Captain James T. Kirk sat in his office with his first officer, Spock as they listened to the recording of their next orders. The room had been cool when Kirk first stepped inside, but now after hearing of his next role, he began to sweat.
"As you heard, Mr. Spock, we have been given the grand duty of finding out where our shipment of dilithium crystals has gone to and how it was smuggled off of the outpost."
"Yes, Captain. Outpost 12B has not had the most distinguished reputation, but they rarely have been brave enough to allow shipments for the Federation to simply vanish. Captain, do you wish for me to take down a landing party and begin the investigation and search?"
"Nice try, Mr. Spock. I know you want to keep me safe on board, but I truly do no anticipate much trouble other than a day full of lies and deception. We'll both go down and take McCoy and Lt. Uhura with two security officers. Uhura may be helpful with her knowledge of the many languages. She can read and speak her way through anything. Have everyone meet in the transporter room in fifteen minutes."
Once Spock left, Jim smiled at his first officers attempt to have him stay ship-side. He always appreciated, Spock's sense of responsibility to him, but he constantly reminded him that he would be careful.
The Captain met his officers in the transporter room and they gathered around for last minute instructions.
"Alright lady and gentlemen. I'm sure by now our presence is known to the outpost and they're frantically trying to cover their paper trails. Bones and I and Lt Rice will go to the main office and try to find out anything, while Mr. Spock, Lt. Uhura and Chief Giotto will find their way to the storage area and take a look around. See if the tri-corders can pick up our missing shipment. I want you to check in every hour. Let's go."
The group went to the transporter pad.
"Mr. Scott, energize."
They found themselves on the main level with all of the various shops and restaurants. The outpost was a meeting place of many merchants who bought and sold their goods. With it being close to the neutral zone, the outpost was patrolled by many members of the Federation. The post tried to remain independent of any ruling party, but they enjoyed the protection of the Federation as long as the Federation did not interfere with the commerce that flowed in and out daily.
Fights often broke out, but were quickly ended with a strong display of security. There were Tellurites, Andorians and people from many different lands. No one asked too many questions without being followed and shown the way off the outpost.
"Alright, Mr. Spock, as discreetly as you can, try to slip away to the cargo area and see what you can find. Bones, this way."
Lt. Rice looked at his superior officer, Chief Giotto who gave him a knowing look to watch over the officers.
Mr. Spock led the way, but many heads turned as the beautiful Lt. Uhura made her way down the hall. They wove in and out of a crowded area, when she spotted a silver lame dress hanging in a window. She stopped and stared at the dress and pictured what she would look like in it.
"Lieutenant, are you with us?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock," she looked at her watch and caught up with him. "Commander, could I have five minutes to go make a purchase and come back and join you."
"Lieutenant, I am sure that the Captain did not intend for us to go 'shopping' while on duty. Can it not wait?" as he had no idea what she wanted to purchase. But women sometimes needed emergency purchases and he did not wish to embarrass the Lieutenant, nor himself.
Uhura had a way of melting even the most stubborn heart and said, "It would fit in with our trying to blend in with the crowd, sir."
"You have five minutes, Lieutenant. We will wait for you here."
"Yes, sir," and she slipped away.
Mr. Spock and the Chief watched over the crowd trying to pinpoint any trouble. The Chief kept the Lieutenant within his sight and waited for her return.
Uhura walked up to the two men and smiled, "Ready, sir."
"That was 5.4 minutes, Lieutenant, and where is your package?"
"I had it transported to the ship, sir."
"Indeed." Mr. Spock led the small group down a darkened hall and found a lift. They traveled in silence until they reached the lower area where the cargo area was.
The area was a flurry with anti-gravity haulers, placing crates and packages in their proper place. The Starfleet uniforms made them stand out, but it also kept them from being questioned, too.
"Here we are, Bones, Mr. Sam Johnson, Esq. Office Administrator, just what we were looking for."
The Captain walked into a small office area with many computer monitors showing the different floors and hallways of the outpost.
A woman of tall proportions strolled up menacingly to the counter. She eyed the Captain and waited for a moment to speak.
"Yes, what is it that you need?"
Kirk had dealt with her kind before and he always managed to smooth their rough feathers.
"Ma'am, I'm Captain James Kirk. I am here trying to find a lost shipment that we were scheduled to pick up today. I am looking for a Mr. Sam Johnson, Esq., as it says on the door."
"He is not here. Good day," she said abruptly and turned to leave.
Kirk could hear a snicker from Bones and turned his head only slightly as a warning.
"Uh, Ma'am, if I may. He knew we were coming to see him. Could you tell him we have arrived?"
She stood in her spot with her back to the Captain. "Am I to know where Mr. Johnson is every moment of everyday, and what his schedule is at any time?"
"I'm sorry, if I made the wrong conclusion, I thought you were his..., assistant. My apologies."
As the woman turned to face him, Kirk gave her his most charming smile. "If you could let him know that I have arrived and I will be back in one hour, that would be most kind of you."
With a glare to the Captain she replied, "You may return in one hour, but there is no guaranty that he will be here. Good day." The tall woman turned and disappeared into a room as the door slammed shut behind her.
Kirk was slow to turn around and face the Doctor. He mumbled under his breath softly, "Bones, not a word."
The twinkle in the doctors eyes let the Captain know that he realized a security officer was within hearing, but he would take up the conversation with him later.
"Come along, gentlemen."
Once outside the office, Kirk stopped to check in with Mr. Spock.
"Spock, here, Captain."
"Everything okay, Mr. Spock?"
"Yes, Captain, we are slowly making our way through a rather large, dark and arid room. Have you had any success?"
"No, it's just as I said would happen. We've been tossed aside until they deem us worthy to have an audience. One hour, Mr. Spock. Kirk out."
"Mr. Spock, it will take days to go through all of this cargo. Is there a computer that we could tap into the shipping documents? It may narrow our search down to one or two rooms."
"The only room with the shipping information is located down the hall and is heavily guarded. I do not believe we would be able to access the room without supreme difficulty."
Uhura smiled to herself, "Commander, if I could distract one or two of the guards, do you think you could access the shipping documents and download them to our tri-corders?"
"And, just how will you distract the two guards at the door, Lieutenant?"
"Commander, I'll take care of them, you and the chief can go look at the computers," she answered with a smile.
Spock stood straighter and said, "Be careful, Lieutenant."
They looked out the door and walked with purpose down the hall way. A short distance away was the shipping office.
Mr. Spock walked up to the two guards who held out their phaser rifles.
"No one is allowed in here, sir."
"I see, but I have been sent here to pick up several copies of a shipping affidavit. May I?" he asked pointing to the door.
Lt. Uhura stepped forward and addressed the two guards.
"Gentlemen, you must have gotten the orders by now," she stepped aside and the two guards followed her with their eyes and bodies.
Mr. Spock and Giotto slipped through the door as Uhura continued to talk with the two guards. She never dropped her eyes from theirs.
"We were sent all the way down here, gentlemen, and after getting lost for what seemed like an hour, we found the correct hallway. Have you ever been lost on a new post before? I have the worse sense of direction and my Commander was not happy that I had led him down the wrong hallway, several times," Uhura rattled on trying to keep the two guards occupied.
Once inside the office one more guard had his back turned to Mr. Spock. He pinched his shoulder and Chief Giotto took him and laid him on the ground.
Mr. Spock ran to the computer and quickly ran through a series of specifications to hack into the computer. He was just beginning to download the information onto his tri-corder when the door swung open.
The Chief took an abrupt slug to the jaw and fell. The two guards from the hall dragged in Lt. Uhura and pulled their weapons on Mr. Spock and the Chief.
"Alright, drop your weapon," one said to the Chief, "and you step away from the computer. Now."
Mr. Spock glanced at Uhura to make sure she was okay, and stepped away to assist the Chief.
"In that office," he pointed to Mr. Spock's right.
They were shoved into chairs and the tall guard went to an intercom.
"This is Security in the Shipping Department. We have three intruders, sir."
"On my way."
After being questioned, the three were put into a cell with low benches.
The guard said, "Since, none of you can tell us what ship you're on, you'll be here awhile until we decide where to ship you too. Obviously you're starfleet, but they may not acknowledge that you're here. Get comfortable."
Captain Kirk and his group made a survey of the outpost trying to locate anyone who would talk about procedures on the post. Everyone ignored them or told them to mind their own business.
"Hour is up, I'm contacting, Spock." Kirk said. He lifted his communicator and spoke into it, but there was no response. "Spock, come in." He changed frequencies and tried to reach Uhura or the security guard.
"Jim, they could be down in the bowels of the cargo area. There may be interference."
"I don't think so, Bones. I'm getting a red alert at the base of my neck. Let's go visit Mr. Johnson."
Kirk and company barged into the office. The same tall woman walked out and shrugged her shoulders at them.
"He has not returned. Good day."
Kirk jumped over the counter top and stood in front of the woman. She was at least two inches taller than he, but he did not care.
"You will find, Mr. Johnson, right now. I don't want any excuses."
"Captain, it is Captain, isn't it?" she asked.
Kirk nodded and she continued, "You may be master and commander of your own ship, but here, you are just a...client."
Kirk straightened his shoulders and said, "You have five minutes to get him here, or I will take this office apart, piece by piece, until I find him. If that doesn't work, I will bring down a army of starfleet officers and turn this outpost inside out. Am I clear?"
The rangy woman spun on her heel and left the Captain.
The Captain pulled out his communicator and called the ship, "Mr. Scott, I need you to find Mr. Spock, Uhura and Chief Giotto."
"A moment, Captain."
Kirk stood to face Bones while Mr. Rice kept his eyes on the door.
"Captain, Scott here. They are in the shipping area, sir."
"Scotty, I can't reach them on the communicator. See if you can reach them and let me know."
Kirk kept watch of the five minute time he had allotted.
"Enterprise to the Captain," Scotty said.
"I canna reach them, Captain. Their communicators are not on, sir."
"Alright, keep scanning them. If they move, let me know."
The outer door opened and a tall, bulky man walked in. "Captain Kirk, I presume?" he said, "I'm Sam Johnson, I understand that I missed our meeting earlier. My apologies."
The Captain glared at the man as he walked around the counter. "Come have a seat, Captain. We've been trying to locate your shipment, but it is not here, and I'm not sure it ever was here."
"Funny how things of importance have a way of disappearing, Mr. Johnson. I suggest you look further. Also, I have three officers that are not answering their communicators. Would you know anything about that?"
"Captain, this is a large post. I can not assume that your officers are in trouble. Many times crewmen disappear and enjoy the many enticements that are offered here. Perhaps, they will show up shortly."
"These are my best officers and they were on duty. The last transmission was from the cargo area, and now they've gone silent for no reason."
Kirk's communicator buzzed. He paused and flipped it open, "Kirk here."
"Captain, we canna locate Mr. Spock and his group."
"Why not, where did they go?" Kirk asked.
"I dunno, Captain, one minute they were there and the next, gone, sir."
Kirk turned and stared at Mr. Johnson. "Scotty, scan any ship leaving the vicinity for a Vulcan, a hybrid Vulcan. Understood?"
Kirk said to Mr. Johnson, "These cameras look like they cover every inch of the post. You will allow us to look at them, won't you?"
"Captain, this is highly irregular. These are for security..."
"And this is a security problem. I have three missing officers and I want them found, now."
Johnson led them to one of the computer screens and put in his password.
"Mr. Rice, have a look," Kirk said.
The Captain and Dr. McCoy stood over his shoulders as they brought up the films from their timeline.
Kirk's communicator buzzed again.
"Captain, we just noticed a package that was beamed up and it has Lt. Uhura's name on it. The time is marked about twelve minutes after you beamed down."
"Thank you, Scotty, we'll check and keep scanning."
Rice said, "Here, Captain. They are going down this walk way," he said.
The viewer showed them stopping to wait for a missing Uhura. Spock and Lt. Rice continued to monitor the area. Uhura came back and they followed them to the lift.
"Johnson, where are the videos for the cargo area?"
Johnson sent the videos to their computer. One angle showed them entering the cargo bay.
"What about inside the cargo area?" the Captain asked.
"We don't have cameras in that area."
Kirk scoffed, "Amazing how that happens just when you're looking for something."
Lt. Rice switched back to the hallway vids, but they ended abruptly.
Kirk said, "What happened, Johnson?"
"The videos always end in that hallway. We have no need for cameras in the office area."
Kirk said, "Is that right? I will continue to look for my officers from my ship, but I am sending twenty security officers down to assist yours. I want no trouble with any of them."
Kirk left with Dr. McCoy and Lt. Rice following him.
"Scotty, three to beam up."
Once they transported Captain Kirk turned to Lt. Rice and said, "Lieutenant, I want you to pick twenty security guards and head down immediately to the cargo area and go through it piece by piece. Report in within the hour."
Dr. McCoy followed the Captain into the lift to the Bridge. "What trouble do you think that hob-goblin got himself into, Jim?"
"I don't know, Bones, but things are not as they appear."
The Captain stepped on the bridge and said, "Report, Mr. Scott."
"Captain, we are scanning two possible ships that left within five minutes of Mr. Spock disappearing. One ship is out of range, but we'll follow her shortly."
"Good, Mr. Chekhov put in quadrants to follow that ship when you're done scanning this one."
Kirk sat in his chair going over in his mind the conversations he had with Sam Johnson. He waited until the crew of security guards had all beamed down and Chekhov was finished scanning the closer ship before he gave his new order.
"All ahead, warp 3, Mr. Sulu."
"Aye, sir, warp 3."
The Enterprise pulled up within minutes to the small merchant ship. They scanned inside the hull for any presence of a Vulcan or Vulcan hybrid.
Lt. Chekhov turned from what would have been Mr. Spock's post and nodded a negative to his Captain.
Dr. McCoy stood at his Captain's side and whispered, "Now, what?"
"We head back. Mr. Scott when you lost Mr. Spock on the scanner was he stationery or had he moved?"
"He moved about fifteen feet and then we lost contact, sir."
"I think we were sent on a wild goose chase. Mr. Sulu turn us back around to the outpost at warp 4."
The ship's engines purred softly as they sped back to the outpost. They set into orbit and the Captain jumped from his seat.
He started to say, 'Mr. Spock follow me', but caught himself. "Bones, let's go. Mr. Scott you have the conn. Mr. Chekhov keep scanning the surface, and report what you find."
"Yes, sir," he replied.
As they were preparing to beam down, Dr. McCoy said, "Jim, I know that look, what are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking they're still there, but have been placed in a room or something that blocks our scanners. Put your phaser on stun, Bones. Mr. Kyle, energize."
Once they were on the surface, Captain Kirk made his way down the same hall they had seen Mr. Spock and the others walk down. They entered the lift and rode it down to the cargo area.
With phasers drawn he came upon three of their own security officers.
"Lt. Rice, report."
"Captain, we have been searching this area where they were last seen. There are two rooms we haven't been unable to get into and Mr. Johnson is no where to be found."
"Take us there, Mr. Rice."
They ran down the hall and Kirk found a large metal door that was locked. It looked like an old vault with a locking system on the door.
"Step back, gentlemen," Kirk said as he aimed his phaser.
He shot at the lock which melted on contact. Kirk pulled on the door and inside were his three officers, tied up and mouths covered.
"Spock," the Captain said. He ran to him and sat him up. "Bones?"
Lt. Rice helped sit up Lt. Uhura and his boss Chief Giotto. The room was hot and stuffy. Dr. McCoy ran his scanner over the three as they were unbound and untied.
Kirk knelt down next to Uhura and said, "How are you, Lieutenant?"
"I'm fine, Captain, just warm and thirsty."
Bones pulled out a water bottle from his belt and passed it to her. He said, "Lt. Rice, go find some water for Spock and Giotto."
The Captain turned to face Spock and asked, "Feeling better?"
Spock rubbed his eyes with his hands and said, "Much better, Captain. We were apprehended rather quickly and placed in here approximately three hours and twelve point five minutes ago."
Kirk smiled and looked at Mr. Giotto and said, "Chief, did he not follow protocol on a patrol?"
Chief Giotto glanced towards his Commander and said, "He followed protocol, Captain, but I must present myself for discipline, sir. I let my guard down for one second and they were able to knock me down before I could raise my phaser."
Kirk looked at his favorite security guard and squeezed his shoulder. "Mr. Giotto, we'll go over the reports later, but I am sure your actions were above and beyond the call of duty. Breathe and relax a minute and stop beating yourself up."
"Aye, sir," he responded in a soft voice.
"Jim, I want to get these three to sickbay to check over as soon as possible," Bones said while standing.
Mr. Spock stood, but his legs gave out from under him. Jim caught him on his way down and Bones helped him to sit again.
"And don't tell me hob-goblin that you're right as rain, because you just proved differently."
"Doctor, I assure you, all I need to do is rest in my own quarters."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, all in good time. To sickbay first."
Kirk smiled and gently touched Spock's shoulder, "Doctor's order's, Spock."
Water was handed around as the three slowly revived and stood on their own volition.
The Captain said, "Mr. Rice, once they have beamed aboard, send your group back to the ship. I have a meeting with Mr. Johnson and I have a feeling it may take some time to locate him."
Kirk turned to Bones and his three officers and said, "I'll be up in sickbay later."
"Jim you shouldn't go alone," Dr. McCoy said.
"No, Captain, allow me to go with you," Mr. Spock said.
"Absolutely not, Mr. Spock. You will report to sickbay and do as Dr. McCoy says, that's an order."
"Very well, Captain, as you wish."
Kirk hesitated and answered, "I do wish."
Captain Kirk left the group and made his way quickly to the Administrators office, just as Mr. Johnson was leaving.
"Not so fast, Sam. A word with you."
"Captain, I am on my way to a meeting."
"Yes and it's with me. Inside. Now."
Mr. Johnson came to a quick understanding of the many crimes that he would be charged with if the shipment of dilithium crystals did not appear in the cargo bay to be beamed aboard within 24 hours. Also a written apology to his three officers within the hour.
"As I said, Mr. Johnson, a full report will be going to Starfleet. My version of the facts or my version of the facts with the report of the lost shipment of crystals that have been found. Those are your choices. Understood?"
"Captain, I will do my best."
Kirk leaned forward over the desk and said, "Yes, your best is what I expect. Good day, Sam."
Remarkably the dilithium turned up with a new protocol for the outpost to follow. Starfleet had sent a strong message to Mr. Johnson on what the Federation expects from him in the future. A new security force was put in place to monitor the shipments as they came and went.
As Captain Kirk viewed the three officers reports he glanced down at a package that was left in his office. He flipped it over and noticed it was addressed to Lt. Nyota Uhura and he remembered Mr. Scott mentioning that it had been beamed aboard the ship shortly before they disappeared.
He smiled to himself and leaned back in his chair. He brought up the security tapes from the outpost and viewed them for himself and he knew what he had to do. He flipped on his comm unit and spoke into it, "Commander Spock, Lt. Uhura and Chief Giotto, report to my office, please."
Three responses came back and he waited for them to arrive.
The door buzzed and Mr. Spock was first to arrive as his cabin was next to his.
"Mr. Spock..." his door buzzed again and the other two officers arrived.
All three stood at ease in front of the Captain. Kirk walked in front of the line of his officers with his arms behind his back and looked down.
He returned to stand in front of Mr. Spock and said, "I was reading through your reports of the incident on Outpost 12B, and I noticed a similarity in all three reports that I'd like to clear up,"
All three responded, "Yes, Captain."
"I viewed the security tapes to verify the events. It would seem that when we separated and you went your way there was a brief time when Lt. Uhura was not with you two," he waited.
All three said, "Yes, Captain."
Kirk walked down to Lt. Uhura and stood in front of her. "Lieutenant, did you disappear for a moment?"
"Captain, if I may," Spock inserted.
"Go ahead, Mr. Spock."
"Lt Uhura was gone 5.4 minutes and we had her in our sight the entire time."
"Yes, I see. What pulled you away from your group, Lieutenant?"
"Well, sir, I was...making a purchase."
Lt. Uhura cleared her throat and said, "Yes, Captain."
Kirk walked down passed the officers and said, "I see. Yet in the video you did not have anything in your hands when you returned."
"No, sir, I had it sent to the ship. I wanted my hands free for the mission."
"I see," the Captain answered. He went to stand in front of Mr. Spock.
"Commander, did you allow the Lieutenant to go shopping while on duty?"
Spock looked straight ahead and swallowed, "Yes, Captain."
"Shopping while on duty, Commander?"
"Captain, I was not aware of what she purchased, sir. It took a short time, sir."
Kirk looked at his first officer directly and said, "Yes, I see that, Commander, but this could come under dereliction of duty, could it not?"
Spock shifted his weight from side to side and answered, "Sometimes, Captain, women crewmen have to make a quick purchase and I did not wish to embarrass the Lieutenant if that were the case."
Kirk's eyebrows shot up at his comment and looked to the Lieutenant. "Uhura was this a personal purchase?"
"Well, yes, Captain, but not the type of purchase you or Commander Spock are thinking of, sir. I also told the Commander that it would help with us to not stand out as much, sir. A lot of security guards were following us and I thought it would look like we were, perhaps on shore leave, sir."
"I see, so Commander Spock went along with the idea that if you did a little shopping while on duty, it would throw off the guards that were watching you and then you could slip away and carry out your mission."
"Yes, Captain, exactly."
Kirk could see his Lieutenant and Commander were very uncomfortable and he was perhaps enjoying this a little too much.
"So, to begin with, we have dereliction of duty, duplicity while on duty, a senior officer aware and condoning the dereliction of duty, and my very own Chief of Security maintaining silence during the whole transaction. Is that correct?"
The three remained quiet until, Commander Spock spoke up, "Captain, I take full responsibility and ask you to dismiss the other two from any repercussions. It was clearly a..."
Interrupting Captain Kirk said, "It was clearly an unwise use of your time, which may or may not have led you to getting caught in the Office of Transportation."
Spock frowned and said, "Captain, I hardly think that the 5.4 minutes we were delayed affected our getting caught, sir. It is not a logical hypothesis."
Captain Kirk walked over to his desk and picked up Lt. Uhura's package and came back in front of his officers and said, "Your right, Commander, but I did enjoy watching you three squirm."
A sigh was heard from Lt. Uhura, but Mr. Spock said, "Captain, Vulcans do not squirm."
"Oh I beg to differ, our resident Vulcan was squirming. In the future, perhaps you could think of a different way to side-step security forces," he smiled and handed the package to the Lieutenant.
'You are dismissed, except for Mr. Spock."
"Yes, sir," the two officers responded.
Once they left his office, Kirk stood in front of Spock and could hardly contain his smile.
"Spock, you were bamboozled."
He tipped his head and frowned, "Bamboozled, Captain, I am afraid I am not familiar with that term."
"Hoodwinked, hornswoggled, uh, tricked, Mr. Spock."
"Captain, I assure you, Lt. Uhura is one of our most outstanding officers. She would not have intentionally tricked me, sir."
Kirk let out a chuckle that continued to get louder. He took a deep breath and faced his friend, "Oh, Spock, you have a lot to learn about women. Come on, let's have a game or two of chess. I think you deserve the break."
"Captain, I fail to see the humor in the situation."
"I know, Spock, and that's what makes it so funny. I apologize my friend. Here let me pull out your chair, you look befuddled."
"Befuddled, Captain, I find no reason for you to insult me."
Kirk laughed harder and patted him on the shoulder. There were so few times of laughter for Kirk on the ship, that he enjoyed the few that he had, perhaps a little too much.