How To Court A Wild Captain ~ Part II

36401

Title: She Followed Me Home
Fandoms: Star Trek: Alternate Original Series
Characters/Pairings: James T. Kirk/Spock, Leonard McCoy, Nyota Uhura, Hikaru Sulu, Pavel Chekov, Montgomery Scott, Original Characters
Ratings: PG-15
Word Count: 9,214
Summary: It was odd how much the Captain and Chief Engineer loved their ship. What Starfleet doesn’t know is the Enterprise loves them right back. Spock takes the first step to claim his bondmate. Everyone else just wants to get home from their five-year mission.

~ Riverside, Iowa, Stardate 2238.115 ~ 

Winona Kirk abandoned her lunch preparations when she heard her five-year-old son, Jim, talking to someone. Not having heard the doorbell or her communicator, she headed for the living room. Looking around the corner, she watched him having a conversation with his PADD … Holding a conversation without typing or using a stylus. The thing that scared ten years off her life was when the PADD answered. Getting down on the floor with her genius son, Winona Kirk asked her golden-haired child what he was doing. 

“I wanted somebody to talk to.” Came the simple answer. 

“But your PADD can’t talk.” 

“I know, so I fixed it.” 

“You fixed it? I didn’t know it was broken.” Winona picked up the darkened PADD. 

“Just the part where it couldn’t talk.” 

“How did you fix it?” 

“I went inside and made it talk.” 

“Show me.” She could feel the hair raising on the back of her neck. 

He picked up the PADD and touched it to his forehead. 

“What did you do?” She heard her voice tremble. 

“I made it regular again ‘cause it made you scared.” his chin wobbled at the thought of his mother being scared. She was the bravest person he knew. 

“Jimmy, I want you to make me a promise.” Winona grabbed ahold of his shoulders. Now, it was his turn to be scared. 

“Okay.” Tears welled in eyes wide with fear. 

“I don’t care if you fix things, but never ever tell anyone what you can do.” She gave him a little shake to emphasize her words. 

“I promise, Mommy.” He dropped his PADD and climbed into his mother’s lap. “I’m sorry I made you scared.” Tears rolled down the apple cheeks. 

“I’m not scared of you, Baby, I’m scared for you if someone finds out what you can do. That’s why you can’t tell.” Winona felt his head nod up and down as he tucked up under her chin. 

~ Tarsus IV, Stardate 2248.214 ~ 

Leaving Tom on watch, he slipped from the subterranean cave that had been their shelter from Kodos’ shock troops for the past three months. As night fell, Kodos’ chosen survivors hid themselves behind locked doors and windows. As the lights began to wink out, a slim shadow moved from house to house. He thanked the people who thought their electronic locks and sensors would keep them safe. Cans of food and bottles of liquor disappeared from pantries with none the wiser. He hated the smell of cheap whiskey, but it was a good antiseptic. He’d hoped with his coming to Tarsus IV he’d never again trigger the memories of Winona’s husband, Frank, who always smelled of whiskey, beer, and stale sweat. 

Hiding the spoils of his raids where they would be easy to find when he left the capital, he slid through the shadows toward the governor’s mansion. When the psi-talent that was a gift of the black hole that also took his father’s life, told him he was at the edge of the perimeter defenses, he stopped. Finding a place where he was hidden out of sight of the guards, he settled down to work. 

He’s 14 years-old and using the perimeter sensors to slip into the mansion’s computers while remaining aware of his surroundings. Gathering files and information as he crept around system defenses, he finally found the one system that still had a channel open off-planet. Remembering Hoshi Sato telling stories about her former Captain, who was now a Starfleet Admiral, he wrapped the files in defenses Hoshi assured him Jonathan Archer would understand and released the message. Making sure he erased any traces of what he’d done, he forced his exhausted mind and body out of his hiding place to begin the hike back to the cave. All they could do now was survive. At least they had food for a few days. 

Unbeknownst to him at the time, Jonathan Archer had sent out messages to any Federation ships in the vicinity of Tarsus IV to advise him of the planet’s status. A Vulcan and Starfleet ship had arrived at the same time and armed with the information they’d received from the Admiral, ended over a year of deprivation and degradation for the survivors of Kodos’ insanity. 

When Archer discovered his identity, he had taken him in and scrubbed the records of his true identity. Once he had recovered, the Admiral commented on his restlessness. The night Jonathan caught him stuffing his clothes in a knapsack, they struck a bargain. Archer he couldn’t stop him from leaving, so he contacted a retired member of his old crew who now ran his own security service. Jonathan handed him a communicator and PADD. 

“I’ll let you go on two conditions.” Archer continued as if he hadn’t noticed the crossed arms and jutted chin. “You send me a message the 15th of every month. You keep up with your schooling. I arranged a berth for you as an apprentice Engineer with Nebula Security. Your grades suffer, my friend drops you back here.” 

When he started to argue, Jonathan reminded him his emancipation had not yet been finalized. He held out his hand to accept the equipment from Archer. “You report to Nebula offices 0900 day after tomorrow.” The Admiral watched him until he saw his acceptance before wishing him a good night. 

“Jonathan.” He waited until the Admiral turned back. “Thanks. I can’t stay. I won’t put myself where Winona or Frank can force me back to Iowa. I won’t put you in the middle of that, and I’m sure Starfleet would have a screaming fit if it became public The Kelvin Baby’ wasn’t living the apple pie life.” 

“You’re right, Kid, but I’d do it in a minute.” 

“I might take you up on that someday.” A warm smile spread over his face as he put his knapsack to the side and prepared for bed. 

~ Riverside, Iowa, Stardate 2255.155 ~ 

Acting as Chief Engineer while his boss healed from their latest FUBAR mission, he had finished the last of the repairs that would get them to Starbase 4. He’d received a brief message from his Uncle Jonathan informing him of his step-father’s death, and his need to return to Earth to settle his estate. Running a hand through his shaggy hair, he grimaced at the debris that fell out. He always figured Frank would die from alcohol abuse, but it was one of the farm’s antique tractors rolling over that killed the man. As usual, Winona was out on the fringes of known space, so the whole mess was left to him to handle. 

The ship’s actual Chief Engineer, Asori Zh’orhallak, had returned to her post with the morning shift, recovered from her injuries. He stuck his head in her office and informed the Andorian he was headed to the bridge to speak with the Captain. 

“We get to Starbase 4 tomorrow where you should be able to catch a ship back to Earth.” Captain Munro informed Jim. 

“Thank you, Captain.” 

“Hell, Kid, I’d take you all the way home, but we need hull repairs before we go home. If I don’t see you after we dock, you did a helluva job for us.” 

“Thank you, Sir.” 

He was enjoying a shot of top-shelf Irish Whiskey at the bar next door to the Starfleet shipyards. Tonight, he was celebrating the finalization of all the bureaucratic crap having to do with Frank’s death. He leased the farmland to their neighbor and hired a property management company to take care of the house. He sent off a short message to his mother informing her of what he’d done, and the people to contact when she was going to use the house. 

As he enjoyed his drink, he considered his next step. He had an open invitation to return to Nebula, but at twenty-two, he was looking for more than being one step away from a mercenary and ship’s mechanic. He’d spent the past several evenings sitting on his hovercycle while checking out the projects at the shipyards. Gossip around town said one of the ships was a Constitution class ship scheduled to be ready in three years. 

Days when his frustration levels were high from dealing with the bureaucratic nonsense he had to plow through to arrange the upkeep of the farm, he would change into workout clothes and run. He always took a break at the shipyards. Watching the progress of the huge ships, he allowed his curiosity full rein, as his gift allowed his mind to slip into the ship’s computers. Spreading himself through the systems made him feel small compared to the vastness of the ships’ cores. 

During the years he’d been with Nebula Security, he had researched and honed his gift. He never told anyone he was a technopath. Working in engineering and as his team’s codebreaker didn’t raise any suspicions. Now, having touched the cores of the starships, he thought about joining the construction crews to work on the beauties. 

Before he could make any decisions, he found himself embroiled in a barroom brawl that wasn’t really his fault. He’d been holding his own until two of the cadets held his arms while ‘Cupcake’ punched his face and body. The arrival of Captain Christopher Pike stopped the cadets pounding on him. When he finally got his nose to stop bleeding … He sipped the drink the Captain bought while seriously thinking about taking Pike up on his offer. Where did he get off calling Jim a genius level repeat offender? Sure, he’d gotten in a couple fights backing his Nebula team when they were dirt side, but it wasn’t like he’d started the brawls. 

Looking up at the skeleton of the future USS Enterprise, Jim tossed the keys to his hovercycle to the surprised dock worker as he headed for the Academy shuttle. : See you in three years :, was his last thought as he climbed the steps. 

~ San Francisco, Starfleet Academy 2258.200 ~ 

He glared across the aisle at the stoic Vulcan Lieutenant Commander. Not wanting to prove to the board of Admirals watching their interaction, that his reputation as a hothead was true, he used the experience he’d gained working for Nebula to rein in his temper. 

“Lt. Commander Spock, did you find any evidence such as timestamps indicating code or any other parts of the Kobayashi Maru simulation had been altered in any way?” 

“I did not.” The Vulcan clasped his hands tightly behind his back. 

“Then logic would dictate that it was pride that caused you bring this inquiry and not cheating.” 

A green flush colored the back of the Lt. Commander’s neck. “Vulcans do not act on emotions such as pride.” 

“But you have just admitted that there is no evidence.” Jim turned his attention to the Admirals. 

“Cadet Kirk is correct. Beating a test that has been deemed unbeatable because of the low probability is not evidence of cheating. As you can produce no substantive evidence, we dismiss your claim, Lt. Commander Spock, and Cadet Kirk’s record is cleared.” As the gavel banged, a call came over the loudspeaker for all officers and senior cadets to report to the shuttle bays. 

~~}~~ 

When the shuttle broke atmosphere, he was already stretching himself out to the Enterprise. Feeling the binary codes of the supercomputer welcome him, he began bringing himself up to speed on what the computer had gathered from the reports coming into Starfleet. 

He knew Enterprise inside and out. Breaks from the Academy when he wasn’t cramming four years of schooling into three, were spent in Riverside catching up on the progress made on the starship since his last visit. 

His best friend and roommate, Leonard McCoy, would invite him to Georgia so he wouldn’t spend two or three weeks rattling around the old Iowa farmhouse alone. Not wanting to interfere with the little time Bones got to spend with his daughter, he would decline. Spending time mentally surfing through the systems of the half-finished ship was more interesting than being nice to people he didn’t know. When they moved Enterprise to space dock, Jim used his connections to Nebula Security to get work as a temporary worker in engineering. There was very little he did not know about the newest addition to Starfleet, and he would exploit that to get through whatever was happening to Vulcan. 

~~}~~ 

He watched Captain Christopher Pike as he looked over the cadets standing on the bridge. He knew the Captain hadn’t set his bridge crew because he was waiting for his ship and cadets to be ready at the same time. Pike’s former First Office now had her own ship, and he needed to choose. Spock had time in service, but he had battle experience. Spock’s first preference was science while he always had his finger on the pulse of what was happening. 

“Kirk, you’re my First Officer, Spock, Science. Briefing in fifteen minutes. I want to know everything.” Everyone scattered to their stations as Pike settled in the Captain’s chair, so they could get underway. 

His frustration level grew with every passing moment. His information and sources were questioned at every turn by Lt. Commander Spock. He knew Pike saw the fire of temper flash in his eyes. Wanting to head off the inevitable blow-up between the two strong-willed men, Pike decided to rein in his Science Officer. 

“Mister Spock.” The Captain drawled out. “Let’s hear what Mr. Kirk has to say before you discount it out of hand. The Cadet has experience and sources we are not privy to.” 

“What sources would those be, Captain?” 

“Not your concern. Just because your shorts are in a knot over the Admirals’ decision does not give you right to attempt to undermine me.” He growled. 

“I assure you, Cadet, there is no knot in my shorts.” 

Before he could continue, He interrupted. “That’s First Officer to you, Science Officer.” 

Spock lowered his eyes. “I stand corrected … Sir.” 

He gave Spock a nod of acknowledgment and said something in Vulcan too low for Human hearing that caused Spock’s spine to stiffen. Pike got the meeting back on track by having him give the rest of his information. 

By the time a battered Enterprise was on her way back to Earth, her crew and machinery were exhausted and bleeding. He pulled his mind out of repair he’d finished in the helm to find his acting First Officer standing at the right hand of the Captain’s chair. 

“Commander?” 

“I wish to express my gratitude for the life of my Lady Mother.” 

The flip answer that sprang to mind died a rapid death. They might be serving together after this, and there needed to be a truce. “It was one of the greatest pleasures in my life, Mister Spock.” He put all the sincerity he could muster in his voice. 

The battle-tested cadets settled the ship into space dock. Vulcans and injured Starfleet personnel were off-loaded before the ship was turned over to the repair crews. The Admirals took pity on the exhausted crew and told them to report for de-brief at 0900. He barely made it to his dorm and a quick shower before he collapsed in his bed. 

No one was surprised when a week later, he succeeded the injured Admiral Pike as Captain of the Enterprise. 

~ Starfleet, San Francisco 2259.270 ~ 

He knew his former First Officer could feel his anger pushing against the Vulcan’s mental shields. Even at his angriest, Jim rarely pushed his emotions onto others, but the maelstrom of emotions at what he saw as Spock’s betrayal took the Vulcan by surprise. When the computers in the conference room full of Admirals, Captains, and their First Officers began to blink and roll, he took a deep breath when Admiral Archer laid a hand on his shoulder. The two men had a short exchange before taking their seats. The computers stopped glitching. 

In the wake of the explosion in the conference room of the Daystrom Building, he pulled Pike out of the wreckage as Spock was moving a support post off the Bradburn’s Captain. Leaving the injured men with Spock, he checked on Archer before grabbing a phaser rifle and running out to find the bomber. Staring at the man through the hover copter’s window, his mind fought to gain control of the machine. The dark-haired man wrestled with the controls and weapons systems as sparks and parts shot from the rotors. Taking a deep breath, he began to run. Launching himself from the frame of the broken window, he clung to the frame of the hover copter’s windows. Watching the lights of a transporter beam fill the cabin, he wrangled the copter’s computer, so it landed with a thump in the building’s courtyard. He ran back into the damaged building. 

~~}~~ 

As he ran through the disintegrating decks of his starship, he reached into her computers trying to find a way to control their fall. He could hear his chief engineer behind him trying his best to keep up with his Captain. : Need to get Scotty to lay off those Dagwood sandwiches. : He thought as they ran. 

: I will put in a reminder, Captain. : The ship’s computer answered him. 

He was glad no one noticed his smile as he ran. The crew would truly think he’d lost his mind. Between his own quick mind and the ship’s computer, it became apparent the only way to slow their descent was to get the warp drive back online. Whirling on Montgomery Scott, the hard right hook he landed on the Scotsman’s jaw had him crumbling toward the deck. Catching the dead weight, Kirk settled him at the console and strapped him in the chair. : One last ride, my beautiful lady. : Jim ran for the warp core praying to the Gods he didn’t believe in that he could get the core aligned before the radiation killed him. 

: Goodbye, Sweetheart. : Jim slid to the floor just as Spock fell to his knees on the other side of the glass. As the world turned dark the last thing he heard and saw was Spock and Enterprise. 

~ Space Station Yorktown, Stardate 2264.04 ~

He was pulled out of his thoughts when his shoulder was bumped by his CMO.

“It’s your birthday, Jim. What are you doing hiding out by yourself?” Leonard chided.

“Hmm. Just thinking. This might be the last time we’re all together like this.”

“What?”

“The core crew has been together since the Academy. It’s time for promotions and new postings. The only reason we’ve had this long is the Admiralty didn’t want to mess with a good thing. It’s been five years since Nero, and Starfleet is nearly back to full strength. They’ll need the seasoned officers to begin taking over for those who had their own promotions and retirements delayed.”

“Wow, you really were thinking.”

Jim turned to face the room as he watched his crew and friends. The alpha bridge crew, led by Uhura had planned this surprise party to celebrate the one year anniversary of Enterprise-A and his birthday. They had even managed to get Jaylah a break from the Academy to attend. Nyota had become a mentor/sister to the Starfleet cadet, and Jim hadn’t been surprised Jaylah become firmly ensconced in the Uhura family. He raised his glass to McCoy.

“Thirty was supposed to be one of those milestones when you pause to see if where you’re going is really where you want to be? I suppose this year we should feel blessed the ship and crew came through with just a few bumps and bruises.”

Leonard took a sip of his drink to study his friend. He knew Jim still felt the long shadow of his father even though he was well on his way to establishing his own legend.

“Did you hear something from Starfleet?”

“What … No. Shore leave while upgrades are being done to your ship doesn’t slow down the paperwork. I still have reports to file.”

McCoy was glad to see Chapel and Rand wheeling a cart into the room holding a huge cake covered in candles.

“Come along now, Laddie and blow out the candles before we have the fire crews breaking down the door.” Scotty teased.

Jim seemed to shake off his strange mood and throw himself into enjoying his party the same way he threw himself into taking care of his ship and crew.

He never noticed his First Officer standing on the other side of the support pillar.

~ Unexplored Space, Stardate 2265.271 

There were 94.65 days remaining of their five-year mission. They would be arriving at Space Station Yorktown twelve days before the Human holiday Christmas. Many spouses and families of the crew had relocated to the space station to give them more contact while the ship traveled uncharted space. Enterprise would be taking the families on board who wanted to return to Earth while others remained to transfer to other deep space exploration ships or work on the ever expanding space station. Yorktown being on the edge of charted space was the most popular jumping off point into this section of space.

Enterprise had greatly expanded their star maps during their five-year mission and had greatly expanded the number of planets wishing to join the Federation.

These and many other thoughts chased through Spock’s mind as he sat at the Captain’s right hand during their weekly meeting of department heads. The Vulcan wanted to smirk as he felt the Captain’s right leg and foot constantly bumping against his. He knew Jim had read all the reports and had little patience for his officers going into minute details about their department’s projects. An arched eyebrow from the First Officer was usually warning enough to keep them on point. Spock watches information scrolling across the Captain’s PADD at a startling rate while the man himself seems to be engrossed by Lieutenant Wendell’s report.

Jim straightened in his chair 5.3 seconds before Lieutenant JG Chekov’s voice comes over the ship’s comms.

“Kirk.”

“Keptin, we have detected an object that appears to be a free-floating asteroid.”

“Are we able to establish an orbit?”

“Unknown, Captain.” Sulu’s voice comes through next. “Scanners don’t indicate a gravitational field.”

“Idle us alongside, Mr. Sulu, and we’ll check it out.”

“Aye, Sir.”

“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll continue this at our next meeting, or after the next disaster.” Jim scattered the group before they could slow him down … Spock at his shoulder.

“Keptin on the bridge.” Chekov announced.

“Mr. Sulu … Report.”

“We are maintaining a parking orbit beside the asteroid, Captain.”

“Uhura?”

“There is no radio traffic, and we have not been hailed. It could simply be an asteroid that’s been thrown out of its orbit.”

“Captain, sensors are detecting an energy trail that seems to indicate a propulsion system.”

“Life signs?”

“The composition of the surface makes it extremely difficult to scan. There are life signs, but the scanners cannot be more definitive.” Came from the Science station.

“Atmosphere?”

“Not on the surface, but it is possible that part of the emissions could be from an artificial atmosphere.”

“Like someone’s made a ship out of an asteroid?”

“A likely possibility, Captain.”

“Huh. Uhura, let’s knock and see if anyone’s at home.”

“Aye, Captain.” The Communications Officer turned to her console. “This is the USS Enterprise hailing unidentified ship inside the asteroid.” She began flipping switches to cycle through the known frequencies.

“USS Enterprise this is Administrator Phalti of the Asteroid Enoch’s Ark. We welcome you and invite you to visit. It has been quite some time since we have entertained guests.”

“On screen, Lieutenant.” Kirk nodded to Uhura. “Administrator Phalti, this Captain James T. Kirk. If you will transmit your transporter codes, I will put together a team to beam over for a visit.”

A humanoid approximately six feet tall with dark hair flecked with grey dressed like a refugee from a hippie commune of Earth’s 20th century appeared on the screen. “Would you, by chance, be bringing your doctor?” The Administrator’s tone turned sly.

“Do you have a medical emergency?”

“Not an emergency, but we have been without a physician for some time. It would be a boon to The Ark if your doctor could check over our inhabitants … Just as a stopgap while we search for a new doctor.”

“We shall transport over in one hour’s time, Administrator.”

“We look forward to your arrival, Captain.”

The bridge crew watched their Captain out of their peripheral vison as he stared at the asteroid on their view screen. The longer he stared the deeper his frown became.

“Captain, Lieutenant Giotto has sent his recommendations for the away team.” Spock bumped the command chair to break Kirk’s concentration.

“Of course, Mr. Spock. Dr. McCoy?”

“Has been notified. I have placed my own name on the list.”

“I will also be going. If Phalti is the head honcho, we can’t have him feeling slighted because the Captain didn’t accompany his team. Make sure the security pays particular attention to the medical personnel. I didn’t care for the way Administrator Phalti was drooling over the mention of our doctor.”

“As you wish, Captain.”

“Sulu, you have the conn.”

“Aye, Sir.”

Jim continued to carry an air of distraction with him as he acquired a phaser from the armory and joined the rest of his team at the transporter. He checked everyone was armed and carried their kits with emergency supplies should the meeting go sideways. He gave the team a nod of approval that all of them had changed into their survival uniforms.

“Glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is all a little fishy.” Jim muttered.

“I have seen no indications of fish, but the Administrator’s body language and words were not synchronous.”

Jim’s answer was a wink as the away team stepped on the transporter pad. “Mr. Scott, keep a close eye on us. Experience has taught us that most things are not as they seem.”

“Aye, sadly it has.” The Scotsman made several adjustments.

“Energize.”

~~}~~

Administrator Phalti was waiting when they materialized on the asteroids transporter pad. “Welcome to Enoch’s Ark.”

“We were surprised when your … Vessel appeared on our scanners.” The away team stepped down from the transporter. “Captain James T. Kirk at your service. My First Officer, Mr. Spock, Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy, Dr. Christine Chapel, Lieutenant Giotto and his security team.”

“Ah … Security … I assure you we are quite peaceful. You should have no need for a security team.”

Eight sets of eyes narrowed suspiciously at the Administrator. “Starfleet regulation requires it. They’re very good at their job. You’ll barely notice they’re in the room.” Jim waved his hand as though it was of no consequence.

“Regulation, of course.”

“Not to be rude, Administrator, but if you have sick or injured on board, we’d like to get to work.” McCoy interrupted the stuttering.

“Ah yes, if you’ll follow me. You’ll find we have quite the collection of species.”

“What is it you do that you have ‘a collection of species’?” Spock was curious at the administrator’s turn of phrase.

“You are Vulcan, Mr. Spock?”

“I am.”

“Shouldn’t you be helping to rebuild you culture on their new home world?”

“I am where I am supposed to be.” The ice in the First Officer’s voice should have been a warning to the administrator. It had taken Spock nearly a year into their mission to convince his Captain he would not be leaving the Starfleet. It had taken another six months to coax Jim into meeting him for chess once or twice a week. It was just since Jim’s birthday party that Spock had found ways to spend the majority of his time with the Captain. He did not need this person undoing his progress toward claiming his bondmate. “I am best serving my people and the Federation in my present position.” A glance at his Captain showed a lessening of the guilt that appeared with Phalti’s questioning.

“I meant no offense, Mr. Spock.”

“It would be illogical for me to be offended at your curiosity, Administrator.”

“This is our medical facilities. I’ll begin escorting those in need of your services. It will give you time to get set up.”

“I’ll walk with you, Administrator Phalti. I’d like to see more of your facility. I’m sure Mr. Spock would be interested in how you’ve transformed the asteroid.”

“Of course.” There was trepidation in the Administrator’s body language. “Your security?”

“Two will be with me. The rest will remain with the doctors.” Jim’s tone was firm.

“This way then.”

While they walked Spock asked questions about propulsion, life support. When asked about the number of crew, the Administrator became evasive.

“Since much of what we do is research, our systems were designed to operate with minimal crew so that we would not be distracted from our work.”

“Have you published any of your research?”

“We have just recently put together several pieces for submission.” The Administrator hedged.

“As Chief Science Officer, I would be interested in reading your submission. A critique, if you will.”

“We would be delighted to have your thoughts.” The administrator stopped by a set of controls beside a wall that would be clear if not obscured by a white mist. The window cleared to show two adults and a child that were humanoid except for their feline features. All three wore a silver collar. The fear on their faces spoke volumes to the Starfleet officers. “I have found a doctor who has agreed to attend your ills.” Phalti announced.

Not liking what he was seeing, Kirk lagged behind as Phalti herded the family of felines toward the medical bay. Bless Spock’s heart, he kept the man prattling on as Jim stepped out of sight. It had taken the entire time they had been on the asteroid, but he had finally found a crack in the programming that allowed his mind to slip into asteroid’s computer. All the white misted windows cleared.

Jim’s mouth fell open and his face paled when he saw singles, couples, and families of a multitude of low population species including families of Vulcans. The one family bore a strong resemblance to Sarek.

“I’m James Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Are there others like Phalti on board?” Jim overrode the door controls.

“No. I am V’lu, my bondmate, Lyvirk, our children, Niajuss and T’pas. We believe him to be an avatar of the artificial intelligence that powers and maintains the asteroid. We were drawn here to work with the individual who conceived and financed this project. When he learned about the destruction of Vulcan-that-was, he refused to allow us to leave as we had become an endangered species. He has collected many rare objects.”

“Where is this collector, and how do we get these collars off?” As Jim talked he continued to open doors.

“His body has become incapacitated by a degenerative disease. He roams the tunnels of the asteroid in a vehicle that with the help of the avatar maintains his body’s function. He is a Terran by the name of Enoch Gates. As for the collars, Phalti and Gates carry the controls.”

“That means there has to be a program … It’ll just take time we may not have to find it.” He tried to narrow his search through the files without sacrificing awareness of his surroundings.

“Are there other beings that should be released? Is there any weaponry that could hurt my ship?”

A pair of beings that reminded Jim of pictures of Earth’s mythical creatures called Fairies glided down the hallway.

“All the sentient beings were kept in this area. There are creatures here that should only be released back into their home environments. There are handheld weapons, but the asteroid itself has few defensive weapons. Gates fancies himself the leader of a pacifist utopia.” A thin hand fluttered over the collar.

“We need to get you on board the Enterprise and get this asteroid back to the Yorktown.”

“It will not be easy. Gates will not relinquish any of his collection. Many creatures died in the beginning because of environments that failed or illness.”

“First things first, we need to get to the transporter.” Jim started back the way he’d come.

His mind was still sifting through programs looking for the collar controls and the override codes in case the transporter was locked down. As they neared medical facilities, Jim motioned for everyone to hang back until he cleared the way. Seeing everyone except the security team occupied with whatever McCoy was doing, Kirk signaled them to stay quiet as he motioned his charges to follow.

The minute they stepped up to the transporter, Jim felt his connection to Enterprise. “Enterprise! I’ve got ten to beam up two times.” Long fingers flew over the transporter’s controls. With the help of his ship to boost the transporter signal, Jim watched the second group disappear as Phalti ran into the room.

“NO!!! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE! YOU’RE RUINING EVERYTHING!” The avatar shouted as he moved toward Jim with a phaser in his hand.

“What have I done?! You are keeping beings … Some of them sentient, civilized beings in what amounts to a zoo!” Jim spat.

The security team moved to disarm Phalti before he could shoot their captain. The avatar, frantic over the disruption of his programming turned and fired wildly. Everyone ducked out of the room hoping he didn’t hit the transporter. The weapon’s tiny computer was no match for Jim’s technopathy. Security tackled Phalti to the ground and put him in restraints.

The first thing he did was send Bones, the felines and two of the security crew back to Enterprise. The doctor started to growl as Jim explained what he’d found, so he finally gave up arguing and returned to the ship with his charges.

Looking at the controller for the collars that had been smashed in Phalti’s struggle, Jim gave one last order at McCoy. “See if Chekov can hack the collars. I’ll keep looking for another controller or the codes in case he can’t shut them down.”

McCoy turned to shake his finger under Spock’s nose. “Try to keep him out of trouble.” He growled as he herded those going to the Enterprise onto the transporter pad.

“I always endeavor to keep the Captain ‘out of trouble’, as you say. That I am not always successful is more because of him than me.” Spock looked down his nose at the doctor before turning back to his captain. “I admit that I am somewhat taken aback by you acting so precipitously. Not knowing anything about the situation before you released all the beings we know nothing about onto the Enterprise.”

“There are two families and one couple of Vulcans, Spock. I could not in good conscience leave them. This Enoch Gates has kept them in these ‘suites’ for five years.” Jim growled as the security team escorted to Phalti to where he told them they could find Enoch Gates.

Spock and the security team were getting twitchy as they moved deeper into the center of the asteroid. Jim knew they were getting closer to the computer core keeping all the systems on the asteroid working. He kept pinging the computer’s systems as they walked. Each time Jim became more certain of what they would find when they finally met Enoch Gates.

Keeping watch over his Captain, Spock was surprised at the calmness of his demeanor. Other than the short burst of temper in the transporter room, the blond genius seemed almost distracted. When the Captain told them of the ten Vulcans that had been imprisoned after they were led to believe they were working for passage to New Vulcan had ignited the ancient fires in his blood. The passion with which he felt the need to protect any of the small number of his people still among the living had been one of the things he and Jim had agreed on. In the early days of their acquaintance, it seemed to be the only thing they agreed on some days. It was making him uneasy moving deeper into the interior of the asteroid. He watched their security people with Phalti startling at the sounds coming from the tunnels’ shadows. He moved a step closer to his Captain.

~~}~~

As they walked through the tunnels, Jim began to realize what they were facing. The deeper he dived into the asteroid’s computer, the more he understood. The closer they walked to the core, the heavier the defenses he encountered on the computer’s programs. He gave Spock a tired smile when his First Officer dropped back to keep pace with him.

“Captain, are you unwell?”

“Been a long day. I’ll be glad when we get back on course for Yorktown.” He pulled back from the computer as they neared their destination.

“Agreed. For now, it appears we have arrived.”

The members of the Enterprise crew stared at the wasted humanoid body hardwired into an interface with the asteroid’s computer. Phalti moved to stand beside the bed that had elevated to face the visitors.

“Enoch Gates … Captain James T. Kirk, his First Officer, Mr. Spock, and their security escort from the Federation starship USS Enterprise.” Phalti stood quietly after his introductions.

“I welcome you to my humble abode, but I must say I do not appreciate you removing pieces of my collection.”

Pieces of your collection are sentient beings being detained against their will.” The sarcasm in Jim’s was nearly palatable.

“They were my employees.” Gates sounded perfectly reasonable.

“You, voided their contracts when you refused to deliver them to their destinations.”

“As endangered species, they were much better protected here than attempting to colonize an uninhabited planet. I kept them safe. Encouraged them to breed. I should be commended for my conservation efforts.”

“You should be arrested, but it’s apparent your body is your prison, so we will be notifying Starfleet, members of the Federation, and our not inconsiderable press contacts of your activities.”

“, Captain, I don’t think you will be telling anyone anything. You will become the rarest specimen in my collection. The Vulcan will stay, but your red-shirted friends will have to die.”

Phalti stepped forward only to be intercepted by an armed Spock. “You’ll find your weapons won’t work on MY asteroid.” Gates chuckled.

“I do not believe I will accept your word, Mr. Gates.” Spock pulled the trigger.

When Jim realized Gates was controlling the computer through his interface the same way Jim did with his technopathy, he sent his mind back into the asteroid’s computer. He had wrested control of the offensive and defensive programs when Spock fired his phaser. It didn’t fire a full charge, but it was enough to cause the avatar to stop.

“NO!” Gates’ voice echoed from speakers throughout the asteroid. “Get out … GET OUT! … GET OUT OF MY HOME!” The voice synthesizer squawked.

“Transporter room.” Jim shoved everyone in front of him as he fought to keep them a clear path.

“Captain, it would probably be wise to use the Enterprise’s transporter as opposed to depending on Mr. Gates.”

If it wouldn’t have exacerbated his headache, Jim would have rolled his eyes at Spock’s suggestion. As Enoch turned the asteroid’s interior defenses on the four members of the Enterprise crew, Jim split part of his concentration to attempt to connect with his ship. His vision tunneling as the strain he placed on his brain caused pain that had him literally running blind. Stumbling over the uneven floor, Jim felt someone grab his arm. Before he could lash out he felt the presence of his First Officer at the edges of his mind. Before he could form a cohesive enough thought to respond, he felt the Enterprise’s computer bolster his battle against Gates.

ENERGIZE! : He mentally shouted at the starship’s computer.

“SHIELDS UP! GET US OUT OF HERE!” Mental and vocal commands were shouted from the tumble of bodies on the transporter pad.

Jim groaned as the pressure on his brain eased. When he could move his head without feeling like it would fall off his shoulders, and his vision cleared, he untangled himself from his First Officer and headed for the bridge.

Outside the transporter room, he was met by his yeoman. She shoved a PADD in his hands with a document ready for his messages to Starfleet and Yorktown. He typed while he walked and thrust the PADD at Uhura as he began issuing orders to the helm. As they moved away from Enoch’s Ark, Spock supplied sensor readings coming from the asteroid.

Enoch’s Ark has begun moving off toward uncharted space. I will continue to monitor engine emissions until we are out of sensor range.” Noticing the captain rubbing his temples, Spock sent a message to Dr. McCoy.

“Thank you, Mister Spock. Where are our guests, Mr. Sulu?” He knew, but the crew would think it strange if he didn’t ask.

“After garnering a clean bill of health from Dr. McCoy and the removal of their collars, they were shown to guest quarters.”

“Thank you, Mr. Sulu. Yeoman Rand, please arrange a dinner meeting in the staff conference room with our guests. I’ll need Spock and Uhura in attendance. Please forward any information on our guests to my PADD along with status reports from Dr. McCoy.”

“Aye, Sir.” His Yeoman headed off to her office.

“Captain, Admiral Archer is on the line.”

“On screen.”

“Admiral.”

“Kirk. You’re supposed to be on a quiet cruise home …”

“That’s what we were doing when we were hailed by a hollowed out asteroid calling itself Enoch’s Ark. They were asking for medical assistance. I beamed over with McCoy, Spock and four security personnel. We found a humanoid, Enoch Gates had hooked his brain into the asteroid’s computer and has been flying around for at least five years collecting rare items including Vulcans and two other races not in our databanks.”

“Where is this Ark now?”

“Headed back to uncharted space without the Vulcans and two races recently added to our databanks. We have sent out alerts to Starfleet, the Federation, and a general bulletin to anyone in the area. I’ll be sending copies of files I was able to liberate from the Ark’s computers with my report.”

“You’re stopping at New Vulcan on your way to Earth?”

“If our Vulcan passengers wish transport, I have no problem taking a detour. Perhaps a day or two stopover to make sure they get settled.”

“That’s fine.” Archer shook his head. “Jim, try to stay out of trouble between the Yorktown and Earth.”

“I always do, Sir.” The broad grin was innocent. The Admiral shook his head before cutting the transmission.

As soon as the screen went dark, McCoy yanked Jim’s uniform collar away from his neck and hit him with a hypo.

“OW! Dammit, Bones.”

“I know you have a whopper of a headache, so stop whining.”

“I still have a ton of work and dinner with our guests, you better not have knocked me out.” The captain pouted.

“You’ll get that later. Don’t forget to eat.” The doctor headed for the turbolift.

“How’re our passengers?”

“Their stress levels are high, so they’ll be monitored for the next 48 hours. The kids are where they should be developmentally. Their jailor took good care of his collections.” Leonard growled. “Did he …”

“He mentioned adding me.”

“Dammit, Jim.”

 

“Not a problem now, Bones. I’ll need a copy of your reports. I’m sure Archer and the Vulcan High Council will want them ASAP.”

With an affirmative nod, the doctor entered the lift.

They all worked on their reports until Yeoman Rand returned to the bridge. Jim handed her a pile of PADDs as he stood. “Thank you for handling dinner on such short notice, Yeoman. Mr. Spock, Uhura, you’re with me, Mr. Sulu, you have the conn.”

“Aye, Sir.”

~~}~~

Spock held his silence until they were in the turbolift. Ever since he had gotten two handfuls of bare skin when he’d kept his captain from stumbling in the hallway of Enoch’s Ark, he’d wanted to ask about all the things his mind received through his touch telepathy. The part of his heritage that knew Jim was his t’hy’la and wanted to protect his Mate had been close to feral at what his mind perceived. The Science Officer was imminently curious. He wanted to meditate in order to recall every scrap of information.

“Captain …”

“Can you hold your questions until we’re off duty?” He was very conscious of a curious Nyota standing beside Spock. “Right now, we need to talk to our guests and get them making decisions about what happens when we get to the Yorktown.

Seeing the pleading look in the blue eyes that never failed to startle him with their bright color, Spock bowed his head. “It shall be as you ask. I will accompany you to your quarters after our meal.”

“Thank you, Spock.” The smile his captain bestowed him sent heat shooting through his systems.

The Communications Officer closely watched the interaction between the captain and her friend. She made a mental note to corner Spock when things settled down. Once everyone was inside the conference room, he set the privacy controls on the door.

“How may we assist you, Captain?” V’lu acted as their spokesperson.

“Everyone be seated, enjoy your dinner while we discuss plans.” He waited until everyone had done as he asked before he continued. “We will be returning to Earth after a stop at space station Yorktown. Mr. Spock, Lieutenant Uhura and I are visiting with you, so we may learn of your plans, and any needs particular to your peoples we need to implement. The Lieutenant is our Chief Communications Officer and resident linguist/cultural liaison and will attend to your needs.” Jim motioned to the Caitian and Sióg. He turned his attention back to the Vulcans. “Do you wish to go to New Vulcan, or will be staying at Yorktown?” His gaze met V’lu’s.

“After researching the colony, and speaking with the new Clan Mother, we desire to see this new colony. S’chn T’gai Spock, what of your Clan?”

“T’Pau, my parents, along with 50% of the Vulcan High Council survived. Our Clan numbers stand at 21% of the original number. Most were attending business from Vulcan that was when Nero attacked. We grieve with thee for your losses.”

“On a more practical note …” Jim changed the subject to keep the mood from turning maudlin. “Did Gates take over your accounts? Do you have access to credits for the purchase of essentials when we reach Yorktown?”

“Your concern is noted, Captain. Fortunately, Enoch Gates was a collector, not a thief. Our accounts are as they were left when we were detained on the Ark.”

“Good. We will arrive at Yorktown tomorrow at 1300 hours. We will depart at zero hundred hours. Now, let’s enjoy our meal and get to know our new friends from the Sióg and Caitian.” Jim smiled, not showing any teeth that might be construed as aggression by the Caitian.

Two hours later, the two men separated at their quarters with an agreement to meet after they’d left their ranks behind with their uniform shirts. After getting comfortable, Jim set to brewing a pot of tea the old-fashioned way. He poured himself a finger of Irish Whiskey and settled in his armchair to watch out the window. Jim set his empty tumbler to the side when he heard Spock coming through their shared bathroom. He retrieved the tea set and set it on the table between the two easy chairs. Once they were settled, Jim took a deep breath and released it.

“You have questions?”

“When you stumbled, as I steadied you, I touched bare skin. The transference was … Fascinating. There was your anger at Gates’ treatment of the beings he ‘collected’, the adrenaline rush of needing to escape, and lines of code from different sources.”

“Yes, I got your surprise and curiosity.” Setting down his cup, Jim leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. He finally straightened and closely watched his First Officer’s expressions. “I’m a technopath.”

Spock’s spine straightened with Jim’s announcement. Jim watched the micro expressions flicker over the handsome face as Spock tried to match instances with his new information.

“You’re only the third person I’ve told. My mother impressed upon me when I was five that I could end up a lab rat if it became common knowledge.”

“What happened when you were five?” The scientist in Spock wanted to fire questions at his captain. His hindbrain snarled at the thought of his Mate being in danger due to his ability.

“I didn’t have anyone to play with ‘cause Mom was busy, and Sam was at our grandparents, so I turned my PADD into a playmate. When Mom asked me who I was talking to, she nearly blew a gasket when I explained.”

“You were five.”

“I know what Vulcans are doing when they’re five? I know I’m Human, but I’m also a genius.”

“Point. So, you were the reason my phaser worked, and the reason Gates was so upset?”

“Yeah. I was running amok through his computer system and trying to get in contact with Enterprise, so she’d beam us over before Gates kicked me out of his system. I had a headache from Hell when Bones hit me with the hypo. I believe you had something to do with that my sneaky Vulcan friend.”

“I also picked up your pain.”

The replicator’s buzzer called Jim’s attention from their conversation. He pulled a tray of snacks out of the replicator before the comfortable silence between them was broken.

“Jim, I want to thank you for your honesty. You could have come up with any number of half-truths and obfuscations when I asked.”

“I have no reason to think my secret’s not safe with you, Spock. We may have had a rocky start, but you have been by my side since for five years. Bones may be my best friend, but you … You are in a class by yourself.”

Spock felt the tips of his ears heat. His Mate put him above all others. Looking at his captain, he noticed the paleness and lines of exhaustion carved in the handsome face.

“We have both had a trying day. I will bid you goodnight, and perhaps you would join me for breakfast before our shift.”

“I’d like that, Spock.” Jim stood with Spock and trailed him to their shared bathroom. “Sleep well.” As Jim turned away, he felt two fingers ghost across the back of his hand. “Spock?”

“Goodnight, Jim.” The door slid shut behind Spock before Jim could react.

~~}~~

Spock’s hands trembled as he lit his meditation incense and folded himself onto his mat. Never had he been so bold with another being. The brief relationship in which he engaged with Nyota Uhura had been instigated by her, though he had ended it when he realized she was not his true Mate. The repressed ancient genes that were activated by his Human genetics demanded no other would satisfy those fires. Though he had felt Jim’s exhaustion through their brief contact, he’d also felt his captain’s surprise and joy at the feather light touch.

Sinking deeply into a meditative state, Spock pulled up the memories of the day, taking his time contemplating and compartmentalizing the events on Enoch’s Ark. When he reached the memories of righting his captain as they ran, he took his time with the memories of their skin to skin contact. He had been surprised at the orderliness of the incandescent mind. Part of Jim’s mind had been analyzing the situation and coming up with and discarding plans for their escape. Another part had been dashing through Enoch’s Ark computer programs, starting, and stopping programs to facilitate their escape. A third portion of his mind communicated with Enterprise coordinating the ship’s ability to engage its transporter in relation to their location. As though the ship’s computer understood what the captain needed, reports from Medbay and accommodation assignments scrolled across his mind.

Underneath all the information that nearly overloaded his mind, Spock watched as a thin golden thread spun its way from where his fingers wrapped around the fine-boned wrist to anchor itself in Jim’s mind. Even now he could look into his own mind and see the delicate bond. He swore to nurture it until it became thick, strong, and unbreakable. His primal self was extremely pleased that he had taken the first step to bind his Mate.

Putting his quarters to rights at the conclusion of his meditation, Spock’s last thought before drifting to sleep was a hope that Starfleet’s plans for them coincided with Spock’s plans for his captain.

~~}~~

Curious at what the captain was reading on his PADD that brought a smile to his face, Spock waited until Jim was settled with his breakfast before asking.

Enterprise gives me her own versions of updates, which usually include the crew’s favorite make-out spots, and Scotty with his still, that we don’t ask about and he doesn’t tell.”

Eyebrows raised under dark bangs. “I see. You treat the ship’s computer as though it were a sentient being.”

“She’s only a step or two from it. I’ll admit a lot of that is probably my fault. When I was working for Nebula Security, I had to go to Riverside and handle my step-father’s estate because Mom was so far out in the black, she couldn’t get back to Earth. They were just starting work on Enterprise and Nautilus. I used to run in the evenings to work out my aggravation from dealing with all the bureaucratic crap someone must take care of when someone dies. I’d always end up at the shipyards. I’d take a break, watch the progress on the ships and visit with their computers. To graduate in three years, I didn’t take a lot of time off, but because of my ‘real world experience’ with Nebula, I tested out of a lot of those classes. When I had a couple weeks or a month off I would make a few extra credits by getting on the temporary work crews at the space dock.”

“Are you saying you developed a relationship with the Enterprise?” 

“Yeah. She sorta followed me home, so I kept her.” Jim chuckled as he finished the last of his coffee. “I got the supply lists sent off first thing, so maybe we can get loaded before zero hundred. I’d like to be headed for New Vulcan as soon as possible.”

When the Captain and First Officer retired to their respective quarters for the evening, they had just set course for New Vulcan. After a few days there to get their passengers settled, they would be back on course to Earth for the end of their five year mission. When the door of his quarters closed behind Jim, he placed his fingertips that still tingled from his first Vulcan kiss on his lips.

When the doors of his quarters Spock retired to his meditation mat feeling smug at his Mate’s reaction to their first kiss.

~ Finis ~

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