A Second Home
by Cory Pelc
For my wife—and her acceptance of my quirks.
Leonard McCoy was tired. Tired of dealing with the constant threats to the well-being of the crew, and tired of filling out the endless death certificates. The last such “adventure” had claimed a total of twelve crewmen. Twelve young lives lost in the name of exploration, McCoy thought.
Of those lost, two crewmen were taken quickly by an allergic reaction to the native flora of the planet. A ship that can take men across the galaxy protected by shields and photon torpedoes, and we still can’t save someone from acute anaphylactic shock, McCoy thought to himself.
Shortly after beaming down to the surface of Rynair II the men accidently inhaled a bit of pollen that proved fatal. The only saving grace of the situation was that the pollen only affected an individual who was also allergic to Elonian zongs, which McCoy noted in his log were roughly the equivalent to an Earth coconut. Thinking of this, McCoy shuddered slightly realizing how easily the ship could have been without three members of the senior crew, as Jim, Spock and himself had beamed down along with the landing party. Probably not Spock, McCoy thought, those damned Vulcan bodily functions probably have a back-up measure even for anaphylaxis.
McCoy knew and accepted death as something which every doctor deals with from time to time, but he was unnerved that these sort-of situations seemed to be the norm at this point in his life. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, he told himself. As much as he enjoyed his friendship with Jim and his whatever-you-might-call-it with Spock, McCoy never had felt at home in space.
One thing that had always reminded McCoy of home was a good drink. As a proud “Son of the South”, it was almost bred into him. At the moment, he felt like a drink might be the best friend he had. Grabbing a bottle from his shelf and taking a seat behind his desk in sickbay, McCoy poured himself some Saurian brandy. He sipped the strong liquor, attempting to relax and allowing his mind to drift back to a time in his life before Starfleet. Back then, his drink of choice was a Mint Julep, but he felt like the replicators onboard the Enterprisecould never get them quite right. Maybe it’s because the temperature is always 72 degrees in here, with simulated sunlight, McCoy thought in a matter-of-fact sense. A Mint Julep is meant to be enjoyed on a hot summer evening. Evening—even that has no meaning in space. McCoy sighed and poured another glass.
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Growing up inGeorgia, young Leonard Horatio McCoy always pictured himself as going to medical school, settling down with a beautiful belle, and living the life of an “old country doctor.” But, for whatever reason, he only got two of those three goals checked off his list. His wife Jocelyn was everything he had hoped for since the first time they met back at that high school dance. But after their daughter Joanna was born, it seemed to him that Jocelyn changed overnight. He never had evidence of her cheating on him, but every time he looked at Joanna the thought would arise.
Is she really my daughter? He would ponder as he looked down into his daughter’s crib. Does it matter?
“Leonard! Leonard! Where are you?”
“Out here on the back porch Jocelyn!” McCoy replied, while sipping a Mint Julip and watching the sun set on another August day.
“We have to talk.” Jocelyn said as she finally found her husband. “I think we both know that this isn’t working anymore. I was fine staying at home being the ‘Doctor’s Wife’ but now I feel like I’m the ‘Parent of the Doctor’s Daughter’.”
“What do you mean Jocelyn?” McCoy said, while feeling more than a little blindsided.
“What I mean is that you go and sit in your clinic everyday and help people, and I’m stuck here raising our daughter by myself. Sometimes I think that you care more about your patients than your own wife and daughter!” she exclaimed with the force of months of suppressed thoughts.
“Dammit Jocelyn! I’m a doctor, not a daycare provider! I spent years going through medical school to help these people and this is the thanks I get?” He angrily replied.
“Well I went through eight and a half months of pregnancy, concluding with delivery of our child and this is the life I get? A husband that is out of the door before sunrise, and with drink in his hand at every sunset? I could have gone to school too, in California, but I chose you.”
“Well I guess you have another choice to make.” He said, turning his attention back to the sunset.
“I’ve already made it. You should be hearing from my lawyer in the next few days. Until then, Joanna and I will be staying with my sister.” Jocelyn sternly replied at her husband who was still refusing to look at her.
“Why don’t you go ahead and stay at Clay’s house. I’m sure he’d be glad to have you.” McCoy said as he closed his eyes. He knew he had gone too far and regretted it instantly.
“Unbelievable!” She screamed. “I’ve told you before that things between him and I ended a long time ago. Due in large part to you, I might add. Leonard, I was always faithful to you, even though you’ll never be half the father that Clay might have been for Joanna.”
With that, Jocelyn McCoy walked back into the house; the house that Leonard realized would soon be hers along with most all of Leonard’s money and possessions. He wondered if he’d be lucky enough that she didn’t take the bones from his body. McCoy sighed and made himself another drink.
…Sweet home Alabama! Lord I’m coming home to you!….That was one from way-way back in the 20th Century folks, but still a great way to start your morning! We’ve got 10 in a row headed your way next!…
“Hmmmmrph!” Leonard slowly sat up in bed and told himself that he was getting too old for this routine. Without even opening his eyes he could sense a hungry grandchild standing next to his bed wearing the devilish grin of someone who had just turned on her grandfather’s radio to get his attention.
“Yes darlin’?” Leonard asked her. His drawl was always more pronounced before having his morning coffee.
“Grandpa, can we go to the zoo today?” The little girl asked as she pulled on his comforter.
“Perhaps dear, but first we’ll need to ask Grandma. We both know that she’s the one that calls the shots.” McCoy stretched, slipped on his house shoes and pulled on a robe. He reached to his nightstand and grabbed his PADD to open up the day’s newspaper–Outbreak on Vulcan Outpost: Federation Seeks Help of Medical Community–the main headline read. Makes sense, thought McCoy, pointy-eared logic lovers can’t even display enough emotion to ask for help themselves.
McCoy punched in the code for coffee on his replicator as he continued reading. Damn fake coffee. Joanna had bought him and Jocelyn the replicator for their anniversary last year and he had finally started using it—but not before he passionately explained to Jocelyn that part of the charm of coffee is its simplicity. If it was good enough for the settlers of this land so many generations ago, then it didn’t need to be upgraded.
McCoy continued reading–…in light of the Organian medical and peace conference being held in conjunction with the Klingons, all essential Starfleet Medical personnel are unable to assist with this emergency. The Federation hopes that some of the more experienced physicians and nurses from Earth and Andoria will volunteer to assist in this urgent matter. Because the outbreak seems to only affect Vulcan individuals, it has been determined to be too great a risk to seek assistance from the Vulcan Medical Academy. For those interested in volunteering locally, shuttles will be leaving from the Atlanta Shipyards at 1200 hours today.
“Grandma said we can go! Grandma said we can go!” Lucy yelled as she ran back into the kitchen. “Can we leave soon?”
“Sure little lady, but first Grandpa has to get ready. And so do you…unless you plan on showing off your pajamas to the elephants.” Leonard walked back towards his bedroom and found his wife getting ready for the day. He set his PADD down on her dresser and stood behind her as she looked in the mirror.
“Good morning Mrs. McCoy…” He said, trying to goad a response.
“Good morning to you, too, Dr. McCoy.” She responded.
“That’s only Monday through Friday. It’s the weekend and I’m as much a Mr. as I choose to be.”
“Well today it sounds like you’re a Grandpa, and I’m sure you’ll treat Lucy with just as much care as you would a patient.”
“Still bringing that up…” McCoy said with a grin. It had been twenty five years since his marriage had almost fallen apart. He was close to joining Starfleet back then, just to get away from the mess of his divorce. Medicine On The Cutting Edge – Practicing in Space the advertisement had read. He had been to space once before as an observer shortly after graduating from Ole Miss. He knew then that he wanted to be a doctor, but he was pretty sure he wanted to keep his practice local. As in on Earth, he had joked to himself.
Instead of enlisting, he decided to cut back his office hours and make the effort to work things out with Jocelyn. It turned out that she had run back to Clay during their separation and divorce, but shortly after Jocelyn saw that Clay had not changed as much as he claimed. McCoy knew that it wouldn’t be easy–the divorce was finalized and they had to get married again–but he made a choice to use it as a fresh start and he was glad that he had. Most importantly, he was glad that Jocelyn had given him the opportunity.
“So is this goodbye?” Jocelyn asked.
“What are you talking about? I thought we’d both go with Lucy today.” A confused McCoy replied.
“I’m talking about this,” Jocelyn said as she picked up his PADD and pointed to the story he had been reading. “They need help. You may not be a young buck, but you are experienced.”
“I wouldn’t call one observation mission experience. And you know as well as I do about my aviophobia. I still try to avoid riding in a hovercar if I can. On top of that, I can’t even begin to imagine stepping onto one of those transporter pads. Last time I was lucky to not have to leave the ship. Tearing apart someone into a million little bits and then rearranging them again. It’s just not natural, Jocelyn.” McCoy said, knowing that Jocelyn always found his excuses overblown. Sometimes he made an effort to stretch them out even more just to get under her skin.
“Listen Leonard,” Jocelyn said with a more serious tone than McCoy had expected. “You once told me that the reason you went to school for years were to help people and make a difference. Now I know you have helped people here, but this is a chance to do something special, something important. I think you should take it.”
McCoy paused a moment, and then said, “You know, I was going to enlist after our divorce. I had even filled out some of the preliminary forms. But I chose you and Joanna instead. I couldn’t live with running away to space instead of staying here and being a man.”
“Well you have been a man, and a husband, and a father–”
“Don’t forget grandfather.”
“And grandfather. But now you need to be a doctor…and just maybe a hero.” Jocelyn had that look. The one that Leonard knew meant the conversation was over and a decision had been made.
A hero huh? He thought. I just hope they have real coffee, because at my age I’m going to need it to keep up.
McCoy arrived at the Atlanta Shipyards at 1130 hours that morning. He had packed as much as he could before Jocelyn shuffled him out the door. In a very rushed exchange, he tried to explain to Lucy that he wasn’t going to be able to go to the zoo with her and that he had to go away for a while. Hopefully not too long Lucy, for both our sakes, he had thought. McCoy walked into the main building with his head down.
“Excuse me sir, but there’s no tours today.”
McCoy looked up to see a man in a security uniform sitting behind the main desk. This guy looks like he’s seen more buffet lines than doctors in his life, he thought.
“Well excuse me sir, but I imagine you are constantly short of breath, have a hard time feeling motivated and constantly need some type of sugar.”
“Uh yeah, but how’d you know that?” the guard said between grunts while attempting to sit up straight. “And what are you here for?”
“Son, I’m Leonard H. McCoy, M.D. and I’m here for the volunteer effort. Where’s the line start?” McCoy said proudly.
“Well, I’d say about where you’re standing.” The guard said as he smiled and looked evidently satisfied to have the last word.
Great, McCoy thought. It looks like it’s going to be a lonely shuttle ride.
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This particular transport shuttle turned out to be larger than McCoy had envisioned. Must have been expecting more volunteers, he thought. Once aboard, he was able to find a nice interior restroom with no windows. He remained there throughout takeoff and through most of the flight. Fighting back any rumblings of a panic attack, he reverted to talking in his head in order to tolerate the situation. I’m not moving, I’m just in a small room and then I’ll be in a bigger one, he tried to tell himself.
“–This is the pilot speaking. We’ll need everyone to return to their seats as we receive clearance to dock with Enterprise.–”
McCoy heard a knock on the restroom door and after trying and failing to explain his aviophobia to the Lieutenant, he finally stepped out of the restroom and into the cabin. He was actually surprised that it had taken so long for anyone to notice that the restroom had been continually occupied. I guess that’s what happens when you’re the only passenger, he jokingly thought. However, when he went to take a seat, he was surprised to find he was not the lone volunteer. Apparently, between McCoy locating a hiding spot in the restroom and takeoff, another passenger had come on board.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a piece of chewing gum would you?” McCoy asked the woman as he sat down next to her and fastened his safety belt. He couldn’t help but feel that for some reason, she seemed rather familiar.
“I’m sorry, I don’t.” She replied in a soothing voice. “Christine Chapel-Korby and you are?”
“Dr. Leonard H. McCoy. At your service, Madame.”
The woman laughed, “Actually, it’s the reverse, Dr McCoy.”
At first McCoy was angered, but then he understood what she meant.
“It looks like I will be your nurse on this rescue mission” she continued.
“In that case, there are a few things you ought to know. First off, I’m not used to working in a sickbay with so many different species of patients.” McCoy said as he started to slip back into a more pronounced drawl. It also tended to happen when he was complaining about something.
“So, I’ll need all the help from you that I can get. I’ve been told once or twice that my bedside manner can be a little rough. I for one, however, like to think of myself as a realist.”
Chapel blushed. “Don’t worry Doctor,” she said with an air of care that McCoy appreciated. “I spent years in space while searching for my husband, who at that time was just my lost fiancé. I was limited to traveling aboard private ships as a nurse practitioner, but in that time, I was introduced to treating many different patients.”
“That’s good. Probably, honest work I imagine.” He replied.
“Believe me it was. Though it must’ve taken its toll on me, as I’ve noticed Roger hasn’t aged nearly as much as I have.” She said, more to herself than to McCoy.
“—Attention passengers and crew: Prepare for final docking procedures—”
The shuttle reduced its thrusters and lurched backwards slightly as it began to slow its approach to Enterprise. For the first time, McCoy allowed himself to look out of one of the window ports. Quite the vessel, he thought. Again he had the strange feeling of familiarity. I must’ve seen a starship like this in one of Lucy’s digi-books, he thought trying to explain away the sensation. He was already missing his family.
Enterprise grew larger and larger in comparison to the window port opening as the shuttle swung around to the aft end of the starship and the shuttle bay. McCoy could feel what he assumed was the tractor beams of the ship take control as the shuttle came to a soft landing inside the bay. The side hatch to the shuttle released its pressurization as it slowly slid open.
“I guess this is our stop” McCoy joked to Chapel.
The doctor and nurse stood and began to exit the shuttle. Waiting at attention just outside the shuttle door was a rather proud looking man with brown hair. McCoy, struck by his appearance, couldn’t tell if the man reminded him of someone, or that he just looked different than most of his clinic patients.
“Velcome aboard ze Enterprise, I am Lieutenant Commander Pavel Chekov. You must be Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel.”
Don’t think he’s from Georgia. Although surprised by the gentleman’s thick accent, McCoy was relieved by the lack of a grand reception. He did, however, now find himself in the need for something to take his nerves down a notch.
“Mr. Chekov is it–” McCoy began to ask.
“Yes Doctor McCoy?” Chekov answered at a blistering speed.
Definitely not from Georgia, McCoy thought. “Mr. Chekov, do you know where a man could get a nice stiff drink?” McCoy asked the officer.
“Certainly, Doctor!” He answered eagerly. “Might I suggest Wodka?”
McCoy turned and looked at Chapel. She was blushing again.
Vodka? McCoy thought. Good Lord Jocelyn, what have you gotten me into?
McCoy still wasn’t used to automatic doors. He had managed so far to resist changing the doors in his home. It’s just a shame to ruin a home that’s stood for hundreds of years – through three world wars, he would tell Jocelyn. On a starship like the Enterprise, there were no handles or knobs anywhere. Nor were there many things similar to McCoy’s home at all.
Struggling to locate his quarters, McCoy eventually came to find himself in what appeared an officers’ rec lounge. Studying the room, he noticed two men in the corner playing a game of three-dimensional chess. Though he considered chess a gentleman’s game, McCoy had always preferred spades to bishops.
As he approached the men he was hit with another wave of familiarity. I’ve done this before, McCoy thought as he tried to shake the feeling. But that just doesn’t make sense. I’ve hardly been west of the Mississippi, much less a starship. Nonetheless, McCoy still felt troubled, as if things were out of place. He pushed away the thoughts, but began to wonder if he was developing a case of space sickness. Coming closer to the table, one of the men took notice of McCoy.
“Ahh…Dr. McCoy is it? I’m Captain James T. Kirk, pleasure to have you aboard,” said the man as he shook McCoy’s hand. “I trust that you will find every resource on board the Enterprise at your disposal in aiding the ailing members of the Vulcan outpost.”
“Thank you Captain. This is my first time actually serving aboard a starship, so you’ll have to excuse me if I break any formal rules.” McCoy replied, still not sure if he needed to salute at some point.
“Don’t bother worrying about it.” Kirk said with a slight wave of his hand. “At any rate, I wouldn’t be the one to point out an error. Allow me to introduce my first officer, Commander Spock.” Kirk then gestured towards his chess opponent.
“Doctor.” Spock said with a slight tilt of his eyebrow.
McCoy was immediately dumbfounded at the sight of Spock. “I was under the assumption that Vulcans were not aiding in the effort because of the exposure risk,” McCoy asked Spock reiterating what he had read in the article.
“That is true, Dr. McCoy. However, I am only half-Vulcan and preliminary results from data sent back to Starfleet indicate that my human mother passed on the necessary natural immunity to this disease,” Spock replied.
“Well, I suppose this is has been quite the embarrassment to the Vulcans, seeing as there is finally something where we humans are more advanced,” McCoy said, but immediately regretted. He had always regarded the pure logic approach of Vulcans as smugness, but felt bad that he had commented in such a way in front of the ship’s Captain.
“Vulcans are incapable of embarrassment Doctor. It is a simple conclusion that there would be disadvantages to our notable differences in blood structure in certain situations. Any idea of a ‘competition’ between our races is purely illogical.” Spock replied, this time with an extra sharpness to his tone.
“Gentleman,” Kirk interrupted, obviously attempting to prevent an escalating confrontation. “In any case, we have serious threat to deal with and I, for one, am not ready to tackle it on an empty stomach.”
“Captain,” Spock said. “I will have to decline. I am in the process of computing outbreak projections on the bridge.” With that, Spock stood and exited the room, leaving McCoy and Kirk.
“Guess he didn’t like me.” McCoy said, half joking.
“Of course he does Doctor. If not, Spock wouldn’t have wasted the effort of telling you how wrong you were.” Kirk said, with a smile on his face. “And anyone who can come that close to getting an emotional response from Spock, is fine by me.”
Maybe this won’t be so bad after all, McCoy thought.
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After getting something to eat, Kirk offered to show McCoy the rest of the ship. They had first stopped by engineering, where McCoy had been introduced to Enterprise’s chief engineer–Mr. Scott. They immediately hit it off and had arranged to meet later for a drink. I can bet he won’t recommend vodka, McCoy thought after meeting the upbeat Scotsman.
Currently, he found himself on the bridge, standing behind Kirk and taking in the full starship experience. From what McCoy had been able to observe, Kirk appeared to be a very competent captain who had an equally capable crew.
“Arrival at the Vulcan outpost in approximately 1.4 hours, Captain,” reported the helmsman.
“Not good enough, Mr. Sulu. Increase to Warp 6.We’ve got to get to the outpost rendezvous while there’s still a chance for survivors,” replied Kirk who was sitting in his Captain’s chair. “Steady as she goes.”
He’s pushing, thought McCoy. Once again letting his feelings get the best of him, McCoy said to Kirk, “Are you always this hard on your crew? I’m sure they realize the severity of the situation.”
“Doctor, I know that you said you weren’t familiar with the common practices of Starfleet—but I assume you know that questioning a captain in front of his crew is not usual practice” replied Kirk, obviously somewhat insulted by McCoy.
He’s right Leonard, what were you thinking? McCoy questioned in his head. Yet, once more McCoy found himself with a sense of fuzzy memories of situations such as this.
“I’m sorry Captain. All I meant was that in my experience, telling a patient to get better faster isn’t necessarily telling them something that they don’t already wish was the case” McCoy said back to Kirk.
“Captain, Doctor, if I may interrupt, I have finished my calculations for the outbreak patterns,” Spock said from his science station.
McCoy was glad to have something to stop what had up to then been a pleasant series of exchanges—and from the look of it, Kirk felt the same way.
Spock continued. “As you know, three days ago the first cases of infection among the Vulcans at the outpost were reported. At present, the number of infections has grown to 85 percent of the outpost’s inhabitants. This particular outpost is part of the Federation’s new long-term colonization project and as a result, many Vulcan researchers have also brought their families to live on Milos IV. Unfortunately, the disease seems particularly deadly to younger Vulcans with an almost 97 percent current infection rate and nearly a 99.9 percent fatality rate in those infections.”
“Is there any preliminary clue as to the cause of this outbreak? The colony was established almost a year ago— Why the sudden appearance of the disease?” Kirk asked “Has there been any recent unusual activity on Milos IV?”
“Unknown, Captain.” Spock replied. “However, there was an unconfirmed report of an unidentified object entering the atmosphere and crashing a few miles outside of the outpost shortly before the first reports of infection.”“Sounds like the Andromeda Strain.” McCoy said.
Spock raised an eyebrow. “Doctor, I do not think that it is logical to draw such a conclusion at this time. There is little to validate the existence of the object, much less correlate it to the disease. I was simply answering the Captain’s inquiry with the greatest amount of information available.”
Spock’s reply embarrassed McCoy. That pointy-eared son-of-a-buck thinks he’s so smart. Emotionless my behind! He took pleasure in that—I know it. McCoy was fuming inside, and yet, he also found the situation somewhat amusing. Spock may have been annoying, but he provided McCoy with a certain foil that he enjoyed.
Kirk turned around to face his communication’s officer. “Lt. Uhura. Send a message to captains of the Constellation and Discovery that we will arrive in orbit of Milos IV within the hour. We plan to send down a landing party to investigate the reports of a crashed object—”
“Captain, I am not yet willing to connect the incident to the outbreak. As I was explaining to Dr. McCoy—” Spock interrupted.
“—To verify if the object indeed exists and if there is any connection to the outbreak.” Kirk continued and then turned back to his science officer. “Spock, I heard what you said, but the doctor makes an interesting observation. You, yourself could not account for any other unusual recent activity around the outpost. We need to follow any lead that might exist, because if we can find the source of the outbreak we just might be able to find an effective means to stop it”
“Very well, Captain. I will begin to examine topographic maps of the region and determine where the crash may have occurred undetected.” Spock replied, obviously not fully on board with the plan.
I guess I win this round, McCoy thought. I just hope that my luck continues on the surface.
“Now entering orbit around Milos IV, Keptin.”
“Thank you Mr. Chekov. Inform the transporter room to prepare for a landing party to beam down immediately.” Kirk said. In the time since his “altercation” earlier with Kirk about pushing his crew the Captain had seemed to make more of an effort to treat the other members of the bridge with an air of increased respect. I guess he filled the prescription I wrote for him, McCoy thought.
“Captain?” asked Uhura.
“Yes, Lieutenant?” Kirk said, spinning around in his command chair to face the rear of the bridge.
“There’s an incoming message from Earth for Doctor McCoy. It’s originating from a civilian transponder with limited subspace capability. Two-way communication is not available, it seems to just be a recording; however, it is coded as high priority.” Uhura explained.
Kirk seemed to hesitate, not knowing what to do in this type of situation. He looked at McCoy. “Would you like to take this in your quarters Doctor McCoy?” he asked.
“Oh no, here’s fine. I’m sure it’s just my granddaughter calling to say how much she misses me. That’s high priority stuff back where I’m from.” replied McCoy.
“I understand Doctor. Go ahead and patch it through, Lt. Uhura” Kirk ordered.
“Connecting now; Audio only, Captain.” She responded as she pushed the button to connect.
….Oh Leonard! Oh Leonard! You need to come back immediately; something terrible has happened to Lucy! One of the lions at the zoo got past the fence and attacked her. She’s in the emergency center right now. Oh Leonard….there was nothing I could do! Please….I need you, Joanna needs you, and Lucy needs you!….
McCoy’s heart sunk. He broke out into a cold sweat and wanted to scream, but for the moment his body would not let him do anything.
“Uhura, what happened to the rest of the message?” Kirk demanded.
“I’m sorry Captain, we appear to have passed beyond the transmission range as we are moving around the solar side of Milos IV. Due to the signal strength we need to be on the dark side of the planet to avoid the solar interference” She replied, obviously attempting to hold back tears after delivering such devastating news.
“The message will be available for reception once more in approximately 23.47 minutes.” Spock said.
Upon hearing this news and the manner in which Spock delivered it, McCoy snapped out of his paralysis. “Twenty-three minutes! Do you think that I need to know that? My grand-daughter could very well be dead right now, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it!” McCoy shouted.
“I understand the human tendency for emotional outburst, but I was simply attempting to assist you in the situation in the only way I am capable” Spock replied.
McCoy turned to Kirk. “Let’s get down there, now.”
“Doctor, are you sure you are able to help in light of this?” Kirk asked, trying to show his sympathy.
“You didn’t drag my behind halfway across the galaxy for nothing. Don’t make me not being there for my granddaughter right now my fault.” McCoy said back to Kirk with a hint of vengeance.
“As you wish Doctor; Spock you’re coming with us. Sulu you have theConn.” Kirk ordered as he, McCoy and Spock entered the turbolift for the transporter room.
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The transport process went more smoothly than McCoy had imagined back on Earth. At this point I already feel like I’ve been torn apart into a million little pieces. What does is matter if I’m put back together, he thought.
Once on the surface of Milos IV, the landing party decided to split up to search for evidence of the supposed crash. McCoy had been wandering for some time when he heard something close-by, yet very faint.
That sounded like someone calling for help, he thought.
As he walked towards where he thought it originated, he heard it once more.
As McCoy came around a large rock face, he saw her. It was a young Vulcan girl who he approximated to be around the same age as Lucy. If you can go off of looks, considering their life-spans, he thought. McCoy instantly sprang into action with his medical kit and tri-corder. The one issued to him on the Enterprise was much more advanced than the one he used back on Earth in his practice. This is what an actual budget will get for you, he had thought.
McCoy studied the data relayed to him on the tricorder’s screen. The girl had all of the symptoms of the infection spreading throughout the outpost. Perhaps the most puzzling thing to McCoy, was why she was so far away from the outpost by her self. Due to the young Vulcan’s current feverish state, he was not going to be able to get the answer from her. It was surprising that she was even able to hear him nearby and make any attempt to call out. Even when they are dying, they still find ways to show that they are superior to humans, he thought.
With all of his focus directed towards the girl, McCoy had failed to notice the rising winds. They had picked up to a level where he was now fighting to keep the dust and dirt from blowing into his eyes. Spotting a nearby cave, McCoy gathered up the young Vulcan in his arms and carried her inside. Once there, he remembered that he was carrying a communicator to reach the rest of the landing party.
“McCoy to Captain Kirk. I’ve found a young Vulcan female who is suffering from the infection. She’s unable to move on her own. We’re currently in a cave riding out this dust storm.”
“Affirmative Doctor. We had to find shelter as well. Mr. Scott tells me that the storm is likely to last for another hour and is interfering with the transporter system. Stay put until then, Kirk out.”
Great, McCoy thought. He looked down at the girl and went to work attempting to stabilize her until they could get back to the ship.
“I bet you have a grandpa too. Maybe even a great-great grandpa knowing how long you people live. I bet even your unemotional grandpa wouldn’t have left you if he had known this would happen to you.” McCoy spoke, while beginning to cry and knowing that he would not receive a response back.
“Her grandfather is unaware of her existence” said a voice from the darkness of cave.
McCoy sprang up and stood rigid.
“Who’s there? Show yourself!” He said back to the darkness.
“I am here. You have seen me all around.” The voice was speaking in riddles to McCoy. It seemed from his perspective to becoming from every where, and yet nowhere all at once. There was no echo following the voice as would be expected in a cave such as this. It led McCoy to wonder if the voice was even real at all.
“Dammit! What are you talking about? This girl is dying here, can you help me or not?”
“Is she?” the voice replied.
“Of course she is! Look!” McCoy turned to point out the girl but she was gone.
“What did you do? Where is she? She’s dying!” He yelled.
“I have removed her from the equation. She served her purpose.”
“The same as the rumors of a crash and the dust storm; that you should seek shelter and find me.”
“Why did I need to find you?” McCoy asked, growing ever more impatient of never receiving a straight answer.
“You have reached the point of decision. As I know you will ask what decision this might be, allow me to explain further. You have no doubt begun experiencing echoes of your other life–”
“My other what? Yes, I have had a bit of déjà vu lately, but nothing a little nervousness and space sickness couldn’t account for.” McCoy interjected.
“You and I both know it is more than that. You had been longing for another chance at past mistakes. I have granted this wish. However, in order to give you the opportunity to choose your path I have allowed you to remember pieces of both timelines and make an ultimate decision. As you made contact with those you knew previously, you were able to feel and see glimpses of the other timeline.”
As the darkness spoke, McCoy started to remember more and more.
“So you are saying none of this is real? All the memories I have of Jocelyn and Joanna? And Lucy? They are the same as the girl I found?” McCoy asked.
“No. If you choose this path they will be as real as everything else. Bound by the same rules of life and death.”
“And if I choose my original ‘path’ as you put it? What then? Will Lucy simply go back into nonexistence?”
“But why bring me here to the Enterprise? Why did I have to be gone when Lucy needed me the most?”
“There are certain things beyond even my control. No matter the variables there will always be specific constants in every equation. For you, it is this ship and crew. As I said, the decision is now yours.”
McCoy desperately wanted to find the neck of this voice and put his hands around it. Sure I wished that things had been different between me and Jocelyn. But I never asked for this. He did not like having the responsibility of choosing the element of existence and the lives of others. A doctor is capable of decisions similar to this, but not on such a scale.
“If I choose to remain on this path, will I be able to make it back to Earth in time to help Lucy?” McCoy said to the darkness with tears now returning to his eyes.
“That is a question which I cannot answer. I can only give new choices. The future must remain a mystery. If you choose to continue with this path, your memory of our meeting will be erased—“
Beep! Beep! McCoy’s communicator suddenly went off.
“Spock to Doctor McCoy. The storm is beginning to break. Are you and the girl ready to transport back to the Enterprise?”
McCoy knew he should respond. However, he also knew that he had a decision to make first.
“I would think that nonexistence is a better fate for Lucy and her mother, than to have her life cut short at so young an age” McCoy swallowed hard. “I choose my original path. This life was great, but I would rather suffer the rest of my days dealing with death outside of my own family than within it.”
“Then follow my voice, Leonard McCoy, and you will be returned.”
Beep! Beep! “Spock to Doctor McCoy. I repeat, are you in position for transport?”
McCoy stepped forward towards the darkness.
“Doctor McCoy?” Spock’s voice asked once more.
McCoy closed his eyes and walked into the darkness.
Leonard McCoy opened his eyes. He was sitting at his desk in sickbay. In front of him was a glass with an empty bottle of Saurian brandy. As he looked up, the lights on the ceiling sent a shockwave of pain through his head.
“I apologize for waking you Doctor, but when you failed to respond to my calls over the comm system I thought it necessary to visit you in person. However it appears that you were merely intoxicated” Spock said. Only someone who knew him as well as McCoy did could detect the slight nod of sarcasm in Spock’s words.
“Well Spock,” McCoy replied while still squinting in the light “It appears you are correct.”
“In my studies of human tendencies I have come across references to the act of ‘drinking alone.’ It is most often displayed by those who are troubled and feel that alcohol is the only friend which they can turn to.” Spock lectured.
“I wouldn’t say that alcohol is my friend right now Spock; although the effects of a hangover are somewhat reminiscent of your diatribes on logic.” McCoy now stood and walked to his sink where he splashed some cold water on his face.
“A crude comparison Doctor, yet you are correct in pointing out that the headache caused by the dehydration effects of alcohol are a logical consequence of overconsumption.” Spock said.
McCoy looked in the mirror. Was it all a dream? He asked himself. It had seemed very real to him at the time. I imagine if I can remember what happened then it must have been a dream. Inwardly McCoy held onto the small chance that the mysterious voice had allowed him to remember so that Lucy could at least live on in his mind.
“Is there anything else that you wish to inform me of Spock?” McCoy asked, now feeling a little better in terms of the lighting.
“Only one. I know that many traditional practitioners of Earth medicine recommended the replenishment of nutrients and fluids following an overconsumption of alcohol. I would suggest that you take part in this act to bring yourself back to optimal working capacity. If you would like, I can join you as I know that humans tend to enjoy ‘company’ while eating” Spock said with a slight tilt to his eyebrow.
“Now you want to eat with me.” McCoy joked.
“Doctor?” Spock’s eyebrow was now at full tilt.
“Never mind Spock, it just feels good to know that you care.” McCoy said purposefully.
“Doctor, I was simply attempting to meet your emotional needs, not as you have implied exercising any of my own.” Spock said with a tone that McCoy knew was annoyance mixed with embarrassment as his comment had been closer to the truth than Spock would ever dare to admit.
“Like I said, you’re just being a friend. You and Jim are just about the closest thing to family that I have, and I realize now just how valuable that can be.” McCoy replied while smiling at the small epiphany he had experienced.
Spock simply nodded his head silently towards McCoy, put his hands behind his back and turned towards the sickbay door. McCoy followed right beside him. Down the corridor they saw Kirk.
Boy, it feels good to be home, McCoy thought.