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First publislished in Matter/Antimatter 3/4 in 1983

QUOTE FROM AN UNKNOWN SOURCE: In the course of
every Captain's career, there comes a time when
the size of his head expands to godlike dinensions.
It is the responsibility of a good First
Officer to see that this is remedied.

Kirk strolled into the recreation room and spotted McCoy nursing an odd-colored drink at one of the tables, The doctor motioned for kirk to join him, As Kirk slid into a chair beside him, McCoy poked a spoon into his drink, glaring at it distastefully, “Don't ever order one of these, no matter what Sulu tells you,"

"What is it?" Kirk grinned. "Saki and orange juice?"

“God forbid, Whatever it is, it would make a Vegan dogbird fly backwards." McCoy looked Kirk over critically. “Come to think of it, it probably would do you a lot of good. You've been a bit tense lately."

Kirk shook his head. " ‘m okay. It's just this week after week of routine. It's bad for the crew, too. They're getting lax… careless, and the efficiency ratings are way down. I'd rather be patrolling the Neutral Zone; at least that keeps them on their toes. They can do this job with their eyes closed."

“Oh, it's nice to have a little easy duty now and then," McCoy countered, "we've been through some tough missions. The crew can't live on adrenaline forever, you know. We need a month or two of milkruns every once in a while."

“I guess so, but it gets old fast," kirk said, toying with McCoy's discarded spoon. "In my opinion, they're becoming over-relaxed, which isn't good, either."

McCoy did not miss Kirk's restless movements. "Maybe you're getting too bored," he commented, taking the spoon from Jim's hand to stop him from tapping it annoyingly on the table.

Kirk glanced at him sharply, then he shrugged and muttered ruefully, "That's pretty much what Spock said."

“He's right. You hate it when you're not hip-deep in trouble. You feel deprived when you're not butting head-first against some obstacle. You like the challenge."

"That's ridiculous, Bones," kirk retorted. "You and Spock…”

“Ah ha!" McCoy cried gleefully. “I'm beginning to get the picture now. That's why you've been so irritable. You had a fight with Spock, and you came out on the wrong end.”

“Vulcans don't…fight, as you put it," Kirk replied grimly.

“That's what they tell me," McCoy offered dryly, 'but I've yet to be convinced. Spock and I have definitely had our bouts.  If they weren't fights, they certainly could be called spirited debates. If I know you, you lost your temper."

Kirk was silent.

McCoy grinned and nodded with satisfaction.  “Just as I thought: Spock made one of his logical points, and you couldn't respond to it, so you blew up."

'Now, wait a minute!"  Kirk protested.  "It wasn't like that.  He simply wasn't considering all the alternatives. He wouldn't even try to see my side of it."

“Were you trying to see his side? Remember, Spock always sees the alternatives."

Kirk glared at McCoy. “Only the logical ones… which leaves a lot of territory."

“Okay, I'll bite. What was the fi…uh, the disagreement about?"

Kirk banged his fist on the table in frustration. “The Prime Directive."

'Not again," McCoy groaned.

'Yes, again. He still thinks I violated it on Gamma Trianguli Six, and Iotia, and even on Neural with Tyree and the Hill People. He insists I interfered.”

'But Starfleet backed you up, and so did the Federation Council.”

“That doesn't affect my first officer's opinion. He claims governmental decisions aren't based on logic, and material and strategic factors weigh more heavily with the council than facts,•

“He's got a point," McCoy conceded, forcing himself to keep a straight face at Kirk's obviously irate expression. “What were his suggestions as to what you should've done?

“He didn't have any. He said there were no logical solutions because emotional beings were involved. He maintains my actions were interference in the natural progression of those cultures; literally, violations of the Prime Directive."

“What did Spock expect Starfleet to do? Court-martial you, or hang you up by your thumbs?” McCoy asked with amusement, knowing very well that Kirk's anger at Spock was actually a cover-up for his own doubts. Of course, those doubts weren't necessarily such a bad thing. Kirk had been acting far too sure of himself lately, which could be as dangerous as the opposite.

“No," Kirk replied through clenched teeth.  “According to Mr. Spock, and I quote, I 'cannot be held to blame for following my natural Human proclivity for being a meddler.’”

McCoy could not hold back a snort of laughter but he sobered instantly at Kirk’s glare. He shrugged. “Jim you've always been aware of how he feels; he hasn't made any secret of it.  Why the big fight now? What brought up the subject? What happened last month on… What was the name of that planet?”

“It wasn't a fight! And yes, he said I did it again. Oh, not violating the Prime Directive, only bending it a little. Besides, don't understand why he can't see my viewpoint. We've known each other for a long time."

“Are you positive you're seeing his?"

"Of course," Kirk countered quickly. "I did the best thing I could think of on Aldron Four, and it worked. Results are what count, aren't they?"

“Well,” McCoy answered doubtfully, “it worked out okay for the Federation, anyway."

“You're damn right it did!  And that planet is a lot better off. So are the others. You said yourself the culture on Gamma Trianguli Six was stagnating. Now, it's not."

My aren’t we confident?  McCoy reflected wryly.· Out loud, he soothed, "Calm down, Jim. Spock doesn't believe you did the wrong things on those planets. He just wants you to give it a little more thought before you jump into something feet first."

Kirk sighed. “I guess you're right. It must be the tension and all this inaction that's making me so edgy."

Or Spock hit a bit too close to one of your insecurities, McCoy thought to himself. “Our next scheduled shore leave is only a few days away," he remarked. “Maybe you can get rid of some of that tension."

Kirk grinned, "Am I ever ready for this one! I intend to have the best shore leave of my life."

McCoy returned the grin. "That's the spirit. Now, go find Spock and have a game of chess or something. If there's anything I can't stand, it's the idea of being a referee for the two of you."

 

&  &  &  &

Three days later, the Enterprise entered orbit above Recco, and Kirk gave permission for the first shore leave group to beam down. He was scheduled for the second.

Recco was what might be called a perfect shore leave planet. It was perfect if you liked loose law, few rules, and decadent pleasures. To a bored starship crew, it was a welcome diversion. Kirk gave the standard orders on conforming to the local laws and avoiding trouble, et cetera. He was not too worried about their safety, though, even on as wild and wooly a planet as Recco. They were all well-trained and quite able to handle themselves. Besides, it was healthy for them to forget about discipline occasionally. He was looking forward to a short fling himself.

The next day Kirk wandered into the recreation room in search of McCoy. He had been unable to locate the doctor in Sickbay. To his surprise, Spock and McCoy were talking quietly at one of the corner tables. It was not uncommon for his chief surgeon and his first officer to be talking together. But to be talking so quietly?! Ordinarily their conversations were somewhat louder and much more vehement; on McCoy's side, at least.

"Bones, Spock," Kirk said cheerfully. "What are you two conspiring about?”

Two pairs of eyes stared up at him, and McCoy almost jumped. “Oh! Hi, Jim. I thought you'd be getting ready for your shore leave."

“I am. I've got ten minutes until beamdown. I was hoping you could accompany me, but I understand you're scheduled for the next group. Can I pick up anything for you while I'm there?"

"Uh, no, I don't think so. Too bad I can't go with you. I've got some reports to…”  McCoy glanced over at Spock. "Spock is scheduled for this group."

"Really? I don't suppose you'd care to join me, Mr. Spock?" Kirk asked offhandedly, knowing from past experience that his first officer preferred to spend his shore leaves conducting research or meditating in his quarters, and Recco was definitely not Spock's usual cup of tea.

"Yes, Captain, thank you," Spock responded. “I believe I will."

Kirk halted in amazement. He turned slowly, as if he were not quite sure he had heard correctly. "Did you say…yes?"

Spock raised an eyebrow. “If it would not be an intrusion."

"No… of course not," Kirk answered, still in a state of shock. He recovered quickly and sailed. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy Spock's company. Spock was a Vulcan, however, and Kirk's plans did not include any stops at the library. “I'll be glad to have you with me.”

"Then perhaps we should proceed to the transporter room," Spock suggested,

McCoy seemed to be choking on his drink. Finally he managed a sober expression. “'Bye, Jim.  Have a good time, Spock," he offered sweetly.

"Why, thank you, Doctor," Spock answered blandly. "Such is my intention."

 

The planet Recco had been, appropriately enough, named after its discoverer. Hubert Recco, known as Jumbo to his friends and various other things to his enemies, had been, at odd moments in his life, a taxi-shuttle driver, an unsuccessful investment broker, and a bouncer in a whorehouse on Wrigley's. First, last, and always, though, he was a con man. He had never laid a claim to honesty, integrity, or a shred of common decency. But he had, unwittingly enough, perpetrated one honest action. Once upon a time, in the process of fleeing from some unkind officials in a borrowed space cruiser, he had happened to pass near a lonely little out-of-the-way planet. Upon his safe return home, he sold the mining rights to a prospector from Antares Four, who was overjoyed to find the planet was rich in dilithium as well as dozens of other desirable minerals. Unfortunately Recco had had no idea of this when he sold the rights. In fact, he had never set foot on the planet and was definitely not at liberty to sell the rights. The miner’s claim held up in court. It appeared he was the first to set foot on the planet, so he had Recco's name immortalized in honor of the supposed swindle that was not a swindle. No one knew what happened to Recco. In all probability, he died of a broken heart after learning what he had missed, all for the inconvenience of having a Federation patrol on his tail. Too, he could have gained anonymity through a bad batch of synthesized alcohol.

Spock and Kirk stepped out into the city, after passing through the almost non-existent customs, and made their way through the throngs of people in the streets. The crowds were deceptive. This city was the only concentration of people on the entire planet, the rest of it being barren and dry, and positively uninviting except for the treasure of minerals. Even a glass of water cost ten credits. Few drank water, in any case.

The two men passed a holographic theater. The three-dimensional poster on the marquee was of a nude female in a most unusual position.

Kirk paused, his mind shifting into gear. Chekov mentioned a place…

"It does not appear aesthetically pleasing," Spock broke into Kirk's reverie. "It is an extremely awkward pose. I fail to see how she maintains her balance."

In spite of himself, Kirk felt his color rise. He cleared his throat uncomfortably, amazed that, after all the things he had encountered in the galaxy, he should be embarrassed simply because a straightlaced, poker-faced Vulcan was at his elbow. "Uh… yes, Mr. Spock. Definitely not artistic. Why don't we try the tavern up the street? I could use a drink," he added.

They reached the dimly lit bar, and Kirk ordered a Saurian brandy. Spock chose his standard fruit juice. Kirk looked around. It was no different from a hundred bars on a hundred planets he had visited. There was the familiar group of badly-tuned musicians: an Andorian on the warp-harp, a Tellarite on the synth-drums, a Borakk on the sitar, and a Human on the piano. The lights were low, and the drinks were watered. On second thought, maybe they were not watered. Water was more expensive than alcohol here. But they put something in the drinks to dilute them.

Kirk's gaze took in the woman at the bar. She was Human, more or less, and she had lovely amber hair. She was very healthily built, in all the right places, and the places were displayed to their best advantage by the not-quite dress she not-quite wore. He caught her eyes and sailed his most effective smile. She smiled in return. It hit him like a stun setting on a phaser.

Kirk gulped the last of his drink. "Excuse me, Mr. Spock.” He strolled over to the bar and sat down beside the woman, giving her his best grin, boyish and charting.

"Would you care for a drink?" he asked.

She edged closer. "Why, yes, thank  you.” She checked him over, impressed with what she saw. "You're a captain, aren't you?"

Kirk smiled again and leaned toward her, brushing her arm. "Yes. And you're a beautiful woman … so you outrank me,”

A faint tap fell on Kirk's shoulder. "Captain," Spock intoned quietly, "I do not mean to intrude, however, the rather large man behind the bar does not seem to be pleased by your conversation with the young lady."

Kirk stiffened, a little irritated by the interruption.  He glanced at the bartender, who was most assuredly glaring in his direction. He was also the approximate size of a shuttlecraft.

"so what?" Kirk shrugged. "Don't worry about it, Spock."

Spock was not content with Kirk's statement. "Young lady," he said, "I believe your friend is disturbed by your association with this gentleman. Perhaps you should explain to him you are merely being polite to a visitor?"

She stared at Spock in surprise. "Oh, it's just Bobo. He's always jealous." Then she looked at Bobo. Jealousy was rapidly advancing into rage. "Well, you could be right. Sorry, Sweetie." She patted Kirk's cheek and went to soothe Bobo's crushed vanity.

Kirk sighed and rested his chin in his hands. “Spock," he murmured with laudable restraint, "why did you do that? I told you I could handle it."

“I am certain you could have, Captain, though it would not have been a good example to the crew for you to become involved in a barroom brawl over a female."

Kirk straightened.  “Mr. Spock, I've been on many shore leaves, and I assure you…

"You have never been in a fight?" Spock concluded curiously.

Kirk stopped in confusion. "No, of course I've been in fights but…” As he encountered Spock's intrigued eyes and uplifted eyebrows, he trailed off. "Very well, Mr. Spock. Shall we look elsewhere for our entertainment?”

'Certainly, Captain. If you wish.”

Kirk stared at Spock sharply, a suspicion dawning. He shook it off, tossing some credits on the bar, and they started off.

Outside, a fetching young woman with lime green hair, obviously dyed, and yellow spangled briefs caught Kirk's arm. She leaned against him seductively and whispered something in his ear. He smiled at her with interest, conscious of the lingering effect from the amber-haired girl in the bar.

Spock obtained Kirk's attention with a bit of difficulty and led him to one side.

“What is it, Spock?” Kirk asked impatiently as the girl winked at him from a few yards away.

“ Is this female a  professional…. companion?” Spock inquired quietly.

“Uh… yes."

'Captain, may I remind you the Klingons also use Recco as a shore leave planet. Disregarding the possibility she could be a Klingon agent, it is always possible to contract some of the more virulent forms of venereal disease. Even the relatively easily cured Human versions…”

"Yes, Spock, I see your point," Kirk cut him off hastily. This time his blush was a bright red, and it extended from the tips of his toes to his scalp. He shook his head at the woman, ignoring her pout of disappointment, and started walking down the street. Spock fell in beside him.

Within a short distance, they reached a place called McGillah's Gambling and House of Fortune. Gambling was quite legal on Recco. As a matter of fact, it was encouraged.

They entered, and Kirk turned to address Spock. "I feel lucky. What do you suggest we try?”

“I doubt if they play fizzbin here, Captain," Spock said with a touch of humor.

Kirk laughed. “Don't be so sure. They probably have something just as fascinating."

Spock inspected the various games of chance. "I would suggest you do not attempt the roulette."

“Why?" Kirk asked curiously.

“Purely from an unscientific examination of the wheel, I would say it is badly out of balance. Your opportunities of winning are extremely small. I believe the expression is ‘the house has the percentage.’”

Kirk stared at hit in surprise.  “What about the craps?"

“'Craps'?”

"Dice, Spock.'

"One moment."      Spock stepped over to the table and observed the game for several minutes, then he came back and shook his head. “Loaded, Captain."

“Loaded?” Kirk repeated weakly.

“That is when a weight, usually lead, is applied to..."

'Yes, Spock. I know," Kirk interrupted him. “I'll avoid both the roulette and the dice. Let's play Zetar poker."

“If you will excuse me, Captain, it does not interest me. I shall return presently."

Kirk nodded. “Okay . I'll see you later." With a happy smile he strolled over to join the poker game. He loved poker with a deep passion. He was not proficient at this particular brand of the game, but, like any normal starship captain, he thought he was a master at it. Zetar poker was played with seven aces, five kings, and no queens, the Zetarians being asexual. The rules were as complex and nearly as convoluted as the mythical fizzbin.

An hour later, Kirk was losing steadily, and the Tellarite across the table was looking uglier by the minute, his features contorted by what Kirk supposed was a grin. He was exceptionally cheerful for a Tellarite. Then again, he had every right to be: he was winning every hand.

Kirk became conscious of Spock at his elbow. After a few more hands had been played, Spock spoke calmly , "I am not altogether familiar with this game, Captain, however, is it not somewhat unorthodox to retrieve cards from your sleeve?"

The Tellarite sat up angrily. "Are you calling me a cheat, Vulcan?”

Spock's eyebrows lifted haughtily. "I was referring to you, of course, although I did not state it specifically. As to whether you are behaving dishonestly, it would best be decided by the other participants of the game."

There was a loud babble of voices as the other players realized the Tellarite had been cheating. The commotion brought a swarm of interested onlookers from various parts of the casino.

The Tellarite stood, furious at being caught, especially by a Vulcan.  "Why don't you mind your own business, you pointy-eared freak?" he said nastily.

Kirk, who had had enough Saurian brandy as well as smirks from the Tellarite, also stood up. “I don't think I'd talk about freaks, if I were you," he remarked softly.

"Stay out of this, soft-bellied Human!"

"Why, you pig-faced…” Kirk began./ He stopped, noticing the glint of steel as a dagger slipped from the overcrowded sleeve into the Tellarite's hand. He kicked over the poker table, knocking the knife out of the alien's hand and scattering cards and square-shaped chips across the floor.

The Tellarite leaped at Kirk' s throat. Kirk gave him a knee to the gut, perhaps to demonstrate exactly who was soft-bellied. Inevitably the altercation spread to the rest of the members of the party. Soon the entire club was a shambles of flying glass, broken tables, and blood of several colors.

Spock stepped back, gracefully avoiding the airborne objects. For a short while, he watched the destruction. "Fascinating," he murmured. Then he moved forward to administer a nerve pinch to Kirk's latest assailant, Jim having succeeded in putting the Tellarite to sleep. Kirk could not, however, shrug off the strong grip that directed him out of the holocaust. Spock released him once they were safely outside on the sidewalk.

"Spock, why the hell did you do that?” Kirk demanded, furious.

"I surmised, it. was time for the law enforcement to arrive," Spock replied reasonably.  “I did not think you wished to be arrested with the rest of the rabble."

Momentarily speechless, Kirk looked back and saw several burly policemen amble into Mc6illah's Gambling and House of Fortune. He straightened and pulled his uniform into a semblance of order. “Thank you, Mr. Spock,” he said dryly, wiping the blood and beer from his face with as much dignity as he could muster. “Do you have anything to say for yourself? I thought it was your intention to keep me out of a brawl?"

"It was, Spock answered sternly, "and I must admit, Captain, your conduct was most deplorable."

"My…my conduct?!" Kirk was stupefied. "You started the whole thing!"

"I do not believe I could have started it," Spock replied cooly. "I simply stated the facts. It was you who took offense at the Tellarite's remark.”

"What did you expect?" Kirk fumed. "He called you a freak!"

Spock returned Kirk's angry gaze calmly. "Since I am, after all, a hybrid, he may have had a basis for the nomenclature. Although it was a somewhat distasteful manner of phrasing it, we are rare…”

"Spock!" Kirk cut him off in a rage. "Why am I getting the odd suspicion I've been set up? Ever since we beamed down to this place, you've discovered one reason after another for me to forego my usual pursuits. Would McCoy have anything to do with this, I wonder?"

Spock stared at the ground, his hands clasped behind his back in his normal stance. "Dr. McCoy appeared to find the idea diverting and derived considerable amusement from it, but I assure you the original concept was mine."

"What idea? What concept?" Kirk questioned in a dangerously quiet tone.

“I had anticipated you might accept it in this manner. That is why I first discussed it with the doctor. He was in total agreement with me.”

"Discussed what?!"

'Why, interference, Captain," Spock said innocently. “I thought perhaps if I demonstrated my point, for your own good, of course, you might better understand my view of the importance of the Prime Directive.”

Kirk took a deep breath, then he took another and counted to twenty, very, very slowly. When he had regained a shred of control, he turned to face Spock. "You put me through all of this just... just to prove a point?"

"Yes," Spock answered simply.

Kirk sighed. "You've succeeded in your goal, Mr. Spock. I concede interference isn't exactly what you would call pleasant when you're on the receiving end. I'm not saying I totally agree with you. I still feel I did the right thing in those instances. There comes a time when you have to make a decision to interfere and hope it works out for the best. I stand by that. But… you've proved your point. I'll be much more cautious in the future, I assure you." His eyes narrowed suddenly. “And if you ever pull anything like this on me again, I swear…”

“I am certain it will not be necessary," Spock put in hastily. Despite his words, there was a definite twinkle in his eyes.

Kirk relaxed and grinned ruefully. "So, what do we do now, Spock?”

“If you do not mind, I believe I will spend the remainder of my shore leave on the Enterprise. This has been most interesting, though somewhat fatiguing."

“I might as well go with you,” Kirk said mournfully. “!’m kind of out of the mood for shore leave, anyway."

As they began walking toward the beamdown point, Kirk glanced at Spock. "What were you doing while I was trying my hand at poker?”

Spock seemed almost embarrassed. “I was playing roulette and dice."

Kirk stopped abruptly, causing Spock to nearly run into him, and caught Spock's arm. “You told me those games were rigged!"

Spock nodded solemnly. “They were most definitely 'rigged.' I was, however, scientifically curious as to the odds. I was endeavouring to discover if I could compute the method by which they were fixed."

If nothing else, Kirk knew his Vulcan. "How much did you win?” he asked in a choked voice.

“Five thousand, three hundred and forty-two credits," Spock admitted reluctantly.

“Five thousand, three hun…” Kirk took a firmer grip on Spock's arm. "Come with me, Mr. Spock. We're going on shore leave!"

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