8: NAKED TRUTHS By: M. C. Pehrson
Was the entire crew going mad?
A group of scientists had been studying an unstable planet from its surface as it prepared to break up. It had been the mission of the Enterprise to take them aboard and then observe the planet's final collapse. Unfortunately, Spock's landing party had found the research station populated by frozen corpses, several of them in attitudes of conflict. Now, erratic and potentially deadly behavior was spreading through the Enterprise as it orbited the doomed planet.
From his post on the bridge, Spock kept a surreptitious eye on the captain. He could only hope that his own Vulcan blood would offer some protection from the unknown contaminant, at least long enough for Doctor McCoy to isolate it and devise a remedy. And if Leonard succumbed beforehand?
Spock turned from that troubling prospect to the more pressing crisis at hand. Kevin Riley, the ship's navigator, had locked himself alone in the engine room and had managed to cut off both helm and power. As the Enterprise descended toward certain destruction, Riley's off-key voice crooned over the intercom.
"I'll take you home again, Kathleen..."
Seventeen minutes to planetfall, Riley was opining about women's hairstyles while Mister Scott hurriedly cut his way into the engine room. And now Spock realized that he was starting to feel ill. Swiveling in his science chair, he reluctantly informed the captain and requested permission to report to sickbay. Noting Kirk's dismay, he added, "If my symptoms do not become severe, I might...be of some help to the doctor."
"Yes...yes, maybe," Kirk agreed, and with a worried look, gave his consent.
Fourteen minutes to planetfall, Spock exited the turbolift and walked unsteadily down a graffiti-scrawled corridor. In addition to balance issues, he was rapidly losing the ability to think clearly. So when Lieutenant Uhura suddenly appeared before Spock and pulled him into a vacant conference room, it seemed only slightly peculiar. After all, Uhura had once been a student aide for his advanced Phonology class at Starfleet Academy. It had not been unusual for them to consult privately.
As the door slid shut behind them, Uhura drew quite close. Her heady fragrance enveloped him and her dark eyes shone into his.
"Mister Grayson," she said in a husky tone. Then she took hold of his hands. "Spock..."
The physical contact brought a jolt of unmistakably sensual impressions. How could it be? One time, after a particularly long day at the academy, they had shared a dinner, but he had declined any further social contact. He had been in a satisfying relationship with a young woman whom he planned to marry.
Perhaps some of his own memories spilled into Uhura's mind, for she softly said, "I'm so sorry that Leila left you. I wouldn't. No, darling, never..." And reaching out, her smooth fingers caressed his cheek.
Spock's heart pounded and his emotions roiled, but not from any burgeoning sense of desire. No. It was anger-at Leila Kalomi for betraying his trust, at Nyota Uhura for invading his privacy. On the verge of losing all self-control, he felt his hands clench tight as violence began to color his thoughts.
It was then that he detected a new, unpleasant odor intermingling with Uhura's perfume. Was it emanating from the ship's ventilation system? An inborn sense of danger warned him to escape. Fighting his physical and emotional malaise, he grabbed hold of the amorous communications officer and staggered out of the room. But the air in the corridor was also tainted. He managed only three steps before Uhura slipped to the deck. And then the last of his own strength gave way and he was falling.
On the far edge of consciousness, Spock recognized the captain's voice.
"Mister Grayson. Spock."
He was lying flat and could not seem to open his eyes. Judging by his internal clock, they all should have died eleven-point-two minutes ago, their ship colliding with the planet's debris as it began the inevitable process of breaking up.
"That airborne antidote hit him hard," said Doctor McCoy, nearby. "For once, the humans fared better, but he'll come around. Can't keep an ornery Vulcan down for long."
So, rather than protecting him, Spock's genetic makeup had actually proved to be detrimental. Once more he struggled to lift his eyelids and formulate a clever retort, but the effort was exhausting. Giving up, he drifted into a strangely pleasant dream in which he was punching Leonard McCoy in the nose.