Uhuras song, p.1
Uhura's Song, page 1
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The Ship’s Communicator Beeped …
“McCoy to Kirk.”
“Kirk here. Come in, Bones.”
McCoy’s face had been haggard before, but they were all unprepared for the terrible look that pppeared in the viewscreen.
“Bones!” Jim Kirk reacted instinctively to that look. “What’s happened?”
McCoy drew a long and shuddering breath. “Nurse Chapel—Christine—she’s got ADF syndrome.”
“My god, Bones, are you sure?”
“Would I be telling you that if I weren’t? What do you think I am, some kind of damn fool?” McCoy snapped back. “Tell Starfleet the damn disease is communicable to humans, and they’ve got to quarantine anybody who’s been in contact with a Eeiauoan in the past six months. And clean your own house, Jim. We’ve got a real plague on our hands now. McCoy out.” The screen went dark….
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For Ricky, who can out-Spock Spock, and for the one, the only, Tail-Kinker to-Ennien, who taught me “Diamonds and dynamite come in small packages.”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 2950.3:
The Enterprise continues in orbit around Eeiauo, on the outermost fringe of Federation space. At McCoy’s recommendation, Starfleet has placed the world under quarantine. The Enterprise will remain here to enforce that quarantine until the arrival of a Federation task force, specialists in epidemiology and in enforcement.
Dr. McCoy and Nurse Chapel have elected to beam down with the medical team we transported to aid the Eeiauoans in their desperate fight against the plague that is devastating their world—a plague they call “The Long Death.”
Personal Log, James T. Kirk, Stardate 2950.3:
Bones, at least, has something useful to do. The rest of us can only sit and listen, as more and more Eeiauoans are struck down. Over a quarter of the population now has ADF syndrome. If only the Eeiauoans had asked for help sooner!
I told Bones of our frustration. His response was predictable….
“You’re frustrated! By God, Jim!” McCoy let his exasperated words hang for a moment, then he stepped slightly to one side.
“Bozhe moi,” breathed Pavel Chekov as he watched the viewscreen; it was nothing less than a prayer. To Kirk’s right, Lieutenant Uhura gave a small wordless gasp.
Even a clinical knowledge of ADF syndrome left Jim Kirk unprepared for the view behind McCoy. Consciously, he knew the miles that separated him from the scene, but he was still hard put not to take an involuntary step backward.
He saw row after row after row of the circular Eeiauoan hospital beds, each one occupied. The victims of ADF were no longer recognizably Eeiauoan: they lay as if dead, their furless bodies covered with raw, oozing lesions. From Bones’s briefing, Jim Kirk knew that, given adequate intravenous feeding and similar maintenance, they could survive in this state for years. If you call this survival, he thought. Seeing them, he didn’t.
Those in the early, ambulatory stage of the disease hunched in their pain, brushed away their loosening fur and carried on the work of maintaining the others.
The Eeiauoans had not asked the Federation for assistance until they no longer had the power to help themselves.
McCoy blocked the view again.
“Sorry, Bones,” Kirk said, when he found his voice. “That was a stupid thing for me to say.”
McCoy shook his head. “The Eeiauoan doctors have dealt with two previous outbreaks of ADF syndrome and never bothered to call in Federation help before. It wasn’t bad enough, they tell me. Wasn’t bad enough! Jim, they lost twenty t
“Are you making any progress, Bones?”
McCoy snorted. “‘Progress.’ If that’s a polite way of askin’ have we found a cure yet, the answer is no. Nor have we cobbled together a vaccine in our copious spare time. Give me all the time in the world and the greatest scientists and doctors in history and even then I couldn’t promise you results, dammit. I can’t command a scientific breakthrough.”
He drew a long breath, his shoulders slumped. “I wish to hell I could. They’re good people.” With a flash of his old humor, he added, “—for overgrown house cats.”
“Is there anything we can do, anything at all?”
“You’re supposed to be enforcin’ the quarantine, not breakin’ it. No, I don’t want anyone else down here. The best you could do is carry bedpans, and robots do that well enough. And they, at least, are immune to ADF syndrome.”
“Bones, when was the last time you heard of a disease that affects two species as different as humans and Eeiauoans?”
“Rabies,” said McCoy curtly. At Kirk’s questioning look, he added, by way of explanation, “An ancient Earth disease—it did indeed affect two species as different as …” He waved his hand. “The planet’s under quarantine, Jim, and I don’t want to hear any more about it.”
A tall Eeiauoan tapped McCoy lightly on the shoulder with a claw tip. He turned. “Yes, Quickfoot?”
Quickfoot of Srallansre, the Eeiauoan doctor McCoy had been working with since their arrival, was obviously in the first stage of ADF syndrome. Each movement she made was stiff with pain. Her gray-striped fur was already thinning and dingy. Her nictitating membranes, discolored and swollen, partially obstructed her vision. Although she did not yet have the characteristic pained hunched posture, Kirk suspected it was from force of will only.
McCoy accepted a sheaf of papers from her. “Get some rest, dammit, Quickfoot,” he said irritably. “Finish that later.”
Quickfoot shook her head stiffly. “Too ssoon, too much resst, McCCoy. Work now. There is no later.” She limped away.
McCoy wiped his face and eyes. “Damn cat hair,” he muttered, “gets in everything.” Kirk nodded, accepting the fiction. After a pause, McCoy straightened and said, “I have some more information for Mr. Spock.”
Casting a quick, puzzled glance at his chief science officer, Kirk said, “I thought we transhipped a hold full of medical computers?”
McCoy muttered a response.
“How’s that, Bones?” Jim Kirk was quite sure he had heard McCoy correctly—but baiting McCoy was a habit of long standing and seemed to restore a measure of normality even in such grotesque circumstances as these.
McCoy scowled. “I said,” and this time he enunciated each word clearly, “I’d rather trust Spock.”
At Spock’s raised eyebrow, McCoy scowled again. Then, very rapidly, to change the subject, he said, “How’s Sulu?”
The forced inaction these past few weeks had given everyone time to return to hobbies or create new ones from sheer desperation. Sulu had found McCoy’s substitute, Dr. Evan Wilson, a fencing partner his equal—or better. Hard-pressed during a recent match with her, he had tripped and, against all odds, broken his ankle.
The thought of Wilson touched a nerve. Privately, Jim Kirk resented her presence on behalf of the Enterprise’s own medical staff. It was not the first time Starfleet Command had shown such a lack of judgment however, and he was not about to mention his feelings in public. Morale was low enough already; it would not do to have his crew questioning their acting chief medical officer. He said, “Sulu’s fine. Dr. Wilson says he’ll be up and around in no time.”
“‘Up and around’ How did she get him to stay down?”
Until Bones’s question, it hadn’t occurred to him to wonder. Jim Kirk spread his hands and glanced at his chief science officer inquiringly.
Spock said, “I believe she learned her bedside manner from you, Doctor.”
“What d’you mean by that, Spock?”
“I mean, Dr. McCoy, that she used a purely emotional approach.” Spock’s features were innocent of expression.
Now openly suspicious, McCoy growled, “I’m waiting, Mr. Spock.”
Spock raised an eyebrow, presumably at McCoy’s display of impatience, then said, “Dr. Wilson was heard to tell Mr. Sulu that if he did not stay off his injured leg, she would—I quote—break the other one for him.”
Jim Kirk gave an inward cheer. He could not have delivered the tale half so well himself, and for the life of him, he couldn’t tell if Spock had done it intentionally.
Intentional or not, the story, or Spock’s delivery, actually brought a surprised chuckle from McCoy. He gave Spock a wary look, then turned back to Kirk, and said, “Feisty little thing, isn’t she? Keep your eye on her, Jim. What she lacks in height, she makes up in brass. Get her to tell you how Scotty and I met her. Might give you a laugh and, God knows, we could all use a few.”
Then his brief smile faded and there was a long moment’s silence. Kirk could see McCoy’s mind turning back to the desperateness of the problem he faced. McCoy, silent, told him more than any of McCoy’s outbursts would have.
“I’ll turn you over to Spock, Bones, and let you get on with it.”
“No, Jim. I have to speak to Uhura first.”
Kirk glanced at his communications officer. “Lieutenant?”
“I’m here, Dr. McCoy.” Lieutenant Uhura stiffened, as if bracing herself for a blow. “Were you able to reach Sunfall of Ennien?”
McCoy said, “Quickfoot located her. She’s alive, Uhura, but—I’m sorry—she has it.”
Uhura nodded. She must have spent a long time preparing herself to hear that, Kirk thought, or she’s in shock.
Finally, Uhura said, her usually gentle voice roughened by emotion, “How—far along—”
“She’s in a first-stage coma, Uhura. I’m sorry,” McCoy repeated, “We’ll do everything we can.”
Uhura nodded again. “I know you will, Dr. McCoy. Thank you.” She turned quickly to face her communications panel, but her back spoke eloquently of her distress.
Spock turned to his computers. “Ready to receive your information, Dr. McCoy.”
McCoy gave a meaningful nod at Uhura’s back. “Yes,” Kirk said, in answer to the screen, “we’ll speak later, Bones.” He stepped to Uhura’s side and spoke softly to her. “Lieutenant Uhura, I’d like a word with you.”
Uhura turned, her face expressionless. “Captain?”
“In private,” he added. He motioned a nearby ensign to take her place and said, “Mr. Spock, you have command.” Spock nodded without taking his eyes from his screens, and Kirk gestured Uhura to the lift.
As the doors hissed closed, Uhura squared her shoulders. Oddly, the action seemed to make her more vulnerable. “Yes, Captain. What did you want to see me about?”
“Do you want to talk, Uhura?” he asked, gently. “That’s a question, not an order.”
“Thank you, Captain. Yes, I g—guess I would.” But she was silent as he escorted her to her cabin.
She offered him a chair, and he sat. She poured herself a glass of water and offered him something stronger, which he declined. He decided it was best to wait for her to speak.
At last, she went to the wall and took down a small picture in a gilt frame. For a long moment, she stood looking at it, then she handed it to him. She sat down. “That’s Sunfall,” she said.
It was an old-fashioned two-dimensional photograph—but there was nothing static about Sunfall of Ennien. Jim Kirk saw an Eeiauoan dancer, as black as velvet, poised in mid-leap. Her long supple body and tail curved ecstatically, her great pointed ears swept up to catch some music he could almost hear by looking at her…. He realized he was holding his breath and let it out. “Beautiful,” he said.
“Yes.” There were tears trembling on Uhur
“The doctors are doing everything they can.” He knew it was no consolation. The Eeiauoan hospital and its horrors flashed back into his mind, and he thought of Sunfall in the same state. He thrust the thought from him. If he could feel that way just seeing the photo, what must Uhura be feeling?
Uhura picked up her Charellian joyeuse, the delicate little stringed instrument she had just recently learned to play, and cradled it, as if to draw comfort from the prospect of music. “Dr. McCoy is a good man, Captain,” she said. “I know he’s doing everything he can, and more. I just don’t know if it’ll be enough.”
There was nothing to say, no comfort he could give. Kirk looked again at the picture. “How did you meet?” he asked, at last.
Uhura wiped her eyes. “A long time ago. It was my first post, Two Dawns. Sunfall was a junior diplomat with the Eeiauoan mission.”
“A diplomat?” he said in astonishment. “Not a dancer?”
She almost smiled at that. “A dancer, a singer and a diplomat,” she said. “Sunfall of Ennien was all of that. She thought all diplomats should be. She said—she said it would g—give them more flexibility.”
“It would,” Kirk said, knowingly. He thought of the number of pompous diplomats he’d dealt with and the interminable diplomatic occasions he’d been forced to sit through. What he wouldn’t have given for the presence of Sunfall of Ennien!
Uhura went on, “She and I traded songs. In the two years we spent together I think we went through every song we ever knew. She even taught me some of the old ballads of Eeiauo.”
“Have I heard any?” Uhura often sang for her entertainment and the crew’s; Kirk tried to recall anything he could identify as Eeiauoan.
“‘The Ballad of CloudShape to-Ennien’” she suggested.
The title jogged his memory. When he smiled at the thought, Uhura smiled wanly back and said, “Yes, I see you remember it.”
“The con artist,” he said, “the Eeiauoan version of Harry Mudd!” A thought struck him. “Why ‘to-Ennien’” he asked. “All the names I’ve heard are ‘of’ something or other.”
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