Spock, Kirk and McBain took turns to pilot the ailing vessel. Kirk was grateful the ship was so old. Most of the onboard systems dated back to his era, and Spock succinctly explained the more modern ones to him. He had always been a fair pilot, so it irritated him slightly that Spock hovered nearby during his shifts.
For the next seven days, they made stealthy progress through Federation territory, keeping to the shadows like burglars in the night. McBain appeared to be enjoying the company, and was genuinely impressed with Spock's navigational skills.
Kirk had the helm when the malfunction occurred. "Spock?"
Kirk swivelled his chair around to face the cargo area where Spock was trying to rig a bypass circuit.
"I've got a red light on the warp engines."
Spock leaped, panther-like to his feet, as Kirk swung back to the helm. Over his shoulder, Spock studied the computer screen. "There appears to be a problem within the dilithium chamber. I recommend we drop to sublight."
"Acknowledged." Kirk felt a flicker of surprise at how quickly he had fallen into the military terminology again. The small ship shuddered as it decelerated and a moment later, McBain appeared beside them.
A quick scan of the screens made the man curse softly - this time in Standard. "You boys better have contacts in a dilithium mine, 'cos I ain't got the credits to replace that." He tipped his head in the direction of a screen which was flashing the legend, Warning - dilithium crystal fracture in 10 seconds.
Spock caught Kirk's eye and asked, with his usual straight face, "Do you still maintain relations with your friends on Rura Penthe?"
Kirk was getting used to Spock's blatant use of humour and laughed. "Sure, the guards send me a Christmas card every year."
McBain stared in disbelief between the two men. Who the hell were these guys? Rura Penthe was a dilithium mine, but it was also a Klingon Prison Camp. No-one sent there, ever lived to tell the tale, far less joke about it.
Spock was extracting information at an impressive speed from the ships tiny navigational computer. "The planet Norton IV is less than one days' journey from these co-ordinates at sublight speed. If memory serves, there is a sizeable Federation outpost there. We should be able to - acquire dilithium crystals at their port facilities."
"Forget it," growled McBain, "The Feds also have a large security division on Norton. No way you'll get off that planet with more than a heavy cold."
Spock cleared his throat delicately "Federation security measures present little problem to us Mr Caesar."
"I beg your pardon?"
"My name is Alfred Constantine McBain." He looked hopefully at the two men but they both remained silent. He sighed and shook his head "Suit Yourselves."
It was a rocky ride. McBain elected to pilot the unstable little ship to Norton, claiming to have intimate knowledge of her moods. Spock was reminded of another who endowed inanimate objects, namely his ship's engines, with personalities. By the time they rolled into the hanger on Norton IV, the stocky pilot was sweating rivers.
They were directed to a parking slot between a shiny Starfleet Runabout and an ugly brown Ferengi Scout ship. As McBain powered down the engines, Spock popped the hatch, taking care to duck when it creaked to its customary, half-open position.
Over his shoulder, the Vulcan addressed Kirk, "This will not take long. Be prepared to start the engines at a moments notice."
Then he was gone into the shadows. McBain climbed painfully out of his chair and stretched his arms high over his head exposing a vast expanse of wobbling stomach. Kirk winced. Please God don't ever let me get like that, he silently prayed.
McBain cracked his knuckles one after another then headed for the sleeping quarters, mumbling something about hitting the sack.
Kirk felt the need to stretch his legs so ducked out of the hatch and scanned the vast hanger deck. On Norton IV, it was the early hours of the morning so the hanger was deserted. Kirk glanced at the Ferengi ship with distaste. It was as ugly as sin. Obviously this race of beings did not approve of wasting credits on making their ships look nice.
Kirk circumnavigated his borrowed ship, saw the Starfleet Runabout and gasped. In his century, shuttlecraft had been small, boxy and functional, but this ship was beautiful. Sleek and shiny, like a thoroughbred racehorse, its name printed in flowing red calligraphy on its smooth hull. He could see that it was fully warp capable, with forward phasers and torpedo ports. More than able to look after itself. It was also a great deal bigger than any shuttlecraft he had ever seen. It probably could hold about 40 people in a push although he guessed that its normal compliment would be about 6. He laid a hand, admiringly on the ship's side, and smiled fondly at the name.
His reverie was interrupted by the sound of men's voices approaching from the other side of the hanger. Realising that he could not get back to the hatch without being seen, Kirk dropped to the floor and rolled under the raised belly of his ship. He came to an abrupt halt when his jacket caught on a piece of jagged metal, and ripped loudly.
He froze and held in his breath just as two sets of legs came into view. A thickly accented voice spoke in hushed tones, "What wis that?"
The second voice was also heavily accented, but softer and more melodic, "What was what Monty?"
"Did ye not hear somethin' Pat?"
"Are you tryin' to put the fear o' god in me man? There's no-one here at this time o' the mornin' but mad fools like you that won't accept an Irishman's hospitality."
"Yer a fine lad Pat, but I've been spongin' of ye long enough. Time I wis on ma way."
Kirk tried to let his breath out slowly, but was sure that the racket his heart was making against his ribcage would surely alert the two men to his presence. He stared at the legs, now directly in front of his ship, and frowned.
Must have had a knock on the head. That sounds like Scotty's voice! But it can't be.
Suddenly the familiar voice began to chuckle. "Will ye take a look at that old crate."
The legs were now facing Kirk's ship. The voice that sounded like Kirk's former Chief Engineer, began talking animatedly, "That was a very basic shuttle design in ma time, but she's been patched up using bits from anythin' they could find. I bet the inside is even worse. Look - there, an old style sub-space radio transmitter, and see how bent it is? The poor wee bairn."
Kirk found himself grinning broadly, despite the gravity of the situation. Impossible though it was - his former Chief Engineer had made it into the 24th Century too. The second man's voice sounded sympathetic, "She's callin' herself the Icarus. Like her name-sake, tis a wonder she can even fly."
"Aye that it is. How about my ship though Pat? This is the Nova Scotia- what do you think?"
The legs turned to face the Starfleet Runabout. "My god but she's a beauty. Even better than the shuttlecraft Captain Picard gave you."
"That wis only an extended loan. But I have ta admit, he wis fair surprised when I brought her back to him. Aye, he's a fine man, Captain Picard."
Kirk's eyes widened. Picard again? And he had given Scotty a shuttle? How did Scotty know Picard? And what the hell was his engineer doing in this century?
The second man was talking again, "Well if I can't hold ye here any longer, tis time to say farewell. Where are you bound next?"
Scott's voice sounded hesitant, "Ta be honest lad - I don't know. Starfleet has no new assignments for me. A couple o' weeks ago, I visited an old friend o' mine. He's nae got long to live and it got me thinkin' about my own mortality."
"Ah now sure'n a man like you will live forever?"
"Forever is a wee might excessive lad. But there's still so much out there I havna seen yet. It's all there, just waitin' for Montgomery Scott."
Kirk heard the sound of a hand patting a shoulder. "There's Irish blood in you somewhere Monty - you are a big old romantic fool at heart."
Scotty chuckled "I'll take that as a compliment Pat. Take care o' yersel' now."
Kirk watched as one pair of legs strode away across the hanger and the other remained. Scotty cursed under his breath, "Damn it all lassie - what I wouldna give for a few hours alone with ye."
Kirk wondered when the woman had sneaked up on them, then realised with wry humour, that Scotty was talking to McBain's ship. A few moments later, his old friend had boarded the Nova Scotia, and taxied her out of the hanger.
Kirk rolled out from under the Icarus, as he now knew the ship to be called, and straightened his back, wincing in pain. Then Spock appeared from the shadows behind the Ferengi Scout ship, carrying a small black box. He had quite obviously witnessed the Scotsman's departure, and quite a bit of his conversation, judging by the look on his face.
Kirk pulled himself through the hatch and waited until the Vulcan had closed the door before asking "He has to be close to 150 years old. Even in this century - that can't be possible."
Spock bent and prised open the floor panel that allowed access to the engines. "Actually, he is approximately 70 Standard years old. Two years ago, Captain Picard rescued him from a transporter locked into a diagnostic loop. He had been in the pattern buffers for 75 years."
Kirk waited until Spock had lowered himself into the crawl space, then handed him a toolbox. "McCoy would have had a field-day with that. He always hated transporters."
"It was not a transporter accident that trapped the Engineer... (I require a magnetic clamp, thank you) ...he initiated the procedure himself to survive after his ship crashed into a Dyson sphere. (and the 0.6 mil laser torch... thank you) He did not, at the time imagine that rescue would take 75 years."
Kirk carefully took the transparent aluminium casing from the dilithium chamber from Spock and placed it on the deck. "So how did he come by that Federation Ship? "
Spock's concentration was fully taken up for a moment as he freed the fractured crystal from its mountings. Strange, how the crystals were so plain and uninspiring to look at despite the immense power they were capable of focusing. "Starfleet gave him the ship six months ago. He works for the Federation as an Independent Engineering Consultant. I believe he is quite good at his job."
Spock gently placed the ugly grey chunk of rock into the mountings and accepted the casing from Kirk.
"You say he's only been in this century for 2 years, and already he's caught up on all the technology?" Kirks voice was tinged with awe.
The Vulcan finished replacing the dilithium casing, and reached for Kirk's hand. Kirk pulled him from the crawlspace and together they replaced the floor panel. As they worked, Spock scrutinised Kirk from beneath hooded eyes. It was obvious to Spock, that Kirk was feeling somewhat antiquated. He wished he could reassure his friend, but unfortunately, time was rapidly running out.
"I estimate another 8.7 minutes, until the port authorities discover my recent activities."
"Exactly 8.7 minutes?"
"That is how long the average human being remains unconscious after a Vulcan nerve pinch."
Kirk threw himself into the navigators seat and smiled broadly. "I see. Well - we'd better get the hell out of here Mr Spock."
Taking his seat next to Kirk, Spock nodded. "Unquestionably."
You can use the form below to send feedback.
1) Enter your email address, so that I know you are not a spammer and can try to reply to you