Ever wondered what Starfleet Command thought of all those away missions gone wrong in which regulations seemed to no longer matter? All those near-death experiences and miraculous last-minute rescues where the life of one man seemed to outweigh... everything? All those times when a certain James Kirk ignored the rules for his Commander, all those breaches in protocol that a certain Mr Spock somehow justified as logical? Is it really just luck that has saved them before? Is it really just a friendly esteem that makes them both so quick to ignore standard procedure?
Will the Federation risk it?
A young Captain cannot afford to become emotionally compromised by his First Officer. This is the story about the time when someone noticed.
"We need to leave now, Jim!"
"They have Spock."
"Look at you--"
"They. Have. Spock. Bones!"
His voice left absolutely no room for argument and, even though Jim knew he only had five minutes before the Enterprise was forced to warp out of orbit, he was determined not to waste another second of that precious time arguing with his CMO.
"Jim, as your doctor and your friend, I'm tellin' you--"
"I can't abandon him. I won't, not unless my time runs out."
He could already see the prison building looming ahead, illuminated by the faint starlight. He tried to run even faster.
"Your time has run out!"
"I have five minutes left!"
"You're mad! I know you have a... a deep affection for Spock--" the doctor was speaking in panting bursts of air, his tone furious, "-but you're going to kill yourself!"
"No I'm not, I'm going to save Spock!"
"No you're not! Because it's impossible! Jim, there's nothin' we can do--"
"Yes there is, and I'm doing it in the--" he checked his timer, "--four minutes and forty-five seconds I have left before we warp out of this hell-hole. With my first officer!"
The effort of keeping up was making McCoy stumble with exhaustion, but he didn't slow down and to Jim's secret relief managed to maintain their already insane pace.
Jim checked his timer. Four minutes and thirty seconds. Spock. Nothing else mattered until his time ran out.
"You can't save him! It's too late, they got him and we've been ordered to leave-!"
"I can and I will!"
"Dammit, Jim! You're the Captain of the goddamn ship…! Stop!"
"I have four minutes left! After that--" But the world didn't exist after that. Not now, anyway. Not yet.
The terrain slanted slightly upwards but Jim felt like he was flying, he was sprinting so fast his feet barely touched the ground.
"And how do you expect to break him out of there in four minutes?" McCoy shouted. It sounded like he was finally starting to fall behind as his Captain pelted forward.
"Chekov has already locked onto his coordinates!" Jim called over his shoulder. "If I wreck the force-field around his cell we won't need to break him out! We'll beam him out!"
"You're going to… disable a particular force-field from… a particular prison-cell in a... particular building… in under four minutes?"
Jim actually managed a grim chuckle out of his chapped, dry lips.
"Oh, God… you're going to crash the entire building, aren't you?"
"Only for a few seconds."
McCoy's laugh sounded like something between a wheezy cough and a bark, and it was absolutely without humour.
"You... are... insane!"
To this Jim didn't answer. Instead he chose to put on an extra burst of speed; they were almost there.
It was a gigantic structure, and well-guarded, but then Jim had no intention of trying to get inside. Instead, he made a fast beeline for the power-grid. The darkness made for perfect cover, and the native species had poor eyesight when it came to detecting fast movements; the equivalent to the Human eye being unable to see a hummingbird's wings. It would take them a while to realise anyone was even there. Hopefully. If they were running fast enough.
"Kirk to Enterprise!" he called into his communicator. "Come in, Enterprise!"
"Captain! Scott here. In two minutes and thirty-four seconds we're gonna have all o' Starfleet's finest wondering why we're still orbiting a planet we've been ordered to leave, ye really need to-"
"Yes, yes I know. Begin standard departure procedures, and stand by to beam up Dr McCoy and Mr Spock. Kirk ou-"
"Right, and me. Kirk out."
He snapped the device shut and took out his phaser, blasting the door to the structure from a distance, still running.
"Let's hope they don't notice that for another two minutes."
He flew inside and eyed the enormous storage tanks at either side of him. His last resort was shooting them directly, but although the planet's inhabitants had instinctively reacted with violence against his crew, Jim had managed to ascertain the confrontation had been mostly a lashing-out in self-defense before anyone could communicate their peaceful intentions. He couldn't really afford to leave them with an entire cell-block of free prisoners running amok, it went against everything Starfleet stood for, not to mention the fact that the Prime Directive of non-interference would be shot to hell.
Unless all else failed.
Then he was getting Spock out of there, whatever it took.
"Bones, help me find the controls...!"
He ran up to a screen the size of a table. This was going to be complicated.
The control panel was programmed entirely in the native symbols, of course, but Jim had studied some basics in preparation for the mission, and asked Uhrua to teach him the general structure of the language a few days before beaming down. He hoped his experience with mechanics could fill the rest of the gaps, or he was down to guesswork and instinct.
"Come on…" he breathed, feverishly trying to override the password-protection system.
He barely felt McCoy come to a stop beside him, panting heavily. This time, thankfully, the doctor knew to keep quiet, even if he could not agree with what Jim was doing. It was their only hope.
Next came sifting through the navigation menu, and finding the right keys. Jim cursed his slippery hands and the red smears they left on the flat surface, shaking his head to fight his blurred vision, blinking furiously to try and organise the calculations running through his mind--he had to focus solely on the foreign words and not on the pain or on Spock sitting alone in a cell because he needed to hold it together for the last minute, come on, Kirk, think, think.
Fingers skimmed over the flat surface at dizzying speed, searching, searching…
"Come on, dammit…"
Searching... so close...
"Where are you?"
It had to be there… right in front of him...
"Yes! Every computer in every planet in every galaxy has a reboot!"
He pressed the last key triumphantly and stood back.
"Fifty seconds, Jim!"
Jim waited, unable to draw a breath. "Kirk to Enterprise," he said quietly into the comm. "Stand by to beam up Mr Spock, on my signal. I don't care if you think you have a lock on him, no one is to try and disintegrate my first officer's molecules until I say so. Their atmosphere has fooled our scans before."
"Standing by, Captain. On your mark," came Scotty's voice immediately.
"All right, Scotty, ready in three..."
The lights around them flickered and died.
There was a sound like a gigantic wheel grinding to a halt.
Everything went dead quiet.
The explosion of noise from the building was deafening, even at this distance. Jim spared one second to not feel sorry for the guards at that prison, then put his communicator to his ear, straining to listen. His engineers had literally five seconds before he estimated the backup system kicked in and Spock's cell was impenetrable once more.
"Twenty seconds Jim!" McCoy said.
"Is he there?" Jim shouted, hearing lots of confusing noises he couldn't distinguish. "Enterprise! Is he safe? Did you get him out?" For the first time since he'd realised what he must do, Jim felt a creeping of fear along his spine. If this didn't work he would have to leave Spock. Alone. In a hostile planet. He couldn't do that. But he would have to... it would be his duty...
"Come in Enterprise! Dammit!"
"He's here, aye he's safe!" Scotty's voice broke through the beginnings of Jim's panic. "He's fine, Captain, and we're locked onto your signal! Ready to beam up!"
Jim smiled weakly, feeling his balance sway. It was over. They would make it. Spock was safe.
He'd done it.
McCoy's shout came from far, far away. Wow, they weren't kidding about the adrenaline rush wearing off quickly. Suddenly the ground insisted on shifting sideways and Jim couldn't catch it with his feet.
He collapsed onto the floor, finally letting himself realize there was quite a lot of blood gushing out of his wound; his hands were slick with it and it was plastering his shirt to his skin. Even his hair was dripping red, huh, when had that happened, he'd been running for the past... oh, ages, and it actually really hurt all over... especially his stomach, ow, ow, the pain was blinding...
"Jim, stay with me you idiot! You're the stupidest, worst Captain in the history of reckless fuckers who risk their lives for the ones they love, dammit, don't give up now!"
Then he felt the cold metal floor of the transporter room against his side, and the horrified screams started soon after that, but what he remembered hearing with perfect clarity was a voice; a familiar, wonderful voice, calling his name. Just his name.
He couldn't see, even though he was quite sure his eyes were open.
"Spock, I'll be fine."
He might have not have said it aloud. Either way, his last thought was that he hoped Spock heard him.