Captain's log, stardate 2714.5: Concurrent to our arrival at Sihpis with the new team of xenoeugenicists, the TARDIS has once again landed on the Enterprise. Despite some initial confusion of identity (see science officer's report this date) I allowed the Doctor's party to beam down with us.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the first of the geneticists beamed down to the Starfleet installation; to be greeted by Commander Major. Major stepped right up to Commander Baugh and shook her hand like Stanley searching for Livingstone. "Thank heavens you're here," said Major plaintively.
Kirk was more amused at Baugh's embarrassment over Major's lapse of protocol than he was irked at Major. Baugh cleared her throat and said, "These are Captain Kirk and his officers ..."
"Captain!" Major came to attention, mortified.
"As you were," said Kirk mildly.
"... These are Drs. Carruthers, Wyatt, and Adkins," Baugh continued - she, Major, Major's staff and the rest of hers all held doctrates in eugenics of course. Most of them (rather like McCoy) were, chronologically and in their own minds, specialists first and Starfleet second. Kirk was unsurprised by Major's behavior.
"... The rest of my team," Baugh said, as six more figures beamed in, "and - um - some friends of the captain."
"How do you do," said "the captain's friend", leaving his two companions behind in an amicable charge on Major to shake Major's hand in both of his own. "I'm the Doctor," he said, as if that distinguished him in this company. "And this is Polly, and this is Ben," as if neither of them had surnames.
Baugh hadn't been quite sure what to make of the Doctor. Major was looking at him as if he'd found a triceratops where he expected to find a penknife. Kirk could emathize - half an hour earlier on the bridge, he'd been at least as confused himself:
"Why, I'm the Doctor," said the stranger.
"That," said Spock, "is not logical."
"For once I agree," said McCoy.
Kirk's own certainty was shaken when he realized Spock and McCoy were in concert on the point.
Till then he'd been sure the stranger was someone up to something. The time-traveler known as the Doctor was humanoid, human appearing, and male, and that was where the resemblance to this person stopped. The Doctor was elderly, with long white hair that curled in above the collar of his customary Edwardian-age suit. This man was only middle aged, and with his hair in a long bowl haircut, wearing baggy clothes topped off with a black cutaway frock coat that was likewise too big for him.
"It is the Doctor, really," said Polly.
"I arrived here, with Ben and Polly whom you've met," huffed the pseudo-Doctor, motioning to the two twentieth-century humans who'd stepped out onto the bridge with him. "In the TARDIS." The energy signature of the Doctor's time/space vehicle had registered on the Enterprise internal sensors a few minutes before these three people had arrived on the bridge. "Who else could I be?"
"Who indeed?" Kirk snapped. Two security men arrived in the turbolift, completing with Kirk, Spock and McCoy the circle of Starfleet officers surrounding the TARDIS passengers. Kirk would have to commend whomever called them. When the stranger saw them he began hyperventilating, puffing his cheeks in and out. The Doctor whom Kirk knew would've gotten impatient and imperious at disbelief, instead of panicky.
"Spock!" The stranger turned to the Vulcan. Again, Kirk found in this unexpected reassurance. An impostor with designs on the Enterprise would have been bent on persuading her captain - and wouldn't necessarily be aware that he got along better with Spock. "The first thing you ever said to me was, 'Ship?'"
"In front of several witnesses," Spock countered, "including the computer record of the event from my tricorder. The datum was later incorporated into the unclassified as well as the classified versions of the file describing the entire incident."
"Oh dear. Um... Later in the mission, alone in the transporter room, we argued about non-intervention."
"A logical extrapolation of the subject of that private discussion," said Spock, "as that argument was most relevent to the events of the day and has continued throughout our dealings with each other."
The stranger snapped his fingers. "You also explained stardates to me."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Captain, he is starting to convince me."
"And I said something about Vulcans," added the stranger. He struck himself in the side of the head with the heel of his hand. "What was it now? Something to do with -"
"I am convinced, Captain." Kirk couldn't remember ever hearing Spock interrupt someone before.
"Oh good." In relief the stranger - the Doctor - pulled a paisley handkerchief from his exterior breast pocket and tried to fan himself with it.
"Though I shall await with great anticipation," said Spock, "your explanation of this phenomenon."
Kirk nodded at the security men, who retreated to their red-alert posts. He, Spock and McCoy took up their usual bridge stations - McCoy at the left of Kirk's chair. The chief surgeon was still looking skeptical but, despite their perennial differences, willing to trust Spock just as much as Kirk was.
"Glad that's over," muttered Ben, in the now-rare Cockney accent Kirk remembered from their last meeting. He continued as the TARDIS travelers moved out onto the bridge, "Even the Daleks on Vulcan recognized him."
"Daleks on Vulcan?" repeated Kirk and several others.
"Not that Vulcan," said the Doctor. "The colony on the moon of Pluto." That cleared it up - the Doctor was speaking of a moon discovered and colonized in the early twenty-first century. The colony had failed, along with most other in-system colonies, for lack of support during the post-atomic horror; between the collapse of the Earth space program and the First Contact. There had been no communication between it and Earth in its last years. Since its post-First Contact rediscovery the moon was called Hephaestus.
"Interesting," Spock said. "This is an earlier Dalek incursion into the Sol system than any presently recorded. I would be interested in your perspective on these events."
"Well," started the Doctor.
"At another time," Kirk broke in.
"Oh?" The Doctor perked up. "What've you got on?"
Kirk trusted Spock implicitly, and was certain now this little spacetramp was the Doctor, though he still hadn't explained the metamorphosis. Still the incident only showed up how little was really known of the time-traveler. No Starfleet officer knew where (or when) he was from, nor had ever entered the TARDIS. Kirk knew his own iconoclastic command style was beginning to earn him something of a reputation as a rule breaker, not entirely fairly in Kirk's view. But the Doctor had a resentment for due process and procedure that made Kirk wary. When the TARDIS landed on the Enterprise Kirk liked to keep the Doctor where he could see him; hence, the Doctor on Sihpis.
"Now that you're here," said Major hopefully, "I imagine you'd like to get right to work?"
Baugh looked at her team, who all nodded expectantly, stowing their gear temporarily against one wall of the common room they'd beamed into. "Ready and willing."
"Great! Everyone's at work in the clinic - let's get you oriented!" With unseemly if not unpredictable haste Major led the whole party out the door, down the corridor, and into a room that looked like McCoy's sickbay only larger. Baugh's team dove right in, each pairing up with one of Major's where he or she was working. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy took up observation by the door whence they'd entered. But the Doctor and his young friends were brought up short in astonishment, for Kirk had purposely not yet told them about the natives.
"They look like all sorts of Earth animals, walking upright and wearing clothes," said Polly.
Carruthers and his counterpart from Major's team had a fox up on a scale. Major's administration specialist was showing Baugh's how to call up the file on the frog who was first in the line of study volunteers at the front of the clinic; the rest of the line consisted of a pelican, an elk, and an alligator. In terms of size they were all within the range of Kirk's experience of humanoid sapience: a sparrow, feet dangling off an exam table while his knees were knocked for reflex testing, looked to be about three feet tall; and a grizzly bear surrendering a blood sample was six or six-and-a-quarter.
"They had some unusual sunspot activity about five hundred years ago," said Kirk. "Lots of hard radiation. The mutation rate soared. So did the death rate; civilization fell back from post-warpdrive to fossil fuels and candlelight. But they had already made contact with the Vulcans. Now they're on the verge of Federation membership eligibility, so Starfleet is walking on eggshells around them until they cross the threshold."
"But Earth animals?" said Ben.
"Hodgkins' Law of Parallel Planet Development," said Spock, "can be summarized: physically similar planets produce physically similar life."
"And all cross-fertile, too," said McCoy.
"You're kidding," said Ben.
"Cats who mate with owls produce cats or owls, instead of, er, cowls," said McCoy.
"How intriguing," said the Doctor.
"But, to date, entirely obscure," said Spock, "and infamously tantalizing."
"The xenoeugenicists at this base are always just as eager to leave after their tours of duty as they were to arrive in the first place," said McCoy, "as you may have already noticed."
The Doctor shrugged. "It looks like the world of Richard Scarry." Kirk didn't know the referent. No one seemed to know it but the Doctor's companions; and Spock of course. "That explains ..." The time-traveler tapped his left chest and Kirk nodded. Where the Enterprise breast insiginia were in the arrowhead shape of Cochrane's warpfield dynamic, Sihpis base insignia were shaped as a circle crowned with four smaller ovals. A pawprint.
A native of at least superficially porcine nature, pulling on an overtunic so presumably done with his day's business here, was approaching them. "Hello, Captain. I'm Oldarn, undersecretary of defense for computer systems security."
"A government official," observed the Doctor, "participating in Starfleet studies. Where's your non-intervention directive now, Captain?" Kirk didn't answer him. First, he had just told the Doctor that the Sihpis had known of life on other planets since before the Federation's foundation, even if presently the planet was technically under the protection of the Prime Directive. Second, it was obvious from his tone that he was just trying to provoke an entertaining argument.
"And you are?" Oldarn asked.
"I'm the Doctor. How do you do?" The Doctor shook Oldarn's hand. Oldarn allowed it, obviously waiting for the Doctor to elucidate. Once it was apparent that the Doctor wasn't going to, Kirk said, "A civilian expert."
"In what?" Oldarn asked.
"Everything," said the Doctor modestly.
"When we became a Federation protectorate," Oldarn said, extricating himself from the Doctor and speaking again to Kirk, "we were assured that only authorized personnel would be allowed on the planet."
"Oh, I'm perfectly harmless," said the Doctor.
"A quality you denied on our first meeting," said Spock. Kirk made a mental note to later goad Spock into denying that Vulcans are ever "deadpan". If McCoy didn't beat him to it.
Somehow the quasi-friendly banter failed to mollify the official. Or maybe it was just that he had other business to agitate him. "Well, perhaps we could continue this discussion later. I must be going."
"Don't let us keep you from your duties," said Kirk.
Oldarn shrugged. "Family duties. I have to stop next door and stand in line for a toy for my cubs." He moved off toward the front entrance of the clinic.
"Some pig," said McCoy.
"Next door?" asked the Doctor.
"Starfleet rents this space," said Spock. "Its original purpose, as is that of the other commercially available spaces in this building, was to house a retail establishment."
"You've set up shop in the mall?" said Ben.
Kirk could have pointed out that neither was it his shop nor had it been his decision. But he was distracted by the noise of a large crowd that was allowed into the clinic (the noise, not the crowd; though it was a near thing) as Oldarn left.
"What's all this then?" said the Doctor. Almost unconsciously Kirk had moved to the shaded front windows. The Doctor had moved with him. Each trailed his crew like - maybe it was being on Sihpis that made Kirk think of this - baby ducks, as each poked his head past the shades.
"It's Embryo Baggies," said the alligator who was last in the line. Outside in the concourse of the shopping center, at - as Oldarn had said - the next shop, there was a crowd of as many as two hundred Sihpis, half or more of them "cubs".
"Embryo Baggies," repeated Spock in a tone suggesting that there are after all some puzzles logic will not unravel.
"'Cos they don't have any ears, fur, noses, or tails much," said the alligator.
"Someone on this planet's read the badger's thesis," said the Doctor. Kirk grinned at him, pleased to for once be the only person to apparently pick up on one of his allusions.
"They're toys," said the pelican in line. "Very popular. Demand's outstripping supply. They're getting some in next door -" She looked at her timepiece. "Well, they've probably just opened their doors."
"Uniforms." Kirk pointed out several large mammals to Spock. "Someone's expecting trouble."
"Or hopeful of preventing it."
"Oh my!" exclaimed the Doctor.
Kirk and the others in the landing party saw it too. "What's Oldarn think he's doing?"
The official was pushing his way through the crowd with an ID held high. He was pulling rank to cut in line. Those he pushed past were not reacting with cheerful smiles and graceful nods for him to pass; in fact the lack of cheer and grace was drawing the attention of the uniformed lions and tigers and bears.
"Some of those people have been out there since sunrise," said one of a few native volunteers who'd joined the landing party peeking through the windowshades, when the trouble began, like vultures. Actually none of them were vultures.
The crowd began surging behind Oldarn. Near the store a peacock, pushed from behind, stumbled gracelessly into and past a warthog. The warthog pushed the peacock back, into a rabbit, without smiling. The rabbit took a graceless swing at the warthog which missed and grazed an unsmiling iguana. Fistfights broke out all over the crowd like chicken pox.
"Oh no!" said the Doctor. "We must help!"
Kirk's instinct was to agree. There suddenly seemed to be no one in sight who wasn't doing unto others. But Spock said, "That could be construed as a violation of the Prime Directive."
"There are children in that!" McCoy objected, as Polly said, "What about all those kids? Er, cubs?" They had a point.
"If I could talk to the -" the Doctor started.
Then the mob/fight rammed up against the clinic window, and broke through and inside. This simplified the decision for Kirk. Now it was technically an invasion of Federation territory, against which his duty not only permitted but compelled him to take action. At least that was the argument Spock would reason out later.
Meanwhile Starfleet training and efficiency was leeching off the fight. As natives flowed through the broken front window, Spock would pinch them, or McCoy would dose them, or Kirk would shoulder-chop them. Once unconscious they were instantly squirrelled safely out of the way back of the clinic somewhere by the geneticists. It wasn't until several minutes later, when so much of the fight had leaked into the clinic and been neutralized that the mall cops could handle the rest, that Kirk realized he'd lost track of the Doctor's group. "Doctor?"
At Kirk's call there commenced banging and shouting from a storage compartment under a nearby counter. While Baugh searched for the right magnetic key on a ring Major had given her, the Doctor explained loudly and muffledly that he'd been pushed inside by a less than mannerly mountain goat and was sorry he hadn't been able to help. Kirk gave him the benefit of the doubt.
Once the Doctor was out and upright again, though, he said, "Where are Ben and Polly?"
The cupboards were bare. The Doctor's young companions were nowhere to be found.
END OF CHAPTER 1
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