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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.


 

 

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.



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