The Management regrets to announce that due to an extreme case of boredom, there will not be a catchy disclaimer on this story. However, we can tell you that Paramount does own Star Trek and Alan Decker owns Star Traks. Certain other elements of this particular story are the property of 20th Century Fox, but we can't tell you what they are.

"Something They Ate"

By Alan Decker

Anyone watching from the outside as the Runabout Cumberland dipped up and down, wove around and zigged from side to side would be forced to come to the conclusion that the pilot was drunk.

Of course, considering that the Cumberland was in the middle of open space at the time millions of miles from the nearest star system, space craft, or outpost, anyone watching from the outside would have been sitting alone in deep space and probably would have much more pressing concerns to deal with, but I digress...

Inside the Cumberland sat two people. At that particular moment, they most likely would have won any competition for the Most Miserable People in the Cosmos.

"Urk...turn back on the autopilot," Commander Lisa Beck gasped as she clenched her spasming stomach.

"Trying," Lieutenant Craig Porter replied weakly. The pain racking his digestive tract was unbearable. He could swear it was actually spreading into his limbs and skull as he tried to force his hands to input the correct commands.

"Why?" Beck moaned to the universe. She fell out of her seat and onto the floor of the runabout cockpit, curling up into a fetal ball. "WHY?"

"Because we had to," Porter replied. He finished inputting the commands and collapsed beside Beck. Sitting up was just too agonizing.

"No more state dinners...ever."

"Fine by me."

Beck's feverish mind ran through the evening's events. Maybe it was some sort of revenge. Why else would Admiral Frank McGrath have specifically requested her presence at his birthday dinner on Starbase 94? The last and only time she'd seen the man prior to that was when he was held hostage with her by the Starshine Kids on the refitted Waystation. This food poisoning...if that's what it was...couldn't be a coincidence.

Poor Porter. She never should have brought him along. And she shouldn't have insisted on leaving right after dessert. They could have been resting somewhat comfortably in the starbase infirmary right now. As it was, they'd run through everything in the runabout's medkit and in the replicator memory that could possibly help them to no avail.

"Thanks...for...inviting me," Porter said, each word bringing a new wave of nausea.

"No...problem," Beck replied, forcing a smile. Porter's eyes rolled up into his head as he lost consciousness. At least it had to be better than this misery.

Through her own pain, Beck heard a soft beeping from the runabout's control console. She forced herself up on her knees and staggered over to the panel.

It was the proximity alarm. A ship was close. Her vision suddenly blurred as her whole body shook unsteadily. Not much time left.

Beck slammed her hand down on the comm system, opening a broad band channel.

"Help," she croaked, then fell back, landing squarely on Porter as she too lost consciousness.

"Doctor, I think she's coming around."

The soft female voice broke through the darkness clouding Beck's mind. Beck tried to open her eyes, but her body wasn't totally responding just yet. Gradually, her various senses returned. She was laying in a bed. She was on a ship. She could feel the thrum of engines... Starfleet engines by the sound of it.

A weight pressed down beside her legs near the end of the bed.

"Can you hear me, Commander?" a male voice asked. "If not, vomit three times."

"Not funny," she said weakly, her voice barely a whisper.

"Sounds like she pegged you quick, Hawk," another male voice said from farther away.

With another major effort, Beck willed her eyes to open. This time she was successful. She was on a ship, all right. A medical ship by the look of it judging by the number of beds around her.

"You're in post-op," the man seated at the end of her bed explained. "Instead of just disagreeing with you, whatever you ate decided to tear you apart from the inside out."

"Lovely," Beck said, focusing on the man speaking to her. He looked to be in his mid-30's with straight black hair and smiling mischievous eyes. "Where's Porter?"

"He's fine," the other male voice said, stepping over beside her bed. He was tall, with brown hair, a thick mustache, and the same warm glint in his eyes that her bed guest had.

"Where is he?" she asked.

"He left just a couple of minutes ago. I think he was headed to the bridge to talk to our captain."

"I'll let him handle that," Beck said.

"Good plan considering I haven't released you from my care yet," the man on the bed said.

"And just when were you planning on doing that Doctor..."

"Pierce. Just call me Hawkeye. This is B.J. Hunnicutt. We were your tummy excavation team."

"Thank you," Beck said, her strength gradually returning. "If you guys hadn't found us..."

"But we did, luckily for all concerned. Give me your hand."

"Why?" Beck asked.

"I need to check your vitals."

"They have tricorders for that, you know," Beck replied as she placed her wrist in Hawkeye's hand. He placed his fingers on her pulse as a smile crossed his lips.

"I prefer that personal touch."

"I bet."

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