Title: Friend or Foe (1/3)
Disclaimer: My Valissan pirates, but not much else.
Summary: Sequel to The Right-Hand Man. Whatever did happen to that pirate?
If you have not read The Right-Hand Man, then this story will not make sense; read it here.
A Man of Trouble
They have re-entered a lively part of the galaxy after a boring month of mapping an uncharted sector in the Alpha Quadrant. Jim is antsy for a piece of action. Bones is resigned that the Captain will probably find it—the dangerous kind. So he drives his medical staff crazy by demanding double and triple checks on the supplies in Sickbay. (There’s always something missing when he really needs it). Only Spock is properly occupied with report-writing on interesting bits of data. (“It takes little to please you, Spock!”)
As it so happens, the Enterprise turns the corner of a red moon and does run into trouble. What surprises the whole crew is that Doctor McCoy invites it onboard.
“Doctor McCoy, you have an incoming message.”
“If it’s from Starfleet, lose it en-route. They can’t have my report until I’m good and ready to send it.”
Uhura’s voice is amused. “Len, I can’t to do that. It’s already arrived.”
“How about en-route to my desk console? C’mon now, I’ll remind Scotty that your birthday is in two weeks.”
“It’s not from Starfleet.” There is the noise of quick button-punching. “It’s from a… freighter?”
“Well, why didn’t you just say so? Patch it through.” Leonard leans over to switch the line, but Uhura says a little too loudly.
“Mark the date on the PADD that schedules the engine maintenance. He’ll see it that way!” Leonard just shakes his head. He taps the blinking button on his console.
Always on call, even for death by boredom, he thinks dryly. There is a half-full glass of bourbon on the side table in his quarters. McCoy’s sleep-shrouded brain was only partially functional when Uhura commed him; it’s little better now. Nothing a cup of real coffee couldn’t fix. Damn replicators.
“McCoy, here.” He doesn’t quite garble the words.
“Doc-tor.” The title is stressed just so in a way that has Leonard sitting up properly. Suddenly he wishes for vid. “Doctor McCoy.” Despite that it is a year past, he remembers that voice in great pain (but still proud); it’s a young voice, not yet fully guttural.
He throws the word out. “Charon?”
“Yes, Doctor. This line is not secure; I will be brief.”
McCoy wants to say Your father, is he alive? Charon saves him the trouble.
“I call on behalf of the Captain.” He never refers to the man in any other way, even when he’s dying. On Valis, rank takes precedence over familial ties.
“He survived that run-in with the Orions then?”
There is a pause on the line, as if Charon had not previously contemplated this scenario. “Yes, of course. Easily.” Orions are not match for Valissans. This goes unsaid but heard nonetheless. “He lost his left eye. He bears it with honor.”
Jesus, I’ll bet. Captain Noreh, the space pirate—eye-patch and all.
“What can do for you, Charon? I doubt this is a social call.”
“Social? You are not a friend, McCoy.”
Yeah, just a man who saved your life. “Well get to it already, boy, I haven’t got that much time left before my shift starts.” Leonard’s lips press firmly together. He’s irritated now.
“The Captain is in need of your Enterprise.”
McCoy almost gapes at the little speaker. “You—you can’t be serious!”
“I do not joke.”
“Charon, you fool. I’m a doctor, not a charter service!”
“You work on this ship, no? You will tell your Captain—Kirk—to meet my freighter. I have dispatched our coordinates in a separate message. You will pick up the Captain from here.”
McCoy comes to his feet in indignation. “Now hold on just a damned—”
“Doctor.” Charon says the word so quietly, with such difficulty, that it gives McCoy pause. “You must come. I do not ask lightly.” Valissans rarely ask. “It is against our way to work with your Federation.”
“They might help you, if your need is dire.”
“No, they would not. We are pirates, we are—” the word is too rough for McCoy, but he understands the sentiment behind it.
“I know,” he sighs. “I wouldn’t trust ’em either, were I in your business. Charon,” he sits back down, heavily. “You need a ship?”
“We require transport on your ship.”
Great. Just wonderful. Jim’s gonna love this.
“We don’t give out joy-rides. If it’s to your next raid—” Or Heaven forbid, for political asylum… Starfleet would have all their asses in a dilithum mine for the next fifty years.
“What is space travel without adventure, McCoy? I will not argue this point with you. I have no more time. You must speak with Kirk.”
McCoy needs to know one last detail. “Does Noreh know that you’ve contacted me?”
“He demanded that I do so.” Charon cuts communication.
Damn, damn, damn! Leonard lets his head drop into his hands. The Valissans (who weren’t that kind to him, until he proved his worth) would never surrender their own raider even if a space vacuum is sucking out the crew into the black void. Leonard is very sure of that fact so he can only conclude that this means there is more at stake than thievery and honor. Len feels a churning in his gut, the kind he gets when he watches Jim or Spock transport to a “safe” planet—and later come back full of bloody holes. (Yes, you can get pitch-forked to death.)
His mind says Go back to sleep, let it go. His heart tells him that the Valissans are in serious trouble. They need him.
Now how is he going to convince the Captain and First Officer of this?
Unfortunately, it takes less convincing than Leonard calculates because, as he has so stupidly forgotten, Jim is bored. Therefore bored-Jim overrides common-sense-Jim (and Spock). His gut churns even worse when Noreh and Jim shake hands and seem pleased to meet each other. Maybe it’s because Captain Noreh compliments Captain Kirk on his fine war vessel; maybe it’s because Captain Kirk compliments Captain Noreh on his leather eye-patch.
Spock looks at McCoy, tilts his head with I am wary of this outcome and Leonard cannot agree more.
Only five (agonizing) days with pirates aboard and the red alert sounds. Then the crew is flying to battle stations, and by the time Bones manages to snag a turbolift up to the Bridge, he’s possibly side-swiped a few lieutenants. (New ones, must be, because anyone who has served on the Enterprise for more than six months knows Doctor McCoy’s routine and kindly flatten themselves against the wall when he rushes by.)
He finds Jim clutching the arms of his chair but not with fear—it’s to restrain his anticipation. Almost literally alongside him, in a second makeshift Captain’s seat, is Noreh who looks just as eager as Kirk. The Valissan adjusts his eye-patch, leans over to whisper something in his ‘friend’ Captain’s ear.
Not again, Bones thinks despairingly as an Orion raider glides towards the Enterprise. Uhura hails it with the usual (imminent) battle call, and they are lucky enough to get a response instead of a phaser blast.
Leonard furrows his brow at the screen, because damned if that Orion face isn’t familiar! He looks to Spock, who has paused from evaluating the situation through his scope to also scrutinize this unknown yet memory-vague face. Jim observes the Orion for different reasons: he assesses challenge and possible weakness.
“I am Captain James T. Kirk—”
“Orion dogs!” Noreh breaks into Jim’s speech. “We will cull you from your depraved ways!”
Jim looks momentarily nonplussed at the interruption, but since he is in a good mood, he gives in to amusement.
“This is the starship Enterprise.”
A fine ship, a good ship, mutters Noreh while still glaring with one eye at his mortal enemy.
The Orion ignores Kirk in lieu of Noreh. “I always knew that Valissans were poor pirates, to be caught by Starfleet. How entertaining!”
Noreh leans back in his chair—all the leader now—and says with good humor. “The Valissans are smart enough to befriend a starship Captain. For trade purposes, you understand.” He turns to Kirk with a wink (that the Orion cannot see).
McCoy wants to slap Jim upside the head, because whatever is going on here—he’s in on it and hasn’t shared this particular plan with either Bones or Spock.
The Orion says quite suspiciously, “What trade?”
Jim merely responds, “State your business in this sector.”
“An Orion’s business is only for Orions—Captain.”
Jim leans forward with that intent narrowed gaze that Bones recognizes too well. Leonard does not press a hand to his gut, though he wants to. Surprisingly, it is Spock who suspends this simmering confrontation by indicating to Jim that he wishes to speak. Kirk snaps back into place, turns his chair to address his First Officer (turns his back on the Orion pirate deliberately).
“What is it, Mr. Spock?”
“Captain, if I am correct, we have encountered this Orion before—ten months and five days ago, to be precise.”
Bones sidles over to stand between them. “Spock, that’s before we departed on the new five-year mission.”
Leonard makes the connection then, jerks but forces his body not to face Noreh. He says softly, “The Orion raider on the Sarron asteroid base.” He meets Jim’s eyes.
Captain Noreh (who has superb hearing like a Vulcan) says loudly, “Oh, is that who you are? I admit, I had forgotten your ugly face, Orion. After all, I regularly defeat so many of you!”
“Liar!” screams the Orion Captain, who immediately makes stabbing-like motions at the screen with a long bony finger.
“LIAR?” Noreh roars and slams his fist down on the armrest (the chair shudders). “How DARE you call ME a liar! Orions suckle from the breast of Dishonesty!”
“You, you—” The Orion is turning a strange color. “I challenge you to space combat! You Valissan—” The word is quite nasty.
The rage in the Valissan suddenly vanishes (dropped like a mask) and Captain Noreh gleefully accepts before anyone get No! out.
“Board your puny Valissan vessel and prepare to die!”
The Valissan grins, swinging his chair (left-right, left-right) like a kid awaiting his next treat.
“Oh but this is my ship, at least temporarily. All that you see here…” Noreh gestures grandly at the bridge of the Enterprise. He smirks, the poor fool unsaid. “Captain Kirk, won’t you be so kind as to demonstrate our warfare capabilities?”
The Orion is choking out words in the background as Kirk says “With pleasure” and orders “Arm photon torpedoes, Chekov.”
Apparently the Orions realize the kind of trouble they have just fallen into—such a simple trap, really—and they are in warp-three before Kirk can fire on their much smaller ship.
“After them!” yells Noreh. He launches out of his chair at Sulu, growling and with a black scowl to rival Doctor McCoy’s. If Sulu sinks a little into his seat, no one can blame him.
“Captain?” Sulu questions, switching between Kirk and Noreh. It’s not readily apparent who he directly this title to. Kirk answers.
“Put her in warp-four, Sulu.”
And so they are off on a merry chase across the stars—with Captain Noreh and his pirate brigade snarling and waving blasters all the way.
Sweet Lord, I need a drink. McCoy must have said it aloud, because most of the human crew around him nod zealously in agreement.
Next part… The Doctor of War