The view outside the transparent-aluminum
window was breathtaking, even for an old hand
like Dr. Leonard McCoy. Tauntaus III was a
glowing gas giant with a ring system to rival
Saturn, and enough habitable moons to support
a thriving colony of gas miners. The rare
elements that made Tauntaus a profitable
venture banded the planet in swirls of color,
like a sandpainting set in motion.
McCoy settled back on his stool, elbows on
the bar, and contemplated the show with the
aid of some Romulan Ale -- just to lubricate
his brain cells. The cerulean liquor swirled
in his glass like a miniature version of
Tauntaus' Great Blue Spot. The gigantic
storm had raged for centuries, with no sign
of slowing down. It churned the multicolored
clouds into a frenzy, even as he watched.
The ale was having a similar effect on his
He was in one of the docking rings orbiting
the system, waiting not-so-patiently for the
courier vessel scheduled to take him back to
the Enterprise. He was due to rendezvous
with his ship near Beta Iradini, now that the
outbreak of Jerix Fever which had claimed his
services had been brought under control.
He was eager to get back to his ship.
Fortunately, the well-equipped station bar
made the wait a tad easier. Most of the
regular clientele were home recuperating, or
still in quarantine on board their respective
ships. He pretty much had the place to
Ordinarily, that would have been just fine by
McCoy. But too many long hours tending the
sick and dying had left him in no mood to be
alone. He was damn poor company for himself
right now. He'd only sit around and brood.
At that moment, he noticed another presence
in the bar. The young man was seated by the
viewport, a champagne flute in one hand as he
gazed raptly at Tauntaus. He had been
sitting so still and quiet that McCoy hadn't
seen him until he sighed, and raised his free
hand to brush back his light brown hair.
McCoy wandered over. "Somethin', ain't it?"
Startled, the young man looked up.
"Incredible. I've never seen anything like
it." There was an odd note of...relief?...in
his pleasant voice.
Taking the friendly response for an
invitation, the Doctor joined him at his
table. After he'd introduced himself, McCoy
added, "I don't believe I've seen you around.
That means you're not med-staff, and you
sure don't look like a miner..."
With an open grin, the younger man answered
the implied question. "I've been a lot of
things, but miner isn't one of them. Or
doctor." Just for an instant, something
infinitely sad haunted his eyes. "Of course,
who knows what the future may hold? I
certainly never imagined anything like
that when I was growing up."
McCoy automatically followed the gesture back
to the swirling maelstrom orbiting below
them. "Serving on a starship, I've seen a
lot myself. But it still takes my breath
away. I hope I never become so jaded by all
I've seen and done to stop appreciating
That haunted expression flickered across the
man's handsome features again. "I know what
"So...you're not a miner," McCoy mused in a
lighter tone. "You're not a doctor. And you
sure as hell don't look like a spacer.
What's that leave? Mine Corp Exec?"
The younger man flashed that grin again.
"Not guilty!" He suddenly looked thoughtful.
"Although...my family did have
something to do with the original expedition
to this system. Financed it, in fact."
He shrugged and gestured expansively with the
delicate crystal flute. "At any rate, that's
not why I'm here. I'm just a tourist, here
to enjoy the view. There's nothing like this
back home in Maine."
"A damn Yankee!" A grin took any possible
rancor out of the words. "I'm from Earth
The two men talked for hours, oblivious to
the passage of time, until the synthetic
voice of the station computer announced the
arrival of McCoy's courier.
As he rose to leave, a thought struck him.
"I just realized, son...I didn't get your
The young man grinned warmly as they shook
"It's Quentin," he said. "Quentin Collins."