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Kirk looked up at the sound of the doors opening. He had a cold cup of tea in one hand, and was setting down a PADD with the other, when his first officer entered. Spock stood inside just enough for the sensors to catch, and to let the doors slide shut behind him. His stiff, formal stance relaxed as he met Kirk’s eyes; although his hands were still clasped behind his back.

Kirk smiled at him. “Busy night, huh?”

Spock gave a curt nod. He briefly glanced around the room as he walked towards the center; with his eyes focusing on the small details. He watched as Kirk threw his cup into the compactor, then press a few buttons on the replicator.

“There was an unexpected delay.”

Kirk nodded. “Sounded like it.” He tilted his head towards the chessboard. “You set up. I’ll get the tea.”

“You were preoccupied.”

Kirk shrugged. “Just some light reading, no big deal. What was up?”

Spock placed the rooks in the corners. “In trying to determine what ails Lieutenant Sulu’s Woodsia Omus, we discovered a new nutritional supplement for his Blechnales.” He lined the knights to face forward, grasping the bishops in his palm.

Kirk smiled. “That’ll make Sulu happy.”

“Indeed. I was delayed with monitoring the nutritional transfer to his collection of Leptosporangiates.”

“Now you’re just using big words to impress me.” Kirk brought the mugs to the small chess table, and set them down gingerly. “But there’s no luck for the spotted guy, huh?”

Spock lined the pawns. “If you are referring to the fern, its pink fluorescent spots are still apparent.”

“Maybe it’s just that it’s from Omus IV, where everything’s spotted?”

Spock sat down, and spared him a haughty glance. “That was taken into consideration. However its spots have only developed recently, when it has been under observation for the last six months.”

“Oh.” Kirk leaned forward in his chair, and stretched out his legs. “Maybe it’s maturing, then?”

“Perhaps. We are still learning its needs; however it closely resembles many of its genus, who do not have this issue.”

Kirk crossed his legs, brushing their ankles briefly. “So it’s not a fungus?”

“It is not.”

Kirk shrugged. He was not the resident botanist. “Well, send my regards to the little guy, anyway.”

“If it had consciousness, I am sure it would appreciate it.” Spock cupped his mug with both hands, and awaited the opening gambit. Kirk was in a good mood; which suggested the unexpected could be expected.

Kirk’s hand hovered above a pawn, which he moved. Spock responded in kind. After a moment and a taste of his spiced tea, Spock looked over at the disregarded PADD.

“You were reading.”

“I tend to do that.”

Spock set down his mug. “May I inquire the subject?”

Kirk grinned. “You could say I was... getting into the holiday spirit.”

“St. Valentine’s Day.”

“Something like that.”

Spock considered it. “I believe stories typical of the holiday would be romantic in nature.”

“Some are.”

Spock watched the chessboard. “You are being coy.”

“Nah, I just wanted you to guess.”

“Deliberately coy.”

“Would you expect any less?” Kirk’s eyes watched the bishop move into place. “I’m reading about gangsters.”

“The association escapes me.”

“I was looking up stuff for the party – you know Uhura’s got me saying a few words, right? Anyway, I came across something called the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

“I see; a base association.”

Kirk pointed with his knight. “The morning of February 14th, 1929: This gangster named Al Capone had seven guys from a rival gang shot and killed. He was displeased with his competition, Bugs Moran, boot-legging alcohol in his territory; so he had seven of his cohorts led to a garage-converted-warehouse in Chicago, lined up against a cement wall, and taken out with machine guns.”

“Crude and excessive.”

“It was really bloody.” Kirk’s knight hovered above the board. “The public was outraged about it.”

“Of course.”

“But the police couldn’t really blame it on Capone; because he didn’t get his hands dirty. He was away in Florida at the time.” Kirk sighed, and randomly landed his knight. “Supposedly he had some other guys do it, but the police couldn’t pin it on anybody else, either. They found circumstantial evidence, and a widow even incriminated her husband; but nobody really knows how many gunmen there were. They’re not sure how it even went down. It’s all still a mystery, in a way.”

“I’m not sure if Nyota will appreciate that element.”

Kirk waved a hand. “I won’t use it for the party, I promise. But before you came in, I was reading about how the place doesn’t even exist anymore. The warehouse was torn down in the late 20th century and turned into a parking lot, and now it’s a recreational area.”

“Indeed.” Spock took a moment, before capturing the knight adeptly.

Kirk nodded. “And everyone apparently knows it, too. Just think – you take your kid to the playground, and they’re swinging over where some guy had his guts spilled out.”

“I am not prone to such imagery.”

Kirk shook his head, and gave a sharp laugh while eyeing the chessboard. “They still have some of the red bricks from the outside walls, though.” He moved his queen. “They line a walkway from the sandbox to the bathrooms.”

“Recycling is logical.” Spock frowned at his pieces. “Your moves are not.”

“Seriously, how long have you been playing me, Spock? You need to stop trying to find patterns where – “ Kirk pursed his lips. After that move, it was checkmate in three.

“That would be underestimating your abilities.” Spock watched Kirk scratch the back of his neck. “I have at least observed that during our time together.”

“I suppose you have.” Kirk bit his lower lip, while his right hand hovered over one piece, and then another. After a moment, he looked up. “How’s Uhura with the planning, anyway?”

Spock had already raised the mug to his lips, and it was a moment before he could answer. “She appears to be managing it quite well.” He watched Kirk’s fingers like a hawk. “However, despite sharing responsibilities with Miss Rand, it still limits her recreational time.”

Kirk fidgeted with several pieces, before finally sacrificing another knight. “I’ve noticed you haven’t been hanging with Uhura lately.”

“We’ve had to post-pone our music practices.”

Kirk sighed at the row of white lining the board. “Shame. And here I thought she’d play something at the party.”

“I am sure she would if you asked. Politely.” Spock studied the pieces, ignoring his captain’s indignant expression. “I’ve offered my assistance, of course.”

“She’s got you, too? None of the bridge staff is safe.”

“Indeed. Sulu and Chekov are providing music - ”

“- And Scotty is doing the lights. I guess they couldn’t have him in charge of the beverages.”

“On the contrary, our good engineer was eager to share.”

Kirk winced. “Make sure he doesn’t spike anything, okay? I swear I had a headache for days last time I tasted his stash.”

Spock nodded. Despite Kirk moving his Queen, he was obviously cornered. “There will be a variety of beverages programmed into the mess hall servos.”

“I’ll be sticking with unspiked punch, hopefully. I mean – “ Kirk looked up with a shy smile, “I’m hoping I have a date to stay sober for.”

“That sounds considerate.”

Kirk leaned forward on his elbows, neglecting his turn. “How about you?”

Spock looked pointedly at the board. “In what capacity?”

“The party.” Kirk fingered the handle of Spock’s mug. “You’ll be able to make it, won’t you?”

Spock looked between the mug, and the blue eyes that were watching him. He cleared his throat. “I have an experiment scheduled for completion at that time.”

Kirk dropped his hand to the table and huffed. “Seriously?”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Jim, Vulcans don’t –“

“I know, I know.” Kirk tipped his king; and leaned back in his chair. “Can’t blame a guy for trying.”

***

They were scheduled to appear in Iotian space within the next 24 hours. The briefing room held a soft buzz of chatter, as everyone settled into their seats.

Kirk remained standing, as he looked down at the table where he set his PADD. He tapped the screen, and then looked at the group before him.

“So, they think there’s contamination, but they’re not sure.”

“Ain’t that specific.” McCoy leaned back in his chair. “We could be encountering anything.”

“Indeed, Doctor.” Spock tapped his own PADD. “Considering the Horizon had contact with Sigma Iotia II before implementation of the Prime Directive, I am inclined to agree.”

“Fantastic.”

Kirk sighed, as he pulled out his chair to sit down. “Well, they were on the edge of industrialization. How far can they get in a hundred years?”

“The Horizon reported a civilization with a high degree of mimicry, and an intelligence spurred by curiosity.”

“So they won’t be swinging from treetops.”

“It is unlikely.”

McCoy harrumphed. “Why are we just gettin’ this information now?”

Uhura cleared her throat. “Outdated frequencies - the Horizon used conventional radio at the time, and it just got to us now.”

Spock nodded. “It is also unfortunate that the Horizon was unable to complete its transmission to Starfleet before they perished.”

McCoy’s usual frown deepened. “Do they know why?”

“It is unclear.”

Kirk stopped the tapping of his stylus, and leaned forward to clasp his hands together on the tabletop. “Well, what do we know?”

Spock took a moment to consider. “The Horizon, led by Captain Jane Fitz-Harner, approached Sigma Iotia II during scientific exploration. It is unclear what information they may have imparted, or what information they may have gained. However, negotiations appear to have been amenable, for the Iotians are technically members of the Federation.”

“Which we’ve ignored for a hundred years.”

“Correct.”

“So we’re checking in to say hi.”

“And to reestablish our alliance.”

Kirk tapped his stylus again on the tabletop. “Sounds like fun. But we really have no ideas on the contamination?”

“There were fifty crewmembers aboard the Horizon - ”

“With fifty distinct interests – yeah, I got you.” Kirk looked down at his PADD. “I’m sending down a diplomatic team of myself, Commander Spock, and Doctor McCoy. Scotty, you’ll be in charge.”

“Aye, Captain.”

“I’ll need an anthropologist and an engineer to come with us. Scotty?”

“Lieutenant Danvers’ the man for the job.”

“Great. Spock?”

“Ensign Chiokay will be adequate.”

“Excellent. Uhura, when we’re within six hours, I’d like to start trying to get in contact. Oh – and see if you can catch any of their out-going frequencies?”

Uhura nodded. “Yes sir.”

“Good.” Kirk beamed at the lot of them. “Dismissed, guys.”

The room emptied except for McCoy and Spock, who remained seated. Kirk sighed.

“Don’t tell me, there’s a problem.”

“I suspect the good doctor and I share the same concerns.”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “Gee Spock, if they’re about encountering a society without any pre-conceived notions, you’re a mind-reader.”

“Doctor McCoy, my telepathy – “

McCoy waved a hand. “Forget it. Jim,” and he turned, “it’s not just contamination of a society. There are inherent medicals dangers, like exposure to disease – “

“And here I thought that was just space in general.” Kirk winked, but at the exasperated sight of his friend, nodded. “I get you Bones. Honest. But we do this all the time.”

“But usually we have some idea of what we’re heading into. This is just – this is just jumping into the vat of uncertainty!”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “An interesting metaphor.”

Kirk minutely shook his head, before turning back to McCoy. “What do you suggest, Bones?”

McCoy ticked them off on his fingers. “I’d like everyone to get a quick scan, and then prepare some individual inoculations. Make sure everyone is up to date before we head on down there.”

Kirk winced, as a hand rubbed his neck. “Makes sense, I guess.”

McCoy smirked. “Seriously Jim, it won’t kill you.”

“You keep saying that.”

The smirk turned into a grin, as McCoy got up from the table. “I’ll ask Miss Rand when to expect you.”

Kirk waved the doctor out, as his other hand continued to rub his neck. McCoy’s obnoxious whistling was a quick note, before the doors mercifully closed on him.

It was only a momentary reprieve before Kirk turned, and saw that Spock still remained seated.

He let out an exasperated sigh. “What’s your problem?”

Spock opened his mouth, then closed it.

Kirk’s hand dropped to the table. “It’s that bad?”

Spock had watched the motion, and his eyes remained on the splayed fingertips. “I only question the idea of both of us going down at the same time - ”

“Spock – not this, okay? I’ve told you before; you can assume at the start of each mission that your suggestion has been made, and that I duly note it. In fact, I’ve even got it as an automatic fill-in on my forms.”

“As your first officer, it is my job –“

“Right, right – Spock? This is a diplomatic mission. We can both go down there.”

“After a landing party has ascertained the potential.”

Kirk took a deep breath; his eyelids closing briefly before focusing again on his first officer. “I’m going to establish contact with the government, first. If we can’t, I’ll reconsider.”

They stared at each other a moment.

Then Kirk looked away, as he shook his head in disbelief. He waved a hand. “I promise?”

Spock stood up from the table, not looking at Kirk as he picked up his PADD. “I trust you, Captain.”

Kirk gave a bitter laugh. “Likewise, Commander.”

“In the meantime, I will update Chiokay and Danvers.”

“Please do.”

When Spock left the room Kirk leaned back in his chair, and grimaced at the ceiling. Turning himself slightly with his foot, he flipped the stylus into the air, and watched it land. When it went wide, Kirk sighed; as it rolled and crashed into the wall behind Spock’s unoccupied chair.

Kirk looked accusingly at it; then muttered, “Vulcans.”

***

“Captain, I’m receiving a response to our hail.”

“Do they have visuals?”

“Negative.”

“Put them on audio, then.” Kirk unconsciously leaned back in his chair, as his fingertips tapped the armrests.

“Frequencies open, sir.”

Kirk nodded at Uhura, then cleared his throat. “This is Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, on behalf of the United Federation of Planets.”

There was a bit of radio static, and then a nasally voice: “Hey there, Captain. You with the Horizon?”

Kirk grimaced. “Unfortunately, the Horizon perished shortly after leaving your planet - ”

“But you’re of the same stripe?”

Kirk leaned forward. “… I suppose we are?”

“’Bout time, it’s been over a hundred years.”

“Yes – we apologize for our delay in contacting you. You see, your planet is in a system at the outer edges of our galaxy – “

“What? ‘Outer edges’ of what?”

Kirk raised a hand, and signaled behind him. “I can provide further explanation, if you’d like to meet in person.” A PADD entered his periphery, and he took it from Rand and glanced down. “We would like to send a landing party to –“

“Sure, sure.”

Kirk scrolled through a list of data. “Where can we meet you?”

There was a humph as the man seemed to think. “There’s an intersection at the end of the block, next to the stand for the papers; ‘cross from the deli?”

Kirk glanced over at Scotty and mouthed, Got that?

Scotty nodded.

“We can meet you there. However,” and Kirk looked up at the bridge window out of habit; watching the sapphire planet they orbited slowly turn on its axis, “I don’t believe I caught your name.”

“Okmyx. Bela Okmyx. They call me Boss.”

Kirk smiled. “Well... Mister Okmyx. We look forward to seeing you soon.”

“Same, Captain.”

Kirk signaled for the connection to be cut, then stared down at the PADD again. When science blues caught the corner of his eye, his smile widened. “Well, Mister Spock - looks like we have a planet with agreeable conditions.”

“Indeed Captain.”

“I was able to contact an individual on the surface.”

“I was present for the exchange.”

Kirk waved Rand over, and handed her the PADD. “Think Bones will let us down there?”

Spock sighed. “You have already deemed it necessary.”

Kirk clapped and rubbed his hands together. “Well then, let’s go down and meet the locals.” He got up from his chair, and started with a perceptible bounce in his step. “Uhura, signal McCoy, Danvers, and Chiokay to the transporter room.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Mister Scott, you have the bridge.” Kirk continued to grin as Spock joined him in the turbolift; his first officer’s gaze fixed dead ahead.

Kirk bumped his shoulder. “Come on, it’s an adventure.”

The doors closed, as an expected eyebrow thoroughly expressed its disapproval.

***

The harsh din of sound was a blast to their ears as they materialized. Kirk blinked, and tried to filter the world as he looked around on the street corner they currently found themselves. The faint scent of gasoline permeated everything, with a backdrop of oil, dirt, and sweat; accompanied by motorized cars currently turning and maneuvering through the streets. It was a fascinating display, interrupted by a slap of paper that resounded behind them.
Spock turned around.

HERE, HERE – GET YOUR PAPERS HERE! KRAKO GANG CAPTURES MAYOR HARNER, DEMANDS RANSOM! PAPERS, GET YOUR PAPERS -

Spock outstretched a hand. “Sir, may I – “

“Ten clams, pal.”

Spock shook his head, and the courier turned his back to further yell into the street. “MAYOR HARNER’S CABINET NEGOTIATING TERMS, BUT UNSUCCESSFUL -

Spock turned to Kirk. “Captain, it appears we may have arrived during a politically tense situation.”

“No kidding.” Kirk watched a couple pass by him; two women in polka-dotted dresses cheerfully linked arm-in-arm, but cradling their handguns. The scene seemed to repeat itself, with Kirk catching a few words of gossip as citizens passed by.

“The mayor -”

“Krako won’t –“

“They did this before –“

Spock raised an eyebrow, as he noticed that they all carried a variety of firearms. “Interesting.”

“That’s a word and half,” McCoy scoffed; as a female bystander gawked a moment at the science blues, then quickly turned away. McCoy shook his head. “Jim, this place reminds me of – “

“Earth.” Kirk turned to take it all in. “I know, Bones. Except Earth wasn’t really like this – not even in photographs.”

Spock moved to stand next to him. “It appears Sigma Iotia II has gained inspiration from elsewhere.”

Kirk frowned. “I was afraid of that.”

“Indeed, I suspect –“

A shot rang in the air. Citizens cowered and ran, while the crew ducked.

A booming voice rang out, “All right fellas, put ‘em up.”

Kirk glanced around; and when realizing that several rifles were pointed at them, stood slowly with his hands raised. “I am Captain James T. Kirk, of the starship – “

A suited man held his chin high. “I know who ya are. Tell yer friends to cooperate, and nobody gets hurt.”

Kirk shared a glance with Spock, while McCoy, Danvers and Chiokay quickly complied.

Another man in pinstripes pointed with an automatic. “Hey, you overgrown elf -let’s see you petrify.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “I do not understand what – “

“Hands up, stupid.” The rifles came closer; and several guards in suits poked the barrel of their guns into the backs of Starfleet uniforms. “Get moving.”

Moving apparently meant to a black motorcar parked several feet away; its door open to show the tan interior shaded from the sun.

Kirk took one last glance around before nodding at Spock, and then lead the way.

***

The planet was overflowing with antimonium. How the Empire – or anyone, really – had not ravaged and plundered the Iotians before now, was beyond Kor’s comprehension.

“Commander, the Federation vessel hasn’t noticed us.”

“Good. Keep it that way.” They were cloaked, orbiting in the planetary shadows of Sigma Iotia II; evading notice for the element of surprise, not cowardice.

Kor leaned forward in his command chair, elbows poised on his knees to stare at the viewscreen. The blue of the planet was like the blood of an Andorian; vibrant and rich to the Klingon’s eyes. It was beautiful; brimming with potential and power; hinting at a future containing the same. Antimonium had a rising ore value on several planets in this galaxy. Kor had voiced his intention to be at the forefront.

“Commander, we have received the signal.”

A smile curled Kor’s lips. He was going to take this planet. Possess it in his clenched fists.

“Kishin, I will be in my rooms.”

“Yes, Commander.”

Kor stood up slowly, with one last possessive gaze threatening to burn the viewscreen.
He would be there soon enough.

***

They were ushered into an office building; still held at gunpoint and mildly confused. Kirk and Spock had shared many glances that had said as much; especially after Kirk had tried to engage a crony in conversation. That had ended with a barrel in his face, and a grunted ”Shaddup” that Spock seemed to find undignified.

“Take it easy with them fellas,” the leader ordered; and then leered, “They’re our friends.”

McCoy rolled his eyes, as Kirk gave a polite smile.

They were guided into a makeshift elevator system, and lifted to a top floor; with Spock all the while looking up at the elevator ceiling in contemplation.

Kirk looked up himself, thought a moment, and nodded. “You’re right, a mechanical pulley-system.”

“Indeed.”

“Fantastic,” McCoy muttered. One of the suited men lifted his gun, and McCoy made a face. Kirk minutely shook his head.

McCoy gritted his teeth. “Bad manners, don’t know what they think they’re doing - ”

Bones.

When the elevator doors opened, they were pushed into a long hallway and turned right.
Their captors ushered them towards a large set of ornate doors, several dozen meters away. Kirk looked around, seemingly to count the heads of his other officers, along with noticing their dimly lit surroundings.

It was crowded, with suited men caging them in. The decorations of the hallway helped with this – potted plants between closed office doorways; and wood paneling that lengthened the height, yet not the width of the hall. The lighting itself didn’t help the dark; giving off a gold glow that accented the wood, and deepened the burgundy carpeting. The large doors themselves seemed to absorb the glow; with carved flowers and symbols that seemed to hint at a naturalistic society before handguns.

They halted before the doors, with the leader slipping inside. Kirk caught Spock’s eyes, and tilted his head towards the carvings. Spock gave a minute nod.

The doors opened into a brighter space. Kirk squinted a moment before his eyes adjusted; an open window at an unfortunate height and angle being responsible. The head kidnapper bowed from the doorway, and then stepped aside. “Okmyx can see you, now.”

Kirk tried to smile. “Great.” He was lead inside, and Kirk scanned the room.

The paneling and carpeting were the same, but a large billiards table took up one half of the space, while the other half had a desk. A man in a gray pinstripe suit – not unlike his graying hair – sat up from the desk chair with arms out-stretched.

“Captain, captain – come in.” The nasally voice was familiar, and Kirk tried not to wince. “We have some business to discuss.”

“Is this how you normally conduct business?” Kirk looked behind him to see his officers already ushered in, and the ornate doors closing.

“What, your protection?” The man beckoned him forward while walking to grab a pool cue. “You’re our guest, Captain.”

“Really.” Kirk leaned on the other side of the billiards table, appraising the room. Ensign Chiokay was looking at several marble sculptures, while Lieutenant Danvers analyzed a lamp. Spock stood near the doors, in front of the guards, while watching McCoy walk towards a young, brunette secretary; who shuffled papers on the edge of the desk.

Kirk didn’t have Southern Charm, but skepticism, and raised his brows.

Okmyx waved a hand. “What, my boys don’t treat you right? Kalos!

Kirk shook his head. “That will not be necessary. I was just under the impression we were… kidnapped before.”

Okmyx leaned over the table. “The Krako gang would’ve kidnapped you for real, Captain.”

Spock walked forward then. “Your newspapers suggest as much.”

Okmyx grunted. “Damn right they do. Krako stormed into the Mayor’s mansion a few days ago packin’ heaters, and terrorizin’ them politicians at a secret meetin’.”

“May I inquire what that meeting was about?”

“A booze tax.” Okmyx shook his head. “Ain’t nothin’ to it.”

“I see.”

“Was right after the Valentine’s Ball, where the Mayor and his fellas had hooch themselves.” Okmyx flicked at the air. “Krako – he’s all wet and empty-headed.”

Kirk and Spock watched the gray pinstriped suit bunch up on the billiards table, as Okmyx leaned in again to take a shot. The cue ball cut across the green cloth, smooth and calculated, as striped numbers landed into several pockets. Okmyx stood up and sighed.

“What can a man do, Captain? Got my heaters and my men, but it ain’t enough to protect the city.”

Kirk narrowed his eyes. “What about Mayor Harner?”

Okmyx smirked. “What, his boys? You’re looking at ‘em!”

Kirk turned his head to share a wary glance, but instead saw Spock at the opposite corner of the room, looking at a large book on a wooden stand. He continued to watch, as he said, “Okmyx – “

“Call me Bela. You’re among friends, here.”

Kirk turned his head back. “… Right. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but -“

“It’s easy, Captain.”

“Is that so?”

Okmyx leaned over the green cloth; the cue balanced on the ledge, as his arms spread wide on the polished table frame. With his gaze leveled, Okmyx spoke:
“We need us some heaters.”

Kirk leaned in himself. “What for?”

“To take out Krako, and set everythin’ to order.”

Kirk looked down at the green, appearing to mull it over. “And you’re the man for the job.”

“I’m the boss.”

“So you say.”

Okmyx slammed his hand against the ledge. “I ain’t jokin’, Captain! Somebody gotta run this city, and it ain’t gettin’ done with Krako balled up and takin’ us for a ride!”

Kirk smirked. “But I thought you were the boss, Bela. How does the boss let that happen?”

Okmyx straightened up. “A boss needs more than respect. He needs the heaters to back it up!”

“So you rule with an iron fist.”

“I do what I gotta, Kirk.” Okmyx signaled towards the door, and suddenly guards were pushing Kirk against the pool table, patting him down.

Kirk gave an amused huff. “So much for ‘guests.’”

A guard found his phaser and communicator, and tossed them to Okmyx. Kirk winced at he heard the smacks as they hit a palm.

“Well, well – what do we have here?”

Kirk put out a hand. “Be careful with – “

Okmyx stopped him with a look; his thumb caressing buttons in scientific inquiry. Kirk straightened as Okmyx held his objects loosely, flipping them over in his hand.

“You got more of these?”

Kirk unclenched his jaw. “Not for you.”

Okmyx pointed the phaser at him, and Kirk backed up. “It don’t matter. We’ll get what we want.” Okmyx looked towards his guards, and motioned with his head towards the landing party. “Strip ‘em.”

Kirk found Spock’s eyes on him, as his first officer was searched and made to relinquish his communicator and phaser. McCoy grumbled to the secretary, as he handed over his tricorder. Danvers and Chiokay looked on, wide-eyed.

Kirk glared, as Okmyx sneered.

“We’ll let you cook for a while - see what you think after some... contemplation.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “You’ll find our Captain a man of his word.”

“Which would be No, Okmyx.”

The boss hissed, and gesticulated widely. “Get ‘em outta here!”

Guards opened the ornate doors, and they were lead back out.

***

“Mister Scott, I am receiving a message from the surface.”

“Put ‘er on.”

There was a moment of silence, and then: “Hello?”

Scotty scrunched his brow. “... Yes?”

“This is Bela Okmyx.”

Scotty tilted his head. “Is that so?”

“Just know that I’ve got yer Captain, and he ain’t seeing daylight ‘til I get me some heaters.”

Scotty turned around perplexed, and mouthed Heaters?

Uhura shook her head.

Scotty cleared his throat. “I beg yer pardon?”

“Heaters. I need me some goddamn heaters, or your Captain gets it!”

Scotty turned towards the helm, where Sulu shared the same confused expression. Chekov, however, nodded to himself.

“Ah - in Russia, zey are veapons.”

Scotty shook his head, and leaned back in the command chair. “Okmyx, ye say yer name was?”

“Bela Okmyx.”

Scotty tapped the armrests, thinking a moment. He turned to share a glance with Uhura, when something appeared to alight his brain.

Sulu and Uhura watched him move, as he jumped up to reach a console.

“So - ye’d say ye’re the boss of ‘em parts?”

“Damn straight.”

Scotty nodded towards Sulu. “And ye’ve got our Captain?”

There was an aggrieved sigh. “Look, I don’t know what you’re tryin’ to pull, but –“

Scotty pressed a few buttons. “Ye’ll see soon enough.”

Sulu and Chekov shared a smirk, as expletives were heard on the comm. line, along with a familiar transporter hum.

***

The room was dingy for storage space; but Kirk, Spock, and McCoy congregated around a stack of crates. Kirk looked behind them at Danvers and Chiokay, who sat not far off; heads bent together while discussing their theories quietly.

Kirk shot a look to Spock. “They’re handling this well.”

“Indeed. I suspect their reports will be most interesting.”

McCoy looked towards a ceiling lamp, which hung several meters away above a makeshift table. Chatter from the cronies playing cards could be heard loudly; mostly complaints of being “soaked” and “hung out to dry” through what appeared to be poker.

Kirk and Spock leaned towards each other, and Kirk nodded.

“You’re right, there is so much of Earth, here.”

“I do believe I know the reason.”

McCoy looked back at the both of them. “Care to enlighten the country doctor?”

Kirk smiled, while Spock turned his head. “While the Captain was conversing with Bela Okmyx, I discovered a large tome of American History on a wooden pedestal.”

McCoy nodded. “That book you were lookin’ at.”

“Correct. And while I could not peruse its content, the title seemed self-explanatory.”

McCoy snorted. “If it says ‘American Gangsters of the 20th Century’, I’ll eat my foot.”

Spock raised an eyebrow, while Kirk tapped a finger to his own lips.

McCoy rolled his eyes. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

“I hope you will suppress the urge to consume your own appendage, Doctor.”

Kirk let a snort escape, as he shook with silent laughter at the flustered McCoy.

“You don’t fool me anymore, Spock. You know damned well what I meant!”

Spock only answered with a look at his captain, who shared a wicked grin.

McCoy, however, looked back at the card game. “So they’re gangsters of a certain ilk.”

Spock nodded. “I was most surprised. But with a highly imitative society – “

“They’d take the imitation to heart.” Kirk watched the players as well. “Okmyx even had some of the lingo down.”

“Illogical turns of phrase.”

“Right, but obviously he means business. Maybe he only has vague ideas of the Federation, but he sure knows we come from a starship.”

“He seemed keen on our technology.”

“He seemed keen on a lot of things.” Kirk huffed. “Not only that, it seems like our calendars are the same.”

McCoy thought that over. “You’re right. With the Mayor’s ball - he mentioned Valentine’s Day.”

Kirk nodded. “And we’re due to have our own.”

“It is uncertain whether the holiday has already come to pass.”

Kirk looked around at the walls, then muttered, “Not imitative enough for an actual calendar.”

Spock shook his head. “They are only aware of technology featured in their text.”

“Maybe later we’ll get our hands on it. But first…” Kirk straightened his back, “we’re getting out of here.”

McCoy sighed. “I don’t know how you’re gonna get out of this one, Jim. Especially since the Enterprise was due to check in three hours ago.”

“I’ll think of something.” Kirk looked towards the ceiling. “There must be trouble up there.”

“Mister Scott is most capable.”

Kirk nodded. “They all are.” He leveled a gaze at the guard players, and then gave a sly smile that matched the glint in his eyes. “But I intend on rejoining them.”

Kirk cleared his throat; and leaning against a crate, said loudly, “Is that really how you guys play cards, down here?”

Several men in suits stopped laughing, and twisted around to stare at Kirk. A man in blue, still holding his cards, looked annoyed.

“Ain’t none of your beeswax, Captain.”

Kirk walked towards them slowly, with his hands behind his back. “I was just curious. I noticed that your game looks like Poker.”

The cronies exchanged looks, then the man in blue looked back. “What if it is?”

Kirk shook his head. “Nothing to it. It’s just…” and he watched Danvers and Chiokay watching him, as they moved towards McCoy and Spock. “It’s a child’s game, that’s all.”

Several of the men gave sounds of protest, but the man in blue held up his hand and silenced them. He looked at Kirk. “You think so?”

Kirk came close to the table, and glanced down at the cards. “Oh, yeah.” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t waste my time.”

The man in blue slapped down his cards. “Who asked you?”

“You’re right.” Kirk shrugged. “Some people don’t like things to be complicated.”

The man in blue turned to stare at the associate on his right. It was a young man in red, no more than 18, who gave a wide-eyed look.

“Kalos – “

“Move it, Bodie.”

The teenager abandoned his spot, and Kirk feigned indifference.

“Mister Spock and I know a real game – a man’s game.”

Spock tilted his head; but after a moment, seemed to understand Kirk’s steady gaze, and nodded.

Kalos gestured to sit. “What’s this game called?”

Kirk plopped down, and took the cards to shuffle them. He cut the deck and tapped the edges, until he could see Spock and McCoy surrounding the table. After a minute he sorted them together, and then laid the pile in front of him.

“Fizzbin. It’s a real game of intelligence.” Kirk shook his head woefully. “Might be beyond you, honestly.”

Bodie grunted. “Kalos, you let him talk to you like that?”

Kalos glared at the teenager. ”You ain’t likin’ it, get out.”

The teenager looked at all of them, and then lifted his head. “Got better places to be, anyhow.”

Kalos smacked the back of blonde head as he got up. “Go to yer gal – this ain’t no kiddie game, that’s fer sure.”

The door to the storage area opened and slammed shut, and Kalos turned back to them.

“Captain, I can figure anythin’ you got. Lay it on me.”

“All right.” Kirk gave an aggrieved sigh. “So you see, each player gets six cards.”

“Right.”

“Except the player on the dealer’s right, which gets seven.”

"... Right.”

Kirk laid down a Jack of clubs. “A second card is dealt.”

“A second card – “

“Except on Tuesdays.”

Kalos nodded. “On Tuesdays. Right.”

Kirk dealt the second card, then beamed a smile. “Well, look at that!” Kirk shared his grin with Spock. “Ain’t that amazing?”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

“What, what – what’ve I got?”

“That’s a half-fizzbin, right there. Two Jacks in a row!”

Kalos grinned. “Then I need another Jack!”

Kirk shook his head. “Oh no, that won’t do. If you got another Jack, well – that’d be a sralk.”

“... A sralk?”

“Then you’d be out. You’d need a king or queen – unless we’re playing at night, of course.”

"... Of course?”

“Then you’d need a queen and a four.”

Kalos blinked, staring down at the cards. “... A four.”

Kirk made a production of flicking down another card; leaning back with the reveal. At the Jack of diamonds, he gave a low whistle. “Damn – look at that Spock! This guy’s got all the luck.”

Kalos stared at the cards. “A Jack...?”

“Oh yeah. You know, if you hadn’t gotten a Jack, but a King, you’d get another card.”

"... And that’s bad?”

Kirk shrugged. “Only at midnight. But you’d also have to give it back.”

"... On a Tuesday?”

“Right. But you know, with these Jacks, you should be after a Royal Fizzbin – which, the odds are astronomical. I’ve never had a Royal Fizzbin, McCoy hasn’t – Spock?”

“Yes, Captain?”

“What are the odds of a Royal Fizzbin?”

“... I can’t say I’ve calculated them, Captain.”

“Well - they’re something, believe me. Now for the last card, let’s hope here for a kronk –“

“A kronk?”

“Yes – Oh, goodness. I believe that last card went under the table.“

Kalos ducked down. “Here, let me – “

The crew sprung into action. Kirk moved to punch a guard next to him, while Spock gently put down Kalos after a nerve pinch. McCoy threw two steady punches, while Danvers kicked the last man to Chiokay; who tossed him against a heavy crate.

The storage room was a mess as Kirk surveyed the damage, but he grinned at all of them. “You guys, I don’t know if I’ve been prouder.”

Spock sighed. “Violence is unfortunate.”

Kirk bowed his head at that, but then reached over to start searching the pockets of Kalos. McCoy, Danvers, and Chiokay followed suit; finding all three of themselves armed.

Kirk handed a pistol to Spock. “Keep an eye out, everyone. We need to find a radio station – Uhura’s been monitoring all the broadcasts.”

“If the Enterprise is still there, Captain.”

Kirk tossed a look at Spock, before opening the barrel of his revolver. “I haven’t seen one of these things in... well, ever, actually.” He locked it back in place, and then held it steady. “Let’s hope we don’t have to use it.”

There was murmured agreement; and then Spock followed the landing party out of the only visible exit.

***

Scotty nodded at Giotto before turning out of the brig. Uhura met him near the entrance with an anxious expression.

“Anything, Mister Scott?”

Scotty shook his head with a sigh. “No, nothin’ yet. Giotto cannae get ta man ta talk.”

“But it’s been three hours since – “

“I know, Lieutenant. But there isna anythin’ I can do ‘bout it – unless talk ta the man me self.”

Uhura looked straight at him. “And, what? Speak thick at him? If he isn’t talking – “

“I’ll get him ta talk.” Scotty leaned in. “I got me ways.”

Uhura crossed her arms. “And those would be...?”

Scotty looked at the ceiling as he hummed a thought.

“Please don’t tell me it involves your stash -”

Scotty shook his head. “Oh no.” He snapped his fingers. “But I’m gettin’ Keenser.”

He turned to walk towards Engineering, but stopped abruptly. He turned his head to look down at the hand on his shoulder.

Uhura sighed. “Monty...”

Scotty turned towards her with a soft smile. “Nyota.” He patted her hand, then squeezed the fingertips gently before cradling them in his. He dropped their hands between them and looked up.

Uhura had opened her mouth, closed it, then: “Be careful of Keenser. He’s way smaller than you, and – “

She stopped, when she realized the press of his hand on her own shoulder. Scotty squeezed it, and she tried to smile.

He said quietly, “I’ll get ‘em back to ya. I promise.”

Uhura swallowed, and then gave a shaky nod.

Scotty flashed her his largest grin before he turned away, and jogged to catch a turbolift.
The doors were stopped by an Andorian; whom Scotty pointedly looked at.

“That’s mighty kind of ya.” He looked at the antenna. “An they look well good on ya – two’s better’n one, innit?”

Uhura rolled her eyes as she watched the doors close; and then returned to the bridge.

***

They leaned against the brick wall in an alleyway, as they debated on where to go. It was getting dark on Sigma Iotia II, and so the usual cues of a radio station were harder to spot.

Kirk scanned the skyline, anyway. “We need to split up. In fact – “ and he gestured towards the rest of them, “you guys stick together.”

“Captain – “

“Spock, I need to get to the bottom of this. You guys find the radio station and beam up. I’m,” and he took a deep breath, “going to find out who Krako is.”

McCoy shook his head. “Jim, you’re nuts!”

“Indeed, Captain. You would be a most expedient hostage.”

Kirk waved a hand. “Don’t make me order it. I’ll figure out a way back, somehow.” He peeked his head around a corner, looking both ways down the empty city street. “Guess we’re in a quiet part of town.”

“Captain – Jim - that is precisely the reason not to –“

Kirk shook his head. “You guys turn right. I’m going left towards the inner city.” Kirk looked both ways again, before crossing to back himself against the other brick wall. He gave a curt nod towards all of them, and then scurried off to the left.

McCoy turned to Spock. “He’s a damned fool.”

Spock looked out into the street and to the left. “I must trust that his illogical tendencies have merit.”

McCoy huffed. “That must be a mantra in the mornings.”

Spock ignored him as he turned his head both ways, and then motioned with his hand to follow. They all disappeared around the corner, and to the right.

***

Kirk tried to blend in with the scenery, but it was useless in his gold tunic. He kept his head lowered and avoided eye contact, but looked at all the street names. He fanned outward from the newsstand where they were abducted, and tried to distinguish radio antennae in the dark from electric lines and other structures.

“This isn’t working,” he muttered. He stepped back into the entryway of a closed business, and looked at the rooftops. “There’s got to be a – “

“Hey, pally, we’ll take you where you wanna go.”

Kirk rolled his eyes; as he noticed the rough hands on his shoulders.
“Sorry fellas, I don’t think so -”

“Oh yeah, I think so – I even got your dinner date.”

Kirk tried to shrug them off, but they gripped harder. “Well, you see, I actually left my best gold tunic on the - “

He was pushed onto the sidewalk, where he was once again surrounded by suits. Except on closer inspection, they were definitely different suits. Kirk looked at all of them as he was dragged to a black motorcar.

“Is this a blind date?”

“Who you callin’ blind, Captain?”

“Can I know their name, at least?”

Kirk bumped his head as he got in, and rubbed his brow as he was squished between two armed gangsters.

“You’ll find out soon enough.”

Kirk let out a sigh as the car started up, and then drove out.

***

The radio station stood in white brick a mile from the city. McCoy and Spock had snuck in while Danvers and Chiokay kept guard.

“You got any idea – “

“The equipment should not be difficult.”

McCoy frowned. “It’s not that it’s ‘difficult’, just that – “

“Doctor, we must make haste in order to get you back to the Enterprise. Please be silent.”

McCoy looked affronted at the back of Spock’s tunic, but then turned another dark corner to a set of doors, where Spock peered in.

Through a small window a woman was visible; standing in front of a dual turntable and microphone. She removed a black, grooved disc from a sleeve, and placed it onto an empty spool before twisting a dial; making the disc rotate near its already-spinning neighbor. They watched her a moment, before Spock placed his hand flat against the door, and looked at McCoy.

McCoy nodded and followed him in.

The lighting was yellow; an uncovered incandescent light bulb in the ceiling that drew their attention, and burned spots into their eyes. Spock held out his arm, cautioning a still-blinking McCoy back, as they watched the woman lean over the turntable and speak into a microphone.

“That was the Jailbreakers, with ‘Secret Love’ - brought to you by Bang-Bang; makers of the sweetest little automatic in the world. Don’t know what to get your gal for Valentine’s Day? She’s sure to love Bang-Bang, now available in a dozen colors for the stylish woman in your life. Get her Bang-Bang – the sweetest little automatic that every dame wants from her sweetheart.

“Now next up, the Chordettes, with ‘Mr. Sandman’ - “

Spock cradled her head as it fell backwards, and McCoy helped him lay the unconscious woman carefully on the ground.

“You do that too well.”

“It is sufficient.”

“It’s handy, that’s what it is.” McCoy brushed the woman’s bangs back. “But one hell of a headache for the victim, I hear.”

“Doctor, I will contact the Enterprise while you gather Lieutenant Danvers and Ensign Chiokay.”

McCoy nodded, and took one last look at the woman before he left the room. He returned a few minutes later, with both officers in tow.

Spock turned towards them as they entered. “The Enterprise was relieved to hear from us; however they have had no contact from the Captain.”

“Jim’s no doubt got himself in trouble.”

“Indeed, Doctor; the probability increased exponentially from the moment he joined the landing party.”

“You never let that go, do ya?” McCoy did his best impersonation of The Eyebrow, which Spock did not acknowledge.

Instead, Spock picked up an object with a round metal disc on top, and flipped a switch at the base. “Spock to Enterprise.”

“We receive you, Mister Spock.”

“Arrange for a wide scan, and lock on to the three life forms near these coordinates.”
“But, Sir – “

“Lock on to Lieutenant Danvers, Ensign Chiokay and Doctor McCoy. I will remain on the surface. They will be holding the transmitter.”

“Jim will have my hide!”

“As you do not outrank me, it is not your decision.” Spock turned his head. “I will mediate the matter when the time comes.”

“Like hell you will.”

Spock handed McCoy the microphone, and watched as three sets of hands held on to it. Spock stepped backwards to a corner of the room, and after a moment said clearly, ”Energize.”

Spock watched as the three figures dematerialized, and the microphone bounced off the carpeting in the yellowed room. Spock walked back to the object, lifting it in his hands; tilting it to analyze the wire mesh at the center. The metal hoops on the outside haloed to form a sculptural sun.

“Fascinating.”

”McCoy, Danvers, and Chiokay have beamed aboard.”

“Excellent. I will notify the Enterprise when –“

”Spock? Please be careful.”

Spock nodded at the disc. “I will endeavor to be so. Spock out.”

He flipped the switch off at the base, and set the microphone down. Before leaving the room however, he noticed the still-spinning, grooved black disc. Thinking a moment, he then balanced the needle’s arm delicately on his finger, gingerly setting it down on the spinning surface. He winced at the scratch, and then his mouth made a hard line at the dulcet tones.


”Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream – bum bum bum bum - make him the cutest that I’ve ever seen -”

Spock turned from the room. “Most illogical.”

***

Kirk bumped his head again as they lead him from the motorcar, and into a warehouse garage. The world still smelled of gasoline and grime; but Kirk was paying more attention to a congregation of suited men near an office, while still rubbing his forehead.

They lead him inside, and then shoved him into a folding chair; a hand on each shoulder to let him know there was a guard on either side, waiting.

“Thanks, guys.” Kirk shifted back against the metal. “I’ll let you know if I need you?”

They grunted, and held a rifle against each of their chests.

“Great.” Kirk glanced around him; the office a tiny cubby filled with too much clutter, and things tacked against the walls.

Like a calendar.

Kirk reached out to grab it, but was pulled back. He quirked a grin, and looked up with bright eyes.

“You know, my sweetie is expecting flowers on Valentine’s Day. I was just wondering how long I’ve been here, in case I’ve already –“

“You’ve still got two days, Captain.” A new voice entered the office, and Kirk twisted around.

A tall man in a navy blue suit walked forward. His smarmy smile was a thinner line on his face than his dark, bushy eyebrows; matching the tufts of hair behind his ears. He out-stretched a hand, and Kirk looked pointedly at it.

“You know my name. Care to share yours?”

The man retracted his hand, his smile dimming. “Krako. JoJo Krako. They teach you manners up there?”

“They don’t seem to teach them down here.”

Krako waved a hand. “I’m the head of the whole Southside Territory. It’s my responsibility to keep you safe.”

Kirk huffed. “I usually have a starship for that.”

“They ain’t here now.”

“I can fix that.”

Krako raised an eyebrow. “Can you?”

Kirk gave a sly smile. “Sure. But first, I want to know where Mayor Harner is.”

Krako ticked a finger at him, before grabbing a chair and pulling it over. “You Starfleet; can’t mind your own beeswax - he’s stayin’ with me, for a while.”

“That sounds quaint.”

“We’re conductin’ business.”

Kirk threw up his hands. “Is that what abduction is called?” He sharply laughed. “Well, hell! Let me guess - we’re conducting business right now, aren’t we?”

Krako turned his head to an associate. “This fella – some wiseguy.”

“It happens when I’ve been escorted about the city all day.”

Krako tilted his head at him, and leaned back. They stared at each other awhile; Kirk apparently a puzzle that needed to be figured out. The stare only broke when Kirk tilted his own head towards the lone window, quirked a lip, and then looked back.

The smarmy smile returned. “Look, Kirk. You’re a reasonable man.”

“Under reasonable circumstances.”

Krako gave a menacing glare. “I’ll get straight to the point.”

“Please do; I have a ship to run.”

Krako stood up, shoving into Kirk’s space with a sneer. “I hear you’ve got heaters.”

Kirk felt hands press his shoulders, but spat out, “I’m not a warehouse; get your own!”

“Don’t get smart with me, pal - I know you got some, and I want them before Okmyx gets a cut!”

“Okmyx is getting nothing. Nothing! No cut. He ain’t the boss of me.”

“You can trust the Captain at his word.”

Krako and Kirk turned at the same time, to see Spock holding a machine gun pointed at their direction; guards outside the doorway collapsed on the ground.

Kirk beamed, as Krako looked incredulous.

“How the hell did you - ?”

The guards beside Kirk fidgeted, and Spock aimed at them. “Please put down your particulars, and step away from the Captain.”

Krako held out a hand. “Be careful with that thing – “

Spock shifted his finger over the trigger. “I assure you I would be more careful, if all of you stepped away from the Captain.”

The guards did as they were told, and Kirk got up; slinking backwards towards Spock’s side. The captain was still grinning, which Spock ignored.

“As a matter of expediency, if all of you would form a line -”

Krako snorted. “I’m not gonna be no fall guy – “

As the guards fell, Krako’s eyes widened.

Kirk waved and mouthed ‘goodbye’, as Spock employed the last nerve pinch on a wide-eyed Krako.

Kirk helped to arrange the bodies on the ground, then smirked. “Your fingers are sure getting a work out today.”

“As I told McCoy, it is sufficient.”

Kirk turned, and ticked a finger at him. “Speaking of which – “

“They are beamed aboard the Enterprise.”

“Where you should be.”

Spock walked towards the doorway. “Where we both will be, Captain, if you follow me.”

Kirk sighed as he followed Spock out; turning down a hallway next to the office that lead to a stairwell.

He tested the railing. “You’ve been here a while.”

Spock preceded him. “I had suspicions when I approached the building from an alley.”

The first door on their left was open, and Spock and Kirk entered a welcome sight.

Kirk ran a fingertip on a dusty turntable. “Why do they have a radio station in their building?” He rubbed his fingers together. “Well, unused it seems like.”

“It is rather curious. However,” Spock searched for the microphone, “I will ponder that question on the Enterprise.”

Kirk smiled. “Count me in.” He took the rounded object from Spock’s hands - however, Spock pulled back a bit; brushing a knuckle as he searched the base for a switch. Kirk nodded, then tapped the frame; hearing feedback.

He licked his lips. “Kirk to Enterprise?”

They waited a moment, and Kirk glanced around the room. His eyes fell on a gray data chip, lying near a not-dusty speaker system.

”Enterprise to Kirk – Captain, are you all right?”

Kirk looked down at the microphone and smiled. “I’m great, Uhura – and I’ve got your guy right here with me.”

”I’m feeding the coordinates to the transporter room.”

“That’d be great. Especially since Spock is giving me the Vulcan Death Glare.”

“Captain –“

”We’re ready to beam up.”

“Energize.”

Both men dematerialized, as a pounding could be heard ascending the stairs.

***

Kirk looked down the conference table; where one face was notably absent from the proceedings.

Kirk sighed. “Okay, so how long has Scotty been down there?”

Uhura huffed. “Two hours.”

“The man ain’t sharing his hooch, is he?”

Uhura turned to glare at McCoy. “No, Leonard.”

As McCoy held up his hands, Kirk looked at Giotto. “So what is he doing, exactly?”

“It’s hard to describe, Sir. But it’s…” the man fidgeted. “Unnerving.”

Kirk looked at Spock. “You think we should keep him down there?”

“Bela Okmyx is in possession of our equipment. With the imitative nature of Iotian society, it is prudent we ascertain a location and retrieve our items.”

Kirk nodded. “We also need him to stand down about – “ Kirk made a face, “the heaters.”

“That would be beneficial. Although we will need his cooperation in uniting forces to re-establish the main governing body.”

McCoy shook his head. “But ain’t that going against the Prime Directive? If they’re over-throwin’ the Mayor, maybe it’s the society’s – uh - natural evolution. We know nothin’ about Harner.”

“Indeed, Doctor. Under normal circumstances, we would be committing a gross violation. But Sigma Iotia II has already been contaminated; and furthermore, this contamination lead to the current political situation.” Spock looked at Kirk. “This situation is tenuous. Our current mission is to re-establish an alliance with the Iotians. This is impossible without a conferring government.”

Kirk nodded. “I agree. We don’t know everything going on down there; but if even the local mob is in trouble, that says to me we should step in.”

Uhura shook her head. “Isn’t there a police force? Something to help you guys save Harner, without consorting with gangsters?”

“Okmyx says he’s hired by Harner to do just that – the Iotian version of a Minuteman, or whatever.”

Uhura scoffed. “And you believed him?”

“The Captain and myself did not see any local law enforcement while traversing the area.”

Kirk ticked a finger at Spock. “We didn’t get everywhere, but we covered a lot of territory. They would have to be in a really inconvenient and far-off part of town.”

“But that makes no sense.” Uhura looked down at her PADD. “Chiokay reported Spock’s findings, in that Okmyx had a book on American Gangsters. I believe Chicago – and most of the United States – during the 20th century had law enforcement chasing these guys.”

McCoy nodded. “I thought that too, but the population is completely homogenous. They all seem to like this gun-totin’ lifestyle purported by the mob. For all we know, Harner is just a granddaddy mobster in government clothing – you know, considerin’ the population that would’ve elected him.”

Spock tilted his head. “That is an intriguing theory. However, it seems to suggest that we should still rescue Mayor Harner.”

Kirk nodded. “ Whatever he is, they seem to have elected him to a higher position in order to keep everyone in line. And that’s who we need to talk to for an alliance."

Everyone stood up from the table, and Kirk picked up his PADD to start listing off items. “Uhura, I’d like you to keep monitoring frequencies. I know it’s mostly music, but we might need you again down there.”

“Not a problem, Captain. The music isn’t so bad.”

Kirk smiled; then, “Bones, I want you to join Giotto and look in on Scotty. Let me know if we need to save Okmyx.”

McCoy made a face, but then sauntered over to Giotto.

“Sulu, you’ve got the bridge while Scotty’s… preoccupied.”

“Yes, Sir.” Sulu motioned to himself and Chekov with a hand. “The ensign and I have been keeping an eye on things, already.”

Chekov nodded eagerly. “Yes, Keptin!”

Kirk shared a look with Uhura, who only shrugged in her defense.

“Good call, Sulu. Keep on, then.” Kirk set down his PADD. “Spock, you’re coming back down with me. We need to infiltrate.”

“Agreed, Captain.”

“All right, everyone dismissed.”

Sulu and Chekov trailed after Uhura, and Giotto left soon after. McCoy waited until the doors closed to approach the table; where Kirk and Spock were still seated.

Kirk gave him a wary glance. “What is it, Bones?”

McCoy bit his cheek. “I have a suspicion.”

“Care to share?”

McCoy leaned on a chair back. “Do you remember that secretary in Okmyx’s office? The brunette?”

Kirk nodded.

“Before we got frisked, I managed to get her to say a few things. First off, she’s Okmyx’s daughter.”

“Is she just a secretary for her dad, or what?”

“I didn’t get that far. I just asked what a pretty girl, such as herself, was doing in a place like that.”

“Smooth, Bones.”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “She told me she was there for her father. So, I asked if she ever got to have fun.”

“Joanna’s probably near her age.”

Hardly. But this is the interesting part. Says that she likes to go out, and see movies with her – “and McCoy held up his hands for the air quote, “’friend’.”

Kirk furrowed his brow. “She’s seeing somebody. So what?”

“Well, she peeked around me at Okmyx – like she was afraid he’d hear her, despite bein’ across the room in conversation.”

“Huh.” Kirk leaned back in his chair. “So she doesn’t want Daddy to know.”

Spock clasped his hands. “His daughter may simply wish to preserve her privacy.”

Or she’s totally dating a guy her father doesn’t like.” Kirk tapped the table. “Add another thing to the mystery checklist.”

“It may be none of our business.”

“Then she shouldn’t have told Bones.” Kirk patted McCoy’s shoulder. “Thanks for playing the Friendly Doctor. Did you catch her first name?”

“Of course I did; wouldn’t forget it.” McCoy gave a rare smile. “It’s what we almost picked for Jo.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Another Terran name?”

“Yep - Alexandra.” McCoy mulled it over. “That’s a good point. I guess they got all their names from that book?”

Kirk shrugged. “I don’t recall a gangster named Okmyx. But you never know.” He got up from the table, and beamed a grin at Spock. “Well, time to go be bad guys.”

“We will not be participating in gang activity.”

Nah, but we’ll be dressing like them.”

Kirk left the conference room with another perceptible bounce in his step; bumping shoulders with McCoy. Spock watched as the doors closed.

“Most illogical.’

***

Scotty took the last bite of his sandwich; relishing the combination of haggis, cheddar, and onion, and licked his fingertips. Keenser watched the display, and his mouth wibbled.

An ahh left Scotty’s lips as he washed it all down from a bottle, and set it aside. Sitting backwards on a chair, he leaned forward; balancing his forearm on the small ledge, and perching the other arm at an angle to support his head – which housed the stare that Scotty was shooting in one particular direction.

Well, had been shooting in that direction. A man needed a lunch break.

Okmyx fidgeted. “Look, pal – you one of them mutes? We been sittin’ here forever, and – “ Okmyx waved away a stench in front of his face. “What the hell are you eatin’?”

Scotty continued to stare, oddly silent. Keenser looked between the two of them.

Okmyx pointed. “What’s that little fella, there? He talk?” He bent over to Keenser’s eye level. “You got words up in there? Anybody home?”

Keenser set his mouth in a straight line; his beady eyes fiercely stubborn.

Okmyx sat up, and slapped a hand against his thigh. “Ain’t anybody gonna talk in this joint?”

There was only silence.

“What’s the deal, huh? What you fellas want?”

Scotty continued to stare, as Keenser crossed his arms and humphed.

***

A hum filled the dark alleyway, as two men in suits materialized in the shadows. Kirk adjusted his hat, and looked around; before walking alongside a brick wall. Spock was close behind; and after a moment, stepped into the beams of an errant light. They were halfway down the alley when Kirk turned around, grinning.

He looked Spock up and down. “I should have you wear that more often.”

Spock raised an eyebrow.

“Just saying - the red looks good on you.” Kirk stepped forward; his fingers smoothing a collar. “I know a few people who would appreciate it.”

Spock looked at his Captain; as fingers moved up to brush a shoulder. Kirk looked extraordinarily pleased with himself; and Spock let his eyes wander.

“The blue is... most pleasing.”

Kirk winked. “I know, it matches my money-makers.” He turned, and looked down the alley; where music filtered through, and a neon sign was visible. Kirk gave a sly smile, and gestured with a thumb. “Let’s go put our fines selves to good use, shall we?”

Spock watched as Kirk practically skipped towards the club; and muttered, “Incredibly vain.”

“What’s that, Spock?” Kirk shimmied his shoulders, as the music got louder. “You better not be admiring my derrière.”

Spock huffed. “Incorrigibly vain.”

Kirk grinned as they stood in front of the establishment; his hand reaching behind to grasp the arm of his companion. There was a line a block long, but Kirk caught the eye of a bouncer, and leaned precariously over the rope.

“My friend and I – we’re thirsty.”

The rotund bouncer looked Kirk up and down; taking in the navy blue pinstripes, with matching cobalt tie and fedora.

Kirk licked his lips, and peered up demurely through blonde eyelashes.

There was an appreciative moment, before the bouncer nodded, and unclipped the velvet rope. Kirk quickly pulled Spock through.

“Thank you, Sweetheart.” He flashed a bright smile, and then dragged Spock through the crowded doorway.

“Iniquitously vain.”

Kirk laughed. “Still using big words to impress me.”

Kirk tried his best to shield Spock from the deluge of bodies, until they found a bubble of empty space against a wall. They leaned against it, as they took a breather and looked around.

The club was small and crowded, with a fast beat loud and thrumming. The walls were covered in light pink and bright red, with hearts on every surface – including confetti on the tables, and patterned streamers across the ceiling.

But that’s not what drew their attention.

They had entered in the middle of a song, and Kirk and Spock could see over a few heads to the gyrating bodies on a large, wooden floor. The dancers rolled their hips and pressed close to each other, as they engaged in what appeared to be a dirty Cha Cha; clutching at whatever limbs they could reach.


“Yo no soy marinero - Yo no soy marinero - Soy capitán, soy capitán, soy capitán – “

Kirk would be lasciviously grinning at the display, if he weren’t so curious.

“Spock... Where the hell did they get this song?”

Spock listened closely. “Interesting. The language appears to be of Terran origin, indigenous to the region – “

“No, Spock - the bigger picture here!”

” Para bailar la bamba - Para bailar la bamba - se necesita una poca de gracia –“

“It appears to be another source of contamination.”

Kirk groaned into the pink wall, tearing off a paper heart. “Great.”

“It is strange that of all music – “

“The Horizon was from Earth. Not to mention that the song is kind of popular -” The singer rolled his r’s, and Kirk shook his head, “ - at weddings and parties, sometimes.”

Spock looked back at the dance floor. “Indeed.”

They watched as the dancers finished; with sweat gleaming on legs and arms; their faces showing complete satisfaction. The room had gotten unbelievably hotter, and Kirk and Spock removed their suit jackets to the back of an empty chair. Many dancers moved off the dance floor when the song ended, but some stayed for the slower and ragged tempo.


“Little sister don’t you – little sister don’t you – little sister don’t you kiss me once or twice, then say it’s very nice, and then you run – “

As Kirk rolled up his shirtsleeves, he looked at Spock’s profile. The Vulcan was surveying the scene before him, but blue eyes studied something else: The delicate curve of the ear, that segued down to the pale neck – the collar paralleling the curve of the jaw; to the lips, the nose, and the eyes -

“Every time I see your sister –Well, she's got somebody new –She’s mean and she's evil, like that little old boll weevil - Guess I'll try my luck with you - “

“Come on,” Kirk grabbed Spock’s hand, and tugged him towards the dance floor. “We can see more if we’re – “

“Jim – “

They squeezed to the edge of the floor; where Kirk’s hands lightly rested on Spock’s hips. Kirk danced backward, pulling Spock into the fold.

”Little sister don’t you – little sister don’t you – “

“Relax,” Kirk whispered into a pointed ear, as he let go and moved off; dancing to the easy rhythm.

”Little sister, don’t you do what your big sister done – “

Spock hesitantly followed, but gradually seemed to get the hang of it; with his feet shuffling side-to-side. His shoulders even rolled once or twice, much to Kirk’s amusement; when the music ended and changed again. This time, there was an even slower rhythm.

Kirk smiled at the familiar piano riff.


” I want to jump, but I'm afraid I'll fall - I want to holler but the joint's too small – “

Kirk moved closer, lightly resting his hands on Spock’s shoulders. He watched Spock tense as he looked around them.

”Young man rhythm's got a hold of me, too - I've got the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu – “

Kirk moved his hips slowly; one hand traveling down Spock’s arm to coax an arm around his back, pulling them closer.

” I wanna kiss her, but the gal’s too tall -Young man rhythm's got a hold of me, too - I got the rockin' pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu – “

Spock slid both hands down, resting lightly; his pace mirroring, before -

” I wanna squeeze her, but I'm way too low - I would be runnin', but my feet’s too slow –“

Kirk pressed them full flush, and Spock could mirror Kirk’s hips.

”Young man rhythm's got a hold of me, too - I got the rockin' pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu – “

Kirk insinuated a knee, pushing gently between Spock’s thighs. It was simpler from there, as they rocked back and forth; dipping on the offbeat. They weren’t the only men dancing together in that room; and eventually Spock relaxed, and eased into a dirty rhythm. Both of them stole glances at each other, while still eyeing those around them.

”Baby comin' now, I'm hurryin' home - I know she's leavin' cause I'm takin' too long – “

That’s when Spock saw what they were waiting for.

He leaned forward, whispering in his captain’s ear, “You should turn around.”

Kirk smiled, and gestured with one of Spock’s hands to spin him. It was an easy motion, and then –

Spock’s hands traveled to Kirk’s hips; which kept them from standing still.

Kirk leaned into the broad chest. “What the hell is a Klingon doing here?”

They barely noticed the song ending; as it was replaced by something up-tempo and unconducive to their current position. Kirk reached to his hips for a hand, and pulled Spock behind him. They watched as the Klingon laughed with a suited figure, and then follow a group out of sight, down a side hall.

At the edge of the dance floor, Kirk stopped. Spock moved to the side of him, not letting go; watching the quick respiration of Kirk’s chest that matched his own. They met eyes for a moment.

Kirk swallowed. “We’ve got to follow them.”

“Agreed.”

Kirk dropped their hands, and looked around. No one was really paying any attention to them; with the distraction of the lights, music, and dancing. Casually, they both walked towards the hallway, still looking around; and then leaned against the adjacent wall.

Kirk peeked his head around the corner.

“There’s a door at the end, about three meters off.”

Kirk slipped around the corner first, and Spock followed. They walked slowly towards the door, their hands in their pockets for a phaser.

When they reached it, Kirk leaned his ear against the surface - his hands splaying flat, his body too close.

Which is probably why when the door opened, Kirk fell in; and Spock was the one punched in the face.

***

Uhura stood next to McCoy, and watched through the observation window the scene taking place – which was similar to about an hour before, and an hour before that.

Scotty still sat backwards on his chair, while Okmyx screamed, and went ballistic.

“Get me outta here - GET ME OUTTA HERE!

McCoy looked down at a PADD, as he bit the end of his stylus. “The man’s either a weird genius, or a damn fool.”

Uhura quirked her lip. “Can’t it be both?”

McCoy looked over at her, rueful. “Okmyx’s levels are reaching a breaking point. I’ll reserve ‘genius’ ‘til I see some action.”

Uhura looked pointedly. McCoy rolled his eyes.

It had, of course, only been 20 minutes ago that things had been a bit more peaceful. Okmyx, thoroughly exhausted, had stretched himself across the back bench; perhaps to get some rest, perhaps to watch the ceiling for a change in scenery. So maybe it had been a bit of a shock when a small, reptilian figure had crept closer and closer; until the tip of his head was only a dozen centimeters above Okmyx’s chest – staring with black, beady eyes like some searchlight.

That’s when Okmyx had started the yelling, and banging the observation window.

“You damn ghouls, that’s what you are – razzin’ me up for no purpose! What the hell do you want from me?

At this, Scotty had reached into a lunch sack, and pulled out another sandwich.

Keenser had made a disapproving quibbling noise, as he had jumped on a bench to get a clearer looked at the proceedings.

Which turned out to be an auspicious position, for now:

“This man – THIS MAN IS DRIVING ME NUTSO! IS THAT WHAT YOU WANTED? Huh? You got it, you ugly sonuva – “

Uhura recoiled from the glass, and looked at McCoy in alarm. “Leonard, we need to let this guy rest.”

McCoy grunted an agreement, and was about to call the guard, when:

Okmyx kneeled in front of Scotty’s chair, begging his attention.

“Them heaters – you want them heaters? They’re in my desk drawer, nestled with a thousand clams. Just – just gimme back to my office, huh? I need to get to my daughter, she’s going out with this fella – “

Uhura leaned forward, her fingertips touching the glass; as she watched Scotty turn his head.

The Scotsman seemed to think a moment, then, “Ye’ll cooperate with us?”

Okmyx looked ready to weep with joy. “Yes – yes! Anything ya want! Just get me back down to my daughter.”

Scotty nodded, and then graced the man with a big grin. “That’s all I wanted, my good man! Here,” Scotty reached behind him, and opened his sack. “Sandwich?”

Okmyx blanched, as haggis spilled out the wrapper. Uhura choked back a relieved laugh.
McCoy harrumphed. “I guess that settles it, then.”

Keenser’s eyes followed the exchange of sandwiches with a nod of approval.

***

The black hood was lifted from Kirk’s face; and Kirk squinted his eyes, trying to adjust to the dimmed room. The walls were blood red with mood lighting, and dark lounging lined the interior. Cushions were abundant, and Kirk could now see they were another shade of maroon, or perhaps black. Either way, that wasn’t what caught his focus.

The Klingon stood in front of him, with the hood in his left hand, and a raised hand near Kirk’s jaw-line; sporting dangerously-long fingernails.

The Klingon breathed in deeply, his nostrils flaring. His grin was wicked.

“The Federation promotes their pretty ones.” A nail skimmed the side of Kirk’s face, and Kirk hissed.

“Who the hell are you? This is Federation territory.”

“Funny, your Iotians don’t seem to think so.” His dark eyes possessed Kirk’s profile; the irises following the line from eyes, to nose, to lips. “I am Kor.”

Kirk narrowed his eyes. “Why are you hiding, Kor?”

Kor shook his head. “Your technology fails you.”

“Bullshit. You’re hiding somewhere on or near the planet, otherwise we would’ve seen you.”

“It is of no consequence – this planet is mine, now. I can go wherever I wish.”

Kirk bit a laugh. “Big words. Got action to back that up?”

Kor showed his teeth, as the fingernails grazed Kirk’s jaw, and tipped the human’s head to the side. “Good, honest hatred… Very refreshing.”

Kirk threw his head back. “You’ll see a lot more of it, when the Iotians know what you’re up to.”

“What makes you think they do not?” Kor leaned in, his breaths hitting the human cheek. “That is quite a presumption.”

Kirk unclenched his jaw. “Because you haven’t bulldozed them, yet. I’ve seen none of your guys in the time we’ve been here.”

Kor stood up, withdrawing his hand, as he stared hard and unforgiving. “Humans speak too much.”

Kirk stared back. “Where is my first officer?”

Kor started to circle the chair, the hood transferring from hand to hand. “He is… somewhere else.”

“Hilarious – Where’s my first officer?

Kor shook his head. “Tsk tsk, Captain – such a temper.”

Kirk gritted his teeth, then took a deep breath. He closed his eyes a moment, seeming to center himself. When he opened them, Kor was back in his line of sight.

Kirk whispered, “What do you want from me?”

Kor quirked a lip. “That is a loaded question, with many possibilities.” Kor leaned down, both hands gripping the chair back; with his face mere centimeters from the blue, icy glare that never wavered.

Kor’s eyes settled on the pink lips again, and smiled. “I shall find some use for you.”

Kirk let out a frustrated growl; his hands testing the restraints at his wrists. Kor straightened, still smiling.

“In the mean time, you can either impart information – “

“Like fuck I will!”

“ – Or I can use the mind-sifter.” The Klingon’s eye’s danced. “Have you heard of the sifter, Captain?”

Kirk remained silent; his legs anxious to move as he watched the Klingon pace again.

“It is a mind-ripper - depending on how much force is used.” Kor’s glee was evident. “It records every thought, every bit of knowledge – every piece of information.” He stopped behind Kirk’s chair. “The mind is emptied. Permanently. What's left is more vegetable than human.” Kor leaned down, and whispered in the reddening ear, “However, with your soul-less Vulcan, perhaps there won’t be much difference.”

“You sonuvabitch!” Kirk thrashed in his chair. “Don’t you dare – “

“Whose to say I haven’t?”

Kirk stopped, breathing heavy, and stared at the floor. His eyes seemed to search the carpeting, as if he could intuit the answer. After a moment, he jerked his head up and glared. “You haven’t. You wouldn’t. You fucking liar – “

Kor yanked the chair back, angling it on the back legs; his face so close to the angry human. “You are so sure, Captain; so sure.” His face searched the pale one beneath; his lips so close to the alien features. “We shall see, James. We shall see.”

Kor let the chair drop forward, and he stared at the back of the blonde head. “I will have your obedience, Captain.”

“Fuck you.”

“You will obey me.” He stood in front of Kirk, and leaned in once again. “Or your Vulcan will – “

Kirk spat, and the responding smack reverberated in the room. The chair leaned sideways, and Kor fisted the blonde hair, dragging the body towards him; his hand raised again.

The Klingon’s grin was bright and menacing, as spit slid down his cheek, and onto Kirk’s forehead. “I will enjoy breaking you, James.“

“How do you know my – “

But both of them looked sideways, as a commotion entered the room.

“Kor, we found – “

Krako skidded to a halt in front of them, his eyes widening as he looked back and forth.

“What are you – “

“It is none of your concern.”

“Are you – “

It is none of your concern.” Kor released the head, and lowered his hand; giving one last glance to the surprised human, who was staring at the Iotian’s arms. “Why do you intrude?”

Krako stuttered. “We – we found these!”

Kor looked at Krako’s bounty, and picked up the communicator. He walked towards a source of light, and tilted it in the glow; watching as the buttons glinted.

Krako’s pride bubbled over. “Okmyx is a goner, and his gang’s pinched and scattered. We took his office and turned them out.”

Kor smiled. “Excellent.” He walked towards Krako again, and picked up the other instruments in turn; favoring the phaser, especially.

Kirk watched the entire exchange; his eyes counting the items as Kor inspected them. His brow furrowed a moment, but quickly regained its composure. Kor didn’t seem to remember his presence until the Klingon beckoned a soldier forward, and gave him the equipment.

“Take these to my room.” Kor turned his head, showing a vicious grin. “The human, too.”

Kirk braced himself to be beamed aboard somewhere, but found his chair being dragged backwards, instead. The legs caught on carpeting and floorboards, but the Klingons seemed amused at how it bounced him. Kirk knocked against the doorframe, as he eavesdropped on distancing conversation.

“Take me back to your office. I will speak with this Harner.”

Kirk’s chair crashed against a hallway wall, banging his legs. He gritted his teeth as he heard the guards start up a flight of stairs.

***

When Scotty walked on to the bridge, he was met with some applause. Uhura smiled as he waved it off, and Sulu grinned.

“The bridge is yours, Mister Scott.”

“Good man, good man – any trouble?”

Sulu’s grin faltered. “The Captain and Mister Spock are overdue for their check in.”

Scotty shook his head. “I know how this goes. Lads can’t keep their communicators fer the life of ‘em!”

“They’re overdue thirty minutes.”

Scotty sighed. “Thirty minutes too long.”

Uhura turned from her station. “I can put out a radio hail to Bela Okmyx? It’s how we established contact, in the first place.”

Scotty nodded. “That seems ta be the way ta do it. If ye would, Lieutenant.”

Uhura turned back to her station, only to frown at her communications board.

“Mister Scott… we are receiving a hail.”

Scotty turned around, sharing a confused moment with Uhura before he nodded.

“Put ‘em on.”

There was a sound of shuffling, and hushed tones, before: “This here’s Krako. You gonna listen to me, and you gonna listen good.”

Scotty thumped back in the command chair, his surprise evident. “I’m listenin’?”

“I’ve got your Captain here, all tied up and sittin’ pretty; but he’s gonna be changin’ colors if I don’t get me some heaters – get what I’m sayin’?”

Scotty sighed, already halfway out of the chair. “I get ta picture, Mister... Krako, ye say yer name was?”

“JoJo Krako.”

“Right, Mister Krako.” Scotty was at the console, already pushing buttons. “Ye’d like ta meet with me?”

“I’ll bring my best boys for the exchange.”

Scotty shook his head. “I don’t think so, Krako Sir.”

The familiar hum was heard over the comm. line, and Sulu gawked.

“That shouldn’t work twice!”

Chekov shrugged.

Scotty pressed another button. “Scott ta Giotto.”

“Giotto here.”

“Don’t be surprised, but yer gonna find another visitor in yer brig.”

A beat; then, “... Yes, Sir?”

“I’ll be down there in five. Scott out.”

Scotty looked at Sulu. “The bridge is yers, lad.” He walked to the turbolift, and then paused. “Uhura, if ye’d still contact Okmyx, and put him through ta me quarters - I got ta be gettin’ Keenser.”

Uhura nodded, not turning to the console at her station. Then before the turbolift doors closed, she swiftly got up and followed after, looking determined as she faced the other occupant; which was Scotty examining his shoes.

Sulu sighed loudly, shaking his head at the closed turbolift doors. He then walked slowly to the Captain’s chair, and plopped down; his fingers smoothing the armrests. “Home, sweet home.”

Chekov didn’t look away from his console. “It is comfy chair, no?”

“I’m not complaining. But between those two always leaving the bridge, and the Captain and Mister Spock always doing missions together, I might have this chair molded to my ass.”

“It is sviwel chair, you can spin?”

Sulu laughed. “Not that bored, yet. Besides, the Captain might have me beat – for all I know, the screws are loosened, and I’d topple over.”

Chekov smirked. “And hit your noggin, yes? Might be good for you.”

“Thanks, Pasha.”

“Especially vith your eye sense.”

Another sigh. “Not this again - ”

“You losing bet,” Chekov sing-songed.

Sulu rolled his eyes. “Hardly.”

“You can’t see vith your two eyes.” Chekov nodded at his console. “Zem two? In love.”

“You think everyone’s in love.”

“Zem two, zey don’t know it – dance ‘round each other, yes?”

“I think they’re just friends.”

Chekov spun around. “Ve are friends. Zey two?” He curled his fingers. “Are ‘friends’.”

“... Did you seriously just air quote?”

“I have point!”

“What ‘point’?”

Chekov gaped. “Not fair, you do it!”

Sulu put down his hands. “I’m just saying, Pasha, I think you’re misinterpreting things.”

“Zey alvays off together, no? Looking at each other, no? Standing too close – “

Sulu chuckled, and shook his head in disbelief. “Dude, that describes us. And no offense, but I’m not in love with you.”

“Heh. I have girl. You have - ” and Chekov made a quick jerking motion with his hand.

Sulu heard some snickering behind him, and he rolled his eyes. “Nice, man.”

“Just truth. I have sense of zhese zings.”

“Pasha, I might hate you.”

“You do not. I have Lego.”

Sulu wordlessly gestured a moment, then - “Dude, I helped you with that battleship! You’re not going to hold out on me now, are you?”

“I helped design – but you are mean.”

“I’m not mean!”

“Yes, you are mean.” Chekov sniffed, as he turned back to his console. “I do not play vith zhose who are mean.”

Sulu bent over, pressing his palms to his eyelids.

“... I’m sorry.”

“Vat is zat? I zought I heard woice. Must be mistaken.”

“You are such a little bitch.”

“Must be ‘magination. I hear zings.”

“That explains a lot.”

“I had friend here, must be in brig.”

“I’m sorry! Goddammit.”

Chekov smiled at his comm. display. “It is okay, Hikaru. Ve all make mistakes.”

Sulu thumped back in the chair, and murmured, “You are such a drama queen.”

Chekov hummed happily at his station.

***

Kirk opened his eyes lazily; his focus struggling to find itself in the room. It was dark, with a blue glow that seemed to come from an open window. Sigma Iotia II had one moon, and it appeared to be shining brightly tonight. A beam of moonlight hit a quilted bed comforter, and Kirk followed the seams with his eyes until he blinked rapidly, and sat up straight – as much as he was able to.

He pulled at his wrists, and tried to move his ankles – nothing. He was still tied to the chair, with the ropes digging into his skin. Kirk looked down at his chest, to see the ribbed cotton of his wife beater, and the buttons undone of his white dress shirt. He sighed. He hadn’t done any of that. But who did was a mystery, as it appeared he was completely alone in the room.

There was no distant thrumming of music, and the world seemed strangely quiet. He twisted his head to look about the place, and analyzed everything he could see. There was a small wooden table near him, with two chairs. There was a dresser with a mirror. But more importantly, on top of that dresser there were three communicators, and at least a tricorder, lying on top of a white doily. A phaser was caught precariously in the laced edge, hanging off a wooden corner. Kirk looked at it with longing.

But all in all, it was incredibly cramped. The space Kirk occupied was in front of the door, next to the side of the bed. It was maybe the most spacious area in the entire room; the pathways around furniture looking like a snug fit. Kirk shook his head; but then looked down at himself, and – minutely – started rocking the chair back and forth.

He grimaced at the creaking the chair made, but the momentum got him rolled to his feet. It was certainly an awkward position, but he was able to lift his head, and look about. He looked over at the window, and then started to shuffle slowly forward.

He was past the table and chairs when he heard the door open, and a light was turned on.

Someone cleared their throat, then: “My, the captain fancies himself a snail.”

Kirk bit his lip.

“You wouldn’t leave before we had a late dinner, would you? These Iotians insist on feeding you.”

Kirk’s neck whip-lashed as the chair was pulled backwards; dragged on its back legs to the open space, and dropped forward. Kirk’s teeth clicked, and he glared at the Klingon who came into view. Kor stood in front of him; a lascivious smile matching the dark eyes that traveled from his face, down to look pointedly at the buttons on Kirk’s shirt.

“I hope you will forgive me James, for searching you earlier. I needed to make certain you had no hidden weapons… besides the communicator strapped to your lower back.”

Kirk gulped.

There was a knock on the door, and Kor turned to answer it. The wooden edge tapped the back frame of the chair with a kuh, as items and orders were exchanged in the available space. When the door swung closed, Kor came into view carrying a rectangular tray.

The Klingon minutely nodded. “I would have them serve us, but as you can see, we’re in intimate circumstances.”

Kirk watched as Kor carried the tray to the table; having to walk sideways to maneuver next to the bed.

“Why are you in such a small space?”

Kor lifted the lids off their plates, and shrugged. “It is no matter of importance.”

Kirk narrowed his eyes. “You’re a commander. Wouldn’t you want a bigger room?”

Kor set the food out, and then discarded the lids and tray to the bed. “In your Starfleet, perhaps you need loftier conditions. It is not my intention to make you uncomfortable... in that manner.”

Kirk rolled his eyes. “Right. Warriors and shit liked to be tied to chairs, and left alone in rooms instead.”

Kor quirked a smile, as he moved to sit down. “Warriors would not be caught tied to a chair, in the first place.”

“Like I had much – “ and he was caught off guard, as Kor wedged his hands between Kirk’s knees to grip the seat edge, and dragged him forward to the table. Kirk took a shaky breath as he looked up, and saw Kor look nonchalantly at the dinner plates.

Kirk held his breath a moment. The smells were pungent.

Kor sniffed. “They eat no meat on this planet. No wonder they are spineless.”

Kirk’s eyebrows went to his hairline. “Have you met them?”

Kor smirked. “Their weaponry makes no difference to me.”

Kirk shook his head, and looked down at his own plate. Unlike the Klingon’s, which seemed to have a tangle of slimy roots in a sauce, Kirk’s was a creamy red soup.
It didn’t look entirely alien, and Kirk sniffed it with a pleasant expression. His stomach growled.

Kirk looked pointedly at his set of silverware. “So, do warriors get spoon fed, or what?”

Kor looked sideways at him. “I was under the impression that’s how baby captains ate.”

“Well, believe it or not – “ and Kirk tested his restraints, “I did master a spoon and fork before I took Captaincy. If you untie me, I can show you my impressive skills.”

Kor barked a laugh. “You are an amusing human.” He looked at the silverware near Kirk’s bowl, and picked up the sharper implements from a napkin. Tucking them near his own plate, he then got up. “I will untie your hands. You will be severely punished if you abuse this gift I’m giving you.”

Kirk made a face at that, but then composed himself when Kor sat back down. “Then I’ll just have to resist my temptation to gouge out your eyes with a spoon.”

“Such dirty talk, James – at dinner? It is impolite.”

“I see you’re all about manners, Kor.” Kirk looked over at the Klingon, who was picking up the roots with his fingers.

Kor grunted. “I like to use my hands.”

“Oh, so do I!” Kirk clapped his hands together. “We have so much in common.”

Kor took a long drink from a glass, and swilled the contents. “Then perhaps you should use them, instead of your mouth.”

Kirk looked down, and hummed merrily as he ticked a finger at his plate; then located silverware with his right hand. With some hesitation, he ladled the thick soup onto a spoon, and – after a deep breath - put it in his mouth.

Kirk wore a surprised expression.

Kor noticed. “It is up to your standards?”

Kirk swallowed. “It tastes like strawberries.” He took another bite. “It’s a bit sweet, but misleading.”

“How so?”

“On Earth, this would be tomato soup. But this isn’t bad at all.” Kirk savored another taste, keeping the spoon in his mouth. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Kor watching him. After a pause, Kirk gave a pleased hum, then turned the spoon over in his mouth; licking the underside with the broad surface of his tongue. The rounded edge caught between his lips, and he let the tip slide out slowly. “Delicious.”

Kor took a deep breath. “Warriors... do not eat sweets.”

“You got me on that one. Here I am, stuck on this planet, being held captive, and I dare to eat this wimpy-ass soup.’ Kirk smiled as the Klingon watched another spoonful approach his lips. “I guess I’m dying without honor.”

“Humans as a species are too weak for honor.”

Kirk pointed the rounded edge. “How encouraging. You should give motivational speeches.”

“Honor is motivation enough, Captain.”

“Gee, maybe I should just gouge my own eyes out.”

As Kirk tilted the spoon towards his face, Kor gripped his wrist.

“Humans... make excellent slaves, however.”

They stared at each other; the grip tightening excruciatingly with each passing moment. When Kirk bit his lip, his hand flopped to the table.

“Is... is that so?” Kirk rotated his wrist. “On Earth, we would say those who employ slaves have no decency.”

Kor licked a fingertip. “Then it is just as well that this is not Earth.”

Kirk kept the spoon on the edge of his lips, seemingly lost in thought. When he dipped the spoon down again, a loud crash reverberated from the bottom floor, vibrating beneath them.

Gunfire was heard as guards stormed the room. “Commander, we are under attack.”

“By whom?”

“Unknown.”

Kor dismissed them with a hand. “Employ our phasers.”

“Yes, sir!”

When the guards left the room, another crash and boom were heard, and Kor huffed.

“I must leave you for a moment, James. Please enjoy your sweets.” The Klingon got up swiftly, his hand only pausing on the back of Kirk’s neck to grip lightly. “You will be here when I return.”

Kirk watched Kor exit, then looked down at his spoon. Turning his head towards the dresser, he heard another crash.

And then he heard glass breaking behind him.

He couldn’t twist his head far enough, so he pushed himself from the table. Kirk managed to push too far, as the chair back fell and angled with the side of the bed. Giving a frustrated sigh, he stretched his arms back to push himself off the mattress - only to have momentum punch himself in the gut with the table’s edge.

Kirk was trying to bend himself in half to get at his restraints, when he heard scuffling and a familiar nasally cadence behind him.

“Seems our Captain’s got himself in a pickle.”

Kirk groaned in relief as a knife cut the restraints around his waist, and then those at his thighs and ankles. Kirk wobbled as he stood up, banging his knee on the table’s edge.

Okmyx looked about the room. “What ya doin’ in this place?”

“Apparently, having dinner.” Kirk staggered over to the dresser, picking up the communicators and tricorder. When he couldn’t untangle the phaser, he scooped up the doily and tried to take it with him – only for the mirror to slip and crash to the ground.

“Fuck!” Kirk muttered, charging for the open window. He motioned Okmyx first as he tied the doily at the edges, making a sack he could grip at the knot. After a minute, Kirk climbed out the window himself; to the beat of charging footsteps near the bedroom door.

“Slide, Captain!”

The angle of the ladder was such that Kirk attempted it; gripping the edges in a deep friction burn, yet stopping as he neared the bottom.

It wasn’t perfect, but when he fell to the right he wasn’t far off the ground.

Okmyx grabbed his arm. “This way!”

Kirk tugged it back. “Where’s Spock?”

“We couldn’t find him – hurry!”

“I’m not leaving until – “

And then Kirk tilted his head to the left; pausing a moment to look at the brick corner of the club. As if hearing something, he jogged towards it; only to run into a familiar face.

A disheveled Spock panted; the cerulean bruise swallowing his cheek in the darkness. “Usually - you do not - have this much fanfare, Captain.”

Fuck.” Kirk let out a breath, and gripped both of Spock’s upper arms tightly. His hand reached up towards the Vulcan’s face, but the sound of firecrackers made them jump. Kirk tugged, and dragged Spock by the arm towards an awaiting black motorcar.

Okmyx barked at them, “Get in, get in!”

Kirk pushed Spock inside, where they found themselves wedged next to Okmyx. The tires squealed, and the car sped off.

Spock turned his head, and said calmly, “You are injured, Captain.”

Kirk shook his head at him, disbelievingly. “I think I’ll live, Spock.”

But Spock twisted to look out the back window; and after a long moment, Kirk turned to do the same. In the road behind them, Kirk could see suited figures; some retreating to their own cars, and some in pursuit. Before they turned out of sight, Kirk saw a man cower before a Klingon, and get smacked in the face with a pistol.

What was notable, was the look of utter shock as the man touched his jaw - and then ran away.

***

Krako had not lied about the Okmyx gang being scattered and ransacked. When they got to the boss’s office, the hallway had every door open; a breeze from open windows scattering papers over broken pottery, and planters turned on their sides. The ornate doors were wide open, showing the billiards table slashed on the green, and pedestals with statues thrown to the ground. The only thing left untouched was the tome of American Gangster History, unopened.

Kirk caught Spock’s eye, and tilted his head towards it. “Some things are sacred.”

“Indeed.”

They picked their way through the mess, as Okmyx leaned on his pool table and gave a frustrated sigh.

“Krako ain’t got no respect.” Okmyx pounded his fist on the frame. “No boss deserves this!”
Kirk and Spock exchanged a look.

“It’s one thing for a boss to be overthrown – but another to be turned out!” Okmyx looked about; seemingly ready to tear into anything. “If I had me some heaters, none of this would’ve happened! Put the fear of the boss into them!”

Before Kirk could open his mouth, Okmyx waved a hand. “I talked to your Scott; he’s made it crystal clear. But with them folk at the club, I know I ain’t got nothin’.”

Kirk approached the table slowly, leaning on the frame next to Okmyx. “You got us out, Bela. We are immensely grateful.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Okmyx muttered. “Your Scott asked me. He’s balled up people, but he’s good. He’s a good man. Got me to my daughter before - ” hands gestured around them, “this got to her.”

Kirk nodded. “The Enterprise is concerned about the turmoil down here.”

“That’s nice.”

“We’d like to help.”

Okmyx huffed a laugh. “If ya ain’t gettin’ me heaters, I don’t know what ya can do.”

Spock stepped forward. “We would like to take part in the rescue of your mayor.”

Okmyx eyed them both. “You would, would ya? What ya plan on doin’?”

Kirk and Spock shared a glance, before Kirk cleared his throat. “We’re not… entirely sure yet.”

Huh!” Okmyx walked towards his desk. “I’ll take your help, Captain, but we can’t have ya millin’ about without some plan.”

“We will procure one in the night.” Spock followed Okmyx. “We wish to ascertain Mayor Harner’s location before we attempt a rescue.”

“I overheard something about him being at that warehouse.” Kirk stood next to Spock on the opposite side of the desk. “Kor wanted to talk to him, and Krako seemed to suggest they had him there.”

Okmyx nodded. “I’ll send my boys out to investigate.”

“Krako’s probably regrouped there now, though. After what happened at the club, they’re probably nursing their wounds.”

Okmyx looked down at his chair – the leather also slashed, with the lining turned out – and opted to lean on his arms, gripping the edge of the desk. He closed his eyes a moment, sighed, and then opened them again.

“You fellas come up with a plan. I’ll talk to my boys. I say we hit ‘em tomorrow night, for good.”

“The Captain and myself can perform reconnaissance in the interim.”

Okmyx nodded. “Tonight, I’ll get my boys to set ya up in some rooms. Make yourselves at home.” He looked about his desk. “I’ll try to sort this out and plan myself.”

“We’ll come up with something.” Kirk turned to Spock. “We should probably contact the Enterprise; since we’ve got our communicators back.”

“Captain, that may not be a good idea. If the Klingons are orbiting the planet, they could pick up the signature of our transmission, and discover our location. This is not ideal if we wish to remain hidden.”

“Like they don’t figure we’re at Okmyx’s, anyway. But we could find a radio station?”

“I got one on the next floor, Captain."

Kirk narrowed his eyes at Okmyx. “Why do you have a radio station?”

Okmyx waved a hand. “We chatter like that; on a special frequency.”

Spock minutely shook his head. “If we use your facilities, that would also reveal our whereabouts.”

Kirk nodded. “I guess we find somewhere else in the morning. I need to know what’s going on up there.”

“Your boys seemed to have a handle on things.” Okmyx smiled. “And that dame, too – Uhura.” He cut an imaginary line near his hip. “What a looker.”

Kirk patted Spock’s arm. “I’m sure they’re okay. But like you Bela, I just need to keep track of... my guys.”

Okmyx nodded, then looked pointedly at Kirk’s hands. “I’ll get ya some stuff for your palms, too. And your guy’s face, there.” Okmyx squinted at Spock’s cheek. “Ain’t seen green like that, before. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to ya faster.”

Kirk shook his head. “We got out. That’s fast enough. Another second with Kor, and I think I would’ve lost it.” Kirk ignored the Vulcan Death Glare, as he looked up at the suits entering the room.

Okmyx shifted some papers on his desk. “Let my boys know if ya need anything.”

“Thank you, Bela.”

Okmyx nodded at them, and waved at his guards. Kirk and Spock followed them to separate bedrooms; but wound up planning on the bedspread in the Captain’s room during most of the night.
It was in the wee hours of the morning, as Spock wrapped Kirk’s hands with salve for the third time, that Kirk finally asked him outright: “Did they use the mind-sifter on you?”

Spock made sure the bandage was in place, before he answered, “No, they did not.”

Kirk took a deep breath as he reached for an ice pack, and placed it gently against Spock’s cheek. “Good. Your mind doesn’t belong to them.”

When Spock’s fingertips grazed the human hand, in order to hold the pack on his own, it was only then that Kirk got up, and resumed his thoughtful pacing

***

“No, I take it back: He’s a damn fool.” McCoy crossed his arms; his face purely disgruntled and vexed, with a PADD tucked at his bicep.

Uhura sipped her coffee, and watched the exchange impassively.

It was almost the same as before. Through the observation window, they could both see Scotty still sitting backwards on a chair; a sack of sandwiches near his feet. Keenser was also there, still watching intently; with beady eyes surveying the scene like a tennis match. And there was even a gangster, who still looked to be about going out of his mind - although this one was mostly bald, and had a murderous glare instead of expressing honest perplexity.

McCoy shook his head. “I don’t know why I’m allowin’ this.”

Uhura gave him a sideways glance. “Because it somehow worked the first time. And you’re worried about those two just as much as I am.”

“Jim’s a damn fool, too. Something’s got to have happened. Spock knows where that radio station is.”

“I agree. But considering our bad guy here had their communicator, he might be our best bet.”

“And Scotty’s going to get it out of him.” McCoy looked up at the ceiling. “God help us all.”

Uhura touched the crook of his arm, and he looked back down at her, giving a wry smile. She tried to smile back. “They’ll be okay.”

McCoy huffed. “They better be, or I’ll kill ‘em.”

She nodded at that; then mindlessly sipped her coffee again as they watched the exchange taking place.

Scotty gesticulated wildly.

“Aye, so - we was on this ice planet, right, fer a whole year. And them’s thought they’d be leavin’ these tribbles, jist lollin’ about - some joke a lad ‘ad on us, as they kept on comin’, like bloody rabbits; eatin’ everythin’ we got – “

Keenser watched closely as Scotty paused to eat the remainder of his sandwich, and brushed the crumbs off his lap. “So I was thinkin’, as I put Keenser in this snowman one day – he’s aboot the right ‘eight, jist a thing ta do – and the way his face, all stickin’ up like that, as he tried ta get out - it gives me this idea about beamin’ a tribble – “

Krako snorted. “What the hell do I care about your – “

“- Inta the middle of ‘em; and sees how long it takes fer ‘em ta dig out. It took Keenser a good five minutes; so I was thinkin’ a tribble would take –“

“I don’t even know what a – what a twaddle is, pal -“

“ – Maybe twice as long, as they’re jist wee fuzzy beasties, and they got na legs. But they jist huddle in there, not movin’, not e’en multiplyin’ themselves out – “

Krako shook his head, and wordlessly gestured; but Scotty leaned forward.

“So I was thinkin’, maybe they need incen’ive, aye? They’d been fancyin’ these beans - which Keenser got all ragin’ about - but I started throwin’ ‘em at the top, and,” Scotty laughed, “ye should’ve seen them tribbles, two at a go, chasin’ after one bean – beatin’ Keenser’s time by half - “

Keenser crossed his arms, and humphed.

***

Kirk and Spock woke early the following morning; grateful for the hot shower and the few hours of rest. Okmyx had been good on his word in making them feel comfortable, as they were able to come and go from their rooms as they pleased; with the only guards being at the end of their long hallway for security’s sake. Kirk and Spock passed them in greeting as they left; where in exchange they were instructed on where to find the kitchens. This was fortuitous for them, as it had been a while since that interrupted dinner on the Enterprise. Spock had four slices of toast with a sour jam, while Kirk tried a sort of pastry with his coffee. They ate quickly, wanting to get a start on the day ahead.

“I wish we hadn’t left our jackets at the club,” Kirk said, as they now traversed the back alleys away from headquarters; taking a path that Kalos had drawn out on a notepad at breakfast. “We had that other set of communicators and phasers in them, but hell - I’m cold, and I still somehow stink.”

“We did not expect to be marooned on the planet.” Spock led the way, as he knew the building they were looking for on sight. “Perhaps Bela Okmyx will allow us use of his facilities to wash our items.”

“We could’ve this morning - but we really didn’t have the time.” Kirk rolled down his cuffed shirtsleeves. “We just need to send a message to Sulu, and then find that warehouse garage and set up surveillance.” Kirk tilted his head to the side, and smiled. “Hopefully I don’t offend your Vulcan sensibilities too much.”

Spock didn’t meet his eyes. “We are in peculiar circumstances.”

Kirk laughed. “Ouch! I know what that means.”

“I meant nothing other than – “

“It’s not fair, you know, Vulcans barely sweat – “ Kirk’s eyes widened. “Hey, I bet you’re colder than I am!”

Spock still avoided his gaze. “I have regulated my body temperature to – “

“Right, it’s near 15 centigrade; don’t give me that crap.” Kirk looked behind them. “Maybe we can ask Bela to – “

“What is your fondness for insisting on things which I deem to not be necessary; especially at the risk of your own – “

“Because I’m difficult.” Kirk’s smile turned into a grin. “Admit it, it’s part of my charm.”

Spock quietly huffed. “I will admit to no such thing.”

They stopped behind a white brick building, and leaned against a wall. Kirk looked along the face of it, appearing to count the windows. “How did you get into this place, anyway?”

“We walked through the front entrance.” Spock turned away from it. “I suspect that might not work in our current circumstance.”

Kirk smirked. “You mean, they’ve started locking doors against sneaky Vulcans.”

Spock puzzled that a moment. “I do not believe she saw my – “

Spock. Let’s just get in there.”

After they confirmed the back doors being locked, they picked a window near Spock’s estimation of the broadcasting room. Kirk climbed up on Spock’s back to peek inside. To their great fortune, the place appeared to be dark and vacant.

Kirk stepped off, leaning against the wall. “I think you closed shop, Spock.”

“Perhaps, but it is to our great advantage.”

Kirk motioned with a thumb. “I’ll sneak in and look around, if I can climb up again?”

Spock was already bending. “With the caveat that you will open the back door once you are inside.”

“Deal. Saddle up.”

Balancing precariously on the Vulcan’s back, Kirk managed to pry open a crack in the window; his fingertips wedging enough to gain leverage. It opened in unexpected smoothness, although just barely enough for Kirk’s small frame to edge through. The bottom of his un-tucked shirt rode up his back; exposing skin as most of his body slid inside, and onto a table.

“Captain?”

“Fine, Spock. Just fine.” Kirk balanced himself on his arms, as he carefully slid the remainder of his legs, and unhooked his ankles from the window ledge. He looked like a sprinter, crouched into position, as he tried to arrange his body in a way that wouldn’t land him flat on his face. He looked about the dim room, and spied the turntables on the opposite wall of a wooden door; which fortunately had a window. He needed to get to the latter, first.

Kirk crept off the table and kept down. There was another large table in his way, but fortunately the room was carpeted and decent on his knees. He inched slowly to the door, and then carefully stood up to peer out the observation window.

Where two teenagers – too tangled up in each other to notice Kirk - were headed straight towards him.

Kirk cursed under his breath, and dove for a navy blue tarp next to him; which appeared to be covering a table of old equipment. As he situated himself underneath, he heard the door open, along with footsteps and giggling.

The girl sighed, then: “Are you sure?”

A pleasant hum; then the boy said, “More than sure. They closed the place after Sue was attacked.”

“Poor – “ she gasped, “Sue. I hope she’s okay.”

“Not as okay as me.”

There was some more giggling, and bumping of furniture, and Kirk rolled his eyes. He looked next to him and felt the wall, and eased himself into a sitting position; careful not to jostle anything. He pulled his knees up to fit, and heard a soft moan. He covered his eyes with one hand, and bit his lip.

“Oh, Alex - your dad keeps me so damn busy, I never get to see you.”

“Daddy can’t help it Bodie, he’s been busy, too. We been helpin’ those Starfleet.”

“I know, I know - but I never get to see you.” There was a wet smack of lips. “I miss you, honey.”

“Oh, I miss you! I wish we didn’t have so much going on.”

“If wishes were horses,” and Kirk heard the sound of buttons popping, and items dropping to the floor. Kirk grimaced.

He rubbed the skin behind his ears, looking on either side of him. He was in a long line of tables, with a box a meter away from him. There had been a table in the middle of the room, and the couple didn’t sound too close. Getting on his knees again, he lifted the bottom of the tarp, and hazarded a look.

“Your dad be sendin’ me out too much.”

They were near the turntables, with the both of them leaning against the counter’s edge; wrapped around each other. The front of her blue dress had been undone, partially exposing a black brassiere, while a matching blue handbag laid at her feet; the items scattered far and near. Kirk glanced up to their faces, and confirmed what he suspected; with the brunette, bobbed hair, and the young kid still wearing red.

One of Bodie’s hands was tangled in her dark hair; his eyes trailing down to the front of her dress. He wore a mournful expression, as if he were memorizing every bit of this moment.

But Alex shook her head and pleaded, “He needs you. Your one of his – “

“He’s gotta know, Alex. There ain’t no way.“

“But I ain’t say nothin’! I don’t even smile at you when he’s around. How could he – “

“He does, Alex. He just does.” Bodie sighed ruefully. “And he don’t want his daughter being no moll – he don’t want his daughter datin’ me.”

His fingers trailed from her hair down to her neck; a thumb caressing the jaw-line, to rest on her lower lip. He tilted her chin, and bent his head; their lips meeting in a soft, chaste kiss.

Alex sniffed, and whispered fiercely, “I don’t care what he says - we love each other!”

Bodie swallowed. “Your dad don’t like it, and what he says – “

“Then we’ll get out!”

Kirk narrowed his eyes, as Alex gripped Bodie fiercely; her expression determined.

“We can do it. You know we can.”

“Not without your dad’s – “

“Bodie!” She pushed him away, and he staggered back a few steps. “This is our chance. You know it’s our chance.”

He gave a bitter laugh. “Not if your dad won’t allow it.”

She clenched her jaw, looking over at the open window. “Tomorrow – “

“Tomorrow ain’t nothin’, Sweetheart.”

She looked back at him; as if a bit startled. They both stared hard at each other, unflinching, until Alex bit her lip; fumbling with the buttons of her dress.

“Well,” and she took a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do, then.”

Bodie watched as Alex bent to retrieve her purse. She avoided his gaze, as she looked around at the ground; and Bodie’s hands waved in exasperation. “Alex, honey, don’t be like that -”

She stomped around, quickly grabbing items from the floor, and shoving them into her bag. “I don’t know what you’re talkin’ ‘bout.”

“This! This, Alex. Today is the first time in a week we’ve gotten time together -”

“Because you’re supposed to be on some patrol, right? Watchin’ them Starfleet?” Alex huffed as she bent over, looking under the middle table. “You think if somethin’ gone happen to them, that more time won’t be – “

“Alex, come on - “

“I mean it, Bodie! We’d have more time if you – Oh, where’d my lipstick run off to?”

“What?”

“My lipstick!” She put her hands on her hips; closing her eyes as tears of frustration threatened to spill over. “My new one. I just bought it with Christine yesterday!”

Bodie looked at her, in a daze; then to the ground. “Lipstick? Why does it even - ”

And Kirk saw it before he could even think it. Lowering the tarp, he saw the tube under the very edge; lying just on his side of shadows, angled at the border. No doubt the bottom of the tube was visible from the other side, yet most laid next to his pinkie finger.

“Oh! It’s there!”

Kirk remained still, as a hand swept under the tarp to grab it. A whisper of touch had graced his knuckle; but it was enough that Kirk knew her skin was very, very soft.

Kirk held his breath. The hand had darted out quickly, but now there was silence. He bit his lip, and –

The tarp was ripped open, and a pistol barrel was pointed at his face.

“Get out! Get out from under there! Show yourself!”

Kirk crawled out slowly, stumbling to stand up, and almost collided with Alex. He held up his hands.

“Look, I’m sorry, but – “

Bodie shoved the gun at him. “What are you doin’ here?”

Kirk looked over at the turntables. “I came to use the radio. I had no idea – “

“Were you spyin’ on us?”

Kirk clenched his jaw. Bodie had a protective arm around Alex, and she was staring at Kirk, wide-eyed.

Kirk shook his head slowly. “No. Not at all.” Kirk looked pointedly at the weapon, but Bodie didn’t drop it. “I just – I looked through the door window, to see if I could go into the hallway, and saw you guys coming. I hid because I had no idea who you were.”

Alex let out a breath. “Why didn’t you say anythin’ when you did?”

Kirk bit his cheek. “It was – uh – kind of too late. I only realized who you both were a minute ago.”

Bodie and Alex shared a long look. After a moment she nodded, and Bodie lowered his gun.

Kirk slowly put down his hands. “I’m really sorry. I wouldn’t have – “

“You won’t tell the boss, will you?” Bodie glanced worriedly at Alex. “Since you heard – “

Kirk quickly shook his head. “No! No no no. It’s none of my business!” He looked between the two teenagers, who were still tense. “Really! I mean, part of it I didn’t even get. But as you guys said, there are a lot of problems right now. I just really want to get in touch with my ship, and try to rescue Harner. I don’t actually care what – “ and Kirk motioned between the two of them, “you guys have going on. I mean,” and Kirk took a deep breath, “I didn’t even see anything. Honest.”

Bodie looked over the features of his face; as if evaluating what he saw there. After a minute he nodded, his shoulders relaxing, as he loosened his grip on the young brunette.

Bodie motioned to the turntables. “So, you... need the radio?”

Kirk nodded. He looked over at the turntables himself, before pausing in realization. Going wide-eyed, he whipped his head to look at them. “Actually - I’m supposed to unlock the back entrance! To get Spock in here, first.” He started towards the door. “You mind - ?”

Bodie shook his head rapidly. “Oh – no! We’re just leaving, actually.” And before Kirk could get there himself, Bodie jerked Alex’s hand and dragged her towards the door; where they both practically ran out, and down the hall.

It was only after a minute of staring dumbly at their exit, that Kirk sighed loudly.

A deep voice concurred. “That was an illuminating conversation.”

Kirk turned around; and a smile slowly spread on his anxious face. He walked with his head tilted towards the open window; where he climbed up onto the table to peer over the ledge.

Spock was just underneath the windowsill, with his arms crossed. “It appears Doctor McCoy was correct.”

Kirk minutely shook his head in disbelief. “You were listening this entire time.”

“Indeed.”

Kirk laid one arm across the window frame, and balanced his head on the other. “In fact, you never went to those back doors. You don’t trust me, do you? You were listening to see if I’d come get you.”

“It is not a matter of trust.” Spock looked at his feet. “It is a matter of knowing your nature, and propensity for unfortunate happenstance.”

Kirk grinned. “Why, Mister Spock - that might be the fanciest way I’ve heard of saying I have bad luck.”

“On the contrary,” and Spock looked up pointedly, “the fact that I am standing here, as opposed to breaking and entering this facility in attempted rescue, proves the opposite.”

Kirk bit back a chuckle. “Touché.” He straightened his arms from the ledge. “But really, I’m going to go open the doors for real, this time.”

“I will meet you there.”

A minute passed, and neither of them moved.

“Spock, I’m pretty sure I’ll make it into the hallway just fine.”

Spock nodded. “I am certain you will.”

“That means you can go to the back doors, now.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Is there a reason you wish for me to leave first?”

“Yeah – so you can meet me at the back doors.”

“Once I am certain that you have left the room, I shall go there.”

Kirk huffed. “You take your duties as first officer a bit too seriously, you know that?”

Spock considered it. “I will confess... it is only a part of my motivation.”

Kirk did chuckle that time, as he shook his head in amusement. Then he turned around to slowly slide off the table; where he proceeded to walk towards the door, and into the hall.

***

Sulu leaned against the railing, and watched as Uhura touched a few buttons at the end of the radio transmission.

She looked down at her console with a frown. “That explains a lot.”

Sulu nodded, wearing a similar expression. “Doesn’t sound great, that’s for sure.”

“I suppose they won’t contact us until it’s over; since if we could hear them, no doubt the Klingons could, too.”

“Yeah, the Klingons.” Sulu sighed. “It’s too bad they didn’t take down security detail. They’re kind of fucked.”

Uhura looked at him sharply. “They have Okmyx. He rescued them, after all.”

Sulu raised his brows. “Well, hopefully you won’t blame me for - you know - not trusting the gangster.”

She huffed. “Believe me, that’s the last person I’d want to rely on. But it’s all Spock and Kirk have right now.”

Sulu patted the back of her chair. “We’ll see. I mean, the Captain has a freaky ability to bend the universe to his will - like finding needles in unbelievably large haystacks.” He ticked a finger. “Okay, maybe it’s more like haystacks on fire. But he’ll figure it out. He always does.”

Uhura considered it, before shaking her head, and turning back to her console. Sulu gave her one last look before he turned away, and sauntered down a level towards the command chair.

Instead of sitting down however, he walked further to the helm.

Chekov’s fingers were flying a mile a minute. “I see no Klingons, Hikaru. Zey must be hiding vell.”

Sulu leaned over his shoulder. “I don’t get how we’re not picking them up.”

“Zhere is some slight interference from planet, but zey must have abilities beyond our sensors. ”

“Like what? They’re a huge ship. We’re seriously getting nothing?"

Chekov shook his head. “Nyet. But I vill keep searching.”

Sulu paced back to the command chair, and plopped down. “We’re not supposed to instigate anything, but I’d like to know where they are.”

“I vill find zem.”

“I know you will. I just wish I knew why they were even there, in the first place. ” Sulu looked down at the armrest, and pressed a few buttons. “Sulu to Giotto.”

”Giotto here.”

“How’s Mister Scott doing?”

There was a pause, and then, ”Sir – “

There was a scuffle, and a gruff voice answered instead. “He’s bein’ his damn self, that’s what he is.”

Sulu nodded solemnly. “So that’s a medical opinion on insanity, then?”

”Maybe - for now I know more about the air velocity of some tribbles than I ever cared to.”

Sulu bit back a smirk. “Sounds like fun. But,” he composed himself, “let me know when he gets out. There’s some stuff I should tell him. Sane or otherwise.”

”That mean you hear from Jim?”

Sulu sighed. “Yeah - but it was brief. They’re okay, just stuck on the surface.”
”Why the hell’s that?”

“They’re... ” Sulu waved a hand, before it fell to his lap. “Making friends with some Klingons?”

”Oh very funny.”

“I don’t think he finds it funny, but okay.”

A pause, then, ”You mean there’s a ship ‘round here?”

“Apparently. I’m getting everybody together in a bit, and I’ll explain it. Just let me know when Scott gets out, okay?”

There was some grumbling, but then, ”Fine. McCoy out.”

Sulu closed the connection, and stared ahead at the bridge window full of stars. His hand thumbed his chin in thought. “There has to be something on that planet.”

Chekov sighed, and then sent his fingers in another frenzy before answering, “Ze planet is rich in antimonium.”

Sulu narrowed his eyes. “Why does anyone care about antimonium? It doesn’t do anything.”

“Not so. It has high price on markets.”

Sulu leaned forward. “What for?”

“It is priceless mineral on Zera Gamma, vecently rich off dilithium deposits on home soil. Zey can inwest, and control market.”

Sulu considered that. “So... people are scrambling for antimonium, because one planet is in the money right now?” He shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

“Zey be rich for wery long time. Zey has enough for seweral hundred years of deposits.”

Sulu straightened up, still shaking his head. “Well, I guess that’s as likely a theory as any. We’re too far out for a Klingon defense post.”

“Perhaps zey are seize and conquer type?”

“I doubt it. If we haven’t heard about them down there until now, they’re not exactly marching the streets.” Sulu got up again, and walked behind Chekov; eyeing the helm screen. He frowned. “Wait a minute -” He pointed at the console. “This is saying the planet’s only five percent antimonium.”

Chekov tapped the screen, showing a close-up on a map. “But see concentration.”

Sulu’s eyes analyzed the screen, before his brows raised. “Wow. Well, okay -that explains why they’re hanging out downtown.”

“Antimonium is also waluable in small amounts. You don’t need much to get rich.”

“Huh. That’s lucky.” Sulu kept reading over Chekov’s shoulder. “I’m heading a meeting at ten-hundred. Round all this stuff up and report?”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

Sulu walked back to the command chair. He looked down, thinking twice about it, before he walked to a free console, and sat down there, instead.

***

Kirk and Spock had chosen the top of an office building across from the garage for surveillance. There had fortunately been a fire escape, so Kirk wouldn’t have to climb through more windows. However, the sun beat down steadily, and Kirk wiped his forehead.

“Damn, it’s in my eyes.”

“We could choose the adjacent building.”

“Yeah, but then we’d be moving again in fifteen minutes. It’ll pass.” Kirk put a hand up to his brow. “I’m not seeing anything, though.”

He squinted against the sun, and saw the streets had some traffic. A few couples – still holding firearms – strolled the sidewalks. Some sat on city benches, gabbing, while their children ran past them. Individuals went in and out of nearby buildings, then to their cars to drive away.

Sounds of laughter filtered up to Kirk, along with some faint music.

Spock tilted his head to listen. “An audio speaker system must be set up.”

Kirk looked around, shifting his hand over his eyes, then motioned towards the garage. “Maybe it’s them?”

“They did have radio equipment in their facilities.”

“Yeah, but that’d be weird, though. Okmyx uses his to signal people, not play Earth oldies.”

Spock nodded. “There are many buildings in this vicinity capable of the same.”

Kirk had noted the many businesses, which had patrons coming and going for the last hour. No one had paid any attention to them.

Kirk peered over a ledge. “It’s kind of busy here.”

“I noticed there were many Iotians as I approached the building yesterday.”

“Yet Krako keeps his hang-out, here. Wouldn’t any of these people have reported something strange, by now?”

“Not if they are in partnership with the Krako gang.”

Kirk dropped his hand, the sun having shifted just enough. “We should be extra careful. If everyone is on their side, they know about us.”

“The latter is dubious. Okmyx appeared surprised about Kor, and the Klingon presence. It might suggest that while the community is on their side, they are not knowledgeable of the details.”

“But they might not gossip about the Klingons, if they saw them. Especially if Krako is offering protection. They might not want to piss him off.”

Spock considered that a moment. “And yet, gossip spread about Bela Okmyx’s disappearance.”

Kirk hummed in agreement. “Whoever it was, they were quick, too. We were there that morning, he was beamed up that afternoon, and Kor knew by late evening. I wonder who knows about Krako missing, now?”

“It is reasonable to assume there are spies on both sides.”

“But it’s not these guys?” Kirk waved his hand at the streets below. “I don’t know. I think it’s still weird that there’s so many people about. He could have chosen a better hideout. Hell, he may have a better – “

Spock tapped Kirk’s shoulder, and pointed. Sure enough, a car had pulled up outside the garage, and several suits emerged from the backseat. Three men casually got out, then strolled up the building; only pausing to give a cursory nod to citizens they passed along the way – who all smiled and nodded in return.

Kirk shook his head. “I don’t get it. No bad reactions. You’d think if some gangsters were about, people would be nervous.”

“Perhaps that suggests they are here often.”

“Maybe.” Kirk sighed. “They’re not even sneaky about it. Everyone can see them.”

“Indeed.” Spock watched as the car revved the motor, then circled the small parking lot. “It appears there is only one motorcar.”

“Everyone is probably at that club. Especially if Kor is still there.”

“The nature of their alliance is a mystery, as well.”

Kirk huffed. “One I’d like to crack. For Kor to be interested, there must to be something of value down here. ”

Spock looked over the ledge; his eyes following a mother calling her children to head home. “The planet has trace amounts of ten minerals. As far as I am aware, none have immense value.”

“And this place is too far out for a defense post.” Kirk shook his head; his own eyes seeing a couple vacate a city bench, and walk away. “We’re missing something. Why do I have the feeling that Harner is tied into this, too?”

“I have suspected as much, but it is not substantiated. They may be separate, yet parallel events.”

“But Klingons just take what they want, not manipulate political powers. Kor wouldn’t be acting like a typical Klingon.” Kirk grimaced. “Well, in more ways than one.”

Spock narrowed his eyes, which Kirk ignored as he watched the black motorcar move in back and park. Two men in business suits climbed out of the front seats, joking and casually walking to the entrance. They stood on either side of the door, leaning against it and still talking to each other; their voices echoing across the strange expanse of empty street.

Kirk furrowed his brow. “They’re kind of slacking as guards, don’t you think? I mean, we’re up here, plain as day, and I can spot some of Okmyx’s men in the other buildings. Yet they don’t seem to notice.”

“We are at a different perspective. Perhaps the sun is reflecting off the office windows.”

Kirk looked around them. “But some of Okmyx’s men are in the buildings next to them. That’s a different angle.” Kirk shook his head. “They just can’t be that unobservant. I know our security would see them instantly.”

“It might not be the same with these individuals.”

“They’re guards for mob bosses, they can’t be that different. It’s just - I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right. I wish they would do something.”

Kirk rested an arm on a bent knee, as his body slouched against the meter-tall barrier. Spock sat next to him, doing the same; with a phaser at the ready in his left hand.

They were still like that fifteen minutes later when the music changed, and minutely got louder. Kirk tapped his fingers on the brick wall; as an easy smile formed in recognition.

”Jitterbug – “ snap, snap, “Jitterbug - ” snap, snap -

Kirk mouthed the words unconsciously. ”You put the boom-boom into my heart - you send my soul sky high when your lovin’ starts – Jitterbug into my brain, yeah yeah – Goes a bang bang bang ‘til my feet do the same – “

Spock raised an eyebrow, as Kirk started to bop his head.

”But something’s buggin’ you, something ain’t right – My best friend told me what you did, last night – “

When they caught eyes, Kirk stopped.

“What? I like this song.”

Spock only turned his head; watching as a business flipped a Closed sign in its window. “Obviously.”

“I even have it in my computer. I play it in the shower, sometimes.”

Spock sighed. “I know.”

”Wake me up, before you go go – Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo – Wake me up, before you go go – I don’t want to miss it when you hit that high – “

Kirk opened his mouth to protest, just as Spock tapped his arm again. He pointed to two cars pulling up, and Kirk nodded; watching them also circle the parking lot.

“Looks like another eight guards, at least,” Kirk said. “Maybe Kor returned to his ship?”

“If we remain here to avoid tracking – “

“Then Kor’s stuck here, as well. He probably heard our message earlier.” Kirk watched as the cars parked in back; where the slam of the doors reverberated in the parking lot.

”Take me dancing tonight – I want to hit that high – “

Kirk caught Spock’s eye as he winked, then dramatically mouthed the, ”Yeah, yeah.”.

Spock huffed. “Insufferable.”

“You know, you take the gray skies out of my way.”

“We are conducting surveillance - ”

“You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.”

“Physically impossible.” Spock looked pointedly. “I am conducting surveillance.”

Kirk smirked, then took the binoculars. “They are parking in back. Eight men have emerged. They have used their hands to close the doors. They are walking towards the building.” Kirk bumped Spock’s shoulder. “There. We are conducting surveillance.”

”’Cause you’re my lady, I’m your fool – It makes me crazy when you act so cruel – “

Spock muttered, “This song is insufferable.”

Kirk kept mouthing the words as they saw another car, and then another – and another – come and circle the warehouse parking lot.

Kirk counted five of them. “Big event?”

“It appears so.”

”Wake me up, before you go go – Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo – “

Kirk pointed. “What do you think they’re doing?”

“They are congregating.”

Kirk shot a look to Spock’s deadpanned expression.

”Take me dancing tonight – Oh, wake me up - “

“If Vulcans don’t joke, then - ”

“Perhaps they are transporting Mayor Harner.”

”Don’t you dare, leave me hanging on like a yo-yo-yo - “

Kirk considered it. “Maybe, or they’re – “

”Take me dancing – a boom boom boom boom – “

Sparks of gunfire roared in the empty streets, as a storm of suited men from the warehouse charged out; barreling an assault at the surrounding buildings.

Kirk and Spock ducked quickly to a sharp round of bullets biting concrete.

Shit.

They pulled out their phasers, and set them on stun.

Kirk chanced a glance over the ledge. “They’re all over the place – dammit, I can barely tell who’s who!” Kirk dove down again, hearing the rain shower of shattered office windows. “We’ve got to help them!”

Spock watched as Kirk aimed his phaser at the brutal barrage of suited men below; the heat and fire of the fight clouding beneath them.

Spock mirrored his aim. “This will give away our position.”

Kirk stunned several men, and many in suits looked up.

“... Yep.”

They both ducked again as gunfire spat at their brick barrier.

Spock looked around them. “Our escape may be perilous.”

A fine dust covered them in the aftermath, and Kirk grimaced. “As long as we do, I don’t care how it is.”

They both looked over at the fire escape, then towards a rooftop door. Spock nodded at Kirk, and they both – simultaneously - ran towards the door; where Kirk yanked it open.

They ran down a set of stairs, hearing after a flight of them a door creak open and close. Kirk grabbed the metal door handle of a random level, and they ran inside.

Kirk struggled for breath. “We’re can’t hide here.”

Spock pushed past him. “We may be able to reach the fire escape from this level.”

“You think? If they’re surrounding us – “

Spock ran ahead towards a partition, and rounded it for a set of windows. Skirting between rows of empty office desks, he moved swiftly to an open window; streaming sunlight. Before Spock reached it however, bullets shattered the glass.

Kirk dove for him. “Spock – “

But Kirk was grabbed by Vulcan hands, and pulled beneath a desk. Mere seconds later, they heard the door to their level open, followed by footsteps.

“Check everywhere, they gotta be here. We’re going below.”

More footsteps could be heard over gunfire, as the door slammed. Kirk tried to quiet his breathing; with his back arched, and forehead resting on his knees. Spock’s chest was pressed against his side; his hand still on Kirk’s arm as they listened intently.

Slowly, Spock squeezed the forearm, and pushed Kirk into a sitting position. He maneuvered around the human, and slid in front of Kirk. Green blood stained Spock’s bruised cheek, and Kirk’s eyes were drawn to it. But Spock minutely shook his head, before he crept out into the open, to shuffle and settle quietly under an adjoining desk. Kirk held his breath, as they exchanged looks and waited.

A gruff voice stated, “They gotta be here somewhere.”

A pair of feet shuffled towards them.

“I bet they’re – goddamn, this sun.“

Kirk quickly nodded, as Spock leaned out and aimed to stun their victim.

At the thump, Kirk crawled out and pulled the body between their desks. He nodded to Spock before he hid once again.

A different voice rounded the partition. “Don? Don? Where the hell – I can’t see - “

Another stun, and Spock joined Kirk as they hid the body.

They stood and leaned against the partition; Kirk shading his eyes with his hand. They listened for more footsteps; but after a few minutes, Kirk nodded towards the open window.

Spock moved towards it, and then:

“Stay right where you are. Drop your heaters. No funny business.”

Kirk raised his hands, and turned around slowly. A man in a slate gray suit stepped out of the sunbeam, with his pistol raised. Kirk gulped.

“You coming with me.” The man stepped forward, pushing the gun to Kirk’s chest. “You one of them Starfleet?”

Kirk shrugged. “Does it matter?”

“We been lookin’ for you.” The man stepped to the side, and motioned with his pistol, “Captains first.”

Kirk held his head high, along with his hands. But as he passed the man, he tripped over his feet.

“Ow - ow! God, my foot.“

The man snorted, and aimed a smarting kick. “Get a move on, I don’t care about your – “

Kirk heard the gun clatter to the ground; and he turned around to see Spock dropping the man abruptly.

Kirk grinned. “You should teach me that, sometime.”

Spock nodded. “Perhaps when we lack immediacies.”

They moved towards the window, with Spock peering out first. When he nodded, Kirk looked out to see the empty fire escape.

He looked side to side. “I don’t hear any gunfire.”

“We may have avoided the majority of the shoot out.”

Kirk analyzed, then carefully opened the frame of shattered glass; able to slide it to one side. With Spock’s help, he balanced his knees on the window ledge, and stretched his body to the closest bars. He gripped them, then squeezed himself at odd angles to fit in between. He pulled himself up to the floor of the metal stairs, then rolled over to the side; as he watched Spock try to do the same. However, Spock’s angles were all wrong, and his legs got caught between the bars. Kirk reached forward to help them free.

Kirk humphed. “We need to find a jungle gym.”

“... At this precise moment?”

Kirk pulled up the remainder of Spock’s leg. “On the Enterprise. I’m thinking you never got to play on one as a kid.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “I fail to see the relevancy at this juncture.”

“It’s how you caught yourself, there. Of course,” and Kirk grinned, “I could think of other ways for you to bend – “

“Jim, we are being pursued.”

Spock stood up abruptly, and started down the stairs. Kirk huffed behind him, and then followed.

***

 

Sulu sat up straight at the head of the table; fiddling with the PADD perfectly centered before him. “Um, okay. What have we got?”

Uhura cleared her throat. “After receiving a transmission from the Captain at eight-hundred, I haven’t detected anything unusual on the frequencies. It’s just been a lot of Earth music, and that’s about it. I’ve been combing through static to try to find anything unusual, or Klingon, and I haven’t detected anything. I suspect they’re on radio silence as well; which would make sense for hiding out.”

Sulu nodded. “They’re succeeding, that’s for sure.”

“Zey might have dropped Kor off, then left?”

Sulu turned to Chekov and shrugged. “Anything’s possible. I guess our last resort is to see if we can catch them around the planet; although we’re not supposed to start anything. I suspect once we sneak up on them, they’ll come out with guns blazing.”

“Fantastic, just what we need while Jim’s down there. So we can’t do anything?”

Uhura turned to McCoy. “But we need to do something to break up this silence. Spock and the Captain can’t hide out down there forever. What if they need our help?”

McCoy gave an exasperated sigh. “Well - the politics down there are intense. Harner’s captured, and Jim and Spock were leanin’ towards gettin’ him out. So trust me, they’ll definitely need our help. Jim can’t resist trouble even when their lives depend on it.”

Sulu sighed. “I agree. They have their communicators, but they’re hesitant to use them to reveal their whereabouts.”

“And the crime with that is?”

They want to find out about the Klingons, too. Without the Klingons knowing.” Sulu gave an exasperated huff. “But first, I want to figure out this planet. There’s some slight interference, which isn’t a huge issue with strong signals for communicators and radio transmissions; but generally clouds everything else.” Sulu turned to Chekov. “Pasha, you found something earlier; tell us what you’ve got.”

Chekov nodded, and leaned forward to tap a button on the center console.

“Lights, ‘venty percent.”

The computer complied, and a holo of Sigma Iotia II shone brightly in the darkness. The blue was even more vibrant than the planet they’d seen through the bridge window; this time an electric indigo. Most took a collective breath, riveted to the sight. Chekov tapped his PADD, and his notes in neon green appeared on the holo.

“Sigma Iotia II is one of ze largest planets in our system for antimonium deposits. It cowers one percent of surface, and is concentrated in – “ and Chekov tapped his PADD to display a close-up, “zis sector.”

McCoy humphed. “Well, hell. That’s where we beamed down.”

“It is on upper mantle of planet, in two square kilometer area.”

“Huh.”

“Antimonium is rising mineral ore on markets.”

McCoy snorted. “That’s not all it does – “

Uhura shook her head. “Okay, antimonium’s on the planet. It’s valuable -”

Chekov nodded. “Yes.”

“But it’s a small percentage.”

“Yes. But small amount draw big walue.”

“Okay,” Uhura tapped her PADD. “I’m noting that for any transmissions. What planet buys antimonium?”

“Zera Gamma.”

Sulu waved a hand. “Okay, are we just talking about antimonium because it’s valuable, or because you think it’s messing with the sensors too?”

Chekov nodded again. “Both. But I zhink Doctor McCoy can explain Zerans, yes?”
McCoy gave a look to the wunderkind. “If you mean what antimonium does to Zerans? Then yeah, I can.”

Sulu leaned back. “Then go for it.”

McCoy’s face tightened. “Well first off, you gotta understand that Zeran physiology is very different from humans, and I suspect the Iotians. Zerans live entirely under water – heck, ninety-percent of their planet is underwater.”

“Zeir bodies be composed mostly of vater.”

“Humans are too, but Zerans are like – oh, I would say, something like a jellyfish. Their skin is translucent, and it’s thin. You can see everything in ‘em, as all their organs are floating in a clear fluid.”

“Vhat about zeir brains, Doctor?”

“Inside the body. Their brains are actually their heaviest organ, which is about one kilogram - almost half the weight of the human brain, by the way.” McCoy narrowed his eyes. “You gonna tell ‘em, or what?”

Chekov touched his PADD again, and on the holo showed a small, green rock. “Zis is one kilogram of antimonium. Wery rare. But,” and Chekov touched the PADD again, showing the mineral ground into a fine, emerald colored powder, “zis is it’s most waluable form.”

Sulu folded his arms, his brows raised in surprise. “It’s a drug, isn’t it?”

“When you put that stuff in the water, it’s absorbed into the Zeran skin, and turns the fluid inside a light green.” McCoy shook his head. “Gets too green, it kills ‘em.”

“But it gets them high, doesn’t it?”

“It floods their brain with endorphins, and spreads throughout their nervous system. Users report a tingly feeling of the epidermis for hours afterwards. Makes them sensitive to everythin’, even the water they’re floatin’ in.” McCoy grinned. “It’s much better than gettin’ high. Imagine Sulu, the last time you felt tingly all over.”

Sulu bit his lip, but a chuckle escaped anyway. “No wonder they want it so bad.”

“Zey are recently rich off dilithium deposits. Zey can buy as much as zey vant.”

Uhura shook her head at the PADD screen. “I’m looking at the markets, and I can’t believe these prices. They’re not listing any weights or amounts, but there’s still a bidding war.” She looked at Chekov. “Are they really that rich? Somebody must be robbing them.”

“Perheps. But zey also are makink prices. One other planet, Sima Noma, also uses antimonium, and zey just as rich. But zey use it to make statues.”

McCoy nodded. “Ritual totems. They had the mineral on their planet for thousands of years, and then their resources ran out. Now they’re competin’ with drug addicts.”

Uhura pointed at the holo, which had turned back to the sapphire sphere. “Okay, so the Klingons are probably down there for this mineral. And it’s just under the town, so they just can’t take it. They’re going to have to move everyone out, hire workers – “

“Zhese are Klingons, zey don’t hire.”

“Yeah, but it still seems like a lot of work for, what – a couple thousand kilos of mineral? The high price can’t compensate for that much, can it?”

“You are close, but are missink grand point.” Chekov tapped his PADD once again to show the powder. “Zis one kilogram of powder? It is wery potent.”

McCoy pointed at it with his stylus. “One kilogram, right there. Nyota, how much do you think it takes to drug a Zeran?”

Uhura shook her head. “No idea.”

“Well, consider this: The Zeran planet? It has over one million life forms who share the same ocean. And that 1,000 grams – that tiny bit right there – could overdose half of them.”

She gawked. “No. No way. That small amount?”

McCoy nodded. “It doesn’t take a lot to overwhelm their nervous system.”

Chekov magnified it. “It is wery potent, despite amount.”

Sulu shook his head. “Okay, but something still isn’t making sense to me. So the mineral is valuable, yeah. It’s just under the town, and hard to get at. But why are the Klingons playing nice? Why don’t they just go in, seize control, and make the Iotians give it up?”

Chekov tapped the PADD, and a different screen showed up. Sulu analyzed the chemical components, still perplexed.

McCoy cleared his throat. “Antimonium gives off a slight gas. To a human, it smells faintly like gasoline. It doesn’t really affect us, but the Klingons have a different brain chemistry. It doesn’t get them high, but it starts to severely impede their judgment.”

Sulu looked closer at the holo. “It makes them tipsy?”

“More like a mood destabilizer. They can think and maintain motor skills, but they’re not themselves.”

“And they notice it?”

“Oh yeah. They hate it. They think it makes them weak.”

Sulu nodded slowly. “So they can’t physically handle the stuff, I guess. Which means... hey, they can’t remain on the planet for too long, either.” Sulu looked over at Chekov. “They’re going to have to beam up at some point, aren’t they?”

“’Velve hours, vith zat amount in area, is vhat I predict. Zis antimonium is also vhy ve can’t locate zem; it affect our sensors, as vell. It vould hide any anomaly.”

Sulu thought on that a moment. “That explains a lot. Especially the alliance. Why constantly rotate your troops, when you can just get the local gang to work and do it for you?”

McCoy sighed. “But see, that’s the kicker. What is motivatin’ this alliance? What’re the Iotians gettin’ out of it?”

Sulu waved a hand. “... The Klingons not blowing them up?”

McCoy did The Eyebrow, which had more effect this time. “You think the Klingons would blow up that gold mine? I don’t think the Iotians are stupid enough to buy that.”

Uhura huffed. “I swear, every time I look at the price, it just goes up. So I suppose it’s not only worth it for the initial value, but if they ration it, it’s bound to increase in value.”

“They’re not gonna blow that up.”

Sulu gave an exasperated sigh. “Then what the hell? The Iotians must know it’s valuable, if the Klingons are bothering to form an alliance. Maybe Kor promised a cut?”

“That Klingon promised Krako somethin’, make no mistake about that. Weapons, profits – who the hell knows? The real point is, the Klingons are gonna to let loose soon, and they might be hopped up on that stuff.”

Sulu looked back at the holo; the indigo planet rotating slowly, still shimmering in the darkness of the conference room. He nodded.

“We need Scotty to break Krako. I can man the bridge for whatever happens, but Scotty needs to know that’s the new objective.” Sulu turned his head. “Leonard, is he all right down there?”

“Oh yeah. Been talkin’ up a storm, like I told you before. I don’t know what his strategy is, but Krako looks about to burst.”

“Then send in a note or something, I don’t care. But the sooner we know what’s going on, the better. I have a feeling whatever the Klingons are exchanging, it’s the key to everything.”

McCoy nodded. When Sulu stood up, those around the table joined him. Chekov pressed another button on the center console, and the holo disappeared as the lights came back on.

Sulu nodded at Uhura and Chekov. “There has to be a way around the antimonium. If we can beam in and out and receive signals, we can get past it for the sensors, somehow. We have to find these guys.”

As McCoy followed the trio out of the conference room, he grumbled. “There’s somethin’ about this. I don’t like it; I don’t like it one bit.”

***

 

Kirk winced as he pulled small pieces of glass out of Spock’s cheek with a tweezers; carefully laying the green-stained bits on a towel in their room. They had retreated to Okmyx’s place, much like the rest of his gang, following the shoot-out. Spock sat completely still; the only one seemingly unbothered by the condition of his usually pale Vulcan face, now turning too many colors. Kirk shook his head, tilting the Vulcan chin gently with his thumb.

“Well, now they definitely know that we’re hanging with Okmyx. We gave them some enough proof.”

“Indeed. There may be retaliation.”

“But they don’t have Krako. I wonder who runs everything, when the ‘boss’ is away?”

“Do you recall anyone in particular when you were in their presence?”

Kirk shook his head. “Not really, but they must have somebody.”

“On the contrary, the Okmyx gang appeared in disarray after his disappearance.”

Kirk hummed in agreement. “That’s exactly it. The Krako gang were able to organize that gun show earlier.”

“Which suggests they are heavily on the defensive.”

Kirk looked at Spock sharply, appearing to mull that over. After a moment, he nodded. “You’ve got a point. They’ll definitely come after us. But at the same time, I don’t think they’re gonna charge the castle.”

Spock watched the tweezers drop another sliver of glass. “We are in agreement.”

“Do you think they know we have Krako?”

“That is probable.”

Kirk dabbed Spock’s cheek with a wet towel; taking a deep breath at the cuts he saw there. “We shouldn’t stay here, then. If they’re going to come after us, we should give Okmyx time to recoup. Maybe it’ll be easier to spy on them if we aren’t surrounded with guys in suits.”

Kirk went to dab the cheek again, but Spock grasped his wrist lightly. “We could conduct surveillance at the dance club.”

Kirk lowered his hand, and nodded. “I was thinking we could walk from here to there, with our eyes open. When I was walking the streets before, I didn’t see a car pull up. They must have patrols around – maybe we could figure out if the Krako gang meets somewhere else.”

“It is reasonable to assume that they congregate elsewhere.”

“Especially since Okmyx knew about the dance club and the warehouse garage.” Kirk looked down at the towel on the bed, and carefully wrapped it up. “We should get going soon. We’ll let Okmyx know, first; see if they’ve figured out whether we’re gonna get Krako later.”

“It may be unwise for Okmyx to do so.”

“Yeah, but it’s – what, 1500? If they hit at midnight, we all have plenty of time.”

“Including the Krako gang.”

Kirk nodded. “That’s the chance we take. They might figure we’ll retaliate, or maybe they have wounds of their own keepin’ them busy.”

Spock tilted his head, watching as Kirk made his way into an adjoining bathroom. He heard water running, and he got up slowly to go investigate. When Spock turned the corner, he saw Kirk slicking his hair back.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Your pronouns are peculiar.”

Kirk sighed at his reflection; his fingers doing one last comb-through to keep a strand out of his eyes. “We’re on their side, Spock. In the end, we’re on nobody’s; but right now, we’re with Okmyx.” He turned his head, smiling despite the blonde strand stubbornly falling back to his forehead. “Don’t worry. It’s you and me, and the ship. I’m not hip on this gangster stuff.” His hand reached inside his unbuttoned shirt, pinching the wife beater. “Especially since I’d prefer my uniform, right about now.”

Spock nodded; and his mouth opened to speak when a knock landed on their door.

Kirk and Spock exchanged a wary glance before the door itself swung heavily open; cracking against the wall.

Okmyx was in the doorway, his suit disheveled. “Kirk, I got a problem.”

Spock joined Kirk’s side with a raised eyebrow.

“My daughter, my Alex - I can’t find her. She ran off with that schmuck, and she ain’t here. She ain’t here when I told ‘er to be here, and to stay put.”

Kirk opened his mouth, but was cut off with an aggravated wave of the hand.

“I’m sendin’ my boys out - they won’t be here for ya.”

Kirk nodded. “We were just leaving. We’re going to see if we can find out more information – we’ll keep an eye out for your daughter, too.”

Okmyx was turning back towards the door, when he paused. He gave a wary glance as he looked Kirk over. “Ya know her?”

Spock shifted towards Kirk. “We presume she was with you in your office during our first meeting. However, if we are incorrect, we would need a thorough description.”

Okmyx appeared to consider that a moment, before he nodded. “You’re right. She’s my girl; only eighteen. Does my paperwork sometimes.” Okmyx took a deep breath as he leaned against the doorframe. “Gets herself in trouble. She met this fella, and now I never know where she is.”

Kirk took a breath, catching Spock’s eye before he walked forward. He patted Okmyx’s arm.
“You’ll find her. We’ll find her. If we see anything, I’ll try to catch one of your guys and let him know.”

Okmyx shook his head, grumbling. “Damn Alex. Damn that girl. Just like her mother.”

Kirk followed Okmyx out of the hallway, who was already stomping towards a group of suits. He yelled, and they dispersed. Okmyx turned around to give Kirk one last, hard look.

“If Krako’s gang got her, we ain’t waitin’ ‘til tonight.”

Kirk nodded, and watched as Okmyx stormed down a flight of stairs.

Spock leaned in with a hushed tone. “Time may be of the essence.”

Kirk nodded, and led Spock down the empty hall to a room full of ammo. “Bela may be right. They’ve got to know who Alex is. And the last time we saw her, she was with Bodie, who I didn’t see this afternoon at the shoot out. They may have no idea what’s going on.”

They stocked their weapons, and headed towards the staircase themselves. When they descended a few flights, Spock put out a hand.

“Captain, I suggest we take an alternate route from Okmyx.”

“But I bet the Krako gang knows every exit.”

Suits rushed past them on the stairs, and Kirk watched them; an idea dawning on his face. He grabbed Spock’s arm to pull him forward.

“Come on Spock, we’re gonna hitch a ride.”

“Captain?”

“We’re going to be spotted coming from here, anyway. So let’s see if they can sneak us out somehow.”

This was done through the kitchens. Kirk and Spock kept their heads down, and joined a group in a black motorcar. A few blocks down the road, they were unceremoniously dropped off in a back alley, and left to themselves.

***

Scotty took a look at the sandwich, which had come wrapped through a slot next to the entrance. Uhura had slipped it through, signaling to Keenser to take it. Keenser had sniffed at it quickly, before marching it dutifully to the engineer; whose mouth didn’t stop as he unwrapped it, although his eyes narrowed.

“So them tribbles, they’re well fuzzy, right? So after – after testin’ the speed of ‘em down’ill, we decided ta see if they improve with a wee bit o’ shavin’.” Scotty looked down at the corned beef; lifting it with one hand while slowly crumbling the wrapper with the other.

Krako scoffed. “Hair don’t make no damn bit of difference – “

Scotty threw the wrapper against a wall, which caught Krako’s eye. “Ye know what bit’s funny aboot they tribbles? All shaved an’ that?” He leaned forward on the chair. “Their skin’s all dark unnerneath; kinda wrinkly, too.” He tilted his sandwich. “It reminded me o’ them Klingons, that what it does.”

Keenser gave a low growl as Krako sat up straighter; with Scotty paying no heed in his sandwich nirvana.

***

After Kirk and Spock gained their directional bearings, they decided to cover the distance between the dance club and the warehouse garage. There was a sort of logic that a meeting place would be in the middle; although how far or near to the city could not be determined. They kept to the shadows and back alleys; and sometimes walked crowded sidewalks with their heads low. Remaining inconspicuous was a bit easier, once they traded hats with the Okmyx gang. Their black and brown fedoras blended with the crowd, and they tossed the colored ties. Kirk kept his sleeves rolled up, while Spock kept his shirt neatly tucked in.

But they were still a disheveled pair, walking together. Their firearms were clearly on display at the hip, like many individuals they passed. Kirk couldn’t help but stare at a few of them; most notably women and the creative hiding places they had. Before then, he had only seen paper currency - and perhaps his hands - in ample cleavage.

Spock cleared his throat. “Perhaps Bela Okmyx’s daughter is at the radio station.”

Kirk snapped his head back, looking sheepish. “Um – no. I don’t think so. After getting caught there earlier, I doubt they’d go back.”

“Then perhaps another hidden location.”

Kirk nodded. “Back when I was a kid, I’d go make out at the – “ he caught Spock’s eye. “What? It’s called using my experience in problem-solving.”

“I do not fault your reasoning. However, Miss Okmyx and her friend may not be concerned with those matters”

Ha.” Kirk shook his head. “You didn’t see his hand down her dress.”

They walked in silence for a block; with Kirk looking to the side at Spock’s expression. Spock himself kept his head lowered, raising it once in awhile to register bits of passing conversation.

“Remember when Okmyx first took power? Harner put him back – “

“Damn that Krako, ain’t seen this since Moran kidnapped Mayor Fitz, and – “

”Oh, it was horrible! Do you think Krako will do the same to – “

”Harner kept the peace all these years, especially after Okmyx wiped out – "

They turned a corner, where Spock finally met Kirk’s eyes.

“It appears we may be correct in our assumptions of Mayor Harner.”

Kirk nodded. “Perhaps he does keep them in line, and all this activity we’ve seen is unusual?”

“That is possible.”

The side street lead to a park, and Kirk grinned when he saw it. Dense foliage seemed to cover a few walking paths, and benches and picnic tables were scattered in patches of grass.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “You are amused.”

“Just a part of my reasoning before, Spock.”

Spock tilted his head in thought. “Indeed. I can see why you would take particular individuals in your youth to, as you’ve stated, ‘make out’ in such an area.”

Kirk’s grin grew wider. “It’s better at night, but yeah.”

“Then perhaps Alexandra Okmyx is not in the vicinity.”

“Well, if you’ve got a nice, shaded spot – “

The conversation died, as they both heard the faint trail of broadcasted music; appearing to originate from ahead of them.

They shared a glance, before Kirk tilted his head towards the sound. His footsteps quickened, and Spock followed as Kirk broke into a run.


”When we played tag in grade school, you wanted to be it - But chasing boys was just a fad, you crossed your heart you'd quit – “

They ran past a group of trees, and saw ahead a clearing.

”When we grew up you traded, your promise for my ring - Now just like back to grade school, you're doing the same old thing – “

At the clearing a figure whizzed by them; a momentary blur before Kirk registered the back of the teenaged boy’s head.

”Darling take it slow, or some day you'll be all alone - You'd better stop, the love you save may be your own! - Darling, look both ways before you cross me! You're headed for the danger zone – “

The boy shouted, “Alex! Dammit Alex, you idiot!”

Kirk and Spock turned and followed. Bodie was a panicked, and yelling blur until they started up a small hill.

Spock’s long legs were able to catch up, and they grabbed Bodie on either side.

“Let me go, let me go – !”

Bodie struggled to walk forward, before Kirk stood in front of him, and placed a hand on his chest. “We will, we just want to know what’s going on.”

“They got Alex – the Krako gang! We were spending some, uh - time out here, when an armed group approached us.”

Spock stepped back, as Bodie jerked again. “They took her by force?”

“No!” Bodie gave a mirthless laugh. “She stupidly went with them, after they threatened to blow my brains out!”

”He said he rang your chimes – Christopher discovered, you’re way ahead of your time –“

Kirk motioned his head at the music. “What’s this, then?”

“That’s Alex! They must have told her something, because she’s an idiot if she doesn’t think – “

Spock raised an eyebrow. “She is in use of their facilities?”

”You better stop, the love you save may be your own! – Darling look both ways before you cross me! You’re headed for a danger zone – “

Bodie blinked at Spock. “Well... they probably made her send it?”

Kirk shared a look with Spock, before Kirk let his hand drop. “You need to tell Okmyx about this.”

“No way! Her dad is gonna – “

Spock tightened his grip. “I highly doubt that in such the panicked state that he is in now, that Bela Okmyx will have time for any - ”

Kirk shook his head quickly, and then stood in Bodie’s line of vision. “Look, you think you can charge in there all by yourself? With a garage full of guys, loaded up with heaters and ready to take you on?”

Bodie stuttered. “I- I can’t just leave her there!”

”You-u-u better stop! The love you save may be your own! – Please, please! Or some day, some day baby you’ll be all alone.”

“But this song is a trap Bodie. They want you to go there, I’m pretty sure of it.”

Bodie yanked his arms again, and looked dejected at the both of them. “What am I supposed to do? What are we gonna do about Alex?”

Spock watched Bodie carefully, as he let go of an arm. “Bela Okmyx is currently searching the city ‘top to bottom’, if I recall correctly. He may wish to know where his daughter is, in order to better utilize his forces.”

Bodie groaned, but Kirk grabbed the young man’s shoulder.

“We’ll stick by you, all right? We’ll all go in, and tell him together.”

“Like that will help!”

Spock glanced at the sky. “It is approaching evening, and I suspect Bela Okmyx will find the timing more fortuitous to conduct hostilities with Krako, than with you.”

Bodie looked skeptically at Kirk. “Is that supposed to be reassurin’?”

Kirk gave a small smile. “In Spock-speak, yeah.”

”Don’t you know, don’t you know – someday baby, you’ll be all alone –“

“We must make haste in this instance, as it is now approaching 1700.”

As if on cue, the world dimmed perceptibly; as if a cloud demanded to protect them all from an imposing sun.

Bodie looked behind him as he was escorted from the park, and sighed.

***

“You punk! I told you – “

Bela,” Kirk said, standing in front of a panicking Bodie. “We’ll get her. Let’s just – “

“I told her to stay the hell here, and to wait – “

“Mister Okmyx.” Spock’s voice cut through the yelling, as he emerged from behind Bodie to stand next to Kirk. “Once you have ceased your shouting, we can calculate a plan to rescue your daughter.”

“Who the hell knows what they’ve done to her – if only she would listen - “

“Boss, I tried to run after her, but – “

Okmyx whirled on Kirk, as Bodie gulped behind the blonde man. “I ain’t got time fer yer excuses.”

Okmyx paced between the two brick walls of the alleyway, not far from the park. The setting sun made the harsh features of Okmyx’s face harder to decipher, as he stared at the ground.

Kirk hazarded a look at Spock, and whispered. “What now?”

There was a pause, before Spock murmured, “He is a lot like you in this manner.”

Kirk watched the figure anxiously pacing, and let out a long exhalation of breath. There was a muffled shuffling behind them, as Bodie stepped in-between them.

“He’s got somethin’ – that’s the look when he’s got somethin’.”

A moment passed before Okmyx turned sharply, and pointed a finger at the three of them. “They know we’re comin’. So we ain’t got surprise – except fer who might show up.”

Spock looked sharply at Kirk, who was already nodding.

“You two fellas go and - ”

“You have any idea where they might be?”

Okmyx leveled a gaze at Kirk, who stared back unflinchingly. After a minute, Okmyx nodded. “Back at the warehouse. Cut through the park, and you’ll get there sharp.” Okmyx stabbed a finger into Kirk’s chest. “You lead them away from us, and we’ll get ‘em.”

Kirk grabbed Spock’s arm to turn him, but Spock shook his head.

“Mister Okmyx, if I may make a suggestion.”

Okmyx grunted. “Make it quick.”

After a moment, Okmyx sent his boys in one direction, while Kirk, Spock, and Bodie went another.

***

Kirk led the way as they took the park path from before. The sun was swallowed in red and orange, before cooling to blue; and cast darkness over the trees and bushes, which whipped with a harsh breeze.

Their pace was slow, as they inched up the path towards the warehouse; looking at everything around them. Kirk kept Bodie in the middle, as the young man watched behind them.

“Ambush. They’re gonna ambush us.” Bodie gave a nervous laugh. “I bet they jump out of them trees – “

“Please cease your speaking.”

Bodie swallowed his words, then nodded. Kirk glanced quickly at both of them, before leading them into a tunnel of green.

Bodie gulped. “How long do you think – “

Kirk hissed, before he stopped and put an arm out; catching Bodie at the elbow.

Spock tilted his head.


”Downtown, we'll drown - We're in our never splendor – Flowers, showers - Who's got the new boy gender? – “

Kirk made a face. “Seriously - this? Okmyx picked this out of everything?”

”I'll run the gun for you, and so much more – “

“Indeed,” Spock muttered, before striding ahead of them.

“I'll tumble for ya - I'll tumble for you – “

Kirk jogged a bit to get in front, but Spock put an arm out. There was a tussle of limbs, as Kirk grimaced in an effort to show he wasn’t being shielded by his first officer; while said first officer held out a phaser, and seemed oblivious to a struggle of any sort.

“Spock, I know you didn’t really approve of this, but I order you – “

”Uptown, their sound - Is like the native you send her – Junction, function - The boy with pop is slender – “

“Guys!”

“Captain, it is not a matter of – “

“Spock, this really isn’t – “

“Guys - Starfleet!”

”He'll be a boy for you, but you need more - “

Kirk smacked into Spock, as the Vulcan turned around to see Bodie far behind.

Bodie jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “You know guys, I think I hear somebody from over – “

Then Bodie actually turned around to look; his eyes going wide.

Kirk took a step forward. “Bodie?”

But they only saw the figure in red jump, as the young kid darted into the bushes.

“I get a crazy feeling, that chases in my head - It's nothing that you do to me,
it's nothing that you said – “

Kirk ran towards the foliage. “Bodie, we came from over there; Krako should be in front of us – “

The park sign next to Kirk’s head shot off with a clang.

“Jim!”

Spock made a mad dash for Kirk’s arm, as another bullet bit a nearby tree.

Kirk looked behind them. “What the – why are they there - “

”I'll run the gun for you, and so much more – “

Spock dragged Kirk into the thicket at a dead run.

Branches whipped at Kirk’s face, as he panted to keep up with the glimpses of white shirt in front of him. “Spock, we were supposed to - stay close, I can’t see – “

”I'll tumble for ya, I'll tumble for ya – “

“Spock?” Kirk spread his arms out; the sharp edges of leaves scratching his skin. “Spock?”

“I’ll tumble for ya, I’ll tumble for you - “

But when Kirk reached a clearing from the thick brush, he was utterly alone.

***

“Now they hairless tribbles started freezin’ outside, aye? An’ we didnae wanna be cruel, so we took ‘em indoors an’ thought we’d thaw ‘em out with a wee bit of spinnin’. Me ‘n Keenser gets the idea that since they don’t have eyeballs, there’s nothin’ to spinnin’ in place ta air dry – fast an’ kind of us, really. So we put one o’ them in the calibrator, and – wouldn’t ye know it, five bloody minutes later, it went spinnin’ out an’ flat against a wall! Hard as a rock when we put ‘em in there, but horrible sound when it thawed. And the drivel that come out – I didnae even know where the bloody mouth was! So we put two o’ them in there – na the one from afore, that’d just be mean, mind you – but two new ones. I thought it’d make it more balanced, but – it only took three minutes ‘fore they went sploogin’ out, an’ smacked against the wall! And they be all huddlin’ thegether – but dry! So ta make it faster, three went in, and - oh, that time they went flyin’ out in all different directions; even hit poor Keenser on his head– “

***

Uhura’s fingers tapped to the remaining notes of music, as she patiently waited for the song to end. There was a certain air of curiosity, as she concentrated on a dial at her console; one hand pressing lightly on her earpiece out of habit.

She bit her lip, and waited.

Nothing.

Well, not technically “nothing”, as there was still static that the computers could weed through, and dissect. But on the shallow surface of the frequency, Uhura would have to confess - nothing. Nothing pertaining to their mission, or her Captain and Mister Spock.

Which is perhaps why she frowned, whilst stabbing her PADD with a bit more force than necessary. And also why, maybe, it took her a moment before she looked up, and realized that a pair of green eyes were glancing down at her; trying to read over her shoulder.

The petite blonde gave a sympathetic quirk of the lip. “No luck, huh?”

Uhura huffed. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me, Janice. There doesn’t seem to be any real pattern – just the type of music.” She ticked a finger at the console. “There are only three radio stations. Three. With a population of ten-thousand; perhaps contaminated with the music tastes of 50 crewmen of the U.S.S. Horizon.” Uhura shook her head. “One with random news reports repeating the same thing, and another with late-20th century pop music – and not even on rotation. Just... seemingly playing at arbitrary points of the day, without much rhyme or reason.”

Rand pursed her lips. “But they’re all pop songs?”

“Yeah. Stuff that’s popular on Earth.” She turned in her chair. “And that’s another thing. Not all of the Horizon crew were human.”

“But the Iotians are taking after Human society.” Rand moved to lean against a console, while cradling a PADD in the crook of her arm. “I doubt the lyre classics of T’Sal of Vulcan would’ve made Al Capone’s playlist.”

“But that’s just it – neither would’ve the Jackson 5, or the British pop I just finished listening to. Chicago gangsters would’ve preceded them by at least three decades.” Uhura tapped her PADD, and then held up the screen for Rand to see. “These are all about someone’s preferences; not what’s listed in that Gangster history book.”

Rand’s eyes scanned the PADD. “You know, on Earth, radio stations were owned by corporate entities. Someone had to keep them running; and so they controlled what was, or wasn’t played.” Rand pushed the PADD aside. “It’s probably the same on Sigma Iotia. On Earth, corporations used them for their own purposes. So – “

Uhura waved a hand. “But there isn’t any advertising.”

“So? The news station is sending out news. The music stations – at random intervals – are sending out something else.”

Uhura looked at the list. “I considered a secret code. I even asked the computer – but as far as it can tell, there aren’t any correlating key words, or musical phrases.”

“So maybe it’s not really the words, but just the type of music itself.” Rand folded her arms. “There was another radio station, wasn’t there?”

Uhura nodded. “It played more mid-20th century music, though.”

Rand ticked a finger. “That’s just it. What contrasts more, than –“ Rand took the PADD from Uhura’s hands, and scanned the list. “The Chordettes, being played alongside Boy George?”

Uhura considered it. “I suppose if a piece of music is playing in the city, a gangster wouldn’t have time to analyze the words or music itself.” But Uhura frowned. “What are they signaling, then?”

Rand shrugged. “What do gangsters do? They shoot up people, they smuggle things, they meet in secret places.” Rand straightened her legs, and stood. “I guess the question is, what would they be doing lately, with the Captain and Mister Spock down there?”

Uhura tapped her PADD, with her eyes intent on the screen. “Maybe it is just the type of music, but there has to be a reason for these specific pieces.”

“But what if it’s like Earth baseball?” Rand waved a hand. “The body signals don’t really look like anything, but all the players know it means a certain strategy?”

Uhura shook her head. “There are too many gangsters to be all on the same page like that, for all the different things they do.” Uhura pressed a few buttons on her console, and a sound graph appeared on a panel. “The computer may not have caught anything relevant, but I can’t help but think that there is.”

Rand hummed in thought. “Well - if you need help, I can come back after I’ve delivered this PADD to Engineering?” She waited a moment for Uhura to acknowledge her, before she started to turn. “I’ll bring back coffee?”

“Yeah,” Uhura said absently. But she was already perusing the lines of Old Earth Standard; while music played through her earpiece, and she once again tapped her console in musical rhythm.

***

Kirk searched around him, trying to gauge his position in the darkness. He had backtracked from the clearing to the path; and had used it to circle the park, and jog the perimeter.

It certainly wasn’t that large of structure, and yet Bodie and Spock were still missing.

The song had ended at least a half-hour ago, and the gunfire had gone with it. There had been no word from Okmyx’s gang, and no sign of Krako; which left Kirk to stumble around in the barely-lit streets by himself.

“Fuck me – where are they.” Kirk turned his head. “Spock! Goddammit.”

It was entirely too quiet, and the city felt eerily empty.

Kirk glared at the asphalt. “I suppose the song is a signal for everyone else to leave, as well.” He rubbed his forearms. “God, it’s cold.”

He took a few more steps, before he sagged against a brick wall across from the wooded area. He angled his body sideways; his eyes still roving the darkness for any sign of life.

There was none.

“I don’t want to leave you,” Kirk whispered. He rolled his other shoulder back against the wall, and stood still a moment; tilting his head to listen carefully.

The wind had not stopped howling, but unlike before, it carried nothing. No music, no voices, no gunshots – only a biting chill. Kirk shivered, and his fingers shook as they hooked under a cuff, and rolled his sleeves back down; the oxford dress shirt wrinkled and soiled with sweat.

When both sleeves were finished his fingers went further, until they were at a pocket; where they traced the edges of his communicator.

He tapped the back of it impulsively, as his eyes still searched around him. His heels bounced against the brick in nervous energy, as a minute ticked by in indecisiveness. Kirk clenched his jaw.

“Screw this!” He sprang from the wall, and started anxiously pacing back and forth. “I could go back – “ he ran a hand through his hair “I could go to the warehouse, I could hail the ship, I could walk around – “

However, with a huff, he stopped abruptly and pulled out his communicator. Gritting his teeth, he flipped it open and murmured, “Signal for beam up, leave Spock behind, tell the Klingons where I am.” He snapped it shut. “If I can’t find Spock, the Enterprise probably can’t, either.”

His mouth set itself in a hard line, before an arm waved in exasperation. “I can’t waste time like this!”

So, with one last look at the park, he turned sharply and started to march off – slowly at first, and then with speed as he nodded, and gained assurance of his destination.

But despite walking quickly, he still looked at the quiet world around him; mentally noting the dark and empty businesses he passed.

“It’s twenty-one hundred, maybe,” he muttered; as he looked up at the night sky. He turned into an alleyway, and looked at the fire escapes presumably leading to apartments, and to their dark and vacant windows. Eventually he saw the nightclub from a distance, which also appeared strangely silent. He shook his head.

“It doesn’t make any – “

He tersely halted; his body staggering with momentum despite the sharp grip on a ledge.
Kirk tilted his head - the pounding melody on the breeze was becoming unmistakable.

It grew louder as he ran to the end of the alley. He rested his head on stucco, as he strained to listen.


” You can do what you want, just seize the day - What you're doing tomorrow's gonna come your way – “

Kirk’s chest heaved and harshly exhaled.

”Don't you ever consider giving up - you will find, oh – “

He fell onto the sidewalk, only pausing to determine a direction. He looked both ways, before he faced back towards the park.

Kirk nodded to himself. “Spock.

His body was already taking him from the alley, and bolting down the main street.

Legs stretched and gained momentum, as they pounded the direct path of least resistance; like an arrowed thoroughfare back from where he came.

”It's a beautiful life, wah-oh-oh-oh - I just wanna be here beside you –“

Kirk sucked in breath, as his arms swung and beckoned the world to pass faster. He only panted when the park came into view, and he barreled up the main path - only to stop short with a tilt of his head, and jerk quickly to a smaller path on the left.

”Take a walk in the park when you feel down -There're so many things there that's gonna lift you up –“

The smaller path was treaded dirt that cut through the brush. The branches scratched and tore at Kirk’s arms as he cut through the thicket; not bothering to go slow in the narrow opening.

”It's a beautiful life, wah-oh-oh-oh - I just wanna be here beside you –“

He struggled for breath. “This, this is – “

As he stared ahead at the familiar foliage, he tripped over an uncovered root; landing him flat on his face, and ripping the knee of his trousers. Kirk wiped his cheek with the back of his hand; barely registering the smear of blood.

”You're looking for somewhere to belong - You're standing all alone - For someone to guide you on your way - Now and forever – “

“Spock, Spock - I’m coming, I’m coming – “

He crawled with his palms grasping and clutching the dirt, until he gained momentum and was off his knees. He ran straight ahead as his feet kept time with the rhythm; his breath ragged in pushing his legs faster and faster and faster.

“We’re living in different ways – It’s a beautiful life – I’m gonna take you to a place I’ve never been before, oh yeah - ”

He could see the opening in the brush to the familiar clearing up ahead.

”I’m gonna take you in my arms and lay with you tonight – “

But when Kirk got closer he slowed, and started shaking his head.

”It’s a beautiful life – yeah, all right – it’s a beautiful life – “

He inched closer to the opening, tilting his head to not only hear, but perhaps to see –

”It’s a beautiful life, wah-oh-oh-oh – it’s a beautiful life, wah-oh-oh-oh – “

Kirk only saw a glimpse of Spock gagged and bound, before a dark hood went over his own head; and a harsh blow smacked behind his knees.

“It’s a beautiful life, wah-oh-oh-oh – “

“Drag him forward – don’t break ‘em, Krako just wants – “

“Baby Captains are not that delicate, Iotian.”

”It’s a beautiful li-ii-ife.”

Another harsh blow cracked the back of his head, and Kirk’s mind went black.

***

Sulu stirred his coffee; watching the creamer swirl and blend into the dark liquid. As he sipped cautiously, his eyes closed in brief respite – his body still wanting sleep, despite the short nap he had taken in his quarters; ordered by Doctor McCoy.

But his respite must’ve been more than a moment, as he was startled by a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head. “Janice?”

She gave a wan smile. “The whole bridge looks like you. I know we’ve had missions longer than this, but knowing that Klingons are about must be stressful.” She moved in front of Sulu, and pressed a few buttons. “Nyota is the worst. I can’t even get her to stop a moment to eat.”

Sulu took another sip. “Is she still on the music thing?”

Rand nodded. “Now it’s like – music quality, or wave layering, or – I don’t even know. Something about how it all sounds different on the frequencies.”

Sulu raised his brows. “Besides the obvious, I take it?”

Rand shrugged. “I’ve been pulling up library articles for the last hour. I even broke into the quarters of Montgomery Scott for some technical journals.” Her voice lowered. “Actually, she gave me a code for the door.” Rand grinned, and ticked a finger at him. “I wonder how she knows that.”

Sulu watched as Rand grabbed two steaming cups from the servo, and then peered into each of them.

The blonde made a face. “Green tea. Can’t stand the stuff; but considering how Nyota is still conscious and human at this point, maybe I should learn how.”

Sulu looked down at his own cup; missing Rand’s retreating form as she called out, “Don’t come back too soon, now! Lieutenant DeSalle can stare at a viewscreen of stars just as well as anybody.”

As Sulu heard the mess hall doors close, he humphed and threw his cup into the compacter – only to turn around, and punch buttons on the servo for a large cup of green tea, instead.

***

Kirk regained consciousness and jerked his head back quickly; the motion shaking the chair he was tied to. It creaked, and the noise helped to keep his eyes open; although he blinked rapidly several times, as his head lolled forward - his gaze focusing on his restraints, and his open shirt.

He frowned, mentally counting the ribbing on his wife beater.

“... Dammit.”

With some effort, he swung his head back up, and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

When they did, Kirk took one glance and groaned. He didn’t really have to look around the room to guess his surroundings; but some key details immediately registered for him. The blood red walls for one, complemented by dim lighting. The large throw pillows in burgundy and black, resting on dark-hued lounge chairs, were another clue.

Kirk sighed. The only thing seemingly missing was the thumping of music from the club; which instead was replaced by a languid and shuffling drum riff, from a song playing in a corner of the room.


”The sweetest perfection, to call my own - The slightest correction, couldn’t finely hone - ”

Kirk furrowed his brow as he listened; unconsciously straining against the ropes at his waist and wrists. But before he could make any conclusions, a deep voice broke through his thoughts.

“The restraints were for your protection, James.”

Kirk lolled his head to the side, and mumbled, “You... call me Captain.”

The voice huffed in amusement. “I will do no such thing.”

Kirk heard footsteps behind him, strangely loud and ominous, before a hand landed on his shoulder. Kirk rolled his head up, as the hand tightened in possession.

Kor’s breath brushed the human ear. “But if you behave... I may untie you.”

Kirk turned his head, with a slight smile fighting to stay on his face; as his eyes watched Kor’s lips, then traveled to the Klingon’s eyes – the dark head still uncomfortably close to his own.

Kirk tried for a laugh, but huffed, “I know… how to behave. When given the chance.”

The Klingon’s nostrils flared as they breathed the same air, and Kirk held the wicked gaze. It was long minutes until Kor straightened; and his hands went to his belt, where he pulled out a knife. The blade ethereally caught light from the candlelit sconces around the room; and Kirk’s breath caught as he jerked his head away.

Kor smiled. It only widened as he lowered the tip gently to Kirk’s shoulder; balancing it precariously for a moment on end, before the blade pressed gently and dragged. The tip traveled a thin, slow line down a bicep; and caused a shiver as it traced a vein, and traversed a naked forearm to wrist.

“Trust me, James,” and Kor dug the tip into the reddened skin. “If you do not, there will be consequences.”

Kirk harshly exhaled as the blade jerked up, and sliced the ropes on his wrists in one quick stroke. It was a moment before he looked up at the Klingon rounding on him, where the blade still glinted in his hands.

“Be still.” Kor knelt before the human, his gaze locking on blue eyes as the restraints on his ankles were similarly cut.

Kirk’s legs fell open in reaction, and Kor’s dangerously long fingernails hovered above each calf, before they skated to rest on human thighs.

“There is one left,” Kor raggedly whispered, as he looked pointedly at Kirk’s waist; where the last rope clung like an iron belt.

Kirk arched and relaxed; his hands resting behind him on the chair back. He gave another slight smile. “Well... since you’re there already, it’s not exactly... impudence.”

Kor’s hands were already mid-thigh; nails gripping tightly as his gaze centered before him. Slowly he lifted one hand, where he let the knife dig in for clearance, then cut. The blade lingered, scratching the white oxford shirt and dragging it upwards. The air kissed sensitive skin and distracted Kirk, as Kor leaned forward; his hands dangerously near the naked waist.

Kor stared at human lips. “There are matters to discuss.”

Kirk leaned backwards. “I am capable of thinking while standing.”

Kor minutely shook his head. “But not preferably to my deference.”

Their faces were mere inches from each other. Brown eyes flicked up to blue, and they stared a moment; until Kirk licked his lower lip.

“I need to… stretch my legs.”

Kor’s hand traveled down a thigh, and cupped a calf.

Kirk swallowed. “I think better if I can move around.”

Kor maneuvered the calf to hook his hip; stroking a bare ankle. “I may not wish it.”

“Yeah, well.” Kirk jerked his leg back. “Like you said… we have matters to discuss.”

Kor growled, but eventually pushed himself to his feet; letting Kirk’s leg drop. He appeared indifferent as Kirk stood; but when the human gained his bearings, and started to pace to one edge of the room, Kor slowly followed.

Kirk stopped at a table, gripping the edge to regain his balance. Nonchalantly, he picked up a porcelain trinket, and passed it carefully between two hands.

“What brings such a nice Klingon like you… to a place like this?”

Footsteps once again reverberated, as Kirk looked down and lifted the tiny lid, peering inside. He was only able to frown at the emerald powder, before a dark hand took the trinket away, and set it back down.

“It is of no consequence to you.” The porcelain lid gave a small kuh as Kor replaced it.

“Well - I find that hard to believe.” Kirk’s eyes followed the hand up towards the Klingon’s face, where a gaze was pinning him backwards.

Kirk took a few steadying steps behind him. “You’re not on vacation, I wager.”

Kor followed. “Perhaps.”

“… This planet seems awfully far for the trip.”

“It is not that far.”

“Last time I checked,” and Kirk felt his hip bang the wall, “your sector was several light years from here.”

Kor leaned in; his arms taut to cage the human head. “I am not averse to foreign destinations.”

“Well,” and Kirk straightened against the wall. “How did you know about Sigma Iotia II to even consider it?”

Kor smiled. “To borrow a phrase from your homeworld,” and his gaze wandered to the coral lips, “it was… word of mouth.”

Kirk watched as the tip of the Klingon’s tongue peaked out, and licked the corner of the tan mouth. Kirk gulped, and rolled his shoulders; returning the intense stare with a look of his own.

He cleared his throat. “I- I haven’t heard much of Sigma Iotia.” A pale fingertip traced the inside of Kor’s bicep, then swirled the skin of an inner elbow. “I’d love to hear... more?”

Kor breathed deeply as he leaned in closer. “I wouldn’t mind sharing with you.”

Kirk smiled as he brought both of his arms up, to rest lightly on the Klingon’s shoulders. “I wouldn’t mind... receiving such a gift.”

The hard body crushed him, as Kor slumped and pressed them flush. Kirk wrapped an arm around his waist, as the Klingon whispered, “James.”

A knee insinuated between human thighs, and Kirk’s breath hitched. He was ground against the wall with an undulation, and then another, and the Klingon groaned.

Kor bent towards an ear. “You have yet to impart why you are here.”

Kirk gave a harsh laugh that ended in a gasp, as teeth bit cartilage. “I’m here now. Isn’t that enough?”

“For now.” Breath skated the delicate neck, as Kor whispered, “Because I let you.”

Right.” Kirk huffed, as a hand groped his upper thigh. He darkly muttered, “Go climb a tree.”

“That would seem to suggest,” and lips traced the jugular, “that I am climbing the wrong one.”

A tongue slowly laved a stripe up the human neck, and sent chills with a hot breath. As Kirk tilted his head for better access, a hand grasped the Klingon’s hips; and - timed with an undulation - angled them perfectly for a hard thrust of a knee.

It knocked the breath out of Kor, and Kirk took the moment to punch him in the jaw; which sent him tumbling backwards into the table. The porcelain shattered to the ground, dusting everything green as Kor slid down in pain.

He gasped. “You...”

“Sorry,” Kirk said, as he bent over the prone – and now unconscious – figure. “I only like my Klingons beaten and bloody.” Kirk pulled the knife from the belt; his other hand frisking for any sort of communicator, yet finding none. “But on second thought,” he rolled the Klingon onto his back, “you might like that too much.”

Kirk patted the Klingon’s chest, and then turned to leave. In the process, he missed the quiet beeping from underneath the hard body, as he quickly exited the room.

***

“Commander Kishin, I am receiving a frequency – it’s from the surface. It appears to be – “ the Klingon officer listened; counting the breadths and beats of the beeping – “the signal from High Commander Kor.”

Kishin stood up from the command chair; striding towards the viewscreen with a sneer.

“Finally – we attack.”

***

“I’m telling you, this is important.” Uhura huffed. “I’m pretty sure they sound different, because the late-20th century pieces were broadcasted from a Klingon C5 data chip; which they only recently patented, and has a layered affect – “

Uhura stopped, as a red beeping light caught her attention. She turned away from Sulu, flicking several switches on her console.

He waited expectantly; leaning forward in the command chair. He watched as Uhura delicately pressed her earpiece, and concentrated.

Thirty seconds later: “Lieutenant Sulu, I am picking up a signal from the surface.”

Sulu nodded. “Report.”

“It appears to be... a beeping. But in a pattern.”

He frowned. “Morse code?”

Uhura shook her head. She stared at a spot on the deck to focus. After a minute of apparent counting, she frowned. “It’s a monotonous, steady pattern. I don’t think it’s an actual language – “

“Lieutenant!” Chekov called out. “The sensors are picking up a disturbance – “

In full view of the bridge window, a field of stars was pierced with brilliant fire; bursting forth and towards the Enterprise.

Sulu gasped, “What the – “

The Klingon Warbird shimmered and slipped from the darkness; coming into full view. Then just as quickly, bolted out of sight as the bridge violently jolted with a jarring impact.

Uhura grabbed the edge of her console, while Sulu gripped the armrests.

“Status report!”

“Shields sewenty percent! Klingon wessel rounding for –“

Both helmsmen were stomach-punched, as another impact tore the ship. Rand fell into a railing, and hung from it with an iron grip.

“Direct hit on left hull - shields at fifty-sewen percent – “

”Scott to the bridge!”

Sulu punched the arm console. “Report!”

”The po’er conduit ‘tween decks thirty an’ thirty-eight jist blew out!”

Sulu twisted his head towards the helm. “Chekov, cover our bad side. Lock our phasers - ”

”That’s jist it – the conduit shorted ‘alf our phaser po’er! That second hit knocked us inta a bloody mess – one more shot, and the ship’s knackered!”

“Lieutenant, ve’ve locked on to sensors.”

Sulu brusquely nodded. “Make it good!”

As the viewscreen showed the Enterprise circling the Warbird, Sulu saw the beams smack the underbelly of the ship.

“Status report – “

Uhura’s voice broke through the din. “Decks thirty through fifty-seven report causalities and structural damage. Sick Bay is experiencing sporadic power outages – “

“Lieutenant, Klingon wessel appears to be coming back around.”

Sulu marched to the helm, and tapped out the ensign. As he sat down, he shouted,
“Scotty, tell me when you can get us up again!”

”I cannae be – “

“Go as fast as you can - I need our phasers back!”

The bridge window was a dizzying display of stars, as Sulu’s knuckle-white grip stole the controls, and swerved them around.

”I’m headin’ ta deck thirty ta manually piece ‘er together, but I cannae be certain she’ll – “

“I know we’re in good hands, Mister Scott. Call me when you’re there!”

”Aye sir – Scott out.”

“The Klingons are – “

Sulu braced his legs against the deck, as another round of fire ripped the ship.

A female voice behind him called out, “Sir, shields are thirty per – “

“I can see that!” Sulu smacked the display on his console, as Chekov busied with reports beside him.

Static fizzled loudly to Sulu’s left; and when he turned his head he saw a brief glow of burnout.

Sulu barked out, “Roberts, take Hanson to Sick Bay!”

“Yes, sir – “

“Hikaru, I have idea.”

Sulu wiped his brow. “What have you -”

Uhura cut through again. “Decks one through – “

“Route that to Medical and Engineering!” Sulu glanced at Chekov, who was tapping frantically; as if chasing a spark.

“You’ve got something - tell me.”

A screen flickered on Sulu’s console, showing the outline of a Klingon Warbird. Red dots pulsed at possible damage points.

Chekov’s fingers didn’t stop moving. “They have been aiming at us, and missing mostly by vide margin.”

Sulu nodded. “Their sensors.”

“Last shot vas by luck.“

”Scott to Bridge.”

Sulu punched a button. “Tell me what you’ve got.”

”I’m at deck thirty, an’ pullin’ the panel off ta – “

There was an oof across the comm. line, and Sulu and Chekov both paused to listen.

Sulu cleared his throat. “... Mister Scott?”

Both helmsmen exchanged a look, as static crackled the comm. line. Sulu nodded at Chekov, and watched as the ensign abruptly got up, and motioned someone over.

Sulu jerked his controls to the left, before another tentative: “Scotty?”

With more silence, Sulu shut the line off, and looked over at Chekov. “Get down there and see what happened.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.”

Sulu flicked his eyes back and forth from the bridge screen and the controls, before opening another comm. line. “Bridge to Sick Bay.”

A female voice answered. ”Chapel here.”

“Mister Scott might be injured on deck thirty.”

”Lieutenant, Medical is over-run with casualties, and our power keeps – “

Sulu gave an exasperated sigh. “We need our Chief Engineer! Send a medic when you can spare one.”

She huffed. ”I will – Chapel out.”

Sulu cut off the line, and then glanced to his right. “Status re –“

He did a double take, before he stared at the petite blonde next to him. Green eyes concentrated on her console, as she read status reports.

“Jan - Ensign Rand?”

She looked up quickly at him, before turning back to the displays. “Shields are rebuilding to forty percent. Decks twenty through thirty appear – “

“Janice, have you ever – “

She gave him a sharp look. “Not in battle, but there’s a first time for everything.”

Sulu didn’t have time to stare, as phasers skimmed the starboard and caused brief turbulence.

”Chekov to bridge.”

He smacked the console. “What happened, Pasha?”

”I have alerted Medical – Mister Scott vas not responsive vhen I came across him.”

Sulu swallowed. “Is he alive?”

”Yes – and I am fixing conduit now.”

“Good.”

”But I must tell you plan.”

Sulu jerked the controls, as phasers flashed across the view screen. “Make it quick.”

”Send wolley of torpedoes at ze Klingons.”

He shook his head. “We’re not supposed to – “

”Above or below. Vithout zeir sensors, zhey von’t know how ve aim.”

Sulu bit his lip in thought, as he heard several men and women on the bridge routing status reports behind him. It only took him a moment before he nodded.

“We’ll do it.”

”I vill finish here, in case ve still need zem.”

“Be careful, Pasha.”

”Chekov out.”

Sulu looked over again at Rand; who was sliding a finger across a panel, to scroll through statistics.

He took a deep breath. “Torpedoes.”

She nodded. “We have fifty-two available in inventory. I’ve alerted Engineering to load them up.”

He smiled at her. “You’re turning into an excellent Wingman – er, Wingwoman.”

“Engineering reports that the torpedoes are ready at intervals of ten.”

Sulu looked ahead. “That’s a good number – ‘cause I’ve got an idea.”

He could feel her narrow gaze on him, as he jerked the controls into a downward spiral.

“Everyone - listen up!” Sulu shouted. “This might be a bumpy ride! Hang on to yourselves.”

“Ayes” and “Yes, Sirs” filled the bridge, as Sulu took a quick glance at Rand.

“Send a round above, and then below – and then I’m coming around, and we can hit them dead on.” When he heard tapping at her console, he nodded. “If they don’t retreat after the second volley they’re not going to, and it’ll be our only option.”

“Courses plotted and laid in.” She gave him a sideways glance, and smiled assuredly at him. “I’m ready when you are.”

Sulu quirked a lip, before his eyes flicked between his console screens and the bridge view. As he straightened their course, the Klingon Warbird came into clear view of the bridge window.

He barreled straight towards them; charging head on. When they were precariously close, he said clearly and carefully, “Fire rounds one and two.”

The buttons chirped as Rand pressed them, and they both saw the missiles fly out ahead of them into space. The bridge itself seemed to collectively hold its breath, as they anxiously watched the Klingon Warbird – whose warp nacelles glowed a dangerous red.

Rand tapped her display. “The missiles are precariously close to the left and right na-“

The red burst into flame, as the Warbird exploded backwards and out of sight.

A male voice rang out behind them. “The Klingon ship is retreating at warp six!”

Sulu nodded. “How far are they?”

The voice took a moment, before, “They are nearing the edge of this system. Pursuit, Lieutenant?”

Sulu leaned back in the helm chair, and stared out the bridge window. “Negative, Danvers. But they are definitely out of range?”

“Yes, sir.”

Sulu deeply exhaled. “Then they can go fuck themselves.”

The bridge was strangely quiet. When Sulu turned around, he saw most of the present crew complement watching him.

Sulu tried a smile. “We have the captain and Mister Spock on the surface, and some heavy damage ourselves. I’m not really interested in tempting fate.”

Several murmurs of “Yes, Sirs” rounded the bridge, as the crew went back to previous business. Sulu watched each in turn, before he turned back around and looked at Rand – who was calmly studying her helm.

She tapped a screen, and sent it to his board. “There are reports from all decks, but the main damage appears to be structural.” She scrolled a list. “Some internal components, like the conduit, appear to have been fixed already; although the transporters are still a work in progress - ”

”Chekov to bridge.”

Sulu slapped the line open. “Bridge here.”

”Conduit has been repaired, and ve have full phaser pover back.”

He nodded. “Great. Where are you now?”

”Engineering. Since Mister Scott is in Sick Bay, I am helping repairs.”

Sulu pursed his lips. “Sounds like a plan.”

”Are ve remaining in orbit?”

“Yeah, for repairs and the captain on the surface - ” Sulu stopped to register a few reports on the helm screen, before he tapped them out. “Let me know if you need more people down there.”

”I vill. Chekov out.”

Sulu closed the line, and then gingerly stood up; rubbing his neck. As he turned around, he saw every station was busy – if not in use, then in repair. It appeared to be disorganized chaos – especially with one console screen shattered on the floor – but Sulu knew they were the best ship in the fleet for a reason; and it was mainly for keeping it together when it mattered.

He stopped to take reports from several stations, as he headed over to Uhura; who seemed to talk a mile a minute, while practically squeezing a dent into her earpiece. When he reached her, there was barely a moment before she looked up and noticed him – and stood abruptly.

She held out a PADD. “The Klingon C5 data chip -”

He laughed and put out a hand. “Look, we just got through an incident with the –“

She straightened. “Krako, the guy who knows why the Klingons are there, is still down in the brig. Since Monty – “ She took a shuddering breath “ – since Mister Scott is indisposed, I would like to use this information to interrogate Krako myself.”

Sulu leaned back against the railing, and considered her a moment. The vehement emotion in her voice was blatant, yet her posture and aura was one of determination and confidence. She stared him down; the growing moments of silence etching a hard line of defiance in her mouth, and her clenched jaw.

He slowly nodded. “Get your replacement, and then head down. I’m going to hail the Captain – he might have figured something out in the interim.”

She nodded, just as an officer exited the turbolift and walked directly to her station. Uhura didn’t even register Sulu’s surprised look, as she met the officer halfway; stopping only for a brief word, before she entered the turbolift herself.

Sulu watched the doors close, before he turned to the young comm. officer sitting in front of him, and pinched his brow. “Why does she even ask?”

The brunette gave an inquisitive look. “Sir?”

He shook his head. “Never mind. Try to raise the Captain on the surface, will you?”

The officer nodded; and Sulu stretched back against the railing, and waited.

***

Kirk walked carefully through the quiet and open corridors; his fingertips skimming the walls hued with darkness and sconces of candlelight. He tried not to make a sound, as he flattened himself in the dark shadows, and kept an ear out for shuffling guards – which he’d catch and knock out around corners. He frisked the lot of them, and came up empty-handed, except for one pistol replacing another; which he’d collect bullets for, and pocket.

But after an inordinate amount of time, he discovered that the nightclub certainly belied its size. After racing out on Kor, he had discovered that the place was not only long, but also delved underground. After searching the ground floor, he walked the stairways nervously from one level to the next; touching the natural walls that painted his fingertips green, and gave off a heady, oily smell. He would exit each stairwell, his face clearly glad to be rid of it, and anxiously start the search in another corridor; his tense posture quite aware that his time was limited.

It was on the third and last level that he finally paused outside a closed door - at the end of a long line of closed doors - and slowly tilted his head to listen.

While no sound emanated from the room, after a moment Kirk nodded, and flattened himself near the door handle. With the Klingon knife gripped tightly in his left hand, he slowly reached out with his right, and turned the doorknob.

When its hinges creaked he kicked it open, and several guards rushed at him. He caught one in the face with the knife hilt; the butt of it smacking upwards and into the Iotian skull, knocking him out. The other guard received a barrel kick, and fell backwards into a shelf of heavy equipment; falling unconscious to the floor.

But Kirk’s eyes only lingered on the hooded figure tied to a chair; set towards a corner of the room.

He raced towards it, bending to cut the wrist restraints before lifting and throwing off the hood. Spock blinked a few times, as Kirk dragged the chair out to better reach the rope at his ankles. As Kirk knelt down, a hand rested on the back of his head.

“Jim, you’re –“

“I’m fine, Spock.” Kirk slit the rope around Spock’s ankles, before standing upright and letting the hand drop. He gripped a shoulder. “How are you?”

Brown eyes evaluated Kirk, before Spock answered, “I am well. But I am uncertain of our young charge.”

Kirk proffered a hand, “I didn’t see him on the way here, but I didn’t check the top level.”

Spock took the hand, as he maneuvered his legs around the chair and stood. “I am suspect as to why we were not kept in the same room.”

Kirk shrugged. “Maybe they think Bodie has secret information we don’t?”

“He is but a child.” Spock dropped the hand, and rubbed his wrists. “But yet he is a member of the Okmyx gang.”

Kirk and Spock exchanged a long look, before Kirk nodded his head; as if agreeing with some consensus.

“You’re right; he’s got to be here, somewhere.” Kirk held out the knife. “You want this?”

Spock shook his head. “My superior strength will be adequate. I will lead.”

“Yeah, right – I’m the one who found you here. I know more about this place than you do, right now.”

Spock gave a slight indignant huff, before he consented by following Kirk to the doorframe. They pressed close together as Kirk looked out, then led them to the left.

Kirk made a face as they entered the stairwell, and quietly climbed upwards. After each flight, Kirk would look behind him – which Spock would acknowledge with eye contact – until they reached the main floor.

They stepped out into the candlelit corridor; where Kirk breathed a sigh of relief at the still-unconscious Klingon guard.

As he stepped around the body, Kirk whispered, “I can’t believe he’s still out.”

Spock only followed, also carefully stepping around the body. They walked quietly until they reached the end of the hallway, near another flight of steps.

Kirk peeked into Kor’s room, and Spock’s eyes narrowed.

Kirk turned his head to murmur, “Just making sure our friend is still out like a light.”

“Indeed.”

Kirk smiled, and then tilted his head towards the stairwell. “I guess we can only go up?”

Spock nodded. “Do you recall the layout of the upstairs?”

“... Not exactly.”

Spock took the lead, his arm out to block Kirk passing him. Kirk scowled, but slinked against the banister as he slowly followed Spock up the stairs. The Vulcan’s hand occasionally brushed a hip, but they were quiet as they reached the top step, and went to turn a corner.

It was eerily vacant as they looked up and down another candlelit hall. Kirk and Spock shared a glance as they went to the first door, and listened a moment before shoving it open.

But as they did, several strong hands grabbed their wrists; and pulled them unwillingly forward into the crowded room.

***

Uhura strode into the brig, giving a nod to Giotto as she stood outside the force-field to be let inside. As the security guard tapped in an entrance code, Keenser wandered over to the door, and gave her an inquisitive look.

Krako, however, looked entirely too relaxed as he leaned against the wall; his legs out-stretched on a bench, with an ankle crossed over the other. He flashed Uhura a wide grin, as she walked inside, and stood across from him.

He pointed to Keenser. “As I was tellin’ pally here, all this ship rockin’ is makin’ me queasy.”

Uhura crossed her arms, as Keenser looked between the two of them.

“Where’s yer pal? The funny-speakin’ fella with the – “

“You know where he is?” Uhura unclenched her jaw. “He’s in Sick Bay, that’s where he is.”

Krako’s smile faltered. “Look lady, I don’t know why yer upset with me, but – “

She took a step forward. “You have an alliance with the Klingons, and you’re going to tell me why.”

He laughed nervously. “What alli - ”

She tapped the face of a PADD, and then held it up for him. “Not only are the Klingons there to mine antimonium, but you’re using their technology for communication purposes.” She stepped closer, and looked him straight in the eye. “I’m not stupid; the Klingon’s aren’t there on holiday.”

He narrowed his gaze at the PADD, and glanced between it and her face. “What them Klingons do here is my business, and not any of yer – “

“Except that it’s endangering my fellow shipmates, and my captain down on the surface.” Uhura pointed at a wall. “All that ship-rocking? That was your Klingons, attacking my ship!”

He huffed. “They don’t mean – “

He stood up, as she moved right into his personal space; pinning him against the wall. She raised her free hand, cupping it slightly as she stared him down.

“Mister Krako, I don’t think you understand,” she calmly stated. “Starfleet instructs all cadets on thirty-five modes of defense – not including what some of our Vulcan friends might teach us.”

As she motioned towards his neck, he blanched.

“Fine, fine!” He held up his hands. “I’ll tell ya, I’ll tell ya, I just – “ he squirmed against the wall, and covered the side of his neck; as she tapped her fingers together. “Put ‘em down!”

Uhura cocked her head. “What are you getting from the Klingons?”

He gulped, watching her fingers. “They’re just – “ she tapped her fingers again, and he yelped, “They promised us – they promised us everything!”

She leaned back. “What’s everything?”

He huffed. “They promised – they promised to help us out.”

She lowered her hand. “In what way?”

He took a deep breath. “In exchange for that mineral, they’d – they’d help us make it happen.”

She watched his face carefully, as she took a few steps back. Reaching behind her, Uhura felt for the edge of the vacant chair, and gripped it firmly to drag it forward.

As Krako sat back down dejectedly on the bench, she pulled the chair in front of her, and straddled it backwards.

“Mister Krako...” She held him in a steady gaze, as she folded her arms across the chair ledge, and leaned forward. “Tell me everything.

Keenser moved to stand beside her, and folded his arms as Krako began to talk.

***

There wasn’t much indignity to be spared at this point; as Kirk and Spock were frog-marched in bright sunlight out of the nightclub, and into another black motorcar the next morning. They were thrown into the back, with Kirk hitting his forehead on the way in; rubbing it in plain view of Spock’s narrowed gaze.

“Jim, are you – “

“Quiet, Starfleet.”

Kirk nodded their assent. On either side was another suit, causing Kirk and Spock to lean against each other’s shoulders; with their thighs practically pressed together. Kirk looked down pointedly, and gave a wan smile; while Spock observed their companions.

The man to Kirk’s left leaned back in his gray suit, and huffed. “I hope this don’t take too long. My gal’s expectin’ us to go to lunch later.”

“Gotcha by the balls on Valentine’s Day, eh?” The driver looked in his rearview mirror, and smirked.

The suit in gray laughed. “Damn right. But I got ‘er one of them beauties – them Bang-Bangs. She’s been wantin’ an automatic.”

“Aww, yeah? My wife got one of those last year – pink with rubies on the handle. Loves it. Maybe more than me.”

Rubies? Now you makin’ me look bad!” But all the suits laughed. A man in brown, to Spock’s right, slapped a knee; much to the Vulcan’s chagrin.

Spock raised an eyebrow, and then leaned forward slightly, as he turned to the man in gray. “May I make a personal query?”

Laughter edged off to exasperated sighing. Kirk watched Spock’s face, as if he could read the answer there.

The man in gray cleared his throat. “Go ahead, Starfleet.”

Spock seemed to reconsider a moment, but then, “If you are meeting your significant other later for St. Valentine’s Day, then today is indeed that actual holiday?”

The suit seemed to puzzle that sentence a moment, before he answered, “That’s what I said, ain’t it?”

Spock minutely nodded. “Then perhaps I may assume that our destination leads to your headquarters, at the warehouse garage?”

Kirk’s eyes widened, as all the suits looked at each other, then laughed.

“Sad tale for you, Starfleet - but that’s where we’re goin’!”

As if on cue, the car then pulled into the familiar parking lot. They stopped in back; and Kirk hit his head once again before they were lead inside, and through another set of doors to a concrete work area.

Except instead of storage boxes - or equipment, as they might have expected -bright lights were set everywhere; which caused Kirk to blink rapidly. As a result, it took him a moment to recognize the other individuals who were lined up against a cement wall, with their hands in the air.

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Interesting.”

Kirk gaped at the lot of them. Bodie stood closely next to Alex, with their bodies angled towards each other. Okmyx was on Alex’s other side, watching Kirk and Spock walk into the brightly-lit room.

However it wasn’t the mob boss that muttered, “Weak, pathetic Iotians.”

Kirk turned his head to the disgruntled Klingon; who was at the far end of the line, with his arms crossed.

Kirk’s mouth resembled a goldfish, as he spat out, “Kor? What the – “

A suit nudged him in the back. “Line up, Starfleet.”

Spock caught Kirk’s eye, and Kirk shook his head as he turned to their captors. He squinted his eyes against the lights, as he tried to pinpoint anyone in front of him.

“Look, do you have any idea what the penalties are for threatening – “

Both officers staggered forward, as guns were smacked against their backs.

“Put ‘em in the center.”

Both men stumbled to the line-up against the cement wall; with Kirk taking another glance at Kor, who refused to look at anybody.

Spock on the other hand, analyzed the tan-suited man to his right. He was a fair-haired gentleman, with an air of sophistication. He looked no older than 40, although his sheepish grin played into an apparent boyish charm.

The man’s green eyes looked remorseful. “Sorry we had to meet like this.”

Spock nodded. “Likewise. I assume you are Mayor Harner.”

Kirk whipped his head around. “Mayor, I - “

In front of them, a voice shouted, “Everyone quiet!”

Kirk stepped out of line, blinking against the bright lights. “Look, I don’t know what deals are being made, but Starfleet won’t – “

A row of men - some with machine guns, others with rifles - emerged from the white lights, and lined up in a row.

“We have a starship in orbit, and eventually they’ll – “

“Take aim!”

“We’re willing to negotiate – “

A barrel cocking interrupted his speech, and Kirk looked desperately at Spock; their eyes locking.

“Fire!”

Hands reached out and grasped; never intending to let go.

***

Sulu had spent another sleepless night monitoring repairs and taking reports. While McCoy had ordered another short-term nap, Sulu had laid awake anyway; worrying about the state of the ship, and the command team on the surface.

It was a worry that hadn’t abated, as he finished pacing the bridge, and ended up back at the helm; leaning over Chekov’s shoulder.

“How are we doing?”

“Ze shields are back to full capacity. Engineering reports that transporters vill be back online vithin ze hour.”

Sulu nodded. “The sooner the better.” He looked over to Uhura, who was back at her station; earpiece in hand. “I wonder what’s really going on, down there.”

Chekov tapped out a display. “The Keptin and Mister Spock have still not responded?”

“No, but,” Sulu watched Uhura at ease at her station, then looked away. “I guess we’ll talk to them, soon enough.”

“Vhen zey are done playing bratva, yes?”

Sulu leaned against the helm, and sighed. “You know, after that second staff meeting, I did get the idea it was kind of like cops and robbers.”

“Cops and Yakuza?”

Sulu made a face at that. “The Yakuza are kind of intense. I think I like these mobsters, better.” He looked down at the curly-haired helmsman, and tried to smile. “Although I don’t think I ever imagined their hijinx growing up.”

“Zey are ritualistic. Zeir hijinx are part of society.”

“Their hijinx are kind of annoying.”

Sulu missed the ensign’s smirk, as a stack of PADDs heading his direction caught his eye; as they threatened to spill out of the poor yeoman’s arms.

Rand huffed. “You need to sign these.”

Sulu took a few, and stacked all but one on the edge of the helm. He read over the PADD in his hand, and pulled out a stylus.

“Remind me never to be in charge again.” He handed the PADD over, as Rand exchanged it for a different one. “They never tell you on Command Track that it’s all paperwork.”

Chekov huffed a laugh. “Zis man, complaining about papervork, vhen ve just have battle vith Klingons!”

Sulu shook his head, and then handed another PADD to Rand. “Next time we’re in a conflict, we’ll just load up a stack of these and send them out, yeah?”

Rand gave him an amused, yet admonishing glance.

Chekov tapped his screen. “Engineering reports that transporters are now functioning.”

Sulu nodded. “Great.” He handed the last PADD to Rand. “Now we can head down there, and see what’s up.”

“Be careful of ze Yakuza!”

Sulu called out over his shoulder, as he headed towards the turbolift. “When we’re back, I’ll tell you who won playing bratva!”

Rand gave Chekov a curious look, as the turbolift doors closed on the smirking lieutenant; and Chekov huffed another laugh.

***

Kirk opened his eyes. He had slammed them shut at the sound of machine fire; but after a long, curious silence had opened them slowly to the bright lights. He squeezed the hand in his, and looked over at Spock.

Who had a large splash of red on his white oxford shirt.

They both stared down at the spot a moment, before they both looked at Kirk’s shirt to see the same color of red; staining the white cotton fibers.

“Fascinating,” Spock muttered. He took a fingertip, and swiped the liquid dripping from a button; which coated the pale fingernail. “The substance appears synthetic. Perhaps latex – “

“Oh! Oh my goodness - Oh!”

Spock and Kirk jerked their heads towards Okmyx, who was clutching his chest; where red splattered his own pinstripe suit. Lights were pointed directly at him; and out of the brightness a camera suddenly came into view.

“Get all of it,” a voice whispered behind the cameraman, who nodded.

Okmyx shook a fist towards them. “How dare you Krako!“ And with a last clutch of his chest, fell forward onto the ground.

A beat, and then, “Ow! Ah!”

A female voice: “Ahh!”

Kirk and Spock watched as the camera shifted, catching both of the young lovers in each other’s embrace. They too slumped to the ground in apparent wounding, and then stilled with their eyes closed.

Spock turned his head, and raised an eyebrow as Mayor Harner took a deep breath.
“Krako! You’ll never get away with this!” He then too fell to the ground. First on his knees in apparent agony, and then groaned as he slumped forward with a thud.

The lights turned to both Kirk and Spock. Spock watched Kirk’s face carefully, and then -

Kirk clutched his own chest dramatically. “Ah!

Spock opened his mouth – but before he could speak, Kirk looked pointedly at him, as he yelled again.

“Ow – Ah!” Buttons popped off, as Kirk scrabbled and tore the fabric in his hands; exposing the wife beater beneath. He breathed heavily, and, “Send.. my...” he fell to his knees. “Tell him, I - Ah!

Kirk fell face first into the cement; and gave one last dramatic, staggering breath before he stilled. The room hushed, as the director looked over at the cameraman.

“He talks too much.”

Spock minutely nodded. “Indeed – “ A Starfleet boot kicked him, and Spock narrowed his gaze.

The lights turned towards him, and the director made a motion with his hands.

Spock looked towards the ceiling, and sighed.

“I have apparently suffered an incurable mortal wound.”

Spock closed his eyes - and after a deep breath, fell forward. The thunk shook the camera equipment, and the director humphed.

“Heavy.”

“No kidding,” a soft voice muttered from the ground.

The camera panned away from the grimacing Vulcan corpse.

Kor glared at the camera lens, and puffed out his chest. “I have somehow been defeated by these spineless and dishonorable Iotians. I am mortally wounded from their unexpected cowardly act.” He thumped his chest. “Augh.

The Klingon fell – a good few feet from the Vulcan – and the camera eased back to capture the entire scene.

After a moment, a voice yelled, “Cut!

Spock opened his eyes, and saw Kirk looking at him.

A nasally voice called out from the ground: “All right, there’s a car out back.”

Kirk pushed himself up, and stared as Bodie held out both of his hands to help Okmyx and his daughter stand up.

Kirk cleared his throat. “Um – we’re not dead?”

Okmyx brushed off his trousers, and huffed a laugh. “We’re not, Captain.”

Spock looked over at Harner, who was dusting his sleeves. Harner gave a lop-sided smile. “Like I said, sorry to meet under these circumstances.”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “If you could illuminate these circumstances, Mayor?”

Harner put his hands on his hips, and shrugged. “We faked our deaths.”

Kirk barked a laugh. “Obviously!”

Spock seemed to consider it. “Is there a particular reason for the dramatics?”

Okmyx cleared his throat. “It’s how we retire.”

Kirk flustered wordlessly a moment, before he spat out, “You can’t just step down?”

Okmyx gave an Eh, and a shrug himself. “It’s not our way – the boss can’t just step down; it’s a sign of weakness.”

Kirk waved his arms. “But you’re retiring, anyway!“

“It puts our gang in dishonor, Captain.”

A deep voice huffed. “What a word.”

Kor rolled his eyes, and glared at the group of them. “These Iotians don’t know the meaning of honor.”

Kirk pinched the bridge of his nose, and waved a hand. “Okay. Whatever.” He turned towards Harner. “So you all needed a way out. That’s great, and we’re not all dead. But – why were we involved?”

“We needed seven.” Harner looked over at Okmyx. “We do this every few years, when we can get seven together. Krako refused, so we had to use the next available option.”

Kor grumbled; but Harner looked over at Bodie and Alex, and smiled. “It gives us all a new life - to be free without associations.”

Alex leaned closer to Bodie, as Okmyx looked over at them, resigned.

“Them lovebirds.” He sighed. “I didn’t want my daughter in this business.”

He watched as Bodie wrapped an arm around Alex’s waist. The young man lifted his chin proudly.

“She won’t, sir. She won’t.”

“Damn right she won’t.” But Okmyx gave a small smile, and opened his arms as Alex went to hug him.

Kirk looked at Spock, and opened his mouth to say something - just as a familiar shimmering beam was heard in the air.

They turned around to see McCoy, Sulu, and three security guards behind them; pointing their phasers.

McCoy’s eyes widened as he took in their appearance. “What the hell - “

Kirk held out his hands. “It’s not what it looks like.”

“Then explain what the hell it’s supposed to look like!”

Harner came up to the band of them, and stuck his hand out to McCoy. “I’m Harner. Roy Harner.”

McCoy looked him over with a critical eye. “Nice to meet ya – you’re that Mayor held hostage, right?”

“Not anymore.”

McCoy looked at Kirk, who shrugged.

Spock cleared his throat. “We have been involved in a massacre.”

McCoy humphed, as Sulu came up behind them.

“Yeah, Krako told us about it. But what’s all this - ” Sulu waved at the group of them “ – about him not being Mayor?”

Spock turned towards him. “A massacre was staged in order for Okmyx, his daughter, her intended partner, and Harner to fade from the public eye.”

Kirk looked up in surprise. “That’s a poetic way of stating it, but sure.”

McCoy scoffed, as his medic scanner waved over Kirk’s shirt. “Why couldn’t y’all just retire like everyone else?”

Harner patted the doctor’s shoulder. “This society has framed itself from a particular history. This is not the first time a Valentine’s Massacre has been carried out.”

Spock nodded. “From inference, a shift of power happens every few years in this same manner?”

“Indeed. I took over 10 years ago from another descendant.”

“A descendant?” Kirk turned towards Harner. “You mean - ?”

“Yes, Captain. My grandmother was Jane Fitz-Harner – “

Spock finished for him. “The former captain of the U.S.S. Horizon.” He appeared to think a moment, before saying, “Indeed.”

Kirk seemed taken aback. “But Starfleet received no resignations – “

Harner laughed. “You think this massacre tradition is the first time we’ve faked anything?” He motioned around them. “Welcome, Captain Kirk - to the home planet of all the descendants from the Horizon.”

The officers exchanged looks as they considered those implications. Sulu muttered a No way; while Kirk stared at Spock for a moment.

Spock nodded. “Indeed, this society has been thoroughly contaminated.”

Harner shrugged. “My grandmother didn’t see it that way, when she married the Mayor.”

Kirk sighed. “Well – “ and he motioned around with his hands, as if trying to conjure the words to say, but finding none.

McCoy seemed to have them, however. “So can we meet the guy about to be Mayor?”

Harner nodded, and beckoned to the director to come forward. When he entered the light, the resemblance was uncanny.

“This is my son, Joe Harner.”

The green eyes were filled with kindness and warmth, as he stuck out his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Gentlemen. I’ve heard you were here to check up on us - and to form an alliance - before you got caught up in these shenanigans?”

Kirk looked from Spock to McCoy, before he grinned back. “Something like that.”

Joe Harner laughed. “Well, in that case – do you have a moment to confer in the office over there, before you have to leave us?”

Kirk followed where the mayor’s hand pointed; which was to the warehouse office from several days before.

Kirk nodded. “I’d be delighted, Mayor.”

Joe Harner looked over the group of Starfleet officers, and pitched his voice. “And Commander Kor – will you also join us?”

Kor looked startled. But after sharing a glance with Kirk, he nodded. “I will.”

“Splendid!” The young mayor clapped his hands together, and motioned with his arms for both of them to follow.

Spock raised his brow, as Kirk gave a hesitant smile to the Klingon; who returned it with a sneer. But the uneasiness was soon displaced as the new mayor made a joke, and Kirk joined in on the laughter.

Spock and McCoy watched as the three of them entered the office.

McCoy shook his head, and muttered, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

“Starfleet will be pleased with an alliance.”

“Yeah, but you haven’t heard what Kor has to do with this.”

Sulu stepped forward. “Krako confessed that there was a deal with them, to make all this happen.”

“Quite obviously. Did Krako divulge what interest the Klingons have here?”

McCoy huffed. “Antimonium.”

Spock considered that a moment, before he stated, “I am unaware of the mineral having any value.”

“Well - Krako, Okmyx, and -” Sulu motioned at Roy Harner “the former mayor, I guess – made a deal that they could harvest a certain percentage, if they shared the profits and helped Krako and his politico into power.”

“Damn near had a heart attack when I heard about the massacre!” McCoy shook his head. “But it makes sense, in the long run. The Boss keeps his reputation, and the society has their cyclical ritual.”

Okmyx gave a sharp laugh; startling the officers a moment at the reminder of his presence. Alex and Bodie were off to the side, as if waiting for him.

Okmyx walked towards them. “Reputation is one thing – knowin’ whose gonna take care of business afterwards is another.”

Spock turned his head. “I must admit I am perplexed, Mister Okmyx. It was you who stated - some seventy-two hours ago - that Krako was, and I quote, ‘all wet and empty-headed’.”

Okmyx waved a hand. “It ain’t him I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” He pointed a thumb behind him at the office. “That guy, in there, is one class act. Krako won’t get nothin’ from him.”

At that, laughter came within hearing range; as Kirk, Harner, and Kor emerged, all looking satisfied. There was a parting spoken, before Kirk approached their little group.

“Well, Bela,” Kirk held out his hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you. I wish you and your daughter – and Bodie – a very happy and long life.”

Okmyx nodded. “Likewise, Captain. Come visit us in the country, anytime.”

Kirk looked over at Alex and Bodie, who waved. “The country, Bela?”

“Yeah - we bought an ol’ farmhouse out there. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with livin’ off the land. It’s what my father taught me.”

Kirk smiled. “I can relate.”

“Take it easy, Captain.” With that, Okmyx waved at the lot of them; before joining his daughter and Bodie as they left.

Kirk took a deep breath, and looked around at their small group. “Well, that wasn’t so bad.”

McCoy looked on incredulously, while Sulu tried to hide a chuckle.

Spock nodded. “It was a less violent end than I anticipated.”

Kirk grinned. “Is that so, Mister Spock?”

“The results are satisfactory.”

“I believe Starfleet will agree.” Kirk looked over at the security guards. “Tell the Enterprise we need to beam up.”

After the orders were given, the band of them finally did - practically leaving the cerulean planet as it was.

***

Kirk unwrapped the candy heart, and popped the red shape into his mouth. He watched the decorated observation deck with amusement; as he saw his crew mingle and enjoy themselves in the dimly lit room.

McCoy sauntered up to him, as Kirk took a sip of his mauve martini.

McCoy pointed at it “What girly stuff did you get set up with?”

Kirk looked down as his glass. “It’s not bad.”

“I think you’ll find more alcohol in the soaked olive than that whole – drink.”

Kirk grinned at the surly doctor. “That’s just fine with me.”

McCoy scoffed. “What? Waiting up for your Vulcan?”

Kirk took another sip, as applause interrupted whatever Kirk might have to say. McCoy humphed, and followed Kirk’s line of vision to the makeshift stage; where Uhura was just descending.

They watched as she approached Scotty, who was grinning from ear to ear.

McCoy motioned at them with his glass. “What about them two?”

Kirk shrugged. “What about them?”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “Right. First you’re drinkin’ this - fruit juice - and now you’re acting philosophical. Get over it, whatever it is.”

Music started up on the sound system, and Kirk looked over to see Sulu and Chekov pressing buttons on a console. Chekov looked a bit too pleased with himself, as Sulu looked on disapprovingly.

The first notes started, and Kirk smiled as Uhura led Scotty by the hand to a wooden dance floor.


“When I wake up - well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you – “

Uhura put Scotty’s arms around her waist, as she reached up to put her hands on his shoulders.

”When I go out - yeah I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you – “

“You reckon Scotty remembers what to do with a woman?”

Kirk paid him no heed, as he watched the couple sway with quiet conversation.

McCoy snorted, and looked around. “I’m surprised Keenser ain’t here to give his seal of approval.”

Kirk waved a hand. “Keenser can eat like, a bean and be done.” He grinned. “So I’m told. I doubt that means he can handle alcohol well.”

“He can handle whatever you’re drinkin’, I bet.”

Kirk held up his martini. “Real men aren’t afraid of lavender.”

McCoy groaned. “Oh God, you’re speaking in shades. What has that hobgoblin done with you?”

Kirk pointedly lifted his pinkie, as he took a delicate sip.

“But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more – “

McCoy shook his head. “Where is your hobgoblin, anyway?”

Kirk shrugged. “At the lab.”

“On Valentine’s Day?”

Kirk gulped the remainder of his drink. “Technically it isn’t.”

”When I'm working - yes I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who's working hard for you - “

“Oh - technically. What a romantic fellow.”

”When I come home - oh I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who comes back home to you – “

“He’s been working really hard on Sulu’s Woodsia Omus.”

McCoy nodded solemnly. “Very hard.”

Kirk put down his glass on the buffet table. “Yep.”

“And you’re not a bit disappointed?”

“There’s nothing to be disappointed about.”

”But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more – “

“Really?”

“Really, Bones.”

”Just to be the man who'd walk a 1,000 miles to fall down at your door – “

And before McCoy could open his mouth, they both watched as their lovely communications officer grabbed the neck of their oblivious engineer, and pulled him in for a searing kiss.

McCoy gave a loud whoop as he clapped; not unlike many others who had caught the inspiring display. Kirk grinned from ear to ear, as Scotty’s arms tightened on the delicate body against him, before lifting her up and spinning her around.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kirk caught his young helmsman jumping up and down, as he mouthed I VIN I VIN I VIN!; next to the gaping Sulu, who shook his head with disbelief.

McCoy chuckled. “She got him good!”

Uhura’s smile lit the room, as Scotty finally let her down.

Kirk looked over at McCoy with a smile of his own. “She sure did.” But after a moment, the smile faltered a bit, and he swallowed.

”When I'm lonely - well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who's lonely without you – “

McCoy certainly noticed, and nudged him gently in the ribs. “You know, if he ain’t comin’ to the party, no reason you can’t take the party to him.”

Kirk shook his head. “It’s no big deal. I mean, I’m seeing him later – “

McCoy looked behind him at the bowl of candies, took one, and shoved it into Kirk’s palm. “I really doubt he’s gonna begrudge your company if you interrupt.”

Kirk looked down at the red, heart-shaped candy, before he pocketed it in his dress uniform. “Bones, why am I in love with a workaholic?”

McCoy smirked. “Because it suits you – you both are.”

”And when I come home – yes I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who comes back home with you - I'm gonna be the man who's coming home with you.”

Kirk nodded, and then patted his friend’s arm. “I’ll catch you later, then.”

McCoy popped a candy in his mouth. “Say hi to Spock, for me.”

Kirk waved his way out of the room; and it was a good minute before he reached the observation deck doors, and they let him out.

***

Spock was in the botany labs when Kirk found him. His first officer was bent over a sample next to a familiar spotted plant; concentrating as he entered figures into a PADD.

Kirk leaned against the doorframe, and smiled at the sight. Spock seemed oblivious, until Kirk moved just enough for the sensors to catch, and the doors closed with a whoosh behind him.

Spock looked up. “I was not aware that the party had ended.”

Kirk shrugged. “I left early.”

Spock nodded at his sample, as Kirk walked forward. He didn’t walk directly to the Vulcan, but to the Woodsia Omus; whose pink spots looked comical against the viridian and waxy leaves.

Kirk trailed a fingertip against the spine of one leaf. “How’s our spotted guy?”

“As you can see, he is still spotted.”

Kirk rolled his eyes. “Quite.”

“However, it does not appear to be an ailment.”

Kirk held the leaf between two fingers. “He seems happy enough.”

“The spots appear to be a sign of health and... contentment.”

Kirk bit back a chuckle. “Are you saying the plant is happy, Spock?”

The Vulcan sighed, and then turned towards the fern as he considered his answer. When he looked up at Kirk, he nodded. “It appears so.”

“Well,” and Kirk smiled at the plant, “if I had so much of your company – on Valentine’s Day, no less – I’d be happy, too.”

“If it had sentience, I am sure it would be pleased with your presence, as well.”

Kirk gave a sideways glance. “Really?”

“Indeed. It is a hypothesis I am willing to dwell on.”

Kirk let go of the leaf. “Is that so?”

Spock stood up, and walked the two steps to reach Kirk. He leaned against the edge of the table, before touching the base of the Woodsia Omus.

“Happy St. Valentine’s Day, Jim.”

Kirk looked confused a moment, before realizing that Spock was looking pointedly at the fern.

Kirk laughed. “Are you serious?”

“As you seemed fond of the fern, I asked Lieutenant Sulu if it could come… stay with us.”

Kirk grinned. “That’s fantastic.” He rubbed a leaf between his fingers, before glancing at Spock. “You’re fantastic.”

Spock straightened at the compliment, as Kirk returned his attentions to the fern.

“You’re gonna live with us, Spotted Guy.” Kirk tapped the end of a leaf. “Although -since you’re coming to our place - I think you should have a proper name.”

Spock solemnly nodded. “I have already named him.”

Kirk turned his head, with both brows raised. “Oh?”

Spock lifted a leaf. “You may call him Spot.”

Kirk stood dazed a moment – looking between Spock and the fern - before he doubled over, and shook with laughter.

“Oh, my God.” He folded his arms on the lab table, where he laid his forehead as he gave an undignified snort. “Oh God, Spock – see, this is why I love you.” Kirk turned his head, giving a final breath of amusement. “Oh man - if only Bones ever saw this side of you.”

“I doubt McCoy would find the same sort of humor.” Spock let go of the leaf delicately. “So you approve?”

“Hell yeah I do - come here.” Kirk held out an arm, as he straightened to stand. Spock went towards it, and was pulled against Kirk as they both leaned into the table.

Kirk grinned at him. “Is this why you abandoned me on Valentine’s Day?”

Spock raised a brow. “The actual date of St. Valentine’s ended over – “

Kirk pressed a finger to Spock’s lips. “Whatever. I don’t really care.” And Kirk leaned forward to replace his finger with the soft touch of his lips.

Arms tightened as they both melted into the kiss; their lips still pressed chastely, despite their bodies lined flush.

Kirk pulled away slightly, and sighed deeply. “Thank you, Spock. Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.”

“I am glad you enjoy your gift.”

“Spot is great. He can hang out on my desk.” Kirk planted another soft kiss. “He’ll remind me of you.”

“He will need the utmost care.”

“I think I can mange.” Kirk motioned his head towards Spot, then grinned. “You know, husbands usually give roses on Valentine’s Day.”

“Indeed?”

Kirk wrapped both arms around the Vulcan, and squeezed. “Yeah, but,” another small kiss, “I think I like how bondmates do it better.”

Kirk grinned against Spock’s mouth, as he felt the body relax at the reassurance. He pressed gently, before he parted the Vulcan’s lips with the tip of his tongue; and delved deeply as Spock sighed contentedly. Kirk’s hands rubbed the lean back in small circles, before he tightened his arms around him again, and groaned into the kiss.

It was this sound, however, that Spock seemed to become aware – as he pulled away abruptly, looking about the room.

Kirk tilted his head, watching the Vulcan steadily. But after a moment, he rolled his eyes. “Spock, nobody’s about to come in.” He rubbed his bondmate’s arms. “I promise. And even if somewhere were? It’s not like they don’t know we’re married.”

Spock stiffened. “It is unbecoming of a superior officer to show such affections in a public area - especially since I am still technically on duty.”

“Well,” and Kirk pulled back, picking imaginary lint off a shoulder. “Get yourself off duty. I have your present back at our quarters.”

“... Is that so?”

Kirk looked up, and his eyes had a wicked gleam. “Indeed, it is so.”

Spock looked behind him. “I will put away my supplies, and – “

”Bridge to Captain Kirk.”

Kirk sighed, then looked remorseful as he crossed to a desk unit. “Kirk here.”

”New orders have arrived from Starfleet Headquarters. Admiral Komack is waiting to speak with you.”

Kirk gave a look to Spock. “Tell him it’ll be five minutes – I’ll take it in my quarters.”

”Yes, sir.”

Kirk flicked a button, as he gave a wan smile to Spock. “Well, there’s always another day.”

“Indeed. I will most likely see you soon.”

Kirk huffed. “With Komack? I’d be really lucky.”

“I’m sure the Admiral expects you to sleep.”

“And nothing but.” Kirk walked up to Spock, and smoothed the front of the blue Science tunic, before leaning in to give a quick kiss. “There’s always next month.”

“... I presume we will have time before then?”

“Sure. But next month is Steak and Blow –“

”Engineering to Commander Spock.”

Kirk bit his lip as Spock sighed, and untangled himself to walk over to the desk unit. “Spock here.”

”You told us to inform you when maintenance on the pressure systems was completed?”

Spock nodded. “Indeed. I will be on my way to verify the results.”

”Yes, sir.”

Spock turned off the unit, and then looked over at Kirk; who was barely restraining his amusement.

Kirk looked up at the ceiling. “Oh, I’m sure we’ll have time together - some day.”

A small laugh escaped, as Spock reached out and pulled Kirk to him by the arm. “You find this amusing?”

“Nah - not really. Just my way of bemoaning the reality of being married on a starship.”

“Indeed.” Spock leaned in for another quick kiss. “And the Captain has important matters to attend to.”

“The Captain does - but he has to talk to Komack first.” Kirk straightened, and then smoothed the front of his tunic; where his hand stopped over a bump in his pocket. He reached in, and pulled out the forgotten piece of heart-shaped candy; the white dusting of Be Mine clearly visible through the plastic wrapper.

Spock looked pointedly at it, and Kirk shrugged and grinned sheepishly.

He held it out to Spock. “Well – will ya?”

Spock considered it a moment, and then took the proffered candy heart. Kirk watched as he unwrapped it delicately, and placed it in the center of his tongue. After a quick taste, he grabbed the back of Kirk’s neck - then pulled him close for one last kiss.

Their mouths pressed openly; as a hot tongue swirled into the other to share the red sugar and cinnamon flavor. Kirk took the heart eagerly, and rubbed it against the warm, pliant surface – the tip pressing the candy against the roof of his mouth, and into a cheek; before he slid it between their wet lips with a groan. Kirk leaned in to chase after it, only to suck the taste off of Spock’s tongue; spiced with the kiss.

The Vulcan pulled back languidly and sealed their lips, as the comm. unit beeped and, ”Bridge to Captain Kirk.”

Spock let go of Kirk’s neck, and whispered, “You are 1.3 minutes late for your meeting with Admiral Komack.”

Kirk panted a moment, with his eyes glazed, before he murmured. “Right – right.” He took a few steps backward, and smacked a button on the desk unit. “Kirk to Bridge – I’m on my way right now.”

He looked over at Spock, still trying to control his breath.

Spock sucked on the candy, and looked directly at his Captain as he said, “Always.”

They shared a long look between them; before Kirk grinned, and turned towards the botany lab doors.

Spock watched him enter the hallway, as the candy clicked over his teeth. As the doors whooshed to a close, he bit down; and the red heart gave a satisfying crunch.