Still Crazy After All These Years

Still Crazy After All These Years

By Qzeebrella

Beta Mary Doman

Authors note: the first three of five sections are found here in Spiced Peaches. The last two sections will be in the Yahoo Group and the Haven (eventually). I will nudge the ezine's publisher with a link to the last two sections as soon as they are up.

***

Prologue

 

All the gods, from all the planets, from all the many galaxies across the universe must report to Starfleet Command. That is an ironclad rule that all the different pantheons had agreed to. They agreed to uphold all of the directives from Starfleet Command, directives that had been in place for almost as long as time existed. There was some leeway given, a little bit of wiggle room; and there were pantheons of gods who managed to flout the directives almost as often as they ate and got away with it with impunity. Partly because even when they flouted the directives, they triumphed. Partly because the gods’ very nature made it so that they, like the people who worshipped them, had to constantly test the limits, stretch them, bend them and push them so as to be able to continue progressing and growing. Partly because some gods were just contrary enough to feel like they COULD break the rules without consequence and contrary enough to believe that the rules were made to be broken. This is a story of a pantheon headed by a king of the gods who felt the directives, the rules, and the laws were just guidelines that should be ignored for the greater good when needed, cast aside if that meant there was a possibility of saving one of the gods in his pantheon, broken when he felt the situation warranted, and otherwise pushed aside at his discretion. This pantheon was known by its subjects to be living on a "starship", called Enterprise by the people of the planet, listed in Starfleet's database as NCC-1701.

***

Captain Kirk, as the head of the Enterprise pantheon, was well known to be just a bit arrogant, proud, stubborn and committed to fulfilling all of his duties, especially those of procreating with his subjects whenever at all possible. He relied heavily on his upper pantheon, his command staff as it were, to give him guidance, to support his decisions and to pull off miracles at the drop of a hat (something that happened with disturbing regularity on the starship Enterprise). His full name was James Tiberius Kirk and he was a handsome man, completely and totally aware of his own charisma. A god who had a strong sense of integrity, did his best to live with honour, who expected loyalty from his pantheon and his subjects and could not abide compromising his exacting standards. A god who expected everyone to live up to the highest standards, who expected everyone to do their duty and work hard, and who did his best to set a good example.

Kirk had six gods whom he counted upon, the first being Spock, god of logic, strategy, learning, inner balance/conflict, music, and loyalty. The only one of the gods with pointed ears, he had several unique abilities. He could meld with someone else's mind, to overhear their most prevalent thoughts and dig for buried information when needed. He could perform a nerve pinch, which rendered those pinched unconscious. He was the god with the most physical strength and the greatest self control over himself and his emotions. His father was an ambassador of the gods, one who tried to broker peace amongst the many pantheons and yet was at odds with his son due to their uncompromising natures. His mother was a goddess dedicated to learning, teaching, compassion and one of the more emotional of the gods. Spock got his uncompromising dedication to logic from his father and did his best to deny the emotional heritage he got from his mother. Spock also did his best to support Kirk, to guide him, caution him and reign in Kirk's most reckless tendencies. He was considered the Captain's first officer, the second in charge and someone you would most want beside you in a crisis. For he would stay at your side throughout it and find a way, if there was one, to get everyone through it alive.

The second was Doctor Leonard "Bones" McCoy, a self-proclaimed "good old fashioned country doctor”. Known as a healer, not only of illness and injury, but of broken relationships. The god of compassion; of physical, mental and emotional healing; the god of emotion and, lesser known, the god of friendship. He was fiercely loyal to both Kirk and Spock. He would die for them, if there were ever a need, and he'd risk his own sanity if it meant saving any one of his friends or patients. He was gruff and grumpy on occasion, but full of mischief, deep feeling and a love of life. He and Spock had a unique relationship. They bickered and fought and debated, yet whenever one was in trouble or danger, the other was sure to be there, fighting to save the other with all their skill and determination. Which sometimes made things very interesting on Enterprise.

The third was Nyota Uhura, a woman of great beauty and wisdom. The goddess of love, marriage, communication, language, music and grace. An irreverent matchmaker who could not help but try to get those fated to be together, together. She guided the Captain in her own quiet way, subtly influencing him, gently urging caution, and occasionally acting through slightly underhanded means, though she preferred to refer to it as being sneaky. She liked being thought of as being a bit mysterious, as being the one everyone could confide in about anything. She also considered her job to include all kinds of love, even the kind that exists between friends, rather than the romantic kind that most love gods and goddesses focused on. She was a bit mischievous, had a strong sense of self, and a confidence in herself that showed in everything she did.

The fourth was Montgomery Scott, occasionally called Scotty. The god of the forge, of machinery, transportation, ship building/travel, invention, bards, and drink. His accent was a direct result of one of his inventions—the bagpipe, which he invented when dead drunk, though he always insisted he was sober when it happened. All of the upper pantheon considered him as their friend, though only the Captain and Leonard joined him for a drink or two when he asked. He occasionally told tall tales of his exploits, of how he invented things, and had a weakness for a bawdy tune every now and then. He preferred learning new things over taking time off, preferred spending time working on fixing and perfecting his inventions to almost everything else, and was a fiercely independent god.

The fifth was Hikaru Sulu, the only winged god in the pantheon, one of the younger gods and yet completely trusted by the Captain because of how reliable he was. The god of flight, swordsmanship, plants and crops, of exploration and of playful flirtation. He started out as just the god of plants and crops and that was still his favourite duty. He even had a favourite plant that he had named Gertrude, which he kept in his arboretum. She moved on her own power, reached out for him whenever he visited, and was thought to be in love with him. It was thought by many in the pantheon that he would one day want to set out on his own and become the head of his own pantheon of gods, but when asked if he was intending to do so soon, he'd answer, "I still have much more I need to learn and accomplish before I'm ready."

The sixth was Pavel Chekov, the youngest of the upper pantheon and a bit like an eager puppy. The god of navigation, tall tales, national pride, of youth and of adventure. He could be stubborn and playful at the same time. He could assist Spock with his many duties and was incredibly intelligent in his own right, but could also be incredibly foolish at times. He was Sulu's best friend and could be found at his side most of the time. He had the unfortunate tendency of always attracting the wrong kind of goddess or woman and of tripping over his own feet or sticking his foot in his mouth, but always managed to triumph in the end. He also had a tendency to put the Captain on a pedestal, to hero worship him, which fed Kirk's ego and flattered him immensely.

This pantheon of gods had many adventures, went on many journeys together, and accomplished feats that others would have said were impossible. The following is a tale of one of their adventures, when they were a new pantheon. One getting to know each other, to create bonds of friendship or more with each other, and of learning to rely on each other. One just beginning their journey together, boldly going where no gods had dared to go before.

***

James T. Kirk popped into existence within a moment and yet came with intact memories of climbing the ranks of the gods until becoming Captain of the starship Enterprise, the equivalent of king of the gods anywhere else. He had memories of being on a lesser starship, the Farragut, of being a new Ensign eager to explore and learn from the older gods, of challenging the older and higher ranked gods at times, and of occasionally defying them. He remembered always being a god with his own moral code that he clung to with determination and did his best to uphold. He had memories of facing many different monsters, going on several missions, and being given dozens of tasks to perform and accomplishing all he had to do with honour and glory. Given all of these memories, he was supremely confident in his own abilities, especially his ability to lead his crew on their appointed mission. That mission: to explore strange new circumstances and lands, to boldly confront and tame or defeat new monsters, and to boldly go where no god has gone before.

The first thing he did, after popping into existence on the starship Enterprise, was to explore her from prow to stern, getting to know his ship as best as he could and determining what her strengths and weaknesses were and meeting all the new gods and goddesses who popped into existence shortly after he did. He learned that his ship was uniquely formed and not like any of the sailing ships of the societies on the planet NCC-1701 had come from. Instead it had a saucer-shaped disk holding the crew quarters, recreation area, bridge deck, science and medical labs, which was connected with an almost swan-like neck to the rest of the ship. The other section of the ship had engineering labs, storage areas, shuttle pod bays and more within a long cylindrical area, which had two nacelles attached above it, almost like wings or perhaps tails. These nacelles housed the engines, powered by a warp core according to folklore—but in reality powered through prayer, worship and faith.

While exploring the ship, Kirk flirted with everything in a skirt that he saw, including a few men. For some reason, it seemed that yeomen of both genders responded to his flirting more readily than did anyone else, which was okay with him because most of them were gorgeous AND looked as if they would be very willing to join him for a bit of intimate recreation. He also kept meeting gods and goddesses wearing "security" red shirts that sometimes had bull’s-eyes superimposed on them for some reason. These gods and goddesses almost seemed interchangeable and they seemed to come with a faint odour of impending doom around them. Once he had finished touring his ship, he called a meeting of the Command Crew. Spock was the first to show up and Kirk immediately perked up upon seeing him.

"Why hello there!" Kirk murmured, pouring on the charm. "So, you're my first officer, DIRECTLY under me in the chain of command." Jim smiled at the gorgeous, charismatic man—whom he somehow knew was an alien—a Vulcan with unique abilities he could exploit if he could just make Spock his mate. But only if he could be the ideal kind of mate who could accept Kirk's many affairs, his womanizing, and the fact that he would never, ever be the only one for Jim.

"And that is the only way I'll ever be directly under you. I will never become your mate," Spock said, his hands clasped behind his own back, conveying somehow the very essence of logic, just as the god of logic and learning should.

"Wait, how in the heck did you know what I intended?" Kirk asked.

"Your intentions were written all over your face," Spock informed him, as the other officers in the command staff entered and the space around them turned into a conference room complete with table, computers, and everything else needed for a proper staff meeting. Including a very localized time-distortion field which made time in the conference room drag on tediously.

Kirk nodded a greeting to the rest of his command staff, leering at all of them in turn, especially Nyota Uhura, his communications officer. She didn't seem to be impressed though. She seemed more interested in Spock and Leonard; at least she kept glancing between them and smiling mysteriously as if she knew something no one else did. He wondered why the love goddess was more interested in them than in him, when he was obviously Sex On Legs.

"I called all of you here to get to know you and for you to get to know each other. As you all know I am the Captain, and I am the one in charge. All of you are supposed to support my every decision, follow all my commands and otherwise do whatever it is I tell you to do," Jim smirked.

Leonard McCoy snorted. "Yeah, and we'll all grow feathers and cluck like chickens," the god of healing, doctors and friendship said with a hint of disdain. "We're gods, not slaves, and I, for one, will always speak up when you're doing something completely idiotic, just as you are doing right now. You're speaking as if you think you're better than anyone else and that's just not true, you're just in charge. That does not make you better. If you truly want to guide the crew, and the people on the planet who are relying on us to do our jobs to the best of our abilities, you should turn to us for guidance and lead us by example."

Jim looked at the man he thought of as his old friend, the healer who had helped him through a grievous injury he had suffered while performing his duty on Farragut, and sighed. He trusted McCoy to give him good advice, but his current advice was contradicting his own ego. Surely his own ego had to be right, not McCoy. Yet he saw the rest of his staff nodding in agreement. Which was when he knew that, no matter what his ego told him, his command crew would accept nothing less than being treated with respect. Kirk wondered if he could come to accept that, to accept that he possibly wasn't as irresistible and thus automatically to be obeyed as he thought he was.

"We will follow you sir," Scotty, the god of transportation and invention said. "For you are our leader, but to be a good one you need to lead by example and be the kind of god all of us will always be proud to follow."

The captain looked at Scotty, saw how sincere he was and saw the determination in his eyes and nodded. This god was a good man, loyal but stubborn, uncompromising and someone he could depend on. Just as he suddenly realized he could depend on all of those in his command crew and on his ship. All the gods would work hard to accomplish their mission and needed him to guide them by example and by being a good leader, and not by him putting his ego first.

"I see," Kirk acknowledged. "Now, I know what all of your official duties are, know that I can rely on all of you, and know that together we can accomplish things thought to be impossible by other gods. I also know that you all know at least a little bit about each other, which will make it easier for us to work together on this, our first mission together. I would like to know one thing though, Uhura."

"Oh? What is it you would like to know?" the goddess of love and communication asked, effortlessly beautiful in both the physical and emotional sense, with her dark hair and her milk-chocolate complexion soft with compassion.

"Why do you keep looking between Spock and McCoy as if you know something we don't?" Kirk asked.

"Oh, you'll see in time," she smiled, a hint of mischief on her face. "I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise."

Kirk looked at her and knew she wouldn't say any more. That he would have to just wait and watch, that he would need to keep a careful watch on his friends Spock and Bones and see what developed.

"So, what is our first mission?" Hikaru Sulu asked, stretching the wings on his back, very glad to have them. The wings were seemingly gossamer like a fly’s and yet were almost strong enough to support him in the air, he just wished he could use them anytime he wanted to travel by flying as opposed to walking, but they weren’t quite strong enough . In the back of his mind he wondered how in the universe he had gotten them but most of him was satisfied with the knowledge that they were as much part of him as his dark eyes and his love of plants.

"We need first to set things up on the planet so that our subjects have everything they need, including something to strive for," Kirk said.

So it was said, so it was done, everything on the planet popping into existence in a moment and yet seeming as if the world and the life upon it had evolved over millennia to become the exemplary civilization that was upon the planet and the people who worshipped them as their gods. The planet was lush with life, with plants and animals and people both strange and wondrous. A people as stubborn and loyal as the gods they worshipped. A people dedicated to exploring the planet around them, always open to learning more, and loyal to their friends, crewmates, and their ideals. Neither the people, nor the gods they worshipped, were perfect though. Sometimes their personalities clashed, sometimes their desire to explore was thwarted by impending disaster, and sometimes all they wanted to do was crawl back into bed and pretend that the world did not exist.

As the people came into being, so did the legends about the gods and goddesses. Of how the crew on Enterprise had battled the Klingons, a fierce warrior race that was very territorial. Of how the crew of the Enterprise was made up of various species, all dedicated to exploration, keeping the peace and working to improve life for all those who lived upon NCC-1701. Of how the Captain, or "king" of the gods, was the youngest ever to become captain. A good man who made mistakes, faced up to them, was charismatic, sometimes egotistical, and yet worthy of being followed into the very worst of circumstances. Along with the legends came songs and stories dedicated to the gods, written by acolytes, priests and priestesses, and even just ordinary citizens. There were places of worship upon the planet, where the gods could pick up the tributes made to them, whether prayers or sacrifices or something else. All of which were dumped into the warp core, transforming immediately into antimatter and dilithium crystals, which worked together to provide the fuel that the engines of the starship Enterprise ran on.

One of these legends spoke of the first mission the crew of the Enterprise went on together...

First Commercial Break

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***

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***

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***

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End of commercial break.

Parsley

James Tiberius Kirk sat in the Captain's chair on the bridge, overseeing the operations of all the officers upon and within it. Some of them referred to it as the throne and it had its own unique powers. Anyone who sat upon it became imbued with the Aura of Command, the aura making it more likely that their orders would be obeyed, their advice would be listened to, and their appearance would be more confident and commanding. When Jim Kirk sat in the chair, his natural charisma was magnified, the glint in his eye and in his smile grew brighter, and his natural leadership abilities became even more obvious than they usually were. This chair was in the exact centre of the bridge and from it the power of the Captain radiated. In front of him was a large screen that could act as a window and show them the path the ship was following, a path full of stars, nebulae and many wonders. It could also be used to watch and talk with the people who worshipped them, and see the other gods or things they communicated with, or even to watch re-enactments of various plays.

In between him and this screen was the navigation console. It was composed of two stations, one where the direction of the ship was determined and the other where the navigational course was determined and from which the weapons of the ship could be controlled. Most of the time the god of flight and plants, Hikaru Sulu, and his best friend the god of navigation and youth, Pavel Chekov, sat at this station. Kirk knew he could rely on them and their abilities. Most of the time the two acted like brothers, teasing each other, annoying each other and defending the other in turn.

To Kirk's left was Commander Spock, the god of logic and learning, who normally chose to stand at his post and lean over the device that acted as a scanner, an analyzer of the space around them, of the planet below them, and an access to all the knowledge the gods of Enterprise had gathered and stored in their great "database" or library. He rarely sat at his post for reasons of his own, or perhaps to be ready should he need to take over at a moment's notice.

Behind him was Nyota Uhura's station, the hub of all communications amongst the gods on Enterprise and where all messages from other ships or the planet below would go first. While sifting through all the communications, she would work to weave the love under her control, trying to encourage love to grow where it should and to guide those who sought her council. She always wanted the best for her friends, of whom she counted all the command staff, most of the crew, and her many worshippers. And to her the best thing for them would be to find the person who was meant for them. The person who could love them for who they were, the one Ideal Mate, with whom they could find joy. Sometimes it was easy for her to see when two people were meant for each other and sometimes it was more difficult to see that two people were meant to be woven together, but whenever she saw it, she worked as hard as she could to help the seed of love between them grow and flourish.

To Kirk's right was the engineering station, where one of Scotty's subordinates usually worked but where Montgomery Scott, the god of machinery, transportation and invention could work from when necessary. However, he normally worked from his own domain, known as Engineering. Engineering was the hub from which all machines were made, where the ship’s power and locomotion were produced, and where Scotty came up with his best ideas for new inventions. Scotty had his own staff of personnel, engineers who helped him keep the starship in good condition, helped him repair it when necessary, and kept all the ship’s systems and all the technology upon it working up to spec (and normally even better than the specs said they should work). His staff were devoted to him, and worked themselves into the ground in order to please him and to prove they were worthy of working in this most critical area of the ship. They were dedicated to keeping their knowledge of machinery, of inventions and other things up to date. They were dedicated to going above and beyond doing their duty, just as their chief, Montgomery Scott, was.

Somewhere, on one of the decks below, was sickbay, the area where Doctor Leonard McCoy worked most of the time, though he made frequent appearances on the bridge. Like Scotty, he had a staff that was devoted to him. All of them healers dedicated to bettering the lives of those on Enterprise and those on the planet below. All of them fighting hard to preserve life and make it worth living. There was Doctor M'Benga, a man with dark skin and a glowing soul, incredibly intelligent and a friend to Leonard. Working for him because he wanted to, working with him as an equal, and yet following his lead when necessary. Then there was Nurse Christine Chapel, who assisted during surgery, kept things running in sickbay, and looked after the patients whenever there were any. Christine also had a “thing” for Spock and pursued him relentlessly, though he showed no indication of returning her affection. There were other doctors and nurses, lab assistants and emergency medical technicians who worked with and for McCoy. They were all devoted to McCoy and loved working with him in spite of, or perhaps because of, his gruff reputation.

"Captain Kirk, we're getting an urgent prayer, asking for immediate help," Lieutenant Uhura said, her voice cutting through bridge chatter and immediately getting everyone's attention.

"Put it on speaker," Kirk ordered, meaning for her to do her thing and make it so everyone on the bridge could hear it.

A voice was heard, obviously female. "Gods and goddesses, hear our prayer. We beseech you to come and assist us with the monster plaguing our population. It is a cloud and yet isn't. It smells of honey and yet its actions are anything but sweet. It is preying on our young adults, sucking the lives from them and leaving empty shells behind. We have tried to defeat it ourselves and failed. Please help us, before there are none of us left."

Kirk got the impression of a woman with greying hair, but still beautiful. It was her beauty, her strength of character which called to him. "We're going to help. Spock, you're with me. We'll take Ensign Garrovick, two redshirts and McCoy with us."

"Yes, Captain," Spock acknowledged, contacting the transporter room from which they would depart to go to the planet below. Then contacting the Ensign, the security officers and McCoy, telling them to report for duty. Once he had done so, he stepped towards the turbolift, a walk-in closet that moved from floor to floor and from one end of the ship to the other, taking people quickly wherever they wanted to go on ship. Kirk stepped into it with him and they immediately headed toward the transporter room.

As they got near the room they could hear Dr. McCoy. "Do we have to go by transporter? Don't you realize how dangerous it is? It scrambles our very particles and reassembles them and if it gets even the tiniest particle out of order, poof, we're gone!"

"It is perfectly safe Dr. McCoy," Spock said as he entered the room, immediately looking the other in the eye, twitching his eyebrow slightly, which he knew the healer would take as a challenge.

Dr. McCoy snorted and looked at the other man, hands behind his own back, bouncing on his toes. "Yeah, sure it is and I'm your Aunt Fanny."

"I don't have an Aunt Fanny," Spock said, purposely doing all he could to appear completely serious.

Kirk tuned out their bickering, trying to figure out why it was that the "cloud" mentioned in the prayer and the call for help sounded familiar. Not knowing that on the bridge Uhura smiled with triumph and satisfaction, having gotten a buzz of power over Spock and McCoy's bickering. It being as delicious to chocolate to her. Not knowing that Uhura thought of Spock and McCoy's bickering as being their version of flirting. Which is just as well because if Kirk had known it was a close cousin to flirting, he'd put a stop to it, having his own designs on Spock AND McCoy.

Scotty was at the controls of the transporter, as usual, for whenever the Captain chose to go on a mission he thought it ensured a safer trip. The five gods going on the mission stepped up onto a platform with five circles of silver upon it, matching circles above them on the ceiling. Scotty slid the controls up and down, controlling the energy of the device and keeping a close eye on the readings the controller gave him, to make sure it was operating properly. The energy coalesced around the gods on the platform, surrounding them with light, thus scrambling their particles, reducing them to the energy that was their natural form, and reintegrating their patterns on the planet below, just a short walk away from the village that had called for help.

Spock and McCoy each had their specialized tricorders with them. Spock's was designed to scan the area around him for signs of life, indications of danger, and to extract all the information he could from what was around so he could analyze it and keep the Captain informed. McCoy's tricorder was designed to scan individual gods and people, assess their health and physical condition, and help him diagnose his patients. All in an effort to keep them alive and well.

"The village is this way," Spock said and gestured toward the east. "The woman who called to us should be in the temple there or nearby."

"Okay people, move out," Kirk ordered, leading the way even as one of the redshirts did his best to get ahead of him and thus be in a position where he could protect him or sacrifice his life in order to save the Captain from harm. However the Captain was moving in such a way that Kenny, the redshirt in question, could not get in a position to protect Kirk. Kenny was reasonably certain that Kirk wasn't doing it on purpose. The Captain's very nature to be "heroic as possible" was what urged the man to do everything he could to lead the way, though that was the most dangerous thing to do on a mission. It frustrated Kenny, for he belonged to "security" and was thus one of the gods whose sole purpose was to keep the Captain and the crew as safe as possible. Yet he had to fight the Captain's very nature to have the best possible chance of protecting him. Kenny worried himself sick in the five minutes it took for them to reach the village and then breathed a sigh of relief when they reached it safely.

Kenny relaxed his guard and when he did so, a fluffy white cloud appeared and surrounded him. Along with the cloud came a scent of honey and an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. Cartman, not only Kenny's best friend but also the other redshirt, screamed out, "Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Which, unfortunately was the last thing Kenny heard. The cloud sucked the life-force out of him and floated away even as Kirk and the other guards shot at it with their phasers, the specialized guns which shot out rays of energy instead of bullets.

"Oh my god, that cloud killed Kenny!" Cartman exclaimed even as McCoy knelt next to Kenny and scanned him.

Leonard hoped beyond hope that he would be able to do something, anything to save the young man, but soon realized it was too late. "I'm sorry Jim, he's dead."

Kirk bowed his head for a moment, grieving for the young man and acknowledging his passing.

"Captain...," Doctor McCoy began.

"What is it Bones?" Captain Kirk asked.

"Just something strange about the body. See here? The cloud left a sprig of parsley behind, on Kenny's right shoulder. Almost as if it was a garnish," Doctor McCoy said, sounding vaguely appalled. And as he finished speaking, music emanated from around them and surrounded them. Ominous and powerful, it went through them, and somehow brought with it the sense that more death would come.

***

"You mean that cloud is taunting us?" Cartman asked.

"Not necessarily, it could just be that leaving parsley behind is instinctual and not an attempt to purposely irritate us," Spock pointed out.

"Does it really make a difference whether it's taunting us or whether it is instinctual?" McCoy asked.

"Yes," Spock replied. "If it is instinctual, then the fact it left parsley behind could be an important clue as to how we can best find this cloud and defeat it. And if it was left behind just to taunt us, we must not let it rile us. For if we do react to the taunting, if taunting it is, then the cloud will have gotten what it wanted—for us to act irrationally instead of logically and with purpose."

"Either way, we must find the priestess. She is the one most likely to have the most information on what the cloud has done so far. And the more information we have on it, the more likely we will find a way to defeat it and avenge Kenny's death!" Kirk proclaimed. “The temple should be centrally located, so let's go."

The Captain led the way, followed closely by Cartman, though Cartman's attention did not seem to be focused on keeping the older god safe. Instead, Cartman seemed wrapped up in grief and thus distracted from what he was doing.

Leonard quickened his pace a bit so he could catch up with the other god. "I know you and Kenny were close."

"Yeah, more than close," Cartman said.

"He told me how much he loved you and how glad he was for every moment he got to spend with you," Doctor McCoy said.

"That doesn't make it any easier though, doc," Cartman said. "He was the only god for me and I don't know if I want to go on without him."

"Please try," Leonard said. "He would want you to at least try. Besides, you are the one god most capable of keeping his memory alive because you are the one to have known him best."

"I'll try, but I can't promise anything," Cartman said, "given the fact I seem to have a bull's-eye superimposed on me."

"Yeah, I know. But it should be possible for us to defy fate. We are gods after all," Doctor McCoy said.

"We are," Cartman said and perked up. "Which means I have a job to do, if I want to live up to my godhood and do honour to Kenny's memory."

Leonard nodded and patted the young man's shoulder. Then slowed down his pace so he could come up beside Spock.

"So, any idea on what the cloud is up to or why the Captain is so obsessed with it yet?" McCoy asked of the god who both fascinated and frustrated him in turn.

"No, not yet. I have not gathered enough data to support any theory," Spock said.

"Any ideas on how we're going to catch it or defeat it, should we need to do either?" Len demanded.

"No. However, once we have more information on just what the cloud is and what its intentions are, we should then have a clearer idea on what we should do about it," Spock replied.

"So your advice would be to watch and wait," Leonard surmised.

"Yes, and to run should any clouds approach you suddenly," Spock said with perfect seriousness.

Leonard reluctantly snorted. Keeping step with Spock as they walked together toward the temple, his worries about what might lay ahead felt a bit lighter as long as he was near the Vulcan god. Almost as if the other god was helping him carry the burden of all the worries his position of healer of the gods brought with it.

They reached the temple moments later, all of them knowing it was the temple though there wasn't much difference in the way it looked from the other buildings in the village. In fact, the only difference seemed to be the decorations carved into the door frame, the eaves of the roof, and the way it was drawing the gods to it, much like moths were drawn to a flame.

Kirk was the first to enter the temple, which he did with as much drama and pizzazz as he could. Wanting all the attention to focus on him. Thinking that this would get the attention of the priestess that called him.

"We are here to answer your prayer!" Kirk proclaimed in his most commanding voice.

"Thank you," the priestess said as she walked towards them. Her posture conveying respect, awe and deference. "Though we tried to defeat the cloud on our own, we were unable to and it keeps coming back, once a day, to feed on us. Taking us one at a time."

"Wait, did you say feeding?" McCoy asked the Liz-Taylor-at-fifty look-alike.

"Yes, feeding," she confirmed, turning to him. "At least, that is what it seems like it does to us. It seems to suck the life out of the person it envelopes and each person it does envelope is left without a drop of blood within his or her body."

"Did it do the same to Kenny?" Kirk asked Doctor McCoy.

"No, but possibly only because we don't really have blood, seeing as we are gods. We just seem to have blood. What we have is essentially different from blood," Leonard answered.

"Oh. Okay, so it's possible the cloud is feeding off of blood?" Kirk asked.

"It's possible, yes," Leonard confirmed.

"Has this cloud been seen more frequently in any particular area?" Spock asked.

"Yes, a bit north and east of the town. There is a large area full of sand and strangely shaped rocks where many of our young men go in the hopes of having a vision from the gods on what work they are suited for, or which young woman they should court, or other things," the priestess replied.

"I know the area," Garrovick said. "It radiates with the same worshipful energy as this temple does. And it has a sulphur spring near it."

"Yes, it does," the priestess confirmed.

"Okay then, we will do all we can to help you with this cloud." Kirk smiled at the priestess, eyes glinting with interest. "So, you likely want to worship me privately, right?"

"Wrong," she replied, "though I am flattered by your interest."

"Of course you are, I am a god," Kirk said. "In fact, the only reason you are turning me down is likely your worry about your people and what the cloud might do to them."

"Um, yes, that's it," she said. "And I must go back to work." She scurried away, her elegant robes drifting behind her.

"Okay, let's go track down this cloud," Kirk exclaimed, and all the gods headed out with determination. All hoping they would be able to stop the cloud before it killed again.

Second Commercial Break

"Are we to commercial now?" Kirk asked the director.

"Yes, we are," the director confirmed.

"Good," Kirk said, looking over his script. "Why haven't I scored with anyone yet? I should have a love scene in here somewhere and yet I don't see one."

"That's because you don't get a love scene in this episode," the director explained.

"But I'm the King of the Gods! Or the closest thing this pantheon has to one. I should be irresistible to everyone we meet and yet I've been shot down by my second-in-command AND the priestess of the temple we visited. She, at least, should have been overcome by my charisma and unable to do anything but fall into bed with me!"

"Yes, but she somehow resisted your alleged charm," Ensign Garrovick said.

"Oh, that is so it! You are so going to die in this episode!" Kirk threatened.

"I know. It's in the script. I think it has something to do with the fact that I am not one of the main characters and the fact that I seem to have a bull's-eye painted on me,"

Garrovick said. "Or perhaps because it is part of the legend being retold now that I, the son of the captain you served under the first time you came across this odd cloud, will sacrifice myself to defeat the monster. Thus giving you a character-building moment."

"You may have a point, but I still say you're jealous of me. That's the only reason you might have for calling my charm alleged."

"If you say so Captain," Garrovick sighed.

"And what are you two doing?" Kirk asked Spock and McCoy, who were standing off to one side, not quite hand in hand. In fact, it was almost as if they were standing so that only their index and middle fingers would touch.

"What do you mean Jim?" Leonard asked.

"Why do you both have your fingers extended to each other? Why are you rubbing your index and middle fingers with Spock's? For that matter, why are you standing so close together?" Jim demanded.

"Just passing time while waiting for the commercial to end," Leonard replied.

"And comforting each other; two gods have died recently, the first two of the pantheon to die," Spock pointed out. "We may not have known them very well, but they are still worth mourning. Even if only for a few moments."

"Oh, okay, you may have a point. Benny and Partman? Should be remembered," Kirk said.

"Their names were Kenny and Cartman; they were lovers and decent gods," Leonard said.

"And you know that how?" Jim asked.

"I know everyone in the pantheon, as all of them are my patients and I try to be a friend to all of them, even though I know that will make things harder for me when one of them dies," the doctor replied.

"Oh, I did not know that," Kirk said. The captain looked at the director. "Are we returning from commercial yet? I want to be sure that the camera catches my good side."

"No, there are two more ads to show before we come back to the episode. You have about three minutes left," the director answered.

"Is that time enough for me to have one last coffee and smoke?" Garrovick asked.

"Sure, go ahead, make it quick though," the director told him.

Garrovick produced a coffee and smoke out of seemingly nowhere and began to sip and puff in turn. Savouring both for he knew it would be the last time he could enjoy such a thing. Glad that he was going to get such a heroic death though, for that meant he would never be forgotten. All who heard the legend about his self sacrifice would always remember it and perhaps tell others, thus keeping his memory alive.

"I wish I could save him," Leonard whispered to Spock. "I wish there was something, anything I could do to save him."

"I know," Spock soothed and caressed McCoy's fingers with his own. "Unfortunately there is nothing you can do. I will be here for you though, to help you through it."

"Good, that will help a bit. Not much mind you, for my heart and soul will always ache when someone dies," Leonard said. "And it won't matter if they're a god or a mortal, it'll always hurt."

"And I will always be here for you," Spock said.

"Okay, we're coming back from commercial in five, four, three, two...."

The director waved his hand for the action to start.

End of commercial break.

For a moment there is nothing but sand and rocks. Then Ensign Garrovick steps into sight, followed closely by the other gods. Captain Kirk immediately began strutting about, finding the most prominent site and standing there, thus becoming the centre of attention. Ensign Cartman, Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy spread out to search the area.

"So, any ideas on how we'll attract the cloud’s attention?" Leonard asked.

"We could try making the substance that sustains our bodies to be more like blood, to see if that gets the cloud’s attention," Ensign Cartman suggested.

"That's a bad idea, son,” Doctor McCoy growled, "a very bad idea. If we did that the cloud could eat another one of us and we don't want that to happen."

"Well, what else can we do? It's not as if we have a whole lot of options," Cartman said.

"For if we do nothing, more people from the village will die and it is our job to keep them safe."

"I know that! I just want to find a safer way to get the cloud’s attention, a way that we can capture it or kill it or whatever we need to do to keep the people safe," McCoy not quite yelled.

"Fine. I'll see if I can find any trace of the cloud in the area," Cartman said and stomped off, obviously upset.

Leonard sighed, hoping the god wouldn't do anything foolish, but despairing for him. He just wished there was something he could do to keep him—to keep everyone—safe and alive.

Cartman continued to stomp until he could look around and see nothing but rock and sand. Once he was sure he was alone, he concentrated his powers around himself, trying to figure out just how the villagers' blood was different from the energy in himself that pretended to be blood. He learned that there wasn't very much difference and thus it shouldn't take too much effort to alter the energy within himself to be more like blood. He also wondered why the cloud had enveloped and eaten Kenny's life-force if it preferred blood. Perhaps the cloud had just wanted something different to eat. Perhaps Kenny's blood had been more like the villagers’ blood than the energy that flowed in the other gods’ veins. Perhaps it was just because the blood and the energy weren't all that different, thus equally good as food to the cloud monster. No matter what it was, Cartman was determined to do something about the cloud himself.

Once the energy within Cartman had become like that of the blood of the villagers, he opened his eyes and looked around. He saw the cloud that had killed Kenny on the horizon, headed towards him. He took out his tricorder scanning device and began scanning it, gathering as much information about it as he could. The cloud came towards him and he smiled. It seemed to sniff at him and then wrapped itself around him. He screamed for but a moment and then there was only a flash of light behind his eyes as he died. A sense of peace and welcome. A feeling of Kenny's arms welcoming him home. Welcoming him to the afterlife, to their own section of the afterlife called South Park.

The other gods ran toward the sound of the scream, hoping for the best, but fearing for the worst. Kirk and McCoy were the first on the scene, Leonard immediately going to Cartman's side and scanning him. Double checking the scan with his fingers at Cartman's pulse point. "He's dead Jim," McCoy told the Captain.

"His tricorder is still scanning, though," Spock pointed out. "We now have a lot of information on the cloud and what it did to Cartman."

"Other than draining him of life and leaving a sprig of parsley behind?" McCoy sniped sarcastically.

"Yes, other than that. This information may help us develop a plan of attack, may aid us in our quest to stop the cloud creature before it kills yet another individual,” Spock informed them. "I do need a few minutes to analyze the information though."

"Okay, we should have the time. After all, the cloud has eaten twice today instead of the normal once-a-day thing, so it should be full, shouldn't it?" Kirk asked.

"It might not be," Leonard pointed out reluctantly. "The cloud has grown in size since we last saw it, or that's my impression from seeing it leaving as we got here."

"You are correct doctor," Spock agreed. "It has gotten larger and thus may need more food."

"Or it may be preparing to divide into two clouds or give birth or whatever it is that cloud creatures do," Doctor McCoy said.

"No matter what it may be doing, we need to find a way to stop it," Kirk proclaimed.

"We will do all we can Captain," Spock assured him.

"Yeah Jim, we'll find a way to stop it," Leonard agreed.

Ensign Garrovick stood at their side, feeling somewhat superfluous and wondering just why the Captain had brought him along, for he hadn't really done much of anything. Not like Cartman, who had found a way to gather information on the cloud, even at the expense of his own life. However, he was sure there was something he would be able to do. That the Fates had something special in store for him. That somehow he would go down in history for what he did right here, right now to stop the cloud.

While standing to the side, he noticed how closely the Commander and the doctor were standing to each other. They were well inside each other's personal space. Close enough to touch if they had wanted to, and there seemed to be some sort of energy flowing between the two and yet neither seemed to be aware of it. It was odd, but mesmerizing. It also reminded him of something. But what?

Ensign Garrovick thought for a few moments and then realized of what the flowing energy between Spock and McCoy reminded him. It reminded him of the energy that flowed between Kenny and Cartman, though the energy that had flowed between the two redshirts nearly glowed and the energy he was seeing now was a faint gossamer. Yet it showed promise of becoming more. Perhaps it just needed time to grow stronger, to become the glowing energy that the other two gods had shown. But what was the strange energy? Would it attract the cloud? Or would it protect the gods somehow?

Music came out of nowhere again, this time conveying a sense of mystery and of potential hope.

***

Kirk gathered the away team of gods together. "So, what's the situation?"

"I have finished analyzing the information Cartman managed to gather," Spock informed them. "The priestess was on the right track. The cloud is feeding on the blood, but a very specific part of the blood, the plasma. We could perhaps use this to our advantage by collecting as much of what we use for blood in a container and changing it into plasma. That is, if something like that is even possible."

"It is," Doctor McCoy assured them. "Cartman did something similar to attract the cloud to him." Able to say this because he had also analyzed the information Cartman had gathered, hoping that his sacrifice would lead to some good. "It will take a lot of energy and I will have to focus my abilities in order to effect the change, but it can be done. However, once we have the plasma for bait, what are we going to do?"

"It should be possible for us to destroy the cloud with an antimatter implosion," Spock said and then explained how it worked in technobabble that only he understood.

"Fine, fine," Kirk said. "How long will it take to get the plasma ready and the antimatter together?"

"At least a few hours," Spock and McCoy said in unison.

"Okay, get it done as soon as possible," Kirk ordered.

Spock and Leonard went to work. Focusing their energy on their separate tasks. Ensign Garrovick donated his energy to both gods, in the hopes it would help them complete their tasks faster. Doing all he could to keep an eye out for the cloud, so as to be able to protect these two gods from it, for they could not be prevented from accomplishing what they needed to do. Garrovick wasn't sure just what it was they were doing, but it looked complicated. As if they were gathering the various forms of energy from around themselves and from each other and weaving them together to form something very different. The energy that McCoy was manipulating began to look like millions of drops of red and then transformed somehow into what the Ensign had to assume was plasma. While the energy that Spock was manipulating was glowing bright white and swirling around. It was amazing. To Garrovick it looked like liquid lightning and, was, he assumed, antimatter.

Doctor McCoy poured the plasma he created into a huge container and sealed it. Then looked over at Spock and saw the white energy flowing from him and into a gizmo which Len assumed was the antimatter implosion device. Len gasped in what he told himself was amazement. Denying the strong surge of attraction and affection he had felt towards the other god in that moment.

"Now all we need to do is set the trap and wait for the cloud to show up," Leonard said.

"I should be the one to do that," Spock informed them.

"No, I'm the Captain of the gods, it should be me who gets to do the heroic thing," Kirk proclaimed.

"Except that the energy flowing within me has nothing in common with plasma, which means the cloud is of no danger to me," Spock pointed out.

"He's right Jim. I hate it, but he's right. The stuff he calls energy has nothing in common with what the cloud siphons off," Leonard grumbled.

"Fine, he can set the trap, but I get to be on the button that sets off the implosion device," Kirk huffed irritably.

"Of course Captain," Spock soothed and handed him the button that would trigger the implosion.

"Okay, Garrovick you're with me," the Captain ordered, ignoring the fact that Spock was supposed to set the trap. "You carry the bait and I'll carry the implosion device. We'll set it up and then run to those rocks there." Jim pointed to the rocks he meant. "We'll use them as cover and once we're safely behind them, I'll press the button and the cloud will implode."

The younger god carried the plasma carefully, not wanting to chance spilling even a drop of it for he had seen how much it took out of the doctor to create the substance. He placed the container in the spot they had decided upon as the best place to trap the cloud, then watched as the Captain set up the implosion device.

The Captain struck a heroic pose and proclaimed, "Together, we gods have found a way to defeat an enemy which could not be captured. An enemy that was growing and becoming more dangerous with every day. When I press this button, this enemy will be no more and we gods will have proven ourselves to be omnipotent, powerful, cunning and able to deal with anything or anyone determined to do wrong to our people!"

It was only once he had finished his proclamation that he ran for the rocks he had indicated as the place he and the Ensign should hide. He was closely followed by Garrovick, who had only waited with Kirk in order to attempt to keep him safe. As they ran, the cloud zoomed into the area. Travelling quicker than it ever had before. It headed straight for the clear container that held the plasma and drank it down. And a sprig of parsley fell from the cloud, landing upon the bottle. To Garrovick this was the last straw. Even if it had been an unintentional reflex, it was as taunting as if the cloud had expelled the plant on purpose.

"I can create more plasma," McCoy offered, obviously tired.

"We may never get another chance, the scent of honey emitting from it is conveying words to my mind. Home. Babies. We can not let it go wherever its home is nor can we let it have babies. I will use myself as bait," Kirk said, standing with purpose and doing his best to look as heroic as possible. His offer came too late though, for Ensign Garrovick had started to run for the area where the trap was laid the moment he saw the cloud finishing off its drink of plasma. By the time Kirk had finished speaking, the Ensign was already next to the implosion device and the cloud was already enveloping him.

The three gods heard him scream.

"Press the button Jim! For the Great Bird's sake, press the button!" Leonard yelled, not wanting the young man's attempt at self-sacrifice to be in vain.

Jim pressed the button and the device imploded, pulling the cloud into itself and causing it to pop out of existence with a big bang and a bright light.

"Did it work?" Captain Kirk asked.

Spock used his tricorder to scan the area around them. "Yes, it did."

"And Ensign Garrovick?" Jim asked.

"He's dead Jim, whether by the cloud or the implosion I could not tell you. But he will be remembered, for his sacrifice helped others to live."

"Yes, and he will be missed," Jim said, obviously grieving. "Just as his father is missed. They were both good beings and their memories shall live on as long as we exist. So I proclaim it, so shall it be."

Third Commercial Break

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***

Now for today’s weather. Be on the lookout for low-lying cumulous clouds: one has been one reported in the area, and it’s said to be dangerous. We would advise caution should you need to travel for any reason. On the bright side, it is mostly sunny with a westerly wind. There is a slight chance of rain later today and into the evening. It should be sunny and warm tomorrow, and most likely will be clear.

Please stay tuned for the full forecast and the news, which will be broadcast right after this episode.

***

The Scarborough Fair is coming to town this weekend! There will be rides for the whole family to enjoy. Jugglers, clowns and daredevils will be on hand to amaze and astound you as you feast on the many delicacies available at the food booths. Come for the farm fair and support our local farmers by buying their goods! Artisans will have their fine crafts on display, with works of art available for sale, and more! There will be a sale on all Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, for you to use to garnish and flavour your food.

***

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***

Tune in later tonight after the news for “The Evening Show” with Kevin Riley. Tonight’s guest stars include Ensign Pavel Chekov, god of navigation and youth, who’s guaranteed to tell us a folk tale which will demonstrate his national pride. Also on the show, amazing pets and their humans. Who is really in charge? Do we need to ask? As a special treat, Kevin Riley will regale us with five verses of the song he has dedicated to the goddess of his life, Kathleen. Sure to have many laughs and a few surprises in store, this is a not-to-be-missed episode.

End of Commercial

Sage

After dealing with the deaths of the three red shirts because of a strange cloud, the goddess of love was determined to do all she could to keep an eye on the crew. One way she did so was to walk through the main corridors on every deck of Enterprise once a day. The beautiful goddess did this for several reasons. One of them was to look at all the wall hangings, paintings and artwork. Another was that she enjoyed walking and to do so through the corridors on Enterprise was always interesting. The last was that she got to see many of the other gods and goddesses and seeing them helped her to determine whether they were falling in love, already in love, or open to the possibility of meeting someone with whom they could find affection. Every now and then, she would chat with one of her many friends, to see how they were and just encourage them to confide in her.

There were times when the love goddess was frustrated with what she sensed from one of the gods and goddesses. This was due to the god or goddess either being deep in denial about how he or she felt toward another or becoming obsessed with someone completely and utterly unsuitable. Unfortunately, the one goddess who most frustrated her was also her best friend, Christine. A goddess with a warm, loving heart, a gentle compassion, a quick mind and the ability to know when to support Doctor McCoy's orders and when to stand up to him. A goddess with both inner and outer beauty, who deserved to be loved for who she was. Yet she was obsessed with Commander Spock, a god who could never return her feelings for he was meant for another. Nyota had tried to reason with the goddess, to help her see that Spock wasn't for her, but every time she tried it was like trying to talk to a wall.

Then again, Nyota wasn't having much success in getting Spock and Leonard together. They were fighting both her attempts to fix them up with each other and the natural pull they had toward each other, one that they most certainly had to be able to feel within themselves. But why? Was it just pure stubbornness? Was it due to a mistaken belief that love between two gods was wrong? Was it because of the ridiculous No Fraternization regulation with which Starfleet had saddled the command staff of the pantheon? The very No Fraternization regulation that the Captain broke regularly? The regulation that no one took seriously? Or was it something else? Whatever it was, she had to do something to make them see sense. To act on their feelings for each other.

Perhaps if she talked to each of the gods separately, she could find out what was making them fight the love that was trying to grow between them. But with whom to start? She was equally close to both of them, in different ways. If she started with Spock, she would have to first get him to acknowledge that he could have feelings, which would probably be harder than pulling hens’ teeth. With McCoy she would have to first get through his deep fear of being hurt again by love, to convince him that the scars left behind on his heart and soul could be healed BY love even though they had been caused by broken love, the broken love between him and his ex-wife. Quite frankly Nyota thought she might need advice on just what to do about the situation, which meant she had to figure out from whom to get advice AND fight the reluctance she felt at the very idea of seeking advice. Love was supposed to be her specialty. As was communication, so this was something that she felt, for the most part, she should have been able to figure out on her own. To seek advice in the situation WAS embarrassing, but it would also be worth it if it helped her figure out how to get Spock and McCoy together.

Nyota found it easier to approach those she considered friends for advice. Christine was out due to her feelings for Spock. As was Yeoman Rand, since she was an irreverent gossiper and could not be trusted to keep a secret. The Captain would find it impossible to believe that either man could want anyone other than himself. Hikaru was a possibility, but only if she could get him away from Gertrude the moving plant. Considering how possessive Gertrude was of the man that was probably unlikely. Chekov was out, not because of his youth, but because he was just a little too much like an eager puppy.

Which left Scotty as the last of her close friends. Although a self-confirmed bachelor, he could perhaps give her the best advice. He had a way of seeing things no one else did, he had a lot of common sense and he was good friends with both gods and since he was a god, too, he probably understood how gods thought better than she did. Best of all, he knew how to keep secrets.

***

Scotty looked up as Spock walked into Engineering and smiled. "Thank you for coming; I really could use your help with several projects connected to both the engine and shields. By working on these projects I'm hoping to find a way to increase engine efficiency and increase the power available to us. Power we can use to keep all of us safer, make it possible for us to respond to prayers faster, and to possibly add to our pantheon, which would make us stronger."

"All admirable goals. How can I help?" Spock asked.

"Well, the first project I would like your help with is the dilithium crystals," Scotty answered. "We channel the energy through the flat side and the crystals do transform it into an energy beam but the energy beam we get is much more diffuse than I would like. I'm thinking if we could find a way to improve the clarity of the crystal and perhaps change its shape the way a jeweller changes the shape of gemstones, then perhaps we would get a more focused beam and that would be the first step in getting more power."

"Once we're finished that, we can start working on other things," Scotty continued. "I have plans worked out on what else I would like to do written down on this PADD. Perhaps you can look the plans over and make suggestions on what we can do to speed up the time it will take for us to implement all the improvements. Currently I estimate it will take us ten to twelve days."

Spock took the PADD and looked the plans over. Everything Scotty was proposing would improve energy flow and efficiency and thus bring many benefits to the ship, the pantheon and their subjects. The gods and goddesses could do more, achieve more with more energy available. Lives would be improved and changes could be made more easily.

"When do you want to start?" Spock asked.

"Right away, if possible," Scott replied.

"It is," Spock assured him. "I will examine the crystals to see if we can change their shapes and if so, what configuration would be the most efficient."

"Okay, I've had a few ideas on how to improve the clarity of the crystals, so I'll start to work on that," Scotty informed Spock.

"I would suggest that we check with each other every now and then to see what ideas we have come up with in the hopes that if we do, we will come up with a solution more quickly," Spock offered.

"Makes sense, how about we talk over lunch and then have supper together, talk about what we have come up with and see where we stand," Scotty suggested.

"Could we not meet before meals, instead of over them?" Spock asked.

"Meeting over them would be more efficient," Scotty pointed out.

"True," Spock acknowledged. "May I have one of the crystals to examine more closely?"

"Yes, there's one in that box there, near the quantum scanner," Scott pointed out.

Spock nodded and went to the box, got the crystal out and began to examine it. Scotty smiled. So far, Nyota's plan was working, at least on his end. He just hoped this was the answer, that if Leonard and Spock truly were in love, that this would help them realize it.

***

"Is something wrong doctor?" Nurse Christine Chapel asked Leonard.

"Yes, but there's really nothing you can do about it," Doctor McCoy replied. "It's...well, I went to the bridge earlier and Spock wasn't there. Apparently he'll be working in engineering for the next week on something so important that he and Scott will be taking lunch and supper there instead of going to the mess hall. I guess I'm just missing our daily debate."

"I could argue with you if it would help," Christine offered.

"Nah," Leonard laughed, "your ears aren't pointed enough. Besides, it's not as if I can't make do without it."

Christine smiled. "Probably. Though the consensus amongst us, the medical staff, is that you're addicted to arguing with Spock so I'll be keeping an eye on you. Just in case you start to experience withdrawal symptoms."

"I appreciate the thought," Leonard told her, "but I'm not addicted to it. I just enjoy it and can quit anytime."

"That is what addicts say when they are in denial," Christine pointed out.

"True. Maybe this will be good for me, give me a chance to pick up another hobby," Doctor McCoy mused.

"Or give you time to do all that paperwork that is on your desk. If you don't do it soon, the stack may reach the ceiling, or collapse under its own weight. The last time that happened, we misplaced one of the crewmen. By the way, did we ever find Crewman Bob?" Christine asked.

"Not that I’ve heard. Maybe he's still buried under there," Leonard speculated.

"Which is even more reason why you should tackle it. You never know what, or whom, you might find in it or under it," Christine said.

"Yes, yes, I get the idea nurse. Why don't you go back to work?" Leonard asked and looked at her.

"Right away sir," Christine said, giving him a mock salute.

Leonard laughed and headed to his office; maybe the paperwork would distract him from missing the Vulcan. Not that he WAS missing Spock, it was more...well, more something else. There was just no way he could be missing the god. Besides, he'd probably get to see him later on. The god of logic had to take a break eventually and he'd just have to be ready for it so he could go talk to his friend.

***

Having made the decision about whom to approach, Uhura immediately sought him out. She started in the engineering section because that was where Scotty spent most of his time. She found him in front of the warp core and it almost looked to her as if he was worshipping it. Nyota knew that Scotty had a unique relationship with his engine and the ship in which they travelled. Both the ship and the engine were nearly sentient and as such COULD have relationships with the gods and goddesses within, but only if the deities in question were not only open minded but very dedicated. Scotty was both.

"Hello Mr. Scott," Nyota said and smiled as the god turned to her with surprise on his face.

"Ah lass, this is a treat," said the god of invention, the forge, and machinery. "You don't come down here to my domain very often. Are you here for a reason?"

"Yes, I am. I need your advice on something," Nyota replied, leaning up to him and kissing his cheek. "But I would prefer it if we could go somewhere that would be more private as I don't want to be overheard."

"Of course lass, whatever you're most comfortable with," Scotty assured her. "We can go to my office. Or perhaps my quarters. I have some nice single malt in there; or we could take some of engineering’s blend of coffee into my office."

"That coffee is so strong that you could probably run the ship on it," Nyota teased.

"Ah, you've learned my secret, lass," Scotty smiled. "I run the engine on coffee."

"That's probably why it runs so well then," Nyota said. "If it's good enough for the ship, then it’s good enough for me."

Scotty grinned with obvious pleasure and took the goddess's arm, making her glow with happiness. She knew he loved her, in the way one good friend loves another. Knew that he would do almost anything for her. Knew that she held a special place in his heart, and that knowledge made her feel special. She knew what a privilege it was to be loved by this god and she swore never to abuse his friendship in any way.

Once in his office, he sat behind his desk and she sat in front of it. He poured them both a cup of coffee and slid the sugar over to her. She put two generous spoonfuls in and stirred.

"So, what has you worried?" Scotty asked.

Nyota sighed. "I feel as if I'm failing in my duty as a goddess."

"Oh, that just can't be, lass," Scotty protested. "You are one of the most capable goddesses I know. Your work could not possibly be called into question."

"And yet I can't seem to help two of the deities on the ship see that they are in love with each other. I know it would help for me to talk to them separately, but I have no idea how to approach the subject with either of them or explain it in such a way that it would make it easier for them to accept. Which means I am failing in my duty as a love goddess and the goddess of communication."

"And who are these two deities?" Scotty asked.

"Commander Spock and Leonard McCoy," Nyota replied.

Scotty blinked and looked at her. "You're sure about this? That they are in love with each other?"

"Haven't you seen it?" Nyota asked, having thought it was obvious.

"Well, they do snipe at each other like an old married couple, but no, I haven't seen it," Scotty answered.

"Leonard is always coming up to the bridge for no reason at all but to start an argument with Spock. Always standing in a spot that gives him the ability to look at Spock either directly or without anyone but me noticing. His eyes are always drawn either to Spock's eyes, his hands or his ass. And though Spock knows the arguments are illogical, knows that it would be easy for him to put a stop to them, he encourages them. To the point of starting them himself. And whenever they walk through a corridor together, or are both standing on the bridge at the same time, they always get as close as they can to each other without actually touching. Added to that is the fact they seek each other out at meal times, and whenever we have shipboard recreation. Once together and off duty, or off the bridge, Spock reaches out to touch Leonard or vice versa. You KNOW how important touch is to Vulcans. Len KNOWS about the touch telepathy thing and yet he continues to touch Spock AND Spock continues to touch him."

"You have a point, lass," Scotty admitted. "I've even caught Spock in the medical labs from time to time, talking to Leonard. I didn't think it was strange at the time, for Spock is a scientist and could have been there for some sort of scientific experiment, but now it seems that maybe, just maybe Spock likes being close to the good doctor."

"And yet they are fighting their feelings for each other," Nyota told her friend. "And I have reason to think they are either in denial about their feelings or fighting against having them."

"Well, Spock was raised to believe he should control all feelings, suppress and deny them," Scotty pointed out. "And Leonard was burned badly by his wife and a few other ladies. I think he would be very reluctant to risk his heart again."

"They're so perfect for each other though!" Nyota exclaimed. "I can see from the energy that flows between them, even now, that they are compatible. I can see that energy trying to pull them together. I can see exactly how, if they let the love they have for each other grow, that it would grow strong and become permanent. I just can't think of a way to make them see it."

"See, that's just the problem. You can't make someone see something they aren't ready or perhaps not willing to see. It has to be something they come to see for themselves," Scotty told her.

"But with them both fighting their feelings AND being so stubborn, they might never see it and that would be a tragedy," Nyota said mournfully. "They are soul mates, Scotty. You know how rare that is. Even for us gods."

"Yes, I know," Scotty said. "Perhaps what they need is just more time. I mean, they're practically spending every minute of the day together right now, which means they'll have lots of opportunities to see they're suited."

Nyota blinked. "Maybe that's the problem."

"What do you mean lass?" Scotty asked.

"Maybe they're spending too much time together," Nyota said. "Maybe they have become so used to feeling the pull toward each other and fighting it that they don't realize it is there anymore. Maybe what is needed is for them not to see each other for a few days. The energy would still be there, still reaching out and pulling at them, but pulling harder and thus harder to ignore. They would begin to miss each other, long for each other and perhaps, just perhaps begin to ache for each other's presence. Something neither could ignore regardless of how stubborn both are."

"Aye, you may have something there lass. But how do we prevent them from seeing each other for a few days? It's a small ship after all," Scotty said.

"I don't suppose you have something that you could use Spock's help with for a few days?" Nyota asked.

"Actually, I do have a few projects I could use Spock's help with," Scotty admitted. "Just what do you have in mind?"

"A way to make sure that Spock and Leonard have no opportunity to see each other for the next five days. Hopefully that will be enough for them to come to realize the inevitable," Nyota smiled.

"Something sneaky and underhanded?" Scotty asked with a mischievous grin.

"Of course, and you are going to get to help," Nyota told him.

"Commander Scott, we need you in the engine room, the warp core is pouting," a voice said, broadcasted into the room through the intercom.

"I'll be right there O'Neill," Scotty replied and then turned to Nyota. "Send me your plan once you have it hashed out. I'll help you all I can."

"I know you will," Nyota assured him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome lass," Scotty replied and left the room.

Fourth Commercial Break

Looking for excitement? Come to the Coliseum this weekend for the Championship Gladiator fight of the year! Brutus the Knife will face off against Haggar the Fierce in a battle to the death! These two gladiators have hated each other for years—and for good reason! Fight fans will remember that Brutus captured the barbarian Haggar fifteen years ago, while Haggar killed Brutus' shield-mate in an attempt to win his own freedom. The victor will win a crown of gold and become a freeman!

Also featured: Several hungry lions who will demonstrate their hunting prowess as condemned debtors attempt to flee for their lives! Place your bets on who will be the last to die, and win money! If you can correctly guess the long shot, you could win up to 50 quatloos!

Twelve other gladiator matches will round out the weekend entertainment—and it’s rumoured that the mayor himself will be in attendance! The games will start at noon and continue until they are finished. As always, snacks and refreshments will be available on site.

***

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***

Announcing the arrival of the very latest in horse-drawn carts—the NX-01! Produced by the Smythy Company, it is a sturdy four-wheeled joy that is easy for horses to pull. The wagon boxes are large and capable of carrying heavy loads. The wheels have been made to last, and come with the latest in carved decorations. These amazing carts navigate any road or path and can go off road easily! Each cart comes with a will-last-for-years guarantee. The NX-01 easy to pull in any direction you may want to go. All this can be yours for six easy payments of 20 quatloos a month. Get one while supplies last, from a dealership near you!

***

New, at the Orion Amphitheatre! See the world-renowned play by the great Atticus of New Vulcan! It is the story of a young warrior named Perticus, thrust suddenly into a leadership position when his troop commander dies in battle. Unbeknownst to him, his brother, whom he has never met, is the leader of the enemy troops! Perticus will need to choose between loyalty to his brother and loyalty to his country! And that’s not all! The Commander’s shield-mate is injured in the first battle, the god of trickery is nearby and the Captain of the gods is eyeing the Commander's wife while she is at home, alone, waiting for her husband to return.

Come for the drama! Come for the love story! Come to find out the moral of the story! All of this for just one quatloo per admission!

***

Do you have foot fungus? Back pain? Mysterious spots in embarrassing places? No need to fear—come to Mrs. Lear! She guarantees complete discretion and will use the very latest in herbal remedies, specially made potions, and secret treatments passed down by her mother and her mother's mother. Famous for her compassion and for her repeat business. She accepts payment of chickens, eggs, farm produce and other material things. She will also do home visits if you can find a way to get word to her about where to go. Mrs. Lear is dedicated, organized and selects all the ingredients that go into her treatments carefully. She’s safely used her own products for years! She is dedicated to the god McCoy and carries beads and rattles to use in the most secret of healing ceremonies for those who need it most.

***

End of commercial break.

A Most Peculiar Man

The Captain sat on his chair on the bridge and sighed. He was bored. Yeoman Rand had taken to wearing the dress-pants version of the uniform with a concealing jacket, and ever since Spock and Leonard had gone on their honeymoon, there was no one to talk to. For Nyota was in Engineering with Scotty, while Sulu and Chekov were too uncomfortable to talk to him. There were no enemy pantheons in sight, no prayers to answer, and no goddesses around that were worth ogling. He really needed something to do. Maybe he could go down to engineering and bother ... help Scotty and Uhura.

"Captain," Ensign O'Neil said, "we have an incoming transmission from someone called Harcourt Fenton Mudd. He's requesting assistance. Says the engines in his ship are malfunctioning."

"Mr. Chekov, scan the area and locate his ship," Kirk ordered.

"Yes, Captain," the ensign replied and started the scan. "The ship is at heading 102.47 and 87.32; it's about twice the size of a shuttlepod."

"Okay, then we can pull it into the shuttlebay and repair it there," Kirk said. "Ensign O'Neil, please inform Mr. Mudd that we'll take him in tow and bring him on board. Then contact the shuttlebay and let them know we'll be bringing his ship on board."

"Yes, sir. Right away," the young god replied.

Kirk stood, glad to have something to do. "I'm headed to the shuttlebay to meet Mr. Mudd; Sulu, you're in charge."

"Yes, sir," Hikaru replied and got up to sit in the Captain's chair.

Captain Kirk got into the turbolift and headed toward the shuttlebay, wondering what Mr. Mudd would be like.

***

Harry Mudd smiled as his small ship was pulled into the bigger one, already getting a small burst of energy from successfully tricking it into letting him come aboard. All he would need to do was to run a few rings around the deities on board, steal some of their stored energy and dilithium crystals, sow a bit of dissension and he'd be set for a decade or two. Given the lack of questions about him and his intentions, it should be easy for him to pull one over on this pantheon and he couldn't wait to show them a thing or two.

***

Jim got to the shuttlebay and walked in. The ship now inside it was boxy and awkward-looking but, just like any other spaceship he had ever seen, it had its own beauty. At least in Kirk's eyes. He watched as a man stepped out from her. Tall, husky, moustached, with receding hair—Kirk wasn't sure why, but his brain was screaming Used Cart Salesman. The man had a huge smile on his face, one that came off as fake, oily. The Captain was immediately on guard, having always listened to his gut instinct, which was usually right.

"I'm Captain James T. Kirk," the god told the other deity.

"I'm Harry Mudd," the god replied, offering his hand.

Jim shook his hand reluctantly. "So what are you doing in this part of space?"

"I'm a business man, always searching for new opportunities and peddling my wares to those who want them. I'm just trying to make a living," the god replied, still smiling.

"I see. And your ship?" Kirk asked.

"The engine started malfunctioning when I got to the outskirts of this solar system and, quite frankly, I have no idea why," Mudd replied.

"I'll have my best engineer take a look at it; hopefully we'll have it fixed for you before the end of today," Kirk assured him.

"There's no rush. I don't mind staying here for a few days, it'll give me a chance to show your pantheon my wares and hopefully make some pocket money," Mudd told him.

"I don't think you have anything anyone in my pantheon could need," Kirk said.

"Need? Perhaps not, but want, yes. After all, everything I have available is rare, precious, or of such quality that it makes it almost irresistible to the discerning buyer. Why I'm sure that I have something among my wares that you would like, perhaps even just to give to someone as a gift. Perhaps as a birthday present or a wedding present," Mudd encouraged as he subtly used his powers.

"Well, my two best friends did just get married to each other and I didn't get them a gift yet," Kirk mused.

"Your two best friends you say? Well then, they deserve the best. I have some rare fire gems, perfect for the new bride," Mudd touted.

"There is no new bride, both of them are gods," Kirk told him, shaking his head and giving off an indication that Mudd's influence was beginning to wear off.

Mudd concentrated for a moment and saw Kirk relax again, become suggestible. "Perhaps one of my rare massage oils. I have one that smells like cinnamon and is edible."

"That might work, Spock does like cinnamon tea," Kirk said. "But what about McCoy?"

"What kind of god is McCoy?" Mudd asked.

"He's a healer, thinks of himself as a good old-fashioned country doctor. He's a gentleman and a gentle god. Compassionate, gruff, stubborn, but with a big heart and a generous soul," Kirk replied.

"I do have an antique stethoscope among my wares, but I'd be reluctant to part with it, since it is the only one I have and I've never seen another like it," Mudd mentioned.

"I'd be willing to pay well for it. I have quite a few quatloos on hand," Kirk told the other god.

"I'd prefer gold-pressed latinum, as that seems to be the one currency all the gods of all the many worlds out there accept. That and MasterCard," Mudd told him.

"Okay, how much gold pressed latinum?" Kirk asked.

"For a litre of massage oil and the stethoscope? One thousand bars," Mudd replied.

"That much?" Kirk asked, obviously shocked. So much so he almost became immune to the control Mudd was exerting over him.

"The stethoscope is one of a kind," Mudd replied. "But if one thousand bars are beyond what the head god of such a minor pantheon like yours can afford...." Mudd's voice trailed off.

"My pantheon is not minor! We are powerful! And among the most respected pantheons! I can afford the one thousand bars, but only if you are willing to produce proof that the stethoscope is one of a kind," Kirk stated firmly.

"Of course. It comes with a certificate of authenticity. As soon as the full payment is made, you can have both the stethoscope and the certificate," Mudd assured him.

"And the massage oil?" Kirk asked.

"Of course," Mudd said. "When will you be ready to make payment?"

"Not until tomorrow morning," Kirk said. "It'll take time to get all of those bars into one place."

"Sounds good. In the meantime, may I go through your ship and offer the rest of your pantheon a chance to purchase my wares?" Mudd asked.

"Only if you keep away from restricted areas and obey all orders given to you from someone in the pantheon," Kirk cautioned.

"I will," Mudd assured him.

"Okay then, you can stay, at least until tomorrow. I have to go and start getting the latinum together," Kirk said.

"Thank you Captain," Mudd said, grinning smugly.

"You're welcome Mr. Mudd ," the Captain replied and headed off toward his secret hideaway.

Dramatic music plays as Mudd leaves the scene.

***

Mudd walked through the corridors of Enterprise, mesmerizing the gods and goddesses as he went. Convincing them that they had to have the one-of-a-kind item he just happened to have on hand. Keeping a careful ear out on everything the deities were saying, hoping to overhear something he could use. Twisting gossip a bit here, exaggerating the truth there, magnifying out of proportion any complaints he overhears about anyone or anything, thus leaving chaos behind him. He had just expended a tiny portion of his energy and yet the returns he was seeing were extraordinary. The mischief created just by him, a stranger, being allowed to walk around by himself in the controlled environment of the ship was extraordinary.

Many of the women were fighting over his wares. Over the perfume he, Harry Mudd, said was the rarest. Over the makeup guaranteed to enhance one's beauty. Over the "very latest fashion from Risa" and the cheap jewellery which he was touting as pure gold. And with each new deity falling for his charm, the mischief energy created grew and thus he grew in power and importance. He had almost filled his main storage compartments with the energy and there were hints that he would have to start storing the energy in every closet, box, and container he had!

And he only had to say, "Oh, and I have many things that would be perfect wedding gifts", to get a deity to buy one of his many useless items at an inflated price. Something which brought Harry a little extra boost, put a little extra bounce in his step. As he collected energy from the Enterprise pantheon, he grew in power and influence, and the more power and influence he had the easier it was for him to influence all the deities he met. He was nearly drunk with power and convinced that no one would be able to thwart his plan of stealing as much power as he could and running.

***

"Lass, I'm worried about that strange god we've come across," Scotty told Uhura.

"Don't be silly," Nyota said, petting the calico tribble Harry had given her. "He's harmless. He's just a simple peddler. Besides, look what he gave me,” she said, showing off her new pet, scratching it to make it purr with pleasure.

"It's a nice bit of fur, but is it useful?" Scotty asked.

"Not everything has to be useful," Nyota scolded. "Sometimes all something has to be is cute and comforting and this is both. She's beautiful and she loves me."

"I still don't like the man," Scotty said.

"Has that prevented you from working on his ship?" the goddess asked.

"His ship?" Scotty exclaimed, surprised.

"Yes, the one in the port shuttlebay. From what I understand from the Ensign who was monitoring communications, he was towed in because the engine in his ship was malfunctioning," Nyota informed him.

"I hadn't heard about it," Scotty said. "This is strange, as I should have. I'll go to the shuttlebay to see why the deity posted there didn't call me."

"You do that," Uhura said. "And try to relax. I'm sure Harry can be trusted. He's a very friendly, charming god."

"If you say so," Scotty said as he headed toward the port shuttlebay.

***

Once there, he looked over Mudd’s ship. She was sturdy, reliable and there wasn't anything wrong with her engines at all. In fact, there was nothing needing repair. And there was nothing that been repaired recently either. This raised alarm bells in Scotty's mind. Made him even more suspicious of this Harry Mudd who was going through the whole pantheon selling useless things for ridiculous amounts of money. The god of the forge exited the shuttlebay and headed out, intent on helping the other deities to see reason.

The first god Scotty met was Sulu. "Wait! Lieutenant, I need your help."

"Sir?" Hikaru asked as he turned to him.

"It's about this Harry Mudd fellow," Scotty said.

"Isn't he wonderful? He helped me with Gertrude, my potted plant—she’s been depressed lately, not moving as much. He helped me by selling me a new, improved fertilizer. Gertrude liked it so much that she hugged me! Which was okay until one of her thorns tore into my skin," Sulu said, showing the god his bandaged wound. "Well, her only thorn. And I'm sure she didn't intend to hurt me."

"I see lad," Scotty said, even as he started backing away. "Thank you for telling me about this. Why don't you go visit Gertrude?"

"Oh, I will. I'm sure she'd love a bit more fertilizer," Sulu replied.

Scotty shook his head and set off to find someone else to talk to, hoping to find someone he could reason with. Unfortunately, every god and goddess he met seemed to have fallen for Mudd’s charm to such an extent that none would listen to a bad word spoken of him. The god of the forge was beginning to despair, beginning to worry that this Harry Mudd, whoever he was, would con the pantheon out of everything they owned. He needed help, but every god and goddess who had met Mudd had fallen under his spell. Was there no one else on ship unaffected?

Scotty blinked and stopped in his tracks. Then he did an about face and headed toward Spock and McCoy's new quarters, in the new section containing married quarters and family quarters. He knew the two had only had one day together to celebrate their marriage, but he felt the situation was grave enough to disturb them. He stopped in front of their door, noticing that they were in family quarters. He wondered why the Enterprise had put them there and not in the one-bedroom-apartment quarters married people without children were to get. He pressed the doorbell and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally Leonard came to the door. Looking disheveled, gasping for breath, a hickey on his neck and smelling of sex.

"Sorry for disturbing you, I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was an emergency," Scotty said.

"I know. What's up?"

"Can I come in?” Scotty asked. "I'd feel more comfortable talking about it with you inside."

"Of course, come in," Leonard said and showed him in. "Do you want Spock in on this?"

"Yes, I have reason to believe we'll need his logic," Scotty answered.

"Okay. I'll go get him. Make yourself at home. There's whisky in the bar," Leonard told him and headed off toward what was obviously the master bedroom.

Scotty looked around and noticed that the quarters Spock and Leonard had been given contained three bedrooms, an office area big enough for two and the living area. "So, Lass," Scott said, speaking out loud to Enterprise, knowing She listened to him. "What do you have planned? Do you know something I don't?"

The Enterprise chuckled and refused to answer.

 

Sixth Commercial Break

Attention! The Scarborough Fair has been held over! Come see the chariot race this Saturday afternoon. William of Shatner will be racing against George of Takei in a winner-take-all race! The first one across the finish line will take home the grand prize of 100 quatloos. Other activities will include cart rides, a petting zoo, a farm fair and many games of chance. Also available this weekend—the freak show. Come see the dog-faced boy, the bearded lady, and the rubber man! Come and be entertained by our jugglers, our magicians and more! Participate in our stilt-walking classes and amaze your friends with your skill. There is something for everyone, including traveling musicians and all kinds of food. You will not be disappointed!

***

We need you—yes, you—to enlist in today's army! Win glory for your country as you fight with honour in one of our many legions. Join forces with the shield-mate of your dreams, someone who will watch your back and give you reason to fight. You will receive weapons training, hand-to-hand combat instruction—and all your meals, lodging and uniforms will be provided free of charge! Learn a good trade: weapons crafting, tent making and more. You will become confident as your skills improve, and you will grow in strength and honour as you make your family proud. Contact your army recruitment office today and sign up for a five-year tour!

***

The Healing Baths of Elysium are now open for business in the town of Fairmountain, famous for its hot springs! The baths are renowned for their soothing and relaxing properties, for helping to ease tension and cure disease. Highly recommended to those with sore and aching joints, the lame and the infirm. You will feel better after just one visit! We have comfortable lodgings available at reasonable rates for overnight visitors. We also have a sanatorium available for those of you with family members who need daily care. Our staff is dedicated and caring, each one chosen personally by the head healer, who is rumoured to have apprenticed under Doctor McCoy himself! We will do all we can to ensure that all those that come here improve their health. Miracles have been known to happen here!

***

Is ambrosia truly the food of the gods? No! The true food of the gods, the one all ingest and thrive on, is chocolate. This mysterious substance—created from crushed cacao beans, sugarcane, butter or cream and other secret delights—is simply divine! (Pardon the pun.) It literally melts in your mouth and tantalizes your senses. It is so luxurious you will simply gasp with pleasure when you taste it for the first time. For a limited time only, get chocolate-covered almonds or figs, guaranteed to amaze you with how delicious they are! All those who taste it agree that this food of the gods is not to be missed. Also available, chocolate-covered coffee beans and heart-shaped chocolates, perfect choices as gifts for the love of your life! Available at the Center Square Market, this weekend only!

***

If you think all gods are considered the same, consider this: Captain James Tiberius Kirk is considered the most powerful of the Enterprise gods and is well known for his heroism, his dramatic speeches and his charisma. But he is not the only god in the cosmos. There is also Zeus of Greece, King of Olympus. He is also known for his heroism, his dramatic speeches his charisma—but he is also known for throwing thunderbolts! Unlike Kirk, he is also the father of the gods, thus proving his virility. He has had many children, two with his wife Hera, others with his many conquests. He is also able to change his shape at will, having once transformed into a bull, thus demonstrating just how powerful he is.

To learn more about Zeus and his pantheon, call 1-800-555-4442 today and he will send traveling ministers to you to answer all your questions and help you set up a temple/altar/shrine of your own so that you may pay tribute to him, make sacrifice to him, and sing his praises. Call today! Operators are standing by…or sitting…or just dancing around the room. You never know, they're a bit strange.

End of commercial break.

Scotty had poured both himself and McCoy some whisky and started a small pot of tea for Spock by the time the two gods appeared again.

"I really am sorry for disturbing you, it's just that I'm really worried about the pantheon," Scotty told his friends as they sat on the sofa together and he sat on a nearby rocking chair. "See, a few hours ago the Enterprise was contacted by a god named Harry Mudd, traveling in a small spaceship all by himself. He told the communications officer on duty that the engines on his ship were malfunctioning. We towed him on board and he was met by the Captain, who then gave him free reign to walk around the ship alone. Though I heard about this god within moments of his coming on board, I did not hear about the supposed engine malfunction until recently. I checked on his ship, went over all the systems in it, and there is no record of engine malfunction."

"Maybe he was just lonely and wanted an excuse to visit a pantheon," Leonard offered with a frown, as if not quite believing that himself, but still wanting to give the god a chance.

"Aye, but I don't think that is why he contacted us," Scotty informed them. "Nor do I think that's why he's been spending so much time with the crew. He's been manipulating them somehow, seems to have most of them mesmerized. He's been selling them a lot of useless things, like a handful of fire gems for ten bars of gold-pressed platinum, when everyone knows they're not worth a tenth of a quatloo! And that's not all! He seems to be spreading dissension wherever he goes. Twisting rumours to suit his own purposes, spreading lies, creating rivalries where they never existed before and otherwise causing malicious mischief. Every deity that he's come in contact with has become dazzled by him and refuses to hear even the slightest criticism of him."

"Peculiar," Spock said. "And the Captain is under his influence?"

"Yes, he was the first to succumb to Harry Mudd's influence. He's become convinced that he NEEDS to buy a couple of things from Mudd to give you two for a wedding present AND has been telling everyone that 'Spock settled for McCoy because I turned him down' and 'everyone knows Yeoman Rand is prettier than that young man Yeoman Dex', thus fanning their friendly rivalry into a knock-down drag-out chick fight."

"I'm sorry I missed that," Len said with a smile and then jumped when Spock pinched him. "Sorry. So, what can we do?"

"Well, Len, I need you to stay here and use whatever medical equipment you have here in your quarters to scan the pantheon and analyze the air to see whether this is some sort of airborne influence or something else. I can send a few deities here should you need to do further tests to see if this is some sort of thing you can cure. I don't want you exposed to Mudd himself, don't want to chance you succumbing to his influence, for if you do and then we need your help to counteract it...." Scotty’s voice trailed off.

"I understand," McCoy said. "And it's a good precaution. I'd like to take a few samples from you before you leave again, so I have a base sample to compare with once I have samples from the pantheon. It would make it easier to see if there's an observable difference."

"No problem," Scotty assured him. "Spock, I need you out there, to see if you can help counteract his influence with yours. You have a way of helping the gods and goddesses think more logically and they need that right now. I'd like you to try to get through to Kirk first, then Uhura, and then Sulu. If none of those three respond to your logic, you'll then have to decide which deity would be the best to approach."

"Actually, I would like to approach Chekov first," Spock told him.

"Oh? Why?" Scotty asked.

"For someone so young, he is remarkably pragmatic. Which is why I have been mentoring him, teaching him how to use the scanners on the bridge and how to analyze data. His natural talent in mathematics and chess should make it easier for me to stimulate his logical, thinking side. Once I have him thinking logically, his fierce devotion to the ship, his loyalty to the Captain and his passion for serving the pantheon as best as he can will have him eager to help me with the others," Spock pointed out.

"True," Leonard said. "Do you think this is a contagion? Or more of a mental influence?"

"I think it's part mental influence, augmented by this deity's godhood, but I'm thinking he couldn't keep as many of us mesmerized without help of some kind. Help beyond access to a lot of stored energy," Scotty mused. "There's just something unnatural about it, but I'm the god of the forge, not of healing, so I can't say for sure."

"Hey!" Leonard protested with a laugh. "I thought I patented the ‘I'm a blank, not a blank’ line."

"You did, so I owe you a drink later. It's worth it though," Scotty said with a smile.

"Fine. Just for that I'm going to jab you with a hypo and take some of your energy. Then I’m going to make you give me other samples to look over. It's a good thing I snuck some lab equipment in here. But if you can think of a way to get me a quantum elements scanner, I'd appreciate it. It'd help me get a more detailed analysis, should I need one," McCoy grumbled.

"I'll find a way to get it to you," Scotty assured him.

"I would suggest that you and I do our best to avoid Harry Mudd too, Mr. Scott," Spock cautioned, "as neither of us can guarantee that we cannot be influenced by him, even though we are already on guard and doing what we can to shield ourselves against him."

"I'll do my best Spock," Scotty told him.

"Good, that is all I can ask," Spock said and then turned to Leonard. "I will miss you t’hy’la."

"I'll miss you too," Leonard murmured and extended the index and middle finger of his right hand toward Spock. Spock caressed the god's fingers with his own and then leaned in and pressed his lips to McCoy's in a human kiss.

Spock stood up and headed for the door.

"Where do you need me for the tests?" Scotty said, clearing his throat, absurdly touched that the two deities had felt comfortable enough to show such affection for each other right in front of him.

"Where you are should be fine," Leonard assured him. "None of them should hurt, so if you feel even the slightest bit of discomfort beyond the normal ‘I hate being examined by doctors’ thing, let me know."

"I will," Scotty assured him.

Dramatic music plays throughout Enterprise, even as Harcourt Fenton Mudd, mischief-god extraordinaire, frowns with sudden concern.

***

Spock used the internal sensors to try to locate Pavel Chekov, god of youth and tall tales. It took longer than it should, but he finally narrowed the location to the bowling alley on deck ten. A very odd place for the god to be since, "bowling is not one of the games that were invented by Russians, which is why I am terrible at it." However, that is where the ship’s sensors said he was, so that was where Spock would look for him first.

The god of logic headed down to deck ten and went to the bowling alley and there was Chekov, eating borscht while watching a few ensigns in short skirts bowling. Spock raised an eyebrow. "Ensign Chekov, may I speak with you for a moment?"

"Commander Spock? What are you doing here?" Pavel asked. "I thought you would want to spend all your time off with Doctor McCoy."

"I am here as I need your help with something. Are you willing to come with me into the storage room nearby, so I can explain the situation?" Spock inquired.

"Of course, I'm always willing to help you," Pavel assured him. "Even if I have no idea why you need help at the moment, or how I can help."

They headed to the storage room together and once there, Spock took measures to make sure their conversation would not be overheard.

"I understand a strange god is visiting Enterprise," Spock started.

"Yes, Harry Mudd. He sold me a scarf that he got from an old lady in Leningrad. Assured me that he was nearly certain it came from Anna, the old lady who lived next door to my family while I was growing up," Chekov said.

"Did he say when he had been to Russia?" Spock asked.

"Uh, no, he didn't," Pavel replied and frowned with concentration. "In fact, he never mentioned Russia. Come to think of it, when I spoke of Russia it seemed as if he had never heard of it before."

"Has he made other claims, while in your presence, that do not make sense?" Spock asked.

Pavel thought for a couple of minutes. "Well, yes, I heard him tell Yeoman Rand that her hairdo could not stay in place without fire gems and though she's never had problems keeping it in place before, she believed him and bought a handful of fire gems for ten bars of gold-pressed latinum. Then she and another yeoman, the young man Ronon Dex? Well, they began fighting over the fire gems, each saying they needed them more for their hair. Which is just odd as neither of them have been as concerned about their hair before."

Spock nodded and watched as Chekov suddenly shuddered. The young god blinked and looked aghast.

"How could I fall so easily for Mudd's lies?" Pavel asked suddenly. "How is it that I didn't realize he was lying until now?"

"Apparently, Mr. Mudd has been exerting his influence and augmenting it with either the power inherent in his godhood or through means undetermined as yet. Commander Scott, Doctor McCoy and I are trying to determine just how it is he is keeping the entire pantheon enthralled and how it is he has been able to convince them not only to buy material things, but to buy into the rumours he has been spreading all over Enterprise,"

Spock informed him. "And now that you have shaken off his influence, you can help us."

"How?" Chekov asked.

"I want you to get a god to go with you to my new quarters, so that Doctor McCoy can examine him. Once you get the god there, see if you can also get a goddess to go with you there. Hopefully, Leonard can determine if there is some sort of drug or other thing contributing to influence the pantheon to be more gullible than they would be normally, and develop a cure or counteracting agent to help the pantheon get back to what passes for normal around here," Spock said.

"I'll try Hikaru first; he's usually willing to help me with things. Even if I have to tell him it's for Gertrude's benefit first," Chekov offered.

Spock nodded and held up a cautionary hand. "Do everything you can to avoid Mr. Mudd, though you are now out from under his influence, I can not guarantee that you can not fall for his spiel again, should he try to ‘pass one over on you’ again."

"Trust me, I will avoid him at all costs. He betrayed my trust and that makes me hurt deep inside," Chekov promised mournfully.

"Please tell Doctor McCoy about being hurt deep inside, it may be an important symptom or may indicate something he needs to be on the lookout for as a side effect of whatever cure or remedy he comes up with," Spock ordered the younger god.

"I will. Even if I find it slightly embarrassing," Pavel assured him. "I don't want to risk other deities’ health by not speaking of it."

"Good," Spock said in approval, looking Chekov in the eyes. "You are an exemplary member of the pantheon and I am... pleased that I chose to come to you first for assistance."

"You came to me first?" Pavel asked with obvious surprise.

"I did," Spock said, "partly because you are remarkably pragmatic and logical for a non-Vulcan. And partly because you have always carried out your duties in an efficient and timely manner."

"Thank you," Pavel said, obviously touched. "That means a lot to me. I won't fail you Commander."

"I know you won't," Spock replied and watched as the younger god left to carry out his task.

***

Pavel headed towards the arboretum under the assumption that his friend Hikaru would be there with Gertrude. On his way there, he walked past several of his other friends, all of whom seemed as if they had consumed one too many shots of vodka. All of them obviously under Harry Mudd's influence, as they were all touting the god's supposed charms and intelligence, and otherwise singing his praises. This made Pavel wince, for he knew that he must have acted much like that before Spock had helped him shake off the strange god's control. He could only hope that he would be able to persuade Hikaru to go with him to Doctor McCoy's new quarters. He wasn't sure how he would manage to convince the god of flight and plants to listen to him, but he was determined to do all he could. Spock was relying on him and the pantheon itself needed him to accomplish his task.

When he stepped into the arboretum, he was amazed. Hikaru was flying about, his gossamer wings fluttering like those of a butterfly. The artificial sunlight reflecting off them created a rainbow effect, almost like the wings themselves were prisms or perhaps crystal. Pavel did not know that Hikaru could actually use his wings for flight, he had assumed they were only decoration. And yet here he was, flitting from one plant to another, perhaps to encourage their growth, or perhaps just to visit them.

"Karu?" Chekov called to him.

"Pavel!" Hikaru exclaimed and headed straight for him. Stopping right in front of him and hovering there, he pulled him into an awkward hug.

"I'm so glad you're here! You should come see Gertrude! She's flowering!" Hikaru said, bubbling with happiness.

"Of course, I'd be glad to," Pavel replied, believing that placating Hikaru was probably the fastest way to get him to agree to go with him and thinking perhaps it would help him come up with an idea on how to convince the other god to cooperate with him. He walked beside Hikaru as he flew.

"I did not know you could actually fly," Pavel said.

"Neither did I until Harry Mudd came on board! He gave me a new fertilizer to use on Gertrude and it had her growing faster than she ever has before. She developed a thorn, started to blossom and began to dance with joy. She pierced me with her thorn and when I started to bleed, one of her limbs with a blossom on it touched the blood and got pollen all over it. The pollen was immediately absorbed and then the blossom moved across the wound and sealed it. It was weird but wonderful and soon after that I discovered that I could fly!"

"You are not worried about the pollen getting into your circulatory system?" Pavel asked, thinking maybe he could convince Hikaru that he needed to let Doctor McCoy examine the site of the wound.

"No. She'd never do anything to hurt me. Nothing about her could hurt me," Hikaru insisted.

"Oh, of course not," Chekov placated the other god, letting go of his first idea, knowing he would get nowhere if he tried to insist that Gertrude's pollen was potentially dangerous.

"Here she is," Hikaru said with obvious pride.

Pavel blinked. There the plant was indeed. It was nearly twice as big as it had been the last time he saw it, all of its many limbs moving about in a seeming dance. It was beautiful, vibrant. All its leaves a lush green, the many blossoms huge and ripe with perfume. Each one a rose bloom in a different colour. Though beautiful, Pavel noticed something odd about the plant.

"Hikaru, is she supposed to have that bump growing there, on the main plant?" Pavel asked.

"Well...," Hikaru paused. "She has never had it before."

"She seems to be bending under its weight. Perhaps we should take her to Doctor McCoy to have her checked out," Pavel suggested, thinking perhaps Sulu would buy into the idea, if only to make sure the plant would remain healthy.

"But she's a plant and he treats people and gods," Hikaru protested.

"True, but she has always been more than a simple plant and I believe Doctor McCoy's mother was a gardener and he's always kept a few plants around. Plants that always flourish under his care, just as his patients do," Pavel pointed out.

"You're right, he is a gardener. So maybe he can help. I hope he can. That bump doesn't look natural or right," Hikaru said.

"I'll help you carry her there, if you'd like," Pavel offered.

"I'd appreciate that," Hikaru said and landed upon the ground.

Pavel went to one side of Gertrude's container, Hikaru the other and they lifted together and began to carry her toward Doctor McCoy's quarters.

"Can I help?" Yeoman Rand asked, appearing out of seemingly nowhere.

Pavel looked at her and realized she was affected by Mudd as she was listing to one side, just as she had during the fermented honey incident a few months ago.

"Yes, we could use the help. Would you walk ahead of us, towards Doctor McCoy's new quarters? We need you to clear a path for us, make sure doors are open when we get there, and get the turbolift in place for us. Perhaps even come with us into Doctor McCoy's; we think Gertrude here needs his help," Chekov replied.

"Of course, anything for her," Yeoman Rand replied and started to lead the way to Doctor McCoy's.

Seventh Commercial Break

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***

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***

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End of commercial break.

Pavel knew they made an odd-looking procession, but did every god and goddess that saw them HAVE to stop and stare as they walked past? He did not think so, but that is what the deities were doing. Neither Hikaru nor Rand seemed to mind though. In fact, Rand was giggling, singing under her breath and walking with a stagger. Proclaiming, every now and then, that Harry Mudd was the best god ever and Karu agreeing with a flutter of his wings, which always made the god of flight hover for a moment. Chekov could not help but think that at least one good thing had happened as a result of Mudd's visit. Karu had always wished he could fly and now he could. Once he was back to normal, Sulu would be ecstatic. That is, if he kept the ability when Mudd left. Pavel hoped for his friend’s sake that he would.

They finally reached Doctor McCoy's new quarters and the healer let them in. Obviously fighting NOT to start asking sarcastic questions about them or the plant. Yeoman Rand went to sit on the rocking chair and began giggling to herself and rocking. He and Sulu set the plant down in the middle of the room, and then Sulu stood next to it and took one of its leaves gently in his hand and began to caress it. "It's going to be okay Gertrude, Doctor McCoy will find a way to help you and he won't hurt you," he soothed. "You won't, right?" He looked at the older deity with a threatening glare.

"Of course not," Doctor McCoy assured him and then looked at Chekov, as if seeking an explanation.

"While talking to Hikaru in the arboretum, I noticed that Gertrude had a large bump on her and Sulu confirmed that she never had it before today. Apparently it developed after Gertrude pierced Hikaru with a thorn and was exposed to the energy that makes up his blood," Chekov said.

"Well, it is possible that being exposed to your blood caused this," McCoy said. "To be on the safe side, I should get samples of energy from all three of you, to compare the samples against each other and see if there is anything different about yours, Sulu. That may help me find out why Gertrude now has that bump. I might need to run other tests, both on all three of you and Gertrude, to be able to determine what is going on with her and then develop a course of treatment."

"Okay doc," Sulu said. "What do you need to do first?"

"First, I'll get the necessary samples from you three first," McCoy replied. "If you could sit for this?" the god suggested as he brought a kitchen chair over.

Hikaru sat and McCoy took samples from him, then Rand and then finally Chekov. Though Pavel wondered why it was the doctor was taking samples from him, too. He supposed it was so neither Rand or Sulu would protest "why us, not him”. Or it could be that the doctor could learn something valuable from the samples of someone who had been under Mudd's influence, but wasn't anymore. Whatever it was, he was glad to help, even though he hated hyposprays and being fussed over by the older god. For the older god sometimes acted in such a paternal manner that it made him miss his real father with an ache that went right through him.

"Okay, now that I have samples from the three of you, it'd probably help to get samples from Gertrude. I'll need to take a little tiny bit of her sap, maybe have you trim off one of her leaves or see if she'll give you one," he said to Sulu, "and then a sample of her soil. Then I'll see if I can find a safe way to take a biopsy of her thorn and the bump; if I can, then I'll take it. If not, I'll leave both things alone for now. However, if the tests I run on what samples I do manage to get from her and those I got from you three indicate an urgent need for further tests in order to determine whether the bump is dangerous for Gertrude, well then I may have to risk the biopsy regardless."

"I understand," Hikaru said. "I'll help you get the sap and the leaf," he said and then turned to the plant, explaining what he was doing. Gertrude extended one branch to him for him to take the sap from, then dropped a leaf and turned so that both the thorn and the bump could be accessed more easily.

"I think she wants you to take the biopsies now," Hikaru said.

"Looks like it," Leonard replied, "and now that I can see the thorn and bump better, I can see a safe way to do so. Gertrude, hold as still as possible," he cautioned. "I don't want to risk piercing you anywhere but the places where it looks as if I'll be able to do so safely."  The doctor was now talking to the plant as if she could understand since it seemed as if she COULD understand them. Sure enough, the plant stopped all movement for a couple of minutes as Leonard took the samples.

"Okay Sulu, get a soil sample for me and I'll take all the samples to the quantum scanner in my home office here and start analyzing them," McCoy said, gathering all the labeled samples onto a tray to carry them.

"Can I help with the analysis?" Sulu asked. "I do have some lab training."

"I know, but you're too close to the patient. Your worry for her could interfere with your ability to focus. Besides, she needs both you and Yeoman Rand out here to keep her company and to support her," Leonard replied.

"Why me?" Yeoman Rand asked, turning her attention to them and acting a little less inebriated now, perhaps coming a little out from under Mudd's influence.

"Well, Gertrude, being female, might like another woman nearby for the kind of support you can give her," McCoy pointed out.

"Or it could be like the way Doctor McCoy always insists that Nurse Chapel is with him every time he goes to examine a goddess whenever one is in sickbay," Chekov offered.

"Oh, of course," the yeoman replied. "Of course I'll stay and be here for Gertrude. She is my friend."

"Thank you," McCoy said. "Chekov, maybe you can help me. You have been helping Spock with his scans and received training from him in the lab, haven't you?"

"Well, yes, but will that sort of training be of use in medical tests?" Chekov asked.

"If nothing else, you can hand me samples, help me with my notes and listen as I talk out loud about what it might be and debate with myself over the best course of treatment," McCoy told him.

"You debate with yourself?" Sulu asked with obvious concern.

"Only when it comes to the very many different treatments I could try," McCoy assured him. "It helps me sort out which is the one that is more likely to work OR to decide between two treatments that are equally as good—in order to use the one less likely to cause side effects."

"Oh, okay," Sulu said and relaxed, holding one of Gertrude's leaves in his hand. Yeoman Rand held another leaf and talked to her, reassuring her that Leonard would find an answer and be able to help.

"Okay then Chekov, come with me," Doctor McCoy ordered and led the way into the home office.

***

Doctor McCoy analyzed all the samples he had taken, including the ones taken from Gertrude.

"You are testing Gertrude's samples too?" Chekov asked with obvious amazement.

"Yes, it does seem as if she is being affected by Mudd's presence too. She is moving about a lot more, has grown in size forty percent over the last day according to my scans, and she does have that thorn and bump, neither of which she had before Mudd got here," Leonard pointed out. "So comparing her samples to those taken from you and the others can help me see if there is any indication of Mudd's influence on the quantum or cellular level. It may also help me find out if it is a contagion that needs a cure, an airborne intoxicant, or something else. And once I know what it is, I should be able to figure out how to counteract it."

"Oh. I see," Chekov said and watched Leonard turn various knobs and adjust a few doohickeys, all the while looking through the eyepiece at the samples. Not really understanding what he was doing since what he was doing was so different from what Spock did to analyze the space around them, the planet below and the other spaceships they came across.

A few minutes later, McCoy said, "Okay, I now know just how it is Mudd is affecting the crew and able to do it without being physically present. I also know why Spock and I were not affected, why you were able to shake off the influence and how to help all those affected, including Gertrude, who is definitely under Mudd's influence. Though it is only partially responsible for the bump she now has."

"But not wholly?" Pavel asked.

"No, not wholly, but I will explain only to her just why the bump developed and what it is, unless I get her permission to talk about it to others," Doctor McCoy said, "as she is my patient and there is such a thing as doctor/patient privilege."

"Of course," Pavel said. "Will Hikaru keep his ability to fly?"

"He can fly now?" Leonard asked.

"Yes," Pavel confirmed. "I thought I told you about it. It started after he was pierced by Gertrude's thorn and got some of her pollen in the wound. He absorbed the pollen somehow and shortly after was able to fly. Though it is more like a butterfly fluttering than a bird's flight."

Doctor McCoy bent over his analyzer again for a minute. "Well...," he began, "Sulu SHOULD keep the ability to fly. I think it has to do with Gertrude's pollen and NOT with Mudd's influence on him, Gertrude or the pollen. I can't guarantee it though. We'll have to wait and see what happens once Mudd is gone.  But I'm almost certain Sulu will keep the ability."

Pavel nodded. "I hope so; he has always wished he could fly under his own power. Always longed to go down to the planet and fly around, to explore it a bit more and perhaps be of more help to the people there."

"He's a good guy," Leonard agreed. "He’s decent, hardworking, and always a cheerful helper, which sometimes gets on my nerves," the doctor grumbled, but not really meaning it.

Chekov smiled, knowing the doctor was protesting because he thought it would help his "reputation as a curmudgeon" which no deity on Enterprise really bought into, knowing that the healing god had a warm, loving heart, a generous soul and a deep well of compassion.

"Give me another ten minutes to work out a cure, then about five more to make it airborne and we'll be in business," Leonard said.

"Okay, I'll go out to the other room and let Sulu and the others know you've found the cause and should have a cure available soon," Chekov assured him. "Um... before I go, can you tell me why you are now referring to Gertrude in the same way you refer to the rest of us?"

"It's mostly because she has demonstrated that she can understand us. She has also demonstrated that she can communicate with Sulu somehow, and she's made friends, something no other plant I can think of can do. All of which makes me think she could be sentient. In fact, the sap I took from her has more in common with the energy flowing in our blood vessels than it does with the blood of the people on the planet we're in charge of protecting and guiding. Which leads me to think she could be a goddess in her own right. Admittedly one a lot different than the other goddesses in the pantheon, but still a goddess. I'll have to spend more time analyzing these samples and talking with her to be sure though. Maybe even get Uhura's help should I not be able to communicate with Gertrude in the same way that Sulu can," Leonard informed him.

"Oh, okay. If she is a goddess, or even if she can understand, I'll have to try getting to know her. It's obvious that she and Karu are close and he is my best friend, so I should try to accept her as being capable of friendship," Chekov said. "For now, I'll talk to the other three. You will come to us when you've developed a cure?"

"I will," Doctor McCoy assured him and went back to work.

Chekov shook his head and went out to the other room, frankly amazed by the doctor’s abilities and by the way he so easily accepted that Gertrude could be sentient. It demonstrated a willingness to accept alien life, a lack of prejudice that he did not know was in the other deity. Which just showed Pavel that perhaps he did not know the doctor as well as he should and made the younger god determined to correct that as soon as possible.

 

Eighth Commercial Break

Are the leaves on your plants droopy? Is the grass in your neighbour’s yard or his field greener than yours? Are your crops just not flourishing the way they should? Try Mudd's Miracle Grow fertilizer today! Guaranteed to produce unexpected results and to amaze you with how quickly it works! It’s easy to use, and it often takes only one application for you to literally see the fantastic changes it can bring about. Best of all, it is a cruelty-free fertilizer, never having been tested on animals. In fact, the fertilizer is produced by an animal—the amazing Tribble! It is only collected from free-range Tribbles, those who have always enjoyed an idyllic, chemical-free existence amongst their many fellows. And since it is an all-natural product, you need not worry about your children, pets and/or farm animals coming into contact with it. One five-pound bag is now just 10 quatloos, an obvious bargain! Now available at farmer's markets and your local greenhouse. Purchase a bagful today. You won't regret it!

***

There are just fifty-two days until the Winter Solstice! Are you ready? Have you found that must-have toy for your son or daughter? Have you purchased a new pot for your wife or a new tool set for your husband? If not, what are you waiting for? Come on down to your local Wally's Mart today! We have rolled back prices on every item in stock, so the more you buy, the more you save! We have the new, fantastic toy Ball-In-A-Cup! It’s a ball ingeniously tied to a stick with a string, the stick having a cup on one end. Just drop the ball out of the cup, swing it on the string and try to catch it in the cup. Safe for all ages! We also have the new, improved copper stew pot, sure to please your wife on Solstice morning. You need not worry—no matter what you are looking for we have it, including farm carts, chariots and weapons. Come on down today!

***

"This is Captain James Tiberius Kirk, head god of the famous Enterprise pantheon. I'm here to talk about the grain I invented—bran. It has been a much-maligned grain and underappreciated—yet it is an essential part of your daily fibre intake and nutritional needs. Best of all, just one bowlful a day will improve your regularity when it comes to bowel movements. It will greatly improve your intestinal health and make you feel more energetic. For just a-tenth-of-a-quatloo a day, you too can enjoy a bowl full of this miracle food every morning. Just as I do. In fact, having a bowlful a day is likely responsible for how charismatic and wonderful I am. It has helped make me the god I am today. I highly recommend it and suggest you go and get some for you and your family. It’s available at every market—get some today!”

***

Today we unveil a special new-baked treat, now available at Fanny Baker's. Fanny calls it the doughnut. It’s round with a hole in it and it tastes divine! Baked with just a hint of honey in the dough and deep fried in oil. A tasty treat that no one can resist! Buy one, or get a Baker's dozen to enjoy by yourself or with your friends! Just one taste will have you wondering how you lived without this spectacular food. Available fresh baked first thing in the morning, at midday and in the late afternoon. It’s sure to be a hit in the home and at work. It’s an easy-to-carry snack—just one one-tenth of a quatloo for one or one quatloo for a Baker's dozen. So come on down to Fanny's today!

***

Spit out your spruce gum and buy another piece already! Yes, we know it is ridiculously long lasting and provides up to an hour of taste pleasure, but quite frankly it is ridiculous for you to hang onto it that long. If you do not spit it out soon, we will find you and beat you up or hit you with our runaway farmer's cart or just kick you as we pretend to dance. Because that's just the way we are. Pointlessly cruel, and potential stalkers. Best of all, though we have gladiators and an army, we do not yet have law-enforcement officers, so you can not stop us from finding you and kicking you until you spit out the piece of spruce gum you are chewing right now. So spit out that piece of gum and get a new one today!

***

The Pony Express—an idea ahead of its time! Send word to your family in the next province or on the other coast by writing them or sending them a parcel. We will carry your important message or parcel anywhere at any time for just one quatloo. We guarantee delivery within days as both the horses we use and their riders are in the best of health and very reliable. Whether you are the king or Caesar himself needing to get a message to your troops, or just a humble farmer writing a hero to slay that dragon that is eating your livestock, we’ll treat your message as if it is the most important one we have ever carried. So remember, for all your message or package delivery needs, use the new Pony Express and be amazed!

End of commercial break.

Doctor McCoy had analyzed all the samples he had taken from Sulu, Rand, and Gertrude, and checked them against Spock’s and Chekov’s and his own samples, thus narrowing down the possibilities of just how Mudd was affecting the whole pantheon. Thus learning what he needed to be able to counteract it and free the pantheon from Mudd’s influence. It took a little longer than he would have liked to develop a cure that would work on the whole pantheon at the same time, but at least he had found an effective cure. That was the most important thing. Even more important than what he had found when analyzing Gertrude's samples, and that was saying a lot as what he had found had astounded him.

First thing to do, though, was to cure the three deities in his quarters, so that they could help him and Chekov get the cure to everyone. So he opened the door between his office and the living room, released an aerosol spray into the air and then walked into the living area. Knowing the cure he had developed for everyone in the pantheon would not be harmful to him or anyone else in the pantheon. Leonard watched as Sulu, Gertrude and Rand seemed to shake themselves.

"Whoa! What happened?" Sulu asked, looking a little hung over.

"All four of you were affected by a combination of two things: Harry Mudd's influence and something called the Venus drug," Leonard informed them. "The Venus drug amplified his influence on all of you, imprinting it on you and intoxicating you at the same time. The Venus drug looks much like small cubes of green Jell-O and can be spread either through ingestion or through touch. Those who ingest it get a high concentration of the drug into their system and are more affected than those who are exposed to it through touch. Unfortunately, those who ingest it will start perspiring a lot, due to the Venus drug increasing their body temperature. And that perspiration will have enough of the Venus drug in it to affect everyone the perspiring person touches," Leonard explained.

"Sulu, Rand, you two were the ones with the most concentration of the drug in your system, so you both likely ingested the drug at some time. Chekov, you and Gertrude likely were touched by someone affected and thus were cured a bit easier. Gertrude, something odd turned up when I examined your samples. First, I can now prove that you are a full-fledged goddess, as much a one as Rand here, just in a different form. Now that we know that, we can get Lieutenant Uhura to work on a way for us to communicate a bit better, perhaps even find a way for you to be understood by us. Second, I did find out why you have that bump and what it is. It is something that you may prefer hearing alone or with just Hikaru present. If you would prefer to be alone with me when I tell you what it is, then touch me; if you'd like Sulu there, but no one else but him and me, touch him once; twice him twice if everyone can stay and hear."

Leonard waited and watched. Gertrude touched Sulu twice and then moved her leaves about.

"She says everyone here is a friend so go ahead and say whatever it is you want to say," Sulu said.

"Okay, this is likely the weirdest thing I've ever had to say since becoming a god," Doctor McCoy said. "When you rubbed your blossoms over Hikaru's open wound and got pollen in it, well, you also got blood on your stamens. Once there, a seed began to develop; it descended into a tube that either developed as a result or is a natural part of you that I did not know about. I’m not sure, having not examined you before. From there it traveled until it reached your main trunk and it settled there, formed a small bubble around itself and began to grow. The bump is this seed, but it is more than just an ordinary plant seed. It is a baby deity, part your genetics and part Hikaru's. It will be humanoid in appearance like Sulu and us, but plant-like in appearance too. It will have green skin, like the green of your branches Gertrude. It will have leaves over the main body, and blossoms for hair. If you like, I can tell you what gender your child will be."
 
All of Gertrude's movement stopped, so Leonard knew she was shocked. He reached out and took one of her leaves in hand. "It's okay, I will help you through this. I know you likely weren't expecting this. Quite frankly I had no idea that something like this could happen. But it has."

"Oh wow!" Sulu exclaimed. "This is...this is...oh wow. I'm speechless."

Gertrude moved about, leaves rustling.

"Yes, I'm happy," Hikaru said, caressing the leaf in his hand with a finger. "Very happy. And stunned. And shocked. But happy."

Gertrude's leaves rustled again and her flowers opened up a bit.

"She's happy too," Sulu said. "You're sure both she and the baby will be safe."

"Yes, very sure now that I know about it and can help her through it. The baby should be here within a week or two. So both you and I should keep a close eye on Gertrude, so that we're ready to help her when the baby is about to be born," Doctor McCoy said.

"I'll help too," Rand offered.

"And me," Chekov said.

"Good. First though, we should cure the rest of the crew. Chekov, contact Spock and get him here. I'll need you two to find a way to distribute the cure through the air system safely. Hikaru, I would like it if you and Gertrude stayed here with me while the cure is administered, so I can run a few more scans on you both, so as to be able to treat both you and your child, once it arrives, more effectively. Yeoman Rand, once Chekov and Spock are ready to go, I want you to go throughout the ship, scanning all the deities you meet and sending the results to me. So that if anyone needs immediate medical assistance or follow-up treatment, I'll know right away. Let me know if you come across anyone you think will need to talk about the experience to a counsellor or to me or to a friend," the doctor ordered.

Everyone nodded, Chekov going off to one side to contact Spock, Rand getting ready to go out among the crew. Gertrude wrapped a few of her branches around Sulu and Hikaru talked to her in a low voice full of reassurance and love.

***

Spock responded to the call quickly, nodding at Chekov as soon as he entered the quarters he and Leonard now lived in. He looked around and saw Rand, Sulu, the potted plant that the god of flight was always fussing over and then Leonard.

"Spock, before we do anything else, let me formally introduce you to Gertrude. She may look like a simple plant, but she is a goddess," Leonard said.

Spock looked at his husband for a moment, sure for a moment that the god had been affected by Mudd somehow while he was away. However, Leonard seemed to be as normal as he usually was and was thus likely not being influenced by Harry.

"You are certain about this?" Spock asked.

"Yes, I am. I took samples from her, tested them, scanned her and talked with her. Here are the results," Leonard replied, handing them over.

Spock examined all the data. Analyzed all the results. Looked at his husband. "She is pregnant."

"I know, and I've told her and the father already," Leonard assured him.

"I see. We will need to find a way to communicate with her," Spock said.

"We'll have Nyota start on that as soon as she's back to normal," the doctor said, "which should be within minutes of us distributing the cure. I've found a way to deliver it through the air vents, but you and Chekov have to figure out how to get it distributed throughout the air supply in such a way that it reaches most of the pantheon at the same time. The cure is safe for all of us to breathe and should have no side effects. Although those experiencing an ‘inebriated’ feeling will be a bit hung-over for awhile."

Spock turned to Chekov. "Do you think the central air supply will work?"

"Actually, no," Chekov replied. "I think it'd be better to get several dozen containers of the cure positioned at air vents around the ship, maybe with remote control release valves, for I think that will be a more effective way of reaching most of the gods and goddesses. I have it worked out on this schematic." Pavel handed the plans to Spock to look over.

"Yes, this would work," Spock said.

"I'll help you two get the canisters together," Leonard offered and went to join them, sitting next to Spock, touching his hand briefly in greeting.

***

A half hour later, all the canisters were in place. Spock set them off and the cure was distributed into the air supply, gods and goddesses inhaling it, causing them to shake off Mudd's influence and to come out from under the intoxicating effects of the Venus drug.

"Oh my god...," Kirk exclaimed, "I mean, oh cosmos, what in the world did I do?"

He remembered having signed a contract with Mudd to buy a litre of oil and a stethoscope. Of running around the ship and hitting on everything that moved. Of singing "Lucy in the sky with diamonds" over and over again as the pantheon booed him and threw tomatoes at him. And of other embarrassing things. He also remembered everyone else he came across doing similar things, so at least he wasn't alone. He was sure that Harry had had something to do with what had happened to him and was determined to talk to the god and make sure he paid for whatever it was he did.

Kirk used the internal sensors to find Mudd and then went to intercept him, catching him at the door to the shuttlebay. "And where do you think you're going Mudd?"

"Oh, nowhere friend Kirk," Mudd said with a smarmy smile. "Just checking on my ship."

"I don't think so," Kirk said. "You are coming with me, so I can talk to you about what you did and then decide just what it is that we'll do about it. You will be paying for it somehow Mudd. I won't just let you intoxicate my crew, con them and leave."

"I don't know what you're talking about, friend Kirk," Mudd said. "I didn't do anything wrong!"

"Yes, you did," Doctor McCoy said as he joined them. "You exposed them to the intoxicating influence of the Venus drug and used it to augment your godhood, causing chaos, destructive mischief, and otherwise doing everything you could to steal as much power from us as you could."

"And what is wrong with living up to one's godhood, friend?" Harry Mudd said.

"Nothing. It’s the use of the Venus drug that is illegal all throughout the Federation of gods. Which you had to know, being part of that Federation," Doctor McCoy pointed out.

"And what makes you think I am part of the Federation?" Mudd asked.

"Your power signature, which is registered with the Federation," Leonard pointed out.

"Oh, yeah, that," Mudd said.

"And knowing that, you know that any contract signed by anyone under the Venus drug’s influence is invalid. So, anyone who signed one saying they would buy something is not obligated to do so. And anyone who paid you for anything while under its influence is entitled to a refund if they choose," Doctor McCoy told Harry.

"Good luck proving the deity WAS under the influence at the time of sale," Mudd said.

"Oh, that will be easy," Leonard said. "I can tell from the scans Yeoman Rand took of all the deities on board, just how long they were affected by the Venus drug to the minute and we can compare that to the time when each sale was made."

"Do we really need to go to that much trouble?" Mudd asked.

"Yes, if you want us to prevent some very upset customers from tearing you apart," Leonard said.

"Well, when you put it that way friend, you can do whatever you want," Mudd said with an insincere smile.

It took awhile, but the pantheon was able to sort through the chaos, straighten out what happened, and get refunds for all items the pantheon wanted to return. Slowly but surely, all dishonest gains were returned, stolen power was restored, and the deities began to get back to normal. After a few days, Spock escorted Mudd to his ship.

"Well, I didn't come away with as much as I wanted, but I do have more than I did when I got here," Mudd said.

"And if you had dealt with us honestly from the beginning, you could have profited more," Spock pointed out.

"And where's the fun in that?" Mudd asked.

"Isn't profit more important than fun?" Spock inquired with a lifted eyebrow.

"No, fun is more important. Or it is to me. I am a mischief god after all," Mudd said with a grin. "And sometimes my mischief brings about good results."

"It did in two cases this time," Spock told him. "It led to one of the goddesses in the pantheon becoming pregnant and to one of our gods developing a new ability, one he always wanted, that of being able to use his wings to fly."

"Well then, you should be thanking me" Mudd stated, "instead of punishing me by taking away most of the money and power."

"You reap what you sow," Spock pointed out. "And you can leave now with what you have OR I can start charging you parking fees."

"I'm going, I'm going," Mudd said. "I do hope we'll meet again friend Spock, under better circumstances."

"Perhaps," Spock said and watched as Mudd got onto his ship and then made sure he left the ship, not wanting to chance him deciding he would be better off trying to hide in order to cause more mischief.

"Bridge, watch Mudd's ship as he leaves and make sure he really leaves," Spock ordered.

"Yes, sir. We will," Chekov said.

Spock nodded, knowing things were in good hands and then headed home, wanting to spend some time with his husband, enjoying their bond and just savouring his presence.

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