship, Doctor, some of them young children. It was not their fault that the owner of the ship they chartered was a rogue, running a ship that should have been scrapped years ago."
"Spock, I know all that. But it's Jim's life that's at stake here, too. If I can't find what it is that poisoned him I may not be able to treat him satisfactorily. Those components may last a week yet, and we're only two days away - "
Both men swung round. Kirk was looking at them, pain in his eyes. "Spock. You must go on. Promise me... promise me you'll go on... "
"Jim - " McCoy said.
"Promise me, Spock... " He caught Spock's wrist weakly. Spock and McCoy looked at each other. Kirk's voice was very faint, but the agitation in it was plain.
"I promise, Jim," Spock said quietly. "We'll go on."
Kirk relaxed. He fell back, too weak even to acknowledge the promise. Moments later his eyes closed again.
McCoy said quietly, "Without a sample of that plant, there's almost no chance, Spock."
"Would you have me break my promise, Doctor?"
McCoy looked at him. "No," he said at last.
"If anyone can find a cure for him, you can," Spock said, so softly that McCoy almost didn't hear him, as he turned to go.
When Spock came onto the bridge, it was Sulu who asked, "How is the Captain, Mr. Spock?" - but it was only because he was the first to register Spock's presence.
"Dr. McCoy is not sanguine as to his chances of accomplishing a cure," Spock said evenly.
"You mean the Captain's dying?"
"Perhaps," Spock replied.
"What's wrong with him?" Uhura asked.
"He cut his arm on a thorn-like plant," Spock answered. "The plant appears to have poisoned the Captain."
"And McCoy can't do anything?" Scott asked.
"Very little," Spock replied. "None of the many plants we obtained as specimens seems to be the one that injured the Captain. We cannot go back without endangering the success of our rescue mission. But without a sample to investigate, Dr. McCoy has little chance of finding an antidote."
Sulu said, "Mr. Spock, I took some samples for my own collection. I think I put a piece from each plant I took into each collecting bag, but... "
"Lt. Uhura, contact Security. Have Ensign Young join us in Mr. Sulu's quarters. Mr. Sulu, shall we go and check your samples now - just in case?"
Young was more than a little nervous as he went to Sulu's cabin. Certainly the helmsman had no authority to discipline him - but why else had he been sent for? He was still suffering from a very guilty conscience. Nor did it help his nerves when he saw that Spock was there too.
However, it was only to check some more samples of plants. He relaxed a little, looking over the mixed bag of cuttings. Sulu hadn't had time yet to put them in any sort of order, and Young picked them over carefully. Several had the long thorn-like leaves. "This one, sir," he said. "I'm sure it was this one."
Sulu looked at it. "I remember," he said. "I'd just got that one when we were recalled. I just stuffed it into one of the bags without bothering which bag it was."
Spock took it carefully. "Thank you, Mr. Young," he said. "And you, Mr. Sulu. This may save the Captain's life."
He went out with it.
McCoy greeted the sample enthusiastically but cautiously. While Spock stayed with Kirk, the surgeon went back to the lab to check it. He was back in a surprisingly short time.
"This shouldn't have had such a serious effect," he said irritably.
"?" asked Spock's eyebrow.
"Oh, it secreted a poison all right, but it's a very mild poison. About as serious as a stinging nettle. Probably a secondary defence against being eaten by something that isn't worried by the spines. His arm would have been sore, sure; but apart from that, it should have - oh, reddened a little, maybe even swelled a little too; but nothing more."
"So it doesn't help after all?" ,
"It is certain that it's the same plant - not just one closely related to it?"
"Ensign Young was certain," Spock told him.
McCoy scowled. Then, abruptly, he snapped his fingers. "The diurate!"
"You said there was no allergic reaction," Spock reminded him.
"No allergic reaction," McCoy agreed. "But there might have been a chemical reaction." He turned to the medical cabinet and took the diurate container back to the lab with him.
He was away rather longer this time. While he was gone, Spock bent over Kirk anxiously. The Captain was no longer breathing heavily; he was breathing so softly that for a moment Spock was afraid that he had stopped breathing at all, and was only reassured by the diagnostic panel.
The swelling was spreading up his arm. By now, too, his hand was swollen and he was looking very flushed. Suddenly, so suddenly that Spock jumped, Kirk began mumbling, too indistinctly for Spock to make out what he was saying.
"Doctor!" he called.
McCoy appeared at once, realised immediately what was wrong. He checked Kirk quickly, gave him an injection. Kirk quietened again, but McCoy still looked worried.
"How is it, Doctor?"
"Bad," said McCoy shortly, and turned back to the lab.
"Can I do anything to help you?" Spock called after him.
"You can help me best by watching Jim," McCoy said simply.
At last McCoy returned with a hypo filled with a yellowish liquid. He injected Kirk, and stood back.
"That may or may not work," he said. "But if it doesn't... " He shook his head.
They watched as the minutes ticked by. There was no obvious change. Kirk began to toss restlessly.
McCoy shook his head. "He's still fevered," he said dully. "It hasn't worked."
He got up from his seat on the edge of Kirk's bed, and made his way dispiritedly back towards the lab. "I don't know what to try now," he said hopelessly as he went through, leaving Spock staring helplessly after him.
Kirk began to mutter again. This time Spock could make out something of what the Human was saying. He was thinking of the rescue mission. Spock reached out and touched Kirk's forehead.
"Jim... it's all right. We're on course, we'll get there in time... "
Kirk quietened again. Was the angry flush fading from his face? Spock looked at the injured arm. The swelling was definitely less...
McCoy came through again, fear on his face. "Is he... ?"
"He's looking better, Doctor."
McCoy strode over, suddenly alert. He examined Kirk quickly. "He'll do," he said. He sat down abruptly on the edge of the bed. Spock put a gentle hand on his arm.
"You simply underestimated the strength of the medication you gave him," he said. McCoy nodded.
The door opened; Nimmo came in. He looked at the scene by the bed, and came over.
"What happened, Dr. McCoy?" he asked.
McCoy looked up at him grimly. "Nothing much," he said with a viciousness that surprised Spock. "Just that your treatment of the Captain nearly killed him."
Nimmo paled perceptibly.
"Doctor, Dr. Nimmo is very inexperienced in xenomedicine," Spock put in.
"I don't care how inexperienced he is, it's the truth. Listen, Doctor, and remember. If a man who has been injured by an alien substance, no matter how slightly, complains of a headache, the last thing you give him is a stimulant. You get him into bed - and you keep him there until you have checked out thoroughly - and I mean thoroughly - any and every possibility. And you never give a patient diurate unless as an absolute last resort. Understood?"
"And as long as you're on this ship - if the Captain - or Mr. Spock - comes looking for medical help, send for me. I don't care how busy I am, send for me. Is that clear?"
"All right. There's some stuff in the lab I was working on. Go and check it over. I want your comments on the results by this evening."
Nimmo left hastily. Spock looked after him but said nothing. McCoy glanced at him.
"You think I've been too hard on him?"
Spock said slowly, "No, Doctor. He has to learn. A lesson of this magnitude so early in his career might make the difference between his developing into an able doctor instead of a merely competent one."
Kirk said clearly, "Who are you talking about?"
They both turned to him. "Nimmo, Jim," McCoy said.
"He won't try treating you again."
"He was competent enough," Kirk said.
"No, he wasn't. His treatment nearly killed you. I've told him he's not to attend to you again. If anyone's going to kill you, it's going to be me."
Kirk grinned at him.
"How are you feeling now, Captain?" Spock asked.
"I'm all right, Spock. Bones, when can I get back on duty?"
"Has your headache cleared up?"
"All right. Now, I suppose. Spock, you keep an eye on him. If he shows any signs of a relapse - "
Spock nodded. "I will bring him straight back."
Kirk grunted. "You're a pair of bullies," he told them. "Mr. Spock - shall we go?"
McCoy watched them leave, a smile on his face. Then he sighed, and moved towards the lab. Nimmo still had a lot to learn; he might as well make a start on helping him to learn it.