|Commander Montgomery Scott
Sorin is and has been an added complication that had almost made Spock consider the benefits of simply engaging their mission immediately without the padding of subterfuge; the Enterprise had been assigned to retrieve not only Ambassador Sarek, but Ambassador Oria Troi from Betazoid, making it convenient for the Enterprise to take him there instead of leaving him on Earth in the increasingly unstable political atmosphere.
The other patients had been released--reluctantly, Spock thought, but Starfleet Medical, at least, was ungrudging in accepting responsibility for their care until their families could claim them--but the opportunity to send Sorin on had been impossible for them to resist. Nor does he think Sorin is above adding pressure; his contract with Starfleet is an expensive one, and his skills in demand.
It is logical, but that does not make it convenient, and Spock finds he rates convenience higher than logic in this particular circumstance.
One hour from the colony, Spock goes to Sickbay, the computer having already informed him that Sorin was in Medical Lab Four, which Dr. McCoy had given over for his exclusive use. Dr. McCoy looks at him warily, eyes dark circled, restlessly reorganizing his hypos before wiping his hands on his uniform. "Spock."
"I'm going with you." McCoy lifts his chin, looking at Spock from bloodshot eyes.
Spock raises an eyebrow.
"Logic is well and good," Dr. McCoy says roughly. "But I'm Chief Medical Officer and he's in my charge; ironic though it may be, regulations say I be there, and I want to be."
"I have no intention of threatening Healer Sorin," Spock answers, curious.
Dr. McCoy flushes. "He's in Lab Four. Let's get this over with."
"Very well." As Dr. McCoy falls into step beside him, Spock wonders what Dr. McCoy thinks will happen that might require his presence. Sorin is Vulcan; the logical course of action is clear.
Logic, however, can be mistaken. Sorin looks up from his terminal only once, as Spock completes his explanation.
"I will stay."
Spock hesitates. "Healer Sorin--"
"I understand your concerns," Sorin answers with a faint air of distraction. "But I would prefer that Melody remain here."
Dr. McCoy, hanging close to the door, does not look as surprised as he should be; noting the way that the doctor watches Sorin, Spock concludes that he has guessed Sorin's motives for his care of this particular patient. "This--expedition--is not authorized by Starfleet--"
"Commander Spock," Sorin says, looking at Spock from eyes faintly ringed in olive, "you have made it clear you are embarking on a mission that is, if I may rephrase, directly against the orders of Starfleet and by extension the Federation. You have not used the word treason, but I suspect that is due to the fact that Federation law is unclear on the precise definition of the word. Your propensity for drama has been long noted by your peers. I understand the risks that are associated with this mission and I accept them on my own and Melody's behalf."
"That," Spock states, "is not logical."
"I assume," Sorin says, and for the first time in their acquaintance, there's something that could almost be irritation in his voice, "that this seemingly illogical enterprise you are preparing to embark on is based on a pattern of logic that I am not privy to. I accept this, with the understanding you will accept mine. I do not wish to return to the colony and place Melody under the care of anyone but myself. Even guardianship will not permit me to be her sole caretaker, and it will be correctly stated that my logic is flawed where she is concerned. Your explanation is understood and your objection, if that is what you are attempting to accomplish, is noted. We will stay."
Dr. McCoy raises a sardonic eyebrow at Spock. "I might need his help," he says, pushing off the door. "Two of my doctors were up for reassignment and Starfleet didn't bother giving me more."
"If you are sure, Healer Sorin."
Sorin nods shortly. "I am. If nothing else will suffice, consider the fact we know that while your bondmate is alive, we do not know his condition. Upon retrieval, you will require a competent mindhealer to assess his condition and potentially assign treatment." The logic, Spock reflects, is inarguable. "If that is all, Commander, I ask for privacy. These tests are time-sensitive and it will be the loss of several days of research if I must begin again."
"Of course." Spock follows Dr. McCoy from the room, the door closing sharply behind them. As they return to Sickbay's main room, Spock glances at Dr. McCoy. "You do not seem surprised."
"You didn't tell me he's in love with that girl," Dr. McCoy answers acidly. "Some things don't need to be said; you just know they're true. You won't pry Sorin off this ship until it's to go to nice, safe hospital on Betazoid where everyone will jump at his least breath. That is a man who does not fuck around when it's someone he cares about, and the galaxy turns on the existence of that girl as far as he's concerned."
Spock hesitates; to confirm what must be speculation--
"I'm not asking you to say I'm right; I know I'm right. I spend eighteen of twenty four hours a day with the man--even a Vulcan doesn't spend that much time trying to hand-fuse neurons together by sheer will for just any patient." Dr. McCoy snorts as he returns to his hypo. "And just to make you feel better, I asked him. He's Vulcan, after all; you people go in for the direct question."
"I see." Spock glances at the lab door for a moment. "Has he made progress?"
McCoy's express changes; sighing, he leans both elbows on the biobed, looking at Spock ruefully. "I don't know--and I hate saying this, because it's my sickbay and I should know--but he's pretty much beyond everything we know of neurology and telepathic healing. I'm telling you now, if Betazoid can even figure out what he's doing, much less how he's doing it, I'll be pretty damn surprised. You're asking me if its' helping Melody, though. That I can answer--yes, but I don't know how much or what good it will do."
Dr. McCoy sighs. "Was afraid you'd ask that. He's--and don't tell me how he did it, but he did, and I verified his results--figured out what's holding her back. It's what we worried would happen to Jim if the plak tow took him; she's stuck somewhere in her head and can't find her way back." Dr. McCoy smirks tiredly. "Different paths, same destination. And from what I understand, once plak tow gets this far, it's over. The body can survive, with help, but that's about it."
Spock nods, glancing at the lab door. "That is--unfortunate."
"Betazoids specialize in empathic healing; there's some promising avenues there. If there's a way, he'll find it, I'll tell you that right now. Whether there is one--that's the question."
Spock nods. "Thank you. I had wondered--"
"Commander Spock to the bridge." Uhura's voice over the comm startles them both. "We are approaching the colony. Senior bridge staff, please report to the bridge to begin orbiting procedure."
Dr. McCoy pushes himself up, faint smile fading. "Right. See you on the flip side, Commander."
With a nod, Spock turns toward the door, an unfamiliar feeling filling him that reminds him of Jim's restlessness before an engagement. He thinks he can understand why Jim seems to enjoy their infrequent skirmishes; it's an interesting feeling.
Spock turns to see Dr. McCoy standing uncertainly beside the biobed.
"I know it's not logical, but neither is what we're doing. So good luck." One corner of his mouth curves up. "Not that you believe in that sort of thing. You know Jim's going to kill you. He always wanted to mutiny. It's kind of been his thing, bucking the system."
Spock considers the statement. "I will be thorough in my report so he may enjoy a secondhand account when he returns."
Dr. McCoy grins, eyes lighting up. "That he will."
"We have achieved orbit, sir," Lieutenant Sulu breathes, eyes darting between the viewscreen and his board.
"We're being hailed," Jackson says. "Ambassador Sarek is prepared to beam on our mark."
"Very well. I will meet him in the transporter room. Tell them to prepare for transport in three minutes. Lieutenant Sulu, you have the conn. Lieutenant Uhura, with me."
Jackson frowns but doesn't comment as they enter the turbolift. Beside him, Uhura gives the computer the deck number and smoothes her uniform as the doors open, revealing Evans and three of his security team.
Uhura takes the phaser he offers, tucking it into her uniform as two of the team join her in the turbolift. "I'll see you on the bridge," she says with a wry salute before the doors close.
The transporter technician looks tense as they arrive. "They're ready," he says unnecessarily. Spock clasps his hands behind his back. The crewman reaches for the controls, beginning the transport sequence.
Ambassador Sarek and one of his aides materialize promptly, and Spock nods a greeting to his father as Commander Scott's voice comes over the comm. "There's an overload in ship communication nodule eight," he says. "We're preparing to reboot the system. Prepare for five minutes of comm silence on my mark. Mark."
Ambassador Sarek frowns. "You are having problems with your communication array?"
"Damage from the ion storm was hastily repaired in response to this mission," Spock answers. "If you will come with me, I will have you shown to your quarters."
The Ambassador and his aide follow Spock into the corridor, security behind them. As they reach the transporter, Spock waves his father inside along with one of the security team. "See the Ambassador to his quarters, Lieutenant," Spock says calmly. "If you will excuse me, Ambassador, I am required on the bridge during comm silence."
Sarek expression flickers as the turbolift doors close. Returning to the transporter room with Lieutenant Evans on his heels, he notes the pleased expression on the face of the crewman. "Crewman?"
"It worked, sir. Everyone got to the cargo bay safe and sound."
"Excellent." Spock touches his communicator, listening to the silence as he returns to the corridor. As he reaches the turbolift, there's a single chirp; confirmation. "Lieutenant Sulu, Lieutenant Uhura, you may proceed."
Commander Scott seems to be in a better mood than circumstances would indicate, smiling broadly as Spock surveys the busy room. "Commander!" he says cheerfully, leading Spock past the force field currently holding twenty-two of the thirty temporary crewmembers. Doubtless they are indignant at their current circumstances, but Commander Scott had set the forcefields to restrict the flow of soundwaves. "This way, sir."
"Have you completed the modifications?" Spock asks as they round the corner, bringing the engines into view. A group of crewman are gathered in a tight group to one side of the warp matrix, parting only at Commander Scott's, "Give them some air! Learn some manners with guests!"
As they back away, Spock blinks at the sight of Ambassador Spock bent over an unfamiliar piece of machinery, with Lieutenant Gaila at his side. "Ambassador. Lieutenant. I was unaware you were residing on the colony."
Gaila straightens, saluting brightly. "Priority request for an engineer by the colony, sir, and Captain Mitchell was closest, as it happens." She gestures toward the Ambassador. "The Ambassador explained the principles of the cloaking device; I should be able to complete installation."
"Now Lieutenant," Commander Scott starts, frowning. "I don't know what the Ambassador told you--"
"Orion's been trading with the Romulans for more years than the Federation's known about either one, sir," Gaila answers. "You can watch if you like. You might learn something."
"Carry on, Lieutenant," Spock answers before Commander Scott can start to argue the point. With a cheerful nod, Gaila picks up the cloaking device, jerking her chin at Commander Scott to follow her. The Ambassador gets to his feet with a surprising amount of agility for a man who has passed his second century. "Commander," the Ambassador says. "Live long and prosper."
"Live long and prosper, Ambassador." Looking around, Spock identifies each visible member of engineering. "The transporter log states there were three individual beamed onto this ship, as well as the cloaking device. May I inquire--"
"Ah. Yes." The Ambassador cocks his head. "After reading your report on the ion storm, I invited young Torren to join us."
Spock stiffens. "Ambassador--"
"Ambassador Spock," a voice states from the other side of the engines, "is prevaricating. His invitation was extended after I had already insisted on joining."
Torren looks much as he did when they last met, but Spock thinks there is a tension in him that was not visible before. "Explain."
"I was privy to your report on the ion storm at Starbase 3, as they have been a problem in this system," Torren says coolly. "I can state unequivocally that the ion storm that occurred at the starbase was not natural to that region. After sharing my observations with Ambassador Spock, he asked for my assistance for a small project that I recognized as an illegal cloaking device, to assure it would not be affected should there be another storm. From that, I was able to deduce that you were collaborating with the Ambassador to find Captain Kirk and Cadet T'Prina and convinced him my presence would be invaluable to the success of this mission."
Spock cannot fault his logic, even if logic had very little to do with what Torren had chosen to do. "Your decision, while logical, was not made for the reasons you have given."
"The exercise of sophistry is an honored tradition, as Surak would doubtless have admitted fully, had he ever been asked." The hand resting on the engine tightens, knuckles tinted in pale green. "The reasons I have given are logical, even if they are not why I requested to join him here."
There is no point in arguing when it has already been accomplished; Spock shifts his focus to practicalities. "You state the ion storm was not natural?"
"I am testing my hypothesis with the Enterprise simulators," Torren answers. "I should have confirmation within the next sixty-seven point three minutes."
"Inform me when they are complete," Spock says in dismissal. Torren nods shortly, returning to the station on the far side of the warp engines. Beside him, Spock can feel the Ambassador's amusement. "Ambassador--"
"Uhura to Commander Spock. All crewmembers have been accounted for."
"Acknowledged." Spock takes a deep breath. "We will speak later."
"I am at your disposal, Commander."
With Evans following him with an excess of caution (which Spock suspects is Nyota's doing), Spock returns to the forcefield, mentally counting the imprisoned crew. "Have coordinates been entered for the mountain outside of the city?"
"Yes, sir." Evans jerks his chin at the ensign at the engineering transporter board. "Go ahead."
There is something illogically satisfying about watching the crew members vanish, some mid-rant, which Spock would have thought they would have realized was fruitless to continue without an audience. "Lieutenant Uhura," Spock says when the area is empty, "set course for the Begammon Station on my mark."
Lieutenant Gaila and Commander Scott are completing the addition of the cloaking device; while the design is far more streamlined than Spock has seen on captured Romulan warbirds, the shape is somewhat familiar. Lieutenant Gaila reads from a tricorder, frowning in concentration. "All right, diagnostics complete," she says over her shoulder. "We're good to go."
"Powering up on my mark," Commander Scott says from the main workstation. There's a low hum that seems to tremble through the floor of engineering, and Spock can see a sudden spike in the power consumption readings before they stabilize. "She's got juice. All right, Lieutenant. It's your show."
"That's how I like it. Lieutenant Sulu, watch your board--you're about to see history live and in person, kiddo." Joining Commander Scott at the engineering board, Gaila taps in a sequence and the hum increases, shivering through the room followed by a slight sense of vertigo that clears almost immediately. "Cloak is now online. Readings show the cloak has achieved stability and the field has been activated. Bridge, can you verify?"
Abruptly, Nyota's voice breaks through Engineering. "Communications just picked up a sudden rise in transmissions between the Federation Embassy and the Vulcan Science Academy; the colony just lost us on sensors. Commander Spock--"
"I think," Spock says, "that answers your question, Lieutenant Gaila. Lieutenant Sulu, take us to Begammon system."
As the engines go to sublight to take them far enough from the gravity well of the colony's sun to warp, Gaila steps back from the engineering panel, allowing Commander Scott to examine the readings with an expression of awe.
"Ladies and gentlemen--and assorted beings--you are privileged to be on the first Federation starship ever to engage a cloaking device," she says cheerfully, looking around the crowd of wide-eyed engineers. "Let me extend my congratulations, and I look forward to our future residence on a high security penal planet where we may all relive this moment in history. God knows we will have the time."
Spock almost sighs. "Understood, Lieutenant. If you will come with me, I will endeavor to clarify why we requested your presence."
Touching Commander Scott's shoulder lightly (Spock feels slightly uneasy at the way Commander Scott smiles after her), Gaila joins him, smile fading into something else entirely. "Mitchell said we're finding Jim. That's the mission?"
"That's all I need to know. Show me what you need me to do."
"Yeah, no." Gaila pushes back from the terminal, looking between Uhura and Spock with a frown. "This isn't Romulan--not the government anyway."
"Dissidents?" Uhura says, frowning down at her datapad.
"Probably, but none of them would have this kind of reach." Leaning back, Gaila looks between them. "If there's trafficking involved, it's corporate. Syndicate indirectly, but definitely a syndicate company. The problem you were having with decrypting it is because that's a proprietary design. And it's not in any database but Federation security at Memory Alpha, ultraviolet clearance."
Spock leans forward, intrigued. "The evidence Jim accumulated was shared with Starfleet security."
"Then they know as well as I do what we're looking at. I gave them this encryption sequence, after all; my family's been under ownership by them for ten generations." Gaila's mouth twists in a bitter smile. "I need core memory access and your secondary navigation computer to decrypt it. I'm surprised you got this far," she says, giving Uhura an admiring smile.
Uhura looks away briefly; Spock thinks she might be flushing. "It wasn't easy."
"It's supposed to be unbreakable; give it another two weeks and you wouldn't need me at all. I'll upload the keys to a separate secured system when I'm done with the decryption; I don't need to tell you that Starfleet really wouldn't like you having them." Stretching, Lieutenant Gaila pushes away from the table. "Those five ships had something else in common besides a crew that comprised of those the Orions claim as property. They also had the experimental ion detectors in their engines--ah, now you see the significance of going after weather ships? There were only ten engines, and those ships had five of those installed."
"I was not aware that the ion detector research had reached the experimental phase," Spock answers, wondering if he should be surprised. It seems that he will require new contacts at Starfleet Academy.
"No one knew, even the captains of those ships. One engineer per ship was assigned to maintenance and data collection." Lieutenant Gaila shrugs. "I was one of them. I was assigned to Dzel's ship but he fried the warp engines in a stellar slingshot to prove his dick was bigger than the smugglers he was chasing."
Spock reflects he seems to have forgotten Lieutenant Gaila's extremely colorful turns of phrase. "I see."
"In any case," she continues, "I checked Torren's simulations on the ion storms; he's on the mark. Somehow, someone's figured out how to seed a star and manufacture extremely convenient ion storms. Now there's a trick I'm pretty sure they don't want broadcasted quite yet."
Spock takes a deep breath. He had not expected her answer, though logic had pointed to it as an inevitable conclusion. "That is--"
"Disastrous," Gaila says helpfully before turning to Nyota. "Second part, your Romulan--he's an employee of a Syndicate corporation. I checked your translations against all three formal Orion dialects. He speaks the Tertiary with a Remus accent; that matches up with only two of the Syndicate companies. And only one of those has direct ties to Romulus--they supposedly have a deal with a small company on Remus that's pretty much a shell for Orion business interests in the Romulan Empire. So you want to know who's behind this? If it's not the Syndicate, I'm not green."
"That explains the accent," Nyota says thoughtfully. "I wondered if the translation matrix was accurate."
"You programmed it for the Romulan dialects; I'd doubt their ability to speak the language before I doubted your translation," Gaila answers. "The only thing I'm not sure of is why a Ferengi is involved, but if Jim knows him well enough to deal with him, that's probably your answer. Ferengi don't deal with strangers, period, and they don't send warnings; if you haven't checked for a Romulan connection--"
"Captain Kirk did," Spock says quietly. Nyota looks at him. "Dar has had dealings with the Syndicate--through an intermediary."
"And that would be your Tertiary speaking Romulan. So the only question left is--"
"Where they're keeping Captain Kirk," Nyota says with a glance at Spock. "We should arrive at the Begammon station in thirteen hours." Hesitating, she touches her datapad, then pushes it toward Spock. "I outlined a plan for when we arrive."
Spock glances at the datapad, then at Nyota, who shrugs, mouth quirking in a smile. "The Captain always preferred the direct approach. Gaila, you feel like being bad cop?"
Gaila grins. "I can't wait."
There are several ways to approach their investigation at Begammon; while Spock prefers to gain voluntary cooperation, his calculations show that they do not have the time to pursue a course involving elaborate persuasion.
Spock beams down with twenty members of security, Lieutenant Evans, Lieutenant Gaila, and Lieutenant Sulu directly into the market during its busiest hour. "Under Federation Statute 16.2134.A, subsection B3," Spock says calmly, "this station is under investigation for conspiracy to commit felonious trafficking of sentient beings. All space traffic and communications are suspended pending a full inquiry."
The desired stampede of customers toward their ships is gratifyingly swift; Spock reminds himself to enter a commendation for Nyota's excellent reprogramming of the Universal Translator to reach representatives of over ninety Federation and non-Federation worlds and at least seventy different languages and dialects so clearly and concisely.
"I think," Gaila murmurs close to his ear, looking toward the wide double doors of the marketplace, "we have the stationmaster's attention."
Spock confirms the arrival of the Stationmaster, an angular half-Gorn, half-Andorian who has long run the fine line between Federation law and unaffiliated space; his use as a source for the Federation has long kept his less than legal activities on this station unregulated. While Spock does not approve of the Federation's continued blind eye toward criminal enterprises, he admits that the current situation has improved his understanding of the logic behind it. "Stationmaster," he says. "I regret our meeting under these circumstances."
"Commander Spock," The narrow brown eyes study Spock belligerently. "Federation communications have been specific on what action should be taken should you or your ship be located. If you were under the impression that--"
"Federation security, however, has not been so forthcoming," Gaila says abruptly, stepping forward, hand hovering casually near her phaser. "Or you would have opened fire. The authorization is ultraviolet, full disclosure, and stop being pissed Jimmy broke your security. There's not a system that's been built or imagined he couldn't break into. Far smarter people than you taught him how to do it; I should know. I was one of them. And far better men," she smirks at Spock, "failed to catch him."
The stationmaster hesitates, expression wary. "Lieutenant--Gaila?" he says slowly. "I was not aware that Federation security was--"
"Tell your personnel to stand down," Lieutenant Gaila interrupts. "We don't actually mind taking the station, and sure, he's a Vulcan, but they've had a rough few years and his bondmate is out there somewhere, you get my meaning? Let's do this easy."
Blinking, the stationmaster gestures his acquicience "What do you want?"
"We'll tell you when we find it." Gaila answers. "Go play now and tell your people to stay out of our way; we'll call you if we need you."
After another long look, the stationmaster and his escort retreat. Spock glances at Gaila thoughtfully; Jim has many memories of Lieutenant Gaila breaking dates abruptly for what she'd called tutorial sessions. Jim, in a fit of pique, had later used the weaknesses in Starfleet's systems to discover her activities with Federation security. "Fascinating."
"Being the only Orion in Starfleet's useful sometimes," Gaila answers absently, frowning at the stationmaster's retreating back. "The security clearance they have to give you when you're one of the few who can accurately translate secure Orion transmissions, it's crazy. It's your show, Commander. Where do we start?"
"Search the system and find out where Dar is located," Spock says. "Examine the log files and find who else contacted this station after Jim gave his report to Starfleet."
"Two to one it's Avis, Starfleet's other pet Orion," she says with a sigh. "I could really use Jim's codepicker right now."
Spock blinks at the reminder, filing it away for later thought. "I regret I did not permit Jim to make me a copy of it," Spock admits.
Gaila scowls at him. "You know how many blowjobs I offered for one of those?" she says, expression melting into amusement. "You must be good." Turning, she snaps her fingers at two members of security. "You two, come with me and stop staring at my ass." With a wink at Spock, she strides toward the stationmaster's office. Evans and Sulu both watch her with wide eyes.
"When she makes Captain," Evans says softly, "I envy her crew."
Spock gives him a quelling look. "Begin search pattern beta," Spock tells them. "Inner rooms are shielded; I have modified your tricorders, but when in doubt, verify the lack of life signs personally."
"You're sure he's here, sir?" Sulu says doubtfully, giving Spock a sideways look.
"Yes," Spock answers tranquilly. "There is no where else for him to go."
Spock had estimated they had six hours before Starfleet would arrive, as the stationmaster did not strike Spock as one who does not take advantage of any given opportunity. The nearest ship to their position is a small courier ship, which discounts its use; Starfleet will request a Constellation class ship or better.
At the three hour mark, Gaila completes her analysis of the station's computer logs, returning with verification that the station was contacted by someone in Starfleet hours after Jim had turned in his evidence, and several transmissions had been completed between the station and the individual before ending when the report of Jim's abduction reached Starfleet Headquarters. Gaila downloaded the transmissions for Uhura to decrypt and sent them to the ship, along with the remainder of the logs. "Just in case," she tells Spock. "I added a few sleeper bugs, just on the off-chance something interesting happens after we leave."
"You don't think they'll check for that, sir?" one of the security team asks curiously.
"Probably. Won't find them, though." Getting up, she types a command into the interface. "That'll block their traffic for the next twelve hours or so--nothing in and nothing out. I'm showing Dar was here the day Jim was abducted; the logs confirm he sent the message from here. I have to admit," she says, looking at the haphazard array of equipment that makes up the control board for the station, "they do take the privacy thing seriously. They don't even log their residents' transmissions, just datetime. I wonder how much he's pulling in a standard year?"
When they emerge from the command center, they meet Sulu in the marketplace; from his expression, Spock deduces that their mission was a success. "You have located Dar?"
"Yes, sir," Sulu says, pleased. "Evans has him. Not happy, but he's really eager to talk. Like, he will not shut up, sir. But he thinks he knows where they took the Captain."
"Very well." Taking out his communicator, Spock hails the ship. "Prepare for transport on my mark."
"Now we're abducting people?" Gaila says cheerfully. "Seriously, I've been serving on the wrong ships."
Spock ignores her comment as well as Sulu's quickly hidden grin. "Mark."
Jim's thought for a while now that he never really knew the meaning of a headache before Spock. During the three week period after pon farr, Jim had learned new and exciting variations of the word every evening, when the shields Spock could maintain for him during the day came down and Jim's mind learned to integrate both Spock's memories and the existence of a mental link that the human brain had never been designed to handle.
Three weeks of neural scans, twice daily because McCoy was a fucking sadist, had been more of an education in the science of neurology than Jim had ever wanted to have. There had been a morbid sort of curiosity in watching the way his scans began to synch with Spock's until the overlap between was nearly identical and Bones threw up his hands and threatened Jim with unspecified but disturbing medical procedures if he ever, ever did anything like this ever again.
It had been three weeks that felt like three years, the brittle control of his duty shifts followed by hours of meditation with Spock teaching him how to complete what they'd begun. The sex had been, and still is, kind of phenomenal, which just goes to show that while Vulcans go on ad finitum about controlling their base instincts or whatever, apparently that's a total lie when the base instincts are combined with almost-marriage.
The headaches had grown less frequent after that, up until T'Prina and learning how exhausting it was to shield every second of every day.
But all of that--up to and including two rather serious concussions--have nothing on this shit; Jim groans, rolling over and groping across the bed. He's not proud; Spock is going to block this right now and then get him some goddamn waffles as well. It's just that kind of morning.
Jim stiffens. T'Prina is efficient and meticulous about her duties, but a line has to be drawn, and being in his room when he wakes up is not a goddamn duty. "T'Prina," he starts, then stops short, touching his temple.
He can't feel Spock.
Sitting up, Jim forces his eyes open and the room slowly swims into view. It's not his quarters, this isn't his bed, and T'Prina is sitting on the edge of the bed looking more exhausted than any Vulcan Jim's ever seen in clean, creased scrubs.
"Wait." Taking a deep breath, Jim closes his eyes again. Starbase 3, Mitchell, transporter, Jim…. "Where are we?"
"I do not know," T'Prina says; even her voice sounds exhausted. "We are on a planet, but I have not been able to leave, so I cannot judge our location by visible stars."
"Right. How long?" Opening his eyes slowly, the room tips before straightening again, the headache starting to fade; the emptiness in his mind, however, doesn't do anything at all, and Jim's aware of the beginnings of panic spreading thin fingers through him. This is not the time to panic; this is the epitome of the wrong time to panic.
"From our condition, I suspect we were in deep sleep for approximately two hundred and sixteen standard hours," T'Prina states. "Dehibernation procedure would require another eight to eighteen hours, so I estimate it has been eight to twelve days since we were taken from the Enterprise.
Deep sleep. Jim takes a slow breath, forcing down his heart rate to something not likely to end in a stroke in the next five minutes; what do you know, all that meditation with Spock has some practical use after all. "That's--odd."
"I agree, Captain." T'Prina looks at him soberly. "They were not prepared for us to fight back."
Jim blinks, but now that he thinks about it…. "There were like, thirty guys, weren't there?"
"Considerably less before they were able to disarm us," T'Prina answers, voice carefully empty of satisfaction.
"And we're alive," Jim says, forcing himself to concentrate, but Spock--should be there. It's not like when he withdraws; Jim can at least still sense him, even if he isn't sharing with the class. This is-- "Was--the Enterprise--"
"I do not think they were interested in the ship," T'Prina says, then abruptly, one bare hand closes around his wrist. Jim stiffens at the contact, feeling her--her--and he remembers this, too, from the transporter pad. Forgive my presumption; your fear was overwhelming. The effects of the transportation seem to have affected your mind. I do not have sufficient training to be more specific, but I do not sense your bond has been broken.
"I'm projecting?" Jim tries to find the energy to raise his shields, but the headache, though more mild, interferes with his concentration too much. "Sorry."
"Do not apologize," T'Prina answers, removing her hand. "It was--comforting--to hear your mind. My bondmate… I can sense him, but only just, as we are still have not had our Time. We are a great distance from them."
Jim nods, making himself believe T'Prina's words. Spock is--there. Somewhere. He's fine. Everything is fine. "Well, that's something." Not much, but it does narrow the possibilities from somewhere close to the Enterprise to somewhere pretty fucking far away. Five days at maximum warp--if a ship could manage that--would be pretty damn far. "So were those Orions we killed, or was that wishful thinking?"
"Orions," T'Prina confirms. "It seems that they are in fact working with the Romulans."
"Yeah, I'm not too sure about that. The Romulans wouldn't bother kidnapping me if this is the first salvo in a war; they can just cruise across the Neutral Zone and get one on their doorstep. Kidnapping me would do wonders, however, if someone else wanted to start a war." Jim shakes his head. "That's what I was missing. It wasn't the Romulans at all. At least, not their government."
"Are you certain?"
"Nothing's certain in this life, but this is about as sure as death and weekly meditation nights." Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, Jim stands up, fighting the dizziness long enough to get his bearings. "The bigger question is why we're alive; there's no good reason not to kill us and leave our bodies somewhere obvious and incriminating to the Romulans."
"As barter?" T'Prina says as Jim explores the room. For a prison, it's pretty nice, though the lack of windows is a definite minus. Two beds, a bathroom, a closet. Jim looks at the neatly hung scrubs inside with a feeling of unreality before closing the door, and starting at the bed, taking a second inventory of the room. Beneath the plastered walls Jim can just hear the hum of circuitry, but there aren't any controls anywhere in evidence.
"We're planetside?" Jim asks as T'Prina moves the bed in one easy movement.
"The air is not recycled by a ship's scrubbers," T'Prina answers. "We are located within a large building in an interior room at least three levels above the ground." Moving the bed back into place, she looks at Jim following the baseboard with the tips of his fingers, searching for a way in. "The building is large enough to require internal environmental controls, including a recycler that runs every six hours."
Jim lifts his head. "So either this building holds a lot of people--"
"Or it contains laboratories," T'Prina says. "I suspect the latter from the quality of the air; it would not be logical to bring us to a place with a large population."
Jim sighs, finishing his search and sitting back against the wall. "None of this is logical, but yeah, let's assume they'd not put us in high density housing."
T'Prina perches uncomfortably on the edge of the bed. "I was brought sustenance six hours and thirty-five minutes ago," she adds, looking at the door. "I regret I was unable to move quickly enough to apprehend our captors and question them."
Jim waves a hand. "We'll figure it out." Whatever it is, which is a point of debate now. What kind of war-starting people kidnap a Federation Captain and Starfleet cadet, then lock them up and feed them? "This doesn't make any sense," Jim admits, pulling his knees up and draping his arms over them. "The bad guys are predictable. That's pretty much their only virtue--they generally have one good plan, and everything else is variations of that. Of course, they generally don't use that plan, but a whole lot of bad ones, but the same principle applies. They have nothing to gain keeping us alive. The Federation doesn't make deals."
"But perhaps they believe Commander Spock would," T'Prina says unexpectedly.
"Then they don't know Spock," Jim snorts. "He's at Headquarters right now, giving them all the information we have. Information that in retrospect is potentially completely wrong."
T'Prina walks to the door, looking at the smooth surface. "Captain," she says slowly, "I believe the access panel is on the other side of the wall."
Craning his neck, Jim spots where her gaze is fixed and gets up, running a hand over the plaster. Getting access to the circuitry isn't hard from this side, but without an interface panel, Jim won't be able to recognize the pattern for the controls. "Hmm."
"If I were to expose it--"
"I could try," Jim answers with a frown. "What I wouldn't give for a communicator or hell, a calculator so I could build an interface--"
T'Prina gives him a wary look, then turns away. "If you will give me a moment," she says, voice muffled, and Jim watches the scrub bottoms drop to the floor in shock. Turning with a curse, Jim stares at the beige wall.
"T'Prina," Jim starts a little desperately, "you know you can't--I mean, not that you can't, but I don't think our captors will be--uh, interested in--"
"Please turn around, Captain Kirk," T'Prina answers.
Taking a deep breath, Jim turns back around, but T'Prina is normally dressed again and holding out-- "Is that my codepicker?" Taking it, Jim rolls it between his fingers. "Where did you--oh God, stupid question, please don't answer that--"
"I had very little time when we were stunned," T'Prina says coolly, but there's the very faintest deepening olive across the dark brown skin of her cheekbones. "I concealed it before I lost consciousness. When I awoke and assured myself that we were not under observation, I found they had not--been as thorough as one might have assumed when they searched me."
"Surprisingly modest for ruthless kidnappers," Jim observes. "And if I'd known, think of the number of phasers I could have concealed--that's a filthy, filthy joke, by the way. Don't tell Spock I told you or I'll get the lecture on being a good role model to our kids again."
"I recognize the punchline, Captain," T'Prina says with admirable composure. "I have studied human anatomy and I can calculate the number of phasers you would be able to--"
Jim breaks into uncontrollable giggling, leaning back against the door. This is not the time, he thinks a little light-headedly, for hysterics. "T'Prina, you would be an incredible pirate. When you give up on the straight and narrow, give me a call. I'll talk Spock into it, promise."
"Is that not what the Enterprise was to teach me to become?" T'Prina says, turning to the wall. One delicate fist breaking through the plaster at a controlled angle cracks it neatly without touching the wires beneath. "I had hoped I would have the opportunity to tell you that I--understand what you wished for me to learn."
Jim leans heavily against the door, watching her remove the remaining plaster in a rough square, exposing a mess of circuitry. "You'd be a superlative astrogator," Jim says finally. "But you're Vulcan, so you'd be great at anything you do. That doesn't mean that's all you can be."
T'Prina delicately picks away the plaster to expose the wiring cleanly. "Commander Spock said I should not waste the opportunity to expand my understanding of Starfleet and the duties of a Starfleet officer," she answers, dusting her hands on the scrub bottoms. "I thought I did not understand his meaning, but in retrospect, I think he understood my motivation in accepting an internship on your ship better than I did."
Taking her place, Jim studies the delicate web of wires before flipping the codepicker over and opening the panel at the bottom, sliding out the slim silver interface cables, coiling them between his fingers. "So once, there was this guy in a bar," Jim says, reaching in, careful not to touch the exposed circuitry and looping the interface cable around the first, looking at the codepicker's readout. "He told me that I could captain a starship."
In peripheral vision, Jim sees T'Prina nod; everyone knows the story of Admiral Pike, Captain Kirk, and a fight in a bar. Its weird to see your own life become apocrypha. It seems so much less real than it was; Jim can still taste blood when he remembers that day. Jim thinks of the angry, bitter boy he'd been and wishes he could take him out for a drink and maybe a good fight, tell him: It won't always be like this. Not always. Just wait, and I know you hate hearing it, because I hate it too. But this is what we were looking for. This is what we were waiting for.
"Then there was this guy at an academic hearing who said he was curious," Jim hears himself say, activating the codepicker. "And he taught me how to be one."
T'Prina lets out a soft breath.
"And there's this crew who sticks around no matter what I do," Jim says, watching the tiny screen. "And they made me become one." The codepicker chirps happily. "And they'd better give the Enterprise to Spock, that's all I'm saying. Or I will haunt Nogura's ass."
"They would follow you anywhere," T'Prina says, leaning over his shoulder, a few dark braids swinging against his cheek.
"Only if they're okay with where I'm going," Jim says lightly. "Huh, this is some truly amateur coding. I hope this isn't an important research facility."
"I do not believe they will be--content with your presence here," T'Prina says. Turning his head, Jim looks at T'Prina repressively, not liking this turn of the conversation.
"They wouldn't, but unfortunately, there's not much they can do about it."
"I see." The codepicker chirps softly; it's searching, matching the pattern of the circuitry, the shifts of power within it.
"They wouldn't." Jim forces himself to return his attention to the codepicker. Almost there. "That's against--I can't even count the number of regulations--"
"Four hundred and sixteen."
"Four hundred and thirteen, that mess with the Cardassian freighter is not even applicable," Jim snaps, unnerved. "Starfleet officers have a procedure for this kind of thing--namely, don't run off half-cocked to rescue stolen officers. I think there's a regulation that says just that."
The codepicker chirps again; the sound is becoming really unnerving.
"And they don't even know where I am," Jim continues, aware that at this point he's trying to convince himself. "We don't know where we are." What a horrible, horrible thought; bad enough he got T'Prina into this mess. Worse if the Enterprise is dragged into it.
"Stop saying that!" The codepicker chirps again, and Jim looks down, watching as it finds a match and comes online and begins to build an interface, giving him everything a stranded Starfleet officer could need to escape an unknown building on an unknown planet. He seriously needs a plan now.
As Jim unlocks the door, T'Prina circles him, looking into the hall. "It is clear," she says. Jim waits as the codepicker insinuates its code into the core memory, then pulls the interface cables free, winding them back into their slot. Better than a remote control, at least until the code is found. Following her into the hall, Jim looks at the beige walls and rows of nondescript doors. This feels a lot less like the compound of Starfleet-abducting villains and a lot more like maybe some kind of business. It's better than a prison or an Orion slave camp, Jim supposes, but there's something about being locked up an office building that just doesn't sit well.
"May I?" she asks, indicating the codepicker. "I wish to set the beacon."
Jim frowns. "That only works if someone is in range and recognizes the code--" Jim stops. T'Prina had programmed that into the Enterprise's transporter computer after they were on the station. "T'Prina, there's no way--"
"I believe you are mistaken, Captain Kirk," T'Prina says, flicking on the beacon and handing it back.
"They're Starfleet officers--"
"Yes," T'Prina says as they come to a T in the hallway. Looking both ways, T'Prina considers. "And they are--I believe you would call them pirates." The wide brown eyes meet his. "I am not the only one that you have taught this lesson, Captain."
"--court martial all of you, especially you," Jim snaps as they find themselves in another non-descript hallway. "Jumping into a transporter beam controlled by persons unknown--was that supposed to be logical? On what planet, Crazyworld? And what kind of fucking headquarters is this? No guards, no security, no elevators--"
"It is rather disconcerting," T'Prina admits.
"--no goddamn stairs Fuck this noise. I'm done being subtle."
"You were being subtle?" T'Prina queries in a credible imitation of surprise as Jim goes to the nearest interface, jerking off the panel cover and winding the interface cables around the exposed circuitry.
"T'Prina, what's your tech level?"
"Four," she answers, joining him. "What do you--"
"We're taking control of the building. Tell me when a core node comes up and I'll hook into it."
"Will they not notice?" T'Prina says, but she takes the codepicker, watching the interface.
"Yeah, but it'll take them a while to do anything about it if we control all the building functions. Oh, look at that--core memory controls everything; how incredibly stupid not to get better security to keep people from doing this kind of thing."
"Here," T'Prina says. "I have located root access; you may proceed."
Jim smiles grimly. "Now we're getting somewhere. Core functions, passkey reset, building schematics--business proposals." Jim blinks, skimming the log files. "I don't believe this."
"Captain?" T'Prina leans over his shoulder. "Those are Orion--"
"Yes, they're Romulan-Orion shipping contracts, thank you for the newsflash; we're in a Romulan office building. This is so humiliating." Jim punches in a new passkey and locks the system. "And now it's mine. Stairs three doors down and to the left, and a very useful mainframe access terminal on the first floor. Of all the--"
"Captain," T'Prina interrupts, voice tight. "I sense the presence of multiple individuals on this floor."
Jim pulls back, tucking the codepicker into his pocket. "Then let's run very fast in the opposite direction. Stairs okay?"
T'Prina concentrates, then nods firmly. "Yes, they are."