Chapter 2 - Takeover

McCoy glared when the tingle didn't resolve itself as quickly as it should. What the hell? Seconds later, he felt the nausea that usually came from trouble with the transporter - when their molecules had to be held too long in the computer banks. If they ended up in the right Enterprise's transporter room, whoever was manning the controls would get the hell of a shock from the agonizer when the captain materialized, no matter how relieved he might be that they were home again. Jim hated this feeling, and he knew how much McCoy hated it - there would be hell to pay.

When at last he materialized fully, McCoy's eyes widened, and he sucked in a sharp gasp. Oh, fuck.

Three Vulcans and two humans surrounded the pad, weapons drawn. "Freeze, all of you!"

"What the... how dare you?" The captain's voice was perilous - McCoy would have been chilled if he wasn't already stunned beyond belief. "You-"

"Silence, sir," one of the human guards sneered.

Captain Kirk stormed down in a rage and one of the Vulcans got hold of him. Mr. Scott jumped into the fray, but he and Jim were overpowered and stunned by the Vulcans within seconds. McCoy stepped forward, but weapons turned on him immediately. "Don't make trouble, Doctor," one of the men warned.

"What the hell is going on here?" he snapped. "Who would dare mutiny against James Tiberius Kirk?!"

"I would."

McCoy gasped. He should have known - three Vulcans should have been enough of a clue - but he couldn't believe it all the same. "Spock?" he breathed.

Uhura let out an enraged shriek. "How can you? Captain Kirk is your friend!" She rushed toward Spock, but McCoy held her back.

"Stop, Lieutenant, don't be a fool!"

"He's your friend, too!" she snapped, struggling against him. "How can you stand here and-"

"Dammit, Uhura! Think! You want to end up dead?"

She glared and yanked her arm away, but didn't try to rush Spock again. Spock's men disarmed them both (for the first time, McCoy noticed they had their normal uniforms on again), and they were shoved down from the transporter pad to stand before Spock. McCoy gritted his teeth, and glared. He should have been relieved to see Spock again - their Spock, goatee intact, appropriate uniform in place - but now his stomach churned in nervous anticipation. Spock began, in his usual calm, measured tone. "If you make a sound outside of this room-"

He was interrupted by another enraged scream from Uhura. "Traitor! You bastard!" She lunged for him, hands reaching for his eyes.

"No!" The doctor reached out to stop her, but a moment later, there was a hand on her shoulder. Her body went limp, and Spock let her drop to the floor. McCoy crouched down beside her and confirmed that she was still alive. He looked up at Spock, his face grim in the face of the Vulcan's ever-present calm. "I don't know what the hell made you do this, Spock," he said. "But you're well past the point of no return now. What are you going to do with us?"

"That remains to be seen, Doctor," he replied. McCoy struggled to hide the chill that ran through him. He kept quiet, not trusting his own voice at the moment. "For now," Spock continued, "I am in a position to offer you a choice. Would you like to walk to the brig, or be carried?"

McCoy stood up slowly and faced the Commander. "I'll walk."

Scotty went first. Then Uhura. Then it was just Jim and his doctor for hours. Their Vulcan guard may as well have been a statue. He couldn't be moved by any amount of yelling, threats or promises from Jim. He was loyal to Spock. Of course he was. Other captains had warned Jim that having a Vulcan subordinate officer might be dangerous. They'd counseled him to kill Spock and all the other Vulcans aboard the Enterprise the moment Jim took command from Pike. All of Spock's men were hand-picked and personally recruited by Spock himself, which made them a dangerous force if Spock should ever decide to move against Kirk.

Of course, Jim hadn't killed them. Spock had sworn his loyalty to Kirk, and explained that he had no desire to command the ship, and Jim had let him live and keep his position. In fact, James Kirk was the first man in Starfleet history to ever make captain directly from third-in-command, without killing the current first officer. Jim had placed his full trust in Spock, and he'd never had cause to regret that trust. Until now.

"I don't understand it," Leonard said.

Jim shook his head, staring grimly at the light of the forcefield. "Why are we still alive?" he asked softly. "Why take us one by one like this, when he could have just destroyed our programs in the transporter?"

Leonard sighed. He didn't want to voice the first answer that came to his mind - that Spock wanted to make them feel it. Torture them first. "Maybe so that the rest of the crew has proof that we're dead?" he said aloud.

"Maybe," Jim said, but the dark expression on his face spoke volumes. Leonard was sure that Jim was thinking exactly the same thing the doctor had been - they were still alive so that they could be tortured, or so Spock could have the satisfaction of killing them himself.

Leonard moved to sit beside Jim, settling close enough to feel the body heat radiating from his captain. Jim edged even closer to McCoy, so that their bodies touched, and continued to stare at the forcefield. They didn't speak - what more was there to say? The hours passed, and Leonard kept his eyes open, focusing on the heat and the pressure of Jim's shoulder, thigh, and knee pressing against his own.

Then, the moment Leonard had been dreading came. The guard's communicator chirped, and one of the other Vulcans said something Leonard didn't understand. Jim must have understood the word, because he looked surprised, and glanced at McCoy with something like sadness in his eyes. "What did he say?" he asked softly. Jim shook his head and didn't explain. Oh, God, Leonard thought, feeling his stomach tighten. What the hell was he about to go through?

"Kirk," the guard said sharply.

"What?" McCoy looked from the guard to Jim in disbelief, but Jim didn't seem at all shocked. That must have been what the guard said - they weren't taking Leonard next. Jim got up, and Leonard stood quickly, grasping Jim's arm. "That doesn't make sense! Why is he-"

"Are you so eager to die, McCoy?" the Vulcan asked.

Leonard was too shocked to care that the Vulcan - a mere junior grade lieutenant - had been flippant with him. Jim was the captain - the most important of the four captured. Why would Spock save Leonard for last? "Why-"

Jim smiled. "It doesn't matter, Bones," he said softly. "I know you hate the anticipation. He knows it, too. Maybe that's why he's taking me first." Leonard clenched his jaw tightly, feeling the blood drain from his face. "I'm sorry that you'll have to go through the rest of this alone," Jim continued. "But you're a Starfleet officer. You'll do well."

There was a snap, followed by silence as the forcefield was shut off. Leonard glanced at the guard, who now had his phaser pointed at Jim. "Come," the Vulcan said.

Jim ignored him. He put his hand on McCoy's shoulder, looked him in the eye and said, "Goodbye, Bones. You've been good to me, and I hope I've been good to you."

"Of course you have." McCoy could feel his resolve starting to break, and he gripped Jim's arm tightly. Before he could say more, Jim spoke again.

"If..." Jim glanced at the guard, then looked back at Bones. "If the Vulcan traitor gives you a chance to save yourself - take it."


Jim squeezed his shoulder once, then let him go. "It's my final order, McCoy."

The doctor gritted his teeth, and the guard yanked Jim away and bound his hands behind him. Once the Vulcan had taken Jim into the hall and reactivated the forcefield, McCoy edged as close as he could to the field, and kept his eyes on Jim until he was out of sight.

McCoy thought he would choke. He had no illusions about what would happen to Jim. First Officers did not become Captains in their universe without bloodshed. That last glance - his Captain, with his back straight, seeming calm and dignified despite the bonds, but with that coiled tension just under the surface - it was the last time Leonard would see the man again. He had no doubt about that.

Hours later, McCoy still sat alone in the brig, struggling to hold down his grief while fighting against panic. Damn the bastard! Jim was right, Spock was doing this on purpose - saving him for last to compound his vengeance. The doctor played through every single argument they'd had in their long career. Every time he'd given the man a smug look when Jim had agreed with him over Spock on some dispute. Every derisive name he'd ever used where Spock could hear. Green-blooded, pointy-eared, cold-blooded, inhuman, pig-headed, calculating, unfeeling son of a bitch and FUCK! He almost laughed aloud at the memory of Jim's final words. If the Vulcan traitor gives you a chance to save yourself... Right. The more instances Leonard recalled where he'd been argumentative, disrespectful, insubordinate, or even just plain contrary, the more convinced he became that it wasn't a question of if Spock would kill him, but when, and how long he would make it last.

Finally, a curt message in Vulcan came from his guard's communicator, and the forcefield went off again. McCoy stood up and straightened his uniform. The Vulcan grasped his arm, his grip painfully tight, and led him to Jim's quarters. Of all the-

"Enter." The guard pushed him into the room. Spock sat at Kirk's desk, wearing the long-sleeved version of the golden captain's tunic that McCoy had only ever seen when Jim was feverish and cold and trying to avoid a trip to Sickbay. The sight of Spock in the Captain's uniform, along with the memory of discreetly slipping fever reducers into Kirk's meal programs, set his stomach churning, and he clenched his fists together, struggling against the nausea and grief.

Kirk's some-time woman, Marlena Moreau, stood beside the desk, hand on her weapon. She glanced at Leonard, then looked straight ahead, a neutral expression on her face. McCoy could have slapped her. How dare she turn to Spock so easily after the protection Jim had given her? But that wasn't exactly fair of Leonard, and he knew it. Moreau had been second in affection to Leonard from the beginning, and she'd accepted that with more grace than McCoy had expected. But lately, Jim had begun treating her with less and less care, even going so far as to invite Leonard to his quarters in the evenings, forcing Marlena to fend for herself for the night. Leonard had snuck the passcode for his own quarters to her after seeing this happen more than once, and Moreau had eagerly taken the opportunity to keep her increasingly precarious status a secret. It wasn't really a surprise that she'd decided to switch allegiance rather than suffer the fate of Pike's hard-fisted, unwaveringly loyal woman, "Number One", and die with her man.

Spock looked past McCoy and spoke to the guard. "Leave us." The guard saluted and left. McCoy watched the door close in shock. Why hadn't Spock ordered the guard to shoot? Leonard's fears came rushing to the surface again, and he clenched his hands tightly behind him, now certain that Spock meant to make his death as slow and painful as possible. Christ.

Spock stood slowly, and stepped around the desk with that catlike ease and grace Leonard was long accustomed to. He felt a sharp pang of something he was completely unprepared for - sadness. Not because he was surely going to die very soon, but for the lost friendship and trust he'd grown to share with this man, despite the occasional tension between them, and for the bond he thought had been unbreakable between Spock and Kirk. If there were any Captain and First Officer pair that should have been less likely to end this way, McCoy had never heard of them. Spock had been loyal to a fault - even when opportunities to take command had risen, he'd been true to Jim. What could have changed? Why now? "How could you do it, Spock?" he asked aloud.

"If I choose to answer that question, I will do so in my own time, McCoy," he said sharply. The doctor stiffened and pursed his lips to keep from speaking out of turn again. Spock stood in front of Leonard and stared at him. Spock watched him so long, and with such a stern expression, that it took all of McCoy's strength of will to keep his gaze steady. "I have worked with you for over six years," Spock said at last. "During that time, you have repeatedly treated me with disrespect. You have disparaged me in the presence of our shipmates, including our underlings. You have purposefully baited and antagonized me with your illogical comments, your insubordinate behavior, and your derogatory, racial slurs." While he spoke, the Vulcan walked slowly around Leonard, and the doctor found himself cringing inwardly at each accusation. Spock stopped moving somewhere behind him, and Leonard forced himself to stare straight ahead, avoiding eye contact with Moreau, who, indeed, seemed to be indifferent to the scene. "Do you deny these allegations, McCoy?"

Leonard swallowed. "No, sir," he said softly.

"Do you acknowledge the fact that your friendship, and your steadfast dedication to James Kirk make you a liability to me? That, in fact, the safest and most logical option for me would be to end your life as swiftly as possible?" McCoy clenched his fists tightly behind him, but forced himself to keep his head high despite the cold, heavy sense of dread settling in his gut. "I asked you a question, Doctor."

McCoy nodded curtly. "It... I acknowledge there is a risk from your perspective, sir, but-"

"Furthermore," Spock said, on the move again. "Your behavior toward me throughout our career together would seem to make an extremely slow and painful death my most likely form of execution, would it not?"

Fear mingled with a feeling of hopelessness and spread through Leonard's body like the flush of a virus. Spock was directly in front of him again, and his cold stare served to heighten McCoy's barely-controlled terror. Leonard shuddered, but clenched his teeth and willed himself to keep quiet. He would not plead with Spock. Even though Jim had given him permission - no, ordered him to capitulate - he would not beg for his life, or even for an easy death. No matter how much the prospect of being broken over hours - or even days, if Spock was careful - filled him with horror, he would not plead. Spock still stared at him, and McCoy realized he actually expected an answer to his question. McCoy swallowed hard, and tried to force his voice to remain steady. "That possibility had occurred to me, Commander."

Moreau gasped, and McCoy realized his mistake a split second before Spock's backhand sent him sprawling. He landed half way across the room, face throbbing, nose bleeding profusely, and heart pounding at an alarming rate. Get up. Leonard forced himself to stand, and ignored the bleeding in favor of keeping his eyes on Spock as he approached. Spock advanced to within inches of McCoy's face. "I have taken command of this vessel, McCoy," he said darkly. "The crew will obey me, and those who remain loyal to Kirk have been dealt with - with one exception. To disrespect me from such a precarious position as your own was... unwise."

The doctor shuddered, but managed to keep eye contact with Spock. "Understood," he said. "I apologize, Captain."

Spock nodded once, and the doctor counted it a point of pride that he managed to accept the reprieve without heaving a sigh of relief. Spock returned to stand just in front of Jim's desk and faced him again. "I have a grave decision to make, Doctor McCoy. You have an excellent working knowledge of my particularly unique physiology, and your skill rivals that of the best doctors in the Empire. I believe we are both well aware of what an asset a trustworthy CMO can be to any ship's captain. If I let you live and maintain your position, you will potentially have the power of life and death over me. However, if I kill you, I will have to search for a trustworthy healer who may or may not be close to you in skill, but who will certainly lack your level of experience."

Spock paused, and Leonard struggled to maintain his composure. He felt almost light-headed at Spock's promising use of the word "if". Spock beckoned to him, and he stepped forward, dabbing at the dwindling flow of blood with his sleeve before placing his hands carefully at his sides. "I put this question to you, McCoy," he said, when the doctor stood before him again. "Can I trust you? Will you serve me as you have served Captain Kirk, and as you have served me under him? Or, perhaps more pragmatically stated, how much do you value your own life?"

Leonard swallowed and took a deep, slow breath before answering. "I can't say with certainty how much you can trust me, Spock," he said, knowing he was treading on thin ice by using Spock's name instead of his title. "I... I think Jim would have said that anyone who doubted your loyalty must be absolutely insane before today, so I can't tell you what the future holds. Jim was..." he swallowed, clamping down on the tremor he could hear in his voice. "He was... everything to me. But... I considered myself to be friends with you as well, despite our... disagreements. What I can tell you with absolutely certainty is that I value my life very highly. If you're willing to give me a chance to serve you, I'll take it."

Spock watched him carefully for several minutes - eyes boring into his almost as if he hoped to read his intentions simply by looking at him. Leonard hoped to high heaven that Spock didn't decide to actually read his thoughts. He shuddered at the very idea. At last, Spock extended his hand. "Your agonizer."

McCoy's fists clenched involuntarily, and he felt the blood drain from his face. Suddenly, his resolution not to plead for clemency seemed almost unreasonable. Still, he couldn't quite get out the words. He glanced at Moreau, who watched him with an air of casual interest. "I... in... in front of a subordinate, sir?"

Spock surged forward, a menacing glare on his face. Leonard braced himself, but Spock surprised him by not striking again. "I hope that you will not force me to ask you again, McCoy," he said, voice low and menacing. Breathing hard, Leonard unclipped the agonizer from its belt, and handed it to Spock, attempting to ignore the fact that his hand was shaking. Still glaring, Spock took the instrument. After a few seconds, he looked down at the agonizer. Leonard felt his body tensing, but he stood still and waited. When Spock looked up again, Leonard clasped his hands behind him and tried to prepare himself. Spock glanced at Moreau. "Lieutenant," he said quietly. "Leave us."

"Yes, Captain." The girl immediately saluted Spock and left the room, finally looking at McCoy with more than passive interest. The look of pity that flashed across her face did nothing to quell the nausea roiling up in the doctor's center.

When the door closed, McCoy felt himself tensing again. He was grateful not to have to be watched by a lieutenant, but it was only a small comfort in the grand scheme of things. He waited, and Spock watched him thoughtfully. "You met another universe's version of me, did you not?"

Leonard hesitated, thrown off by the apparent change of subject. "Yes, sir," he answered at last.

"What was your impression of him?"

"What was my-" Leonard cut off the sharp, incredulous question immediately at the slight narrowing of Spock's eyes. "I... he was..." The doctor forced himself to think past the haze of thinly veiled panic, and consider what he thought of the other Spock. "He was actually very similar to you," he said, surprised by his own realization. "He was calm, rational, and he went about everything very logically. But he was..." Leonard stopped, not sure how safe it might be to keep going along this track.

"Continue," Spock said.

"He separated me from the others briefly, and he... he was kind to me." Spock looked sharply at him, and he faltered. Maybe it wasn't such a safe topic after all.

Spock frowned. "Go on," he said sharply.

Leonard cleared his throat nervously. "He... he asked me a lot of questions about the Empire. I got the impression he was trying to find out his own crew's chances for survival."

Spock nodded, and seemed to relax again, glancing back down at the agonizer. "I met your counterpart as well. I had occasion to enter his mind." McCoy shuddered, and edged back almost involuntarily. "My initial opinion was that he was weak. Pathetic. Soft, even by comparison to you. His petulant defiance was quickly and easily reduced to terror and malleability once I took his thoughts. However, I encountered a... fact about our counterparts which has occupied my thoughts for several hours. It explains his kindness toward you, and it has caused me to reconsider my initial impressions - especially in light of your observation that the other world's Spock was as logical as I am. One who is as logical as I am would not value an individual highly without cause."

"You saw that Spock valued me highly?" Leonard asked, surprised that something like that could have been gathered by melding with the other doctor.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "He valued his McCoy highly," he said. "They valued each other. And upon reflection in these past few hours, I am better able to understand why. I thought your counterpart was weak, but there was a quiet strength about him - a value for life, loyalty, and for his principles. I see that strength reflected in you, Doctor."

Leonard's jaw dropped, and he stood completely speechless for a moment. What? "You... you do?" he stammered.

Spock nodded. "Your outward appearance of calm in the face of almost certain death is one indicator of that strength. If I am correct in this, then I believe I can predict your reaction to what I will say next." He lifted the agonizer, and beckoned McCoy to come closer. Despite his instincts, McCoy took a couple of steps nearer. "This is a symbol, Doctor," he said. "A symbol of our slavery to a flawed, failing, illogical system." Leonard's eyes widened at the treasonous words. Spock set the agonizer down on Jim's desk, backed up a few steps, then pulled out his phaser and dematerialized the agonizer without the slightest hesitation.

McCoy gasped. "Spock, are you insane? I'm not a captain, you can't... Starfleet Command could-"

"A revolution has begun, Doctor," Spock said, holding McCoy's gaze with his dark, smoldering eyes. "Starfleet and the Empire are doomed if they continue on their present course. I am prepared to institute a change."

"Spock, one man can't-"

"One man will, Doctor. One man already has. And if you join me, there will not be one man, but two. What is your answer, Doctor McCoy? Will you give your loyalty to me, or will you remain a slave, and go the way of the agonizer?"

McCoy took a deep breath. He wondered briefly if Jim and the others had been given this choice, or if McCoy was the only one who'd been allowed to see Spock's true intentions. It was somewhat disheartening to know that if they had been offered the choice, they hadn't agreed - if you join me, there will be not one man, but two. Leonard wondered exactly what "fact" about the other Spock and McCoy had made this Spock take a second look at him. He wondered what the hell he was going to do.

Shocked as Leonard might have been by Spock's treachery against Jim, the overthrow of a starship was a relatively common occurrence. But overthrow of the Empire? It was madness! Still, for some strange, perverse reason, he found himself not wanting to disappoint Spock. If he'd seen strength in a "softer" version of himself, McCoy wanted to prove that he was at least as strong. That, and he certainly didn't want to "go the way of the agonizer", the meaning of which the doctor had not taken figuratively. If he gives you a chance to save yourself... take it.

McCoy straightened his shoulders, and took another steadying breath. "I... I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity, Captain," he said at last. "I can't say I think this is the sanest idea you've ever had, but my offer still stands. If you're willing to let me serve you, I will."

Spock nodded. "I accept your offer. You may return to your duties. I doubt I need tell you that you will be under surveillance, and I expect you to keep my goals secret. I will send for you when I am ready to discuss our plans."

"Yes, sir." The doctor stepped away, but stopped himself and gave Spock the proper salute before turning to leave. The subtle lifting of the dark expression on Spock's face told him that he was very lucky he'd remembered the salute. The thought of what might have happened if Spock had been forced to remind him made his stomach hurt.

McCoy made it to a separate hall, before he was suddenly overwhelmed, and he leaned heavily against a bulkhead. He was relieved beyond belief to have escaped with his life, but honestly, it was difficult to know how long that would last. Mutiny against the Empire. What the hell had he gotten himself into? He felt a pang of sickness at the resurfacing realization that he'd lost Jim. They'd made it back from a fucking alternate universe, only for McCoy to lose Jim mere hours later. He'd managed to shove the thought as far from his mind as possible while the matter of his own survival was still in question, but now that he knew he was marginally safe, he couldn't shake the thought that he wanted to find Jim and tell him the good news. Damn.

McCoy decided against going to his quarters, heading instead for his second home - Sickbay. He cleaned up and changed his uniform, then busied himself by screaming at his staff for leaving the place a mess, and prodding a few patients harder than necessary. Before long he was feeling a little better. Still, when he went to bed that night, a cold, empty, sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach kept him up half the night, and images of Jim screaming in agony haunted his dreams.

The day after Spock's mutiny, McCoy was called into a briefing, and was both shocked and relieved to see that Scotty and Uhura were both alive. They were accompanied by two of Spock's men, and they were still wearing agonizers, so McCoy assumed that they hadn't been initiated into the true madness of Spock's rule yet. Sulu and Chekov were ushered in next, followed by Lt. Leslie from Tactical Engineering, and Lt. Moreau.

The room looked so much like an average department head meeting (except for the addition of Moreau) that the doctor half expected to see Captain Kirk step in next. Of course, that wasn't going to happen. In fact, Spock opened the meeting by saying, "As I am sure you are all aware, James Kirk is dead." McCoy felt deflated. Certain as he had been that Jim was dead, Spock's matter-of-fact confirmation brought the nausea up full force. He clamped down on it, gritting his teeth and listening to the rest of Spock's statement. "I am aware that Kirk was well-liked among most of this crew, and his loss may be emotionally disturbing to you. You may observe a moment of silence at this time."

Leonard was surprised, but he was grateful that Spock planned to give the crew the opportunity to grieve. Some new captains didnít allow such displays, and he'd half expected Spock to be like them - especially since he was a Vulcan. It was a wise move on his part, Leonard reflected. Spock would be much more likely to gain the support of the primarily human crew by acknowledging their need to grieve, and allowing them to do so, rather than by trying to shut out the memory of his predecessor.

Leonard glanced around the table, noticing that everyone lowered their heads - including Spock. He lowered his own head for a moment, sending a silent prayer that it hadn't been hard for Jim - that Spock had been quick. He shoved down further thought before grief could truly take him over. He didn't want to cry in front of these people. When he'd gotten himself under control, Leonard looked up and watched the others around the table. Most seemed subdued. Even Spock seemed more grim-faced than usual, though McCoy wasn't sure if anyone else would have realized it. There were obvious tears in Uhura's eyes, which she brushed away when she lifted her own head. Scotty was somewhat paler than usual, and Moreau's eyes were red, but most of the others seemed unmoved - either that, or they were better at hiding their grief than the others.

When one full minute had passed, Spock brought an end to the silence, and began discussing his plans. He announced that he intended to revolutionize the Empire, and he was met with complete shock, and some dismay. They took a bit more convincing than Leonard had. Quite a bit more. But by the end of the meeting, all agonizers had been destroyed, and the department heads had been given their tasks. They were to keep their departments in line and in the dark until they were absolutely certain who could be trusted. Once the crew had adjusted somewhat to the new leadership, Spock would meet with the trustworthy crewmen when he saw fit.

Uhura was tasked with the additional responsibility of intercepting and reporting any unauthorized transmissions to Starfleet Command. "I will communicate my captaincy and no more, and that in my own time."

"What about our ranks, Captain," Sulu asked. "Now that Kirk is-"

"Rank will be assigned by merit aboard our ship now, Lieutenant Sulu," Spock replied. "I will personally evaluate the performance of all department heads prior to making decisions about advancement. It will be your task to evaluate the performance of those below you and bring their records to my attention."

There was an uproar at this news from all but McCoy and Moreau, but the others were silenced when Spock pointed out that there were plenty of crewmen beneath then who were eager to become officers as well, and he was not opposed to letting them try if the current stock disliked the new agenda.

Order thus restored, the meeting continued without further argument and eventually, all but McCoy were dismissed. When the room had emptied except for Spock and McCoy, the captain spoke again. "You will schedule physicals with all of the crew, beginning with the lower officers and working your way up the ranks."

McCoy nodded. "Do you want me to handle them personally, sir?"

"That is my preference. If it is not feasible, I want you to personally handle the examinations for all ranking officers yourself."

He nodded again. "Is there a particular reason for these physicals, Captain?"

"Of course, Doctor, there is reason for everything I do. I want a survey of crewmember opinion regarding my rise to power. Subtly, of course. You may pretend collusion if it seems appropriate, and I will not hold you accountable for negative statements made against me during these interviews."

Leonard frowned. "That's very generous of you," he said. Spock frowned in turn, and McCoy sat up straighter. "Permission to speak freely, Captain?"


Leonard cleared his throat, feeling slightly nervous, but determined to make his point anyway. "I don't want to do this if the crew will be punished for what they say to me. They won't open up to me if they think they'll be punished, and if I tell them there's no surveillance and someone is punished, all my credibility is gone. So I want your word of honor on this, or-"

"Or you intend to be insubordinate," Spock said sternly.

McCoy swallowed, but forced himself to hold Spock's gaze. Insubordination was a capital offense at the captain's discretion. "As I'm speaking freely, sir, yes," he said, his voice sounding breathless to his own ears.

Spock's eyes narrowed and his fists tightened, but he unclenched them after a moment and steepled his hands, pressing his fingertips together. "Very well, Doctor. Your concern is noted, and you have my word. This is for information gathering only - no one will punished."

"Thank you, Captain," McCoy said, letting his genuine relief and gratitude show through.

Spock nodded. "Dismissed."

McCoy stood to attention, saluted, and left the room. He went directly to his office and began rescheduling physical exams.

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