|Admiral Christopher Pike
Feeling a lot more relaxed, Jim looks up from his terminal at the chime of the door. "Come," he tells T'Prina, transferring the rest of the cheat codes and two interesting macros to a data solid before getting up. "Something wrong?"
"Ship communications are not functioning at this time due to the ion storm. Commander Scott ordered me to organize volunteers to act as messengers for the bridge and senior officers, then to report to you on the status of repairs."
Jim sighs; the universe likes him stressed. "ETA on when they'll be up?"
"Within the hour. Engineering was able to compensate for most of the potential damage."
"Good enough. Is the transporter up?"
T'Prina hesitates. "Yes, Captain. But perhaps--"
"We sent a message to Mitchell when we entered the system," Jim answers, rubbing his forehead. Fucking two am. "He'll be waiting and I want to get this over with and get some rest. By the way, you're scheduled for shore leave and Uhura already volunteered to make sure you take it. Consider it an order."
T'Prina nods, radiating dissatisfaction; Jim's too tired to work out why. "Yes, sir."
"Tell Commander Spock and Lieutenant Uhura I'm beaming down," Jim says as they leave the room and start to walk toward the turbolift. "Oh, and get my codepicker from Uhura and bring it down before I leave; Mitchell wants to try it on a Cardassian thermal crate and I have credits riding on this one."
"Very well, sir."
After letting her off, Jim lets himself slump into the turbolift wall. The hour long meditation with Sorin had been only marginally less exhausting than the one the night before, and he'd been too keyed up to sleep when he had to be down at the station in only a few short hours. Probably he should have considered that before demanding conjugal favors from his first officer, but that was pretty much the only part of his day that didn't suck.
An ensign from Scotty is waiting for him in the transporter room, earnestly reporting that Commander Scott would have communications restored in the next ten minutes.
"Captain?" the transporter technician asks as Jim takes his place on the platform. "Whenever you're ready."
"Hold on a few more minutes." Faintly, Jim feels Spock checking on him and tries not to roll his eyes.
Change your mind? At the negative, Jim grins to himself. I promise not to drink anything I don't have a tolerance for. Where's T'Prina?
She should be there momentarily. Jim straightens; while he can't always identify what Spock may not admit he's feeling, there's feeling there, and in a human, he'd call it something very like excitement. We received a message with a Ferengi encryption signature before communications were interrupted. Lieutenant Uhura is retrieving it now.
Jim almost steps off the transporter pad. Of all the things he'd expected, Dar contacting him had been below random chance and the intervention of religious icons. You think it's Dar?
Possibly Would you recognize it?
"Wait," Jim tells the crewman distractedly when he thinks he feels the floor begin to hum. Show me. Almost immediately, Jim can see the complex encryption. Yeah. A newer one, but I recognize it. Hold on and I'll-- The hum increases, trembling up his calves; startled, Jim looks at the surprised-looking crewman --what the hell?
"I said wait!" Jim snaps, unnerved; the hum changes into something deeper, a low, bell-like ring that doesn't sound anything like the regular function of their transporter. "What the hell are you doing?"
The crewman lifts both hands helplessly before returning them to the board. "I'm not doing it, sir. I haven't even started the dematerialization protocol."
Biting off a curse, Jim starts to get off the pad, but the hum abruptly deepens and something cool seems to enclose his skin. It's odd; he can't move, and he also doesn't really care. "It's--it's coming from somewhere else, sir."
Jim, Spock says abruptly, voice thready and growing slowly more distant; Jim tries to hold on, but the thought slides like water between his fingers. Get off the transporter.
God, he'd love to. The humming deepens again, and Jim tries to focus--move, get off the transporter, something's wrong--but nothing seems to stick. Distantly, he watches the doors open for T'Prina, codepicker in one hand. She stops short, brown eyes widening as they flicker between him and the transporter tech.
Jim, get out of there, Spock is saying, but Jim can't gather his thoughts enough to remember how to answer.
"Captain?" Abruptly, she turns away, pushing the crewman from the transporter controls. "Get Commander Scott and contact security immediately," she says calmly, hands flickering over the controls. "Tell them that someone is attempting to transport the Captain from the ship. I will attempt to delay transport until their power cycle runs out." She looks up briefly, a tiny line growing between her eyebrows that looks, if Jim were crazy, a lot like fear.
"Forgive my presumption, Captain," she says, meeting his eyes. "But I do not know if we are being monitored." Jim feels a gossamer touch--like Spock and nothing like him at all--and then T'Prina's mental voice fills his mind.
If they can do this, it is possible they are able to hear us. There is an unknown transporter beam that is attempting to capture your pattern. According to my readings, the beam has been modified with a mild inhibitor to slow your nervous system, which is why you cannot move and find it hard to think. I am attempting to compensate; they are using a great deal of power and cannot continue to do so for very long without rupturing their engines. She pauses, fingers tapping over the board. I cannot locate the origin of the beam.
That--almost makes sense.
Before the crewman can do more than turn around, the doors open again and Evans with three of the security team spill into the room, phasers out, which is--probably not useful, Jim thinks clinically.
"Cadet, what's going on?"
T'Prina hands slow as she checks the readings. "Someone is attempting to transport the Captain from the ship. I cannot delay the transport much longer without degrading the Captain's pattern." They must have acquired a secondary source of power to fuel this attempt. I am setting the delay to continue until the computer failsafes override me. She looks at Evans. "Are communications restored?"
"Yes," Evans starts as he approaches the transporter. "Cadet--"
"Thank you." The failsafe will override the delay in forty-five seconds, Captain. "Please give me your communicator, Lieutenant. I need to speak to Commander Spock immediately."
Evans hands it over with a baffled expression. "What are you--"
Flipping it on, T'Prina keeps her eyes on Jim. Thirty nine seconds. "Commander," she says, typing one handed on the interface, "an unknown entity has achieved a lock on the Captain's pattern. I have been unsuccessful in blocking the signal and can no longer delay transport without damaging the pattern buffer. I have logged my attempts and the signature of the transporter so you will be able to find the parties responsible. Security will have a more complete report of events."
Closing the communicator, she shoves it into her pocket and turns to Evans. "Lieutenant," T'Prina says, "I hope you will understand this is my duty. I bear you no ill will."
Jim remembers telling Spock about the first time he trained with T'Prina--the impossibly fast, impossibly easy control she had over her body, the perfect focus of a predator--but the memory is nothing to the reality. In seconds, Evans is collapsed across the floor and T'Prina is tucking one phaser into her uniform, setting the second one without looking away from Jim before pointing it in the direction of the startled security team. "Please do not require me to fire on a fellow officer," she says calmly. "This phaser is set to kill and I do not miss."
The failsafes will end the delay in twenty-five seconds, Captain. I suspect you will regain control of your body when transport is complete and will be able to utilize a weapon.
"T'Prina," Uhura says over the comm, voice cracking in fear; Jim wonders what's going on. Uhura's the calmest person he knows, barring Spock. "What the hell are you doing?"
All three security officers track T'Prina, phasers out but not entirely sure where to point them.
"Cadet," Evans wheezes, grabbing for her ankle as she passes him. "You can't--"
"Tell Commander Spock that I did not permit the Captain to go alone."
For a second, everything snaps into focus--long enough for him to understand what she's planning to do, long enough to think the order for her to keep her ass right where it is, long enough to feel Spock's mind desperately trying to help him compensate for the confusion of his own, long enough to realize there's nothing he can do and holy God he is fucked--then something warm knocks against him, and with it comes a sudden onslaught of fear and chilling anger, layered over with desperation and a mental litany marking off time in seconds, five four three two one--
The computer failsafes have overridden the delay, Captain.
--and Jim realizes it's T'Prina.
Jim feels flickers of surprising sensation--an arm wrapped tightly around his waist, fingers twisting into the back of his tunic, the ghost of braided hair brushing his cheek, the solid metal of a phaser tucked between their bodies, and T'Prina's mental voice as close as his own mind, filled with grim satisfaction. The other phaser is in my tunic. They will not find us unprepared, Captain.
She would be an excellent pirate, Jim thinks vaguely, closing his eyes.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three….
For a moment, there's bright pain as Spock's mind is jerked away, tearing through him so quickly he can't do anything but gasp in shock--then nothing at all.
"It is not unprecedented," Sorin says, withdrawing his fingers from Spock's psi-points one by one, easing the transition from the healing trance. "But I do not recall that anyone has ever tested the effects of telepathic communication in a bond during an active transportation session. You are perhaps the first."
"The only one stupid enough," Dr. McCoy says, reading the tricorder grimly. "I'm not seeing any permanent neurological damage. How are you feeling?"
"I am well, Doctor," Spock answers, eyes fixed on Sorin.
"I can find no damage to your bond," Sorin says after a moment of thought. "Can you sense his presence?"
Sorin nods. "He is human. The distance, combined with the effects of the transporter on you both, could dampen your ability to sense each other."
Spock doesn't allow himself the luxury of relief. "I understand," Spock answers, sliding off the biobed. Nyota, waiting a few feet away, nods sober acknowledgement. "Thank you for your efforts, Healer Sorin," Spock begins formally.
Sorin holds up a hand. "Commander, there is not permanent damage, but that does not mean you are completely healed. The dematerialization of your bondmate during contact caused several instances of internal hemorrhaging in your cerebral cortex. I will require you to return to sickbay three times daily for the next week so we can assess your condition."
"It is not logical for you to exceed rational limits on your mind." Sorin looks at Spock soberly. "We do not know his current condition. If he is distressed, a degradation in your health could cause a sympathetic reaction in him. He is not Vulcan; it is likely that a degradation in your condition, combined with the unusual transport, would lead to neural shock. And I doubt he will be remitted to the care of a mindhealer if he shows signs of illness among his captors."
Spock nods sharply. "I understand, Healer. If you will excuse me, I am required on the bridge."
Dr. McCoy grumbles but waves him away after Healer Sorin nods. Joining Nyota, Spock takes the datapad as they leave Sickbay. "Status?"
"I ordered Commander Scott to put the ship in lockdown. We've established the beam didn't come from the station, so we're running a full diagnostic to find out how they knew exactly when we lowered shields for transport," Lieutenant Uhura answers, following him into the turbolift. "I've suspended all but critical system maintenance and core ship functions while computer maintenance goes over the systems with a fine tooth comb."
"Has Ensign Chekov discovered any trace of the ship that abducted the Captain?" Spock asks, skimming down the compiled reports, Uhura's summaries heading each one.
"Not yet," she says. "Lieutenant Sulu thinks there might have been a cloaking device, but he hasn't--yet--invented a new way for sensors to identify that." Her voice implies that Sulu is taking that as a personal failure on his part and not a fact in current modern physics. "They're both using the secondary computer systems to run simulations to find where the ship was most likely to be located when the Captain was abducted."
Spock nods distractedly as the doors open.
"Communications are still blocked to and from the ship," Uhura says as the bridge crew comes to attention. Waving them off, Spock and Uhura go to the Captain's ready room. "I've filtered all official Starfleet transmissions to the Captain's terminal. Starbase 3 is demanding an explanation." As the door closes, Uhura's mouth tightens. "Permission to tell them to go to hell, sir?"
"They would do well to acquire patience," Spock answers, handing her the datapad. "Is there any sign that there was involvement from the starbase?"
Uhura shakes her head slowly. "Not--yet. I recommend a security contingent be sent down with Scotty's second and demand an investigation. Computer maintenance has penetrated three layers of starbase security and will have direct database access within the hour."
Spock looks up sharply.
"Scotty rigged their efforts to look like feedback from the ion storm," Uhura says. "No one is stepping foot on that starbase until I'm sure that there is no further danger to Enterprise personnel, sir."
Spock hesitates, but he can't deny her logic. "Send a message to Captain Mitchell that we are currently investigating Captain Kirk's abduction and require his full cooperation."
"He'll want to talk to you. I told him that no senior officer is permitted to leave the ship until we've satisfied ourselves that the threat has been nullified. Which has the benefit of being true as well; you instituted that policy with Captain Kirk's approval. As Acting First Officer, I'm reinforcing it."
"That was to protect Captain Kirk--"
"And at this time, you are captain of this ship and require the same protection, especially now," Uhura says flatly.
"Very well. Is there anything else?"
"Captain Mitchell demanded to speak to you as soon as you were released from medical care. After consulting with Lieutenant Evans and Commander Scott, it would be acceptable for him to come here, provided he agrees to come alone with a member of our security as escort."
"Perhaps that is--excessive."
"A Federation Captain was taken from his own transporter room surrounded by ship's security, along with a Starfleet cadet, in view of a Starfleet space station in safe Federation space," Uhura answers sharply. "We're not taking any risks we don't have to, sir."
Spock starts to answer, but he finds himself distracted by Jim's overturned chair. Reaching down, he carefully rights it, ignoring the slight tremor in one hand.
"Is there anything else, Lieutenant?"
"No, sir." The formality breaks abruptly. "Permission to speak freely?"
Spock's not entirely sure; the silence where Jim should be is more distracting than he had anticipated, and there's a familiar numbness that he remembers from an entirely different time and place. He does not believe he is emotionally compromised; on the other hand, when Vulcan was destroyed, he was equally certain his logic was unaffected.
"I had Scotty rig communications to bounce all messages from Starfleet so it looks as if the ion storm is the reason we're not responding. From what I've read so far, they're ordering us to abandon any possibility of pursuit and return to headquarters immediately."
Spock sits down carefully. "After meeting with Captain Mitchell, there will be a senior staff meeting."
Uhura hesitates. "Bridge crew only?"
"All senior staff and department heads," Spock answers, meeting her eyes. "You have the bridge, Lieutenant."
Nodding, Uhura turns, boot heels clicking in a staccato beat before the ready room doors close behind her.
Closing his eyes, Spock centers himself, stopping himself from the instinctive reach toward Jim, that place inside himself that Jim has filled echoingly empty. For a moment--and only a moment--Spock permits himself the luxury of feeling the loss like an open wound.
Then he straightens, the disciplines of a lifetime snapping around him as familiar as a favored sweater, and Spock turns to the Captain's terminal to discover what Starfleet intends to do.
Captain Mitchell, to Spock's bemusement, agrees to Uhura's conditions, entering the Captain's ready room with a swagger and a "you know they're about five seconds from ordering me to order your ship to surrender and haul you in myself, right?" before draping himself across one corner of the couch, grinning at Uhura. "Might be fun. It's a nice ship."
Uhura nods at security, who lock the door behind them when they leave. Spock, looking at her stance, thinks there is a very real possibility she's armed.
"Captain Mitchell," Spock says, rising unhurriedly from the Captain's desk.
Mitchell's eyes flicker to Uhura. "Can we get some privacy, Lieutenant?"
"No, sir," she answers flatly. Taking one of the two chairs, she seats herself neatly and with easy access to her right boot. Spock takes the other, appreciating the psychological effect of the fact that Mitchell is now effectively boxed. The blue eyes sharpen, focusing on them, and abruptly, the intelligent Starfleet captain slips free of the careless officer, straightening as he looks between them.
"I've gotten forty-five transmissions from Starfleet," Mitchell says. "Only five of them were official. We have a problem."
Uhura's eyes narrow. "With all due respect--"
"It's not just Jim--though that's bad enough, that's--" Mitchell grits his teeth, and Spock, startled, thinks it's easy to forget that despite their rivalry, Mitchell's the closest thing Jim has to a friend among the other Starfleet captains. An ally, certainly, but also the result of complex relationships that exist between those families who have served Starfleet since humans first found the stars.
Jim is very little like them, raised far from the political and social complexities of Starfleet's elite, but he is still one of them. As Jim had once said, amused and rueful both, they didn't like him, but they couldn't reject him no matter how much they might wish they could.
"Look," Mitchell says, composing himself. "I want him found like, yesterday, and not just because he owes me cheat codes either. The Federation's been dragging its feet about acknowledging how unstable the situation is with the Empire long before Nero started blowing up shit. Pike warned them, Jim warned them--hell, I even threw my hat in the ring. This isn't just a kidnapped Captain--this is a public relations disaster for Starfleet. And they're going to react to that when this hits the wires and everyone hears how the guy who saved them from Nero was abducted from his own goddamn ship by the Romulan Empire after over two years on the public record saying that we need to wake up to what's going on in the Empire."
Spock looks at Uhura briefly. "There is not yet evidence--"
"They don't care about evidence. They care about coming out of this not looking like they got the most popular captain in Starfleet killed. Are you with me yet, Spock? We are not talking about all of us going back to Starfleet and an investigation launched and a search initiated. A secure message was dispatched to the Laurentian system. They're calling in the Fleet."
Uhura catches her breath.
"And that means right now in the Romulan Senate, someone is reporting that the Federation is preparing to attack. We're maybe two weeks from a formal declaration of war being passed by the Federation Council while the Empire assembles an armada at the border of the neutral zone. We won't have time to figure out who did this, why, or hell, what the fuck the Romulans thought kidnapping Jim was going to accomplish. We will have just enough time for your senior officers to be debriefed and 'temporarily' stationed at headquarters for the inquiry while they staff the Enterprise with someone who's ready to be a war hero and looks good on the wires as Jim's successor.
"Finding Jim after that would be counterproductive as hell. A captain murdered in the line of duty is a lot more valuable to a long term war than a living one anyway."
Sitting back, Mitchell looks at them in bleak satisfaction. "Now that we've got that out of the way, we can talk plans. I've had some time between sending reassuring messages to Starfleet that the Enterprise isn't about to go off half-cocked or mutiny or whatever the fuck they think you're going to do. Not that you are--going off half-cocked, that is."
Uhura leans forward. "What do you have in mind?"
"After you've contacted Starfleet and assured them you are good Starfleet officers who are ready to do your duty, you're going to be assigned to help bring in the rest of the Council while they work out which of their eager captains will be getting this ship--they won't tell you why, but for a declaration of war, they need every representative of every member planet in the Federation for any kind of legitimacy. You're going to return to headquarters and get courier duty. I know, because I suggested it."
Mitchell sits back in grim pleasure. "Yeah, well. Who specializes in hideously embarrassing political situations with the Vulcan colony? They need Ambassador Sarek. And they're going to send you to get him. What you do after that is up to you, but I suggest you use the time between now and then to find out who took Jim and how get him back. Otherwise, the next time we meet--well. I'm pretty sure I won't know about it, but hey, say nice things at my funeral, okay?"
"That's a little pessimistic, sir," Uhura says, rising when Mitchell does. Mitchell grins back at her.
"Not really. The Valiant is not a warship. She's no good for pitched space battles; she's fast, though. She'll be refit and sent to the border to irritate the Romulans until the big ships come. We're fodder."
Uhura swallows hard. "Captain--"
"Don't worry about it. I'm a Starfleet officer; I was born to lay down my life for the Federation and I'll do it gladly. But not like this. If we do this--if we're going to turn this galaxy into a bloodbath--it has to be for the right reasons." Looking between them, he hesitates at Spock, expression changing.
"With your permission, Commander," Uhura says, looking between them, "I'll call for senior staff to report to the conference room now."
Spock nods. "Very well, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
As the door closes behind her, Mitchell looks at Spock awkwardly, then grabs Uhura's chair, dragging it closer. "You don't want to hear this, you're Vulcan, I get that. But I’m sorry. It's part of the package, you know; duty and discipline and all the privileges and rights of an officer for life. The rest is in the fine print; you're going to lose everyone you care about if you don't die before they do. If they're not Starfleet, you'll lose them to people who can actually carry on a relationship that isn't' restricted to two week furloughs; if they are, you lose them to the service, one way or another. She's a jealous bitch, the service. She'll never be second to anyone."
"He is not a casualty," Spock answers flatly. "Captain Mitchell--"
"I know what you're going through," Mitchell says roughly. "And no one in the Federation doesn’t know what Vulcans already lost. They're going to use it against you when you get back. Pike will back whatever you do, you know that, and for what it's worth, so will I--though I guess there goes my plausible deniability about being Jim's main source of information that Starfleet doesn't want him to have." Mitchell's mouth twists in amusement. "The service won't be second to anyone. Going after Jim is part of that, not just to stop a war we can't win--and we can't, Jim knew it as well as anyone--but because we're Starfleet officers and he's one of our own. That's the thing armchair admirals who talk about duty don't get. I'll die for the Federation because that's who I chose to be--but I'll die for my fellow officers because that's what I am. Don't let anyone, anywhere, tell you leaving Jim to die is in the line of duty. There's a difference between a choice and a sacrifice."
Taking a deep breath, Spock nods shortly. "I understand."
"Good. Now, one more thing--Jim was talking about grabbing Starfleet's shining example of why we shouldn't just blow up the Orion homeworlds and be done with it. You still want her?"
"Lieutenant Gaila," Spock answers in surprise. He hadn't realized Jim had confided so much in Captain Mitchell.
"Don't look like that--he was just asking me when her ship would be operational. Which by the way, will be a while--what the fuck was Dezl doing with his warp engines, making s'mores? They're a disaster--and since we both know they avoid giving Jim any officers who were in his graduating class--that group being a little notorious for liking each other a bit too much--I asked for her to be assigned to me while Dezl drinks himself into unconsciousness wherever he fucked off to. I got permission a couple of hours before you showed up; I'll get her to you."
"Starfleet will find that--odd," Spock says, standing up to follow Mitchell to the door. "What will you tell them?"
"Communications in the boondocks of space are really unreliable," Mitchell answers thoughtfully. "Think of something by the time I get back, will you?" As Spock releases the door, Mitchell smirks, once again hiding beneath the feckless officer. "Be seeing you, Spock."
"Captain," Spock says, before Mitchell can take more than a step toward the open door. "The Captain spoke to Sarah Clemens. I assume he eased your mind as to her safety."
Mitchell's smirk doesn't change, but something does. "He told me."
Spock thinks of Mitchell's explanation of the service and what it meant to them all--as officers, as partners, friends, spouses, husbands, wives, as bondmates. Spock cannot deny the logic of what Mitchell had said, but logic alone does not make truth.
"I spoke to her bondmate privately," Spock says carefully, watching Mitchell. "Sekar asked me to inform you it would be--illogical to permit her to be exposed to potential risk. It would please them both if you were to accept their invitation to renew your acquaintance with them. They will be returning to their home on Europa at the end of the colonial year and will expect your presence as soon as it is convenient."
Mitchell's eyes flicker before he looks away. "That's nice of them."
"Then I will convey your acceptance of their invitation when I return to the colony to retrieve my father," Spock says.
Mitchell stiffens for a moment before he seems to reconsider. Looking at Spock with a sardonic expression, he nods. "Yeah, go ahead. Assuming we're not at war, I'll find some time." After an appreciative glance at Lieutenant Uhura in the Captain's chair, Mitchell tells Spock, loud enough for the entire bridge to hear "Tell Jimmy I was wrong, will you? I get what he sees in you."
Spock nods and pretends he doesn't see anyone attempting to hide laughter.
The meeting with the Admiralty is a torturous exercise in redundancy; Spock is perfectly aware that nothing he tells them in answer to their questions will change the course they have set themselves on. After declining Nyota and Doctor McCoy's invitation to join them for dinner, he meditates in the temporary quarters he's been assigned at the Academy and waits for the busy campus to fall to the quiet of the evening.
Two years on away missions with James Kirk are a far superior education in stealth than anything the Academy could have taught him; avoiding the officers assigned to campus security is almost unsettlingly easy. Spock finds himself in Pike's darkened office, avoiding the heavy furniture by memory and entering the small room that Admiral Pike occasionally utilizes to sleep when he works late into the night.
"You know," Admiral Pike says, comfortably seated on the small couch, chair tucked into the corner in arm's reach, "if anyone had ever told me I'd be conspiring at the dead of night to flout Starfleet and flirting with treason with a Vulcan five years and six days ago, I would have thought they were crazy."
Closing the door, Spock takes the indicated seat beside the Admiral and accepts a cup of tea; it has been a very long time since he has tasted unreplicated tea.
"Of course, if someone had told me that five years and three days ago, I might have reconsidered," the Admiral continues, taking a sip from his own cup. "That's when Jimmy finished testing out of the first year course requirements, by the way, and asked if he could just go ahead and get rid of some of the second year courses while he was there, since he didn't have anything else to do. At that point, I figured sanity was overrated anyway." With a smile, the Admiral sets his tea aside. "You think he's alive."
"I know he is alive," Spock answers flatly.
"And the Admiralty doesn't believe you. Emotionally compromised, right?"
Spock nods; Pike doubtless has access to the interview.
"Right. But they're still letting you go pick up Ambassador Sarek? Which means you're a much better actor than I ever gave you credit for--in case you're curious, they're pretty sure they convinced you it's impossible to find Jim and the best thing you can do now is make his death mean something, like a galactic war with casualties in the billions. That's exactly how Jim would like to be remembered, I'm sure." Leaning back, Pike rubs his forehead; Spock thinks he knows now where Jim had picked up that particular habit. "So tell me you have more than that bond to track him down. Not that I doubt you probably could; after this last week, I'm not sure anything can surprise me."
"So you know who has him?" the Admiral says, looking amused. "You don't or you would have used that to delay the Admiralty. So correct me if I'm wrong--you don't know who took him, who has him, where he is, what they want, or why he was taken."
"That is incorrect," Spock says, taking a drink of tea. "I believe he was taken to set in motion the events that have transpired--in effect, to act as a catalyst for the Federation to declare war."
The Admiral hesitates, eyes narrowing. "If you're saying that, it isn't wildly unlikely, and events bear you out. I read Jim's report on what happened at that space station and his conclusions. No one believed him, of course, and our Orion contact swears up and down it's all nonsense."
Spock stiffens in surprise. "How much was he told?"
"Everything, I assume--he goes back years with the admiralty. He's the one who helped us negotiate for Gaila being excepted from the laws on generational slavery, so if she had kids, the Orions couldn't make a claim--" the Admiral trails off. . "Spock. What are you thinking?"
"We were ordered to Starbase 3 during an ion storm," Spock answers flatly. "The captain was taken at the moment he was most vulnerable, during an active transport when we would find it impossible to raise shields and communications had been damaged by the storm. It is not impossible it was a coincidence."
"But you don't think so." The Admiral's eyes narrow. "Not a coincidence."
"No." Spock finishes the tea; his logic is affected. But the only person who could be trusted to do what he must do is the reason he is doing this at all. "Logic states that the events as they occurred are not impossible."
Spock wishes, for a brief, bitter moment, that he were human. It would be far easier in some ways. "We received a communication from Dar, the contact Jim met on the station."
Pike straightens. "That didn't come up in any of the interviews or reports."
"Only four people knew of the message's origin and contents," Spock answers. "Dar sent a warning to Captain Kirk that Starbase 3 was a trap." Uhura had used the ion storm's minor damage to erase traces of the message on their way to Headquarters while Spock erased it from their systems after memorizing both the message and the encryption signature. "Sulu accessed Starbase 3 records. In the history of our settlement, there have been two ion storms in the last one hundred and seventeen years."
"You think the Romulans--are able to start ion storms now?"
"The five ships that vanished were also affected by sudden ion storms. Because they were weather research vessels, the coincidence was overlooked. None of them possessed human crew or crew that were from founding Federation member planets--"
"Spock," Pike says, voice warning.
"--and I now understand the Orion contact that Jim recommended be replaced has been given information that James Kirk is now researching those missing ships. Admiral, it is no longer a coincidence; the only question is who is responsible for it."
"The Romulans would not need to kidnap a Jim to achieve war; that can be accomplished quite easily by crossing the neutral zone," Spock says flatly.
"Are you accusing Starfleet of being party to Jim's abduction?" the Admiral says quietly. "Be careful with your answer, Mr. Spock."
Spock meets the Admiral's eyes without hesitation. "I would not make an accusation without evidence, Admiral," Spock answers coolly. "But I will speculate that Jim's vocal insistence that our continued apathy in regard to the Empire was shortsighted made him extremely unpopular with certain segments of Starfleet--the same segments who attempted, however incompetently, to have him temporarily removed from command at his one year evaluation. The same segments who have been equally vocal insisting that his personal life has bearing on his command. A segment that has joined the more aggressive members of the admiralty demanding that Jim's abduction be paid in lives."
Admiral Pike lifts his head. "I don't always agree with the Admiralty, Spock--you of all people know that, probably better than anyone--but none of them would do this. I'm neither blind or naïve, but for all their faults, the admiralty wouldn't do this. Not to Jim Kirk. Not to anyone, but especially not to him, not George Kirks' kid."
"I have found," Spock answers, "that over time, there is very little that cannot be justified."
"You're talking about conspiracy in the abduction and potential murder of a Federation captain, Spock."
"No, sir. We are speaking of removing the only person in Starfleet who had begun to wonder what made five small ships with neither tactical nor political value interesting enough to attack and to officially ask Starfleet to look into what had happened to them."
Pike opens his mouth, face flushing, then stops, eyes narrowing. "Spock," he says slowly, "the evidence suggested there was Romulan involvement. Jim's report, if nothing else, confirmed what everyone all knew."
Spock gently sets the cup aside. "Yes. I think that may be the root of the problem. We have assumed that the Romulans were behind the attacks, as well as Jim's abduction. Despite the evidence to the contrary, we--were looking at it wrong."
"You don't think the Romulans are behind this."
"No, I do not. And I believe I will be able to prove it by finding Jim." Looking at Admiral Pike, Spock waits until the Admiral's flush fades. "Admiral?"
"You're sure you can do--whatever it is you're planning?"
"No. I am only sure it must be attempted."
"And what about your crew? They know what's going on?"
Spock thinks of the conference room where the senior bridge crew and department heads had met after Captain Mitchell had left; the meeting had been shorter than he had expected. "Yes. They do."
The Admirals' sharp gaze softens; finally, he looks away, nodding tiredly. "What do you need from me?"
"I need you to block an order that the Admiralty will attempt to issue when we do not return from the colony."
"The one for your arrest?" the Admirals says with a flickering smile.
"No. The order to the Laurentian fleet to open fire when the Romulan Armada crosses the border of the neutral zone, given after the Federation Council passes a resolution calling for a war with the Romulan Empire. It cannot pass, and that order cannot be given."
Admiral Pike looks away. "Spock--"
"Once the first shot is fired, nothing we do will matter; the war will have begun."
The Admiral stares out the darkened window. "I've spent my life in the service of the Federation," he says quietly. "If you're wrong, Mr. Spock, you'll be in a maximum security prison for the rest of your very long life, and you'll take everyone on the Enterprise with you."
"If I am wrong," Spock says, rising to his feet, "there will not be a Federation left, not as we know it, or as you believe it could be. Thank you for your time, Admiral Pike."
The Admiral nods. "So I'm assuming you have a plan to delay the council vote already? I can't touch that, you know."
"Yes," Spock answers. "I do."
Uhura meets him in the transporter room; before he can step off the transporter pad, however, the crewman glances at Uhura and then sets his board to idle, going out the door. There's an unmistakable chirp, confirming privacy locks have been engaged.
"We've had some additional crew added," Uhura says. Spock nods; that was expected. "A Lieutenant Jackson has been temporarily assigned to communications for the duration of this mission. My understanding is that he is under the impression I won't be returning to the position of Communications Officer, or the Enterprise." Her mouth curves in a slight, scornful smile. "Not very bright, Jackson."
"We're ready. The colony will be prepared for our arrival and has stated the Ambassador will be ready for immediate transport, understanding we are on a time limit for the Council vote."
"Good job, Lieutenant."
As the doors open, Uhura looks at her datapad, ignoring the crewmembers that pass them. "Oh, and Commander Scott says the engines are working at one hundred and twenty percent of their usual capacity."
"I must commend Commander Scott for his efficiency," Spock answers. "Are preparations complete?"
"We are cleared to leave on your order, Commander," Uhura answers cheerfully as the turbolift doors open. Stepping inside, she gives the unfamiliar crew a sunny smile. "Computer, Bridge."
It's an hour into gamma shift when Uhura appears at the door of the ready room.
"Lieutenant?" he starts, then pauses. Her uniform is nowhere in evidence, and the dark hair is coiled messily at the nape of her neck. "Nyota."
"Time for all good Vulcans to at least pretend to sleep," she says lightly, leaning against the doorway. "Or we could talk about why Rand tells me no one's been in your quarters since Jim was taken. Your choice."
"I have to prepare--"
"You're prepared," she interrupts, pushing off the door. "Come on."
Gamma shift doesn't look up as they pass, and Nyota's silent even after the turbolift door closes as he reluctantly gives the order for his deck. Unsurprisingly, she follows him out of the turbolift, padding down the residential deck beside him without comment.
As they come to the door, Nyota waits expectantly.
"Nyota," he starts.
"Or we talk."
Gritting his teeth, Spock goes in the open door, automatically scanning the room. The water sculpture continues to elude anything resembling aesthetics, and Jim left his boots on the floor by the bed. Yeoman Rand had, surprisingly enough, not touched anything, and he's suddenly grateful for it.
Turning to look at her, he sees her slight smile. "Remember our second mission? Jim was just starting to go stir crazy and it seemed safer to let him lead the away team than stew in his ready room. And, as we have learned to expect, he gets kidnapped right out from under security--the man has a gift for it."
"I sent you to negotiate for his release," Spock answers, then pauses. "While your report did mention there were difficulties and that you were imprisoned briefly, you and Jim were rather reluctant to discuss the specifics of the mission."
"There's a reason for that." Going to the closet, she pulls down two meditation rugs and returns, edging the table against the couch. "Jim's good at picking up local dialects--he should be. I taught him how to do it." She flashes him a smile and kneels, rolling out the first rug. "The universal translator was having some problems, and Jim tried to compensate. The short version is, peace does not always translate to peace and they thought Jim was trying to conquer them."
Spock blinks. "Why would you not mention this in your report?"
"Because explorers in some languages translates to mass murderer, or so I assume. Ten minutes after I arrived, I found myself in a cell with Jim while both of us were about to be tried for unspecified crimes against the universe." Nyota's mouth twitches. "Once he stopped laughing--which was a while--we took apart our translators and tried to work out what the problem was. Jim reprogrammed it with what I'd picked up, the matrix ran, and we were able to get across we weren't there to conquer their civilization or kill everyone for fun. Which is why I update our translators personally--we still don't know how it cross-referenced with a ancient Klingon dialect and Imperial Rigellian, but that's not happening again." Shifting, she rolls out the second rug, smoothing the corners. "Jim, for once, let me do the talking, and they let us leave after the traditional purification ritual to clear us of the taint of being imprisoned."
Seating herself on one rug, she motions him to take the other. As Spock reluctantly seats himself, Nyota leans an elbow on one knee, looking rueful.
"So we're led into this room and they told us to strip down, and Jim--who has never, as long as I've known him, been at all adverse to showing off what he's got--balked big time. I couldn't figure out why, and then I realized the room was a stadium. Purification ritual is a public event, and Jim had overheard something he didn't like. It was almost back to prison for us both, and then Jim got one of them off to the side and after a few minutes, they told me I was free to leave.
"I wasn't going to leave him, but he made it an order, so I went along with it and they just sent me out of the auditorium and left me there. So I used a side door and went back in."
Faintly, Spock feels something stir in the back of his mind, unfocused and distant. "They were skilled in the use of holotechnology."
"The reason the Federation wanted an alliance," Nyota says, voice hardening. "They left out the culture's preoccupation with certain types of entertainment. They gave him a mild sedative and hooked him into one of the two chairs in the middle of the arena and began the first program. It interfaces directly with his memories; his life was used to create episodes for their programming, with certain dramatic--changes."
Uhura closes her eyes. "It's not in the report because he doesn’t remember it. They removed his memories from the moment they released us from the cell. They didn't know I watched, and he never knew anything had happened at all. Before we left, I asked if we could see their holoprojectors technology, since we hadn't had the chance yet. I think they found it funny. When they were showing Jim the chair and explaining its functions, I took the data solid from my translator and found an open port to place it in. Then I dropped my communicator beside it and waited for them to let us leave."
Spock nods tightly. "Those memories--"
"They didn't keep them," she says grimly. "When we got back and Bones got Jim to Sickbay, I told Sulu we needed to run a quick diagnostic and since we were in safe space, to bring down the shields for a few minutes. I used the ship's computers to contact the data solid and break into their system. They were excellent holoprogrammers, but they hadn't bothered with much security. I found the databases they kept their entertainment stored on and erased it."
"If I'd reported it," she says quietly, "we could have demanded they be erased. But Starfleet would have had to intervene, a copy of what they'd taken from Jim evaluated by Starfleet security, and what they did would have been added to his file. It would have become public knowledge among Starfleet officers." Nyota takes a deep breath. "He doesn't remember. I do. He never needs to know what they did with his life, what they forced him to relive. No one should."
"Did you believe I would disapprove of your actions?" Spock asks finally as the silence stretches. In retrospect, he has context for the night after that mission now; her restless energy and pensive silences before she had invited him to her room for the evening. They had missed dinner that night. "Under the circumstances--"
"No, of course not." Nyota looks up. "Nothing like that. At the time--if I could have erased my own memory, I would have. To share it, even a little--it felt like as much of a violation as what they'd done."
Spock thinks of what Admiral Pike had said of Starfleet's wariness when faced with Jim's class; none of them had ever forgotten how many of their number had died in those six ships in sight of a dying Vulcan. Starfleet is more observant than Spock had previously suspected; no one who had served on the Enterprise that day had come away unscathed.
Uhura lights a candle, placing it between them. "We'll arrive at the colony in twenty-three hours," she says, blowing out the match, looking at him from behind a faint trail of pale smoke. "We know what we're doing, Spock. No one at that meeting didn't understand what was going to be asked of us and what it meant. We chose this."
Spock nods. "I understand."
"Good." Leaning back, he watches her relax each muscle, as he taught her years before when she was still a student who had surprised him and through the years, that much has never changed.
Reaching the short distance, he takes her hand; strong fingers curl around his immediately. "Your presence is--appreciated," he says finally.
She smiles back at him. "I love you, too. Now close your eyes; we have a lot to do tomorrow."
In a Constellation-class starship, there are three types of transporters; the most sophisticated handled human transportation, along with whatever humans might carry with them, and more specialized or volatile objects or substances that required a sophisticated buffer with a dedicated memory and a direct connection to the warp engines as well primary and secondary power conduits. Sickbay, as well as other parts of the ship, utilized smaller, less sophisticated versions for a variety of common tasks in the labs and utilized in some types of games in recreation.
The third type, however, was located engineering and specialized in transport of materials and equipment too large for the standard transporter. Outside of dry-dock or heavy repairs, they remained disabled unless an emergency required activation. The computer system that controlled it was far less sophisticated than the ones utilized for human travel and during the rare times they had been needed to evacuate a large number of people, the board was routed to the main transporter room to take advantage of the better system.
As far as Spock is aware, however, no one has ever had reason to attempt to utilize both transporters at the same time using only one system.
"In other words," Ensign Mir says with a faint sigh, scaly skin dull from exhaustion, "I have no reason to think it won't work--the problem isn't the numbers, it's the power. Transporters pull huge amounts of power just to activate; the buffer uses triple that in normal use. Bringing two separate transporters online simultaneously is going to be a huge power drain, and that's before we start buffering the patterns and rematerializing everyone. And that doesn't even touch on the memory demands."
Spock glances at Scotty. "Do we have an alternative?"
"Yes." Taking out a datapad, Mir gives it to Spock. "We don't power up the engineering transporter until we're ready to rematerialize them."
Spock skims the explanation before glancing at Commander Scott. "Is this possible?"
"It's a variation of transporting two people from two places onto the same transporter pad," Commander Scott says with an approving look at Mir. Mir looks down quickly. "He's been working with the transporters since he graduated and came on board. The theory is sound and the simulations bear him out."
"Explain the procedure."
Mir nods quickly, clasping his hands behind his back as he straightens. "We use the transporter room just like we would beaming up several people from the different places, until the buffering is complete; at that point, the engineering transporters will be brought online and directed to remove the designated patterns and materialize them in engineering. The power drain will be huge, but since it won't be more than a few seconds, if the power failsafes are hit, we can manually override them without being in danger of overloading the engines. At very worst, the engineering transporters will shut down, but it won't affect the patterns saved in the buffer and simply hold them there until it's safe to let them materialize in the transporter room. The people, anyway. The other stuff--we can store and wait. The transporter memory is large enough to hold a lot without degradation, and I can set up a temporary link to the ship's memory core as a backup, just in case."
Spock raises an eyebrow. "You are efficient."
Mir's scales glow slightly. "Thank you, sir."
"When can you begin the modifications?"
"When those goons Starfleet threw on the ship get out of engineering," Commander Scott answers roughly. "For enlisted temporary crew, they're damned mouthy."
"They are not enlisted crew," Spock answers absently. "How much time will you require to complete the modifications?"
"Ten minutes to set up, ten to test, ten for a diagnostic run," Mir answers. "I can shave it to twenty-five minutes total if we have to, but no one's ever tried anything like this before. The simulators indicate this should work, but the simulators don't have a reference point for what we're doing either, just known matter theory."
"Mr. Scott," Spock says. "I do not think you will be questioned in how you choose to run your department. Do with them as you see fit."
"Suppose the airlock's outta the question," Commander Scott answers, eyes narrowed in thought. "But I have a few ideas to get them outta the way."
"We are on a strict timetable once we achieve orbit of the colony," Spock says "If this method fails, we will need to act quickly. I would prefer subtlety, but if that proves impossible, I will accept simple success. Keep me informed of any potential changes. You are dismissed."
After they leave, Spock returns to the bridge, aware of Jackson watching him as he takes Uhura's place in the captain's seat. "Our status?"
"We are two hours from the colony," Sulu answers promptly. "The colony contacted us an hour ago to confirm our arrival time and that Ambassador Sarek has arrived and will be ready for transport when we achieve orbit." Sulu pauses for a long moment. "Jackson, didn't you get a second transmission from the colony with that one?"
Jackson stills. "Ah, yes sir. I haven't had a chance to check it yet, since we weren't told to expect any--"
"I was not aware there was a second transmission, Lieutenant," Uhura says icily. "Why was I not informed?"
Jackson' expression becomes hostile; Spock wonders if he realizes how much he is revealing. "I'm not familiar with the procedure on this ship," Jackson says stiffly, "but I had assumed the Enterprise followed regulations regarding personal communications--"
"I thought you said you hadn't looked at it," Uhura answers, tapping it online. After a moment, she turns to Spock. "It's from T'Sora. Would you like it sent to your terminal, Commander?"
"Yes, Lieutenant." Turning back around, Spock sees Chekov making an unpleasant face at Jackson back. Sometimes, it is not difficult to remember he has yet to reach his twentieth year. "Chekov, verify that the sensors are functioning normally. The ion storm did not do critical damage, but the repairs require constant monitoring until we are sure there will be no further problems." Getting to his feet, Spock glances at Sulu. "Uhura, come with me. Sulu, you have the conn." Turning to Jackson, Spock waits until the narrow eyed hostility slowly melts into uncertainty. "Lieutenant, I trust you will inform me if we receive any further communications, no matter what you perceive their priority to be?"
"Very well. Contact me when we come within range of the colony." Uhura at his heels, Spock can feel Jackson watching them as they enter the transporter. Doubtless he will attempt to monitor their progress and think himself subtle.
After tapping their destination into the interface, Uhura's grim expression dissolves into a grin. "He read it about three times, though what he was looking for, I have no idea. He now knows, however, that T'Mana is showing unusual intelligence and is already able to roll over unassisted."
"That would place her in the upper percentile in infant development," Spock observes. "Jackson apparently is unaware of the significance of her mastery of basic motor skills."
"He was probably low on the development curve," Uhura answers. "Jackson has made an encrypted transmission every two hours to Starfleet that are being erased from the communications log. I restored and encrypted them in the core memory. The last was sent ten minutes ago, so we'll have a ninety minute window after we reach the colony before they'll expect another one."
Spock adds that to his calculations. "That is sufficient."
After a few seconds, Uhura looks at him. "Bones wants to tell Sorin before we arrive. He's worried about sufficient time to prepare Melody for transport."
"I have added that to my calculations. Dr. McCoy worries needlessly."
"'Worries' is his middle name," Uhura answers wryly as the turbolift doors open. "I told him to meet us for lunch before he worked himself into a fit." Her smile fades; Spock had not been privy to Dr. McCoy's reaction to news of Jim's disappearance, but he can easily speculate what occurred during that discussion. "We'd better hurry," she continues. "I have a feeling this is the last meal we'll have the leisure to enjoy."
Spock thinks she is most probably correct.