Scotty raised his head from his hands as the door slid shut behind Lorna and Doctor McCoy. The strong smell of spirits assailed his nostrils and he looked up, to find a half-empty bottle of Scotch sitting on his desk. Something felt clammy against his chest...he reached down...his tunic was wet. How....? Then, he remembered.... He'd spilled the Scotch on himself during a fit of grief while Lorna and McCoy were still there. He stood up, marveling at the fact that the inevitable headache didn't assault him. Not only that, all the pain and sorrow he'd been suffering for the past few weeks was gone. Thanks to Lorna's empathic healing, he could now begin planning for his new future with Mira.
So she canna' have children. What of it? He mused. It doesna' make any difference! I love her.
Sustained by his new determination, he got a fresh uniform from the closet, laid it across his bed, and went to take a vibro-shower. When he came out, he dressed, straightened the room and - since he didn't have to report for duty for another hour - lay down to rest for a while.
Images of his life with Mira swam behind his closed eyelids: Their wedding...the unique gifts they'd received from Ambassador Sarek and from Lorna.... The discussions they'd shared, planning their future. The day when Mira had come from Sick Bay to tell him that she was carrying his child.... Yes, he could see that as clearly as if it had happened only an hour ago....
He'd been reading a back issue of his favorite technical journal when Mira - looking flustered - had come in. He'd put the journal down immediately and had asked her if she felt all right.
"Of course I'm all right, silly! There's nothing wrong with me.... I'm just having your baby."
Without a moment's hesitation, he'd uttered a whoop of delight, then he'd picked her up and had sat her on the bed, saying: "From now on, you're goin' to take it easy until it's time for you to go back to Memory Alpha!"
Those had been happy days, but he'd been just as happy when Mira had left for Memory Alpha, for it meant it was just that much nearer the time for their child to be born...then had come the fateful day when he'd been called to Captain Kirk's quarters. Kirk had hemmed and hawed a couple of times then he'd told Scotty that a tape had arrived....
Scotty got up and walked to his desk, where he opened a drawer to take out a tape, which he inserted into the viewer:
Memory Alpha to Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott. Chief Medical Officer, Oscar Bernnard reporting. We regret to inform you that your wife has miscarried during her fifth month of pregnancy. The fetus definitely was not normal - apparently a result of the radiation from the Zetarans who tried to assume control of her body. This radiation has changed her ova - she cannot carry any fetus to term...it would not be able to survive in her human body, nor would it survive in any artificial environment. Although Lieutenant Scott herself will remain in good health, we recommend sterilization. She has agreed that this should be done, but she has requested that Doctor McCoy perform the surgery aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise....
Mira stared ahead of her as if she could see through the walls of the scout ship that was taking her to Space Station L-5. I don't know why I'm looking forward to returning to the Enterprise. She thought. It'll be good to see all my friends again, but I dread facing Scotty and seeing the disappointment clouding his love. I just don't know how I'm going to be able to live with that!
The nurse who'd been assigned to accompany Mira spoke: "We're about ready to dock now."
Mira nodded and sat up. There's only one thing I can do - give Scotty his freedom, so he can marry someone who will be able to give him the children he wants...and deserves. It'll be hard...he probably won't agree, but it's the best thing - for both of us.
The nurse turned to Mira once more. "I hope your future will be a happy one, Lieutenant."
"Th-thank you," Mira said, trying to hide her nervousness.
Once she was alone in the space station, she wandered aimlessly about, peering into shop windows without noticing what they contained. Finally, the announcement that she'd been awaiting came booming over the communications system:
Attention: Lieutenant Mira Scott, please report to the main transporter deck in five standard minutes.
Mira took a deep breath and nodded at the transporter operator, not really trusting her own voice. Her last sight of the station was that of people moving to their various destinations before the familiar golden haze covered her eyes.
Scotty picked up his steaming cup of coffee and started to walk towards a secluded table, changed his mind, and sat down at a table in the center of the Rec Room. He was lost in thought, trying to find the best way to prove to Mira that he still loved her - no matter what. He knew that she was probably thinking that she should set him "free" - but "freedom," meaning a life without her, was the last thing he wanted. He was so lost in thought that he didn't hear the door slide open, and he didn't hear footsteps approaching his table.
"Mind if I join you?" McCoy asked behind him.
Scotty jumped involuntarily, then grinned sheepishly as he mopped at the brown puddle that had just missed his tunic. "Sure, Doc. I wasn't ignorin' ye on purpose. I dinna' know ye were there."
"That's all right, Scotty."
After a brief silence, McCoy cleared his throat. "Scotty, I don't want to raise your hopes too much, but I think there may be a way to cure Mira."
Scotty's eyes gleamed for a moment, then that gleam faded. "Doc, I know that nothin' can cure her. The doctors said that sterilization was the only...."
"Bull!" shouted McCoy. Then, gently: "Scotty, I know that you've been goin' through Hell, but you know I wouldn't mention the possibility of a cure unless I was convinced that there was a good - a very good - chance that I would succeed! I've checked everything with the computer...it says there's a 99/100% probability that the spores from the pod plants will restore Mira to normal."
The gleam of hope appeared in Scotty's eyes again, and this time it didn't fade. "You mean...we could have bairns after all?"
"I'll have to run tests after the spores have left Mira's system to be sure, but...yes, I think I can promise you that you'll have healthy, normal 'bairns' - if you do your part...."
Attention, Lieutenant Commander Scott. Report to the main transporter room, immediately.
Scotty smiled. "When, Doc?"
"I'll want to start the minute Mira gets aboard...you can time the rest to suit yourselves," McCoy retorted.
"Doc, I don't know how to thank you! It's a new start for Mira an' me!"
"Don't thank me - it was Lorna's idea. Better head for the transporter room, or Mira will arrive before you get there."
Scotty only had time to smile again before he left, but - to McCoy - that smile was more than payment enough.
When the haze cleared away from Mira's eyes, she saw the familiar transporter room, several crewmen waiting to go down...and Scotty. For a moment, she wanted to run and hide. Stop it, Mira! She scolded herself. That's not some monster that's waiting to swallow you - that's your husband!
She squared her shoulders and looked straight into his eyes. Was she really seeing the merry twinkle there that he reserved just for her? No, it had to be her imagination. She tried to make her greeting as calm and nonchalant as possible: "Hello, Scotty." Inwardly, she patted herself on the back for not falling apart.
"Welcome home, Darlin'!"
Mira started with surprise. His voice was filled with just as much love and tenderness as it had been before she'd left for Memory Alpha, and there was no sorrow in his tones! She opened her mouth to speak, but no sound came out, then hot tears blinded her as Scotty came forward and enfolded her in his arms.
"Hush. It's all right, Darlin' I know what you've been sufferin'. Listen. I don't want you to get any kind o' notion in yer head that I don't love you any more. I'll always love you. And, you're not to say anything about leavin' me and lettin' me find someone who can give me the wee ones I deserve.... Mira, Doctor McCoy just told me that he thinks he can cure you!"
Mira was bewildered. "But, Scotty, the doctors on Memory Alpha said...!"
Scotty laid a finger on her lips. "Mira, they couldn't do anything for you. Even McCoy didn't realize until this mornin'.... Are you willing to let him infect you with the spores from those pod plants he's been keepin' in that special case - you remember, the ones he used on Lorna...?"
Mira gasped. "Oh, Scotty! Of course! They surely ought to be able to help me!"
"Come along, Darlin'...." Scotty tucked her hand under his arm and escorted her to Sick Bay. "Hey, Doc!" He called as the doors slid open. "Look what I've got for you!"
"Well, well, what have we here?" McCoy said as he came out of the lab.
Mira laughed. "I don't know what you may have, but - according to Scotty - I've got a special date with you."
"And I've got to be going to Engineering," Scotty kissed Mira swiftly. "Take care of her, Doc."
"Well? What do your instruments say?" Mira demanded impatiently two weeks later.
"Not a word - but they do indicate that you're A-Okay.... Hey!" Mira was on her way to tell Scotty.
"Oh - oh!" McCoy reached for the switch on the intercom. "If I don't stop her, she might be needing another pregnancy leave soon...." He paused and frowned down at the dark screen. "I don't know...the old country doctors used to say that the best thing for a woman who'd had a miscarriage was to have another baby - fast as possible. That might be the best thing for Mira too...." So saying, he picked up her chart and rechecked her future assignments - nothing that couldn't be postponed - then he grinned and went back to the lab.
Mira found Scotty in their quarters, engrossed in checking printouts from Engineering. He looked up and smiled at her, then he returned to the page he'd been reading.
"Well, if that's all the interest you're going to show, I'll just return to duty!" she snapped as she turned to the door, then bumped into Scotty.
"Okay, out with it!" Silence. "Must I turn ye over my knee and spank ye to find out the news?" he asked sternly, with a twinkle in his eye.
"EEEEK!" she squealed as he grabbed her. "The spores worked!"
He backed away and just stared at her for a moment, then he whirled and headed for a certain corner of the room.
"No, Scotty! You've been saving that bottle for a special occasion...!"
"And what could be more 'special' than this?" He poured some of the Scotch into two glasses. "Here, luv, drink up...."
Mira woke up in the middle of the night and stared up at the ceiling with a smile of utter contentment. Then, a sudden thought surfaced in her mind, and she sat upright. After a moment, she reached over and shook Scotty.
"Wha-...? What? What's wrong?"
"I just realized.... I left Sick Bay before Doctor McCoy injected the contraceptive pellet in my arm.... Oh, Scotty, this could be a time when I'm most likely to get pregnant!"
Scotty looked at her for a long moment, then he reached out and gathered her close. "Oh well, since the damage has probably been done already...."
The day that Mira came in with confirmation that the test had been positive, Scotty turned and picked up one of his technical journals saying, "I wonder if these things will tell me anything about the raising of wee ones...?"
Kirk glared at his closed door. Every time he tried to relax...! "Come in." His glare faded when Scotty entered. "Sorry for intrudin', sir, but I need to ask ye something."
Kirk nodded. He'd been present once when Mira had experienced a sudden - but brief dizziness and had a pretty good idea of what Scotty wanted.
"Captain, you know that the Klingons have been raisin' wee ones aboard their vessels, and you also know that Star Fleet's been receivin' inquiries about considerin' the idea for...."
"Not on my ship, you don't!" Kirk thundered, then he grinned at the crestfallen Scotty. "Look, can't you imagine what it'd be like? You know how you drove your mother wild when you couldn't go outdoors to play on Earth, so think what it'd be like aboard a starship! Klingon children aren't like human children - they have theirs so regimented that they can raise them on their ships - we can't, not the way we're set up. But, Scotty, may I offer my heartiest congratulations to you and Mira?"
"Thank you, Captain," Scotty said, not really disappointed because he'd known this would be the only possible answer to his request.
"And, Scotty," Kirk said when the Chief Engineer started to turn away, "if you have a moment...?"
"You have a lot of shore leave accumulated. If you'd like to request permission to take it when Mira has to leave the ship, I think I can make sure that it will be arranged...."
Scotty and Mira were preparing to leave for Memory Alpha. They would have to go by shuttlecraft to another starship, for the Enterprise was now orbiting Earth, and she would do so until the Romulan renegades who'd kidnapped Kang and Lorna then had escaped into the past, returned to this era.
Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy and Mr. Spock were at the hangar door when Scotty and Mira were ready to leave.
"Goodbye and good luck, Scotty - Mira," Kirk said warmly.
"Thank you, Captain," Scotty answered for them both. "I'm hopin' that you find Lorna soon." He escorted Mira through the shuttle bay. "When you do, give her our regards." He helped his wife up the steps of the shuttlecraft, then he turned back to say farewell to McCoy and to Spock.
Spock, as always, gave the conventional Vulcan salute and farewell.
McCoy, naturally, couldn't resist firing one parting shot: "I'll keep any unimportant mail that comes, Scotty. Oh, but if I find a technical journal that describes the mechanics of changing a diaper, I'll forward it to you."
Mira delivered a healthy, eight pound boy right on the due date of delivery.
They agreed that his name should be James Leonard Scott. To their joy, he was a pretty good baby, except for one thing, which led Scotty to give his son the nickname of "Soggybottom." Otherwise, Scotty found fatherhood a satisfying experience.
Away from the pressures and the demands of starship life, he and Mira had had a chance to really get to know more about each other, and to become well acquainted with the other families who lived in their complex. Most of these families had, some months earlier, formed a local chapter of the "Federation-Starfleet Child Care and Cooperative Center." Commonly known as "The Fleet Keeps," these centers consisted of groups of families who took on the responsibilities of childcare, leaving different sets of adults with the children after they'd reached a certain age - the parents returning to their starships. These sets of adults remained with the children on a rotating basis. This enabled the children to relate to adults at the earliest possible age, yet it freed the mothers to serve on starships with their husbands. However, no child was left out or was deprived of a father and a mother figure - a much better solution than those available to mothers who had been forced to return to work and leave their infants in the 20th Century.
James Kirk was trying to relax and, as usual, he was interrupted. Sighing, he turned off the tape and growled: "Come in!"
"Sorry to bother you, Jim," McCoy apologized as he walked in, "but I wanted to catch you before you got too busy. Uhura and I would like to beam down to Memory Alpha as soon as we arrive, so we can spend the day with Scotty and Mira. I've got to see him actin' like a proud daddy, and I'll never get the chance if I wait until time for them to beam up."
"I don't see why not, Bones. It's too bad that Mira's got to wait until later to join us, but I'll see to it that Scotty gets time off to visit her and J. L. next time we're in this sector...."
"But, didn't you...?" McCoy broke off and stared at Kirk, visibly surprised.
"Didn't I, what?"
"Never mind, you'll find out," McCoy grinned.
Once the four friends had gotten together, there was quite a celebration. Soon, Scotty was so mellow that he didn't argue when Uhura and Mira suggested that he and McCoy keep J. L. so the women could tour the communications complex in peace.
"That's fine with me," McCoy agreed. "It'll give me more of a chance to study this branch of the...uh...what do you call this one?"
"The same, 'Federation-Starfleet Child Care and Cooperative Center' - or 'Fleet Keep,'" replied Scotty, opening the doors so they could leave together.
"Yeah. Well, anyway, you gals all have a good time," McCoy said hastily. When the girls were gone he continued: "I'll tell you, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Uhura told me that both of you are comin' back. I wouldn't have believed that Mira would leave the baby with someone else."
"She wouldn't, except for these special circumstances, Doc. You see..." and Scotty launched into an explanation of their "Fleet Keep," comparing it to the Jewish style of child-raising that had been successful for centuries on Earth.
Suddenly, their peaceful conversation was interrupted by J. L.'s piercing wails.
"Excuse me, Doc," Scotty sighed. "I've gotta tend to ol' Soggybottom here." He frowned. "Come to think of it, after all we drank, I think I oughta pay a call meself."
"I don't argue with the majority," McCoy said. "Where...? Oh..." he broke off when Scotty indicated a handy alcove with the good old Terran biological symbol for "Men" engraved upon its sliding doors.
"Scotty, my lad," observed McCoy while his friend attended to repairs. "I never thought I'd see the day when you'd change a loaded diaper and not even wrinkle your nose!"
"Ah well, Doc, the job isn't so bad when it's your own.... Maybe you'll find out again for yourself one day."
McCoy looked a bit perturbed, but didn't pursue the subject. Instead, he became alarmed when Scotty chucked the used diaper in the waste receptacle. "Uh, Scotty.... I doubt the caretaker will appreciate...."
"Go over and watch, Doc," Scotty suggested.
"Go over and watch."
"Well...okay," McCoy walked over and looked down into the receptacle. "But, I don't.... Good Lord! What made it disintegrate like that?"
"It's a chemical harmless to humanoid flesh that's put in the diaper at the factory. When bodily wastes hit the diaper, the chemical is released but doesn't start working until the diaper becomes cold, far from body heat. When that happens, the diaper - and its contents - disintegrate. It eliminates the task of diaper washing that used to take up so much of a mother's time."
McCoy shook his head then turned to leave.
"Not that way, Doc; let's go out this door." For once, McCoy didn't even want the last word.
He'd heard of the fabulous Memory Alpha Recreation complex, but the only time he'd been down here before, he'd not been in any frame of mind to look at the pleasures the dead and dying people in the corridors might have enjoyed. Now, he stood on the sky avenue, mouth half-open with surprise and awe as he admired the vast complex below him. Memory Alpha was a good-sized world, equipped to maintain life-support systems for various kinds of races. In addition, the architects had worked out a system whereby the central park area could be turned into a little bit of home away from home. Huge domes held atmospheres of diverse worlds, and beneath those domes thrived plants and non-dangerous birds and animals native to those worlds - even Vulcan.
They walked through and admired those domes that were suitable to their lungs, but McCoy soon learned that he'd been too long with the feeling of a starship beneath his feet. He was glad to get back to the Scotts' quarters.
Eventually, McCoy and Uhura beamed back up to the ship, taking Scotty and Mira's luggage with them. Meanwhile, the couple took several extra minutes to say farewell to their son in private, even though J. L. was too young to understand what they were saying.
Neither parent was really apprehensive, for they knew that J. L. was going to be in good hands. They'd be back to take up their stint of childcare within a reasonable length of time. The parents who were staying behind had assumed more and more responsibility for J. L.'s care during the past few weeks. He'd accepted the gradual changeover with no difficulty and would not suffer the extreme wrench of parting that would have been his had he lived in the old days of Child Care Centers.
Taking one last look at J. L., and at the place where they'd spent so many happy months, Scotty and Mira beamed up to the Enterprise, ready to resume their tours of duty.
Issue Number Three: December 1976
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