Uhura had caught Nelmanu's broadcast in mid-sentence. "- several million new Embryo Baggies to sites all over the world for immediate, free distribution. Once again, this is the action of the extrasihpistial traveler who calls himself the Doctor. Doctor, is there anything you'd like to say?"
The Doctor looked into the video pickup for the first time. Even before he spoke, Kirk had no illusions that the time-traveler was speaking to anyone but the starship captain:
"If you can't beat them, join them."
"What's he trying to do?" McCoy blurted.
"He's trying to force my hand," said Kirk grimly. He wanted to pound that hand on his chair arm until one broke, then throw it at the bridge viewscreen; but he was a starship captain.
"While Oldarn's plot was strictly Oldarn's," Spock pedanticized, "it was an internal planetary matter, and protected from Starfleet or Federation intervention under the Prime Directive."
"Now Oldarn has, willingly or unwillingly, an alien ally," said Kirk. "It's no longer an intraplanetary affair."
"You said the Doctor promised you he'd stay out of it," said McCoy.
"He promised me he wouldn't 'impede Oldarn's plot'," said Kirk bitterly. "I didn't notice he wasn't promising not to join in."
"You said 'willingly or unwillingly', Captain," said Sulu. "Why wouldn't Oldarn want the Doctor's help?"
"Not in this fashion, not if he is intelligent," said Spock. "The entire basis of the Embryo Baggie mania is that demand exceeds supply. The influx of as many toys as the transporter mass logs indicate will heighten the furor for only a short time while demands are in the process of being met - then the demand will have been met as never before, and the mania will taper off."
"Well, then it's obvious," said Scott, who knew the Doctor as long as Spock did, and liked him. "He's out to sabotage Oldarn. We can all see it."
"But he'll never admit, or even hint, that he isn't perfectly sincere," said Kirk, staring now at the thankfully muted image of the press conference on the main screen. "He won't do anything that might refute the apparent need, no matter how false you and I might know that appearance to be, for me to rescue a Federation protectorate from an out-Federation alien conspiracy."
"All because Oldarn's holding the Doctor's friends hostage," said McCoy.
Spock shook his head. "It would be consistent with the Doctor's observed past actions and attitudes to have done this even without the personal element. In fact, Oldarn's tactic has backfired. The Doctor was unaware of Oldarn's designs on planetary rule, until Oldarn attracted the Doctor's attention to himself by kidnapping the Doctor's friends."
After a moment's silence, Farrell said, "Well, isn't there anything we can do? Aside from exactly what the Doctor wants?"
There was almost always a point, Kirk was learning, in a command decision situation - usually when things looked worst - that he would see the web of events with perfect clarity, and see his path to the correct solution as if it had been ordained from the start. Now was such a moment.
"No," he answered.
An unaccustomed atmosphere of defeat, of surrender, pervaded the bridge of the Enterprise. Though it lifted somewhat when Kirk added, "And that just might be too bad for him."
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and two security men materialized in the Starfleet genetics base in the Sihpis shopping center. Major and Baugh looked up in some surprise; Baugh's team's orientation wasn't scheduled to be finished for several hours, and both team leaders seemed hard pressed to conceive of a reason why Major's team's evacuation might require security enforcement.
"Commander," said Kirk to Major without protocol, "you said this morning that there's a genetic basis for the Embryo Baggy craze."
"Oh, it's really quite fascinating, Captain," said Baugh. "Of course natural selection always reinforces the attractiveness of immature specimens of any species -"
"The whole big head, big eyes thing, that cartoon animators make so much use of," said Baugh's team's Dr. Carruthers. The other geneticists had gathered to see what was up. "Sihpis are particulary susceptible to this, after the high infant mortality rate of the first few generations following the sunspot radiation."
"And the embryo aspect -" said Baugh.
"It's a race memory, to back before the sunspots," said Wyatt.
"When no one had fur or funny ears and noses," said Wellinghurst.
"Hey," said a mare, apparently forgotten in the middle of a gynecological exam.
"It's already been pretty much narrowed down to the seventeenth chromosome," said Francis.
"Whether it's just one gene, or an interaction between more than one -" said Adkins.
The freshness of the subject to Baugh's team made them a lot more irrepressible than Major had been that morning. Kirk finally crowbarred a question in sideways: "Oldarn doesn't seem to be affected. Anything in his file to suggest why?"
"Major thought you might ask," said Baugh, enthusiastically bounding to what was now her desk and retrieving a padd. "Oldarn's dimolybdenum level is anomalously high. 500% of normal. That's not something that'll have happened by accident."
"'Normal dimolybdenum levels'?" said McCoy.
"It's very common here," said Adkins. "They use it for a condiment."
"Without transtator technology, dimolybdenum is indistinguishable from crystalline sodium chloride," said Spock.
"I'm a doctor, not a grocer," grumbled McCoy.
"If it's that common," said Kirk, "is there a way to seed the atmosphere of the whole planet, to counteract the Embryo Baggy effect?"
Baugh flipped the padd to a different screen. "Carruthers and Garrett worked out a method for beaming unrefined dimolybdenum from the planet's surface up to the Enterprise, reconstituting it into the form we need, and beaming it back out into the atmosphere. The whole planet could be done in about twenty-eight minutes, and poof! no more craze, for about a month anyway."
Kirk reprimanded himself for mentally classifying these people as "Starfleet second" yesterday. They were as Starfleet as his own crew, putting the work together for him to make the decision.
He made the decision. "Get that scheme up to Mr. Scott right away," he said. "Good work, people."
"Yes sir!" said the geneticists with pride. Kirk was beginning to notice that compliments to junior officers from other commands were, on the rare occasions he dealt with junior officers from other commands, being better and better received as the five year mission got its wind.
"Captain! Thought I might find you here." At the Doctor's voice Kirk - and his landing party - turned to see the time-traveler poking his head in the front door of the clinic. Kirk was surprised he hadn't attracted a grateful crowd after what he'd done. On second thought, the crowds would be converging on his toy distribution locations.
Which was the better for Kirk. "Doctor, you're under arrest!"
"Oh good, good. Let's go get the ringleader, shall we?" He disappeared out the door. Kirk and the security officers caught up with him first, but as he was going their way for the moment (if not leading it) Kirk signalled to them to leave him be, and refrain from frogmarching him along.
The party burst past the secretary bird and found Oldarn snuffling around in his office, packing.
"You're under arrest," said Kirk, "for conspiring with extraplanetary elements against a Federation protectorate."
"You haven't got anything on me!" squealed Oldarn. He was as lacking in cheer and grace as the people from whom he'd hogged the queue the day before. "That was a theoretical discussion we had here yesterday."
"Oh, you're in it all right," said the Doctor.
"Positive identification by a confessed co-conspirator is sufficient grounds to be held pending an investigation," said Spock.
"I still have your friends, Doctor," Oldarn grunted. "They're at my mercy."
"You are charged with conspiracy with extraplanetary elements," said Spock. "Whether or not you are convicted by a Federation court, logic suggests the investigation will almost certainly result in charges against you under Sihpis law as well. I am not familiar enough with Siphis law to say what those charges may be, or the penalties if or when you are convicted. But I think it safe to assume you will never again hold a position of trust in either the public or private sector. Your political career is over, and with it all dreams of attaining planetary power by fair means or foul.
"And all this because you merely held the Doctor's friends hostage. Do you truly wish to discover the consequences of harming them?"
Under this unceasing assault of logic Oldarn cringed smaller and smaller as if Spock were describing what Jagulars did. In answer to the final question he sheepishly opened a hidden door in the wall behind him, through which could be seen Ben and Polly, gagged and hogtied.
"That'll do, pig," the Doctor told Oldarn, as the security men moved to free the captives.
"They were right here all the time!" McCoy exploded to Spock. "How did your scans miss them?"
"Keeping them here was not logical behavior," Spock said tightly.
"You didn't look! You didn't even look!"
"The balance of Oldarn's behavior suggested he was too intelligent to -"
The Doctor whispered to Kirk, "Vulcans are never chagrined."
The party materialized in the transporter room in two groups, as a slightly different party had arrived on Sihpis yesterday. "Take Oldarn to the brig," said Kirk to one security man. He'd contact the planetary government to explain the whole situation and request extradition properly later. "Now, Doctor ..." But the time-travelers, who'd been in the first group to beam up, had vanished.
Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the second security officer caught up with them in the cargo hold, just outside the TARDIS. Despite the Doctor's occasional claim that his time machine ought to be able to camouflage itself, it still appeared to be a "London police box" - a six foot wooden crate painted blue with a telephone in an alcove in its door; as shabby as - well, as the Doctor's new clothes. Or the new Doctor's clothes.
"Captain!" said the Doctor. "No need to see us off."
"You are under arrest," said Kirk.
The Doctor only frowned at him. "You can't arrest me."
"Sihpis is a Federation protectorate under Federation law," said Kirk. "Your violation of the Prime Directive -"
"The Doctor doesn't fall under Federation law!" Polly objected.
"He was here under my responsibility -"
"Either we're under your jurisdiction, or the Doctor isn't," Ben retorted. "You can't have it both ways." Ben and Polly must have been in the next room even during the argument yesterday.
"In any case he committed sabotage against a Starfleet vessel." Kirk's voice hardened against argument. "Doctor."
"I didn't say," said the Doctor, "that you mayn't arrest me. I said you can't." He said it casually, as if he were some sort of lord of creation and Kirk a mere mortal. But his face was more serious than Kirk had seen it since it changed, reminding Kirk for the first time of the Doctor's old personality. Reminding him that, as unassuming or even preposterous as he and his machine may appear, they had the knowledge and the power to travel Time.
Kirk took a step backward; physically backing down. He hoped it was apparent to the Doctor that he did this not out of fear or even perceived helplessness, because he didn't; but out of reluctant but real respect. Perhaps the Doctor did see; in any case he motioned to Polly and Ben to board the TARDIS.
But before the Doctor followed them in, he turned to Kirk and looked him in the eye. "I am sorry you're upset with me, Captain," he said, "but I know that it shall pass."
"Do you?" Kirk challenged.
"Yes. We be of one blood, ye and I. You are a man of conscience, and you know I am too, though mine may lead me down different paths than yours you." He smiled sadly and left. In his smile Kirk saw all the responsibility that came with traveling Time in addition to the power; and he knew he'd made the right decision.
As the TARDIS dematerialization racket faded away Kirk found Spock and McCoy regarding him tenatively, obviously not sure whether he thought he'd lost one and how he felt about it. He let them stew a moment; he wasn't quite sure whether he'd lost one, or how he felt about it. But then he griped, "Always has to have the last word, doesn't he?"
"Say," said McCoy, matching Kirk's tone and hiding his relief, "I know someone like that. Help me out, Spock, who am I thinking of?" Kirk expected Spock to correct McCoy's grammar.
"It is a common human failing," said Spock. "Yet it does seem to me that I must know of a preeminent example."
Kirk eyed them both. "Anything you two agree on must be wrong ..." he said, leaving for the bridge.
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