But Come Ye Back by Gojirob
Summary:

After ten years, Peter Kirk has returned to the lives of his uncle and the crew of the Starship Enterprise, raising questions, concerns and not some small amount of pain as the shattered young man is very obviously in bad shape. What will the crew do when what should be a joyous return from the dead turns awkward and off-putting?


Categories: Original Series, Alternate Universes, Crossovers Characters: Kirk, James T.
Genre: Horror
Warnings: Adult Situations
Challenges: None
Series: The Ancient Destroyer Cycle : Never Parted (2278 to ?)
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 19042 Read: 9657 Published: 20 Dec 2013 Updated: 22 Dec 2013
Story Notes:

A direct sequel to 'And I Must Bide'. While I've tried to avoid continuity lock-out to new or casual readers of 'The Ancient Destroyer Cycle' with varying degrees of success, this one is immersed in its story. Warning for implicit descriptions of the horrors an abducted child can face.

1. Chapter 1 by Gojirob

2. Chapter 2 by Gojirob

3. Chapter 3 by Gojirob

4. Chapter 4 by Gojirob

5. Chapter 5 by Gojirob

Chapter 1 by Gojirob

 

 

But Come Ye Back

by Rob Morris

 

"Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling From glen to glen, and down the mountain side. The summer's gone, and all the roses falling, It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

 

 

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,

Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,

It's I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow,

Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so!"

 

 

2278, UNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS

 1

The odds are, you know his story. The story of the lost child. The one who vanished, and who never came back. You sat with those you knew and cared for, and those you didn't care for at all, and clucked about his (or her) possible fate. Some stories were too wild, while others struck close to home almost precisely because they were wild. Still, the boy was lost, and you had a feeling vicious but goofy pirates played no role in this, and if the boy was to be found, it would be as largely shattered remains. Perhaps you even hoped or prayed that these would be found, simply to give the family closure. If the child in question were your own, you would be able to tell others that there really was no closure, only the distance from the tragedy the years bring.

 If you are reading this, the odds are great that you live in the late twentieth or early twenty-first century, when such events are sad, yet do occur, and sometimes no trace of the lost child is ever to be found. Criminals who pay attention to how each succeeding case is solved take care not to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. You accept that it may take a century or more - if ever - before a closed mouth or journal or advancement in the sciences tells us where that lost child went. This is life, at its very saddest, and somehow, it is easy to accept, this thought that a maniac seeking money, power, revenge or sick pleasure stole past precautions that were there, or that should have been there.

 Yet what if this were not that time? What if you lived in an age of wonders, and knew it? What if you lived in an age where locating a child, even without embedded technology, was a simple thing, like turning on a faucet?

In this time, children still disappeared, and yet the recovery rate was just under ninety-nine percent, and had been for over a century, to the point where only the very oldest, those broaching their third half-century, even vaguely remembered any other way. Children still died, and children were still murdered, but even on the most remote of space colonies, days were the expectation for recovery of remains, and knowledge of the murderer.

In short, in this age, this Twenty-Third Century by some countings, a child's unexplained disappearance had finally moved past the mysterious, the conspiratorial, and was barely even mentioned in its fiction. In an age when every small region on Earth had shield generators that could turn back and absorb safely the entire output of the great nuclear powers' combined historical arsenal, who wrote anymore of nuclear attack? So it was for the vanished child. He or she was kept in a warehouse of bad dreams along with the common cold.

 Then came 2268 (again, by some measures). A boy vanished in the night. No one could find any trace of his body, only traces of a struggle no boy should have been able to put up. His dead grandmother, who had been made to look like she had taken her own life, was proven not to have done so. A wave of paranoia - and even xenophobia - hit Sector 001 like a tidal wave.

What remote colony, just founded in what later proved to be disputed territory, did this happen on? No remote colony.  No, this happened on Earth. The capital of the United Federation of Planets, where, location technology aside, sensors crisscrossed the globe, to protect its political and military heads. The boy had lived in Iowa, at what was not quite the midpoint between Paris and San Francisco, but may as well have been. The boy had vanished entirely in the heart of what some called Paradise. That was alright, though--the planet he had emigrated from, Deneva Three, had also once been called Paradise. To coin a phrase, there was a lot of that going around. For on his first paradise, the boy had been enslaved by his own parents. On the second paradise, he was beaten regularly by his own grandmother, a woman who had to have her soul replaced before she would stop. Having left two false paradises, the boy went straight to a living hell, held there by people who were supposed to protect him. The xenophobia the kidnappers' actions caused served their greater purposes well, by the way.

Did the boy have no family, you might ask? Yes, he did. If you lived in that time, and if you glanced out the window, and if you saw a free Earth and a galaxy not in ruins, then it was likely this boy's family you had to thank for it. Yet such a task meant their great ship had no place for a child, and the boy understood - or he tried to, anyway. When the news came that this boy was likely dead, the reaction of this crew varied.

For some, it was like for those on Earth. How could it happen in the heart of everything they fought to protect?

For others, who remembered a good obedient kid (who notably, had NOT tried to destroy or kill them, a real plus among the kids they encountered), it just hurt. One yeoman recalled telling him to go to his cabin when a red alert hit during his stay (a recovery from illness --though that is another story ) and who later found he had done just that. No running to the Bridge, no offering to help assist anyone--he just went to his cabin and read books. For those that had grown up on the novels featuring the oft-obnoxious 'Mary Sue Johnson, First Teen In Space' this was a real delight.

But for seven of them, this tragedy and its mystery hit hardest of all. Part of the reason for this was obvious : The boy had been their Captain's nephew, legally adopted by the great man before he left, and they had seen so much of their leader in this boy, not growing close to him was impossible. Another part was less obvious to them : They could sense something grand stood within this boy, despite how wonderfully ordinary he seemed.

 

Insult was added to injury when Admiralty Hall, rapidly becoming a power unto itself, declared itself the sole investigative party in this tragedy, in or out of Starfleet - and then did nothing with the case. Assurances piled on assurances, which piled again upon lies and feigned indignance about the subject even being raised. If this seeming indifference which closely bordered both incompetence and contempt had been seen by some as flubbing a chance to gain knowledge of the boy's loss, perhaps it might have actually cost the Hall. But no breaks in the investigation came on any front, whether the investigator was in the employ of the public or of a private concern. So the Hall got to say that they had tried as hard as anyone and almost look good for doing nothing. Yet they had not accomplished nothing.

 Admiralty Hall had gotten away with the murder of Peter Kirk, and he wasn't even dead.

2

 Aboard the USS Enterprise, a formidable, beautiful woman who was consistently underestimated by everyone except seven or so others took note of the fact that her Captain, First Officer and Chief Medical Officer were not at their posts and indeed, had not been at their posts for over an hour. Now, she herself would join them, both in being away from her post and in sharing in one of the galaxy's greatest secrets (at that moment, anyway. These things tended to change).

 "Nyta? Head on down to Spock's quarters. Yes--it's that important."

 Uhura was a bit confused. Even when she and Kirk had actively been an item, he had always kept to rank in public. The most she could expect or really wanted was an affectionate inflection on the words 'Lieutenant' or 'Commander'.

 "Aye, Jim. Be down soon."

 She was not corrected, nor would she be. Upenda Nyota Uhura prepared for the worst. On the turbolift down, she ticked off the possibilities.

 *The Council sold him out on acquiring the Cloaking Device. Those idiots have found 'evidence' that the Planet-Killer was a poor widdle baby that we harmed. The Hall has abandoned all pretense of neutrality and wants to replace our Captain with a junior bigot 'concerned about our borders and cultural integrity'. Mom--Dad? Is Jim going to tell me something about either of you?*

 She entered Spock's cabin and was told to watch a comm-screen. A very strong woman cried, and these were tears born of purest joy. As an aside, her relationship with James Kirk resumed that very night.

3

 One week later, she, Spock, and McCoy aided the Captain in clearing and sealing the Bridge for an unexpected meeting. Scott, Sulu and Chekov all wondered why this had been arranged. Chekov, now Chief Of Security for the better part of a decade, was almost insulted at resuming his old post at the helm, but Kirk personally assured him it was for a very good reason, and the Russian accepted this, the starstruck young ensign of times past still somewhere in there. Unable to contain her smile, Uhura made the announcement.

 "The link is open, Captain. Our friends are ready to speak to us."

 Kirk got up from his chair. He looked around at his loyal senior staff.

 "I'm not saying anything dramatic or startling when I tell you that we've taken some body blows these past ten years."

 Indeed, he was not saying anything new, but all present felt he wouldn't say it without reason. Kirk gestured.

 "A force has arisen within Starfleet that may be something far worse than we can even grasp at present. The promise I made to all of you that I would be sponsoring your career advancement has proven to be the second-most hollow vow I ever made. In short, we have watched while life devolved and became a parody of itself - a sick parody, and more than once, it had me shaking my head for hours before sleep came. Whatever Yeats was really speaking of in his poem The Second Coming, I harkened again and again back to his words 'The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity'. I was so used to preparing myself for bad news, I failed to allow for the possibility of good news. Last week, some good news came. Good news I now happily share with all of you. Because the event that gave us the start of this wave of bad news - now officially stands negated. Gentlemen--please welcome back someone--who is now neither dead nor missing."

 Uhura activated the comm-screen--which seemed focused on an empty wall. A girl's voice was heard on the other end.

 "We discussed this--you know who's out there. They called to speak to you."

 The voice of the girl was known to them all. It was that of Captain Kirk's adoptive daughter Saavik. The voice that responded also seemed familiar, but distantly so.

 "Please, No. It's been so long--suppose they forgot about me? I could end up bothering them."

 Saavik appeared onscreen.

 "He will be a second, Uncle Jim."

 Back offscreen, her voice was heard again.

 "I can personally assure you, that is not the case. They have held tenderly to your memory. Now it is time to again be more than just a memory."

On the Bridge, McCoy shook his head.

 "Jim--this might all be a bit soon for him."

 "Give him a chance, Bones."

 Spock kept whatever thoughts he had to himself. The goings-on or lack of such kept the attention of the three who did not know the identity of Saavik's companion. Chekov saw a figure move into viewing range.

 "Finally, we get to see who this...ees?"

 His jaw dropped open. Sulu almost fell forward into the console before him. Scotty, at least an agnostic if not an atheist at times, crossed himself openly and broke into a smile.

 "Och...laddy...welcome back."

 Two years prior to this, Sulu had suffered a brief but memorably deep panic when his small daughter Demora had disappeared into a laundry basket. Like as not, he would have worried anyway, but this worry had been accentuated by the vanishing of the young man who now appeared before them all, alive and quite real.

 "Oh...My." 

 Chekov had liked Peter Kirk--as said, he was a good kid. But he'd taken charge of the boy's care during his stay for a far more selfish reason. Next to the younger Kirk, Chekov had no longer been the youngest person on board. Yet as he looked at the boy onscreen, still aged thirteen due to cryogenic stasis, Chekov felt both younger and older. He was physically older now by far than the boy. But what he saw in the eyes of the returned Peter Kirk was something that had seen centuries, not merely a decade, away.

 "Piotr? It's us---your friends. Ve are wery glad to see you."

 The eyes of the boy onscreen seemed to regard his heroes with grave suspicion.

 "My friends? Is it really you?"

 The question carried undertones of not merely confusion, but of open pleading. This was confirmed by Peter's next words.

 "Are you real?"

 Sulu almost wanted to slap his friend, mentor and Captain around, for not warning them in advance of who they'd be facing. The veteran officer tried to keep his composure.

 "Why wouldn't we be real, Peter? Who else might we be?"

 The moment, which should have been at least a happy if not a joyous one, was rapidly becoming surreal and nightmarish.

 "Oh? Who might you be? Who MIGHT you be, SIR?! Well, you won't fool me again. I know the truth now."

 Scotty's smile had broken, and to look at him, his heart had gone along with it.

 "And just what truth might that be?"

 The boy's next words would show clearly what a mistake this early, post-rescue contact had been.

   "That there never was a shining starship called Enterprise! That it, and the seven great heroes who rode in it, were all a fiction from the mind of a deluded idiot, dwelling in a utopian hallucination. Well, I won't be tormented anymore by memories of something that never was! You made this fantasy compelling, I'll give you that much. You made me want to be a part of it, but I will not be your plaything again, trapped in some virtual..."

 The screen went blank. Uhura spoke after half a minute of stunned silence.

 "Saavik says---that they're trying to calm him down. He---he just burst into tears.  Sarek says that---we should call again in a few weeks. Not before."

 Kirk looked like a man about to order that contact be made again. But Uhura's face showed that she just might defy such an order, and this in turn reminded him : this wasn't some recalcitrant planetary leader making demands of the Federation while also demanding to be left alone - this was his son. His son, who, by all accounts, had been very badly hurt by someone whose identity he still didn't know.

 "Commander Uhura, please acknowledge the Ambassador and ask him to keep us appraised on Peter's recovery."

 Captain Kirk now looked over at the three crewmembers who had not known until then of Peter Kirk's return. He did not immediately notice that even the three who had known of this were also staring at him--almost staring him down.

 "I know that could have gone better..."

 Over the years of Admiralty Hall's rapid ascendancy, the crew of the USS Enterprise had practiced reasons and excuses to get everyone but the senior staff off the Bridge so that they could talk without possible spying, a thought that revolted them, but one that had proven to be all too based in reality. This had been a notion that had saved their sanity, not merely for anti-Hall talk but for any needed talk that could once more be done freely. Yet this freedom now came to bite James Kirk where it counted.

 "It could have gone better? Are you kidding me?"

 "Something to say, Commander?"

 Sulu stood up, on the floor of the Bridge and to his mentor.

 "Captain, I don't see any way that could have possibly gone worse. That kid didn't even look ready to leave the house, let alone address people he hasn't seen in over a decade!"

 "Just what precisely is your problem, Mister?"

 If Sulu speaking this way to Kirk was rare, Chekov following suit was unthinkable, and yet it happened.

 "Kyptin--his problem is our problem. Your nephew just returned from the dead and then denounced us all as fakes and works of bad fiction."

 Kirk was hurting inside as never before, and also trying as never before not to show it. In such a struggle, something had to give way.

 "He's hurt, Mister Chekov. Traumatized by the kidnapping. What's the matter with all of you? Aren't you happy to see him?"

Sulu shook his head.

 "Happy? That he's alive? Yes! Hell, yes! But was I happy to see that shattered shell on-screen? My God, Jim--that wasn't the lively, durable kid we met after Deneva. You should have just told us he was alive, and that we'd all talk at a later time."

 Chekov nodded.

 "I concur. I am delighted to know he is vwith us once again. But Piotr vwas not ready to be seen by us. Not like this."

 Before Kirk could respond, a calmer voice spoke up.

 "Cap'n? Just where was the lad all this time? I'll take it he spent time in stasis, for how he looks nae older. But where did he go to, and how is it he's back, when all manner of investigations failed to even ascertain whether or not he was atomized by the killers who took your mother?"

 Scotty's soft words seemed to turn back all of the harsh ones. Kirk stood down from what had nearly been a fighting stance.

 "Sarek found him. He refuses to divulge more than the barest facts about it. Spock?"

 Spock was, for his part, pleased to offer up what little he had.

 "My father has claimed that he was contacted by a member of a terrorist group. The person in question had been part of a raiding party on a rival faction of their equally unknown cause, and said that it was this raided group that had taken and held young Peter ten years before. Realizing who their new prisoner was and wishing to avoid direct conflict with his formidable uncle, this group found certain individuals of a low sort who my father had been forced to use as intermediaries in delicate negotiations. They arranged a meeting with my father. On a world in a system he refuses to identify, Sarek sent Saavik down to a pre-set location to obtain and release Peter from cryogenic stasis. Young Peter now dwells on Vulcan, and is receiving care for his many traumas. My father has related that he knows little of the people and places involved, and that, in order to keep to his given promise, he must not relate even that information, to ourselves or to anyone else."

 Spock shocked everyone with his next words.

 "But in all this, my father is lying."

 Now, all eyes rested on the Vulcan.

 "Consider if you will the premise of Sarek's explanation. A group of terrorists - a vague enough label in and of itself - manages to infiltrate Sector 001 and yet never does so again, nor do they sell this method to the many interested parties available."

 McCoy interrupted.

 "That we know of, Spock."

 "Accepted, Doctor. But even Romulan patience would have demanded a test strike by now, conducted by their own agents, not outsiders making a sale. Again think of this vaguely defined group that pulls off what must be called a criminal miracle - then envision them taken out by another such group, who again do not seize on the first group's masterstroke, and who find a way to release a boy who the uncle they are said to fear already believes is dead. Why not merely dispose of him?" 

 Kirk arose in a fury.

 "Yes, by all means! Why not merely dispose of him? Why not keep him locked away forever while he recuperates well enough to not throw off grown men who can't stand the sight of a shattered boy? Why not question the integrity of the great man who made this miracle possible?"

 McCoy made a move to cool the situation down. Yet it was one he knew could also ratchet things up. 

 "Captain--why not take a rest? This old country doctor highly recommends it."

 Kirk did not begin an argument with his CMO.

 "Why not, Doctor? Mister Spock---you know the drill."

 Had anyone been in his way as he went out through the turbolift doors, Kirk might well have pushed them aside, or even knocked them down. That was how badly the Captain of the Enterprise wanted off his own Bridge.

4

 Chekov arose from the position he had much skill for and yet no desire to return to.

 "Did anyone see that kid's eyes?"

 Sulu, for whom the long service at the helm plus the rank of Tactical Officer meant the helm was no burden, did not rise but probably could not have if he wanted to.

 "There was nothing to see. We used to call him Peter of the Haunted Eyes. But now those eyes are empty. Dammit, that used to be a happy kid. He survived worthless parents, a planet full of idiots who then became a planet of monsters--but he always kept on smiling. I thought nothing could break that boy. But not only did someone find a way, it looks like they had fun doing it. Mister Spock, is there any chance of persuading your father to turn over his contact?"

 Spock shook his head.

 "The chances of making Sarek turn over anyone whose confidence he has sworn to keep are so exceedingly low, Mister Sulu, science itself may not be able to generate the appropriate numeric fraction needed to represent it. Those chances are left in an even lesser state, strictly speaking, by my firm belief that Sarek has not been entirely truthful with us."

 Scotty spoke up now. No easy optimism emerged from the Scotsman's mouth.

 "The legends of the Highlands speak of two men of the same clan, a century apart, who both came back from the dead. Their clans spurned them, for those hills and mountains have no good tradition of dead things walking about, save perhaps for Jesus himself.  Folks--could it nae be that we are both happy and thrown off to see young Peter back with us? I think we all come from cultures where the fortunes, good or bad, of those who have been guests in our home reflect back on us. Tis’ certain that lad has seen the poorest fortunes imaginable. If those fiends did keep him in cryo all this time, then sure he was prone to freezing nightmares, and those have been known to drive those in stasis to madness. The Cap'n jumped the gun, tis' true, when telling us this news. Are we not now doing the same in our reaction to his methods?"

Uhura, the boy's adoptive mother, had said nothing as her child fell apart onscreen, her man fell apart in front of them all, and as the eeriness of Peter's sudden return was talked over. As her relief arrived, she did not try to join her friends in conversation. Within a minute, she was on the turbolift. Even alone, she fought to keep even the hint of tears forming away from her face. It was a struggle she almost lost several times before she reached her quarters.

 She was a perfectly lovely, even a beautiful maturing lady whose looks no one would ever complain about. But just over twenty years prior, she had been a stunner, and her eyes were only for two men. One was strapping and young, powerfully built and looked like a leader. The other was even younger, bald, only a few teeth, and needed to be changed a lot. While visiting Deneva, Nyta wondered why Aurelan Kirk always handed the baby off so easily--but Nyta didn't mind.

 "Wanna see a carnival, Peter?"

 Indeed, a carnival ship had set up on the new colony, including a fortune teller. Unable to resist, Nyta had her own told.

 *You live a life you have lived many times. Before your days are done, your butterfly wings will challenge those of the dragon.*

 Uhura tried hard not to laugh at that one. Then, the young woman held the baby Peter Kirk.

 *He is called The Rock. He was sent by God to smite the enemy of all life. But the children of this enemy will seize him. Before he reaches his thirteenth year, this tender child will be dragged down to Perdition...*

 Uhura grabbed the baby back and marched out, ignoring demands that the teller be paid, threatening charges if she so much as looked at the baby again.

 Yet obviously, that woman had been correct. But now that the once-baby was back, how much of perdition had stayed with him?

 *And just what have I been to him? I promised to be a mother, someone he could write to and help him where I could. But I've been exactly nothing to him. Nothing at all.*

 The boy who had once been the baby could have told her otherwise, and might even have admonished her for believing this so. But the boy was not yet in his right mind.  She was too deeply in despair to have heard him if he had been.

 "God, you brought our baby back to us, just like you did for your own son. Can you also make him well again? Can you let me hold that boy at least once more?"

Uhura found that all she could think about was her son kept in harsh cryo, so cold for so very long. In this, at last, the right words came to her, and she began to compose a message.

“Saavik, please relay this to your brother when you think he’s ready.”

The woman who took pleasure in the voice God gave her now gave forth with it to the boy she had held his entire life.

 

 

 

Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger

An endless aching need

I say love, it is a flower

And you, its only seed

 

It's the heart, afraid of breaking  

That never learns to dance

It's the dream, afraid of waking

That never takes the chance

It's the one who won't be taken

Who cannot seem to give

And the soul, afraid of dying

That never learns to live

 

When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

for the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed

That with the sun's love, in the spring

Becomes the rose.”

Uhura now prayed that her boy could not reject the sound of her voice, and that the rose could indeed bloom.

 

6

 Chekov was contacting one who he knew he was allowed to tell this stunning news. But he had other reasons relating to the news itself for making this call over sub-space.

 "That's wonderful news, Pavel. Isn't it?"

 "Janice, I vwish it vwere all that simple."

 Captain Janice Rand, it was said, had accepted whatever assignment under whatever conditions and made Captain before any of her peers, just as she had vowed. She liked to joke she would have gladly slept her way up, but her intensity had thrown all would-be lovers off.

 "Pavel, do you know when I first decided to do almost literally whatever I had to, short of kissing Hall ass, to get this rank?"

 "I don't think I do. Not exactly vwhen, anyway."

 Rand nodded.

 "It was the day we got the news about Peter Kirk. The whole crew was grieving. Two idiots, unable to cope, must have been trying to talk about something else--that something else being me. One said I was a comfort stop for the Captain. The other corrected him and said the Captain wanted more than a Barbie doll like me could offer. I was determined that I would never be dismissed again. So I scrubbed floors and toilets on some ancient creaking ships just to get a few points on the rank-quest. And those were the good assignments. Now I'm a Captain, and the kid is back from the dead. What's wrong with this picture?"

Chekov picked up on, but did not like, where she was leading with this.

“You think he may be an impostor?”

Her semi-sarcastic look told it all.

“Well, just how many beings have we all encountered who could pull that off? That is to say, the ones we know about. This could be a set-up coming from any number of directions, Pavel. Imagine the Klingons and Romulans, cloning the boy or altering another to be their pawn. This could even be one of those insipid tests another race uses to gauge the reactions of ours.”

Chekov rolled his eyes.

“I hope not. The Kyptin hates vwhen that happens, even absent his current state of mind.”

“When the dead rise, Pavel—always ask for ID. Rand out.” 

7

Chekov made a few routine calls to members of his staff. All were doing their appointed tasks, and none had yielded up anything out of the ordinary in their quest to find exactly that. In other words, the ship was secure. With that known and understood for a two-hour period, Pavel made for the most logical man he knew. At Spock’s quarters, he asked the First Officer a pointed question.

“Meester Spock, if pressed to it and if a greater goal is in play, a Vulcan will lie, am I correct?”

“I believe, Commander, you already possess the answer to that question. Is this regarding Sarek?”

“Da. Someone has raised a question about the true identity of the boy we saw onscreen. Yet I believe him to be the real Peter Kirk. With that said, the largest non sequitur in all of this is the possible untruthfulness of a man I know to be a just and moral one. I have studied a bit, and found that most Vulcan lies involve long-term needs or short-term conveniences needed to maintain survival. I suppose I am wondering where Ambassador Sarek’s possible lie falls.”

Spock began typing at his viewscreen.

“Your attempt at diplomacy is welcomed but hardly necessary, Commander. It was I myself who posited that Sarek was lying, and I hold to this logical if disturbing notion.”

“Kyptin Spock, vwe need to at least reason out vwhy he might be lying. This situation has too much negative potential to simply shrug and hope that it settles itself. Including the potential to hurt Kyptin Kirk.”

Spock was bringing up files on his father’s life and works as he responded.

“Said potential has already been reached, Mister Chekov. The Captain has in fact been hurt many times since all this began. Yet I would spare him further pain if I could. What do you suggest?”

Chekov still felt constrained by the fact that it was his mentor’s father, a great man in his own right, that he was speaking of in less than favorable terms.

“If vwe suppose that Sarek is lying, vhwy vwould he do so? I cannot imagine it to be a casual thing, and I have great trouble thinking he is protecting anything petty or of concern solely to himself.”

Spock knew well that Chekov was committing the very Human error of overestimating his people. But he also knew something else.

“I would tend to include all possibilities, Commander. Yet Sarek must realize that his deception is one I would see through, at least to discern it. When a lie is so blatant and glaring, logic dictates that Sarek is, by telling it without art, making us aware that the secret is a tender one indeed, a subject that he not only chooses to obscure, but asks implicitly that we inquire no further.”

Chekov took only a moment to process Spock’s words.

“Vwell—could it be Peter himself he is protecting? If he were to emerge and his kidnappers were named and sought out for arrest, the boy vwould find himself in the midst of unwanted celebrity. Remember, his vanishing was quite the public spectacle.”

Spock had already disallowed this.

“That, Commander, would be a reason not to tell the press or other media. It would not pass muster for informing Peter’s parents, the Captain and Commander Uhura.”

Chekov had almost countered his own argument mentally as he spoke, but felt compelled to offer up what he had. He tried again.

“Sarek is a man of peace. If he knew that the parties responsible vwere one of our traditional enemies, he vwould lie to keep us out of war. Because if the people of the Federation didn’t demand it, the Kyptin vwould.”

Spock knew the younger man well enough to place him within his confidence.

“As Captain Kang once mentioned, any Klingon who had deprived James Kirk of his heir would boast of it, consequences be damned. The Orions would never have kept him alive, and by now we would have received the boy’s head. The Kzinti would have devoured him in order to taste the strength of their enemy’s line. The Romulans likewise would have killed him instantly upon capture---“

Spock hesitated, and Chekov was about to ask anew when Spock resumed.

“Because his maternal grandfather is the last of their Emperors. The man known to us as Doctor Thomas Sorel is in fact former Imperator Rihannsu Tasorel.”

Chekov’s face showed his surprise.

“That does not disqualify them, Meester Spock. Far from it! Are you telling me that they vwould not vwish to control the effective Crown Prince?"

Spock sometimes had trouble of late maintaining his fabled calm. But this was not among those times, largely and especially since Chekov was, to coin a phrase, doing the emotion for him.

 "Control in the Empire is a definitive thing, Commander. With individuals of such potential disruptive power, this is achieved solely by their deaths. Peter Kirk has no power-base or following on Romulus. Had they taken him, they would have quickly ensured that he could not ever gain such."

Chekov accepted Spock's expertise in this matter, but moved on to a subject even more awkward in many respects.

"Sir, do you truly believe the boy turned back as many as twenty of his attackers, before he was finally taken by the kidnappers?"

Spock seemed reticent, but having given up as much as he already had, gave forth with much of the rest.

"In fact, Commander, I believe the actual number, though unverifiable, to be over one hundred attackers."

Chekov sat down at that.

"Sir, I am not at all sure the seven of us together could turn back that many, especially when they were obviously so vwell-prepared."

Again, Spock simply gave in, having reached the point of no return.

"That is because none of us truly have what Human popular culture and fiction has often defined as super powers, Commander. Peter Kirk does."

Spock summarily cut off a possible response.

"Recall that I am a Vulcan, and that my abilities are natural to me. Young Peter possesses abilities well above the norm of any hominid species we know to keep to a corporeal form."

Chekov was about to pepper his scientific mentor with another round of questions when his own fairly logical mind kicked in, and a thousand instances of the boy he had known accomplishing things he should not have been able to suddenly went from odd random occurrences to a true pattern that pointed exactly where Mister Spock had said.

"Da. It all makes sense, at least to an extent. Or---Nyet. Meester Spock, are you still trying to say that none of these secrets points to who might have taken the Captain's nephew from his home?"

In fact Spock knew one last secret - Peter Kirk was not James Kirk's nephew, but his own son. Yet since this was not the top secret or state secret the others were, and it was known to enough that it seemed unlikely as a source of the abduction. This thought was doubled again by the fact that Peter was James' only surviving relative as well as his publicly adopted son. Anyone who wished to strike at the Kirk family alone therefore had multiple reasons to do so, yet no taunts or riddles had come from any front.

"I said nothing of the sort, Commander. I merely hold to the idea that, given the sophistication of the strike on the Kirk home in Iowa and the survival of the Captain's nephew, certain potential participants in this vile scenario are by turns greatly less likely as the true culprits."

 

Chekov probably couldn't truly contradict Spock even if he was truly in the wrong and used faulty logic, so the younger man turned to a new question, perhaps one of the most dire.

"Kyptin, he vwas taken on Earth, in the midst of the twin Capitals sensor nets. Vwhile I vwould never doubt Vulcan technology and logic, is he any safer there from another abduction effort?"

Spock in fact had multiple secrets to keep, but Chekov's concerns were hardly invalid, so yet one more was taken out from its hiding place.

Chapter 2 by Gojirob

 

 

"There is a belief, based on the fractious relationship Captain Kirk had with his late mother, combined with the ease of access the home invaders apparently had, that she may have served as an inside party to this affair, who was then murdered by her co-conspirators."

Chekov's due process plus evidence-driven mind found an immediate flaw in this revelation' s premise.

"I don't get along with my parents, sir. At times, all respect, neither have you. Do vwe now also suspect Sarek of truly killing Ambassador Gav, during the Babel conference transit?"

As the saying went, Spock was just full of surprises on that day.

"In fact, I suspect just that, for the Tellarite Gav was a member of the Order Of The Ancient Destroyer. As was Brianna Kirk."

Chekov thanked his mentor abruptly and left then, feeling like none of his questions had truly been answered, and more, he felt drained.

"If the son cannot provide, perhaps the father vwill."

Wisely, he then chose to leave the tasking of the father to the son.

 

8

Leaving his regular shift, Commander Sulu, perhaps the only other parent on the senior staff besides Kirk and Uhura, was less concerned with questions of identities of kidnapped and kidnappers than of what happens to a child who has suffered so much.

"Personal Log. This was a good kid. He took what life dished out, and it dished out a lot to him. But when do you reach that breaking point? When does pluckiness not matter anymore, when the bad guys, whoever they are, have planned around your resistance and your pluck? That too much was asked of Peter Kirk is a given. The Captain's brother and sister-in-law had him taking care of them and his little brother, and worse, the whole planet was like this. Despite that, and the hideous downfall of that corrupt world, Peter kept on. Are the others thinking that he'll just up and do it again? Because I don't think that's either fair or possible."

He'd seen it more than a few times. The tssks and the ooohs when the boy would do something no other boy could do - except boys before him had done all that he did, and so would boys and girls after, and they would in turn do things Peter Kirk could and would never do, as boy or man.

"Isn't it enough that we liked this kid, and wished things had gone a lot better for him? I think that wishing divine honors on him by proxy is both pointless and cruel. Okay, maybe divine honors is a stretch, but its sadly not much of one. I mean, why do they look at Peter Kirk and see an icon?"

Sulu abruptly ceased recording his journal.

*Well, why do they? Is there something in him that brings this up in people?*

It was a wild, almost radical new thought in Sulu's mind. Maybe some aspect of Peter Kirk made people think of someone else, or see something else in him.

*Yeah--after all, he only combines a bit of Krypton, Hogwarts and the Daily Bugle in him, right?*

His sarcastic thought aside, Sulu began to think hard about this line of reasoning. He'd known all along the boy was not at fault - he seemed uncomfortable with attention, and perhaps disturbingly, with praise. But could it have been that those he criticized also had no choice, some iconic figure coming out in their vision when all they should have seen was a good tough kid?

"Computer - access biography of Peter Kirk, of Earth and Deneva Three."

There was another Peter Kirk of note on file, a fictional horror victim from an American remake of a Japanese horror cinema made over 200 years before, but the Deneva parameter narrowed it down immediately.

"Accessed."

"Good. Cross-reference this biography with classic literary and narrative themes."

This took a moment longer, but still the answers came very easily.

"Cross-check complete."

Sulu knew better than to simply ask the information-spewing tool his actual questions. Centuries of development and still the so-called 'Search Barrier' had never been breached, a victim of the sheer volume of compiled information. Once-traditional search programs capable of making suggestions could only be used once the larger searches had been whittled down by the efforts of living beings.

"Okay - list all major literary points raised by his life--and death. Use Campbell Model Two Algorithim."

"Working. Subject had ineffective and immature guardians deemed unworthy by the moral standards of most bipedal species."

"Did he ever. Next?"

"Subject is the lone survivor of an entire world, codex Deneva Three."

"At least we damned well better hope he's the only survivor. What happened down there...next parameter?"

One by one they were listed, including an ancestor - George Kirk Senior - dying on the very day his grandson was born. Under the guise of crafting a fictional character based on Peter Kirk, Sulu added in the abuse he'd learned of at the hands of James Kirk's troubled mother, his suspicion that the Captain was in fact the boy's real father, and several items far too personal to ever be part of a publicly available biography. Then he came to a final query.

"Computer - based on all these items and our knowledge of that world - why would religious officials from Bajor want to meet young Peter Kirk?"

"Error. The listed subject is a fictionalized..."

"Belay that, and answer the question. I never did get a straight answer why all that happened."

During the boy's three-month stay aboard the Enterprise, Sulu had, as Acting Commander during a brief absence by Kirk, played host to two Bajoran religious leaders, one a very elderly man who was their Supreme Leader, or Kai, Yarka Devos. The other man, a Bareil Manos, he had learned, had become Kai in Yarka's place. Yarka, who had died only seconds after meeting Peter Kirk, claiming to wish to see a boy who had survived so much - and both referred to him as 'The Rock'. Sulu had taken it for a bad translator chip or poorly programmed transliterator subroutine.

*But what if it wasn't?*

"Solid answer unavailable due to insufficient data. Speculation only."

"I'll have to take what I can get. Computer, focus speculation on figures of legendry and deep literary resonance, as in common themes recurring in the literature of many worlds."

"Working. The people and government of Bajor have been interested in Peter Kirk since his birth. First Contact involved ambassadors making inquiries about a boy of Starfleet lineage born as his Grandfather died. In order to facilitate this contact, the names of ten possible subjects were produced. They then narrowed their request to a boy with the names of a Terran holy figure, a figure known for survival by not drawing attention, and a Terran holy structure, born on the feast date of a holy figure known for charity and giving."

Sulu shook his head.

"Well, that doesn't open things up to infinity and beyond, now does it? Even before the Vulcans landed, Earth had tons of religions and beliefs. Computer? How were these criteria used to settle on Peter Kirk?"

Sulu knew most of the answer, but he wanted the one placed on record.

"Working. Peter - the name of the prime disciple of Christ. Claudius - who survived dynastic struggles in Ancient Rome by appearing irrelevant to those who might otherwise destroy him, until his rise to power. Kirk - in certain Northern European dialects, Kirk is the pronunication of more recent English Langusge word 'Church'. Born on 6 December - feast day of canonized Christian Bishop Nicholas Of Myra."

Sulu asked the grim but logical question that followed from all this.

"Computer? Based on their interest in Peter Kirk and their isolation from the known galactic powers, what is the probability that the Bajorans kidnapped and held Peter Kirk these past ten years?"

They seemed too gentle a people to do such a thing, but Sulu knew well this told him nothing about their possible guilt.

"Working. Probability is at Sixteen Percent in the most likely possible scenario. Due to their strategic location near the Klingon border regions, Federation and allied sensor nets are in place to detect even the slightest movement into and out of that region, up to and including energy spikes indicating temporal or trans-warp activity. It has been speculated that Starfleet's current administration has instituted alternate scanning methods as well, some of which may violate treaties and galactic law."

Sulu sighed.

"Score one for paranoia at Admiralty Hall. Add in media sensors, legal and otherwise, and far-off Bajor is pretty closely watched. Computer? Known Federation and allied contacts with Bajor in the last ten years?"

Sulu expected either a long list or no list at all. But the name that did come up would be yet another jolt.

"Working. Exactly one formal contact found ; informal unconfirmed and infrequent."

"And who was that formal Federation contact?"

Sulu knew the name before it was rattled off. Who else would the Federation send to open up a reluctant world but the very best?

"Ambassador Sarek Of Vulcan, six Earth years ago."

Sarek. Sarek, who, at about that same time, made a pledge to Captain Kirk to find evidence of what happened to Kirk's mother and nephew that night in Iowa. Sarek, who had just recently made good on that pledge in the most literal way imaginable.

"Computer? How far does our knowledge of Bajoran religion extend, and does that include possible messianic figures?"

Coincidences were multiplying, and this was almost never a good thing, Sulu knew.

"Working. Response to First Query : The Bajoran government released its entire religious database during First Contact, wishing to spread word of The Eternal Seers With All Sight, transliterated into Federation Standard as The Prophets."

Sulu made another leap.

"New converts are always the most zealous. Computer? How many adherents to the Bajoran faith are there outside of Bajor and Bajorans living abroad?"

Maybe the Bajorans themselves were too gentle to kidnap and erase a boy who never harmed them, but misguided folks who wished to follow their faith but lacked guidance? It was from that sort that the Federation's supposed anti-religious bias had sprung, and given the damage they had done as remote crews encountered new cultures and beliefs, it was almost understandable. Though, Sulu recalled, traditional bigots had also left a grim mark.

"Working. There are two."

Sulu was not finding this search an easy one. His face gained a badly confused look.

"Two? You can't have a real conspiracy with just two. Computer? Wasn't there a wellspring of interest when Bajor first made contact?"

It was, to coin a phrase, the very simplest of explanations.

"Affirmative. This interest included many seeking knowledge of Bajor's religious paths. Media accounts indicate that the Bajorans themselves moved to frustrate these efforts, due to a concern about the proper path of those not born Bajoran. Other interested parties declared the beliefs to be contradictory and confusing. One of the two remaining is suspected to be a Comparative Religion AI set up by researchers."

Sulu thought historically about the ascensions of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, and thought that, whatever the flaws of those earliest and most fervent evangelizing adherents, they had at least wanted converts. It seemed to him like Bajorans wanted a lock on their view of salvation.

"And---they can have it. Now, what about messiah figures? Any at all?"

Sulu briefly checked the view-screen. The computer's delay was due to coordinating a uniquely Terran term and its wider meanings with a culture that might well consider an 'Anointed One' being anything special something odd and off-putting.

"Second query response - A prophesized figure in Bajoran religion is The Emissary Of The Prophets. This figure will guide Bajor to safety from the second passage of The Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds, and elsewhere be called The Rock Of Prophecy."

That prophecy, Sulu knew of. It was to galactic lore what The Great Flood was to Terran myth and religion : Ubiquitous, and perhaps indicative of a historical catastrophe that, defying the odds, was as close to universal as you got.

"Computer, pull up and display common transliterated text of The Prophecy Of The Rock, collated from all worlds and cultures known to hold to it."

 

The computer relayed the old story, perhaps one of the oldest common stories known to sentient life, after The Creation. It was said to reach out and grab for the core of the deepest skeptic, though no one could ever say why, and few bothered to ponder on it for very long.

"Half-Waking, I came upon a sight, a dread dream of endings and more than endings. Much is lost to me now, but I shall grant you my scant recall. Three Heads Do I Remember, and these are the heads of The Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds. I beheld Ghidorah, formed from hateful lies. Behold, The Ancient Destroyer! Then die. But one comes, and he is like a Rock. But one comes, and she is like a Rock. Together, they are The Rock. It is upon that Rock that fabled Ghidorah will fail. Whole creations and eras and thrones and galaxies are gnashed to dust between those teeth, but upon that Rock those teeth will shatter like glass, and Ghidorah made mortal. The Children Of The Sailor shall turn back and slay this beast, for they are named The Rock, but lo, their path is hard. The boy shall grow with only pain and misery for playmates, till he shrugs these hateful ones off. The girl shall call herself a beast, but her mere touch will burn away the grimmest of spirit forms, and devils flee her embrace. The boy Rock will find that his small arms must bear the burden the arms of grown ones flee and avoid. King Ghidorah, that hideous and Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds, shall shriek a mighty shriek when these Rocks do meet, for he shall know by this his time draws down. But again, the path of the Rocks is hard. The boy is taken by fools seeking the serpent's favor, and by turns..."

Sulu ceased the audio playback. The next words were sexist, ugly, and offensive. But they were taken from the same lost Iconian text that separated the Rock into a male and a female, since older characters from other transliterations had failed to solve why one passage said 'The Rock Shall Rescue The Rock'. The civilization it had been taken from had no separate gender-based descriptors, despite having about five genders listed in their works. But this one passage, while again sexist, was described by scholars as accurate to the Aramaic that was its nearest Terran equivalent.

Sulu read the words himself.

"And by turns, he will be made their woman, and in this they shall not be gentle, and they will not be patient."

He felt ill. Could a bright happy optimistic kid turn bitter and fragile in this way? Sulu recalled Uhura telling him about meeting Kirk on Tarsus Four, when her travel-shuttle was waylaid by Kodos' soldiers. Kodos himself executed a boy named Kevin Riley, who they believed had been abused by the soldiers, and who had killed some of them when they were helpless.

Sulu read on, and he knew he was in the oldest of traps, looking at a prophecy and finding what he was looking for because he was looking for it.

"What the Hell is this? The Order Of The Ancient Destroyer, that I heard of. Hate cult for as long as Humans have been...Human. But the Order Of The Rock? Computer, Link to InfoCore for subject. 'Devoted to the small arms that have born a burden these twenty-three years, ten of those cast down to Hell. Rejoice, for he is free at last, kept warm after he was cold, safe by The Forge Of Hephaestus. Slay that Old Dragon, You Rock. But till that time comes, go back, once more, to everything you know and love.' Are they serious? How do these people even know Peter is alive? Damn it, Hikaru! You know better--annnnd you shouldn't be talking to yourself. That's bad too."

Sulu finally shut his search down, cursing himself for again finding the power of suggestion so alluring. He recorded an addendum to his journal.

"Don't worry, Peter. Your Uncle Jim will see to your safety, your Uncle Leonard to your health, and your Aunt Nyta will give a piece of her soul to see yours restored. But Uncle Hikaru will protect you from the people, good and bad, who seem to think..."

He swallowed.

"...who seem to think that you're the Messiah."

Because, damn it, this was one kid who surely had enough on his plate.

 

Chapter 3 by Gojirob

9

Captain Montgomery Scott sat and held a book he hadn't had much use for, of late. He'd taken it out briefly before, after his possession by the demonic Redjac, but that was a clear case of better safe than sorry. This was not a plea to the Almighty. It was a demand.

"Tis' surely been a while. We've an interesting relationship, you and I. I dinnae ken what use ye have for a fat sot like me, and I---I am nae sure there is even anyone to talk to, or if this book and all its words are simply an art the pious and prissy use to slam fools and dullards in their weak spot--their brains."

Wanting his wits about him for this struggle, Scotty kept away his best bottles, and found no reason to worry about talking to himself, because either there was someone to talk to, or there wasn't, and in any event, he needed this talk.

"Your men of the cloth tell children to be obedient and industrious, and to show respect. Well, ye had that, didn't ye? And what did it get the boy? I liked the lad, but it is the sorry lot of his life unto itself that rages me more than him being the wronged kith and kin of my Captain. If ye are there, what plan was served by his servitude? A slave by his own parents. A nightmare of a grandmother. A parent to a child who slowly died as he lay helpless. Then fiends in the night, to carry him away and do...those things that fiends are known to do. But is there peace in death for a child who did as he was told? No. Instead, he is coughed up and shown again to those who cared for him as a broken vessel."

Scotty shook his head, for whatever the status of the one he aimed his words at, he wanted it known that he was truly upset, and not merely for Peter Kirk's plight.

"I have a couple of my own, now. A sweet niece and a strapping nephew, and both of them want to join Bra-Ma Monty in Starfleet. Presumably, ye ken this already, but I am a proud one on the subject of my Mhor's brood, and I am dead certain she will raise them well, for her hand on my shoulder and when needed my arse helped to raise this one when Ma and Da would have their silent arguments that lasted months at a beat. I do my bit, and also urge, bribe and mayhap threaten their seats to keep them on the straight and narrow. But now I wonder, is there a point to all this effort?"

Scotty dispensed with the qualifiers and simply acted like there was no doubt there was someone hearing his words.

"Starfleet Command is run by a man who Christopher Pike wanted drummed out of the service, possibly imprisoned, and who no one has ever been able to say why this never happened. Admiralty Hall is increasingly a house of monsters and thugs and minds so small 'tis a pure wonder thoughts can even fit inside them. They have staffed the Fleet with their like while good men and women languish and sometimes just leave as they go nowhere at all. Grand Admiral Brock Cartwright has overseen the politicization of this fleet to the point you'd think we were serving in the times of Chekov's Soviet ancestors. Another good man, Winston Kyle, died in that charnel-house madness after Deneva, but madskulls like that short-eyed innocence thief Tara Bunson keep right on, serving at the left hand of that devil Cartwright. Word has it that Matt Decker's boy Willard was exiled to some unfit task when he would nae play ball with those bigots, souls more frozen than Khan when we found him, and not so polite as him about the knives they jab in our way."

Scotty actually found himself looking up when speaking, and again finding he simply didn't care.

"Where then is the reward promised for righteous behavior? Dinnae talk to me about being patient, or showing the proper set of beliefs. Part and parcel of the compact between men and gods and men and men is that at some point, showing better earns you better. Not in simple rewards of this world, nor even a promise of the next. If you believe in God or the plural of such, even the most indifferent deity on occasion nudges the roll of the dice our way. If you have no such beliefs, or if ye have come to have profound doubts, then still better behavior builds a better environment that ought encourage others to be better. But no more. The right will fail, the wrong prevail. What was it Mordred said in that old musical of King Arthur? It's Not The Earth The Meek Inherit, It's The Dirt!"

Scotty now looked down, perhaps unable to shift his gaze upward any longer.

"Och, what a sorry thing we saw on that screen. And we are all sorry with him, for a guest in our home to do so poorly after leaving us. Or is that the deal after all? We are all so lucky, and led by a lucky man as well. Is it so that the children who follow us are made to pay unto a deficit of fortune we've built up in our swashbuckling?"

Scotty rose up in a fury, and shook his fist either in blasphemy or at no one at all, point of view allowing.

"WOULD IT HAVE BEEN SO GREAT AN EFFORT TO DAMP DOWN THE FLAMES OF HELL AS THEY ROASTED THAT BOY? IF A GOOD KID LIKE THAT CANNAE SEE A HINT OF JUSTICE, THEN TELL THIS SINNER BEFORE YOU WHY WE EVEN BOTHER?!"

Scotty at last calmed down, and closed his eyes as he lack back on his bed.

"Aye, that's why I moved from religion. Far too easy to blame you, rather than just take our own lumps and admit we built all this ourselves, whether you are there or not. We saw these fiends ascend, and we brushed them off as rowdy peasants until they became our tyrants. So you're not apt to see me at services anytime soon --"

Scotty gave in and began to fall asleep.

"But if you wish to change my addled mind, a miracle or two aimed towards the Captain's kin would be a step in the right direction. And if it happens that you are there, and ye are hearing prayers...then let me say, Heaven Help Us All."

His rest was at least a little more peaceful that night for the relief of his burden.

 

10

"When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Spock usually found this Holmesian dictum useful. But where his father was concerned, the logic of Human and Vulcan alike could be a bit lacking. For Sarek was at his core a goals-oriented man.

"So--my son--you have doubts about my truthfulness in this matter?"

Spock had been nearly certain that Sarek was lying. His lack of distress or even the hint of upset after the accusation was made all but confirmed it. If the fact of Sarek hiding something was no longer in dispute, then learning why he had chosen to do so would likely be a long, hard war fought with all verbal and argumentative weapons banks firing, so to speak.

"There is much in doubt, Father. Even the identity of the young man in your home is to be considered in question."

Now the upset showed. Assessing Sarek's motives was something he might choose to allow. Questioning his due diligence could send him into Pre-Surakian mode.

"That young man has been vetted by physicians of all stripes, including T'Nia, T'Pau's own sister and your own Great-Grand-Aunt. She in turn has submitted her data and findings to Doctor McCoy. I will assume that the credentials of the woman who brought you to life and the friend who has many times saved your life will prove adequate. The boy who sleeps in your former room is in fact the once-lost kin of the man you have called brother, and who is the father by adoption of the girl who now attends and cares for her brother. Saavik was given parameters to check for proof of his identity when she made her retrieval. These were all met, and her proof was not limited to these."

Spock pressed on what he knew to be a pointless front, but the diplomat in his blood felt that some chance of success existed, and being fundamental, had to be pursued.

"Perhaps if that place of retrieval were to be available for inspection, our professional crew could find that odd clue that could erase even potential doubt."

This chance turned out to exist only in Spock's mind.

"My terms and my promise to the rebellious former captor, I have made clear. I would not wish to quash another such opportunity to contact lower sorts, if they wish to use me as a conduit for information. This forbearance has earned young Peter his freedom and in a way, restored him to life. If other outliers should choose to avert or undo terrible acts in this way, is this not a desirable outcome?"

Spock tore holes in this argument immediately.

"All that could be true, very arguably, although I would debate every last point with attention to all the fallacies contained therein, including in essence rewarding what some have been known to call bad actors. But all those fallacies pale in comparison to the greatest one of all. Father, I firmly believe that none of the individuals we are speaking of in fact exist."

Sarek checked whatever upset, as well he might, in his responses, realizing he was by inference giving Spock the very information he sought.

"My son is of course, entitled to his opinions. But are these based in a quest for the truth, or in more dimly lit motivations? While James never has and never would denounce you, I gained the impression that the presence of Peter Kirk aboard Enterprise during his stay twelve years prior seemed to put you ill at ease. Perhaps his sudden and unexpected return has also taken you aback."

A diplomat's best and yet most desperate trick, changing the subject, had been thrown in Spock's face by the man he himself had learned of it from. Yet it was done so masterfully, Spock walked into it eyes open and without protest. This was also art on his end, since it was now obvious Sarek would not directly yield so much as a single name or coordinate.

"The history of children aboard this ship is a trying and difficult one. Peter Kirk is the only one of  these to not attack the crew or attempt to commandeer the ship. That fact alone would make me more apt to be comforted by his return."

But whatever Spock hoped to gain by playing Sarek's game was negated by playing it with the master, who, as is sometimes said, had taught Spock all he knew, but not all Sarek knew.

"Peter Kirk is a boy lost between worlds, who knew torment from the immature, in this case his own legal parents. His young life was sundered with the loss of a brother, who was like his own child. By the expectations of his species, he put on a positive, optimistic front until this could serve him no longer. He has found a measure of peace on the Vulcan path. Spock, if one inverts these parameters, what member of your crew does this most remind you of, perhaps explaining the discomfort James has described?"

Sarek was not the (logically) smug being he appeared at this point. He knew that his own son had suffered horribly in the past, betrayed by his brother Sybok into a brutal captivity that had produced one good result : The girl called Saavik. But in order to deal with his captivity, Spock had pushed away all memories of her conception, and once recovered, treated her with indifference bordering on contempt. To keep Spock's brilliant incisive mind from completing its deconstruction of his strained explanations, the father played upon the son's most fundamental weakness. He did this to protect his unacknowledged granddaughter, to protect the boy she had rescued, and to protect life itself across the universe. He did not do this without regret.

"Your words are insightful, Father. Perhaps I have allowed the parallels between myself and the Captain's nephew to cause an unrealized emotional reaction on my part. The fact remains, that without any information regarding where the boy has been, we lack data needed to ensure his future safety. Father, he cannot emerge back into society - to truly live again - if he could in theory again be spirited away by those parties unknown, who have shown that they can strike without detection at the heart of the homeworld of the Federation. Can I persuade you to a timeline?"

Sarek could not refuse a request without first hearing its terms, but his face showed a resistance as well.

"Make your request, Spock."

Sarek had always known the potential of the mind he had helped shape, yet here, it could not help but impress him anew.

"My proposal is this : In five years time, I ask that you reveal the place of Peter Kirk's retrieval. By this point, your source, presuming they exist, will be well hidden or they will have revealed themselves through continued unsavory activities. Your word will be bent, but not broken, and since your theorized contact played no direct role in the initial abduction, they would not be in any true legal jeopardy. In the interim, we will conduct a blind search, so as to make the find more plausible, and seem less like your contact betrayed his associates, although this also places holes in your theory, since they will surely learn their captive has been taken and suspect those who knew he was a captive. Father, I ask you. Will you give us this location in five years time?"

Sarek, caught by the sharp points of his own concocted story and unwilling to push Spock any further, relented.

"Your proposal, Spock, is eminently logical, and I will accede to it at the five year mark of Peter's recovery. But not before. This agreement must also not be known to your crewmates. Seek me then, and I will divulge that location to you and you alone."

Sarek had negotiated a counter of sorts, actually agreeing to a shorter timeframe than Spock requested. Yet the senior diplomat also knew full well once more that there was in fact no remote location to reveal, for Peter Kirk had been held under Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco.

"Father, owing to the pain this causes my friend and Captain, be certain I will hold you to that date."

In fact, everyone involved in this situation would be in a different place when that day came and went. Sarek's larger goals would be much further along, partly at the cost of distance between his son and all who knew him.

Onscreen, Sarek's head turned and a third voice was heard.

"Father, are you speaking with Spock?"

"I am, Peter. Is the matter urgent?"

"Please ask him to deliver this recorded message to my Uncle and the crew."

"I will. Unless you now wish to deliver it yourself."

"No, Father. I'm still not ready."

The message was transmitted to Spock, but the few words the boy had spoken also left their mark.

"He calls you Father? I fear this could be distressful for Jim."

Sarek shook his head.

"His fatherly pride in James is evident. As is the joy in his face and voice at his mere mention. He was until quite recently even more fragile than he appears now, and it was in that state he heard Saavik call Amanda and myself by parental titles. It would not be untoward to speculate that the boy desires a father and a mother figure, given the many failings of Sam and Aurelan Kirk."

Spock felt his unease, until now a trickle, become a flood. He moved to end his talk by way of another related subject.

"Is Saavik reacting positively to his presence?"

Sarek now felt Spock's unease himself. Normally, due to his avoidance of memories from Hellguard, he almost never raised the subject of Saavik without prompting.

"More than positively. She is his rescuer, and dotes on him. His devotion to her is equally strong. It may be that Saavik sees the face of her adoptive father James in her new brother - but your mother suspects the beginnings of something more."

Spock forced calm upon himself.

"Thank You, Father. You have given me what you were able to, and this is appreciated. Spock out."

As the call ended, Spock retrieved and forwarded the message from Peter to his uncle. Feeling drained and attempting to rest, Spock heard a fading voice as he closed his eyes.

**Please, Mister Spock. Don't leave me in this place. Tell Uncle Jim I'm alive, and that they're holding me at Admiralty Hall. Please, I can't stay here. It's like Hell down here--it's so cold. Tell him! Tell him tellHimtellhimtellhimtellhi---**

Peter Kirk was unwittingly displacing Spock on many fronts of his life. But even if the tortured boy was doing this deliberately, Spock would still have no recourse against him. For shortly after Peter Kirk was taken captive, his telepathic mind managed to speak to that of his brother, David Marcus, and David in turn told Spock during Peter's memorial service.

Spock had never told anyone of what he learned, or of how he talked to Peter from his bio-prison of ice. For the pain in Spock's mind would not permit him to aid Peter Kirk. This was a source of great pain and shame to Spock, but it was a source he could not even struggle with, so thorough were the blocks that kept him going and effective on a day to day basis.

In time, it would even drive Spock away from his captain and their crew.

Chapter 4 by Gojirob

11

A man who was far more than an old country doctor stared at harsh readouts and disturbing data that made him wish he were as simple as all that, so that what he took from those readings wouldn't be so hideously clear as he recorded his findings.

"Healer T'Nia, once my instructor, has never been a typical Vulcan, but you wouldn't know that from her thoroughness. She summed up the medical records of young Peter Kirk rather well, when she said it would be easier to list what his captors did not do to the boy while they held him, most of it conducted in-cryo, on a victim who could not even scream."

McCoy gathered in his rage, needing to be more Vulcan-like in the recording of this report. He recalled how T'Nia had 'ruined' him for his dealings with other Vulcans. His naive assumption that they were all like her had ill-prepared him for Spock and others.

"They used Augment and other 'genetic cocktail' materials that only failed because the boy's natural DNA trumps anything artificial. Neat as that sounds, it has brought Peter no happiness and worse, cannot be explained merely by his hybrid physiology. The only way to account for the oddities of Jim's boy is to go with one of the simplest yet most easily misunderstood diagnoses of all time. Peter Kirk is a mutant, the first of a new species. To make matters more complicated, this Adam may have already found his Eve. Because his pattern-types and overall structural markers exist in one other - the girl who retrieved him and who is now his adoptive sister. The deep-down meanings of this turn in the evolutionary track are as of now not known, except in broad strokes : enhanced strength, telepathy that makes Betazoids look like carnival fortune tellers, and the fact that again, neither Saavik nor Peter have ever known the kind of peace you'd think their power would earn them."

McCoy was, to coin a phrase, a doctor, not an engineer. If Scotty had borderline agnostic questions about why the just suffer, McCoy could not permit this. The just, the innocent, and the soon-to-be-married suffered and died. A doctor knew this. An engineer could seemingly always find a miracle, but a doctor could only try, knowing full well that sometimes the answer is no. McCoy had started as even more militantly atheist than Scotty thought himself. Being in the presence of two men who roughly defined right person in the right place at the right time, and seeing those two save creation itself on more than a few occasions had sharply turned a man who once swore only by Apollo The Healer.

"But having your body able to heal from literally anything doesn't mean you never get hurt. There are generations of flesh, indicating growth and healing. Even absent scars or related tissue, one patch of skin shows signs of being newer than others, if only in scans. Needless to say, in cryo-stasis, Peter Kirk has not grown up, so there should be little growth. Yet instead----"

McCoy found his detachment wanting, when it concerned an innocent child, and especially so when that child was his best friend's firstborn son.

"---instead there is the equivalent of three centuries of cellular regeneration. Most disturbingly, there is evidence of ten years of extra regeneration near the anal cavity. Kidnappers have been known to hurt their targets, whatever the reason for the abduction. But this was not the result of random thugs, activists or hirelings going beyond their orders. This was deliberate experimentation upon a sentient being, done by professionals who knew in advance that their subject was immortal. On a less than professional level, this old country doctor must believe that the so-called people involved enjoyed their work. They had fun destroying a helpless boy whose greatest sin was probably a light crush on his mother-figure. Best part for these sadists? When they were done, they got to do it all over again. If there isn't a Hell, I want one to be built for them, so they can experience the same straight past eternity's end. Whoever ordered this to happen should get worse."

McCoy breathed in, gathered himself, but chose not to edit his words. If the 'report regulators' at Admiralty Hall wanted words with him, he'd give them words they'd never forget.

"Like these regenerations, toxins introduced, even when metabolized, leave traces of the enzymes used to do so. In addition to the attempted genetic enhancement of what may already be a cosmic apex predator--brilliant move, that--we have hard radiation at levels that could melt our hull. At some point, someone fed hot crude oil into his veins. I'll just assume they didn't inject with a hypospray full of ethics for lack of available material."

McCoy found that he was also not a Vulcan, and so moved to conclude his report.

"His body long past healed from every last thing they did to him. The mind of Peter Kirk is another story. What will become of the spirit of what was once a bright kid who tried to be happy despite it all? Well, on the chance that somehow someway our oh-so-clever mystery abductors get hold of this report, let me add one more medical diagnosis and some advice : Check your pulses. If they're still active, then Jim Kirk hasn't found you yet. That will change. Mark me on that."

 

12

The door chime sounded, and McCoy was not at all surprised to see his friend and Captain walk in.

"Jim, you look like fifty miles of bad road - all of it racetrack."

Kirk sat down, his troubled look again not a bit surprising. There were times the great man shrugged off his years. This was not close to being one of those times.

"I was thinking about..."

McCoy cut him off.

"I know who you were thinking about."

Kirk shot a light but intense enough glare before continuing.

"I was going to say Matt Decker."

McCoy felt a bit chastened, but still asked the obvious.

"And he relates to Peter how?"

Rather than engage in pointless denial of this assertion, Kirk got down to it.

"He, like a lot of other older captains, was opposed to my taking Enterprise. He and they felt there were worthier candidates, more seasoned and more mature. He told me I'd gotten lucky a few times - actually more than a few times, and that eventually my luck would run out. He even told me exactly how it would happen."

McCoy did not interrupt as before, but he did step in.

"Well, clairvoyant, he wasn't. Great man, Jim, but not always the most farsighted."

Kirk was not interested in defending Matt Decker ; even his own son had once said that thoroughness was a trait he developed, not inherited. But in fact the elder Decker could be quite prescient.

"He said that eventually, I would have to leave a crewmember behind. Not merely as in they died in the line of duty, or even pointlessly, as a crude demonstration of someone's power. He told me that luck like mine wore out right around that time when that one kid you liked and cared about would be lost, and you'd never even know for certain what really happened to them, and you would have no real way to ever find out."

Since this had in fact happened, the Doctor moved past it entirely.

"But now you know, and that kid is back. Jim, you mourned Peter openly as long as you could, and then you at least pretended to move on. Now, you don't have to mourn him any longer. I could offer a bunch of I told you so's on that video message, but it was a forgivable error. You were excited and proud of your boy, and wanted to show him off again. You're his father. It comes with the territory."

Kirk looked at his physician/confessor, his eyes slightly reddened from holding back tears he didn't care if some saw as unmanly, but which he did see as useless.

"Let's face it, Bones. I've never been much of anything to that boy. Saavik writes me that he's been calling Sarek 'Father'. But how can I resent either of them for this? If Sarek speaks to him once a day, Hell, once a week and asks how he's doing, he's being more of a father to Peter than I've ever been."

McCoy stepped in places few others would, which is part of why Kirk went to see him.

"You want I should rent or buy the violins, Captain?"

"Could you perhaps try showing sympathy, Doctor?"

McCoy did not relent.

"I have nothing but sympathy, for you and for Peter. I saw what he had been through etched onto his face, and I've watched it etch itself onto your face for the past decade. But the one place I have no sympathy for either of you is when you try to get up again when you are not ready. Father and son, both carrying the weight of the cosmos on their shoulders for as long as I have known either of them, and both too stubborn too ask for help until there is no choice at all. Worse still, you now expect it of each other. Peter's been asleep for ten years, Jim. What the hell is your excuse?"

Kirk calmed down, but looked no happier.

"I just thought at some point, there might be some joy in his life. That I could see him be happy, instead of just enduring. I'd even leave him be entirely, if I thought that would purchase it for him."

McCoy shrugged.

"Not happening, Captain. The boy could never let you go, even for a promise of happiness. When it comes to giving up, well, there's too much of his father in him."

Kirk saw an opening, and despite his depression, could not resist it.

"I know. That's what worries me. If he had just fled that abduction instead of standing his ground, he might have gotten word out to someone in time."

McCoy again disallowed this pattern to pity.

"Really? Because from everything Spock told me from analysis of the abduction scene, these were some well-prepared kidnappers. They even seemed to know the boy was stronger than he looked. But whoever they were, again according to our Vulcan friend, there were a lot less of them left when Peter was done. They may have won that fight, but they knew they'd be in one. Jim, I know that doesn't help much, but it does mean the boy is a tough one. He may just be a while in being himself again."

Kirk breathed in.

"I suppose asking for instant results is one of my weaknesses. Particularly when the one I'm asking it of doesn't have to obey my orders."

The door chimed again, and Spock walked into McCoy's office.

"Captain--Doctor. I believe the two of you should view this message."

Chapter 5 by Gojirob

13

The Enterprise's current mission made all the introspection of its senior staff possible, which is to say, it was extremely tedious. In short, they were physically reconfirming initial long-range scans made by probes, seeing if anything significant had changed in the time between readings. Nothing had, but if they had been capable of checking beyond the 'traffic barrier' caused by space vessels in inhabited systems, the fate of much of the rest of the universe would have changed everything, as is often said, forever.

But no such attempts were made, and the reflected light from the rest of the dead cosmos continued to fool the inhabitants of the last remaining quadrant in the last remaining galaxy. The true burden that haunted Peter Kirk and Saavik would not be known for another seven years. The omnicidal spree of the Ancient Destroyer Of Worlds continued, though the three heads rested at this time, waiting in the mostly-worthless collection of treaty-made map markings known as The Dead Zone, where far worse than the lion-like Kzinti waited.

James T. Kirk, not always known for his patience, waited until the staff rotations meant that his prized senior staff was once more alone on the Bridge. Their careful efforts to isolate almost all possibilities ensured that they would not be disturbed by crew members unwitting or in fact very witting and very willing to send secret reports to Admiralty Hall.

"I know now that I pushed Peter too hard. Him I'll make it up to. But all of you, who had to suffer through that debacle - please place blame only with me. I wanted things to be right again, and I even thought that if the event I place as the start of the madness we live in was undone, maybe it could all be easily undone. If you question my judgment after this, I'll probably welcome it. My reason is strained when it comes to matters concerning the happiness of my firstborn son."

Kirk kept on, a look telling the others not to interrupt his mea culpa.

"When I was a younger man, the older brother I worshipped and his wife raised nearly like a sister to me asked me to aid their having a child against Sam's sterility. I would be a donor, nothing more. This younger man I was could also be a fool. These two were always irresponsible, and the fact that their request came by way of a stupid prank should have told me something. I thought maybe a child would force them to finally grow up. As you all know, not only did that not happen, but that child was forced instead to take care of them and the next child I agreed to help them with. When that corrupted paradise they lived on all but vanished in hellfire, I believed the courts on Earth, saying the mother who had sometimes beaten me bloodless had changed. I chose to believe, when Mom was killed and Peter vanished, that the Hall would get to the bottom of it, their xenophobic rhetoric forcing them to find who did this so as not to look foolish. I also believed they were simply hawkish and a bit bigoted, yet not so different we couldn't find common ground. Many of us believed that, and now I fear, once again, that life has devolved and become a sick parody of itself. I keep depending on others to keep my son happy, and to do their parts to fix this mess. But no more. Yet in all this navel-gazing, there is some happy news. Commander Uhura - play the message, and let all here know - I vetted it this time. I think you'll be pleased."

The young man appeared on screen, just as he had before, but this time there was no prompting, and he appeared significantly rested, although it was clear doing this was a bit of a strain.

"My friends--I'm sorry. I don't mean to be this way, but now I think I have no choice. I feel like damaged goods,  a marred painting that will never be restored to anything resembling what it was. Of all the things I meant to rage against, you were never my intended targets. I guess what I'm saying is, that I'm no longer the boy you knew."

Gone was the frantic voice of a young man in obvious meltdown, but all noted that he could only speak to them from the remove of a recording. Then again, the fact that he could muster even this gave them hope.

"I didn't want to tell you this right away, but it seems like the only way to explain my rant and tantrum when we spoke earlier. I still don't recall anything about who took me, if I ever saw them, but I know one thing more they did to me. T'Nia says I'm pretty durable physically, so the abductors took to a psychic assault. They strapped some kind of invasive holo-inducer into my...my pod while I was frozen. I wish I knew what they wanted to get when they did this."

The boy onscreen also wished he didn't have to lie to his heroes. He knew who took him and why. He also knew that even the talented bunch he spoke to could not face down the ones who had hurt him, for they went by the name of Starfleet Command. Their goal was nothing less than contact, roughly defined, with their three-headed deity, believing he would ethnically cleanse the galaxy for Humans alone. This was a goal they had achieved, despite the hero-boy's best efforts.

"They put me through all kinds of weird scenarios, leading other lives, being other people. Sometimes, I would be in a waiting room, told that you all were coming for me, but there was always a reason why you couldn't. I sometimes lived as other versions of me, in worlds like ours. I started to have a hard time telling what was real, and what had ever been real. I held onto to memories of my parents - you, Uncle Jim, Aunt Nyta - and all the rest of you - but it got harder as the deceptions and illusions grew more sophisticated. So I gave up, because the memory of that good time aboard Enterprise was too painful, if it had been real. Far easier to tell myself it was all a naive utopian fantasy in need of updating to reflect what was really going on. I still don't know if I have a lock on what's real, and what isn't. But there are some things I do know."

The crew felt fresh rage at this fundamental violation of a young soul, and realized again to a one that what Peter told them belied any notion that his abductors were lucky amateurs. That rage would not pass entirely, but the young man's next words would help in that regard.

"Whether you are merely a fantasy, or the cornerstones of my reality, I feel like you really are my family, one that's been with me since I was born. As the hard times came, thinking of you and your journeys gave me hope to go on. So I say to James Kirk and his crew, knowing my words will fall short : Whatever your existence truly is, you will likely never know what you meant to a little boy who was broken inside and at some points simply gave up. Even if you vanish somehow, you still gave me hope for the future. If I am called insane for holding to this ideal, I will still proudly say that, growing up, the crew of the Starship Enterprise were my heroes. They still are, and now I wish to be with my heroes once again, if only to personally thank you. Maybe by then, I'll even have my head on straighter. To Uncle Jim, the only father I have ever known, I ask you to not task yourself for what happened. You were where you needed to be, and where I wanted you to be. That things didn't go well was the fault of others, ones who lacked morals and commitment to what's right. To Aunt Nyta, the mother of my heart, you have always been the best, and the seed you planted is ready to grow, now that spring is here. Ummm--I don't yet have any words for the rest of you, but if I did, they would be worthy of my friends, who helped me when I needed it most. But I will say to Doctor McCoy - I'm obeying Healer's Orders. I guess -- I love you all, if that's not too mushy. I--I have to stop. But you come and see me when you can, and please keep Enterprise well - she is the nicest home a boy could want."

The message ended, the boy's fight with tears obviously not going his way, and the crew was thankful for this - their own struggle was not going all that well. Sulu turned to his captain.

"Sir--permission to record an immediate response?"

Since Kirk could find no words for the heart that was in his throat, he nodded in approval. Sulu began.

"Kid, it's good to have you back, and it'll be even better when we get to see you again. Don't discount what happened to you, but don't let it crush you. See, I now have a child of my own, Demora. I'd like to show her an example of how to get through when times are hard. That's your strength, Peter, and you should never lose sight of it. Don't worry about that last - poorly timed - message. We all have bad days, and you've seen a few of those. As to discerning reality, well, as a wise man once said, sometimes reality is up for grabs. Certain people decide to seize that reality and make of it a dream or a nightmare. I have confidence in which one you'll choose. You say you're waiting to see your heroes again? Well, we are waiting now to see our hero. Sulu out."

As the message was sent, Chekov couldn't resist a bit of snark.

"Hikaru - I thought you said vwe should not raise a good kid to some kind of sainthood, merely because of our affection for him."

Sulu smiled.

"I think that boy may have earned canonization. Besides, I have a feeling he could use a few CC's of Ego Boost, right about now."

McCoy turned and looked at Kirk.

"Obeying Healer's Orders? Jim, are you sure that boy is really yours?"

Uhura responded for the man who found he still couldn't speak.

"I'm sure. A mother knows her son, no matter how long it's been. Captain, may I respectfully suggest we get to Vulcan and make this reunion a physical one?"

Kirk nodded.

"Spock, how is our business in this sector?"

The half-Vulcan turned off his sensor tracking station.

"Concluded, Captain. Realizing that a journey of this sort might be in the offing, I accelerated certain data accumulation methods while retaining their accuracy. Logic dictates that we set course for Vulcan, to attempt to answer the lingering questions left by your son's vanishing and then return."

If some part of Spock was attempting to sabotage this effort, it was kept at bay by the knowledge that gaining any answers from Sarek was doubtful at best.

Kirk was about to give the order, when a moment of harshest clarity struck him and he briefly appeared to be clairvoyant.

"Commander Uhura, prepare for a message from Starfleet Command."

14

A moment later, just such a message was received. Grim thoughts began to coalesce as it was put on screen, and a familiar if undesirable face appeared.

"Captain Kirk - you seem to have completed your work in this region ahead of schedule, which is of course commendable. Less so is your crew's repeated tendency not to report completed work promptly after completing it."

Brock Cartwright gave off the appearance of a calm, professional senior officer, and this appearance is almost all he had in relation to an actual one.

"Grand Admiral Cartwright. Sir, we had only just been informed by my First Officer that this work had been completed. I almost have to wonder how you knew before most of us did. Rest assured, we were minutes to at most hours away from reporting the completion of our work here."

Kirk automatically assumed that Spock had filtered out any subroutines meant to transmit ship's progress to Admiralty Hall, and in fact he had. A living agent was the only reasonable assumption, and Spock was already formulating ways to root them out - again.

"Nogura was a great man, Jim. But he oversaw through neglect the loss of eleven Constitution-Class vessels. If this Hall keeps a watchful eye on our capital ships, it's nothing we need apologize for. Beyond issues of safety and security, time is you will understand of the essence as each assigned mission is completed. Do you think the Federation's enemies take constant R &R breaks?"

Kirk in fact knew that most of those enemies did take at least some breaks, but correctly felt pursuing this tack was pointless. It was time to stick the Hall's failure to find Peter in the craw of the man who was micro-managing the Fleet into oblivion.

"Grand Admiral, a situation both personal and of wider concern to Starfleet and the Federation has arisen on Vulcan. I wish to head there and pursue an investigation into this matter."

Kirk was prepared to reveal what he had to about this matter, if nothing more than to shame the Hall into releasing Enterprise for this visit. But once more, he learned that Cartwright and his bigoted cronies had no shame to start with.

"Yes, how is your nephew's recovery going, Captain? Certainly, we're all pulling for him. Has he given you any information on the scum that took him?"

Kirk could not afford to yell at this man, nor could he afford to be floored by his arrogant deceit. While Kirk did not yet see the full picture, it was not hard to see the Hall trying to claim credit for something they had played no part in. To coin a phrase, it was who they were ; it was what they did. Really, it seemed at times like it was all they knew.

"Peter in fact has no memories of his abduction, Grand Admiral. I am wondering when Ambassador Sarek saw fit to make you aware of his efforts in finally recovering my brother's son."

Kirk had decided to take a chance on Cartwright's intercepted information not being complete, and so let loose about Sarek, but not the fact that Peter was his biological son, rather than merely being his nephew.

"Sarek's not under my command, Jim. You are. He should feel lucky for that. His negotiations with lowlifes to regain the boy could have compromised Federation security in any number of ways. Did you know that, on his return flight to Vulcan, he was harassed by unknown pursuers? A flight plan and a word to Hall Security could have made all that so much easier."

Nowhere in Cartwright's retelling was there any mention of how these pursuers were starships sent by the Hall to re-abduct Peter, staffed by their hand-picked racist noisemakers, and then destroyed to a one by the hidden power of a boy who would not be a slave again.

"I--have problems with Sarek's approach as well, Brock. That is among the many reasons we wish to make course for Vulcan at best speed."

Kirk had laid out his best rhetoric, knowing it was not and could not possibly be enough.

"This is a dangerous universe, Captain. What kind of Fleet CIC would I be if I permitted our best and brightest to waste time on an investigation the best of Vulcan and Earth are already pursuing? I understand you wish to visit with your kin - I haven't seen my great-nephew Aaron since he transferred to Utopia Planitia. But that is the life we've chosen."

For the record, Aaron Sisko could not stand his uncle, and had in fact left Utopia Planitia some time ago. Brock Cartwright would be known as a lot of things, but never a details-oriented man.

"Grand Admiral, my adoptive son is a shattered thing. I want to help make him whole again, and whatever aid my professional crew can offer to help this investigation along, I wish to lend it."

"Permission denied, Captain. Admiral Bunson will have your next six assignments transmitted within the hour. Don't presume on our past friendship to try and make me play favorites, Jim. Cartwright out."

15

Kirk saw the screen go blank and with it, seemingly any hope of reuniting with his son in the near future. No one on the Bridge even asked how he had predicted the stifling message. For the Hall was simply just that predictable. Kirk finally spoke when no one else could or would.

"I could just assume that this is the effort of an embarrassed organization trying to cover up their failure in a delicate matter. But even that sorry assumption would give Admiralty Hall the benefit of a doubt I can now no longer allow."

Scotty's engineering-oriented mind saw the gears turn, and the matrices align, but also saw the larger gears grinding as they went.

"Cap'n - if these wretches at the Hall were the ones to commit this horrid act, why would Sarek not merely find a way to confirm it to us?"

Kirk considered this, and in fact had been doing so since the suspicion first came up.

"In the past, I've erred in trusting people I knew not to be trustworthy, because I felt I had no choice but to do so. In Sarek's case, I have a choice, and I choose to believe he's erring on the side of protecting Peter, and perhaps Saavik as well. We've just seen firsthand that ears are everywhere. The man can be as stubborn as his son, or as stubborn as the man his son calls brother. But even if he is lying, I will gladly extend him every benefit of every doubt I can muster. As to the rest, if I have to end up taking leave time to see Peter, I will."

Chekov raised an objection to this idea.

"Vwhich leaves us vwhere, precisely? Keptin, in the current environment, you might end up replaced during a leave, or attacked in transit to Vulcan. I am sorry. But if you attempt something so foolhardy, you vwill have my immediate resignation. Make book on that---sir."

Sulu kept up the pressure.

"If that kid is who everyone says he is, I want to see him again. If he's some kind of trap or trick, I want to put my hands around the throat of whoever set us up. For Peter, for Saavik, for Demora. For the simple message that these are our children, not their chess pieces."

Scotty threw in his two cents, as if anyone could stop him from doing so.

"Tis' become about far more than your boy, sir, or your or Sulu's girl. There is good and evil, and that evil at last needs to be turned back from. We were there to see the boy off as we rested his soul. Tis' only just and proper that we celebrate him home. Till we can do this, the good Lord will just have to keep an eye on this boy that crashed out from his gates."

McCoy didn't bother with his opinion. Reuniting father and son was too important to the well-being of both. But he did take issue with Scotty.

"Mister Scott - I thought you looked askance at religious thoughts like that."

Scotty pshawed him.

"The jury's still out on any supreme being, Doctor. If he is about, I'll also have some pointed questions ready when my time's up - some personal, some theological, and some from one engineer to another, rank aside. Let's just say I've given up my strict atheism for Lent, and leave it at that."

Feeling a thrill of hope, Kirk turned to the one he could always count on.

"Analysis, Mister Spock?"

Again, perhaps the 'warden personality' within Spock felt that sabotage at this point would not serve its goals of 'protecting' Spock by drawing attention to him.

"I believe, Captain, that our unfortunate tendency in failing to report mission progress accurately will continue indefinitely. While none of us would wish to see vital work compromised or corners cut, I will estimate that our ability to walk around the Hall's remote management far exceeds their ability to hamper our movements."

Only one last item remained.

"Commander Uhura? Have you received the command packet yet, and just what did any listening ears pick up?"

These time-stolen meetings on the Bridge had one more factor beyond Scotty and Spock's comprehensive sweeps. Using the ancient low-tech jury-rigged microphone McCoy had once used to bypass Finney's self-masking against sensors, Uhura used another very old trick : any listening devices that would get through would reveal only mild, ineffectual anti-Hall grumbling that would not be actionable but would presumably have listeners trying to break the talk for code.

"Well, you sulked, and Spock shook you out of it by calling sulking illogical, which Doctor McCoy called cold, and so on so forth. I combined dialogue generators 14 and 18 for best randomizing. And - we all know it's only going to be useful until they figure out a way around it."

Scotty got up and read the diagnostic of Uhura's alt-dialogue program.

"I'll offer what I have for ye, lass. 'Tis hardly my comfort zone, but if a tech battle is what they're down for, then I'll throw down, and in my weight class, like as not smother them."

Scotty may have been joking at his own expense over his physical weight, but he was deadly serious about his weight as an engineer. Sulu showed as expected he had his friends' back.

"There are things a smart Helm Chief does and does not do when getting us where we have to go. We'll be riding the rails in terms of asking crewmembers to not see what they're seeing as we pass. On the other hand, I don't know anybody not in the Hall's control who wants to be passing reports to them."

Perhaps one of the only things keeping Admiralty Hall and its controllers in the Order Of The Ancient Destroyer from early complete victory was their tendency to violate one of the rules of the humorous old creation known as the Evil Overlord List. For even the very best operatives were known to vanish after minor setbacks. This was a cultural flaw ; the bigoted beliefs that called for a 'winnowing' of the species of the galaxy at large could not on their best and sharpest day turn away from doing this to their own. Chekov knew better than to count on this always being the case.

"One thing I can almost confirm Mother Russia did inwent is surveillance. I am not about to go rifling through files and invading people's lives beyond my bulwark. But there are leetle things a smart Security Chief can do to learn who is telling tales out of school. Even the mildest of these is distasteful to me, but we are slowly waking up to the nightmare that's become real life. Asleep for so long, vwe have no choice but to act accordingly."

Kirk knew well that when heroes went down this sort of path, they sometimes found themselves not coming back from it as heroes, and sometimes not coming back at all. But the math was plain. The hell the Hall was slowly bringing about didn't have an exit. The one they would try hard to avoid might. The Captain Of The Enterprise cared very little for this in any event. But he did care for his son, and for his daughter, and would risk walking this frayed and failing tightrope to end their times in hell forever.

"As to all the ideas mentioned here, and those we may have to approve in the months to come, I say : Make It So. Here's hoping we never know complete success in matters like these."

As they got underway to outrace and outthink their own command hierarchy and perhaps members of their own crew, their leader mentally composed a hope and prayer.

*Peter - Daddy's coming, no matter how long it takes or who he has to get past, even to the Ancient Destroyer, were he real. Until then, take care of your sister, and above all, lay your burdens aside and stand down, soldier - your war is over.*

But while the war of the boy and the girl was far from over, and the beast that was quite real was still waiting, a better day also awaited them at the end of the current year.

 

SOME MONTHS LATER...

The Hall had proven better than its word, and as deep as the worst fears of those forced to acknowledge it as the sovereign authority in Starfleet. The Enterprise was 'kept busy', and its path lurched ever farther away from Vulcan. Every diplomatic assignment was with the most recalcitrant, every escort mission demanded stealth and stick both, and every survey had constant revisions and add-ons to the point in some cases of sextuple redundancy.

Like Cartwright's arrogance in very nearly showing his hand on Peter Kirk, the Hall at large was being blatant, and felt secure enough to simply not care.

On Vulcan's surface near the small home of its greatest diplomat, a young man searched the night sky, despite knowing better. The girl next to him gently tried to pull him away.

"Do you hope to somehow sight them through countless light years?"

Peter Kirk knew he was being a fool.

"Maybe. At this point I'd settle for sighting whatever star the ship is next to. It makes no difference. They're too far away for anything to change that. So why can't I accept that?"

Saavik Brianna Kirk looked up suddenly in wonder.

"Prescience, perhaps?"

It made no sense, to those seeing it or to the ones aboard it, a story for another day. Yet despite all common sense, when Peter Kirk turned his head, he saw his personal vision of Paradise. Paradise, by the way, had a large front hull and two rear warp nacelles, and the number '1701' stamped large across it.

"I can see the lights on the hull...and they're changing?"

The lights on the Enterprise hull's lower area were indeed rearranging, the yellow pattern shifting from its normal configuration, until it formed a symbol long seen as one of hope for those once lost.

"It's a yellow ribbon."

As Peter gazed up and smiled, Saavik gave a dig meant to tease and yet mainly to remind and reassure.

"You thought perhaps they had forgotten you?"

Peter wanted to fly right up and meet the great ship - and he could do just that if he chose. But in his overwhelmed state - of joy, this time - he had nowhere near the focus to do so.

"No. I was the one who forgot. But Never Again."

A moment later, elation he thought could not grow any further did just that.

"She is a stirring sight, isn't she?"

Seven stood behind him, having beamed in after putting in for 'repairs' from their legitimately unexpected transit - again, a story to be told elsewhere. The boy saw his true parents and his heroes, and the slow beginning of that boy leaving a hellish childhood behind him started the process of his becoming the man his chronology said he should be.

Kirk opened his arms.

"C'mere, You!"

Kirk felt bowled over as Peter rushed into his arms, when in fact the boy had held himself back to avoid injuring or killing his father.

"My boy. My precious, darling boy. They told me you were dead."

"I think I was dead. Until now."

Peter would greet and be greeted back to life by his mother and then by each of his heroes and friends in turn, and the girl who had rescued him (but who still had not told him she was his adopted sister) would be lauded and thanked. This day would know its own joys and pains, with some things settled between his old family and his new, and some decidedly further unsettled. But on balance, it was a happy moment, between a father and his son.

You might wonder what day this happened on. Well, to some, it is an overblown, secularized, rigid, commercialized, pre-fabricated mess filled with artificial and enforced happiness, a chore to be gotten through and best forgotten about till it inevitably came again.

To others, it is simply put, the climax to the most wonderful time of the year, a time of rebirth, reunion, and expressions of love, the ultimate example of Human and Divine charity.

Whatever one chooses to believe of this day, know this to be true beyond dispute or debate :

That year, for Christmas, Peter Kirk got his family back.

 

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