Miracle Worker

Miracle Worker
By Patrick Cumby

Patrick Cumby
cumby@mindspring.com

His vast repertoire of Gaelic curses exhausted, his engineering
skills stymied, his hopes of rescue abandoned, Montgomery Scott
slouches in the pilot’s chair and watches the clouds of vapor
formed by his breath in the cold cabin atmosphere. There is
nothing left to do but wait – wait and watch the nightmarish
feeding frenzy of the Monster.
Dim, cold radiance from the Indrii singularity trickles into
the cabin through the open forward viewport. The glow from the
maelstrom of dying atoms bathes the shuttlecraft’s interior
with a vague light that dances and ripples across the glassy
surfaces of the dead control panels.
McCoy mumbles something incoherent. He’s as comfortable as
Scott can make him, his unconscious form arrayed on the floor
between the rows of seats, his head cushioned by a rolled-up
Starfleet field jacket. The head wound has stopped bleeding,
thankfully, but the doctor has yet to regain consciousness. The
bloodstains on his blue uniform tunic appear black in the dim,
ethereal light.
At least the doctor is spared the indignity of floating around
the darkened cabin, Scott muses grimly. Although unpowered,
inertia will keep the stator in the gravity generator spinning
for many hours – providing synthetic gravity to the
shuttlecraft Copernicus long after the demise of her two
occupants.
Scott envies the doctor’s oblivion to the race in which they
are both unwilling participants, a competition by various
specters of death to be the first to claim their lives. The
front runner is suffocation as the oxygen content of the
shuttlecraft’s atmosphere is depleted. A close second is the
black hole itself, threatening to consume them as their orbit
rapidly decays. Other participants include hypothermia and the
invisible but deadly X- and gamma rays that pour unimpeded
through the unshielded shuttle hull.
Some vacation this has turned out to be, he broods bitterly.
Spiraling helplessly into the maw of a cosmological monster
isn’t exactly what he’d had in mind for his shore leave…

“So where are you headed, Scotty?”
Scott turned to the doctor. “What do you mean?”
Dr. McCoy chased an errant jito bean around his plate with his
fork. “Your liberty. Where are you going to spend it?” He shook
his head at the Chief Engineer’s noncommittal shrug. “Oh, let
me guess. You’ll stay here on the ship to make sure the
Starfleet techs don’t scratch your precious, wee bairns during
the baryon sweep.” He popped the bean into his mouth and smiled
as he chewed.
Scott frowned. “Think you know me so well, do you?” The
doctor’s smirk caused Scott’s frown to intensify. “Well, for
your information I’m not supervising the maintenance team. In
fact, I thought I’d take a little vacation on Rigel, or maybe
Argelius.”
McCoy reeled with theatrical surprise. “Scotty! I’m shocked!
You, leaving your beloved warp engines in the hands of a bunch
of rank amateurs? What’s the galaxy coming to?”
“You’re welcome to join me,” Scott offered. “I hear the
Rigellians serve a mean single malt, and those green women of
theirs, hmm?”
McCoy raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious?”
Scott shrugged again. “Sure, if you think you can keep up, what
with your age and all.” He winked at Ensign Chekov, sitting
across the table from the two men.
Chekov shook his head. “Not enough time to get to Rigel and
back. The Enterprise’s drydock only lasts ten days.”
“Well, Argelius, then,” said Scott. “Their women aren’t green,
but I hear they know how to have a good time.”
McCoy looked thoughtful. “I’ve always wanted to visit
Argelius,” he said finally. “What the hell.”
Scott turned to the young ensign. “Chekov, laddie, how about
you?”
Chekov waved his hands in front of him as if warding off an
attack from the older officers. “Oh, no,” he said. “This sounds
like it’s w-a-a-y out of my league. I think I’ll go for
something a little less stressful, like maybe poking at a
Capellan power-cat with a superconducting stick.”
“Suit yourself,” said Scott.

Scott fumbles open his communicator, his fingers like numb
sausages in the cold. The unit chirps tiredly, its power cell
almost exhausted by the same exotic force that has sapped the
shuttlecraft’s power reserves. He dials into an emergency band
and raises the communicator to his lips.
“Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott of the U.S.S. Enterprise to any
Federation vessel. Emergency. My shuttlecraft is damaged and we
have sustained injuries. We’re being pulled into the Indrii
black hole. We need immediate assistance. Please respond.”
It is an exercise in futility, as Scott well knows. Even
without the subspace interference of the nearby singularity,
and notwithstanding the communicator’s low power level, a
passing starship hearing his cries would be a miracle of the
highest magnitude.
He keeps trying. It is, after all, better than doing nothing.
“Mayday, mayday. This is Copernicus to any vessel. If you can
hear me, I’m being pulled into the Indrii singularity. I need
help, right now. Can anyone hear me?”
The communicator responds with a tinny squeal, and then the
indicator lights go dark as its last power reserves are
exhausted. Scott stares at it for a moment, then slowly closes
the antenna grid and places the unit on the console. “That’s
it, then,” he mutters.

“But bluegrass has its roots in Celtic music,” argued McCoy.
The bourbon accentuated his southern drawl. “Listen and you can
hear it.” McCoy thumbed the panel to increase the music’s
volume, then took another sip from the bottle.
The shuttlecraft Copernicus was five hours out from the orbital
drydocks at Starbase 6, about halfway on the journey to
Argelius. Fast, furious, and loud, the strains of banjo and
fiddle filled the cabin. Scott wrinkled his nose, reached for
the bottle, and took a swig.
“I dinna ken it, doctor. Sounds like noise to me.”
McCoy grimaced. “Dammit, Scotty, use your ears. Listen to the
fiddle part, there, right there, you hear it? It sounds just
like an old-time Scottish hornpipe.”
Scott was thoroughly enjoying himself. Ten minutes out of the
shuttlecraft hanger, and McCoy had unwrapped a 20 year-old
bottle of Tennessee bourbon. With a twelve-hour trip ahead and
little to do until arrival, Scott had happily accepted the
doctor’s “travel medicine.”
In their year of service together, the two men had always had a
good professional relationship. Scott even considered McCoy a
friend, though they’d never spent much time together off-duty.
In the past few hours, however, a feeling of camaraderie had
formed between the engineer and the doctor, based on mutual
respect for each other’s professional abilities, emerging
common interests, and the effect of half a bottle of James
Dickel.
Scott scowled at the doctor. “I know what a hornpipe sounds
like, and that’s not it,” he proclaimed loudly enough to be
heard over the ever-increasing volume. He was hardly slurring
his words at all. “I’ll show you a hornpipe. Computer! Shut off
that bleedin’ noise!”
The computer obliged and the cabin is plunged into sudden
silence. Before McCoy could protest, Scott continued.
“Computer, play the Scottish hornpipes called Nimrods and
Rickets.”
“Working,” replied the computer. McCoy started to speak but
Scott silenced him with a wave. In seconds, the cabin was again
filled with music.
Scott leaned back in satisfaction. “Now that’s a hornpipe,” he
said.
McCoy listened for a moment, then nodded vigorously. “Yes,
can’t you hear the similarities? Scotty, you know as well as I
do that Scots settled Tennessee and Kentucky. Hell,” the doctor
proclaimed proudly, “I’ve probably got Scottish blood in my
veins.”
“Aye, you might at that,” agreed Scott. He waved the bottle in
the air. “You do have good taste.” He took another drink.
The voice of the computer interrupted the music. “Approaching
Indrii singularity. Arrival in 10 minutes.”
McCoy looked puzzled. “Indrii? Where the hell’s Indrii? I
thought we were going to Argelius. Don’t tell me, I’ve been
shanghaied by a mad Scotsman.”
Scott grinned. “Nay, doctor. I thought we’d take the scenic
route. You’ve heard of the Monster?”
McCoy nodded. “I’ve seen pictures. Some kind of black hole,
isn’t it? Is that our detour?”
“Indrii’s a double-star system, a massive singularity feeding
on a captured red dwarf star. S’posed to be spectacular. It was
on our way, so I thought we might pop out of subspace for a
couple of minutes and take in the view.”
“I’ll drink to that,” replied McCoy. Scott handed him the
bottle. They waited until the hornpipe finished, then sat in
silence a few minutes more.
“Say, Scotty, you suppose Spock ever gets intoxicated?”
Scott chuckled. “A drunk Vulcan? I canna imagine. But what a
sight to see.”
“Just once, just once, I’d like to get him drunk,” continued
McCoy. “Get behind that damned stuffy Vulcan facade.”
“I’ll tell you, doctor, what you’ll find behind that facade is
a heart of cold, pure logic.”
“I don’t know,” said McCoy slowly. “He is half human.”
Scotty shook his head. “He’s half human, but he’s all Vulcan,”
he replied.
“You know, I caught him smiling once,” said McCoy.
“What?” The engineer’s voice was incredulous.
McCoy nodded. “Yep. A coupl’a months ago, when we were at
Vulcan.”
When McCoy showed no signs of continuing, Scott prompted him.
“Go on, doctor.”
McCoy sighed. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this.”
Scott winked. “We Scotsmen know how to keep our mouths shut,
don’t we?”
“Okay, all right. Remember how Spock was acting oddly there for
a while?”
Scott nodded. “I noticed that he was a little edgy….”
“Yeah, that. He actually threw a dish of soup at Nurse Chapel.”
“You’re joking me.”
McCoy nodded and drank from the bottle. He wiped his lips and
continued in a conspiratorial whisper. “It was pon far, the
Vulcan mating cycle.”
Scott’s eyebrows gathered at the center of his forehead. ”
Mating cycle?”
McCoy was grinning widely. “Yep, ol’ Spocko had it bad. Went
right off the deep end. Ended up getting in ritual combat with
Jim.”
“A fight… with the captain?” Scott was at a further loss for
words, so he gestured for the bottle.
McCoy nodded gleefully. “Vulcan ritual combat. He really
clobbered Jim, too, might even have killed him if I hadn’t been
there.”
“What did you do.”
“Slipped Jim a sedative, made it look like he was dead. That
snapped Spock out of it, for sure.”
Scott’s jaw hung open. “Captain Kirk… Spock… dead?” was all
he managed. He took another drink.
“It was when I revived Jim, back on the Enterprise, that’s when
I saw him smile. He was blabbering on about relieving himself
from duty when Jim sneaked up on him from behind. When Spock
saw Jim he lit up like a Roman candle, and smiled from ear to
pointy ear.”
Scott only stared at the doctor. “I don’t know whether to
believe you or not,” he finally said.
“It’s the God’s honest truth,” swore McCoy. “But keep it
between you and me. Ol’ Spock’s embarrassed enough, and Jim
wouldn’t like it if the story got out. Not good for the chain
of command, you know, when the first officer goes around
strangling his captain.”
Scott grinned and handed the bottle to McCoy. “Keep drinking,
doctor, this conversation’s starting to get very interesting.”

It appears that the cold is winning the race to claim his life.
Far beyond trembling or chattering teeth, Scott feels only
numbness and a great, overwhelming fatigue. He slowly pivots
the pilot’s chair until he faces McCoy’s supine form. He can’t
tell if the doctor is still breathing, not that it matters now.
At least the doctor is spared the terror of waiting for death.
He turns back to the view of the Monster. It is much larger
know, writhing in an orgy of energy consumption, great blue
spider-tendrils of plasma fire stretching to clutch the
shuttlecraft.
Scott palms the voice recorder switch on the dead control
panel. The panel flickers dimly; there probably isn’t enough
power in the system to record the log. He continues anyway.
“Chief Engineer’s personal log, stardate 3412.6. Final entry,”
he whispers. “Shuttlecraft Copernicus on route to Argelius for
shore leave. Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy also on
board.”
He fights off a powerful round of shivers before continuing.
“Four hours ago we dropped out of warp in the Indrii system to
do a little sightseeing. At that time all ships systems were
operating normally. A few moments later the proximity alarm
sounded and within seconds the ship was caught in an intense
gravimetric disturbance. All ship’s systems were instantly
disabled. Whatever it was also systemically drained stored
energy from all onboard power cells, everything from the main
shuttlecraft batteries to the power cells on the tricorders and
other handheld devices. Dr. McCoy was seriously injured when
the inertial dampers failed.
“Some time later the shuttlecraft appeared to pass through the
phenomena again, and then again at regular intervals
thereafter, about every twenty minutes.” He guesses at the
frequency of the disturbances; both his personal chronometer
and the ship’s clock are dead.
“As far as I can tell, there’s some disturbance that’s being
projected from the black hole. It seems to coincide with
Indrii’s rotation. Perhaps some irregularity of the event
horizon, or maybe a baby black hole in orbit around its mother.
Whatever it is, it has completely disabled the shuttlecraft. We
are currently in a rapidly decaying orbit, exposed to the hard
radiation emitted by the singularity.
“Barring a miracle, there is nothing I can do to prevent Indrii
from swallowing the Copernicus.”

To approach too closely would have meant entanglement in the
gravitational web of the singularity, the same web that had
captured the unfortunate red dwarf and was now feeding on it.
The far-flung tendrils of star stuff spreading along
electromagnetic field lines away from the singularity even
looked liked the long, slender legs of a vast spider.
“Would you look at that,” whispered the doctor.
“Aye,” agreed Scott, his eyes riveted on the scene outside the
front viewports. “The Monster.” An involuntary shiver rippled
from the base of his neck down his back. Understanding the
physics that caused the thing to exist did nothing to temper
its vast and hideous beauty. He suddenly felt very sober.
The red dwarf star was swollen and blotchy, with great, ragged
spots covering its misshapen surface. A steady stream of plasma
issued from the wounded sun, sucked into the maw of the monster
black hole around which it spun in a death-dance of light and
energy. The ionized gasses spiraled down to the mouth of the
creature and were ejected out into space at near relativistic
speeds, forming the spider-like “legs” of the monster.
“Gives me the creeps,” observed McCoy.
“They say the red sun will be wholly consumed in the next few
decades, possibly in our lifetimes,” said Scott. “I remember
reading about this thing when I was a lad. I’ve always wanted
to see it with my own eyes.”
“What will happen after it finishes… eating?”
Scott shrugged. “After it sucks in or blows away the last of
the gas from the star, it’ll simply fade away into
invisibility. That is, until some other unlucky star stumbles
into its gravitational trap,” he added.
“Mmm.” replied McCoy. “Well, whenever you’re ready, I’m ready
to get the hell out of here. Argelius is calling my name.”
“Aye. Mine, too.” Scott took one last look at the spectacle of
cosmic gluttony, then turned his attention to the control
console.
That’s when all hell broke loose.

He has almost succumbed to the seductive release of
unconsciousness when suddenly, and with great vigor, the
shuttlecraft lurches to one side, spilling Scott onto the floor
amidst a clatter of loose tools. It is yet another encounter
with the mysterious gravimetric phenomena. The still-spinning
artificial-gravity stator whines in protest.
Scott is momentarily disoriented. There is a groan somewhere
behind him that sounds biological, not mechanical. It is the
doctor. Scott picks himself up and hurries to McCoy’s side.
He is conscious. “Scotty?” he whispers.
In the darkness, the doctor’s face is barely visible. “Aye,
doctor, it’s me. Be quiet now, and conserve your strength.”
McCoy ignores Scott’s command. “What happened to the lights?”
he asks. His voice is thin and tremulous.
Scott considers hiding the morbid truth from his injured
comrade. He decides against it; were he in McCoy’s position,
he’d appreciate candor.
“I don’t know what hit us, doctor, but whatever it was, it did
a right proper job of tearing the shuttlecraft’s innards to
bits.” He pauses for a moment; the doctor’s eyes are closed.
Scott fears he has slipped back into unconsciousness until
McCoy motions for him to continue. “Ah, I hate to admit it, but
we’re in a bit of a tight spot. Main power is out and the warp
drive is offline. Even worse, whatever it was that clobbered us
sucked the juice out of every electrical and optical system
onboard. Including communications and life-support.”
McCoy closes his eyes with a sigh. “Well, if I have to be in a
wrecked shuttlecraft, I picked the right shipmate. How long
until you have it all fixed?”
That stings. Why the hell does everyone automatically assume I
have all the answers, he wants to say. Why is it always up to
me to save the day? “Aye, I wish it were that simple,” he says
instead.
“Ah, Scotty, I have the utmost confidence in you,” says the
doctor. His voice is weak, but his eyes are open again. “Don’t
worry about me, I’m okay. You get back to working on the ship.
Doctors orders.”
Scott only stares down at the doctor. There’s nothing I can do,
he wants to scream. Your confidence is misplaced. Our number is
up.
“You’re not moving, Scotty. It must be pretty bad.”
Scott nods. “Aye. Couldn’t be worse. There’ll be no miracles
this time, doctor. There’s no power to anything, not even my
hand tools.”
Long seconds pass silently. “Damn, it’s cold,” the doctor
observes. “How long have we got?”
Scott shakes his head. “No way to tell. It’s getting cold,
fast, and the air in here’s pretty stale. Not to mention our
decaying orbit and the hard radiation from the singularity.”
“Your bedside manner isn’t the least bit comforting, Scotty.
Anything else?”
“Well, there’s the plasma bursts from the star, we could run
right into one of those beasties. Plus there’s all kinds of
debris swirling around at near relativistic speeds; without
shields we could be pulverized by a bit of space dust moving at
warp one.”
McCoy makes a noise that might have been a chuckle but was
probably just a cough. “Oh, is that all? For a minute there you
had me worried.” He turns his head to one side. “Where’s the
bourbon?”
Scott gestured toward the rear of the darkened cabin. “Canna
you smell it? The bottle was smashed when the IDF failed.”
McCoy sighed. “Now that’s really bad news.” He coughs again,
and winces from the pain. “I could use a slug about now.”
“Aye, me too.”
There is another long moment during which neither man speaks.
“Scotty, I’m hurt pretty bad,” McCoy finally says. “It feels
like I might have a concussion. You need to try and keep me
awake.”
Scott thinks about it for a moment and gently places his hand
on his friend’s forehead. “I don’t know. Maybe it would be
better if you did sleep.”
Scott was completely unprepared for McCoy’s response. “God
dammit Scotty,” the doctor explodes. “What’s the matter with
you? You think I’m going to lie here and die peacefully? Hell
no! You may have already given up, but I haven’t.” McCoy had
managed to raise himself up to his elbows, even with Scott
trying to keep him down. “Some goddamned engineer you turn out
to be.”
“What are ye talking about? I’ve tried everything! There’s
nothing left to do!” replied Scott, shaken.
McCoy fell back to the cabin floor, his head on the field
jacket. He is breathing heavily from the exertion. “Scotty, you
can’t give up on a patient when there’s even just a spark of
life left.”
Scott resented the implication but refrained from screaming at
the injured man. He took a deep breath to contain his anger.
“I’m sorry doctor. Copernicus is dead. It’ll take a miracle to
save us now.”
“Then dammit, Scotty, get to work, and whip us up a miracle.”

It happened fast. First came the whoops of the proximity alarm,
followed a second later by the crushing impact. Scott barely
had enough time to move his eyes from the viewport to the
scanners before the inertial dampers failed and sent him
spinning to the ceiling of the shuttlecraft cabin. There was a
cry of pain next to him, but an intense force kept him pinned
to the hard metal and prevented him from turning his head. The
pressure squeezed his chest like a vise; he could not draw a
breath. His vision swam; it felt like his eyes were being
forced from their sockets.
Everything went dark. Scott wasn’t sure if it was his eyes or a
power failure. There was a groaning noise as the intense forces
stressed the little ship’s hull. Scott tried to cry out, but
could not move air from his lungs.
After what seemed like an eternity, the pressure lessened, then
disappeared entirely He tumbled to the cabin floor. McCoy fell
hard next to him, cracking his head on the console.
Scott gasped for breath, vaguely surprised to be alive. He
blinked to try to clear his vision, but the cabin remained
dark.
Not completely dark, though. Light from the Monster filtered
through the forward viewport, casting a deathly blue glow on
the interior of the Copernicus. Power failure then, not
blindness.
In the process of struggling to his knees he encountered a soft
wet mass – the Doctor’s blood soaked hair. His hand jerked away
from the warm, sticky sensation and he shuddered. Was McCoy
still alive?
He certainly wasn’t moving. “Doctor McCoy,” Scott said, then
again, louder. “Doctor, can you hear me?”
No response. Gingerly, he searched for the Doctor’s pulse. It
was difficult; there was a lot of blood. Finally, he located
the carotid artery and a steady pulse. He heaved a sigh of
relief.

Scott looks up from the panel. “It’s just like I said, doctor.
Without power, there’s nothing I can do.”
McCoy’s words are badly slurred. Scott hopes it is a result of
whiskey, but he fears it is the concussion. “So how can we get
power?”
Scott sighs. McCoy just won’t give it up. “The warp drive is
hopeless. Whatever hit us fused the coils beyond hope.”
“What about impulse power?”
“Well, like I said before, the microfusion generator is off-
line. I don’t know whether it’s damaged or just shut down due
to power loss to the control circuits. There’s no way to know.”
There is a long silence. “Dammit, Scotty, there has to be a
way.” McCoy whispers, slurring so badly as to be hardly
understandable. His eyes are closed again.
Scott pounds his fist into his hand in frustration. This is not
the way he’d planned to die. Actually, he’d never planned to
die at all, but he’d always assumed it would be of old age. It
was worse that the doctor would die, too. After all, this side
trip had been his idea, so he was in a way responsible for
McCoy’s misfortune.
Ah, hell. If there was only some way to get power to the
microfusion generator control circuits. The generator is
probably humming along in emergency standby mode, ready to
produce gigawatts of energy on demand. Just a few watts of
juice to the control circuits will do it, but every battery,
every power cell on board is dead. He pounds his fist again,
this time against the dead console.
“Scotty.” It is a hoarse whisper. Scott leans close so he can
make out the doctor’s words. “Gravity… why?”
Scott shakes his head. “I dinna understand. Gravity?”
McCoy doesn’t open his eyes. “Art… artificial gravity. If we
don’t have power, then why…”
“Why do we still have artificial gravity?”
McCoy nods, almost imperceptibly.
“Ach, it’s because the stator inside the synthetic gravity
generator keeps spinning even when main power is out. There’s
enough stored inertial energy in the stator to keep it spinning
for days. Don’t worry about the gravity, it’s not going to fail
us.”
McCoy says something Scott can’t make out. He leans close, so
close his ear brushes McCoy’s lips. “What doctor? I did’na
catch what you said.”
“Energy.” McCoy says. “Stator.” His eyes open for a moment,
then close again.
He’s getting delirious, thinks Scott. He pulls the survival
blanket up under the now unconscious doctor’s chin. “You need
to rest.”
Scott staggers to the pilot’s seat and stares out the viewport.
The Monster fills the sky. He closes his eyes. There is an
afterimage of spider-like tendrils reaching out to consume him.
So cold, so cold.
Energy.
His eyes pop open.
Energy. In the stator. It has been there, right in front of
him, the whole time. By God, there’s more than enough energy
stored up in the rotational momentum of the synthetic gravity
stator to get us out of this mess!
“McCoy, you’re a genius!” There is no response from the doctor.
He has lapsed back into unconsciousness.
The cold subsides in his excitement. How to capture the energy
from the stator and channel it to the control circuits for the
microfusion generators? That is easy enough, he realizes. The
synthetic gravity generator has a manual shutdown switch that
applies braking force to the stator in the event the stator
becomes unbalanced. The energy generated by the braking force
is shunted through the ship’s power grid to the main batteries.
The switch is under an access panel in the cabin floor,
somewhere underneath McCoy’s body. Scott is hesitant to move
McCoy for fear of causing further injury, but there is no
choice. He grasps the doctor beneath his shoulders and gingerly
pulls him forward. “Sorry, doctor.”
It is too dark to see the panel. He finds it by touch, feels
for the release mechanism. There isn’t one – instead, there’s
the head of a screw.
A single, simple metal screw holds the access panel in place
He looks around at the darkened interior of the shuttlecraft.
Probably no more than half a dozen old-fashioned screws in this
whole ship, he thinks ironically, and one of them between
salvation and me. Why does a bloomin’ screw, instead of the
more normal quick-release latch, secure this particular panel?
He doesn’t know, but he makes up his mind that his first task
in the afterlife will be to haunt the idiot engineer who’d
designed the access panel.
“Guess I need a screwdriver,” he mumbles. “Watch there not be
one on board.” He vaguely recalls an ancient story about three
men adrift at sea in a life raft. The men have several tins of
food, but no can opener.
Luckily, Starfleet has a little more foresight. He finds a pair
of small screwdrivers in the emergency toolkit. Scott palms the
one that seems to be the correct size, and moves back to the
access panel. He spares a quick glance at the Monster. “Not
today, you beast. You’ll go hungry today.” He smiles grimly and
applies himself to the task at hand.
The screw won’t budge. Scott curses briefly. He can barely hold
the screwdriver with his frozen fingers. He tries again, this
time with all his might. Pain from his cold fingers shoots up
his forearms. Finally, something snaps and the screwdriver
turns. Scott’s instant relief turns to dread when he realizes
the screw is turning far too easily. He lifts the screwdriver,
and peers at the panel in the dim light.
The head of the screw is broken off. Scott sits back heavily
and stares at the screwdriver. “Great,” he mutters. “Just
great.”

Copernicus was spinning out of control. It only took Scott a
few seconds to realize the deadly seriousness of their
situation. All shuttlecraft systems were dead or nearly so.
Main power was down and the warp core was offline. It wasn’t
just the circuit breakers, though main breakers were a fused
and stinking mess -something had drained the emergency
batteries and backup power cells, even the power cells in
handheld devices like his tricorder and communicator. Even the
emergency beacon was inoperative.
He had moment of hope when he managed to fire the reaction
control thrusters and stop Copernicus’s mad spin, but that hope
faded along with the power to the thruster controls. Every
board on the control panel was dark.
Copernicus slowly drifted toward the maw of the Monster, dead
in space.

“Some damn engineer I turn out to be,” Scott mumbles. “McCoy
was right about that.” He considers kicking the recalcitrant
access panel again, but decides against it. Underneath the
panel is a simple switch that, if thrown, would restore enough
emergency power to jump-start the shuttlecraft’s ailing
microfusion generators and get them the hell out of here. The
edges of the panel are bent and twisted, as are Scott’s
fingernails and several small hand tools littered around the
panel on the cabin floor. No amount of prying, pulling, or
cursing had budged the damn thing. Imagine, a single metal
screw thwarting the Chief Engineer of a starship, for God’s
sake.
McCoy hasn’t stirred for what seems like hours. It is so cold
that Scott can barely hold the tools. “Think, think.” he says
aloud. “You’re close, Montgomery Scott. You canna let such a
wee insignificant beastie as a screw beat you.”
But it is too cold to think, too cold to move. The inside of
Copernicus is dark and silent. Like a tomb – my tomb, thinks
Scott.
“We still here?” comes a weak voice from the darkness. McCoy
has regained consciousness.
“Aye, Doctor, still here. Barely.”
“Figured as much. If I were dead, I wouldn’t hurt so bad,” the
doctor observes.
“Is there anything in your wee black bag I can give you for the
pain?” asks Scott.
“Now why didn’t I think of that, being the doctor and all?”
says McCoy. “It’s in the aft locker. Bring it out and I’ll show
you what to do.”
Scott steps over McCoy’s body and fumbles in the darkness,
finally emerging with the medikit. “Here it is,” he says.
McCoy’s eyes are closed. “Find the hypospray. There are a
couple of dozen small vials lining the case. Look for the blue
vial labeled retorin.”
Scott peered at the vials. The colors were barely visible, the
tiny text illegible in the darkness. “I canna read the labels,
it’s too dark. There are two blue vials.”
McCoy grimaced. “Get it right Scotty. One of them is retorin, a
neural anti-inflammatory. The other blue vial is tal shaiban, a
Vulcan blood thinner.”
“Well, now,” replies Scott, pulling the vials from the medikit,
“Let’s not be givin’ you any Vulcan medicine. Wouldn’t want
those ears of yours to turn pointed, now would we?”
The doctor groans, this time a bit more theatrically. “God
forbid. But Scotty, that’s not what I was getting at. Mixed
with alcohol, tal shaiban forms a powerful acid. With the
bourbon in my system, if you give me the wrong one, you’ll burn
me to ashes.”
“You’re kidding me,” said Scott.
McCoy managed a tight grin. “Nope. Although either one will
cure my headache, one way or another.”
Scott grimaces. “Hold on then, let me get some light.” He moves
to the front of the cabin and holds the vials up to the open
viewport. The blue radiance from the Monster makes the contents
of both vials as black as ink, but there is enough light to
make out the labels. He carefully places the tal shaiban back
in the medikit. “All right, doctor,” he said. “I think I’ve got
the right one.”
One of McCoy’s eyes creeps open. “You think?”
“Like you say, either drug will cure your headache. How do I
load this thing into the hypo?” McCoy doesn’t answer for a
moment; Scott fears he’s lapsed back into unconsciousness.
“Doctor?”
“Sorry,” McCoy replies in a near whisper. “First you’ve got to
eject the cartridge already in the hypo. Push the little metal
nipple near the end.”
Scott did so, and the vial popped out into his hand. “Okay, now
what?”
“Insert the retorin cartridge, flat end first, and push it in
’till it catches.”
Scott’s cold fingers fumble with the unfamiliar instrument;
finally, there is a soft click. “Done,” he reports.
“Now you inject me. The carotid artery would be best, but if
you miss it’ll still work.”
Scott leans toward McCoy.
“Wait!”
Scott stops, the hypo just inches from McCoy’s neck. “What is
it?”
“You’re sure you got the right vial?” The doctor sounds
anxious, and both eyes are now open. “I wasn’t kidding about
tal shaiban. Mixed with even a tiny amount of alcohol, it’ll
burn through my circulatory system, muscle, bone, and skin, and
probably right through the deck plate, too. All joking aside,
that’s not how I want to cure my headache.”
Scott remains motionless.
“Well, is it the right vial, or not?”
Scott cocks his head to one side. “You say, doctor, that this
Vulcan medicine makes an acid when mixed with alcohol? An acid
powerful enough to burn through metal?”
McCoy nods feebly. “Yes, so if you have any doubt, please
double check, will you?”
Scott abruptly leans forward and injects the contents of the
vial into McCoy’s neck. McCoy’s eyes are now wide. “Guess you
were sure,” he mumbles.
Scoot stands and moves to the back of the shuttle. “Scotty?
What are you doing?” McCoy’s voice sounds stronger already.
“I’m looking for the bourbon.”
“I thought you said the bottle was broken.”
“It was. But maybe there’s just a wee bit… ah, yes!” Scott
returns to the front of the cabin, cradling a remnant of the
broken bottle. A few cc’s of brown liquid pooled in the shard.
Scott presents the broken glass to McCoy like a trophy.
“Doctor, if I can get that panel open,” he gestures toward the
bent floor plate, ” I think I can get us out of here. If you’re
right about this tal shaiban, we might just have a chance.”
Scott carefully places the remnant of the bourbon bottle on the
floor, then sweeps away the useless tools surrounding the
access panel. “Now where’s that medikit?” he mumbles. It is
next to McCoy, who is straining to lift his head to watch
Scott.
Scott removes the second blue vial and holds it up to the
light. “How do I get this open?” he asks.
McCoy’s voice is steady; the medicine must be taking effect.
“Use your thumb to pop the seal on the small end.”
Scott did so. “Okay, doctor, here’s a little chemistry test for
you. How much of each should I mix together to get the best
effect?”
“How the hell should I know? I’m a doctor, not a demolition
expert.”
“Well, we’ll just try half-and-half,” says Scott. He places the
bottle shard on top of the broken screw, then pours an equal
amount of the blue liquid into the bourbon.
The effect is immediate. In seconds, the entire cabin is nearly
filled with thick, noxious smoke.
“Great,” McCoy says. “Now we’ll suffocate.”
Scott watches. The glass shard has disintegrated, and the floor
covering on top of the access panel is bubbling and molten.
Scott waits until the chemical reaction seems to have ceased.
Here goes nothing, he thinks. He places the screwdriver
underneath one of the bent edges and attempts to pry the panel
open.
Nothing.
He pulls harder.
It doesn’t budge.
Scott grits his teeth, leans back on his haunches, and pulls
with every muscle, every tendon, every fiber of his strength.
The screwdriver breaks, sending Scott tumbling backwards into
McCoy. The doctor gasps in pain. Scott curses.
“Are ye all right, doctor?”
McCoy grimaces with pain. “Yes… yes, I think so. Did you get
it?”
“Nay,” Scott tosses the shaft of the screwdriver aside in
disgust. “Nay. It’s stuck for good. And so are we, it looks
like.”
“It was a good idea, Scotty. You… you tried your best.”
“Aye. Fat lot of good my best did us, though.”
Both men wait in silence as the smoke from the acid burn rises
to the top of the cabin.
“So that’s it, then?” asks McCoy.
Scott doesn’t answer.
“There’s nothing else, no tool, no…”
Scott interrupts, “No, doctor, I’ve broken every tool I have.
I’ve tried everything. Unless you know how to make an explosive
from the goodies in your little black bag?” He looked hopefully
at the medikit.
McCoy chuckles grimly. “No, I can cure a runny nose, but I
can’t make a bomb.”
Scott is furious. “Whoever put a blasted screw,” the word came
out like a curse, “should be drawn and quartered. If it weren’t
for that damned screw we’d be long gone by now. As it is, it’ll
take a miracle to save us now. And it seems like I’m all out of
miracles!”
Scott pounds his fist on the panel in frustration. There is a
small metallic pop. Both men look at each other.
“Maybe you’re not out of miracles after all, Mr. Scott,”
observes McCoy wryly. “Wake me up when we get back to the ship,
will you?”

“So that was it? ” asked Captain Kirk. “He broke the panel open
with his fist?”
McCoy nodded up at the captain from the diagnostic bed. Nurse
Chapel was busily waving a medical scanner over the doctor’s
cleaned and dressed wounds, clucking softly.
“Yep,” answered McCoy. “Hell hath no fury like a ticked-off
Scotsman.”
Kirk looked over at Scott, sitting on the next bed. “Mr. Scott,
remind me never to get into a fistfight with you.”
“Ah, captain, it was nothing. A lucky blow. The acid must have
weakened the metal.”
McCoy chuckled. “Heck, Scotty, you said it yourself. We needed
a miracle, and just like always, you provided one. Chief
Engineer Scott – the miracle worker.”
“Don’t count on it,” said Scott disapprovingly.
Captain Kirk put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “But we will,
Scotty, we always will.”
Miracle Worker

Miracle Worker

Patrick Cumby cumby@mindspring.com 11

Miracle Worker

Patrick Cumby cumby@mindspring.com 1

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