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PHILANTHROPY

by

Sheila Clark

Spock and McCoy halted their argument long enough to acknowledge Ambassador Beauly's presence in the corridor, and picked it up again the moment they were past him.

Beauly looked after them, frowning a little. He had only been aboard the Enterprise for a matter of hours, but this was the second time he had heard the two disagreeing. Forgetting that on a ship the size of the Enterprise the Doctor and First Officer could very easily avoid each other if they wanted to, he decided that something would have to be done about it.

For an Ambassador, Beauly was very dogmatic, and he had the habit of jumping to immediate, unalterable conclusions based on first impressions. His first impression here was that McCoy and Spock apparently found it impossible to agree; it was therefore impossible for them to work together effectively. From the few words he had heard, combined with his knowledge of Vulcan psychology - which was more limited than he realised - he decided that McCoy must be the instigator of the quarrel; and without waiting to consult Kirk, or to see anything of the working relationship between the two men, he followed the Doctor to Sickbay.

McCoy glanced up from the tape he had begun to study as Beauly entered his office. "Yes, Ambassador?" he asked. "What can I do for you?"

Even although at need Beauly could be as devious as the next bureaucrat, he was not a man who normally wasted words. He believed in coming straight to the point whenever possible; and on this occasion it was undoubtedly possible.

"Doctor, in the few hours I have been aboard I have heard you quarrelling with Commander Spock on two separate occasions."

McCoy stared at the Ambassador, open-mouthed, too startled to say anything.

"It was obvious to me," Beauly went on, "that you began those quarrels, and that it is therefore impossible for you and Commander Spock to work together in harmony. Accordingly, I will make it my business to recommend that you be transferred as soon as possible to another ship. I cannot understand why Captain Kirk has not already made such a recommendation."

Before the stunned McCoy could recover enough to reply, Beauly turned and left.

McCoy stared blankly at the closed door for some moments; then, collecting his scattered wits, he went in search of Kirk.

He found the Captain in his quarters, playing chess with Spock. Kirk glanced up as McCoy entered, and began to smile a welcome, but the smile quickly faded as he saw the trouble on the surgeon's face.

"Bones! What's wrong?"

"Beauly. He heard Spock and me arguing and thinks we were serious about it. He's recommending my transfer, he told me."

"He can't do that," Kirk said. "Not if I oppose it."

"I think perhaps he can, Captain," Spock put in. "As an Ambassador, he has a great deal of influence and I did hear that he is related through marriage to Admiral Lewis, of Staffing."

The three men looked at each other.

"I'll go and have a word with him," Kirk decided.

* * * * * * * *

The Captain was away for a very short time. He looked furious when he returned.

"No use?" McCoy asked.

"He accused me of wantonly endangering the ship by condoning - or at the least permitting - the presence of two officers in the crew who so dislike each other that they cannot agree."

"Perhaps I should be the one to see him, Captain," Spock suggested. "According to what Dr. McCoy told me while you were away, he is being blamed for instigating the 'quarrel'. That being so, I am the logical one to tell Mr. Beauly that our efficiency is not affected by our 'disagreements'."

"You can try," Kirk said gloomily. "But I tell you now, he won't listen. I've never met such an opinionated, self-satisfied idiot in my life!"

* * * * * * * *

Spock buzzed at Beauly's cabin door, and on receiving a reply from within, he entered.

Beauly looked a little surprised to see him. "Yes, Mr. Spock?"

"Ambassador," Spock began, "I believe you may have reached a hasty decision regarding Dr. McCoy. He and I, contrary to the impression you appear to have received, are on perfectly good terms. Certainly we disagree frequently, but never about anything important - and we both derive a considerable amount of enjoyment from these differences of opinion."

"I an prepared to admit that you do not appear to take offence at Dr. McCoy's attitude," Beauly said slowly, "but then, Vulcans never do. My experience is that Vulcans do not realise when they are being deliberately insulted."

"Your pardon, Ambassador, but I am half Terran. I would know if that were the case."

"Very well, I can accept that - or at least that it could be so. But it did seem to me that Dr. McCoy was being deliberately insulting - so subtly, however, that you may not have realised it."

"Ambassador, he was not."

"That is the forgiving Vulcan nature, Mr. Spock. I am afraid I must hold to my opinion. Your efficiency may not suffer, but McCoy, to my mind, clearly does not regard you with friendly eyes. His competence to proceed with his work in an efficient manner must be suspect. I feel I must hold to my original decision, and recommend to Admiral Lewis that he be transferred as soon as possible."

"Ambassador, we do work well together," Spock insisted. "Vulcans do not lie. Dr. McCoy and I are not serious when we disagree, any more than two wrestlers are when they indulge in a sparring contest..."

"You, perhaps, are not," Beauly repeated, "but I think you are mistaken in your view of his attitude. That will be all, Mr. Spock," he added, seeing that Spock was preparing to advance yet another argument.

"Yes, sir."

Kirk and McCoy were waiting in the corridor for him as he left the Ambassador's quarters. He looked at them and shook his head.

"He wouldn't listen," he said. "He thinks I was defending Dr. McCoy because Vulcans do not take offence."

"You tried, Spock," McCoy said, rather dully. "Thanks for that."

"We can try letting him see you working together," Kirk decided. "But from his dogmatic attitude, I don't hold out much hope of it being successful."

* * * * * * * *

For several days thereafter Spock and McCoy refrained from exercising their tongues on each other. Beauly saw them together on a number of occasions, and remained obstinately unimpressed.

"It says a good deal for Commander Spock's patience and good nature that he permits Dr. McCoy to use him like that," Beauly told Kirk eventually.

Kirk tried again. "Ambassador, McCoy isn't using Spock. Neither is patience nor good humour necessary. I've known them for years, sir. Neither of them will admit it openly, but they do have considerable affection for each other. It does show - sometimes. They argue as their way of expressing that affection, and everyone on the ship knows it. Dammit, if they really didn't get on together, would McCoy be so anxious to stay here? Would Spock want him to?"

"I'm afraid that's too complicated for me, Captain," Beauly replied. "Men who are friends do not argue in the terms I heard Dr. McCoy using to Mr. Spock."

* * * * * * * *

Three days later the Enterprise reached her immediate destination and swung into a standard orbit round a planet which had been investigated by a Research vessel some months previously. The crew of the Ulysses had reported the native Acrons as being extremely nervous and suspicious of strangers; indeed, they had been unable to get near them. Acron was well off the usual beat of Starfleet vessels; nor was it anywhere near Klingon or even Romulan influence. There was nothing to indicate that the natives knew anything about other races, yet they were nervous of strangers. Starfleet felt that this fact was unusual enough to warrant investigation.

Sensors indicated a not very plentiful, well-scattered, intelligent humanoid population living at a pre-industrial level. Farming appeared to be the main pursuit.

"We'll beam down," Kirk decided, not surprisingly. As usual he chose Spock and McCoy to accompany him. Beauly made no secret of the fact that he considered Kirk's choice injudicious; Kirk stood firm. At last, he said,

"Would you care to accompany us, Ambassador? You would then be able to satisfy yourself of the competence of the landing party. We three work well together, we understand each other; I would not choose them otherwise."

"Very well," Beauly snapped. "But I warn you, Captain - one sign of inefficiency and I'll have you out of the service for endangering your command. Does that make you change your mind?"

"Ambassador, I have selected the two men with whom I work best, and who, in my opinion, work effectively together."

Beauly merely snorted.

* * * * * * * *

The landing party materialised in an open, sparsely-wooded stretch of country. They looked round, moving slowly forward as they did so.

"There's a path here, Captain," Spock said.

It was very faint. "How recent is it?" Kirk asked.

Spock shook his head. "Difficult to say precisely, Captain. It may merely be an animal track, of course."

"But you don't think so."

"I would say that an animal track would show more obvious sign of use, Captain."

"Do we follow it?" McCoy asked.

Kirk nodded. "But carefully." He glanced up and down the path, and gestured. "Choice of direction will have to be arbitrary," he said. "There's nothing to indicate which way would be best. Let's go this way." He glanced consideringly at Beauly. This man was the weak link in their team; not Spock, not McCoy. Where best to place him so that he could cause the minimum amount of trouble? "Mr. Spock, you go first; then you, Bones. Ambassador, if you follow McCoy, I'll bring up the rear."

They went on in silence for some distance, then Spock stopped. Kirk moved up beside him.

"What is it, Spock?"

"A village, Captain."

Ahead of them, just recognisable as a settlement, was a cluster of primitive huts made of woven sticks and reed thatching. The place seemed deserted.

"This could be why the track looks unused," Kirk mused. "The people have left; migrated to another area, perhaps?"

"I disagree, Captain," Spock put in. "The area around the huts bears a look of cultivation - primitive, certainly, but unmistakable. People are unlikely to leave a region before they harvest their crops."

McCoy nodded. "He's right, Jim. Unless something scared them so much that they just ran."

"If they were simply frightened away, they would soon return," Spock objected.

"Perhaps not, Kirk said slowly. "I know that, logically, once the cause of their fear was gone, you might expect them to come back... but the Captain of the Ulysses reported that the Acrons were very nervous. A race like that might keep on running."

"What could frighten them?" Beauly asked.

"A rare but very dangerous life-form?" McCoy suggested.

"I would think not, Doctor," Spock said. "They were reported to be suspicious of strangers. Humanoid beings, accustomed to a dangerous native life-form, no matter how rare, would not necessarily be suspicious of another humanoid."

Kirk looked at him. "Speculation?"

"A possibility that they are familiar with a dangerous alien humanoid - or at least have encountered such a race. We ourselves are familiar with several humanoid races who are, to say the least, unfriendly."

Kirk nodded.

"But that doesn't explain why the Acrons, having run, didn't eventually come back," McCoy protested. "They must have left here weeks ago." He glanced round the weed-thick passages between the huts.

"I know, Doctor. I would therefore suspect that this putative race is extremely dangerous; the natives may have begun to run, then all been killed. It may also be a race we have not before encountered; we are very near an unexplored spiral arm, and it would be foolish of us to assume that the Klingons and the Romulans are the only inimical species in the galaxy."

The party moved on slowly, half expecting someone to spring out at them from one of the huts, deserted though they seemed to be. But nothing stirred in the empty settlement, and they reached the other side of it without incident.

Once there, something caught Kirk's attention, and he led the way through the grass to a barren area. The vegetation, crushed, scorched by extreme heat, was just beginning to sprout again. The patch was several times larger than the mark left by a shuttlecraft. Spock turned his tricorder onto it.

"What caused it, Mr. Spock?" Kirk asked.

"There are traces of fuel deposits, partially burned," Spock replied slowly. "This mark was left by some kind of vehicle, presumably a flying one; whatever kind of engine it has, it is not particularly efficient."

"Efficient enough to get around in," McCoy commented drily.

"It certainly supports your theory about a dangerous race," Kirk told Spock. "And certainly not native to this planet."

"Indeed not," Spock agreed. "There is nothing on this world to indicate any flight potential."

"The next question is, what makes them dangerous?"

"Slave hunting?" Beauly suggested. "That would explain why there aren't any of the villagers around; any that did escape would be scared to come back."

"Surely there is a limit to the number of slaves any such culture requires?" Spock said doubtfully. "Unless, of course, the death rate among them is very high."

Kirk shook his head. "That doesn't follow, Spock. Did Vulcan ever have a period when there was a slave-owning culture?"

"No. In the distant past..."

Kirk cut in before the Vulcan could elaborate. "Well, Earth did... and remember that 'Roman' culture we encountered a while back? Slave-owning cultures never have enough slaves. Possession of slaves is a sign of wealth; that was part of the reason why Rome, back on Earth, eventually fell. Too many slaves. The citizens hadn't enough to do. Even their fighting was all done, eventually, by members of conquered races... and the slave population outnumbered the free population by... I can't remember the exact figures, but it was dozens to one. But I think we're entering the realm of pointless speculation now." He pulled out his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Is there any sign of mechanisation on any part of the planet's surface?"

"Nnnooo, Captain." Uhura sounded doubtful. "There are indications of another ship nearby, but we can't pinpoint it. Nothing else."

"Any chance that it's a ship on the ground?"

"It's possible, Captain," Scott's voice out in, "but if it is we can't give you a position. The readings are fluctuating, fading in and out, and very faint even at their strongest. More like a sensor ghost than anything else."

"Right. If you do locate anything positive, let me know."

"Aye, sir."

"Kirk out."

"Is that another track?" McCoy asked, pointing.

"Looks like it," Kirk said. "Let's see where it goes." They went along it fairly quickly. After a while it forked, three branches leading off it in different directions. All looked equally unused.

"Spock, you take that path," Kirk said. "Bones, you take the middle one. Ambassador, you and I will take the other. Be careful. Contact each other at the first sign of anything - anything at all. If you find nothing within, say, three hours, beam back to the Enterprise."

The others nodded acknowledgement and set off.

* * * * * * * *

Kirk and Beauly found nothing. Their path led only to the fields around the village, and after about an hour of wandering around trying to make sense out of its meandering route from field to field, getting increasingly annoyed by Beauly's assertive suggestions, none of which appeared to have any positive foundation, Kirk contacted Spock and McCoy. McCoy reported that his path also appeared to be nothing more than access to the fields, but Spock was making good time on his track, which definitely seemed to be going somewhere. "Most probably to another village," he concluded.

"Right, then," Kirk decided. "Bones, beam up. Wait for us, then we'll all beam back down to join Spock. Kirk to Enterprise... Scotty, you have all our coordinates? Beam McCoy, Beauly and myself up, then down again at Spock's position. Energise when ready."

It seemed no time at all before they materialised in the transporter room. McCoy moved back onto the platform to join them, and they returned to the surface. They materialised beside the barely-marked track, to find no sign of Spock.

"Scotty, have you got the coordinates right?"

"Aye, Captain."

"Kirk to Spock." There was no answer.

Kirk and McCoy looked at each other, concern showing clearly on both their faces.

"Could something have attacked him - knocked him out?" Beauly asked.

"Unlikely," Kirk replied. He looked round.

McCoy moved a few paces, and stopped. "Jim."

"Yes, Bones?"

As Kirk joined him McCoy bent and picked up Spock's communicator from where it was lying at the side of the track. Beauly joined them.

"You may have been right after all," Kirk told the Ambassador.

"Whoever - or whatever -- it was can't be far away," McCoy said. "It's only seconds since we talked to him."

"You would think so," Kirk agreed, "but in that case, we should be able to hear something, surely. I can't hear anything..."

"Could he have been transported away?" Beauly asked.

Kirk looked at the Ambassador. At last he had made a useful suggestion.

"Kirk to Enterprise. Any word yet on that unidentified ship?"

"It could be on the ground quite near you," Scott answered.

"Spock's theory about a hostile race seems pretty well proved," Kirk went on. "It also seems as if he's been caught by it," he finished grimly.

"So what are we waiting for?" McCoy said urgently. "If we're to rescue him - "

"Hold on, Bones. a, We don't know that that is what happened - it's still speculation. b, We don't know where this ship is. And c, it won't help Spock if we blunder into the same trap."

"All right, then. Let me set myself up as a decoy, then you and Ambassador Beauly can see what we're up against; and if I'm caught too, expecting it, I might be in quite a good position to help Spock."

"I know, Bones," Kirk said sympathetically. "But remember, Spock may already be dead. It won't help any of us if you're killed. It's too big a risk."

"Isn't Spock worth it?" McCoy demanded fiercely. Beauly looked at him sharply.

Before Kirk could reply they became conscious of a sweet, sticky smell, then all collapsed unconscious.

* * * * * * * *

Kirk slowly became aware of lying on something hard, and then of a steady humming sound. He opened his eyes and looked around.

Beauly and McCoy lay beside him, still unconscious; a few feet away, Spock was sprawled limply. They were in a small room with metallic walls; a grating near the ceiling looked like part of a ventilation system; apart from that, the walls looked solid. At a guess, they were inside the alien ship.

Kirk scrambled up and bent over Beauly, then McCoy. Both were stirring, and would not be long in regaining consciousness. He crossed to Spock, and rolled him onto his back.

Even his untrained eye could see that something was far wrong with the Vulcan. Spock was breathing heavily, and his face was an unnatural blueish colour. Kirk crossed back to McCoy and shook him.

"Bones! Wake up, Bones!"

McCoy grunted and opened unwilling eyes. "Jim. What..."

"Spock," Kirk said tersely. "Something's wrong with him."

McCoy sat up abruptly at that, looking round. As Beauly opened his eyes McCoy was moving over to Spock. He bent over the Vulcan.

"Well?" Kirk asked anxiously.

McCoy groped for his medical kit and found it missing. He reached next for his communicator, and failed to find it either. "It looks like some sort of allergy," he said, his voice worried. "I can't think of any known Vulcan allergy, but that doesn't mean there isn't one somewhere. Without instruments I can't even begin to guess exactly what's wrong - or to treat him. We've got to get him back to the Enterprise."

"How?" Kirk asked bluntly. "My communicator's gone too. And my phaser. I can't see a door in this place, either."

"I don't know how," McCoy said irritably. "But if we don't get him back to the Enterprise, and soon, he'll die. This... allergy... or whatever it is, is affecting his lungs. It's becoming more and more of an effort for him to breathe, and unconscious as he is, he'll soon reach the point where he hasn't the ability to make the effort."

Kirk bit his lip. "Any idea what might have caused it?"

McCoy shook his head. "Unless whatever we were gassed with. He must have had a dose of the same stuff. Blood with a copper base is very rare - the vulcanoid species are the only intelligent ones I know of with it. His blood could have reacted to the gas in a different way from the one iron-based blood would. And if that's the case, his lungs are probably the first place where the reaction would show up."

He felt for Spock's pulse, adjusting his grip on the Vulcan's wrist until he found it. "Heartbeat's slowed, too. If I even had my kit I could give him an anti-histamine injection. The longer I am getting him treated..." He trailed off, not needing to finish.

"Any possibility he's managed to put himself into some sort of trance?"

McCoy shook his head again. "His breathing's too laboured for that, Jim. It's not a trance."

"Not even a healing trance?"

"No. Besides, he needs a few seconds to prepare, and he wouldn't have had the time. Remember how quickly we were knocked out? It was almost instantaneous."

"That's true."

With startling abruptness a door that had been invisible until then slid open. Four... creatures... entered.

They resembled nothing so much as a praying mantis; Beauly, the diplomat, took an automatic step backwards. They were humanoid, in that they were biped and two-armed and stood reasonably erect; but they had a secondary pair of rudimentary arms culminating in tiny claws, which looked as if they might still be functional when the creatures ate. Their heads were insect-like, with two bulbous eyes set at the sides, short antennae, no noses and large mouths. They had no obvious ears. The actual shape of their bodies was difficult to determine, as they wore loose long robes; but from the way they moved it seemed possible that they had large abdomens protruding behind -- or below - where their legs joined their bodies. Their arms were connected to their bodies at the front of their chests, and terminated in tentacle-like fingers.

As Kirk moved forward, his attention was drawn back to McCoy. The surgeon was bending over Spock, his mouth covering the Vulcan's.

"Bones?"

"He's past... making... the effort..." McCoy jerked out as he worked, gasping out the words as he drew another deep breath to force into the Vulcan's lungs.

Kirk whirled to the aliens. "You've got to let us get back to our ship! Our friend is dying!"

The aliens seemed to communicate with each other, although Kirk heard nothing save a series of meaningless clicks. Then one of them moved forward, holding out a communicator. Kirk snatched it, then nearly dropped it in his haste to open it.

"Kirk to Enterprise - four to beam up. Have a medical team standing by."

They were caught in the familiar transporter field.

* * * * * * * *

Once on board the Enterprise McCoy and the waiting medical team rushed Spock off to Sickbay, leaving Beauly staring after the whirlwind with an almost stupefied expression until Kirk attracted his attention.

"I must admit," the Ambassador said thoughtfully, "that Dr. McCoy's reaction to Mr. Spock's condition has surprised me... and yet it is wholly in keeping with what you - and Mr. Spock - told me. Perhaps I was wrong after all..."

Kirk managed to smile. "Yes, Ambassador. It does show - sometimes." He glanced at the door, wanting to follow, knowing that duty must come first. "You and I must now consider what to do about those aliens down there."

Beauly straightened almost defiantly. "I am a fully qualified Ambassador," he told Kirk, unnecessarily. "It is my duty to return and attempt to make contact with them."

"I fully agree, sir. Their readiness to let us go, after they had captured us, seems to indicate that they started off by thinking us natives; once they realised we weren't, they probably wanted to see what we'd do."

* * * * * * * *

The two men beamed back to the planet, taking a translator unit, to materialise in the little room they'd left so short a time before. The insectile aliens were waiting, looking almost as if they hadn't moved during the interval. Of course, Kirk thought, patience is a virtue amongst carnivorous insects like the praying mantis...

Kirk faced the aliens. "I thank you for permitting us to take our friend to where we could help him. May I ask why you captured us? You must have known that we were not natives."

"We did not know." The translated language came over in a series of clicks, sounding very unusual; both men found they had to listen hard in order to follow the alien speech. "Your species all look alike to us."

Well, that figured, Kirk thought; these aliens all looked alike to him, too.

"When we examined the small devices you carry, we soon realised that you must be representative of a more advanced culture. It took us some time, however, to decide that you must be like us, travellers from another world."

"Do you know why the natives are so frightened of strangers?" Beauly asked.

Kirk's first thought, that that was a stupid question, quickly faded as he realised that the Ambassador was right; the aliens were making no threats, had in fact treated them very sympathetically. It seemed unlikely that they would behave so to one race while preying on another.

"We have been removing them from this planet and taking them to another world."

"What!" Beauly sounded horrified.

"We have a reason. Come, we will show you."

The two men followed their hosts to another room, where there was a viewscreen. One of the aliens manipulated a control, and pictures began to form on the screen.

"This is five years ago, when we first arrived."

The pictures showed a mountain range. High, snow-covered hills stood out clearly against the sky; trees climbed half-way up the slopes, marching in serried ranks.

"Our sensing devices showed instability in this ground. We waited, and watched."

"Instability?" Kirk exclaimed. "Those mountains look good for a million years."

"Four years ago," the insect said evenly.

It was the same range of mountains, but now two of them were smoking and red lava was pouring fluidly from one of these. The trees on its lower slopes were burning, the fire spreading rapidly on each side of the stream of lava that was destroying them.

"Three years ago."

It was again the same view; but now it was terribly changed. Now, at least half the peaks were showing signs of incipient vulcanism. One of the new volcanos was throwing out great lumps of rock; very few trees were left.

"Two years ago."

It had to be the same scene, Kirk realised. Had to be. But it was so altered as to be almost unrecognisable. The whole outline of the mountains was different, and every mountain there was breathing smoke. One was almost gone; in its place was a volcanic crater, the pitiful wreck of a once-proud giant. It must have exploded, Kirk decided. He glanced at the aliens.

"The natives took fright when all this happened?" he surmised.

The insect manipulating the control turned its head in a swivelling motion to the right. "This range of mountains is in a deserted region. There was no-one living nearby to flee in alarm. This is only one of many such areas. For so many volcanoes to appear over such a small area so quickly, indicates great instability. We investigated, studied the planet carefully, and realised that it is beginning to disintegrate. We estimate that it will explode within a few weeks. These are the only intelligent people we have found in twenty years of travelling to the stars; we wanted to save them if we could."

"So you began to carry them off?"

"Them and their domestic animals. We take them to a planet of a nearby system. The planet resembles this one closely, and those we took there first have settled down well. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to catch them. The ones who are left do not believe us when we try to tell them of the danger, and run from us."

The two men looked at each other. Fear of insects... of aliens ...

"Perhaps we could help," Kirk suggested. "The natives might listen to us - you say we resemble them sufficiently that you can't tell us apart."

Beauly shook his head. "The crew of the Ulysses couldn't get near them, remember, Captain? But - " he glanced at the alien - "have you ever thought of bringing back some of the ones you have settled, and getting them to tell the others you mean no harm?"

The alien swivelled its insectile head again. "Do you think it would be effective?"

"Well, if they see some of their own people happy and contented, they might be more inclined to listen."

"Where are you taking them?" Kirk asked.

The alien clicked what must have been a set of coordinates, but it failed to translate. No referents, Kirk realised. Oh well, they could sort that one out from the ship.

"How long does it take?"

"Five of our days to get there," was the doleful reply. "Only four of our ships are available to assist; our home world is too far away for any further help to reach us in time."

"I'll see if any of our ships are near enough to divert."

* * * * * * * *

Beauly remained with the aliens when Kirk beamed back to the Enterprise. His first thought was to contact Sickbay.

"McCoy here."

"How is he, Bones?"

"Breathing." McCoy's voice was carefully controlled. "We've run tests, but we can't come up with any cause, although anti-histamine shots did help, and he seems to be throwing off the effects all right. Don't ask me when he'll regain consciousness, though."

Satisfied, Kirk went to the Bridge. While Chekov checked out the nearby systems to discover which one was being used for the resettlement, Kirk contacted Starfleet Command and arranged for the nearest Federation vessels to be diverted to help the evacuation.

With the assistance of several of the transplanted Acrons, the remainder of the evacuation was successfully carried out by a mixed fleet of Federation and alien vessels.

Beauly left with the insectile Jaaniks to provide liaison between them and the Federation. This was a friendly species worth cultivating, despite the initial mistrust the insects' appearance engendered.

"I am pleased that the Ambassador decided not to recommend your transfer, Doctor," Spock told McCoy some hours after they left the asteroid belt that Acron had become. "I would have... missed... the entertainment that I derive from the illogical workings of your mind."

McCoy grunted. "I knew I should have jumped at the chance," he said. "I might never get another."


***********************************

Copyright Sheila Clark

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