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The face of Admiral Fitzgerald winked off the viewscreen, leaving Kirk staring at it blankly, his eyes still seeing the after image of the face shadowing the screen. His bridge crew was hardly less horrified.
Sure, they'd known they were due an inspection - but they'd expected it to be made by Fitzgerald himself, or just possibly Komack, both of whom were totally predictable; any crew could get top rating from either one provided certain things were up to the standard they demanded. 95% of Fitzgerald's inspections were always in the engineroom (he had been a Chief Engineer himself), which Scott demanded ran at 150% efficiency at all times; Komack always delved deep into the navigational records (he had started his career as a navigator), checked the Captain's Log, and gave everything else a very superficial scan.
But Admiral Sobieski, already on his way and due to arrive in forty eight hours, was a complete unknown, newly promoted and in all probability keen to show his mettle.
Kirk returned to a slow awareness of his surroundings, his mind already considering ways and means of 'softening up' the Admiral and making the inspection less of an ordeal. Oh, Kirk had no doubt that his crew would get a good report, no matter what, but there was no point in letting the inspection be more nerve-racking than was absolutely necessary.
Something to give the Enterprise a good first impression in the Admiral's eyes...
Sobieski... Poles were usually very nationalistic - worse even than Chekov! Yes - if they gave the Admiral a dinner-dance on Polish lines? No, on second thoughts, just a dinner. Nobody - except perhaps Chekov - could possibly manage the steps of Polish dancing.
He glanced round. "Uhura - tell Mr Scott to meet me in the briefing room in ten minutes. Dr McCoy, too. Spock, come with me. Mr Sulu, you have the con."
"...and so it seems to me, gentlemen, that the... er... the logical thing to do is to greet the Admiral in such a way that it will give him a good opinion of the Enterprise before he even begins his inspection. You know what some of those brass hats, especially the newly-promoted ones, can be like; give a ship, a crew, an officer, a good reputation, and they're determined to find some fault, some way to 'knock them down to size'. So I thought, if we were to lay on a traditional Polish dinner for him - "
"Beggin' your pardon, Captain, but that'll no' work," Scott interrupted.
"It won't?" Kirk looked startled. "I thought the Poles were pretty patriotic?"
"Aye, sir - but if you want to impress Charlie Sobieski, you'll lay on a Scottish dinner - aye, an' dress a'body in kilts - the men, that is; long white dresses for the lassies - with a tartan sash worn plaid-style."
"Scottish? But - "
Scott grinned slightly at the confusion on his Captain's face. "Captain, I knew Charlie when he was a raw Lieutenant aboard the Constitution. He's obsessed wi' things Scottish - well, bein' of the family he is, that's hardly surprising, mark you."
Scott's grin widened. "It dates back to the 1700s. Back then there was a lot o' religious... well, let's be charitable and call it controversy. The English of the time didna' want a ruler who was a Roman Catholic, but the Stuart Kings were Catholics. To cut a long story short, the English eventually deposed the Stuart King in favour of his daughters, who'd turned Protestant, and exiled him and his baby son; then when the daughters died the throne went to the nearest Protestant relative, who happened to be German.
"The Stuarts tried to get the throne back in 1715 but the rising didna' get very far and the young prince went back to France. He married a Clemintina Sobieska, and they had two sons - Charles, who led another uprising in 1745, and Henry, who became a priest - and of course, priests didna' marry.
"The '45 was no more successful than the '15 had been, and at the tail end o' the day, Prince Charlie also returned to France. He had a daughter, but she died childless. As far as a'body was concerned, the direct Stuart line had died out.
"Then these two jokers appeared - brothers, the older one calling himself the 'Duc D'Albanie'. They were the sons of a Thomas Allen, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Prince Charles. They even used the name Stuart; and they maintained that John Sobieski Stuart was the rightful heir to the British throne. When John died, his brother Charles took the title Duc D'Albanie. Nobody paid much attention to them, but that didna' discourage them - or their descendants.
"Somewhere along the line they went back to using the name Sobieski, and this one claims direct descent from the Charles who was Thomas Allen's son. They seem resigned to nobody ever taking their claim seriously, but they still maintain they're Scottish, no' Polish, by descent."
Spock's eyebrows had almost vanished under his fringe. "Surely they should have known that the offspring of an illegitimate child had no legal claim... "
"Some people will do anything to look important, Spock," Kirk said. "Some Humans, that is."
"Aye," Scott agreed. "And they lived in an era when flamboyant claims were often accepted - at least by enough of the bored rich to ensure that those making them would live and dine well off invitations designed to show off to the world 'The Important People I Know'. "
Kirk brought the subject back to the present. "Well, if you're quite sure that this Sobieski is one of that family and proud of his 'Scots ancestry', we'll set up a Scottish meal," he agreed. "What about dress? Kilts, you said, Scotty?"
"The computer is fully programmed to provide Highland Dress," Scott boasted. "All we need do is tell it which tartan we want - in view of the occasion, I'd suggest Dress Stuart for everyone who doesna' have a tartan - and it'll get the fabricators to turn out everything we need."
Kirk grunted. "Right, Scotty. What about food?"
The Chief Engineer thought for a moment. "Cock-a-leekie soup, followed by salmon, then venison with cranberry sauce, and clootie dumpling as sweet," he suggested. "Charlie likes clootie dumpling."
"What is it?" McCoy asked.
"It's... it's just a clootie dumpling," Scotty said uninformatively.
"That doesn't tell us anything, Mr Scott," Spock said patiently.
"It's a mixture of flour, suet, spices, fruit, all boiled together in a well-floured cloth," Scott said after a moment's thought. "The food processors can produce all of that wi' no bother. Wine? Birch sap wine."
"Birch sap wine?" McCoy managed.
"Aye. It's got a tang to it that none o' your grape wines'll ever have." Scott's voice caressed the description. "There's a winery near Inverness that's made it for over three hundred years... We'll have to settle for what the food processors can give us, of course, but I programmed birch sap wine in myself. And of course we'll need to have plenty of whisky. Charlie likes a good malt."
"All right," Kirk said finally. "The senior officers will dine with the Admiral, of course - Scotty, are there any Scottish vegetarian dishes that Spock can eat?"
Scott looked slightly doubtful. "Not really. There's porridge, of course, or white pudding, but that's hardly food for a dinner."
"Then we'll just have to have a Vulcan menu for him, but I'm sure the Admiral will understand about that. After dinner we'll adjourn to the main rec room and join the crew - at least for an hour or so; give him a chance to meet them before the inspection. By then, with luck, he'll be tired and want to get himself off to bed."
"If he disna'," Scotty promised, "I'll take charge of him and keep him amused. I always got on fine wi' him."
On returning to his cabin the following night, Kirk found his First Officer already there, having entered through the adjoining bathroom. A neat pile of clothes, topped by an uncomfortably fancy-frilled shirt, sat on a chair; Spock was turning over, with considerable dubiety, the newly-processed clothes Kirk's yeoman had laid out on his bed.
"What's wrong?" he asked. "Scared they won't fit?"
"Jim - Mr Scott said the fabricators would produce everything that we would require... didn't he?"
"There are no... er... under-garments."
"No - ?" Startled, Kirk joined the Vulcan and began to turn over the clothes. He had just lifted his shirt, wondering if he would ever find the nerve to wear anything that frilly, when there came a buzz at the door - a buzz which even the imperturbable Spock was prepared to concede sounded agitated.
The door slid open before Kirk had a chance to speak; having used his voice override, taking full advantage of his position both as CMO and as Kirk's friend, McCoy erupted into the room, his arms full of tartan, velvet, silk and simulated goatskin, and an expression of near panic on his face.
Kirk and Spock looked at each other.
"I won't do it. I won't do it!"
"Won't do what? Bones?"
"Wear this... this... Jim - there aren't any underpants!" He dumped the offending costume onto another chair.
"Perhaps a word with Mr Scott?" Kirk suggested.
McCoy glanced from one to the other, taking in the clothes sitting on the chair behind the desk. "You'd already found out?"
Kirk nodded as he punched the intercom. "Mr Scott, report to me in my quarters immediately."
Scott's eye fell on the tartan the moment he entered the cabin, and he beamed. "They look well, don't they?"
"Yes, I suppose so," Kirk said doubtfully. "But Scotty - what about underpants? You said - "
"Underpants?" Scott exclaimed, horror in his voice. "Underpants? You canna' throw a party for Admiral Sobieski and turn up improperly dressed, mon! He'd be black affronted!"
All three stared at him with varying degrees of shock. Even Spock's normally rigid control was inadequate to cover his surprise. "Improperly dressed?" Kirk whispered.
"Aye. Oh, I doubt Charlie'll come wi' a mirror - he doesna' know we're putting on a Scots night - but he'd be sure to - "
"A mirror?" Kirk asked blankly.
"When Highland regiments were inspected, the officer'd have a mirror on a stick so he could see up the kilts. Or sometimes the whole regiment would just be given the order 'Up kilts!' and the men had to lift the front of their kilts - and woe betide any man found wearing pants!"
McCoy's face was a study in stunned horror. Spock had managed to regain control of his facial muscles and now listened apparently impassively; but there was a certain rigidity about his expression that bespoke Vulcan Control Being Exercised, rather than his normally relaxed expressionlessness. Kirk looked slightly stunned. He was trying to visualise himself giving such an order, and failing hopelessly.
The buzzer sounded again, and Kirk pulled himself together sufficiently to call, "Come!"
As the door opened, both Sulu and Chekov stepped forward, each intending to enter first. Predictably, they impeded each other, and there was a brief altercation before they managed to push through the door.
"Sir - " they began in unison.
Kirk sighed. "Don't tell me - the clothes for tomorrow?"
"Yes, sir," Sulu said, glad of Kirk's perspicacity, then, seeing the three Highland costumes and taking in the expression on McCoy's face, he realised that Kirk had not, after all, suddenly developed second sight.
Scott looked round at the five faces. "You canna - you just canna - wear underpants with a kilt!" he insisted. He looked as horrified at the mere suggestion as McCoy did at the idea that their nether parts should be as bare as the suggestion.
"Scotty, who would know if we did?" Kirk asked reasonably.
"Charlie's quite likely to ask you if you're properly dressed."
"It sounds like we're expected to be properly undressed," Chekov muttered to Sulu. Realising that he wasn't intended to overhear the comment, Kirk ignored it.
"We could easily tell him we were, "McCoy said desperately. "I mean, I for one wouldn't feel properly dressed if I was half naked."
"And if he asks you outright - 'Are you properly dressed, or are you wearing anything under the kilt?' - would you tell a lie?" Scott demanded.
"I, for one, would not," Spock said evenly. "Captain, I hereby volunteer to remain on duty tomorrow night."
"Oh no you don't, Spock. If you think you're going to abandon the rest of us to the... the man-eating haggises while you sit comfortably on the bridge, you can think again! Scotty - isn't there any way out?" Inspired - "What about tartan trousers?"
"Trews?" Scott looked doubtful. "I don't say that nobody wore trews back in the days of the '45; on occasion, some of the clan chiefs probably did... " He scowled thoughtfully, shaking his head.
"One moment, Mr Scott," Spock put in. "Surely it was the inhabitants of the Highland areas who wore kilts. Those who lived in the Lowland part of the country wore breeches."
McCoy looked suddenly hopeful.
"Aye," Scott agreed, "but it was the Highlanders supported the Jacobite cause." He shook his head. "Charlie has a... a romantic attachment to what he thinks is proper Highland dress."
"What he thinks is proper Highland dress?" Kirk repeated half accusingly.
"The philabeg. The short kilt. It was beginning to be worn before the Jacobite Uprisings, but - "
"The short kilt?" McCoy interrupted.
"Originally, the kilt was a strip of cloth six foot wide by fourteen foot long," Scott explained patiently. "You put a belt on the ground, put the pleated cloth down on top of it, lay down, wrapped it round yourself and fastened the belt. The extra length was wrapped round your shoulders."
McCoy looked even more horror-stricken - if that were possible.
"A very practical garment," Scott added. "It was clothes, blanket, even tent, all in one."
"That's all very well," Kirk put in, "but it doesn't solve our current problem."
"Oh." Scott gazed once more round the circle of recalcitrant faces; inspiration dawned. "There is one way... " he said slowly. "You mightn't like it much, but it's the only way you'll be able to justify wearing underpants." He spoke the word as if it had a nasty taste.
"Well?" Kirk demanded.
"Gentlemen - there will be dancing tomorrow night."
"Of course there'll be dancing!" Kirk exclaimed.
"No, no, Captain, not that kind of dancing. Highland dancing!" He glanced round the circle. "Six of us... We'll need at least two more. Let's see. There's young Cameron in Engineering, he'll do fine... Aye, and Mingus from Life Support."
Kirk looked puzzled. "Mingus? Who's that?"
"The red-headed lieutenant in charge of the third watch."
"I thought his name was Menzies."
"Sassenachs!" Scott muttered disgustedly. "It's spelled M-e-n-z-i-e-s, but it's pronounced Mingus. The Z is silent... though it's really only in names that you usually find the traditional pronunciation," he added gloomily.
He looked at them. "Of course, it's possible that Charlie will want to join in - and if he does, he'll expect a partner to suit his rank."
"It'll need to be Uhura, then," Kirk said. "She's the highest-ranked woman on board. I'll warn her - "
"Woman?" Scott managed, his expression that of a man whose house has been set on fire by lightning and who knows that the fire brigade will be prevented from arriving because the storm has also washed away the bridge. "Woman? Highland dancing's for men! It'll be bad enough that only three of us'll know the steps properly - though I trust Mr Spock's memory, and between the four of us we should be able to keep the rest of you right. But if Charlie does want to join in, he'll expect to partner the Captain."
Kirk shoved his jaw back into place. Spock, however, was nodding understandingly. "I see," he said. "Vulcan also has several traditional dances that are customarily performed only by males. They date from preReform times, when men in camp who were feeling energetic wanted exercise but who, for whatever reason, considered an expedition away from camp foolhardy. It was also a matter for pride for tired men to join in, in order to pretend that no matter how arduous a day they had had, they were still fresher than was in fact the case."
McCoy was looking more and more apoplectic. "Dammit, I enjoy a dance as much as the next man, but I've seen some of your Highland dancing, Scotty. I couldn't do that to save my life!"
"Doctor - you either wear underpants - to spare the blushes of the ladies - and dance, or you don't wear underpants. It's your choice."
He crossed to the computer. "Well, gentlemen?"
"We'll dance," Kirk said gloomily. "But Scotty - if the Admiral wants to dance, you partner him - because a) you know him, b) it'd give him a partner who knows the dances, and c) it gives Bones an out. Spock and I will go together, and Sulu and Chekov can go with - who was it? Cameron and... Mingus?" He hesitated. "The rest of the men in the crew will just have to put up with it - I don't suppose it'll be possible to teach everyone on board the steps of your dances."
"We'll only need two," Scott said thoughtfully. "A foursome reel - that can be Cameron, Mingus, Mr Spock and me - then we split up, each takes another partner, and do an eightsome reel. Part of the entertainment for the Admiral." He punched an instruction into the computer, and the fabricator coughed out a pair of underpants.
"It did that very neatly for a garment you said we couldn't wear." McCoy's voice was very suspicious.
"I just keyed in the information 'there will be dancing'," Scott told him. "The computer is fully programmed; it knew the requirements."
Kirk was looking thoughtful. "Scotty - you said 'entertainment for the Admiral' - we'd better have more than ten minutes of dancing, hadn't we?"
"Captain, what I said was part of the entertainment - and a foursome and an eightsome will take nearer half an hour than ten minutes. As well as the dancing, I can give a selection of Jacobite songs on the pipes, and Cameron has a good voice - he was a Mod gold medallist the year before he joined Starfleet. He can sing a couple of Gaelic songs. Then Mingus, while he's not up to Cameron's standard, has a pleasant enough voice and a good repertoire of bothy ballads. Aye, I know they're Lowland songs, but they'll do for a general entertainment." He thought for a moment. "Kyle's a good conjurer, so we can get him to fill in five minutes, and we can get Uhura to sing - if she doesn't already know any songs, she can learn a couple before tomorrow night. Come to think of it, she knows Charlie Is My Darling already. Then the Skye Boat Song is one of the easier ones to learn - and Charlie likes it - and there's The Dark Island - it's one of his favourites, and that's three good tunes. I'll have a word with everyone." He looked round them, beaming again. "I'd suggest we all get together in one of the briefing rooms in an hour to go over the steps of the dances.
"It'll be more private there."
Scott looked round the assembled men. Spock looked as imperturbable as usual, Kirk had the fixed expression of a man faced with a challenge he is determined to overcome but would rather not face if he was given any choice in the matter; Sulu and Chekov both looked resigned, and McCoy wore an expression similar to the one that must have been worn by martyrs going to face the lions in the arena. Cameron and Menzies looked fractionally nervous; they normally had nothing whatsoever to do with the bridge crew, and while they were both perfectly confident that the departments they were in were just as important as the bridge, they did feel a certain amount of trepidation at meeting their senior officers in what amounted to a socialising situation. They were both very grateful that they had been assigned to partner the senior helmsman and navigator rather than the Captain and First Officer.
"Basically, there are only two steps that you need to know," Scott began. "A travelling step and what is called a 'setting step', that sort of marks time. Both work to a system of one, two, three, hop. This is the setting step. Step onto the right foot; then the left foot, then the right again, all on the spot, then kick with the left foot out towards ten o'clock, so - " he demonstrated. "Then you do left, right, left, kick." He nodded to Cameron, who switched on a music tape, then swung into a brisk demonstration. "Join in when you think you've got the hang of it."
Spock joined in almost immediately; Kirk watched for a few seconds longer, then also started, hesitantly at first then with increasing confidence. Chekov joined in next, then Sulu. Finally McCoy made a stumbling attempt, confused his feet, tripped, and was only saved from falling by the alert Spock, who somehow had managed to attend to what the others were doing as well as concentrating on the steps he was learning.
McCoy took a deep breath, then doggedly began to work at the steps again.
Scott let them work at the setting step for some minutes, by which time McCoy was at least managing to keep his feet in some sort of time, then stopped them. "Right, gentlemen - now for the travelling step. It's similar, but this time you're moving in a straight line. Slide your right foot forward, bring the left foot up behind it to touch it, slide the right foot forward again, then hop, bringing the left foot past the right foot as you do; then slide the left foot forward, right foot forward to touch it, left foot forward, then hop and bring the right foot forward again." He began to move round the room in time to the music. Spock joined him within seconds, then Kirk. The others joined in a few moments later This time McCoy managed not too badly. Again Scott let them practise for a minute, then he stopped them.
"Right, gentlemen; now you know the two basic steps. It's time to learn the dances." He smiled slightly at the nervous expression on McCoy's face. "It's all right, Doctor - these are simple dances, repetitive; you don't have to worry having to learn a lot of complicated patterns."
McCoy looked unconvinced as they arranged themselves into a rough circle. Scott explained the basic pattern of the dance, saying, "Everything goes in eights; if you keep on counting to yourself in eights, you won't go wrong in the timing."
The Doctor wished he could be as confident.
Scott walked them through the first part of the dance. Circle in one direction for eight beats, then back again. A sort of cartwheel movement next, each pair with the right-hand partner towards the middle, then turn and back to the original position with the left-hand partner towards the middle. Into position again, set and turn partner; then a sort of chain movement, with the right hand partners all going in one direction, and the left hand partners in the other, until they were all back in their original positions.
Scott made them walk through it twice before he started the tape and allowed them to try dancing it.
Spock, as always, picked up the steps quickly, and had no difficulty in keeping in time. Kirk was almost as good. Chekov, whose native dances were far more complicated, quickly discovered that he was enjoying himself; Sulu concentrated doggedly on his timing, counting steadily as he went. McCoy, however, was having decided difficulties.
He found it surprisingly easy to get confused in the chain, trying to start off with the wrong hand, and the others had to pull him into position several times. They went over it several times, then Scott decided to move on to the next part of the dance.
This part was very repetitive. Each dancer in turn went into the middle of the circle, the others danced round and back, then the one in the middle set first to his own partner then to one of the opposite men, then danced another chain; then the others circled him again, he set to one of the pair to each side of his position and chained again, returned to his place and someone else took his place. The learners were told to stick to the basic movement, while Scott, Cameron and Menzies, when they danced together, performed somewhat more complicated steps than the basic ones. "Can you do that?" Kirk asked at one point after the three men had spent the entire portion of their turn doing three different and complicated steps. "Use a step nobody else has used?"
Scott nodded. "Wait till you see us doing the foursome reel," he said cheerfully. "Dancers doing a foursome can do any step they want, and it's no' unknown for all four to be doing a different setting step at the same time."
Eventually Scott moved them on to the third part of the dance, which - to McCoy's relief - turned out to be a repeat of the first part.
They spent some time going over the dance. Finally, Kirk decided that apart from Spock, who still had to learn the other dance, they had had enough for one session. He fixed a time for them to meet again later that day, then carried McCoy, Chekov and Sulu off with him, leaving the remaining four to go over the other dance.
Scott insisted that the party who gathered in the transporter room to greet the Admiral should wear Highland costume, and when Sobieski beamed aboard, Kirk realised that Scott had been right. Like Scott, Sobieski wore a kilt with a uniform dress jacket, and the Admiral's eyes lit up at sight of the tartan-filled transporter room.
Kirk introduced his senior officers. Sobieski's eyes lit up again at sight of Scott. "Scotty!" he exclaimed, and they could hear the Scottish accent thick in his voice. "It's been a long time."
"Aye, it has, Admiral." Scott was too well-disciplined to relax formality here, no matter what he might do in the privacy of his quarters later, over a dram of good malt.
As Kirk had known, it was too late for the Admiral to begin his general inspection that day, although he could, and would, check the Captain's official log and duplicate returns. The check was relatively perfunctory - far more so than Kirk would have expected; it was only later that he realised just how much he had to thank Scott for. Admiral Sobieski knew Scott of old; they all knew that. They just had not realised how well. Sobieski knew that Scott would never remain aboard a ship that was less than totally efficiently captained. That he had remained aboard so long told Sobieski that Scott approved of Kirk. It was all he needed to know.
The evening started off well, too. The meal was a great success, Sobieski accepting without demur Spock's alternate menu although he shook a slightly sympathetic head over the Vulcan's inability to appreciate good salmon and venison. His eyes lit up at the dumpling, and Kirk felt impelled to give Scott the credit, with a casual, "Mr Scott said you like dumpling." The admission, had he but known, did him no disservice in the Admiral's eyes; Sobieski was a man who appreciated honesty and had little time for the senior officer who failed to give his underlings full credit for what they did.
They had decided that the 'entertainment' should come as soon after the meal as possible. It began with Uhura, whose voice was undoubtedly the best on the ship, and who had either learned or already knew not only the songs suggested by Scott but a couple of others as well. Then Scott played his pipe selection, Menzies sang a bothy ballad, Kyle showed his skill as a conjurer and Cameron sang three Gaelic songs. Finally came the dancing.
The four who were to do the foursome reel took their places, and Uhura started the tape - for the occasion, they had realised that although it would be better if Scott played the pipes, his expertise as a dancer was more needed.
Watching closely, Kirk quickly realised that this dance was fairly simple, being a sixteen-bar repetition of a chain followed by the men setting to each other in pairs. But the setting! Spock had clearly benefitted from his session the previous evening, for he too was performing something more complicated than the basic step Scott had taught them.
When the dance finished, the four men broke up and Kirk nodded to Sulu, Chekov and McCoy. They moved forward and took their places with the others in the new formation.
There was a fixed expression on McCoy's face as they danced. They managed with only one very minor problem when McCoy tried to turn in the wrong direction, but Scott was watching him closely and pulled him into the right position before any harm was done.
When the dance finished, Kirk breathed a silent sigh of relief This was the moment when the Admiral might signal his wish to join in, and then - with the exception of McCoy - they would have to go through the dance again. Sobieski, however, gave no indication that he wanted to dance, and it was with some relief that the men left the dance floor and rejoined the Admiral where he sat beside Uhura - Kirk had decided that she was an obvious person to help entertain the Admiral.
"Well danced, Captain," Sobieski complimented him when Kirk returned to his seat. "How many of the set are Scots?"
"Just three," Kirk said. "The rest of us have been taking lessons from Mr Scott." No need to say just how recent those lessons were.
Sobieski nodded. "He's taught you well."
McCoy glanced at him, suspecting him of a degree of sarcasm, but he appeared to be genuinely complimentary.
"What about the rest of the crew?" Sobieski went on.
Kirk shook his head. "No - not yet, anyway. Apart from Cameron and Mingus, the rest of us are senior bridge crew, even though Chekov is still an ensign. We didn't want to - well - possibly inhibit the rest of the crew by having them mixing with their senior officers in what is essentially a recreational activity." He decided not to add that it would have been too damn difficult to teach the entire crew from scratch in two days, anyway.
Sobieski nodded. "A wise decision."
Uhura now put on a tape of standard music, and Sobieski watched the crewmembers pair off and begin the more sedate and general dancing that most Federation members favoured. She rejoined the senior officers as McCoy, who felt that he had now done more than his share of keeping the Admiral sweet, took over from her.
Admiral Sobieski stood as she joined them. "Miss Uhura, would you care to dance?"
"Thank you, Admiral."
The men watched as the Sobieski led Uhura onto the floor.
It was immediately obvious that the Admiral had very little sense of rhythm. He tried, but both left feet kept getting in each other's way. That he managed for a time without tripping both himself and his partner was evidence of Uhura's skill. But not even Uhura could continue to avoid accident indefinitely - not with a partner as clumsy as Sobieski. Disregarding the near-disasters he had already experienced, the Admiral tried to swing Uhura into a complicated move, probably encouraged by the simple fact that he had not already tripped. She made a valiant effort to follow him, but with a partner who was not sure himself exactly what he wanted to do, it was impossible. She was already off balance when he stumbled over his own feet, and they went down in an untidy heap.
Kirk rushed to help the Admiral to his feet, aware of something - at that moment he was not sure just what it was - that seemed wrong...
Uhura stammered an apology as she and her partner regained their feet, but Sobieski brushed it aside. "No, no, my dear," he said. "It was entirely my fault. You are such a good dancer that I forgot my own limitations, and tried to do something I've always wanted to attempt but never had the courage to try until now."
He continued speaking, but Kirk was aware of Sobieski's voice only as background noise when he caught sight of Scott's face. The engineer was looking as stunned, as horrified, as he had done when the crew originally objected to wearing these kilts without the...
Underpants! Sobieski couldn't dance - how come Scotty, who knew him, didn't know that? - but he was wearing underpants - they had been obvious when the kilt flew up as he fell; and Scott had assured them that that could only be done if 'there was to be dancing - Highland dancing'. Sobieski had cheated!
The rest of the inspection was practically a formality. Sobieski left, clearly delighted with the Enterprise and her crew, and Kirk mentally added another Admiral to the list of those whose inspections need not be feared.
Scott looked round at his fellow officers with an expression of satisfaction. "That went off very well," he commented. He had clearly decided to ignore Sobieski's departure from 'proper dress'.
McCoy had other ideas. "Scotty."
"If we turned up improperly dressed, the Admiral would be 'black affronted' - I think that was what you said?"
"Well, aye," Scott admitted. "But you must admit, Doctor, that if he'd been properly dressed when he tripped, he'd have embarrassed the ladies. If he's that bad a dancer, that's probably why."
"Since he's that bad a dancer, he should know better than to try," Uhura commented acidly. "My legs are still all bruised where he kicked them." She glanced at McCoy. "Even Dr McCoy is a better dancer than the Admiral - and up to now I'd have said he was the worst dancer in Starfleet," she finished frankly. "He gives a perfect example of how not to dance."
Kirk grinned at McCoy. "Bones - isn't it nice to know that you're not the worst dancer in Starfleet? Even though you give a perfect example of how not to dance?"
McCoy shrugged. "Oh, nobody's perfect," he replied airily. "There's always someone else better - even at doing badly!"
And on that, he walked out.