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"Ghost in the damn machine."

I hate this tricorder. I've put it in for repair three times. All three reports came back clean, only for it to go bonkers on me again.

It's always this one, with the dent in the side. I've started calling it Jim: always under review, always comes back way too clean. And always in need of some damn percussive maintenance.

At least the metal against metal sound is satisfying.

"I cannot see how striking it against the bulkhead will improve its performance, Doctor."

And that sound is pretty damn unsatisfying.

"Hold very still, Spock, and I'll show you."

"Such an action would be in contravention of your Hippocratic oath, Doctor McCoy."

The readout flickers again. The stupid machine wanted to be a metal detector when it grew up; the first time I used it, it portrayed a shrapnel victim of a man with a mild flu.

"It's seeing things that aren't there." Another good whack. Wait. Did the Vulcan say something? Oh, I don't give a damn. I give the screen a good hit with my fist, and it flickers again, this time giving a whole different readout. "Schematics? What the Hell--? Some red-shirted moron rewired this piece of junk to suit his own ends."

"Hey!" I don't recognize that red-shirt; must be a new transfer. Whatever I say in anger, I try to make a point to recognize all my potential patients. Won't be hard after this. I glare at him. He glares at me. I toss him the useless box of circuits.

"Call it a gift."

I turn around to shout at Christine to get me a different one, before I remember that Jim's inability to keep his command in his pants chased her off. I rub a temple, turn around, and hand over some of my frustration.

"I'm up to the tips of my nice round ears in work, Spock. What do you want?"

Anyone who says Vulcans can't feel has never tapped a decent vein of Spock's irritation.


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