“Transporter Room to Sickbay. Doctor McCoy, please report to Transporter Room Three immediately. We, er...have a situation.”
McCoy was in his office, reading over a medical journal when the call came in. Lightning reflexes had him out of his chair and grabbing supplies. “What’s the nature of the injuries and how many?” Christine had been with the away team - was it so bad she couldn’t handle it on her own? Or had she been injured too?
“It’s not exactly….well, Doctor, I think you better come see for yourself. I don’t think anyone is injured.”
Frowning, McCoy snagged his standard medkit and stalked out the door. Who was on this away team? Jim, of course, and Spock. Christine. Sulu? Yes, Sulu too. And Lieutenant Sanders. And something had happened to one or more of them - a “situation,” Scotty had said. What the hell kind of situation couldn’t he just tell McCoy about over the comm?
The answer became evident the moment McCoy stepped into the transporter room and found it crawling with animals.
“What the hell?!”
Scotty flashed him a helpless look. “I dun understand it! They were all human when I started the beam up process, but when they materialized - well, ye can see fer yerself!”
Yes, McCoy can certainly see for himself, but he’s not sure exactly what it is he’s seeing. A dog, a cat, an inquisitive rabbit, one of those damn alien unicorn dogs, and a bearded dragon. “What happened to the away team?”
“That’s what I’m sayin’, man. This is the away team.”
The dog - a tall, handsome golden retriever - trotted over and reared up to put his paws on McCoy’s shoulders. Bewildered, McCoy offered him a hand to sniff, but the dog didn’t seem to care. It regarded McCoy gravely, something familiar glinting in its eyes.
The dog gave a happy bark and dropped to all fours to spin in a circle.
McCoy stared around him in wonder. He spotted a black cat regarding him haughtily from atop the transporter controls. He’d know that smug look anywhere. “Mr. Spock.”
The cat’s tail swished. McCoy could just hear him saying “Obviously” in his head. McCoy grinned. “Mr. Spock, you’ve got something behind you.” He pointed at the tail now whipping furiously in every direction.
McCoy sighed, his amusement dropping as suddenly as it rose. “Well, at least they still have their personalities. But how the hell did this happen?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Scotty admitted. He fiddled with some of the controls, then shook his head. “There doesn’t even seem to be any rhyme or reason to why each of them turned into a different animal. I cannae make heads nor tails of it - er, excusing the expression,” he added as Spock’s tail batted at his hand.
Something small and delicate pressed against McCoy’s leg. He glanced down to find a soft white rabbit standing on its hind legs, trying to get his attention. “Christine?” The rabbit’s nose twitched. “So which one is Sulu and which is Sanders?”
The unicorn dog lowered its horn and acted like it was charging into battle, sword drawn. At least, that’s what McCoy assumed it was doing. “That’s definitely Sulu,” Scotty said.
“Agreed. Making the bearded dragon Sanders.” McCoy sighed, and without thinking reached down to pick up the rabbit - Christine - before he accidentally stepped on her. Christine gave a cry of protest, trying to squirm out of his grip and/or bite him - whichever so happened to come first. “Ouch. Ow! Damnit, Christine, I don’t want to hurt you so just - OW.”
Christine managed to sink her sharp teeth into McCoy’s hand, causing him to drop her. She landed deftly and chittered a rebuke at McCoy. “Fine,” he muttered, fumbling for his dermal regenerator. “You can hop all the way to sickbay.”
“Good luck, Doctor,” Scotty said fervently. “I don’t envy you.”
McCoy shrugged. “It won’t be so bad. At least she’s small. She won’t be able to do too much damage if she gets into something in this body.”
“Sure, but the rest of them?” Scotty raises his eyebrows. “Keeping this lot from driving you mad until I can figure out the source of the problem is going to be a job and a half.”
“What do you mean? You - you don’t think I’m taking all of them back to sickbay?! Christine belongs there; the rest can, I don’t know, go back to their quarters until it’s all sorted.”
“And how d’you propose they get into their quarters?” Scotty asked. “Or get food from the replicator? I have no idea how long it’ll take me to track down the problem, and in the meantime someone will have to make sure the Captain gets fed properly.”
McCoy’s jaw dropped and he sputtered wordlessly before spitting out, “I’m a doctor, not a zookeeper!”
Jim barked at him, and McCoy could have sworn it was a little doggy laugh.
Scotty just stared helplessly at him.
“Fine,” McCoy growled. “But you owe me a huge bottle of whiskey. And you have to figure out what to tell the crew about why the Captain and First officer are out of commission until further notice, leaving you in charge.”
Scotty grimaced. “Deal.”
McCoy grabbed Christine by the scruff of her neck so she couldn’t fight back this time, then cradled her in his arms. “Good. And try to figure it out quickly . This ship needs her command crew.” He looked at the remaining animals now watching him impatiently. “Well? What are you waiting for, let’s go.”
They made an odd team travelling through the halls. More than one person whispered about McCoy’s new pets as they passed, and after the third or fourth, he found he didn’t have the energy to growl at all of them. It didn’t help that he was still carrying Christine and at some point Spock had decided hitching a ride was preferable to walking and was now perched serenely on his shoulder. McCoy privately swore he was doing it just to get under his skin. He, of course, would never admit it was actually working.
“Doctor…?” M’Benga gave McCoy a curious look, which McCoy brushed off irritably.
“For the love of God, don’t ask,” he groused. “All you need to know is that we’ll be taking care of these animals for the time being. Make sure they get enough food and water. Oh, and the cat’s a vegetarian.”
M’Benga frowned but didn’t ask for any further details. As McCoy settled down at his desk to try to sort out the biological side of this “situation” (honestly, why were they all different animals? Did it have anything to do with the last animal they had touched? Animal transportation? Had DNA gone haywire inside the pattern buffer?), Geoffrey knelt down in front of Kirk and gave him a scratch behind the ears. Kirk practically swooned with delight, his tail wagging furiously.
Interesting. Maybe the animal behaviours were more pronounced than McCoy originally thought. That could mean something, though he wasn’t sure what yet.
M’Benga pulled his hand away, and Kirk lunged forward, licking his hand eagerly to get him to keep going. When that didn’t work, he tried licking M’Benga’s face instead. McCoy nearly choked on his tongue trying to disguise his laughter.
M’Benga reeled to his feet. “McCoy...I don’t want to sound crazy here, but...did the captain just lick my face?”
“You could tell it was Jim, huh?” McCoy asked, impressed. “Yeah. No idea what happened, but Scotty’s working on it.”
“There’s no mistaking those eyes anywhere,” M’Benga admitted. “I think I’ll keep that little incident out of the official report.”
“Good idea,” McCoy mumbled. He was uncomfortably aware that Spock hadn’t moved from his shoulder. Damn hobgoblin had to make himself a nuisance no matter what body he inhabited. Pretending like he didn’t care, McCoy settled down to work.
Hours later, Scotty and McCoy were no closer to finding a solution. Scotty had informed the crew that the away team members were under quarantine until further notice.
“Damnit, Spock,” McCoy groaned for the fifteenth time in a row as Spock walked across his hands to try to read the computer display. He grabbed Spock by the scruff of his neck and set him on the floor. “The more you distract me, the less attention I can pay to getting you back to your less obnoxious self. Is that logical, I ask you?”
Spock couldn’t answer, of course, except to jump on his desk once more and walk directly into his line of sight.
Before McCoy could tell him off, however, a movement out of the corner of his eye distracted him. Jim stood by the door to his office, doing a little doggy dance and looking very distressed.
“What’s the matter, b- Jim?”
Jim wuffed softly and turned towards the door then looked back at McCoy, silently asking him to follow.
McCoy stood with a sigh. “Don’t mess with my computer,” he warned Spock, then trailed after Jim as he darted through sickbay. Christine and Lieutenant Sanders were curled up on one of the biobeds, napping. McCoy envied their ability to do so in the middle of such a ridiculous crisis.
Jim led him through the main part of sickbay and into….oh no.
Jim stared at the toilet with a woebegone expression on his big doggy face. He looked up at McCoy, helpless. McCoy stared back at him. “Well, what about the sandbox the others have been using?”
Jim barked at him. “Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s too small. Sorry, I didn’t think that one through.” McCoy weighed his options, which were admittedly limited. “Look, just use the sonic shower and I’ll come clean it up afterwards. It’s the easiest thing to sanitize.”
Jim whined. McCoy had no idea how he managed it, but he actually looked embarrassed. An embarrassed dog, imagine that. McCoy reached down to scratch his ear reassuringly. “Don’t worry about it,” he said gruffly. “I’ve cleaned up a lot worse in my day. Some of which came from you. Remember that time you drank so much you vom-”
Jim barked loudly and pushed on McCoy’s knees until he took the hint and left the bathroom.
“Jim’s doing some private business in there,” McCoy warned M’Benga as he made his way back to his office. M’Benga nodded without looking up from his computer terminal.
McCoy retreated to his office and paused, surprised. In retrospect he should have expected this, and yet…
Spock was sitting in his chair, tail flicking as his little cat eyes scoured the information on the screen. He looked at McCoy, and McCoy could have sworn Spock smirked at him. “Out of my seat, Spock, before I decide the Hippocratic Oath is only for humanoids and not tiny felines.”
Spock merely stared at him and yawned, showing his sharp teeth.
McCoy sighed. “Fine, have it your way.” He grabbed Spock by his scruff once more and lifted him just enough to sit down, then settled Spock on his lap. Spock squirmed, trying to get loose. “Knock it off. This way we can both see the screen and read the information. It’s only logical, after all,” he added with a smirk of his own.
Spock continued to struggle, though he didn’t use his claws or teeth - a fact that surprised McCoy. McCoy wrapped both arms around the squirming cat and held him still. “Just settle down, already!” Spock gradually relaxed, though he made it clear he was not happy with this arrangement. McCoy wondered vaguely if Spock still had touch telepathy in this form. Surely not?
McCoy returned to reading where he had left off before Jim’s interruption. He quickly became absorbed in the information - so much so that he wasn’t sure when he had started petting Spock. All he knew was that the next time his attention returned to his surroundings, his hand was on Spock’s spine, and Spock...well, he was purring .
“I’ll be damned,” McCoy whispered.
Spock hissed at him. How he managed to hiss without pausing his purring, McCoy couldn’t begin to fathom. A soft woof from across the room told McCoy that Jim had rejoined them and was exceedingly amused by the situation.
“Nobody asked for your opinion,” McCoy informed him sourly. He rubbed his eyes and sighed. “This is getting us nowhere. I don’t think it’s biological at all. It must be the fault of that damned contraption. See if I ever get on it again, you mark my words.”
His hand continued to stroke Spock as he spoke. He reached up to rub Spock’s cheek, which caused the Vulcan to rub against his hand, spreading his scent. McCoy grinned.
“Scotty to McCoy.”
Careful not to disturb Spock too much, McCoy leaned forward to toggle the switch on his computer. Scotty’s face appeared on his screen, looking mussed but triumphant. “I think I’ve got the fix on what happened. There was a misalignment in the -”
“Never mind all that,” McCoy interrupted. “Can we make them human again?”
“Aye, that we can.”
“I’ll be there in five minutes with the whole menagerie. McCoy out.” He switched off his computer and looked down at Spock, who was eyeing him placidly. “Well, Mr. Spock, it looks like we won’t get to find out if you’re above chasing little laser dots after all.”
Spock chose not to dignify that with a response.
Ten minutes later, McCoy arrived in the transporter room with the whole away team, Spock once again riding on his shoulder as he carried Christine and Lieutenant Sanders. He set them down as gently as possible, while Spock leapt delicately onto the transporter pad. Jim and Sulu climbed up on their own and took their original spots.
“This had better work,” McCoy said, standing back.
“It will,” Scotty informed him confidently. He pressed some buttons on the console, and the animals shimmered out of view. A moment later, four humans and a half-Vulcan rematerialized in their places. McCoy let out an audible sigh of relief.
“Glad to have you back, fellas. Ladies.”
Jim looked down at himself as if he couldn’t quite trust his eyes. “Well done, Scotty.” His voice sounded a little rough with disuse. He cleared his throat and stepped down. “Well. I think we’ve had just about enough excitement for the day. Take the rest of the shift off and get some rest. You too, Bones.”
McCoy’s eyes twinkled as he winked at Spock. “Oh, I will Jim. But first there’s a little present waiting for me in Sickbay that I have to clean up.”
Jim went bright red; McCoy walked out of the transporter room, laughing his ass off. Spock, of course, just raised an eyebrow and chalked it up to human nonsense. No one ever mentioned him rubbing his face against McCoy’s hand again.