Photo: © Maksim Prikazov | Dreamstime.com
I had only sat down to a delicately replicated repast of kippers, tomatoes, and a splash of the brown-and-bracing when the door whistled. ‘Come — and all that,’ I said, a trifle annoyed. It’s not at all often that a chap gets a quiet breakfast when he’s captain of something, but we starfleeting lads never shirk when it comes to going boldly where no m. has gone b.
’Excuse the intrusion, Captain,’ said my man Spock — intruding excuse-lessly it seemed to me — ‘A most urgent matter requires your attention on the bridge.’
I sighed. ‘You have a go at the thing, whatever it is, won’t you Spock?’ We both knew Spock was the brains of the enterprise. ‘I’d hardly be more use than a — .’ Words failed me as they often do — especially after a night of Aldeberian Brandy and trimming the foliage off green dancing girls.
’I sympathise sir, but I must call your attention to the fact that you are senior officer of this vessel.’
’O, right you are Spock.’ I dropped my napkin upon the late lamented breakfast. Still, I thought as I rose, rather rum of old Spock to throw a man’s rank in his glass — and before noon.
’I say Spock, where the devil is my green wrap-around tunic?’
’I took the liberty of having it recycled into the warp core,’ said the fellow, while laying out one of those drab old blond-coloured pullovers Starfleet expects a cove to gad about in.
’No! Really you didn’t, Spock! You know that was my favourite!’
’I do beg your pardon sir if I was mistaken, but I believe you had expressed a desire that all trash be removed from quarters on a periodic schedule.’
’Spock! Not my green wrap-around!’ Some fellows have no sense of style.
’I regret the incident, sir — but I must insist we press on to the bridge.’
I dragged on the wretched blond rag and together we forged into another day’s exploration of the quadrant.
On the bridge the chaps were in an awful state. Spock had spent the turbo-lift ride filling me in on some devilish business. Seems the Romulans had dipped a toe in that great pond we call the Neutral Zone. ‘Really Spock,’ I moaned, ‘Again? I’ve a mind just to cede them the bally thing and be done with it.’
’No doubt a decisive course of action, sir — but one fears incuring the displeasure of Starfeet.’
’Displeasure? Whatever for?’
’I should not be surprised if Starfleet looked upon such an abdication of naval fortitude in neutral space as an act of cowardice — even treason — on your part.’
’Well they’re always displeased about something, the old sausages.’
’There is much in what you say, sir.’
Well never let it be said that we Kirks blanch when it comes to buckling the swash — especially when the old back’s up against the w.
I greeted the lads on the bridge with a stiff upper and set about the job. ‘Uhuru, old egg,’ said I, ‘be a sport and open up a channel to these marauding alien fellows.’
On screen I could see Spock had left out a detail he would no doubt, if pressed, attempt to brush off as only a quibble. We Enterprise beans were not facing just one bucket of the big-foreheaded and nasty — but three of the battle-cruisers.
Why is it that we Feddies get about it as solitary as sea tortoises, while these evil space-empire fellows gallivant in packs like wildebeest?
Uhuru hailed the captain of the phalanx, who then came on screen and appeared to be a woman. A woman and a Klingon to boot (these Romulan chaps were rum sorts, but let it never be said they are not modern).
I boomed out my name and rank, throwing in the initial of my middle moniker as well — makes a fellow seem o so serious in a situation, you see.
She introduced herself. ‘I am Captain Targ of the House Garg, Commander of the Fifth Wing; space is littered with the wreckage of my conquests, and the children of a hundred worlds shiver in their beds at the sound of my name!’
’Cheers,’ said I, now that introductions were finished. ‘Listen old sock, what say we all pack off the Neutral Z and I’ll give you a nice lunch on Rigel, what?’
’No talk!’ roared the old hen, adding a sweep of the alien arm for effect.
Just then the deck teetered about like a tottering tea service, booms and bangs exploding without end. Mind you, I’ve never understood why our instrument boards shoot flames straight up in one’s face when we take a bit of phase-u-ma-callit to the hull, but there’s Starfleet for you.
Before a fellow could react, Montgomery ‘Scottie’ Scott and Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy were shouting out damage and casualty reports, and stumbling around like sauced rugby players. Pavel ‘Bowl-head’ Chekov said something about the shields down to some miniscule percentile.
Really it’s a bit much having one’s old Academy chums fly to pieces in front of Spock. I mean, hadn’t we been in scrapes? With Spock’s help we’d always come through ‘til now.
When Sulu tried to move the tank of newts he insists on keeping under the helm to safer ground, and succeeded only in tripping and upending the watery newt-domicile, I found myself up to the short boots in newt-soup. I confess to a moment’s faltering myself.
’I say Spock, can you brain us through this muddle?’
’What do you mean sir?’
’Can you butter up this toast?’ I had never known Spock to be obtuse. ‘Not your fault, of course, but we’re in spot. Going down in flames and all that.’
’So it would seem, sir.’
’I mean to say Spock — good fellow — shouldn’t we formulate a plan?’
’On the contrary sir, all is going strictly as planned.’
To that point in our history I had never found occasion to doubt Spock’s brain.
However, as life-support failed and I felt the old noggin start to swell as the loss of cabin pressure brought forth the vacuum of space and the great void yawned before me like the jaws of an aunt, I could not help but feel that a plan which included having one’s ship blasted to bits and seeing (with that instrument Spock would call one’s ‘mind’s-eye’) the spectre of The Eternal Footman hold one’s pals’ coats and snicker … well, such a plan contained elements which could stand improvement is my only point.
’Sir?’ said Spock.
In my anger, it was all I could do to remain civil. ‘What now Spock?’
’As we have only moments of life support remaining, I believe this would be an appropriate time to signal Captain Targ our surrender.’
’Surrender!’ I said indignantly. We Kirks never surrender, save to a glass of Altarian gin or a second strip of bacon in the morning.
O dash it, I thought, we Kirks surrender all the time, to all sorts of things. Why destroy a tradition?
’Very well, Spock — Uhuru old chum, signal our surrender.’
The surrendering job went decently and in no time Spock and I were shown to a gaol-cell in Targ’s ship. I suppose the lower-ranking lads were packed into steerage somewhere.
When we were finally alone I confronted Spock.
’I say old fellow, what’s all this everything-according-to-plan-and-then-surrendering business? Your not pal-ing up with these Romulan and Klingon coves are you? You know “Bones” would say — ‘
’I’m sure Dr McCoy would say a great many things, all of which would be entirely irrelevant to our present circumstances. I pursued — as shall be presently revealed– the only prudent course. Enterprise was outgunned, sir. I thought it not unreasonable in that close circumstance to save her crew.’
’Save us for what, Spock? A life of slavery on a prison planet? Sustaining ourselves on cloudy broths and cold porridge; toiling away with pick-axes like plow horses?’
’I do not believe that plow horses possess the capability to wield pick-axes, sir, even on Klingon.”
’I dare say they might do, and I’d rather not find out.’
’Indeed, sir. That is why I shall need your unique capabilities to affect our escape.’
’My ..?’ I could not say what unique capabilities I possessed that could be of use in a situation, but I was flattered nonetheless.
’Yes sir. Is it not safe to say that you are a gentleman of some reputation with the fair sex?’
I smile sheepishly. I do believe I blushed. ‘I don’t know who would say a thing like that, Spock. I am as confirmed a bachelor as yourself!’
’Most assuredly, sir. Nevertheless, I submit that our present circumstance require a certain deviation from our usual philosophy.’
’O rather. I do suppose it’s no secret that we Kirks have a bit of tomcat in our veins.’
’Very good, sir. We shall depend on your prowess in the realm of Eros to save the crew. You must woo the lady Captain Targ and marry her.’
The wooing of a Klingon skirt requires more energy than a fellow might justly be expected to exert were it not on behalf of one’s dearest old chums. Still, I must say to my credit, that I applied myself admirably to the job. After two or three written missives of the ‘two-hearts-that-beat-as-one’ genre passed into the hands of our guards, I soon found myself rewarded with an evening audience before the enamourised alieness.
Being a prisoner, I could offer nothing in the way of posies or bonbons, but had to sally to my prospect armed only with the inimitable Kirk charm.
The fair Targ’s boudoir was plush and littered with reptile pelts. Targ herself was draped in lounge-ware cut of several pelts more — naked beneath them, as she eargerly but unnecessarily hastened to show me, before going on to explain that these were the remnants of Cardassians she had skinned personally.
’I can still hear their screams, their life’s blood oozing from their bodies as I sliced away their skin to cover mine.’ Taurgie rasped eloquently.
’Ah,’ said I, ‘comfy are they?’
’Sit down,’ she said. She proceeded to pour a dram of what turned out to be the finest green cough syrup I have ever tasted from square glass. ‘Now, tell me what you are thinking, Captain James Tiberius Kirk.’
’Thinking?’ I stumbled. ‘O nothing at all.’ Leave it to a woman to pick a chap’s weak spot. Fact is, I knew it was up to me to rescue the crew and save the Federation and all that, but it hardly seemed worth it right then, racked right up the thing. ‘Look here old bean,’ said I. ‘There comes a time in every starship captain’s life when he– ‘
’Or she,’ bursts in Targ.
’O. Quite right, all the same now aren’t we? High time, too.’ I pressed onward. ‘A time when he or she takes a mind to settle down, know what I mean?
’What do you mean, Kirky?’ she said. I thought the ‘Kirky’ a bit flirty on her part but there you are: Klingons.
’Well, when the siren song of the unexplored galaxy wanes, one begins to pine for a hearth and the wail of the odd-dozen half-breed nippers to bear one’s moniker, if you take my meaning.’
Dash these universal translators. ‘What I mean to say is, I think that you and I — we — ought to get together and — how does one put it? — cement the knot and bind the ties. Matrimonially I mean.’
’This would please you?’
’I think it would be the bees knees. Absolutely terrific.”
She spoke not a word.
After some silent moments in which I felt my brain nearly leak out my ears, I spoke up again. ‘Great. Good. Excellent, really! Well that’s settled.’
Now we Kirks are not ones to grumble or pick nits, but I admit I had expected the captain to fling arms ‘round me, to be covered in moist-and-messies, or to perhaps witness my lady clutch a scaly hankie and wipe away an earnest Klingon tear — but she offering none of it. Actually, what she did was pat me on the head, and motion to the gaolers. As they re-shackled me for transport back to my cell, she winked and told me she would think about it.
’A most valiant attempt,’ Spock said with encouragement, though I knew I’d botched it.
’What now?’ said I, already mentally consigned to a life in galactic servitude.
’Do not despair sir,’ said the indomitable Mr. Spock, ‘I have prepared for this contingency. What is needed now is for some eloquent gallant to intercede on your behalf. Someone to extol your charms and attest to your worthiness as a suitor. I am such a one.’
’Spock! Do you truly see me that way?’
’In hopes of revising our impending fate, I am prepared to be somewhat freer with the truth than is my habit.’
With that, Spock summoned the gaoler and, after some cajoling, was taken off for an audience of his own with Captain Targ.
I became alarmed when Spock did not return that night, nor the next.
I heard nothing of the man again for several star-date decimal points, not until my gaolers — to my great astonishment — informed me that pleasant circumstances had affected my release. I, along with my former band of de-shipped castaways, were led aboard a scow habitually employed in the transfer of sewage and given a push-off across the neutral zone. We would be many months returning home and, as the Romulans and Klingons were disinterested in our dietary requirements, had to make do with boiling and consuming the post-digestive products around us. The best of it was vaguely reminiscent of Roquefort (the cheese, not the filthy French hamlet) and chicken soup, and after some weeks ceased to be quite so nauseating.
Upon that hardy reunion upon the garbage scow however, I soon sadly noted, that our reunited compliment did not include Spock. I immediately inquired after the well-being of my loyal first officer.’
’Spock!’ cried ‘Bones’. Old ‘Bones’ was one of the few beans around that never took a shine to my pointy-eared pal. ‘Haven’t you heard, man! Your Spock has married the Klingon captain!’
So that was it! I dare say it brought a mist to the old e’s. Spock had interceded for me too well — and got himself draughted into the husband trade in my stead. I doffed the imaginary helm of the brotherhood of bachelors and clasped it figuratively to the old ticker in deference to my fallen comrade. Spock had packed it in and saved us all. I was sure now I would never see the fellow again. I sighed and then picking up the carcass of some dried up old rodent and, spreading it with cheese-like offal, sat down for a thoughtful, melancholy cold dinner.
Imagine my surprise when six months later we floated into Starbase only to be greeted by that singular Vulcan in the flesh!
’Spock!’ cried I, ‘How the devil did you ever manage your escape?’
’Unfortunately for the Klingon Captain, I had neglected to inform her that the mating cycle of the Vulcan affords relations but once every seven years. As her own needs are, shall we say, rather more enthusiastic in nature (being on the order of several enthusiastic needs daily) this, in her view, constituted an ill-match. Upon consideration, the lady asked my consent to a bill of divorcement. I readily complied.’
’Good show, Spock! You’ve do us a turn — me especially.’ said I. ‘But how is it you were able to get the old-sort to go for you and spare me in the first place?’
’That was simply arranged, sir. I know from my studies of all species that women are quite a bit more like men than they are unlike us. I mean that, in romance, a woman is as likely to be put off by fawning insincerity and obvious manipulation as a man would. What a woman is likely to find attractive in a potential mate is intelligence, poise, and — most-especially — confidence and self-reliance. It was always essential to my plan that you play the former type of suitor while I, the latter: Captain Targ was never to be taken in with cheap matinee-idol antics.’
Some of that was a bit beyond the pale I thought, and quite probably insulting to me in one way or another, but mostly Spock’s recounting of motivations skimmed clean over my skull: a phenomenon for which — so he has assured me — I am to be extremely gratified.
’Still,’ said I, gamely, ‘lucky you got off with a divorce, eh what? Packed you off on some sewage-tanker as well did she?’
’O no, sir,’ said Spock. ‘Klingon alimony is quite generous. I was given a pleasure barge outfitted with all the delights of imperial decadence: including an excellent replicator programmed with every dish in the quadrant, from tritonian salmon in riskilian butter to vulcan veal chops in rigelian lemon sauce. There was one difficulty I could not escape however.’
’What was that, Spock?’ I asked, only half-listening while dreaming of vulcan veal in rigelian lemon sauce.
’My seven-year cycle, sir. It happened to coincide with one of the nights of our brief marriage.’
I shuddered. ‘Dear fellow! You must have had to …!’
I do believe the excellent fellow almost sighed. ‘Inevitably sir,’ said he.
[I don’t remember when I wrote this. Many years ago. On a typewriter. I later posted it to a Wodehouse newsgroup when I first signed up for the internet, probably with AOL. I love Wodehouse, and his style is infectious. You will be pleased to know that since this travesty I have been able to resist imitating the master completely.]