The Vestorian Quandary
It was odd for Spock to consider that at exactly this time the day before, he and Doctor McCoy had been discussing various theories back and forth. The doctor had brought up some obscure fact (something he was uncommonly good at) which made no logical sense. Which, of course, Spock felt inclined to point out. He could almost hear the doctor's voice and the soft, amused drawl of his answer. "Just because a thing's not logical doesn't mean it's not true just the same, Spock."
A sob drew his attention over to the area where a memorial service would be held for Doctor McCoy in two days time, immediately after their mission to this colony was concluded. The doctor's well-known and often stated hatred of transportation made it seem all the worse when a transporter mishap had been the cause of his untimely death, leaving not even a body behind to mourn. Especially on what should have been so basic of a mission.
The colony, Vestoria, that they had gone to was near the fringes, but supplied an amazing variety of ores and minerals that Starfleet coveted. So when they put in a request that their new contract with the Federation be through the USS Enterprise and, even more specifically, one Doctor Leonard McCoy, the Federation was happy to comply especially since the trip could be made in conjunction with another mission in the vicinity.
When Kirk had questioned the request for Doctor McCoy, he found out that Vestoria was one colony that McCoy had spent time at as a part of his final year of medical training. And he had apparently made quite the impression - one that hadn't faded even over the course of more than 30 years.
The actual colony was below ground, but due to the various ores and crystalline deposits in soil, the transporter couldn't deliver them directly to their destination. Scotty beamed the trio down to the surface where a small committee of three Vestorian delegates were awaiting them. From there, they would be beaming down one at a time to where the heart of the colony was located.
One of the delegates seemed shocked that after all the time that had passed, Doctor McCoy knew him by his resemblance to his father. The two of them started chatting amiably as first Kirk, then Spock beamed down to where the larger welcoming party was waiting. The transporter was of a different style than the one they were used to and Spock noticed that there was a most unpleasant feeling that accompanied the transfer. On arrival, he exchanged a look with his captain and Kirk's slight grimace said it all. Their doctor would have words about that experience.
Spock had been watching utterly helpless beside the captain as the colony's single transporter pad began to reveal the doctor. Watch as the doctor had all but reformed and then saw the look of agony that began to form on McCoy's face as he began to scramble again without warning. And then. Nothing. Perhaps if the Enterprise had been doing the transporting, it might have been different. The man operating the transporter for the colony was qualified, but hardly of Mister Scott's caliber. As it was, by the time Spock reached the controls, there was no longer any reading. At best, the doctor's atoms had been scattered - dispersed with no way to pull them back together. At worst, he'd materialized inside solid rock. The Vestorian system had no fail-safes to prevent that type of malfunction. Either way, the doctor was lost to them.
As Spock continued to quietly watch while Chapel and Uhura worked together with several other crewmembers to prepare for the memorial, Spock realized three things.
The first was how well-liked the doctor was by the majority of the ship's personnel. And not just for his competence as a doctor, although that was surely part of it. But while the loss of a good, if not to say brilliant, doctor would always be a loss, it would not have cast the almost visible pall over the ship had that been all that there was to it. He'd heard one passing crewman make mention that it was like a favorite uncle was gone, which Spock presumed meant that the doctor had come to be looked on by many as a substitute for the elders in their own familes. On considering that further, he could see where McCoy could fill that gap for the younger crewmen, especially for those away from their home planets for the first time. McCoy, for all his bluster at times, was a stable and predictable figure that could be turned to for advice or even just a friendly word or two.
The second was the knowledge that had come on him while sitting here of how much less . . . stimulating his days would be. For all of their mutual posturing, Spock admittedly appreciated their verbal sparring, debates and even the occasional flat-out fights. Very few others ever questioned what he said or challenged him to show how he came to a conclusion. While emotional, Doctor McCoy was a genius even by Vulcan standards and the intellectual stimulation would, he suddenly realized, be sorely missed.
The third realization disturbed him the most as he ran McCoy's statement back through his head - a thing could be illogical and still be the truth. Illogical as it was, Spock saw no need for the memorial service. Because without a single shred of evidence to support the idea, Spock found himself convinced that Leonard McCoy was still alive.